Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Remembering that Saints are Human

Fr. James Martin reflected on the recent beatification of Pope John Paul II in the May 16th issue of America Magazine. In his article, he makes an important observation about saints:

First the saints were not perfect. Holiness always makes its home in humanity. The saints would be the first to admit this. Sanctity does not mean perfection. . . Second, you do not have to agree with everything a saint did to admire him (or her).

This helps me. I always tended to think that if the Church canonized someone they were basically endorsing the entire life, with the exception of the sinful parts (of course). I always felt kind of bad when I would read about a saint and strongly disagree with the choices that he or she made.

It is important to note and remember that the saints were human and not perfect. They were struggling just like each one of us, and we don't have to endorse their choices in order to trust in the Church's judgment that they were holy and now share in the glory of God's heaven.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Should your child skip college?

My children still have several years to go before we need to face the college question, but I know the time is going to pass quickly. Given the cost of college today, does everyone need to go? Is it worth the investment? What is the goal of a higher education? Can it be achieved outside of the traditional classroom? These are some good questions worth considering.

This blog post: 11 Great Reasons to Skip College and Build Your Own Alternative offers some interesting insights on the subject.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is Extreme Couponing Moral?

My sons and I have recently been watching “Extreme Couponing” on TLC. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, it showcases people who have turned using coupons into a career. They save their families thousands of dollars each year via the use of coupons. Most of the episodes we have watched feature grocery totals of hundreds of dollars costing under fifty dollars (some were under ten)! The extreme couponers featured have stuffed their houses full of the items they have purchased in large numbers because there was a good deal.

I know money is tight right now. The economy has been struggling for quite a while and some of the families featured were in truly dire situations. They have made couponing into a full-time job and saved the equivalent of a good salary while being able to feed their families. I can only admire their resourcefulness.

But, what about the person who can afford the groceries but chooses to take up extreme couponing anyway? Is there a point when saving money becomes less about good sense and more about being unethical?

What is involved in extreme couponing? One must take advantage of multiple good deals. One must not only purchase only what is on sale but also must have a coupon for it. Double coupons and combining manufacturers coupons with store coupons are also used. Some extreme couponers actually make money on the products they buy!

Extreme couponers do nothing illegal. They do their research and make the best use of the offers and policies that are in place. They get around limits on the number of coupons or items purchased by making multiple transactions. My moral quandary comes in with the scale of the purchases and the fact that they are leaving one store with close to a thousand dollars worth of goods that they have paid less than ten percent of the purchase price for.

I have worked in retail. I know that there is a considerable mark-up on the goods sold. Yet, that mark-up is what pays for the workers’ salaries and the utilities and general upkeep of the store – all money that goes back into the economy and helps provide jobs for people. Obviously, one extreme couponer will not break a store’s bottom line, but one must realize that someone does need to pay for the goods that person is taking out of the store.

Yes, the store will be reimbursed for manufacturer coupons, but double coupons and store coupons are offers the store makes in order to get more people into the store so that they will spend money on other products while they are there. In the case of extreme couponing, the store is the one taking the hit, and by extension, the people who work for it. Stores may also need to change their coupon policies as a result, thereby hurting all those who used them the way they were intended.

I also question the appropriateness of the stockpiles of goods some of these extreme couponers amass. While some do donate their excess to charitable organizations, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Many of the products will expire before they ever have the chance to be used. One couponer bought 100 bottles of medicine because she was making money on each bottle. Is it morally appropriate to hoard products in this fashion?

I do not know the answer to these questions, but I think they are important to think about, especially if extreme couponing becomes more and more popular.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Live with a Pilgrim Mindset

In Our Pilgrim Journey, Mary DeTurris Poust speaks of the value of making a pilgrimage. What about those of us who, for whatever reason, cannot travel to holy shrines or faraway lands? She offers this consoling piece of advice:

We are all called to be pilgrims, walking a path toward God no matter where we are. . . The reality is that a true pilgrimage does not even require a passport. True pilgrimage is as much an interior journey as a geographical one. Living with a pilgrim mindset, we can find places that will feed our hearts and spirits just about everywhere we turn - from the little shrine in the next town to the cathedral in our diocese to that historic church near our favorite vacation spot. Even the mundane events of daily life can become one more leg on a pilgrim journey that will last a lifetime.

