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Showing posts from August, 2010

What is "good" and who gets to decide?

Mark Shea, in his delightfully amusing way, has been writing some terrific pieces lately:  http://markshea.blogspot.com/.  He's been using his own girth to poke holes in the gay marriage/rights debate.  Check it out.

Today, this line of his really struck me (and yes, he's being sarcastic):  The sole criterion of the good is what two or more consenting individuals want to do.That's really where we are at in our society, isn't it?

This isn't a throw-away idea.  It is vitally important.  What is "good" and who gets to decide?  Do we each get to decide what is "good" for each of us?  Could there be a different "good" for me than there is for you?  What if my "good" infringes on yours?  Whose takes precedent?  What if you think my "good" is fundamentally evil?  Can there even be a "fundamental" evil?

This comes down to whether or not there is an objective standard of truth.  That is, can we, as a society, decla…

A rose by an other name

http://lifestyle.msn.com/relationships/article.aspx?cp-documentid=25322874&GT1=32023

I ran across this story on the web today;  it's a blog from a newly married couple recording her struggle about changing her last name upon marrying.

I have to admit, it was a bit of a struggle for me as well.  It wasn't that I didn't like Dear Husband's name.  In fact, I thought it would be nice to have a simple last name after years of hearing my surname mangled by people.  It wasn't a feminist thing, either.

What was a struggle for me was that my name held such strong identity for me.  In the late '70s, when the book and mini-series "Roots" was popular, my dad got hooked on geneology.  For years, it was a passion of his.  It grew to the point where he was hauling us off to huge family geneological society meetings all over the map.  Not exactly a great vacation from a teen point of view, but even my sister and I had to admit that it was pretty cool that one of …

Our Lady of Malibu

(By the way, there really IS a church in California named Our Lady of Malibu....)

Love this photo and story over at CatholicVoteAction.org:

http://www.catholicvoteaction.org/americanpapist/index.php?p=8335

Sacred Place of the Day

St. Aninius Church, Damascus

Maybe Baby

Our local newspaper had a headline this morning:  "Economy Sends Baby Bouncing".  Apparently, the poor economy has translated into fewer people having babies over the past year.

I can understand this.  Most of us, prudently, don't want to have a new family member when we just lost our job, got downsized or lost our home to foreclosure.

On the other hand, how many times have you heard someone say,  "We are going to wait until we can afford a baby to have one."  My standard answer is,  "Then you'll never have a baby."

Why?  Because babies cost EVERYTHING.  It isn't necessarily a monetary thing.  On the whole, babies aren't THAT expensive.  The biggest cost - for us, at least - was diapers and food.  If you're able to breast-feed, than the food cost isn't an issue.

What makes babies cost so much in our society is that many of us are convinced that babies need or are entitled to the "best":  new clothes every week from the Ga…

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday: Pray

A fellow blogger at "La Bella Vita" has extended an invitation to participate in "Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday".  Great idea!

So here is my idea for "Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday";  pray for the person who most annoyed you this week.  You know, that guy in the cubicle next to you that takes your stuff without asking.  That lady that sits behind you at daily Mass and says all the prayers a half a beat behind every one else.  Your kid who said something thoughtless and hurtful.  The lady at the grocery store who snarled when she took your money and then put your bread at the bottom of the bag.  THAT person.

Pray that God will bless them abundantly.  Pray that their life is good, and that they recognize that. 
Pray.

Laugh!

We often picture God as a serious old man, burdened with the incredible task of managing this vast, complex universe and providing adequately for all of His creatures, especially for the fickle, fallible, unpredictable human beings. But God is not old. Neither is He young. It is the passing of time that makes one young and then old. God exists outside of time. God exists in eternity, in an eternal now. And God is not serious, at least in the sense of being burdened with a task that is too big for Him. Is it more difficult to manage the universe than to create it out of nothing? And most of all God is not sad. God is perfectly and eternally happy, and enjoys a divine sense of humor. The sense of humor we have, if we have one, is but an imperfect participation in God‘s sense of humor.


