Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Quote for the Day

Today (July 31st) is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. In their "Quiet Moments" supplement, Catholic Digest shared the following quote, which you have probably heard before, but it is worth repeating and posting somewhere you can see it and be reminded of it every day!

Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you. - St. Ignatius

Monday, July 30, 2012

Seasons of Life

This was printed in my parish bulletin this week. I thought it was worth sharing.

Do not undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Do not set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

Do not take for granted things and people closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for without them, life is meaningless.

Do not let your years slip through your fingers living in the past or in the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life.

Do not give up when you still have something to give. Nothing’s really over until the moment you stop trying.

Do not be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn to be brave.

Do not shut love out of your life by saying it is impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give love; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly.

Do not dismiss your dreams. To be without dreams is to be without hope; to be without hope is to be without purpose.

Do not run through life so fast that you forget not only where you have been but where you are going.

Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

Author Unknown

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Growing with the Saints Catholic Vacation Bible School

It's not too soon to start thinking about next year's Vacation Bible School programs. If you are a religious educator or director of religious education in your parish, this is a program you might want to consider:

Growing with the Saints, Catholic Publishing Company, has worked very hard for seven years to provide Catholic parishes with an alternative to the canned Protestant Vacation Bible School Programs.

We are proud to announce our 2012 NEW Catholic Kidz Camp, The Vatican Express. This is one bus you won’t want to miss as campers will climb aboard the Vatican Express Bus driven by a Swiss Guard tour guide. The first stop is St. Peter’s Square where they will learn about St. Peter and find out how the Church got started. They will meet and greet our Pope, and visit the treasures in the Vatican. Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible is our featured saint, and his friend lion will delight children everywhere. The lessons, skits, music, games, and crafts which focus on Catholic identity are proven WINNERS!

This program includes a SONG MOTION DVD and VATICAN EXPRESS DVD. Our timing is a perfect fit with the Beatification of Pope John Paul and the Vatican’s upcoming celebration of the Year of Faith. We encourage you to visit our website at www.growingwiththesaints.com to learn more about us and read the reviews.

An Imprimatur was granted from Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: The Cup of Our Life

The Cup of Our Life: A Guide to Spiritual Growth

by Joyce Rupp
Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2012

“The Cup of Our Life: A Guide to Spiritual Growth” by Joyce Rupp was originally published twenty years ago, but having sold over 200,000 copies, it has reached “classic” status and has been reprinted by Sorin Books. Designed to be a six-week experience, with a week being as long as one needs, this book can be used by both individuals and groups.

The cup is used as a symbol for one’s life. As Rupp states, “The ordinariness of the cup reminds me that my personal transformation occurs in the common crevices of each day. The cup is an apt image for the inner process of growth.” Each participant is encouraged to choose a cup that speaks to him or her to use as a visual and tactile tool throughout the experience. The six weeks focus on the following ideas: The Cup of Life, The Open Cup, The Chipped Cup, The Broken Cup, The Cup of Compassion, and The Blessing Cup. In turn, each week offers six reflections with one day (a Sabbath day) for integration and review. Each day offers tasks to complete.

“The Broken Cup” is perhaps the most powerful chapter. Each one of us at one time or another has experienced deep pain. “The broken cup reminds me of those times when hurts, wounds, pains, and adversities of all sorts invade our lives and change us forever.” “The Cup of Compassion” also spoke loudly to me. Rupp speaks to our need to always try to do something for another who is hurting. Sometimes, however, there is nothing to be done. Sometimes, we need to simply be with the other in her hour of need. “We may feel better if we do something like give a book to read, make a meal, or buy a gift, but maybe what they really long for is someone to simply sit and listen to their concerns.”

Over the years, Rupp has received many positive comments from people whose lives were transformed by this book and spending the time in prayer and reflection. Those who shared these six weeks in groups developed deep friendships and connected in a profound way. Some have gone through the experience more than once and chosen different cups at different times, reflecting the place that they were in life at that time. “The Cup of Our Life” obviously resonates with many people and has brought much good into their lives.