Making a pilgrimage is too important to our spiritual growth to save it for "some day." Instead, we have to look for ways to build pilgrimages into our lives the way they are now.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: "Angelic Tails"

Angelic Tails: True Stories of Heavenly Canine Companions
by Joan Wester Anderson
Chicago: Loyola Press, 2011

Joan Wester Anderson, who has written several best-selling books on angels and miracles, was inspired to write "Angelic Tails: True Stories of Heavenly Canine Companions" after reading the story of St. John Bosco and his guardian angel "Grigio" - a huge grey dog that protected him for 30 years and never aged. In her research for her other books, she had come across many stories of dogs acting in "angelic" ways, but she regarded them with a healthy skepticism. She states that she came to realize that "the journey on earth is difficult at times, so our loving Father has provided many helpers for us. Friends, special teachers, gentle companions, and more. Some may not fit the traditional mold. But a furry embrace and a cold nose work just as well."

The stories in these pages truly bear witness to the idea that God uses dogs to help us. One dog alerted it's family to a fire that was about to start in an electrical outlet. Another appeared at a house and stood guard the very night that an escaped killer decided to camp out on their property. A lost toddler was saved because the family dog refused to leave her side. Still another guided a neighbor family safely home through a blizzard.

Our canine companions bring us love and devotion and companionship. It is possible that in times of need, they may also save our lives. After reading this book, you will never look at a dog in the same way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finding "Joseph Moments"

This article by Brian Caulfield is geared more towards men, but perhaps you could share it with a special man in your life.

Read the full article here: Finding Your Joseph Moments

May I recommend that we look for "Joseph moments" in our daily lives? After all, the chances are that we are quite often offered opportunities to exercise the "servant leadership" of St. Joseph. A good place to start is to become familiar with God’s word in Scripture so that we will become accustomed to the tone and tempo of his promptings in our own lives. Thus, reading the Bible – especially the Gospels – is Step One in recognizing the "Joseph moments" in our lives.

Here are some other suggestions:

2. If you find your wife or family in any danger, take well-considered and effective action, just as Joseph took the Holy Family to Egypt. The dangers you face may not include a mad King Herod, but be aware of the workload your wife may face at home, the pressures of childcare, the financial burdens of your family and even something as seemingly small as gossip about your family among in-laws. Stand up and present yourself as a defender of your wife and children.

3. Be a leader of the spiritual welfare of your family. It is amazing how attuned and attentive Joseph was to God’s angels, who appeared to him on three occasions commanding three huge tasks. As a father, don’t leave the religion to your wife – your children will grow up thinking that faith is only feminine. Give them an example of faithful masculine leadership, which includes humility in the presence of God.

4. Be open to changing your personal plans for the sake of your family. Joseph may have imagined a normal marital and domestic life with his beloved bride. But he gave up all such dreams for love of God and love of Mary. At this moment, there is probably something you could do or say to show that kind of love for your wife and children.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Knowing God's Will and Catholic Freedom

One of the great things about my role as Associate Editor with Catholic Exchange is finding great articles and posting them. There are so many talented Catholic writers out there. One I have been pleased to work with is Leila Miller. Her article up on Catholic Exchange today is Knowing God's Will and Catholic Freedom.

I don't agree with it 100%, but it does offer a thoughtful perspective on something that is always a difficult issue. What does God want us to do? Is there always a "right" answer or does God sometimes give us two or three paths and simply wants us to pick one?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fitting Prayer into a Busy Life

As soon as I saw the title in the May 2011 issue of St. Anthony's Messenger, I knew Fitting Prayer into a Busy Life" was an article I had to read.

Linda McCullough Moore tells of how, inspired by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (?1614 - 1691) who prayed eight times a day, she made the decision to make time for formal prayer four times a day for twenty minutes.

