Thursday, September 27, 2012

Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation

The Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation begins Saturday, September 29th.

Catholics have always turned instinctively for help to the Mother of God in times of need. And so, in 2012 we turn to Our Lady for help. Many of the values that shaped our Country from the beginning seem to be at risk. Pope Benedict XVI and the American Bishops have noted the erosion of religious freedom in the United States, the first value guaranteed by the Constitution.

This Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation will remind us of some of the central truths of the faith, in particular, the Incarnation, passion, death, resurrection of the Lord and Mary's unique role in our salvation. It will be, in a way, a catechism lesson that challenges us to a deeper conversion to Christ and a more generous life of charity.

The proximity of the Novena to the 2012 Presidential Election will also offer an opportunity to pray for all of our government officials and seek Divine Assistance in the elections.

For the full text and reflections of the novena, please visit

Book Review: Let Us Be What We Are

by Rev. Dr. Clarence J. Enzler
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2012

“Let Us Be What We Are: The Joys and Challenges of Living the Little Way” by Rev. Dr. Clarence J. Enzler was originally published in 1978 and has been recently reissued by the Christian Classics division of Ave Maria Press. Enzler (1910 – 1976) held a doctorate from the Catholic University of America, worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, served as a feature editor with the precursor to the Catholic News Service. He also was ordained a deacon in the Archdiocese of Washington, loved his wife and thirteen children, and wrote several books. Enzler was truly a man who lived life to the fullest.

Enzler had a great devotion to St. Therese and wanted to emulate her Little Way to God. This particular book features two parts. The first part tells of Enzler’s efforts to unite his suffering through prostate surgery with the sufferings of Jesus. He discusses his life-long struggles with spiritual pride – how he would rather not share the secrets of his spiritual life but that he has felt called to do so – how there is always the danger of thinking only of oneself and enjoying the attention being given to you. He writes, “Help me to imitate Therese and like her to glory in being inconspicuous, small, and overlooked. . . . Help me to take no pride in any homily I may preach, any words I may write, any achievement I may accomplish. Let me realize, Lord, that all success comes from You and give all glory to You.” In this section, he also begins to share how he developed his relationship with Jesus from the time he was young. Sadly, this portion of the manuscript is left unfinished due to his death.

The second part is complete and the stronger section of the book. It is the portion which gives the book its title. “Let us be completely what we are” is a quote from St. Francis de Sales. By the same token, Enzler emphasizes the uniqueness of each one of us. In keeping with the teaching of St. Therese, he shares how each of us is called to be a saint, but in our own way. He offers the example of St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese. These two saints lived radically different lives, but both are considered patrons of the missions and are models of holiness.

“All that God asks is that we take the coin of His gifts and turn them into a token of love to give back to Him. . .We must understand that each of us in the Mystical Body has a place of his own and for each of us, God has a plan of His own. . . We must strive to be the saint God wants us to be, not the saint we want to be.” We each must want to be a saint and then do our best to love God and love our neighbor. We must heed God’s wishes for us as we live out our daily lives. He also offers one of the best explanations I have ever seen on the balance between human free will and God’s omniscience.

“Let Us Be What We Are” is a good reminder to make the most of our lives by living them in harmony with God. Only in following Him can we live fully and be the people God created us to be. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little Way of Homeschooling Book Giveaway

Sue Elvis is having a drawing for 3 kindle-copies of A Little Way of Homeschooling, the book I recently named "The Best Book on Homeschooling I've Ever Read"

Sue is doing the drawing in honor of St. Therese, whose feast day is coming up on October 1st, and whose message of God's infinitely tender and compassionate love for us is such a big part of this little book. 

Feel free to spread news of the giveaway to any friends or groups who may be interested. To be part of the drawing you only need to post a comment (as brief as you wish!) at the bottom of the blog post here:



Free Webinar on Supporting Motherhood in our Parishes

Ave Maria Press is presenting a free webinar October 9th from 3 - 4 pm EST on Supporting Motherhood in Parishes.

In a parish environment, there is an increasing need for volunteers in various ministries and yet there is also an audience that needs ministry attention: mothers. It's a group that serves others in many invisible ways and yet is often ignored and overtapped. Sarah Reinhard, author of A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism (Catholicmom.Com Books), will consider how we minister to mothers within our parish communities.  

How can we support the mothers in our parishes throughout their mothering journey? What tools can we use to minister, encourage, and relate with them and foster the growth of our parish communities? How do we tap into the social nature women naturally have with the overbooked and overworked nature of the life many of them actually have?  

This webinar will reflect on ways to approach the mothers of our parishes, and especially those who have to juggle children's schedules, working responsibilities, and the need for more spiritual support from their parish family.