Rupp is a well-known spiritual writer and offers much to think about within the pages of “The Cup of Our Life.” Whether one uses the book as originally intended, or simply reads and reflects on the pages, one will come away with many valuable insights.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: St. Anne's Day

St. Anne's Day

by Janice Lane Palko, 2012

Just in time for St. Anne's feastday (July 26th) comes "St. Anne's Day," a debut romance novel by Janice Lane Palko. Anne Lyons is a fiery-tempered twenty-nine year old nurse and has no interest in meeting a man when she is hired by handsome bar owner Gerry McMaster to care for his mother, Peg, who is recovering from triple-bypass surgery.

The older woman and Anne quickly bond and she encourages Anne to start praying to St. Anne, "Dear St. Anne, get me a man as fast as you can." She had prayed that prayer to find her own husband and trusts in its power. St. Anne seems to quickly get on the case as men start knocking on Anne's door. There is Luis, the cook at the bar, who flirts with her and even names a dish after her. There is Craig Love, a former classmate and plastic surgeon who comes back into the picture, and then there is womanizer Gerry, who is all wrong for her, but who dominates her thoughts.

This is a fun read - there were several times in which I was laughing out loud, especially at some of the things that come out of Peg's mouth. There are also several issues, such as abortion, dating abuse, premarital sex, and respect for those who are different, which are handled very well.  The only caveat I would offer is that there are some sexual innuendo and jokes in the book, which may offend some. Overall, however, I really enjoyed this story. It provided some great escapism and I was eager to see how St. Anne would help Anne find the right man for her. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Easy Evangelization

Evangelization makes a lot of Catholics feel uncomfortable. We tend to be more private about our faith. Even if we bring our faith into all that we do, we don't necessarily want to talk about it. Yet, evangelization is something that every Christian is called to do.

The Catholic Mirror (the Diocesan Publication for the Diocese of Springfield) runs a column called "In the Know with Fr. Joe." His most recent column dealt with evangelization. He offers some great advice. I especially liked these ideas for incorporating evangelization into everyday life:

For a lot of us, the problem can be that when we think "evangelize," we think of extensive travel or loud preaching. Some people are called to missionary evangelization, but if you have a job and family, odds are that God is calling you to evangelize in your everyday life. Start at home by treating your spouse with respect and honor. Treat your kids like the treasures they are - show them the importance and value of faith. At work, be on time, work hard, avoid gossip, be kind to the outcasts - all of these things are forms of evangelization.

It reminds me of the famous adage of St. Francis: Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Documenting High School Homeschooling

My kids aren't quite at high school age, but they will be there before I know it and I have already started thinking about what our high school homeschool might look like (I can't help it - I am a planner. God tends to laugh uproariously at my plans, but I still feel the need to make them.) Karen Edmisten has been running an interesting series on what her homeschool high school has looked like, and what she has learned from the experience. In this installment, she shows how she has documented her somewhat unschoolish high school for her daughter: http://karenedmisten.blogspot.com/2012/07/you-find-what-works-and-you-do-it-part_21.html

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Are You or Your Children Addicted to the Net?

Newsweek ran a very interesting article recently: Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy? Tony Dokoupil examines the growing body of evidence that the internet is changing the way we think and feel. He writes,
The current incarnation of the Internet – portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive – may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways. . . . In less than the span of a single childhood, Americans have merged with their machines, staring at a screen for at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity including sleeping. Teens fit some seven hours of screen time into the average school day; 11, if you count time spent multitasking on several devices. . . .More than a third of users get online before getting out of bed. 

Dokoupil goes on to describe the way heavy internet users’ brains begin to resemble those of drug addicts, and that even when people state that they want to withdraw from such constant use of the internet, they find it almost impossible to do so. Part of the issue is that a great number of us are connected to the internet for work reasons. One spends all day online for work, and then goes home and spends time online for pleasure. 

Smartphones contribute to the problem as well. It used to be that you actually needed to be near a computer to connect to the internet. Today, the internet travels with us. People text and surf and post photos while pushing children on swings, or while watching a soccer game, or while out to dinner with friends. It is never-ending. 

Among teens, there used to be a break between the world of school and the world of home. Now, whatever social problems a teen may be having at school follow them wherever they go. There is no escape. Everything is about the social image one projects. One teen quoted for the Newsweek article states: “It’s a nervewracking learning curve, a life lived entirely in public with the webcam on, every mistake recorded and shared, mocked until something more mockable comes along.” At the same time, these teens live in fear of missing out on something should they disconnect for a while. 

