Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Review: In Constant Prayer

In Constant Prayer (The Ancient Practices)

by Robert Benson
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008

In Constant Prayer (The Ancient Practices)
by Robert Benson is the second in the “Ancient Practices” series being edited by Phyllis Tickle for Thomas Nelson Publishers. Benson focuses on the practice of saying the “Daily Office,” a formal series of prayers said at several times during the day. As Tickle states, this is the practice “of interrupting secular time every three hours for the observance of worship time made sacred by prayer.”

I admit that before I read this book, I knew very little about the Daily Office other than what it was. Benson does a good job of explaining the practice, especially the history of fixed hour prayer and the reasons why this practice should continue in our modern world. He extols the value of using formal prayer that isn’t about us at all, but rather about praising God, and the beauty of praying the same prayers that others throughout the world are doing at the same time. He makes all the arguments people offer for not doing the office and then cuts them down. He also includes an example of the Daily Office in an appendix. Having never read it before, I found it beautiful. I do wish that he had offered more guidance as to how to actually say the Daily Office although he does refer the reader to other books.

Benson emphasizes that he is not a theologian and certainly does not have all the answers. He is a writer and a seeker. As such, I think that many will relate to his spiritual journey. I especially enjoyed his chapter, “Lost Between the Daily and the Divine,” in which he explores how learning to pray and praying have much in common with the other work we do in our lives. For example, if one writes, or creates music, a great deal of that craft is sitting down and making yourself do the work. The same holds true of prayer. We learn by doing. As Benson very wisely states, “I do not know if I will ever become a person of prayer. But I do know that there is only one way it will ever happen. People of prayer say their prayers – every day.”

As a Catholic, I found Benson’s discussion of Confession particularly interesting. Saying that one is sorry for one’s sins is part of the Daily Office. Benson speaks of his evangelical upbringing – once saved, always saved, but he acknowledges that the sins keep coming. He goes back to John who states that if we confess our sins, we will be forgiven. He therefore does see the need for this confessing of sin. We all make mistakes. His longing for forgiveness made me realize the value of our Sacrament of Reconciliation even more. There is something to be said for hearing the words “You are absolved of all your sin.”

“In Constant Prayer” is a very insightful work. Whether or not it convinces you to begin praying the “Daily Office,” it will help you realize the value of punctuating one’s day with frequent prayer.

Horrific Anti-Life Sentiments

I got these quotes from the Susan B. Anthony List - a group that works to elect pro-life politicians. Where is the outrage? There is no way most women think this.

Mothers are Losers

“The argument that women who become pregnant have in some sense consented to the pregnancy belies reality…and others who are the inevitable losers in the contraceptive lottery no more ‘consent’ to pregnancy than pedestrians ‘consent’ to being struck by drunk drivers.’”

Pregnant Women are Fetal Containers

“The woman is constantly aware for nine months that her body is not wholly her own: the state has conscripted her body for its own ends. Thus, abortion restrictions ‘reduce pregnant women to no more than fetal containers.’”

Pregnancy equals Slavery

“Statutes that curtail her abortion choice are disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment, in that forced pregnancy requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest.”

All of these outrageous statements were made by Dawn Johnsen, who has been appointed by President Obama to head the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Finding Where One Belongs

I went to go visit my best friend and her three month old baby yesterday. The baby is beautiful, an absolute gift from God. Like all new parents, my friend and her husband are studying her every move and characteristic, trying to determine where she fits in their family. Whose eyes and nose does she have? Whose hair color? Where did she get that way she sticks out her bottom lip? I did the same thing when my own children were small, as my own parents did with me. Even now, I look in the mirror and see characteristics of different members of my family. We all want to know where we belong, where we fit in the bigger picture.

The same thing happens with our place in the world at large. We grow up and try to figure out where our path lies. What is our role in the big picture? We believe that God put us here for a reason, but what is that reason? What is the particular contribution that we have to bring to life on Earth? That’s a question that does not always have an easy answer. Some people are lucky. They seem to know from a very early age exactly what they were meant to do, who they were meant to be. For most of us, however, life is more of an unfolding; careers more temporary. I know the question of where I belong is one I ponder on a regular basis. I also wonder where my children’s lives will lead them. I know that God put them here for a reason, too.

