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Showing posts from December, 2007

Keeping a Catechist's Hopes Alive

Julie D. at Happy Catholic published this a few days ago. As a catechist, I have to say it brought tears to my eyes:

I had to revise my conversion story slightly. A specific part that I never spelled out is that Hannah came home and started pushing us to go to weekly Mass because her religion teacher in kindergarten, Mrs. McDaniel (a woman whose vocation clearly is to teach kindergarten, she is amazing), asked the children who went every week. She then told those who didn't raise their hands that they needed to go home and tell their parents they should be going to Mass every week. As we all know, Hannah went right home, obeyed orders, and ... well, the rest is history.

A couple of weeks ago I glimpsed Mrs. McDaniel at Mass as I sometimes do and realized that I never had thanked her. For her that was a routine part of teaching religion, but considering people's touchy feelings these days (yes, even at a Catholic school), I know that she was taking a risk in telling those little …

The Cold Hard Facts about Financing a College Education

We got good news recently. My daughter received her acceptance to Rice University. This is a highly competitive process so she is thrilled to have gotten the nod. She will join her older brother there next fall. While my husband and I are thrilled since we both attended Rice as well, we are not overjoyed with the financial impact. Here is the deal. Sending two children to Rice will take up over half of our annual income. However, because we have been living frugally and saving for this expense since the children were born, we qualify for zero financial aid. That is nada, zippo, nothing. If we had skipped putting money into our nest egg and taken a few European vacations the picture would be very different. Like most other universities, Rice’s tuition has increased by a factor of twelve in the last 25 years. Rice’s tuition still falls below most other universities of its academic caliber. Still, I question how the income from these tuition increases has been managed. At this point, I t…

A Joyful Spirit in the Washington Post

The Washington Post continues to give good press coverage to traditional religious orders. Read this article about a group of cloistered nuns in Maryland. (You may have to register to read the whole article.)

"I feel we've gone way astray" on Christmas, Sister Clare Joseph said. "There's such consumerism in our society. Consumerism leads to . . . individualism, teaches our kids [to] demand and 'have to have this,' and 'I have to have this latest electronic,' and it's just a total rat race on where the thoughts are." "I just want to tell people, 'Don't you realize God became a man? Do you realize how astonishing that is?' " she said. "I don't think people even think about that. . . . They're so intent on decorating their homes, and buying the latest, and giving more and better and prettier gifts, and then, on the flip side, wanting more and better and prettier gifts." "And God became man!&qu…

Christmas is a Season, Not a Day

Don't forget that Christmas is a season, not just one day. I replaced my purple and pink candles in the Advent wreath with white candles. Now I have a Christmas wreath. We will light these candles at family meals throughout the Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

Joy To The World!

God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him. (1John 4:9)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours. I pray that your Christmas season is filled with blessings and grace.

A Youthful Culture of Faith

I am one happy Catholic Mom! Both my college boys are home so we have a full house again. They each attend school some 1500 miles away from home so having them return is a treat. Today my husband and I had all of our children in the pew with us. My heart just sings when they are all in the pew or all at the dinner table.

Every Friday evening, my parish holds a Eucharistic Holy Hour. Confessions begin thirty minutes prior to the Holy Hour and continue until the lines are done. Usually we have one or two priests hearing confessions. This past Friday we had three priests and their lines were long. It took over an hour for the priests to finish.

My youngest son was one of the altar servers for this Holy Hour. My college boys came along since they had not yet been to confession during Advent. As I observed the lines, I noticed that my boys were not the only young men waiting to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There were probably at least fifteen young men ranging from late high sch…

O Emmanuel

For two days before Christmas:

O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

For more information on the "O Antiphons" click here.

If you sang "O Come O Come Emmanuel" today, I hope you noticed that each of the verses represents one of the "O Antiphons".

O Rex Gentium

For the third day before Christmas:

O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) .

For more information on the "O Antiphons" see here.

Evangelizing at Christmas Mass

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has just released a new document on evangelization. I have not read the entire document, but the bottom line seems to be that we are called to evangelize. We are called to proclaim the Gospel. We are called to lead others to conversion.

With this attitude in mind, please remember that when you attend Mass on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you will be joined by multitudes of non-Catholics and lapsed Catholics who are compelled by something or someone to attend Mass on this day. You are the face of Catholicism they will remember. Did you smile and welcome them? Did you help them find the right page in the missal or hymnal? Did you exude joy that so many wanted to welcome the Incarnation of our Lord, or did you grumble that the church was too crowded and the parking lot too full?

Christmas Mass is one of your prime times to evangelize. However, it is your actions, not your words that will bring these souls back to the Church in January…

O Oriens

For the fourth day before Christmas:

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

For more info on the "O Antiphons" click here.

