End it! Help spread the word about human trafficking

Join me today and wear a red X to end it! Help spread the word about human trafficking - be part of the solution, and help end the enslavement of millions of people worldwide.

Suffering counts

Raymond Arroyo and me

I just got done listening to the fabulous Raymond Arroyo speak here at the Acton Institute. What a pleasure! He reminded me of two things.

Humor counts. Engaging people with grace and humor goes so far. When we are cross and dour (my favorite high school teacher used to say "long-faced Christians"), who is going to listen to the Good News?

Second, suffering counts. He reminded us that Mother Anjelica (who founded the Catholic tv station EWTN) suffered terribly for most her life: twisted spine, asthma, heart problems. Yet, she was joyful, because she knew that her suffering counted. Raymond (I can call him "Raymond" now!) quoted her, "If God chose to treat His Son this way, it's good enough for me."

Go forth: be joyful, even in suffering, and share the Good News!

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

Pope Francis has released a letter to families; here is an excerpt:

I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigour and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.

End It Movement! February 27, 2014 - Human trafficking

Freakin' Friday Fun

And now a word from our Holy Father...Part 2

Pope Francis said something very interesting this week to the cardinals gathered for the Extraordinary Consistory of all the Cardinals. We would do well to heed his words:

Dear brothers,
I extend a warm greeting to you all and, with you, I thank the Lord who has given us these days of meeting and working together. We welcome especially our brothers who will be created Cardinals on Saturday and we accompany them with our prayers and fraternal affection.
During these days, we will reflect in particular on the family, which is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.
Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life. We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires. May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into “casuistry”, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work. Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated. We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity. We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties.

10 Ideas for a terrible Lent

Yesterday, I threw out some ideas for making Lent a bit better, leading you closer to Christ. Today, we're going to talk about ways to really screw up your Lent.

1. Think of Lent as a weight loss program. "I'll give up sweets and try and knock off a few pounds." Uh, dude: missing the point.
2. Doing nothing. "Yeah, Lent. I'll think about that. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet." And then it's Easter....and your relationship with God hasn't changed one bit.
3. Do too much. "I'm going to fast between meals every day, join a Bible study, give up Diet Coke, make handmade Easter gifts for everyone I know..." Yeah, again, focusing on yourself and not God. Plus doing too much = surefire fail.
4. Measure yourself against others. "Geez, he's giving up THAT? Maybe I should...." Your walk with Christ is completely different from anyone else's.
5. Not listening to sound spiritual advice. One Lent, I was going through a very difficult period in our family life. I was planning my Lent, and my spiritual advisor said, "Don't give up anything. You've given up enough." Thankfully, I did listen.
6. Giving up. Lent is a marathon, not a sprint. Run the entire race.
7. Making sure everyone around you knows exactly how HARD you are working this Lent, how MUCH you're giving up. Yeah - you're seeking glory for yourself? Good luck with that.
8. Pointing out other people's perceived Lenten flaws. "Oh, you're eating chocolate? Well...I guess. I'm not eating sweets this Lent." Besides having someone want to smack you, you also don't know what anyone else is doing for Lent. That person nibbling on a Hershey bar may be walking around with a pebble in their shoe for the entirety of Lent, and not saying a word about it.
9. Forgetting that Lent is a walk with Christ and not a walk with yourself.
10. Not asking for help. We have a great cloud of witnesses, including our Blessed Mother, who have walked this walk. The saints are so willing to help us, intercede for us, light our paths. Ask.

Lent! 10 Ideas For A Good Lent

I got caught off-guard yesterday: Lent is almost upon us! March 5! That's soon!

Okay, now that I know, I have to plan. And so do you. Because a good and fruitful Lent takes planning. It's not just, "Oh, I'll give up sweets" as you wander through the channels on Fat Tuesday, full of paczki from the office that morning. No, indeed. This will not do - not if you wish to have a prayerful, helpful, sweet, spiritual Lent.