A sense of humor, of course, is a sense of the humorous. So what is humorous? The humorous is that which is unexpected, incongruous and preposterous. At the circus, for example, it is the incongruity of th…

The City That Would Not Die

http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2010/08/25/129424166/coming-back

There is much talk, 5 years after Katrina, about what still needs to be done in New Orleans and other places affected by the storm.  This NPR  Picture Show is a lovely reminder of the spirit and joy that remained untouched.

Hard Sayings

If you are only noddingly familiar with Christian Scripture,  you may think it is all sweetness and light.  However, both the Old and New Testaments are full of hard sayings, including the Gospel.  Today, I heard this at Mass:

Jesus said,“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

It is quite easy to sit in the pew, hear this and smugly think,  "You tell 'em, Jesus!  Don't let those hypocrites get away with a thing!  I know a few people that should hear that message."  It is quite another thing to hear that Gospel message and think,  "I am filled with hypocrisy and evil-doing.  I may appear quite beautiful to others, but I am filled with 'dead man's bones'."

What are the 'dead man's bones' I h…

Sacred Place of the Day

Buddhist Temple at Luang, Laos

'Cause I Love Newfs

If you're not familiar with the Newfoundland (or "Newf"), they are a working breed, trained for water rescue.  The fishermen on the coasts of Newfoundland often used them for this, as the breed can withstand the cold northern waters.

They are large (males tend to run about 160-180 lbs.) but gentle, sweet and lovable.  They are loyal, and while they are generally well-mannered, they are also fiercely protective of their families.  They shed and drool, so if that bugs you, don't get one.

Famous Newfs:  the original "nanny" from Peter Pan (Disney made her into a St. Bernard), and Seaman, the dog that helped lead the Lewis and Clark Expedition.


A GEM of a woman

As I've mentioned before, I am always amazed at how little I know.  I've been reading The Loser Letters by Mary Eberstadt, and like any good book, it's made me scurry for a dictionary or look up a person or two for reference purposes. 

One person I learned about from Mrs. Eberstadt's book is Elizabeth (G.E.M.) Anscombe, a British philosopher of great merit in the 20th century.  She was a wife and mother to seven, and quite a little spitfire:  she blasted Oxford University in 1956 for giving an honorary degree to Harry Truman.  She considered him a mass murderer for his decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

One of her most profound works came in 1972, "Contraception and Chastity".  It's not light fare, but it is prophetic.  You can read it here:  http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/AnscombeChastity.shtml
Here's just a sample:
There is no such thing as a casual, non-significant sexual act; everyone knows this. Contrast sex with eating - you're…

Pray for Pakistan

Pakistan is ravaged by floods.  This is a poor nation to begin with, and a natural disaster strains everything from infrastructure, food distribution, and health care.

Catholic Relief Services already serves the people of Pakistan, and has a fund set up for flood relief:  http://crs.org/pakistan/.  Please help if you can.

Sacred Place of the Day

Our Lady of Lichen, Poland

Geekazoid Alert!

http://www.dieter-philippi.de/en

Greek Orthodox miter











Papal Finery

















All this and more at the website of Dieter Philippi, who claims to have the largest collection of clerical, ecclesiastical and religious head coverings in the world.  Some of the website is in German, but the photos are AWESOME!!  Enjoy!

Sacred Place of the Day

St. Joseph's Oratory, Montreal

For no reason other than it's funny

Home is where the heart is

Today's saint is a guy by the name of St. John Eudes.  If I ever knew anything about him, I'd forgotten it.  I read a little bit about him today:  he was a French priest, best known for spreading popular devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Here's a little tidbit that caught my attention:  During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese. Lest he infect his fellow religious, he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field during the plague.

Yeah, you read that right:  HE LIVED IN A CASK.  A big barrel. 

