Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

detail: Madonna of the Magnificat, Botticelli

Total Rip-Off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff. Today's choice: a terrific interview with author Eric Metaxas, where he addresses the current HHS mandate:

So in the case of the HHS Mandate, it is as if the Obama Administration is asking: how many divisions does the Pope have? Who are these hyper serious, ridiculous Catholics who care about contraception? The administration doesn’t care about them. These faithful Catholics do not matter to the state. They act as if they don’t need their support. They are probably not
going to vote for us anyway, so we can pick them off, and we can confuse the theologically ignorant Catholic population and the Protestant population into thinking that this issue does not matter to them. This is where we have to say no. The government is making a mistake, a terrible mistake which threatens America itself, not just religious freedom.

As you go off to college...

Curly-haired Daughter leaves for college on Thursday. I am excited for her. Really. No, I mean it. I am.

But I'm really gonna miss her.

I've been thinking about how excited I was, 30 years ago (dear heavens....) when Mom and Dad and I packed up the station wagon and headed off. It was really foggy that morning, and Mom and Dad seemed very quiet. Now, I know: they were excited - their last kid was out of the house. They were probably both wishing the dog would die soon so that they'd finally have some freedom....

I was excited, and scared, and nervous. I thought I'd be the stupidest person at college and unable to keep up. I didn't know a soul at this college - one of the reasons I picked it - but would anyone like me enough to be my friend? Would my roommate and I be able to stand each other? (We did, but just barely...)

Now, I'm the one in the front seat of that car, steered toward a future.  I have a few things to tell my daughter before she goes, though:

1. Don't trust everyone. In fact, don't trust anyone until they earn it.
2. I know you're excited about leaving home. Remember, though, that home has made you who you are. As weird, sinful, cranky, and bizarre as home sometimes is.
3. God loves you. He'll really miss you if you stop talking to Him. Especially at Mass. He loves having you at Mass.
4. You are amazing. Don't let anyone - ANYONE, not a prof, not a guy, not a roommate, not a person on the street - let you think anything less.
5. I hope that you will come to realize that Mom and Dad know a few things, and you're not afraid to call us when  you need to know something. Or just to chat.
6. Laundry costs money. Save your quarters.
7. You will always be broke. (Oh, never mind, you're used to that one...)
8. Study what you love. The job will come from that passion.
9. Study stuff you don't necessarily love, but want to learn about. It will come in handy, even if only for playing Trivial Pursuit.
10. Again, God loves you. Now is the time for you to work on your own mature, heartfelt faith life. I hope we've given you a good foundation for that. 

Now, go.

Giddy with Art(Prize)

"Buddies" by Marlaina Taylor, 2012 ArtPrize
Grand Rapids, MI, is a great place to live - for many reasons. However, a couple of years ago, with the backing of Rick DeVos, a social and artistic experiment known as ArtPrize began, and has made GR a truly exciting place. ArtPrize takes art to the streets in a huge way: exposing the public to art - in so many forms - and allowing people to interact with not just the art but the artists.

If you'd had the chance to take part in ArtPrize (you don't just "go" to ArtPrize; you participate), count yourself blessed. If you haven't, plan a trip to GR. Not only would we love to have you, you'll be amazed at the art, the city, the atmosphere that is ArtPrize.

"Gee, I've always wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith, but I'm too afraid to ask"

Fear not: there is a solution!

Free (yes, free!) online course! No need to get in your car and drive to Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility and sit in a classroom. Nope, you don't need to wonder if you'll have to ask that question you think is embarrassing. You don't even need to fill up your cart at the local bookstore and try and figure out which writer knows best. Just check out "Pillars of Catholicism" from John Paul the Great Catholic University.

This is a terrific tool for people who want to learn more about their own faith, are maybe considering joining the Church, or for folks who've been away for awhile. Pain-free, truthful and easy to access.

