St. John of Avila

Again, Pope Benedict will be naming two new Doctors of the Church in October, one of whom is St. John of Avila (not to be confused with John of the Cross, a contemporary of his, but who is already a Doctor of the Church).

There is as nice biography of him here.

O you souls who wish to go on with so much safety and consolation, if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering, and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross of the Lord.

The Visitation

artist unknown

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord"

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Short work weeks and long weekends. Although, is anyone else out there still thinking it's Wednesday??

2. Facebook. Yes, all social media has its problems: it can be invasive, time-consuming, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yet, yesterday, a friend who lives 2000 miles away asked for prayers as he rushed his 5 year old son to the ER with a broken arm. What a blessing to be able to ask for and receive prayers from so many, so quickly.

3. Being married to my best friend for 25 years and having an awesome day of celebration with family and friends - joy!


Yeah, I know I'm Franciscan, but I can't resist sharing these guys! (Make sure you hit the "cc" button on the bottom of the screen to turn on the captions.)

Verily, Verily

Verily blog
It's no secret that I'm a girly-girl. I get my mani-pedis (which I remind my husband are cheaper than therapy), I love fashion, makeup, watching the trends and seeing what's new. Of course, I also live in the real world, and what walks down the runway isn't generally acceptable for the office, church or running errands. There's also the teensy little fact that a lot of what happens in the fashion world is horrendously scandalous, both in terms of behavior and looks. And I don't know about you, but I have often had the experience of leafing through a "woman's magazine" in a doctor's office and thought, "Who they heck are they talking to?? This is not MY life!"

Enter Verily magazine.

This slick number has everything a girl could want: latest trends in fashion and makeup, relationship stuff, articles on culture, music, movies, books, real women sharing real stories. Their teaser issue says this in the editorial: We are aiming to show style that respects our dignity, instead of compromising it; to explore our relationships, not just sex; and feature thought-provoking articles, not just rhetoric. This is but a small step in our mission to help women lead, integrated, fulfilling lives...

I will fully admit that they had me when I hit the spread on "The Women of Downton Abbey". Oh, yeah, I'll be subscribing to this magazine!

Check it out!

What's REALLY important?

I saw this blog post this morning, with the intriguing title of "The Unimportance of Practically Everything". Since it's from Harvard Business Review, the focus is, well, business. But look:

Why do otherwise intelligent people find it so easy to be distracted from what really matters?

The author talks about a friend who, while a successful business person, is constantly distracted by his cell phone, emails, social media, etc., finding it hard to focus on the most pertinent tasks of his day.

Why do otherwise intelligent people find it so easy to be distracted from what really matters?

Can't we ask exactly the same question about our spiritual lives? We know we should pray regularly. We know we should make time for our marriage and family, our friends and relationships, a priority. We know that spiritual reading will bear fruit. And yet....we are distracted from what really matters.

What really matters?

I used to make a yearly retreat, and the retreat master - every year - gave the same speech at the beginning of the weekend: "The most important work of your life is the salvation of your immortal soul."

What really matters?

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”- Mt. 22:37-40

Today is a good day to recognize the unimportance of nearly everything, don't you think?

St. Hildegard of Bingen

icon by Robert Lentz
I noted yesterday that Pope Benedict was planning on bestowing the title of "Doctor" on two saints, Hildegard of Bingen and St. John of Avila. Typically, the title is bestowed based on the writings and teachings of such folks, so I though we could take a little closer look at each of them.

First, from the Fordham University website:

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a remarkable woman, a "first" in many fields. At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, known as "Sybil of the Rhine", produced major works of theology and visionary writings. When few women were accorded respect, she was consulted by and advised bishops, popes, and kings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known. She founded a vibrant convent, where her musical plays were performed. Although not yet canonized, Hildegard has been beatified, and is frequently referred to as St. Hildegard. Revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the middle ages was initiated by musicologists and historians of science and religion. Less fortunately, Hildegard's visions and music had been hijacked by the New Age movement, whose music bears some resemblance to Hildegard's ethereal airs. Her story is important to all students of medieval history and culture and an inspirational account of an irresisible spirit and vibrant intellect overcoming social, physical, cultural, gender barriers to achieve timeless transcendence. 

And from Hildegard herself:

Like hairs on the head, mortal man is joined to Jesus Christ, the head of all, but they are full of transgressions and sins because of man's delight in the flesh. But the Church regenerates and purifies these from the unclean stench and filth of sin by penitence and confession, just as hair is cleansed from dew and drops, and as dust is shaken out and cleansed from wool.
HILDEGARD OF BINDEN, letter to the Abbot, c. 1166

What's a "Church Doctor"?

There is news from the Vatican that Pope Benedict will declare two new Doctors of the Church in October, Hildegard of Bingen and John of Avila.

