Tuesday, June 29, 2010

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein

I'm currently reading a preview copy of Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship by Mary DeTurris Poust. In it, I came across this interesting tidbit regarding C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein.

[C.S.] Lewis shared a deep friendship with author J.R.R. Tolkein, who was instrumental in Lewis' conversion to Christianity. These authors met at Magdalen College at Oxford University and later influenced each other's writings and spirituality. In fact, it has been said that we would not have Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" or Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings if the two had not met and encouraged each other in their efforts to transmit gospel truth through fantasy fiction. . . The relationship between Lewis and Tolkein was not simply a matter of common interest or professional pedigree, but of a common desire to use their talents to deepen their own faith and share it with others.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ignore this Alarm at Your Own Risk

My family and I were shopping at our local mall today when the fire alarm suddenly went off. While not ear-piercing, it was very loud, and there were strobe lights going off everywhere. Truly, there was no way to miss it. We were done our shopping and heading out of the mall when this occurred. During the five minutes it took us to exit the building, there was no public address announcement to indicate it was a false alarm. While we could not see any smoke or fire, there very well could have been in some other part of the building. As I looked around, I noticed that no one else was moving to the exits. People continued shopping. A few people, especially children, covered their ears in response to the shrill noise, but that was it. Everyone else simply ignored the alarm. Truly, I was flabbergasted by the lack of concern.

As a society, we have become used to false alarms. Car alarms, house alarms – they all get ignored. The media tries to get us worked up about things on a daily basis. There is always a threat du jour, some new thing or food that is bad for us. Most of these are proved false in time. We have learned not to be bothered.

What about in our spiritual life? Do we pay any attention to the alarms that we hear there? Or does our jaded attitude carry over into our relationship with God? As I reflected on this, I thought of John the Baptist crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” If we encountered him today on the street (there aren’t many deserts in my part of the world), we would most likely move to the other side of the road in an attempt to avoid him. Do we take seriously the need to repent?

We’ve heard Scripture passages so many times, we barely listen during Mass. Can you recall what the Gospel was about this past Sunday? What the priest said in his homily? Do we take the message of the Word of God seriously in our lives? Do we hear God asking us to change our lives?

What about when that little voice inside our head tells us what we are doing is wrong? Do we pay attention to our conscience, or do we ignore it? Do we try to rationalize our behavior? Do we think that because everyone else is doing something that it is okay? Do we want to take the easy road rather than the right road? Do we ignore the alarms inside ourselves, shut them out until our conscience is deadened and the warnings go away?

Despite all the false alarms in our lives, there are alarms that we should take seriously. Contrary to the opinion of my fellow mall shoppers, I still believe that it is better to leave a building when the fire alarm goes off. You can always go back inside when it stops. It is even more important to pay attention to the alarms in our spiritual lives. They rarely come with piercing noises and strobe lights. Instead, they come in whispers, the nagging feeling that something isn’t right in our lives. They come in the Word of God and in answers to prayers. Ignore them at the risk of your eternal lives.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Review: Plan B

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?
by Pete Wilson
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010

So many books on Christianity put forth the (erroneous) idea that if you simply believe enough in God and pray enough, then life will be problem-free. "Plan B" is a much more honest look at life. Pete Wilson begins "Plan B" with an important question: "Do you remember the day you discovered your life wasn't going to turn out quite the way you thought?" Wilson deals with the messiness of life in this book - the painful parts, the shattered dreams. He goes on to state, "If you are like so many people I know, your shattered dreams may have left you wondering if God is still actively involved in your life. You may wonder if he even cares or if you're too broken and bruised to be healed by him. You probably wonder quite a lot about what to do next."

Wilson doesn't even pretend to have all the answers. After all, he is right there in the trenches with the rest of us. There is no one size fits all solution for healing and moving forward. People looking for one will be disappointed in this book. What Wilson does offer are Biblical stories and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that even in our darkest hour, we are not alone, and that God can always bring something good out of seemingly hopeless situations. Wilson encourages us to love and trust in the midst of the pain. I highly recommend this book to anyone going through a difficult time.

Here are a couple good quotes from this book:

"The thing is, God is God. He doesn't owe any of us anything. But he gives us everything, including himself. He does it in his own magnificent, mysterious, maddeningly unpredictable way. He does it in his own time, which sometimes takes way longer than we think it should. He does it with the big picture in mind, with little regard to the way we think it should go. And so often, instead of giving us what we think we deserve, instead of taking away our pain and frustration and confusion in our Plan Bs, he offers us the promise of his presence."

"We're called to be faithful to God even when it seems He hasn't been faithful to us. We're called to love him even when we feel abandoned. We're called to look for him even in the midst of the darkness. We're called to worship him even through our tears."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Catholic Q & A

Last week, I referred to a column by Fr. John Dietzen who writes for the Catholic New Service. As it turns out, he has a 560 page book featuring his columns. Catholic Q & A: Answers to the Most Common Questions About Catholicism I've been reading his column for years and always find it interesting and informative.

If I had the time and money . . .

