Wherein we undertake a road trip

THIS IS NOT, NOR HAS IT EVER BEEN, MY FAMILY!
Let's be clear: my kids have NEVER been good at car travel. They bicker, they want food at every
turn, they require every blanket and pillow they own in order to travel in some sort of comfort. Youngest Son, when he was just a wee thing (he is now 6'5") used to scream from the time he got in the car until he was released. We all needed to be drugged for that.

And this week, we undertake a car trip. Granted, we are taking only the two youngest, and they are far older now than the last time we did anything like this.  However, they still do not like long car trips, and I am steeling myself for the inevitable.

I like taking car trips, so long as I'm not driving. I'll happily read, knit, nap - whatever; it's all fine with me. Wanna stop and look at Ye Olde Rock Shop? I'm game! A side trip to gaze at a llama farm? Okay by me!

We are driving about 10 hours to visit friends whom we haven't seen in awhile - my husband's best friend, to be exact, and his family. The kicker is there will be about 15 or so of us visiting. Yeah...um, yeah...

I imagine a lot of sleeping bags, coffee, late nights, beer by the fire pit, dog fur, scrambling to figure out meals, yet another trip to the grocery store, and a lot of love and laughter.

If we can get there without killing each other.

Let's talk about death

No, really. When was the last time you and your loved ones talked about death? At a funeral, maybe? We aren't very good about discussing death, what we believe about it, what we want for our own funeral or the funeral of a loved one. Nope, it's too "icky" or scary or something. We don't want to discuss it. But we really need to.

Jethro Heiko knows this. So he (along with three others) made "My Gift of Grace", a set of cards to start discussions about death. It's not scary; it's okay. Check it out:

  • If you could plan three things for your funeral, what would they be?
  • Visit a local cemetery. If you see an employee, ask them what it's like to work there.
  • What activities make you feel most alive?
With a mother at the age of 88, and a dear friend who lost her husband at far too young an age, I've been talking about death and dying a lot lately. For our family, with our faith, it's a more natural discussion than for others. I think these cards are a great idea and can help a family (especially a family facing a loss) get more comfortable with discussing death.

...while the game's name may indicate a religious tilt, its creators say My Gift of Grace is also for nonreligious people.
"We talk a lot about grace in our company. We have some people who say this is about religion. Our answer is that grace means different things to different people. It's having ease and comfortability," said Jehlen [another creator of the cards]. "Grace is associated with Christianity in some people's minds, but grace is also a part of a lot of other religions. We don't put explicitly religious questions into the cards, but people who are religious can express their faith while they play."

And now a word from our Holy Father...

Pope Francis' farewell at World Youth Day:

“Show, by your life, that it is worth giving your time and talents in order to attain high ideals, it is worth recognizing the dignity of each human person, and it is worth taking risks for Christ and the Gospel”.

"How Long, O Lord?"

I left Mass yesterday feeling blue, and couldn't quite shake the feeling. It sprang up for me during the Gospel:

I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 


As a parent, you KNOW you're not supposed to give in to a whiny kid who keeps repeating the same thing over and over: "Mom, can I? Huh, can I, can I? Please, please, please?????" The kid follows you from room to room, repeats a text over and over, calls you at work to ask the same question you answered 15 minutes before. You know that by giving in, all you're doing is teaching the kid to beg and "POOF", you get what you want.

And yet, doesn't it seem like Jesus is telling us just the opposite? Be persistent, keep knocking, keep asking, don't give up or give in to despair.

I guess my "blue" state comes from the fact that there are things I've been praying for for a very long time (in my mind!), and yet, the situations seem unresolved. Am I supposed to follow my Holy Father from room to room, tugging on His royal robe saying, "Can I please??? Huh, can I, can I? Would you?? Would you, please, please??"

How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I carry sorrow in my soul,
grief in my heart day after day?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God!
Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death,
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice at my downfall



But I trust in your mercy. 
Grant my heart joy in your salvation,
I will sing to the LORD, for he has dealt bountifully with me.

