Freakin' Friday Fun

These are great; you can see all the shots here.


Proud to be a Cafeteria Catholic: I've got news for you, honey. You're not. Catholic, that is.

I don't know why I read the Huff Post. Well, I suppose it's the same reason I eat potato chips. They're light, airy, crunchy and addictive.

Rea Nolan Martin proclaims in a Huff Post piece that she is proud to be a "Cafeteria Catholic." We all know what that means: "I'm Catholic, but only on my own terms. I don't want to follow rules that impinge upon my whims."

Clearly, Martin is well-educated. She tells us she is:
I've studied the mystics and read the Summa by Thomas Aquinas just for fun. I've read the entire Bible more than once and the Gnostic gospels too. I've read every word Thomas Merton and Teilhard de Chardin ever published. I practice Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer.
Yet, she also knows that she is not going to listen to the wisdom of Christ, the Church He founded and 2,000 years of apostolic teaching guided by the Holy Spirit. She knows better. Plus, she has statistics on her side:
  • In fact, the latest statistics in the United States show that women are more educated than men. Notwithstanding the superior education, I challenge a single parish to stay open without the women whose hard work and spirituality enable the communities to exist. And with the dwindling male priesthood, how will the Church possibly continue without opening its priesthood to over 50 percent of its population?
  • I think statistics will bear me out when I say that population control is one of (if not the) greatest global dilemmas facing humanity today and for the foreseeable future with respect to food, water, disease, living space, and ecological repercussions.  
There's more, and you are certainly free to read it.

Now, reading Aquinas, Scripture and praying are all admirable. In fact, I encourage everyone to do it. This alone however, does not make one Catholic. (Following this logic, standing in a garage makes one a car.)

What makes one Catholic?

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.


That one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church? That Ms. Martin, is what makes one Catholic. You profess your belief in it, you are baptized into it, and you wholly accept its teachings despite your own recalcitrance, foibles, statistics and desires. I pray you do.
 

"The MassExplained" app or Why I Have To Tell Patrick Madrid I Was Wrong

I noticed on Twitter a week or two back that Patrick Madrid, Catholic apologist extraordinaire, sang the praises of an app called "MassExplained." I took a look at the app, noticed the $25 pricetag and tweeted back: too expensive. And he tweeted back to me: some things are worth it.

He was right.

I downloaded the app. It is worth every penny. Not only does it do exactly what it says (explain the Mass, step-by-step), it includes art, history, Scriptural references, definitions, saints' quotes, music and more. I am enthralled, and I know that I will be referencing it often. I also know that my sister, who is working her way back into the Church, will be able to use this.

So, if you have an Apple or iOS device, get this. Patrick Madrid was right.

Cold, colder, coldest

Snow. It's the only thing anyone is talking about around here. In fact, we here in Michigan officially are the snowiest state right now. The kids are now on snow day #4 and everyone is a little stir-crazy. Even if you do venture out, you have to drive at a creeping pace, since the roads that are plowed are simply sheet ice - the salt doesn't work when it gets this cold.

I happen to love winter, so none of this bothers me too much. I think the snow is beautiful, and I'm happy to stay home, and never have a loss for things to do. This is one good thing about being an introvert.

I've been working on knitting, and just finished reading The Monuments Men, which I highly recommend.

I can't say the house is a whole lot cleaner, but I have been taking care of a thing here and there.

I've also been working my way through Testimony of Hope. Since it's a book of spiritual exercises, it is meant to be read slowly and thoughtfully. The author, Archbishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, was a prisoner for 13 years in Vietnam, and he draws on his experience as he writes. (His case is up for sainthood, by the way.)

Imagine: imprisonment for 13 years for no crime whatsoever. Yet, his gentle spirit and genuine hope shines through every word. He truly relied on God. We whine when we can't get out of the comfort of our own home for a day or two, and yet Archbishop Van Thuan writes about his time (much of it in solitary confinement) with so much faith.

I used to dismiss the idea that I would ever have to suffer for my faith. After all, I live in America - the land of freedom. And yet, with times as they are, I see so much suffering for the faith every day. And perhaps most important, God gives each of us the opportunity to suffer (yes, the opportunity!) - to offer up our day-to-day pains, discomforts, sorrows, hardships. Whether they are large or small, we can return them all back to God in joy and supplication:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. 1 Col. 1:24-26

Praying for the Homeless


It's really cold. Like below 0, wind chills in the negative numbers, frostbite cold. From my window at work, I see homeless folks all day long. They gather in the park across the street, they wait by the city's library doors, waiting for them to open at 9 a.m. The shelters, which are a few blocks away, will try and remain open during these terribly cold days, but they normally are closed during the daytime. So many of them don't want to be inside...


Let's pray for the homeless today, whether they are in the cold or heat, whether they choose a shelter or not.

