Thursday, August 30, 2012

The "God Box"

In the Aug/Sept 2012 of Catholic Digest, Mary Lou Quinlan wrote a touching article on her mother's "God Box." Like many of us, her mother had lots to pray for. Quinlan writes, "With a growing list of wishes and worries on her willing shoulders, Mom decided to adopt the idea of a God Box to lighten her heart. She'd grab any handy scrap of paper . . . date it, write 'Dear God,' describe her need, sign it 'Love, Mary,' place it safe inside her God Box, and let it go."

After her death, Quinlan found ten of these God Boxes up in her closet with petitions covering over twenty years. "We were overwhelmed to see how often she took our cares to God. It was like being wrapped in her arms all over again." She also always put God's will before her own, adding, "if You think it's right" to her notes.

I think that this is a beautiful idea. I know so many people need and ask for prayers and I do try to honor every request, even if it is only a quick Hail Mary when I read a Facebook post or think of someone who needs help during the day. And I hope others do the same for me! It can be hard to keep track of all the requests, however, and I feel badly when I hear about something bad happening  to someone and then I remember, "I promised to pray for that person, but then I forgot in the busyness of life."

I have heard of people keeping lists of those who need prayer and then they pray for those "on their list." In some ways, this is a similar idea. However we do it, we need to turn our prayer requests over to God. A "God Box" is a wonderful thing to have.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Good Advice on Battling Temptations

We all struggle with battling temptations - every day. Each of us has our own areas of weakness. This article by Maurice Blumberg offers some good advice on how to fight temptation and win: Winning the Battle Against Temptation.

I especially like this advice:

Procrastinators will like this one: Put off till later the evil that you can do right now. Tempted to fritter away your work or study time play­ing video games or surfing the Web or watching some garbage” on TV? Just tell yourself that you’ll play or surf or watch it later. Then when “later” comes, repeat the process. Do you feel like giving in to self-pity or an angry tirade? Put it off, and give yourself a chance to accept the grace to put it off again. Make procrastination your friend, and use it as a tool for perse­vering toward the good.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Moments of Beauty Courtesy of my Wildflower Garden


I am not much of a gardener - truly, I am amazed when anything I plant grows. But, this summer I have had great success with my wildflower garden. It has been blooming all summer long, surprising me with new flowers and different colors and it always makes me smile.  Hope you enjoy the virtual blossoms!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ave Maria Press Launches CatholicMom.com Books

Back in July 2011, I was approached by Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com and Ave Maria Press and asked to write "The Catholic Baby Name Book." I spent the next nine months working frantically on it - truly, it was only through the grace of God that this project got completed - and turned in the completed files in May of this year.

I was hesitant to say anything about the book in case the project didn't go through, but here it is in black and white in Ave Maria Press' latest press release, so I'm sharing the good news! I'm honored to be in the company of the other wonderful writers asked to be part of this series. My book won't be coming out until some time in the spring of 2013, but when it does, I hope it will prove to be a useful resource for those choosing a name for a child as well as a resource on saints. It includes over 10,000 names and 3000 short saint biographies. There is a patron saint in there for everyone! I will share more info on the upcoming publication when I have it.

In the meantime, please enjoy the following press release and help support all of these great Catholic writers:

Building on the popularity of Lisa M. Hendey’s The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and her award-winning website CatholicMom.com, Ave Maria Press is pleased to announce the launch of CatholicMom.com Books, which will take place at this week’s Catholic Marketing Network tradeshow in Arlington, Texas.

In the spirit of the New Evangelization, and at the forefront of Catholic new media, Hendey and her fellow moms and bloggers celebrate all things faith, family, and fun from a thoroughly Catholic perspective. Through the triumphs and tedium of the everyday, CatholicMom.com Books will encourage and support moms in their vocations, showing how their Catholic faith can be the vital center of their experience. 

Ave Maria Press’s CatholicMom.com Books will include 1-2 books per year, starting in September 2012 with A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy by popular blogger and author Sarah Reinhard. Reinhard’s book accompanies expectant mothers from conception to baptism with weekly reflections and prayers rooted in the mysteries of the Rosary. Due out in 2013 will be a book of Catholic baby names by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur and one by Marge Fenelon  on eight Marian virtues for motherhood.

