Friday, December 14, 2012

On Christmas Insanity

I have been very neglectful of the sorry. Almost every spare moment has been spent getting Christmas presents made - yes, I'm one of those. I try to make as many presents as possible - usually at the request of the recipients.

Here's the list of the last few weeks:

- Knitting felted purses for my nieces (6 in all - I only have 5 nieces. Let's just say I totally messed up on one of them!)
- Sewed 150 miniature trees to be strung up as garland for various presents
- Sewed a canvas tee-pee tent for my son for Christmas
- Sewed 3 shirts for my son for Christmas
- Sewed a duvet cover for a niece for Christmas
- Sewed 2 dresses for me (one was a practice dress and the other was for a wedding)
- Knitted a wrap to accompany the dress for the wedding
- Sewed P.J's for my son
- Sewed 2 yoga pants for me
- Knitted a present for my mother-in-law (and I'm pretty sure she reads the blog, I can't reveal what it is)
- And, I've started knitting mittens for my son...

Thank goodness I knitted some of the Christmas presents for other family members before Thanksgiving!

Part of my insanity is trying to get everything done before we head up to the Northwoods in Wisconsin on Tuesday. I have a few more things I'd like to accomplish before we leave, but nothing is required for Christmas presents.

There will be a change coming to Divinity Diva after Christmas...more to come about that.

In the midst of all the insanity (mostly self-imposed), I'm very thankful for the Angelus. It's been very good to force myself to stop three times a day to pray - just to pray and not for myself.

I hope your Advent has been peaceful thus far.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I am delivering an Advent retreat a week from Saturday at Queen of Peace Parish in Olive Branch, MS.  I had hoped that I would have had the retreat written over a week ago...but life got in the way.  I've spent the last few days trying to frantically get it done before Thanksgiving.  Today, I finished it!  I need to polish it up a little bit and prepare a retreat booklet, but the big things are done.  I call the retreat Spiraling into Advent - and I'll share more thoughts after I give the retreat.  

The only spoiler to the retreat I will post right now is one of the books I used to help me prepare: A Coming Christ in Advent by Raymond E. Brown.  Brown is a renowned biblical scholar and I used some of his academic sources in grad school.  While A Coming Christ is based on his 750 page study of the Infancy Narrative of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, it is written as a reflection on the Gospels to prepare for Advent.

If you are looking for a way to enter more meaningfully into Advent this year, I highly recommend Brown's book.

And, in case I don't get another post up before Thanksgiving...I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and can count many, many blessings.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Second Coming?

It seems like every few years there's talk about the "End Times" and that this is it. Within my lifetime there have been several sects that have claimed to know the exact date of the end of the world, perhaps most famous and tragic was the Heaven's Gate cult. They were all wrong. The Christian tradition is not immune to this either. It could be argued that since the day Jesus ascended into Heaven we have been living in the end times.

The concern about the End Times has been part of the Christian community from the very beginning. The early Christians were convinced that Jesus' return was imminent, so it was shocking when members of the flock started dying from old age. St. Paul told the church at Thessalonica that salvation was promised to believers whether they were awake or asleep (dead) (1 Thess 5:9-10).

Here are the truths to keep in mind:
1.) We live in a fallen world.
2.) God's plan is not our plan. The moment of Creation, the Big Bang, occurred about 16,000,000,000 years ago. It wasn't until 2000 years ago that God took on flesh in the person of Jesus. There was a lot of preparation time from Creation to Christ. True, the Second Coming might be next week, but it might be millennia.
3.) This is what Christ himself told the disciples regarding the return of The Son of Man, "There will be those who will say to you, 'Look, there he is,' or 'Look, here he is.' Do not go off, do not run in pursuit. For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. (Luke 17:20-25)"

There is a temptation in believing that the Second Coming will occur in my lifetime: complacency. If I am convinced that Jesus is coming back soon, then I may not care for the weakest in society or stay silent in the face of evil because I think, "Jesus will show them." I am called to live each day as if Jesus' return is tomorrow, but I am to be like one of the wise virgins who kept the wick of her lamp trimmed and ready for the return of the Master (Matthew 25:1-13).

Confidence in the return of the Lord is a tenet of the Creed, but I can never forget that I am the hands, feet, mouthpiece, and love of the Lord while waiting His return.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Perpetua and Felicity

This is not my happiest blog, but it's a topic that must be addressed.

Being a Christian during the first centuries of the early Church was illegal; oftentimes the authorities turned a blind eye, but occasionally there were persecution such as the Servan Persecution of 202-3. You never knew when a persecution might break out.

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity were executed in 203 A.D. during the Servan Persecution. Perpetua, a noblewoman and young mother, decided to become a Christian in 203; Felicity was her pregnant slave. The legend of their martyrdom states that the prisoners (three additional Christians were martyred) were commanded to put on different clothes that would honor the Roman gods. Perpetua responded by saying, "We came to die out of our own free will so we wouldn't lose our freedom to worship our God. We gave you our lives so that we wouldn't have to worship your gods."

Why am I going on about martyrdom? Since the election I've read several disturbing things about the healthcare mandate and exemptions. It sounds like the administration is going full-steam ahead with the mandate. It's as if the administration is saying, "Too bad if you're a Christian who lives by a moral standard different from ours. Do what we say or else." At this point, the "or else" is you're going to pay one way or the other: pay for abortions, birth control, etc. or pay a fine.

What do we do as Christians? Do we pay up or do we take a stand? At what point are we pushed too far and have to say like Perpetua, we will worship our God, not your gods?

It seems like the time for taking a stand is coming. Twelve years ago I wrote a paper on the early persecutions for a grad school class, I never thought I would actually have to entertain the questions I posed in the United States of America.

[The early Christians] were willing to be baptized in water while running the risk of being baptized in their own blood. The road to becoming a Christian in Tertullian’s time was a long and potentially dangerous endeavor. Christianity was an illegal religion, and as the story of Perpetua and Felicity illustrates, the Empire did not take kindly to those who refused to comply with the law. And so I wonder, would I, do I have the courage and depth of faith to chance public torture and execution for Christ Jesus? If Congress were to pass a law tomorrow outlawing the practice of Christianity upon penalty of death, what would I do? I would like to think that I am that strong enough to look death in the eye. However, under scrutiny I might discover that I am far too attached to this life and would not be willing to give it up, even for God. 

Today, we do not face the death penalty for being Christian, but don't be fooled. Christianity is being coerced into paying for immorality and evil. If we comply, then it will be a death knell for Christianity in America.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Busy-ness and Prayer

The last few days have been crazy busy and it's at my own choosing, so I have no one to blame but myself.  I've been cleaning, baking bread, sewing, knitting, working on an Advent retreat, being a mom and wife, doing laundry (it never ends...why does it never end?), exercising, and trying to pray.

Most days I prefer to be busy; I kind of lose it when I'm bored or unproductive.  I have my daily list of things to do and I try to get most of it done.  One of the things that I have on my list - with an alarm set - is to pray.  As you can see from the list above, I can get a little nutty with the projects and things to do.  The reminders throughout the day is my Angelus bell - stop what I'm doing and pray.

I lived in Ireland for a while and would often visit my great uncle.  I'm not sure if it's still on T.V. there, but everyday at 6 pm an icon of the Blessed Mother would appear on the screen accompanied by Angelus bells (the morning and Noon Angelus were broadcast on the radio).  I had heard of the Angelus, but had no idea what the prayer was.  When the bells started ringing, without fail, my 85 year old uncle would stand up and pray silently.

I want to say that it's a shame that the Angelus has been forgotten in America as a prayer...but then I will go off on a rant about the poor quality of Catholic religious education in this country. Here's the truth: my current prayer reminder, frankly, is pretty lame compared the the Angelus. When I stop I simply offer up some intentions, say thanks for the day, etc; this isn't a bad way to pray, but there's no meat to it.  Starting today, I'm going to begin praying the Angelus and try to do it as a family.

Being busy isn't a bad thing so long as I stop - everything - and pray.

p.s. I found a free Angelus app for iPhone.  I don't know about other smart phones, if you find something, please post the info for others.  Thanks!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Daylight Saving my eye!

Whoever thought up the not so brilliant idea of Daylight Saving Time didn't not have a toddler!

It has been a rough week around here because my little guy has not adjusted to the time change. For most of the week he woke up around 5 am. There is no way I'm starting the day that early, especially when he is sleep deprived, so I tried to snuggle with him to see if he would fall back to sleep. No deal! This makes for a cranky, whiny toddler and cranky mommy (I try not to whine, too much). Have I mentioned that it's been ugly?

After a week of early rising and untold temper tantrums and more whining than I care to remember, I'm beat. Thanks be to God I have an awesome husband (a nutty morning person) who will happily play with our son tomorrow morning so that I can sleep in a little. I wish I had something theological to offer, but I don't. I hope you can get a little extra sleep this weekend, too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I liked it better when I was blissfully ignorant

My original idea for today's blog got scrapped after I read this article from LifeSiteNews.