The internet has brought much good into the world and I wouldn’t want to return to the pre-internet era, but as with any good thing, it has the potential for abuse and overuse. I don’t have a smartphone and I only go online for a few hours a day while I am working, but I’ve noticed that even given my limited exposure, my focus isn’t what it used to be. 

Even while I was working on this article, the internet was calling to me. I feel like while the internet is up, I need to be checking my email, Facebook, and Twitter every few minutes to see what is going on in the world. Like the teens interviewed, I fear missing out on something. There definitely is an addictive quality about it. 

As parents, we need to be proactive about limiting our children’s screen time. For better or worse, they are growing up in a world dominated by interacting with computers. They need to learn how to make responsible use of the technology. But at the same time, they need to learn how to disconnect as well. In-person relationships need to be cultivated. Books need to be read. Skills need to be learned. There is a whole lot of life to be lived away from a screen. Perhaps we parents can set an example by limiting our own screen time as well.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ending the Mommy Wars

I've blogged before about how painful the Mommy Wars are - no matter what the topic under discussion may be. I don't think that they necessarily arise out of evil motives. Rather, we are all so desperate to do the right thing for our children, and we have so much invested in them, that we feel the need to defend our choices with all we've got. Because obviously, if this is the "right" choice for me in my mothering journey, then it must be the "right" choice, period.

What this leaves out of the equation, however, are all the variables. No two families are alike, no two women the same, no two children the same (even in the same family!). Life changes and circumstances change. Even in the course of parenting one's own children, one may make different choices for each child depending on need.

Erika Higgins has written an article on this topic for CatholicMom: Are You Mom Enough? She recaps some of the more common battles the Mommy Wars are waged over. What I liked best, though, was her conclusion:

Thankfully, my children threw reality back in my arrogant face and forced my attention back where it belonged: on them – not on what other mothers were doing or what other children did/didn’t do. Once I started refocusing, I realized many of the ideas I thought sounded or looked cool in theory or worked well for others, weren’t necessarily meant for me. It wasn’t just a matter of if I could walk in those “clothes”, like Simcha Fischer frankly points out, it’s about whether they fit me, my children, and our family.

Now, pregnant with our fourth, I’ve sorted through my collection of parenting techniques and philosophies; some things are worth keeping for now or later and some need to get tossed out for good or given away for someone else to try. I’m still learning, still trying to stand high on my pedestal and still falling flat on my face over and over again. Each time, I am reminded again that it’s not about whether I am “Mom Enough”, it’s about whether I can love and accept my kids and our family as we are and let that be enough.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Lives We Touch

My father was in the hospital earlier this week having his pacemaker replaced (thankfully, all went well). When I spoke with him on the phone this evening to see how he was doing, he mentioned that when he was in the hospital, one of the chaplains stopped by to see him, largely because she recognized his last name. She asked if he was related to me, and he said "yes." She said that she had gone to graduate school with me and that I had also been her academic adviser (I had served in that capacity at the college). In any event, my father doesn't remember her name but this anonymous woman said she had fond memories of me, which is always nice to hear.

Earlier this week, I noticed an obituary in the paper for a man who worked at my local bank. He was only in his 50s and the obit said that he died suddenly. What I remember about him is that one day I had a banking problem and this gentleman was so kind and understanding and helped me out, and I found myself strangely sad at the news of his passing.

It's strange the way one life touches so many others - the people we went to school with, or worked with, or helped in the course of our daily work. We may never know or remember all the lives we have impacted in some way. Yet, every day we have the chance to help other people and to be kind. We have the opportunity to bring good to another's life.

It Doesn't End Here: A Mother's Story of Grief and Healing

Author Dawn Marie Roeder’s two-year-old son died under tragic circumstances, but she credits her Catholic faith for helping her survive, grieve and forgive.

She now wants others to know that God’s heart is “so big ...  beyond our understanding.”

“I just really hope to touch individuals who may be on the brink of losing hope or faith, to know they’re not alone. God loves them,” Roeder told CNA July 12.

“I wouldn’t have been able to survive without faith,” she said. “It’s critical, and it’s a cornerstone of my healing.”

Roeder’s 2011 book It Doesn't End Here: An Amazing Journey of Faith and Forgiveness, published by Lanciano Media, tells her story.

In the year 2000, an adverse reaction to a prescription drug caused Roeder to crash her car, killing her son and leaving her unconscious.

