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, Professor, 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 Jägerstätter

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cardinal Arinze speaks in Paris

Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (ie. Vatican authority on the Liturgy) spoke to the French Bishops last week. Blog by the Sea has the full address translated here.
Pay special attention to this paragraph:

2. To Show the Way of Light in the Liturgical Field

First of all, one of the duties of a Higher Institute of Liturgy is to be a beacon which shows a path of light in matters of the Liturgy. Assuming such a duty makes it possible, at the same time, to inform and also to form leaders, who are capable of appreciating the riches contained in the Church’s public worship, in the true value of those riches, and who, moreover, are ready to share them with others. That makes it possible to enlighten, and to make more explicit, the close link that exists between theology and liturgy, the faith of the Church and the celebration of the Mysteries of Christ, between lex credendi and lex orandi.

It is true that a Higher Institute of Liturgy must promote research. However, above all, it should establish its work on the solid and durable foundations of the faith, Church Tradition, and the heritage present in the texts, the liturgical gestures and attitudes. Such an Institute must thus be pleased to consider that the Holy Liturgy is a gift that we receive from Christ through the Church. In fact, the Holy Liturgy is not a thing that one invents. It includes, indeed, immutable elements, which come from our Savior Jesus Christ, such as the essential elements of the Sacraments, and also variable elements, which have been carefully transmitted and preserved by the Church.

Many abuses, in the field of the Liturgy, originate not in unwillingness, but in ignorance, since people generally reject “those elements whose deeper meaning is not understood and whose antiquity is not recognized” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 9). Thus, certain abuses have as their origin the practice of giving place to spontaneity, or to creativity, or even to a false idea of freedom, or to that error that has a name, "horizontalism", which consists in placing people at the center of the liturgical celebration instead of drawing their attention upwards, that is, toward Christ and His Mysteries.

Darkness is dissipated by virtue of the light, and not by verbal condemnations.

This is why, notably, a Higher Institute of Liturgy must concern itself with training experts in the best and authentic theological-liturgical tradition of the Church. It thus forms them in the love of the Church and its public worship, and it teaches to them to follow the norms and directions given by the Magisterium. In the same way, such an Institute also envisions suitable courses for those who want to promote the continuing education of the clergy, the consecrated people and the faithful laity. As Pope Jean-Paul II wrote to the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, one month before his death: "Adequate training programs in parish communities, associations and ecclesial movements are urgently needed, so that the liturgy may become better known in the richness of its language and be lived to the full. To the extent that they can do this, communities will feel the beneficial influence of the liturgy on both their personal and community life.” (Letter of Pope John Paul II to Cardinal Arinze, March 3, 2005, n.5).

Before anyone starts advocating practices to increase the "fellowship" or "celebrating the community of Mass", he should carefully read this document!

And a good time was had by all

As regular readers know, our parish only has altar boys. We have a great corps of young men serving at The Table of Our Lord. Check out the altar boy link at this web site and see what about fifty of our altar boys(including my son) and about twenty of their dads(including my husband) enjoyed yesterday. Actually while you are at the web site, check out the new program Fiat! for the girls in our parish.

It Is Not Just a Tabernacle

I really enjoy reading Richmond Catholic. For the most part it is a good window on the tension between the “Spirit of Vatican II” folks and the “Reform of the Reform” folks. A recent post highlighted the new altar at St. Benedict Chapel in Chesapeake. One comment on this post cut me to the quick.

all those tabernacle idolators please take note. even the tridentine church is trying to get across that we go to mass to worship God; not the tabernacle, not the priest, not the church building itself, etc. etc.

we are to grow in our faith. we are not sheep led to the slaughter. websters dictionary defines "piety" as dutiful, habitual revence for God or the gods (?). grow up and experience resurrection...

“Tabernacle idolators”? Ouch! I admit that I am one of those who want to see the Tabernacle in a prominent place in the sanctuary. I want to show reverence to the True Physical Presence of Our Lord. The Tabernacle alone is not reverenced. It is what is inside that merits my adoration. That is the whole point of the tabernacle lamp. When the lamp or candle is burning it indicates the Blessed Sacrament is within.

And yes, we do go to Mass to worship God. But we worship God in the context of the Mystery of the Trinity. We worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We unite the sacrifice on the altar with the Sacrifice on Calvary. Not only do we worship God, but we receive Him--Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. That is the point of Mass. We believe in the resurrection of Easter Sunday but know that it cannot happen without Good Friday. Just as we cannot throw away the Old Testament because we have the New Testament, we cannot ignore the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ because we have the Resurrection.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Headed for the Beach

Virginia Beach, that is. And I won't see the shoreline. It is the Virginia State Cup soccer tournament and daughter's team is in the final four. Of course it is pouring down rain so it will be a very soggy game if it goes at all. But there will be plenty of time for mother-daughter bonding and I am sure some interesting memories will be made. More news when we return!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Exactly what are the Dutch smoking?

Is there anything the Dutch won’t try?

London, Oct 25 (ANI): A leading Dutch woman politician has called for the country's prostitutes to be sent abroad with the troops to help them better relax.

Annemarie Jorritsma, a politician for the centre-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the mayor of the town of Almere, went on national Dutch TV to demand the 'extra benefits' for soldiers.

She said: "The army must think about how their soldiers can let off some steam".

I am sure the Muslim countries in which the Dutch soldiers serve would be thrilled with this.

A Nightmare

Another reason I plan to be in church on Halloween. It seems the pro-abortion folks have decided that the possibility that abortion on demand might be curtailed is so frightening, they have used this theme to construct a Halloween “haunted house”. Imagine if our government recognized unborn children as complete human persons, intrinsically imbued with human dignity from the moment of their conception. The thought is enough to send a pro-abortion feminist to the fainting couch. Planned Parenthood sees its cash cow threatened so it is presenting this program in conjunction with other pro-abortion groups.

According the Philadelphia Citypaper the idea is modeled after “Hell Houses” used by Evangelical Christian churches to teach the consequences of sin.

"Nightmare," however, aims to present reproductive-rights horrors in a "campy, palatable and fun way," Schewel said. One vignette shows two teenage girls locked in prison; one for taking her younger sister across a state border to get an abortion. While that's not a felony in Pennsylvania, Schewel says a bill in Congress would make it illegal to cross state lines to avoid abortion laws in one's home state. Others show gorier illegal-abortion scenes.

And just how, pray tell, did they make the murder of millions of innocent unborn children “campy, palatable, and fun”? I do not need to enter this scary house. Its mere existence is horrifying. Stories like this drive me to my knees in prayer. Please join me right now and pray:

St. Michael the Archangel,

Defend us this day in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And may thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into Hell, Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.