Apparently, it's great to be a slut...or so says some guy from MTV who made a video for Planned Parenthood touting the awesomeness of being a girl who has several sexual partners. My jaw dropped! I searched hard for that video and was unable to find it. And, then I clicked on the link to Planned Parenthood's Facebook page for "Parenthood Info for Teens". Frankly, I think it's worth checking it out, especially if you have a tween or teen since it's marketed to them.

Here's a sampling of what I saw: A picture of an excited girl, about 16 or 17 with the caption Queefing is NBD. Allow me to translate: A vaginal fart is no big deal. Then there was a picture of a "couple", look like they're about 13 or 14, and the caption there is: It's important to let your partner know what you want - and what you don't want - before things get sexual. There was a link to comedian Amy Poehler's video blog, "Ask Amy" on how teens should talk to parents. Finally, there was a link to a PP article, "Is it bad that my parents haven't talk to me about birth control yet?"


When I worked in youth ministry I kept up with this stuff because I wanted to know what kids were watching, listening to, reading, etc. If a teen mentioned an unfamiliar book or show, then I got my hands on it. The last couple years I've been distracted by a little guy. I've been busy making sure the evil purple dinosaur or the equally annoying and evil Dora the Explorer is not on the T.V, diaper changing, potty training, teaching manners, eradicating whining. It's not as though I am ignorant of the things that are out there influencing young people, but it's staggering how aggressive the campaign to sexualize children has become.

While the evilness of Barney and Dora is based on personal opinion and not theological evidence, the mission to advance abortion and sexualize children is evil. Thanks be to God for LifeSiteNews and other organizations that keep up on all this horrible stuff and keep me educated (even when I would prefer blissful ignorance).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lessons from Super Why

Super Why (my son) and I were out of town for a week. Here's the photographic evidence of the costume I sewed. When I finished sewing, glueing, appliqué-ing, and cleaning up, I tried it on my little guy and he didn't want to take it off! That's an enormous compliment from a 3 year old.

When my son donned his costume, he became Super Why; he even refers to himself as Super Why when he sees pictures from Halloween. It got me thinking, would the world be a better place if Christians (Catholic or Protestant) could channel an alter-ego when they needed to be Christians? It might make things better for everyone since sometimes Christians aren't so Christian, myself included. "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today are Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." This quote from Brennan Manning opens DC Talk's What if I Stumble. The quote hurts because it's true.

The lesson from Super Why is that I already have an alter ego. As St. Paul explains, "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me..." (Gal 2:19b-20a). If I call Christ my Lord and Savior, then my old self is (supposed to be) dead and I'm a superhero. Yet, like all superheroes, I have my weaknesses and it's those weaknesses that can set a bad example or cast a bad light on all Christians.

Life is not a Hollywood superhero movie. There are no retakes in life. There is no need for a cape or disguise when Jesus Christ is my backup, all I need is a prayer to help me be more like Him.

Oh my Divine Savior, transform me into yourself.
May my hands be your hands.
May my tongue by your tongue.
Grant that every faculty of my body may serve only to glorify you.
Above all, transform my soul and all its powers
that my memory, my will, and my affections
may be the memory, the will, and the affections of you.
I pray you to destroy in me all that is not of you.
Grant that I may live but in you and by you and for you
that I may truly say with St. Paul, “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.”
    Vincentian Missioner Prayer - St. John Gabriel Perboyre, C.M.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kristin Lavransdatter

Last night I stayed up late to finish Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. The story follows Kristin from birth to death in 14th century Norway and it's actually three books: The Crown, The Wife, and The Cross. This book was recommended to me about six years ago by a teacher at a Catholic high school in Chicago. I checked out a copy of The Crown from the library and I found it very hard to read. A few months ago I thought I'd give it another shot and that's when I discovered a brand new translation by Tina Nullally. The original English translation, for some completely bizarre reason, added thees and thous which are not in the original Norwegian and then cut out scenes making the book very choppy and hard to read. The new translation is true to Undset's writing and is beautiful.

I'm amazed I never heard of Undset, especially since I was originally a Literature major. Kristin Lavransdatter is the best book I have ever read! It's also the most Catholic book I've ever read. Being the mom of a toddler, it took me a couple of months to read it since it's nearly 1000 pages. My reading time is when I lay down in bed at night and most nights I read about half a page and pass out! It's one of those books that you want to get to the end to find out the whole story, but you don't want it to end since it's so good. I think it's the kind of book that I will need to read every few years because each read will reveal something different.

Since the book is about Kristin's whole life, I'm not giving anything away by telling you the end is about her death. Kristin is a complex, human person - just like everyone else on this planet - and she is hardly perfect. She is headstrong and makes very poor choices that haunt her and as she ages she comes to a deeper understanding of how her sins have impacted those around her. Kristin is not some perfectly crafted "character", she's perfectly, imperfect and that is what I love about her. As I read the last pages last night I was weeping and finally had to get out of bed so I wouldn't wake up my husband! Even with all of her imperfections, Kristin finally sees how the perfect love of God had surrounded her all her days and in her last breaths she is embraced by Love.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More on my guilty pleasure

A few weeks ago I blogged about the new show on ABC, 666 Park Avenue.

I still find the show fascinating from a theological perspective. Many of the tenants of 999 Park Avenue make a deal with the devil character, Gavin Doran, only thinking of the immediate rewards and not thinking about the price. For instance, this past week a woman wanted to be an extremely successful writer. The deal she struck with Gavin guaranteed her success, however the downside to her deal was whatever she wrote came true. She worked for a prominent New York newspaper and wrote news stories that were based on lies and fiction. She winds up dead because of the webs of deceit she created only to be successful.

The storyline got me thinking about lies and then yesterday I heard a story on the radio that seemed like it came out of a Hollywood script. A local woman told her co-workers that her infant daughter died. Her co-workers donated money to her to cover the costs of the funeral and then discovered the lie when they arrived at the church for the funeral. The woman said she wanted attention and used the money to buy clothes and toys for her child. Well, she's definitely getting attention now because she's going to jail. This case is extreme and while the law might assign more weight to a particular kind of lie, does God?

A lie is a lie is a lie and I know I lie.

Why do I lie?'s usually to avoid something unpleasant. For instance, I might tell a friend that she looks great in an outfit so that I don't have to tell her that her butt looks big (to my friends: if you've gone shopping with me, you know I don't do this). While I might not be signing my soul away to the devil with a little white lie, I am definitely getting an immediate reward of not having a fight with my friend. Rarely do we think of the cost of a little white lie. What might happen when my friend goes to a wedding in her new dress and some tipsy family member makes a crack about her caboose? That "little" white lie could end a friendship or at the very least create a lot of tension while the question of trust hangs between us.

It's a heavy cost for something so "little", but hey, that's the way the devil works.

***I have to make one correction from my last post about the show: the protagonists of the show are not married, they're living together. ***

Friday, October 19, 2012

Being a Princess

I'm up to my elbows in making Halloween costumes.  

When I asked my son a few months ago what he wanted to be for Halloween he immediately said, "Super Why!"  He's a PBS superhero who teaches kids to read and find answers to problems in books.  I was expecting something like a dinosaur, dragon, SpiderMan, or any of the other typical answers from a little boy.  I continued to ask him over several weeks who he wanted to be and every time it was Super Why.  

"Sweet!" I thought.  It's a very easy costume to make (cape, mask, green t-shirt).  

Then he started asking who I would be for Halloween.  "Uhhhh...I...uh...well."  Since I hesitated my son decided for me.  "You're Princess Pea!"  (See upper right corner of picture)

This morning we ran to the store to pick up a few things for his costume and I parked the cart next to the remnant bin while I looked over a few items.  He reached in the bin and pulled out pink toile with rhinestones.  "Here Mommy, you're a princess."  

I realize that it's very sweet for my son to think I'm a princess, but I'm hardly the princess type.  I didn't even like princess stuff when I was little.  However, I ran into a friend who works at the craft store and I mentioned, "I'm going to be a princess for Halloween."

"That's perfect!" she replied. "You're a daughter of the King!"

Huh!  And so I am.  

God, who "dwells in unapproachable light", wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons (and daughters) in his only-begotten Son.  Catechism of the Catholic Church, 52.  

I guess I better get over my problems with being a princess.  

Who knew making Halloween costumes would lead to such an interesting theological point to ponder? Or that I would be able to link costumes to the Catechism?  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blocks of faith

My son is discovering the awesome world of imagination, every item in the house can be turned into something else with an accompanying story. For instance he has a stacking ring set, which is normally a baby toy, the rings are doughnuts and I'm allowed to have one if I've been good. The base and stem can be separated and both of these items are magically transformed into water guns only to be used with the appropriate "shhhhhh" sound to mimic water shooting out.