So, what exactly is a "doctor of the church"? This is a person whose writings and teachings have become so important to the Universal Church that they are given the honorary title of "doctor". These are NOT people who are defining new teachings or dogma, but rather those who highlight, bring forth, or instruct what the Church already teaches in a new and/or more enlightened manner.

Here's a list of current Doctors of the Church:
Saint Ambrose (c. 340-397), BISHOP OF MILAN, Italy, a major opponent of Arianism, wrote and preached extensively [named a Doctor of the church, 1298].
Saint Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430), North African bishop, author of Confessions, City of God, and numerous treatises, countered heretical movements, one of the most influential theologians of the Western church, called "Doctor of Grace" [1298].
Saint Jerome(c. 343-420), translated Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin and revised Latin translation of New Testament to produce Vulgate version of Bible, called "Father of Biblical Science" [1298].
Saint Gregory the Great (c. 540-604), pope, strengthened papacy and worked for clerical and monastic reform [1298].
Saint Athanasius (c. 297-373), bishop of Alexandria, dominant opponent of Arians, called "Father of Orthodoxy" [1298]
Saint John Chrysostom ("Golden-Mouthed") (c. 347-407), archbishop of Constantinople, homilist, writer of scripture commentaries and letters, patron of preachers [1568].
Saint Basil the Great (c. 329-379), bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor, refuted Arian errors, wrote treatises, homilies, and monastic rules, called "Father of Monasticism of the East" [1568].
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 330-390), bishop of Constantinople, opponent of Arianism, wrote major theological treatises as well as letters and poetry, called the "Christian Demosthenes" and, in the East, "The Theologian" [1568].
Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Italian Dominican, wrote systematically on philosophy, theology, and Catholic doctrine, patron of Catholic schools and education, one of the most influential theologians in the West [1568].
Saint Bonaventure (c. 1217-1274), Franciscan, bishop of Albano, Italy, cardinal [1588].
Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), archbishop, called "Father of Scholasticism" [1720].
Saint Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636), Spanish bishop, encylopedist, and preeminent scholar of his day [1722].
Saint Peter Chrysologus (c. 400-450), archbishop of Ravenna, Italy, homilist and writer, counteracted Monophysite heresy [1729].
Saint Leo I, the Great (c. 400-461), pope, wrote christological and other works against the heresies of his day [1754].
Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072), Italian Benedictine and cardinal, ecclesiastical and clerical reformer [1828].
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (c. 1090-1153), French Cistercian abbot and monastic reformer, called "Mellifluous Doctor" [1830].
Saint Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315-368), one of first Latin doctrinal writers, opposed Arianism [1851].
Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), founder of Redemptorists, preeminent moral theologian and apologist, patron of confessors and moralists[1871].
Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), bishop of Geneva, spiritual writer, patron of Catholic writers and press [1877].
Saint Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444), bishop, authored doctrinal treatises against Nestorian heresy [1882].
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386), bishop, catechist, vigorous opponent of Arianism [1882].
Saint John Damascene (c. 675-749), Syrian monk, doctrinal writer, called "Golden Speaker" [1890].
Saint Bede the Venerable (c. 673-735), English Benedictine, called "Father of English History" [1899].
Saint Ephrem the Syrian (c. 306-373), counteracted Gnosticism and Arianism with his poems, hymns, and other writings [1920].
Saint Peter Canisius (1521-1597), Dutch Jesuit, catechist, important figure in Counter-Reformation in Germany [1925].
Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591), founder of Discalced Carmelites, called "Doctor of Mystical Theology" [1926].
Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), Italian Jesuit, archbishop of Capua, wrote Reformation-era doctrinal defenses, catechisms, and works on ecclesiology and church-state relations [1931].
Saint Albert the Great (c. 1200-1280), German Dominican, bishop of Regensburg, teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas, patron of scientists, called "Universal Doctor" and "Expert Doctor" [1932].
Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), first theologian of Franciscans, preacher, called "Evangelical Doctor" [1946].
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619), Italian Capuchin Franciscan, influential post-Reformation preacher [1959].
Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582), Spanish Carmelite, initiated discalced Carmelite movement, prolific spiritual and mystical writer, first woman Doctor of the church [1970].
Saint Catherine of Siena (c. 1347-1380), Italian Third Order Dominican, mystical author, also active in support of Crusades and in papal politics[1970].
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), French Carmelite, wrote spiritual autobiography describing her "little way" of spiritual perfection [1997]. 
(Thanks to U.S. Catholic for this list.)

Total Rip-off Tuesdays

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff.

Sr. Helena Burns, a Paulist sister, has a great media blog, "Hell Burns". I wanted to share part of her review of  "For Greater Glory":

“For Greater Glory” (“Cristiada” in Mexico) is the untold story of Mexico’s Cristeros War (or “Cristiada”): 1926-1929, between the government and Catholics (the actual involvement of the Mexican clergy/hierarchy and Rome is a little murkier). The events are historically accurate, and certain characters are real personalities from the struggle.