(H/T to Dawn Eden for the links)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter Six

Chapter five is here.

Chapter 6 of Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi is subtitled Keeping Teenagers Close to Christ. This is a subject near and dear to my heart since my children span the ages of twelve to twenty. However, what is interesting about this chapter is the essays address general communication with teens as much as religion and teens. The discussion questions focus on the overall relationship between parent and teen. Only the final questions asks “How can we bring teenage children closer to Christ?”

This is actually a very important point. Remember, back in chapter two we learned one of the primary reasons young people leave the Church is family tension unrelated to religion. Therefore, nurturing a healthy parent-child relationship makes your teen more receptive to the Faith.

Communication begins with listening. And I mean really attentive listening. Unplug the headphones, turn off the television, get away from the computer screen, and close your book or magazine. Look your teen in the eye and listen. Then respond to what your teen says. Don’t just launch into your own diatribe.

Respect your teen but remember you are the parent. Don’t be afraid of conflict. Some parents are so afraid of falling out of their child’s good graces they work harder to be a buddy than they do to be a parent. Teens are reaching out and testing their independence but they really need the safety net of parental authority. They really do want limits.

Teens are not going to open up on your schedule so you have to be ready to listen at the first hint of a conversation. One of our older boys was quite the night owl. After he had gotten his homework done he would often wander into our bedroom as my husband and I were settling into our bedtime book or music. In spite of my heavy eyelids I made the effort to hear his thoughts and enjoy his company. Now that he has left home for college I treasure the memories of those late night conversations.

Being available is also the reason it became more important for me to be at home as the children got older. It was actually easier in many ways to work outside the home when my children were much younger. Teens often don’t tell me too much about their day but I can read their faces pretty well as they walk in the door after school. In a few hours, all hints of their school emotions will be erased so if I am not there to see them, I will miss important clues.

But how do you bring a teen closer to Christ? Providing the firm foundation at home is critical. Are you close to Christ? Does your Faith seem relevant to your life? Your teens need to see, hear, and feel your own Faith. A Catholic social culture is also key. We are blessed with a very dynamic high school youth group in our parish. The high school activities certainly include fun and games, but it is always done within our Catholic context. The teens are not given a watered down version of Catholicism. They are challenged with straight talk about morals and virtues. They spend time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. They go to Confession. They spend time with our priests and thinking about vocations. They are involved in pro-Life issues. They spend a week doing home repairs for needy families. Don’t be afraid to give them the full truth of Catholicism. The challenge inspires teens. If you hide the Cross, the teens don’t see the value and it is much easier to cast aside their Faith.

Finally, don’t panic when you think your teen is having doubts about God, Catholicism, or religion in general. At some point we all have to question so that our faith becomes our own and not just the faith of our parents. If you have given your children a firm foundation and continue to offer support and prayers, your children may wander a bit but they will very likely find their way home.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So Many Books, So Little Time....

Karen Hall links us to this Quiz about Catholicism. It is from 1993 and the author, Karl Keating states that he gave this quiz to a group of Catholic business leaders. Few got more than half the questions correct. However, the score reports in Karen’s comment box look pretty good. Maybe we really have made progress in Catholic catechesis.

In case you find you need a little refresher course after taking the above quiz, Jennifer at et tu, Jen? has performed an invaluable service. She has compiled a very thorough reading list for Catholics. She has even included it in a PDF so it is easy to file for future reference. She covers everything from the basic doctrine to improving your prayer life. Thank you, Jen!!!

Rich Leonardi points us to two books by Diane Moczar, Don’t Know Much About Catholic History and Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know. This sounds exactly like what I am looking for to develop a Church history course for adult education in our parish.

Like her "Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know," Diane Moczar's "Don't Know Much About Catholic History" is a perfect introduction to its subject. The difference lies in the format. While "Ten Dates" uses ten historical vantage points to view the role of divine action -- Providence -- in Christian civilization, "Don't Know Much" is more of a survey of critical events, from the Roman era until the outbreak of the Protestant movement.

Well, I don’t know about you, but my wish list for books just grew exponentially.

Monday, October 23, 2006

You Know you are a Catholic Soccer Family....

The following is circulating around our soccer community email lists. I wouldn’t say our family meets all these criteria, but a whole lot of them sure hit home:

You know you are a soccer family when....... have owned every style of camping chair ever made. have never met a linesman that knows how to call off-sides properly. have never met a competent Center Ref in your life.

...your kid takes a bloody wallop on the nose, and your first thought is that he/she needs to quit crying or be subbed because we're running out of time in the game. know where every elementary school, jr. high, high school, college, and park with a soccer field is in the metro and you know where the
closest Starbucks, bagel shop and Subway is to each of those fields. know how to get to all of the above without getting lost.

...your gas credit card bills are bigger than your 2nd mortgage

...all of your vacation time is taken up by soccer events. No more beach vacations, unless your team gets invited to Surf Cup. No more ski vacations ever again! know the closest grocery store to the practice fields because that is where you do your shopping. have seen all kinds of movies between tournament games that you would have never watched otherwise.

... you own every possible hotel reward card.

...there are posters of Englishmen and Brazilians in your house. feel compelled to point out hand balls to 65 year old refs with thick glasses.

...your child's "good shoes" are his newest soccer cleats. and your spouse spend all weekend driving to soccer games....In different cars ... In different counties ... With different kids. And talk on the cell phone only to compare scores. And don't see each other until Sunday night.

... you are happy to spend $140 on soccer cleats, but are appalled when the materials for your child's science fair project cost $45.

... the kids on your team are 'feisty,' while the kids on the opposing team are 'dirty.' have been to several cities in the country that have wonderful tourist attractions, but while in these cities you have seen only soccer
fields, hotels, rental car counters, and airports.

... the mats on your car's rear floor are never free of dried grass and black turf pebbles. as soccer parents have a strict rule about "no removing shin guards inside of the car"...Phew have not celebrated your anniversary for 3 years or more because it always falls on a practice or game day. own a 2-year-old SUV with 182,000 original miles.

...on the rare weekend when your child does not have a game you look for something soccer related to do like going to the games of your friend's children.

...your closest friends are those that you've met through soccer.

...when you receive at least three copies of the "Eurosport" catalogue in the mail each week.

..when you wish you had bought stock in Igloo because you own every shape & size of cooler and water bottle...

