As if to prove my point about living in tough times:

This just in from the Telegraph UK:  it's okay to kill babies after they've been born.  Really, it's quite logical: 

The authors of this paper, Alberto Giubilini of the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva of Melbourne University, argue that "both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons". Secondly, they say that "the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant". Thirdly, they write that "adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people".

In summary – and it really is this brutal – newborn babies are not actual people, ergo killing them is not immoral.

Pray hard, folks.  Clearly things are gonna get worse before they get better.

Tough ladies for tough times

No one with an iota of religious faith would disagree:  things are tough in America right now.  From the Huffington Post "jokingly" referring to Catholics as cannibals and pedophiles,  to the President and his minions trying to get us to foot the bill for other people's elective choices regarding birth control and sterilization, to having to defend our beliefs to every atheist the press decides is its darling this week.....well, it's clearly tough times.

What to do?  Rejoice!  I know, seems a little odd, but I have it on good authority (Jesus) that this type of stuff is good for us:  Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. - Mt. 5:10-12

Also, we have a bunch of friends on our side, and I'm talking friends in high places:  the saints.  Thought for a couple of days I'd remind all of us how our brothers and sisters in Christ have handles tough times.

Today, St. Teresa of Avila:  But if, for the love of God, we hated all this, and embraced the cross, and set about His service in earnest, Satan would fly away before such realities, as from the plague. He is the friend of lies, and a lie himself. He will have nothing to do with those who walk in the truth.

40 Days of Gratitude: Day Seven

I am extraordinarily grateful to my parents for many, many things, but I believe I am most grateful for their example to our family of married love.  For nearly 60 years, they were an awesome witness of God's unfailing love for us and for His Church:  forgiving, joyful, life-giving, charitable, faithful, hopeful.  It has given our entire family not only a witness, but a standard to live up to.  Their marriage has blessed many, many people.

40 Days of Gratitude: Day Six

Besides being extraordinarily grateful that I am Catholic, I am also grateful for not being Amish.  See, I don't do "rustic" very well.  My idea of "roughing it" is a room that is NOT next to the pool.  I can't imagine being surrounded by all of our wonderful modern conveniences like showers and refrigerators, radios and cars, and not being able to use any of them.  I would be the worst Amish person in the world....God in His great goodness knew that....

Feelings and Faith

We Americans like our feelings.  We spend a lot of time talking about them, wallowing in them, protecting them and exploring them.  We post them on Facebook, buy cars because of a promise from the manufacturer that a certain brand will make us feel a certain way, flip pages in magazines searching for articles and products that will make us feel better about ourselves, our lives, our families.

Feelings are fine, but they often don't matter much.  In fact, sometimes, they don't matter at all.

When I was teaching high school religion, I often told my students,  "If you don't remember anything else I teach you, remember this:  love is not a feeling.  It's an action.  It's what you are willing to do for the good of another."

My case in point was often an example like this:  It's 3 a.m.  You are woken from a sound sleep from you daughter or son who, standing next to your bed, says, "I'm sick."  Do you FEEL like getting up and taking care of the little person?  Probably not.  Your inclination is to stay in bed, cozy and warm.  But what do you do?  If you love your child, you get up and take care of him or her.  You act, not on the feeling, but in order to do good for another.

We all have things we must do in our lives that are done - not because we FEEL like it - but because we act out of love, duty, honor, decency, faith.  What else would drive a firefighter INTO a burning building, when every human instinct is to run out?  Why else does a wife visit her husband every day in the nursing home, despite the fact that her spouse, with Alzheimer's, seems to have no idea who she is?

Right now, I am not "feeling" Lent.  Or rather, I'm feeling Lent way too much.  My whole existence seems penitential.  I have given up, sacrificed, played out and prayed out every which way for months, for years.  The latest situation with Dark-Haired Daughter has left me bereft, and God feels very, very far away.  I don't even feel like praying.

But I do.

Yes, sometimes it is just "going through the motions".  But my intent is good:  to give glory and honor to God...even though I don't FEEL like it.  I don't FEEL like praying the Mass right now.  In fact, I FEEL just the opposite.  But I do.  I don't FEEL like offering up any sacrifice, as it seems that I have given everything, and there is nothing left.  But I do.

Why?  Because our Faith is not built on feelings, but on a relationship, and a relationship with Christ Jesus.  No matter what I FEEL, my Faith requires action: prayer, sacrifice, penance, meditation, and all the virtues. 

Despite my feelings of God being very far away, He is not.  He is right here, with me in the loneliness, pain and anger my family is experiencing.  What I feel is not all that important right now.  The only thing that matters now is Faith.

A new look at old stories

From children's classic stories illuminated as minimalist posters.  See which one you like best.

40 Days of Gratitude: Day 5

From "My Vintage Vogue"
I am grateful for the joy of being feminine.  God, in His great goodness, made us male and female, and I love being a girl.