An Unscheduled Item on the Agenda

Today was one of those days when my role as Mom and my training as a doctor intersect. My son hurt his foot playing soccer last night and by this morning I knew it was going to take an x-ray to assess the damage. Of course that meant a trip to the military emergency room. Anyone who has dealt with military medicine knows that you approach a situation like this with your guard up. (Anyone who favors a government run health system needs to talk to military dependents) The system is overwhelmed so by necessity it is looking for corners to cut. As a patient, you don’t want to be that corner.

After a considerable wait the triage nurse evaluated my son. Figuring he needed an x-ray, he started to type in the order. “Would you also order an x-ray of his uninjured foot for a comparison view?” I asked hopefully. He gave me this very quizzical look. I explained, “I am a doctor and have worked in emergency rooms for many years. This sort of foot injury in children is difficult to evaluate without …

O Clavis David

For the fifth day before Christmas:

O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

For more info on the "O Antiphons" click here.

Consider Yourself Warned

Periodically, I post a few words on the ongoing tribulations of the Episcopal Church. This church is on the verge of schism and if it does splinter, it is not clear exactly how the remaining fragments will line up. I don’t chronicle the tribulations of the Episcopalians with any sort of schadenfreude. Rather, I hope it serves as a warning. Prominent (albeit dissident) voices within the Catholic Church have looked longingly at the Episcopal Church and said, “Why can’t we be more like them?” Fr. Richard McBrien of Notre Dame and Sr. Joan Chittister are two that come to mind. In fact, almost everything published in the National Catholic Reporter probably falls into this category. What exactly are Fr. McBrien and Sr. Joan seeking?

Well we can begin with Bishop Shelby Spong, retired bishop of Newark. He was recently interviewed in Toledo.

The 76-year-old retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark is a theologian who believes the Bible is "time-bound and time-warped" by the …

O Radix Jesse

For the sixth day before Christmas:

O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

(For more info on the "O Antiphons" see here.)

Maybe I shouldn't have called them Jesuits

I am not sure if yesterday’s seventh-grade CCD class was successful or not. This was our last session before Christmas break. There were no parties or celebrations since the entire diocese is trying to emphasize that Advent is a time of waiting and preparation and Christmas is a season not a day. We will have a Christmas party during the liturgical Christmas season. I didn’t think my students were up for a didactic lecture as they anticipated Christmas break. So I made a set of at least 75 “Jeopardy” style answers based on the lessons we have covered so far this year. I also included a few questions on saints I have mentioned in class. I divided the class into two teams by putting those with even birthdates on one side and those with odd birthdates on the other. The even birthdates were called the Franciscans and the odd birthdates were the Jesuits.

Let me tell you the Franciscans spanked the Jesuits. And it wasn’t just that they knew more. They cared more. This was an open book proce…

O Adonai

On the seventh day before Christmas:

O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

(See here for more information on the Octave before Christmas "O Antiphons")

The Octave Before Christmas

O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

I mentioned that last week’s Catholic Carnival has a an outstanding post on the Liturgy of the Hours. I love the idea of a daily rhythm of prayer. I wish I could say that I followed this pattern regularly. I don’t. However, for the next week I am going to make an extra effort to participate in Vespers or evening prayer. Today we begin the “O Antiphons”.

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of A…

The Environmentalists Now View Humans as a Plague

I know I said this Advent has developed the theme of hope. Yet on the flip side, I am seeing more and more publicity given to those environmentalists who are truly hopeless. These are the folks who think humans are a pestilence and should be eliminated for the good of the planet. Take a look at Mark Steyn’s column for a rundown on this trend.

But here's something new that took hold in the year 2007: A radical antihumanism, long present just below the surface, bobbed up and became explicit and respectable. In Britain, the Optimum Population Trust said that "the biggest cause of climate change is climate changers – in other words, human beings," and professor John Guillebaud called on Britons to voluntarily reduce the number of children they have.

Last week, in the Medical Journal of Australia, Barry Walters went further: To hell with this wimp-o pantywaist "voluntary" child-reduction. Professor Walters wants a "carbon tax" on babies, with, conversely, &q…

Who's in Charge Here?

Thus he teaches us not to presume to plan our lives autonomously and with self interest, but to make room for the inscrutable will of God, who knows what is truly good for us.

--Pope Benedict XVI, The Apostles, discussing the Letter of St. James.

There is a lot of planning going on in my home. In the short term, I am planning for my next session of our parish group studying The Apostles. I am planning Monday’s 7th grade CCD lesson. I am planning Christmas dinner. I am planning on enjoying having my college sons home for Christmas break. Long-term plans are in the works too. My senior in high school is finalizing plans for college. My senior in college is finalizing plans for after graduation. Both my parents and my husband’s parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversaries this coming summer so plans for those festivities are in the works.

Amidst all this planning I need to read the quote above. “Make room for the inscrutable will of God who knows what is truly good for us.” I ne…

Offer it up!