Here are some ideas:
  1. Start praying about it now. Ask God what it is He wishes of you this Lent.
  2. Instead of "giving something up" (nothing wrong with that), consider "adding something in:" 15 minutes of Scripture each evening, a daily Rosary, etc.
  3. Find some spiritual music that moves you and draws you into God's presence. It might be contemporary Christian music, it might be Gregorian chant, it might be classical Mass settings. Listen to and from work during Lent.
  4. Plan some spiritual reading. Maybe it will be fiction (Graham Greene, anyone?). Perhaps you want to delve into some Scott Hahn. Maybe a good saint biography. Find at least one book you can read during Lent.
  5. Invite someone to come to Mass with you. Maybe it's someone who's fallen away from the Church, or maybe it is someone who isn't Catholic. Take them to Mass, and then treat them to brunch afterwards, and discuss the Mass.
  6. Maybe you've always saved your spare change for the CRS Rice Bowl, and that's great. However, maybe you and your family might choose an organization closer to home this year.
  7. Celebrate Mardi Gras! If you can't do it on Fat Tuesday, do it on the Sunday before ( that's March 2 this year.) Invite some friends over, everyone dresses in green, gold, and purple, have a feast complete with a King cake. When everyone leaves, give them a prayer card and an inexpensive Rosary.
  8. Journal your way through Lent - keep a prayer journal.
  9. If you like to doodle or draw, make it an artistic prayer journal. Don't worry if you're not a "real" artist: this is just between you and God.
  10. Some people choose to take a break from social media for Lent and that's great. However, if you don't, consider how you can use your social media accounts to evangelize. Start each day with a snippet of prayer or a Scripture verse on Twitter or Facebook. Join a discussion group on LinkedIn. Social media can be a powerful tool for evangelizing.
Happy Lent!

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

The Christian life has to be carried out with this music of patience, because it was the music of our fathers: the people of God. The music of those who believed in the Word of God, who followed the commandment which the Lord had given to our father Abraham: Walk before me and be blameless.

50 for 50

I am turning 50 this year. I want to do something to make it a special year, so I'm making a list of 50 I've never done before that I'd like to do this year.

Any and all suggestions are welcome!!

They grow up, and get smart

I just had a lovely lunch with Curly-Haired Daughter. We were celebrating her Happy Adoption Day (the day she came home to us.)

The food was superb and the atmosphere wonderful, but best of all was the enlightening conversation and a peek into the adult mindset my beautiful daughter is developing. We talked like adults!

When you're the mother of young children, all you can think of is that you are stuck in a non-ending cycle of wiping noses, cutting up food, folding laundry and running errands. The thought of talking to an adult is a vision you only hope for once in awhile.

I remember thinking, when my children were small, how long the days were...and how short the years are. It's bittersweet to sit across the table having lunch and conversing at such an intimate level with the little girl who used to invite me to her teddy bear tea parties. I guess that is the joy of it all.

Oh, it's good to hear bishops speak about mental illness!

We don't do a very good job in the church dealing with the mentally ill. We're still really afraid of them.

The Catholic bishops of New York have released a document addressing this issue - praise God!

The bishops urged the rejection of “the twin temptations of stereotype and fear” that can cause people to see the mentally ill as “something other than children of God, made in His image and likeness, deserving of our love and respect.”

Assumptions that the mentally ill are violent ignore the fact that the seriously mentally ill commit less than 5 percent of violent acts each year, they said. In fact, those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence and sexual abuse. Yet fear of violence helps perpetuate a stigma that threatens public support for “a community-based model of treatment.”

Great athlete, but more importantly, great brothers

In case you haven't seen the story of Olympic Canadian mogul skier Alex Bilodeau, it's a terrific testimony to love, life, family and knowing what is truly important.

When Canadian Alex Bilodeau won the gold medal in moguls on Monday night, the first person he wanted to celebrate with was his brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy.

