Assumptions and Prejudice in the Newark Airport

Let's face it: air travel is horrid. Okay, it's sorta convenient for traveling long distances, but "herding cattle" constantly comes to mind. And if you've ever had to travel through Newark, you know a special kind of Hell.

As Dear Husband and I were waiting for our flight in Newark, there was a young man - early 20s - who was trying to get on our flight. He'd apparently missed his 6 a.m. flight and was desperate to get home. In listening to him, it was clear to us that he was probably impaired in some way - maybe a lower IQ. He was just "off" somehow. He was offering people money for their seats on an already overbooked flight, and asking those around him if they thought he'd get a seat. People were reacting with polite disdain.

Once they started boarding the flight, it appeared that he'd get a seat. He was on the plane, but the flight attendant told him he'd need to check his bag at the plane's door instead of stowing it under his seat. He was a little frantic, telling her his medication was in the bag, and that he had seizures. People around us at this point were snickering and rolling their eyes: " 'Medication'? Sure it's 'medication' ", one guy said. The two guys behind us were tittering and laughing at this poor soul.

And then, the person who had originally booked the seat showed up at the last minute, and the young man was escorted off the plane. There was general and subdued relief, with the two men behind us gloating just a bit: "They kicked him off!" They man across from us was shaking his head, saying, "He was on something...."

There are a lot of things that bother me about this whole situation but here is what bothers me the most: the two guys behind us were gay. (No, I'm not making assumptions. It was clear from there conversations, including one of them saying his boyfriend was picking him up at the airport.) I would have hoped that two people who have "probably" had to deal with their own fair share of judgements and unfairness were taking so much delight in this poor  young man's plight.

No. I'm wrong. What bothered me most is that I didn't say anything to them. I kept my mouth shut, and I shouldn't have. I hope that young man made it home, to those who love him. I should have loved him better.


Back from a few days in Maine. It was quite lovely, relaxing and fun. This is me before I made a complete and total mess of myself wrangling a lobstah. We also managed to find a beautiful Franciscan monastery - I'll post those pics later.

Closed for Vacation

Taking a week off - talk to you soon!

My Kindle is getting heavy: 88 books that shaped America

The Library of Congress has issued a list (A list! Books! Two of my favorite things!) of 88 books that have shaped our nation. A few of my favorites:

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Scarlet Letter" (1850)
  • Henry David Thoreau, "Walden;" or, "Life in the Woods" (1854)
  •  Walt Whitman, "Leaves of Grass" (1855)
  •  Louisa May Alcott, "Little Women," or, "Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy" (1868)
  • Stephen Crane, "The Red Badge of Courage" (1895)
  • Robert Frost, "New Hampshire" (1923)
  •  F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby" (1925)
  •  John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939)
  • Tennessee Williams, "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1947)
What do you think? Any standouts for you?

"A Brave and Daring Girl"

Most people figure if you've got a mental illness, you're probably...weird. Off balance. Off-putting.

If you also happen to have cognitive disabilities - a lower IQ -'re really sunk.

Dark-Haired Daughter has both. She has bipolar and a relatively low IQ. And it is hard sometimes, for her and for us.

Yesterday, Curly-Haired Daughter and I were having a conversation about Dark-Haired Daughter. Dark-Haired Daughter's been through Hell the past few months - being sexually assaulted, long-term hospitalization, being away from home. But there is much to admire about her.

When she was abducted, she managed to escape what we have come to believe is a sex-trafficking ring. It is a bit hard to piece her story together, but she said she was in a house where there were several other girls, all locked in separate bedrooms, with their clothing taken away. She managed to get away by taking the key from the pocket of one of her abductor's, wearing only a sheet.

Curly-Haired Daughter said, "She is a brave and daring girl. I swear, if she was in a train when it collided with another one, she'd pop out, and drag other people with her."

The next time you see a mentally ill person on the street, or on the bus, or next to you in the pew, and your reaction is to inch away, be careful. They might just be a super-hero in disguise: a brave and daring person, who has saved a soul or two.