The truest analogy I can draw here is to eating. Too often my prayer life was like being on life support, my nourishment coming from an IV attached to one very used and abused vein, and I was subsisting on glucose and electrolytes or, at the very best, small snacks.

Imagine a person who, for years and years, has grabbed coffee and a bagel each morning and then fasted until the next day, taking only sips of water, juice or soda, maybe grabbing a cracker or a pretzel when her busy life allowed it.

And then, imagine one day she hears of this new approach to nourishment: something called meals three times a day. Cereal with milk and coffee in the morning; an entire sandwich at lunchtime; meat, pasta, salad, crusty bread for dinner; and, at bedtime, a piece of apple pie such as you haven’t tasted since you were a child.

That comparison comes closest to describing the change in my life once I started praying 20 minutes, four times a day. It gave new meaning to the lyrics “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:9a).

I especially appreciate her closing sentence: Prayer is astonishing. It is the most outrageous and enlivening thing that we can do.

Read the full article here: Fitting Prayer into a Busy Life

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How to Plant a Mary Garden

Spring has come at last! It is time to plant and tend a garden. Mary Gardens, gardens dedicated to our Blessed Mother, have been gaining popularity in recent years. How does one create a Mary garden?

Many flowers and plants are associated with our Blessed Mother and various aspects of her life. These traditions hearken back to the Middle Ages, when religious devotion permeated almost every aspect of life. Some flowers are associated with Mary simply by virtue of their names. Others feature legends used as one means to instruct others about Jesus and Mary. It was one more way to teach the Gospel stories during a time when books and reading were not widespread.

While we may not need the stories about these flowers to teach us, we can nevertheless create a place of prayer and devotion by planting a garden with the intention of honoring Mary. Such a garden may be a lavish outdoor space or some simple indoor plantings. A Mary Garden also usually contains a statue or image of Mary.

This list of flowers and their meanings may help you get started:
Rose – Roses have been associated with Mary since the earliest days. They are a symbol of her glory and sorrow. Roses are often known as the queen of flowers. As such, they are also a sign of Mary’s queenship of heaven.

Lily of the Valley - Mary’s Tears – Legend holds that when Mary wept at the foot of the cross, her tears fell to the ground and these flowers blossomed. With its pure white flowers, it has also been associated with her Immaculate Conception.

Ox-Eye Daisy - Mary’s Star – This flower is associated with the Star of Bethlehem which led the Magi to the Christ child.

Fleur-de-lis - Yellow flag iris – A symbol of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to ask her to be the mother of God’s son.

Chrysanthemum – All Saint’s Flower – This flower is believed to have been present when Christ was laid in the tomb.

Snowdrop - Candlemas Bells – These are said to have bloomed at Candlemas, when Mary brought Jesus to the temple for his presentation.

Gladiolus – the name of this flower comes from the Latin word for “sword” and stands for the sword that would pierce Mary’s heart.

Violet – a symbol of Mary’s constancy, humility, and innocence

Marigold – Mary’s Gold – a symbol of Mary’s simplicity and domesticity. Sometimes also associated with her sorrows.

Carnations – their name reminds one of the Incarnation of Christ. They also are a symbol of the Crucifixion.

For more information on flowers and herbs associated with Mary, please visit: http://www.fisheaters.com/marygardens.html

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dismas Ministry: Serving Those in Prison

Many of you are no doubt familiar with the corporal works of mercy:

1. Feed the hungry
2. Give drink to the thirsty
3. Clothe the naked
4. Shelter the homeless
5. Visit the sick
6. Visit those in prison
7. Bury the dead

The hardest one for me is #6. I've never set foot in a prison. I would be so scared - that is totally out of my comfort zone. I hope no one I know ends up in prison. Yet, there are many wonderful people who are called to serve in prisons and the least people like I can do is help support their efforts.

Dismas Ministry is a Catholic Outreach to inmates, victims, their families, those released from prison and the community. This national Catholic outreach among inmates and those affected by crime is named after one of the people executed with Jesus on Calvary. In that final hour DISMAS took stock of his life and turned to Jesus for mercy: "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom Luke 23:42." In the way that was typical of his ministry, Jesus turned to him and said:"This day you will be with me in paradise Luke 23:43."

