Thursday, June 30, 2011

Failing at New Motherhood?

A kind friend accompanied me today to visit my new mom friend in the hospital. She needed some guidance with breastfeeding and I certainly wasn't the one to provide it, but I knew someone who could. My friend is on day 4 of being a mom and she is doing great, but she isn't feeling this way. She's feeling like a failure because she had a c-section and was having a hard time feeding.

It brought me back to my early days of motherhood. Like her, I had a c-section and had difficulty breastfeeding. Those are the first two tests of motherhood. How successful was your labor and can you breastfeed your child? I failed on both counts. By day 4 I was a weepy mess. Nothing was going like I thought it would and my post-partum depression had started to kick in. The days that followed were not good. How would I ever keep this child alive?

All these years later, those memories still hurt. Even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the present state of my life, it's still hard to listen to "ideal" labor and delivery stories and people who feel that breastfeeding is the only acceptable feeding method.

But despite my rocky start, I was not a total failure at motherhood (although I've certainly had my days!). Motherhood is a marathon, the outcome of which is not determined in the first days or weeks. Getting a baby out healthy by whatever means necessary is far more important than having a natural vaginal birth. Bonding, while it can take place at the breast, doesn't have to. It's our own expectations that do us in. The important thing is to do what is best for your child. That is the true test of being a good mom.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Beautiful Catholic Book Collection

I saw this set of beautiful books advertised in the Tan Books Catalog. I'm including the letter that accompanied them below. They have a big price tag but they are for a good cause and would be amazing to have if you have the resources to afford them.

Each Volume Includes:

* Genuine Leather Cover, affixed with a special work of art
* Gold trim
* Luxurious silk end sheets
* Satin Ribbon to mark passages for Lectio Divina
* Exquisitely ornamented border and spine
* Published on the finest quality paper
* Beautiful Dore and Old Master illustrations
* Original frontispiece by living Catholic artists
* Original preface from living Catholic authors
* Beautiful typesetting by skilled artisans

To find out more about them, please visit: Cor Amoris

Dear Friends,

I've long dreamed of publishing the Catholic Classics in the finest editions ever made.

When the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration turned to me to help build their new monastery, I felt called to make this dream a reality. Deep in my soul, I knew it was time to launch our TAN Limited Editions, with the first fruits reserved for the Poor Clares.

Thus was born the Cor Amoris Collection - a deluxe library of Catholic Classics that will grace your home, nourish your soul, and help build a holy place of Eucharistic Adoration and prayer.
These five volumes - The Imitation of Christ, An Introduction to the Devout Life, Abandonment to Divine Providence, The Interior Castle, and The Story of a Soul - have inspired and encouraged generations of Saints with their beauty, wisdom, and spiritual power. Each title was hand-selected by the Poor Clares to deepen your prayer life and draw you closer to the “Heart of Love,” God.

For the first time ever I am making these five Classics available as a deluxe limited edition library. We've crafted each volume from the highest quality leather, with luxurious gilded edges, original prefaces and exquisite art.

Pre-order your Cor Amoris Collection today for delivery before Christmas 2011. Join me in bringing this work of beauty and love into your home. I'll reserve all net proceeds from your order for the Poor Clares, to build them the home they need, and to raise a Eucharistic throne for Our Lord.

Conor Gallagher
Vice President of Publishing

7 Ways to Make God Your Matchmaker

This article goes well with the book review of Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship I posted yesterday.

7 Ways to Make God Your Matchmaker

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: "Come My Beloved"

Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship
by Ellen Gable Hrkach and Kathy Cassanto

When I was asked to review "Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship," I wasn't sure what to expect. I find reading "courtship" stories difficult because my experience of dating was so far removed from that ideal.

Yet, despite my hesitation, I found myself enjoying these love stories. Ellen Gable Hrkach and Kathy Cassanto asked a wide spectrum of couples to share their stories of how they met and came to the decision to marry. There are couples of all different ages, from different locales, and different backgrounds. Those who are familiar with Catholic writers will recognize the names of Sarah Reinhard and Regina Doman. It is a joy to read their stories. What all these courtships share is prayer to meet the right person before marriage and a commitment to live a married life centered on Christ.

That doesn't mean these couples didn't experience hardships along the way. There are times when the woman wanted nothing to do with the man at the beginning, but the man's persistence ultimately paid off. There are couples who had to struggle with being from different faith traditions and long-distance relationships and exploring a religious vocation before committing to marriage. There is one couple that married after both lost their spouses.