This morning my son walked over to me with building blocks rigged up to look like a flashlight. "I can't see, Mommy, there's no light." And that reminded me of today's Psalm response: Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life (Psalm 1). My son was playing, but his simple comment clicked gears into motion.

Sure, we need actual flashlights on standby in case the lights go out, but relying on anything other than God in life will not lead to eternal life. As St. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:7, we live by faith and not by sight.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

She had moxie!

“Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.” St. Teresa of Avila

Today is the memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, virgin and Doctor of the Church. St. Teresa is my favorite female saint and I wish I knew more about her. The thing I like best about her is that she had moxie and would give God a piece of her mind. Once, when she was traveling, she was thrown from her donkey and landed in mud. She is reported to have said, "Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few of them!" I love that! I have often heard people say that you're not supposed to talk to God that way, but I assume God already knows what I'm thinking, so I might as well be open about it.

While the friend quote might make you wonder if she was a heretic, the opening quote reveals the place God held in Teresa's life. She was a mystic who was blessed with a very deep and intoxicating relationship with the Lord. She was not afraid to be real with God and I find that example of honesty and depth so encouraging. God wants all of me, not just the good things or the pretty things. Jesus is waiting to be with me in the good, bad, ugly, and down right nasty.

Life is full of uncertainty and worries, but God does not change. Sometimes it feels like the world is going to crumble to pieces, but God will still remain. If I remain certain in that, then nothing can frighten me.

St. Teresa, pray that I may have moxie like you.  Amen.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Holy Catechism, Batman!

Pope Benedict XVI kicked off the Year of Faith on Thursday, October 11, 2012. The Holy Father asks that we take this year to learn more about our faith. Here is one way to do it - read the Catechism in a year. Using the link below you can sign up to get bite sized portions of the Catechism delivered directly to you inbox each and every day. Even though it's a few days late, it's not too late to sign up. You can choose to catch up or jump in tomorrow.

Many blessings on this Year of Faith!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three years ago...

Saturday will mark my son's 3rd birthday.

The days leading up to his birth were filled with fear and panic attacks.

Fear had been with me the entire pregnancy. My first pregnancy ended in the stillbirth of my son's big sister only 13 1/2 months before. She died at 37 weeks. When I was pregnant with my son I had to count kicks several times a day. Only days before my son was delivered I didn't get any kicks in the morning; I was 37 weeks and 1 day. Terrified, my husband and I drove to the hospital. I kept telling myself, Prepare to hear, 'there is no heartbeat.' Thankfully, there was a heartbeat.

The panic attacks were due to something I didn't discover until the day I found out I had to have a C-section: I'm terrified of surgery. As my bear bottom sat on a freezing cold surgical table while someone was sticking a needle in my spine (which also freaks me out) and I looked at a table filled with medieval torture devices, I prayed the Hail Mary. I said it over and over and over again.

Laying on the operating table I thought, 'It could still go wrong'. I worried my husband and I would drive home from the hospital without a baby in the backseat, again. After several minutes of further preparation, some joking with the doctors, my husband nearly poking my eye out because he was watching the operation, followed by my doctor wrestling with my son, he was finally born and screamed his little head off. Happiness flooded me and I cried, "That's the most beautiful sound in the world." I think any mom (or dad) feels that way when she hear the cries of her child for the first time, but my daughter's birth was silent and all of that pain was transformed into joy at the sound of his cry.

After he underwent the initial battery of tests, the nurse brought him over so I could see him. He was still screaming his head off! I quietly said, "Hi buddy, I'm the Mama." He stopped crying and turned his cubby little face towards me. It was love at first sight!

Today he is mobile and defiant and talks and still screams and he is the most wonderful boy in the world!  Happy Birthday, little buddy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dear Guardian Angel

Have you talked to your Guardian Angel today?  I have to admit, I don't talk to my Guardian Angel.  I need to work on that.

There is only one mention of guardian angels in the Catechism (336).  St. Basil said, "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."  The Catholic Church teaches that each person has an angel whose job it is to watch over us.  As the quote from St. Basil suggests, their job isn't necessarily protest us physically, but to protect our souls and get us to heaven.  There are plenty of stories about angels saving people from accidents and that would support Psalm 91:11-12.

"For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone."

The Devil tried to tempt Jesus with power over life and death by using these verses.  The Devil told Jesus to throw himself down from the height of the wall surrounding Jerusalem.  Jesus said, "Don't put God to the test."  Message: don't test God by taking stupid chances with your life; that is not the job of your guardian angel.

If my Guardian Angel's job is to get me to heaven, then I imagine that would be easier if I actually talked to my Angelino.  If you're like me, this little prayer is a good place to start:

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear
to whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side
to light and guard and rule and guide.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Devil on Park Avenue

Last night was the premier of the second season of Revenge. It is hands down my guilty pleasure. I usually don't like soap opera style shows, but Revenge is more than just rich people sleeping around (although that's in there, too). During the commercial breaks ABC was pushing a new series called 666 Park Avenue. I thought I would give it a couple of minutes and see what it was like. I was only able to withstand 10 minutes of Revolution on NBC a few weeks ago; my suspension of disbelief was not so willing with that one!

666 Park Avenue turned out to be awesome, that is if you're watching it with a theological eye. If you want to read the full synopsis of the episode, you can do so here. Here's the really brief synopsis: it's a modern take on Mephistopheles (a devil). In the first episode the viewer learns the price for making a deal with the Devil. Gavin Doran is the successful, real estate tycoon version of Mephistopheles. Don't ask me why my disbelief will suspend for this show while it won't for others, perhaps it's because there is theological gold in this show. The pilot episode jumped into several deadly sins: pride, sloth (discouragement), lust, and wrath.

What is yet to be seen is the balancing force against the Devil. I have a few ideas of how it will play out in the show, but I can bet none of them will involve a character saying "In the name of Jesus Christ, get back, Satan!" or someone reciting the Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel. And, that is sad, because nothing human can fight the devil, only the name of Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Hosts.

Here is the problem with the messages in this show (including many movies and other shows - including my guilty pleasure): it's fine to satisfy any desire, any need and who cares about the side effects. In reality, ideas have consequences. If I lust after some guy that is not my husband, even if it's only in my thoughts, that is a doorway into serious sin. And, to be clear, I shouldn't even lust after my husband, because that reduces him to an object instead of the person God created.

There is an interesting scene where the two protagonists, a married couple, are talking after they willing agree to work and live with the Devil.  The wife asks her husband, "Henry, are we going to be okay here?"

No one is okay with Mephistopheles in their company.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Happy Day!

Today is the feast day of my most favorite saint, Vincent de Paul!

I didn't know much about St. Vincent until I attended DePaul University. He's known as the Evangelizer of the Poor and he did tremendous work in France for the priesthood, establishing the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac, founding the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians), and then inspiring others like Blessed Frederic Ozanam to start the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

The thing that really attracted me to St. Vincent was that he didn't get the whole "holiness thing" down until he was about 40. When I was in my 20s that was really inspiring, but now that I'm close to banging on the door of 40, it's a little daunting; I have only 2 years to get my act together! Getting to know Vincent helped me to understand how to be a follower of Christ in the "real world". His charism (way of living) is my charism.

St. Vincent wasn't born a saint. That might seem obvious, but so often when I think about a saint, well, he or she is saintly. I figure they had the whole Christian life figured out from an early age. Vincent was born into a poor family and became a priest in order to escape poverty. It's not that he was a bad priest before it all clicked for him, but his motivations might have been more financial than saintly.

The pivotal moment in Vincent's life came when he heard the confession of a dying peasant. He saw his own parents in this man and realized that he had neglected the poor. One moment changed his life and he worked with gusto to make significant changes in France.  I could go on and on about St. Vincent, but I'll only share one very cool story.

In a way, St. Vincent saved the Church in France during the Revolution. When establishing the Daughters of Charity, he stipulated that a Vincentian had to be connected to the community. During the French Revolution all the priests and religious were thrown out of the country. As the government was getting ready to chuck the Daughters out of France, someone wised up and said, "Uh, you know they run all the hospitals, care for orphans, and care for the prisoners, right? Maybe we should let them stay." And then, a very crafty Daughter said, "Oh, sure, we can stay, but you have to allow the Vincentians to stay, too. It's part of our founding documents." Absolutely brilliant!

A very blessed and happy feast day to all Vincentians, Daughters, and everyone else in the Vincentian family!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Grace, sin, and hair dye

The other day I went to the salon to get red highlights added to my hair.  I have only gotten my hair colored a handful of times, but I never had any issues.  A strange thing happened this time around, after two attempts only a little bit of the red penetrated my hair.  According to my stylist, that's pretty weird.

