Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting Ready for Advent

In "O Come Let Us Get Ready" in the December 2012 issue of US Catholic, Annemarie Scobey suggests asking your children the following question to help them prepare for Christmas, but the question is just as valid for us adults:

"What will you need to do so that you have peace in your heart when Jesus comes on Christmas?"

Think about it, and then plan your Advent accordingly.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Soft and Huggable Dolls of the Saints

Had these Softsaints Dolls existed when I was a little girl, I'm sure I would have been begging my parents to get me one for Christmas. I always loved dolls, and I had a nun doll that was one of my favorites. I would have been ecstatic to have one (or more!) of these saint dolls that are actually made to be played with. There are so many to choose from (the photo is of the one of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton).

If you have a special little girl on your Christmas list, one of these dolls just may be the perfect present. Check them out at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas in Canada at the Knights of Columbus Museum

Canada's 35 million citizens are predominantly Christian and share a culture that devotedly celebrates the Christmas tradition in art. The Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, CT invites you to visit and view the more than 100 Canadian creches, statues and paintings on display for the 2012 Christmas exhibition. From fine art to folk art, Joyeux Noel presents contemporary work as well as expressions rich in custom.

In addition to the exhibition, the Museum's annual Christmas Tree Festival began November 26th.

For more information, please visit or call 203-865-0400.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: A Winter Dream

A Winter Dream: A Novel
by Richard Paul Evans
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012

Judging from the front cover of “A Winter Dream,” which features a lit-up Christmas tree, one might expect that this latest offering from best-selling author Richard Paul Evans is a Christmas story. It is not; it is a story for every season. While it does open with a dream that includes a Christmas-type tree, this is actually a modern retelling of the Biblical story of Joseph and the coat of many colors. While it may be helpful to have that frame of reference when reading this short novel, the tale is a timeless one and the message just as relevant to readers today as it has been since the first telling. 

In this version, the main character is Joseph Jacobson, the son of Israel, a powerful advertising agency owner who has been married four times. Rachel is his last wife, the one he loved the most and the one who gave him the last of his twelve sons – Joseph and Benjamin. All thirteen of his children (there is one sister) work for him at the ad agency, but no one doubts that Joseph is his father’s favorite. This is made painfully clear when his father bestows on him his most coveted Navy flight jacket from Vietnam at a family dinner. 

His brothers see a way to get a rid of Joseph when Benjamin steals $30,000 from the company. They offer Joseph a choice – he can get out of town and take the job and apartment in another city that they have arranged for him and never contact anyone in the family again, or they will prosecute his younger brother. He takes the offer, saving his brother, and discovers a new life full of highs and lows he never expected. 

The storyline follows that of the Biblical version rather well, although, obviously it has been updated and altered where needed. Still, Evans has done a remarkable job of creating a compelling story that will keep readers interested even if they know the eventual outcome. He has also added a touch of romance. 

This is an enjoyable story, easily read in an afternoon.  “A Winter Dream,” just like the original tale of Joseph, is ripe with irony. It also illustrates how God can use all our human folly and bad judgment and still bring good out of it. At the end of the book, Joseph shares a letter that his father wrote him the day he graduated from college. It includes the core message of “A Winter Dream”: “Do not be too quick to denounce your sufferings. The difficult road you are called to walk may, in fact, be your only path to success.” That is a good reminder for all of us. This book is one well-worth spending some time with.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Christmas Novena

The Christmas Novena starts on the Feast of St. Andrew (Friday, November 30th) and goes through Christmas Eve. It is time to prayerfully consider what we want most for Christmas this year and bring those desires to God. I've seen different versions of how to say this novena - some say to say it 15 times a day while others have it as just once a day. However you do it, humbly request God for the blessings that you desire most this Christmas.

The Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
At which the Son of God was born
Of a most pure Virgin
At a stable in Bethlehem
In the piercing cold.
At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech thee,
To hear my prayers and grant my desires.
(Mention your request here.)
Through Jesus Christ and his most Blessed Mother. Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Tale of the Wayward Nativity Set

I realize that it isn't even Advent yet, but our family has a tradition of putting up our Christmas decorations Thanksgiving weekend. They help brighten the cold, dark days of late Fall and early Winter in New England. With rambunctious little children now in our home, our decorations have needed to take on a "safe" quality. Therefore, the nice tree is in the basement where my older children are able to decorate and enjoy it, while we have a rather sad-looking one featuring all unbreakable ornaments on the first floor which the little children still seem determined to destroy.