This book is an enjoyable read for anyone who likes a good love-story (made all the more enjoyable because they are true life.) I think that it's best purpose would be for teens starting to think about finding that special person. It would offer them hope and encourage them to seek to have a relationship rooted in God. This book gives me hope for my own children, that perhaps they can experience these types of relationships.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Good Quote from St. Teresa of Avila

Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you,
All things pass, God never changes.
Patient endurance achieves all things,
God alone suffices.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One baby has safely entered the world

Earlier this week I asked for prayers for two babies due this week. My friend's baby came into the world today (on her birthday, no less!). It was a grueling labor, lasting over 24 hours and ultimately ending in a c-section. Both mother and baby are doing well, thank God!

Thank you for your prayers.

Welcoming the Stranger

“Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels (Hebrews 13:2).” Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this is Abraham rushing out to welcome three men standing near his tent (Genesis 18:1-15). He begged them to come, wash their feet, rest, and eat before continuing on their journey. In return, the men (actually the Lord’s messengers in disguise) promised that he and his wife Sarah would have the child long promised by God within a year.

I try to remember these Scripture passages when I am struggling with hospitality. Some people live to entertain. I am always amazed by stories of people hosting 40 people in their home on a regular basis or those who invite random strangers to share a meal.

I, on the other hand, am very introverted. Had those men been standing outside my tent, my first instinct would have been to go back into my tent and close the flap! There are days when I think I would have made a pretty good hermit, as long as I had some good books to read.

Reaching out to people (even people I know and love) and inviting them over causes me stress. I worry about cleaning the house and getting things ready and preparing food. Ironically, I am the default house for family get-togethers! Ye
s, God definitely wants me to continue to work on this area of weakness.

As with everything, practice helps. I’ve had enough opportunity over the years to get more adept and comfortable with these tasks of entertaining. I continue to force myself to get out of my comfort zone. When I invite people, and they in turn ask to bring other people, I always welcome them. I also make a point of having my home be always open to my children’s friends. I want them to feel comfortable here. Growing up, I treasured my friend’s homes where I was treated with kindness. Today, I try to extend that kindness to other young people.

I’ve made great strides. Yet, I know that I have a long way to go to reach the level of hospitality encouraged by Scripture. We are called to see Christ in the strangers among us. We are instructed to welcome them, to offer them food and drink and clothing. “Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30)

In fact, this is the standard by which we will be judged at the end of time. “For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. . . . Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? . . . And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40)

Like Abraham, we are called to welcome the stranger, and to do so with enthusiasm. In doing so, we welcome Christ himself. Whenever I have the urge to hide inside my “tent” and close the door, I will continue to remind myself of that fact.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting Ready for the Next Year of Homeschooling

With the New England Catholic Homeschool Conference happening tomorrow and my talk all prepared (finally!), I spent tonight planning the curriculum for our next year of homeschooling. I want to go tomorrow knowing what I need to buy. It's hard to believe that this will be our fourth year of homeschooling and that my children will be doing 5th grade (they are close in age - technically my younger son is a fourth grader, but we do everything together, except for math in which case the rising fourth grader is already 1/4th of the way through the fifth grade book - homeschooling allows for flexibility!).

I am an eclectic homeschooler. I don't follow one curriculum. Rather, I pick and choose from what is out there. The choices can be overwhelming, but I adjust even with what I choose from. Homeschooling allows for individualization. If a skill is already mastered, we can skim over it. If we need to spend more time on something, we can.

I really do love our homeschooling life and I am looking forward to the coming year, AFTER this beautiful season called summer break!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Pain of Miscarriage

I have fortunately never experienced a miscarriage, which makes me somewhat unique among my friends. Miscarriage is very common. It also changes a woman forever. Every life touches others, including that of a child who dies in utero. While every woman is different, many grieve the loss of that child or children forever.

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for life. has written a powerful article on miscarriage and our need to understand and sympathize with the pain it causes which appears on Catholic Lane: Miscarriage

Lord, comfort all parents who grieve the loss of their children of any age. Take them into Your loving arms, and give us strength until the day You give them back to us in heaven. Amen.

Prayer Requests

Prayers for life and death -

A friend of mine lost her husband suddenly on Monday from a heart attack - he was 45 years old and leaves behind three children.

A dear friend and my niece are both due to give birth soon.

Thank you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Does it Mean to be a True Friend?

True friends are hard to come by. I'm very blessed by the handful in my life and I hope that they feel the same about me.

It is important to take a moment every now and then just what it means to be a "true friend." Friendship comes in many forms - from the people you enjoy a given activity with to the ones you are willing to share the deepest secrets of your life with and every place in between. Yet, at the heart of every friendship should be the desire for the best for that person.

As True Friends: The How-Tos and Joys of Christian Friendship states:

“In true friendship, as in true love, what we care about is the other person’s fulfillment as a creature of God,” Millard explains. “A true friendship is one of the main benefits of living a Christian life.”

Among the major benefits: True human friendship enhances our understanding of friendship with God and is the natural preparation for entering into our ultimate vocation of friendship with Christ, explains Cuddeback. . . .