Hendey will play an active role in selecting new authors and books for this exciting new series, contributing a foreword for each title and promoting the books on her site and through the thousands who follow her on social media networks.

Hendey’s website has seen exponential growth since its inception in 2000 and now welcomes over half a million unique visitors per year: she is the original Catholic mommy blogger. This vibrant online community provides a friendly forum and digital meeting place for Catholic women to exchange stories, experiences, and prayers, and CatholicMom.com Books will be a treasury of wisdom from many of Hendey’s well-known and trusted online contributors and others. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Best Book on Homeschooling I Have Ever Read


I don’t often reread books. As a book reviewer, I always seem to have more good books in my “to be read” pile than I could ever have time for. Therefore, for me to read a book twice, it really needs to be something extraordinary and helpful to my life. A Little Way of Homeschooling by Suzie Andres definitely falls into that category. 

I first had the pleasure of reading this book last August when I was gearing up for the 2011-2012 school year. I knew I had to take a different approach to our homeschooling and this book on Catholic unschooling came along at just the right time to help me make the adjustments our family needed.  For the purposes of this book, “unschooling” is defined as “making education hinge on the desire for knowledge, rather than on rewards and punishments . . . it allows the child to learn according to his interests and abilities and makes the desire to know, rather than fear of punishment, the primary motivation for learning.”

On Monday, my two boys and I will begin our fifth year of homeschooling and I recently found myself compelled to once again find refuge and renewed courage in the shared wisdom of those who share their stories within its pages. I am not a true unschooler. I have relaxed quite a bit in five years, but as much as the unschooling lifestyle appeals to me, I can’t let go to that extent. Yet, that is the beauty of A Little Way of Homeschooling – one need not be an unschooler to appreciate and benefit from the encouragement of this book. 

Andres, who is a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas College and who holds an M.A. in Philiosophy from Notre Dame, became known as an expert in Catholic unschooling after writing Homeschooling with Gentleness, in which she chronicled her own journey towards unschooling and explored how a Catholic could unschool and still be in keeping with Church teaching. In A Little Way of Homeschooling, Andres asked other Catholic families to share their experience of unschooling. All of their stories are informative and inspirational. The first nine families profiled are true unschoolers. The remaining four "integrate elements of unschooling with more formal approaches to learning." 

Karen Edmisten, author of After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope, falls into that latter category and describes herself as an “Unschooler with a Plan.” She writes:
The beauty of homeschooling is that we get to do what works for us. Sometimes that means a carefully crafted plan. Other times, it means letting go of the plan to see where our days take us. Unschooling doesn’t necessarily mean there’s never a structured lesson, or never anything that looks like school, though it often means that. It doesn’t mean we’ll never touch a textbook or do a worksheet. If those things help, and learning happens, we sometimes do them. What unschooling means to me is that we needn’t adhere to a model of school that doesn’t serve us.

Isn’t it true that most of us get into homeschooling because, for whatever reason, the traditional “model of school” didn’t serve our children well? In educating our children at home, we have the opportunity and responsibility to find a model that does work, or at least works reasonably well, for our individual children. 

What I appreciate most about this book is that, unlike many books on homeschooling, it doesn’t present a “perfect” picture of homeschooling. Those types of homeschooling books were very helpful to me when I was starting homeschooling and dreaming of all it could be. Five years in, I find I can’t even read those books anymore because comparing myself to those families makes me want to crawl under the covers and never come out! A Little Way of Homeschooing is a book for those in the homeschooling trenches, sharing the stories of other mothers who have messy homes and children who don’t necessarily wake up in the morning eager to embark on an exciting new day of learning at home. 

Andres encourages us to "Trust God and be gentle with ourselves. . . 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." That is such an important thing for each of us homeschoolers to remember. I plan to make reading A Little Way of Homeschooling an annual event in my homeschooling life.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Art for the Journey - Angels by Dianne Murphy


In the "It's a Small World" category, I grew up across the street from Dianne Murphy's in-laws and met her when we went to art school together. She was a mother of a large family, who was doing something for herself by going back to school. And then, when I started homeschooling, I became friends with her daughter Mary who is an amazing woman and at the time was the head of our local Catholic homeschool group.