Monday Morning Art Jam

"Grace Hour" - Makoto Fujimura

Walker Percy Interviews Himself

Q: What kind of Catholic are you?
A. Bad.
Q: No. I mean are you liberal or conservative?
A: I no longer know what those words mean.
Q: Are you a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don’t know what that means, either. Do you mean do I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
Q: Yes.
A: Yes.
Q: How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?
Q: What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, behaviorism, materialism, Buddhism, Muhammadanism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy.
A: That’s what I mean.
Q: To say nothing of Judaism and Protestantism.
A: Well, I would include them along with the Catholic Church in the whole peculiar Jewish-Christian thing.
Q: I don’t understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: It’s not good enough.
Q: Why not?
A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don’t see why anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed aholt of God and would not let go until God identified himself and blessed him.
Q: Grabbed aholt?
A: A Louisiana expression.
Q: How do you account for your belief?
A: I can only account for it as a gift from God.
Q: Why would God make you such a gift when there are others who seem more deserving, that is, serve their fellowman?
A: I don’t know. God does strange things. For example, he picked as one of his saints a fellow in northern Syria, a local nut, who stood on top of a pole for thirty-seven years.
Q: We are not talking about saints.
A: That’s true.
Q: We are talking about what you call a gift.
A: You want me to explain it? How would I know? The only answer I can give is that I asked for it, in fact demanded it. I took it as an intolerable state of affairs to have found myself in this life and in this age, which is a disaster by any calculation, without demanding a gift commensurate with the offense. So I demanded it. No doubt other people feel differently.
Q: But shouldn’t faith bear some relation to the truth, facts?
A: Yes. That’s what attracted me, Christianity’s rather insolent claim to be true, with the implication that other religions are more or less false.

Freakin' Friday Fun


Thank you, Catholic Memes!

How to raise the perfect Catholic family...or not....

A Catholic blogger is hosting an on-going conversation on how to raise a big, happy Catholic family. Good; parents need guidance. But I'm here to offer some caveats.

Don't assume that all Catholic parents can or will have BIG families or that they are contracepting if they only have 2 or 3 kids. You don't know what is going on: infertility, loss of fertility, health or financial issues, etc. You can have a great Catholic family and it can be small.

Don't assume there is a "magic formula" that will guarantee you practicing Catholic children. "Let's see, Gregorian chant + no tv + homeschooling = vocations and perfect kids!" Uh, no. Sorry. Just like the rest of us, God gave your kids free will. You can do everything "right" and still not have a practicing Catholic adult child. Conversely, you can do everything wrong and end up with a great kid. And, your "formula" might work for you, but not another family, and that does not mean they are doing it "wrong".

We live in a fallen world. Our kids, despite our best efforts and intentions, are often exposed to things we'd rather they not see, hear, or come in contact with. We have to offer loving and faithful guidance at every step of the way, but as adults, they are responsible for their own choices and decisions. Yes, we parents bear a heavy burden to raise our children well, but once they are grown...well, it's up to them, and we may not like that.

It's hard to see your kids make bad and sometimes sinful choices. We can look back and see where we made mistakes in our parenting, and some of those mistakes might be sinful on our part. However, most of us do the best we can.

Don't stand in judgement of another family. Even with our close friends, we rarely know the struggles another family faces on a daily basis or what determines their choices in how they raise their children. Let's be prayerfully supportive of each other, and keep in mind that we have just a short time to raise little ones, and that we must not do anything to alienate our adult children should they make choices we don't agree with. We may just be their lifeline back to the Faith.

Soldier on, Mom and Dad!

Parish life

Dear Husband and I had dinner last night at our church. It was the "Stockholders' Dinner" for our youth group: you buy "stock" from a particular youth to help fund their activities throughout the year, and then they host a dinner for all the stockholders.

It was great fun. The kids acted as hosts, seating us, serving us, and telling us about different conferences and events they'd been to. It was clear from their comments that they'd been impacted by their time at Steubenville, a monastery, and other experiences they'd had.

We had a great turnout for our small-town parish, and that is not unusual. We have a very lively little parish, a very social one, and we enjoy these types of events quite frequently. Our kids have grown up with our church as the center of not only our spiritual lives but our social lives as well. That's how it should be.

This morning, I'm giving thanks for our beautiful parish, Holy Family.