Necessary emphasis should be placed on the "genius of women", not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfil their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women. - Bl. John Paul II, "On feminine genius"

Happy Birthday to the Man in Black

Today would have been Johnny Cash's 80th birthday.  I enjoyed this article about one of his best-known songs, "A Boy Named Sue". 

Mr. Cash is an iconic American figure.  His style, song-writing, and ability to convey emotion is unparalleled in modern music.

Easy like Sunday morning

The lyrics to the Commodores song - with the exception of the title - have nothing at all to do with how I feel about Sundays.  I love the laziness of Sunday mornings - nothing to accomplish except to get to Mass, no chores waiting, no rushing to get out the door for school or work.  I get up when I want, play on the computer, cuddle with the cat and make a pot of tea.  Oh, the tea!  Not a hurried, dump some hot water in a commuter mug tea, but an honest-to-goodness pot of tea to relax with and enjoy.

I can take a long shower.  Watch CBS' Sunday Morning.  Catch up on some email.  Check to see if spring is here yet (it's not).

Ooh that's why I'm easy
I'm easy like Sunday morning
That's why I'm easy
I'm easy like Sunday morning!

During Lent, Sundays are a little reprieve from our Lenten fast.  Since Sundays are always days of celebration (like a mini-Easter every week) and never a day of penance, we can choose to forego our Lenten fast.  It's a little reminder of the joy of the Resurrection.

Ooh that's why I'm easy
I'm easy like Sunday morning
That's why I'm easy
I'm easy like Sunday morning!

For a lot of us, Sundays mean a family dinner, a lazy day on the couch to watch sports, or a family outing.  It's a day of rest - ordained by God.  Enjoy!

40 Days of Gratitude: Day Four

Okay, maybe this is a bit shallow, but my iPhone makes both my work and home life much easier, and more organized.  Plus, who doesn't like to carry a bit of fun around with them everywhere they go? 

40 Days of Gratitude: Day Three

Today I am grateful for an order of Franciscan Sisters who are very dear to me and my family.  Their faith, holiness, love, humor and counsel have sustained us in so many ways.  Our children have grown up with this example of selfless love and joy, working alongside the Sisters on their farm, baking bread in their kitchen and playing games with them in their fields.

A genuine blessing in my family's lives, and I am grateful.

"Hold still, you've got something on your forehead"

Loved this from NPR:  "Excuse me, you have something on your forehead" - a photo essay on Ash Wednesday.

3 Good Things Thursday

1.  Thought-provoking Lenten questions from And Sometimes Tea:  what's keeping you from making spiritual progress?  More importantly, what can you do about it this Lent?

2. Do we Catholics owe Mr. Obama a big "thank you"?  Dr. Janet Smith says we do!

3.  I know we're only one day into Lent, but I'm betting some of you are already struggling with your chosen Lenten penance.  Well, read this:   a day in the life of Pope Benedict.  Given the fact that he's 84 years old, and his typical day begins at 5 a.m. and never ends before 11 p.m., your sacrifice will seem like a cakewalk!

40 Days of Gratitude: Day Two

This is my desk at work.  I am extremely grateful for my job.  I get to work with amazing people:  smart, funny, faithful people, and delve into topics that fascinate and enthrall me,and hopefully enrich the lives of others.  My job is meaningful and fun.  I am truly blessed.

Hard Spiritual Lessons

My evening prayers included this:

God, our loving Father, you forgive our every ill.
You forgive our guilt; lead us to mend our ways.
You fill our life with good things; fill us with love and mercy toward one another.
You remember we are dust; raise us with all our beloved dead to life in Christ.

All good - all hard.  We are guilty of sin against God and others, and we need forgiveness.  We need to be merciful to others - even when we don't want to.  We have to face our mortality, and the mortality of those we love.

Sometimes, it seems that ALL our spiritual lessons are hard ones.  At least that's the way I've been feeling lately.  Life itself is burdensome, and God seems far away.  Faith is a quickly unraveling string, and my hold is tenuous.

What to do?  I don't know what others do when they are close to despair, but I go through the motions.  I pray when I don't feel like praying.  I sing when my throat is parched.  I praise when my heart is heavy.  I call upon the Lord, even when I am sure He is so far away He couldn't possibly hear me.

I don't do it for God's sake.  He doesn't need a thing from me.  I do it for my sake, to remind my head what my heart knows: that my God is not only near, He is united with me in my suffering, as I try to unite myself to His.  I stand at the foot of His cross, and He stands at the foot of mine.  Even when I cannot go another step in faith, He bears me up.

Hard spiritual lessons.  I beg for mercy in the smallness of my faith.  I hold tight to that unraveling thread of faith, knowing that He holds the other end, and will not let me go.

Hard spiritual lessons.

40 Days of Gratitude: Day One

I am starting this Lent with a very heavy heart.  Dark-haired daughter is not doing well;  we can't seem to get her stabilized mentally.  It's very stressful and very discouraging.  Even worse, it seems to color everything - my whole existence.  Nothing in my life seems good or right, and of course, that's very wrong.

