Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wake-Up Call Changes Priest

My mother has shared with me the story of Father Steven Scheier more than a few times after seeing him on EWTN. I was excited to see it in the most recent issue of the National Catholic Register.

His story is really very powerful. While it is personal testimony and, as such, no one is required to believe in it, I do believe that it is real. I do believe in near-death experiences and the transformation in people that have had them. His story provides a counterweight to the many stories we hear of happy, peaceful experiences. Not everyone has a positive experience when they cross to the other side. We will be held accountable for our lives. Read his story and decide for yourself: Wake-Up Call Changes Priest

Monday, August 29, 2011

Homeschooling with Gentleness

Homeschooling with Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling
by Suzie Andres
Front Royal, VA: Christendom College Press, 2004

I came to "Homeschooling with Gentleness" after reading Andres' more recent book, "The Little Way of Homeschooling" which tells the stories of many Catholic unschooling families. "Homeschooling with Gentleness" is Andres' own story. Subtitled "A Catholic Discovers Unschooling" it describes her journey to unschooling as well as offering philosophical arguments about why unschooling works and whether Catholics can morally unschool. In case there was any doubt given the title of this book, yes, they can.

Andres does not put forth unschooling as the only way to homeschool - far from it. The introduction states, "I am not writing to recommend this approach to all Catholic homeschooling families. Rather, I am writing about what works for us, and what I suspect will work for some others. . . Please understand that I am proposing and defending as Catholic one particular way among many."

In the pages that follow, she tackles defining unschooling (not an easy task!) and shows what it looks like in her home. She explores the difference between being a Catholic unschooler rather than a secular one, and encourages readers to learn to trust - both God and nature. Her last chapter is devoted to having books as friends. This is followed by a booklist of some of her and her family's favorite books.

Andres writes in a very accessible manner. Reading this book is much like sitting down to have a conversation about homeschooling, and unschooling in particular, with a dear friend. She shares her struggles and triumphs, her doubts and her joys. I greatly enjoyed reading this book, found much wisdom in its pages, and would recommend both "Homeschooling with Gentleness" and "The Little Way of Homeschooling" to anyone considering homeschooling.



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Carrying the Cross

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever wishes to save his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

There it is in black and white: the cost of discipleship. Contrary to what many people seem to believe, Jesus did not say, “Follow me and have an easy life.” He told us that if we are to follow him, we are going to have to suffer. He Himself set the example. The passage that immediately precedes this one has Jesus telling the apostles that he is going to suffer and die before being raised. Peter tells him that this should not happen, and Jesus rebukes him strongly: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16: 23)

Like Peter, we are human and we think like humans. We like comfort and ease and try to avoid suffering, often at all costs. Yet, suffering is an integral part of life. We don’t need to seek it out. It finds us. Every person you meet is suffering in some way, no matter his age, sex, race, or economic status. Some are very forthcoming about their difficulties – they go on ad nauseum about them and will complain to anyone who comes within earshot. Others keep their pain entirely to themselves, and never let anyone help them carry their crosses. Others fall somewhere in between, perhaps sharing their difficulties with a close few friends. Regardless, one should always be kind. We never know for sure what crosses another person is struggling to carry.
Crosses can come in many forms – physical ailments, emotional pain, relationship issues, heartache, grief, employment problems, spiritual pain, and economic pressures, to name some of the most obvious. At any time, any one of us is most likely carrying more than one.

If we are to follow Christ, we are to accept those crosses and carry them. We are not to run from them. This doesn’t mean we don’t seek appropriate help for whatever difficulty we are having. It does mean that we accept the difficulties that have come our way. It means that we pray for God’s will to be done, even if it means that we will continue to suffer. It means that we trust that our suffering is serving a higher purpose, even if we don’t know what it is.

Jesus had to suffer and die before he could rise from the dead. So do we. This life is not about taking the easy path. It is not about indulging all our desires, or trying to collect the most possessions. No, if we profess to be Christians, the purpose of our lives is to deny ourselves and accept whatever crosses that may come our way. No one ever said it would be easy, but we have Christ’s word that it will be worth it!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Catholic Writers to Enjoy Special Spiritual Retreat



Lansing, MI: In collaboration with FAITH Catholic Publishing and Communications, The Catholic Writers Guild, will sponsor Your Word is My Delight, a Catholic writers' retreat, Oct 5-9, 2011. Come and delight in God's word and sacrament, and pray in a beautiful and serene retreat setting.