With that introduction . . . Dianne Murphy is a talented artist and remarkable woman who has started selling these beautiful calendars featuring angels. I'm especially fond of this Angel of Reading which graces the month of September:


If you are interested in buying a calendar ($15 includes shipping), or if you are connected to a retail establishment and would like to sell them, please send an email to info   @   Dianne Murphy dot com. Her website (which has just started) is http://artforthejourney.wordpress.com/

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Movie Review: I Don't Know How She Does It!

I recently had the opportunity to watch I Don't Know How She Does It, a movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker as a working mother trying desperately to keep all the balls in the air at one time. I really enjoyed this movie - it was very funny, and with the exception of  a couple lines of sexual innuendo, very clean. It also had some important things to say about motherhood and had a pro-life component.

Parker's character has a very high-profile job in finance that requires her to travel, often at short notice. Her children are well-cared-for by their nanny and she has an involved husband, but she still feels the pain of missing out on key moments. In addition, her five-year old daughter resents her absence a great deal. Try as she might, work-life balance isn't working at all.

There are many parts in this movie that all mothers can relate to. Whether you work outside the home or not, there are always schedules to juggle and too much to do. Parker has lists everywhere, especially in her mind - they keep her awake at night as she tries to figure out how she will do it all, while her husband, of course, sleeps peacefully. Men just don't seem to suffer from these issues, do they? In the end, the stress of the job and her family is tearing her apart, and she issues an ultimatum to her boss.

As for the pro-life component, her assistant finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and plans to have an abortion. Parker talks her out of it, and offers her help and advice on how to be a working mom.

The only negative I found in this movie was that the stay-at-home moms were portrayed in a very stereotypical manner. They were the "mean moms" who excelled at all things mother-related, passed judgment on the working mom, and spent their days doing nothing. Although, truly, the portrayal was so stereotypical, I really do think that it was meant to be funny, and it was.

If you are looking for some fun movie viewing, "I Don't Know How She Does It" should be added to your list.





Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Mass Book for Children

 The National Catholic Register featured A Picture Book of the Mass Illustrated by the Masters in a recent article: Mom Makes Kids' Mass Book.

Writer Lacy Rabideau states:
“I went looking for picture missals for my children and just couldn’t find what I was looking for. I wanted something that was simple enough for children of reading age, yet beautiful — not ‘cheesy.’ What I was looking for didn’t exist, so I wrote it myself.”
 
Rabideau combines the beauty of fine art with the text of the Mass in her new book. Each illustration includes the title and artist’s name, and icons accompany the text, indicating the appropriate posture at different points of the Mass.

Illustrations include works by Fra Angelico, Bloch and Bouguereau, among others. Striking images draw the reader into the rich meaning of the different parts of the Mass, offering an effective focus for the wandering mind and an opportunity for meditation on the mystery at hand. . .

Rabideau was targeting a wide audience with her book. “I pictured a resource that could be used as an evangelization tool for anyone visiting a Catholic Mass, children and adults,” Rabideau said. “My dad is Baptist and recently started attending Mass. I had him on my mind as I wrote the book, and he helped me clarify things from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the Mass.”

To find out more or to purchase the book, please visit: http://catholicicing.com/a-picture-book-of-the-mass-illustrated-by-the-masters/


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Accepting Your Child's Career Choices

I'm trying to keep an open mind about my children's career choices. I know that God has given them a certain tool set of gifts and I pray with them every day that they grow up to be the people that God wants them to be, that they have the career and vocation that they should.

I recently came across this helpful article in St. Anthony Messenger: When I Grow Up on helping your teens make good career choices and supporting them in those choices.

Catholic parents should recognize that every legitimate job is a divine calling. Each person in whatever job he or she may choose can be part of God's work for accomplishing the world's daily tasks. In making career decisions, teens need help, not control, from their parents. 

. . . The college major or job chosen may not meet with your approval. It may even throw a monkey wrench into all the plans you had for your child. But remember, God works in his own way to call people into many different fields of work. "Plans fail when there is no counsel, but they succeed when counselors are many" (Prv 15:22). 

If you keep open the lines of communication, then living with your child's decisions will become easier for both of you. And, in the final analysis, God's plan for your teenager's life will ultimately unveil itself.

Please read the full article here: When I Grow Up

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Saint Who?