In light of this, I am taking up my own 40 Days of Gratitude.  I'm going to post every day of Lent something specific in my life that I am grateful for. 

Today:  my children.  They are each a special gift in their own way.  They've also each been challenging in their own way.  We have, as a family, been through a lot, and it isn't always good.  It's tough living in a house with five special needs kids - some more 'special' than others.  But they are good people, and compassionate.

I will just share one proud mommy moment.  A few years ago, Youngest Son (who was in middle school at the time) came to me after school and said,  "Mom, I have to go to the funeral home tonight.  'Bobby's' mom died."  I knew his classmate's mother had been struggling with cancer, and now, she had passed away.  But we didn't know these folks, so I was a little hesitant to go to the funeral home.  Youngest Son INSISTED:  "Mom, I need to be there for 'Bobby'."  So off we went.

When Youngest Son and I got to the funeral home, we were greeted by his classmate.  Youngest Son said,  "I'm really sorry about your mom.  Are you okay?"  and 'Bobby' said he was.  Then Youngest Son said,  "I'll go look at your mom with you, up at the casket" and the two went up to see the classmate's mother.  After a few moments, 'Bobby' invited Youngest Son into a back room that had been set up for the family with snacks and drinks.  The two of them played for awhile, crawling under tables and doing what boys do.

I was rather in awe of my son.  It was a hugely compassionate thing to do, a hard thing for anyone, but for a child, it was enormous. 

My children, despite their flaws, weaknesses and challenges, are compassionate people.  And I am grateful for that.

Weird Lenten Ideas?

I thought some of the suggestions from Lifeteen were a little odd, frankly, but some of them have merit (given that your intention is to focus on God and not just trying to out-do the next guy in some sort of Lenten show-down).

So, weird Lenten ideas:

  • Put a popcorn kernel in your shoe every day
  • Don’t use your apps
  • Give up texting and call whoever you need to talk to
  • Wear the same 4 outfits for all of lent (Uh, really??  I don't think I could do that, sorry to say...)
  • Everyday do 20 (or 100) pushups and offer it up for someone who’s sick
  • Leave a post-it with a positive message on it wherever you go
  • Every day take a picture of something or someone you’re grateful for and hang the pictures in your room (my favorite)
  • Joyeux Mardi Gras!

    Illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 22 March 1873, depicting a Mardi Gras ball in Louisville, KY

    Total Rip-off Tuesday

    Where-in I "rip-off" another writer on the web, giving due credit, of course.  Today's choice:  Russell Shaw and why people don't like the Catholic Church:

    The Catholic Church adheres to an ethic of substantive human purposes — things like life, truth, and justice — that establish the parameters of ethically acceptable choices and behavior. To do the right thing is to act within these boundaries; to do what is wrong is to act outside them.

    The secularist mindset, by contrast, favors a libertarian ethic of process and procedure — values like democracy, equal opportunity, and that epitome of the process ethic: the “right to choose.” To be sure, most people rightly live by a mix of values of both kinds — partly substantive, partly procedural — but the differences in emphasis are real and often extremely important.

    According to the process ethic, there is in principle no such thing as absolute right and wrong — no substantive good that can’t be violated in a pinch if violating it furthers the exercise of choice by a sufficient number of persons.

    Pardon me...

    There were a couple of comments made in the past 12 hours or so that I accidently deleted.  Mea culpa.

    Lent: it's coming!

    And I bet you still haven't thought about what you're going to do, right?  Or maybe you figure you'll give up chocolate like you do every year.  Or, maybe you have thought about it, and just haven't figured out what Lent will look like for you this year.

    Here are 40 ideas that will definitely help!

    Mary Cassatt Monday

    Portrait of Charles Dikran Kelekian at age 12

    Mardi Gras 1956

    Found this charming photo of children in a 1956 Mardi Gras parade at Galleria Mar Dore'; photo by John W. Mizenko.

    To ponder before Lent begins

    photo by Doron Nissim
    The darkness asks us questions.
    You are out there and we do not see.
    You invite us into the night,
    the stillness, the loneliness, the desert place.

    We cannot see our shadow;
    the cold damp of unknowing rises up from beneath
    our feet.
    We tread cautiously, tentatively.

    We are afraid,
    afraid of ghosts
    haunting us with spectres of guilt
    and shame.

    We would like to run back,
    reach the river bank,
    swim the Jordan,
    sit in the sun by the sea,
    mending our nets.
    But you have brought us here
    - with no bread.

    When we look we can see only ourselves,
    our darkness.
    When we read,
    it is invisible words which cannot be grasped
    thoughts we cannot clutch,
    hope we cannot capture.

    Yet the wild honey remains a taste in our mouth,
    a memory for a new day.

    Why have you brought us here?
    What miracle will you perform for us?

    The darkness sighs around us,
    dense with your unseen presence,
    close to our breathing,
    close to our breathing.