St. Sharbel Makhluf

I opened my Magnificat this morning and saw that today's saint is St. Sharbel Makhluf. I didn't know a thing about him, so I thought I'd share:

On the morning of one day in the year 1851, Youssef left his parents and his village. He headed for Lady of Mayfouk monastery in the aim of becoming a monk where he spent his first preparatory year and then he went to St. Maroun’s monastery-Annaya, where he joined the Corps of the Lebanese Maronite Order, choosing the name Charbel, one of the martyrs of the second century in the Antioch Church. On the first of November in the year 1853, he revealed his monastic vows in the same monastery. He was then well informed of the precise obligations of these vows: obeying, chastity & poverty.
He continued his theological studies in the Monastery of saint Kouberyanous & Justina, Kfifan-Batroun, under the care of his teacher the saint Nehemtallah Kassab Elhardiny, who was the ideal for the monks and a living image of the great Sanctified Monks in his private & public life.
On July 23, 1859 Brother Charbel MAKHLOUF was ordained a priest in BKERKY, by puCopyright Imagetting the hand of the triple-merciful Archbishop Youssef ElMarid, Vicar of the Maronite Patriarchy.



Father Charbel lived in St. Maroun’s Monastery-Annaya for a period of sixteen years. He was obedient to his superiors, sticking to his monkhood law precisely. He was ruthless on himself by living strict austerity and mortification. He denounced all worldly materials in the earthly life, to go to serve his Lord and the salvation of his soul. 
During the year 1875 God inspired father Charbel to live in hermitage in St. Peter & Paul which belongs to St. Maroun’s Monastery-Annaya, in spite of the fact that the superiors usually, do not allow seclusion in the hermit easily. While the father superior was hesitating, he received a sign from heaven visualized by the miracle of the lamp. As one night, Priest Charbel asked the servant to fill the lamp with oil, but instead of oil he filled it with water. But the lamp gave light ordinarily. This miracle opened the sequence of the Charbelite’s miracles, and approached the day destined for the hermit to go to his desired secluded home.
On Feb. 15, 1875 priest Charbel moved definitively to the Hermit, where he was the ideal as a saint and a hermit, spending his time in silence, prayer, worship and manual labor in the fields. He never left the Hermit except in a permission of his superior. He followed the life path of the Saints hermit fathers, kneeling on a dish of canes in front of the Eucharist, whispering to it and inebriate by it throughout the nights.
He spent 23 years in the hermit, dedicating himself to the service of his Lord, applying the rules of hermits with precision and full consciousness.
During the holy ceremony on December 16, 1898 he was struck by hemiplegia, and entered in a duel with the illness which remained for 8 days, during which he endured the terrible pains of struggle with death calmly, silently in spite of the severe aches. In his struggle Father Charbel continued his prayers which he could not finish in the mass: “Father of righteousness, here is Your son a pleasing sacrifice!...” he would repeat as well the names of Jesus & Mary St Joseph and Peter & Paul the Patron Saints of the hermit
The spirit of St Charbel flew free, liberated going back to the dwelling of the Lord, just like the return of the drop of dew to the wider ocean, on the 24th of December 1898, on Christmas Eve. He was buried in the burial area of St Maroun’s Monastery- Annaya.

Envy, stupidity, revelation and life

I spent the weekend with a dear friend, whom I've known for 30+ years. I count her as one of the dearest people in my life - one of those people that I KNOW I could call at 3 a.m. and whatever I needed, she'd respond.

She is a mighty talented woman, and makes her living through her creative gifts, with the luxury of being able to work out of her home. She lives with extended family (what a treasure, in this day and age!), and has two gorgeous and gifted daughters. Her home is lovely, tastefully appointed, warm and inviting.

I used to be really jealous of her.

My home is often chaotic, and usually a mess. I can never quite get things caught up: there is always laundry, dishes, and cat fur to contend with. I live with "good enough". My focus and energy get drained very quickly from the demands of my job, the needs of my children and my health issues. When I (stupidly) compared my life to my friend's, I always came out on the losing end.

And then, last fall, very unexpectedly, her husband died. Her world - lovely as it was - crashed down around her.

Oh, she still has the lovely house, her in-laws and daughters, her talents and gifts, but the love of her life is gone. There is a hole punched clean through the middle of her existence.

I realized how stupid I had been, and how petty my jealousy was.

