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 J├Ągerst├Ątter

Monday, April 30, 2007

Feeding a Family is More Than a Trip to the Grocery Store

Governor Ted Kulongoski and his wife are trying to limit themselves to $42.00 for groceries for one week. That is the amount spent by the average food stamp recipient in Oregon. The stated goal is to call attention to the plight of hunger in our wealthy country. Cynics charge it is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Back in my medical school days I budgeted ten dollars per week for groceries. Since that was twenty-five years ago, it is probably not too far off from what the governor is trying to do now. I spend far more than that now, but lessons learned during those lean times carry over to my times of blessed abundance. Having very little makes one appreciate what is a necessity and what is a luxury. The more food is processed and packaged, the more expensive it is. Pre-shredded cheese, boned and skinned chicken breasts, or frozen dinners are luxuries. When I was a starving student, I shredded my own cheese, peeled the skin off the chicken breasts, and never ate frozen dinners. Now that times are better I still shred my own cheese, though I do indulge in the boneless-skinless chicken and keep some frozen entrees in the freezer for quick dinners. However, I recognize this as a privilege of prosperity, not a right for subsistence.

I have lived in areas with a high incidence of food stamp users. I would hear complaints that the food stamp users are buying steaks while the working poor were surviving on hamburger. I never saw that, but I did see a lot of poor economic choices in the checkout line. Why buy one pound of pre-formed hamburger patties when it twice as expensive as buying one pound of ground beef? I think a good home-economics course should be a pre-requisite for receiving food stamps.

I thought about the governor as I served dinner last night. Last Thursday I cooked a pork roast in the crock pot. The piece of meat cost less than six dollars. Four of us ate our fill and there was plenty left over. About half of the leftover meat was used for a meal of quesadillas this weekend. Last night the rest of the meat was used in some pork-fried rice. I had 2-3 serving of the pork-fried rice left over so that was put in the freezer to provide a quick meal on one of those nights when only 2 or 3 of us are home. For under six dollars, I served meat to our family of four for three meals. None of us felt deprived. If you add in the cost of the rice, beans, bell pepper, onions, tortillas and cheese, I still don’t think the cost of those three meals exceeded fifteen dollars.

Eating economically means taking the time to plan and prepare meals. It means giving up non-nutritional extras like soda and chips. It means buying the store brand instead of the name brand. It means buying a box of oatmeal for your breakfast cereal instead of the sugar sweetened corn puffs. Please do not think I am trying to belittle the plight of those struggling to feed their families. Anyone can fall on hard times, and as a society, we should always be ready to offer a hand up to those in need. I think we are doing these families a disservice if we hand them food stamps with no guidance on how to economically buy and prepare food. However, if the guidance is given and ignored by food stamp recipients, I don’t want to hear wailing and gnashing of teeth about the struggles of surviving on food stamps. Rather than just showing us his visit to the grocery store, I think Governor Kulongoski should have shared his menu plans with us as well.

A Prayer for Students

This week’s bulletin from St. Raymond of Penafort parish offered the following prayer for all students who are studying for exams:

O Great St. Joseph of Cupertino
Who while on earth did obtain from God
The grace to be asked at your examination
Only the questions you knew,
Obtain for me a like favor in the examinations
for which I am now preparing.
In return, I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked.

Through Christ, our Lord,

St. Joseph of Cupertino, Pray for Us.


Now I really didn’t know much about St. Joseph of Cupertino so the line about being asked only questions he knew sounded intriguing. A little research shows that St. Joseph of Cupertino lived in the 17th century. He wanted to join the Franciscans but was a terrible student. He was a very pleasant young man, but just couldn’t make information stick in his head. Yet one verse from the Gospel of St. Luke, did seem to stick. “Beatus venter qui te portavit” (Luke 11:27) On this verse he could wax eloquently. I read the following about his oral exam before the bishop:

It came about in this way. Minor Orders in those days were easily conferred, and even the subdiaconate; but for the diaconate and the priesthood a special examination had to be passed, in presence of the bishop himself. As a matter of form, but with no hope of success, Joseph was sent up to meet his fate. The bishop opened the New Testament at haphazard; his eye fell upon the text "Beatus venter qui te portavit," and he asked Joseph to discourse upon it. To the surprise of everyone present Joseph began, and it seemed as if he would never end; he might have been a Master in Theology lost in a favorite theme. There could be no question about his being given the diaconate. A year later came the priesthood, and Joseph had again his ordeal to undergo. He was examined with a number of others One by one the first candidates were tested, and their answers were far above the average. At length the bishop, more than satisfied with what he had heard, cut the examination short, and passed the rest unquestioned. Joseph was among the fortunate candidates who were asked nothing, and was ordained along with the rest. He was twenty-five years of age.