DISMAS MINISTRY focuses primarily on a spiritual approach with inmates who want to understand and strengthen their relationship with God. As one of them wrote, "Prisoners need God and the love of Jesus and Mary as much or even more than the population as a whole."

Inmates who deepen their faith and grow in understanding of scripture will become less likely to offend others when they are released. For this reason, DISMAS provides bible and faith study materials, a prayer book for inmates, and free Catholic bibles. As Jesus taught us: "What you have received freely, give freely" Matthew 10:8.

DISMAS MINISTRY also supports victims of crime - the walking wounded - by creating an awareness of their needs in the community. It does this in various ways: by providing literature about victims' needs and resources for their care, special prayer services for victims in which they can find support from the faith community and mutual encouragement from their fellow victims. Victims lead the way in showing us how to be there for them.

The ultimate goal of DISMAS MINISTRY is to re-establish and strengthen the relationship of the Body of Christ with victims and those in prison. Despite where they are, inmates are still members of Christ's Body and should not be dismissed as worthless. As one inmate said, "We are not animals." Many will use their time behind bars to reassess their lives, and with God's help, make amends for the way that they have victimized others. As fellow Catholics, we can walk with them on the way to encountering God in his Word, doing whatever we can to support this spiritual transformation.

When a crime is committed, it offends not only the immediate victim, but the rest of society as well. Supporting the work of faith-based rehabilitation provides those who feel powerless against crime with a practical way to do something about it. Such an approach goes to the very heart of the problem - the need for God in the lives of all who have been affected by crime. Many inmates have been abused when they were children. In turn, their victims have suffered abuse from them. In the end, the only true healing is spiritual. Only God can transform suffering into victory as He did for Jesus.

There is even a special project by and for incarcerated women: I am Beautiful


* Pray for the incarcerated, the victims and loved ones, those who minister with them, and prison officials.
* Learn about prison and victim issues in the media, at the library and on the internet (check out the links on our web site).
* Read the bishops' statements on prison ministry. Reflect on the example of Jesus in the Gospels.
* Become involved - visit or write local inmates; reach out to victims of crime in your community.
* Support this ministry - your gift supports our work with inmates, victims, and the community.
* “Send Dismas Ministry a donation – you may change someone’s life!”

To learn more, please visit: http://www.dismasministry.org

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: "Theophilos"

by Michael D. O'Brien
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010

St. Luke addressed his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles to an unknown man named Theophilos. Michael O'Brien has Theophilos as Luke's uncle, who raised him after his parents died. He considers Luke to be his son. A doctor, he is a logical man, a man of science who does not take well to his son's involvement in this new Christian religion. He wants solid evidence. As a result, he sets out on a journey to discover the truth and interviews many who had first-hand experiences with Christ. As one might expect, his journey will take him to uncharted territory.

"Theophilos" is well-written and highly plausible. There is always some danger in taking Biblical figures and composing a fictional account of them. Yet, O'Brien has created a compelling account. It could have happened this way. The story keeps you moving through the pages.

O'Brien did not write this novel merely to entertain, however. He also conveys many truths about the Christian faith in his work. Theophilos could be any one of us, facing our doubts, searching for the truth. Seekers will find good company in these pages.

Homeschool Miscellaneous

I was happy to read the May-June 2011 issue of Home Education Magazine this week. I really enjoy this magazine. It tends toward unschooling, but I still find the articles very motivational and it is interesting to read about what other homeschoolers do. They have just archived their back issues since 1997 on-line. Check it out at http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/issueindex.html for a wealth of information.

One interesting feature in this particular issue was they showcased an article from 1995 by Karen Mende-Fridkis who wrote about homeschooling her daughter and two sons, then they had an interview with that daughter today. Kate Fridkis is married, received her Master's degree from Columbia, writes for The Huffington Post and blogs at http://un-schooled.net/ She plans to homeschool her own children someday. I just thought it was great to see that juxtaposition of a worried Mom 16 years ago and the remarkable daughter so many years later.