She then took part in a five-year legal action against the pharmaceutical company that made the drug, saying it did not give sufficient warning about the possible dangers of the drug. The action put Roeder under intense scrutiny from the company’s lawyers and thrust her into the public eye.

Roeder, who now lives in Phoenix, said she wrote the book because she learned that Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary “are with us even in our most difficult and trying times.”

Please read the full article here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/mothers-book-shows-faiths-reaction-to-grief/

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

92% and Perfect Babies

92% and Perfect Babies is a powerful article written by a young woman whose mother was told to have an abortion because her child was guaranteed to have Down's Syndrome and to be severely impaired. Needless to say, her mother did not take the advice.

Cindy Bird writes: I feel a sense of grief at my fellow 92% who tested positive and didn’t get the chance to live like I did. I also feel angry and indignant at those who insist, preach even, that no life is better than a difficult one. I wonder, would they feel so strongly if the life in question were their own? It is humbling to consider that we are all here because someone said “yes” and wanted us to be here. Not just our mothers, but our God. What is going on in our culture is sobering and we need to speak up for those who don’t have anyone to defend them in the womb.

Please consider sharing this article. When it comes to the unborn, so much is at stake. We must do all we can to help change hearts and minds.

Potty-training the Autistic Child

By far, my toughest parenting challenge to date (and that is saying something, since there have been a whole host of them) was potty-training my older son. At the time, I had no idea that he was on the spectrum - I just knew that he was a little "different." I tried every tactic I read about, his pediatrician got involved (he was experiencing medical consequences from refusing to poop at all), I spent hours crying (not that that helped, but I just felt so helpless and like such a failure at parenting), and I prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more.

Ultimately, a year and a half into this nightmare, I did a St. Jude Novena that my parish was offering - nine days of Masses with that as my intention. I think God finally took pity on me. About a month and a half later, at the age of three and eight months, he woke up one day and started using the potty and never looked back.

I know compared to many children on the spectrum, that wasn't old at all. But once again, this was my first child and I didn't know that he was on the spectrum, and I was trying desperately to succeed at parenting, and the whole experience was not one I would ever want to repeat.

Thankfully, for those who do know that their child is on the spectrum, there are resources and strategies available. I came across this helpful article today: Potty Training the Autistic Child.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Do You Pray Aloud With Others?

Some people are very good at praying spontaneously out loud with others. Me? I stink at it. Sure, I am happy to pray aloud at Mass, say the rosary with others, or say a "Hail Mary" in a group. I very willingly offer up a private prayer for anyone who may need or ask for one. I love to pray! But if someone asks me to lead a spontaneous prayer, honestly, well, I'd rather be at the dentist. (That may be a slight exaggeration, but not much of one!)

Pat Gohn has a great article on how to conquer one's fears and do just that: Ask, Seek, Knock. I've met Pat in real-life. She is a wonderful woman with an effusive personality. She hosts a popular Catholic podcast, "Among Women" and was definitely made to reach out to people both in person and via in-person media. I can understand how this type of prayer is easy for her.

I, on the other hand, am the extreme introvert, the wall-flower, the person made to sit behind a computer and type because my words come out much better on paper (or on-screen) than they ever do in person. I like to attribute this to God giving us each our own gifts.

Still, Pat makes a very strong case for praying aloud with others. Perhaps someday I'll be able to get enough out of my shell to do it! In the meantime, I know God hears the prayers I do offer and that I am always willing to pray for anyone who needs help (and I hope others are praying for me as well, because God knows I certainly need help, too!). 

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Ocean of Need

I'm sure that many of you, like me, receive a multitude of solicitations in the mail each day, asking you to donate to some worthy cause. That is the difficulty, of course, many of them are very worthy, and one might very well like to donate to all of them, but funds are limited and life requires choices so one gives to those one can. Do you ever feel badly that you can't do more?

Aileen O'Donoghue talks about that in today's Living Faith reflection:

[Jesus] says that what seemingly little I can do as his disciple will gain its reward. As I give to the few causes I can manage, my prayer is that with all of us giving what we can, the tide of generosity and love will soon start overwhelming the ocean of need. That will be the ultimate reward for all of us.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Attention all Catholic School Graduates

The Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, RI is a very fascinating place despite its rather uninspired name. It is devoted to the history of the immigrants (largely French-Canadian) and the mills of that area. It features a very realistic reproduction of Precious Blood Church in Woonsocket, as well as an old Catholic School Classroom, factory setting, and living room.