Better to be lucky than good! So pass on this prayer to your favorite students as they prepare for finals. God has a plan for them. He will do wondrous things for them. Like Mary at the Annunciation, they must only answer Fiat!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

How Prepared is Prepared Enough?

Fr. Jim Tucker is a priest in my diocese, but not at my parish. He has a post on the Sacraments that leaves me with such mixed emotions.

So, yes, the faithful have a right to receive the Sacraments from their pastors. But that right presumes that the person is adequately prepared to receive the Sacraments. To give out the Sacraments indiscriminately without bothering to ascertain the readiness of those who are seeking them is a sham on a number of counts. First, it treats a Sacrament like a party favor, given just to make people feel good. It turns religion into a rote ritual, empty of its true meaning and any necessary connection to faith in Jesus Christ and discipleship to Him. It cooperates in the tragedy of turning the practices of the Faith into quaint cultural observances, like Groundhog's Day or eating cabbage on New Year's. And I really think it reduces the Christian Sacraments to the equivalents of superstitious magic rituals, or perhaps a good excuse for a party. In the case of the Sacrament of Matrimony, it also can contribute to a whole lot of heartbreak if the couple hasn't been sufficiently prepared for what they're about to commit to.

So, whether all that applies to the woman in Belleville, I don't know, and I'm not interested in knowing. And whether the bishop was mean and rude or not really isn't my concern. And whether the priest in question actually said the stupid things he's alleged to have said, I don't care. That particular situation is their situation, not ours. My general observations, though, are things I've seen over and over again in the parish. Even when we insist on religious education, when we meet with every couple seeking to baptize a child if there are red flags about their practice of the faith, when we interview every kid to be confirmed in the parish, when we get personally involved with couples seeking marriage -- even though that is the way we do things here, taking seriously the duty to catechize and prepare, one often wants to pull out one's hair and just give up.

It's great that people are asking for Sacraments. But what spiritual value does the Sacrament in question really have when one begins to realize that it's being sought for reasons that have next to nothing to do with faith in God and discipleship to Jesus Christ? Or when it's based on the most superficial understanding of what a Sacrament entails? When the rite of Baptism is an afterthought to the big party and family reunion, and the several thousand dollars one has spent on the reception hall? When parents don't understand why they should be expected to keep coming to Mass once their child has made his First Communion? When people who haven't been into a church in years make an appointment to get married, and make the point to tell you they really can't be bothered with Sunday Mass, that they don't know if they'll raise their children in the Faith, and really they need to pin down the date and where photographers are allowed to stand? When parents bring their kids to get confirmed "in case they want to get married in the Church later on"?

After reading his post, it is a bit easier to see how our parish program could have evolved into this elaborate series of hoops to be jumped through. A series of significant requirements will weed out those who seek Confirmation as a customary social ritual and not an opportunity for spiritual grace. But by increasing the burden to everyone, we have weighed down those who truly approach the Sacrament with a proper disposition. What should be joy-filled preparation is now a dreaded bureaucracy-filled obstacle course.

I also think we need to be careful of judging too harshly the fitness of candidates for the Sacraments. Of course, Fr. Tucker is absolutely correct in pointing out the flaws in the above examples. However, most situations are not so extreme. We also should not treat all Sacraments the same in evaluating what is required of the recipient.

There are three sacraments of initiation--Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist--in that order. While these should not be handed out indiscriminately, their use should be liberal. The grace of these sacraments exists regardless of the preparation of the recipient. The preparation enables the recipient to better receive this grace. So when evaluating the suitability of a candidate for one of these sacraments, I would advocate that we give the candidate the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.