Sacred Place of the Day

Finnish Congregational, South Thomaston, ME: Evan Powell Photography

Unmasking the Prosperity Gospel

A lot of people have written a lot of stuff about the Prosperity Gospel, both pro and con. In fact, I just did a piece over at on the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel. Frankly, I may make it my personal mission to unmask this heresy.

Read this from Chuck Queen at Ethics Daily, focusing on one of the big names in this arena, Joel Osteen:

...his [Olsteen's] emphasis on personal success seems to fly in the face of the gospel of Jesus in the Gospels.He writes: "If you will keep the right attitude, God will take all your disappointments, broken dreams, the hurts and pains, and He'll add up all the trouble and sorrow that's been inflicted upon you, and He will pay you back with twice as much peace, joy, happiness and success ... If you just believe, if you'll put your trust and confidence in God, He will give you double for your trouble."

Really, Brother Joel, double for my trouble? Is that what Jesus says?
This type of theological thinking isn't just bad, it's heretical, and therefore dangerous.

You see, there are a lot of people out there like my sister. On Sunday, she sat down with me, my brother and my mom and unloaded. She's been carrying a heavy burden, and it's getting heavier daily. She's had on-going chronic pain issues that have not gotten better over the past year, she's got an aging mother-in-law with dementia that she's been caring for, two daughters with their own health issues, and a granddaughter with severe learning disabilities. Add on top of that the huge financial concerns she has and well....she's had it.

And what does Olsteen offer:  "You, my dear, just don't have the right attitude. You're not believing enough (or in the right way). You're not confident enough in God. This is really all on you."


Here I was thinking that Jesus told us to pick up our CROSS and follow Him. That we could expect to be PERSECUTED for following Him. And that the way to Heaven was a mighty narrow one. I don't remember Him ever telling us that he'd double our money if we bet on Him.

There is an entire group of people that really would have a hard time with Mr. Olsteen's rendition of Christianity. They are called martyrs. Everyone from John the Baptist to Agatha to Miguel Pro to Maximilian Kolbe to Jean Donovan know something Mr. Olsteen doesn't: that we are not called to a life free of troubles, but we are called to a life of faith - DESPITE the troubles. Jesus isn't some Magic Doctor in the Sky, there to remove all pain via Christianized Codeine. If that were the case, why the heck did Jesus suffer and die on the Cross? He did it to remove the sting of death and the eternal damnation sin would bring upon us, but also to model how WE are to handle suffering: with faith.

Please Mr. Olsteen, stop this nonsense. It's untrue and it hurts. It hurts people like my sister, who are trying to remain faithful to God in times of doubt, stress and pain. Just stop.


Fortnight for Freedom Begins Today

Our Catholic Bishops have declared the next two weeks as the "Fortnight for Freedom", a time of prayer for religious freedom here in the US. As I mentioned before, the USCCB website has a lot of resources for this, but here is the Prayer for Religious Liberty:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Anticipating a vacation. What could be better than dreaming of what you'll see, where you'll go and what you'll eat? Hunting the internet for great places, you hope you'll be able to get to do everything you want to do.

2. Being on vacation.  All the stuff you've planned comes to life, and more. Plus, you're meeting great folks and the reality is better than anything you found on the internet.

3. Getting home from vacation. Back to your own bed, your routine, the family and work that you love. Oh, vacations!

What We Spend $ On At the Grocery Store

When my kids were little, it seems like all we ever bought was formula, diapers, bread, milk. Over and over again. Now, it's milk, bread, peanut butter. (Feeding teen boys - oh, the pain!)