Bless the homeless, this day and everyday, keep them from physical and emotional harm, fill their hearts with hope for the future and for today, comfort the homeless as they walk their difficult paths. May I know that anyone, even me, can be homeless. 
Bless the homeless with enough food to sustain them, with enough warmth to shield them from the elements, with the power to wrestle personal demons and win, with the will to go on, and build their lives again. 
May hope touch each homeless heart, spirit and life, let the kindness of others bring lasting benefits, bring freedom from addiction, illness and misery, open their humanity to include & embrace themselves. 
Bless the homeless with self acceptance and love, spark their imaginations with belief in the future, bringing the possibility of a better life, a safer life and a more secure life.

Freakin' Friday Fun: Welcome to Hell

Greetings from Hell, Michigan (yep, there really is a Hell. It's in Michigan. And it's frozen.)

Being Pro-Life...Especially When Things Are All Wrong

My heart broke last night. I have a young friend, married, with children. She and her husband were actually introduced to me by Tallest Son, and the young woman, A., and I have developed a warm relationship.

She is working to finish her education, being a busy mom, and scrapping by as most young couples do. A. is sweet and warm, smart and empathetic.

I noticed on her Facebook that she'd been exploring different churches in our area, trying to find one that suited her. It started a conversation, and I asked a question that led someplace that broke my heart.

Rather than answering my question on Facebook, A. sent me a private message. She told me that (in answer to my question) she wouldn't consider a Catholic church. When she and her husband were engaged, they had attended RCIA. During the course of the program, it became apparent that she was pregnant. The director of the RCIA program pulled the two of them aside and told them that due to her "condition," they had to leave the program.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Is this how we are going to be pro-life?

To make matters worse, A. was pregnant because she had been raped. She gave birth to the child that was conceived due to the rape, and placed the child for adoption. She and her fiance' then married.

My heart was broken for them, for the Church, for all of the missed opportunities. On this day, Feb. 22, this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, let's pray hard for unborn children and the women who find themselves in unwanted, unplanned, difficult pregnancies.

And let's do a better job ministering to them all.

Failure and Hope

Yep, I'm a classic over-achiever, and a classic anxious heart. If I don't hit the mark, it's a complete miss. If I get an A-, I failed. If things don't turn out exactly as I had imagined at the beginning, I must as well throw in the towel.

This serves one well in academia, but not in parenthood. That drive to be excellent in my career doesn't translate well as a mother.

I tend to think I've failed as a parent when anything goes wrong. It's even worse when things go horribly wrong. When my kids make damaging choices - choices that hurt themselves and others - and all I can do is sit back and watch, well...That's when I weep.

Then I have to take a breath, and another breath, and another. Because I need the breathe of the Spirit within me. I need to hope. I need to remember that God is in charge, no matter what, and He sees what I cannot see, and may never see in this life.

In her song, Lead Me On, Audrey Assad sings:
Your rod and Your staff are a strange mercy
in a world where I'm not yet home


Indeed. I am led where I do not want to go by His rod and staff, but there is a strange mercy in that. I hope in my true Home, and I hope that my children, my precious loves, will realize this as well.

I still feel like a failure sometimes, but I'm working hard at clinging to hope.

In the passenger seat, with a blind driver

I feel like I'm just along for the ride, buckled up in the passenger seat.

With a blind guy driving.

I'm white-knuckled and terrified. One of my kids is making such devastating decisions, and he doesn't seem to have any idea what the consequences are. It's like driving around with a blind guy at the wheel.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. - 1 Cor. 10:13

That's a hard verse. Yes, it is comforting, in that it assures us of God's faithfulness, but it also means I have to accept that this trial is not more than I can bear, even when it seems to be. Really, God? I mean: REALLY??

I am taken where I do not want to go, doing things I do not want to do. And God is asking me to do them with great love. And patience. And hope. And faith.

I am such a poor disciple, a weak woman. So the only thing I can do is look for what God is providing, and recognize that God is my source of strength, not me.

I also have to recognize this situation ultimately is not about me, but about my child, and do everything I can do to help him see. The best thing of course is prayer, and the hardest thing to do is pray for someone causing so much grief. I want to grab the wheel, shove him out of the driver's seat and get things back on the ride road...but there's free will. And truly, all I can do at this point is pray he will remove the stupid blindfold he has so certainly and tightly tied about his own eyes.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. - 1 Cor. 10:13

Is "re-gifting" a faux pas?