This is where I would be this summer:


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Toy Story 3

The boys and I went to see Toy Story 3 today. It is a story about a young man going off to college and the toys he is leaving behind. I had been warned to bring tissues, and I did. I thought I was doing pretty well, as the movie was nearly over and I still had some semblance of composure - then the last 10 minutes came. Forget it, I was a blubbering mess, as were both boys. We all continued to cry for the next hour. The boys came home and hugged their favorite teddies tightly, and I went to my bedroom closet and rescued my favorite doll from childhood, Alise, and gave her a big hug as well. That's her in the picture.

My one sister is 10 years older than me. She was a good big sister and played with me a great deal when she had the time, but the reality is that I grew up mostly by myself. There was no one to play with in my neighborhood, and even once I was in school, I can count on one hand the number of times I was allowed to have a friend over or went over someone else's house. Alise was my best friend and really, part of the family. She was originally my sister's doll, and my parents tell the story of how they actually brought her to a department store to buy her shoes (she takes a size 3!). When I was one-and-a-half, my mom put her in the crib with me to keep me company. I ended up pulling out all her eyelashes. From then on, she was my constant companion. Growing up, I dressed her up for Halloween and when I broke my arm when I was 8, she wore a sling, too. Over the years we got her replacement eyelashes, but the hair on top of her head started falling out. My father performed surgery on her countless times, putting in her arms or legs that had fallen out.

I continue to treasure her today. While I obviously don't play with her anymore and she is too fragile to be played with by anyone else, I could never dream of giving her away. She is one of my most treasured possessions and in many ways, still seems real to me. I know she is only an inanimate object, but I'm glad that she was part of my life.

Book Review: Homeschooling the Child with Asperger Syndrome

Homeschooling the Child with Asperger Syndrome
by Lise Pyles
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2004

My older son was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. As a result, I've been taking a crash course on the subject, trying to read and learn all I can. All the books I have read have been helpful in their own way, but most were written by professionals in the academic/psychological world and had a negative view of homeschooling. They advocated professional therapists for every area of difficulty while offering relatively little in advice on how to make modifications at home. As someone who has already been homeschooling for two years, I was searching for something to help me continue on that road while making needed accommodations. I was so thrilled to find this book.

Lise Pyles is a homeschooling mom who has walked the road (as well as having had her child in school). She offers practical suggestions while deferring to experts where necessary. For those not currently homeschooling, she offers the reasons to consider homeschooling. For those already in the trenches, she offers continuing support. While this book certainly does not offer all the answers, it does give one confidence that homeschooling is a very real and desirable option for children with Aspergers. As Pyles states, "In the end, homeschooling is not a panacea, but it's an option worth considering, and it just could be one of the best decisions you will ever make for your special child."

The Other Side of Homeschooling

This is a good article, originally published by Home Education Magazine a few years ago, that talks about the other side of caring for our families - caring for the older members:

The Other Side of Homeschooling

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review: Until I Smile at You

Until I Smile at You
by Roseann Lombardi
Minneapolis, MN: Two Harbors Press, 2010

"Until I Smile at You" is a family memoir that reads like a well-crafted novel. Roseann Lombardi shares the story of her parents, Anna and Tony Lauro. She tells of their two proud Italian-American families, their love, and the incredible trials that they would face as a result of Anna's Multiple Sclerosis. It is a heart-wrenching tale about the strength and weakness of love and the ability to persevere in spite of horrible circumstances. Based as it is on a true story, it is remarkably real. It reflects the messiness of true life. There is no happy ending, except perhaps the existence and spirit of Roseann herself. She writes this to tell a story that she needed desperately to share with the world, as a tribute to her mother and a final gift. It is well-worth reading.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Couple Summer Reading Suggestions

Here are some books which just received the Catholic Writers' Guild Seal of Approval.

Bleeder: A Mystery
by John Desjarlais

Award: Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval

A stigmatic priest bleeds to death on Good Friday in front of horrified parishioners. A miracle? Or a bloody murder?

"An intelligent, deftly written mystery that offers a skillful blend of reason and faith. A fascinating tale."
Tom Grace, author of The Secret Cardinal

"A complex plot, multi-issue characters and an amazing climax. Wonderful!" The Catholic Company

"It brought tears to my eyes." Dappled Things

"I was absolutely floored! Go out and buy this book!"
Family and Faith

Into the Way of Peace
by Karen Kelly Boyce

Award: Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval

Seven people huddle for shelter in a church during a snowstorm. Will their hearts remain frozen to God? Karen's second novel continues that journey of faith.

As a blizzard grips a gritty, time-worn city, the faithful, the weary and the faithless gather for an evening of reflection and prayer.

Karen Kelly Boyce takes the reader along on the journey of each of the gathered souls as they try to find a reason or an answer to their problems and short-comings.