So much in life seems left to chance, but as I have often heard it said, “There are no coincidences, only God-incidences.” So, then, I have to believe that the people we come across, the lives we touch, the jobs we do, all are part of some master plan. We have free will and obviously make choices about our lives, but God is there, working behind the scenes, helping to bring good out of the chaos. From the day that we are born, each one of us plays a role in so many people’s lives, often times in ways we never realize or imagine. We may never do something that goes down in the history books. We may never even make the local newspaper. Yet, our simple personal interactions can and do change other’s lives.

We all do have a role to play in this world. God made us all for a reason. We do need to pray to help figure out what that reason is, to help align our will with God’s will. Sometimes, the reason is not always evident (although sometimes in hindsight we can see it), but we need to trust that it is there, that our lives matter. We all do belong. We all have a place. God loves each and every one of us.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review: Finding Our Way Again

Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices"
by Brian McLaren
Thomas Nelson, 2008

“You can’t take an epidural shot to ease the pain of giving birth to character.” So states Brian McLaren in Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices. What, then, can we do to help shape the person that we trying to become? McLaren argues that the ancient spiritual practices can help us make our way through the chaos that is life. This is the first in a series of books published by Thomas Nelson focusing on the following spiritual practices: Prayer, Sabbath, Fasting, The Sacred Meal, Pilgrimage, the Liturgical Year, and Tithing. As such, “Finding Our Way Again” can both stand alone as an introduction to the value of these practices, as well as provide a hint of what is to come in the additional volumes.

These seven practices are common to all three faith traditions that trace their roots to Abraham: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In a world where religious conflict is all too common, these practices can help us realize just how much we actually share. McLaren, who is a Christian, writes from an emergent mindset. Like Phyllis Tickle who is the general editor of this series, he believes that a new way of practicing religion is coming into being, one that incorporates aspects of several different faith traditions. Regardless of whether one agrees with that assessment or not, one can find great value in learning about these common practices and incorporating at least some of them into one’s life. Contemplative practices such as prayer, observing the Sabbath, and fasting, “are means by which we become prepared for grace to surprise us. They are ways of opening our hands so that we can receive the gifts God wants to give us.” On the other hand, communal practices such as taking part in the sacred meal, a pilgrimage, the liturgical seasons, and tithing bring us out of ourselves and into community. “The Way of Community is about the inward journey, not the journey into me, but the journey into we.” In many ways the contemplative and community practices are interconnected. McLaren also devotes some time to discussing the three aspects of the ancient way: the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive aspects of our spiritual journey. The ancient practices are designed to assist us on that journey.

“Finding Our Way Again” is enlightening. McLaren offers questions and exercises so that this book may be used either alone or in group study. I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

Five Things I Wish You Knew about NFP

Sara Fox Peterson wrote a very informative article about NFP for Catholic Mom: Five Things I Wish You Knew. I especially like this paragraph:

NFP can be a tremendous blessing for a couple who must avoid pregnancy, but it is also a privation and most couples who seriously use NFP to avoid pregnancy for any length of time will feel this. God does faithfully supply the graces necessary to cooperate with Him and NFP is not impossibly burdensome when it is truly necessary, but it usually isn’t fun or effortless either. NFP is not an easy way out of the struggles and sacrifices of bearing and raising children because it may entail significant struggles and sacrifices of it’s own. So it is OK not to be happy about using NFP. It is OK to be angry or sad that it is necessary. And many of us must grow considerably before we can regret only that it is necessary to avoid pregnancy and not to hang on to feelings that if we could only legitimately use contraception life would be better. But even when we use NFP only out of obedience (even grudging obedience) God is so very generous with His grace and blessings and grow and flourish we will.

