Friday, October 28, 2011

The Church and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is such a huge and, most often, hidden problem. U.S. Catholic has a thought-provoking article on what local parishes can do to help those who are suffering:

Let's Stop Ignoring Domestic Violence

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October Baby - Important Movie About Abortion Survivor

Pat Gohn gave me the heads up today about a limited release movie about an abortion survivor: October Baby: Every Life is Beautiful. Find out more about it here: October Baby. It looks wonderful!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Collin Raye Pro-Life Song

From an article in the National Catholic Register:

Nominated five times as country music’s top male vocalist and author of more than a dozen chart-topping songs, Collin Raye has been a popular country performer for 20 years. Now he is putting his talents toward the cause of life, recently signing on as national spokesman for the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, which seeks to raise awareness about euthanasia and the care of persons with disabilities. The network is run by Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri; her feeding tube was removed by court order in 2005.

Raye, 51, was born in Arkansas and grew up in Texas, first performing on stage with his mother at age 7. After performing for years with his brother, he began his solo recording career. He became a Catholic at age 23 and has recorded songs with strong faith themes. In April 2010 his granddaughter Haley, died at the age of 9 of a neurological disorder she was born with. On his most recent album, Raye performs a tribute to her, She’s With Me, in which he celebrates her life as filled with love and meaning though she needed constant care.



Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/new-voice-for-life-collin-raye/#ixzz1bwWNXxIJ



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

We Don't Have to Be Pretty or Smell Good to Make a Difference

This is an excerpt from today's reflection by Melanie Rigney in Living Faith

Yeasts are funny things, fungi, really. They're not pretty, and some of them smell. Yet without these fermentation and leavening agents, we wouldn't have wine, beer or a host of baked goods. Yeasts begin small processed that spawn big results.

It may not seem that visiting a sick friend or helping out at a food pantry or giving money to a charity can matter much. . . But just as Jesus' ministry began small and continues to inspire billions some 2000 years later, so can our actions make a difference in the lives of our family, friends and strangers. We don't have to be pretty or smell good. We just have to be open to being part of the process.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: "Abba!! Abba!!"

Abba!! Abba!!
by Lynda A. Collins
Trafford Publishing, 2006

In these days when fathers are unfortunately frequently absent from their children's lives, "Abba!! Abba!!" is a sweet children's book about a father's love - both our earthly father and our Father in heaven. A father takes his three children on an outing to the park where they get to see many animals bonding with their parents as well as have fun playing on the playground. When another boy falls and hurts himself badly, he calls out "Abba!!" and his father comes to help him.

Later on, one of the children asks her own Daddy about it and her father explains that "Abba" is the Aramaic word for father and the term that Jesus used to call his own father when he was on the cross. He tells his children, "God the Almighty Father wants all His children to know that when we fall He is right there to comfort us and hold us in His loving arms."

The book is illustrated by the author's brother-in-law, John Collins. Children will especially love the drawing of an ostrich peering out at them from the pages of the book! There is also great beauty in the image of God holding us in the palm of his hand. This would be a lovely book to read aloud with a child to help share with them the depth of our Father's love.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

If You Quit, You Can't Blame God

We all feel tempted to quit sometimes. Whether they are related to relationships, parenting, or work, there are moments in life when we simply want to throw up our arms in frustration and give up. And, sometimes, we want to blame God. After all, God allowed circumstances to be so hard. Obviously, God doesn’t want us to accomplish whatever it is we are trying to accomplish. Otherwise, the road wouldn’t be so full of potholes and mountains.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the premiere performance of “Present Company Excluded,” a play written by Doug Foresta. Based on the life of Herbert Roth, it tells of a young Jewish boy living in Roth, Germany in the years leading up to World War II. As Roth prepares for his Bar Mitzvah, he questions everything about God. Why doesn’t God talk to him the way he talked to Abraham? Why did God allow his mother to die? Why is God allowing his father’s business to fail and his friends to ignore him simply because they are Jewish?

Towards the end of the play, his step-mother, who Roth wants nothing to do with, is encouraging him to come with her to apply for a visa to leave Germany and go to America. His father has already failed in this task and Roth sees no point to trying again. He has resigned himself to his fate and feels that God is keeping them in Germany. His step-mother tells him that they have to keep trying, because “If you quit, you can’t blame God.”