As Millard concludes: “A true friend helps you to live the right kind of life. True friends, in the words of my wife, help each other get to heaven.”

Good Thought

Theresa Thomas posted this on Facebook today:

When someone shares the burden of his soul with you, keep it more guarded than even your own most precious secret, then pray intently that God will bear fruit in him and in His time give sweet respite and the answer that is best for his soul in light of eternity.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Family Tree that Almost Didn't Grow

The Family Tree that Almost Didn't Grow in the National Right to Life News helps to illustrate the value of each life. In 1896 a 13 year old found herself pregnant as the result of a violent rape. Her employer, the father of the baby, wanted her to do away with it, but the young girl ran away instead and ultimately gave birth to a girl who herself got married and had four children. Among the 24 grandchildren and 73 great-grandchildren are "an engineer, five nurses, musicians, a dairy plant supervisor, teachers, an office supply store manager, and an architect, to mention just a few . . . This entire family tree was made possible by the courageous decision of a lonely and frightened 13 year old girl."

"Each person is part of a family tree and is an integral part of God's plan. We may never know what blessings the Lord intends to bring forth from any person's life, or how that life will impact future generations, but we do know that God has a unique plan for each life that He creates. As John Cardinal O'Connor once said, "God draws straight with crooked lines."

Dedicating a Day/ Week to St. Joseph

Peggy Bowes, author of The Rosary Workout has a great blog post up on dedicating one day a week to St. Joseph: 911 to St. Joseph

Monday, June 20, 2011

God and Seeker at Boston College

The National Catholic Register has an article up on an innovative class at Boston College led by Jesuit Father Ronald Tacelli which debates the existence of God. "Does God Exist?" includes arguments from both sides of the table and consists primarily of discussion.

Obviously, Father Tacelli wants his students to believe in God. He provides the best evidence he can, and the class doesn't end on the last day. It is a life-long journey and he suggests further reading material for individual students. He states: "The overwhelming majority of students leave the class with a renewed respect for religious beliefs and a renewed understanding of them."

Read the full article here: God and Seeker at Boston College

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Waiting on God

The first readings for the daily liturgies this week tell the story of Abram and his family. On Monday, God promises that Abram’s descendents will inherit the land he has brought him to. He was seventy-five years old at this point. Tuesday, God makes the promise again.” I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth; if anyone could count the dust of the earth, your descendants too might be counted.” (Gen 13:16) Wednesday, Abram is getting impatient. “O Lord God, what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer?” (Gen 15:2) Yet, he continued to trust in the Lord’s promise. By Thursday, his wife has had enough.

Abram and Sarai have been living in Canaan for ten years at this point. Abram is in his mid-eighties and Sarai is an old woman – far too old to be having children. She believes in God, but she is also realistic. She can’t bear any children, but Abram is supposed to have some. She comes to the reasonable conclusion that some intervention was in order. So, she gives her husband her maidservant Hagar as a concubine. It is important to note that this was considered perfectly acceptable at the time – Sarai broke no moral code. As a result of their union, Hagar conceives and ultimately bears a son, Ishmael.

That is not the end of the story, however. God is faithful to his promises. Thirteen years later, he changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah and tells them they will conceive a son whom they should name Isaac. God will bless Ishmael as a son of Abraham and make him the father of a great nation (Gen 17:20), but the covenant will be with Isaac and his descendants (Gen 17:23).

Here Abraham and Sarah are, ninety-nine and ninety years old, respectively. They have been waiting over twenty years for God to keep his promise! Keep in mind, this was a promise that seemed absurd even at the beginning. Yet, God was coming through and keeping his word.

This story always makes me sympathize with Sarai’s predicament. In an era in which a woman’s worth was determined by her ability to have children, she had remained barren. This had no doubt caused her much pain, but after so many years, she had probably come to accept it. Then, she hears God’s promise and finds it to be laughable. After all, she is long past her child-bearing years. Her body has lost its life-giving capabilities. And the years continue to go by. So, after ten years, she takes matters into her own hands. Who can blame her? She has certainly been patient. God hasn’t come through, at least not in the way she expected.

God’s promises to us don’t come in such clear-cut messages as they did to Abram and Sarai (at least they don’t to me!). They come instead in promptings of the Spirit, in ideas put into our heads by our family and friends, and the longings in the deepest desires of our hearts. We pray for God’s guidance. We have dreams for our lives, plans that we make, and then . . . nothing. Did we misread the signs? Maybe God had something else in mind for us? Maybe, like Sarah, we get tired of waiting, take matters into our own hands and try to manipulate the outcome. It can be very hard to know when to act and when to continue waiting.