(Yes, I'll admit:  I wondered if there was any liquid enjoyment in the barrel.  But now back to our regularly-scheduled reflection....)

For many people, the last few years have been difficult.  For Michigan, they've been horrible.  For our family (since Dear Husband works in the automotive industry), the past few years have been a terrible struggle financially.  We almost lost our house.  Many people - good pe…

Food, glorious food

What do you eat in a day?  How does it compare to our neighbors?  Check out this NPR story about food around the world.  Fascinating stuff!

http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2010/08/10/129107806/whatieat

Was Victor Hugo's "Hunchback" Real?

Victor Hugo was a hugely popular novelist in his time, and while his style may seem a bit fussy to us, he wrote some of the most "Catholic" stories ever, including "Les Miserables" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".

This story reports that his "Hunchback" character - the tragic figure of the good heart and mis-shapen body - may be a real person:

http://www.aolnews.com/world/article/hunchback-who-may-have-inspired-victor-hugos-quasimodo-discovered-in-british-archive/19595067?test=latestnews

Sacred Place of the Day

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

I usually don't include photos with people in them for the Sacred Places, but this little monk was so engaging.  In many Asian countries, boys grow up in the monasteries, but leave when they are older.  Parents see it as beneficial spiritually, and it eases poverty for them as well.

Stuff

TLC and A&E have both been airing shows about hoarding, the complex psychological issue that makes people prisoners of their belongings.  People who suffer from this are often literally living on mounds and mounds of clothes, paper, knick-knacks, food and furniture, to the point where their houses become uninhabitable and their lives unlivable.
Our Gospel readings the past few weeks speak to this theme:  don't get too attached to your stuff.  Today's Gospel has the rich young man going away from Christ, sad.  Why is he sad?  Because Christ told him he must sell all his possessions and follow Him.  The young man does not or cannot.
I don't think Christ is telling us that we all have to give away or sell everything in order to be good Christians.  I do think He was telling this young man that very thing for a reason:  that particular young man was too attached to his stuff.  His stuff meant more to him than eternal life.  Christ saw this, He knew it, and He was saying to t…

Sacred Place of the Day

Basilica of the Assumption of Mary, Baltimore, Maryland

I'm Mad! And I'm not gonna take it anymore...maybe....

The summer before I went to college is very clear in my mind.  The college had decided that all incoming freshmen had to complete a "common reading" before we got to campus, and would then spend some of our first week discussing it with profs and fellow students.  I had to complete that.

I wasn't working, so I had the summer to do what I wanted:  hang out with my friend, Dawn, shopping and seeing movies, spending time at our cottage, going canoing and generally enjoying the freedom that you have for such a short time in your life.

As college loomed closer and closer, though, I got scared.  The book I was supposed to read was hard, and I could only imagine that this was all me, and not the book.  I started to think that college was going to be way too tough for me.  Sure, I had done really well in high school, but I went to Podunk High, in the backwater of the outskirts of rural Michigan.  All those other kids headed to college went to places like Bright and Shiny College…

Edith Stein, to wrap up the week

Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes.

Sacred Place of the Day

Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan

Mysticism, in the words of Edith Stein

I always thought "mysticism" was sort of like the Navy Seals:  only for a very elite, very few.  Here's what Edith Stein says about it, though:

...the mystic is simply a person who has an experiential knowledge of the teaching of the Church;  that God dwells in the soul.  Anyone who feels inspired by this dogma to search for God will end up taking the same route the mystic is led along:  he will retreat from the sources of the senses, the images of the memory and the natural functioning of the intellect and will withdraw into the barren solitude of the inner self....

More from Edith Stein

In honor of her feast this week, I'm giving you some snippets from Edith Stein's work:

For the Christian, there is no such thing as a "stranger".  There is only the neighbor - the person who happens to be next to us, the person most in need of our help.  Whether he is related to us or not, whether we "like" him or not, doesn't make any difference.  Christ's love knows no boundaries, stops at no limits, doesn't turn away from ugliness and filth.  It was for sinner He came, not for the righteous.