Most Americans have never heard of the Cristeros War, and, it seems, just as many Mexicans are ignorant of it as well! Why? Understandably, it makes 33rd degree Mason President Calles and the Mexican establishment look bad, so it’s not in the history textbooks. His brutal enforcement of anti-clerical laws, expelling of foreign clergy, forbidding of Catholic Masses and sacraments, as well as the outright slaughter of many priests, nuns and laity was extreme repression and a complete denial of religious freedom. Calles thought the Catholics would bow to such pressure. No such thing. The “Cristeros” took up arms and fought back--clergy among them.

“Viva Cristo Rey!” was the rallying cry of the resisters, fighters, and all faithful Catholics. Calles set up a schismatic “patriotic Church” much like the Communists in China today. (Incidentally, Cubans echoed the same allegiance before being put to death by Fidel Castro’s firing squads—see the excellent book “Against All Hope” by Armando Valladares.)

If anyone DOES know about the Cristeros War, it’s usually because they know the story of the daring young Jesuit, Blessed Fr. Miguel Pro, who used to travel around Mexico in disguise to administer the sacraments. In a huge PR blunder, Calles had the executions of priests photographed. He thought this would terrorize and deter Catholics. It had the exact opposite effect. Martyrs were created, AND there was government-issue proof! The photos of Fr. Miguel’s execution by firing squad can easily be found on Google. Fr. Pro is not mentioned in “For Greater Glory,” but no need, there are other amazing stories of heroes and heroines to be told.

The movie isn't without its flaws: read the whole review here.

By the side of the road

There's an older gentleman who lives down the road from us. I don't know him, but he has a wooden sign on this property that he changes about once a week or so, with a quote on it, usually just three or four words. Typically, it's a literary quote and our family has good fun checking the sign when we drive past, seeing who knows the reference. One of us almost always does, but once in awhile we have to "google it" to figure it out. (One was a rather obscure A. E. Housman poem...that one had me stumped for a day or two...)

I always want to stop and tell this man how much we enjoy his little roadside treat, but he doesn't seem to be the type who wants company. His house sits back off the road, with a long winding drive, set apart from the road by a gated and locked fence. Funny how he chooses this little way to share himself with the world,when clearly he's a man who doesn't seem to want to interact much. We see him, once in awhile, near his home, tromping around with his dog and that's about it.

Good enough. Clearly, he's found his own little piece of paradise and likes it just fine the way it is. It is ironic, though, how much impact this "isolated" man has. Makes me think about the power of silence, choosing our words carefully, and being simple in what we say. Obviously, this man has figured that out.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. 
Proverbs 18:21

25 years of wedded bliss!

Modern Art Monday

"Night and Day" - Sacha Kolin, 1956

I need a clone!

I told someone yesterday that I felt as if I had a swarm of bees in my head - I have so much to do! Work is very busy, I have a 25th anniversary get-together to plan, a graduation open house in the offing, one kid needs some surgery, every kid needs to be somewhere at some time, and on and on and on.

I am almost frantic.

But this morning I remembered: take a deep breath and pray. And I did.

For you, LORD, give light to my lamp;
my God brightens my darkness.
With you I can rush an armed band,
with my God to help I can leap a wall.
God’s way is unerring;
the LORD’s promise is refined;
he is a shield for all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 18)

Three Good Things Thursday

1. High school graduations. Oh, I know, The caps and gowns don't change, the speeches are pretty similar, and we always hear "Pomp and Circumstance". But high school graduations are a right of passage that the young people realize is an awesome part of their lives. It's fun and sad and weighty and traditional and emotional. It is a one of those clear thresholds in a person's life, where you step from one very safe and secure known into a vast unknown. Hurray for grads!

2. Thunderstorms. Ya either love 'em or hate 'em. I love 'em! Grandeur and rain, noise and lightening.

3. Fresh, homemade, yeast and powdered sugar cinnamon rolls. Yum. (Even better: I didn't have to make them. They were a gift!)

25 Years

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary. I can't believe 25 years have passed since I walked down that aisle to meet the man I couldn't wait to spend my life with. I don't remember being nervous or worried about anything that day - I was just so excited that I was going to be MARRIED to him. It was a wonderful Mass, a wonderful day of friends and family, and a joyful celebration. My daddy walked me down that aisle and handed me off to the only man that I thought measured up to my father.

We didn't have a dime then, so we never had a honeymoon. We just moved into our little apartment, and I had so much fun organizing our wedding gifts into the cupboards and shelves. One night, we mentally removed all the furniture that had been given to us to see what we really "owned": we were left with a second hand dining room table and our mattress.