"Something important" and babies in the backseat

Apparently, we Americans can't seem to remember we have kids in the backseat. Eight kids have died of heatstroke in August alone in this country, all because someone left them in the car - sort of an "oops". In order to combat this idiocy, the government has started a "Look Before You Lock" campaign. One of the tips of the campaign is to put something important - something "you need" - in the back seat with the kid - like your cell phone or briefcase. Hey, you won't walk away without that cell phone, will you? No! Grab that iPhone and don't forget your baby!

Uh, isn't your kid something you need...something important? Sweet Jesus, have mercy on us.

Three Good Things Thursday

(Is it Thursday already? Also, please be encourage by this weekly post to think about three good things in your life!)

1. Miracle! Some friends of ours recently suffered a family tragedy and their young adult son had a serious brain injury. He seems to be recovering! It is truly a miracle - even those sober doctors think so!

2. Feast of the Assumption. I made my consecration to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary 32 years ago (geez....), and last night I was so conscious of Mary's love and protection for me all these years. I am so grateful for the love of a Mother.

3. Excitement abounds: Curly-Haired Daughter moves into her dorm a week from today!

Joe Biden and the Political Silly Season

I do not relish the time between here and the election: it's gonna be ugly. However, I do know that between here and now, Joe Biden's ability to stick his foot in his mouth will be the gift that keeps on giving.

"I promise you, the president has a big stick. I promise you." --Joe Biden, citing Theodore Roosevelt's famous quote, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

 "An hour late, oh give me a f*&^%#@ break." –Joe Biden, caught on a live mic speaking to a former Senate colleague after arriving on Amtrak at Union Station in Washington, D.C., March 13, 2009

"Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs." --Joe Biden, Athens, Ohio, Oct. 15, 2008 

"You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.... I'm not joking." --Joe Biden, in a private remark to an Indian-American man caught on C-SPAN, June, 2006

"Stand up, Chuck, let 'em see ya." –-Joe Biden, to Missouri state Sen. Chuck Graham, who is in a wheelchair, Columbia, Missouri, Sept. 12, 2008

Let us hope for more from this man, if only to lift our spirits during the campaign. 

Feast of the Assumption

Hail Mary, artist unknown
“Mary is the fruitful Virgin, and in all the souls in which she comes to dwell she causes to flourish purity of heart and body, rightness of intention and abundance of good works. Do not imagine that Mary, the most fruitful of creatures who gave birth to a God, remains barren in a faithful soul. It will be she who makes the soul live incessantly for Jesus Christ, and will make Jesus live in the soul” - St. Louis de Montfort

Two Women's Death and Legacies

Two notable women passed away in the past few days - no coincidences in God's world, remember: Helen Gurley Brown and Nellie Gray.

Helen Gurley Brown was the "long-time editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, the saucy sparkplug for a sexual revolution, and the originator of the notion that a woman could “have it all.” Controversial and charismatic, she championed female empowerment and taught generations of women to embrace their feminine wiles and have fun in bed (married or not)." A quote from her: “If you’re not a sex object, you’re in trouble.”

Nellie Gray was the  "founder of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., the largest annual pro-life event in the country", "an ubiquitous figure at the pro-life march, her slight frame standing at the podium at stage centre, introducing the many luminaries who addressed the crowd of several hundred thousand during the rally before the march." A quote from her website: "...the right to life is inalienable and endowed by our Creator. If this basic right is weakened, all other rights are meaningless, as disparagement of the value and dignity of human beings will then permeate our society's mentality and the Laws of our Land—contrary to our common good."

I wonder if they'll get a chance to compare notes in Eternity....

Total Rip-off Tuesday and Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe

"...if God asks something from us, he surely provides us with the energy we need to carry out his will, on condition that we do not neglect to do our part. [emphasis added]

We require God's grace in order to function, and our soul can surely obtain that grace through prayer."
- St. Maximilian Kolbe

Would you know modern-day slavery or trafficking if you saw it?

We tend to think that slavery takes place in shadowy places far away - a girl in a developing country sold into slavery by desperate parents or a child kidnapped into a sex-slavery ring.

