Sagrada Familia: Finished...in 2026

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I love churches and church architecture. One of the most stunning pieces in the world is Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The original architect, Antoni Gaudi, died several years ago, but his work is being carried out by a team of architects and master builders. This video shows what the church will look like when completed.


Monday Morning Art Jam

Still sharing from this year's ArtPrize. Here is my photo of one of the top 10:

Earth Giant

Infertility Treatment Can Make You Sick

FINALLY, someone is talking about this. Those hormones and chemicals pumped into women seeking pregnancy: not so good.

The powerful new statement affirms that toxic chemicals in the environment are harming our reproductive health. They are harming our fetuses and babies, and they are harming our health as women, men, mothers and fathers.
These prestigious organizations write: "Reducing exposure to toxic environmental agents is a critical area of intervention for obstetricians, gynecologists, and other reproductive health care professionals."
Not just concern: intervention. They should roll up their sleeves and do all they can to reduce harmful exposures: "Patient exposure to toxic environmental chemicals and other stressors is ubiquitous, and preconception and prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents can have a profound and lasting effect on reproductive health across the life course."
Profound and lasting.

And it's not just the moms: this stuff is bad for babies, too:  Prenatal exposure to certain chemicals has been documented to increase the risk of cancer in childhood.

It is good to remember than an INDUSTRY that makes MONEY is built on this. They often do not have your best interest at heart.

Freakin' Friday Fun


Victims of Sex Trafficking: what do you know?

Children who are trafficked should not be arrested; they need to be rescued. Yet, very often they are treated as criminals.


How long is adolescence?

There are a couple of articles floating around that  adolescence lasts longer than we thought. This is no news to any parent, who realizes that 18 is just a number, not a magic moment when a young person suddenly becomes wholly responsible for his or her life and manages to thoughtfully and wisely think through decisions.

However, a lot of parents also know something else: if you treat a kid as a kid, they will keep acting like a kid as long as you let them. Call it being a "helicopter" parent or rescuing or whatever, a young person will learn what you teach them. And if you teach them that, at age 24, you'll still bail them out of a jam, they'll keep doing it.

Here is a good thing for a parent of a young adult to say, "Wow. That sounds tough. What are you going to do about it?"

Another good one: "Yeah, I remember when that happened to me. It was hard. How are you planning on dealing with it?"

If you say things like, "Oh, Dad and I will give you the money" or "I'll be happy to call your prof/boss/doctor/plumber/mechanic and take care of that", then  you will have a 25 year old adolescent on your hands. You'll be doing no one any favors.

I know (oh, trust me: I KNOW) that young brains don't fully develop until mid-twenties or so. But we train our brains. Remember teaching your toddler colors and numbers? You started really early, far earlier than they'd be able to rattle off, "twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine." But you were training their little brains. Train bigger brains: rely on yourself. Figure it out. Gut it out. Pray. Ask for advice. Figure out who to trust and when.

Because no one wants a 30 year old adolescent. We have enough of them.

One writer: How Edith Stein made me a woman

St. Edith Stein is the patroness of this blog, and I'm always delighted when I can introduce someone to her, or see that someone has discovered her. Here is a great piece over at Aleteia.com on how Edith Stein helped one writer "woman up".

In my desperation I took up the book my friend had recommended called ‘Woman’ which was the collected works on the nature of womanhood by Edith Stein (Converted Jew, Carmelite, Philosopher extraordinaire, Nazi gas chamber victim, Saint and all-round ROCK STAR.)

I got down on my knees. “OK Lord” I said “I’m here. I’m lost, I’m broken and I’m giving what little wretched self I have to you.” Then, not without a certain amount of trepidation, I took to the book in prayer.

I started to read; the more I read, the more my blood started to race... the words, those piercing words - they began to thunder through my mind, sending me into a whirl.


“Women naturally seek to embrace that which is living, personal and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish, advance growth is her natural maternal yearning.
 
“The maternal gift allows woman to take interest and empathise in areas far from her own interest.