I came up with a theological analogy regarding my hair (because all things relate to theology, of course).  Hair dye is like the grace of God in the Sacraments, most especially in the Eucharist.  Hair represents the soul.  Sin prevents the hair dye from penetrating the hair.  

For the sake of my analogy, the sin we're dealing with is venial sin, not mortal sin.  Mortal sin separates me from God because I choose to turn away from God.  In order to commit a mortal sin, three conditions must be met: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent.  Grave matter is a very serious sin against God, like abortion or adultery.  Full knowledge means I know what I doing and I know it is a serious sin.  Deliberate consent simply means I go and commit the sin anyway.  Basically, it's like saying to God, "Up yours!"  Sorry, that might come off as a bit brash in my otherwise family-friendly blog, but mortal sin is bad stuff and there's no point beating around the bush.  

Venial sin works the way my hair did the other day.  It doesn't block the grace of God, but it doesn't allow it through completely either.  Venial sins include those "little sins" I commit everyday: swearing, losing my temper, laughing at crass jokes, gossip, etc.  Habitual, unrepentant venial sin can lead me to commit moral sin.  Or to put it another way, think of your soul like a window.  Imagine if you never busted out the Glass Plus and cleaned that window.  That's how venial works; the light still gets through, but it's not as brilliant.  

Confession is the super-powerful spiritual cleanse that gets my soul right again.  The grace of Confession works its way into every part of my soul and allows all the brilliance of God's grace to shine through.  Or, in the case of my hair, I went back today and my stylist used super strong hair dye to allow the red highlights to shine through.  I've got super cute hair, now to work on getting a super cute soul.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where was Jesus when I needed him?'s Gospel is one of those where I want to yell, "Hey Jesus, where the heck were you when I needed you?"  I'm guessing most parents who have buried a child would like to ask Jesus the same thing.  The reading from Luke 7:11-17 is the miracle story of Jesus raising the young man from the dead.

Now, while I'd love to give Jesus a piece of my mind there is one line that stands out.  When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, "Do not weep."  

Being the theology nerd that I am, it shouldn't be too surprising that I have theology nerd friends and we get all geeked out on theology.  Years before my daughter died I had a conversation about whether God is moved by our pain.  Here's the breakdown of the debate: my friend insisted that God was not moved by our pain because God is unchanging.  She insisted that you don't want a God that is changeable (mutable, in theology speak) because that would mean that God might be different tomorrow, for example, God might not love us tomorrow.

My view was that God is moved by our pain, but not in a human sort of way.  His being moved does not change the essence of who God is.  I highlighted that Jesus was moved with pity for people, so why couldn't God (the Trinity)?  It's weird to think of God suffering, but having pity is a kind of suffering and God's suffering is because of his LOVE (in theology speak, kenosis).

When the discussion was over, we agreed to disagree like good and orthodox Catholics should when philosophizing about the nature of God.

I don't know if my position is right, but there have been a few times since I buried my daughter it felt like God whispered to me, do not weep.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Mommy's Work

Oooh geez!  It's one of those readings that get Catholics and Protestants going at each other:

James 2:14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them,
"Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, "
but you do not give them the necessities of the body,
what good is it?
So also faith of itself,
if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say,
"You have faith and I have works."
Demonstrate your faith to me without works,
and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

Saying you have faith won't save you.  And, only doing works (without faith) won't save you.

It's the combination of the two.  My faith should get me off my butt to serve others.  "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."  I love this quote from St. Francis of Assisi and I think it sums up today's reading well.  My life should be a demonstration of my faith.  Every moment, every interaction should preach the Gospel to others.  It should be, but it's not always.

Each season of life brings new and different opportunities to share faith and works.  As a single person I had far more time to give to ministry and to service.  As a mom with a young child there are days I don't have time to take a shower, but I have more time now than I did when my son was a baby.  While I wish I had the time (and the energy) to do more works of service, it's not possible right now.  Sometimes that makes me sad/discouraged because I feel like I'm not serving the Kingdom.  However, as parent I need to remember that my first mission field is to the little guy who watches me day in and day out.

The season of life with young children can feel long and monotonous, but this season will pass.  The work in this season of the mission is to be an engineer and lay a foundation for my son.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Mommy Measure

"For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you." Luke 6:38

Little did I know that I have actually been thinking about this verse lately. My son, never to be thwarted by our methods of discipline, has found a new way to make me lose my mind. His new way of showing his displeasure is throwing. Now, most of the time, he's an awesome toddler who loves to be tickled and play games, but there are times if he doesn't get exactly what he wants when he wants it or is told 'no', then something is going to fly through the air.

I have not helped this situation of late; I have a hard time keeping my cool when I'm stressed or sick both of which I've been. The other night at the dinner table I told him no about something. He was not happy about it and before I could try to calm him down he picked up his plastic bowl and threw it at me. I'm all about discipline and sometimes that requires raising my voice. On this occasion, I snapped! I yelled at him, but I went too far. I could see that I had scared him to the point that he was afraid. Oh crap! Yeah, sign me up for Mother of Year!

I immediately regretted flying off the handle. It was a very ugly moment in my motherhood...not at all the way I want to be. As I thought more about his throwing, I thought about the way I had responded over the last few weeks. It's not good. I would get mad and yell. So, I decided it's time to reframe the whole situation. I told him that if he throws something or doesn't listen, then I take his B (his favorite blanket). I stay calm when he gets crazy.  Thus far, it has worked like a charm.  He has gotten mad, but I haven't.

My hope is that if I measure out calm, then he will measure out some calm (for a toddler) in return. If I am measured in discipline, then he will be disciplined.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On miscarriage

" we mourn the death of your child,
we place ourselves in the hands of God 
and ask strength, for healing, and for love."
Book of Blessings - Blessing of Parents after a Miscarriage

The above quote is part of the blessing that the Church offers to a family after a miscarriage.  I didn't know such a blessing existed and the other moms of miscarriages that I've talked to the last few weeks didn't know either.  Please share this with your friends and your priests.

This is what I love about the blessing: the Catholic Church tells it like it is.  Miscarriage is not a happy topic and many people want to change the subject or give simple answers.  Here is a sampling of what is said: you can have another baby, be thankful for your child(ren), you weren't that far along.  While these things might be factual, they do not speak the truth.  

Another thing many women hear is, "You've only had 1 miscarriage, well, I've had x." A friend told me this happened to her on a few occasions.  Loss is not a contest.  I have had one stillbirth and now one miscarriage, the pain is different but that does not make my stillborn daughter any more real than my miscarried baby.  A life is a life, a soul is a soul.  The loss of that life is painful.

The Church speaks the truth when it proclaims "as we mourn the death of your child".  The Church says, "That little life you carried inside you, no matter how long, was a person with a soul.  Now that person is gone and we mourn that loss.  Take heart, God is with you."  

A little over 2 weeks ago my husband and I received that blessing.  It might seem crazy that one line brought me such consolation and peace, but it did.  We didn't have to mourn our baby's death alone, the Church stood with us.  And thanks to Fr. Bruce at St. Brigid's Memphis for taking the time!

Note for priests: I'm the theology geek in the pew with an M. Div. and I didn't know about this blessing.  There are probably many families in your pews who have gone through a miscarriage and didn't know they should call the church office to ask for a blessing.  I know priests are stretched thin and finding opportunities for catechizing can be difficult, especially on something like The Book of Blessings, but it can offer so much healing and encouragement.  I understand there's even a blessing for fishing gear...God knows it would take divine encouragement for me to fish!  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Today is the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Like everyone else, I remember exactly what I was doing that morning: admiring the perfect blue sky in St. Louis on my deck when I should have been studying Christology.

My friend, Fr. Philip Powell, O.P., wrote a great reflection for today at Domine, da mini hand aqua!.

I find it strange that today is not a national holiday - like Veteran's Day. I realize today has been named Patriot's Day, but what does that mean? I think we should take a cue from our friends over the pond who remember their fallen on Remembrance Day.

I vote for 9/11 to be called Remembrance Day. It should be a day off from work and school. I'm a big fan of capitalism and free markets, but all the stores should be closed and there should be a law against crazy sale prices in honor of the day. There is no honor in getting a great deal at the local big box store remembering my fallen countrymen and women who went to work and got on planes.

Today should be a day of prayer and patriotism. I'm cool with there being parades but politicians aren't allowed to glad hand. They can have a float or signs that say something like, "I'm a proud American" or "God Bless America". There is no honor in politicizing when the purpose is to remember.

The emphasis should be on prayer and if anyone gets snooty about prayer on this day, then ask them what they did on 9/11. On 9/11, the midday Mass at my parish had standing room only when normally there were about 10 people. Many of those present on 9/11 weren't even Catholic, they simply wanted to be with others to pray, to mourn. The spirit of community and support in that small church - and throughout the country - was greater than the hatred perpetuated against us. Our country needs an anemesis ('remembering' like in the Mass).