Or do you suppose that the scripture speaks without meaning when it says, 
“The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy”?
But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says:
“God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. - James 4:5-8

We don't necessarily think of jealousy being borne of pride, but that is exactly what it is. Pride makes us think we deserve something we don't have, that we are owed some material possession or accolade. When we see that someone else has it, we are jealous. 

It is of course also a profound lack of gratitude. It is here that I recognized it. When my friend lost her husband, it made me so grateful that mine is still here, every day, through the messes that surround us. When I was seeing what she had, I was missing what I had been given by God.

It is stupid and sinful to be envious of others. How much better to realize that God has given each one of us amazing gifts, talents, joys and an abundance of His grace. We should all do well to focus our energies on gratitude, and not jealousy.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From the text of his opening speech at World Youth Day:

As I begin my visit to Brazil, I am well aware that, in addressing young people, I am also speaking to their families, their local and national church communities, the societies they come from, and the men and women upon whom this new generation largely depends.
Here it is common for parents to say, “Our children are the apple of our eyes”. How beautiful is this expression of Brazilian wisdom, which applies to young people an image drawn from our eyes, which are the window through which light enters into us, granting us the miracle of sight! What would become of us if we didn’t look after our eyes? How could we move forward? I hope that, during this week, each one of us will ask ourselves this thought-provoking question.
Young people are the window through which the future enters the world, thus presenting us with great challenges. Our generation will show that it can realize the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space; how to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; how to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; how to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be; how to pass on to them lasting values that make life worth living; how to give them a transcendent horizon for their thirst for authentic happiness and their creativity for the good; how to give them the legacy of a world worthy of human life; and how to awaken in them their greatest potential as builders of their own destiny, sharing responsibility for the future of everyone.

Discovered a lovely Catholic artist and wanted to share

Music sustains me, lifts me up and helps me pray. I've recently discovered the music of Audrey Assad, a Catholic musician who is gaining some notoriety in the Christian music arena. Please check out her website, and support her by listening, downloading and buying!


Freakin' Friday Fun...on Thursday

Our office is having Mandatory Fun Day today (really, that's what we call it), and I'm going out town for the weekend, so I'm posting this early.

What do we do for Mandatory Fun Day? We bowl....


America's One-Child Policy

No, it's not quite the same as China. Our one-child policy is self-imposed. And the reasons parents
are giving are mainly financial:

“My husband and I have run the numbers front, back and sideways, and we come to the same conclusion each time: we simply can't afford another,” says Jen Wright, 34, who is raising her 4-year-old daughter, Madelyn, in Imperial, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Although her work at a local credit union and her husband’s job as an ambulance mechanic bring enough to get by without government assistance, one more baby doesn’t fit into the equation.

“Not even close,” she says. “I look at pictures of when [Madelyn] was 2 and I think, ‘I’m never going to have that again.’ But now I can put money away for her college so..." Wright trails off.

We parents know it's tough to raise kids. We worry about putting food on the table, saving for college, keeping our cars together with bubble-gum and chicken wire. And if you live in a city, double the price for everything. I was feeling sort of bad for the parents in this story, until I got to THIS:


McCready, herself a parent to a 4-year-old, can relate to the sacrifice a mother would have to make to add a second: "I can't imagine having another child. What is it worth? Do I stay home and give up everything I’ve ever worked for?”

Oh, so THAT'S it. I don't want to sacrifice anything of myself for another child. Which sort of makes you feel bad for her first kid, doesn't it? "Hey honey: I'm willing to put up with you, but watch it. There's a limit."

The saddest funeral I ever attended was that of an elderly man. His wife had already died, and their middle-aged son had never married or had children. The only folks at the funeral were a few elderly family members and some of the older people from the church - maybe about 50 people total. There was no one in the family to do the readings or help distribute Communion, so as pastoral associate, I stepped in.

Contrast that to my mom, our family's matriarch. She has (at last count, and it's hard to keep up) 4 kids, 28 grandchildren, and 27 great-grandchildren (this isn't counting spouses, by the way.) We count among us newborns, one kid with autism, a psychologist, a lawyer, a former Navy Seabee, stay-at-home moms, a nun, 9 adoptees, an engineer and a bunch of Detroit Tiger fanatics. I hope my mom never once felt saddened that she had to give up anything for our tribe.