40. I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it. What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ's great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. Maybe we should consider whether it might be …

My Revised Christmas List

Advent can actually be a very reflective season. Amidst the clutter of catalogues and glossy department store ads, unwritten Christmas cards, and unbaked cookies, there is a serene but firm little voice asking, “What really matters?” Gifts, cards, cookies, lights, and garland are all wonderful if they point us to the true meaning of Christmas. But if they become an end in and of themselves and distract us from the awesomeness of the Incarnation, it is time to let them go.

After nearly a quarter century of marriage, I have amassed quite an assortment of Christmas decorations. Every year I find “just one more thing” at the after Christmas sales. I am finally getting comfortable with the idea that not every decoration has to come out every year. Other than the nativity scene and the Advent wreath, all decorations are optional. So as Advent proceeds, I pull out something here and there. I don’t do an all out decorating blitz that dramatically transforms my home into the wonderland featured…

A Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe to You!

"Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything."

These words have provided so much solace to me over the years. Sometimes, I just need to feel all wrapped up in Mary’s maternal love.

Read more about this apparition that brought a continent to Christ.

(By the way, the good folks at Trinity Communications who provide the outstanding content of the Catholic Culture web site linked above are holding their annual fund drive. Support them in their efforts to provide reliable, faithful, Catholic content on the web.)

Make your prayer for vocations personal

A couple of weeks ago, my youngest was Confirmed. Bishop Loverde always seems to love these occasions. Even though Mass didn’t begin until 7:30pm on a school night and there were 120 young people waiting to receive the Sacrament, Bishop Loverde exuded joy. He really made us feel that there was absolutely nothing he would rather be doing more than offering this sacrament to our children. He also took absolute delight in the opportunity to offer basic catechesis and reminders on Catholic faith and morals. His words were directed to the Confirmands as well as their parents.

One topic Bishop Loverde made note of is vocations. He challenged the students to listen carefully to God’s call. He said he had no doubt that at least one of them would be called to the priesthood or to religious life. Then he turned to us parents and said we should make our prayer for vocations a bit more personal. Instead of just praying for vocations in general, we need to pray that if it be God’s will, one of our …

I guess I missed the mid-life crisis

Want to get a response from your big brothers? Send them this picture with the caption, “Look what I got for Christmas!” As soon as this picture hit their cell phones they were calling to find out how their sister rated such a prize. Never fear. I did not buy my teenage daughter a car for Christmas, much less a Christmas red Mustang. I did let her pull her brothers’ chains a bit.

When we went to Memphis I arranged for a rental car. I requested one of the small compact cars along the line of the Chevy Cobalt. When I arrived at the Avis desk my express reservation was waiting. I quickly signed the papers and headed out to the assigned spot. Instead of the infinitely more practical compact model, I found this red Mustang. My daughter was giddy at the sight. I am not sure why I had been “upgraded” to this sporty ride, but since it wasn’t costing any more I figured we would enjoy the treat.

Let me tell you, I have now firmly concluded that my Mustang days are over. For fifteen years I drove…

Blessed Feast Day to All

A blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception to all! We started our day here in Memphis with Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Germantown, TN. It is a lovely church and the Mass was beautiful. If our soccer schedule allows, we will be back this evening for the Sunday vigil Mass. If not, we'll make the 7:30 Mass tomorrow morning. Finding Mass while traveling has become a special part of our family faith journey. It really points out the universality of our faith.

Spe Salvi

I flew to Memphis this evening for another soccer tournament. Very pleasant, uneventful flight. I used the time to carefully read Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi. I can tell I will be reading it again and again. This document is incredible. I think it is even better than Deus Caritas Est. It offers so much practical advice. These are no ivory tower musings. Pope Benedict asks the question, “Is the Christian faith also for us today a life-changing and life-sustaining hope?” He then takes us step-wise through the logic to see that only through our Christian faith can we truly live with hope. He calls on Scripture as well as the works of St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, and Plato to illustrate his points. This work is a feast for the heart, mind, and soul. Put this on your must read list and savor it this Advent.

A Hopeful Advent

God has a way of providing themes in my life, especially during significant liturgical seasons. I’ve noticed it most prominently in Lent. One year the topic of redemptive suffering just seems to surface over and over. The next year Lent will seem joyous with the contemplation of Mercy. This Advent the theme is Hope.

Pope Benedict ushered in this theme with his second encyclical, Spe Salvi..

1. “SPE SALVI facti sumus”—in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.

Then I opened the to the first entry my new Advent and Christmas meditation book, Adven…

Where is Hubby?

What Husbands Wear When Their Wives Have Chores for Them

This showed up in my email inbox and I just had to share it. Fortunately, my couch doesn't offer such a convenient cover. Click on the picture if you need a closer look.