In these situations, what can we learn from Abraham and Sarah? First, if God wants something for our lives, He will find a way to make it happen even if it seems impossible. Second, God can bring good even out of our mistakes. If Sarah had waited patiently for God to come through, Ishmael would never have existed, but God created him and blessed him. His people, too, would be of Abraham’s line. Third, don’t give up on God. He rarely works on our timetable. He frequently makes us wait, sometimes a frustratingly long time. While waiting, our job is to be faithful to His teachings, to continue praying, and make the best decisions we can in light of our present circumstances. God will take care of the rest.

New Crisis Pregnancy Center in Springfield, MA

The New Women’s Center opened its doors in the North End neighborhood here June 18. The center provides women with free information and assistance to help them choose life.

The center, located at 2645 Main Street, just up the road from the Planned Parenthood League of Springfield.

The grand opening of the crisis pregnancy center, operated entirely by volunteers, was two years in the making.

“The goal is to save as many babies as possible,” said Fred Ferraro, president of the New Women’s Center. “If anyone knows anyone who is pregnant and needs support, they can come here for assistance,” he told iobserve.

The New Women’s Center will provide free counseling to women facing a crisis pregnancy. Volunteers will also refer them to pro-life medical facilities. Ferraro added that they are trying to build up a supply of diapers, wipes and baby clothes to give additional support to families who are struggling. He said that their long term goal is to have an ultrasound machine, so that those considering abortion will be able to see their baby and get a clear picture of their choice.

Read more here: Grand Opening of Crisis Pregnancy Center offers Hope

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's Not Too Late to Register for the New England Catholic Homeschool Conference

The New England Catholic Homeschool Conference will be held June 25th in Chicopee, MA. View the list of speakers (including me!) and talks here:

Register here: Registration

Catholic Arts and Letters Award Finalists Announced

I was so honored to be a judge for the adult category in the Catholic Arts and Letters Award. The on-line chat I had the night the tornado hit my community was to determine the finalists. After months of reading and judging quality books, I just HAD to be a part of the decision process! I'm excited to announce the finalists have been released. Congratulations to all! If you are looking for some great summer reading, check these out:

For adult fiction:

Murder in The Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
by Ann Margaret Lewis
Rachel's Contrition (Chisel & Cross Books) by Michelle Buckman
Theophilos by Michael O'Brien

For children's fiction/YA
Alex O'Donnell and the 40 CyberThieves by Regina Doman
Hiding the Stranger Trilogy by Joan Kelly
Tristan's Travels by Karl Bjorn Erickson

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Therese Borchard and Mental Illness

St. Anthony's Messenger is doing a special profile on Therese Borchard, author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes. She has openly shared her struggles with mental illness in the hopes of helping others and removing some of the stigma. I especially like the part of the article that talks about the "Four Theresas"

Therese is fueled in her advocacy through devotion to her faith. She and her family are regular parishioners at nearby St. Mary’s, where she serves as a lector and where her children attend elementary school. She prays each morning (“I really do,” she insists) because it centers her. “If you’re not centered on God and peace, and that sense of stillness, then I think you’re getting off to a rough start!” she says, laughing.

But Therese has a special devotion, as she says, to three Theresas. First is Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, with whom Therese spent a volunteer week just out of college. (“I met her!” she exclaims.) Mother Teresa’s letters, which document her own struggles with darkness, are an inspiration to Borchard. She’s quick to add that Mother Teresa’s darkness is not to be confused with clinical depression—Mother Teresa was able to keep on with her life and work; clinically depressed people can’t do that as they turn in on themselves.

St. Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite, is a source of inspiration for Therese’s mystical side—Borchard certainly believes in a very real and present transcendence. And St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Borchard’s patroness, has played an important role in her recovery.

For years our Therese carried around a St. Thérèse medal given to her by her best friend. Through thick and thin she kept that medal close at hand during the year and a half when she felt suicidal. “It was my token of hope,” she says. As her sickness progressed, though, she came dangerously close to taking her life.

These were the days before her Johns Hopkins treatment. After six weeks of outpatient therapy was deemed a failure by her health-care provider, she sat in her driveway, considering taking all of the failed prescription pills in her house. “It was probably my lowest point,” she quietly recalls. “I thought, If I’ve gone through seven doctors and a hospitalization program and six weeks of outpatient and they say that they can’t help me, then there’s obviously nothing I can do, so I’m just going to take my life and get out of here.” She pleaded for—or, more accurately, demanded—a sign from God.

On her way into the house, she reflexively picked up her mail, and noticed a piece from a woman she’d met at a conference. “In the mail there was another medal, like the one that I had been hanging on to, from a woman named Rose, and she said that she had said a novena in my name—talk about a sign!”

So, she concludes, “All of the T(h)eresas are important to me!”

Read the full article here: Therese Borchard: Beyond Blue

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Young People Need a Purpose

In Dear Teens, Fun is Overrated, Jennifer Fulwiler reflects on the emphasis society places on young people having fun. There is a place for that, of course. No one is suggesting they should live a life of pure drudgery. But they deserve more.