To register, please visit: Supporting Motherhood Webinar Registration

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Prayer for the Holy Souls

November is the month set aside in the Church for a special remembrance of those who have gone before us in death. But any time is a good time to pray for the souls in purgatory. This prayer came in the mail this week. It is from the Association of Marian Helpers. Visit them at or at

Prayer for the Holy Souls

(for all our departed brothers and sisters)

Merciful Father, hear our prayer and console us. As we renew our faith in Your Son, whom You raised from the dead, strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in His resurrection, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Eternal rest grant unto them, O lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace. 


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Massachusetts Medical Society Speaks Out Against Ballot Question on Doctor Assisted Suicide

he Massachusetts Medical Society has released a statement in opposition to ballot Question 2 Prescribing Medication to End Life. The statement provides specific reasons supporting their position. These include:

·         Insufficient safeguards against abuse: there are no oversight, investigative, data verification, or enforcement procedures to prevent abuse; and an heir may be a witness to the patient’s signed request.
·         Predictions of end of life time frames are highly inaccurate; sometimes predictions are under estimated by six months to more than several years.
·         Assisted suicide is unnecessary for improved end of life care. Improvements for the quality of life at the end of life already exist.
·         Doctors should not participate in assisted suicide.

The Massachusetts Medical Society represents more than 24,000 physicians and medical students in the Commonweatlh of Massachusetts. To find out more about Question 2 and their opposition to Prescribing Medication to End of Life visit

And please share this with family, friends, and members of your church. It’s important that the public know a variety of groups are standing up in opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide, and this very flawed and dangerous ballot initiative. Thank you.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

40 Days for Life - What You Can Do

The Scripture readings for this week remind us of the value of life. Psalm 54 emphasizes “The Lord upholds my life.” God is the author and provider of life. Without God, our heart would never pulse a single beat nor would we ever take a single breath. He alone has the right to choose when we come into this world and when we move on to the next world. That is why we must respect and defend life from conception until natural death. 

In the Gospel (Mk 9:30-37), Jesus teaches "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me." Each child is a gift from God, regardless of the circumstances of his or her conception. Each child has a God-given right to live. 

It is fitting that we have these readings to reflect on as this year’s fall 40 Days for Life campaign begins this week. Running from September 26th until November 4th, 40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life effort that consists of 40 days of prayer and fasting, 40 days of peaceful vigil and 40 days of community outreach.

What can you do to help this effort? This fall, there are 316 individual campaigns taking place. To find one near you, please visit the 40 Days for Life website at If you are interested, you can connect with your local campaign in order to take part in peaceful vigils and work to bear pro-life witness in your community. 

Not all of us are able to become actively involved in the vigils, but two things each one of us can do to help this effort are to fast and pray. I personally tend to think of this campaign as a second Lent. In this case, instead of being focused on our own spiritual growth and repentance for sin, it is focused on offering up our sacrifice and prayers for a larger cause. We join our prayers and sacrifices with others in order to help bring about important change in our world. 

It can be impossible to know the difference our prayers and efforts make in the world, but there have been tangible results from past 40 Days for Life campaigns. There have been ten campaigns since the movement began in 2007. During that time, 5,928 lives that have been spared from abortion (and those are just the ones we know about), 69 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked away from the abortion industry  and 24 abortion facilities have completely shut down following local 40 Days for Life campaigns. 

Being pro-life matters. Won’t you please consider how you can join with others during these 40 Days for Life in prayer, fasting, and vigil to help change hearts and save lives?

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Pope Who Wanted to be a Librarian

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI, my heart sank. Anyone but him, I thought! Over the years, however, as I have read and enjoyed many of his books and learned more about him as a person, I have truly come to respect, admire and appreciate him. I actually think that he and I have somewhat similar personalities!

One of my (many!) dreams is to work in a library so I read with great interest this article in the National Catholic Register: Benedict's Dream Job: Vatican Librarian.  

It turns out our esteemed pope once dreamed of being a librarian and archivist at the Vatican library. As the article states, "The disclosure is understandable, given the Holy Father's love of book, how he treasures his own personal library and his skill in teaching the faith."

As for me, God seems to fulfill my dreams in his own time and in ways somewhat different than I might expect, but I've recently been put in charge of my parish library, so on a small scale I am becoming a librarian after all! Now, if God will only provide me the time to actually work on this task, I will be all set . . .

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Free Will and God's Omniscience

The balance between God's omniscience and our free will is a problem that has weighed on my mind since I was eight years old. While I have reluctantly come to terms with the fact that I will never understand this conundrum this side of heaven, I still find other people's efforts to explain it interesting and I always read them with interest.