This is the first time I have ever seen it written that it is OK not to be thrilled with NFP. After 12 years, I can say it has been a blessing, but it certainly has not always been easy, and as my body moves into more changes now that I am getting older, I confess that I am just a little scared - trusting in God, but scared. As I said, it has been a blessing and I am very grateful for it. I totally agree with the last sentence that "God is so very generous with His grace and blessings," even when the obedience is not always easy.

1st Communion Photo Contest

Win $100 Gift Card for the Cutest First Communion Photo

The Catholic Company, the market leader for online Catholic books and gifts, has just announced a First Communion Photo Contest. What a great excuse to pull those photos out of the photo book and show them off again. Bloggers, podcasters, and webmasters can also win a $50 Gift Card for referring the winning entry to the contest, so be sure to spread the word!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

International Influence?

I stopped by Elms College today - my alma mater as well as a place that I used to work. I was helping out a former co-worker with a database. I stopped at the chapel after to pray and was heading home when I encountered a Sister that I knew. She called out to me. It had been years since I had seen her. I was surprised she even remembered my name. But then she said to me, "I was in Germany recently and a woman had one of your articles about St. Therese and asked me if I knew you, and I told her that I did!"

I was so excited! I write and write and hope that my words do some good in the world, and often there is no feedback at all. It is kind of like sending my words out this great big vast hole and sometimes it seems like it doesn't matter at all. And then, someone says something like that and it is just like God saying "Keep it up!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Feast of the Annunciation

Tomorrow (March 25th) is the feast of the Annunciation, a remembrance of the day that Mary's "Yes" changed the course of history. Today, won't you join me in saying a special "Hail Mary" in Mary's honor:

Hail Mary, Full of Grace
The Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Paul in Arabia" on Catholic Blog Fiction

I'm pleased to announce that an excerpt of "Paul in Arabia," a novel by seminarian Tucker Cordani is now up on Catholic Blog Fiction.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Loving the Neighbor Within Our Own Home

A wise priest once said to me, “It is often easier to love the orphans in Africa than it is to love our own siblings.” I thought of that quote today as we were doing a lesson on “loving one’s neighbor” in third grade CCD. The first page of the lesson talked about how we should love all people as our brothers and sisters. Note to Religious Education publishers: this is a bad analogy to use in a textbook aimed at eight and nine-year-old children. The teacher’s manual prompted us to ask the students how they should treat their brothers and sisters. Interestingly, the only student who answered “we should be kind to them” was the one who doesn’t actually have any brothers or sisters. The others proceeded to give a run-down of all the mean things their siblings and they do to each other. As a mother of two boys, nineteen months apart, I can relate. I’m actually pretty lucky. My children get along well most of the time. But when they don’t, I feel like refereeing international disputes at the United Nations might be an easier task than trying to keep them from killing each other. They swear that they will never speak to each again, only to be best friends again an hour later.

Even as adults, getting along with our siblings can be a challenge. We may no longer feel the need to scream at them or punch them (although I have seen adult brothers do this as a bonding ritual), but chances are, at times, they will rub us the wrong way. We do the same thing to them. We are just alike and different enough to drive each other crazy. We would never treat other people (co-workers, friends, strangers on the street) the way we feel free to treat our siblings.

The same holds true with others that we live with. Whether it be our spouses or our children or our parents, the people we share our home with often share the brunt of our stress. We hold in all, or at least most, of our frustration when dealing with others. We maintain the respectable fa├žade. Yet, when we are home we feel free to be our “true” ourselves, however unpleasant that may be at times. After all, they are supposed to love us anyway.

The recent movie “Fireproof” was all about reclaiming a troubled marriage through using kindness and making sacrifices. The same holds true for all of our close relationships. What a different world this would be if we were all kinder to the people we share our lives with! When we hear the scripture reading about the Good Samaritan we usually take it to mean we should love our enemies. That is most definitely true. All people are our neighbor. We should never turn our back on someone in need. Neither, however, should we turn our backs on those we love. Sometimes, the hardest challenge is to love the neighbor within our own home.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Review: The Wednesday Letters

A couple months ago I saw The Wednesday Letters
at the local bookstore and then requested it from the library. Of course, when it actually came in, I had a pile of other reading to get through. I’m so glad that I took the time the past couple of days to read this. What a treasure this book by Jason F. Wright is! Not only is it a great love story, but it is also profoundly pro-life and offers lessons in forgiveness and second chances.