NPR has an interesting article about how America's spending habits have changed at the grocery store over the years. Here's one of the infographics (and by the way, isn't "infographic" so much better than "chart"?):

Praying for Religious Freedom

Mojo doesn't care about religion.
Unless you are my cat, Mojo, it is clear to you that religious freedom is under attack here in the U.S. (Mojo cares nothing about religious freedom. Mojo cares about nothing except her food dish and whether or not a window is open for her to perch in. But I digress.)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has set aside the next two weeks for prayer concerning this matter. We can whine about it, we can blog about it, we can wring our hands and cluck our tongues; we really need to pray.

Please check out the prayer resources from the Bishops, share with friends and family...and pray.

Stress is good for you? Hot damn!

The Wall Street Journal, today and a few months back, is telling its readers how good stress is for you: Many workplace wellness programs have also begun coaching people to hit "the optimal performance zone"—with enough stress "to be stimulating, to focus you, to challenge you".

Let me tell you: I'm going to be freakin' AMAZING if all this is true.

In just the past few months alone, I've dealt with the death of a pet, one kid bailing on college, another kid trying darn hard to get kicked out of high school due to grades, learning I have arthritis in my neck (really??), a horrible trauma to my daughter and her subsequent hospitalization, driving enormous amounts of miles on weekends to visit said daughter....the list goes on. Again, if stress is good, then I must have super powers by this point.

Except I don't. I'm tired and sometimes really cranky and I hurt physically, emotionally, spiritually - as does the rest of my family.

But here we are. I don't know anything about biofeedback and all the studies mentioned in the WSJ article, but I do know about faith. And frankly, it's the only reason I'm still functioning.

I don't mean to be flippant about this. After my daughter was assaulted in January - and for months afterwards - I was not on good terms with God. I wasn't really speaking to him. And when I did, I wasn't saying such nice things. I knew (to the very depths of my soul) that what had happened was not God's "fault", but I needed someone to yell at, and He was the only one big enough to handle all the crap - the stress, if you will - that I needed to off-load.

The point is not that I have been faithful to God, but that He has been faithful to me.

He waited me out. He let me yell and scream. He put people around me who supported me, who lent a hand with my daughter, led me down paths that were helpful and filled with care. He helped Dear Husband and I make hard, but correct, decisions.

The stress is still there, and frankly, I'm not buying the Wall Street Journal approach that it's good for you. It's hard and it hurts. But if it moves us closer to God, then so be it.

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.
-Saint Rose of Lima

Total Rip-Off Tuesday

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

Today, I have to share John Zmirak, since I met him last week and he's my new best friend. If that's creepy, so be it.

I’ll never forget the last lesson I had, in my last math class. The teacher, overwhelmed by our youthful zest for lethargy, announced with a sigh, "Well, we didn’t get through all of Trigonometry. If some of you had done the homework…aw, screw it. Anyway, one day, some of you are going to come across something called a logarithm," she said, closing the textbook. "But you won’t know what they are…"

Our teacher was right. When I got to Yale—the S.A.T.s plucked me out of Queens like a coal out of a dung fire—I tried to kill off the science requirement by taking Physics for Fools. But Professor Horvath, an earnest, brilliant Hungarian began to sling around that "math jargon," including the dreaded "logarithm." I looked around, and confirmed that I was not alone ignorant, seeing hundreds of scrunched-up, puzzled, non-Asian eyes. Since I was born without the gene for shame, I raised my hand and asked this refugee from Communism who now taught at America’s top undergraduate college:

"Excuse me, Professor. What’s a logarithm?"

He paused, and went into an explanation of how to derive the confabulatory scrutative precipitates of an ordinal imaginary fraction from the…no, and none of the other kids understood, either. So my hand shot up again. 

"Excuse me, Professor. My math’s not so strong…" He breathed the harrumph of the just, and explained more simply, speaking more slowly. The words sounded pretty.

This time I put up my paw more timidly. "I’m sorry, Professor, I still don’t understand...What’s a logarithm?"
With flashing eyes, he admitted at last: "It is a button on ze calculator!"

We wrote that down, every word. "A logarithm is a button on ze calculator."

My heart is full.