...when someone asks you how old your child is, you respond, "She's U10." drive home from the game complaining bitterly about the condition of the field and its adverse effect on your kid's game only to pull into your driveway and have your spouse point out the 14 inch high grass which has not been mowed in 2 weeks

However, after reading these, I felt compelled to add these for the Catholic Soccer Family:

…In addition to every Starbucks and Subway, you know every Catholic Church near the game fields.

…Part of your preparation for out-of-town tournaments is looking up Mass times on

…Your children are experts at changing from sweaty soccer uniforms to church clothes in a moving car.

…You know and cherish the fact that Pope John Paul II was a soccer goalie

…You are reciting Hail Mary’s prior to every penalty kick

…Your family Rosary occurs in the car on the way to a soccer game

…You felt great relief when the State Cup soccer game did not conflict with Confirmation because you dreaded explaining to the coach that your child would not miss Confirmation for a soccer game.

See you on the pitch!

Friday, October 20, 2006

What Did You Learn In School Today?

Just what does a high school education that costs $21,950 yearly in tuition alone teach students? Well, Solebury School in Philadelphia includes a field trip to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in its curriculum. This article at Catholic Exchange gives the details

More than a dozen high school students from Solebury School, near Philadelphia, were taken by bus to the Planned Parenthood location in Warminster, Catholic News Service reported, where they spent several hours touring the clinic. According to CNS the students wore vests used by abortion staff when escorting women into the building.

Jason Gordon, social science teacher for the school and the trip organizer, said the outing was part of an “activism class.”.

It is interesting that only activism by the pro-abortion side was studied. Students were not allowed to speak to the pro-life activists praying outside the clinic.

Gordon said the students weren’t permitted to speak with the pro-life demonstrators because he did not want them to become involved in activism — he denied that the student’s participation in the abortuary activities was itself a form of activism. When asked by the Times if he had ensured students were given both sides of the argument, he admitted he had not.

The outrage over this seems to be coming from the pro-life activists. I have seen nothing that indicates the parents of these children had any qualms about this field trip. This is a secular private school. Maybe parents pay this exorbitant tuition precisely because this sort of indoctrination is included in the curriculum.

The children who were exposed to this pro-abortion “activism” need our prayers. The need for prayer is even greater if their parents are supporting this kind of “education”.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Matchmaker, Matchmaker....

Seamus offered a comment below that brought a smile to my face.

…the obvious question is begged -- to wit, where oh where can an orthodox, single, Catholic, young man find orthodox, single, Catholic women? (And please don't suggest those Catholic dating web sites. Been there and done that. The last thing I want is to go on yet another first date and have a woman say "huh?" when I, inadvertently or otherwise, mention the word Magisterium.)

My goodness. I know there are mothers reading this right now who are hyperventilating trying to figure out how to introduce you to their daughters. I know I am praying daily for the future spouses of my children. As I mentioned a few days ago, I was elated to find that my son found a young woman who would make time during a brief trip to New Orleans to attend Sunday Mass in the French Quarter. I don’t know anything else about this young woman but she has made the “mom-approved list” with that simple act.

So if I were going to offer advice to Seamus, I would say you will find an orthodox Catholic woman in an orthodox Catholic setting. But I would also caution don’t expect to find a finished product. She may not know the word Magisterium now, but does she want to know it? Is her mind open to the truth of the Faith?

A couple of decades or so ago I was a new college graduate from a prestigious university on my way to medical school. I was also very ignorant about my Faith. Let’s just say that in spite of attending a Catholic high school and CCD in the years prior to that, the catechesis of the 1960’s and 70’s left me clueless. My boyfriend who would eventually become my husband wasn’t even Catholic. He was a traditional Episcopalian.

We both had been raised with a strong sense of faith. We were both seeking a life grounded in faith. I had a very strong Catholic identity instilled by my mother. By the grace of God I found my way to orthodox writings and teachings and have been enjoying my never-ending journey of discovering Catholicism. Also by the grace of God, my husband has joined me on this journey. We are now both on the same side of the Tiber. We are not necessarily always side-by-side on the journey. Sometimes I am leading. Sometimes he is leading. But that is the vocation of marriage.

So, Seamus, I will add your quest for a bride to my prayers. But don’t judge the young ladies you meet by the written words of those of us with perhaps a few more miles on our treads. Any wisdom you detect is acquired. I can assure you we didn’t start out that way.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter Five

Chapter four is here.

Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments repeatedly refers to Divine Providence. People come into our lives and events happen for a reason. Yesterday I listened to the Cardinal’s podcast on the five pillars that support a Catholic family. The very first pillar is to understand as a family why God made us. He made us to know Him, to love Him, to adore Him, to serve Him, and to eventually reside with Him in Heaven. Therefore, our family must be oriented to live with a view towards eternal life. The other four pillars are family prayer, family attendance at Mass, teaching of genuine love and being open to new life, and a focus on genuine Catholic education. This education is important whether it occurs at home, in a Catholic school, or in a parish CCD program. For those who do not have an iPod but still want to listen to Cardinal Arinze’s podcasts, see if your computer is iTunes capable. It is free to download this application and the podcasts are free as well. You can then listen to them on your computer.

His reflections were just what I needed to hear as I prepared my post on Chapter Five of Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi. This chapter is subtitled Shaping Kids Catholic. The essays in this chapter address molding children in the Faith through prayer, worship, the Sacraments, Scripture, and Catholic relationships.

Catholic family prayer is crucial in bringing the Faith into the home. Prayers can be formal such as a rosary, novena, or mealtime grace. They can be spontaneous. Don’t expect toddlers to sit through five decades of a Rosary. However, gathering together to even pray one decade is important. Isabelle, one of the moderators of the Cardinal Arinze podcast describes using shells or pinecones that she gathered with her young children to count the prayers of the Rosary. Invite your children to pray for each other as well. I was very pleased a few days ago when my sixteen-year-old was going to have a rather trying soccer training session with a coach she was not particularly fond of. I mentioned this to her twelve-year-old brother and asked him to say a Hail Mary for his sister. He responded, “Oh, Mom, I already did that as soon as I heard she was training with this coach.” Before we start on a long trip we say a prayer in the car. My daughter and I have prayed the Rosary together as we drove to soccer games. In other words, there is really no activity that cannot include prayer.

Perhaps almost as influential as bringing the family together to pray is a parents example of prayer. Spend time in personal prayer and let your children know it. A friend told me of one of her neighbors whose personal prayer time was truly inviolate. When she phoned this neighbor one of her children answered the phone and said, “Mommy can’t come to the phone right now. She is praying and we don’t disturb her when she is praying.” What a beautiful example of commitment to prayer!

