Sunday, June 30, 2013

On Voting Rights

While many in the Catholic blogosphere have been discussing the other Supreme Court decision (and doing it well), I thought that today I might draw attention to the Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act: I admit that when I first heard about the decision, I didn't fully grasp the significance. I guess to a certain extent, I take the right to vote for granted. I greatly appreciate that right - I know people died so that I could have that right, and I ALWAYS exercise it. Most recently, I walked over to my local polling place this past Tuesday so that I could cast my vote for the Massachusetts Senate election. I knew the candidate I was voting for had little chance of winning, but I still feel it matters to get out there and vote.

But, here is the thing I took for granted - it isn't a hardship for me to vote.  I can walk to my polling place, or if it is a lousy day outside, I have a car so I can drive. I fill out my census form each year, so I am on the voting rolls. I go in, give my address and my name and pick up my ballot. I speak and read English so I have no difficulty with this at all (our ballots are also in Spanish, but I'm not sure how they accommodate other languages). I have a home so I have an address. I have a driver's license so even if they asked for an id, I could provide one without difficulty. These are all things I don't have to think twice about. I admit I never really gave much thought to the challenges of voting for those who aren't as fortunate.

This article I read this weekend in US Catholic really opened my eyes a bit and got me thinking. Voting Block: New Laws restricting voting rights hit African Americans and the poor particularly hard. It's worth reading.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Prayer Request Update - Mother with Breast Cancer Gives Birth

A while ago, I asked for prayers for a member of my extended family who was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 17 weeks pregnant. She had a mastectomy and has been having chemo treatments. She gave birth today to a beautiful baby girl. Her story is told here: Pregnant Cancer Patient Documents Recovery on Facebook. She still has radiation treatments to go through so prayers are still needed, but today, a definite miracle took place.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: On Heaven and Earth

On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century

by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka
Edited by Diego F. Rosemberg
Trans. by Alejandro Bermudez and Howard Goodman
New York: Image Books, 2013

On Heaven and Earth was originally published in Spanish in 2010 for an Argentine audience. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, an Argentine rabbi, biophysicist, and professor of biblical and rabbinic literature, sat down to have a dialogue on a variety of topics. It is interesting in and of itself as a dialogue between representatives of the Catholic and Jewish faiths, but in light of the recent election of Pope Francis, it provides great insight into the beliefs of our current Pope and signs of where he may lead the Church.

The topics the two covered are wide-ranging. While some are of interest primarily to the Argentine people, where both lived, worked, and ministered, the vast majority have a wider appeal. Some of the subjects of conversation include God, the devil, atheists, religion and religious leaders, prayer, guilt, death, capitalism and communism, poverty, abortion, euthanasia, women, elderly, divorce, same-sex marriage, and education.

It truly is a wide-ranging conversation between two individuals of different backgrounds who show each other a great deal of respect. As Rabbi Skorka states in the introduction, “True dialogue is at the heart of the thinking man’s life and demands that each person tries to get to know and understand the person with whom they are conversion. . . To have a conversation is to bring one’s soul nearer to another’s in order to reveal and illuminate his or her core.” How different this is from our world which tends to function in soundbites. While I am certain these two men could have spoken at even greater length on any of these topics, On Heaven and Earth offers a blueprint on how to have meaningful interreligious dialogue.

One of the most difficult conversations centers on the Holocaust. Where was God in the midst of all that suffering? Where was the Church? Could the Church have done more to alleviate suffering or end the Holocaust? Bergoglio states that he feels the Vatican archives regarding this time should be opened:
Then it can be seen if they could have done something, to what extent it could have been done, and if we were wrong in something we will be able to say: “We were wrong in this.” We do not have to be afraid of that. The objective has to be the truth. When one starts to hide the truth, one eliminates the Bible. One believes in God, but only to a point. One is not being fair. . . . We must know the truth and go to those archives.

It will be interesting to see if as Pope he follows through on this statement. 