Loved this from blogger Gabriel Garnica: "God Is All About Re-Gifting":

In our society and media, re-gifting, or having someone give a gift they have received as a gift to someone else, is often mocked as a cheap way of turning those gifts into bargains. We often see how TV characters are deeply offended upon discovering that some gift they gave has been re-gifted. The greatest joke, of course, is when we receive our original gift back from an oblivious or forgetful recipient. This is supposed to be deep gash or insult demonstrating ingratitude, rejection, and who knows what other evils.
This is not, however, God’s take on gifting. He wants us to re-gift as much as possible, spreading what He has blessed us with to as many other folks as we can. Recall how the servants who re-invested and spread the talents received were praised while the servant who merely hid his talent was criticized and lost what he was given. God does not want us to hide our gifts for ourselves, for that defeats the original purpose and potential of the gift in the first place. No, on the contrary, God calls us to use our gifts to serve others and bring glory to Him. In a sense, he who re-gifts God’s gifts is doing God’s work and following Christ’s example to a tee. Think about the gifts God has given you, and about the ways you can use those gifts to change lives for the better. If you do, you will surely be celebrating Christmas, and giving, all year round.

And now a word from our Holy Father...


The first criterion: to love with deeds, not words. Words are taken away by the wind! They are here today, tomorrow they are not. The second criterion of concreteness is: in love it is more important to give than to receive. The one who loves, gives. . . . Gives things, gives life, gives oneself to God and to others. On the other hand, [is] the one who does not love, who is selfish, always seeks to receive, always seeks to have things, to have advantages. Stay with an open heart, not like that of the disciples, which was closed, which did not understand anything: remaining in God and God remaining in us; remaining in love.

Freakin' Friday Fun


Now, if she'd just give away soap and hand sanitizer, we'd be set...

Are you "fine" or not?

I am desperate to teach my children that there is not one person walking this earth without a hole in their heart. Every single one of us is aching to simply be loved. Some days, it’s glorious and full of sunshine and easy. Other days, it’s a battle to walk straight with the invisible weight of the world on your shoulders. But most days… MOST DAYS… you are basically fine.

Someone around you, near you, next to you… some one obviously or secretly or on a thin line in between the two… someone is not basically fine.

What does "special needs" look like?

Out of control, and it's okay


My mantra right now is "I'm not in control, but God is, and it's okay."

This may sound like a simple and obvious (duh!) idea, but for a recovering perfectionist/control freak, this is a huge matter of acceptance. Youngest Son is in some deep trouble, and my heart is breaking. All I can do right now is pray.

And pray I do. I ask for the intersessions of lots of saints, and I beg God that Son's misery continues until Son realizes that a huge part of his problem is spiritual and he needs God. That's a hard prayer to pray: "God, please make sure my son is miserable until he realizes how much he needs you, and begs for your forgiveness." But it's the only prayer that makes any sense right now.

I want so much to jump in and fix, but I can't. Youngest Son is old enough, big enough, strong enough that short of tying him to his bed, he can choose to do what he wants. We set limits, rules, and consequences; he has free will.

I am SO not in control. But God is. So all is well. (Repeat as necessary.)

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

From Pope Francis homily on January 1:


Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: "Behold your Mother!" (Jn 19:27). These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother! When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The "woman" became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, all, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus. The woman who at the wedding at Cana in Galilee gave her faith-filled cooperation so that the wonders of God could be displayed in the world, at Calvary kept alive the flame of faith in the resurrection of her Son, and she communicates this with maternal affection to each and every person. Mary becomes in this way a source of hope and true joy!
The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God's will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modeled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God. Let us then together invoke her, and I invite you to invoke her three times, following the example of those brothers and sisters of Ephesus: Mother of God! Mother of God! Mother of God! Amen.


"They departed for their country by another way"

Yesterday, on the Feast of the Epiphany, our pastor pointed out this last line in the Gospel: "they departed for their country by another way."

Father said that this could be taken at face value: they were trying to skirt around Herod, whom they'd been told in a dream to avoid, as Herod wanted to kill the Christ Child, not worship Him, as Herod had told the magi when they met with him.

But there is a deeper meaning. The magi had been changed by their encounter with Christ. They who were not Jews or perhaps believers of any kind were now believers. They had met God - in a most unusual way - but met him face-to-face, nonetheless. When they departed for home, it was in an another way - the way of the believer.

You have encountered Christ. How has it changed you? When you depart from the Mass, do you do so in a different way than when you entered the church? Have the sacraments changed you, made you better, helped you see Christ more clearly?

Has being a follower of Christ brought you to a different way?

Monday Morning Art Jam: The Ephiphany

Three Kings - artist Richard Hook

Steadfast Prayer

No resolutions here. However, I do think the New Year is a good time to assess one's spiritual life. I really want to work on being steadfast in faith, regardless of my circumstances. I realize that I tend to think that "bad" times or rough periods of life - finances, kids, health - all those areas of stress make be doubtful and turn away from God. I want to make sure that my faith is steadfast: steady and true, even - no peaks and valleys.

What about you? What do you want to work on spiritually in 2014?

Always Faithful

We went to Mass last night, and had an older priest. In his homily, he exhorted us to "semper paratus:" Be prepared. The Gospel,...