    O darkness, enlighten us,
    embrace us with your invisible love.
    Let us see your glory in the ashes.
    Take us by the hand that we may trust the darkness.

    Minister to us by your Spirit that we may not be afraid.
    Jesus, keep the beasts away.

         - William Loader

    Where does your right stop and mine begin?

    If one person’s freedom depends on the infringement of someone else’s freedom, the first claim is illegitimate. To hold otherwise is to reject the principle of equality.
    Women have the right to contraception (and any other product) in the sense that they have a right to spend their money on it or to try to persuade someone else to do so. There can be no right to force (or have the government force) others to pay.

    Read the entire article at

    What Lent is NOT

    picture courtesy of Lifeteen
    1.  Lent is NOT a weight-loss program.  If you are planning on giving up a certain food, drink, or eating habit, focus on it for the right reasons.  While weight-loss may be a pleasant by-product, our focus in Lent should be to get rid of those attachments which have us enslaved in a sinful way, distracting us from God and other critical parts of our life, such as prayer and family.

    2.  Lent is NOT a competition.  We shouldn't be comparing our sacrifices to others', noting how much better OUR Lenten practice is than theirs, or worrying that we're not quite measuring up to someone else.  In fact, we shouldn't be thinking about others' practices at all: ...take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing...Mt. 6:1-3

    3.  Lent is NOT about doing many things poorly, but doing one thing well.  Often times, we will start Lent with a list of good intentions:  "Okay, no beer, and I'm going to read Scripture every morning.  I'm not going to eat any sweets, and I'm also going to get to Adoration every week.  I'm gonna save all my pocket change for the poor, and..."  Typically, we end up looking at our efforts about 2 weeks in, get disgusted with ourselves, and throw in the towel.  Choosing one thing and doing it well, with prayerful intent, is much better than trying to do fourteen things, and not completing any of them.

    4.  Lent is NOT about showing off to God.  This ties in with #3.  He wants our love, our devotion, our effort, not a Herculean showing of sacrificial showcasing.  What is it that God is calling you to?  Is He calling you to prayer? To Scripture?  Is He calling you to more family-time?  Pray about it.  Listen in the stillness of your heart to God's voice.  He will let you know what He wants for you this Lent.

    Lent is not about making ourselves miserable, proving to God how much we love him, or walking around in sackcloth and ashes. It's about re-orienting our lives towards the most important goal:  Heaven. 


    photo by Andy E. Williams
    Antigue Carnival Children's Parade

    Emilio Estevez Interview

    I loved "The Way" (here is my review), and am happy to see this interview with Estevez, who seems to be maturing nicely!

    By the way, if you didn't catch it in theaters, it's now out on DVD.

    3 Good Things Thursday - Mardi Gras Edition

    1.  King Cake!  The King Cake is typically a sweet, bread-like cake, decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, gold and purple.  As a surprise, a coin, a tiny crown or a small toy baby doll is tucked inside.  The one who finds it is crowned King!  Check out this recipe.

    2.  "Mardi Gras" literally means "Fat Tuesday".  It's the day when the fats (butter, oil, etc.) would be used up, so that the house would be free of these goodies during the Lenten season.  For a nice explanation, check out American Catholic.

    3. "Carnival"!  Although now associated with parades and floats, this too is a Catholic tradition:  the last enjoyment of rich foods before the Lenten fast. Some believe it derives from the medieval Latin carnem levare or carnelevarium, which means to take away or remove meat.

    Why I should be able to order red wine in a Muslim-owned restaurant

    Let's say Dear Husband and I head out for a fine dinner on the town.  We've heard of a new place with great food, and are eager to try it out.

    When we arrive, are seated and handed the menu, we see that there is no alcohol listed.  None.  Not a drop.  We ask our server about this, and he replies,  "The owners are Muslims.  It is against their religious beliefs to have alcohol on the premises or to serve it."

    Aghast, we are!  Red wine is healthy!  No less an authority than the Mayo Clinic says so!  It is part of Dear Husband's and my health regimen to imbibe one glass of red wine with our evening meal.  Not having it available is - well, threatening to our health!  We demand red wine now!

    The owner comes out.  He explains that drinking or serving alcohol is a violation of his religious beliefs, but promises us a delightful meal, sans alcohol.  "NO!  Not good enough.  You are forcing your religious beliefs on us - how dare you!"

    Perhaps, the owner suggests, this is not the restaurant for us.  There are several in the area he can recommend, all serving alcohol.

    But, we reply, we want alcohol HERE and NOW!  It is our right.  This isn't  Prohibition, buddy.  This is our health we're talking about.  By golly, even if the owner has to go out and buy a damn bottle of wine, we're getting our wine, NOW!

    We point out that many Muslims drink alcohol.  Why doesn't he??  The owner states it is his understanding of the Qu'ran and how it is to be lived that alcohol is prohibited.  He can't speak for other Muslims - only himself.  It would go against his conscience to serve alcohol.