We need to remember because forgetting is dangerous.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where are the tissues?

I was knocked on my backside by a horrible sinus infection nearly 3 weeks ago.  And, I'm not sure it's done with me yet.  I've managed to get a few posts up, but the pounding in my head and ears made it pretty hard to think.  It was the illness version of Harrison Bergeron, (an awesome short story by Kurt Vonnegut).  In Vonnegut's story, everyone is made intellectually equal.  Those who are "too intelligent" are fitted with mental handicap radios in their ears that transmit loud, distracting sounds to keep them from thinking.  I simply couldn't think due to being sick...and that's about where the similarities end, but do read the story!

While trying to not infect the rest of my family with my cold, I did think quite a bit about illness.  The last couple weeks I've barely been able to pray - my whole world was out of whack.  It reminded me of a discussion from grad school about the blessing and witness of illness.  If you're like me, then you just say, "Huh?!  How is being sick a blessing?"

Here are the basics: people who are sick - and I mean really sick - and keep their faith are a blessing to the rest of the community because they are witnesses of Christ.  Think about someone you know who is really sick and has managed to keep their faith; he/she is inspiring.  Their daily struggles put minor annoyances and inconveniences into perspective.

Speaking of perspective...all I had was a sinus infection, what the heck am I crabbing about?  Being sick is...well, it stinks!  And it reveals the other dimension of the blessing and witness of illness.  I am never so happy for my health as when I get over a long bout of yuck and I will be doing cartwheels in the front yard when this infection is finally OVER!  I will be praising God at the top of my lungs (and I won't even have to cough)!

Take a moment today to pray for someone who is sick.  Maybe it's a friend or family member who has been a witness of Christ to you in their long illness.  Maybe it's for your sister or brother who just can't kick their cold.  Whoever it is, your prayers will be a blessing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Greater than

Why do the founding principles of our country cause some people to cheer wildly and others to scoff? What is wrong with inalienable rights? What’s wrong with rights that can’t be taken away? Frankly, I’m a big fan of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Perhaps the problem isn’t so much the inalienable rights as the fact that some believe these rights come from a Creator. You already know I’m a big fan of the Creator. But, I still struggle to understand why some people are so contemptuous of those of us who believe in God and cling to our inalienable rights.

While some argue that the problem in our country is hateful rhetoric, I argue that is due to different moral compasses. There is the camp that believes natural law is from God and these are the same people that are fans of the founding principles of the United States. Then there is the camp that follows any number of -isms, but predominantly relativism. Relativism is the notion that there are no absolutes, except that the individual is the final arbiter of truth. Some will argue that it is ludicrous to expect every American to live by a similar moral code. I humbly disagree. The country was established by people who were very different and yet still managed to find common ground without sacrificing their ideals or souls. Relativism is changeable while natural law is unchanging.

Morality can ground both a person and a country or can send both into chaos. The question is: am I going to follow the changeable morality of a person or am I going to strive for something greater? There is a famous quote that helps to illustrate this idea: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” If I follow my own relativistic morality, then I’m not even shooting for the moon.  I’m just hobbling along with all the others following relativism. If I follow natural law, then I am aiming at something higher than myself. If I follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, then I won’t land on the moon, but I’ll land in Heaven.

The final question is: who is greater? Me or God. If I’m greater, then division will remain because that means I’m greater than you are. If God is greater, then we have a common vision.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

St. Augustine

St. Augustine shares the top spot on my Top 10 Saints with St. Vincent de Paul. These two saints have impacted me the deepest (after Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, of course). St. Vincent's life taught me how to live the Christian life in practical terms, but it is St. Augustine who taught me about the Trinity.

I was in college when I first read one of St. Augustine's most famous quotes: "You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." (Confessions, Book 1). "Wow!" I thought, "That one line says it all." I sat at in my dorm room and contemplated that one line for a long time. The world is full of restless people - they are all around us - and it's hard to convince restless people to resign to God; it seems antithetical. St. Augustine knew what it felt like to be restless. He wasn't born a saint, just like the rest of us, but he grew into being a saint. He looked for peace in so many arenas, but they all left him empty. Finally, he picked up a Bible and his life was changed.

During my second year in grad school I had a semester long class on the Doctrine of the Trinity and it changed my life. I think I drove most of my other classmates crazy because I LOVED this class; this class brought me to tears! It is impossible to study the Trinity without reading Augustine. The easiest way to encapsulate what Augustine taught me is: relationship and love. The Persons of the Trinity are in relationship with one another and it is perfect love that binds them. This is our example for life.

St. Augustine, pray for us that we may love the Mystery of the Trinity as you do.

Monday, August 27, 2012

St. Monica

If I had to create a Top 10 List of Favorite Saints, then St. Monica would make that list.

Who, you ask, was St. Monica? She was the mother of St. Augustine, the theological powerhouse of the early Church. However, before Augustine jumped on the Jesus Train, he was one lost soul. St. Monica was a Christian but had an arranged marriage to a pagan, Patricius. Life for women in the 4th century was not kind and Patricius was not a good husband. Monica bore her struggles with patience, love, humility, and prayer. She is the quintessential example of the good Christian wife and mother.

Augustine was a wild child and explored philosophies and non-Christian religions before he finally met Christ in the Word. Through it all she prayed and prayed and prayed for her son. If you want to know more about St. Monica, there's a great biography on her by Giovanni Falbo, St. Monica: The Power of a Mother's Love. Falbo doesn't simply rely on "folklore" to share the story of Monica, he uses Augustine's own words about his mother. I highly recommend this book if you want to know more about Church history, Monica, and Augustine.

St. Monica serves as a reminder that prayers sometimes take years before they are answered. Also, even the most difficult situations with children can find a happy ending in Christ.

St. Monica, pray for us.

Friday, August 24, 2012

...or for worse...

Under normal circumstances this week is a pretty hard week for my husband and I. Tomorrow will mark the 4 year anniversary of the stillbirth of our daughter. I can't believe it has been 4 years because back then I wasn't sure how I was going to survive the week, never mind a year. This year, we had another trauma: I had a miscarriage this week. I was about 8 weeks and was getting ready to announce to family and friends and the blogosphere. Last week I had the first ultrasound and things weren't quite right with little Button (that's what we called the baby).  The doctor said not to worry, so I tried not to, but by Monday afternoon the miscarriage started.

My reason for writing about this is to highlight the importance of a strong marriage. When I worked as a youth minister, kids would ask me about my husband, how we met, and marriage. The teenage girls wanted to hear the romantic stuff and the teenage boys...well, they rarely asked about that stuff so I shared with them anyway. I emphasized two things. First, Love is an action verb; it's not a feeling. Everyday you have to choose to love, choose to act out of love. Second, marriage is a covenant between husband, wife, and God. I have always thought of it as God surrounding us and filling in the gaps between us.

A professor from college once talked about marriage and love on a personal level - not just theologically. She said, "Sometimes you wake up in the morning and you choose to love your spouse because he is the father of your children. That's the only reason you can find to love him because all of his other qualities and characteristics are driving you crazy that week." This was the first time I had heard anyone talk about love and marriage this way; it sounded real. She wasn't speaking negatively of her husband and she also wasn't idealizing marriage. To my ears it sounded pretty harsh, but I stored it away.

My husband is the best guy in the world: he gets me and is willing to put up with me. God bless him!  I love him very much, but my professor was right.  Sometimes, it is hard to love - like when the clothes are on the floor and the dirty dishes are in the sink and every other thing is annoying me. However, that annoyance is really my own selfishness and so I will myself to love. I knew before we got married, in the depths of my soul, that we could make it through anything. It wasn't some kind of sentimental, lovely-dovey crap, like "we can slay dragons together".  I knew that we could tackle any question, any problem. Seven years ago, as I planned our wedding, little did I know the "for worse" that was awaiting us. Today, as we prepare to pass another year without our oldest and mourn Baby Button, I know we will make it through this. Even in our "for worse" moments we still choose to love and God is allowed to fill the space between us.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's not what you do...

You can't earn your way into Heaven, no matter how you try. Only Christ can get us through the Pearly Gates. In today's Gospel, a young man approaches Jesus and asks what good he must do in order to attain eternal life. Jesus turns it around and says there is only One good and that's God. He then tells him to follow the Commandments. The young man says, "Yup, done that." Jesus cranks it up a notch and tells him to go sell all he has, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. "Oh..." says the young man. He leaves Jesus sad because he had many possessions.

It's not what you do, but how you live. The young man wanted to buy his way into Heaven by doing something "good", but Jesus knew he was a prisoner to his possessions. Jesus isn't saying that the rich can't get into Heaven. St. Paul often thanked the people who bankrolled his ministry. These people
happily parted with their wealth/possessions in order to further the Kingdom. The same is true today. Ministry costs money and the Church needs generous benefactors to help pay for the Mission.