Tomorrow, our family celebrates Curly-haired Daughter's graduation. Tonight, all five of my babies are sleeping under this roof. The past six months have been horrible, amazing, crazy, tearful, faithful, faithless, agonizing, graceful. We muddle along, arguing and struggling, together. We don't agree, we do agree. We love and argue. We sin and forgive. We eat and drive. We do laundry and chores. We slack off. We wander off and come back together.

We are God's poor little children, huddled together under one roof. How blessed I am.

Out of the depths you cryCome and be satisfiedFather you sing
Father, you sing over Your children
Let us see through Your eyes
We are Your great delight
Father you sing
Father, you sing over Your children.
Matt Maher, "Sing Over Your Children"

Sacred Place of the Day

St. James Catholic Church: Decature, IL

Social Media = Socially Awkward?

Blogger Bragging

We are wrapping up things at Acton University today, and personally, I've had a great week. Not only have I got to hang out with John Zmirak, who is so funny that he nearly made me snort a beverage out of my nose at lunch, but I also got to meet (and you're gonna be so jealous) Fr. Z. Yeah, that right: I got to meet the Grand Poobah of Catholic blogging. Shook his hand and everything. Had a chat.

I see how green with envy you are. It's okay; I totally understand.

Over the moon!

Okay, here's the thing. I am spending this week working at Acton University and it's a fabulous. Great people, stimulating conversations, fun for geeks from all over the world. However, as a person "behind the scenes", it is a LOT of work. But it comes with great perks.

For example, (and I'm totally bragging here) I got to meet, have lunch with, and laugh with John Zmirak - author of "The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living" and other outrageously funny books about the Catholic faith. If you haven't read any of his stuff, please give yourself this treat. You won't be disappointed.

As for me, I'm just gonna take my now personally-signed copy, get a beer and enjoy the book all over again. Just sayin'.....

Light blogging alert

Probably won't be blogging much this week, as I've got a full week at work with Acton University. Enjoy your week!

Modern Art Monday

The Obscure Night of St. John of the Cross - artist Philippe Lejuene

'Cause it's Friday

A few tasty choices from Bad Vestments:

Bishop of McDonald's, perhaps?

Follow the Yellow Brick Road.....
The Church of Creepy Jesus

Only on Sundays for some Catholics...

From my work blog.

Prayer for Frustrated Catholics

So, "America" magazine is considered (ahem) liberal, and I consider myself (ahem) conservative, but this prayer from Jesuit James Martin applies to all of us. Ain't it grand to be part of the Universal Church?

Dear God, sometimes I get so frustrated with your church.

I know that I’m not alone.  So many people who love your church feel frustrated with the Body of Christ on earth.  Priests and deacons, and brothers and sisters, can feel frustrated, too.  And I’ll bet that even bishops and popes feel frustrated.  We grow worried and concerned and bothered and angry and sometimes scandalized because your divine institution, our home, is filled with human beings who are sinful.  Just like me.

But I get frustrated most of all when I feel that there are things that need to be changed and I don’t have the power to change them.

So I need your help, God.

Help me to remember that Jesus promised that he would be with us until the end of time, and that your church is always guided by the Holy Spirit, even if it’s hard for me to see.  Sometimes change happens suddenly, and the Spirit astonishes us, but often in the church it happens slowly.  In your time, not mine.  

Help me know that the seeds that I plant with love in the ground of your church will one day bloom.  So give me patience.

Help me to understand that there was never a time when there were not arguments or disputes within your church.  Arguments go all the way back to Peter and Paul debating one another.  And there was never a time when there wasn’t sin among the members of your church.  That kind of sin goes back to Peter denying Jesus during his Passion. Why would today’s church be any different than it was for people who knew Jesus on earth?  Give me wisdom.

Help me to trust in the Resurrection.  The Risen Christ reminds us that there is always the hope of something new.  Death is never the last word for us.  Neither is despair.  And help me remember that when the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples, he bore the wounds of his Crucifixion.  Like Christ, the church is always wounded, but always a carrier of grace. Give me hope.