They are attempting to assemble a Catholic Schools Archive and are inviting former Catholic School Students from anywhere in the world to contribute to the effort. Please share any or all of the following:

- Individual pictures, class pictures, group pictures, yearbook pictures, pictures with Nuns and Brothers (up to 8 1/2" x 11")
- Memorabilia of your days in Catholic School
- a one-page "composition" recalling your school days

Please submit any pictures and written materials with proper identification to:

Eugene A. Peloquin
Museum of Work and Culture
42 South Main Street
Woonsocket, RI 02895

or email to Irene Blaies at iblais@rihs.org.

If you have any questions, please call the museum at 401-769-9675

Friday, July 13, 2012

Do You Want to Be a Saint?

How many times have you heard someone say, "I'm no saint?" Yet, that is what God created each and every one of us to be - not necessarily the canonized version (there are relatively few of those), but a person who has dedicated His or Her life to loving and serving God and neighbor. This doesn't mean that we never sin. We all sin. The greatest saints sinned. What it means is that when we do sin, we beg for forgiveness, and then get back up and try to do better.

Christine Watkins has written a powerful article for CatholicMom on The One Thing You Should Demand of God. She writes: There is one demand you must make of God, and you must mean it. Tell Him, with sincerity of heart and a forcefulness of purpose, “God, make me into a saint.” . . . .What is sainthood, in truth? Sainthood is allowing the divine spark of God to live in us so brightly that we become the fullness of who we were created to be.

In truth, this is an uncomfortable article to read, a reminder of our shortcomings, but it is a necessary reminder of where we need to put our focus. We all have things that hold us back from being the fully alive person that God created us to be. We all have sins and weaknesses that hold us back, but God can work with the mess. We are all works in progress. We need to keep striving for holiness.

Also, many of us fear giving our lives over to God because of the suffering that will come from that. Watkins writes: Any temporary suffering we incur by doing God’s will in this life is little to nothing compared with the suffering we will undergo in the next, if we thwart God’s will. The truth of the matter is, if we choose not to be a saint, we choose to suffer more and for the wrong reasons. If we think that being a saint means ultimately enduring more suffering, we have been fooled. Deciding to fall short of sainthood is deciding to hold onto sin, which only brings darkness and despair, benefiting only the devil and his minions.

So, do you want to be a saint? If not, do you have any idea what you are giving up?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Passage of Time

I went out to dinner this evening with my parents and older sister to celebrate my Mom's 70th birthday. The last time the four of us did this (at the same restaurant, I might add!) was for my Mom's 60th birthday ten years ago. My father has passed those milestone birthdays as well, but his birthday celebrations tend to involve a few more people. My mother has never really been a party-type person.

We had a lovely time (as we did 10 years ago), but I couldn't help but reflect on the passage of time. A decade ago, I was pregnant with my younger son. He's now nearly 5 feet tall and closing in on 100 pounds! My sister (10 years older than I am) had teenagers. Now she is a grandmother. Her youngest child is turning 23 this week and getting married at the end of the month. She was close to 40 at that time. Now that milestone is looming heavily in my horizon, while she is pushing 50! (How is that even possible?) Time, too, has changed my parents. They are totally grey now and showing some definite signs of aging.

Perhaps what has changed most over the years, however, has been our relationship. My sister and I both had contentious relationships with our parents growing up, but we have all mellowed with time. Life has humbled us and softened our edges. We all have struggled and faced trials of various types. We all have had successes and regrets. At the end of the day, we are all travelers on the same journey - my parents are just a bit farther ahead on the road. We are all trying to figure life out and do the best we can as we go.

What troubles me, most, though, is thinking of the next 10 years. The past ten years went by so quickly and time is only speeding up. Chances are good that the four of us won't all still be here to go out to dinner in 2022. Longevity doesn't run in my family (3 out of 4 of my grandparents were dead by age 62). Both my mother and father have had siblings pass away.

Death isn't a taboo topic in my family. My parents have their burial plot and headstone in place (all that is missing is the final dates). I know what funeral home they want to go to. My mother even has burial outfits picked out for both of them (one for winter and one for summer). I know not the day or the hour, but I know that day is coming. I fear what their final illnesses might be, what God might have in store for all of us. I know I need to take one day at a time. What good will it do me to worry about it? And yet, I do. In the meantime, I try to appreciate the time I do have with them.