The same holds true for the nativity sets. There is one fragile one in the basement and two up high on my dining room hutch. Meanwhile, last year, I had purchased a Little People Christmas Story Nativity Scene Playset for the little kids to have. Last Advent and Christmas, those poor Little People suffered indignities that should never be wrought upon a nativity set. They were thrown, chewed on, stuffed under chairs . . . Unfortunately, this year, they do not appear to be doing much better. We have already lost and found Baby Jesus three times. The camel has been placed on top of the set where the angel is supposed to sit. The figures have been carried around in a backpack and stuffed into a pail. It all gives me pain.

But, my older children have been approaching this with a great (if rather irreverent) sense of humor.These were some of the statements heard in my house today:

"Mom, Baby Jesus is lost again. Maybe in this version, King Herod got him after all."

"Mom, the wise men are currently visiting a sheep."

"Mom, Baby Jesus is lost again. I thought Mary didn't lose him until he was twelve."

"Mom, how come Mary keeps losing Jesus? Shouldn't she be keeping track of him. Really, what kind of mother is she?"

"Maybe Mary is still pregnant and that's why Baby Jesus isn't there yet."

Ah, yes, the humor of preteen boys. Although, I have to say, I was laughing, too, while praying to St. Anthony repeatedly to help figure out where Baby Jesus might have traveled to this time. I have a feeling St. Anthony will be hearing a lot from me in the coming month.

If You Happen to be Shopping On Amazon . . .

I realize that I missed the big Black Friday push, but I hate to bring up Christmas Shopping before Thanksgiving. So, in any event,  if you happen to be shopping on Amazon this month, please consider clicking through any of the links on my site (the one below, or in blog posts, or in the sidebar). I get a small percentage of the proceeds of any orders purchased after clicking through, and every little bit helps in keeping this blog going. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm going to go on blog break for a few days (I hope to be back here on Sunday).

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Do You Need a "Lifelong Confession?"

Honestly, I've never even heard of a "Lifelong Confession" except in the context of someone entering the Catholic faith as an adult. But, this article which appeared on Catholic Mom today got me thinking: Do You Need a Lifelong Confession?

Monica McConkey writes of not feeling forgiven for some of the sins in her past, even though she had been to confession. Her spiritual director, who is also her confessor, suggested that she consider making a lifelong confession.

I have always heard that if you don't feel forgiven for something that you have already confessed, then that is an error on our part - that our pride is getting in the way of our belief that God has forgiven us. (The fact that we have been forgiven, however, doesn't mean that we don't have to suffer the consequences of our sins which can be long-lasting). The fact that it was a priest who suggested this to her obviously leads me to give the idea more consideration.

There are times when sins continue to weigh on us, long after they have been committed. There are also times, when, for whatever reason, we can't be as sorry as we might hope for when we confess our sins. Sometimes, it can take years to reach that point where we are truly sorry for the sins we have committed in our past. Still, I do believe that God takes our imperfect sorrow into account when we confess. God can heal our imperfections.

But, if someone is truly burdened with guilt, I can understand how a lifelong confession could be a good thing - it's an opportunity to lay all of one's sins down at the feet of our Lord. I can certainly understand how the author felt a tremendous burden was lifted when she received absolution. I think most of us have had that experience in confession at one time or another - when you've done something really wrong and you are so very sorry and then you are forgiven and it feels like the world has been lifted off of your shoulders and you are wrapped in God's love and forgiveness and grace. It is truly a beautiful thing.

In any event, if you feel burdened by guilt from the sins of your past. I encourage you to read the article to see if it is something you think you might benefit from.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quilt Block in Honor of St. Mary Magdalene

This is the latest installment in my Patron Saints Quilt Series, in honor of St. Mary Magdalene. To find out more and download the free pattern, please visit: Patron Saint Quilts - Quilt Block in Honor of St. Mary Magdalene

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage

Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage
by Cheryl Dickow
Waterford, MI: Bezalel Books, 2012

In honor of the Year of Faith, Bezalel Books has rereleased Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. This inspiring novel by Cheryl Dickow focuses on Beth, a woman in the midst of a mid-life crisis. She is the mother of teenagers, her marriage is struggling, and being a middle-school teacher is no longer offering any inspiration. “Her ache for what life hadn’t yet held was becoming almost unbearable at times.” What middle-age woman can’t relate to that pain? 

Beth goes on a journey to Israel to help her sort out what she wants out of life. Sitting on the plane to begin her journey, “she was already getting deliciously lost in the silence that surrounded her and felt as if she could, for the first time in ages, hear her own thoughts. There were no televisions on in the background, no kids arguing with each other, no one calling her name. If there was a still, small voice wanting to speak to her, she would finally be able to listen.”

