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

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Keeping Your Kids Catholic Discussion Group Starting

About four weeks ago I wrote about struggling with the choice of teaching seventh grade CCD or working to start an adult education program Our DRE was supportive of trying to teach provide education for the parents but really needed help with the kids’ classes. I agreed to do seventh grade this year with an eye towards working on a parent education program in the future.

With that in mind, I am going to try an experiment. I am going to offer an on-line discussion of the book Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi. This is a great collection of essays by a variety of authors. It covers Catholic parenting issues from toddlers to teens. I would love to include both new parents and experienced parents in the exchange of ideas. Let’s share our challenges, questions, and success stories.

Our CCD classes start on September 12. I am going to invite my students' parents to be part of the discussion so beginning September 20, I will cover one chapter every week. The end of each chapter has a set of discussion questions. I will post those questions along with my thoughts every Wednesday. I invite you to read along and join in the discussion. If you want to post your thoughts on your own blog, please just provide a link in the comments sections of my post.

Please spread the word of this discussion group so we can enjoy varied and lively discussions.

I will post the questions for the first chapter on September 20. Hope this works out to be an enjoyable and instructive experiment.

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith. However, building upon this foundation is the work of a lifetime.

Your child needs to see that you are still growing and developing your Faith. At a minimum, every home should have a copy of a Catholic Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When you talk to your child about moral issues, read what the Catechism says about the topic. I also highly recommend the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as Catholic periodicals that are faithful to the Magesterium. The National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor are good choices in addition to our own diocesan paper, The Arlington Catholic Herald.

Reflect on the weekly Scripture readings and the homily and share your thoughts with your child. Consider how your faith influences your work, your social activities, your family decisions and talk about it with your child. Communicate the daily relevance of your Faith.

This year we will be talking a lot about the saints that are recognized by the Church. Please try to display a calendar that notes the various Church feasts and Holy Days. Share your own favorite saints with your child. The saints are our role models as we strive to respond to our own call to holiness.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to support your efforts to pass on our Catholic Faith to your child. May God bless us as we travel together over the next few months on this journey of Faith.

What do you think?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Georgetown's sudden concern with "Catholic" identity

Joseph Bottum offers commentary about Georgetown University’s decision to ban outside religious ministries from the Georgetown campus. They cannot use the campus for meetings or use Georgetown in their name.

But now, at last, Georgetown has rediscovered its Catholicism, at least long enough for a Protestant employee of Campus Ministries to send a letter to six evangelical groups, kicking them off campus. The story made the Washington Post and the Washington Times this weekend, with the kind of headlines the public-relations office hates to see: “Georgetown Bars Ministries from Campus,” “Georgetown U. Ejects Private Ministry Groups.”

According to the Washington Times, “the decision—which affects a few hundred students belonging to six Christian groups—forbids the ministries from having any ‘activity or presence’ on campus, including worship services, retreats or helping students move into their dorms. The groups also are prohibited from using the Georgetown name in publicity.”

Mr. Bottum suggests a rather nefarious motivation for this policy:

The problem, of course, finally boils down to this: The evangelical groups represent only a few hundred students, but they are strongly pro-life and opposed to homosexual marriage. The mainline Protestant employees of Campus Ministry find such things embarrassing, and so they kick the evangelicals off campus, employing the power of the officially Catholic chaplain’s office and the rhetoric of the school’s Catholic identity.

Georgetown explains its actions as a way to consolidate its Protestant students under the wings of its Protestant chaplaincy. This will also give the school control over the use of its name as associated with student groups.It cannot ensure outside groups are in concert with Church teachings. I suppose it might be uncomfortable to have the Georgetown Wiccans or the Georgetown New Age seekers having a presence on campus. However, Evangelical Christians threaten Georgetown’s “Catholic” identity?

The school’s concern about controlling the use of its name might be believable if it didn’t lend its name to Georgetown University Pride Do you mean to tell me Georgetown has a problem with Evangelical Christians affiliating with the university but have no problem with a gay pride group using their name? From the GU Pride web site (accessed from the school’s main web site)

GUPride provides educational and support services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) communities at Georgetown University. We also provide support and referral services to those exploring their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and other individuals sharing an interest in these issues.

We do this by:
- Promoting the elimination of prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity;
- Providing access and referrals for all individuals to the resources of the LGBTQ community.
- Providing opportunities to develop individual well-being and community cohesiveness.
-Providing educational resources and events for the Georgetown population at large about the LGBTQ community.

Nothing on the web site promotes living chastely according to Catholic teaching. It has extensive links to outside organizations supporting the gay culture and lifestyle. No links to groups like Courage that support those with same-sex attractions as they live according to Catholic moral teachings.

Sadly, as much as I would like to give Georgetown the benefit of the doubt, this sudden concern for Catholic identity is probably as Mr. Bottum surmises, a reaction to the Evangelical Christians’ closer adherence to Catholic moral standards than the University as a whole.

Empty Places at the Dinner Table

Like so many of us these day, (Julie D., Argent) Rebecca Hagelin is reflecting on the departure of her child for college. Our family’s drop from the summer count of four kids to the school year count of two kids is most noticeable at the dinner table. Two years ago it took a long time for us to remember to grab 5 plates instead of six. Now we are down to four. Ms. Hagelin notices the same thing.

I know in my heart that it's the time we spent together as a family that has best prepared Drew to enter the world on his own. As I stare at his empty seat across the dining room table, I'm overcome with gratitude that we fought the culture and demands of our busy world to bring our family together for those precious evening hours. It wasn't easy, and the dinners weren't always fun and games. But it was those hours spent together over the years that our children learned of our unfailing love, our deep faith in God, our parental expectations. In those hours, they came to experience a deep sense of security and belonging – of knowing that although they may be far away some day, they will always be part of our home.

The importance of such moments must not be underestimated. Research gathered on the Heritage Foundation's Family Facts website reveals the many benefits our children reap when we parents give them our most valuable asset – our time. A survey by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse shows, for instance, that from age 12 to 17, the proportion of teens who have regular family dinners drops by 50 percent, while their risk of substance abuse increases sevenfold. Polling nearly 2,000 boys and girls in the United States, the center found that, "The more often teenagers have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs. In fact, compared with teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have dinner with their families only two nights per week or less are at double the risk of substance abuse."

My sons' absence is also acutely felt in the pew on Sunday. I know it is easier to find an open pew to seat four, but I would much rather be arriving at church a bit earlier to get a seat for six. But like Ms. Hagelin, I am sure that the efforts my husband and I put forth to gather all our knees under the dinner table most evenings and to attend Mass together every week provide the best preparation for our children to leave home and face the world.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What should girl altar servers wear?

I have mentioned several times that I am not happy to now have girls as altar servers in the Arlington Diocese. I do not think it added any benefit and I do think it has the potential for harm. However, since they are here, I will make the best of it. Our parish is one of several in the diocese that has decided to not expand the altar server corps to include girls. Of course with one hundred altar servers there really isn’t a need to expand the group.

This evening we went to Sunday evening Mass at St. Bernadette’s in Springfield. This is a fairly orthodox parish so I was a little surprised to see three girl altar servers of about 14 years of age as well as two little boys about 10 years old. All five servers were dressed in albs. (Bishop Loverde appropriately specified that girls would not wear the cassock and surplice) I could tell the boys were both in dress slacks and dress shoes. One of the girls was teetering on white high-heeled sandals. One girl was wearing frayed jeans and flip-flops. One girl had flat casual sandals.

My question is, “What should girl altar servers wear?” The girl teetering on high-heels was also the cross-bearer so we all held our breath as the crucifix swayed from side to side. I know it is hard to find sensible shoes that girls will wear but I definitely think sneakers or flip-flops are out of bounds. Frayed jeans are also unacceptable. So those of you with more experience with girl altar servers, what are your guidelines? Should they forgo dresses and wear dress slacks and flat shoes like loafers? Our male altar servers are required to wear dark dress slacks and black dress shoes. No athletic shoes or sandals.

I am interested in what has worked in your parish.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Five Person Meme

Five People in Five Categories Meme

Michelle at Rosetta Stone tagged me so here goes:

"If you could meet and have a deep conversation with any five people on earth, living or dead, from any time period, who would they be?" (Explaining why is optional.)

Name five people from each of the following categories: Saints, Those in the Process of Being Canonized, Heroes from your native country, Authors/Writers, celebrities.