Jesus' challenge to the young man is about his priorities. Anything you put before Christ will keep you out of Heaven. Obviously, this young man loved his possessions more than he loved God. Do I put anything before God? Spouse, friends, kids, possessions, prestige, etc?  Anytime anything comes before God, I am blocking my way to Heaven. And, I'm going to push the idea a little further...

Say I've got God at the top of your list, but I've not aligned my priorities properly, then, I've got a problem. For instance, I'm married and have a child, therefore my husband and son come first (after I take care of my basic needs: mental, physical, and emotional health). But, let's say that I put serving at church ahead of taking care of my son and husband - like all my waking hours are spent at church. And, I mean all my waking hours, not just a short term crazy period to help with a fundraiser or dinner dance. When I neglect my first vocation of wife and mother, then I am blocking my way to Heaven.

It's not what you do or what you give, but how you live and order your life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's a Promise

Ahhh...Catholic gotta love it. No, really, you do...the Church says you should love it. Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For many Catholics today might be a case of, "who cares?" and for many Protestants this might be a day to say, "You're at it again with the whole Mary thing!" Today's feast is a promise to all the Christian faithful that our souls will be rejoined to our resurrected (not reanimated) bodies and we will worship God forever. That's one heck of a promise!

I love Our Lady! Her role is to lead us to her Son. You ask her to pray for you and she is all over it. She is the first and best disciple and our best example of how to love Christ. While she was born without Original Sin, that doesn't mean that she couldn't sin. Adam and Eve were created without Original Sin and we know how awesome they were in the not sinning department. Mary could have sinned, but she chose not to sin.

Think of all the times you could choose to not sin, but do it anyway. It makes me shudder!  Now, think about the times when you're trying to break a sinful habit and how strong the temptation is to sin. Imagine what it was like for Mary. She must have been bombarded with temptations we can't imagine, but she said 'no' every time and that only made her soul stronger. She never abandoned her Son and reading John's account of the Wedding Feast at Cana, Mary encouraged Jesus to embrace his mission. She followed him on the Way of the Cross and stood at the Foot of the Cross. She became the mother of the apostles and kept them together after the death of Christ.

From the very early Church, Mary has been honored for her role as the Mother of God and for her faith.  There is historical evidence of this feast day being celebrated in the 5th century. Tradition states that Mary died about 11 years after the Crucifixion, surrounded by the apostles (except Thomas) and was placed in a tomb. When Thomas arrived he asked to view Mary's body and it was not in the tomb. The belief began to spread in the early Church that the Risen Lord did not want his sinless mother to suffer the effects of death (i.e. lying in a grave). Mary was "assumed" into Heaven, body and soul.

It is highly unlikely that I will be spared the indignities of death and I will undoubtedly have to spend some time in Purgatory, because let's face it, I'm not Mary. However, I will make it to Heaven in my resurrected body where I'll get to worship God forever. I will also get to say to the Blessed Mother, "Thank you for being our example and promise."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Filled with YOUR Glory

Heaven and earth are filled with your glory. Psalm response, Ps 148

Open up the Bible and you get God's opinion on Creation and Humankind. Creation = good. Humankind = very good. Sure, humankind screwed things up a bit, but we are still very good, so good, in fact, that God came to be one of us. And, God did the whole trip...from conception to death. He didn't just pop into some body or magically appear on the scene. Oh no, God took on the flesh, the hormones, the joy, and the pain. God becoming one of us elevates our human potential because God has glorified it...

And then you settle into your everyday life and read the newspaper or watch TV it's hard to remember that the earth is filled with God's glory. Stories of murder, rape, aggression, personal goes on and on. Earth seems to be filled with ugliness, not glory. That is the trick of Satan.

Satan wants us to fall for one of two lies: a.) I am so awesome that I don't need God. b.) the world is a big bowl of crap. Satan doesn't care which lie you pick, he can work with either one. It's very easy to get sucked into one of these two traps. Here's the key for getting out: by simply saying the name of Jesus Christ (you have to say it out loud), the evil dude has to get packing. And, there's nothing like a heartfelt "Hallelujah!" to lift the spirits.

It's not my intention to make light of the evil in the world. Christians are to stand up in the face of evil and say NO! But, I need to guard myself so that evil does not to take possession of me so that I can't act.

Enjoy Psalm 148 and let your HALLELUJAH drive the Devil away!

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you his angels;
give praise, all you his hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all shining stars.
Praise him, highest heavens,
you waters above the heavens.
Let them all praise the LORD’s name;
for he commanded and they were created,
Assigned them their station forever,
set an order that will never change.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you sea monsters and all the deeps of the sea;
Lightning and hail, snow and thick clouds,
storm wind that fulfills his command;
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars;
Animals wild and tame,
creatures that crawl and birds that fly;
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all who govern on earth;
Young men and women too,
old and young alike.
Let them all praise the LORD’s name,
for his name alone is exalted,
His majesty above earth and heaven.
He has lifted high the horn of his people;
to the praise of all his faithful,
the Israelites, the people near to him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Find your greatness

Nike has a new advertising campaign "find your greatness". The Olympics is the perfect place to highlight this message, but it hasn't only been about star athletes. There is a commercial with an overweight boy running down the street. The announcer tells us that we are all capable of greatness. Greatness is not something to be attained by prodigies alone. I love it!

I've thought about this campaign a lot in recent days (and as my cousin in advertising would tell me, that's a successful campaign). Of course, the theology geek in me started thinking about greatness. Greatness in Catholic Christian terms means holiness. When you see the world through the lens of Jesus Christ crucified and risen, greatness isn't necessarily about winning medal, although sometimes it is a way to glorify God.  There have been some stunning displays of faith during the London Games.

Finding my greatness means to grow in the virtues of justice, wisdom, courage, moderation, faith, hope, and love. Unlike the Nike promotion, though, there is a communal element to the quest for greatness and my first responsibilities lie with my husband and son. I am supposed to help them to grow in holiness.  The purpose of marriage is for mutual holiness.  It is my responsibility to get my husband to Heaven, and, God help him, it's his job to get me there.  As a mom, I am my son's first teacher of the faith.  I am also to help him find the greatness that the Nike commercial talks about; I am to help him define the gifts with which God has blessed him.

Christ has promised each of us greatness and the Communion of Saints stands by as the thundering crowd praying us along as we "fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).  Go out and find your greatness!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Too little?

Today's Gospel reading from Matthew 17:14-20 is one of the enigmatic sayings of Jesus.

The disciples were trying to drive a demon out of a young man and failed. The father of the young man knelt before Jesus and asked for his help. Jesus heals the man's son. Then, the disciples asked why they failed and this is what Jesus said:

"Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
"Move from here to there," and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you."

It reminds me of the scene in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when Luke Skywalker tries to move his X-wing fighter out of the muck and is unsuccessful and then Yoda is able to do it!  Or, another movie reference, in The Matrix when Neo tells Morpheus that he is too fast.  Morpheus responds, "Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place?"  Yoda and Morpheus have the faith and each believes in his student.

While in these two movies only "special" people can become Jedis or be The One, Jesus tells us that anyone can move a mountain. All you need is faith as small as a mustard seed. Now the question becomes, did Jesus mean a literal mountain or is he talking about spiritual mountains, like the disciples expelling the demon?

I know there have been times when I'm praying for something and my faith crumples a little because the situation seems too hard. It sounds something like this, "Dear God, please take care of 'X'...who am I kidding..." Rather than allowing the Lord to do something, I basically shut God out of the equation before I even give Him a shot.

Next time I think something is too big for God, I need to remember that my faith is too small and then pray my heart out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

He said what?

Today is the Feast of St. Lawrence of Rome - he's the patron saint of comedians.

Lawrence lived in third century Rome and was a deacon. In 258 Emperor Valerian thought the Christians had stashed away a significant treasure and he decided to persecute said treasure out of them. Valerian told Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. Lawrence promised to bring it to him in three days. Lawrence showed up with the poor and sick of Rome declaring they were the treasure of the Church. Let's just say that Valerian wasn't happy and essentially condemned Lawrence to the barbecue. Lawrence was laid on a grill and slowly burned to death. He told the executioner, "I'm done on this side, turn me over." And just before he died he said, "It's cooked enough now." It's horrible and comic and fortifying all at the same time.

St. Tertullian said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."  In modern conversation a martyr is someone who whines a lot in order to gain sympathy.  Yikes!  That's a serious "redefinition" for someone who died so as not to renounce her faith.  However, there may need to be a newer definition for martyr: someone whose reputation/business/life is destroyed by the media because he or she refuses to kowtow to secularism.  There are powerful people, modern Valerians, who can make or break someone with a comment or a "sound bite".