Upon arriving in Israel, she meets the Goldfarbs, her hosts for the duration. During her two-week stay, they welcome her as family, introduce her to the culture, and she will suffer with them as they experience unspeakable pain. By the time she returns home, her life is forever changed, and she does indeed find what she needs. 

Elizabeth: A Holy Land Journey offers an education in the sights, sounds, and holy places of the Holy Land as well as Jewish traditions. It also speaks to the universal restlessness in a woman’s heart. It is a novel well-worth spending some quality time with. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Challenge of Letting Go

This is part of the reflection by Kristin Armstrong that was in Living Faith for today:

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it - Luke 17:33

"When God pries open our tight grip on the things we cling to, we find so much more as we finally agree to let go.

"When we value this life and the things of this world over the things of eternity, we miss the entire point. We value fleeting over forever, dust over destiny.

"Jesus is telling us to submit. Submit our daily lives now, and submit out future when our day comes. Let's keep a loose grip in this world, so when it's time to go, we don't look back."

I have definitely found this to be true in my own life, but I think it is one of the hardest things to do. We want to plan, to have some control. We want to hold on tightly to what we have because we don't want to lose it. But God is asking us to turn everything over to Him, and in turn He promises to give us more than we ever imagined. The question always becomes, "Am I willing to trust?" And trusting can be so darn difficult. It is a lesson learned one day at a time, over the course of a lifetime, in the midst of all the trials and failures and successes. Someday, it will all make sense.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fun With the "Cat in the Hat" in Latin

For Latin, we use the Catholic Heritage Curricula Latin program. We are currently on Level C, the highest level they offer. We are not Latin scholars. My goal at this point is really to give my children some basic vocabulary and an understanding of how Latin works. The CHC series focuses on the Life of Christ and Mary which also offers a spiritual component. Overall, we are making Latin progress. Latin, however, does not usually leave any of us laughing.

Except for this week - we have been taking a break from our usual study and been working on "Cattus Petasatus," which is the "Cat in the Hat" in Latin. I had heard of this a while ago, and decided to request it from my library system (they had one copy!) After getting our copy and attempting to read it, we decided we definitely needed to have the original at our disposal. With that in hand, we set to work.

Thankfully, the Latin version includes a dictionary in the back which we have been making considerable use of. What I had thought would be just a fun diversion has turned out to be a really good lesson in translation - the whole issue of literal versus getting the meaning of the text. Those who created the translation must have worked very hard to make the Latin rhyme, but this is definitely not a literal word-by-word translation and that is what has been making us laugh.

In any case, it has been a great deal of fun, so if you are studying Latin, I would highly recommend it! There are also some other fun Latin translations you can find here: Fun with Latin

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Teach Your Children About the Facts of Life

There is something about teaching one’s children about the facts of life that inspires fear in the hearts of parents everywhere. When that day came for my boys and me, I nervously searched my local library for an appropriate book (many I found were clearly not appropriate from a moral standpoint), sat down on the couch with the two of them, read, and answered questions as we went. I also did my best to include a moral component. I know it was only the first of many conversations and it was painful for all three of us, but at least it covered the basic biological aspects of procreation. 

I wish I had a copy of the new book by Carolyn J. Smith at my disposal when I faced that initial conversation. Growing Up In God's Image: A New Approach to the Facts of Life Talk includes all the information any Catholic parent will need to pass on a biologically informative, morally sound take on the changes of puberty and the beauty of sexual intercourse. 

Smith has been married for forty-two years and is a mother of ten children and grandmother of fifteen. She created a Family Life curriculum at a private school in the Baltimore area and used Growing Up in God’s Image as a tool in her own parish to help guide parents through the discussion of the facts of life with their children. 

Smith divides the text into three main sections, all focused on love: Spousal Love Reflects the Love of the Trinity, Spousal Love Reflects the Love of Christ for Each One of Us in the Eucharist, and Spousal Love is Sacramental Love. The book is rooted in Scripture. the Catechism, and Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She emphasizes the self-giving nature of love, and the importance of co-creating with God in the conception of children. She also discusses modesty and the importance of caring for one’s body.

It includes all the necessary biological facts, including diagrams, as well as the very important spiritual aspects of marital relationships and intimacy. For older children, there is an additional section on “Thoughts to Consider” which delves into these topics on a deeper level. It also includes a subsection on dating, which offers much good advice, but which some modern parents might find a bit anachronistic. For example, Smith suggests that only on very rare occasions should a girl ever call a boy. Parents and teens can certainly make decisions together regarding dating rules, but this guide offers a good start for the conversation. 

Smith fully admits that she presents the ideal of human sexuality in this book. Like the Theology of the Body itself, it is a goal that very few of us every perfectly achieve. As she states, “We give our children God’s way, pure and untouched. Then, we teach our kids to strive to be their best, with God’s help!” 