Help me to believe that your Spirit can do anything: raise up saints when we need them most, soften hearts when they seem hardened, open minds when they seem closed, inspire confidence when all seems lost, help us do what had seemed impossible until it was done.  This is the same Spirit that converted Paul, inspired Augustine, called Francis of Assisi, emboldened Catherine of Siena, consoled Ignatius of Loyola, comforted Thérèse of Lisieux, enlivened John XXIII, accompanied Teresa of Calcutta, strengthened Dorothy Day and encouraged John Paul II.  It is the same Spirit that it with us today, and your Spirit has lost none of its power.  Give me faith.

Help me to remember all your saints.  Most of them had it a lot worse than I do.  They were frustrated with your church at times, struggled with it, and were occasionally persecuted by it.  Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by church authorities.  Ignatius of Loyola was thrown into jail by the Inquisition.  Mary MacKillop was excommunicated.  If they can trust in your church in the midst of those difficulties, so can I.  Give me courage.

Help me to be peaceful when people tell me that I don’t belong in the church, that I’m a heretic for trying to make things better, or that I’m not a good Catholic.  I know that I was baptized.  You called me by name to be in your church, God.  As long as I draw breath, help me remember how the holy waters of baptism welcomed me into your holy family of sinners and saints.  Let the voice that called me into your church be what I hear when other voices tell me that I’m not welcome in the church.  Give me peace.

Most of all, help me to place all of my hope in your Son.  My faith is in Jesus Christ.  Give me only his love and his grace.  That’s enough for me.

Help me God, and help your church.


Geometric Art in Islam

work by student Amy Green
I am a true fan of Islamic art. If you're not familiar with it, Islamic art rarely portrays human beings; much like some Christian denominations (I'm thinking of the Amish here), they believe that only God should "create" a human.

Instead, Islamic art focuses on geometric patterns and calligraphy. At Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, David Clayton (Artist-in-Residence at the college) has been working with students on this type of art form.
Read more here.

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Cupcakes! Who doesn't love little cakes with adorable decorations? Yes, please.

2. Friendly folks. Having a nice chat on the bus in the morning makes the day so much better - even though you are talking to perfect strangers.

3. Feast of Corpus Christi. Besides a wonderful reminder of Christ's presence in our lives, I love celebrating with our Sisters and having the little girls in our friend group tossing flowers before the Lord.

Imagine Sisters Movement

With a Facebook page and a Youtube video, this movement has taken off, with the intention of giving young women an opportunity to explore religious life.

I hang out with a group of Sisters, and count them among my best friends. When people who are unfamiliar with nuns find this out, their reaction is often "Oh, it would be so boring to be a nun...." I have to laugh. I don't know one single boring nun.

The history of Sisters in the United States alone is staggering: they've built hospitals, schools, nursing homes and social service agencies.They launched into - literally - the wilderness to bring Christ to new territories. They've marched for civil rights, pro-life issues, peace and justice. They've taught kids to sing, spell and star-gaze. They administer parishes. They counsel and advise, empathize and prod, help new life into the world and accompany the dying into the next.

They are the face of Christ to many, and it is a noble and worthy life. Share the video - especially with the young ladies in your life.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just passing on good stuff. Today's choice is from the premiere issue of "Verily" magazine, a new magazine for women, and author Sophie Caldecott, on her father's illness:

Suffering alongside each other doesn’t mean that we are negative all the time. When he had an ultrasound on his tumours, dad joked about asking the doctor whether it was a boy or a girl. We laughed about how he wanted to be discharged from the hospital so that he could come home in time to watch his favorite Sunday night television program. It just means that we don’t have to hide our tears from one another when we’ve had a bad day, that we can curl up on each other’s beds and just lie there without needing to give a reason. 

The deepest kind of strength, after all, is empathy, but strength seems like an inadequate word to describe it. It implies a stoicism, a hardness, when in reality what we need most of all when things are most difficult is a softness, a flexibility, an openness to roll with the punches, to bend and not break.