The retreat's key presenter is Pat Gohn, Catholic columnist, podcaster and catechist (link: http://www.patgohn.com/patgohn/About.html) . Other presenters are Father Charles E. Irvin, David Krajewski, Father David Rosenberg and Father Larry Delaney.





Writers will enjoy five spiritually-enriching days of daily Mass, adoration, the sacrament of reconciliation and many hours of writing time. Talks will explore how God speaks to and encourages writers through Scripture, papal writings and other topics in order to promote faith-filled writing.





Opportunities for networking also will be offered through an informal "book bash and social hour" Wednesday evening and Faith Catholic's one-on-one "pitch sessions" that give writers the chance to sell their current writing projects.





Cost for the four-day retreat is $450, which includes meals and accommodations. Deadline for registration is Sept 28. A nonrefundable deposit of $45 is required at registration.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wanted: Dating Catholic Male

As many of you are aware, I am an editor with Catholic Exchange. While I post many articles, I don't always have the opportunity to go back and see what the response to an article was. However, when I logged in tonight, I noticed that Wanted: Dating Catholic Male had over 300 "likes" on Facebook. Anthony Buono definitely hit a nerve.

I'm the first to admit I never met a man who met all these qualities. It is definitely a "perfect" man kind of list, and just like with us women, we all fall a bit (more than a bit?) short. It is good to allow for some imperfections, yet this list definitely gives men something to aim for.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Manga Hero


This article in the National Catholic Register: Manga Pope on a comic book about Pope Benedict XVI caught my attention. As a young girl, I remember having a comic book about Pope John Paul II and another about Mother Teresa. They captivated me! So, I know that the comic book style can capture a young person's attention in a way that a traditional book may not.

When I looked for it on Amazon, however, it was nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, it was only printed for those who attended World Youth Day. If you read Spanish, you can read it online for free here: Habemus Papam

The good news is that their other comics are more widely available, including Paul: Tarsus to Redemption (Volume 1), Paul: Tarsus to Redemption (Volume 2), and Judith: Captive to Conqueror (Volume 1).

To find out more about the company behind these books, please visit: Manga Hero

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stay at Home Moms Need Help

I went to the National Catholic Register site in search of another article that I wanted to post about, but this article caught my attention: Stay at Home Moms Need Help. It's hard, at least for me, to justify the expense of a babysitter, never mind a housekeeper, as a stay-at-home mom. But, it is so true that those of us who live this 24/7 life of homeschooling parenting definitely need a break. And it is definitely OK to take one.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: A Little Way of Homeschooling

A Little Way of Homeschooling
by Suzie Andres
Hillside Education, 2011

Sometimes the perfect book comes along right when you need it. This was the case with me and "A Little Way of Homeschooling" by Suzie Andres. Andres, a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College with a Master's Degree in Philosophy from Notre Dame, became known as an expert in Catholic Unschooling after writing "Homeschooling with Gentleness" (I recently read that book as well and will be reviewing it shortly). That book chronicled her own journey towards unschooling and explored whether a Catholic could unschool and still be in keeping with Church teaching. Her answer was a resounding "yes."

In "A Little Way of Homeschooling," she asked other Catholic families to share their experience of unschooling. All of their stories are informative and informational. The first nine families profiled are true unschoolers. The remaining four "integrate elements of unschooling with more formal approaches to learning." I personally like Karen Edmisten's description of herself as "The Unschooler with a Plan."

Andres is honest about the doubt that comes hand-in-hand with all homeschooling, but especially unschooling. "We may write long books and thoughtful internet posts proclaiming the goodness and freedom of unschooling; at the end of the day we still lie in bed exhausted and wonder if our children are learning what they should." She advises us to "Trust God and be gentle with ourselves."

In her epilogue, Andres relies on the wisdom of St. Therese and St. John Bosco, who many consider the unofficial patron saint of unschooling. He stated "without confidence and love, there can be no true education." There are also four appendixes filled with useful information including recommended books, internet sites, and prayers.

