Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What exactly is a wedding

I am not a regular reader of advice columnist Carolyn Hax but when the column ends up on the same page as the daily crossword puzzle I often give it a quick scan. Today's column deals with a bride and groom's decision to make their wedding a no-kids affair. They included this stipulation on their save-the-date announcements and are already getting feedback that this restriction will keep some of their friends from attending. Carolyn Hax states that the friends are out of line.

I am not sure if I would say the friends are out of line. The bride and groom have their priorities and the friends have theirs. This is the big day for the bride and groom and they have decided it is very important that their wedding be an elegant adult affair with no distractions from crying babies or fidgety children. However, they are inviting guests, not commanding guests to attend. If the invitees prefer not to attend if their children are not welcome then that is their prerogative as well. No harm, no foul on either party.

The more stipulations you put on wedding attendance, then the more people will opt not to attend. A destination wedding may be a dream come true for the bride and groom, but they have to accept that there will be some people for whom the trip is a deal breaker. Maybe it is too expensive or too time consuming. Or maybe the thought of packing and traveling to a beach destination is just too overwhelming for some invitees to even entertain. The same applies to the required dress. If you make your wedding a black-tie event, some people will opt out. That does not mean you should necessarily not have a destination wedding, a no-kids wedding, or a black-tie wedding. It just means that you need to understand that the more requirements you place on your guests, the more guests will opt out of attending. So what is more important to you: the picture perfect day of your dreams or sharing the day with as many family and friends as possible.

I am guessing that the friends who are staying home instead of attending this bride and groom's wedding think of a wedding as a celebration of the beginning of a new married life. The important thing is to share in the joy and the unscripted antics of children are part of the moment. That does not mean a mother with a screaming baby should sit in the church as her child howls and drowns out the exchange of vows, but it also doesn't mean that any sight or sound from children is detrimental to the wedding.

I am not criticizing the bride and groom who choose to have a no-kids wedding. I am just saying that by placing this stipulation on guests, they are sending the message that guests are only welcome if they positively contribute to the ambience of the wedding. If someone perceives that their presence is merely part of the staging of the ultimate Kodak moment they may very well say, "Why bother?"

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lessons from Italy

I just returned from a seventeen day tour of Italy. There really are not enough superlatives to adequately describe our trip. It was a tour sponsored by the Smithsonian so we had the benefits of both a tour director and a tour study leader.  All of the logistics were expertly handled and we were well prepared to appreciate the sites we visited. I will try to get a few pictures up in the next few days.

I can honestly say that I grew spiritually, philosophically, and intellectually on this trip. Returning to the routines of everyday life, I see them through a little bit different lens. I could easily wax ad infinitum on our trip and this may be only the first of several posts on lessons learned, but there are definitely some impressions I can immediately share. Some are admittedly trivial, while others offer a bit more cerebral heft.

First of all, there is absolutely no reason for any American fast food chain to have a presence in Italy. Every time I walked into a little trattoria or osteria I was greeted with delightful food made with fresh ingredients and served quickly.

Italians know how to make coffee. I never had a bad cup of coffee. I also never drank coffee out of a paper cup. If you are going to drink coffee it should be out of a ceramic/china cup. I made a resolution for drinking coffee now that I am home. My first cup of coffee every day will be taken seated and out of a china cup. No more gulping that first morning java from a to-go cup in the car.

America is not the center of the universe. A great deal of history occurred before our great nation was in its infancy. We would do well to remember that. The Roman empire was once though to be invincible. Yet it is now gone. There is no guarantee that America will always be a world leader.

The beauty of sculpture by Bernini or Michelangelo can move me to tears. Artwork from centuries ago is still relevant for today. It does make me wonder if there is any art being created today that will stand the test of time as well as the Italian classics. Is anyone going to care about today's contemporary art in 500 years?

Human nature is the same over the millennia. Pride, greed, lust, among other sins challenge the culture. Short term gains may result from vice but true flourishing requires virtue.