I know when I was deciding to homeschool (it was a lengthy decision process), I kept a list of pros and cons. I kept that list for two full years adjusting as necessary. What I wanted most was a glimpse into the future. Which decision was the right one? Which would help my children be the people God wanted them to be? I didn't want to ruin my children's lives. I was so scared. Let's face it, you pull your kids out of school, you have definitely stepped off the well-worn path. We are finishing up our third year of homeschooling and I've never regretted the decision (not one minute of one day), but I don't think I will breathe a true and total sigh of relief until my sons are grown up and fully contributing members of society.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pro-Life OB/GYNs

Here is a listing of Pro-Life OB/Gyns: AAPLOG Physician Directory It is a self-selecting list. The Doctors need to have asked to be members. I'm sure there are many other doctors out there who qualify but aren't listed. Still, it is a good place to start if you are looking for a Pro-Life Doctor.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper

The title of this blog post comes from one of the comments on this article: Other People's Souls. Simcha Fisher offers a good reminder to focus less on what other people are doing in their lives and more on what is going on in your own. Here is a brief excerpt:

So, it’s fine to take a look around myself and think, “Could I be doing things differently? Is my spiritual life in a rut? Am I following my vocation, or just following the path of least resistance?” But once I’ve considered these questions honestly, I need to just get back to work. Of course I’m doing things differently from how other people are. Of course some worthy works are being neglected. That’s because I’m following my vocation, and a vocation is just a means to an end, not an end in itself.

We all ought to have the same priority of pleasing God. But casting a fishy eye at other people’s choices almost never gets us there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Learn about the Miraculous Medal

The Catholic Company sent out an email today about the Miraculous Medal.

The Front Side - On the front of the Miraculous Medal, Mary stands on a globe, representing the earth, with a crushed snake under her feet. This image represents Mary's role as "Queen of Heaven and Earth". The snake represents Satan, who was defeated by Mary's obedience to God. The rays coming from her hands symbolize the graces Mary gives to those who ask her. The year 1830 commemorates the year that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure.

The Reverse Side - On the reverse side of the Miraculous Medal is a cross and the letter "M". The cross represents Christ's sacrifice for our salvation, while the bar under the cross stands for the Earth. The "M" stands for "Mary" and her true devotion both to Jesus and to her children on Earth. The two hearts are the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Sorrowful Heart of Mary. The entire image is surrounded by twelve stars. The stars can represent both the twelve Apostles and the verse from the Book of Revelation, "a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars" (Revelation 12:1).

Read more about the medal - how it came to be and the promises associated with it here: Learn more about the Miraculous Medal

Monday, May 16, 2011

Novena Prayer to St. Joseph

St. Joseph, you are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. I have special confidence in you. You are powerful with God and will never abandon your faithful servants. I humbly invoke you and commend myself with all who are dear to me to your intercession.

By the love you have for Jesus and Mary, do not abandon me during life and assist me at the hour of my death. Glorious St. Joseph, be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I am confident that your prayers on my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God.

Through Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Appointed Season

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Every week as part of our homeschool program, I choose a Bible verse to post for my children. Sometimes it is from that week’s Gospel. Other times it is relevant to what may be going on in their lives. Still other times I simply pick a random verse.

This week, I am posting the first line of the above passage. It came to me as I was giving my sons a bit of a lecture on prayer. They are growing older and need to focus more on their prayer lives. I was explaining to them that during the next few years they will be making many important decisions for their lives and to do so without help from God was a recipe for disaster. To get that help, they need to pray. Their response: “But, Mom, we like to play!”

Yes, there is a time for play, but there is also a time for work and responsibility and prayer. The life lessons continue. I know it is not a one-time discussion. Even as adults, this balance of time and purpose can be something we struggle with – what we want to do versus what needs to be done or what God is calling us to do. As I reflected more on this passage, I realized that its message was just as important for me as for my children.

My life the past few months has been turned upside-down. I can’t publicly discuss the circumstances, but I can say that what I thought my future might look like was radically altered. I’ve turned to God in prayer and have had the help of many friends praying for me (I am so very blessed to have their love and support). I am taking life one day at a time.