Not so. It takes place here in the US, in alarmingly frequent numbers. Please read this blog post from Yorbel Market:

It's a buzz word: Human Trafficking. 
If you haven't heard it lately, you will soon.  There is so much good material out there on the subject that I'm a bit hesitant to attempt an addition.  But I keep having this same experience, and it makes me wonder if you are too.  And if you are, you probably have had some of the same questions that I have, or perhaps you have not yet recognized it for what it is.  

 You see we think of trafficking as being an overseas phenomenon, something we can remain fairly insulated from by avoiding Asian and Eastern European countries.  Some of us are becoming aware of the estimated 200,000 men, women and children thought to be enslaved within our own borders, but even still, we think of them as being streetwalkers or household workers, etc...
 We don't think of them as being door to door salespeople. 
Since opening the Yobel Boutique in Old Colorado City 2 years ago, I've been more and more exposed to a new (to me) and ugly side of exploitation that I never saw coming. 
The traditional story typically looks like a teenager who walks into the shop holding a very tattered laminate sheet detailing the cause they are supporting with sales of some kind.  It could be chocolates, it could be cleaning products or jewelry. It could actually be legit, but upon asking some questions, I typically find that these kids are far from home, working in a team of adolescents, highly mobile, and under the direction of an unseen adult who promises rewards for higher sales.  After a barrage of questions during which I look up their sponsoring organization online, the young adult generally begins to run out of canned answers and I find that their representing agency either doesn't exist or is part of a religious cult.  The scenario usually draws to a close as I explain to the solicitor that they do not have to be doing this if they don't want to be; that I have resources that will help them to be free from their mobile sales crew if they'd like.  I hand them my information and immediately call the Human Trafficking Hotline in Colorado Springs.  
Last month, it happened twice in one week to a Yobel volunteer named Meg.  Here is what she experienced in her own words: 

"As my friend and I were walking through the King Soopers parking lot in Colorado Springs after a shopping trip one afternoon, we were approached by two young men. My guess is that these guys were no older than 19. Each were dressed in baggy clothes, white baseball caps and gold chains. They asked for a moment of our time and launched into a spiel that was nothing if not completely rehearsed.
    Before I knew it, they had separated my friend and I, and were  speeding through the same monologue. One of the first things that my solicitor asked (and I could hear him asking the same thing to my friend) was if I was single. He proceeded to flirt with me and crack jokes about being my boyfriend.
    After a few pick-up lines (which I overheard the other guy parroting simultaneously) he pulled out some poorly printed and laminated pamphlets. The literature was cluttered with pictures of different magazines. He explained very rapidly that if I signed up for a magazine subscription that it would lend him a certain number of points, and if at the end of the day he could collect the right amount he would be able to go on a trip to Rome.
    At this point I was sure that it was not only a scam but a possible case of trafficking. I interrupted him and asked why he was going to Rome. He said something to the effect of, "Wouldn't you if you had the chance? Wanna go with me?" Wink wink. I asked him who he was going with to which he responded, "This guy!" pointing to the other young man.
    I then asked who he was working for. He told me that the organization was called "Green Team" and was based out of Wheatridge, Colorado. He told me that his crew traveled all over the country doing this, staying in different hotels.After looking up "Green Team" when I got home I found nothing but a cleaning company.  The organization was made up.
    Every question I asked him that was not in reference to signing up for a magazine subscription seemed to trip him up. It was as if a wall would temporarily come down and he became a real person. His voice and countenance would change as he spoke more slowly and less rehearsed. But in an instant he switched "on" again and was throwing out cheesy pick-up lines and a bunch of convoluted information that didn't add up.
    When I told him that I didn't have the money to sign up he went in another direction, explaining how one donation (preferably cash) would still give him points and give me a good feeling because it would provide magazines to Children's hospitals and deployed men and women in the Military. When I said no to all of it, he and his buddy eventually left.
    Less than a week later I was walking through the mall in Denver when I was approached by another young man around the same age as the guys in Colorado Springs. He began the exact same speech. The first thing he did was look at my ring finger (which this time had a ring on it) and said, "Will your husband be mad that I'm talking to you?" When I said that he would, thinking it may put him off, he continued to flirt with me and use the same come-on's I had heard less than a week before.
    He told me that he was training to be a DJ and that his boss wanted him to go out and talk to as many outgoing girls as he could for "training". He then talked about earning points to go on a trip to the Bahama's and proceeded to pull out magazine pamphlets identical to those I had seen previously. I told him that I'd already been approached by some guys the week before in Colorado Springs, to which he responded, "Who? I probably know them." I re-stated that they were in Colorado Springs and he said that he still probably knew them because they all travel the country together.
    I tried to ask him why the other guys were going to Rome and he was going to the Bahama's, what school he went to etc., but his answers didn't align. He was selling the same exact thing in the same way, but for a different cause.
    Walking away the second time I knew that something needed to be done to expose this possible  form of trafficking. It is my heart to bring attention to this injustice and help others become aware of what they're really being sold. I want our nation to have ears to hear the silent cries of those who are being mistreated in our own cities around this country."