“All women have natural vocation to be a wife and mother...”

The more I read the more I realised that I was not at all like the woman Edith was describing and that all of the typically male characteristics that she described, I obtained, and in abundance no less. I tended towards abstract thinking, I had a wilful independence to the point where I relied and trusted in no one but myself...

…and then SMACK!  A lightning bolt of Truth knocked me for six and ripped through my heart like a wrecking ball...

I wasn’t a woman.


Read the whole piece - it's worth it!

Monday Morning Art Jam

Grand Rapids is smack in the middle of ArtPrize, the biggest art show in the world. I spent the weekend with a friend, soaking it all in. Here are a few of the great pieces we saw!



"Don't waste your pain"

Evangelical minister Rick Warren (best known for his book The Purpose Driven Life) lost his son Matthew to suicide awhile back. Matthew, according to his family, had struggled with depression for most of his life, and even with the best care, could not find peace.

Rick Warren has been giving a series of sermons at his Saddleback Church based on his experience of Matthew's suicide.

"Our deepest life message often comes out of our deepest pain," he said.
"I can endure pain if I see a purpose in it. But sadly, most people squander their suffering, don't profit from their problems, never learn from their losses and are unable to advance from their adversity or gain from their pain."
He pointed out suffering could make believers become more like Christ as He learned obedience through suffering.
In a similar way, he challenged people to use their pain to draw closer to God and to others.
"God didn't spare Jesus, His only Son from pain; what makes you think He will spare you?" he added.
"The secret of every winner, whether in business, sport, love, finance or relationships, is resilience – the ability to bounce back from setbacks or failure," Warren continued.
"Winners have the same problems losers do, but they get back up while losers stay down. The secret to a person's resilience is perspective."
Most importantly, our personal pain can be channeled to bless others, he contended.
"Don't waste your pain, let God heal it, recycle it, utilise it and use it to bless other people," he said. "Use your pain as a model for your message and a witness to the world. But to touch other people, you need to be honest – with God, yourself and others – and you need to be vulnerable."
Citing 2 Corinthians 1:4 - 6, Warren said he intended to continue sharing with others the same comfort he himself had been given.
"The fellowship of suffering is the deepest of all," he said. "Odds aren't good for a couple who loses a child, as nearly one-third of these marriages end in divorce. But Kay and I give each other a lot of grace, are closer today since Matthew's death, and I am more in love with my wife than ever before."

This made me think of the story of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Think of how much Suffering there is in Hospitals, among the Poor, and the Bereaved.
Think also of how much of that Suffering Goes-to-Waste!
How many of those Lonesome, Suffering, Abandoned, Crucified Souls are saying with Our Lord at the Moment of Consecration, "This is my Body. Take it"? 

There is nothing harder, at the moment of great pain, than lifting one's self up to Christ and saying, "Here, take this. Use it. Make my suffering a part of Your Perfect Suffering." And yet, there is no other way.

Adoptive Families In Crisis: hidden child abuse

Quita, "re-homed" by her adoptive parents
Megan Twohey of Reuters Investigates has done an outstanding job researching and writing about the hideous adoption "underground" that exists due to adoptive parents who are overwhelmed, self-involved and in over their heads.

If you're a reader of this blog, you know our family has had its own struggles with our adopted children, but never, ever have we ever thought of abandoning them. I understand how hard it can be, and some of the families featured in this story have very difficult situations to deal with and felt very alone. That's a horrible place to be. But how does one justify giving a child away via an ad on a Yahoo group board?

Nicole and Calvin Eason, an Illinois couple in their 30s, saw the ad and a picture of the smiling 16-year-old. They were eager to take Quita, even though the ad warned that she had been diagnosed with severe health and behavioral problems. In emails, Nicole Eason assured Melissa Puchalla that she could handle the girl.
"People that are around me think I am awesome with kids," Eason wrote.
A few weeks later, on Oct. 4, 2008, the Puchallas drove six hours from their Wisconsin home to Westville, Illinois. The handoff took place at the Country Aire Mobile Home Park, where the Easons lived in a trailer.
No attorneys or child welfare officials came with them. The Puchallas simply signed a notarized statement declaring these virtual strangers to be Quita's guardians. The visit lasted just a few hours. It was the first and the last time the couples would meet.