Today I was reading Let Us Be What We Are: The Joys and Challenges of Living the Little Way by Clarence J. Enzler, who offered one of the best explanations of this mystery that I have seen:

God sees all that He will ever create and sees each particle of it in its fullness, in all its phases and facets. he sees the effect on everything that exists of the [natural] laws He has created . . . He sees the results of man's free will, how every person will use his or her free will in every free action of his or her life. He balances all these actions and reactions, all the events of history, those governed by natural law and those open to human freedom . . . 

He balances all that might be if He did this or if He did that - and then in His wisdom He decides that this is what man's freedom should be, this is the potential of his intellect, these are to be the qualities of matter, the capabilities of animals, of fish, of birds, of insects, not only of animals as a species but of each individual animal according to the complex interplay of situations and events that He foresees will take place. 

This is the meaning of the old saying that "this is the best of all possible worlds." It is the world that God has foreseen, permitted, and provided for. If man perfectly followed God's will, the world would be quite a different place. But God will not force man to follow His will. He will not coerce man to goodness. . . 

But God sees the effect of every sin just as He sees the effect of every act of virtue. And He provides for it. He permits sin, but He does not permit sin to wipe out His plan. Sin will never conquer. He is in charge. . . 

God has foreseen it, . . . He permits it, and . . . He has provided for it so that it will contribute ultimately to the victory of goodness over evil, of God over Satan. The end of it all will be great and good, perhaps not in our time or that of our children - but eventually, sometime, because God has provided and God will not be mocked, and God is in charge. 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"You Visited Me" - Being Present When Someone is in Pain

To some extent, I think we are all "fixers." When someone is sick or hurting, we want to do something to help the situation. Sometimes, however, the best thing to do is simply be with the person, to share our time and our presence. But, despite our good intentions, that can be so hard. What do you say when someone is hurting or ill and there is no indication that the situation will get better? Our fear of saying or doing the right thing can keep us from saying or doing anything at all.

Sister Karen Zielinski, OSF, offers some practical ideas of what to do and say in this situation in her recent article for St. Anthony Messenger: You Visited Me.

Her conclusion offers a role model for each of us:

Francis of Assisi inspires me. Thomas of Celano wrote, “Francis once took a certain sick brother, who he knew had a longing for grapes, into the vineyard and, sitting down under the vine, he first ate to give the other courage to eat.” Francis sat down with the brother and ate. He did not just send the brother the grapes. He was present.

Let us all share grapes with our sick loved ones.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quilt Block in Honor of St. Clare

It's been a while since I added a new block to my Patron Saint Quilt project. I really only get to work on these on Saturday nights (my one night off from work) and in recent weeks I needed to get caught up on scrapbooking.

In any event, my latest addition is a block in honor of St. Clare, the close friend and follower of St. Francis who started the Poor Clares.

For more information on the block and to download the free pattern, please visit: Patron Saint Quilts - Quilt Block in Honor of Saint Clare

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Importance of Friends

I'm a very introverted person and have never had many friends, but the ones I have had (and continue to have) have been very precious to me and I am so thankful for them.

Cheryl Dickow defines Five Friends a Woman Needs in this article for Catholic Lane:

She has compiled a good list. Thankfully for people like me, one person can fill more than one of these roles! But, we all need friends - special people to be there in good times and bad, to laugh and cry with us, to celebrate our successes and tell us when we are wrong, people to pray with and for us, and people who hold us in their hearts even when we haven't spoken in ages.

True friends are such a rare gift. Whether a friend comes into our lives for a season or a lifetime, the bond of friendship is a special one and something to be treasured.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The One Rose Project: Invite a Young Woman to Consider Becoming a Religious Sister

Imagine Sisters, a new online organization founded to be the nexus for media and information about discerning a vocation as a Catholic Religious Sister, will launch its first viral vocation initiative, The One Rose Project, on October 1, 2012.

The One Rose Project invites Catholics around the globe to reach out to young women they know, personally inviting them to consider that God may be calling them to be a Religious Sister.

The campaign promotes a personal encounter on October 1, 2012--the feast of St. Therese of Liseux. Participants will invite the young woman they know to consider a call to consecrated Religious Life by giving her a single rose in the spiritual legacy of St. Therese.

Imagine Sisters has received substantial testimony that a personal invitation is incredibly powerful for young women who are open to a religious vocation. Imagine Sisters asks for prayers that this invitation will be used by God to plant the seeds of religious vocations among young women, blessing the Church with many new religious sisters.