Sacred Place of the Day

Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Edith Stein

One thing about prophets:  their message rings true no matter when you hear it.

Here is a snippet from Edith Stein.  She wrote this between the two World Wars:

If a woman's vocation is the protection of life and the preservation of the family, she cannot remain indifferent as to whether or not governments and nations assume forms which are favorable to the growth of the family, and the well-being of the  young.

Back to School

I realize that "back to school" means a lot of things to a lot of people.  For homeschoolers, it means opening the mailbox with anticipation:  boxes of new texts for the new year.  For teachers, it means getting into a hot classroom in August, to prepare for kids in September.  For moms, it is a check list of supplies.  For kids,  it is typically a mix of dread and joy.

"Back to school" for me, growing up, meant a trip to Detroit for shopping.  We would typically stay with my grandma for a few days, and Mom would take me and my two sisters out, one day at a time.  We'd ride the bus - an exotic trip for us country mice.  At night, my sister Martha and I would lay awake in my grandma's front room, listening to the sounds of the city:  car horns and sirens, when we were used to crickets and owls. 

But the best, the VERY BEST, part of the trip:  Sander's.  For those of you not from Michigan, Sander's is an ice cream/candy wonderland, going back generat…

More proof that God has a sense of humor

Hammerhead shark - isn't it goofy-looking???





August 9: St. Edith Stein, pray for us

This blog is entrusted to the patronage of St. Edith Stein, and today is her feast day.  She is also known by her religious name, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Edith was born in Germany in 1891 to a pious Jewish family.  She was the youngest of eleven children, and her father died when she was young.  Her mother, a devout and intelligent woman, took over the family business and raised the children.

Edith was a very bright girl, but given to fits and bouts of depression.  She was...sort of "bratty" and spoiled as a child.  By her own admission, she became an atheist at a young age, and remained so for years.

She studied philosophy, eventually earning her Ph.D. under Edward Husserl in the school of phenomonology.  About this same time, she read the biography of St. Teresa of Avila, and became a convert to Catholicism.  She eventually entered the religious life at Carmel.  She died at Auschwitz.

This is a bare-bones outline of her life.  There are several great biograph…

I Can See Clearly Now

I gotta admit:  I've been a little down this past week.  Dear Husband has been gone a lot this summer, working out of the country.  I'm REALLY thankful he has a job, but being a single parent to five teens is hard.  One parent often acts as a buffer for the other, and I haven't had that for awhile.  The kids and I are all sort of sick of each other at this point.

I had to leave a job I really, really loved, and had to help a dear friend move two states away.  School is starting up, and I'm feeling melancholy - September is the "new year" for me, and I'm sad that I'm not going back to school this year.

Not only do we have a huge gloppy oil mess in the Gulf, but we have one right here in West Michigan now.

Our culture seems to be hell-bent on re-arranging the most basic social mores, and I don't see much to make me feel good about this. 

When I knelt down at Mass this weekend, it was with a heavy heart and frantic mind.  I just wanted.....I don'…

Sacred Place of the Day

Serpent Mound, Ohio

This vale of tears...

There is a lot to be depressed about lately.  There are many of us still suffering from the rotten economy, the earth seems to be oozing oil, wars drag on, and ice cream is still fattening.

Surely, a God who created giraffes, platypus and kittens wants us to laugh, despite the trials and tribulations of our lives.  On this note, I present to you the Museum of Bad Art.  Yes, indeed, you can enjoy the virtual tour, featuring such treasures as this portrait, entitled "Dog".  (Hey, it's bad art, you weren't expecting clever titles, were you?)