Saint Who? 39 Holy Unknowns
by Brian O'Neel
Servant Books, 2012

Most of us are aware of the "famous" saints - people such as the Apostles, St. Francis, St. Therese, St. Anthony, etc., but there are a huge number of saints that very few people know anything about.

Brian O'Neel sets out to rectify that (at least a little bit) by profiling thirty-nine little-known saints that have something relevant to teach us today in "Saint Who? 39 Holy Unknowns." For each saint, O'Neel offers a brief biography along with a reason why oneshould pay attention to this saint.

In these pages, one learns about Saints Perpetua and Felicity and discovers that no reason for living is worth denying Christ. St. Bathilde, the wife of King Clovis, teaches us how to use power and possessions for good. St. Willichord, a missionary saint, offers lessons in perseverance in the face of failure, and St. Lydwine demonstrates faith and patience in the midst of tremendous physical suffering.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson is that "Each if us has abilities we can use for God. Whether it be working on our personal sanctity or trying to make this world a better place by preaching the gospel, each of us can do something that will leave a mark. It's not too late. You're still breathing. What is God calling you to do?"

Each of us is called to be a saint. In "Saint Who?" Brian O'Neel educates us about thirty-nine people who did. They are worth spending some time with.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Discernment - What is God's Will for Me?

"What is God's Will for Me?" - That is one of those questions that we ask ourselves so often. The issue of discernment - where God's will and our free will intersect - is a big one. We want to make good choices and do what God wants for us, but sometimes it is so hard to tell.

Joseph Pronechen explores the subject in his recent article for the National Catholic Register: What is God's Will for Me?


Father Jonathan Morris, director of the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Radio and religion and ethics contributor for the Fox News Channel, says the No. 1 question we should ask is: “Is what I am considering doing going to bring me closer to heaven? And if it’s not, then we don’t do it.”
If we’re still not sure, seek answers from the Bible and Church teaching.


Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, host of EWTN Live and author of How to Listen When God Is Speaking: A Guide for Modern-Day Catholics (The Word Among Us Press, 2011), explains this method.
“The first and most basic principle is that a person needs to have enough humility to accept God on his own terms,” he says. That means accepting what the Lord has revealed about himself in Scripture, Tradition and the magisterium.


“Discernment comes into play quite legitimately when you have two options, both of which are good in and of themselves,” Father Pacwa adds.


For instance, discovering what state in life one is called to: priesthood, married life or religious life.
“All of these in and of themselves are apparently good,” he says. “The question is of knowing which one of those goods is the best way for me to give greater glory to God.”


Two attitudes help us better able to discern God’s will, Father Pacwa says. “One: What is for the greater glory of God? How am I going to give him better service and greater glory in my life?  Two: being truly equal-minded toward all good things.” This means wanting to do whatever God wants because I trust that he has the greatest good for me involved in that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Look at Life with a Child with Severe Special Needs

One of the blogs I follow is written by a college classmate who has two "typical" teenagers and a pre-teen child with severe special needs. I'm friends with her on Facebook and I am constantly amazed by her faith and fortitude and daily struggle.

Her daughter is currently in the hospital again and she has written a powerful blog post about the difficulties inherent in that, not only for her daughter who is sick, but for the family as a whole. I invite you to read her blogpost here: Loneliness and perhaps say a prayer or two for her and her family. I'm sure that they could use it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quilt Block in Honor of St. Anne

I'm pleased to present the latest in my patron saint quilt series. This block is in honor of St. Anne, the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus.

To find out more and download the free pattern, please visit: Quilt Block in Honor of St. Anne










Book Review: Heaven is For Real

Heaven is For Real
by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
Thomas Nelson, 2010




 Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Backhas been on my "want to read" list for a while now and I'm pleased I recently had the opportunity to spend time with this true-life story. I believe in heaven - I don't need a book to tell me that it is real, but I like to hear stories about people who have been to the other side and come back to share. I think God allows us to get those little glimpses because He knows we are a naturally skeptical people, especially when it comes to things we can't see or touch.