A breast cancer survivor and retired nurse, Karen Kelly Boyce has released two novels that explore the weight and meaning of Catholicism in the 21st Century. Karen's first novel, According to Thy Word, was released in 2004.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Accepting Forgiveness

My two children (ages 9 and 7 ½) were playing a trading card game outside earlier today with one of their friends. These games can get quite heated between them, no matter how many times their father and I try to impress upon them that it is just a game. They are both very competitive. At one point, my older son came running in and stated “I’ve turned into a monster!” and then went and hid in the bathroom. When I went to see what was wrong, he told me that he had gotten really angry at his brother and ripped one of his cards in half. He was horrified by his own behavior, felt guilty for what he had done, and was scared of what his punishment would be. This was not a good emotional state.

For his punishment, I told him that he should give his brother one of his own cards to make up for the one he had ruined. He said that he had tried, that, in fact, he had attempted to give him more than one, but that his brother had refused. His brother had taped his ripped card back together and simply continued playing. As far as my older son was concerned, this was not a satisfactory resolution of the situation. He wanted to force his brother to take the cards in payment. He didn’t want to accept the forgiveness he was being offered.

We adults are often like this as well. As hard as it is to forgive (and we all know how hard that can be!), it can often be even more difficult to accept forgiveness. This is especially true when we have screwed up very badly, committed some wrong that simply can’t be rectified by any means within our power. We want to keep beating ourselves up about it. We want someone to be angry with us, to hold us accountable. We want somehow to make up for it and find ourselves frustrated that we can’t. It all seems wrong. Yet, someone finds it in his or her heart, perhaps with a healthy dose of God’s grace, to forgive us. What do we do then? Do we find a way to accept that forgiveness and move forward, or do we continue to torture ourselves with our past mistakes?

The same holds true when it comes to God. Many of us, perhaps most of us, have things in our past, sins we have committed, that we regret to our very core. God offers His forgiveness unconditionally. Do we truly believe that we are forgiven? Can we accept His forgiveness and start anew? I have heard that it is a sin of pride to believe that we have committed a sin that God can’t forgive. There is nothing we can do that is beyond God’s forgiveness. We only need to open our hearts and receive it. Sometimes, that can be the hardest thing to do, but it is the only way we can truly move forward.

A Father's Blessing

Happy Father's Day to all the Fathers out there! This is the Father's Blessing that was in my parish bulletin this weekend.

I thank you for the gift of my family
for whom I now pray
and upon whom I now ask you
to shower your blessings.
With St. Joseph as my guide,
may I always be ready
to spend my life for them.

Bless my wife whom you have given to
me as my spouse, sharing in
your wondrous work of creation.
May I see her as my equal and treat her
with the love of Christ for his Church.
May Mary be her guide
and help her to find your peace and your

Bless my children with your life and presence.
May the example of your son
be the foundation upon which
their lives are built,
that the Gospel may always
be their hope and support.

I ask you, Father, to protect and
bless my family.
Watch over it so that in the strength
of your love
its members may enjoy prosperity,
possess the gift of your peace and,
as the Church alive in this home,
always bear witness to your glory

Friday, June 18, 2010

Prayer after Holy Communion

Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, heal me;
Blood of Christ, save me;
Water from the side of Christ, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus hear me; within Your wounds shelter me; let me never be separated from You.
Protect me from the evil one.
At the hour of my death call me, and bid me come to You, that with Your saints I may praise You forever. Amen.

There is no place like home!

I just returned from a 6 day vacation with my family to Lancaster, PA and Washington D.C. We have gone on vacation before, but that was always with my in-laws (thereby providing some babysitting) and in places where the focus was just on relaxation. This was the first time it was just the four of us and the focus was on sightseeing. We put in plenty of down-time, but still, the point of the trip was to see some places none of us had ever seen. More or less, that happened. There were obviously lots of places I would have liked to have seen that just didn't happen (like the Library of Congress), but I am choosing to focus on what I did get to see, which is obviously way more than I had a week ago. We also learned how to ride the subway in DC which was pretty cool! 6 days, 4 hotels (one of which we only stayed in for a couple hours because it was rather scary), and 7 states later, we arrived home all in one piece. It was definitely an experience and we learned some things that will help us the next time we venture forth. We met some kind strangers who helped us find places along the way, and even had our toll paid by a car in front of us via a random act of kindness. We discovered we like Hampton Inns. DVD players in the car help make the ride much more palatable for children as does stopping every 1 and 1/2 hours and breaking an eight hour ride into two days. Planning the trip to avoid New York City and DC proper made the ride home much less stressful. Overall, it was good. We all survived (which truly was the only real goal I had)! We were all so happy to see the sign for Springfield, MA on 91 North, however. There truly is no place like home.

Here are some photos I took along the way.

Lancaster, PA (Amish country) was nothing like what I expected. Even though, we got to see some farmland and a few Amish people, but that was it. Most of it was actually quite city-like. These photos are from "The Amish Village" - a touristy spot that shows how Amish live.

Some Amish clothes

A one-room school house

Tuesday afternoon, we went to Arlington National Cemetery. This is JFK's tomb.

These next two photos are from the WWII Memorial in D.C.

The Merry-go-Round on the Mall

The National Air and Space Museum

President Lincoln

Another shot from the WWII Memorial

Because I am a person who obviously has a lot of time on her hands, I decided to get a souvenir I had to put together (a quilt kit!)