In looking back on life, Fulwiler states:

Looking back, especially with the benefit of the wisdom of the Catholic Church, it’s clear how much we young people hungered for a mission. We wanted to feel like we were a part of something bigger than ourselves, to feel needed by the world around us. Far more than we desired to be amused, we craved an outlet for our limitless energy, and a chance to prove ourselves and use our budding talents.

We need to work at giving young people the opportunity to do just that.

Lego Cathedral

If you or your children like Legos or simply want to marvel at a beautiful model, check out these photos of a Lego Cathedral:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Renewed Interest in Exorcism

I recently worked up my courage and watched The Rite - a movie starring Anthony Hopkins that focuses on the training of exorcists and their resulting spiritual battles. Well, I watched most of it. I'm not a fan of scary movies. Once it got too scary where I thought it would provoke nightmares, I left the room. After all, the devil and his legions of helpers are probably the most scary thing there is.

Still, I'm glad that there is a renewed interest in exorcism and more priests are learning how to perform the rite. While true demonic possession is rare, it's good to have one more powerful tool in the battle against Satan.

The following US Catholic article discusses some of the issues involved in exorcism: They're Back: What's Behind the Return of the Exorcist

Monday, June 13, 2011

Job Listing: Director of Admissions at Magdalen College

This is a first - someone asked me to post a job listing! Sounds like it would be a great position for someone with the right qualifications. If you know someone who would be interested, please pass it along.

Organization: The College of Saint Mary Magdalen
Title: Director of Admissions
Reports to: VP of Admissions & Advancement

The College of Saint Mary Magdalen is a residential Catholic liberal arts college located in Warner, New Hampshire. Founded in 1973, the College seeks—through the rigorous study and discussion of primary texts and through its vibrantly Catholic student life—to call our students to the life-long pursuit of intellectual and moral virtue, following Christ who is the source of all virtue.

Although the College has been in existence for 38 years, in many ways 2011 marks a re-founding of the institution. At the core of the re-founding are a change in perspective and a change in focus. The College has always been focused on Catholic Lay formation. Today, our focus is on authentic human freedom and the commitment to build a world renowned institution of higher learning rooted in the Catholic tradition.

Every strong institution is made up of strong people. Providentially, God has brought together an amazing team of talented individuals with strong credentials, strong faith, and a mutual love and respect for one another that is rarely seen in today’s workplace. It is this model which we will strive to keep intact and to build upon with other like-minded individuals. We seek to add individuals to the team with the will and the vision to build a truly exceptional institution of higher learning in Warner, NH.

The College of Saint Mary Magdalen is currently seeking a Director of Admissions. The ideal candidate will have a proven track record of success, be a man/woman of strong character & integrity, be willing to wear a lot of hats, and enjoy an environment similar to a start-up. He/she will work closely with the VP of Advancement & Admissions to recreate the public perception & image of the institution and to build a pipeline of incoming students.

• Oversee all aspects of the College’s admissions procedures
• Work to strategically build and implement the long-term plan for college admissions
• Set and meet admissions goals for enrollment
• Work to constantly improve retention through constant communication with current students and building new initiatives which will improve retention
• Responsible for selecting, overseeing, and staffing college fairs, school visits, etc.
• Build and maintain strategic relationships with individuals capable of referring students to the College of Saint Mary Magdalen
• Work closely with the VP of Advancement & Admissions to develop marketing materials, newsletters, web content, etc.
• Contribute new ideas for programs and initiatives which will help the College to grow and flourish long-term
• Help to identify and hire new team members
• Manage new team members as the group grows
• Responsible for conversions of inquiry to applicant and applicant to new student
• Ensure compliance with all ethical standards, and compliance with all federal, state and accreditation requirements
• Responsible for social media initiatives, email blasts, and other marketing-related initiatives

• Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree Required (advanced degrees in Catechesis, Theology, or Business preferred)
• 5 – 10 Years of proven experience in college admissions (preferably an individual who understands the Catholic market and marketing to students looking for an authentically Catholic education)
• Management experience in a sales environment (preferably college admissions)
• Strong technical skills related to new technologies, social marketing, MS Office, etc.
• A strong understanding of the Catholic Faith and knowledge of Church hierarchy
• Positive attitude and person of strong personal and moral character

What to do When Children Leave the Church

You spend all those years doing your best to bring your children up in the Catholic faith, and then, as teens or adults, they decide it isn't important and choose to walk away. It has to be one of the most heartbreaking moments in a parent's life. What do you do in that moment and in the years to come?

Marge Fenelon has a well-written article on the subject in the National Catholic Register: What to do When Children Leave the Church.

Licensed clinical counselor Kevin Prendergast insists that keeping the door open to communication and relationships is essential when an adult child leaves the Church. He counsels many such families in his Cincinnati practice.