Todd Burpo is a Wesleyan Pastor who was very respectful of Catholicism within these pages. He tells the story of his son Colton's experience on the other side. What makes this so remarkable and believable is that Colton was only four years old. He couldn't have made this stuff up, and the theology coming out of a young boy's mouth would have made anyone take notice. He also suddenly had information about his great-grandfather who had died before he was born, and about his sister, a child lost before birth that he had never been told about. He had met both of these people on the other side.

Honestly, I don't know what heaven is like or if everyone experiences it the same way. Young Colton Burpo saw a heaven that was very consistent with what is told in the Book of Revelation and in other parts of Scripture. Some of it was even a bit scary - he saw the angels still battling Satan, although he had the assurance that God wins the battle.

The Burpos waited a long time to share their story, but eventually decided to do so because Colton wanted people to know that heaven is real, that there is something beyond this life. He also wanted people to know that Jesus really loves children. In fact, Colton told his parents this so much they got tired of hearing it! But, perhaps it is a message our society desperately needs to hear.

As with any private revelation, people can choose to believe or not, but I found "Heaven is For Real" very informative and that it offered one more small peek at the world that comes after this one.


Happy Feast of the Assumption


 The Gospel for Today:

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
"Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled."

And Mary said:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever."

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

Lk 1:39-56


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Dignity of Work

I love this article by Cheryl Dickow which is up today on Catholic Lane: The Dignity of Work . I know that I find great value in my work. Whether we work inside or outside the home or some combination thereof, our work has tremendous value for both us and the world.

Dickow quotes Pope John Paul II's encyclical Laborem Exercens:

“From the beginning therefore he [man] is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature.”

She goes on to write: "Nothing offers a fuller sense of satisfaction than a task well-performed. It doesn’t matter if that task is washing the kitchen floor, finding the best bargains at the grocery store, or guiding a classroom of middle school students towards a lesson’s objective. Inherent in who we are as humans, as Blessed John Paul points out, is the need for a person to contribute to his or her family or neighborhood or culture in a discernable way. This is what separates us from the animals but also is what gives us dignity."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Challenge of Aging Gracefully


“Mom, can I count your grey hairs?” my nine-year-old asked me the other day as he started to poke at my head. He eventually abandoned the task, deciding that there were too many. 

Last week, I walked into my parents’ house and my mom declared, “Wow! I love your new haircut. It makes you look older!” Hmm . . . I know she meant well, but in my late thirties, is that really a compliment?

 At Mass this morning, I found myself wistfully wishing that I could be the eighteen-year-old altar server. She is such an intelligent, kind young woman with many talents. Her whole future is ahead of her and she is heading to Harvard in a couple weeks. And, as if that foray into envy wasn’t bad enough (yes, I ALWAYS have to confess envy), I realized that not only am I not young with my future ahead of me, but also that I am old enough to be that young woman’s mother. 

Needless to say, my quickly advancing age has been on my mind a lot lately.

Our chronological age is one of those things that we have no control over. Those of us blessed to live on this earth for a certain number of years eventually become middle-aged and then senior citizens. But while men seem to earn a certain respect and distinguished quality as they grey, we women are constantly told by the world that we only have value when we are, or at least look, young. Hence, the huge market for cosmetics, plastic surgery, and anything else that may promise to restore us to our youthful appearance. 

One can either choose to embrace the changes and accept them as best as one can or one can choose to fight tooth and nail against the signs of age. I decided a long time ago that I would go grey naturally, and plastic surgery is most definitely not in my future. I do exercise and try to take care of myself, but the simple truth is that my body is aging, and will continue to do so. I need to make peace with the middle-aged woman in the mirror.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti tackled this topic in the July 2012 issue of Living magazine. She wrote, 

Character. Age. Patina. Why do we value these qualities in our possessions but not in ourselves? . . . I am reluctant to accept the prevailing belief that beauty lies in subtraction, and that by erasing the passage of time from my face I will not only be smoother but happier. Wrinkles mean you’ve lived, and life is a privilege. . . Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could appreciate ourselves the way we do our furniture? If the beauty of a changing face was considered a shining testament to the added value of age.