Support for Natural Family Planning

Disclaimer: I have NO experience in Natural Family Planning. Zip, zilch, zero. I have been infertile our entire marriage, and all my kids are adopted.

That being said, this looks really cool: an app for Natural Family Planning. I imagine it would be of great help to those who choose to practice this. Spread the word!

And now a word from our Holy Father...

Pope Francis at Lampedusa:

“God asks each one of us: Where is the blood of your brother that cries out to me? Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility.”

“The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference,” he continued. “In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.”

Do you want to know what anxiety is like?

From a New York Times piece:



In a way, the desire to be rid of anxiety is neither unique nor difficult to understand. Like any other affliction, psychiatric or strictly physical, anxiety hurts. It is uncomfortable. If you suffer from emphysema, you will wish to be able to breathe unimpeded.
If you suffer from eczema, you will wish for clear skin. And if you suffer from anxiety, you will wish for a mind that does not spin every slightest situation into catastrophe — a mind that approaches everyday life with poise, reason and equanimity. Why wouldn’t you want such a thing? Why shouldn’t a person’s ideal be the very absence or opposite of that which torments him? It’s only natural.
With anxiety, however, there are two glitches to this desire. The first is that anxiety is not the kind of affliction that can be eradicated. This is because anxiety is not merely or essentially psychiatric. Even when it swells to the level of a disorder, it remains first and foremost an emotion, universally felt and necessary for survival, not to mention for a full experience of human life. Toss aside the bath water of anxiety and you will also be tossing aside excitement, motivation, vigilance, ambition, exuberance and inspiration, to name just several of the inevitable sacrifices. Get rid of anxiety? Even if you could — and you can’t — why would you want to?
The second glitch is more complex and has to do with the nature of anxiety itself, which for all its attendant discomforts and daily horrors has at its heart a vital truth, even a transcendent wisdom. This truth — which, confusingly enough, doubles as the source of anxiety’s pain — is of the essential uncertainty and perilousness of human life. Its fragility and evanescence. Anxiety emphasizes these aspects of existence with an almost evangelical fervor. It hisses them, hour by hour, minute by minute, into the sufferer’s ear. “Anything can happen at any time,” anxiety says. “There is no sure thing. Everything you hold dear is at risk, everything is vulnerable. It can all slip through your fingers.”


Monday Morning Art Jam

The Good Samaritan - John August Swanson

Is there no end to the depth of this pain?

Out of the depths I call to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my cry!
May your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

No matter where you are in your faith journey, you've felt this sentiment from the Psalmist. You've hit bottom - or so you thought. And then the bottom falls out from underneath you once again, and all you have left to do is cry out to God.

Maybe it's health problems, an addiction, a sick relationship, the loss of a job, the death of someone you love. Whatever it is, it causes you what seems to be unending pain, and all you want is peace. To sleep restfully, to arise with joy, to walk through your day with uninterrupted thoughts, to know gentleness of spirit and to reach the end of the day knowing you've been a faithful servant.

But that isn't your walk. Your walk is sleeplessness, heavy burdens, a sense of being alone and adrift, looking at what you know could be a happy life but unable to grasp it. You bear a cross - not one you chose, but that was laid upon your shoulders by another's hands.

Hear this: that cross was laid there with love. What? How could that be? How could this misery be given to me in LOVE? Isn't love supposed to be lightness, peace, ease? Isn't it enough that you follow Him, do your duty as a disciple? Why must there also be this cross?

I don't know. But He does. And you have only to trust that.

Small consolation as you lay awake for the fifth night in a row. Not much consolation when the world presses in on you as if you've stepped into an airless, lightless chamber. No consolation when your thoughts are occupied with sorrows and worries, an unbroken string of stress. The consolation of Heaven seems too far away to even imagine.

Why bother? Why continue to struggle with this cross? Why not throw it off, demand to be released from its weight, and walk upright, as others do?

Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness. The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people! - Pope Francis

See, you are called to greatness, and greatness requires sacrifice. Does that help? Perhaps not. But know that Christ walks with you, His hand on your cross, lightening its load, even when it seems to be driving you to your knees. You could not move forward without Him. There is a reason, there is hope, there is consolation. Pray on, move forward, acknowledge Him who walks with you.