Five Saints:

1. St. Therese of Lisieux
2. St. Michael the Archangel
3. St. Monica
4. St. Joseph
5. Blessed Mother ( Especially want to discuss her apparition at Tepeyac as Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Those in the Process of Being Canonized:

1. Pope John Paul II
2. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
3. Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi
4. Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco Marto ( I know that is really two people but they seem like a package deal)
5. Pope John XXIII (What were you really thinking about that council?)

Five U.S. Heroes:

1. Thomas Jefferson
2. Thomas Edison
3. Harry Truman
4. Charles Lindbergh
5. Davy Crockett

Five Authors/Writers:

1. George Weigel
2. Laura Ingalls Wilder
3. Jan Karon
4. Suzanne Fields
5. Tom Clancy

Five Celebrities:

1. Sandra Bullock
2. Meryl Streep
3. Mother Angelica
4. Pope Benedict XVI ( I am using celebrity here to mean the same as famous and popular)
5. Jeb Bush (I guess politicians can count as celebrities)

Tag Five People:

1. David at Apostolate of the Laity
2. Tony at Catholic Pillow Fight
3. Kelly at The Lady in the Pew
4. Argent at Argent by the Tiber
5. Rosemary at A Catholic Mother’s Thoughts

Friday, August 25, 2006

Crisis Number One

It is 2:35 Friday morning and I am waiting for a follow up phone call from Second Son. You may remember we just dropped him off at Rice University for his freshman year. This week has been freshman week with lots of orientation and social activities to make the freshmen feel at home. My son was part of a group that decided to take a nighttime visit to Galveston Beach. While frolicking in the waves he managed to impale his big toe on a crab claw. He is now sitting in the local emergency room waiting to have the claw extricated from his toe.

As a mother I want to be there so badly. As the doctor in the family I have always supervised any medical treatment. But as a doctor I know this really isn’t a big deal. The claw is barbed so it will be a simple matter of enlarging the wound enough to free the claw. Second Son will be walking with a limp for a few days but should be fine shortly and can enjoy the notoriety of being the freshman who ended up in the ER.

Of course, now that I know Second Son is really okay, my mind is calculating the pain it will be to handle the hospital billing. As a military family we have Tricare Prime. This is an out of area emergency room visit. When we were out of area and my daughter broke her arm, it took two years to get the billing straightened out. I am girding my loins for the bureaucratic nightmare.

I guess I will wait for the follow up call and say a prayer of thanksgiving that Second Son is going to be fine. It is just a crab claw, not a shark bite. This is part of the letting go process. He has to handle these little crises without my direct intervention. But I can still pray. So Dear Guardian Angel, please stay by his side until he is tucked into his bed safe and sound. I can’t be there so it is up to you.

UPDATE: Didn't hear anything until 6:45 this morning. (talk about no sleep!) Second Son waited for about 5 1/2 hours in the ER before being seen. Once the toe was numbed up they pulled out the offending object. It turned out to be the barb from a stingray, not a crab claw! He has a sore toe but is able to get a shoe on and walk around. He doesn't understand why this was so stressful for his father and me. Just wait until he has kids of his own!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Priest was too humble and the Music too good

This was first published last March on my previous blog site. I have had to reference it a couple of times lately so I thought I would move it to my current site.

We were traveling again this past weekend so it meant another visit to a parish in the diocese next door. I’ve written about this diocese before. It is home to the “Yee-Haw Mass" and the “Mass as a PowerPoint presentation" parishes. At this point I am not surprised by anything I see. This weekend’s adventure, however, left me feeling a bit conflicted.

The Church was obviously being built in stages. The current structure looks like it will be the parish hall when a new sanctuary is built. For now, Mass is celebrated in this large open room circular room filled with folding chairs. The altar sits on a raised platform. There is a large wooden cross but no crucifix. Behind the altar is a stage that seats the musicians. The priest sits with the congregation in the first row of chairs facing the altar. He even offers the rubrics of the Mass from this position, though he does go to the Altar for the Eucharistic prayer. He makes it clear he does not want to be elevated above the laity. While humility is noble, in my opinion, he is undermining his priestly vocation with this approach. The priest is different from the laity with a completely different role to fulfill during the Mass.

My feeling of conflict, however, did not stem from this egalitarian priest. It was the music that left me questioning. There was a small ensemble consisting of a vocalist, a saxophone player, a trumpet player, and a pianist playing a baby grand piano. These were all accomplished musicians. The music had a very smooth jazzy feel. The vocals were mostly simple refrains but were sung in perfect pitch with an almost haunting lilt to her sultry voice. The instrumentalists offered impressive improvisational riffs. So here is my dilemma: I love the jazz genre. I was listening to a notable presentation of religiously themed jazz. Yet I felt uncomfortable. Am I just such a traditionalist when it comes to the Mass that I can’t accept and enjoy anything a little new and different in the liturgy?

After much reflection, I realized my discomfort was because the music drew my attention from the Mass and focused it on the musicians. I was almost expecting the soloists to stand and take a bow after a particularly showy segment. This repertoire would be perfect for an evening of praise and worship music. However, during the Mass, nothing should upstage the Eucharist. Perhaps the musicians could adopt the priest’s humility and become one with the congregation rather than the center of attention.

The Journey

Every now and then a familiar passage of Scripture just jumps out at me as if I had never heard it before. I felt like that at this morning’s Mass. Today’s Gospel (Mt 20:1-16) was the story of the vineyard owner who went out several times during the day to hire workers. When it came time to pay the workers, they each received a full day’s wages regardless of how many hours they worked. I can certainly identify with the workers who had worked the entire day. I am sure I would have been right there with them hollering, “That’s not fair!” But in truth, the vineyard owner was free to dispense as much charity as he wanted to. It is not up to the recipients to dictate the extent of the owner’s generosity.

Now that has always been the typical focus of this reading. However, today I heard something new. The vineyard owner did not stand at his gate and issue a mass call for workers. He went out into the town to seek workers. He didn’t just do this once. He did it time after time. The Gospel accounts for five trips to gather laborers. Isn’t that the way God works? He never gives up on us. If we don’t respond to the first call, he gives us another. Then another. Then another. And these are not vague calls from afar. God gets right down into the nitty-gritty of our lives and asks us to follow Him. He doesn’t scold us and ask us why we didn’t hear the first call. He welcomes us whenever and wherever we respond.

I also thought about this as I do my own part to bring the Good News to those around me. Many of the folks with whom I interact, both online and in person, share my frustrations with the struggle for orthodoxy in the Catholic Church. We have journeyed on this path of Faith and climbed a summit we think gives us an enlightened perspective. It is very easy to forget that there are others who have climbed even higher summits and have even greater insights. It is also easy to just stand at our point along the path and yell down to those below to hurry up and get up here. In reality, we need to be like the vineyard owner and go out to meet those who aren’t quite as far along as we are. We need to keep calling and encouraging others to keep climbing. We need to recognize where are brothers and sisters are on their Faith journey and meet them there. It doesn’t do any good to rant and rave about the placement of the Tabernacle and the vessels used for Communion if we don’t first teach about the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We can’t expect people to be attending daily Mass and Holy Hours if they don’t even see the need to be at Mass every Sunday. We crawl before we walk and walk before we run.

So today I am praying for the humility to recognize I still have a lot of ground to cover on my Faith journey and also for the patience and generosity to help others along the way.

Mass and McDonalds

I don’t want to brag, but I do have to share how great our parish is for youth. I am very close to having four teens in the house. The youngest will enter his teens within the year and the oldest will leave his teen years tomorrow (I really feel much too young to have a 20-year-old). The vibrancy of our parish youth ministry positively influences all my children and makes my job as a parent so much easier. Many parishes have enthusiastic and talented youth ministers. Our parish is no exception. What differentiates our parish youth program from that of other parishes I have seen is the involvement of our priests.

This struck me this morning. Throughout the summer, the high school youth meet for “Mass and McDonalds”. Every Wednesday a group meets for the 9:00 AM daily Mass and then walks across the street to the McDonalds for breakfast and conversation. This morning one of the parochial vicars accompanied the group. When I returned in an hour to pick up my daughter it was very satisfying to see a group of high school students engaged in lively conversation with the priest. The topics ranged from back-to-school topics and pop culture to discussions of Church history. This particular priest has a phenomenal knowledge of history. All of my children have learned more about Church history from his casual conversations than they have ever learned in a formal class.