There is a great deal of truth to that statement. Indeed, it can be very difficult to discern what God wants from us in life. There are certainly times when it seems every door is being slammed against us. It seems that there is no point in continuing and that God must want us to take a different path. Sometimes, He does.

But if that is the case, then the window will open. Other opportunities and circumstances will come our way. If we continue to pray, however, and trust that God is with us, and no other paths open up to us, then we have no reason to quit the road we are on. Yes, it may seem impossibly hard and the outcome uncertain, but we need to keep trying. We need to keep getting up every morning and do our best and leave the rest to God.

God is the one ultimately in charge. I love the statement by Blessed Mother Teresa, “God doesn’t call us to be successful, only faithful.” Our success or failure is determined only by God. He has His reasons for having us on the road we are on. The roadblocks, too, are there for a reason. Although, often it is only in looking back that we can appreciate them. As Roth stated in the play, his mother dying led to his hated step-mother joining the family. She would be the person who would ultimately save all of their lives. God does work in mysterious ways.

Yes, circumstances are hard. But, if we quit, we need to own it. If we stop trying, we can’t blame God and say that it is His fault that things didn’t work out.

To find out more about "Present Company Excluded," please visit www.dramastudio.org.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Second Look . .

I recently was sent a paperback copy of Simple Ways: Towards the Sacred. As I flipped through it, it seemed a bit familiar, but a cursory search on my blog didn't bring up a review, so I set to work to read it. As it turns out, I had read it before and found the old post today:
Simple Ways Toward the Sacred, but I'm not sorry that I took the time to read it again.

It has been well over three years since I last spent time with this book. My life is very different now. As a result, I brought a different perspective to its pages. Its reminders to focus on the simple things in life are always important, but perhaps never moreso than when we are crazy busy and there seems little time to breathe or appreciate much of everything. Life becomes a series of tasks before we succumb to sleep only to have to get up the next day and do it all again.

Gunilla Norris emphasizes the gift of our bodies, our senses, our dwelling places, and the objects that surround us. How much do we value these "simple" gifts? How often do we take them for granted?

We can choose to be mindful. We can choose to appreciate. We can choose to be grateful to God for all of His gifts. These are the important messages contained in the pages of "Simple Ways Toward the Sacred."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 2012 New England Catholic Homeschool Conference

The 2012 New England Catholic Homeschool Conference will be held May 19th, 2012 in Metheun, MA. Find out more at http://www.newenglandhomeschool.com/

My New Position with Catholic Lane

This week, I finished up working for Catholic Exchange, and am pleased to announce that I am now a Senior Editor with Catholic Lane.

I hope that you will visit Catholic Lane and like us on Facebook. I'm very excited about this new chapter in my career!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Food for the Poor Christmas Catalog

Food for the Poor is an organization I've started supporting this year. Of course, there are many people hungry in our own country that need help (I try to help with that cause as much as I can as well), but it is important to remember the people around the world who are dying of malnutrition, especially when you see how far just a few of our dollars can go.

$36 here might pay for a dinner for two at a casual dining restaurant. There, it can feed a child for a whole year. We have the power to make a real difference in someone's world. I invite you to check out their Christmas Catalog and see the many ways you could change one life or many lives: Food for the Poor Christmas Catalog

Monday, October 17, 2011

Celebrating the Mass Lesson Plans

Explaining the upcoming changes in the Mass to children can be a challenge, especially since I would venture to say that most of us adults are struggling with them at the same time. To that end, Laura Grace at CatholicMom.com is offering Lesson Plans on Celebrating the Mass. View them here: Celebrating the Mass Lesson Plans

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Review: "A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms"


A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul (Ave Maria Press)
by Lisa M. Hendey
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2011

There are many wonderful books about Catholic saints available. Most of you probably own some of them. Perhaps you even have some collecting dust in your home. They looked so interesting, but you never found the time to read them. So, why should you purchase another one? Because in the new “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms,” Lisa Hendey has put together a very inspiring, practical guide to the saints designed especially for Catholic mothers.

Hendey, the founder of CatholicMom.com, wrote this book as the follow-up to her best selling “The Handbook for Catholic Moms.” In that book, she focused on the “importance of nurturing ourselves as moms in four components of our lives: heart, mind, body, and soul.” In this resource, she has profiled 52 saints and highlighted which of those four components they speak to in our lives. This book can be used on a week by week basis with the focus being on one saint per week, or one may simply wish to focus on a saint that speaks to whatever area of one’s life is in need of a little extra help at the moment.