Jesus, I trust in you. Please help me to have courage when facing an uncertain future.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Trusting in God's Generosity

Last Thursday, I had the rare opportunity of having a few hours to myself. I had the pleasure of stopping by the Mother of God Dominican Monastery in West Springfield, MA and spending some time in adoration. When I was leaving, I lit a candle, and made my way to the offering box.

The suggested donation for a candle was $2. No problem. . . Until, that is, I opened my wallet and discovered that all I had was one 20 dollar bill. I unzipped my change purse and was greeted with a collection of pennies. I ruefully remembered I had put all my silver change into a parking meter the previous Saturday.

What to do? I now had two choices. I could either walk way, trusting that God would understand I had fully intended to make the donation when I lit the candle (which I am sure He would have), or I could drop the $20 into the box. I debated with myself for a moment, then folded up the $20 and slid it in. "God will repay me," I thought. Somehow, He always does. I then didn't think much more about it.

Well, earlier this week - I got an unexpected check in the mail for $3.29. It wasn't the full amount, but I smiled when I got it, knowing that God was indeed paying me back. Well, today I got another unexpected check for $20! God gave me back the full amount with interest! Thank you, God!

I can't tell you how many times I've had this happen in my life. I never try to "test" God, and if the money doesn't come back it doesn't come back (life isn't about money, after all), but I have learned to trust in God's generosity. This was but another example of it playing out in my life (perhaps so I could share this testimony with all of you.)

Let the Advocate know We Stand Up for the Eucharist

Peggy Weber (a writer for the Springfield, MA Diocesan magazine) asked me to share the following letter with you. It is a sad reality that Catholics seem to be the only faith that it is "politically correct" to attack in such a fashion:

Recently, I was at a small grocery store and picked up a copy of a Valley Advocate newspaper. It had a cover photo about an historical cemetery and I was intrigued.

I was with my daughter, Elizabeth, and she started to flip through the paper as we drove home.

After just a short time, she closed the paper and told me there was a cartoon in there that made fun of the Eucharist.

I could not believe it and looked when I got home.

A part of me wants to post the cartoon so you can see just how awful it is. However, I do not want to show this and give it more publicity.

I will quote some lines from it.

The cartoon is titled, “And Also With You” and has a picture priest handing Communion to a boy who is wearing a backwards baseball cap. The cartoon figure has one hand out for Communion. The other is holding an Ipod and he is wearing “ear buds”.

Thre are several responses made by this young man in the cartoon. I hesitate to write them. One of the mildest is “I always wondered where recycled styrofoam went.”

Another is — “You gonna finish that pimp cup o’wine, playa?”

Others have sexual innuendos and mock transubstantiation.

I was so outraged by this cartoon and thought that I had to speak out.

I called Tom Vannah, the editor of the Advocate three times and never got a return call.

I -emailed him and asked for a public apology. There was no response.

Can you imagine if any other religion had been mocked that way in a local cartoon? Can you sense the outrage that would take place?

I decided I could not be quiet or do nothing. I ask you to contact The Advocate and let them know that they should not mock the Eucharist in this fashion.

I intend to go to my little market and ask them to think about not accepting the Advocate for distribution in their store.

I have a sense of humor and believe in freedom of the press but this cartoon crossed the line.

Please join me in speaking out.

Advocate contact info:
Tom Vannah, editor


Valley Advocate
115 Conz St.
P.O. Box 477
Northampton, MA 01061
(413) 529-2840, ext. 218
(413) 529-2844 fax

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review: The Lost Quilter

The Lost Quilter: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel
by Jennifer Chiaverini
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009

When I am in search of some enjoyable leisure reading, I frequently reach for a Jennifer Chiaverini novel. Her Elm Creek Quilts series combines wonderful stories with quilting and for me, they are pure pleasure. "The Lost Quilter" is one of her finest efforts. Set primarily in the Civil War era (with modern times bookending the story), it focuses on a runaway slave, Joanna, who was recaptured, forced to leave her young son behind, and resume life as a slave. It centers on her quest to once again become a free woman.