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic Faith. It should be the hub around which our family spiritual life revolves. As Cardinal Arinze emphasizes, attending Mass on Sunday (or Saturday evening vigil) must take precedence over sports, social gatherings, or just sleeping late. Even traveling shouldn’t be an excuse for missing Mass. It has actually become a welcome adventure for our family to visit new churches as we travel. Don’t present attending Mass as an obligation. Do more than the minimum. Occasionally I take the kids to 6:30 AM daily Mass before school. We always attend Mass on Thanksgiving Day. I remember my son was somewhat shocked when he found out Thanksgiving wasn’t a Holy Day of Obligation. All of the truly important events in our lives are connected with the Mass: Family Christmas gatherings, baptisms, confirmation, marriage, funerals, etc. We have seldom lived within a day’s drive of my parents, but they always make sure they attend daily Mass on the birthdays of their children and grandchildren. This reinforces to my children that the Mass is a great gift.

Introducing children to Scripture can be a challenge. I have heard some say that you shouldn’t read children’s Bible stories because the children will view the Bible as just another fairy tale. I disagree. I do think it is important to let them know that you are reading from the Bible and this is a special book. From a very early age my children knew the Bible, even their children’s version, was different from their other books. It was associated with God. They never left it on the floor but handled it reverently. So I think the sacredness of the Bible can be conveyed to young children.

Daily Scripture reading is an ideal but lofty goal. There are certainly books with daily Scripture meditations or prescribed reading programs to read the Bible in a year. I don’t know of anyone except my husband who has had much luck just sitting down and reading the Bible cover to cover. The Church offers a very easy program. Just read the daily Mass readings every day. Within three years you will cover nearly every book in the Bible.

We’ve already spoken of the importance of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but we must also remember to bring the other Sacraments into our lives as well. Confession is so important. Frequent confessions bring peace to the individual but also peace to a family as well. I am certain that my children’s relationships with each other as well as with my husband and me became more loving as they became regular recipients of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are fortunate that Confession is a regular part of both the CCD program and the Youth Ministry. But my twelve-year-old mentioned the other night that he thought it was about time he went to confession again. I am not sure what brought that on, but I am glad he sees it as an important part of his life.

Chapter five speaks of the need to cultivate and nurture Catholic relationships. I think this coincides with Cardinal Arinze’s point about orienting our families towards Heaven. We must seek out a Catholic culture with Catholic priorities. Sometimes we can do this with our extended families but for many of us, family is geographically far away. Many of our extended family members are no longer practicing Catholics. I do not cut our family off from relatives who do not share our Faith. However, I do emphasize the relationships that reinforce our Faith. We do socialize with many families who are not Catholic. However, we share a special bond with those are. My boys have each belonged to the Boy Scout troop affiliated with our parish. One of our priests is the troop chaplain and makes a point of celebrating Mass for them and giving them blessings as they leave for their adventures. Troop leaders do their best to make sure the boys attend Mass if at all possible even when camping. Service projects revolve around the parish.

The aim of this chapter is to provide a blueprint for shaping Catholic children. What do you think?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Raising Saints

This morning we celebrated the Mass for St. Hedwig. She was a very pious and generous woman, the daughter of the Duke of Croatia, and a devoted wife and mother. There are a couple of things that struck me about St. Hedwig. First of all, she would take on physical penances for the sake of the sick and the poor. In his sermon, Father mentioned that we should consider similar practices in our own spiritual lives. For example, getting out of bed 30 minutes earlier and offering the discomfort this causes as an act of redemptive suffering is a form of physical penance. Fasting or abstinence from meat is another. These acts of self-denial help us to become more detached from our earthly lives and more focused on our journey towards Heaven.

The second fact I learned from Argent’s post on St. Hedwig. St. Hedwig was the maternal aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The reason this detail resonated with me is that I have been spending a lot of time reading and writing on the importance of the family in developing and strengthening the Faith. It is interesting how many times canonized saints runs in families. Certainly, St. Anne as the mother of Blessed Virgin Mary merits sainthood. St. Monica (my personal favorite as the patron of nagging mothers) and her son St. Augustine are another family pair. St. Eulampia and Eulampius were sister and brother who were martyred for the Faith in the fourth century.

This morning I was exercising and listening to a podcast by Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. He was discussing the five pillars that support a Catholic family. The first pillar is to know why God made us. Our family must reflect that our earthly life is just a journey towards our eternal life in Heaven. God made us to know him, to love him, to serve him, to adore him, and to reside with him in Heaven. Therefore, the family must keep all of its members oriented towards Heaven. Husband and wife must lead each other to Heaven. Parents must lead their children to Heaven. Siblings must lead one another to Heaven.

I have been doing a series of posts on keeping your kids Catholic. It is important to refocus on why we want to keep our children Catholic. It is not a matter of earthly pride or joy. Though I admit, the mental image of my children, grown with families of their own and all still faithful to the Church is very satisfying. Still, the purpose of all of our efforts to keep our children Catholic is because we believe this is the path to Heaven. None of my children may be canonized, but I do pray they will each someday reside with God in Heaven. I pray they will each become a saint.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I am so glad that wasn't my daughter!

The Washington Post is certainly covering a lot of sex ed programs lately. A few days ago they highlighted a human sexuality course at the University of Maryland. Yesterday they wrote about an abstinence program in Loudoun County. The WaPo article focused on the speaker's Evangelical Christian background. The ACLU was keeping a close eye on the program to make sure there was no mention of religion as the presenter advocated sexual abstinence.

What caught my eye were the interviews with students. The Post quoted the reactions of different students.

Students gave Deltano mixed reviews. Many cheered and laughed at his jokes; some blushed. Afterward, sophomore Megan Patlen, 15, said that she loved it.

"Abstinence is definitely the way to go," she said, describing herself as Christian.

Junior *********, 16, said she didn't like how abstinence was "pressed" on her in her sex-education lessons and in the assembly.

"Although it's not about Christianity, there is an underlying conservative belief," she said, which she said she does not agree with.

I just can’t bring myself to publish the girl’s name who didn’t like abstinence “pressed” on her even though the Washington Post identified her. I really can’t imagine what the Post reporter was thinking to include her name in the story. How would you like to have your daughter quoted in the Washington Post saying she didn’t believe in sexual abstinence? Who needs names and numbers written in bathroom wall graffiti? This girl has her willingness to have sex publicized courtesy of one of the biggest newspapers in the country. I really can understand a sixteen-year-old girl not appreciating the ramifications of her statement. I think it was exploitive for the Washington Post reporter to allow this child to expose herself in this way. I wonder if her parents are mortified. I know I would be.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Eulogy for T.C.