The definition of human trafficking is: The illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor: a modern-day slave.  

Do these magazine and candy crews fit the bill?  I'm no FBI agent, but my gut says yes. 
It is a situation where young adults and teenagers are working under poor labor conditions, far from home, separated from family and loved ones, constantly moving around the nation, required to attain a certain number of sales, often indebted to their "bosses," and typically physically, verbally and sometimes sexually abused on their crew.  If they don't perform or choose to rebel against their situation, they can be left stranded without a penny to their name and no way of getting home, often addicted to drugs they were introduced to on their tour. 
In doing a bit of research, I came across this site: MagCrew.com.  I urge you to take a look at some of their True Stories to get a vivid picture of what these crew members experience on a daily basis.  Although some crews are legitimate up-standing businesses and provide a good source of income to those who are employed by them, the vast majority sound like something I'd do anything to protect these kids from.

So what to do if you find yourself in a situation similar to Meg's?  

1) Ask the solicitor questions, throw off their routine.  You want to get as much information as you can from these kids.
  • Where are you from?
  • How long have you been doing this?
  • What happens if you make all your sales today?
  • What happens if you don't?
  • What cities have you been to recently?
  • Where do you think you'll go next?
  • Do you like your crew? 
  • How about your boss?
  • Where is your boss? Van? How are you getting around?
  • Do you like this job?
  • If you could be doing anything else to earn money, what would you want to be doing?
  • How long do you plan to remain with this crew?
  • Do your family or friends know where you are?
  • What is your name? 
  • Would you leave if you could? 
  • How old are you?
2) If they open up to you (which they probably won't) ask their permission to write down some of their answers.
3) If they want out, their largest barrier is probably their fear of the crew bosses and the debt or illicit activities that are being held over their heads, as well as shame or fear of returning to their families. You can reassure them that the law will be on their side and that the debts they are threatened with violate labor laws and will not be enforced.
4) Keep a few copies of the Human Trafficking Hotline (either local or national) in your wallet or purse and hand out along with some change to make a phone call if they want out.  They can also seek assistance from the local police which you can offer to help them with.

5) If you are convinced this is a situation that is exploitative, make mental note of as many details as possible, write them down immediately, and call the Human Trafficking Hotline yourself to make a report.  This helps the area police and local networks track potential crime ring activity as well as track down runaways.  One of the most difficult parts of bringing traffickers to justice is a lack of confirmed evidence. According to one New York Times article quoting Connie Knutti, a former investigator for the Illinois Department of Labor, “The local police can’t keep up because the crews leave the state before they get alerted and the feds don’t bother with them because they say it is a state’s issue."  If enough similar incidents are reported it can help the authorities to track and locate criminals and recognize potential crime rings on a more national level. 
 The largest contributing factor to trafficking cases being successfully prosecuted within the United States is lay-reporting.  Meaning You and I have the largest responsibility when it comes to seeing criminals held accountable for their abuses in this horrible crime.  I hope that this will shed a little light on a prolific and yet rarely spoken about form of exploitation and that you will feel empowered to act if you encounter it in your neighborhood. 