Marriage and Holy Orders are sacraments of service. The preparation for these sacraments is much more extensive and the scrutiny of the candidates for these sacraments should be much more critical. I am much more concerned about a priest who will marry anybody than I am about a priest who will baptize anybody.

Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are healing sacraments. They should be readily available to the faithful. I have heard criticism of the current push to get people into the confessional because the vast majority of folks are so poorly catechized. I say that first step into the confessional may be the catalyst to inspire a renewed commitment to their faith. Again, we do have to trust in the power of Sacramental Grace.

Thus my conflicting emotions: I do want to emphasize the serious spiritual undertaking of those receive the Sacraments and I want to avoid the casual reception of the Sacraments. Yet I don’t want to deny reception to those who while perhaps imperfectly catechized are prepared enough to benefit from the Grace of the Sacraments. As it always seems to be, the challenge is striking the proper balance.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Confirmation is a Sacrament of Initiation

We are winding down our 7th grade CCD year. I have done my best to prepare these students for the Sacrament of Confirmation. More importantly, I have done my best to instill in them a sense that learning about the faith is a lifelong process. However, considering our preparation program, it is difficult. We use the Faith and Life series by Ignatius Press that is absolutely wonderful. I could not ask for a better textbook. But our program does not deem a school year covering the nuts and bolts of our faith as enough preparation. This coming Tuesday I will be administering a four page mostly fill-in-the-blank final exam. Our parish policy is the students have to pass in order to be confirmed. Passing is a mere 65%. The students have had a copy of the actual test to study. We have covered all the questions in class. This shouldn’t be difficult to pass, but this test is causing all kinds of unnecessary angst and anxiety in my students. I have taken it upon myself to relieve some of this anxiety by allowing my students to write whatever information they want on a 3x5 index card and bring it into the test. It must be hand written—no typing. The collective sigh of relief when I announced this was amazing. Of course, the process of preparing the index card is in itself an educational process so I am not worried about this eclipsing their learning.

The students also have to do a report on the saint whose name they have chosen for Confirmation. They are required to fulfill a set number of community service hours. They must attend a confirmation retreat that means giving up an entire Saturday. While none of this sounds extreme, taken together, Confirmation becomes the reward given after a whole series of hurdles have been cleared. By the time they get to the actual reception of Confirmation, they are so relieved they don’t ever want to face religious education again.

This is so sad. Confirmation is not a graduation. It is not a milestone of adulthood in the Church. Confirmation is the second of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. I encourage you to read the information on Confirmation from the Diocese of Phoenix website.

1. What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is the second of the three sacraments of Christian initiation. Confirmation is the completion of Baptism and the sacrament by which the baptized faithful are anointed with chrism by the laying on of hands. The grace received is the fullness of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. We also describe this fullness as the completion, strengthening, or perfection of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism.

2. What are the Sacraments of Initiation?
The sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are interrelated and all three are required for full Christian initiation. The Christian is born anew by Baptism, strengthened by Confirmation, and receives in the Eucharist the food of eternal life.

Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix has moved the age of reception of Confirmation from high school to third grade:

On May 15, 2005 Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted promulgated the new Policy and Guidelines concerning the restoration the order of the Sacraments of Initiation in the Diocese of Phoenix. The chief concluding reason for Bishop Olmsted’s initiative for this change was the full sense of the theological term “mystagogy”. Mystagogy, in the full sense - of aiding our young people’s understanding of what they have received through the Sacraments of Initiation, throughout every stage of life which includes the stages from infancy and continues throughout grade school, high school, young adulthood to mature adulthood to live as a disciple of Christ, a life dedicated to the missionary and apostolic service of Christ. As the General Directory for Catechesis notes, initiatory catechesis encompasses more than mere instruction in the faith, “it is an apprenticeship of the entire Christian life” (GDC #67).

This new policy has effectively changed the age for Confirmation preparation and reception from 16 years of age (sophomore or junior in high school), to the ages of students in the third grade. As a result, the preparation and reception of the Sacraments of Initiation throughout the Diocese of Phoenix will be: Baptism: in Infancy, Reconciliation: Second Grade, Confirmation and First Eucharist: Third Grade.