Laurel and Jack Cooper died on the same night after thirty-nine years of marriage. When their children come home for their funeral, they discover box upon box of letters. Jack wrote Laurel a letter every Wednesday of their lives together. In reading these letters, their children discover many things that they never knew, especially one buried family secret. The children need to make peace with the past, and in so doing, create a new future.

“The Wednesday Letters” is a must-read. You won’t regret spending time with this story.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What is Holiness?

I thought that this explanation of holiness by Ralph Martin in the article "Called to Holiness: Who, Me?" in Columbia Magazine was very insightful:

First, holiness is not a matter of how many prayers we say, how often we fast or how many activities we volunteer for - although all of these may have a relationship to holiness. According to the saints, holiness is not primarily a matter of external actions of piety or service but of the interior union of our will to God's will.

St. Teresa of Avila defined holiness as wanting what God wants; loving what God loves; desiring what God desires. Similarly, St. Therese of Lisieux said, "Perfection consists in doing his will, in being what he wills us to be." Toward the very end of her life, Therese said, "I do not desire to die more than to live; it is what he does that I love." Indeed, Jesus reveals that holiness is ultimately about growing in love - bringing our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies into harmony with God.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Homeschooling S.O.S.

I love homeschooling. It is probably the best parenting decision I ever made. Unlike some of my friends whose kids have never been in school, I don't ever have the temptation to put my kids back in school. Been there, done that. It didn't work for us. Yet, still, there are those days when I wonder if my children know all that they need to know, if they will grow up to be productive members of society, if they will ever learn to spell with a reasonable degree of accuracy. And it is on those days when I am wracked with doubt and worry that I look to my homeschooling mentors for reassurance and perspective, the women who have walked this road before me and succeeded.

One of these women is my friend Mary who has been homeschooling for 12 years now. Today she shares a very insightful article at Homeschooling 101

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shrine of the Holy Innocents

The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA is beginning a shrine of the Holy Innocents. According to the website, Our God is a God of Mercy who cares for our needs from the moment of conception. The Shrine of the Holy Innocents will honor the memory of the souls of all children whose lives have been lost, and it will provide a sacred place of prayer and healing for parents and others who have been touched by the loss of a child..

To find out more, including how to purchase a memorial, please visit http://memorialsonedenhill.org/sothi/

Monday, March 16, 2009

Confession in a Mall?

Millcreek Mall in Erie, Pennsylvania now offers Confession along with the usual fare of commercial America. A small chapel which offers a sacred place for prayer and confession amidst opened on Ash Wednesday 2008 under the direction of Bishop Donald Trautman who wanted to help bring more people back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I like the idea! Saturday at 3:30 is not always convenient for confession. Why not have it available where people are? The chapel is a visible reminder of the Church and the presence of Jesus Christ for those who might not otherwise step into a church. The Church needs more innovative ideas like this.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Prodigal Son Revisited

The parable of “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32) is one that most of us are very familiar with, so much so that when that particular Gospel comes, we might be likely to tune it out. Yes, yes, we nod. We know all the angles of this story.

First, there is the prodigal son himself. He is the sinner. We have all been there. We make a royal mess of things. We sin and sin and sin some more. Until, eventually (hopefully!) we wake up one morning and realize the error of our ways and come crawling on our knees back to God to beg forgiveness and to begin anew.

Then, there is the older brother. Oh yes, we have been there, too. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times I have felt like the Prodigal Son’s older sister! The rant goes something like this – “It’s just not fair, God! I’ve been faithful. You are giving good things to everyone else but me, and I’m not very happy about it.” This is generally accompanied by pouting which could make a two-year-old proud. It isn’t pretty. My selfishness and pride and envy comes through in full effect, which pretty much reduces me back to the Prodigal Son level where I have to go crawling back to God yet again.