I had about $40 a week for groceries, which was plenty, but I still worried over the list and then walked to the store and back.

Although we'd been together for 3 1/1 years, that first year was such a year of discovery and fun. I realized he didn't talk at the dinner table - he'd been taught not to as a child. For me, the dinner table was where you met at the end of the day to report the day's news, share events, yack, yack, yack....and he was silent. That was funny - and frustrating - to me.

Oh, I thought I'd get pregnant right away. And I didn't. And didn't. And didn't. And the realization of infertility slowly dawned.

25 years? Oh, my gosh. My prayer today is that we have at least 25 more...because it really hasn't been enough time yet with the most wonderful man in the world.

Amazing, amazing, amazing

One blogger that I truly admire is The Crescat - she's witty & hilarious, true to the Faith and honest. We don't share a style of writing, but we do share a love of writing.

Her newest blog post is nothing short of amazing - a brutally honest baring of the soul regarding the scandal of abortion and its effects. Read it.

The Death of Liberal Catholicism?

From my work blog.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I rip-off another writer. Not taking credit, just sharing some good stuff.

The bishops of the US took the bold move of suing the Obama Administration yesterday over "Obamacare", after the government refused to rescind its forcing employers to provide birth control and abortion under the guise of health care. With that in mind, the great G. K. Chesterton:

ONCE abolish the God, and the government becomes the God. That fact is written all across human history; but it is written most plainly across that recent history of Russia; which was created by Lenin. There the Government is the God, and all the more the God, because it proclaims aloud in accents of thunder, like every other God worth worshipping, the one essential commandment: 'Thou shalt have no other gods but Me.'  ~ “Christendom in Dublin.”

Modern Art Monday

The Best Catholic Novel of the 20th Century

I wholeheartedly agree.

"Common Grace"

I work with a bunch of folks who work hard every day to bring truth to the world. One project has been translating the work of Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch Reformed theologian whose work revolved around "common grace":  “this is not a saving, regenerating, or electing grace, but a preserving grace extended to the world God has made, and is seen in the human inclination to serve one’s neighbor through work, pursue shalom in broken situations, and defend equity in all forms of interaction.”

My weekend started at 4:45 a.m. Saturday morning, when my husband nudged me and told me we needed to go the ER. He has a minor heart condition that was acting up, and we had to go get him hooked up to an EKG and make sure he was okay. He was.

The only problem was, that I had made a date with Dark-haired Daughter that day. She's been hospitalized for months, 2 1/2 hours away from home, since February, following an assault. It was her first day pass, and we had planned a girls' day out. My plan had been to drive down there on Saturday morning, spend the afternoon with her, and drive home, but blurry-eyed, I was afraid a round-trip would be too much for me (I don't like driving all that much anyway.) There was miles of construction that would slow down my return trip til late on Saturday, and I knew I wouldn't be a safe driver with all those miles and lessened sleep. AND, I had to be back home early Sunday, as we were celebrating Graduation Mass for Curly-haired Daughter and her classmates at our parish.

Dear Husand and I decided I shoulde get a hotel room for Saturday night that would put me near Dark-haired Daughter, but closer to home for a quicker ride on Sunday morning, in the hope that construction slow downs would be minimal in the early Sunday hours.  The issue, of course, is that money is always tight, but it still seemed the best plan. I booked the room, mentally making dollar signs, adding and subtracting to budgets and weekly needs, and then hauled out my suitcase.

I hadn't used that  suitcase out for about two months, when I'd made another trip to visit Dark-haired Daughter, and then spent the night with a dear friend. We visited that night, caught up, ate and drank, cried and laughed, as only old and dear friends can do. As I was was preparing for this trip, I found a little envelope from that friend tucked into the corner of my suitcase. It was just a tiny card, with her name and some cash folded inside. Cash that made my weekend so much easier.

That, my friends, is common grace.

Parenting a Teenager? Don't do these things.