I love this idea of treating Confirmation as the sacrament of initiation that it is. I know that my CCD students loved learning about their saints, learning about our faith, and talking about the consequences of their faith. They loved applying the tenets of their faith to real life scenarios. I think if we could have left it at that we would see more of them in high school. By turning it into another school class with homework, tests, and projects, we have soured them on religious education. This is why we end up with so many adults in the pew who have never progressed beyond their eighth grade catechesis.

I really can’t formulate the perfect answer. In the ideal world, most of the catechesis would be done by parents at home in the context of living as a Catholic family. The religious education program would just reinforce and expand on the foundation at home. In the real world, that doesn’t happen very often. (See Barb’s post on outsourcing) Too many of our parents are functionally un-catechized after experiencing all those “Spirit of Vatican II” touchy-feely CCD classes. Understandably, today’s religious education circles loathe trusting parents to provide the basics. If I could make any changes, I would put a real emphasis on family catechesis with the hope that by educating parents and children together, we would recover from the post-Vatican II failed religious education experiments.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Is there something in the water in St. Louis?

Is there something in the water in St. Louis? First St. Louis University goes to court to establish it is not controlled by either the Catholic Church or the Catholic creed. This in spite of a mission statement that says:

The Mission of Saint Louis University is the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity. The University seeks excellence in the fulfillment of its corporate purposes of teaching, research and community service. It is dedicated to leadership in the continuing quest for understanding of God?s creation, and for the discovery, dissemination and integration of the values, knowledge and skills required to transform society in the spirit of the Gospels. As a Catholic, Jesuit university, the pursuit is motivated by the inspiration and values of the Judaeo-Christian tradition and is guided by the spiritual and intellectual ideals of the Society of Jesus.

Now the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation is butting heads with Archbishop Burke over Sheryl Crow headlining the Catholic charity’s fundraiser. Sheryl Crow is a very public supporter of abortion as well as embryonic stem cell research. Archbishop Burke opposed her performance at the Catholic charity event. The board refused to cancel her performance so Archbishop Burke resigned.

"It's very painful for me," Burke said during a news conference Wednesday. "But I have to answer to God for the responsibility I have as archbishop.

"A Catholic institution featuring a performer who promotes moral evil gives the impression that the church is somehow inconsistent in its teaching," Burke said.

The event organizer doesn’t see a problem with inconsistency:

Event organizer Allen Allred said he was disappointed with Burke's decision, but that Crow would appear Saturday as scheduled.

"This is not an event that's about ideology," Allred said. "This is about helping kids."

I’m sorry. As soon as you put Catholic in your name, it is about ideology. If you want to raise money to help children without a concern for ideology, stop identifying yourself as a Catholic charity. Catholicism is not something we turn on and off. It should pervade every fiber of our being. An organization that claims to be Catholic must adhere to Catholic principles in every aspect. It is a scandal to distance oneself from Catholicism for financial gain. We should not allow the ends to justify evil means.

We are all sinners so there is no way the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation can restrict itself to saints as entertainers. However, someone who has made it a point to travel the country and use her celebrity status to promote embryonic stem cell research and abortion is an inappropriate choice for a Catholic charity.

UPDATE: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is running an online forum about this issue. Lots of Catholic bashing and derogatory comments about Archbishop Burke. It wouldn't hurt to wander over there and give Archbishop Burke some support for staying true to Catholic principles.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Experts Say: Religion is Good For Kids

I spent a lot of time blogging yesterday so I was determined to play catch up with a great many tasks awaiting my attention. Then I saw this.

Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.

Kudos for religion from the MSM are few and far between so we should celebrate this. Of course, I am not surprised by the results of the study. The sociologist who conducted the study had this to say:

Bartkowski thinks religion can be good for kids for three reasons. First, religious networks provide social support to parents, he said, and this can improve their parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home,” he said.

Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family, Bartkowski told LiveScience. These “could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response,” he said.

Finally, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance, he said.

Of course they are still scratching their head to figure out why religion seems to work better than a secular organization.

But as for why religious organizations might provide more of a boost to family life than secular organizations designed to do the same thing, that’s still somewhat of a mystery, said Annette Mahoney, a psychologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, also not involved in the research. Mahoney wondered: “Is there anything about religion and spirituality that sets it apart?”