You know how you see "re-homing" ads for dogs and cats on Craigslist? This is the same thing....only for kids. Kids that are already troubled, mentally ill, physically ill, emotionally disturbed. They get "re-homed."


In August 2008, almost a year before taking the Mealey boy, the Easons found a new child online to join their household. Anna Barnes was 13. She had already been re-homed once since she was adopted in Russia and brought to the United States at age 7.

Her second set of American parents, the Barneses of Tolar, Texas, had come to regret adopting Anna. They had talked with her original adoptive parents before taking custody. But the Barneses quickly suspected that they hadn't been told enough about the emotional and behavioral problems Anna brought to America.
"This is a bad analogy, but it's sort of like selling a used car," Gary Barnes says of why he and his wife weren't told more. "If you tell someone it breaks down every day, nobody's going to buy it."

I cannot tell you how horrified I am at this. Children are not prizes to be awarded to good people. Nor are they cars to be returned if defective. Children are always and only gifts from God - lifetime commitments on the part of the parents. If your child is "defective," however you wish to define that, you don't get to put them in a crate and ship them off to parts unknown. You fight for that child with every cell of your being. You make sure that you move Heaven, Earth, Hell and everything in between to get that child the help he or she needs. Bands of devils cannot stand in your way. No one, but no one, will stop you from getting your child the appropriate care.


I'm very angry, and I'm very sad. I treasure my children, even though we are an imperfect, slightly crazy, wacky, mixed-up family. We love hard. Sometimes it hurts. But we love hard. Because that's what we're supposed to do.

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


“Go and pray for him! Go and do penance for her! And then, if it is necessary, speak to that person who may be able to seek remedy for the problem. But don’t tell everyone! Paul had been a sinner, and he says of himself: I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent man. But I have been mercifully treated”. Perhaps none of us are blasphemer – perhaps… But if we ever gossip we are certainly persecutors and violent. We ask for grace so that we and the entire Church may convert from the crime of gossip to love, to humility, to meekness, to docility, to the generosity of love towards our neighbor”.
“Gossip – he warned – always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip”. And quoting St. James the Apostle, the Pope said the tongue is to be used to praise God, “but when we use our tongue to speak ill of our brother or sister, we are using it to kill God”, “the image of God in our brother”. Some may say – the Pope commented – that there are persons who deserve being gossiped about. But it is not so:

From Vatican Radio

Stiff-necked people

I have a really stiff neck - literally. I woke up, stretched, and something popped. Now, moving my head is agony.

We are a stiff-necked people, aren't we? We refuse to look around us, perhaps view something in a different way. We have our eyes fixed straight ahead, on our own agenda and NOTHING is going to move our head to look at something else.

God calls us to view things differently - His way. That requires us to shift our gaze off of the horizon we've set for ourselves. We might have to look down at our own feet and realize they are moving in the wrong direction. We might have to look right, and see the neighbor in desperate need of our help, our prayer, our support. We might have to look left, and see that God has something completely different for us, something we've been stubbornly refusing to look at - even though we know it's there. Even though we know it's better that what we've had our eyes fixed upon. Even though we know it's best. No, we are a stiff-necked people.

"If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own." Ex 34:9

And now a word from our Holy Father...