The high school youth also meet one evening every week at the local coffee house. This is billed as a Bible study. Usually it is a review of the readings for the upcoming Sunday. Almost every week one of the parochial vicars attends this gathering to ensure that the teachings and discussion are faithful. This is not just a bunch of high school kids getting together to discuss how the readings make them feel. Please don’t think I am implying a priest must be present to interpret Scripture. However, I do think it is important to introduce the idea of real Scripture study that includes historical context and Church Tradition.

The priests also give the straight facts about Church teaching. When Jesus gave his discourse on the Eucharist (Jn 6:50-58) some of his disciples said “This is intolerable language”. However, Jesus persisted. He did not water down the Truth to make it easier to accept. Likewise, when we are ministering to our youth we need to give them the whole Truth. They sense when someone doesn’t believe they can handle the real story. They really want to hear about the Cross and the challenges of our Faith. The Glory and Resurrection make no sense without them.

These youth events are as much social as they are instructive. The atmosphere is casual. Within these relaxed setting my children meet the priests as real people. They find out that priests like music and literature and movies and food just like they do. More importantly, they have learned of their vocation histories. They see that discernment of a vocation is a gradual process, not necessarily a lightning bolt zap from above.

I know we are truly blessed to have priests so willing to interact with our youth. Perhaps their success will inspire other priests to give it a try. Don’t assume high school youth will be intimidated or turned off by the presence of a priest. Rather, they are inspired by it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

College Musings

I suppose I should feel reassured since the Princeton Review just released a batch of college rankings and Rice University is ranked number one for “quality of student life”. Son #2 must be enjoying the quality of life there since he hasn’t phoned home since my husband dropped him off a couple of days ago—not that I really expect him to. (However, dear, if you are reading this blog feel free to log on to iChat or give us a call!) Of course, I also don’t put too much stock in these polls. A few years ago one of the teen magazines rated Rice as having the coolest guys. This was an internet poll. Let us remember that Rice is filled with brilliant computer and engineering geeks who probably found it quite easy to generate multiple votes for the Rice men. This is not a slam against Rice men. After all I did marry one, dated many during my years at Rice, and am sending one of my cherished children to become one. However, when one thinks of the popular definition of cool, I think it is far more likely that one of the many loveable Rice geeks manipulated the system. Or then again, maybe I am just behind the times and today’s women just really love brainy academic types. I always did.

I can also be thankful that Oldest Son is attending Texas A&M. It’s conservative atmosphere along with the Corps of Cadets has been a perfect fit for him. I wonder how those parents who just dropped their kids off at that huge school down the road in Austin are feeling since the Princeton Review poll named University of Texas as the number one party school in the country. Like any other big school, a lot depends on the company you keep.

The “fan mail” for Child #3 is arriving steadily. There are so many schools publishing shiny brochures that look so appealing. The choices can be overwhelming. She is more inclined to visit schools than her older brothers. They were very content to do the research and make a decision based on their objective assessments. My daughter is much more like me. She wants to stand on the campus and see how it feels. That is how I chose Rice. My father drove up the long main entrance that is shaded by a live oak canopy to the classical architecture of the administration buildings. I got out of the car and said, “This is where I am going to school”. If just felt and looked like what I thought college should be. So I guess we will be doing a little traveling over the next year as we try to stand in the middle of campuses and feel the “vibes”.

I am not sure who the patron saint of college students is. St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron for students in general. I think I will ask him to pray for all kids as they resume their academic studies but include a special prayer for college freshmen who are beginning the next phase of their student life.

UPDATE Son #2 called this afternoon and quality of life is very good. He sounded happy and excited and full of energy. He has already found at least one person to go to Mass with on Sunday. (You notice he made sure I knew about it) I am so happy for him. St. Thomas, please keep praying. Freshman Week is great fun, but the real world starts on Monday!

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Line Between Living and Dying

Wesley Smith brings to our attention a policy in Great Britain to refuse life extending treatment to cancer patients because it is merely “extending the dying process”.

There is no reason to keep treating terminally ill patients with multiple therapies when the patient sees no benefit. However, if the patient sees that an additional six months of life is worth the discomfort and cost of the therapy, why should he be refused? Exactly where does one draw the line between the process of living and the process of dying. None of us is getting any younger so using the British health service logic, we are all in the process of dying.

This same argument was used to justify removing the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo. Though there was no continued deterioration of her physical functioning, she was declared to be in a dying state and therefore continuing to feed her was only “extending the dying process”. In truth, Terri Schiavo was living in a profoundly disabled state. She was not dying.

May God have mercy on us and protect us from bioethicists who promote such a utilitarian view of living.

Evangelizing our Own

It seems the rabidly anti-Catholic Protestants are getting under a few skins. Michelle Arnold writes about one Protestant’s diatribe that compares Catholicism to tribal African religions. Then Richmond Catholic discovers a Virginia based writer who makes claims of a Vatican based conspiracy to subvert the US government.

I have lived in all regions of the United States and there is this sort of bigotry everywhere. There does seem to be a stronghold of such thought in the American South. When I lived in Niceville, Florida there was a local Evangelical Protestant preacher who would take out a small advertisement in the local newspaper once per week in order to propagate lies about Catholicism. So, how do we respond?

In my opinion, the most effective apologetics response to this sort of blatant misinformation is to provide effective catechesis to current Catholics. The reason these bigoted mouthpieces can get away with their inaccurate proclamations of what Catholics believe is because we as Catholics are so poor at articulating what we truly believe. Imagine if everyone could explain the difference between the veneration of saints and the worship of God. Imagine if everyone could articulate the Church teaching on Mary and her role in God’s plan for salvation. What if everyone recognized the Petrine passages of scripture that authorize the papacy? Imagine if everyone in the pew on Sunday really understood the teaching of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. What if everyone understood the central role of the Eucharist in the celebration of Mass? We might not have so many people advocating a happy-clappy touchy-feely don't-we-feel-good-about-ourselves style of liturgy.

In addition, I think we need to focus more energy on reclaiming our lukewarm and non-practicing Catholics. Thousands upon thousands of people identify themselves as Catholic but never set foot in a Catholic Church until dear Aunt Mary Margaret dies and they have to attend the funeral. Of course I am thrilled whenever someone who was not raised a Catholic “swims the Tiber” to join the Church. I would never advocate ignoring the opportunity to evangelize to non-Catholics. However, I see an even greater opportunity in evangelizing to our own poorly catechized. Every Christmas and Easter, every baptism, every First Communion, every Catholic wedding should include a welcoming appeal to those who have been away from the Church. If we gathered in all of our wandering sheep the sheer numbers would overwhelm the effect of these preachers of falsehoods.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Eat! Eat!

Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
“Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.”
Proverbs 9: 1-6

This reading reminds me of my mother. She is now entertaining my older two sons since they are going to college near her home. They love it. My oldest has enjoyed her hospitality for the last two years. She is constantly saying, “Eat! Eat!”. Nothing sounds sweeter to the ears of a healthy teenage boy. She is a very good cook and loves to see my boys with hearty appetites inhale her culinary creations. Of course she is always fixing a variety of foods out of fear that someone won’t like one thing so she must have an alternative. Two kinds of meat. At least two different desserts.

Of course, this is not how she cooked for her kids. It is only grandkids that get this constant kitchen activity. But that is okay. I know that a lot of bonding goes on around the kitchen table so I don’t begrudge my kids a reason to spend a little extra time with Grannie.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Divine Encounters

I guess Julie D. and I will trade links today. Read her post about her day of errands and “Divine Encounters”.

When I left there I was musing about my two stops with the Christian stories flying around. Believe it or not, I don't go around talking about this sort of thing ... at least not without someone leading me into it. Honestly! So this was somewhat unusual.

It has been four years since I actively practiced medicine. In the years when I was in clinical practice I always marveled at the ways I “bumped into God”. A patient would show up in my office with a very unusual constellation of symptoms but I had just read about such a case the night before and could appropriately care for her. I always said a prayer before seeing my patients and I can’t count the times that it seemed like a little voice prompted me to do something a little bit different and it turned out to be exactly the right thing for my patient. I found practicing medicine was very humbling because I had no doubt that I was merely an instrument in God’s hands providing His gift of healing. I will never forget how one woman cried when I found the cause of her headaches and was able to stop the pain. She had been to multiple doctors before me. She said, “I am sure God put you in my path as an answer to my prayers”.