This is a fine work of historical fiction, particularly appropriate as we remember the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Chiaverini definitely did her research when preparing to write this work. The relationships among slaves as well as that between slaves and their masters are deftly protrayed. The use of quilting as an aid in the Underground Railroad and in preserving slave history is also examined. Most of all, however, this is an engaging story which will keep you turning pages. One can't help but become invested in Joanna's life and her search for a way out of slavery for herself and her family.

Your Screaming Kids Are Distracting Me!

This article has been being shared around the Catholic social media / blogosphere world the past few days and I was thrilled to get permission to share it on CatholicLane: Your Screaming Kids are Distracting Me!

Here is the first paragraph: I was at a holy hour the other night, totally focused and immersed in my thoughts, when from the back of the church came the sound of a wailing toddler. Just like that, I lost it. I was completely distracted by some kid who was far too young to be stuck sitting in a church.

And thank God for that.

Please read the rest of the article!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Do You Struggle with the 24 Hour Day?

I don't know about you, but I know I've wished for two of me more times than I can number. I want one of me to be the great mom and take care of the house and do everything I want to in order to take care of and educate my children, and another one to work and do all the things that I (as my own individual person) want to do with my life. I pray each day to do what God wants with that day, and I do manage to squeeze a lot out of each one, but I almost always wish that I had more time for me, and I am always exhausted. Needless to say, I struggle with acceptance.

Patti Maguire Armstrong (mom of 10!) has written a very insightful article: Making Peace with the 24 Hour Day, which offers some suggestions for getting more out of your day as well as accepting what you do manage to accomplish.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

What is the Thorn in Your Flesh?

That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:7-9

What is this “thorn in the flesh” that St. Paul speaks of in his second letter to the Corinthians? Bible scholars have speculated over the years – it could have been a physical illness, a spiritual temptation, or perhaps a certain person who simply made his life incredibly difficult. In the end, it really doesn’t matter, and perhaps that is why St. Paul was purposefully vague (the Holy Spirit at work!). If he had specified what, in particular, was bothering him so much, we might be inclined to brush off the verse and think it doesn’t apply to us. As it is, it has something to say to each and every one of us. 

Every one of us has a “thorn in the flesh” – something that no matter how hard we try and no matter how much we beg God, just isn’t going away any time soon. I know I have mine – more than one, actually. There are the physical issues I struggle with, the temptations I find myself battling every single day of my life, the people who I always seem to clash with, the character flaws that I can’t seem to correct, the sins I find myself saying in confession over and over and over again, despite my resolution to “go and sin no more.”

And yet, perhaps, like St. Paul, those thorns in our flesh serve a purpose. I know mine help make me much more understanding and less judgmental. My physical difficulties help me to have patience with others. Is someone having a bad day? Perhaps they had some pain I can’t see and don’t know about. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.  

The people I find difficult to deal with? I’m sure that they find me a cross as well, and if not them, well, then there are probably others that do and I just don’t know about it. A little kindness and biting one’s tongue can go a long way.

I know I’m not perfect. I prove it every day of my life. Therefore, I will not be casting stones anytime soon, and when I’m tempted to be self-righteous at any time, I only have to remind myself of my own laundry list of sins and that temptation is usually put in check pretty quickly. 

Most importantly, though, like St. Paul, our imperfections force us to depend on God. We need His mercy, His forgiveness, His understanding. We need Him to take us, all of us – even our weaknesses, and flaws, and somehow turn our failings and our trials into something good. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need God. As it is, we can’t make it through a minute on our own. We must rely on His grace and trust that He knows what He is doing. Those thorns in our flesh may be an ever-present reality, but God can use even them for His glory.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Catholic Writers to Hold Conference in Arlington, Texas

The fourth annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE will take place August 29-31, 2012, at the Arlington Convention Center in Arlington, TX. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild and the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), and 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.

The conference will offer “pitch sessions,” allowing authors an opportunity to meet personally with publishing professionals and pitch their writing projects. In addition, attendees have the opportunity to sign up for critique with professional editors and writers. Some participating publishers are Ignatius Press, Ave Maria Press, Christus Publishing, Tuscany Press, Ascension Press and Servant Books. Information for this event can be found on the conference web site.