Perhaps the Grace of God comes into play?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Give Them The Mass!!!!!

This is so wrong!

Can the Catholic Church learn anything from the growth of evangelical Christian megachurches?

A Xavier University class on evangelization and marketing of churches hopes to answer that question.

In its second year, the class is taking it further with a Catholic "seeker-friendly" service at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cintas Center.

The service - not a Mass - is called Road Trip and will feature contemporary Catholic music by several local artists and the Rev. Eric Knapp, a Jesuit priest in his 30s. It's aimed not only at the college campus but young adults throughout Greater Cincinnati.

Seeker-friendly services are designed for people who don't regularly attend such services, and some of the formal sections of the service are not included.

"We understand the Mass is central to the Catholic Church, and we're not looking to replace it. But it's not exactly seeker-friendly. It can be difficult for a visitor to step in and know everything that's going on," said Ted Bergh, who teaches the class. "So we're experimenting with this Catholic seeker service."

Of course there is so much more to the Catholic Church than Mass and the Sacraments and Tradition…right?

"The class really opened my eyes to see that you can market and brand anything, even churches," he said. "It was interesting to see that branding and marketing tools can be relevant to maintaining and growing a congregation."

Loretta said he hopes the service shows young people that the Catholic Church isn't only about the traditional. "I feel like the service will definitely work and draw in crowds and raise awareness of what the Catholic Church has to offer," he said.

Reading this makes me even more leery of the term Evangelical Catholic that I discussed in the post below. Don’t invite folks in and tell them, “Oh, we are all about fellowship, and contemporary music, and uplifting happy-clappy Jesus-loves-me worship.” When are you going to tell them about the Cross? Maybe you were just going to skip over that little unpleasant detail? It is very hard to have the Resurrection without the Cross. We don’t need bait-and-switch evangelization. Give them real Catholicism. Give them the Mass.

Evangelical Catholic?

Thanks to a link from Jay Anderson, I stumbled across this interesting exchange.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker wrote of his introduction to the Evanglical Catholic Institute. Now Fr. Longenecker is an orthodox priest and I think he genuinely appreciates the mission of evangelization. However this particular group is not without controversy as evidenced by the fur flying in the comment box. Significantly, this group utilizes two speakers who have publicly dissident opinions about women’s ordination and the Church teaching on contraception. Catholic Cultures gives this group a cautionary rating in the fidelity category.

Another troubling aspect to this website is the presence of two people who hold dissident views at their Evangelical Catholic Institute. This is more significant because they only had three speakers at each institute. The first is Fr. Jim Bacik, a proponent of women's ordination who believes abortion should not be criminalized, and the second is Dr. William Portier, who attacks the Church's teaching on contraception among other things in his book "Creative Fidelity".

Interestingly, the presence of these questionable associates does not seem to be the main bone of contention in the rather fiery discussion that ensues. Using the word “evangelical” just pushes some people over the edge. They envision this group’s message as a push for more “fellowship” and “happy-clappy” liturgies. Evangelical is just one of those words that can raise red flags in much the same way “Spirit of Vatican II” does. I do understand this. Often when we have an Evangelical movement pushing us to form a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” it sounds like we become our own “magisterium”. The teaching authority of the Church, the real Magisterium, is left out of the equation. I know I worry that a group that is worried about numbers may be tempted to water down the message and make it more “friendly” in an effort to grow the flock.

Yet we really shouldn’t flee from the word “evangelical”. We are unquestionably called to evangelize. I view this blog as a form of evangelization. Wearing a crucifix or Marian medal is a form of evangelization. Talking about my relationships with the saints is a form of evangelization. Sharing my relationship with Christ, specifically through the Eucharist is evangelization. The key is my evangelization never separates Christ from His Church. I think that is the fear some are trying to express as they vehemently denounce the idea of Evangelical Catholics. They fear the personal relationship with Christ is being touted as something distinct from the Catholic Church.

I am not going to pass judgment on the Evangelical Catholic Institute. I will say that including speakers that publicly oppose the Magisterium does not encourage me to utilize their services. There are many other groups that are completely and unquestionably loyal to the Magisterium for me to waste my time sifting through their materials double-checking their orthodoxy.