On Heaven and Earth makes fascinating reading. It is highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about Pope Francis and his personal beliefs and positions on a wide variety of important topics. 


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Today on Among Women

Many thanks go out to my friend, colleague, and fellow Massachusetts resident Pat Gohn (other side of the state!) for having me on her Among Women podcast:

This week we look at the beauty of being both Martha and Mary with an excerpt from author Lisa Hendey’s A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, just one of the books in the Catholic Mom imprint series from Ave Maria Press. This episode also introduces another new book in the line, The Catholic Baby Name Book compiled by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur. Join me for this conversation with Patrice about the long standing traditions around naming children with saints names, and finding the right Confirmation name.

Please listen at:

Monday, June 24, 2013

In Praise of Summer

In my part of the woods, we are in the midst of a heat wave. Being outside felt like being in a bowl of hot soup. Some thunderstorms came through this evening and cooled things off - at least temporarily. Once it gets over 90 degrees, I tend to not love summer weather, especially if it is humid, but I do love the slower pace of summer and the ability to relax a bit. I came across this quote in Victoria magazine and thought I would share it:

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer's day listening to this murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky. is by no means of waste of time. - John Lubbock

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Be Counter-Cultural and Name Your Baby Mary

This is a great article by Patti Maguire Armstrong (which happens to feature The Catholic Baby Name Book): Be Counter-Cultural and Name Your Baby Mary

Then, there is the name Mary that reveals  how times have changed. Catholic families typically named at least one of their girls after the Blessed Mother.  Top American Baby Names from 1880 until 1959, shows that for every single one of those years, Mary was the #1 girl’s name.  From 1960-69, the name Mary dropped to #2. From 1970-79, Mary dropped to #15, then down to #35 in 80-89. The popularity of the Blessed Mother’s name kept falling continually until in 2009 it dropped completely from the top 100 name. So, when I named my daughter Mary in 1993, she had a beautiful patron saint in the Blessed Mother and a name that was no longer common.

Consider what’s in a name?  For instance, Pope Francis.  As soon as we heard that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the name Pope Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, he won our hearts. The beloved St. Francis is admired for his simplicity and love of the poor.  Choosing such a name reflects what is in store for his papacy.  As we have learned more about our new Pope, we see that St. Francis of Assisi is a fitting saint for him.

- See more at: Be Counter-Cultural and Name Your Baby Mary

Friday, June 21, 2013

Educating Those with Special Needs

My friend Christine Hebert recently had a book review published in Lilipoh magazine. They gave her a stack of copies which she graciously shared with our homeschooling group. She alerted us that this was not a Catholic, or Christian, publication (yet they published her review on The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living), but this was the education issue and so it offered much food for thought and I'm always happy to read and learn new things.

One article I found interesting was A Need Still Evident. It focuses on Waldorf education, but this passage is relevant for all those who love and work with those with special needs:

Children who struggle in the classroom setting are asking us to meet them with a profound sense of responsibility and care for their individual needs, and with deep trust in their unfolding development. We must do this regardless of what tests, grades, and evaluations have to say about them. And if we put credence in the reality of the spiritual worlds and humanity’s evolving consciousness, we know that we have to say yes to these children and find ways to commit to their needs just as they are, here and now. Einstein warned us that if we judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. The matter at hand is a delicate one. In meeting a child with difficulties, as a teacher, parent, or friend, we must ask ourselves, who is this child? What are the gifts he or she is bringing? And how can we best serve them? Simply put, we have to become highly adaptive; children need and deserve our creative attention.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review: Pray for Me

by Dr. Robert Moynihan
New York: Image, 2013

Pray for Me: The Life and Spiritual Vision of Pope Francis, First Pope from the Americas, was published a mere six weeks after the election of Pope Francis. As a writer, I can only imagine what a monumental task that must have been for Dr. Robert Moynihan, but the founder and editor of Inside the Vatican, widely known as one of the world’s leading Vatican analysts, was clearly up to the challenge.

