"May you live in interesting times"

Some of you will recognize the quote of this blog title as a Chinese curse - living in interesting, rather than benign times - is considered a curse. And yet, here we are.

I know many are despairing about the Supreme Court decision on Wednesday. Fear not, as Christ said, and as Bl. John Paul II reminded us at the beginning of his papacy.

"All past persecutors of the Church are now no more, but the Church still lives on. The same fate awaits modern persecutors; they, too, will pass on, but the Church of Jesus Christ will always remain, for God has pledged His Word to protect Her and be with Her forever, until the end of time." - St. John Bosco

Don't be a pouty-faced Christian.

What to do? I'm no expert and I'm no saint, but here is what history has taught us:
  1. Stop being wimpy about the Faith. Don't shut up. Be kind, but be firm: Here is what we believe and why, and I intend to live my life this way
  2. Be as holy as possible. Pray. Pray for  yourself, your family, your persecutors, the Church and our leaders.
  3. Sacrifice. We all know what our problem areas are: pick one and give it up. For many of us, we suffer daily because of physical ailments; follow the example of the saints and offer up those ailments to the glory of God.
  4. Take great hope in the lives of the saints. Ask them to pray as well, especially those who knew persecution of the Church in their lives.
  5. Read and be knowledgeable. You cannot defend the Church and her beliefs if you do not know them.
  6. Live in hope. It is truly what Christ wants of us.
  7. Be joyful. You are not going to attract anyone to the Truth of Christ if you're miserable and you show it.
We are Christians, marked in the Sign of Faith from our baptism forward. Our souls belong to Christ - truly we have reason to rejoice!
Be joyful!

Freakin' Friday Fun

Faith, forgiveness, and our duty to those around us

I posted below a video of  Marina Nemat, a petite, dark-haired, soft-spoken lady who was tortured mercilessly and imprisoned at the age of 16 under the Khomeini regime. We are roughly the same age. While I was figuring out what to wear to high school dances, memorizing lines for plays, writing poetry, and learning to drive, Marina was being beaten and raped.

After nearly three years, she was released. She tells her story in two books: Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed. I urge you to watch the video and read both her books.

I won't spoil the video for you, but for me, the most powerful part of her talk was her discussion of our responsibility to each other. She spoke very strongly, reminding us that we are responsible for the evil that exists in the world, and we cannot stand idly by while others are being unjustly imprisoned, forgotten, tortured, tired, alone. She drew strength during her imprisonment by thinking of Christ, and his torture and death.

We must, she said, be Christ to all. Again, watch the video, and read the books.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

Pope Francis challenges us to answer the question that Christ asks: "Who do you say that I am?"

“Who am I for you?” Jesus asks us. Sometimes we are ashamed to respond to his question, underlined the Pope, because we know that something in us is not right, we are sinners. But it is exactly in this moment that we should trust in his love and respond with that sense of truth, as Peter did on Lake Tabor: “Lord, you know everything”. It is exactly in the moment that we feel like sinners, the Lord loves us a lot, said the Pope. And just as he put Peter, the fisherman, at the head of his Church, so, too, will the Lord do something good with us.

“He is the greatest, he is the greatest! And when we say, from veneration and from love, secure, secure on the rock of his love and guidance: ‘You are the anointed one’, this will do us much good and it will make us move forward with certainty and pick up the cross daily, which is heavy at times. Let us go forward like this, with joy, and asking for this grace: grant to your people, Father, to always live in veneration and love for your Holy Name! And with the certainty that you never deprive of your guidance those whom you have set on the rock of your love!”

Ugliest churches EV-AH!

Longtime readers know that I love beautiful churches, art and architecture. However, Nicholas Hahn has done us the great service of rounding up the ugliest churches ever. It is truly hard to argue with some of these. Here's a sampling:

I've driven past this one numerous times; it's hideous.

Hahn calls this one "angry aluminum Jesus." Hard to argue with that...

This one's in Finland. Perhaps that's why it's so cold and well, cold?