This isn't kindergarten bad art.  Oh, no:  this is "I sat down to create something marvelous" art, the "I've always wanted to paint" art, the "Now that I'm retired I can finally get serious about my art" art.  It is well worth a few minutes of your time, and just remember:  Life is fatal.  We are not getting out of this alive, so let's just enjoy the time we have.

Here's the link:  ht…

What summer is all about

Two of my great-nieces

The obligatory post about the California Ruling on Gay Marriage

I wasn't going to post anything, but I read my blogger handbook/contract/secret decoder ring, and I have to.  Here's a link to a blog at the National Catholic Register, and my fave line from this post.  As you can see, what troubles me most is the eroding of the power of the people in recent years:

Now, many can agree or disagree with laws prohibiting sodomy or contraception or even abortion but the fact is that it doesn’t matter whether you agree or not. Judges have declared all of these issues including life itself beyond your purview. Your opinion matters not even though you live in a republic.

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/we-the-people-means-9

Sacred Place of the Day

Today is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.

Virtual Tour of St. Peter's

http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_pietro/vr_tour/index-en.html

Students at Villanova University have created a virtual tour of St. Peter's Basilica.  Joy!  I realize it's not the same as being there, but on the other hand, Rome in August isn't the greatest place to be either.  Enjoy!!

At right, Villanova students and professors.

Corporal Works of Mercy

My 85 year old mother has a Facebook.  This is startling for a couple of reasons.  First, Facebook is not really the playground of the Senior Citizen Set.  Even less so for my mom, who is a self-declared "technological idiot".  While my  mom is not an idiot, I can vouch for the fact that she really has an intense dislike for anything with more than one button or knob on it.  She has a DVD player;  she does not know how to use it.  Clearly, Facebook is a huge leap for her.

She likes it because she can keep up on her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  There are a lot of us, and this is a great way to see current photos and know where everyone is.  My mom's chief job at this point in her life is to pray for us, so knowing where we are and what we're doing aids in this vocation.

However, Mom still has a very loose grasp as to how Facebook works.  That is, she doesn't really know how to write on someone's wall or comment on a previous post.  She jus…

Parenting: It's not for idiots

I am not a perfect mom.  (And my kids will back me up on that.)  However, I believe Dear Husband and I have a pretty firm grasp on some of the basics of parenthood.

For instance, one of the basics is that the Kid Comes First.  When you become a parent,  you turn in your Selfish Card.  Oh, I'm not saying Mommy doesn't deserve a night out for book club, or Daddy doesn't get to go golfing on Thursday evenings.  I mean, your life stops being All About Me, and starts being all about the Kid.  The Kid's needs always come first, and those needs are endless and mind-numbing and tedious, at least sometimes.  Tough.  The Kid Comes First.

That means, that if you and your spouse (geez, I hope you were married) can't keep it together, you don't put the Kid between you like some sort of pull toy.  If you split with said spouse, you don't move a boyfriend or girlfriend into your home, and expect the Kid to deal with it.  You don't leave your Kid home alone while you&#…

Ain't it Friday yet????

Sacred Place of the Day

Cathedral of the Assumption, Louisville, KY

When Castro Came to Coleman

The National Catholic Register is reporting on the state of the Church in Cuba:
http://www.ncregister.com/register_exclusives/the-catholic-church-in-cuba/

In light of this, I am reprinting here a piece I wrote a few years back, on my family's ties to Cuba:

When Castro Came to Coleman

Coleman, Michigan, is a small town that really has no outstanding features. It is not a bad place; it is not a great place. It’s just a town. But it is a town that Fidel Castro visited.

OK, not really. Yet in that weird way of life, Castro had an impact on many people in Coleman, folks who’d never go to Cuba and perhaps never even give the Communist dictator much thought.

This story started when Castro decided he wanted to rule the island nation in the name of communism. In Cuba at that time (1959), there lived a man named Jose Blanco, Sr., and his family. One of Castro’s policies was that a person could own only one piece of property. The rest now belonged to the state. Mr. Blanco lost his business.

An…