I knew it was coming, I just didn’t expect it to be today. This morning our twelve-year-old Maine Coon cat, TC, was barely conscious and couldn’t stand. The kids had already left for school when I found him. I bundled him into his carrier and hustled him to the veterinary emergency room. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t anything to do. I stroked his fur and gave my permission for him to be euthanized.

TC found us ten years ago when we lived in Ohio. He was a very friendly stray who arrived on our front door looking like he had been on his own for a while. He had a bald patch on his back and his ribs were easily felt. My oldest promptly became his best friend when he opened a can of tuna. We searched in vain for an owner to claim him. Let me say Catholic Dad was not excited about having a pet cat. He was adamant that we not name this cat thinking the lack of a name would prevent us from getting attached. Thus the cat became The Cat or T.C. for short. He also became ours. He soon grew to be a very fat and happy cat.

He moved from Ohio to Florida and then to Virginia. I think he was happiest in Florida. He was so content to sleep in the Florida sun amid my potted plants on the deck. Typical of Maine Coon cats, he loved to be with people but was not a lap cat. He just sat in the middle of any gathering of people. When the children were at school he would follow me from room to room. If the kids were outside playing soccer, he wanted to be outside as well. Usually he picked a spot right in the middle of their playing field to situate his rotund self. He would watch calmly as the soccer ball whizzed overhead or grazed his whiskers. He used to trot to the end of the driveway to meet the school bus when they came home. He loved to have his chin scratched. Any attention from us would set him to loudly purring.

In the last couple of years I knew something was changing. He became very vocal and demanding instead of laconic and passive. His portly build winnowed from 11 pounds to around 8 lbs. Our feline friend had developed hyperthyroidism and then kidney disease. I gave him his thyroid medicine and bought special cat food for his kidneys but he continued to languish. Arthritis took its toll and it was a chore for him to get out of his bed. He didn’t follow me very much anymore and he really didn’t purr much.

The last couple of weeks he didn’t want to eat his dry cat food. I tried the canned prescription food and he ate well for a little while. Then yesterday he didn’t want to eat at all. I thought he might have a dental problem so I was planning on taking him to the vet today. Then I found him. The vet was very compassionate. She didn’t push me to do expensive diagnostics or elaborate interventions. This was not an acute process. It was the end stage of a long chronic illness. It was time to let go.

T.C. has been a treasured part of our family experience. He was not accorded the dignity of being human, but he was accorded the dignity of being part of God’s creation. We cared for him when he was young and healthy and when he was old and sick. We laughed at his antics and grieved as he weakened. We will say a special prayer this evening. We will not pray for T.C. since he does not have a soul as we do. We will thank God for sharing this lovely creature with us and continue to marvel at the wonders of His creation.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What is whole parish catechesis?

Every now and then a bunch of issues start swirling around in my head and I discover they are all part of the same story. Much like blind men examining the elephant, I find the discussions are about the same issue from different perspectives. This is how I feel after completing another chapter of Keeping Your Kids Catholic, reading the controversy over religious education programs at Richmond Catholic, and reading Amy Welborn’s very long post on youth ministry.
How does one keep children Catholic? How does a parish teach the Catholic faith to children? What should a youth ministry provide? The answer to all of these questions hinges on Catholic children living in Catholic families. If we try to separate the Faith from families and present it to children and teens in isolation, we will fail. Pope John Paul II once again showed his wisdom when he emphasized the central importance of the family and called it the “domestic church”.

I really like the idea of whole parish catechesis. Young and old journey in faith together. Catholic families support each other in learning and living the Faith. I see references to this process occasionally, but I have never seen a good nuts and bolts description of how this sort of program works. It sounds like a very holistic approach to catechesis. Does anyone have any experience with it?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter Four

Chapter three discussion is here.

Chapter four of Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi is subtitled Making Your Home Catholic.

How do you create a Catholic home?

Essays by Mitch and Kathy Finley, Dolores Curran, and Mary Ann Kuharski offer tips on bringing Faith in the front door. For too many Catholics, faith is something outside the home. It is that thing done on Sundays or in CCD class and bears little impact on the rest of their lives. Catholic children need a Catholic home.

So what does a Catholic home look like? Well, I am sure anyone entering my home would be fairly certain a Catholic lives here. The front walk is lined with statues of St. Francis, St. Fiacre, and St. Joseph. (Blessed Mother is in the garden behind the house) Nearly every room has a crucifix. The Sacred Heart of Jesus and The Immaculate Heart of Mary pictures are in the dining room. The window sill above the sink is a communion of saints with Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and St. Benedict. Devotional candles are tucked in the corners.

Yet a house full of sacramentals will not make a home Catholic if the Faith is not lived in the home. This does not mean there needs to be a steady stream of formal prayers, novenas, and rituals. (Though generous use of these is beneficial) It does mean that Catholicism enters our ordinary daily lives. This begins with the constant use of prayer. The younger your children are, the easier it is to introduce the habit of prayer. If you have a household of teens and you have never prayed before meals, don’t think you will now be able to gather everyone for a meaningful family rosary. Remember the principle of pizza dough spirituality. Maybe it just means acknowledging God’s providence when good things happen. Grace before meals teaches that our very subsistence is a gift from God. Tell your children you are praying for them—and don’t forget to do so. When a child is facing a daunting challenge, tell him you are praying for him. I still make a point of keeping up with my teenage and college-age children’s test schedules so I can remember to pray for them at Mass on those days. The kids must think it helps because they occasionally ask for my prayers when a big test is approaching.

I have the Spiritual Works of Mercy and the Corporal Works of Mercy pasted to the inside of one of our kitchen cupboards. I figure as we set the table to enjoy our meal and fellowship we must remember our obligation to meet the needs of those not as fortunate.
Subscribe to and read Catholic periodicals faithful to the Magesterium. These help your family view the world from a distinctly Catholic perspective.

Celebrate the Liturgical Year. Every household needs a Catholic Calendar to mark the various liturgical seasons and feasts. Finding patron saints for various needs also reinforces our belief in the Communion of Saints. Believe me, the intercession of St. Anthony to find car keys, cell phones, etc. is a regular request in my household. I remind the kids that I have asked St. Monica to help me keep an eye on them. When my youngest was having a terrible time learning to put in contact lenses, I suggested he ask St. Lucy (patron of eyes) to pray for him. After that, putting in his contacts was a piece of cake. We ask for the prayers of Pope John Paul II before soccer games. (He was a soccer goalie).