Working as a physician the “Divine Encounters” seem to be a bit more dramatic than what I have seen since I “retired” from medicine to be a writer. Yet I still “bump into God”. I am trying to figure out my new vocation. People and opportunities seem to just appear out of nowhere at just the right time. Every now and then I hear from a reader who says I said exactly what he needed to hear. I am currently reading Francis Cardinal Arinze’s book, God’s Invisible Hand. He has a lot to say about Divine Providence. He doesn’t believe in luck or coincidences. Rather, he believes God is providing for us if we will only follow His lead.

There are many things that God arranges on our way, individuals who come into our lives. If I am sitting here today, who knows? How is it explained? Only God knows the combination of events. Sometimes we say a person is lucky. I never apply to myself the word “luck”. No, I say it is providential, because it isn’t really blind fate or fortune or a blind combination of events. It is God directing all…

If only we would answer God’s call. He always takes the initiative. He will arrange the rest. And I could go into little details in my life, but there is no need. And some of them would be too personal. But I am very aware of individuals whom Divine Providence has used to make me be where I am, or what I am, or know what I know, or to save me from this thing or that one. Some I would never know. Some I would know.

So I strongly believe in Divine Providence; I strongly believe that God has us almost “in the palm of his hand” as the prophet Isaiah would say, and that nothing escapes him.

Actually, it is quite a relief when I finally let go and let God lead me instead of trying to wrest control from Him and figure it all myself. "God’s Invisible Hand" is always there. Recognizing His presence in everyday encounters is a good reminder.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sacramentals for the College Student

Second Son left for college today. He will soon be 1500 miles away from home and out of sight except for the occasional iChat video conferences. (I do love our iMacs!) Last night I sat with him as he packed the last of his things. I just kept reviewing the last eighteen years and wondering, “Have I told him everything he needs to know? Did I skip over some important piece of information?” With four kids it is easy to lose track of who knows what.

As I reviewed his final round of packing I made sure he had a good supply of sacramentals. He received a small desk-top crucifix for graduation. He has at least one Rosary. I kept pressing holy cards on him. St. Michael, St. Monica, St. Augustine, St. Benedict. He had already packed his Bible.

He is very patient with me as I fret about his spiritual well-being. I really am not worried. He seems to be pretty grounded in his faith. I was also interested in his take on all the Catholic paraphernalia I was sending with him. He told me appreciated it but he would let his Catholicism publicly unfold gradually. He said, “If I wear my Faith too conspicuously I hear minds shut as I approach. It is better to let them discover my Catholicism after they know other things about me first.”

I do understand his point. I don’t expect him to make a shrine in his dorm room. If the holy cards occupy a place in his desk drawer, that’s okay too. I know he will see them occasionally and remember his mom and a whole bunch of saints are praying for him. I hope he will then remember to say a prayer too.

Evangelical Christians and the "Contraception Culture"

Christine Gardner writes in today’s WSJ Opinion Journal that Evangelical Christians embrace the “contraception culture”.

With the recent approval by the FDA of the over-the-counter sale of Plan B, the "morning after" pill, there has been much discussion of where various groups of Americans come down on the issue of contraception. When we think about American attitudes toward a topic like this, we tend to assume that religious "red state" Americans line up on one side of a divide, with secular "blue state" Americans on the other. Perhaps, but only up to a point. American evangelicals, as it happens, are pro-contraception. A Harris Poll conducted online in September 2005 shows that evangelicals overwhelmingly support birth control (88%).

It makes one wonder how Catholics and Evangelical Christians can be so close on pro-life issues like abortion and euthanasia and so far apart on an issue like contraception. I think it stems from the lack of sacraments within the Evangelical Christian tradition. For the Evangelical Christian community, marriage is a human contract, blessed by God, but still completely human. A Catholic sacramental view of marriage acknowledges a distinct mystical change that occurs with the sacrament. It is an avenue for God’s grace. Two people give themselves totally to each other and through their union give each other totally to God. Through the sacrament of marriage, they are duty bound to lead each other to Heaven.

Through this total self-giving and love for each other, they model God’s love for mankind. Christ is the bridegroom. His Church is the bride. Through the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage they participate in God’s gift of new life. Therefore, marriage is not seen as merely a good thing for the bride and groom. Marriage is a vocation as solemn as Holy Orders. The married couple dedicates their lives to working for the Kingdom of God through their vocation of marriage. This means completely surrendering their own will to God’s will. A contraceptive mentality, whether it involves the use of artificial contraception or periodic abstinence, is not total surrender.

That doesn’t mean you cannot plan or space children. It does mean the reasons for being opposed to pregnancy must be serious. It is wrong to pass judgment on others based on their choice to have less rather than more children. All we can hope is that couples adequately discern their reasons for avoiding pregnancy. In a truly Catholic culture the decision to avoid pregnancy cannot be made lightly. It requires prayer and reflection. In contrast, the “contraception culture” views avoiding pregnancy as the norm.

A Job for St. Anthony

Today’s Washington Post has an article about lost Advanced Placement (AP) test scores.

Sections from hundreds of Advanced Placement exams taken around the world in May have been lost, according to the company that scores the tests, and students must now decide whether to retake them.

Tom Ewing, spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, which develops and scores AP exams for the nonprofit College Board, said that it was unclear exactly how many AP tests were affected but that the number was "in the hundreds, not thousands."

Advanced Placement classes are college level classes taught in high school. Students from these classes take a standardized test and depending on their score can earn college credit. Even if they do not score high enough for college credit, taking the Advanced Placement class lets prospective colleges know a student is willing to challenge himself.

This article hits close to home because my sixteen-year-old daughter is one of those with missing scores. Last spring she diligently studied and took the AP World History test. We returned from vacation in late July to find that she never received a score for this exam. A call to the high school guidance office offered no help. We were told that their records show my daughter took the test and the answer sheet was mailed to the College Board AP service. The College Board AP service has no record my daughter exists. The high school guidance office secretary made it clear the school is in no way responsible for this error and we will have to take it up with the College Board. For the last month, I have been calling the College Board office on a weekly basis, getting a new operator every week, confirming that there is an investigation number assigned to my daughter’s case, and finding no one has done anything to find her scores. The high school has not been able to offer any advocacy assistance because all the counselors are still on vacation. My daughter’s history teacher is very concerned and tried to search the school for any semblance of records pertaining to the AP tests but came up empty handed. He said any further investigation will have to wait until the guidance counselors resume their posts when the new school year begins. (In Northern Virginia schools don’t begin until after Labor Day)

I would like to cut the guidance office some slack and say they really did their job so there is nothing more for them to do. However, I am not convinced. Just a few weeks ago my son found out that Rice University had never received his final high school transcript and he would not be able to register for his freshman classes. The high school swears they sent it. Rice never received it. At our request it was resent and he is now all set for freshman year. When we moved here four years ago, my oldest was a high school junior and my second son was a high school freshman. I registered the boys and we spent a couple of hours with a guidance counselor getting them signed up for classes. On the first day of school the boys found out their schedules had been put in the computer incorrectly so the oldest had his brother’s schedule and the second son had his older brother’s schedule. I think data entry and accuracy is an issue with this office.

Two things have been discouraging. First, it is unbelievable that a test that carries so much weight for a student’s college career is handled so carelessly. I find no comfort in Mr. Ewing’s statement that the number of lost scores is “in the hundreds not thousands”. Secondly, I am disappointed the high school guidance office has offered no advocacy assistance. It very much feels like we have been told it is not their fault so they have fulfilled their obligations to my daughter. Perhaps that will change when the full complement of guidance office staff is available. I truly do appreciate my daughter’s history teacher personally looking into the matter and calling me with his findings. His concern for individual students is a hallmark of a very good teacher.

So I guess I just wait for another week to call the College Board AP office again. In the meantime, I will ask St. Anthony to look into the matter. He probably has a better chance of finding test scores than most of the bureaucrats of the school and testing systems.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Where are our Bishops? Right here!

A few days ago I wrote Where are our bishops? Well, here are a few answers.

Bishop Doran of Rockford, IL doesn't tread softly when he address the seven "secular sacraments:

The seven “sacraments” of their secular culture are abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation.

Then Archbishop Chaput takes on Christian-Muslim relations.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke out this week against the promulgation of lies regarding the history of Christian-Muslim relations. In his weekly Denver Catholic Register column, Chaput said that recent fallacious statements by a Denver-area Islamic leader, who reportedly claimed that Muslims have never tried to force conversions to their faith, do nothing to advance the causes of peace or interreligious understanding.

Bishop Roger J. Foys of Covington, KY is trying to bring some moral order to his diocese.