1. Don't stop hugging and kissing them. They may protest, but don't stop. They need the affection. If they don't get it from you, they WILL seek it elsewhere.
2. Don't assume they are going to be where they say they are. Be that annoying parent that checks up, drops in, calls the other parent to confirm plans. Your teen will hate it, but that's okay.
3. Don't give them approval for stupid stuff. Don't say "It's okay to drink alcohol as long as you're at home and not driving." No, it's not. It's illegal. It's unhealthy. It also gives the impression (accurately) that you really don't care what they do as long as there aren't consequences you have to deal with.
4. Speaking of which, don't back off on consequences. If you tell her she's grounded for two weeks, and she makes your life a living H&^* so you're tempted to shorten that just to get her out of the house, don't. She'll know that from then on, she can play you. And she'll be right.
5. Don't be a friend. It's okay to have fun, enjoy each other's company and be nice, but you're not the friend. He has lots of friends. He needs a mom and dad, not another pal.
6. Don't skimp on manners. Insist that your young man holds the door for you, uses the right utensil, says "please" and "thank you". Make sure your young lady knows how to order in a nice restaurant, get in and out of a car wearing a skirt, and be respectful of elders. Not only will this serve them well in life, their future boss will thank you for it.
7. Don't do everything for them. They need to know how to make an appointment for themselves, take the heat for a missed assignment, complain (nicely) about shoddy service and get their money back. Help them grow a backbone.
8. Don't cook for them all the time. Every kid should know how to cook a decent meal (not just warm stuff up). Even if it's spaghetti, salad and bread, your teen should be able to put a respectable meal on the table. Future dates will thank you for this one.
9. Don't put down their friends. Even if you don't like that friend, make that snotty kid feel welcome as the Pope in your home. In fact, insist that they hang out at your place. You can keep on eye on things there.
10. Don't let religion slide, but don't fight with them when they question the Faith. It is NORMAL (do you hear me: NORMAL!!) for young people to start wondering why they believe what they do. DO NOT PANIC and DO NOT FIGHT. Answer. Give them some books to read. Find allies like youth ministers and grand parents. If you let them know it's okay to ask, they will. If you fight with them, you've already lost the battle.

The Ascension of the Lord

Salvador Dali

Today is traditionally the day the Ascension is celebrated, although here in the US, the bishops have moved the celebration to a Sunday.

O Lord,
Your Ascension into heaven
marks the culmination of the Paschal Mystery,
and it contains an important teaching for us.
May we live life as an earthly reality
and develop our human potential to the fullest.
May we make use of the results of science
to achieve a better life on this planet.
But in our best moments
we know that there must be more
than all of this,
a transcending Reality.
As Christians, we know that this Reality
is Your loving Father
Who awaits us with You and the Holy Spirit.
Where You have gone,
we ultimately will come - if we are faithful.

A happy pastoral leader

From Cardinal Dolan's Twitter feed: Lots of folks have asked me about the cape photo from CUA's commencement. I call it my Batman pose. Enjoy! 
Nanananananana: Dolan!

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Fr. Robert Barron named Rector at Mundelein Seminary. Those seminarians are SO blessed!

2. Acts of the Apostles. During this Easter season, we get to hear about the baby Church: how Saul was suspect and rejected at first ("He's not one of us! He hates us!"), and Peter struggling with the leadership role, telling people "I'm just a regular guy." Nice to know that our Church has had problems since the beginning (reassuring, huh?) and yet, here we are.

3. Hydrangeas. I took this picture on my walk to work yesterday. Aren't they glorious??

Total Rip-off Tuesday, Deux

Yeah, I know, but this is good. Chris Dixon writing about blogging to learn, which is exactly how I feel about blogging:

People blog for all sorts of reasons. For me, it is mostly about learning. This wasn’t my original intention – it evolved over time. Now I see blogging as part of a continuous learning process:
- Start every morning by skimming through news, blogs, articles, etc. Much of this is tech related. I used to get tech news in the newspaper, then in Google Reader, and now mostly from Twitter. If someone I meet mentions something interesting that was published that I didn’t read, I go back and figure out how I missed it and change who I follow on Twitter so it doesn’t happen again.
- Try to meet with interesting people during the week. The reason being up on tech news is important is so that we can get the most out of the meetings. Often we’ll talk about whatever each of us is working on at the time but it’s also good to have news or blog posts as shared reference points. This makes the meetings more interesting for everyone.
- Try to learn at least one interesting thing each week and then blog about it. Then see how people react in comments, on Twitter etc. I guess some bloggers don’t like comments but for me they are the crucial so that I can get feedback on new hypotheses. Blogging new hypotheses also means a decent portion of your blog posts need to be ignored or ridiculed. Otherwise you are playing it too safe.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Where-in I "rip-off"another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff. And this is really good stuff: photographer Shana Dressler shares her work of photography and religious festivals.

I GRADUATED WITH A DEGREE in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Vassar College, and also spent three years studying graduate-level comparative religion and anthropology at Columbia University, and photography at the International Center of Photography. I was fascinated by Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Far East, and my gut instinct told me that if I wanted to understand the cultures there, I should learn about the religions first.

The pics are amazing!
Honoring the goddess of rivers in Cuba

Dance in Brazil honoring goddess Yansa

Be of good cheer...dammit

I am not by nature a cheerful person. I am Irish. We have little to be cheerful about, save Guinness. Deep sorrow and a general distrust of humanity dwells deep in my DNA.

I have five children, ranging in age from 15 - 20, so someone is always mad at me.

My dog just died.