I second that passage. I have no idea how to convince our youth-obsessed society that age is something to be embraced, rather than viewed as the enemy. But, maybe it starts with each one of us and how we view ourselves when we look at our reflection, and then continues with how we present ourselves to the world. We’ve had time to become comfortable in our skin and to be secure in the women we are. It’s time to radiate that character and confidence. It’s time to show that age is beautiful!  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Spiritual Exercises Retreats

The Miles Christi priests offer retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in many areas around the country. I'm excited that two retreats will be held here in Massachusetts in the coming months. The women's retreat is in September and the men's will be held in December.

he Spiritual Exercises are a weekend silent retreat with spiritual talks and time for personal meditation in silence. The spiritual conferences are preached by the priests of Miles Christi, according to the method and the principles of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Apart from the conferences and time for prayer, each day there will also be Holy Mass, Holy Rosary, and opportunity for confessions.
The retreats will start on Friday at 4:00 pm and conclude on Sunday at 5:00 pm.
As experience has shown throughout the centuries, the Spiritual Exercises have proven to be an excellent means of conversion and sanctification. In addition, the Magisterium of the Church has commended them numerous times.

 For more information, please visit: http://www.mileschristi.org/en/activities/spiritual-exercises.php?id=70

Putting Together a Last-Minute Curriculum

Are you in a panic over your homeschool plans for the coming year? Over at Catholic Lane today, Jennifer Fitz offers some great suggestions for putting together a last-minute curriculum: Putting Together a Last-Minute Curriculum

Thursday, August 09, 2012

New Catholic Fiction by Katherine Valentine


Sweet Dreams

Award-Winning Catholic Author Katherine Valentine has just announced the release of her latest book: Sweet Dreams


Emma Smith is married to the Vice President of a private bank. They have a son, a high school senior, about to enter an Ivy League college. They live in the most fashionable section of town and vacation to exotic places. To the outside world, the Smiths have everything.

Then tragedy strikes. Emma’s husband disappears with a large sum of the bank’s money along with the family’s savings. Within weeks, she and her son are stripped of everything and forced to live in the inner city projects. With no marketable skills, Emma feels alone, abandoned and without any hope for the future.

But God has other plans.

Sweet Dreams is the story of redemption, forgiveness and the power of faith to turn tragedies into triumphs and transform a broken life.

Sweet Dreams is available as a Kindle book. Even if you don't own a Kindle, you can get Kindle for your PC or iPad for free.


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What is True Freedom?

What does it mean to be free?

The July issue of Columbia Magazine recently delved into that question. Managing editor Alton J. Pelowski offered the following statement. This is a weighty statement and requires reading through a couple times. I invite you to take the time to read and reflect on it.

Because the words "freedom" and "rights" are used frequently in public debate, it is critical for us to ask what precisely is meant by freedom and what is the source of human rights. What becomes clear, then, is that the secular culture has fundamentally different assumptions about human nature than does the Catholic Church. From the secular perspective, freedom is defined primarily in terms of self-determination and choosing between various options; rights are seen simply in terms of immunity from coercion; and both religion and society itself are thought of as a voluntary associations. 

From the Catholic perspective, on the other hand, freedom involves the capacity to conform one's will toward what is good; rights are founded on human dignity and imply prior duties to God and to others; and our origin in God and relationship to others are inseparable from who we are as human beings . . . 

If freedom is reduced to simply the assertion of the will and does not acknowledge God as its source and ultimate end, then the universality of human rights is inevitably replaced by the struggle for power of the strong over the weal. In response to this false freedom that characterizes the culture of death, Catholics are called to be witnesses of the abundant life and joy that true freedom brings to the world.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Year of Faith Conference in Springfield, MA

Our Holy Father has declared October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013 to be a Year of Faith.

Here in Springfield, MA, a conference is being held on September 22, 2012 to prepare for this coming year. Featuring such speakers as Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Sr. Jane Morrisey, Jeff Cavins and Matthew Weber, it promises to be a great event.

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

Monday, August 06, 2012

Appreciating that God Made our Children Different from Us

One of the difficult things about homeschooling, or parenting in general, is accepting that our children are different from us, sometimes radically so. The educational plan that we may have dreamed of when we first started homeschooling, or the life dreams that we may have held for our children, may simply be a bad fit for our children.

Often, that is because we start with what we either enjoyed, or wish that we could have done, rather than looking at the gifts and strengths and weaknesses God gave our children.