Monday Morning Art Jam

"Infant John the Baptist Presented to Zacharias" (detail) - artist Spinello Aretino

Marina Nemat: Prisoner of Tehran

Busy as a worker bee

I noted I wouldn't be posting much this week because I'm working hard at Acton University, but our speaker last night was remarkable. Her name is Marina Nemat, and her book is entitled Prisoner of Tehran. Get the book.

I'll post a download of her talk as soon as it's available. It was...I'm not sure I have words. It was awesome in the truest sense.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From Vatican Radio:

"With forgiveness, with love for our enemy, we become poorer: love impoverishes us, but that poverty is the seed of fertility and love for others. Just as the poverty of Jesus became the grace of salvation for all of us, great wealth ... Let us think today at Mass, let us think of our enemies those who do not wish us well: it would be nice if we offered the Mass for them: Jesus, Jesus' sacrifice, for them, for those who do not love us. And for us too, so that the Lord teaches us this wisdom which is so hard, but so beautiful, because it makes us look like the Father, like our Father: it brings out the sun for everyone, good and bad. It makes us more like the Son, Jesus, who in his humiliation became poor to enrich us, with his poverty. "

Monday Morning Art Jam

"Prodigal Daughter" - artist Charlie Mackesy
In honor of Father's Day...

Blogging Lite Next Week

I'm going to be working hard at Acton University, so don't be alarmed if there isn't much going on here. I'll be busy working with our great attendees: 850+ folks from 85 countries!

Freakin' Friday Fun

Take the kiddos to the zoo this summer? Be prepared!

Pope Francis: His Harley-ness

Pope Francis performed a "Blessing of the Motorbikes" on Wednesday for thousands of Harley-Davidson owners who gathered at St Peter's Square outside the Vatican to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the Milwaukee brand.
He blessed 1400 motorcycles, which were once the favoured ride of the Hells Angels. The pontiff was presented with two gleaming models of the classic motorcycle and a black leather biker jacket by Mark-Hans Richer, Harley-Davidson's senior vice-president.

Why do I love this so much? Can you imagine the Pope wandering around his apartment trying to figure out the best place to hang this?

The Building of La Sagrada Familia

Absolutely fascinating piece on the Basilica in Barcelona.

Motherhood at the bottom of a pit

As many of you know, my Dark-haired Daughter was abducted and assaulted about 18 months ago. She continues to heal, and is doing marvelously well, thanks be to God.

About a year or so ago, I was of course wholly focused on helping her. My Curly-haired Daughter knew something was "off" with me, and repeatedly told me so. I didn't listen. I was too busy to help myself (I kept telling myself this!), and besides, my daughter needed me. Curly-haired Daughter told me I wasn't "present", I wasn't there for the rest of the family, and I wasn't there for myself. I ignored her.

Then, one night, she suggested a mom-daughter outing, to see the movie "Brave". If you're not familiar with the movie, it focuses on a young Scottish princess, Merida, who is feisty and fierce. She loves to ride and shoot, roam and scour the countryside. Her mother, the queen, is a lovely and gracious woman who is trying desperately to mold Merida into a young lady fit to serve as queen. While not meaning to, the queen is driving Merida away, and the girl rebels. She seeks a way to get mom "off her back" and casting a spell, turns mom into a bear. A bear that is hunted. Feared. At risk. Merida finds herself in the position of literally throwing herself in front of this bear-mother to save her life.

In the midst of watching this movie, I broke down. Sniveling, snotty crying. All I could think of was that I did not protect my Dark-haired Daughter - that I should have done what Merida did for her mother - throw herself in front of the danger and save her.

Rationally, of course, I knew this wasn't possible, but that movie forced something in me to the surface and all I could do was weep. Curly-haired Daughter was right: I was not "there". I was in a very deep pit, and I needed help. With the grace of God, I sought it and began a very difficult journey towards peace. (I'm not quite there yet, but I'm out of the pit.)

A friend reached out to me last night. She's trying to mother from the bottom of that pit. She's a widow and has three challenging children. Like me a year ago, she's not "there" for herself, and consequently, she's not holding it together. She wanted to know what she could possibly do next. I said to her, "You're at the bottom of a pit. Stop digging. Then, when someone throws you a rope to climb up, grab it. You keep saying you're in this pit, but you keep on digging, trying to get out. That doesn't work. Stop digging."