Mt. Vernon - our last stop, and home to our 1st President, George Washington. This was my favorite place we visited. It was so beautiful and peaceful. I could stand living with that view!

This is from the National Gallery of Art (sorry these photos are out of order!). We spent exactly 1/2 hour there, but I did get to see some originals by the Old Masters. That was pretty awesome!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Catholic Funerals for Non-Catholics

I was reading Father John Dietzen's column carried by the Catholic News Service the other day. He answers questions from readers. One woman asked whether her sister-in-law could have a Catholic funeral. She was baptized Protestant but attended Catholic Mass with her husband for 62 years.

He answered: "According to Catholic regulations, baptized Christians who are not members of the Catholic faith may have the funeral rites of the Catholic Church, including Mass, provided the person did not object to a Catholic funeral and that her own minister is not available. . . Even if she were not a baptized Christian, a funeral liturgy could be held for her in the Catholic church she attended, with Scripture readings, prayers, homily and other devotions, excluding the celebration of the Eucharist. These provisions are found in canon law (1183) and the 1993 Directory for Ecumenism (120)."

I hadn't known that this was the case, and thought it might be important information for others to be aware of as well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Homeschooling in the Summer

I know some homeschoolers who take a more relaxed approach and homeschool on a low-key basis all year round. I prefer to stick to a pretty regular schedule. It is what works best for my family. My children need routine to function. Playing each day by ear would be a disaster. That's the beauty of homeschooling. Every family can do what works best for them.

During the summer, I still have them do reading and math. We do the summer reading program through our library so they a bit more of an incentive to read (they love to be read to - reading themselves is not big on their list of things to do). This year, for math I have them playing computer games to practice their math facts. It is fun, but they still complain - something about how summer shouldn't involve any school work.

Yet, the other day, I took them to Big Y (a local grocery store) for pizza for supper. They spent a good half-hour after we were done eating grabbing different blocks of cheese, bringing them to our table, and comparing which one was a better deal. This involved comparing unit prices and sometimes weights. We also weighed cabbages to see how much it would actually cost for a cabbage at 79 cents a pound. We also compared the prices of different bags of carrots to see whether it was better to get the one pound bag or the two pound bag. This was all real-life math, and much more relevant than any worksheet or math game. So, while I still think it is important to have them practice their math facts and do their reading, when spur of the moment learning happens like it was then, when they are interested and engaged, I just kind of go with it and enjoy it. That is homeschooling at its best and the kids don't even realize it is happening!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blessed Mother Teresa Prayer

Gracious God, You offered the world a powerful example of Christian love in action through the words and deeds of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

She taught us how to faithfully serve Jesus by loving and caring for the least of our sisters and brothers. She devotedly fed the hungry, gently cared for those who were sick and dying, provided shelter for the homeless, and embraced needy children who were unwanted and forgotten.

Help me, O God, to imitate her love and compassion for others. Give me a charitable heart, that I may generously share Your blessings, and care for Jesus today in the poor and less fortunate as Mother Teresa did. Amen.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

SQPN Announces 3rd Catholic New Media Celebration


Registration Opens, as Keynote Speakers and Program are

Unveiled for Annual Conference

Roswell, GA, April 29, 2010: The Star Quest Production Network (SQPN) announces the third annual Catholic New Media Celebration, to be held in Boston, Massachusetts on August 7, 2010, answering the Catholic Church’s call for a new evangelization and Benedict XVI’s recent message that God’s Love “must be expressed in the digital world… as something concrete, present and engaging.”

The Catholic New Media Celebration (CNMC) is a festive, educational, and international conference focused on evangelization and building community through new media. This event is designed to inform and inspire how interactive new media platforms, such as blogging, podcasting, and social media are created, shared, and implemented. Within an atmosphere of Christian community, attendees will learn how to effectively create and share powerful, unique content for the benefit of the universal Catholic Church.

“This year’s CNMC will focus particularly on three things,” says Fr. Roderick Vonhögen, CEO of SQPN. “We will be exploring the best practices for creating quality content; how authentic catechesis and spirituality are incorporated; and, how a true sense of mission is instilled in those who consume this media and become a part of our online communities,” he says.

Registration is now open at http://celebration.sqpn.com. All interested in New Media are invited, including young adults (18+), ministry leaders, and priests and religious, to whom Pope Benedict appealed in his 2010 World Communications Day message, to “become an ever more pastoral presence on the web.”

SQPN gratefully acknowledges the Archdiocese of Boston for hosting the CNMC on August 7th at the Pastoral Center in Braintree, MA. A pre-event reception will take place on August 6th at the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston.


Keynote speakers for the Catholic New Media Celebration are Fr. Robert Reed and Mr. Lino Rulli.

FATHER ROBERT REED, Director of the ever-growing CatholicTV® Network, promotes the dynamic use of television and new media for effective and entertaining Catholic programming. A priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, Father Reed prepared for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and studied Broadcast Administration at Boston University’s School of Communication.