    At this point, Dear Husband and I know we have only one recourse:  the Federal Government MUST step in and force this man to serve us alcohol.  It is our right, it is for our health, and we don't give a damn about his religious beliefs.

    And the groundwork for this has cleverly been laid by Mr. Obama, so we should get results quickly.  After all, what we want trumps any one's religious beliefs in this country, right?

    Mardi Gras!

    I admit:  I love Mardi Gras!  Oh, not that bourbon-soaked, hedonistic Spring Break thing, but the actual Catholic celebration of Mardi Gras.

    Just for fun, I thought I'd post a few things over the next week regarding Mardi Gras and its celebration.

    Today, from The History Channel:

    According to historians, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.
    Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the meat, eggs, milk and cheese that remained in their homes, preparing for several weeks of eating only fish and fasting. In France, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday." The word "carnival," another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities, may also derive from this vegetarian-unfriendly custom: in Medieval Latin, carnelevarium means to take away or remove meat.

    Mardi Gras in the United States

    Many historians believe that the first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when the French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in what is now Louisiana, just south of the holiday's future epicenter: New Orleans. They held a small celebration and dubbed the spot Point du Mardi Gras. In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties, masked balls and lavish dinners. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans, however, they abolished these rowdy rituals, and the bans remained in force until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
    On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students donned colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, emulating the revelry they'd observed while visiting Paris. Ten years later, the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that continues to this day. In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future public celebrations in the city. Since then, krewes have remained a fixture of the Carnival scene throughout Louisiana. Other lasting customs include throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.
    Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. However, elaborate carnival festivities draw crowds in other parts of the United States during the Mardi Gras season as well, including Alabama and Mississippi. Each region has its own events and traditions.

    Total Rip-off Tuesday, Redux

    This was just too good for me to pass up:

    I ask you today once again to respect life, for there is no greater gift. Respect life, yours and the lives around you. For when we lose respect for life, we lose respect for humanity, and when we lose respect for humanity, we lose respect for God’s creation, and when we lose that, we have lost everything.

    From "A Muslim View on Respecting Life", by Suzy Ismail.

    For the feast of St. Valentine

    "We can cure physical diseases with medicine but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more who are dying for a little love. Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So spread love everywhere you go."                         
    ~ Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

    Total Rip-off Tuesday

    Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web  - with due credit, of course.  Today, I'm ripping off an entire website.

    Have you seen Catholic Exchange lately?  Whole new look and lay-out!  Looks sharp - check it out!

    Why I eat oatmeal for Lent, and hate every minute of it

    I have a distinct hatred for a couple of food, and oatmeal is one of 'em (I hate hot dogs, too, just for the record).  Yet, when Lent rolls around, I stock up on the stuff.

    A long time ago, I read a biography wherein the young lady who was the subject of the book ate soft-boiled eggs (which she hated) daily, as a form of sacrifice for someone.  Sort of a "back-up" to her prayers.

    Then, years later, I was instructed by my spiritual advisor NOT to "give up" anything for Lent.  She directed me to other spiritual practices, but believed that I was not in any shape to renounce something at that point.  She was right.  However, I still wanted to actively do something for Lent, and remembered the young girl and the soft-boiled eggs. With that as the inspiration, I ate oatmeal every morning for breakfast during Lent, as my Lenten sacrifice. 

    Lent is bearing down on us.  Have you started to prepare?  As Catholics, we usually "give up" something for Lent, but maybe you are looking for a new way to practice penance.  Maybe, instead of giving up, you add this year.  Maybe it's a food you dislike, or a chore you typically put off on another family member.  Maybe it's a charitable daily act for someone you don't like much.  The point is to make it daily, and make it without fanfare.  If you do something prayerfully, intentionally, and privately, you will see great spiritual rewards.  Even if you have to eat the oatmeal to get there.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

    From St. Peter's List - 10 Signs that sayl, "I stand wit the Church."  I thought these were great!

    Mary Cassatt Monday

    Portrait of Mrs. H.O. Hevermeyer

    Suffering and the Cross

    Lord, when suffering dims our memory of your love for us,
    grant us the light to recall the power of your cross.

    Catholics and Contraception

    When I was in 4th grade CCD class ("CCD class":  catechism class for little ones - to teach the basics of the faith, if you don't attend a Catholic school), my volunteer teacher was trying to show us how to pray the Rosary.  The Rosary is one of the most basic, fundamental of Catholic prayers.  EVERYONE - even non-Catholics - at least recognizes a Rosary, even if you don't know how to pray it.

    As the teacher started the lesson, I got puzzled.  I raised my hand: "That's not right.".  My teacher, in a sigh of relief, said, "Do you know how?  Here, show us" and I did.  I was 9 years old.

    Why do I share this?  Because it illustrates the problem of Catholic catechesis:  we have several generations of Catholics who just don't know their Faith.  How sad.