And there is the loving Father, welcoming back the Prodigal Son with fatted calf and a huge party. God waits, patiently and lovingly, for us to return. He’s even there with us when we are being more like the older brother.

It was because of this intimate familiarity with this story that a recent reflection made me stand up and take notice – it made me view this parable in a new light. Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, F.S.P. writing in “Living Faith” commented, “But from the Garden of Eden, to the desert where the Chosen People rebelled against the Lord, to the Prodigal Son who takes his life into his own hands turning his back on the Father, to the hill of Calvary, clearly the way we deal with sin is deeply connected with who we become.” That one line about the Prodigal Son really struck me. He wanted to take his life into his own hands. That’s what sin comes down to, isn’t it? We think that we know better than God. After all, who needs the Ten Commandments? Who needs the Church? Who needs prayer? Not us. Instead of bowing before God and trying to align our will with His, we try to go our own way. We convince ourselves we can do this on our own. We fool ourselves that we can handle whatever comes our way – until we can’t and life becomes such a mess that we turn to God in desperation. Thankfully, God is always waiting with open arms for us to return.

"Assisted Living" by John Desjarlais on Catholic Fiction Blog

Beginning today, check out "Assisted Living" by John Desjarlais on the Catholic Blog Fiction blog. It is a great tale of finding help when one least expects it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Prayer for Souls in Purgatory

A reader who read my article on Purgatory earlier this week sent me the following prayer given by the Lord to St. Gertrude.

"Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."

Our Lord told her it would release many souls from Purgatory each time it was said.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Foyer and Motherhood

Donna Marie Cooper O'Boyle is excerpting parts of her book The Domestic Church: Room by Room A Mother's Study Guide on Catholic Mom at http://new.catholicmom.com/2009/03/11/the-foyer-and-motherhood/

My favorite quote up for today:

"Silence can ironically be found in the busyness of a mother’s day as a mother learns to retreat to her heart even as she is involved in the care of her family. Within the “silence” of a mother’s heart, Our Lord can speak.”

I have definitely found that to be true.

Monday, March 09, 2009

New England Catholic Homeschooler's Conference Announces Speakers!

Are you in New England? Interested in Homeschooling? Come to the New England Catholic Homeschooler's Conference being held in June in Chicopee, MA. Check out the speakers and find out more at http://wmch.stblogs.com/speakers/

What Cross Have You Been Asked to Bear?

Cheryl Dickow has written a very powerful article on the crosses Jesus asks each of us to bear, and our own paths to sainthood: What Cross Have You Been Asked to Bear?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

What about Purgatory?

Purgatory is one of those things we don’t hear about very much anymore. In fact, a recent survey conducted by US Catholic indicted only 73% of Catholics believe purgatory even exists (interestingly enough, 77% believe that their prayers can help those in purgatory get to heaven). I can understand how the idea of purgatory makes many uncomfortable. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable. While obviously a much better place than hell, I really don’t want to go there. I don’t want my loved ones to go there. It’s much easier to think that if we live a good life, God will immediately welcome us to heaven with open arms. Unfortunately, save for the elect few who are perfect at death, this is not what scripture, the Church, or the saints teach us.

Matthew 12:31-32 tells us that “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come,” which implies that there is a place where forgiveness can still be obtained after death. By the same token, 1 Corinthians 3:15 and 1 Peter 1:7 speak of a “cleansing fire.”