And while this chapter deals with the Catholicism we live at home between Sundays, attending Mass every week as a family builds a Catholic identity and bond that will carry over into the home. Prepare for Mass. My children have always had “church shoes”. They do not wear their everyday clothes to Sunday Mass. The boys wear dress slacks and a collared shirt. My daughter wears a skirt or dress slacks. Since they were small there has been a sense of something special in attending Mass. Participating in this special solemn ritual together brings the sacred into our home.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Catholic Son in the French Quarter

It is tough sending kids 1500 miles away to college. My husband and I did our best to instill strong Catholic values, but now they will be tested and challenged like never before. My college freshman went to New Orleans this past weekend for the Rice vs. Tulane football game. He is part of the MOB (Marching Owl Band). They were going to be staying near the French Quarter.

Now I remember trips to New Orleans during my own college years. The thought of my child doing the same is pretty frightening. He got back to Rice on Sunday night and I didn’t hear from my son until Monday night. Oh, the thoughts that were going through my head.

Well, it sounds like he stayed out of trouble. In fact, he made a point of going to Mass on Sunday morning at St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. He found another member of the MOB to go with him. Let me clarify, he found a girl in the MOB to go with him. He knew her as a regular mass attendee at the Catholic Student Center. Why is it that my boys going to Mass with nice Catholic girls just makes my heart sing?

I’ve decided that as a mother I will never get up off my knees. I spent the first eighteen years of their lives praying for their health and safety and praying that I could be the mother they needed. Now I am praying they will make the right choices even when I am 1500 miles away. Yet what a blessing and a privilege it is to be able to offer these prayers. These children are only mine for a short while. They belong to God for an eternity.

Still Missing the Human Element

”U-MD Professor Puts the Human Element into Sex Education” or so reads the headline of this morning’s Washington Post article. Robin Sawyer is a professor of public health at the University of Maryland. He has been teaching a human sexuality class for the last 22 years. His classes often number 200 students and he usually has a waiting list of another 100 students. So what is this man teaching?

The class topic last Tuesday was contraception. Sawyer arrived at the College Park auditorium in khakis and a navy polo shirt and carrying a bag of birth control pills, patches and other props. He scribbled types of contraception on the giant blackboard in order of effectiveness -- Norplant, Depo Provera, oral conception and condoms among them -- knowing that three-fourths of the students there were probably sexually active, half of them since they were 17, and probably fewer than half were using condoms to prevent pregnancy or reduce the possibility of disease.

…A young man asks Sawyer about timing intercourse around a woman's menstrual cycle, the so-called rhythm method of birth control. Sawyer resists the urge to ask what decade the young man is living in.

"What do you call the woman who uses 'natural' family planning?" he responds. "Mommy."

I wonder how many of these students are Catholic? I wonder how many of their parents know this is what their tuition dollars are buying?

Presenting a graphic “how-to” manual does not make sexual education more human. There is nothing new and wonderful about propogating the myth that "safe-sex" and contraception are the paths to sexual fulfillment and everlasting happiness. In fact, I think this class that assumes unfettered sexual activity is normal is actually quite dehumanizing. Our humanity allows us to approach sexuality on a plane that is much higher than dogs in heat.

Pope Benedict XVI addressed this in his papal encyclical Deus Caritas Est:

Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.

6. Concretely, what does this path of ascent and purification entail? How might love be experienced so that it can fully realize its human and divine promise? Here we can find a first, important indication in the Song of Songs, an Old Testament book well known to the mystics. According to the interpretation generally held today, the poems contained in this book were originally love-songs, perhaps intended for a Jewish wedding feast and meant to exalt conjugal love. In this context it is highly instructive to note that in the course of the book two different Hebrew words are used to indicate “love”. First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This comes to be replaced by the word ahabà, which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which, as we have seen, becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love. By contrast with an indeterminate, “searching” love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.

It is part of love's growth towards higher levels and inward purification that it now seeks to become definitive, and it does so in a twofold sense: both in the sense of exclusivity (this particular person alone) and in the sense of being “for ever”. Love embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time. It could hardly be otherwise, since its promise looks towards its definitive goal: love looks to the eternal. Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33), as Jesus says throughout the Gospels (cf. Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25). In these words, Jesus portrays his own path, which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection: the path of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in this way bears much fruit. Starting from the depths of his own sacrifice and of the love that reaches fulfillment therein, he also portrays in these words the essence of love and indeed of human life itself.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a course on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body were getting the support Professor Sawyer’s course is getting? Then I could agree with the headline that the human element has been added to sex education.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Limited Time Offer

I have mentioned before how important it is to read Catholic periodicals that are faithful to the Magesterium. I highly recommend the National Catholic Register. For a limited time you can read the Register online. I really like that the print edition is now divided into two sections. The first section deals with more sensitive topics, some of which may not be as appropriate for younger children. The second section is all family-friendly articles. Take a look and see if this would be a good newspaper to have in your household.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Naming God

It seems Anglicans on both sides of the Atlantic are infected with the desire to ban the use of male pronouns in reference to God. First we had the newly elected presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church (formerly known as Episcopal Church USA), Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori referring to “Mother Jesus”. Now leaders of the Church of England have declared that the use of male pronouns for God encourages wife-beating.

Church of England leaders warned yesterday that calling God 'He' encourages men to beat their wives.

They told churchgoers they must think twice before they refer to God as 'He' or 'Lord' because of the dangers that it will lead to domestic abuse.

In new guidelines for bishops and priests on such abuse, they blamed "uncritical use of masculine imagery" for encouraging men to behave violently towards women.

They also warned that clergy must reconsider the language they use in sermons and check the hymns they sing to remove signs of male oppression.

The recommendation - fully endorsed by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams - puts a question mark over huge swathes of Christian teaching and practice.

I once again commend readers to the excellent catechesis by Bishop Carlson of Saginaw on the Naming of God.

Although we readily acknowledge that our language cannot ever fully describe the mystery of God and that we must continually purify our language about God so that our image of God is not confused with our human representations, it is important that we look to Jesus and to the tradition of the Church to help us in the purification process.

Jesus reveals the identity of God as a mystery of relationship. He relates to God as his dear Father (Abba) and invites us into that relationship. The Christian tradition has therefore followed the lead of Jesus in praying to "our Father."