For each saint, Hendey offers a variety of topics: a brief biographical sketch, reflections on lessons learned from the saint, popular traditions associated with him or her, a quote from the saint, a week’s worth of Scripture verses that are associated with the spirit of that holy person, activities to do either alone or with your children, a prayer asking for the saint’s intercession, and questions to ponder throughout the week. Of course, one is under no obligation to do or reflect on all of that information, but it is good to have options. Each person reading this book will find something that appeals to her and her preferred way of learning and praying.

The variety of saints that Hendey profiles should also be noted. Beginning with our Blessed Mother, “the first and best Catholic mom,” she includes many of the well-known saints you may already know and love, such as Teresa of Avila, Sebastian, Maria Goretti, Patrick, Martha of Bethany, John Paul II, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. But, she does seem to have made a concerted effort to focus on saints that are less well-known. It is possible that readers may find some new friends in the communion saints as they read and reflect on individuals such as Josephine Bakhita, Isidore of Seville, Louis and Marie-Azelie Martin, Chiara “Luce” Badano, and AndrĂ© Bessette.

In “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms,” Lisa Hendey has compiled and created a very useful and inspirational book. It can be used alone, with your family, or as part of a Catholic women’s book club. No matter how it is used, your life will be enriched as a result.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What if Jesus was Sitting Right Next to You?

This tip comes from one of my homeschooling friends. When her children want to watch something inappropriate, she asks them if they would watch it if Jesus was right next you.

That's actually a good standard for all of us, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where is the Joy in our Liturgy?

I recently happened to be at my Church in the evening. I was there for a meeting with my children, but as we were leaving, the Spanish community was just beginning their weekly prayer service. The music was upbeat and full of energy and the people were singing and praising God with their whole bodies. They were full of joy! It was quite a different experience from the one we usually have at Mass. I half-jokingly told my children we may have to start attending the Spanish Mass!

On the same note, Fr. Donald Lapointe of the Springfield, MA Diocese recently took a mission trip to Kenya. In an article for The Catholic Mirror, he tells of his experience of their Mass:

"The poverty among these Kenyans is matched, even exceeded, by the depth of their faith demonstrated at weekly Masses . . . In spite of liturgies that can last three hours or more, with many parishioners sitting outside under the hot sun . . .every moment of the Mass is filled with joy and reverence for God. 'They love to sing and dance . . . for them, it is truly a celebration."

When we attend Mass, we have respect and prayerfulness (at least most of the time), but where is our joy when we celebrate the liturgy? Maybe we could learn something from these other traditions.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Help for Facing Depression

Rev. John Powers will be speaking on "A Witness to Hope: Depression Recovery" at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish Center in Westfield, MA on October 22 from 9:30 am to 3 pm. Registration begins at 8:45 am. Cost is $15. For more information, call (413) 452-0645 or email frjohn@cpprov.org. Here is an excerpt from an article he wrote regarding this event:

You may find it difficult to believe that a highly functioning Roman Catholic priest would experience the tormenting loneliness of depression. After all, I presumably had faith, theological studies and God on my side. I'd written a number of books on the subject of emotional and spiritual health, been a traveling and radio and television preacher and was even, at one point, accepted into a doctoral program in psychology.

Depression, however, shows no partiality. It's an equal opportunity disease that robs you of the very things you need for a meaningful life: love, friendship, self-worth, faith, work, God and the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of everyday life.

No one is immune to the mood disorder of depression. No one! Nobody! . . . I've traveled to madness and have not only survived the journey but have returned with enough sanity and graceful serenity to either help some to avoid having to take the trip there or to help them on the road back.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Appreciating the Simple Moments

Today was a beautiful fall day and I spent some of it outside blowing bubbles with a two-year-old. I would blow the bubbles and he would chase them and try to catch them – giggling with delight the whole time. As I blew the bubbles again and again, I couldn’t help but reflect on the simplicity of that exercise. All it took was some liquid soap, a plastic bubble blower, and my own hot air. With those three simple ingredients, countless beautiful spheres were brought into being. They danced in the wind, reflecting small rainbows of light, until they floated off into the distance or were crushed by a young child’s eager hands.

It was one of those simple moments that are so easy to miss. I know that there were things I would have rather been doing. “Blowing bubbles” certainly wasn’t on my to-do list for today. And yet, I took the time to do it because a child wanted to and was richly rewarded.