Andres and the contributors to this book offer much wisdom to all homeschoolers, not just unschoolers. I highly recommend this book, especially if the burden of homeschooling is becoming increasingly heavy. It is important to always remember that we are not the ones ultimately in charge. As Andres writes, "What is learned and achieved is extremely individual to the child - and directed by God. Parents and teachers can assist, but they are not the ones primarily in charge."



Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Parenting Question

Usually, I use this column space to reflect on scripture or other spiritual reading. Other times, I share some hard earned wisdom culled from this school of life. Today, I am using it to ask for help from those of you farther on the parenting journey than I. How do you raise your children with a firm understanding that premarital sex is seriously wrong while remaining staunchly pro-life?

The national percentage of out-of-wedlock births is currently about 40%. In the city where I live, that rate is much higher. My children are growing up in a world where having children outside of marriage is considered normal. I try to impress upon them that this is not the way it should be.

At the same time, I am staunchly pro-life. I am thankful that these mothers chose to have these babies. I know that they could have made a different decision. Each child is a gift from God. A child born as a result of premarital sex is an instance of God bringing something good out of something wrong. Recently, we have faced this situation in my own family. My grandniece was recently born to my nephew and his girlfriend. The baby is beautiful and we love her. I still want my children to wait until they are married to have sex.

I grew up in a very authoritarian household. I knew that if I was ever unmarried and pregnant, I shouldn’t bother coming home. While fear of my parents wasn’t the only reason I waited to have sex, it was certainly part of the equation. Yet, I know the strength of emotions and hormones and that things very easily could have been different. I’d like to think that if I ever did find myself pregnant, I would have had the strength to carry the baby and not resort to abortion, but, honestly, I don’t know what I would have done. I know that I would have been very scared.

I don’t want my children to feel that way. I don’t want them to feel that if they have committed a sexual sin and are facing the consequences of that, that they are unwelcome or that I won’t love them anymore. I don’t want them ever to feel that abortion is the appropriate answer to that situation.

What is the answer to this? I can preach about self-respect and respect for members of the opposite sex. I can stress that premarital sex is a mortal sin and a one-way ticket to hell if they don’t have the opportunity to go to confession before they die (this was a fairly strong motivator for me). I can emphasize that having a child out of wedlock will dramatically alter the course of their lives – that they will be facing a responsibility that they are not ready for. And, they may still find themselves in a situation where they give in to their desires and face an unplanned pregnancy.

I’ve often heard the argument that you shouldn’t tell your children, “If you are going to have sex, I want you to protect yourself by using a condom,” because you are giving them permission to have sex. You are supposed to hold up the high standard and trust that your children can live up to that. Is saying, “If you ever find yourself in the situation where you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you can come to us without fear,” the same thing? Do I simply tell them, “No matter what you do in life or what circumstances you find yourself, we will always love you?”

So, I turn to you, and ask you to share your wisdom. How have you walked this line of taking a strong stance against having sex before marriage while being pro-life and supporting those who have children out-of-wedlock?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wisdom for the Coming School Year

A while ago, I lent my copy of Stories for the Homeschool Heart to a dear friend. I had dog-eared one of the pages that I thought she would truly appreciate. She returned the book to me last week, the page still turned down. This time, it was my turn to appreciate the wise words from Scripture.

Whether you are homeschooling or not, these are good things to remember when life seems overwhelming:

With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26

Cast all your cares on me. 1 Peter 5:7

I will give you rest. Matthew 11: 28-30

I give you wisdom.
1 Corinthians 1:30

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9

I will direct your steps. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6

You can do everything through me, who gives you strength.
Phil 4:13



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Will You Accept the Invitation?

This was the entry in today's Living Faith:

The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast . . . Matthew 22:2

As incredible as it may seem, some people turn down the invitation. They either ignore it completely or become so involved in their own concerns they have no time for it. . . So much of our time is spent either climbing the economic ladder or just trying to keep our heads above water. It is not that the concerns of our lives are ignoble; they are not. But even if we are interested in the banquet, we do not seem able to afford the time and energy it might require. And so we send our regrets: I cannot come.

What a shame! We seem to have forgotten that everything is tending toward the end; life itself is moving toward the time of the banquet. All of our plans, all of our interests, all of our distractions will cease. Only the banquet will remain, and we will have turned down our invitation.