Following the prayer of our Jewish ancestors, as well as the prayer of Jesus, the Christian tradition has named God with pronouns such as "he, him," etc., in distinction from other religions of various ages which acknowledge different gods and which have been named as female deities. Though the Christian tradition acknowledges that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes and known expressions for a particular parental tenderness in God which use the image of motherhood, for example, there is no other language which assures our fidelity to the God revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and revealed by Jesus than that in which Jesus reveals God as his Father and to whom the tradition consistently refers with the use of masculine terminology.

The Hard Decision

Dawn Eden has a must-read post by guestblogger Tragic Christian. He responds to a woman describing her decision to abort her child with Downs Syndrome as “the hardest decision I’ve ever made…”

I'm a man, so I'm not supposed to have an opinion about abortion. Instead, let me tell you about the wonderful morning I had yesterday, taking my 2-year-old daughter Dot to speech therapy and physical therapy. Her major interest right now is reciting the colors (which she does in English and American Sign Language, yet) and reciting the names of her boyfriends in her early start toddler class ("Edgerrrrr! Androooo!") and informing me they wear "backpacks." She waved at everyone she saw that day with a cheery "Hello!" and smiled a gap-tooth smile under her mop of red hair. They smiled and waved back. What a cutie!

Oh, sorry — she has Down Syndrome. Reboot. Let me try again:

Bringing her to term was obviously a big mistake! What a tragedy SHE is! How inconvenient for everyone involved! We can't possibly get her into advanced placement classes, or an Ivy League college! What'll we say to our neighbors? Better off just to make the "hard decision" to get rid of her. Ignore my first paragraph. Just forget I said anything ...

The sad fact is that the decision to abort a child with Downs Syndrome is not that hard in our current society. It is very counter cultural to accept a prenatal diagnosis of Downs Syndrome or any other disability and proceed with the pregnancy. The right to an abortion has become a “duty” to abort. I mean really, isn’t it inconsiderate to bring a child into the world that will be such a societal burden? Think of all the things we could accomplish with the perfect kids if we didn’t have to waste all that money on special services for defective children.

The blinding arrogance of such an attitude is astonishing. Who among us is really so wise and all-knowing that he can judge whose life is worthy and whose is not? I suppose if you are operating under the premise that this earthly life is all there is it is easy to aim for earthly perfection. But if your view stretches into the eternal, you must turn such judgment over to God. Only He has the big picture on the plan for salvation and the role each individual created in His image is called to play. That “hard decision” about who lives and who dies is His to make, not ours.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sweating with...(not Richard Simmons)

If I manage to shed a few pounds in the next few weeks I give credit to Francis Cardinal Arinze, prefect for the Congreation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. I’ve been listening to his podcasts while I work out on the elliptical trainer and it has made it very easy to keep up with my exercise program. I become so engrossed in the Cardinal’s remarks that I forget I am exercising and sweating off the calories.

Over on the left side bar you will find a logo and link for the Cardinal Arinze podcast. I cannot say enough good things about these podcasts. They are produced by the Apostolate for Family Consecration. The bits of commentary by the moderators are fairly ordinary, but Cardinal Arinze is a genius. He doesn’t dance around issues. He goes straight to the heart of Catholic teaching and presents it in such an eloquent but clearly understood fashion. I encourage all my readers who use iTunes to take advantage of these free downloads.

I also recently finished the book God’s Invisible Hand. This is a compilation of interviews of Cardinal Arinze by Gerard O’Connell. Cardinal Arinze spent eighteen years as the head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. Pope John Paul II then named him to be the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Cardinal Arinze is a remarkably humble and holy man. He is also a gifted teacher. He breaks down complex issues into small easily understood segments then reassembles the parts in a way that clears away confusion and ambiguity. Definitely a book that belongs on your reading list!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More Thoughts on Confirmation

Amy Welborn points out a new book by Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix. However, in light of my recent post on confirmation preparation, I was more interested to learn that Bishop Olmstead has changed the age for confirmation from high school age to third grade. It is now received in conjunction with First Holy Communion. His pastoral letter on the topic is very good so I urge you to read the whole thing. The following passage from the letter echoes my thoughts as well:

Four major concerns have prompted us to re-think the high school years as the most appropriate age for this Sacrament:

--The number of adolescents accepting our invitation to participate in preparation for Confirmation is less than 40% of those who are eligible for the Sacrament.

--This Sacrament is often mistakenly seen as bringing to completion the need for continuing education and ongoing growth in faith—more like a graduation than an initiation.

--The grace of Confirmation to help adolescents in facing the many moral and spiritual challenges that our society presents today is delayed long past the time when that grace is needed.

--Since over 60% of our teens are not being confirmed, we have thousands of adults attempting to face the challenges of the modern world without the grace of Confirmation to help them.

Last year, I convened a task force to look at the question of an appropriate age for Confirmation in our Diocese. The task force was unanimous in its conclusion that the age should be lowered. They further recommended that the Sacrament be celebrated in the original order in which the Church, for centuries, celebrated what we know as the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. I consulted with the seventeen pastors who make up the Presbyteral Council and they, too, gave their unanimous support to the task force's recommendations. On the basis of the consultation, with this pastoral letter I am revising the policy of our Diocese so that the Sacrament of Confirmation will be prepared for and celebrated in conjunction with First Eucharist. Under this new policy, our children will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the 3rd grade.

The way Confirmation is currently celebrated in most diocese it is more akin to a Bar Mitzvah or a Quincenera ceremony. It is a marker of adulthood. Three cheers for Bishop Olmstead’s move to place Confirmation in its rightful position as a Sacrament of Initiation.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter three

Read chapter two here.

This is probably one of the most important chapters in the book. It is entitled Keeping Parents Catholic. This is why I harp on adult religious education so much. A parent must be a faithful Catholic to raise his child as a faithful Catholic.

Discussion Questions:

Why is a parent’s own faith and behavior important in raising Catholic Children?

Parents are the primary models for their children. Children of smokers have a much higher risk of smoking themselves. They have received the same anti-smoking messages in school as their peers, but the behavior of their parents negates these formal lessons in the dangers of tobacco. The same applies to faith. Children can go to CCD or Catholic schools, but if their parents to not reinforce the school lessons in faith, they are much less likely to be incorporated into a child’s life.

Bill Dodds writes, ”My parents didn’t teach me about being Catholic during one hour on Sunday. It was during the other 167 hours of the week.” Children learn by watching their parents. Parents need to live their faith every hour of every day. I know of a case where a woman lives within a mile of her mother. Since she has had children she has made sure that she and her family meet Grandmother for church whenever her mother is in town. However, the family skips church whenever Grandmother is away. Now the oldest is off at college and does not attend church at all. Is that surprising? Not at all. The children have learned that church is just something done to keep Grandmother happy. If she is not going to be at church, there is no reason to go. I am sure this was never stated explicitly, but the message was conveyed loud and clear.