Life is so busy today. It seems like there is always something to be done. Technology has made our lives easier but, as a result of those same innovations, our lives move at a much quicker pace. We are more productive than we have ever been, but the technology that was supposed to make our lives easier was also intended to give us more time. Time to do what? Enjoy the simple pleasures of life – spend time with our families and friends, go for a walk, work in the garden, enjoy a hobby, appreciate the gifts of God’s creation, etc.

Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Instead, we frequently use the “extra” time that technology saves us to interact with more technology. We surf the net, or watch television, or spend more time working just because we can and because there is always one more thing to be done. We frequently spend more time interacting with screens than we do interacting with real people or the world outside our front door.

I am not anti-technology – not at all. I’m blessed to be able to work from home because of it. I love that I can find the answer to almost any question my children might have when we are homeschooling with a few keystrokes. I enjoy connecting with my friends and work colleagues via social networks. Technology has opened up a world of possibility that simply didn’t exist a few years ago.

But, there needs to be a balance. We need to remember what is important and what is lasting in this world. Technology is a tool, but it is supposed to work for us, not the other way around. We need to unplug and take the time to appreciate the simple things, to play with a child, to smell a flower, to thank God for a beautiful sunset, or to marvel at dancing bubbles. The world is full of beauty – much of it fleeting. Children grow quickly, flowers bloom for only a brief period of time, sunrises and sunsets last mere moments. Our chances to value them are just as fleeting. We need to make a concerted effort to embrace at least some of those chances.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Let Go and Let God

I really like this column by Judy Diditch on Catholic Mom: Let Go and Let God. Here is an excerpt:

Recently, in the question and answer segment of an online talk I was giving to a group of homeschooling mothers, a mom asked me how we can know when we are supposed to be “proactive” as opposed to “letting go and letting God”. . .

As I explained to that beautiful mother, there is a difference, and a fine line at that, between being “proactive” as in “steadfast and diligent and persistent in prayer and service” and “proactive” as in “trying to affect change and bring about a certain result”.

The latter is not in our domain. Results belong to God and God alone.
The former, however, is exactly where our hearts need to be and that is that we trust, pray, and persist with confidence, knowing that the Lord will meet our needs and that He will always manifest His goodness in our lives.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

What if there had been no Steve Jobs?

In light of Steve Jobs' death, this article is particularly relevant: Opposing Abortion Must Be More Than a Phrase

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

October has long been considered a month especially devoted to the Rosary. October 7th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Pope St. Pius V established this feast in 1573. The purpose was to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto—a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. Pope Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Aspiritech - Creating Careers for those with Aspergers

As the mother of a child with Aspergers, I do wonder about his future. Will he be able to have a job and be a productive member of society? He has a lot to offer, but he also has a lot of limitations. While we are working to help minimize those, my sense is that life will always be a struggle for him.

That is why I was excited to see this article about Aspiritech: Startup company succeeds at hiring autistic adults. You can also read more at their website: Aspiritech.org

Prayer to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska

October 5th is the Feast Day of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska

St. Faustina,

You told us that your mission would continue after your death and that you would not forget us. Our Lord also granted you a great privilege, telling you to "Distribute graces as you will, to whom you will, and when you will." Relying on this, I ask your intercession for the graces I need, especially (mention your intentions).

Help me, above all, to trust in Jesus as you did, and thus to glorify His mercy every moment of my life. Amen


From the Association of Marian Helpers

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Feast of St. Francis


Canticle of the Sun
by St. Francis

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Catholic with Breast Cancer

This is an important article for every Catholic woman to read: Just Show Up - We Are Called to Love. I pray and hope that that this woman's testimony is not the experience of every Catholic woman with breast cancer, but I've seen first hand how hurtful Catholic women can be to each other and I have no doubt that this happens all too often. We sometimes really need the reminder to be kind to each other.

Book Review: "Unbridled Grace"

Unbridled Grace: A True Story about the Power of Choice
by Dr. Michael J. Norman
Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing, 2011

“Unbridled Grace” by Dr. Michael Norman is subtitled “A True Story about The Power of Choice.” Dr. Norman is a firm believer in the gift of our free will and the power of our choices to shape our lives. We can choose to either cooperate with God’s will for us or work against it. Following God’s will is frequently the much harder path. It “initially instills fear deep within our hearts because it requires the greatest sacrifice, possible acceptance of pain, and no promises of easy solutions. . .[but] surrender, detachment, meekness, and humble submission to God’s will is the only path to our destiny and God’s dreams for us.”