What’s the point of fighting wars, many wars, if you’re not capable of fighting this deep war against evil? There’s no point! It’s no good… This means, among other things, this war against evil means saying no to fratricidal hatred, and to the lies that it uses; saying no to violence in all its forms; saying no to the proliferation of arms and their sale on the black market. There are so many of them! There are so many of them! And the doubt always remains: this war over there, this other war over there – because there are wars everywhere – is it really a war over problems, or is it a commercial war, to sell these arms on the black market? These are the enemies we must fight, united and coherent, following no other interests but those of peace and of the common good.
Dear brothers, today we also remember the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, a celebration particularly beloved by the Oriental Churches. And all of us, now, can send our warm greetings to all the brothers, sisters, bishops, monks, nuns of the Oriental Churches, Orthodox and Catholic: our warm greetings! Jesus is the sun, Mary is the first light that announces its dawning. Yesterday evening we kept vigil, calling on Her intercession in our prayer for peace in the world, especially in Syria and in the whole of the Middle East. We invoke Her now as Queen of Peace. Queen of Peace, pray for us! Queen of Peace, pray for us!

The value of suffering

This is a lovely contemplation from a different worldview on the value of suffering. I've included an excerpt here, but the entire piece is worth your time.

Occasionally, too, I’ll see that suffering can be in the eye of the beholder, our ignorant projection. The quadriplegic asks you not to extend sympathy to her; she’s happy, even if her form of pain is more visible than yours. The man on the street in Calcutta, India, or Port-au-Prince, Haiti, overturns all our simple notions about the relation of terrible conditions to cheerfulness and energy and asks whether we haven’t just brought our ideas of poverty with us.
But does that change all the many times when suffering leaves us with no seeming benefit at all, and only a resentment of those who tell us to look on the bright side and count our blessings and recall that time heals all wounds (when we know it doesn’t)? None of us expects life to be easy; Job merely wants an explanation for his constant unease. To live, as Nietzsche (and Roberta Flack) had it, is to suffer; to survive is to make sense of the suffering.
That’s why survival is never guaranteed.
OR put it as Kobayashi Issa, a haiku master in the 18th century, did: “This world of dew is a world of dew,” he wrote in a short poem. “And yet, and yet. ...” Known for his words of constant affirmation, Issa had seen his mother die when he was 2, his first son die, his father contract typhoid fever, his next son and a beloved daughter die.

Monday Morning Art Jam

Aspen Autumn - artist Iwaski

Seeing the Bible in a whole new way

I am enchanted, intrigued and bewildered by infographics. I wish I knew how to make 'em, but they're complex creatures, even though they simplify reference materials, ideas, whole chunks of thought.

This article in the UK's The Guardian highlights some fascinating ways of looking at the Bible. Okay, some of them are a little weird, but some of them are freakin' awesome!

I really like this one: it allows you to "tie together" two books in the Bible and see how they connect and reference each other. I did Ruth and John, my two favorite books.

I know it's a bit hard to see here, but there are lines connecting passages in Ruth to passages in John. Nifty!

If you're pro-gay marriage, here's a thought...

Many folks who are pro-gay marriage liken their fight for equality in marriage to the civil rights movement. I don't happen to agree, as I believe there is a difference to the way one is born (dark-skinned, homosexual, near-sighted, etc.) and the way one chooses to behave. However, for the sake of this discussion, let's go with the gay-marriage/civil rights comparison.

As a nation, we just spent some time reflecting on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago. I consider Dr. King a personal hero, a flawed man, but surely led by God to do some great things. He also knew a thing or two about how to change the mind of people who hated him and everything he stood for.

Recently, a Christian couple in Oregon (Melissa Klein and her husband) chose not to prepare a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Their business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, was founded, the owners said, on their Christian beliefs, and they believe that marriage is ordained by God to be between one man and one woman. Thus, they turned down the order.

In response to the complaint, the bakery's co-owner Melissa Klein argued that turning away the couple was "definitely not discrimination at all."
"We don't have anything against lesbians or homosexuals," she said in August. "It has to do with our morals and beliefs. It's so frustrating because we went through all of this in January, when it all came out."
It turned into war: a lawsuit (which the Kleins lost) and an spewing of hatred towards the Kleins. Here's just a little sample of what came the Kleins' way:

Klein told me he received messages threatening to kill his family. They hoped his children would die.
“You stupid bible-thumping, hypocritical b**ch.  I hope your kids get really, really, sick and you go out of business,” read one e-mail.
You get the drift. The Kleins have chosen to close their bakery, partly because of the threats to their family, and partly because other bakeries in the area were also being targeted, and they did not want others to lose their businesses as well.