I spoke from experience. And it's the truth. A year ago, I was trying to get out of that pit by digging my way out, and it doesn't work. Of course, it is quite clear to me now, but at the bottom of that pit, it's dark and hard to see. Thankfully, I had a daughter who cared enough and knows me well enough to keep throwing a rope down until I had the sense to grab it.

I waited, waited for the LORD; who bent down and heard my cry,
Drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp, Set my feet upon rock, steadied my steps,
And put a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God. Many shall look on in awe and they shall trust in the LORD. - Psalm 40:2-4

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From Vatican Radio:

At this time in history, he said, the world is undergoing a “serious and persistent global economic crisis which accentuates economic and social problems, above all placing a burden on the weakest of society.

Some of the main causes for concern, Pope Francis pointed out, include the weakening of family and social ties; decreasing populations; the prevalence of a way of thinking which values profit more than work; insufficient attention given to younger generations and their formation, which jeopardizes a peaceful and secure future for society.

In such a moment of crisis he said, “there is therefore an urgent need to foster, especially among young people, a new way of thinking with regard to the responsibility of politics,” one where “believers and non-believers can work together to promote a society where injustice can be overcome, and each person can contribute to the common good according to his or her dignity, and make the most of his or her abilities.

Here's a parenting secret: YOUR KID IS NOT GONNA BE PERFECT

There. Now you know.

People are trying really hard to have perfect kids. They'll abort a Down's Syndrome baby (at least 50% of pre-born babies with Down's are aborted in the US, some sources put it at 90%), they'll pick out the perfect set of DNA from a sperm donor, eat purified seaweed and drink coconut milk while going to mommy yoga, and prepare to give birth with dolphins (you thought I was making that up, huh?) all in the effort to bring forth a perfect child. A smart child. A beautiful child. A child who will make them proud.

It won't work.

Oh, your kid will be beautiful. He will make you proud. She'll be smart...at something. But none of it will be as you imagined.

You think he'll be great at sports, and he ends up becoming enchanted with classical music. You want her to dress like a girl, and she does...but not in the pink, feminine way you think is appropriate. You want an honor-roll, Ivy League kid, and he'll flunk geometry, but be able to fix anything that has a motor in it.

Your kid might weigh more than you want. He might be gay. She might never go to college. He might end up being happy with a job at Wal-mart. Maybe she'll get a tattoo you don't like.

You can't write a script for your kid. And if you try, it will end badly, either for the child, for you or for both of you. The important thing to remember is that God has a plan for your child, the only plan that matters. Your job is to help your child discover THAT plan. Not yours.

Too many kids = "overconsumption"?

In the newest attempt to get us to stop having kids, either by artificial means or abortion, we are now being told that too many kids means we're using  up too many resources.

Bioethicist Peter Singer compared women and children to cows overgrazing a field and said — at the global Women Deliver Conference last week, hailed as the most important meeting to focus on women and girls’ human rights in a decade — that women’s reproductive rights may one day have to be sacrificed for the environment.
The controversial Princeton University professor, known for championing infanticide and bestiality, was a featured panelist on Thursday at the three-day Women Deliver conference attended by Melinda Gates and more than 4,000 abortion and contraception activists in Kuala Lumpur.
Singer said that since the world’s affluent are not likely to restrain their high rate of consumption compared to the world’s poor any time soon, and since it’s possible that family planning efforts may “turn out to be not enough…we ought to consider what other things there are that we can do …in order to try stave off some of the worst consequences of the environmental catastrophes…” - www.pop.org

Funny this. Every large family I know re-uses, recycles, hands-down, borrows, and uses up anything and everything. We shop Goodwill and garage sales, clip coupons, and buy off-brand. Our kids start working as soon as legally possible and thus become part of the creative force of our market economy. When they get there, they know the value of a hard-earned dollar, because all they've heard their entire life is, "Do you know how much money that is?? I'm not buying that!"