LINO RULLI currently produces Lino at Large, a radio program/podcast sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, syndicated on college radio stations, and affiliated with SQPN. He is host of The Catholic Guy radio show airing on The Catholic Channel of Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. Lino Rulli has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Theology.


In addition to the keynote presentations by Fr. Reed and Mr. Rulli, the CNMC program will include three breakout tracks.

Podcasting Track – The Podcasting Track, hosted by Fr. Roderick Vonhögen leading a team of SQPN podcasters, will focus on the necessary elements for creating a high quality and authentically Catholic show. Both instructional and inspirational, this track will conclude with a live recording of SQPN’s flagship program, “The Break with Fr. Roderick.”

Blogging Track – New this year, the Blogging Track presents Thomas Peters (American Papist at CatholicVoteAction.org) and Sarah Reinhard (Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering at SnoringScholar.com) sharing their varied expertise and insights about Catholic blogging. Also, blogger and author Rachel Balducci (Testosterhome, FaithAndFamilyLive.com, How Do You Tuck In a Superhero?) will lead a panel discussion with guest bloggers.

Children’s Track – This new family-friendly track led by Allyson Sweeney from SQPN’s Catholic Family show will introduce youngsters to the fun of creating their own podcasts. Lisa Mladinich of AmazingCatechists.com will demonstrate children’s catechesis with Bible-based puppet shows and more. (Space and age limitations apply, see registration details.)


The New Media Gallery is an opportunity for bloggers, podcasters, and other producers of new media to exhibit their expertise. Gallery contributors may display their best practices, innovations, and creative endeavors in an exhibit area, plus interact with conference attendees at designated times. For details, see the Call for Presentations at http://celebration.sqpn.com.


The Archdiocese of Boston is host to the CNMC on Saturday, August 7, 2010 at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese, 66 Brooks Drive, Braintree, MA 02184. The CNMC begins at 9:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm.

A pre-event Meet-and-Greet reception, sponsored by the Catholic Company, will be held Friday, August 6th, from 6:00-8:00 pm, at the Omni Parker House Hotel, the official hotel of the CNMC, located at 60 School Street, Boston, MA 02108.


SQPN, the Star Quest Production Network, is a non-profit Catholic apostolate dedicated to evangelization and formation through new media. SQPN creates engaging multi-media, specializing in audio and video productions (known as podcasts) faithful to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Its mission responds to the Church’s call to use the media for religious information, evangelization and catechesis, and formation and education. SQPN.com is a portal for a select number of affiliated Catholic podcasters that share the vision and media strategy of SQPN.

“Star Quest” refers to the star of Bethlehem that emerged and caught the attention of three Magi from foreign cultures. The Magi’s quest led to the discovery of the newborn Savior. The programs of SQPN tap into popular culture inviting people to journey together and discover their own encounter with Christ.

The Penitent Woman in All of Us

This week’s Gospel (Luke 7:36 - 8:3) features a penitent woman bathing Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. She then kissed his feet and anointed them with ointment. She is unnamed, merely referred to as a sinner. Her act of contrition is total. Her tears reflect the pain of a hundred bad decisions and a true desire to start over. The Pharisees recoil from her. They know who she is and what she has done. How can Jesus dare let her touch him, and in so intimate a way? They are shocked and dismayed. Jesus, however, welcomes her, and acknowledges her sorrow and her desire to be forgiven. He says the unthinkable – that her sins are forgiven, and tells her to go in peace. These are the same words that priests today use in the sacrament of confession. Through the power given to them by Jesus Christ, our sins, too, are forgiven.

We live in a world that has largely lost a concept of sin. We have a culture that tells people that if something feels good, they should do it. People often feel that the most important thing in life is to be happy here, right now. If you are not, then something is wrong. If you are denying yourself something that would give you some temporal pleasure, then you are missing out. The Ten Commandments are considered anachronistic, made for a different era. They aren’t relevant anymore. The seven deadly sins? They aren’t so deadly these days. This is what the world at large would have us believe.

We know better. The strange thing about traveling along the spiritual road toward Christ is that along the way, you realize how much you come up short. You start off thinking you are a pretty good person (and you probably are), or you have a huge conversion experience and shake off your old way of life with the desire, like the penitent woman, to completely begin anew (this is obviously a good thing). You begin to pray more and try harder to do the right thing. You read Scripture and other uplifting spiritual works. You attend the sacraments more frequently. You make spiritual progress and receive consolation from God. Then one day, God decides it is time for you to move a little farther down the road. He begins to point out to you the areas you especially need to work on. You now begin to see the wrong in actions and thoughts you felt were fine before. Sins of omission become more obvious. You start to see your sins and your need for forgiveness much more clearly. Saints such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena referred to this has having “self-knowledge” and describe it as being central to having true humility before God. The saints were keenly aware of their shortcomings and the need to throw themselves on God’s mercy. We can do nothing without His help. We need His love and forgiveness at every turn.