(By the way, if you are a lady who likes a good magazine, please check out Verily - it is worth your time!)

Quick: you have to get the Pope a gift. Whaddya get?

Catholic women who've changed the world (and some might surprise you!)

Great article from the Catholic Herald UK - worth the read.

Anxiety and lack of faith

There is a church around the corner from us that always has one of those quotes on its sign. A few weeks ago, it was, "Anxiety is lack of faith in disguise." I wanted to stop at the church office and ask the pastor, "Wanna bet?"

I have struggled with anxiety on and off for a number of years. I am pretty sure it's genetic, as my dad did and I think my mom had periods of it as well.  I would say that 95% of the time for me, it's not an issue, but then it creeps back in, mostly at night. The darkness magnifies what would - in the daylight - seem trivial or at least manageable - into almost terrifying possibilities.

If anxiety equals lack of faith, then I believe I stand in good company. Look at Christ in the Garden of Gethsamane: the AGONY in the Garden. He agonized - in worry, fright, anticipation - of what stood before Him. He clearly knew that pain and betrayal awaited Him, and He was anxious.

Telling a "worrier" not to to worry is like telling water not to be wet. It isn't going to happen. We all have worries and most of us manage them quite nicely, but those of us with anxiety can't always get our brains to shut out those very real worries. Children get hurt, money runs out, pain occurs, people die: all very real things. And some of us are anxious about the emotional toil it takes.

I have faith. I believe, I believe, I believe. And I am anxious. More than that, I believe Christ stands with me in my anxiety, not scolding me for lack of faith, but in deep compassion and empathy. I will continue to battle the anxiety, but I am also assured that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me - even when I'm afraid.

Modern Art Monday

"Divine Inspiration" - Mark Lawrence

Installation Homily of Most Reverend William E. Lori, S.T.D.

I am a bit blurry-eyed this morning after celebrating Curly-haired Daughter's graduation last night, but a friend sent me this, and I thought it was not only worth quoting but pondering:

We do not seek to defend religious liberty for partisan or political purposes, as some have suggested. No, we do this because we are lovers of a human dignity that was fashioned and imparted not by the government but by the Creator.

We defend religious liberty because we are lovers of every human person, seeing in the face of every man and woman also the face of Christ, who loved us to the very end and who calls on us to love and serve our neighbor with the same love he has bestowed on us.

We uphold religious liberty because we seek to continue serving those in need while contributing to the common good in accord with the Church’s social teaching and to do so with compassion and effectiveness through Catholic Charities, the largest private provider of human services in the State of Maryland.

We do this because Archbishop John Carroll’s generation of believers and patriots bequeathed to us a precious legacy that has enabled the Church to worship in freedom, to bear witness to Christ publicly, and to do massive and amazing works of pastoral love, education, and charity in ways that are true to the faith that inspired them in the first place.

We defend religious liberty in fidelity to the wisdom of James Cardinal Gibbons who withstood in the breach those who said it wasn’t possible to be a practicing Catholic and a loyal American. “…I belong to a country,” he said, “where the civil government holds over us the aegis of its protection, without interfering with us in the legitimate exercise of our sublime mission as ministers of the Gospel of Christ. Our country has liberty without license, and authority without despotism.”
Now we must be loyal Americans by being bold and courageous Catholics!

So, dear friends, let us be of good cheer.

Let us never imagine that the faith we profess with such personal conviction is merely a private matter. By its nature, the profession of faith is a public matter – for the faith is meant to be spread far and wide and acted upon in and through Church institutions and in the witness of individual believers.

Let us not shrink from entering the public square to proclaim the Person of Christ, to teach the values that flow from reason and faith, to uphold our right to go about our daily work in accord with our teachings and values, to defend the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, to defend the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman, and to serve effectively those in great need with convictions borne of the moral law.

The entire homily here.

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 ...