Italy was truly a paradise for me. Good food, good wine, good coffee, beauty and Catholicism surrounded me for seventeen glorious days. I am forever changed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Unbreak my heart

Singer Toni Braxton wrestles with the guilt of abortion in her new memoir, Unbreak My Heart. I discuss this in my latest article at the HLI Truth & Charity Forum. Please take a look and let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Playing trains and making memories

My grandbabies are at the other end of the continent since my son is now stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska. While nothing can replace being able to give them a big hug, technology has made it possible to stay connected. We usually use the FaceTime app on our desktop computer since that gives a big image of the children. However, quite by happenstance I learned mobility is also a good asset when speaking to a three-year-old.

Once I answered the FaceTime call on my cell phone. My granddaughter, who is 3 1/2 years old asked me if we had any toys. Well, as a matter of fact we do! Cell phone in hand, I trooped down to the basement and started pulling out the Rubbermaid totes filled with wooden blocks, Duplo, and most importantly, trains! Over the course of four children we amassed a large tote filled with all sorts of curved, straight, inclined, and forked wooden train track pieces. It was compatible with the Brio sets, but was made by an American company, T.C. Timber. We also have a smaller tote filled with various trains, bridges, stations, and other special accessories. Some of the trains are from the Thomas the Tank Engine series.

My granddaughter and I then spent at least 30 minutes inventorying my trains. She also has some Thomas the Tank engine wooden trains so she carefully compared what I had to what she had. We went over the names of all of our engines. I am amazed at how much I remember about Thomas the Tank Engine after all these years. The next time we spoke, she wanted to play trains again. So it was back to the basement to build a little train set and glide Thomas and his friends over the hills and through the tunnels. We have done this a couple more times.

She is now at the age that this could be a lasting memory. Whether or not she holds on to these train sessions forever, I know they will always be cherished memories for me! Which made me start thinking about family memories. When I think about my own childhood as well as the years when my own children were younger, I realized that some of the most precious and vivid memories were spontaneous, unplanned events. Even when we took big family vacations like a three-week camping trip up and down the East Coast, the most poignant memories are not awe-inspiring monuments and tourist attractions. Instead, they are the funny, tender, or exciting family interactions that could have taken place in our own back yard just as easily.

Back in the day when we put film in our cameras, Kodak had an ad campaign that spoke of "Kodak moments". Over the years I have learned that we can't really stage those "Kodak moments" and some of life's most significant moments cannot be captured through the lens of a camera. Sometimes, in fact many times, we need to forget about the messy hair, the cluttered countertops, the dusty tables, and the piles of laundry. We need to just be present to each other , listen to each other, and embrace the moment, even when the moment is not going to win any photography awards. The lovely scrapbooks we make are certainly treasures, but there is a lot of life that doesn't show up on those pages. Sometimes, the desire to chronicle life and preserve memories gets in the way of actually living life and making memories

Thursday, May 15, 2014

St. John Paul II and the Culture of Life

With both his writing and his life, Pope John Paul II shaped the pro-life movement. In my latest article at Zenit, I look at how his signature phrase, "Be not afraid!" is the key to countering a Culture of Death.
The recent canonization of Saint John Paul II offers an impetus to reflect on both his life and his papacy. The Pope’s leadership of the Catholic Church was exemplified by his signature phrase “Be not afraid!” Yet, what exactly was he exhorting the faithful to face without fear? 
Pope John Paul II first uttered this often repeated phrase on October 22, 1978, in St. Peter’s Square in his first address as Pontiff. In discussing this theme in the book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II recalls these words as inspired by the Holy Spirit. He goes on to say that they are addressed to all people in all parts of the world as an exhortation to conquer fear in whatever situation the temporal world presents. Such courage is possible where there is faith in God’s love and mercy, as demonstrated in the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord. 
“Be not afraid!” does not suggest that faith will prevent challenges and suffering. Rather, faith will sustain hope in the face of suffering and guard against despair. When looking at contemporary assaults on a Culture of Life it is clear that they are rooted in fear. 