    The problem, though, isn't that 30 year olds don't know how to pray the Rosary (although that's a problem);  it's that a majority of Catholics use contraception, and don't really have any idea why.  It's just a cultural thing:  you have 2.3 kids and that's it.  They don't understand why the Church teaches what it does about contraception, or that it is part and parcel of an entire, universal and complete understanding of human sexuality and God's hope and promise for us.  They have some false notion that the Church (in her stodgy-can't-keep-up-with-the-times-busy-body-in-the-bedroom way) wants everyone to pop out as many babies as humanly possible, with mom perpetually barefoot, pregnant, nursing and happily humming while folding diapers.

    Even worse, those who aren't Catholic can't figure out why this is a BIG DEAL.  They have never take the time to truly engage Church teaching, and look at what we Catholics are called to live.

    Look, I'm not gonna go over the Church's entire teaching about sexuality, procreation and birth control here.  If you wanna debate about, at least do us the favor of learning what the Church ACTUALLY  teaches.  Read Humanae Vitae (that's Pope Paul VI foundational teaching on birth control).  Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (especially para. 2370 and on). 

    After 9/11, many people took the time to read the Qu'ran, to talk with American Muslims who were grounded in the faith, and to educate themselves about Islam. 

    If you disagree with the Church on contraception, or just can't figure out what the big deal is, ask yourself:  "Do I even know what I'm talking about?  Do I have even the smallest clue as to what the Catholic Church actually teaches in this regard?"  If you believe yourself to be under-educated, then maybe it would behoove you to learn.

    Crap, I'm tired....

    I probably shouldn't blog with a glass of vodka next to me, but what the's been a long couple of weeks.

    I'm really tired.

    I'm tired of pussy-footin' around on attacks on my faith, my religious and civil liberties.

    I'm tired of people who work with my daughter (teachers, social workers, etc.) that think they know more than I do because they have a bunch of letters like "MSW" behind their names.  Let me tell you:  I'm smart too, but beyond that, I am an expert in something no other person is an expert in:  my kids.  I know what is best.  You're here to help, facilitate, file paperwork, and support.  You are NOT the expert. 

    I am tired of hatred and vileness and personal attacks from strangers.  I get it:  you hate me.  Move along now.

    I am tired of the lack of civil discourse between intelligent people.  Play nice or go home.  Or continue your rants, furthering the proof of your lack of intelligence.  You pick.

    I am tired of being compared to Job.  And being told I am courageous and/or brave.  I know you all mean well, but I have to keep doing what I do.  I am the only mom my kids have, and if I don't advocate for them, who will?  It is my job, and I'm doing it.  It's like a firefighter or cop who does his or her job.  Yeah, we wanna pat them on the back, but they picked that career, and it's their job to run into the burning building.  It's my job to be my kids' mom.  I love doing it, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    So, I'm gonna get some sleep, and get up swingin' again tomorrow.  There are fights to pick, battles to be brawled and children to be tended to.  And I'm just the girl to do it.

    I had the great good fortune to meet Bryan a couple of years ago, when I was teaching.  He came and spoke to the high schoolers, and made a tremendous impact on many of them.  I admire him, his work and his passion for justice.

    Liebster Blog: Love is in the air!

    I was chosen to receive this by two very gracious gentlemen:  fellow bloggers at Outside the Asylum and Linen on the Hedgerow.  I am  happy to pass along the honors.

    (When you get this, please do the following: Copy and paste the Major Award to my blog. Link back the person who gave me the award. Pick out five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.)

    Here are my choices:

    1.  Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer:  The honesty and intelligence of this young Catholic blogger is endearing!
    2. Pentimento: Consistently features terrific writing, a variety of topics and has an eye-pleasing blog.  It's the whole package.
    3. And Sometimes Tea:  Best when she's ranting, she's one of the few bloggers who can write a really long post and keep the reader engaged.  (Don't know how many followers she has, but I'm putting her in my top 5.)
    4.  Daughter of Mary:  More than just a "mom blog", she has a heart and passion for pro-life causes.
    5. ...the hell with it:  Always a fun place to visit, and I admire her moxie.  She never fails to grab my attention.

    3 Good Things Thursday

    1.  Nurses.  I have always had a soft spot for nurses, as my mother is one.  I've had to deal with a lot of nurses over the past few weeks, and they have all been stellar.  Truly, this is a vocation.

    2.  Santorum Sweep.  I'm not yet sure if he'd make a good President, but I like Rick Santorum.  He is an honorable man, and I like that the race had a bit of a shake-up.

    3.  Bishops with backbones.  I remember, in the not-so-distant past, that our US Bishops rarely spoke up regarding the Faith or toed the Magisterial line.  Now, we've got a number of terrific men willing to draw a line in the sand.