Freakin' Friday Fun

For all of us who never, ever tan...and enjoy our porcelain skin because of it...

This is why we have to keep fighting for life from conception til natural death

Jessica Grose wrote “Enough With the Grueling, Wrenching, 'I Had an Abortion' Essays” on Tuesday, critiquing a recent spate of articles defending abortions women had undertaken in difficult circumstances.
“A lot of women have abortions and don’t look back. A lot of women don’t want a baby, and they don’t care whether the fetus is viable or how much money is in their bank account. Where are their essays?” Grose asked.
Grose, the former editor of the website Jezebel, saluted “blithe and unapologetic” stories of abortions for abortion's sake. She cited the words of the anonymous 23-year-old author of “What to Expect When You’re Aborting” as a perfect example of her preferred abortive autobiography:
By monday my hormones were a little wonky but in all i just felt like this parasitic creature that burrowed its way into me and fed of my energy, apetite, [sic] and joy was removed. And I had been restored.
Can't make this stuff up, folks...let's remember to pray and fight for the rights of all human beings to exist, grow and flourish, and die peacefully when God calls them home.

Lord, I need you


Are saints perfect?

I read an article yesterday that questioned the sainthood of Bl. John Paul the Great. Why? The writer believed the pope did not do enough during his papacy to address the sex abuse scandal in the Church. And maybe he didn't. But does that disqualify him from sainthood?

Saints are not perfect. They aren't sinless. They make mistakes, but they seek forgiveness. St. Jerome was said to be quite grouchy. St. Therese of Lisieux often fell asleep in chapel during prayers (and who wouldn't at 3 a.m.??) St. Philip Neri was a jokester, and I imagine that irritated some who thought only boring piety was allowed for a priest. Padre Pio chased some poor woman out of the confessional - yikes!

For us poor humans, there is no such thing as perfection. We are going to keep messing up, but we also must keep inching closer and closer to sanctity. Admittedly, for most of us, it is two steps forward and three back on some days, and we can't see the finish line. There is no excuse for sin, though, and we must reapply ourselves daily to live out faith, hope and charity every moment. We strive not for perfection (because only God is perfect) but for holiness.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From the Sunday Angelus:


This Sunday's Gospel (Lk 10:1-12.17-20) speaks to us precisely of this: of the fact that Jesus is not an isolated missionary, does not want to fulfill his mission alone, but involves his disciples. Today we see that, in addition to the Twelve Apostles, He calls seventy-two others, and sends them into the villages, two by two, to announce that the Kingdom of God is near. This is very beautiful! Jesus does not want to act alone, He has come to bring to the world the love of God and wants to spread that love with a style of communion and fraternity. For this reason, he forms immediately a community of disciples, which is a missionary community. Iright from the start, He trains them for the mission, to go [on the mission].
Beware, however: the purpose is not to socialize, to spend time together – no, the purpose is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and this is urgent! There is no time to waste in small talk, no need to wait for the consent of all – there is need only of going out and proclaiming. The peace of Christ is to be brought to everyone, and if some do not receive it, then you go on. To the sick is to be brought healing, because God wants to heal man from all evil. How many missionaries do this! They sow life, health, comfort to the peripheries of the world.


Wedding bells ring...and so do the cash registers....

Over the 4th of July holiday, I was chatting with a young friend about her upcoming wedding. Since it's only a few weeks away, she is understandably awash in taking care of details. Despite planning a fairly simple wedding, there is a lot to take care of.

According to any number of "wedding" authorities, you *can* spend $28,000 on the "average" wedding. YOU can. I sure wouldn't.

I'm glad I'm not a young bride today. With the advent of bridal reality shows, glitzy and slick magazines and Martha Stewart (yes, I'm blaming her), weddings are now meant to be entertainment affairs that bedazzle and out-do. Guests are to be wowed by the tiniest of details. Posh arrangements are a must, and the bride (after she has been sufficiently "boot-camped" into shape) must make her way down the aisle in the most perfect of gowns, which she has scoured the earth for.

Huh. I thought it was about getting married. You know, that lifelong commitment to your spouse.