I am Catholic, and while this brings great joy, it also brings great guilt. I feel guilty about everything. Really. I'm pretty sure there was something I could have done to help that poor blind Chinese guy escape to the US sooner. I know that I should have worked harder to master Lego building for my youngest son's sake. And I can't bake very well. Guilty as charged.

Yet, I am working damn hard to be of good cheer. Why? Because (and yes, the irony of this does not escape me), grumpy people tick me off. There is one woman that I frequently ride the bus with in the mornings, and she never misses an opportunity to complain about the driver, the busing system, traffic. Really? You're on the bus for all of ten minutes, and it's a FREE shuttle. Why are you so upset?

Then there's that guy in the pick up truck who inevitably roars past me on the rural road on which I live, flipping me off because I'm only driving 65 miles per hour. Grouch.

But here's the thing. I don't want to be petulant, sulky or complaining. I want to enjoy life. I want to have fun. It just takes so much work! It does not come naturally to me. If I am not careful, I will be the complaining woman on the bus, the person flipping you off in traffic, the woman snarling in the checkout line, the bitter mom belittling her kids constantly, the wife who does nothing but publicly complain about her spouse.

And I don't want to be that person. I am never going to be the carefree spirit who is able to pick up and go on a moment's notice. I'm not going to trip the light fantastic, look on the bright side, let go and let loose, be devil-may-care, see the silver lining or keep my chin up.

But I am gonna be cheerful. Even if it kills me.

What we moms are doing in the digital world

Don't "friend" your pastor on Facebook

A message of joy, a jubilant shout

From St. Gregory of Narek (about whom I know nothing....), this was the meditation yesterday in "Magnificat" magazine. I was humbled by the thoughts and uplifted by the language:

By your will, Almighty, may the ears of my stubborn heart be open to the sound of life.
By this tiding of your magnificent good works,
may the ears of the deaf hear.
Through this bell may the tongues of the dumb speak.
May the sight of the eyes be restored,
that they might look upon you purely in unwavering adoration.
May the weary wills of men be refreshed,
that they might repent and return to you.
In my turmoil, O Lord,
grant me the rain of tears
Let this be from you to us
a message of joy,
a jubilant shout,
a tranquil song,
a thing of bliss,
a means of salvation,
an occasion for pardon,
a banishment of grief,
an extrication from entanglements,
an easing of anxiety,
a ceasing of cares,
a dispelling of sighs,
an alleviation of groaning,
an assurance of necessities,
a discipline of passions,
a consolation for disappointments,
a cure for pains,
an immunization against backsliding,
a contemplation of things invisible.

Oh, Lord, hear our prayer!

Mary Cassatt Monday

The Crochet Lesson

Happy Mother's Day

artist Lucienne Antoinette Heuvelmans

God our Creator, we pray:for new mothers, coming to terms with new responsibility;

for expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;

for those who are tired, stressed or depressed;

for those who struggle to balance the tasks of work and family;

for those who are unable to feed their children due to poverty;

for those whose children have physical, mental or emotional disabilities;

for those who have children they do not want;

for those who raise children on their own;

for those who have lost a child;

for those who care for the children of others;

for those whose children have left home;

and for those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.

Bless all mothers, that their love may be deep and tender,

and that they may lead their children to know and do what is good,

living not for themselves alone, but for God and for others.



It's Friday, and let's just have a little laugh

My very favorite nutty religion story of the week:
Miracle Baby Born in Church holding small Holy Quran :: Islam News

There's a picture and everything. It's on the internet - must be true!

Cardinal Dolan

Loved his Tweet this morning: I love this quote and try my best to live it out every day: "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God."

The new Swiss Guard

From Vatican Insider. Go to the website and see all the photos - they are terrific!

Are they buying what you're selling?

"People do business with people they like," a young man was told this by his father, a business man. How true. We want to be served well, treated respectfully and honestly, with genuine concern and superior service. When that happens, we go back for more needs, goods and services. If you're a business person, this is an invaluable lesson.

What? You're NOT a business person? You're a stay-at-home mom? A blogger? A nurse? Maybe a student or a volunteer?

You're still selling something. We ALL have something to sell.

If you're a Christian, your very life should be a big ole advertisement for the life of a Christian. It should be the lit-up billboard by the side of a dark road that says, "Here's what you've been looking for." It should be the Super Bowl ad that people talk about for weeks afterwards. Your life as a Christian should be selling the Christian life.

Does it? Are you like-able? Do you genuinely care for those around you? Do you serve with compassion and honesty? (And yes, that means your family too - even when they leave their dirty socks and snack wrappers on the living room floor.) Do you treat everyone you come in contact with well? What happens when you get treated badly? How do you react? How do you smooth over problems, complications and disagreements?