Dr. Norman should know. He faced incredible odds and, in the midst of them, developed a renewed faith in God and continued to trust in Him even when the whole world seemed stacked against him. In 1994, he was fresh out of chiropractor school, married, with a new baby, when he answered a classified ad in the local newspaper for a part-time chiropractor. The job seemed perfect – he could work around his private practice and he desperately needed the money.

Unfortunately, he would ultimately find out that his employers were actually members of the Russian mafia. Despite his innocence of any wrongdoing, he would be arrested by 6 FBI agents in front of his then five-year old daughter and given a choice. He could plead guilty to Federal perjury and agree to lie to put others in prison in order to avoid prison time, or he could fight the trumped up charges and risk going to prison for ten years. He chose to fight.

“Unbridled Grace” tells the story of that fight and the struggles and blessings that came along with it. The story itself is compelling – it could easily be a riveting movie, but that isn’t the best part of this book. Rather, it is the reflections at the end of the chapters in which Dr. Norman shares his hard-earned wisdom about life and faith that make this book worth your time.

In the midst of his struggles, he rediscovered the Catholic faith of his youth, inspired by a Father John who took the time to meet with him regularly and guide him in his journey. Dr. Norman integrates elements of that renewed faith and his learning the art of submission into these instructional passages. He does not sugarcoat the teachings. He is a man who has suffered and knows that others suffer as well. He has experienced dryness in prayer and felt abandoned in the midst of his hurt. He also acknowledges the battle is never-ending this side of heaven. But he emphasizes that how we wage that battle has eternal ramifications. Our time here on this earth is short. We will have to answer for how we used that gift of time.

“Unbridled Grace” is a quick read, but with a tremendous message. One would never want to have walked in Dr. Norman’s shoes, but we can all recognize our own battles in his personal struggles. He shares much wisdom in these pages which can help us on our journey towards God.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Is Making Sacrifices "Stupid?"

I’m really not one to talk about voluntary sacrifices I make – the whole “do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” thing. It’s something between me and God. But, I happened to casually mention to a friend that I was basically doing another Lent for 40 Days for Life, which began September 28th and runs through November 6th. The response? “Wow! That’s really stupid.”

It was not that this individual thought that the pro-life movement was stupid . No, this person is staunchly pro-life. Rather, it was the idea that I thought that my giving up something would in any way help the cause.

At first, I was deeply offended. As I thought more about it, however, I realized that most people probably share my friend’s opinion and it was worth giving some time (and a column!) to. Do our sacrifices actually matter or I am simply denying myself needlessly? If they do matter, how does it work?

Obviously, this kind of sacrifice is different than the Lenten version, which is done in a spirit of mortification and penance – to acknowledge and make reparation for one’s own sinfulness and attachment to worldly goods and to focus more on God and prayer. This type of sacrifice isn’t being offered up for oneself, but rather for another.

The answer lies in the Catholic belief in the Communion of Saints. We profess this every week when we say the Nicene Creed at Mass: “We believe in the Communion of Saints,” but what does that actually mean? It means that all of us – those in heaven, those in purgatory, and those of us struggling here on earth are all interconnected.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:

The Christian who seeks to purify himself of his sin and to become holy with the help of God's grace is not alone. "The life of each of God's children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person.”

In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things." In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.
(1474-1475)

Therefore, the good acts of one can indeed help someone else. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized this idea in his Lenten message for 2009. He stated that “by freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger.” In the case of “Forty Days for Life,” those participating are offering sacrifices and prayers to help unborn children and their mothers, all of whom are most certainly part of the Communion of Saints.

A belief in the value of sacrifice to help another person takes faith. Like many other situations, we may never see the fruit of our actions. People may indeed think that we are being dumb and denying ourselves needlessly. We trust in God and in his mercy and humbly offer our small gifts of self-denial. In the end, God’s opinion is the only one that truly matters.

Thank Your Guardian Angel Today

Today is the feast of the Guardian Angels, which makes it the perfect day to say Thank You to them for all that they do for us. Personally, I'd like to thank them for protecting me and my children from two car accidents. Last week, a car swerved on the other side of the road and nearly hit me head-on and today, a small truck switched lanes and nearly crashed into me. Both times, I ended up scraping the curb, but escaped unhurt. Thank you, Guardian Angels! I'm glad you are there and I look forward to meeting you someday.