Being a faithful and practicing Christian (of whatever stripe) is akin to being a nut these days.  Public persecutions with barbecues are not currently in vogue, but ripping a Christian to proverbial shreds is perfectly acceptable.  As Christ said in today's Gospel (John 12:24-26): 

"Amen, amen, I say to you, 
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life."

Being a Christian means we have to put it all on the line for Christ.  What are you willing to say for Christ?  What are you willing to give up?  

St. Lawrence, pray for us.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Persistence and Humility

If someone compared me to a dog, then humility would not be my first response. I'd probably yell or insult or try for a roundhouse kick to the head. However, humility is the response of the Canaanite woman in today's Gospel.

Jesus is walking through an area with his disciples and a woman follows them asking for help for her demon "tormented" daughter. Jesus ignores her, the disciples ask Jesus to tell her to leave and she keeps after them. Jesus finally tells her that he didn't come to save her. She worships him and asks for help again. Jesus says that it's not right to give food meant for children to dogs. OUCH! She doesn't slink away or get angry; she simply says that the dogs are allowed to eat the children's scraps. Jesus is impressed by her faith and her daughter is healed.

I've heard some suggest that this woman talked Jesus into recognizing others who needed to be included into the Kingdom.  I don't buy that.  Each time Jesus heals someone there is a lesson to be learned.  Today's lesson: prayer requires persistence and humility.  Jesus doesn't respond right away because he wants to see what she will do.  The Canaanite woman handles the situation with what we would call grace.  She makes her request and continues to repeat her request by acknowledging her smallness compared to Jesus' greatness.  I don't think I would be able to do that after being compared to a dog!

We live in a time of instant everything and I usually expect God to act according to my timeline.  Prayer gives me what I need, not always what I want.  If I can be persistent and humble in prayer, then hopefully I can transition these virtues into my life, even if my prayer is not answered.

And, a Happy Feast Day of St. Dominic to all my Dominican friends!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Parenting on Water

Have you ever walked on water? Yeah, me neither...well, wait a minute, maybe I have.

Today's Gospel reading is from Matthew 14:22:36. It's the famous story of Jesus walking on the water during a storm and calling Peter out of the boat to walk with him. While I want to be harsh with Peter and say to him, "Duh, it's Jesus, why are you sinking?" I have the benefit of knowing how the Gospels end - Jesus wins. Sure, Peter was friends with Jesus, but all the pieces didn't fall into place until after the Resurrection.

As I read the Gospel this morning the usual thoughts ran through my head: would I get out of a boat if Jesus called me?; when will Peter figure out that Jesus is legit?; what exactly freightened Peter?.  But then I thought of something I said to a couple of friends last night.  They read yesterday's blog and we had a laugh over how crazy being a parent can be.  I said, "When we got home from the hospital with our son I couldn't believe it.  They just let us leave with him.  What the heck did I know about being a mom?"  

Suddenly, I had a new appreciation for this reading and for Peter.  Being a parent, heck living life, is a lot like walking on water with Jesus.  Some days I'm cocky and fantastic thinking, "Oh yeah, I've got this Mommy-thing down."  Other days I am treading water and praying I don't drown.  

I applied my questions for Peter to myself.  I didn't realize that being a parent meant that I had to get out of the boat, but Jesus called me to it so here I am.  Jesus is never going to let me drown...and when will I figure that out?  There have been a myriad of things that have scared me and caused me to tread water.  On the days I miss the mark on being like Jesus, then being like St. Peter isn't too bad.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Time for a Cuppa

Sheesh! It's been a busy day...up early, have a little prayer and journaling time, get the boy up, make oatmeal and smoothies, get dressed for the YMCA, chase the boy around, try to get boy on potty, get very silly, squirmy boy dressed, explain how big boy underpants work, get in car, arrive at Y, drop boy off at child care, exercise, pick up boy from child care, try to get very silly, squirmy boy to walk, change clothes, drive to the doctor, run boy to potty, wait for doctor to come into the little room, doctor examines now scared boy, leave doctor, run boy to potty, celebrate dry pants, threaten silly boy to NOT open the washroom stall door while Mommy is going potty, leave doctor's office, take unintended stop in parking lot to change boy's clothes because he peed, drive home, heat up lunch, eat lunch while boy silly boy runs around, feed boy, play with boy, plead with boy to go potty before nap time, put very, very silly and tired boy in bed for nap, tidy up, take shower, little boy calling "Mommy, I went poo-poo", change stinky diaper, return exceptionally silly boy to bed, sit down to blog...dang it, I haven't even had a cup of tea today!

This is what life is like for everyone. There are a ton of things to get done in a day and there is little time to sit back and relax.

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. After Jesus is transfigured - and only Peter, James and John, know what that looks like - Peter wanted to stay there on top of the mountain. We don't know if Jesus responded to Peter's request to erect tents, we are told that a cloud overshadowed them and they heard a voice say, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."  Next, Peter, James, John, and Jesus are making their way back down the mountain.

"Mountain top" experiences with God are wonderful and usually short.  For as much as we want to stay there and re-live the moment again and again, the world isn't saved on top of mountains, though.  It is made holy in the small, day-to-day things like potty training, cooking oatmeal, going to the doctor, keeping my cool when my 2 year old is silly, silly, silly.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I'd like to be a pretty vase

Today's first reading is from Jeremiah 18:1-6. The LORD tells Jeremiah to go down to the potter's house and watch him form clay on a wheel. If you suddenly have flashbacks to that scene from Ghost, I don't want to know about it.

I had a pottery class in high school and clay can be a difficult medium. You can put all the time and care into creating an object and it might crack in the firing, then you have to break the pot, wet it down and mix it with new clay. When working on a wheel if the clay gets off center, even a tiny bit, you're pretty much out of luck and will need to start over.

In today's reading God is comparing us to the clay and He is the potter. Potters have the skill to create a beautiful vase, but clay has a mind of its own. God knows what it would take for me to be my best possible self, but if I'm not willing to work on my faults or allow God to guide me, then I'll just remain as I am. Yet, if I allow The Potter to mold me, then I can become a saint.

If you've ever watched a potter at a wheel, then you know that sometimes he makes small changes: take a little clay away, add some water, etc. Then there are the times when the clay completely collapses and the potter has to start over. There is something heartbreaking and scary about that wonky wobble of the clay, followed by folding into a heap. What once seemed to have a life of its own, lies wrinkled and still on the wheel. It's a great analogy for how grave sin or accidents of nature can break us down.

Regardless of what causes the collapse, God doesn't sit back and say, "Save yourself." The LORD centers the clay again and starts the wheel.  It can never be said enough, but God likes perfection; He does not simply create us and then let us go on our merry way. It's not like I only get one chance with God or if I mess up three times, then I'm out.  Every moment of every day God is willing and waiting to mold me, form me. Through prayer and discipline, conforming to God's loving hand, I can be the person God made me to be.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Modern Parable

A Modern Take on Parables

The Kingdom of heaven is like a rare pair of Jimmy Choo's (those are designer shoes) on Ebay which a woman goes and and happily sells all that she has in order to win the auction.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a deluxe house in the suburbs that a couple joyfully sells all that they own to attain it.  

If Jesus were walking around telling parables today, I don't think he'd be sharing my modern parables for several reasons.  1.) Who would sell all that they own to buy shoes?  2.) Too many people have found themselves underwater with their homes so I think my second example is unlikely to happen.  3.) Would either of these items, shoes or a house, really bring true joy?  4.) And finally, while the house and shoes might be useful for a while, they will both start to break down or need repairs.  

Today's Gospel reading from Matthew 13:44-46 is about treasure that lasts.  Jesus says that the merchant and the buyer of the field joyfully sell off everything they own in order to attain the treasure.  There is something to this Kingdom of heaven because it makes people do seemingly crazy things.  

Karl Marx said "religion is the opiate of the masses."  In reality, materialism is the opiate that distracts us from pain and emptiness.  Yet, emptying myself of stuff and filling up with the Kingdom of heaven brings joy and peace.  What wouldn't you give or sell in order to have joy and peace?  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Being a Good Person

When I was involved in full-time youth ministry one of the most difficult discussions was the "good person debate".  I often heard, "No, I don't go to Church, but I'm a good person." or "He doesn't believe in Christ, but he's a good person."

Will being a good person get you into heaven? Let's see what Jesus has to say on that in today's Gospel reading from Matthew (13:36-43).

To get the full answer, which is a "no" from the big J.C, you need to go back a few verses to Matthew 13:18-30.  Today's Gospel, which is often referred to as the Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds, also explains the Parable of the Sower.  The only people who make it to heaven are those who act like good seed: "But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." (verse 23).  But, there's a bigger challenge than understanding the Word as the Parable of the Weeds explains.  I have to be able to still produce fruit without being chocked off by weeds (a.k.a. sin).  