On one level, I have peace. That is a great consolation. I know I am doing what God wants. I am acting out of love and service. I am doing my utmost to trust in God; that He knows the reason for all of this upheaval even if I do not fully understand. On another level, however, I am still mourning the loss of my dreams and my vision of my future.

Change, even positive change (and in many ways, this change falls under that category), is always difficult for me. This time is no different. I know I will dream new dreams. Perhaps, many years from now, I will even be able to dust off some old ones. I will embrace my new future and learn to love it. But that day is not today. Today, I continue to struggle.

This passage serves as a valuable reminder to me that life has its seasons. “There is an appointed time for everything.” God knows the timing. He knows my purpose in life at this moment, in this season, and in the seasons to come. May I serve Him faithfully and trust in His wisdom and goodness.

Friday, May 13, 2011

For those with Children with Down Syndrome

In the past month, one friend and one acquaintance have had a baby with Down syndrome. Another acquaintance is struggling with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. All three are in great need of prayer and support as they face a vastly different future than the one that they dreamed of.

In some ways, I think the prenatal diagnosis is the hardest to take. Before a child is born, you do not know them. You can and do love them, but it is hard to think of this "abstract" person - at least it was for me. To think of that child being different and the hard road that lies ahead is devastating. Sadly, many decide that they cannot face that future and choose abortion.

Yet, when you can physically see that child and hold them, your love takes on a whole different aspect. It doesn't matter if they are different - they are your child, your responsibility, your joy. You may grieve for your lost dreams but you will do whatever needs to be done for them. You can't imagine life without them.

On Cause of our Joy, Leticia Velasquez, the mother of a child with Down syndrome and a great advocate for these children, writes of the Perfect Storm that faces children with Down syndrome. All children are gifts from God and God doesn't make mistakes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Radiant - Magazine for Catholic Women ages 15 - 27

Radiant is a Catholic Magazine for the fun, fashionable and devout woman. It features Catholic news and articles on issues affecting young women today - health, beauty, politics, love, style, and difficult life circumstances. Find out more and preview issues at Radiant Magazine.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

From the Field to the Altar

The May 2011 issue of Columbia Magazine features an article on 3 young men who gave up the lure of professional sports to enter religious life. From the Field to the Altar. God's call continues to come through loud and clear.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Do Our Children Belong to Us or To God?

I've always considered by children to be God's children first, at least from a philisophical standpoint. On the spur of a given moment, when I am tired and stressed and frustrated I may forget that fact. The truth remains, however, that they are simply on loan to me for a while. I am the caretaker of God's children. What an incredible responsibility that is!

Jennifer Fulwiler takes on this same question and how it relates to the issue of abortion.

I had never paid much attention to that question. I thought of saying that our children belong to God as nothing more than a nice little sentiment that you might cross-stitch on a pillow, one without much weight or importance. But the longer I think about the anti-life mentality that rages in our culture, the more I think it is largely rooted in a rejection of this concept.

When something belongs to you, you are free to determine its fate. Masters had the power to make life and death decisions for their slaves, because they perceived that these people belonged to them. We have the authority to take the family dog down to the vet and have him euthanized because he belongs to us. There is a presumption that if something belongs to you—especially if you also created it—you can determine its value. And that idea is the common thread in all those quotes above, the insidious message at the core of the culture of death: The worth of a new human being is determined entirely by his or her parents. An unborn child is does not have dignity until her parents say she does.

This process starts happening as soon as you take God out of the picture. Without God, couples perceive that they create new life entirely on their own. They think that they own their children—especially the unborn ones who don’t yet have voices. From there, it’s a short path down the road of temptation to value these new lives that you created according to whether or not they enhance your own life. If you find out that one of your creations has characteristics that would negatively impact you—the wrong gender, a disability, etc.—you feel like you have the authority to deem it less valuable, and maybe even altogether expendable.

Read more of the article and related comments here: Do Our Children Belong to Us or to God?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Do We Recognize Jesus?