Children need to see that the Church matters. Attending Mass every week is a start. Attending Mass and also talking about how faith influences our lives is better. Attending Mass, talking about faith then demonstrating how faith influences our lives is best of all. We have to live the Gospel message. Our children need to see us interact with those around us in a way that is consistent with our faith. They need to see us prioritize our lives in a way that reflects our Catholic values. They also need to see us turn to God in both the good times and the bad times.

What special concerns must a single parent face?

As a military wife I have done my share of single parenting when duty called my husband away for extended periods of time. I felt the utter exhaustion of trying to do it all for my children and still keep the household running. At those times I know my children can feel and see my stress. I think the most important thing I do during those times is visibly turn my overwhelming tasks over to God. I often pray aloud or light a candle. My children know that I am sharing the burden with God.

My experience, however, does not really compare to the divorced, widowed, or never married parent. I always know that in spite of the physical separation, there is a husband who loves me and is sharing my concern for the children. He is always cheering me on, even if from afar. Judy Cummings writes of turning to Jesus to be the supporting Man in her life when she found herself divorced and trying to raise four children. She found the Sacraments and family prayer provided the security and stability her family needed as she navigated her role as a single parent.

What Scriptural test should I use to set priorities for me and for my family?

Seek ye first the kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33). I must always be asking the questions, “Will my priorities lead me to heaven? Will they lead my family to heaven?” That does not mean my life must be devoid of the secular. It does mean that I must never let the secular overwhelm my personal spiritual life or the spiritual life of my family. In spite of the groans and protestations of children, it is my duty as a parent to set limits and boundaries. I must make sure that God is not squeezed from our life by the hustle and bustle of the earthly world.

One way I do this is to invite God along. We sometimes pray a rosary in the car. I remind the children to ask John Paul II to pray for them before a soccer game. I figure since he was a soccer goalie he is probably a good patron of soccer players. My kids enjoy reading and discussing current events so I keep Catholic periodicals available so they can keep up with current events from a Catholic perspective.

Other times I have to close down the calendar and say we cannot add another thing. Just as Jesus went away from the crowd to pray, sometimes we need to turn off the activities so we can hear God.


Our parish has an altar server corps of around 100 boys. In addition to serving at the table of Our Lord, the boys are invited to activities to nurture them spiritually as well as socially. When The Chronicles of Narnia was released, the boys were invited to meet for pizza and hear a talk about the salvation allegory of the story. They then all went to see Chronicles of Narnia as a group. They have gone hiking, biking and paintballing. Our priests join in the adventures. This has been bearing much fruit. The high school youth group has a strong cadre of active young men. In fact, the next high school retreat filled the available slots immediately and there are more boys than girls attending. The boys truly see that they belong in the Church.

There is a need to reach out to young women in the same way. Last Sunday our parochial vicar announced the beginning of Fiat. This will be a program for girls from grades five through twelve. They will be called to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. They will visit the parish homebound. They will volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity in Washington D. C. They will be exposed to women consecrated religious in growing, thriving orders. And, of course, they will also have fun social activities as well. You can read more here.

The goal of both the altar server program and Fiat is to foster the Faith and help both young men and young women discern their individual vocations. Having two separate programs reflects the unique contributions men and women make to the Church. Each are called to serve. Each serves with equal dignity, yet the roles are not identical. As my parish undertakes this new initiative, I humbly ask you to pray for its success.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thoughts on Confirmation Preparation

Jimmy Akin has a thought provoking post about Confirmation preparation. This post hits close to home because this year I am teaching 7th grade CCD, which is our confirmation preparation year. My youngest son is also in the class so I am involved in his preparation as well.

I really love our textbooks. We are using the Faith and Life Series by Ignatius Press. The seventh grade book is The Life of Grace. The book has enough information to be used in a daily religious education class so it is a bit of a challenge to winnow the lesson down to our one-hour class every week.

What I don’t enjoy is the specter of the final exam that hangs over the curriculum. There is a five-page final exam that is given in the springtime. It contains questions on the very basic facts of our Faith. For example:

--List the Ten Commandments

--What happened at Pentecost?

--What are the seven Sacraments?

The expectation is that one must receive a passing grade in order to be confirmed the following fall. The children are given the very test questions to study. If they do not receive a passing grade (65%) they take it again and again until they do. I really don’t think anyone has ever been denied Confirmation because they didn’t pass the test.

Still, the whole process bothers me. I think it perpetuates the impression that Confirmation is a graduation rather than a Sacrament of Initiation, a beginning. I know the test is meant to ensure a rudimentary understanding of basic doctrine before Confirmation. Yet I think we risk conveying that these five pages of facts is all you need to know.

I would never endorse a no-grade no-test approach to academic curricula. But I am very uncomfortable emphasizing the letter grade and objective testing method for CCD. It just feels wrong. The nature of what I am trying to convey in CCD is so different than math, English, and social studies. There are certainly objective facts to be learned about our Catholic Church. However, with this school-room approach we risk focusing so much on Reason that we leave out Faith.

I am sure I am also biased by my own Confirmation experience. I was three-years-old. My mother was visiting her family in South Texas. The bishop was going to be in town that weekend to administer Confirmation. Her good friend was anxious to be my comadre or Godmother. No preparation was needed. We just showed up to the church. I knelt at the communion rail along with everyone else. The bishop went down the line, mumbled some words, and slapped our faces. My hat fell off. That is the extent of my memory of this Sacrament.

I have been assured time and time again that I received this Sacrament and its attendant Grace completely. Therefore, while I endorse thoroughly teaching the doctrine of Catholicism, I think we need to be careful about insisting some minimal performance on a written test is required to qualify for the Sacrament of Confirmation. I think Fr. Martin Fox summed up my feelings as well in his commentary on Jimmy Akin’s post:

I should add, we scaled back the confirmation prep here, because I couldn't see a good rationale for a lengthy and intensive program. Sacraments aren't a reward for intensive study or completing X hours of work; they are gifts of grace. The Church's requirements are, by comparison, minimal. What I suspect confirmation programs are really about is a "last chance" to cram the kids full of religion before they leave and you never see them again. Understandable, but I just don't agree with that. You don't "earn" or have to "prove yourself" for a sacrament.

Very important point. The grace of Confirmation does not hinge on the final exam score.

Feast of the Guardian Angels

A blessed Feast of the Guardian Angels to all.

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,
Rule and guide.