I never like descriptive adjectives to precede the label Catholic. We are Catholic—period. Evangelical Catholic sounds like it is something new and different. We have been called to evangelize since the time of the Apostles. Perhaps this group would stir less controversy if they emphasized their Catholicity more. If they were called the Catholic Evangelization Institute they would be less vague about their mission: to spread the message of Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and teach others how to do it as well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI on St. Augustine and conversion

Pope Benedict used the occasion of his visit to the Lombardi Dioceses of Vigevano and Pavia to speak of conversion, specifically the conversion of St. Augustine. This from the Catholic News Agency:

The Pope continued by expressing his desire to list the three great steps on this path to conversion. The first fundamental conversion, he said, is the interior journey towards Christianity—that is, the desire to want to know Christ.

The second conversion is described by St. Augustine at the end of the second book of his Confessions. After having been baptized, St. Augustine returned to Africa and there he founded together with his friends, a small monastery. However, the second step was his being called to live with Christ for all. He had to translate his knowledge and sublime thoughts into the language and thinking of the simple people of his city.

Citing his humility as the third decisive step on St. Augustine’s path to conversion, the pope told those present that Augustine ahd found the highest level of humility…the humility to recognize that the bountiful mercy of God was continually necessary for himself and the entire pilgrim Church.

Benedict ended his homily by thanking God for the great light that shines forth from the wisdom and humility of St. Augustine. The Holy Father prayed that the Lord give all of us, day by day, the necessary conversion and lead us towards true life.

I love this acknowledgment that conversion is a continual process and not just a lightning bolt from the sky. The lightning bolt may start us down the conversion pathway, but we must continually seek a deeper knowledge and understanding of our faith and translate this knowledge into daily actions. We must always humbly recognize that all we have is a gift from our most merciful Father.

During this season of confirmations, we need to remind our newly confirmed of our lifelong mission to grow in faith. Confirmation is a Sacrament of Initiation—a beginning. It is not a graduation. We must never grow complacent and think our faith is “good enough”. There is always room for further conversion.

Get A Mac Across the Pond

We’ve been Mac users since the very first days of the Apple MacIntosh 512K computers. I get a kick out of the Apple get-a-mac ads that feature the bespectacled uptight guy as the PC and the somewhat slovenly but fun-loving guy as the Mac.
I just ran across the British versions of these ads
. I thought these were funnier than the American versions. Yet the British Public doesn’t seem to be enjoying these near as much as Americans are enjoying theirs. What do you think?

A few less flowery thoughts on Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day and the MSM was out in force singing the praises of Mother Earth. You know, I love the great outdoors and would like to do all I can to minimize the effects of our technology on the environment. I drive a Prius. I like to use public transportation when I can. We use those energy efficient curly light bulbs. I put a load of recycling out at the curb every week. This conservationism is part of being a good steward of God’s creation. Like a good Boy Scout I try to leave my “camp site” better than I found it. I try to avoid the sin of gluttony as I utilize our earth’s resources. However, I am not going to jump up and down over global warming because Hollywood and the Democratic Party (Is that redundant?) have made it their issue du jour. I do not subscribe to the religion of environmentalism.

Thanks to David Alexander I found this great post by Kathy Shaidle on earth day and the environmental movement.

The first Earth Day "teach-in" was celebrated on April 22, 1970, to protest the Vietnam War, pollution, and littering -- and to commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of one of history's most notorious villains. [Lenin]

As the father of communism, the deaths of tens of millions of people can be laid at that Soviet dictator's doorstep. That now forgotten fact about Earth Day's origins should place your child's sudden enthusiasm for recycling, saving the panda bears and energy efficient light bulbs in a new, well, light.

Like the Marxist philosophy that inspired it, today's environmental movement has become, for its most ardent proponents, an ersatz religion. As Joseph Brean recently observed, "in its myths of the Fall and the Apocalypse, its saints and heretics, its iconography and tithing, its reliance on prophecy, even its schisms -- the green movement now exhibits the same psychology of compliance as religion."