“We have to remember that faith is a gift from God,” he pointed out. “I don’t think we Catholics realize that doubt and searching can be a stage in our faith journey. When our children are searching, we have to validate that searching as part of their journey.”

Prendergast recommends that parents take a non-reactive stance of patient listening when their adult children begin to question or even exit the faith. Approaching them with aggressive evangelization or emotional arguments may further encourage their departure and cause more division.

“Opening yourself to dialogue doesn’t mean you agree with your adult child or that you’re ready to abandon your own faith,” he said.

On the contrary, Prendergast recommends a deepening of parents’ own faith as testimony to the truth. “Our living witness can be more powerful than any words. Show your children that your faith means the world to you and that you wouldn’t give it up for anything,” he said.

Prendergast offers St. Monica as a symbol of hope to parents with non-practicing children. She prayed for St. Augustine for 30 years without apparent results. In the end, it was St. Ambrose who directly converted St. Augustine, not his mother, although her prayers were instrumental in the process.

“Take a developmental perspective,” Prendergast said. “Realize that this is something they have to work through and be open to the possibility that you may not be able to reach your child, but that God may be able to through someone else.”

Read more: What to do When Children Leave the Church

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"The School of the Family"

It’s always painful to read a book that makes you feel like you have failed /are failing in every way that truly matters. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it. I felt that way after reading “School of the Family” by Chantal R. Howard.

Howard has had an eventful life. Although still only in her twenties, she was homeschooled from 4th through 12th grade, trained and competed as a high-level gymnast, lost her father as a young teenager, traveled many places, discerned a religious vocation, married theologian Peter Howard, S.T.D. , and has given birth to four children whom she is now homeschooling. Her story is truly fascinating and she tells it well and with an honest heart. She obviously experienced her share of challenges and heartache especially in the death of her father at such a young age. However, she also seems to have been greatly protected from many of the usual challenges most young people face. Her life was amazingly centered on God from a young age and she never deviated from the path. In that, she was truly blessed.

The purpose of “The School of the Family” is to emphasize the role of the family in the formation of children, especially their faith formation. While much of the book is about her own experiences and what they have taught her, the last chapter provides a “Family Rule” intended as a roadmap for how to live as a Catholic family. As Howard states, “My own experience has led me to the conclusion that adopting a rule of life is necessary to keep our lives ordered to the spiritual goals we wish to achieve. So, too, the family needs the support of such a rule of live in order to help fortify our efforts as we seek to live the school of the family. What follows is the apex of all that I have shared thus far, highlighting what such a rule should embody through the authority of the Church and the saints of our day.”

What Howard sets forth is truly the ideal. It presumes a family in which all members have a single minded purpose and focus on getting to heaven. It encourages frequent attendance at Mass as well as a weekly holy hour set aside for prayer and adoration, dedicating one’s life to Mary, saying a family rosary and reading the Word of God daily. It creates an environment in which prayer should be the first priority of daily life. It also requires simplicity and detachment from worldly goods.

Howard also provides special guidelines for husbands and wives and children. Her “Rule of Life for Children” is especially interesting. There is a tendency not to take children’s spiritual lives as seriously as we should. There have been several saints who were children and children are called to holiness just as much as those of us further along life’s journey. Howard emphasizes the need for obedience, daily prayer, penance, love of Scripture and of Mary, and adherence to the Ten Commandments.

So, then, what can those of us who fall far short of this ideal learn from Howard’s book? First of all, it is always good to have something to strive for. Yes, we are imperfect. We are going to come up short. Yet, the life Howard encourages is the one encouraged by the Church. I would suggest that the struggling Catholic family aim to incorporate one or two of her suggestions into their lives. Every step toward God is a step in the right direction. When those efforts become habits, then more steps can be added.

I think that it is also important to realize that, with the help of God, imperfect parents can still do a good job of bringing up their children. Howard’s parents were far from perfect, yet she obviously developed a deep love of God and her faith. She states that she learned from their mistakes. We do the best we can on this parenting journey, but it is a fact of life that we are going to screw up. We can hope and pray that God helps our children learn from our mistakes as well.