In fact, I told my young friend just that. "Enjoy the wedding plans, but remember, it's about the marriage and not the wedding. We're not going to be joining you on that day to make sure that the bridesmaids' shoes match or what flowers you've chosen as part of your 'theme'. We'll be joining you to act as witnesses before God as you pledge your lives to each other."

Weddings already HAVE a theme: it's called love. You can read about it in 1Corinthians 13. It makes for the best weddings, and even better marriages.

The Christian and how others view him

artist El Greco
"For his brothers and sisters around him, the Christian is a man who loves the things of this world as they really are, according to their true value, but he is also a person who prefers the God in whome he believes to all other things. This preference leads him to make certain choices. People see him choosing the invisible God. These  choices pose a new question to the world, a question about whether there may not be something greater than the world." - Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel

Monday Morning Art Jam

"On the Road to Tiberias - artist Reuven Rubin

Can this friendship be saved?

One women's magazine has a column entitled "Can this marriage be saved?" It allows the husband and the wife to each tell their side of the story as to why their marriage is in shambles, and then a therapist of some sort jumps in and helps them see why and how their marriage can indeed be salvaged.

I'm wondering if we don't need some similar for friendships after last week's DOMA ruling, the divide in our country regarding abortion, theists vs. atheists, etc. Civility and reasoned arguments seems to be on the way out, while beating each other up, both physically and emotionally are taking over.

Is it possible to be friends with those whose ideas are radically different than our own on such important topics? Can we still have a glass of wine and play Scrabble with someone who thinks abortion is okay, or that gay people can marry? What about that gay family member who keeps badgering us about our overly pious and outdated religious beliefs?

Is it time for us to close ranks - quietly eliminate these folks from our lives as much as possible?

I don't think so. In fact, I think doing so is both un-Christian and dangerous.

We don't know if we are the only voice of reason for some people. We don't know if we are the only Catholic a person knows. We don't know how much weight our words, our actions and our prayers have. We MUST save these relationships.

St. Edith Stein said, "The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are."And what are we? We are bearers of the light of Christ, the only Gospel some will come in contact with, the nail-scarred hand that reaches out - not in pity or in violence - but in joyful peace. We must continue to be who God made us to be - faithful to Christ, willing to be among the least of these, in order to bear witness to Him who saves.

Lumen Fidei

The light of love proper to faith can illumine the questions of our own time about truth. Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual. A common truth intimidates us, for we identify it with the intransigent demands of totalitarian systems. But if truth is a truth of love, if it is a truth disclosed in personal encounter with the Other and with others, then it can be set free from its enclosure in individuals and become part of the common good. As a truth of love, it is not one that can be imposed by force; it is not a truth that stifles the individual. Since it is born of love, it can penetrate to the heart, to the personal core of each man and woman. Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others. One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.

Perhaps take some time this weekend to read Pope Francis' first encyclical. I expect you'll find much to ponder here.

Freakin' Friday Fun

For all of you who have been treated to on-going fireworks in your neighborhood....


10 things to know about adopting special needs children

1. You don't need to be a hero, a saint, or a shrink to adopt special needs children. Yes, it can be hard, but if you're willing to love, the work becomes much lighter.

2. Like all adopted children, special needs children have something missing. Adoption means that a child couldn't be raised by their biological parents, and that is difficult. There are always questions in their minds about that.

3. We need support, not criticism. As parents of special needs kids, we know our children are going to act out, misbehave, get out of control, and generally be difficult sometimes. Don't judge. Don't give advice. Offer help, support and prayers.

4. It isn't all horrid.  Sometimes, people look at us with pity: "How hard it must be for them!" Yeah, ok, sometimes it is hard. But it's also great fun, a great joy, and we laugh a lot.

5. Have a solid, professional support team is a must. Finding the right doctors, counselors, social workers and therapists for your children is a must. If something isn't a good fit, keep looking. You'll know when you find the right people.

6. Mom and Dad need a break. It is essential, as in every marriage, that Mom and Dad gets breaks, but with special needs kids, it is even more important. The parents should encourage each other to take time alone to spend on hobbies or go out with friends, and even more importantly, Mom and Dad need to take time regularly to date. Want to do something really helpful? Offer to watch the kids for a few hours. It will mean the world!