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church teaches that

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (1030)

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned (Cf. Council of Florence [1439]: DS 1304; Council of Trent [1563]: DS 1820; [1547]: 1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus [1336]: DS 1000). (1031)

This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin" (2 Macc 12:46). From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God (Cf. Council of Lyons II [1274]: DS 856). The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead . . .(1032)

Perhaps the saint who offered the most evidence for the existence of purgatory in recent times is St. Padre Pio. He was known to speak with souls in purgatory and dedicated much of his suffering and prayers to help free souls from that place of purgation. He is known to have stated that “I was talking with some souls who, while on their way from Purgatory to Heaven, stopped here to thank me because I remembered them in my Mass this morning,” and that “more souls of the dead from Purgatory than of the living climb this mountain to attend my Masses and seek my prayers.” St. Catherine of Genoa remarked that “There is no peace to be compared with that of the souls in Purgatory, save that of the saints in Paradise, and this peace is ever augmented by the in-flowing of God into these souls, which increases in proportion as the impediments to it are removed” and that “The 'fire' of purgatory is God's love 'burning' the soul so that, at last, the soul is wholly aflame. It is the pain of wanting to be made totally worthy of One who is seen as infinitely lovable, the pain of desire for union that is now absolutely assured, but not yet fully tasted.”

So, then, souls in purgatory, although suffering, are also at peace, because they know that they are assured salvation. Still, they need our prayers and sacrifices and mass offerings in order to help them move up to heaven more quickly. As Catholics we believe in the communion of saints which includes the souls in heaven, the souls on earth, and the souls in purgatory. We have a responsibility to pray for those who have passed on before us. In doing so, we can hope that others will pray for us after our time on earth is done. Despite what we may like to believe, Purgatory is real. We should be thankful that God does give us the chance to be made perfect even after we die.

Friday, March 06, 2009

"The Little Hail Mary"

Pat Gohn has written a great article on the Hail Mary, its Biblical routes, and its power in our lives. Read it here: The Little Hail Mary

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Seeking the Bread of Life

This is an excerpt from today's entry in Living Faith

Ask and it will be given to you . . .Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? Matthew 7:7, 9-10

This passage can be extremely unsettling when we ask and do not receive what we ask for. . . We seem to be handed a stone instead of bread, a snake instead of fish. If we would not do this to our children, why would God do it to us? We ask to be kept safe, but we are broken open.

Only slowly have I realized that it has been in that breaking open that I have come closer to God. It may not have been the bread that I asked for, but it was the Bread of Life.

- Patricia Livingston

"Necessity" on Catholic Blog Fiction

Tomorrow (March 6th) on Catholic Blog Fiction is a one-day powerful short story by Roger Thomas about the necessary choices we sometimes have to make for the care of our loved ones and the implications of those choices. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Take a Survey on the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Kathie Beuscher of St.Dominic Parish Brookfield, WI is doing research for her dissertation on the sacrament of Reconciliation. You can help her out by taking the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=RYd8P6Py4CbfifhaFCQdAw_3d_3d

Monday, March 02, 2009

Book Review: What the Church Teaches about Sex

What the Church Teaches about Sex: God’s Plan for Human Happiness
By Robert L. Fastiggi
Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2009

If asked to name the one issue that Catholics have the most difficulty with, most would answer the Church’s teaching on sexuality. Whether it be pre-marital sex, cohabitation, or contraception, the majority of Catholics choose to ignore it. Why is that? Is it that the teaching is out of touch with the modern world, that the standard is set too high, or that Catholics are simply ignorant of the teachings and the reasons behind them? Yes, the Church’s standard for our sexual expression is high and difficult to live up to, but the supposed sexual freedom that many embrace today has led to a whole lot of heartbreak and many failed relationships, not to mention the use of abortion as a birth control method. Maybe the Church’s teaching is worth a second look.

Robert L. Fastiggi, Ph.D. is Professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. In “What the Church Teaches about Sex: God’s Plan for Human Happiness” he writes that he hopes “people will take a second look at the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church on sexual matters. I am convinced that this morality is grounded in the truth of what God wants for us as men and women called to love and bring forth new life. It is a morality that is realistic, challenging, compassionate, and true. May God give us the courage and wisdom to embrace and defend the good news of Catholic sexual morality!”

Fastiggi offers a historical perspective on the Church’s sexual teaching, spending considerable time on the teachings of St. Augustine, a man who lived to regret and repent his sexual immorality. He then focuses on the Theology of the Body put forth by Pope John Paul II which guides the Church’s understanding of sexuality today. Fastiggi then goes on to explore the beauty and purposes of the sexual aspect of marriage as well as the challenges of living chastely in all the states of life. He discusses various sexual sins and what it means to let conscience be one’s guide.