This week’s Gospel (Lk 24:13-35) features Jesus and two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus walks with them and talks with them and still, they do not realize who is in their midst until he breaks bread with them.

One thing the Resurrection appearances of Jesus have in common is that those who first see Him did not immediately recognize him. His glorified body was somehow different. Those who knew him best were not able to know who He was until he spoke to them or performed some action or showed them His wounds. Then they knew; they understood.

As we go through our daily lives, we often fail to recognize Jesus in our midst. Matthew 25:31-46 tells us that whenever we care for our brothers and sisters in this world, we are caring for Jesus. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Yet, do we see it that way? When our children need our care, do we see Jesus? When our parents grow old and need our help, do we see Jesus? When our friends are hurting, do we see Jesus? When our neighbors are in need, do we see Jesus? When a homeless person begs on the street, do we see Jesus? When our enemies are suffering, do we see Jesus?

Jesus comes to us in all sorts of disguises and it can be very hard indeed into recognize Him. He can be rich or poor, clean or dirty, young or old, a person in our home, on our street, or a stranger on the other side of the world. He can be our best friend or the person who pushes all of our buttons the wrong way. He can be someone who we feel has it made or someone who we judge to have made all the wrong choices. Yes, Jesus comes hidden and we are called to serve. We are called to love.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is known for the service she gave to all those she met. She invited each of us to reach out in a personal way to those around us. She stated, “I believe in person to person. Every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is the one person in the world at that moment.” May we follow her example and reach out to Jesus in all His disguises in our world.

News from the Catholic Bloggers Meeting

This is a Catholic News Service article on the Catholic Bloggers Meeting: Church needs blogs, bloggers need church, say meeting participants. It is an important read for all Catholic bloggers.

Immediate Prayers Needed

Requesting prayers for a dear friend who has been sent to the hospital tonight - she is expecting and it looks like they will need to take the baby a month early. Please pray for mother and baby.

Thank you.

Friday, May 06, 2011

A Mother's Prayer

Dear Lord,
I need your help today.
I want to care
for those you've sent into my life,
to help them develop the special gifts
you've given them.

But I also want to free them
to follow their own paths
and to bring their loving wisdom
to the world.

Help me
to embrace them without clutching,
to support them without suffocating,
to correct them without crushing.

And help me
to live joyfully and playfully, myself,
so they can see your life in me
and find their way to you.

A mother's gift is to give life. But in the daily demands of feeding and forming, cleaning and cautioning, tending and teaching, her gift can get lost in the layers.

She needs to remember that her work begins with herself. To be attentive to others, she must listen to her own heart. To care for others, she must take time for herself. To teach self-love to others, she must act lovingly towards her own body and her time.

If she finds her own sparks, she will fan them in those around her. If she frees her own spirit, she will help others soar. If she focuses each moment by being wholly present, she will point the way to holiness and to God.

And if she truly lives, she will give real life to the world, not only in her children's bodies, but in their souls.

from http://www.cptryon.org/prayer/special/mother.html

Thursday, May 05, 2011

On Self-Esteem

This post by my friend Dionna You Have to Decide You Are Worth It hit home for me. Like many women, I have struggled with my self-esteem for as long as I can remember.

From a spiritual perspective, I struggle with balancing "God made me and loves me" with "I am a sinner and worthless." I struggle with pride and the need for humility which I once saw well-defined as not thinking one is better or worse than any one else. I am always comparing myself with other people (usually unfavorably).

I doubt I will ever find a place of comfort with my self-image. True self-knowledge is to see oneself as God sees us. I wonder what God sees when He looks at me?