The One Rose Project can be easily shared through social media networks, personal blogs and speaking engagements. Imagine Sisters has created a short video explaining the project, and encourages supporters to share this video as the primary means of transmitting the message virally.

The short video may be found at the following address:
The Imagine Sisters website can be found at

Friday, September 14, 2012

Prayer for Seminarians

I was clearing out a drawer the other day and came across this prayer for seminarians. It was put out by the vocation office of the Diocese of Springfield, MA. You can visit their website and find out more about vocations to the religious life at

Lord Jesus, our Loving Savior, look kindly upon those who have embarked on the road towards the priesthood. Show them your love, and guide them on a path of wisdom and learning which will enable them to fulfill your call to shepherd your people as priests. 

Help them through the difficult and challenging times when they face important decisions of choice. Do not abandon them, but may your Holy Spirit always be near to give inspiration and strength.

We ask, Lord, that you keep them safe from all dangers of body and soul. May they grow in a spirit of holiness and justice each day, and may zeal for souls lead them to perseverance in their calling. Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Adventures in Homeschooling - The Lego Experiment, Part 2

In The Lego Experiment Part 1, we melted a Lego brick to see whether it would melt, and if so, at what temperature. Today, we continued our torture of plastic bricks (I keep telling my children that the bricks gave their lives for science) by comparing how a Lego brick and a MegaBlock brick melted.

Our hypothesis was that the less-expensive MegaBlock (the black block in the photos below) would melt more. We were wrong. The Lego brick actually melted more quickly. View the evidence below.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

St. Alphonsus Liguori On Prayer

As part of our religion experience this year (I hate to call it a class - after all our faith should permeate all that we do), the boys and I are using Following Christ, the 6th book in the Faith and Life Series. Chapter 3 was on prayer. Now, whole treatises have been written on prayer. I've read quite a few of them. This was just a chapter, but it was a good one and very age-appropriate for my pre-teen children.

I especially liked this quote by St. Alphonsus Liguori which is a good reminder for all of us, regardless of age:

Form the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears - of everything that concerns you. Talk with him confidently and frankly; for God does not often speak to a soul that does not speak to him.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Frying Pan Math for Kids who Struggle with Math Memorization

Teaching Through Frying Pan Math  offers a unique idea for helping kids who struggle with memorization learn math.

The title on the blog references ADD, but I know that many children with Aspergers struggle with memorization as well. Yes, the same child who has encyclopedia-level knowledge about his or her areas of interest can somehow greet a math problem or spelling word as if he or she is encountering it for the first time every time!

This could also be a great game for young children who are learning math problems for the first time.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

How the Sacraments Can Transform Your Family

Seven from Heaven: How the Sacraments Can Heal, Nurture, and Protect Your Family Today
by Elizabeth Ficocelli
Crossroad Publishing Company, 2012

Elizabeth Ficocelli, an adult convert to the Catholic faith, is a woman in love with the sacraments. That love shines forth in her latest book, Seven from Heaven: How the Sacraments Can Heal, Nurture, and Protect Your Family Today. She believes that teaching about the sacraments is “the perfect catechetical tool . . . to excite young people about their faith.” 

While Seven from Heaven will help adults understand the sacraments more fully, Ficocelli’s intention is truly to help parents then educate their children about this aspect of our faith. By making the sacraments integral to one’s family life, the family will then be transformed. 

As one might expect, Ficocelli focuses on each of the seven sacraments: Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and The Anointing of the Sick.  She discusses the blessing of each sacrament and its important role in our lives. What makes Seven from Heaven truly valuable and unique are the ways Ficocelli suggests to make these sacraments come alive for children. Children, as much as adults, are prone to asking “What is in it for me?” When it comes to the sacraments, the answer is “everything!” It is a Catholic parent’s job to help their children understand the beauty and blessings of these gifts from God. With her practical suggestions, Ficocelli helps make that job much easier.

For example, when preparing a child for going to confession, she suggests having that child write a letter to Jesus about what he or she would like to talk to the priest about. The year a child will make First Communion is a wonderful time to have the whole family pray in a special way for that child. Praying to the Holy Spirit for the grace of His gifts is a means of making confirmation more tangible. A child can pray for his or her future spouse from a young age. A family can spiritually “adopt” a seminarian to pray for and write letters to in order to connect the family with the sacrament of Holy Orders. Helping to care for the sick and dying can underscore the importance of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. 

The sacraments are such wonderful gifts! Seven from Heaven will help foster or renew your enthusiasm for them. As Ficocelli states in the last chapter, “When we revitalize the family through God’s graces, we revitalize the Church and, in turn, the world!” Why would we ever want to miss that opportunity?

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...