Modern Art Monday

Chidi Okoye

Sitting with the God of Silence

We normally don't think of God as silent. After all, most of Scripture is filled with God telling people things: go build an ark, go tell Pharaoh to let My people go, prophesy to the people, come and follow Me. We turn to Scripture and prayer over and over to listen to what God has to say to us.

Except when He doesn't say anything.

Sometimes, God is silent. We pray, we implore, we wait. And He remains silent. It's not a very comfortable place to be. We get impatient and angry. We shout at God, hoping He will hear us and answer. And He remains silent.

We remind ourselves that God is good, and He is with us in that silence, but it often feels as if He's not silent, but rather ignoring us. "Answer me! I'm trying to be faithful! I just want to know that You're there!" We try to be patient and sit with this God of Silence. We struggle to be comfortable in the silence, as we are in the silent company of a dear friend. Yet, the silence wears on us. We want to break that silence - to hear a word of comfort, of compassion, of presence. We strain to hear His voice. And there is only silence.

It's hard to be in relationship with Someone who is silent. We want to quit, walk away. Too hard, we say. I tried, we say. Siting with this God of Silence is too much to bear. I need Your voice, Your direction, the certain knowledge that You are here.

Sitting with the God of Silence is irritating, painful, disheartening. It wears on the soul. Yet, He asks us to continue to sit with Him in this silence and we know we must. We may not know why He asks this of us, but He does, and we obediently submit to this God of Silence.

Sacred Place

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

Prayers please

One of my family members is in need of prayers. Lift him up, please!!

Thoughts from Condoleeza Rice

I am privileged to be attending the Global Leadership Summit for work and enjoyed hearing Condoleeza Rice (she wore a really great suit!) speak this morning.  A few thoughts:

  •   Every life is worthy, and every life is capable of greatness.

  • The best thing you can do for someone is give them control over their own future.

  • "It is a privilege to struggle", and she referenced Romans 5.

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Global Leadership Summit. I am attending this very large conference for the first time, representing PovertyCure and the Acton Institute. I am excited to see what the next two days bring, what I learn, and meeting some great folks!

2. A praying mother. Knowing my mom is praying constantly for me and my family is a great blessing.

3. Being able to chat with both my daughters, even though we are in three different places in two different states. Say what you like about technology; I will take it!

Reminder about comments

I've had a number of anonymous comments lately. I won't post them. I appreciate all your thoughts, but I've had problems with a stalker in the past, and I also believe you should stand behind what you say. It doesn't take but a moment to create an account.

Just so ya know!

Olympic fever

Yep, we have Olympic fever at my house: watching everything from badminton (who knew THAT would be the big scandal this year??) to soccer to beach volleyball to archery to boxing.

I love most of the sports, but I must admit I can't watch balance beam. It makes me too nervous for those young women. I get anxious. I hide my face. I can't imagine if it were my daughter!

There are always glorious Olympic moments that stay with us forever. I'm still accumulating mine, but top of the list is Oscar Pistorius, the South African man born without legs who participated in track. Running? No legs? Yeah, that's great.

One of the joys of the Olympics is watching men and women use the bodies gave them to excel. If you remember the movie "Chariots of Fire", you will remember that one character (based on a real person), Eric Liddell was a deeply Christian man. He said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

For most of these men and women, they will live a life beyond the competitions they are currently enjoying. They have been made for a purpose. But what joy it is to watch them excel by utilizing the body God gave them with such purpose, excellence and power. And we get to revel in that with the whole world.

Work, work, work

Not that I'm ignoring you, but I'm busy-busy at work. No need to worry if there are little to no posts the next few days.

My soul shall be healed

Christ and the Centurion, Paolo Vernonese
I made a mistake on Sunday.

To be honest, I probably made 10,000 mistakes on Sunday, given the sinful mess that I am, but I'm only going to talk about one of them.