Covington Bishop Roger J. Foys took charge here at a time of scandals and widespread morale problems in the parishes. The synod he convened for priests and faithful representing every parish in Kentucky's 14 northernmost counties was a shrewd and unifying response. Church renewal ultimately is about renewing communities. Even if the policy-setting doesn't inspire unanimous consent, it is a great service in helping to clarify the moral principles at stake for Catholics and those of other faiths.

Some policy statements speak to pressing organizational matters such as greater transparency in church finances or developing procedures to better address legitimate grievances within the church. But most others take up formidable challenges posed by our high-speed, instant-gratification culture, including what church leaders often call the culture of death. Besides the predictable respect-for-life policies regarding abortion, end-of-life decisions and capital punishment, the synod didn't dodge sensitive issues such as grade-appropriate "chastity education" at all levels of Catholic education or sexual temptations for priests, and even took on such daunting missions as trying to restore Sunday as the "Lord's Day...

The diocese, joining only a handful of dioceses nationwide, also ratcheted up requirements for engaged couples who must take a full course in natural family planning before marriage.

God bless these shepherds and may more of our bishops follow suit!

Reconciliation and Redemption

You want to read about God’s grace and mercy? Read this account from Catholic News Service. Father Charles Smith recounts his experiences working with convicted Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh.

But Father Smith persevered in his ministry to McVeigh and the convicted murderer, who was a baptized Catholic, began to repent. "He did a lot of things, but in the end we had confession, reconciliation. In the end he asked me a question a lot of people ask me. He asked, 'Father Charles, can I still get to heaven?'"

The priest said he responded, "I am not your judge," but reminded McVeigh that he had told him, "You must submit your will and ask God for true forgiveness. ... You knew there were a lot of innocent people and children in that building."

This reminds me of yesterday’s post. We should never pass up an opportunity to foster reconciliation and redemption. Forgiveness does not mean removal of consequences and punishment. It does mean we seek justice not vengeance.

The death penalty so often seems to be about vengeance. Heinous crimes demand the highest level of punishment. But death seems too high. I really want the perpetrator of evil to repent and turn his soul over to God’s mercy for judgment. Maybe he will and maybe he won’t. But who am I to deny him that opportunity.

(H/T to Amy Welborn for the link)


Oldest Son left for college on Monday. He is now a junior. How did that happen? It seems like only yesterday that he was a nervous freshman, excited and terrified all at once. Now he is a confident young man with graduation a real possibility in less than two more years. He is looking at the real world now. For him, the real world means being an Army officer. He loves Texas A&M and he loves the Corps of Cadets. Maroon is now his favorite color. But he knows this is all just preparation for something bigger.

Second Son leaves for college tomorrow. He begins his freshman year at Rice. He has asked that I fix shrimp pesto pizza this evening. Missing Mom’s good cooking seems to be the number one concern. Since my parents are in Houston he isn’t even too worried about that since Grannie is more than happy to keep his belly filled. I am not sure if he is really confident or just oblivious to the challenges ahead. Of course, he is the one who at age two declared, “I have imagination, and I have a plan!” Right now college seems to him like an interminable adventure. The real world hasn’t come into view.

I think I am feeling like Oldest Son as I reflect on my parenting adventure. I will never stop being a Mom. I will never stop praying for my kids and fretting a little bit over their well-being. But as a second fledgling takes flight, the reality of an empty nest is looming. There is a real world out there that doesn’t include carpools, science fair projects, and nagging about messy rooms.

Of course, I still have two more chicks in the nest and six more years before the youngest makes the leap for college so there is still a good bit of intense parenting to be done yet. But the world beyond having kids at home has appeared on the horizon--exciting and terrifying all at once.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Correcting our brother and ourselves

Here’s some follow up. A few days ago I wrote about David’s dilemma. His pastor seemed to be taking the parish farther and farther from orthodoxy. David was wrestling with leaving the parish or staying put and trying to work with the pastor. While the comment box gave no easy answers, there did seem to be a consensus that David speak with his pastor before leaving. Today David gives us some happy follow up. His pastor is far more amenable to addressing David’s concerns than anyone expected. What an important lesson. Never take away the opportunity to reconcile.

Today’s Gospel(Mt 18: 15-20) offers similar advice:

15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

Jesus tells us we do not write off our brother until we have made every effort to bring him into harmony with the Church. Two of the Spiritual Works of Mercy are to instruct the ignorant and to admonish the sinner. We do not have the option to stand idly by while our brother languishes in ignorance or willful disobedience. We have an obligation to actively intervene with both prayer and loving correction.

At the end of the each decade of the Rosary, we often pray the Fatima prayer:

O My Jesus, Forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.

At some point each of us will be one of those souls most in need of His mercy. When our brother is that soul, we have an obligation to allow him to see Christ in us and help him find the way to Heaven.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Set Your Sights On Heaven

Last night our family attended the Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Our scholarly parochial vicar was the celebrant. He is truly a brilliant man and a wonderful priest. As is his style, he reached into Church history to explain the relevance of our feast today.

Pope Pius XII declared infallibly in 1950 the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, to Heaven. This was 96 years after Pope Pius IX declared infallibly the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In the intervening century the world had seen great revolutions, both economic and political. Empires had risen and fallen. The Cold War was evolving as the Soviet Empire grew. Instability was the norm.

As with most Church declarations, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary was not invented in 1950. It had been part of the Church Tradition since the early centuries. (The Catholic Encyclopedia cites evidence that the feast itself has been celebrated since the fifth century) Pope Pius XII felt it was important to declare infallibly the dogma of the Assumption because it is a source of hope that was so badly needed during those uncertain times. Christ promised us that like Mary, we too will join him in Heaven. His Passion, Death, and Resurrection opened the gates of Heaven to us. He is the Way and if we but follow him we will share in his Heavenly glory.

Today we also live in uncertain times. The Assumption of Mary is a reminder that we should look beyond our earthly travails. We need to set our sights toward Heaven.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Where are our Bishops?

Thomas at American Papist brings to our attention a USA Today article claiming that Abp Antoninus is a “pro-choice” Catholic saint. Thomas has pledged to research the truth about St. Antoninus and has asked for help from his fellow bloggers and readers.

That topic in and of itself is interesting enough. Yet, what caught my attention even more was one of the comments to this post:

Once again, we have a very liberal Protestant pastor quoting a very liberal Catholic ex-priest in a major US publication telling Catholics worldwide that it is ok to be in favor of an abortion. Heck, the pro-choicers even have a patron saint, and where are the bishops?

Where there is silence there is consent?

Where are the bishops? That is an excellent question. Why should Thomas and all of the rest of us in the blogosphere have to muddle through this? When a nationwide publication publishes such an affront to Catholic teaching and uses a probably incorrect account of Church history to do it, our shepherds have an obligation to respond swiftly and loudly. When my child comes to me with some incorrect “facts” he learned on the playground I correct them immediately. I do not wait for him to mull these “facts” over and try to figure out their truthfulness on his own. I correct his misconceptions immediately so there is no chance for him to absorb any of the falsehoods as truth.

The DaVinci Code brouhaha showed that in general we are a pretty poorly catechized flock. Some of us down here in the trenches are doing our best to correct this. But we need the leadership of our bishops.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Boys Being Boys

Okay, maybe I am a little easier on Child #4. My oldest two boys were raised without the benefit of toy guns. I severely limited their TV and movie viewing to minimize their exposure to violence. I tried buying them kitchen play sets to prevent those sexist ideas that only women belong in the kitchen.

Then I encountered reality. The toy vacuum cleaner became an automatic weapon, though I really don’t know when they were ever exposed to the concept of an automatic weapon. My second child used the plastic chicken leg quarters as pistols. And after twenty-two years of marriage my husband’s idea of cooking is toasting the bread before he makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so, yes, my kids think women are the primary occupants of the kitchen.

Oldest son did some shopping while he was away at college and brought an Air Soft gun home for his youngest brother, much to my chagrin. He felt his youngest brother should have a few things that had been on the “mommy no list” a few years back. Child #4 now has an arsenal of air soft guns. An Air Soft gun is a new generation of the old BB gun. It is spring powered and shoots plastic spheres a little bigger than the old BB’s. We have a dozen boys living in the neighborhood and they all have air soft guns. Our neighborhood backs up to a large woodland area so it is the perfect environment for them to run around shooting at each other. The boys all wear masks to protect their face and eyes and the spring powered guns don’t shoot hard enough to hurt if you are hit.