I suppose, if you are a pessimist or a non-believer, you might say this is just an act. "Hey, you're just 'selling' a product and your product happens to be some guy named Jesus. You're all a bunch of phonies." I would say that if you're NOT being likeable, then you're a phony Christian. Our faith is supposed to give us joy, radiate love to others and be genuinely concerned for everyone we meet - not just the ones we like.

Are you the sort of person a non-Christian would want to "do business with", learn from, come back for more? If a non-Christian met you, would they buy what you're selling?

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Nurses. It's National Nurses Week, and as the daughter of an R.N., I know how hard they work, how incredibly dedicated they are, how important the care they provide is.

2. Cheerful people who do their jobs well. There is a small coffee shop/restaurant in the building where I work, and I often stop in there first thing in the morning to grab a bagel or a cup of tea. The folks that work there are, without fail, cheerful, chatty and happy to serve. I always walk out of there with a smile.

3. Phone calls from loved ones. What a true gift it is to hear the voice of someone you love, but don't get to see frequently. We take it for granted, don't we?

So much to blog, so little time....

Freaky busy at work, and I am bound and determined to finish a sweater tonight when I get home. With a nod to, here are a few goodies you may have missed in Catholic blogdom:

Chivalry Is Dead: It Collided With My Stroller

 A gay saint? Why not?

Dan Savage: Bully 

Why 4 Sets of Mysteries for the Rosary? Why not 5 or even 7?

 Enjoy the good stuff that's out there, and share!

The Sorrow of Mother's Day

Sadness, by Alphonse Mucha
You've probably noticed a marked increase in commercials for floral arrangements and jewelry - Mother's Day is almost here. But for some women, it won't be a day of badly cooked breakfast in bed, a bouquet of roses and a card shakily signed card by little hands.

For many women, this will not be a day of celebration. There are those women who suffer infertility, and those women who've suffered miscarriage. There are women who have lost children through death or estrangement, and those whose children choose not to have anything to do with mom, for reasons we won't know. Certainly, there are many mothers who have given up children for adoption, and still ache for that loss, even if it was done under the best of circumstances. Others may have children whose kids live with dad after a divorce, or women who simply wanted to have kids....and for reasons only the universe will know, it just never happened.

If you see someone woman cringing this Sunday at church as the pastor asks all the moms to stand for a special blessing, stop afterwards and say a kind word or just say hello. Most of all, remember in prayer all those women who won't be celebrating a darn thing this Sunday.

Total Rip-Off Tuesday

Total Rip-off Tuesday: wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just sharing interesting stuff.

I admit it: I used to buy Oprah magazine every month. Then, I wondered why I was giving Oprah, the richest woman in America my money for something that didn't really speak to me.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one.  Here is Amy Henry:

Way beyond the debate about Oprah’s spiritual state (I’m exhaustified of my sorts trying to peg her into any particular theological heresy), what hits me is the O‘s in-your-face-how-can-we-not-have-seen-it hypocrisy:

Accept who you are!–(Yet, How to get better with age! Rev up your metabolism! Refresh your style! Recharge your spirit!)

Be original!–(Here, dress in this cool $895 outfit, try this new $98 skin enhancer, copy the liberated lives of these five uber-original women who have–surprise!–ditched their husbands to find fulfillment!)

Declutter!–(But first buy this Physician’s Formula lotion–Look 6 years younger in 4 weeks: We promise!…Buy these four books actor Bill Paxton recommends, Try one or all of the ten books Oprah herself recommends!, Fill your closets with these no-fail outfits sure to get you attention in the spring! And the ever-so essential wide-brimmed hat for only $58! And the shampoo to eliminate that pesky dandruff! And these neat new ceramic containers that double as a colander AND a serving dish for strawberries! And these neat, new, green versions of the wing-tip gold shoe that no truly fashion-aware woman dare not have stuffing up her closets!

You can read her entire piece over at Patheos.

Faith & Joy

Here at Kissing the Leper, we are all about joy. Here's a great post about sharing your faith with joy, from The Thin Veil. Read...and practice!

Thinking about Mother's Day

artist: Debbie Cooper
Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother.
Lin Yutang, Chinese writer

We should all pray for this...

From Father James Martin, S.J.:

[A} priest friend serving as a secretary to one of the local bishops reported on a private dinner with the pope and a few bishops. At the end of the meal, Benedict asked those gathered together to pray for him. "For what intention, Holy Father?" said one. "That I may never get in the way of Jesus Christ."

Mary Cassatt Monday

Louisine W. Haverymeyer

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta & St. Francis of Assisi

I like it when the saints talk about each other. Even across geography and time, they share an understanding of the Christian life - what it means to wholly surrender one's self day after day to imitating Jesus.
I found this little article from American Catholic, as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta comments on St. Francis:

Why does she admire St. Francis? And why does she think that he has had an impact on her life? “I suppose it’s because St. Francis of Assisi tried to imitate the poverty of Christ so closely,” responds the nun who has spent 35 years caring for the poor and dying in the slums of Calcutta.