- Sr. Dianne Bergant, C.S.A.
Preaching the New Lectionary: Year A

An Original Copy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Two Hearts Beat as One is an interesting post on sacred art and how a copy of a master work is made.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tips for Praying the Rosary More Devoutly

I received the Bulletin for the Association of the Miraculous Medal in the mail today. It had a good list of suggestions on how to pray the rosary more devoutly. Here are a couple I found particularly relevant to my crazy, busy life:

Before beginning, ask Mary to help you pray devoutly. If you are distracted during the rosary, just continue - don't stop or backtrack or repeat. After the rosary, offer it to Mary with your distractions - as a child offering a bouquet to her mother. Even if it is not perfect, it is offered with love.

If you are really busy, or if it is helpful, divide the rosary - one decade before breakfast, another at coffee break, and so on.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

USCCB Marks 9/11 Anniversary with Memorial Website

From the USCCB website:

The Catholic Church Remembers, a website to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, will highlight people’s firsthand experiences of pain and hope from the disaster. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will launch the site August 12.

The site at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/september-11/ includes six video vignettes, including recollections of Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop-emeritus of New York. He became intimately involved in the tragedy moments after it happened – when New York Mayor Giuliani called and asked him to head for St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Thus began soul-searing days tending to the sick on stretchers and anointing bodies pulled from smoldering rubble where the Twin Towers fell. Cardinal Egan also speaks movingly of Ground Zero, which he dubs “Ground Hero,” the funeral Masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the priests pressed into service that day.

“If I had to sum up 9/11, I would say it was a time in which people taught this nation and the world how to be strong and how to be willing to sacrifice themselves for others,” he says in one video. “It was a terrible tragedy, it was a crime, but it was a magnificent manifestation of courage and willingness to sacrifice self.”

He describes finding closure at Ground Zero with Pope Benedict XVI in April 2008, as the pope met with victims’ families, lit a candle and prayed.

“There was so much goodness there that the evil was, I think, not only conquered, it was smothered,” Cardinal Egan says.

The website also includes video of Chaplain Donald Rutherford, a two-star general and Catholic priest now head of all U.S. military chaplains. He is based at the Pentagon, where terrorists flew a plane into the building on 9/11. He describes the effect on young soldiers.

Before 9/11, he says, “it was kind of a carefree world where you never had been attacked before. I think now it says that we’re all vulnerable .… We look at the young soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that we work with everyday …. they are a faithful people. We saw their faith grow that day.”

The website also hosts individual reflections of several people impacted that day.

Lt. Col. Shareda Hosein, U.S. Army Reserves, a woman Muslim chaplain, immediately afterwards was both applauded for her military service and scorned for her Muslim dress.

“I feel the resiliency of my faith as the biggest strength in helping build bridges of understanding with my fellow Americans. I have persevered with patience, a loving kindness, non-judgment and taken a stand to live in a pluralistic America that has liberty and justice for all no matter what race, gender, religion or personal affiliation.”

Beverly and Thomas Burnett, Sr., saw their son Thomas Burnett, Jr., and others “drafted unknowingly as the first citizen-soldiers in the war on terrorism,” they said.

“Little more than one hour into the war, America won its first battle against terrorism,” the couple said. They described their son speaking via cell phone to his wife of a plan to take back a hi-jacked plane and his last words: “We’re going to do something.” Young Burnett and others died fighting terrorists over the skies of Shanksville, Pennsylvania and brought down a plane thought to be headed for the nation’s capital.

New York City firefighter Kenneth Zaveckas, who lost 343 firefighter brothers – 24 of them close friends – when the Twin Towers imploded, asks why he was let live. He was on loan from Manhattan to a unit in Brooklyn, the only borough unit ordered to stay there to protect another suspected target, the Hasidic community. Zaveckas later retired early from the fire department because of lung damage from rescue work at the site.

“I still try to figure out what God was thinking and why I deserved to be spared twice that day.”

Jesuit Father James Martin, culture editor of America magazine, aided rescue workers.

“In this hell I found grace,” he said. “I thought ‘what is God like? God is like the firefighter who rushes into a burning building to save someone. That’s how much God loves us.’ And I saw this love expressed in the great charity of all the rescue workers who gathered at the American Golgotha.”