The title of this ambitious work, Pray for Me, comes from the “first request made by this pope to all of us, a simple request, from his heart: ‘Pray for Me.’” The purpose of the book is to answer three questions – Who is this man? What does he believe? and What will he do as leader of the Church? 

Moynihan answers the first two questions by offering a short biography and exploration of Pope Francis’ primary spiritual influences.  The portrait that develops is one of a very human man whose life took him in various directions. Perhaps one of the most charming anecdotes was of the future pope at age twelve, writing a love letter to a young girl telling her if she didn’t marry him he would become a priest! He studied chemistry and then went on to earn a degree in philosophy and theology and was ordained a priest when he was nearly 34 years old. In 1992, he was named as a Bishop of Buenos Aires; 1997, Coadjutor Archbishop; and 1998, Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  The five spiritual influences Moynihan examines are the prophet Jonah from the Old Testament; Mary, the mother of Christ; Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits; Don Luigi Giussani, founder of the Communion and Liberation movement; and St. Francis. The last question is more speculative but some conclusions can be drawn from looking at his leadership as Archbishop in Buenos Aires. 

Pray for Me also offers a news-type discussion of the first two weeks of the new pontificate – what Pope Francis did and said on a day-by-day basis from the time of the election on March 13th through Easter. While much of this is still relatively fresh in the reader’s mind, this section will become more valuable as time passes and memory fades as a historical record of the early days of this papacy. 

The third section of the book is titled “In His Own Words,” and provides excerpts from Pope Francis’ homilies and addresses given over the years on topics such as God, Mary, Creation, Morality, Children, Youth, Culture, Politics, Religion and Sin.

Pray for Me is a wonderful introduction to the life and thought of Pope Francis, highly recommended to anyone eager to learn more about our new pontiff. 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prominent Catholic Writers to Speak at CWG’s Catholic Writers Conference in New Jersey

Several prominent Catholic writers will speak at the fifth annual Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE taking place August 7-9, 2013, at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, NJ. 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 writers with a prime opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe. The theme of this year's conference is “The Year of Faith.”

Speakers at this year’s conference include authors Patti Armstrong (STORIES FOR THE HOMESCHOOL HEART), Teresa Tomeo (Ave Maria Radio, WRAPPED UP, EXTREME MAKEOVER), Michelle Buckman (RACHEL’S CONTRITION, MY BEAUTIFUL DISASTER), Randy Hain (THE INTEGRATED CATHOLIC LIFE), Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle (EWTN, CATHOLIC PRAYER BOOK FOR MOTHERS), Ellen Gable Hrkach (STEALING JENNY), Regina Doman (RAPUNZEL LET DOWN), author, blogger and podcaster Pat Gohn (BLESSED, BEAUTIFUL, AND BODACIOUS) and many others.

The conference will give authors an opportunity to meet personally with publishing professionals and pitch their writing projects. Some participating publishers are Ignatius Press, Full Quiver Publishing, Ave Maria Press, Christus Publishing, Tuscany Press and Servant Books.  In addition, attendees have the opportunity to sign up for critique workshop with award-wining short fiction writer Arthur Powers, and attend a writing workshop with award-winning novelist Michelle Buckman. Information for these events can be found on the conference web site.

Maurice Prater of Missionaries of the Holy Family attended in 2012, and he says he did not know what to expect at first. “But, what I gained from attending the Catholic Writers Conference, in terms of personal contacts and what I learned, has proven to be one of the best decisions I have ever made." Author Ann Frailey, concurs. “I met writers, publishers, artists and a whole host of other people whose mission it is to transmit the message of truth and hope to the world in a living, vibrant manner.  It was an exciting adventure!”

The Catholic Writers Guild, a religious non-profit organization affiliated with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, sponsors this conference in August, an online conference in March, and a writers' retreat in October to further its mission of promoting Catholic literature. "With members all over North America, these events bring our diverse membership together for fellowship and networking to promote our mission of creating a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters," says CWG President and award-winning novelist Ellen Gable Hrkach.