I am very disappointed that Kathy will no longer be writing for Our Sunday Visitor. I can’t say I am too surprised she didn’t fit in with the editorial board at OSV. She writes with a biting style that doesn’t soft pedal her opinion. OSV has tended to the more mundane, let’s-try-not-to-offend-anyone style. The catechetical inserts each week are very good, but their coverage of news and issues has grown decidedly bland in the last couple of years. I was close to canceling my subscription after they ran an article praising a lay woman acting as a pastor and included a picture of her prancing about in an alb, blessing something with an aspergillum. As I have said many times, if you are going to subscribe to a single Catholic newspaper, make it the National Catholic Register.

Friday, April 20, 2007

It is Not A Catholic Issue

In a 5-4 ruling, The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that a federal ban on partial birth abortion is constitutional. How did The Philadelphia Inquirer respond to this?

The five judges who voted to uphold the ban are Catholic. But this is not a Catholic issue. The Supreme Court was not asked to rule on the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist or on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. The court ruled on a matter of human dignity.

The Catholic Church’s position on abortion is not unique to Catholics. It harkens back to the concept of Natural Law. All human beings are endowed with dignity because they are created. Our own Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

It has been a great struggle in our country and around the world to establish that “all men” means men and women of all races and ethnicities. Now the struggle is to include the unborn, the sick, and the disabled--all human beings from conception to natural death. The culture of death balks at such inclusiveness. As I wrote two days ago, the pro-abortion and other culture of death arguments offer a very narcissistic view of human dignity: Another person has dignity only if he produces something valuable to me.

Rather than attack the argument that all human life has dignity, the Philadelphia Inquirer has chosen to make an ad hominem attack on the Catholic Church. In their opinion, the only explanation for the court’s ruling is papist fanaticism. Yes, these justices are Catholic. Yes, their actions are consistent with Catholic teaching. But their actions are not exclusively Catholic. Wesley J. Smith is a prominent writer for pro-life causes who is not Catholic. This is an issue of human rights, not an issue of loyalty to Rome.

I do hope that Catholics are not cowed by this spewing of the label “Catholic” as if it were an insult. Perhaps it would be good to reread a portion of this morning’s Mass reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

With God's Grace

My God is the rock where I take refuge; my shield, my mighty help, my stronghold (Ps. 18: 3)

After Mass this morning I made my coffee and settled down to read the Washington Post. I spent the next half hour crying as I read the chronological account of the Monday’s terror at Virginia Tech. It was so upsetting. But I had to keep reading because this is all that is truly knowable.

We can piece together the chronology of the shooter’s actions, the university’s response, and the students’ responses. But that chronology will never really tell us why this happened. There will be all sorts of theories and speculations about the underlying pathology of Cho Seung Hui and what set him off on his mission of carnage. There will be rounds of second-guessing the Virginia Tech administration’s decisions. But these are all hypothetical musings. We will never really know.

Jesus said he wanted us to be in this world, but not of this world. Our faith teaches us to keep our sights on Heaven.

The one who comes from above, is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven is above all. (Jn 3:31-34)

But this earthly world sure does hurt sometimes. It is often hard to see Heaven through these tears. So we fall back on our faith. We believe even when we can’t see. We quit trying to figure it all out and just trust. Trust that God did not abandon us on Monday at Virginia Tech. He will not abandon us any other time sin rears its ugly head. He is there with His Mercy and His Grace. His Grace brings forth humility, kindness, temperance, chastity, patience, generosity, and diligence in the midst of great evils. His Grace gives us Faith, Hope, and Love. With His Grace we can keep our sights on Heaven, even when tears make it hard to see.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Catholic Carnival 115: Divine Mercy

Catholic Carnival 115 looks at the Divine Mercy in our lives. Go take a look!

Catholic Mothers Online Blogroll

You may notice a lovely new button for Catholic Mothers Online in my sidebar. If you are a Catholic Mother, a Catholic Mother-to-be, or a Catholic maternal figure for others, consider adding your blog to the growing list. Just click on the button link in the sidebar.

A Motherly Act?

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."—Mother Teresa

These words of Mother Teresa are the only fitting response to Caitlin Moran’s disturbing editorial in the Online Times.