“What the Church Teaches about Sex” is an informative exploration of the Church’s teaching on sexuality. No one who reads it will ever be able to claim ignorance of the Church’s positive standards for this life-giving beautiful act.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on What the Church Teaches About Sex- God's Plan for Happiness.

Our Lady of Medjugorje

Sarah Reinhard wrote a very good article on Our Lady of Medjugorje, Eucharistic Adoration and the Search for Peace on The Women's Channel on Catholic Exchange.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sharing Other's Suffering

Christ suffers in solidarity with every soul, and we can suffer in solidarity with Him. We are never alone, though we may feel forsaken. Christ shows us that He is one with us in our sorrow and pain, no matter how alone we feel. We are all wounded, broken, suffering in some way, and even the pain we bring upon ourselves, He shares. He MUST share, because love is revealed fully when we share another’s suffering.

We cannot eliminate suffering in this life, There are times when we can partially alleviate another’s suffering, but our proper response to suffering is to simply be with, be for, the suffering person. The answer to suffering is always an experience of grace and unconditional acceptance. The answer to suffering is love.

-Kathryn Mulderink, His Suffering and Ours

Sharing another’s suffering is one of the most intimate things we can do. It is easy to be with another in their joy. It is a much harder task to be with someone as they cry out in pain or misery or suffer in silence as their spirit is ripped to shreds and they feel that the light will never come out again. So often, when we see someone else in pain, we want to fix things. We want to make the pain go away. Sometimes, we can. Other times, we have nothing to offer but our presence. It is important to realize how much a gift that can be.

As parents, part of our job is to try to alleviate our child’s suffering. When babies cry, we rock them or feed them or change their diaper. As children grow older, if they are physically injured, we may kiss the “boo boo” or apply a bandage, or take them to a doctor if the situation warrants. There are times, however, when we are powerless to take away their pain. They may have been hurt by a friend or be frustrated by their own limitations. They may have a broken heart or failed to make a sports team that they desperately wanted to belong to. They may have made a really dumb decision and now are forced to face the consequences. Any number of situations may have caused them to suffer, and all we can do is to be there with them in the pain. We can hold them and be a shoulder to cry on. We can be the safe place to vent and allow them to express their anger. We can share our own stories of pain and help them know that eventually things will get better.

As adults, with our spouses and other friends, sharing another’s pain most often involves being a good listener. This seems like it should be so easy, but it often isn’t. Yes, we can sometimes do things to help alleviate another’s suffering and if it is within our power to do so, we should. More often, however, the pain is not something easily fixed. Adults suffer from scars of childhood, the pain of failed or damaged relationships, from addictions, and psychological imbalances, from fear and worry, and a lack of hope. We suffer from physical ailments and the realization that we are getting older and stress from having too much to do. Most of those things are outside of our power to fix for another person or even for ourselves. Most people simply want someone else to acknowledge their pain, to be with them as they try to sort it all out, and make it through to another tomorrow. Love asks this of us. Christ asks this of us. Even the Son of God himself felt alone in his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wanted his closest friends to simply be with him, to help him pray and make it through. They let him down.

Who do you know who is hurting today? Will you be with them in their hour of need?

"Hiding the Stranger" on Catholic Blog Fiction

From 3/2 - 3/5, check out the excerpt from the young adult novelHiding the Stranger in Hickory Valley on Catholic Blog Fiction

The official description:

Joan L. Kelly, author of "My Big Feet" and "Lonny the Lizard finds a Treasure," delivers another winning book! The adventure begins when a young farm girl, Katie, finds an unconscious teenager in a meadow. When she and her siblings try to help him discover answers, they find themselves involved in intrigue and possible danger. Who is this mysterious stranger who suddenly shows up on a small Illinois farm? Where did he come from? Where is he going? This first book in the trilogy takes the reader on an adventure filled quest!

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