Now, some thoughts from Martin Luther King:

Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. The six principles include:
  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is a positive force confronting the forces of injustice, and utilizes the righteous indignation and the spiritual, emotional and intellectual capabilities of people as the vital force for change and reconciliation.
  2. The Beloved Community is the framework for the future. The nonviolent concept is an overall effort to achieve a reconciled world by raising the level of relationships among people to a height where justice prevails and persons attain their full human potential.
  3. Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil. The nonviolent approach helps one analyze the fundamental conditions, policies and practices of the conflict rather than reacting to one’s opponents or their personalities.
  4. Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve the goal. Self-chosen suffering is redemptive and helps the movement grow in a spiritual as well as a humanitarian dimension. The moral authority of voluntary suffering for a goal communicates the concern to one’s own friends and community as well as to the opponent.
  5. Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence. The nonviolent attitude permeates all aspects of the campaign. It provides mirror type reflection of the reality of the condition to one’s opponent and the community at large. Specific activities must be designed to help maintain a high level of spirit and morale during a nonviolent campaign.
  6. The universe is on the side of justice. Truth is universal and human society and each human being is oriented to the just sense of order of the universe. The fundamental values in all of the world’s great religious include the concept that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. For the nonviolent practitioner, nonviolence introduces a new moral context in which nonviolence is both the means and the end.
If the right to marriage for homosexuals and the civil rights movement REALLY are connected, then why are the proponents of gay marriage not following the person most responsible for moving forward the quest for civil rights in this country? Why are they not looking to his directives, his thoughts, his philosophy as their guiding light, as it were?

I wonder what the Rev. Dr. King would think of the Kleins. I wonder if he would have sent them an email, calling Mrs. Klein a bitch, or saying that he hoped their children died. No, we all know he wouldn't have. He would have done now what he did then: embraced them with love, prayed with them and for them, and called for a nonviolent solution.

Of course, this is only speculation on my part. Of course, this only makes sense, as well, if gay marriage and civil rights really ARE connected. Just a thought....


Portraits of the Pope: too good not to share

Religious News Service has been running a contest to portray Pope Francis artistically, and the results are in. I'll just share one I like and one that, well...maybe missed the mark a bit? You find your own favorites.

Patt Marrin, artist

Sune Nielsen

Sune Nielson, artist

Sune NielsenSune

(In case you can't read the fine print on this lower one, it says, "Pope Francis in God's perspective." Uh-huh.


And now a word from our Holy Father...

From the Angelus, Sunday, Aug. 25:


In our day we pass in front of so many doors that invite us to come in, promising a happiness which later we realize lasts only an instant, exhausts itself with no future. But I ask you: by which door do we want to enter? And who do we want to let in through the door of our life? I would like to say forcefully: let's not be afraid to cross the threshold of faith in Jesus, to let him enter our life more and more, to step out of our selfishness, our closure, our indifference to others so that Jesus may illuminate our life with a light that never goes out. It is not a firework, not a flash of light! No, it is a peaceful light that lasts for ever and gives us peace. Consequently it is the light we encounter if we enter through Jesus' door.
Of course Jesus' door is a narrow one but not because it is a torture chamber. No, not for that reason! Rather, because he asks us to open our hearts to him, to recognize that we are sinners in need of his salvation, his forgiveness and his love in order to have the humility to accept his mercy and to let ourselves be renewed by him. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that being Christians does not mean having a "label"! I ask you: are you Christians by label or by the truth? And let each one answer within him- or herself! Not Christians, never Christians by label! Christians in truth, Christians in the heart. Being Christian is living and witnessing to faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good. The whole of our life must pass through the narrow door which is Christ.

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 ...