Yesterday we hosted a major engagement. In honor of my son’s twelfth birthday, we had the entire cadre of neighborhood boys over for an afternoon of air softing. The event was supervised by my nineteen and eighteen-year-old sons. They younger boys loved having the big boys play along and the big boys were happy to have an excuse to run around like little boys. I baked a cake and provided pizza but the boys handled everything else. It was the easiest birthday party I have ever had. Do check out the camouflage cake! I was tickled with the way it came out.

I haven’t given up all restrictions. We still don’t have any video gaming systems. We still have only the very basic cable channels. We don’t have any first-person-shooter computer games. The boys do know how to clean the kitchen, do their own laundry, clean a bathroom, and iron their own shirts. They even can operate a vacuum cleaner appropriately. But I now know that sometimes boys just need to be boys. Some things really are nature not nurture. If they want to use toy guns to play a variant of tag I guess I can’t complain. It is safe and it gets them outside and running around. Since the older boys get to play with the guns now they aren’t even complaining that that the youngest has it so much easier than they did. Sister has a few misgivings. When her date came to pick her up her brothers tried to meet him at the door fully armed with air soft guns and decked out like Rambo, making sure he knew they were looking out for their sister’s well being. That may not be such a bad thing either!

I guess by the time I’ve gotten to the fourth child I’ve learned some things are worth stressing about and some things don’t matter so much. Getting to Mass every Sunday is worth worrying about. The psychological impact of toy guns is not. In some ways I have gotten a little smarter about this parenting thing with each subsequent child. One of the reasons I sometimes wish I had more than four kids.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Love them because they are human, not because they are perfect

Chuck Colson writes of a proposal by British medical researchers to eliminate autism:

In the absence of such a test for autism, researchers at University College Hospital London are settling for what they call a “close enough” solution. They have applied for permission to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, to screen out male embryos in families with a history of autism.

Their “logic” is that since 90 percent of all autistic people are males, their testing would allow families with autistic children “to have a daughter free from the condition.” Of course, they would have also killed males who were not autistic. Talk about wholesale gender cleansing.

Once again we see the results of adults who view children as an acquisition akin to a new car. Their utilitarian view of life allows them to “kick the tires” of their embryos and only accept the ones that appear “perfect”. A few months ago I wrote about British doctors rejecting embryos with genes that predisposed one to various adult cancers.

Contrast this with the loving acceptance of Hannah by her parents.

Seventeen weeks into Hannah's mom's pregnancy doctors discovered that Hannah had a severe birth defect similar to Downs Syndrome, but more lethal. Doctors told mother and father that their child would not live long after birth, and encouraged them to get an abortion. They resisted the doctors' urgings. They put up with the side looks that the medical community gave them for daring to bring this child into the world intact. But Mom and Dad gave no thought to early termination…

The priest had not yet arrived and as they knew death was imminent, Dad baptized his child. Each of the family members took turns holding her. The pictures that Dad shared at our meeting Thursday night showed a room full of joyous people celebrating the birth of this latest of God's creations. There were not tears in the eyes of the family, but smiles on the faces.

God bless Hannah’s parents and siblings. Thanks to David for sharing this account of a truly pro-life family.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Reading List for Catholic Women

Jay Anderson notes that the recommended reading and resource list for the Diocese of Cleveland Office of Women in Church and Society leaves a little to be desired. Granted, the authors are listed in alphabetical order but having Bella Abzug as number one on the reading list gives one pause. She is joined by Lavinia Byrne with her book Woman at the Altar: Ordination of Women in the Roman Catholic Church. The Amazon synopsis of this book states:

Lavinia Byrne believes that the Roman Catholic Church's teaching and pastoral practice is producing vocations to priesthood among women. This book looks forward to the day when Catholic women will be ordained, and addresses questions such as: when and how this might take place; who women are for and against; how women are organized; what the present-day Church thinking is on the subject; whether nuns are uncovering a call to ordination; and whether the ordination of women is a source of division or a source of healing.

How do these titles sound: Psalms in Inclusive Language and Praying in Inclusive Language, both by Joseph Arackal. I don't think so.

So if I were making the list, what would I include?

I would begin with the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem by Pope John Paul II.

I would recommend biographies of female saints such as St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Monica, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Maria Goretti

True Girl magazine is a great publication for Catholic teenage girls and their mothers.

Okay, ladies, help me out here. What are the titles you think are good resources for Catholic women? Gentlemen, please feel free to offer your ideas as well. Let’s give Cleveland a list that really speaks to the “feminine genius” Pope John Paul II spoke of.

A Protest Gone to the Dogs

Page B3 of today’s Washington Post included a picture of protesters outside the Chinese embassy. (The picture and accompanying article are not on the Post web site so I can’t offer you a link) Were they there to protest the recent arrest of a Catholic bishop, a Catholic priest, and at least 90 Catholic worshipers? Were they there to protest the forced abortions and sterilizations of Chinese women? No. These demonstrators were from the Humane Society of the United States and were there to protest the killing of dogs in China after an outbreak of rabies in the country’s southwestern Yunnan province.

I realize that China does not carry out a gentle euthanasia program for these dogs. They are beaten to death with mop handles. I also realize that a rabies vaccination program could probably help control rabies as much as a mass dog slaughter does. But with all these atrocities being committed against humans in China, I have a hard time getting worked up over the cruelties inflicted on dogs. The headline for the Washington Post article reads, “An Impassioned Cry for China’s Dogs”. I hope these protesters would also show up to support “An Impassioned Cry for China’s Unborn Children” or “An Impassioned Cry for China’s Catholics”.

Maybe the label fits

Reuters reports that Muslims are upset because President Bush used the term “Islamic Fascists” in his response to the foiled terrorist plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic. They don’t object to calling the terrorists fascists. They object to linking this label with Islam.

I can understand their discomfort. It would be an unnecessary linkage if the basis for the terrorist actions were something other than religion. However, the terrorists justify their actions with the tenets of Islam. It may very well be a faulty interpretation of Islam. But the terrorists claim their religion, Islam, compels them to take these dastardly measures. It is also true that the perpetrators of 9/11 were all Muslim. Richard Reid the shoe bomber was a Muslim. The London transit system bombers were all Muslim. The terrorists who attacked Bali were Muslim. In each of these cases, Islam or their concept of it was the motivating factor.

So if CAIR and other Muslim advocacy groups want to stop the linkage of Islam with words like fascist, tyranny, and terrorist, they need to vocally denounce the violence of terrorists. They need to advocate for religious tolerance and respect. They need to publicly reject the calls by Islamic leaders for the complete destruction of Israel and they need to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Only then can we begin to unlink the image of the Islam and fascist terrorists.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

This is funny.....

Please check out this post from Fr. Erik Richtsteig! Makes me want to clean out a closet in our 70's era sacristy. I wonder what I would find!

(H/T to Dom for the link)

When is it Time to Leave A Parish?

David at Apostolate of the Laity asks a good question. If you are at a parish with a pastor whom you believe is leading the flock astray do you stay as a stalwart of orthodoxy or do you abandon a sinking ship and pray for those left behind?

Our pastor is a baby boomer who has lost his faith. He has no reverence towards the Eucharist and has tried on several occasions to eliminate our adoration chapel. He removed offering the precious blood out of convenience from two of our Sunday masses and eliminated the cantor from one. He directs couples wanting to get married, but waiting for an annulment to just get married by a justice of the peace until the annulment comes through. His entire focus is on building a new church to replace our stately old one under the guise that we need more room.

I wrote recently about the positive changes brought about by our new pastor. What if the changes had gone the other way? What if he brought in more Haugen and Haas music instead of encouraging more traditional hymns and Latin? What if he replaced our processional crucifix with a stylized modern art cross with no corpus? What if he took away all Eucharistic adoration instead of looking for more and more opportunities for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament? Would I have stayed? I don’t know.

We have moved around quite a bit. Some parishes have been more to our liking than others. However, for the most part, we have not done too much church shopping. Instead we have stuck pretty much with our geographically assigned parish. The only time we really considered leaving a parish was when we were at a very small parish with a single priest. This priest began advocating for the adoption of children by homosexuals. He kicked the Boy Scouts out of the parish ostensibly because there was no longer any physical space to accommodate their meetings. Before we actually transferred to another parish, the Air Force stepped in and gave us orders to leave so we just waited until we moved out of the area.

Yet, if you see yourself staying in the same area for the foreseeable future, are you better off finding a parish that better fits your spiritual needs? Do you have a responsibility to stay and support orthodoxy in spite of the pastor?