7. The place we need to the most support is our faith community. Our church family has been great at supporting our family, but it is also the place where we've gotten the most criticism. "Suffer the little children to come unto me" doesn't apply only to the well-behaved kids who are stellar students and never cause a ruckus in church or catechism classes.

8. Spiritual support is not an option; prayer is not an option. Trust me on this; both parents and children need to know that God is in charge, even when things seem out of control.

9. Special needs doesn't mean a lifetime of woe. People can assume that a child with special needs will never amount to much, can't contribute to society or will always be a "burden". Nothing could be further from the truth. Every child is different, but every child is made in God's image and likeness and has skills, talents and something to offer.

10. Expect to make mistakes, and learn from them. It's tough raising any kid, but special needs is a whole other ball game. You're not going to get it right every time, and neither are the kids. However, everyone can learn, get better, and move forward.

And now a word from our Holy Father....

On prayer and courage:

Abraham is a courageous man and prays with courage. Abraham finds the strength to speak face to face with the Lord and attempts to defend that city.

When we speak of courage we always think of apostolic courage – going out to preach the Gospel, these sort of things…But there’s also (the kind of) courage (demonstrated) before the Lord. That sense of paralysis before the Lord: going courageous before the Lord to request things. It makes you laugh a bit; this is funny because Abraham speaks with the Lord in a special way, with this courage, and one doesn’t know: is this a man who prays or is this a‘phoenician deal’ because he’s bartering the price, down, down…And he’s tenacious: from fifty he’s succeeded in lowering the price down to ten. He knew that it wasn’t possible. Only that it was right…. But with that courage, with that tenacity, he went ahead.

Keeping the mentally ill out of prison

"We need abortion because pregnancy makes us fat"

I only wish I made this stuff up. From a blog:

By the end, none of my shoes fit over my swollen feet. It’s not a medical concern, but not everyone can readily afford to just turn over a wardrobe twice in less than a year, especially when there are all these exciting new expenses for baby clothes and supplies.

Nearly a month after the birth, I still can’t fit into my pre-maternity clothes or bear to wear a real bra, and I’m really glad that I don’t have to show up anywhere looking professional for a little while yet. If I can’t be somewhere in an outfit that includes a nursing tank right now, I can’t be there.

She goes on to say that, "...it’s wrong and inhumane to make light of how difficult it is to 'just have the baby,' as anti-choice extremists say everyone should have to do."

I don't know any woman who's ever given birth who has made "light" of the experience. It's hard! It's painful! It's uncomfortable! But justification for abortion?

I spent the past few days visiting my mom. She's 88 and slowing down, gently. We talked about some options for her as she gets closer to the time when she can't care for herself completely or at all. Getting old isn't for sissies; neither is pregnancy. However, I never suggested euthanizing my mother, nor did she request it. My brother will check in on her more frequently, one of my nieces will do her cleaning and make meals for her a few times a week, and we'll go from there.

During those same days, Dark-haired Daughter got to spend time with my nieces and nephews and their kids - chasing them around, playing, having fun, watching them as their parents were busy with canning and working on a new house. I reminded one of my nieces that whenever her mom had a new baby, I would go and spend a few days helping out. In turn, my nieces and nephews did a lot of helping when my kids were young, and now my kids are chasing THEIR kids....and so it goes.

I have no experience of being pregnant, but I do know how horrible it is to drag one's self out of bed for the third time one night, how much control it takes when the kid spills the milk AGAIN, or when a sixteen year old gets lippy and belligerent for reasons no one on earth can fathom.

Difficulty and hardship are not reasons to kill, whether it is a baby, an elderly parent or a teen. Thanks be to God, because my family would have killed me many, many times over....

Last week's Supreme Court ruling and Scalia's dissent

“In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated. It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle like this one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s Court can handle. Too bad. A reminder that disagreement over something so fundamental as marriage can still be politically legitimate would have been a fit task for what in earlier times was called the judicial temperament.” - Justice Scalia

The American Spectator does a good job of digging into this.

Monday Morning Art Jam

"Follow Me" - artist Cosgrove, first name unkown

Going "All In" With Jesus

One of the joys of being Catholic is that there is always new stuff to learn. And if you do run out of new stuff, there are plenty of new ...