This year's conference will focus on “Writing and the New Evangelization.” Speakers include EWTN personalities Teresa Tomeo and Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR, authors Ellen Hrkach (In NAME ONLY) and Patti Armstrong (STORIES FOR THE HOMESCHOOL HEART), Ann Margaret Lewis (MURDER IN THE VATICAN: THE CHURCH MYSTERIES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES), and author and blogger Sarah Reinhard (A CATHOLIC MOTHER’S COMPANION TO PREGNANCY: WALKING WITH MARY FROM CONCEPTION TO BAPTISM). More excellent speakers are still being confirmed.

In partnership with the Catholic New Media Conference, also taking place in the convention center, conference attendees will be able to attend a special track on blogging for $25. Information on this opportunity will be made to attendees upon registration.

“It's not just writing, it's not just fellowship, it's inspiration, too!” says 2011 Conference presenter Sarah Reinhard. “It was great to share the Eucharist and evening meals in person with writers who inspire me, encourage me, and motivate me the rest of the year.”

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization affiliated with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis sponsors both this live conference in August and an online conference in February to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. Says CWG President Ann Lewis, “These events are integral to our mission of ‘creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”

Registration costs $70 for CWG members, $75 for non-members and $40 for students. There's also a discounted combined membership. To register or for more information, go to http://www.catholicwritersconference.com.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Quilt Block in Honor of St. Therese

I'm pleased to present the second block in my Patron Saint Quilt series. This block is in honor of St. Therese who said "I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven, doing good on earth." For this block, I have set a cross on the diagonal with four roses emanating from it.

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

Beautiful Article on Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin (St. Therese's Parents)

My friend Erika Ahern has written a beautiful article about Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin for Columbia Magazine. She writes:

Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin provide a rare and compelling witness to married couples today. Together, they brought nine children into the world, four who died in infancy and five who entered religious life. Through all their struggles and triumphs, Louis and Zelie’s heroic witness to divine providence and to the power of a marriage lived in fidelity offers profound insights into how a man and woman can reach holiness together. 

The whole article is well worth reading: The World is Not Home.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

I'm taking a bit of a blog break for the holiday. I wish all my fellow Americans a Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Book Review: After Miscarriage

Book Review: After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope
by Karen Edmisten
Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 2012

Baby loss through miscarriage is one of the last taboo subjects in our society. Because in most cases, it is largely a hidden loss, the grief associated with it is all too often dismissed easily by people who just don’t understand. Karen Edmisten and those who contributed to “After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope” are working to change that by sharing their own stories of loss. 

Edmisten has suffered the pain of several miscarriages and she willingly opens her heart and the pages of her personal journal in order to help others. She also offers advice for those trying to help someone suffering through this loss. “All we really want is a friend who will sit with us and let us be what we are: sad. Let us feel what we’re feeling: pain. Let us do what we need to do: cry.”

These women also stand united in the belief that every life is precious, even those that never make it to their first breath. Those who carry these children, as well as those who pray for these children, are forever touched. These children are also safe in the arms of God. They never sinned. They are saints, waiting for their families to join them in heaven. 

Mary DeTurris Poust speaks of the loss of a baby she named Grace: “Grace had shaped our family by her absence rather than her presence. I am very much aware that life would be very different had she lived. She managed to leave her mark on us, even without taking a breath. . . what a sorrowful and yet beautiful impact she had on us.” 

Edmisten also speaks of the pain of Mother’s Day for those who have lost a child, especially for those who have no children in this world. She encourages others to reach out to these “invisible mothers” – “A card, a sympathetic e-mail, a phone call from a friend who understands – having someone reach out means a lot.” 

“After Miscarriage” is a painful book, but also beautiful in its reflections, love of life and hope for eternal life in which parents and those they lost will be reunited. I would recommend it for any mother who has lost a child through miscarriage, but I would also recommend it for anyone simply trying to better understand the grief that these women experience. Thankfully, I have never lost a child through miscarriage, but I’ve tried to help my friends who have. I’m sure I’ve said or done the wrong thing in my efforts to be helpful. These reflections offered me a much better window into this pain. 

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on After Miscarriage. This is also a great Catholic gift store for all your seasonal shopping needs, such as Christian wedding gifts and Catholic Garden Gifts

The 10 Commandments of Blogging

This is geared for Catholic Bloggers, but it is good advice for anyone who blogs on any topic, and really, for conversation in general:

The 10 Commandments of Blogging

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...