    St. Josephine Bakhita

    Today is the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a woman who knew more than her fair share of heart-ache, suffering and persecution. She is the patron saint of Sudan.  The following is from the Creighton website:

    Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869 and died in Schio (Italy) in 1947. This African flower, who knew the anguish of kidnapping, slavery and torture, bloomed marvelously in Italy, in response to God's grace, close to the Daughters of Charity.
    Bakhita, which means "fortunate one," is the name given her by her kidnappers. Sold and resold in the markets of El Obeid and Khartoum, she experienced the humiliations and the sufferings of slavery, both physical, mental and moral.
    Fortunately, Bakhita encountered a good owner, who didn't use the lash when giving orders and treated her in a loving and cordial way. She later celebrated the sacraments of Christian Initiation and was given the name, Josephine, on January 9, 1890. Bakhita joined the religious institute of the Daughters of Charity of Canossa on December 8, 1896.
    On May 17, 1992, Josephine Bakhita was beatified by Pope John Paul II. She was proclaimed Saint on October 1, in the Jubilee year 2000.

    Heavenly Father,
    Your Son Jesus Christ, through His suffering and
    death on the cross, gave Himself
    as a gift of love for the reconciliation and salvation of all peoples.
    He continues to express this love
    by giving us St. Josephine Bakhita.
    She too offered herself through her suffering in slavery.
    We humbly pray that through her intercession
    You may save her brothers and sisters in Sudan
    from slavery and persecution.
    May she obtain for her people and for the whole world
    the gift of justice and peace.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.


    Still don't think Obama hates us Catholics? Read this. UPDATED: LINK FIXED

    courtesy of
    "Catholics Need Not Apply"It was bad enough when local businesses barred Catholics from certain jobs in the early 20th century. Now the White House has put “Catholics Need Not Apply” signs up in two key places:
    Last Spring, Health and Human Services issued a rule that bars the Church from helping refugee and human trafficking victims who are kids separated from their parents. The regulation says to work with them you have to be willing to perform abortions on them.
    The State Department’s USAID bars groups from feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and caring for the sick overseas unless they promise to give them condoms, too. This makes it impossible for Catholics to participate.

    Read Tom Hoopes' excellent article here.

    Just 25 more "likes" on FB and....

    one lucky fan will get a $25 Amazon gift card!  If you haven't "liked" Kissing the Leper yet, what are you waiting for??

    The American Presidency: does one deserve it, or is it an honor bestowed?

    I deserve a second term - Barack Obama
    In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president.  - Ronald Reagan

    I KNEW there was a reason my teenager was acting like that!

    Teenagers' brains are different....really.  Have you ever wondered why they act like that??  Here's why!

    Total Rip-off Tuesday

    illustration of the Book of Job, Syrian
    Wherein I "rip-off" another writer.  Today, the author of the book of Job:

    Then Job answered the LORD and said:
    I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.
    “Who is this who obscures counsel with ignorance?”
    I have spoken but did not understand;
    things too marvelous for me, which I did not know.
    “Listen, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you tell me the answers.”
    By hearsay I had heard of you,
    but now my eye has seen you.
    Therefore I disown what I have said,
    and repent in dust and ashes.

    It's a bad time to be Catholic...or is it?

    "What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course, it is the cross.” - Flannery O'Connor

    Things are tough out there for Catholics.  Obama is trying to get us to cover birth control as health care, stifling military chaplains along the way, the Komen Foundation gave us whiplash with all its shenanigans last week, and I personally saw how hateful and evil people can be when it comes to standing up for one's beliefs.  We are called prejudiced for opposing those things that strike at the very heart of our culture, our personal liberty and our religious freedoms.  Men like Rick Santorum, who has been freely elected as a public servant, is subjected to truly horrible personal attacks, and there are some who stoop so low as to poke fun at the death of his child.

    Wouldn't it be easier just to quit all this and give up?  "Thanks for everything, Pope, but things are just getting too tough for me.  Me and my family?  We're bailing.  First train outta Rome?  We're on it."

    Yes, we are living in a time of great tribulation, for people of many faiths.   Don't think that we Catholics are the only ones suffering - devout Jews are getting slammed, Muslims who stand with  us on the sanctity of human life are vilified and our Christian brothers and sisters who believe in the divine institution of marriage are constantly and consistently barraged with hostility.

    However, I believe that this is also a time of great opportunity, and history bears this out.  Think of St. Catherine of Siena.  Europe was in turmoil, to such an extent that the papacy had taken up residence in Avignon.  Scandal abounded.  She personally would have liked nothing better than retreat to the convent and live a quiet life of prayer.  And yet, she allowed God to use her as an instrument of His will.

    St. Francis of Assisi is another example.  God literally called him to "rebuild My Church".  How did St. Francis do it?  By living the Gospel and suffering great personal pain, both physical and emotional.

    Look at the great men and women of World War II: the Christians who risked their lives to save Jews.  There are missionaries today who literally risk their lives to share the message of Christ.

    Yes, we are living in a time of great tribulation.  But it is a time when we can allow Christ to work through us, wear the symbol of our faith - the Cross - with humility and conviction, and support each other.  We are called to be saints - each one of us.  Let us become who God created us to be.