It is easy to read this Gospel and dismiss the penitent woman as a great sinner. Like the Pharisees, we may feel self-righteous, and wonder how God could forgive her. The truth is, we need to channel her. We need to be that sorry for the wrongs we have done, for the times we have failed to show love to God and to our neighbor. We need to beg for forgiveness and resolve to make a new start, even if it is the tenth, or the hundredth, or the thousandth new start. We need to keep trying, and with God’s grace, keep moving closer to Him and His example of perfect love.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life

Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life
By Don Brophy
New York: Bluebridge, 2010

Don Brophy’s new biography of St. Catherine of Siena is subtitled “A Passionate Life.” This is truly an appropriate description of how Catherine lived. The Latin root of “passion” means to suffer or submit. In our modern day English, it implies great intensity of feeling. Catherine lived all these definitions. She submitted her life totally to Christ; she suffered intensely, both through her self-inflicted sacrifices and penances as well as through the disapproval of others; and she always acted with great intensity. She lived only thirty-three years, but in that short period of time, she challenged the expected roles of a woman of her era, changed the course of history, and left a legacy remembered through the ages via her letters, prayers, and book, “The Dialogue” also known as “The Treatise on Divine Providence” (all of which were dictated to scribes). Canonized in 1461, she was named a Doctor of the Church in 1970, one of the first two women to receive this honor.

In his “Author’s Note,” Brophy states that “the main focus of this biography is Catherine’s ‘public’ life rather than her private, interior life that pious biographies have focused on in the past. To accomplish that, it has to describe the political and social world she moved in.” He acknowledges, however, that it is impossible to fully separate her public role from her spiritual core. “Her motivation for engaging in events of her day flowed out of her conviction that she was called to the task by God. There is simply no way to appreciate her life or guage her place in history without exploring that conviction.” Brophy succeeds in his task. While those who are searching for a full discussion of her spirituality would be better served elsewhere, those who are looking for a discussion and exploration of her role in political and Church events of her day will be well served by “Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life.”

It is evident that Brophy did copious amounts of research in order to compile this biography. He provides very informative notes on the text. He also displays a solid understanding of the Italian world of the time period, as well as a thorough grasp of Catherine’s spirituality. The Catherine presented here is immensely human, a task not always achieved in biographies of saints. She is no less holy, but she is a woman who struggles, and with God’s help, perseveres. “Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life” is a worthy addition to the body of literature about this remarkable woman.

The 12 Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today (June 11th) is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart
As given by Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. He asked St. Margaret Mary to help spread the devotion of attending mass and receiving communion on 9 consecutive 1st Fridays.

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.

2. I will give peace in their families.

3. I will console them in all their troubles.

4. They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.

5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.

6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.

8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.

9. I will bless the homes in which the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.

10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.

11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their name written in My Heart, and it shall never be effaced.

12. I promise thee in the excess of the mercy of My Heart, that its all-powerful Love will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of Nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under My displeasure, nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Talks from the New England Catholic Homeschooling Conference

Wish you could have been at the New England Catholic Homeschooling Conference? Listen to the wonderful speakers (including famous Catholic author Susie Lloyd) at http://nechc.wordpress.com/2010-talks/

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

How to Help Your College Kids Remain Chaste

I admit, the thought of my children becoming sexually active scares the heck out of me. The world out there is scary. When I was a teenager twenty years ago, sex was at least something that usually took place within a committed relationship (that doesn't make it right, I know, and I also know that there were certainly exceptions to that). Some of the young people I know today, however, have sex to find out if a relationship is worth pursuing with someone! I'm thinking they have the cart before the horse here. I don't understand that mindset, yet it is very prevalent. It is just expected.

I understand the strong power of hormones. I understand that people make mistakes in the heat of a moment. I'm hoping beyond hope that somehow I can convince my children that waiting is worth it, for a whole host of practical reasons, but most of all because it is the right thing to do.

Ellen Gable Hrkach has a very good article up on Catholic Mom today on How to Help Your College Kids Remain Chaste. The only thing about the article I question is discouraging dating until college or after. I don't know how realistic that expectation is. Also, what if they meet their special person younger. My parents met in high school. A couple I know married over 20 years met when they were 13. It happens. Think what would have happened if these relationships were forbidden. I don't know that there is an easy answer to when to allow children to date. I think it is something that needs to be decided on a case by case basis in light of the maturity level of those involved.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Discouraged St. Catherine of Siena

I am currently reading Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life by Don Brophy (review to come soon). Truly, St. Catherine of Siena is not a saint I identify with very much. I spent some serious time researching her for a paper I did in graduate school, and my sister took her name for her confirmation name (yes, I can see my sister identifying with her) and still, she doesn't really speak to me. That's the beauty of having so many role models in heaven - there is someone for everyone. Yet, her story is an interesting one and one we should all be aware of. She is one of those rare women who changed the course of history. That being said, I found this paragraph in this biography very interesting:

Her whole life, she sometimes thought, was a chronicle of falling short. She had longed to become a martyr in a crusade, but that desire was not realized. She had yearned to purify the church, but succeeded only with her famiglia, and perhaps not even then. She wished to be an instrument of peace but sat unemployed and marginalized in Florence. She still hoped that her book might advance the store of grace in a small way. Yet what she most desired was to place her body and her whole self on the altar of sacrifice. That greater gift, so earnestly offered, seemed to be ignored by God, and that, she concluded, had to be caused by some imperfection in herself.