Peter Kreeft puts it this way, "...we have reduced all the virtues to one, being kind; and we measure Jesus by our standards instead of measuring our standards by him" (Back to Virtue, p. 32).  For as much as society clamors about being a good or kind or nice person, in the long run, it won't get me far.  The young people I talked to thought it was enough be to a good person and they usually weren't happy when I suggested otherwise.  I emphasized that a life rooted deeply in Christ sustains me though crises and struggles and temptations.  Being a good person is a good thing, but will be really keep me together when life gets hard?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Planting Mustard Seeds

My son has been reminding me that it's okay to be really happy and really thankful about normal, everyday things.  The other day he had a spice drop gummy candy for the first time.  From the back seat of the car I heard him say, "Thank you God for this."  That was his first response...interestingly, it wasn't mine.  I wanted more candy.

Yesterday, on a family trip to Target, my son started to sing the Celtic Alleluia because he was so happy we were going in the store.  I do love Target, but I have never sung Alleluia in the parking lot.

I worry that I set the right example for my son and that I teach him about the faith.  Looks like I might be getting a few things right, but he is teaching me at the same time.  While I'm busy planting little mustard seeds in his soul, he is doing the same thing for me.  His thankfulness over a piece of candy makes me wonder how much happier I would be if I said, "Thank you, God" for every little thing in my day.

The Kingdom of heaven starts here and now.  What mustard seed act could you start to make present the Kingdom of heaven?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On Urging

I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1-6

"I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received..."  When's the last time someone urged you?  It's not a word that is used much.  I feel the urge to eat chocolate, often, but I can't say I'm frequently urged by someone to do something.  Here are some of the other words that could replace urge: implore, entreat, pressure, spur, prompt.  St. Paul isn't trying to sweet talk me into living up to my call; there is passionate force behind his words.  

And what exactly does he want?  St. Paul wanted the Church to remain whole and not be split apart because of disagreements or personality conflicts.  I am to endure with humility, gentleness, patience, and love - even when things get ugly or annoying - because God intended us to be one.  

This passage from Ephesians can be interpreted to fit many situations: difficulties within a parish, a diocese, or even an entire denomination.  Earlier in the week I read that Pope Benedict XVI said that the Catholic Church will become small and need to start over.  This is a paraphrase from his book Faith and the Future (which I just bought).  It's rather obvious that the Catholic Church is in the midst of struggle on many levels, but especially the "political" struggle between progressive and conservative.  

It's not clear what the future will look like.  This is what I hope it looks like: Catholic.  I am Catholic because I love this crazy Church with all it's traditions, smells, bells, and especially because she is the voice for Life in world gone mad.  

In the U.S. we are so used to the idea of a democratic republic that we think everything should be run that way.  The Church is not a democratic republic; it is a theocracy.  The whole purpose of the Church is to lead us to holiness and the Holy Spirit has promised to not abandon us.

An important question that every Catholic needs to ask him/herself is: Will I, as St. Paul urges, live up to the call to be a member of this Church with love and humility or will I insist on my way?  Will I remain faithful to the teachings of the Church?  Will I leave room in my heart for the Holy Spirit to educate me to the laws of God?  If I'm not willing to do this, then am I willing to walk away?

I don't want anyone to walk away from the Church, but I also don't want a fractured Church.  Come Holy Spirit and renew Your Church.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back to what?

Be amazed at this, O heavens,
and shudder with sheer horror, says the LORD.
Two evils have my people done:
they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns,
broken cisterns, that hold no water.
        Jeremiah 2:12-13

In today's Old Testament reading we hear Jeremiah proclaiming the LORD's judgment: 1.) you have turned again me.  2.) and, you have put your energy/faith/time into ways that will not save you.  Sadly, Jeremiah's words to the people of Judah can be used again modern Christians.  

I'm starting a book study with a couple of geeky moms on Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft.  His premise is that American culture is falling apart because we no longer have a moral compass.

"We have lost objective moral law for the first time in history.  The philosophies of moral positivism (that morality is posited or made by man), moral relativism, and subjectivism have become for the first time not a heresy for rebels but the reigning orthodoxy of the intellectual establishment." (pg 25)

Kreeft wrote this in 1986 and his message is the same as Jeremiah's.  The culture has taken God out of the equation and made humanity the summit of existence.  We have removed "the source of living waters" from our lives.  On top of that, we put energy into useless activities or pursuits that won't save us.  

Thankfully, Jeremiah's answer and Kreeft's are the same.  Turn back to God!  Kreeft's specific answer is through habitual virtue: justice, wisdom, courage, moderation, faith, hope, and love (charity).  

***I'm a big fan of Peter Kreeft.  If you haven't read him before, then I highly recommend his books.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Different Day, Different Plan

Last week I posted that my parents sold their house and that we would be moving...yeah, that's not happening. The deal fell through and it looks like we're staying least at this minute. The last couple weeks have been a little crazy with all kinds of changes and uncertainty.  Literally, each day of the last week has presented some new twist.  That's life, right?!

Today's Psalm response, "Lord, show us your mercy and love." (Psalm 85) reminded me of a conversation I had with my cousin a few weeks ago. I told her about all the unknowns in our life right now. At one point she asked me a great question, a really insightful question, "What do you want?"

I surprised myself by saying, "I don't know."

I've been thinking about that response ever since.  Sometimes life lays out too many options, so many that I can't really see what will be best for me and my family.  It's wonderful to have choices, but too many options can muddle my brain.  After the house sale fell through, I started praying, "God, you know what's best for me."  I promise that is not a cop-out prayer.  When life is so confusing it might be better to pray for God to show his love and mercy, rather than praying for life to go a certain way.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thoughts on Aurora

I've been trying to formulate my thoughts regarding the massacre in Aurora, CO. My prayers go out to the victims and their families. I pray for all those who survived the horrifying scene because I can't begin to understand what they experienced. I also pray for the gunman and his family. He is obviously a disturbed individual and this must be a nightmare for his family and friends; I imagine many of them are feeling guilty that they missed the warning signs.

In the wake of such wickedness I have been left with the question: what can I do?  How can I make it so that this sort of thing doesn't happen again?  The only answer I have gotten is: look in the mirror.  The Aurora, CO gunman is responsible for the deaths of 12 people, injuring 58 others, and terrorizing a town. For as much as I would like to change that, I simply can't.  But, I am responsible for the things that I say and do. If I want to make the world a better place, then I had better start with myself.

"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (ESV Romans 7:7) How often I have thought about this line?! I'm sure I'm not alone in this. There have been so many times when I open my mouth and say something that I shouldn't say and, worse yet, I know I shouldn't say it.

I have heard people demanding gun control, clamping down on violence in movies, not allowing people to wear costumes into movie theaters.  I'm not sure any of these measures will work, because they haven't in the past.  When something horrible happens it's natural to want to make sweeping changes to "fix" the situation, but if my heart is still crooked, then nothing has really changed.  C.S. Lewis said, "When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him." I need to clear out the evil that dwells in my own heart.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Help Wanted

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.  Jeremiah 23:1

Anytime you see the word 'woe' in Scripture, you know it can't be good.  Someone is about to get a whoopin'.  There is a recurrent theme in the Old Testament about shepherds who do not care for the flock.  God was rather clear about the character traits of the shepherd.  In fact, if God needed to post a job ad, it might look something like this:

Wanted: One good shepherd who will keep the flock together and care for its every need.  Must have: some veterinarian skills (i.e. tending wounds), knowledge of how to use a shepherd’s crook, and know the locations of good pastures and fresh water.  Do not apply if you intend to swindle the owner of the flock!  If this sounds like the job for you please send resume to: YHWH, Lord of all Creation… 

Yet, time and time again, those who were to guard the flock, the people of Israel, did just the opposite.  And, it's not as though the people of the ancient Near East didn't know what a shepherd was to do.  The Code of Hammurabi, dates back to 1772 B.C. and a significant portion of it deals with contracts between flock owners and shepherds.  A contract was to protect both the owner and the shepherd; the covenants between God and Israel worked in the same way.  Israel broke the covenants.  

 (The Code of Hammurabi, Louvre Museum, Paris)

Finally, God had to come and set things right.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is the shepherd who cares so much for the flock that he laid down his life for the flock.  Today's passage from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians (2:13-18) highlights how Jesus made everything right between God and humanity.  It is through Christ that we are able to come near to God the Father.  The Good Shepherd, leads us to green pastures and restful waters, protects us in times of distress, and eventually to the House of the Lord (Psalm 23).  

The Good Shepherd is no longer with us physically which creates a need for shepherds who are willing to follow his example.  

Wanted: A loving, caring minister to guide and pasture the flock.  Must have: passion for all God’s people, dedicated to prayer, like hard work, and not afraid to embrace the Cross of Christ.  Do not apply if you think ministry is about you; it’s all about God.  If this sounds like the job for you, don’t worry, God will find you.