Our families are schools whether we ever thought of them in that way or not. Children learn much from how our lives are lived – both our actions and our words. They learn from our life of prayer or lack thereof, our commitment to, or disregard of Church teachings. What messages do we want to send our children? If our family school is not imparting the lessons we desire, “The School of the Family” by Chantal Howard can offer a starting point for some corrective action.
To learn more about “The School of the Family,” please visit

Friday, June 10, 2011

Catholic Writers to Convene in August in Valley Forge

The third annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE will take place
August 3-5, 2011, at the Scanticon Hotel Valley Forge in King of Prussia, PA. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild (CWG) and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), it will be held in conjunction with CMN’s annual retailer trade show. The Catholic Writers Conference LIVE provides Catholic authors with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe.
CWG President Ann Margaret Lewis said this year's conference will, “focus on marketing and selling one’s written work.” Highlights of the conference include:

• Over 30 sessions taught by professionals in writing, marketing, blogging and publishing
• Pitch Sessions where writers may meet privately with representatives from four publishers
• One-on-one coaching sessions. For $35 an author can have a 30 minute private consultation with a specialist who will review their manuscript and guide them toward publication.
• Rapid-fire readings. Published authors will each have five minutes to read a selection from one of their books. A mass book sale and signing will follow.

Lewis says the conference comes at a modest cost. “Registration for the jam packed three days is only $90 for CWG members or $100 for non-members. And we have a special price of $42 for students. Our conference allows you to connect personally with Catholic publishers and retailers, to show your work, learn the craft and network.” Priests and religious are invited free of charge, but must register at the email address:

This year’s conference speakers include:

• Catholic publishing representatives Claudia Volkman of Servant Books/St.Anthony Messenger Press,
• Regina Doman, acquisitions editor for Sophia Institute Press,
• Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, author of Mother Teresa and Me,
• Michelle Buckman, author of the young adult novel Maggie Come Lately and the adult drama Rachel’s Contrition,
• Angela Breidenbach, author of Gems of Wisdom and
• Patti Armstrong, co-author of the best-selling Amazing Grace book series and author of Catholic Truths for Our Children, Stories for the Homeschool Heart.

Past attendees gave glowing accounts of their experiences at the conference:

• Carol Bannon, author of the children’s book “Handshake from Heaven,” said, “Attending this conference has been the best thing I have done for myself professionally.”
• Writer Melanie Cameron concurs, “I recommend this conference as a resource for any author (or wannabe) at any stage. You will walk away empowered!”
• Maureen Martin, a consultant and trainer said she attended to connect with other professional Catholics. “It was such a wonderful, nurturing environment where we could share our faith and our love for literature.”

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization, sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. “Our conferences are totally focused on encouraging faithful Catholics to share genuine Catholic culture and faith in their writing no matter what genre,” says Lewis. “These events are integral to our mission of ‘creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”

Also at this year’s conference, the CWG will be presenting its first ever Catholic Arts and Letters Awards (called the “Lilies”) for the best in Catholic fiction. This award will recognize one book in the adult market and one in the children’s market for its literary merit.

Information for the Catholic Writer’s Conference can be found on the conference web site:

The CWG is a professional group of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allies whose mission is to build a vibrant Catholic literary culture. The organization is loyal to the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Story of Joy and Sorrow

In Soul Sisters: A Story of Joy and Sorrow, Colleen Mitchell writes of struggling to understand and accept God's plan after the loss of her 3 month old son. The article is excellent. I especially appreciate the wisdom of this line:

I soon learned that the most courageous thing a grieving heart must do is learn to be joyful again.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Book Review: "First Time Dad: The Stuff You Really Need to Know"

First Time Dad: The Stuff You Really Need to Know
by John Fuller with Paul Batura
Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011

John Fuller, cohost of the Focus on the Family daily broadcast, seeks to provide new fathers with some solid advice in "First-Time Dad; The Stuff You Really Need to Know." He hits the ball out of the park.

He tells of his own experience of new fatherhood - how all the reading in the world won't prepare you for it. He encourages new fathers to have realistic expectations of how their lives are going to change. Fuller emphasizes the importance of looking to God first for parenting support. "Don't take your cues about fatherhood from the culture, but rather from the God of the universe . . . You don't want to be a good father just for the sake of being a good father. You want to be a good father because you want to teach your son how to be a good man."

Fuller talks about balancing priorities and resisting the urge to immerse yourself in some new activity simply to avoid being at home. He encourages men to take the long view - parenting comes with "no annual review, few 'attaboys' and little immediate feedback. So you'll need to persevere and settle in for the long haul."

He also offers help for men who had poor parenting role-models growing up and encourages them to break the cycle.

Women will appreciate most the ways Fuller provides men with ways to help their wives and maintain the marital bond despite having children. He also emphasizes the importance of being a spiritual leader to one's family and bringing one's children up in the faith. "Your child will, whether you like it or not, tend to imitate your priorities in life - including the importance of your personal faith."

While "First-Time Dads" is obviously aimed at new dads, I think it could be helpful for men at any stage in the parenting journey. It's never too early or too late to improve.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Quote from Mother Teresa

This quote from Mother Teresa was in Living Faith today:

And how will you find Jesus? He has made it so easy for us. "Love one another as I have loved you." If we have gone astray, we have the beautiful sacrament of confession. We go to confession a sinner full of sin. We come from confession a sinner without sin by the greatness of the mercy of God. No need for us to despair. No need to commit suicide. No need for us to be discouraged - no need if we have understood the tenderness of God's love.