When I visited a parish in Virginia Beach that was so outlandish in its liturgical practices I felt compelled to question it, the pastor told me to just find another parish. I obviously wouldn’t be happy in his. I am sure that if I lived in Virginia Beach I would have taken his advice. So I guess my advice to David is to consider discussing it with the pastor. Don’t make the decision in a vacuum. Let him know the things that make you uncomfortable and see if he can offer any consolation. If the issues are more a matter of liturgical style (music, church décor) it might be worth staying. However, if the issues are more serious like supporting Church doctrine, especially on moral matters like marriage, then it is probably time to leave. Keep praying for him and for all our priests.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

They want to include what?!

Just in case anyone needs more reasons to avoid the public school sex education program, read this post by Dad 29 Another detailed report on the NEA meeting in Orlando is here.

It is Opt Out Time!

School has started or is about to start in most locations. There are stacks and stacks of papers coming home with information about internet use policies, lunch programs, supply lists, classroom procedures, permission slips, club memberships and the ubiquitous wrapping paper sales program. Hidden in this mountain of raw information may be a very important paper for your child’s moral development. This is the form to opt your child out of the school sex education program.

If your child is in public schools, please read this post and consider seriously the ramifications of having the public school teach your child about sex.

Monday, August 07, 2006

God Save Us From Such Liturgy Directors!

Father Jan Larson a liturgical consultant for the Archdiocese of Seattle. He takes the televised EWTN liturgy to task for being “stuffy”

I was recently watching a part of the daily televised liturgy on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network). The liturgy there is an odd mix of English and Latin, while following the texts of the current Roman Missal. The priest and ministers of the liturgy look way too somber and serious. The ritual is performed with all the exaggerated exactness of the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy. The Mass is overly formal and mechanical. Needless to say, there are no women allowed in the sanctuary area, there is no procession with the gifts, no Sign of Peace, and, of course, no Communion from the cup for the lay people who are present. The liturgy, in effect, is unlike anything that Catholics experience in the vast majority of Catholic parish churches.

Funny, this sounds very much like the liturgy I enjoy every Sunday in my home parish. We do have women lectors and we do have a brief Sign of Peace, but the liturgy is far from stuffy or stodgy. Rather it is reverent and beautiful. Six male altar servers, three priests distributing Communion, bells at consecration and during elevation of the Blessed Sacrament and Precious Blood, a few Latin responses, traditional hymns—this befits the awesome presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We do not come to Mass for the fellowship of a cocktail party. We come to experience the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.
We come to worship, adore, and praise our Lord and humbly accept the amazing gift of Himself He offers us on the altar.

A liturgy director like Father Larson nearly drove me from the Catholic Church during my college years. The liturgy director of the Catholic Student Center promoted all kinds of foolishness. He told us kneeling was very old school and the Church was doing away with it. We were to lovingly embrace all the members of the congregation during the Sign of Peace. We took turns baking the “Communion Bread”. It was a whole wheat recipe with honey added for increased “health benefits”. We were encouraged to clap and dance along to the guitar based liturgical music. I went along for a little while, but it began to feel very foreign. I didn’t recognize it as a Catholic Church.

There was a high church Episcopal congregation across the street. I began to attend this church. It felt like the Catholic Church I used to know. My Catholic catechesis was pretty poor so I was happy if it looked Catholic without being too concerned about the reality of its Catholicism. Eventually, I took classes in order to formally enter the Episcopal Church. However, I kept hearing from the Episcopal priest how the Episcopal Church was “almost just like the Catholic Church.” I realized I didn’t want a very good facsimile of the Catholic Church. I wanted the real Catholic Church. I began attending a regular neighborhood Catholic Church. I rediscovered the Faith I thought had been lost.

Eventually I began studying the Church, its history, its teachings, and its doctrine. And I have continued to study ever since. The complete depth and breadth of Catholicism is unknowable. There is always a new insight to be gained from study, prayer, and reflection. There are always ways to enrich my relationship with Christ.

(H/T to Richmond Catholic for the link.)

The Best Education

I published the following on my old blog site back in January of this year:

It is Catholic Schools Week and I am trying to keep a smile on my face. I am a product of Catholic Schools. My older children all attended Catholic schools at one time or another. We have spent the last twenty years moving all over the country, so the kids have changed schools often. Catholic schools have not always been available. When we moved to our current home, I thought it would be a great time to start my youngest in our parish school. Unfortunately, the school was “full” and there was no room for one more third grader. The school staff made it clear they had no need or desire to include my son in their elite school. Our short time as members of the parish did not qualify us for an advantageous spot on the waiting list, in spite of the fact we were already financially supporting the parish and volunteering at every opportunity. So this brings me to my current dilemma.

We are exhorted to financially support the Catholic school. We are told of the wondrous virtues these children are taught. The great sacrifices parents make to send their children to Catholic schools are extolled in the diocesan newspaper. Truthfully, our CCD program educates more children in the Catholic Faith than does the parish Catholic school. The children going to public schools are every bit as Catholic as their plaid-skirted peers. Their parents have to work even harder to keep them Catholic. They cannot depend on the public school to get them to Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation or to teach them about the sacraments. Public school parents have to make time in their own schedules for Catholic education. Parents of public school children have to be ever vigilant for anti-Christian and anti-Catholic bias in their children’s school lessons. Morals contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church confront public school children every day. So where is our annual CCD week? When do the bishops take the time to acknowledge the hard work of parents and catechists in shaping the Faith of public school students? And don’t forget the Catholic home-schoolers. They can be really invisible to the diocesan and parish leaders.

I really hate sounding like such a whiner. But I also hate being treated like a second-class Catholic because my children are in public schools. The majority of Catholic children do not attend Catholic schools. Their CCD program needs to be more than an afterthought of the parish educational focus. As a catechist, I am usually treated as an unwelcome tenant by the parish school teacher whose classroom I use. The CCD program has no permanent space. Why can’t we claim one bulletin board in the hallway or one corner of the classroom? The days of most Catholic children attending their parish school ended a couple of generations ago. Unfortunately, our system of parish education has not caught up with the change.

Amy Welborn’s post today about choosing to send her daughter to the public high school rather than the Catholic high school brings it all back. She describes the Catholic high school she used to teach in that emphasized the private school experience over the Catholic school experience. Her daughter’s current school similarly played down the Catholic part of its identity.

Reading the comments it is clear that choosing between Catholic school, home school, and private school can be a gut wrenching experience. However, as I noted in my last post, going to a private Catholic school is no guarantee you will have an orthodox Catholic education. Sending them to a public school can be like sending them through a moral mine field. I am constantly sweeping the environment and lessons for inappropriate content. Home schooling is an option but it has to be a good fit for both parent and child. And what works one year may not be the best option the next. Schools change. Teachers change. Kids change. Parents change. Needs change.

School starts up in September. Once again my children will be attending public schools and attending the parish CCD program. However, even if they were attending Catholic schools, it is my job to be the primary catechist. My husband and I build the foundation of their Catholic faith. Ideally, the formal instruction in CCD class or in a school religion class is a supplement to what they receive at home.

I guess after all this I can offer no secret to choosing the right education option for your child. Like any other life decision it begins and ends with earnest prayer and discernment. As parents we can make life easier for each other by respecting one another’s decision. Parents are making the best decisions they can under their own unique circumstances.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Try These Books Instead....

Continuing with the theme of literary works:

Amy Welborn writes of the really poor choices offered on the summer reading list of one Catholic high school theology department.. Jonathan Livingston Seagull…Ugh!

Off the top of my head I can come up with a few suggestions:

Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel

The Sign of the Cross by Bert Ghezzi

A Simple Path by Mother Teresa (compiled by Lucinda Varday)

How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E Woods, Jr., Ph.D.

The Screwtape Letters
by C.S. Lewis

Compendium Catechism of the Catholic Church

What would you suggest?