Somehow, I take comfort in knowing that even saints got discouraged.

Monday, June 07, 2010

New England Catholic Homeschool Conference

This past Saturday morning found me working the registration table at the 2nd Annual New England Catholic Homeschool Conference held in Chicopee, MA. Some great pictures of the conference are up here: http://nechc.wordpress.com/2010-pictures/ If you missed it this year, please try to come next year. It is a very enriching day. Many thanks go out to Mary Brazeau (and her husband Jeff who takes care of all the technology involved) and Christine Hebert who work so hard to make this conference a reality.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Learning to Share

I was recently reading "Ramona the Pest" by Beverly Cleary with my children. A classic from a generation ago, it features a five-year-old Ramona and the trials and tribulations of Kindergarten. One chapter features a battle between her and her neighbor and fellow classmate Howie. She and Howie are really not friends, but their mothers are. Therefore, they end up spending a great deal of time together. In this particular scene they are fighting over a red ribbon. They both have what they perceive to be a rightful claim of ownership to the ribbon. As mothers are prone to doing, one of them tells the two children to share the ribbon. She even suggests that they can cut it in half, thereby solving the problem. About the only thing that Ramona and Howie can agree on is that this is a bad idea! They do not want to share.

As parents, we spend a lot of our time telling our children to share. Sharing does not appear to be an inborn trait. We humans like to own things and keep them for ourselves. Even as adults, sharing is not always easy. This week's Gospel (Lk 9:11b-17) features that very problem. Jesus and the disciples have 5,000 hungry people on their hands. The disciples want to dismiss them so that they can go find food for themselves. Jesus in turn tells them to feed them. They counter with the fact that they only have 5 loaves and two fishes available. Yet, somehow, once that choice is made to share, there is plenty for everyone. Over the years, I've heard different explanations for this. The most obvious one is that Jesus performed a miracle and multiplied the food that was available. Another explanation is that once the disciples started sharing, the people in the crowd started sharing as well. Everybody shared what they had with their neighbor and then there was plenty. I wasn't there and I don't know what happened, but, if that was the scenario, then I would say that was a miracle unto itself.

Sr. Kathryn James Hermes reflects on this Gospel in "Living Faith." She writes that the disciples in wanting to send the people away were guilty of "stingy thinking." Some of the time, maybe even most of the time, each one of us is guilty of that mindset. We worry that if we share, we won't have enough for ourselves, instead of trusting that God will multiply our gift freely given and return it to us. If we share, we will always have enough. That's a tough lesson for both children and adults to comprehend and accept. I am as guilty of it as the next person. When money is tight, there is always that temptation to cut back on charitable giving. What I have found is that those are times I actually need to increase it. When I finally make the decision to be brave and trust that God will provide, the financial pressures ease a bit. Learning to share is one of those things that takes a lifetime to master.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Book Review: "Our Jewish Roots"

Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past

by Cheryl Dickow
BezalelBooks, 2010

Many Catholic women are ignorant of the Jewish roots of our faith and the rich tradition that we share with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Cheryl Dickow seeks to correct that with "Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past." The book is divided into two parts. The first focuses on "Traditions, Teachings, and Truths Rooted in the Jewish Faith." This section makes for fascinating reading. Topics such as marriage vows, baptismal waters, the role of angels, the importance of good deeds, the power of prayerful intercession, mysticism, and holy feasts are explored from the perspective of their Jewish beginnings. These pages help one realize just how much we do share with our Jewish brethren and how much we Catholics owe to their traditions.

The second portion of the book centers on "Role Models for Today's Catholic Women." This is where Dickow truly shines. She begins by discussing a woman's worth, not our worth as the world often chooses to measure it, but our worth in the eyes of God. "From Eve to Sarah to Deborah to Mary, Scripture assures every woman who has ever lived that her life is both special and valuable. Her life has a purpose and a meaning set by God and necessary to His plan for humankind. Each and every one of us came here with an extraordinary set of gifts and a particular set of circumstances. Our births were the intentional acts of an affectionate, devoted God whose love for us is truly immeasurable. We are as unique and varied as stars in the sky. Our gifts and talents are limitless - even if they sometimes feel non-existent or without value." Dickow defines true feminism as support of a woman's vocation, whatever God may have called that particular woman to be. She then goes on to explore the lives of several women from Scripture to illustrate that there is a role model for each one of us.

These women come to life through Dickow's words and reflections. One will rediscover well-known women such as Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, and will perhaps become acquainted for the first time with less famous, but no less important, women such as Lot's wife, Zipporah, Shiphrah and Puah. Each of these women that Dickow profiles has something to teach us, if we only take the time to reflect on their stories.

"Our Jewish Roots" has much to offer to modern Catholic women struggling with where they fit in God's big plan. By knowing our history, we can better understand ourselves, our own faith, and the dignity which God has bestowed on women throughout the ages.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Last Day of School!