Registration costs $80 for CWG members, $85 for non-members and $45 for students. There's also a discounted combined membership. To register or for more information, go to

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Friendship

Today I started reading On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century. The book contains a series of conversations then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I'm about one-third of the way through it so far and am finding it fascinating. I will be reviewing it once I am done and will be focusing on what the future pope had to say.

Tonight, however, I would like to share this quote by Rabbi Skorka on friendship:

The sign of a real friendship is the ability to reveal what is in one's heart to another person.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Practicing and Celebrating Faith in the Summer

Today I am guest posting over on the Year of Faith blog.

Ah, Summer – that glorious season when we get to take life a little bit slower and hopefully engage in some rest and relaxation. While children are out of school and we adults need a mental break from our own work, it is important to realize that our faith life should not go on hiatus. Indeed, the less-rushed pace of summer can be a wonderful time to enrich our family’s focus on God and faith.

Please read the rest of the post here: Practicing and Celebrating Faith in the Summer

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dealing with Anger

I don't get angry very often, but when I do, I hate it. Today was one of those days. Actually the past couple of days - it just kept building and I could either say something or let it fester inside me. I just couldn't swallow this one and put it away. Honestly, I hate conflict. I hate having anyone angry at me. It makes me just want to curl up in a ball and disappear. Pretty much everyone in the house felt my anger (and corresponding sadness) today.

The boys and I say a nightly act of contrition before we say our rosary, and tonight I told them I was sorry for being so angry today. I know it is OK that they see me being human, but they also need to see me saying that I'm sorry for it. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to process my anger and figure out what to do with it. I found this prayer on Catholic Online.

Prayer in Time of Anger

Lord Jesus, there is anger in my heart and I cannot root it out.
I know that I should calm down and offer the hurt and disappointment to You
but my emotion is running away with me.
Help me to overcome this weakness and give me peace of heart as well as mind.
Let me learn from this experience and grow into a better human being. Amen.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Quilt Block in Honor of St. Catherine of Siena

My latest Patron Saint Quilt project is completed. This block is in honor of St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church. To find out more and download the free pattern, please visit: Quilt Block in Honor of St. Catherine of Siena

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Feast of St. Anthony

It's late in the day, but not too late to acknowledge and make a public thank you to one of my personal favorite saints on his feast day - St. Anthony. I ask him for help every day, even today, on his feast day, I lost at least four things that I needed his help to find. He always helps! If I ever get to see him in heaven, I will definitely need to give him a big hug for all the jams he has gotten me out of. For now, I will say "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" and share this prayer to St. Anthony:

Saint Anthony, perfect imitator of Jesus, who received from God the special power of restoring lost things, grant that I may find (mention your petition) which has been lost. As least restore to me peace and tranquility of mind, the loss of which has afflicted me even more than my material loss. 

To this favor I ask another of you: that I may always remain in possession of the true good that is God. Let me rather lose all things than lose God, my supreme good. Let me never suffer the loss of my greatest treasure, eternal life with God. Amen.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Prayer Request

Please pray for the sixteen year old son of a very dear friend of mine. His lung collapsed three weeks ago. He had surgery and was doing well, but today he experienced chest pain and ended up back in the hospital and had to have surgery again. Please pray for both him and his family. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An "Ugly" Woman Speaks Out

Simcha Fisher, a very good writer who I have a great deal of respect for, just wrote an article Stop Saying All Women are Beautiful for the National Catholic Register. Her argument is that by applying the word to everyone, we take away it's meaning. She writes, If you are never allowed to think, "That women is not beautiful," then it's just a short slide to never being allowed to say, "That behavior is immoral" or "That relationship is not healthy" or "That world view is not humane." 