Msgr. Anthony Sherman, a Brooklyn pastor, led funerals for parishioners lost in the inferno. There were firefighters, and a woman whose marriage he had officiated at a year before, and who had announced on 9/10 that she was pregnant.

“9/11 led us all into the very depths of the mysteries of human suffering, death and resurrection. We discovered that we cannot obtain nor find all the answers to the atrocities we experienced. Yet with God’s grace we also experienced the height of human sacrifice and the ability of our brothers and sisters to manifest heroic love.”

Franciscan Father Joseph Bayne, chief chaplain of New York’s Erie County Emergency Services, traveled from Buffalo, New York, to support his fellow rescue workers sent downstate.

“I did not see the devil’s face at Ground Zero. I saw the face of God in the people working, caring, sweating, crying, rescuing, recovering and being very spiritual in their very humanness.”

Paulist Father Paul Wierichs, a former chaplain to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, worked with the New York FBI office.

“People came together in unity that day. We can all remember where we were on 9/11 because we were all together.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Win a Copy of "The Little Way of Homeschooling"

I'm currently reading A Little Way of Homeschooling. I've heard nothing but great things about the book, and can't wait to finish it and write my review. But, in the meantime, you have a chance to win it. You can enter here: http://www.thebestofhomeschoolfaithandfamilylife.com/freebies.html

Good luck!



Sunday, August 14, 2011

We CAN Make a Difference

There is a well-known story about a young man throwing starfish out into the ocean. An older man walked by and asked him what he was doing. The young man replied that he was throwing the starfish out into the ocean so that they would not die in the heat of the sun. At that, the old man replied, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."
I thought of that story recently while reading an article on the Sisters of Life in Columbia Magazine (the magazine of the Knights of Columbus). They shared the story of a young woman named Mary who was pregnant with her abusive boyfriend’s child. Scared and with nowhere to turn, a mother’s center put her in contact with the Sisters of Life. They provided her with shelter, food, and prayer. She lived with them until her daughter was ten months old. During that time, she “found a job, reunited with her family, and allowed Jesus back into her life.” She now marvels at the blessing her daughter has been and the joy she has brought to her life.

This story could have had a far different ending had the Sisters of Life not been there to help. They made a difference for Mary and her daughter, and many others who find themselves in similar difficult circumstances.

The world’s problems are huge. It often seems that we are powerless in the face of them. Yet, we can make a difference for one person. We can’t feed all the hungry people in the world, but we can donate food to the local food bank. We can’t solve the problem of homelessness, but we can support our local shelter or provide money or food to the man or woman out on the street. We can’t keep every woman from aborting her child, but if we know someone who finds themselves unexpectedly pregnant, we can be supportive and kind and help her find the help she needs. We may not be able to make sure every child grows up loved, but we can certainly make sure our own children (and their friends!) do.

God puts opportunities in our paths every day to make a difference. They may be small acts of kindness or decisions that change the course of our lives, but we are called to respond and act with love. Mother Teresa who is known for the tremendous love and care that she brought to others offered these encouraging words: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier,” and, in keeping with the story at the beginning of this article, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

We can make a difference. We may never know the way we touched another person’s life, but if we do our part, we can trust that God will take care of the rest.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Prayer for Employment

This came to me via a prayer card sent out by the Marian Helpers

God, our Father,
I turn to you seeking your divine help
and guidance as I look for suitable employment.
I need Your wisdom to guide my footsteps
along the right path, and to lead me to find
the proper things to say and do in this quest.
I wish to use the gifts and talents
You have given me, but I need the opportunity
to do so with gainful employment.
Do not abandon me, dear Father,
in this search, but rather grant me this favor
I seek so that I may return to You with praise
and thanksgiving for your gracious assistance.
Grant this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How One Person Changed my Life

A few days ago, I randomly thought of a gentleman I had attended graduate school with. It was just a simple wondering of where he was now. Two days ago, I saw his obituary in my local paper. He had probably gone on to his eternal reward the day he crossed my mind. I'm sure God allowed that random thought for a reason.

He and I weren't friends. We spoke very rarely. Yet, I remember him for two reasons. First, I typed his master's thesis for him. An older gentleman, he wasn't computer literate. He had paid someone to type his thesis, but it ended up being the wrong format. Knowing I was quick on the keyboard, our program director asked if I'd be willing to do the second draft, which I was happy to do. I'm sorry to say, I couldn't recall the topic. I was able to look it up in our college library catalog: Role of a chaplain in a hospital setting.