    We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials. - St. Teresa of Avila

    Patronage of St. Edith Stein - Christ and the Cross

    One cannot desire freedom from the Cross when one is especially chosen for the Cross.
    St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD (Edith Stein) 

    Hard as it may be, when choosing Christ, one must also choose the Cross.  Being  a Christian requires us to carry a heavy burden sometimes, but only and always with Christ.

    Faith, Freedom and Economics: Acton University

    Are you interested in theology, economics, liberty and faith?  Want to spend four days learning from world class faculty and meeting like-minded people from diverse backgrounds?  Then think about Acton University.  Learn more here.

    Blogging issues

    Blogger is apparently having some issues, and I can't get to any comments on posts.  Hope they resolve this quickly.

    Mary Cassatt Monday

    Vase of Lilac

    What constitutes "health care"?

    Wow.  It's been an astounding couple of weeks.  Not only has our family's personal experience been nearly surreal, we've also been watching the two biggest life-issues stories in a long time:  the battle between how the Komen Foundation chooses to spend its money and the political clout of Planned Parenthood, and the Obama Administration's heavy-fisted pursuit of denying personal and religious liberty to certain organizations.

    This is from Kishore Jayabalan at the Acton Institute:

    What if Obama is actually making a principled argument that abortion, sterilization and contraception services are a fundamental aspect of women’s health that cannot and should not be denied to anyone, regardless of their own religious or individual convictions? Perhaps the White House believes, as most progressives do, that these stodgy, uptight opponents will eventually, inevitably, be overcome and we will one day wonder what all the fuss about. If so, the administration is doing much more than thinking about the next election; it’s redefining what the word “health” means to include measures that violently take away life from the most innocent and vulnerable persons, regardless of who pays for the services. This makes it much more than a religious freedom or a conscience issue and a matter of simple justice.

    Stabat Mater

    At the cross her station keeping,
    Mary stood in sorrow weeping
    When her Son was crucified.

    While she waited in her anguish,
    Seeing Christ in torment languish,
    Bitter sorrow pierced her heart.

    With what pain and desolation,
    With what noble resignation,
    Mary watched her dying Son.

    Prayers for those in the Consecrated Life

    If you are blessed, you know some good priests, brothers, sisters and nuns.  Please pray for them.  Today is the World Day for Consecrated Life.  You can learn more, and download a prayer card for yourself and to share at the US Bishops' site.

    Three Good Things Thursday

    Can't say it's an easy week to come up with good things, but here goes!

    1.  The big news:  Susan G. Komen cuts off Planned Parenthood.  Now maybe my sisters and I can make that breast cancer walk....

    2.  Pedicures.  For as much as a girly-girl that I am, I'd never had one...until yesterday.  It was AWESOME!

    3.  Meals:  with the hellacious past 10 days, we haven't starved.  Friends and family have brought us soup, pot roast, pizza, chicken and rice.  Never underestimate the power of a meal in a crisis.  Not just food for the belly, but food for the soul.

    Letting others pray for you

    To say I am having a hard time praying right now would be like saying Obama stands a wee bit to the left:  a vast understatement.  Really, my only prayer is standing next to Mary at the foot of the Cross and clutching her hand.  I don't have any words, I don't have anything to say or ask for.  I'm just standing there, holding on.

    I'm letting others pray for me.  And I know many, many people are.  My sister-in-law, who has passed away, once told me one of the jobs of your guardian angel was, in Heaven, to introduce you to all the people who had prayed for your throughout your life - those known to you and those not.  I am expecting to be greeting many souls.

    I was talking to one of my dear friends, L., who is Muslim, while my daughter was still missing.  I told her I was trying to pray but couldn't find any words.  She sent me this from the Qu'ran:  “Our Lord! Take us not to task if we forget or miss the mark. Our Lord! Do not place on us a burden like what You placed on those before us. Our Lord! Do not place a burden on us that is beyond our strength to bear. Blot out our misdeeds, grant us the protection of forgiveness, and bestow grace upon us. You are our Lord Supreme, so help us against people who oppose the truth.”  That got prayed a lot.

    My dear friend A., whom I used to teach with, told me she was praying the Rosary for us.  Now, that probably doesn't seem like too big of a deal, given that A. is a Catholic school teacher - a  religion teacher.  But she has a terrible time praying the Rosary.  It's probably her least favorite prayer.  She dislikes its repetitive nature, its stillness, its meditative essence.  It's incredibly hard for her to pray.  And yet, she's praying it for us.  I know what a monumental spiritual effort this is for her.

    I don't know if you've ever had the experience of having many people praying for your in a time of crisis.  I can tell you:  you actually FEEL the prayers.  They prop you up, sustain you.  You think, "I can do this", whether it's getting out the shower (instead of just staying there until the hot water tank drains), getting to work and staying on task for more than 3 minutes, or holding your daughter's hand while she recounts - again - what monstrous things happened to her.

    I am still not praying much, but that's okay.  I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and their prayers envelop me in grace.

    My baby, he wrote me a letter

    One of the casualties of our post-modern age is the handwritten letter. Can you remember the last time you received one? We hardly even s...