“Whatever I do in life, my brother is my real inspiration,” Bilodeau said. “Just like you and I, he has dreams and most of them are not realizable to him. But he never complains that it’s not realistic to him. Every day I feel lucky to be a normal person who has that chance to go after his dream. He does not have that chance.

“And for respect to him, I need to go after that. With his motivation, he would be four-time Olympic champion. Every step is so hard for him in life and I have an easy path and I need to go after and do the best I can just out of respect to him. He lives his dreams through me. So today, Vancouver, for me, it’s the least I can do. He is my everyday inspiration.”

Bilodeau hugged his brother and the two jumped up and down in elation. It was similar to the scene in Vancouver when Bilodeau won his first gold medal in moguls. The Sochi win makes him the first athlete to win back-to-back gold medals in the moguls.

God is good and miracles happen

I happen to know this young man and his family very well. His story is truly miraculous and a testament to God's mercy. It's worth watching, and sharing with others, especially young people in your life who may be struggling.

Freakin' Friday Fun: More Snow, Anyone?

Young, broke: what to do? Subsidiarity

You don't need to be an economist to know that it's a tough economy for all of us, but especially young people. Trying to get a decent education, work, learn how to budget, balance a social life with responsibilities: it's tough.

Of course, most young adults dream of being "independent" - having the car, the apartment, the whole enchilada. But, it's not always possible. And so living with family is a positive answer, but then you get flack for "living in Mom's basement."

Our oldest nephew lived with us for quite some time when he was working and saving money for school. It was great - he was able to keep his finances in good shape, and we had an extra pair of hands when we had five young children.

Tallest Son currently lives with my sister. She lives in an urban area, close to his work and school. Again, he can keep his living costs down while trying to grow up.

It's no shame to rely on family like this. In fact, it's part of our Catholic teaching: subsidiarity.

The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good." (CCC 1883)

Rather than getting into financial trouble, relying on government assistance like food stamps, we should rely on our family, friends and faith communities to help in these situations. I'd much rather my son lived with my sister and saved money than over-stretching his budget by trying to pay for rent, utilities, etc.

Living in mom's basement isn't glamorous. It's not living the high life. But it's good - Mother Church says so.

Light Your Lamps

Wise Virgins - artist Gloria Ssali
I woke from a dream this morning. I won't go into the details, as other people's dreams rarely make any sense to anyone else, but I woke with the feeling of being vigilant. It made me think of the ten wise virgins and the ten foolish one; the wise ones were vigilant - waiting for the bridegroom.

"Pray always" the apostle Paul tells us - another form of vigilance. Once when visiting my mother, one of my daughters slept in one of the two twins bed my mother has in her room. Upon waking in the morning, my daughter whispered to me, "Mom, Grandma prays ALL THE TIME...even in her SLEEP!"Vigilance.

Another time I was watching a show on TV that highlighted a group of Greek Orthodox monks. When asked how he followed the directive to "pray always," one monk said that no matter what he was doing (gathering olives, pruning trees, raking), he prayed, "Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

If you're at all like me, you have to be intentional in prayer. It doesn't flow from our lips and hearts continuously. Yet, the intention to pray, the desire to be in conversation with God, is also prayer. That's why it is so important to surround ourselves with reminders of that - whether it's a prayer book or Bible that sits on your desk that you can grab during the day, an icon, a prayer card....whatever it is that your eyes can fall upon and you can say, "Yes, God: I want to hear your voice." We need reminders, we need vigilance, we need to light our lamps.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From Pope Francis' Lenten message:

So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbour, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbour to the man left half dead by the side of the road (cf. Lk 10:25ff). What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up his “yoke which is easy”, he asks us to be enriched by his “poverty which is rich” and his “richness which is poor”, to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the firstborn brother (cf. Rom 8:29).

My baby, he wrote me a letter

One of the casualties of our post-modern age is the handwritten letter. Can you remember the last time you received one? We hardly even s...