This week, I've been reading High School of Your Dreams from Catholic Heritage Curricula. My kids aren't in high school yet, but I'm thinking ahead, trying to figure out what homeschooling high school might look like so that I am not having a stress attack when my son is in eighth grade and so that I will have an answer for people who question, "How on earth do you plan to homeschool high school?"

This quote from the book struck me:

Each individual is a precious and unrepeatable miracle, not because of what he does, but because of who he is: a child of God. Those who use their God-given gifts to the best of their ability, in whatever capacity, give glory to God not according to man's measure, but according to God's.

I've already started praying with my children each night that they grow up to be the people God wants them to be, that they have the vocation and career that they should. God knows better than I do what is best for my children. They are His children first.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Our Crosses Aren't Forever

The other day I had some precious free time which I was going to spend working on the computer. I set up my laptop on the kitchen table, went to grab something to drink, turned around and found my older son sitting at the computer settling himself in. 

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Working on my Lego program.”

“But I was going to do some work.”

“But, Moooooommmmm, this is the only chance I have to work on this.”

“Fine, take it.”  

I assure you, the snarky tone I used when delivering that last line immediately negated any benefit that may have been derived from the self-sacrifice involved. 

Determined to still accomplish something, I grabbed my e-reader and read some of the soon-to-be-released book by Sarah Reinhard, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary, from Conception to Baptism. As it turns out, this change of plans was God at work because I ended up reading something I definitely needed to be reminded of.  

Reinhard’s book integrates reflections on each week of pregnancy with meditations on each of the mysteries of the rosary. It is a wonderful book – truly, I wish that I had this resource available when I was pregnant with my children. But, even in my non-pregnant state, I’ve found much wisdom in its pages. On this particular day, the line that hit me was in her reflection on “The Crowning of Thorns:” Our crosses aren’t forever.

I know this of course. Ask me, and I will certainly tell you, “This, too, shall pass.” I have dispensed those words of wisdom on a number of occasions, and reminded myself of them on a regular basis. Yet, at any given moment of pain, misery, depression, frustration, etc., I am likely to forget and to wallow in whatever I am stuck in at the time. I want to give up.

Our crosses aren’t forever. Sure, it seems that way sometimes. It seems like life will never change, that we will forever be stuck in whatever problem we may be mired in. It seems like the road lies ahead of us in a long, unwinding path, and that there is no escape. Or even worse, it may appear as if we are descending further and further into our own private version of hell. Things are not only not getting better – they are getting worse! What comfort can possibly be found in that place of pain? 

And yet, each day, life does change. It may be imperceptible at times, but looking back we can see it. Another instance of life being best understood in hindsight. In the rear-view mirror, we can see God at work in our lives, gently moving and shaping and bringing us where we need to be. While some pain will never be truly understood this side of heaven, often we can appreciate what suffering has done for us in the long term. It hones us, makes us stronger and more compassionate. It leads us to places we may never have ever traveled to otherwise. 

Then, there is death, which as Christians, we do not believe is the end. With death, all of our crosses will be taken away. This life isn’t forever. The older we get, the more we know how quickly life does go by. Individual days may seem long, but the years go by like sand through our fingers. Our goal is to spend eternity with God in heaven, a place of perfect happiness. There, our hearts will hurt no longer. The pain will be gone. All will be understood.


 

Friday, August 03, 2012

Quilt Block in Honor of St. Brigid of Ireland


I've got my latest quilt block pattern up over on my Patron Saints Quilts blog. This one is in honor of St. Brigid of Ireland and is a quilted representation of St. Brigid's Cross. Please visit: Patron Saint Quilts - St. Brigid in order to download the free pattern.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Fighting Envy

Here is a great quote on appreciating the way God made us from The Cup of Our Life: A Guide to Spiritual Growth by Joyce Rupp.

We aren't meant to be like everyone else, although we constantly hear this expectation. This same culture instills in us the idea that there's something wrong with us - we are flawed - if we don't measure up to certain qualifications. Maybe that's why so many people envy others' bodies, intelligence, personality traits, or talents. We tend to consistently sit in judgment upon ourselves and upon others. This is dangerous for the spiritual life . . . When we consistently compare ourselves with others, we can end up rejecting our selves - God's beloved creatures - and we follow someone else's dream instead of our own.

Today give thanks to God for all you are and have.