More importantly, he was the first person to ever introduce me to spiritual direction. He had a flyer for our local center for spiritual direction which he handed to me. He said he had been going for years and that it might be good for me. It took me a few years and a couple children to get there, but I've been meeting with a spiritual director for 8 years now. It changed my life. In many ways, the reason you are reading this blog is because he handed me that flyer all those years ago. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

From his obituary, I learned that he was a self-employed landscaper. After earning his master's (and in keeping with his thesis), he worked as a chaplain at a local hospital and nursing home. I'm sure he touched many lives.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And thank you for allowing him to cross my path.

World Youth Day is right around the corner

World Youth Day is August 16-21, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Reading the stories of some of the young people that will be attending is truly inspiring. It gives me such hope for the future of our Church! Find some of their stories here: World Youth Day

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Inspiring Words from Matthew Kelly

Matthew Kelly, the New York Times best selling author of Rediscover Catholicism, was recently profiled in St. Anthony's Messenger about life now that he is father. He was asked what aould be 3 - 5 steps to "achieving the best version of myself." He replied:

I can give you one step: ask yourself at the beginning of each day, "What can I do today to become a better version of myself?"

That is a good decision-making tool. Am I using my time wisely? Is what I am doing right now helping or hurting my efforts to be a better person, to live life the way God wants me to, to ultimately be with God in heaven?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Raising Spiritually Healthy Children

I enjoyed this article in St. Anthony's Messenger: Spiritually Healthy Children by Alicia Von Stamwitz. It offers a great deal of practical advice and emphasizes that what our children see us doing is far more important than what we are saying. What type of example are you giving your children?

As Von Stamwitz states, "If you want your child to breathe in deeply the spirit of God, you too must breathe deeply. you must explore the values and cultivate the practices that help you live out your own dignity, goodness and creativity."

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Why the World Needs Special Kids

How many times have you heard an expectant mom say, “I don’t care if it is a boy or a girl, as long as the baby is healthy?” But what happens when the baby isn’t healthy? How does one’s world change when a child is diagnosed with major health issues, either before or soon after birth? Is it worth having a child diagnosed with severe special needs in utero if he won’t live long or will have a poor quality of life?

For the contributors to A Special Mother is Born, edited by Leticia Velasquez, the answer to that last question is a resounding “yes.” As a result of her daughter Christina being born with Down Syndrome, Velasquez has become a pro-life crusader, determined to change the statistic that 90 % of children with Down Syndrome are killed via abortion. The parents who share their stories in this book want to educate others about the value and joy of special needs children.

In his inaugural address, Pope Benedict XVI stated that “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” The children profiled in A Special Mother is Born have Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18, autism, brain abnormalities, epilepsy, deafness, blindness, and other challenges. Yet, they have touched the lives of their families and the world around them immeasurably. Some of the children died at very young ages – their parents speak of them as saints in heaven. These are children who never sinned. They are with God interceding for their family members. As Colleen McGuire writes of her daughter Rita who died of Trisomy 18 soon after birth, “I don’t regret one moment of her life. My daughter lived a novena: nine days of love.”

These parents acknowledge the suffering and difficulties involved in raising a special needs child. No parent ever wants to see their child suffer or struggle through life. Yet, the experience has brought them to greater trust in God. Diane Grover writes, “We realized we must surrender it all to God; we must humbly hand it all over to Him. He created this child for His purpose. He created this child for His plans. Whatever comes will happen in His time and in His way.”

Lisa Barker has learned to endure great suffering watching her daughter die. “I’d like to write that everything is going to be okay. It will be, but there is suffering to embrace that I cannot run from. Without Jesus’ life, example and presence, it is impossible to do. But with Him, it can be done, and there can be a sense of peace and joy even in the midst of sorrow.”

Most often, it is fear of the unknown that causes women to abort their special-needs children. Eileen Haupt states, “If only a mother expecting a special needs child could know who her child really is. If only she could feel the joy and the love that she will feel for her baby if she welcomes her into the world. If only she knew how many hearts would be changed by her special baby’s presence. If only she knew, she would never abort.”