One Book Meme--Family Style

The One Book Meme has been making its way around the blogosphere. Rather than filling it out by my self I took it to the dinner table. Since all six of us were home and all six of us tend to be of the bibliophile ilk it was a very lively and enjoyable discussion. I will share a sampling of some answers:

One Book That Changed Your Life:

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
The Autobiography of a Soul By St. Therese of Lisieux
The Bible
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

One Book That You Read More Than Once:

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Keeping your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi

One Book you Would Want on a Desert Island:

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Boy Scout Handbook
Army Survival Handbook
The Bible

One Book that Made You Laugh:

Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Anything written by Terry Pratchett

One Book that Made You Cry:

“I never cry over books” (quote from all the men in my house)
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

One Book You Wish Had Been Written:

The Manual for Completely Understanding Men
The Manual for Completely Understanding Women

One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written:

Ulysses by James Joyce
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
(English teachers can really take the joy out of some books)

One Book You are Currently Reading:

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
God’s Invisible Hand, the Life and work of Francis Cardinal Arinze by Gerard O’Connell

One Book You’ve been Meaning to Read:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Spirit of the Liturgy by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

And in case you are wondering, our family’s favorite number is 42

Saturday, August 05, 2006


I am just so happy! The entire family is home. My ROTC Cadet is home safe and sound from the Army Airborne School. (Thanks to all who prayed so diligently for him.) Of course he arrived safely yesterday, but his luggage didn’t make the connection. We are hoping to see his bags arrive sometime this morning.

In honor of his return, I fixed his favorite food: Linguine. Actually the recipe carries the name Almond Linguini Florentine, but our family just knows it as Linguini. There are some funny stories associated with this recipe. I cut this recipe out of the Dallas Morning News about twenty-five years ago. My husband says when I made it for him for the first time while we were dating he knew he would have to marry me.

The boys in the family share their father’s love for this dish. Once the boys became strapping teens I had to double the recipe. That meant that there was usually a serving or two left for their after-school “snack”. When linguini was in the refrigerator the boys would rush home after school to try and get the last helping. I suppose I should take it as a compliment to my cooking that the older two boys could threaten to come to blows trying to claim the last portion of linguini. The oldest (My ROTC Cadet) came up with a scheme that gets recounted every time I serve linguini. It was winter and we had several inches of snow on the ground with large drifts on the deck. As we cleared the table after dinner, he took the plastic storage container with the leftover linguini and buried it in one of the snowdrifts. The next day his brother arrived home from school first and rushed to the refrigerator to claim his prize. It was not to be found and its whereabouts were a mystery. Older brother eventually sauntered in and casually stepped out on the deck. He returned with his stash and popped it in the microwave. Younger brother was fit to be tied. I did make Oldest Brother share the leftovers, but had to congratulate him on his ingenious approach to food storage.

One of those writing projects I hope to get to is to writing a cookbook for my kids. There are so many recipes with good family stories attached. Until I get around to that, here is the recipe for Almond Linguini Florentine, aka Linguini.

Almond Linguini Florentine

3/4 cup chopped onion
3 T. butter
3 T. vegetable oil
3 T. flour
3/4 tsp. Dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme (be generous with the thyme)
salt & pepper to taste
1 can (13 3/4 oz) beef broth
3/4 cup evaporated milk
3 T. Dijon mustard
1/2 lb. Ham cut in thin strips
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds*
1/2 lb. Linguini, cooked al dente

In skillet sauté onions in butter and oil until limp. Blend in flour and seasonings. Cook and stir over low heat until flour is well blended. Gradually stir in broth and evaporated milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened.

Stir in mustard, ham, parsley, and almonds. Toss hot linguini with sauce. Garnish with parsley and almonds if desired.

*To toast almonds, spread them in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan. Bake at 350-degrees for 5-10 minutes.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Teach the Kids or Teach the Parents?

To teach or not to teach, that is the question. It is that time of year again. CCD will be starting up in another month and our parish needs teachers. I have been an on again-off again catechist for years. I feel compelled to teach in one form or another which is probably why I am blogging. However, do I really want to commit to a year of teaching seventh graders in preparation for confirmation? You see, my desire is to teach the parents of these seventh graders so that they can properly prepare their own children. My frustration with teaching CCD is that I feel like I am working independently of rather than in conjunction with parents. Parents must be the primary catechists. Unfortunately, as with most Catholic parishes, we don’t have an established culture of adult religious education. So here is my dilemma. Do I break new ground and work to initiate a parents’ religious education program or do I put my energy into the established program and hope I can teach the children well enough to have a “trickle up” effect on the parents? Is there a way to do both?

My idea for a starting point for a parent’s class is the book Keeping your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi. This book offers great insights and practical advice for passing the Faith to children from toddlers to teens. I read it when my oldest was just starting school then read it again when my youngest was starting school. Different parts of the book become more relevant as children age and life circumstances change so it is well worth reading again and again. The format of the book is easily adapted to an adult education group since each chapter is followed by discussion questions.

Our wonderful DRE really needs teachers. She is a lovely lady committed to giving our kids an orthodox Catholic education.This is no happy-clappy Catholic Lite program. I know I am able to teach, but is this where I want to expend my energy? I promised her I would pray about it and I will. I guess the question is not really to teach or not to teach. It is, “what is my will and what is God’s?”

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Drinking Tea with the Devil

I know that The Episcopal Church (formerly Episcopal Church USA) is having their troubles right now. After the election of ultra-liberal Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop, several conservative diocese asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for an alternative prelate as they could not see their way to follow Bishop Jefferts Schori. However looking to the Church of England may not be the appropriate direction. Reuters is reporting on the “marriage” of two gay British Anglican clergy, Jeffery John and Grant Hollings. Technically the two have not broken any norms of the Anglican Church because they insist their relationship is celibate.

David Virtue at VirtueOnLine has a very interesting essay about the state of the Episcopal Church and its current view of its mission:

So it is not without its significance that when incoming Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori was asked what the Episcopal Church stood for, she replied, "the United Nations Millennium Development Goals...", and every piece of social legislation (read justice) that can be dragged out of the closet or bedroom or UN sub-committee, even if it means death to the unborn…

The truth must be stated: The Episcopal Church is ashamed of Jesus and any talk of the salvation he offers. When he is mentioned, it is never as Savior and Lord, rather as one messianic option among others, and under no circumstances are we to mention Jesus' exclusive claims for Himself , "I and the Father are One", his deity, his death on the cross as the sole means of access to heaven.

To do so, is to violate God's all embracive, all inclusive love for all peoples, without such messy talk of personal sin, just stick to corporate or political sin, and doctrines such as Jesus' bodily resurrection (He rose for our justification), but that is no longer necessary to preach or believe, unless you water it down to mean that Jesus is now to be found in his body the church, which is here in the world for the purpose of incarnating God's love by affirming people in their present state without the need for personal transformation. Scrap too, any talk of the Last Judgment.

So a doctrine like substitutionary atonement, is now labeled by John Shelby Spong as little more than child abuse, with modern science having dealt a fatal blow to classic doctrines of the faith

So homosexual activity, and various other forms of sexual deviancy (lesbianism, bi-sexuality, transgender) are viewed not as disordered behaviors, as the Roman Catholic Church asserts, but as "justice" issues that need affirming and not moral ones that ought to be abandoned.

I write of this not to gloat over the woes of the Episcopalians. Rather this should serve as a harbinger of danger for our own Catholic Church. There are those who claim to be Catholic who feel they are doing so much “good” in the world they can discount the teachings and doctrine of the Church. Consider Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida. He discontinued the practice of perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in his diocese. He said it was a practice reserved for religious communities of the type that did not exist in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. He suggested the faithful could better utilize their time working on a “social justice” issue rather than spending their time praying before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

For parishes that wish to inaugurate adoration of the Blessed Sacrament the Bishop says they should "reflect on... their commitment of time and money to social services." Among other reflections, they should ask, "Are they as respectful and reverent toward Christ's presence in the gathered Body, the Church, as they are to the presence of Christ in the Sacrament? .... Does the eucharistic bread look like bread? ... Do the eucharistic ministers reflect the parish, i.e., inclusive of age, ethnicity, and gender?"

Please note this is the same Bishop Robert Lynch who did not support Terri Shiavo and her parents in their fight to continue providing nutrition to her. He also allowed the marriage of Michael Schiavo to his long-time mistress in a Catholic Church in the St. Petersburg Diocese.

Pope Benedict XVI addresses the place of prayer as part of charity in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est:

36. When we consider the immensity of others' needs, we can, on the one hand, be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving every problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling into an arrogant contempt for man, something not only unconstructive but actually destructive, or surrendering to a resignation which would prevent us from being guided by love in the service of others. Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbours, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: “We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer”.

37. It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God's plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defence of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?

So we have to pray for our Episcopal and Anglican brethren as they struggle. But we also need to consider ourselves forewarned. The ideas of the Episcopal Church are not an anathema to many Catholics, including those who are in positions of influence. Christ has assured us His Church will withstand the gates of Hell. That is no reason to invite the Devil in for a cup of tea.