Case in point: I was shopping for a pair of shoes last night. A family - mom, dad, and two  young boys - were also shopping. The older boy, about 9, said, "Dad, I found the shoes I want!! They're right here! They're $90!" 

And Dad said, "Okay." 

That was it. 

I have a job. I don't buy $90 shoes. My kids have never had $90 shoes. Yeah. 

Monday Morning Art Jam

"The Found": Jesus calls Zaccheus - artist unkown

Please pray for this family

13 year old rape victim, who is caught between laws in Indiana:

A former self-proclaimed "social bug" — she was a cheerleader and athlete — the young victim has become reclusive since learning she was pregnant.
"I can't walk out the door without someone calling me a whore or slut," the girl said. "I used to have a lot of friends, or people I thought were my friends, but as soon as this happened I just isolated myself."
The repeated vandalism incidents at the family's home — including the words "whore" and "slut" scrawled on the garage doors — were reported to police. But Green said no charges were filed because there were no witnesses to the acts.
Her daughter also has been the target of mean-spirited rumors and speculation that her pregnancy is the result of promiscuous behavior.
Green said she and her daughter were both opposed to abortion, but the topic came up after she learned her "baby girl" was pregnant.
"Under these circumstance," Green said, "it would have been easier."
But after a two-hour heart-to-heart conversation, her daughter held firm to her convictions.
"I just looked at my mom," the girl recalled, "and told her I wanted to keep the baby."

A Family's First Day Together

A beautiful photographic story of adoption.

The Feast of Corpus Christi in Venezuala

Loved these photos from the BBC and the story behind them:

There is a Carnival-like atmosphere, with a mixture of pagan symbols, such as animal-shaped masks, and religiosity, as most participants wear crosses and have the images of saints painted on their clothes.
The residents of Naiguata are marking Corpus Christi - Latin for 'the body of Christ' - which Catholics celebrate to proclaim the transformation of bread and wine into the actual body of Christ during Mass.
As is often the case in South America, the celebrations in Naiguata are rooted in a mixture of old world and new world traditions.
According to some theories, the Dancing Devils originated in the fifth century in Spain, when the Catholic Church used the dance to convert pagans to Christianity.
In Venezuela, it was used to draw African slaves into the religious celebrations. Descendants of those slaves now represent a majority of the population in Naiguata and many other towns on Venezuela's Caribbean coast.

Humility or humiliation

I cantor occasionally at church. I'm not great, but I'm decent. This past Sunday, however, was a train wreck. Not an "oops, I didn't hit that note" or "boy, that was a clunker" but an honest-to-goodness-start-to-finish train wreck.

I didn't get any of the music until just before Mass and had little time to practice. Two of the hymns were brand new. I blew it.

Now, I've messed up before and all is well. I did not climb in a hole and weep. But this Sunday was different. It was rather humiliating. I was supposed to be a leader of prayer and instead was a distraction.

I know part of this is my fault. I also know a big part of it was out of my control. Now I'm trying to figure out if I should continue in this role - if I'm not going to be decent at it, but rather a distraction, I shouldn't be doing it. Or am I just reacting to the embarrassment?

Was this a lesson in humility or an episode of humiliation?

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From a Vatican radion address:

“The saints are those who obey the Lord, those who worship the Lord, those who have not lost the memory of the love with which the Lord has made the vineyard: the saints in the Church. Just as the corrupt do so much harm to the Church, the saints do so much good. The apostle John says of the corrupt that they are the antichrist, that they are among us, but they are not of us. About the saints, the Word of God tells us they are like light, ‘that they will be before the throne of God in adoration.’ Today we ask the Lord for the grace to understand that we are sinners, but truly sinners, not sinners broadly, but sinners with regard to this, that, and the other thing, concrete sins, with the concreteness of sin. The grace to not become corrupt: sinners, yes; corrupt, no! And the grace to walk in the paths of holiness. So be it.”

A cup of tea, a moment noticed and God

Every morning I make myself a cup of tea. Usually, it's chai or Irish breakfast. I boil the water, I put the tea in the infuser and p...