There is currently a war going on against special needs children. While those with Down Syndrome have been the primary targets to date due to pre-natal testing, it is only a matter of time before other abnormalities are also targeted. While there are certainly exceptions, the majority of doctors are far too quick to suggest abortion when something is wrong with the baby. They fail to see the blessings and lessons that these children can bring to the world. They fail to acknowledge the inherent worth of every person created by God. We must fight for life for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Grab a box of tissues and read A Special Mother is Born. Whether you are the parent of a special needs child or not, these stories will open your eyes and your heart and help you to appreciate the value of every child God sends to this world.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Catholic Arts and Letters Award Winner

Congratulations go out to Michelle Buckman for winning the 2011 Catholic Arts and Letters Award for Adult Fiction for Rachel's Contrition (Chisel & Cross Books). This is an amazing book. The award is well-deserved.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Embracing a Simpler Life

I recently received an offer in the mail for a free issue of MaryJanesFarm: The Everyday Organic Lifestyle Magazine. While it didn't seem like anything I would be particularly interested in, I have a couple of friends who I thought would enjoy it, so I ordered the issue, figuring I could pass it on.

The issue came in the mail today. I'm a compulsive reader so I couldn't just pass it on without reading it first! Plus, you just never know where you might find something to blog about. And sure enough, here is a suggestion from Joanna, a MaryJanesFarm reader from New Hampshire, we can all make use of:

Old Fashioned Fun Day/Night

Pick one day or night to do things the old fashioned way . . . use oil lamps for lighting, make dinner on your wood stove or over an open campfire, play board games, read a great novel . . . you get the idea. If we all do that four times a month, it will save us four days' worth of electricity use.


Now, I must say, I'm quite fond of electricity, but I'm happy to live without technology for a day a week (computers, cell phone, tv, etc.) and enjoy the simple pleasures.

Overall, the magazine itself is very attractive and well-written with articles on homemaking, crafts, farming, and profiles of people making a difference. I enjoyed reading the issue and will happily pass it on to my friends tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Book Review: Inheritance

Inheritance
by Lisa Barker
Lulu.com, 2011

Lisa Barker is best known in Catholic circles as a non-fiction writer. For many years, she wrote the "Jelly Mom" column and published two books of those columns. In "Inheritance," she turns her attention to fiction. This is an adult book that deals with very dark themes. Joe is attempting to recover from his father's suicide and his own alcoholism. His twin brother is homosexual and was disowned by his family. His child was aborted just after he turned thirty. Wendy lives with the guilt of wanting her Nana to die and the pain of knowing that her only sister rejected her.

"Inheritance" shares the story of Joe and Wanda's attempts to heal and move forward together. There is a very positive portrayal of Catholic counseling and marriage preparation. The importance of the sacrament of confession is emphasized.

As I stated, this is a book for adults. There is some explicit sexuality, taking the Lord's name in vain, and use of vulgarity. One can only presume that Barker was attempting to be realistic in her portrayal of the hell which Joe had lived through. The story itself is compelling and interesting and is a tale of forgiveness and redemption.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Where Do Deacons Come From?

Where Do Deacons Come From?, the follow up to the wonderful Where Do Priests Come From? and Where Do Sisters Come From? is now available!

Where Do Deacons Come From? introduces children (and their families) to this important vocation of service. Endearing illustrations and text answers questions such as: How does a man become a deacon? In what ways can he serve the Church? Can a deacon be married? Can he have a job? This book is a great way to plant the seeds of vocation awareness in the hearts of our children.

Elizabeth Ficocelli is a best-selling, award winning author of thirteen books for adults and young people as well as a popular speaker at state and national conferences, parish events, schools and organizational meetings. She is also a frequent guest on Catholic television and radio. For more information on Elizabeth’s writing, speaking, and media appearances, to order her books, or to bring her in for your next event, please visit: www.elizabethficocelli.com

Monday, August 01, 2011

Catholic Artists Society

The Catholic Artists Society was launched a year and a half ago, but recently celebrated its official "inauguration" at the Church of Our Savior in Manhattan. Kevin Collins, one of the individuals who founded the organization, states "God has given us these talents, and what we want to do is give back to him using these talents." The organization invites artists to "bring the Spirit of the Gospel to what they do."

Read more about the organization in this article in the National Catholic Register: Creating True Art or visit their website at: Catholic Artists Society