Yet, we are called to care for ourselves - to treat our bodies as the temples of the Holy Spirit that they are. That in itself should inspire us to value the gifts God has given us and treat ourselves with kindness.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Reflection on Easter

Easter Sunday seems long ago now, although we are still firmly inside the Easter season. I came across the following quote by Margaret Silf writing in America. It offers something to think about over the course of the following year:

Easter is a time to look forward. Too often the Christian story is told backwards, as if it were solely about God's rescue mission, God's parachute, bailing us out of the wreckage of our sin. Easter is the time to change the direction of our gaze and see the rescue mission for what it can become: an invitation to participate in the great adventure of becoming the people God is dreaming we can be and of transforming planet Earth into the seedbed of God's kingdom.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

For Those Who Aren't Mothers and Wish They Were

Going to Mass on Mother's Day can be an intensely painful experience for those longing to have children and for whatever reason can not (I can recall vividly my own experience of crying my eyes out at Mass on Mother's Day in the days when I thought I would not be able to have a child). Venita Hampton Wright describes that feeling well and offers valuable insight in this article: Mother Without Child. Motherhood goes far beyond having a biological child.

Monday, May 02, 2011

On Bin Laden's Death

Like everyone else, I was greeted with the news this morning that Osama Bin Laden was dead. My first reaction was "Seriously?" My second was to say a prayer for his soul. My friend Erika summed up my complicated feelings on his death very well on her blog: When Bin Laden Died

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Book Review: "Living the Rosary"

Living the Rosary: Finding Your Life in the Mysteries

by John Phalen, CSC
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2011

Fr. John Phalen is a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross which is committed to promoting the Rosary. In “Living the Rosary: Finding Your Life in the Mysteries,” Phalen seeks to connect meditation on the twenty mysteries of the Rosary with experiences in our own life. “In following the life of Christ in the mysteries of the Rosary, we find the rhythm God intends for our own lives.”

For those unfamiliar with the Rosary, there are four sets of mysteries: The Joyful, The Luminous, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious. The Joyful Mysteries are The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Birth of Jesus, The Presentation in the Temple, and The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. The Luminous Mysteries are The Baptism of Jesus, The Wedding Feast at Cana, The Proclamation of the Kingdom, The Transfiguration, and The Institution of the Eucharist. The Sorrowful Mysteries include The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion. Lastly, the Glorious Mysteries rejoice with The Resurrection, The Ascension into Heaven, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and the Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven. Phalen does offer an appendix with instructions on how to say the Rosary.

Phalen emphasizes that the Rosary is a very scriptural prayer, with both the prayers themselves and the mysteries rooted in scripture. He opens the meditation on each mystery with the relevant scripture passages. He then offers a more personal reflection, frequently integrating anecdotes and lessons learned through his own priestly ministry. From there he generalizes to experiences we all may have had at some time in our lives. Questions, appropriate for either personal reflection or group discussion, close out each chapter.

His reflections offer a new perspective on the mysteries of the Rosary and their continued significance. While much can be gained simply by meditating on Jesus’ life as revealed in Scripture, connecting it to modern-day experiences may help some feel more connected to the events of so long ago.

For example, we are unlikely to ever experience being scourged with a whip, yet many have experienced the pain of bullying or abuse. An angel might not appear to us, but we all have annunciation moments that call us to a new way of life or new circumstances. People rarely literally come back from the dead, but there are all sorts of resurrections into a new life – those who have recovered from an addiction, survived cancer, or been released from prison all experience a resurrection. Like Jesus in the garden, we have all had the experience of begging God to take away a particularly heavy set of circumstances and asking for the courage to accept them. We have had the pain of carrying our crosses.

The mysteries of the Rosary are intimately connected to our lives, in ways we may never have previously considered. “Living the Rosary” will invite you into a deeper relationship with this powerful form of prayer.

Blessed Pope John Paul II Prayer

Pope John Paul II will be beatified today, May 1, 2011.

God our Father, in your wise and loving providence you raised up Pope John Paul II as shepherd and universal father of your pilgrim Church on earth. Your spirit made him a shining light ablaze with the radiance of your Son, even in the darkest shadows, that we might not fear.

Through him you called your Church to walk in justice, to taste your mercy, and to face in worship the Son whose fiery rays illumine the splendor and dignity of each human life.

He has now crossed the threshold of hope to hear the song of the Word, no longer in echoes but face to face with his beloved Mary and all the saints. Embrace him with your everlasting mercy and preserve in your Church the voice of this shepherd who said the the Fisherman: "Lord, you know that I love you." Amen.

John Paul the Great, pray for us.

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

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