The boys and I wrapped up our second year of homeschooling today. I'm pretty sure the people on the next block heard their excitement when they finished that last spelling test! Learning continues over the summer, of course. They still need to read and do some math, plus they get to experience all the wonderful learning that takes place during "down-time." We'll take part in our library's summer reading program and go to free shows at the local museums. We are also planning a trip to Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. It is someplace I've always wanted to go and they are old enough to remember it and have it be a worthwhile activity.

Overall, I'm looking forward to the slightly less hectic pace of summer, even as I have to still do my report for the city and plan for next year. It's hard to believe I'm now the mother of a 4th and 3rd grader respectively. The years are going by so quickly. I'm glad that I get to share them with them.

Definition of Feminism

Another good quote from Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past:

Feminism, then, must be defined as a woman filling her vocation - a vocation to physical motherhood, spiritual motherhood, and/or serving the community - with and through her own unique feminine genius.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A Woman's Worth

I'm currently reading Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past by Cheryl Dickow. I wanted to share with you these two paragraphs which focus on a woman's worth. They are well-worth reading and an important reminder for all of us, regardless of our role in life.

From Eve to Sarah to Deborah to Mary, Scripture assures every woman who has ever lived that her life is both special and valuable. Her life has a purpose and a meaning set by God and necessary to His plan for humankind. Each and every one of us came here with an extraordinary set of gifts and a particular set of circumstances. Our births were the intentional acts of an affectionate, devoted God whose love for us is truly immeasurable. We are as unique and varied as the stars in the sky. Our gifts and talents are limitless - even if they sometimes feel non-existent or without value.

The seasons of our lives, our experiences, and our dreams are a thing of beauty and honor. We may lead or we may follow. Some of us will feel exhilarated while others of us will feel exhausted, and then the experiences revers. And those whose time it is to reap will reap while those whose time it is to sow will sow. We share more than a common faith heritage with the women of the Bible. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow we remain the same in that our life has an anointed meaning and a distinct purpose.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Psalm 90

The Responsorial Psalm for today is from Psalm 90. I'm sharing the Psalm here. It is a powerful reflection on the brevity of our life on earth compared to eternity.

A prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our refuge through all generations.
Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God.
A thousand years in your eyes are merely a yesterday,
But humans you return to dust, saying, "Return, you mortals!"
Before a watch passes in the night,
you have brought them to their end; They disappear like sleep at dawn; they are like grass that dies.
It sprouts green in the morning; by evening it is dry and withered.
Truly we are consumed by your anger, filled with terror by your wrath.
You have kept our faults before you, our hidden sins exposed to your sight.
Our life ebbs away under your wrath; our years end like a sigh.
Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong; Most of them are sorrow and toil; they pass quickly, we are all but gone.
Who comprehends your terrible anger? Your wrath matches the fear it inspires.
Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Relent, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
Fill us at daybreak with your love, that all our days we may sing for joy.
1Make us glad as many days as you humbled us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.
Show your deeds to your servants, your glory to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands! Prosper the work of our hands!

Book Review: Why God Matters

Why God Matters and How to Recognize Him in Daily Life
by Deacon Steven Lumbert & Karina Lumbert Fabian
Tribute Books, 2010

"Why God Matters and How to Recognize Him in Daily Life" is designed for those just beginning to take their faith life more seriously. Deacon Steven Lumbert and his daughter Karina Lumbert Fabian share stories and lessons learned from their own spiritual journeys in the hope of helping others. Deacon Lumbert tells of his own conversion experience. After years of attending Mass with his Catholic wife and children, he was in his 40s when he finally decided to take the big step of becoming Catholic himself. That road would eventually lead him to becoming a deacon. Today, he is the associate director of the Deacon Formation Program for his diocese. Karina speaks from both the perspective of daughter and mother. They both speak of the importance of seeing Christianity as a way of life. They offer this quote from 1 Corinthians 10:31 as words to live by: "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."

Perhaps the most important lesson of this small book is that God is always working in people's lives, calling them to a deeper relationship with Him. This holds true in Deacon Lambert's journey. Karina's husband is also a convert. She shares the need to have faith in this when guiding our children's faith lives. Her oldest son doesn't believe. While trusting "that faith comes in its own time," she "respect[s] his right to make his own decision, but insist[s] that he respect the family by accompanying us to Mass and participating in the customs of our faith. In the meantime, I pray for him, especially the Anima Christi, and I make small sacrifices on his behalf. When I feel despair creep in on me, I remember his father and his grandfather, and I trust in God that he will eventually find his way. . . There is a time for apologetics. There is a time for education. Always, however, is the time for example." That is something for all of us to remember.

"Why God Matters" is a perfect dose of encouragement for those seeking a deeper relationship with God. Deacon Lumbert and Karina Fabian offer practical and helpful advice and inspiration.

Making the Most of <i>Menopause Moments</i>

  When I unexpectedly got in a review copy of Menopause Moments: A Journal for Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Spirit in Midlife , I must adm...