Some friends of ours have experienced a tragedy in the past week or so, and that is weighing very heavily on our family and our circle of friends. We ended up offering Mass for them with our dear Franciscan Sisters on Sunday afternoon. It was an emotional Mass.

Last week was pretty awful. The word of this tragedy for our dear friends, having three meetings for Dark-haired Daughter's on-going recovery, lots of stuff at work, recognizing some problems with Youngest Son that are larger than we previously thought, a bunch of teens who think they know more than me about everything from finances to time management to parenting...well, I was more than weary. Closed to crushed.

I had hoped that Mass was going to offer some miraculous fix. That was my mistake. I thought that maybe just by sitting in that chapel and being in God's presence that something overwhelmingly positive was going to change and all would be well. I thought that perhaps this time, this particular time, magic would happen.

I was wrong.

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

We Catholics say this at every Mass right before we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist. It echoes the words of the centurion who asked Jesus to come to his house and heal his beloved servant. It isn't clear if the centurion had a great deal of faith, but he recognized power and authority, and trusted that this Jesus had it.

At Mass on Sunday, what struck my ear was "my SOUL shall be healed". See, my mistake was thinking that EVERYTHING was going to be "healed": my bank account, my frustrations with my kids, my overwhelming sense that nothing was going right and maybe never would. And, if God chooses, He can do that. But His wish is bigger: He wants and wills that my soul - that part of me that is most "me", that part of me that is His Divine Image - THAT is what He chooses to heal.

I won't lie: I would still really like my whole life to be healed. Maybe the centurion hoped that too. Maybe he hoped that Jesus would look around his house and see that he needed more money, more food, a better relationship with his wife, a new and shiny scabbard. But Jesus did what was truly needed, and I assume the centurion was satisfied. And so must I be.

Breaking bread with the "enemy"

I swore I wasn't gonna write anything on Chik-Fil-A, but this post really isn't about that.

I am so disheartened by the level of animosity, distrust, meanness and unkindness that is now so pervasive in our American culture. I support traditional, Biblical marriage. I don't hate gay people. I understand that lots of people hate the Catholic Church, and therefore, hate people in the Catholic Church. I still wanna invite them over for dinner.

I hope - and this is just me - that I will always, always, always be willing to sit down and have a meal with someone I don't agree with. I hope that we can enjoy each other's company, find common ground, express our differences of opinion, share our stories and our souls a bit.  Gandhi said to be the change you want to see in the world. So, I'm not gonna boycott, I'm not gonna hate or call people evil, I'm not gonna protest and hold a sign by the side of the road.

I will continue to speak the truth, and I will invite you over for dinner. I'm a good cook, and a good listener. I hope to be the change I want to see in the world.

Three Good Things Thursday - The Musical

Every morning and evening in my daily commute, I listen to Christian radio. It's one form of prayer. I can't tell you how many times this has uplifted me, sustained me, gotten my through. So today, lyrics from three of my favorites:

1. Lift up your face, lift up your face
Salvation is calling, salvation is calling

You have fallen so far now
You don't even know how, you are going to survive
(But) Just above the horizon
A new light is shining, breaking through the darkest night
Love is coming and it's calling out your name
(Third Day, "Life Up Your Face")

2. Lord, we remember You
And remembrance leads us to worship
And as we worship You
Our worship leads to communion
We respond to Your invitation, we remember You

See His body, His blood
Know that He has overcome every trial we will face
None too lost to be saved
None too broken or ashamed, all are welcome in this place
(Matt Maher, "Remembrance")

3. We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah
(Amy Grant, "Better Than a Hallelujah")

Shamelessly begging for prayers

Some dear friends of ours are dealing with family tragedy. I am begging for prayers for them today.

Heavenly Father, you're close to people whose hearts are breaking, those who are discouraged and have given up hope. May You who see their troubles and grief respond when they cry out. When they're hurting, help them find their joy in You, for Your joy will be their strength. Help them to trust You as their God of hope. Fill them with Your joy, peace, and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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...