 Read the full article and see how this exhortation can be applied to all the assaults on a Culture of Life.

Friday, April 18, 2014

For the Sake of His Sorrowful Passion

I love the Easter Triduum. It has been a long Lent and with Holy Thursday we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Last night there were glimpses of the Easter joy to come. Bells rang as we sang the Gloria. This praise has been absent from the Mass during Lent and I missed it. It was such a welcome relief to once again say, "Glory to God in the Highest!" Flowers also returned to the sanctuary. It was not the lavish display that awaits us on Easter Sunday, but it was more than we have seen for weeks.

But there is an undercurrent to Holy Thursday that tempers our joy. We know that we will eventually arrive at Easter Sunday, but there is only one path, through Good Friday. There is no Resurrection without The Cross. So today, the morning after we joyfully embraced the gifts of the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood that Christ gave us to sustain us, we steel ourselves for The Cross.

Christ carried the wooden cross to Calvary and made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might have eternal life. We are called to do more than stand by as passive witnesses to the Passion of Christ. We are called to pick up our own crosses and follow Him. Every obstacle, disappointment, illness, insult, injustice, and weakness is a cross.

This does not mean we wallow in our suffering. It does mean that we acknowledge that we live in a fallen world and will experience sin, suffering, and death. It means that in the face of suffering we do not despair because we know that if we faithfully carry the crosses of this temporal world we will have the joy of the Resurrection for all eternity.

It is for this reason that we begin our Divine Mercy devotion on Good Friday. In spite of the crosses we resolutely say, "Jesus, I trust in you." We believe that after Good Friday there will be an Easter Sunday. We embrace our own suffering and join it with the suffering of Christ on the Cross, in atonement for our own sins and the sins of the whole world.

Perhaps today you can join me and thousands of others as we begin the Divine Mercy Novena. Through our prayers let us bring ourselves and others into the embrace of Christ's mercy.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Art in a TMI world

If I had $44 million dollars, I would not spend it on this. My husband and I recently went to a lecture entitled "Why is that art?". The speaker tried to explain why random paint splashes on a canvas were highly valued works of art. What I came away with is that the advent of photography removed the need for artists to capture realism. This freed artists to experiment. The process became more important than the finished work. To illustrate her point she showed a black canvas with various squiggles on it. The importance of this piece was that we could experience the artist's hands moving by following the squiggles. Art became all about the artist.

I left the lecture no more impressed with much modern art than I was when I arrived at the lecture. But now I understand. A piece of modern art is often a record of performance art done in private. The artist did not have an audience as he danced about the canvas slinging paint but when we see the finished canvas we can imagine the dance that created it. And I care about this dance because...

In a way, modern art is perfect for our narcissistic Twitter and Facebook culture. I enjoy sharing photos, funny anecdotes of my day, political thoughts etc with my friends and Facebook is a handy way to do it. The instant feedback is fun. Staying connected with friends around the country is a joy. The instant prayer partners in times of need are a blessing. But there are a whole lot of folks who think we need to see a new selfie posted every day or even every couple of hours and need to be privy to their every OMG. Their Facebook page and their Twitter feed are the equivalent of much modern art. They think we care about their private dance.

I am not going to judge the person who spent $44 million dollars on a blue canvas with a solid white line down the middle. For all I know he or she gives twice that much to feed the hungry. This painting that looks like a blue ping pong table is just their little indulgence to which we are all entitled every now and then. Discretionary income is just that. Everyone gets to spend it in any fashion that makes them happy.

I will just say that my preference is for art that does not require a narrative to be understood. I like music, visual arts, and literature that move my soul before I know the who and how behind their creation. Knowing whether or not the artist, composer, or author was wearing bunny slippers or dancing around buck naked during the creative process adds nothing to my appreciation of the work. I think art should be able to stand on its own without the back story. That doesn't mean I don't want to know the back story. On the contrary, once I am impressed by a piece of art I am drawn to know more about its creator. But this is a sidebar discussion, not the thrust of my appreciation.

Am I just a modern art Philistine? What do you think?