I get the argument, and yet as someone who has been told she is ugly repeatedly in her life, my heart recoiled at this article. I was the "ugly standard" growing up - the kids at school actually compared other people to me. - "That girl is half as ugly as Patrice." I was not an attractive pre-teen - I was gangly with big glasses and bad hair and let's just say that my mother's choice of appropriate clothing for me was not in style - ever.  And people let me know it - every day.

A teacher told me that I should lose a few pounds and that it was too bad my parents never put me in dance classes because I lacked grace. Even my mother thought me unattractive, and was happy about it. She said she didn't have to worry about me as much that way. Everyone thought (still thinks) my sister is the pretty one. When she was getting married, we went to get our hair done. The hair dresser took one look at me and said, "Wow, it's too bad you didn't get your sister's hair." Over the course of a lifetime, all those statements add up. In a world in which a woman is valued, rightly or wrongly, at least partly for her looks, it isn't hard to see where one's sense of self goes when she is told she is unattractive over and over again.

If all women are not beautiful, in some way, then some are ugly. I'm not saying we all look like whatever standard of beauty is being held up in the fashion magazines today, but God lovingly created each one of us. There should be some inherent beauty in that alone.

When I was younger I always wanted to have a little girl. God blessed me with two sons. In time, I was thankful that there were no daughters in the mix - after all, even if my sons looked like me, it matters less for a boy.  I would hate for a daughter to be told she is ugly because she resembled me. But then God gave me a little girl - a foster daughter whom I am hoping to adopt. I met her when she was only 3 months old. She is now two-and-a-half, and I have always called her "my beautiful girl." I want my voice in her head to drown out any that may come in the future that tell her she isn't.

Yes, in order for beauty to matter, there needs to be something that is ugly. Call excrement ugly, call a pile of trash ugly, call artwork ugly if it makes you feel better, but do not use that word to describe a woman's physical appearance. A baby is beautiful, a child is beautiful, an awkward pre-teen is beautiful, a young woman in the prime of life is beautiful, a middle-aged woman with a body changed from giving birth is beautiful, and an older woman with a face full of the lines that show she has lived is beautiful. To say anything else is cruel.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: The Spirit of the Heart

by Ismael N. Nuῆo, M.D.
Marina Del Rey, CA: Lighthouse Publishing, 2012

Very few people deal with life and death on such an intimate level as a heart surgeon. In The Spirit of the Heart, Dr. Ismael Nuῆo, one of the world’s best, reflects on his long career in heart surgery and the lessons he learned along the way. He “wrote this book to detail the stories that crossed my path and to honor the memories of the patients and their families that so greatly touched my life.” Trained at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he served as a Chief of Cardiac Surgery and as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Cardiothoracic Surgery. He also served in a MASH unit during Desert Storm. In addition, he has served as a consultant for such popular television programs as House M.D. and Grey’s Anatomy.

Nuῆo dedicated this book to his daughter Catherine who died in his arms at the age of eighteen. He also shares the stories of his mother and father who also died in his arms. Even a doctor of this caliber cannot always save those he loves. He shares both the pain and the lessons he has learned from their passing. He acknowledges that being a heart surgeon took a great time away from his family; the cost was indeed very high, but his love for them truly shines forth in these pages. 

He also speaks of the difficulty in telling people that their loved ones have died and of the unique issues and blessings of organ donation. He also shares his struggles with faith, and the miracles that over the years have restored and enhanced it. 

Nuῆo also shares his own experience of being a patient. He had a very dangerous bout of Hepatitis C after being stabbed with a needle. He also battles diabetes, the same disease that caused his mother’s death. His health problems forced him to retire and now he is trying to figure out a new life without being a heart surgeon. 

Unless we are close to a doctor, people are much more likely to think of the patient and the patient’s point of view. This book offers a window into the doctor’s perspective and is extremely valuable in putting a human face and heart behind the white coat or surgical scrubs. It would be especially valuable for anyone interested in becoming a doctor. 


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...