The incident in the life of St. Francis that most appeals to her is his kissing of the leper. One day St. Francis had passed a leper on the road—too repulsed at first even to greet the man. “But then he came back and embraced him,” Mother Teresa relates. “That was the beginning of St. Francis. That act of surrender made St. Francis.... After that he was ready to give anything!”

Most of us will never come into contact with a leper. Yet, we meet lepers of society every day: in the homeless, the obese, the autistic, the alcoholic and addicted, the tattooed, the mentally ill - all those whom society relegates to the fringes and says: "not REALLY one of us....not TRULY like me...." Are we (you and me, actually, in real life, not just talking about some airy, academic sense) going to embrace them fully, like Francis and Teresa, or are we  going to simply turn away? I am willing to bet that, if you pay close attention, God will provide you an opportunity this week to kiss the leper.

Sacred Place of the Day

The Chapel of St. Gildas sits upon the bank of the Canal du Blavet in Brittany, France. Built like a stone barn into the base of a bare rocky cliff, this was once a holy place of the Druids. Gildas appears to have travelled widely throughout the Celtic world of Corwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. He arrived in Brittany in about AD 540 and is said to have preached Christianity to the people from a rough pulpit, now contained within the chapel.

Friday Fun....Calming Manatee

(With deep appreciation to Tallest Son for sharing this silliness with me.)

Kindness and the Culture of Death

I don't know why, but I have noticed a great deal of cruelty lately. It's not the "let's beat up the little kid for his lunch money" or physical assaults, but more the (unfortunately) mundane daily variety: snarky remarks, mean comments behind the cloak of the internet, rolling of eyes and gossipy ways. It's really bothering me.

I do believe it's strongly related to what Bl. John Paul II referred to as the "culture of death". In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, he noted that we had moved from a culture that celebrated and supported life to one where death is efficiently and systemically promoted.

As I said, the cruelty I've noticed doesn't mean anyone is dead - unless of course you count the death of the soul. And we all know that old saying of "sticks and stones" isn't true at all - words can wound. They have the power to lift up, enlighten, praise and empower, but our words also can cut, demean, mar and crush.

All of this is making me weary. I am tired of dealing with meanness and cruelty, and I know that I am quite capable of both. So I am going to try to be kind with my words, my thoughts (oh, that's the tough one!) and my actions. What about you?

There could hardly be a more un-Christian way of living than to go about in such a way as to depress and to discourage other people. --William Barclay

A timely reminder

Taking a few hits...

It's insanely easy to be cruelly critical of other people. We all do it, even if we don't voice those criticisms: "Those two parents are idiots. Look at how their kids behave." "She looks horrible. Doesn't she own a mirror?" "I wish they would fire that guy; a monkey could do his job better!"

And yet...

We never truly know what goes on in the hearts and minds of other folks. Maybe it's wisdom borne of age, maybe it's compassion borne of suffering or maybe it's just weariness of a cruel world, but I am tired of meanness.

Found this quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Three Good Things Thursday

1. My kids. I don't tell them enough how proud I am of them, and how much they inspire me. They are definitely a good thing - one of the very best things in my life.

2. Potter's House School. This school does amazing things for children and teens. I got invited to a fundraiser by a friend, and I'm so impressed by the care and love the adults involved show, the passion they have for not just education, but for the relationships they have with the kids.

3. Jesus of Nazareth.Yes, the God-Man, but also the the third installment of Pope Benedict's book series on the life of Christ. These have been deeply enriching thus far, and the third book is said to focus on Holy Week.

Pinterest Contest!

My friends at PovertyCure have announced a Pinterest contest. I looooove Pinterest, so I think this will be really fun.

Homeschoolers, educators, catechtists, and religious ed. directors, pastors, take note: you can win a free PovertyCure curriculum! (I've seen the previews - you won't be disappointed!)

Here's the link for the rules:

Have fun!

Comedy & Abortion: what's so funny?

If you've ever seen the TV show, Tosh.O, you know that it's a show that highlights "funny" videos and tends to the vulgar side of life. The host, Daniel Tosh, is an amiable stand-up comedian, but his television program definitely appeals to a cheap and crude laugh.

So what made a young pro-life crusader choose to do an interview with him for the show? Surely, she knew that he'd make a big joke out of it, right? Not so.

There were a few pro-choice people who sent me very respectful messages while still being firm in their beliefs.  They also thanked me for doing the same while on Tosh.0.  Respect seems to be something most individuals can appreciate regardless of their stance on an issue.

Read this interview at Crisis.

The Best Laid Plans...

About 20 years or so ago, I stopped giving up things for Lent. It's not that I didn't find it a worthy practice; I did. It's ...