Growing Up in God’s Image should be in the parenting toolbox of every Catholic parent of tweens and teens to help guide those important and nerve-wracking conversations on human sexuality.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Do You or Your Child Suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder

This time of year is always rough on me. Starting in October when the days really start getting shorter right through March, I suffer from a lack of light. My depression, which is a pretty frequent companion throughout the year, definitely kicks into higher gear.

It was about three years ago that I realized that my older son suffered from seasonal depression as well. I was busy trying to fight the destructive monologue in my head and just manage to get through the day when I realized that my son was saying everything I was thinking. He had the same voices going inside his head. It was then that I realized I really needed to do something, because it was no longer just about me. It was about my child.

It was then that I tried full-spectrum lightbulbs. Within three days, both my son and I were feeling almost human. I then went out and bought more and installed them in almost every light fixture I could. Now, I wouldn't dream of trying to navigate the winter without them. They don't completely take away the problem, but they definitely help a great deal. I usually buy the GE Reveal brand (make sure you get the ones that say "full-spectrum" on the front of the box), but there are other brands. I definitely recommend them to anyone who suffers from the winter darkness.

For more information on determining if your child has this issue (especially if you don't suffer from it and don't know what to look for), please check out this article: Identifying Seasonal Affect Disorder

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Proving the Existence of Purgatory

Purgatory is one of those ideas that it can be hard to wrap one's head around, especially if one doesn't happen to be Catholic. After all, we are brought up with the idea of praying for the dead from the time we are young. Even if it isn't pointed out to us, "You should pray for the dead," almost every Mass we attend is offered for someone's soul.  It is just part of the culture.

And why would we pray for the dead unless we could help them in some way? If they are in heaven, they certainly don't need our prayers. And if they are in hell, they are beyond the point where our prayers can be of service, so there needs to be a third option.

Still, if you happen to get into a conversation with someone from another faith, it is good to have some reasons for our belief in this place of purification. Meg Hunter-Kilmer offers a good explanation in this article: Purgatory. Prove It.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Catholic Guide to Depression

I haven't read The Catholic Guide to Depression, but it looks like it would be a great help for all Catholics who struggle with depression - especially needed this time of year when the physical darkness outside tends to add to the psychological darkness within.

This was the message I received from Sophia Institute Press regarding it:

Should I see a priest . . . or a shrink?

Is more prayer the solution . . . or medications?

How have Catholic popes and saints kept depression
from controlling their lives?

 *          *          * 

Countless Christians — including scores of saints — have suffered profound, pervasive sorrow that modern psychiatrists call “depression.”

Those suffering from this wearying desolation of soul are often left with more questions than answers, never sure where to turn or who to trust.

Now comes The Catholic Guide to Depression — an accessible review of the effective ways that have recently been devised to deal with this grave and sometimes deadly affliction — ways that are not only consistent with the teachings of the Church, but even rooted in many of those teachings.

The Catholic Guide to Depression
by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Fr. John Cihak
288 Pages  -  List Price: $19.95

Extensive clinical experience treating patients with depression has shown Catholic psychologist Dr. Aaron Kheriaty that the confessional can’t cure neuroses, nor can the couch forgive sin. Healing comes only when we integrate the legitimate discoveries of modern psychology and pharmacology with spiritual direction and the Sacraments, giving particular attention to the wisdom of the Church Fathers and the saints.

Here, with the expert help of Dr. Kheriaty, you’ll learn how to distinguish depression from similar looking but fundamentally different mental states such as guilt, sloth, the darkness of sin, and the sublime desolation called “dark night of the soul” that is, in fact, a privileged spiritual trial sent to good souls as a special gift from God.

You’ll come to know how to identify the various types of depression and come to understand the interplay of their often manifold causes; biological, psychological, behavioral, cultural, and, yes, moral.

Then you’ll learn about exciting breakthroughs in pharmacological and other medical treatments, the benefits and limitations of psychotherapy, the critical place that spiritual direction must have in your healing, and the vital role that hope — Christian hope — can play in driving out depression.

For those less-frequent cases when the pain of depression can’t be fully banished by the combined efforts of science and spirituality, Dr. Kheriaty shows how pain — like the unavoidable sufferings of Jesus on the Cross — can be made redemptive for yourself and for others.

Finally, to this masterful, hope-filled work Dr. Kheriaty has appended a list of resources for further reading, a set of prayers for those times when the anguish of depression grows great, and even an address by Pope John Paul II about depression.

