KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

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

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?


Friday, April 11, 2014

Brave New World

I really don't want to give you nightmares, but I urge you to read my latest piece published at Zenit. I take a look at the dangerous trajectory of artificial reproductive technology.

Procedures and goals that were once the fodder of science fiction are now becoming reality. Technology is wonderful but it must be applied with clear ethical and moral principles. Just because we can do something does not mean we should

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

And then there were...

This has been an interesting week. I am learning about empty nesting. I guess we are not really empty nesters yet since our youngest is just away at college and he will be back under our roof in a matter of weeks. However, our second son is now established in his job and will be moving out in a few weeks. He has been away on business this past week so it has only been myself, my husband and the two dogs at home. A preview of days to come before too long.

It is most noticeable at dinner time. We have eaten as a family more nights than we didn't for decades now. The table is set and food is passed. Suddenly, I am faced with the prospect of cooking for two. Our table looks very lonely with just two place settings. I have set the table and cooked meals for other people for so long, that I don't know quite what to do when I am cooking for my own tastes. I have modified meals to account for the child who doesn't like nuts, the child who doesn't like chocolate, the child who won't eat green vegetables (ground up zucchini has been hidden in everything from meatloaf to spaghetti sauce), and the child who is not crazy about fish. How do I adjust the quantities to accommodate two adults who don't eat near as much as our kids?

And then this morning, I found myself eating a leisurely breakfast alone since my husband was out and about with errands. Oh my! I started to just grab any old plate and a to-go mug of coffee and eat my meal while I was multitasking. Then I decided to slow down. I don't have a deadline. I don't have kids about to come in the door. I have no "did you do this" questions to prepare. I don't have to race to get my laundry done because someone else is waiting for the washing machine. So I pulled out a matching plate and mug, and served myself breakfast just like I would serve others. I sat down at my table illuminated by spring sunshine and enjoyed the stillness.

This quiet house is going to be something to get used to. I am happy to see my children launch, but having even one child in the house gives me a focus that is very different than when I have no children in the house. It is not like I have nothing to do with my children. We talk frequently and I still feel a part of their lives. I really don't have any epiphanies or words of wisdom about this new season of life. It is very different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. Time to learn and adapt to this new phase in my vocation as wife and mother.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Discipline as freedom

Today is First Friday, a day many Catholics make a point to get to Mass. This devotion dates back to the 17th century and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. When the alarm went off this morning, I was very tempted to just ignore my good intentions and keep snuggling in my very comfortable bed. But I didn't. I got up, got dressed, and got to Mass. The Friday Mass in our parish is always special since it is followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After Mass I took advantage of being able to kneel in the Real Presence of Christ and offer a Rosary. I then sat in the silence for a few minutes, offering all my thoughts and endeavors for the day to Jesus and taking the time to be still so I could hear any responses.

It would have been so easy to skip this Mass. It is not required. But my day is going so much better because I added a little discipline to my morning. George Weigel reflected on the concept of discipline in yesterday's Lenten reflection in his new book, Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches. (As an aside, I am loving this book for my Lenten reading. I get a daily reflection that includes both the Mass reading and readings from the Divine Office. I also get a daily dose of art and architectural history.) Weigel called on the writings of Dominican theologian Servais Pinckaers who compared the discipline of virtue to the discipline required for language or music. There are rules to language that govern both the written and spoken word. These are not limiting constraints. The discipline of language is actually liberating because it frees us to effectively communicate. Imagine trying to read this text if I ignored the conventions of spacing and punctuation or ignored the proper use of the parts of speech. My work would lack clarity and be wholly ineffective in conveying my ideas.

Likewise, music requires discipline. Following the rules of rhythm and tonal progression allow for a recognizable melody. Failure to respect the discipline of music gives rise to discordant noise whose structure is more akin to wailing alley cats than to music. The discipline of music liberates us to create beauty.

Our life of virtue is similar. I have often heard virtue described as the habit of doing good. Like any other habit it requires training and practice. It takes discipline to establish a good habit whether we are talking about the practice of brushing our teeth every night or the practice of speaking to others with charity. The discipline of good dental hygiene liberates us from the pain of dental disease. The discipline of virtue liberates us from the pitfalls of vice.  How different the world would be if everyone embraced the virtues of generosity, prudence, humility, fortitude, temperance, chastity, and diligence. While at first glance virtue may appear as a constraining list of rules and prohibitions, the discipline of virtue is actually the key to authentic freedom.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Proud Mama Post


That is artwork done by my daughter, framed and hanging over our guest room bed. You can view and purchase her work at Society6. You can order the work as prints, pillows, totes, phone covers, etc.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is welfare accountability really libertarianism on overdrive?

Mark Shea is a popular Catholic writer who is not afraid to verbally knock heads together when he sees something he doesn't like. He really dislikes anything that hints of libertarianism. Over at the National Catholic Register he is busy chastising "many prolife people" because they don't want to write a blank check for state assistance to single mothers. His specific quote is "It is indeed a curious disconnect that many prolife people who support the work of Crisis Pregnancy Centers have a strange blind spot when it comes to the state providing help for low-income women in crisis pregnancies."

First of all, I am not sure who these prolifers are. Are they acquaintances of his? Are they blog commenters? How does he know that there are many of them? Has he taken a poll? Is many the same as most?  Shea does not cite one specific example of pro-lifers who work at crisis pregnancy centers objecting to state help for low-income women. He only offers rumors and innuendoes and with one blog post he has tarnished the image of all those who faithfully help women in crisis pregnancies. This broad brush labeling of people is sloppy and a good way to demonize those who might disagree with him on state welfare programs without actually taking on the specific arguments.

Shea compares Al Gore's call for fertility management to prevent increases in the population of developing countries as a way of combatting global warming and promoting economic development to Rand Paul suggesting that the government could put a cap on welfare benefits. Gore is endorsing the strategy of the Gates Foundation and their promotion of contraceptives like Depo-Provera to limit large segments of the world population from reproducing. Paul is not suggesting that the government impose limits on reproduction. He is just saying that the government is not necessarily compelled to pay benefits on a per child basis. Equating these two stances is building a strawman argument and is not justified by facts.

Shea also suggests that there is something hypocritical about those who give generously at prolife  crisis pregnancy centers yet balk at liberal welfare benefits: "Of course, the objection is that this[unlimited welfare benefits] (though, curiously not crisis pregnancy centers, which also give away free stuff to low-income women) is 'enabling' sexual irresponsibility and teaching poor people to game the system." Every time there is any sort of charity, whether it be private or state run, there has to be a balance between eligibility criteria and the liberality of aid. If the screening criteria are too stringent then people who really need help will be excluded. If the criteria are too loose, the program will be abused and limited resources will be wasted.  I do not see why Shea should be surprised that the same people who hand out free stuff willy-nilly at crisis pregnancy centers want more stringent scrutiny of taxpayer supported programs. It is not unreasonable to me that the tolerance for abuse may very well be different when the program is privately funded instead of taxpayer funded.

I resent the insinuation that any attempt at accountability is hard hearted. Whether someone is receiving food from a church food pantry or receiving an EBT card from the state, they should acknowledge that they are subsisting on the beneficence of others and should seek to be good stewards of this generosity. No one should live with food insecurity and the state in collaboration with private entities should make sure that no one goes hungry. People need to be fed without being judged. On the other hand, those receiving aid should not self-righteously proclaim that they are entitled to be supported and any attempt to regulate benefits is evidence of selfishness and greed.


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