You are precious to him. He loves you, and he loves you so tenderly that he has carved you on the palm of his hand. These are God's words written in the Scripture. You know that. Remember that when your heart feels restless, when your heart feels hurt, when you heart feels like breaking - then remember, "I am precious to him."

Monday, June 06, 2011

"It's Not About You"

It's graduation season. Congratulations to all the graduates out there! David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, offers what he thinks should be the message to new graduates in this article: It's Not About You.

His closing paragraph really hits home: Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.

Sounds remarkably like the Gospel instruction: "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." - Matthew 16:25

Lace Pottery by Maggie Weldon

Every now and then I come across some beautiful hand-made art and I simply must share the link. I saw Maggie Weldon's Lace Pottery in the May/June issue of Victoria Magazine She combines her love of crochet, lace and pottery in these incredible pieces. Check them out at Lace Pottery

Sunday, June 05, 2011

When Tragedy Hits Home

On the afternoon of June 1st, my hometown of Springfield, MA was hit by a F3 tornado. Many other local towns and cities were hit as well. New England isn’t known for its tornadoes. Blizzards? Yes. Tornadoes? No. Yet, remarkably, there was relatively little loss of life. While the few that were lost will be deeply missed, the toll could have been much worse. Yet, the physical and psychological damage will take a long time to recover from. The initial shock has worn off now. The reality has begun to sink in.

My home was unscathed. Our biggest issue was loss of power for a day. We were incredibly fortunate. Less than two miles from me, streets are closed and whole houses are missing. The world outside my window is peaceful. Life for us goes on. Yet, so many of my friends and neighbors are hurting.

It seems like every day there is news of a tragedy. It is easy to gloss over. We may sympathize. We may even donate money to help. But there is no great impact. It is very different when the tragedy hits home. As my local newspaper stated, “life changed in a minute.”

I cried as I read the stories and viewed the photos of the destruction in the newspaper. These weren’t unknown photos. These were people and places I knew. The National Guard was brought in to help keep the peace and prevent looting. The city was shut down.

After staying close to home the past few days, I ventured out today. To see so many houses marked as condemned is heartbreaking. Cathedral, our local Catholic High School, was destroyed, as was the Catholic Middle School. Several other schools suffered considerable damage as well.

As is often the case, tragedy often brings out the best in people. So many have volunteered to help, people were being turned away. Neighbors were helping neighbors clean up. Electrical workers labored around the clock to get power restored as quickly as possible. At Mass, we prayed and collected money for our fellow parishioners who had lost so much. Fundraising drives and collections of goods are taking place everywhere. Outside a home marked “condemned” was a huge sign thanking all the emergency personnel who helped so much. Local colleges have stepped forward, offering spaces to the closed Catholic schools.

Still, there is much to be done. I know many of you will see this article and move on. After all, it isn’t your home, or your neighbors, and there are so many hurting people in the world. One can’t help all of them. But, if you are still reading, I would ask you to first, please take a moment to offer a prayer for those who are suffering as they attempt to rebuild their lives. Second, if you are able to donate, please send a donation to: American Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter, 506 Cottage Street, Springfield, MA 01104. It will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Mass as Faithful Friend

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony wrote a meaningful reflection on the new English Missal translation that will be used starting this November in America Magazine:

For Catholics, the Mass is where our relationship with the Lord, who is much more than a true friend, is nurtured and strengthened. The Mass itself is a "faithful friend" because we know it well, and our participation draws us ever deeper into the grace of the Lord. Later this year we will be introduced to a new translation of the prayers of the Mass in the new Roman Missal.

Some are wary of this change - perhaps the most significant change in the liturgy was first introduced after the Second Vatican Council. Such change is never easy, but perhaps a better approach might be to welcome the new translation as a new friend about to lead us to a new moment of grace.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Gratitude and Prayers after a Scary Day

When I got up this morning, little did I think I'd be blogging tonight from a hotel room in a nearby town. Tornadoes ripped through my hometown of Springfield, MA and the surrounding area this afternoon. While my immediate section of the town was spared, a few blocks away were scenes of devastation. The only thing we are suffering from was a lack of power and no idea when it might come back (the last time anything remotely similar occurred in our area it took a few days). That's a pretty small problem in the big scheme of things.

So, tonight, I am thankful. All my family and friends are OK. Some sustained damage, but nothing that can't be fixed. I am thankful that my house is in one piece. I am thankful for having the resources to be someplace with hot water and air conditioning on this hot day. I am thankful for wireless access at the hotel which allowed me to take place in a work-related chat I had been preparing for for several months!

I am also praying for those in my community who were not so fortunate. I hope that they get the help they need to recover and rebuild as quickly as possible.

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...