Written by a faithful Catholic psychiatrist committed to the teachings of the Church, The Catholic Guide to Depression provides help and consolation to anyone suffering from this grave spiritual affliction.

And, it affords friends, loved-ones, pastors, and spiritual directors the knowledge they need to give depressed persons the understanding, help, and comfort they so desperately need.

The Catholic Guide to Depression
by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Fr. John Cihak
288 Pages  -  List Price: $19.95

 From the rich pages of The Catholic Guide to Depression you’ll also learn . . . 
  • The manifold causes of depression. Plus, what the Church teaches about its roots in man’s estrangement from God;
  • Why a holistic approach to depression (psychiatric, pharmacological, and spiritual) best reflects the Church’s understanding of the unity of body and soul;
  • Why antidepressants are often necessary, but never sufficient;
  • The kinds of psychotherapy and the merits and weaknesses of each: cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, and others;
  • The roles and limits of pharmacology, psychotherapy, and spirituality in overcoming depression (and why all three are generally necessary);
  • How diet, exercise, vitamins, and other non-medical treatments can alleviate the symptoms of depression, and often even drive away its lesser forms;
  • How seeking appropriate help — medical or otherwise — nurtures humility, helps you pray, and can itself help lift depression;
  • The special self-knowledge granted to the depressed (in some ways, their vision is clearer than that of the rest of us!);
  • How, though not sufficient, silence, prayer, spiritual reading, and a plan of life can quicken hope and speed healing from depression, even when your desolation is greatest;
  • Ways to keep depression from retarding your spiritual progress (and how your spiritual progress can lighten the burden of depression);
  • Why, the greater your desolation, the closer you must stay to the Sacraments, embraced there by your Brother in anguish, the suffering Christ;
  • St. Peter, St. Teresa of Avila, Pope John Paul II, Pope Pius XII, Pope Benedict XVI, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri, St. Benedict Joseph Labre,  St. Josemaria Escriva: what these good Catholics have taught us about depression (many suffered from it themselves);
  • And much more, to help you understand depression and, using the combined powers of psychiatry and the sacraments, finally free yourself from its suffocating grip.

The Catholic Guide to Depression
by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Fr. John Cihak

Thursday, November 08, 2012

National Catholic Register Catholic Identity College Guide

It's that time of year when high school seniors (and their parents) will start to make college decisions. To that end, if you are interested in a Faithful to the Magisterium Catholic college, the National Catholic Register Catholic Identity College Guide is the guide for you. It features profiles on 33 Catholic colleges, and their answers to such questions as:

1) Did the president make the public profession of faith and take the "Oath of Fidelity?"

2) Is the majority of the faculty Catholic?

3) Do you publicly require all Catholic theology professors to have the mandatum?

4) Do you provide daily Mass and posted times (at least weekly) for individual confession?

5) Do your student health services exclude referrals to abortion businesses?

You can find the full list of questions and the guide here:

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Book Review: O Radiant Dawn

O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath
by Lisa Hendey
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2012

It’s hard to believe but Advent is right around the corner. Are you searching for a meaningful Advent practice to bring more faith and spiritual growth into this busiest of seasons? “O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath” may be just what you are looking for. 

Hendey, founder of and best-selling writer of The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, offers a series of twenty-eight short reflections, one for each day of Advent. The title of the booklet comes from one of the “O Antiphons” of Advent: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, son of justice; come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” It is a reminder to reflect on the glory of God’s majesty, a majesty we often miss when we are preoccupied with ever-growing to-do lists.

She has designed the prayers to be used around the Advent wreath. As she writes, “The wreath’s simple circle of evergreens represents the never-ending promise of eternal life. Upon the wreath or in its middle we arrange four candles – three purple and one rose. The purple candles mark the solemn tone of the season and call us to wait patiently, eyes set on Christ. The rose candle marks our great joy as Christmas approaches.” While an Advent wreath is a beautiful symbol (with small children, my family uses a paper version), the prayers contained within this book can certainly be used without one.

The prayers and reflections can be used by individuals or by families. Each day offers a short gathering prayer, a relevant Scripture passage, a reflection and closing prayer. An added bonus is that Hendey offers a separate reflection for those with younger children. For those able and wishing to spend more than five minutes, the questions for reflection can offer much to ponder and perhaps journal about. 

“O Radiant Dawn” is truly a great gift in a small package. It would be a perfect devotional to make available in large numbers to parish communities. Those who use it will find their Advent season to be greatly enhanced, with the emphasis placed first where it rightly belongs – on the coming of Christ.

While this is last-minute, Lisa Hendey will be offering a free webinar tomorrow (November 8th) on ministering to families and yourself this Advent season. To register, please visit:


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...