My belief in the ultimate sociological, emotional and practical necessity for abortion did, as I have mentioned before, become even stronger after I had my two children. It is only after you have had a nine-month pregnancy, laboured to get the child out, fed it, cared for it, sat with it until 3am, risen with it at 6am, swooned with love for it and been reduced to furious tears by it that you really understand just how important it is for a child to be wanted. And, possibly even more importantly, to be wanted by a reasonably sane, stable mother. Last year I had an abortion, and I can honestly say it was one of the least difficult decisions of my life. I’m not being flippant when I say it took me longer to decide what work-tops to have in the kitchen than whether I was prepared to spend the rest of my life being responsible for a further human being. I knew I would see my existing two daughters less, my husband less, my career would be hamstrung and, most importantly of all, I was just too tired to do it all again. I didn’t want another child, in the same way that I don’t suddenly want to move to Canada or buy a horse. While there was, of course, every chance that I might eventually be thankful for the arrival of a third child, I am, personally, not a gambler. I won’t spend £1 on the lottery, let alone take a punt on a pregnancy. The stakes are far, far too high.

Ms. Moran’s logic does raise many questions. If she grows weary of one of her living daughters, will she kill her as well? If you read the entire piece you see that Ms. Moran believes life begins when a mother says it begins. Period. In her words, “Abortion is the ultimate motherly act.”

Of course, this narcissistic view of human dignity is the hallmark of the culture of death. The value of others is based on their value to me. There is no intrinsic dignity in human life.

It seems to me this view of humanity would lead to great personal insecurity. How sad to feel one’s dignity is earned. How liberating to feel that my dignity and value are there merely because I exist, created in the image of God.

I do hope Ms. Moran understands when one of her daughters tells her, “I’m sorry, Mum. I just can’t continue to care for you. You see it takes away from the time I can spend with my children and my husband, it hampers my career, and most importantly of all, I am really just too tired to keep this up. I am just going to have to put you down.”

(H/T to Argent for the link.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Tragedy Hits Close To Home

The shooter as well as several of the victims of yesterday’s tragic massacre at Virginia Tech are graduates of my children’s school district. I know people who know them. My twelve-year-old watched a video featuring holocaust survivors in his history class yesterday. At just about the same time he was watching the video, one of the survivors, Professor Liviu Librescu, was giving his life to save his students.

Perhaps it was a blessing that yesterday we were without power due to the wind storm so I wasn’t inundated with information about this horrific event. Today I feel overwhelmed as the enormity of the loss sinks in. As I drive around town I get all teary eyed every time I see a Virginia Tech bumper sticker. I don’t know if the person in the other car is intimately connected to the shootings. I wonder if he or she is grieving. I keep offering a silent prayer, just in case.

I mentioned below that my son was waiting to hear the fate of two of his friends. Prayers are answered and they are physically safe and sound. Emotionally, it will be a while before any of us are really sound.

Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, VA will be hosting a Holy Hour to pray for the victims as well as their family and friends this Sunday evening at 7:30 pm. Please join us in prayer. It is really the most powerful response we have.

Angel of God?

Okay, I am not trying to ruin anyone’s breakfast by posting this so early, but do go over to Dawn Eden’s blog, The Dawn Patrol, and see the latest commercial from San Francisco’s Planned Parenthood chapter. It depicts a “the guardian angel of safe sex” who makes sure couples use a condom and then sticks around because he “likes to watch”. They can dress the angel character in white but I guarantee you that is not an angel of God. I do believe St. Michael has some work to do in San Franciso.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host - by the Divine Power of God - cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Only Prayer seems to Make Sense Right Now.

Like the rest of the nation I am in disbelief and heartbroken over the tragedy at Virginia Tech. The senseless loss of life is impossible to comprehend. Like most others living in Virginia, I have friends who have children attending Virginia Tech. My sons are in school in Texas but they have friends who attend Virginia Tech. One son has been scanning the Facebook pages looking for updates from his friends to let him know they are safe. There are two friends in particular he has not been able to reach. I am praying for them.

As I spoke with the mother of a Virginia Tech student she commented on how difficult this is for the students from the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. They first experienced a large scale tragedy on 9/11 when a plane slammed into the Pentagon. Virtually everyone knew someone who lost a friend or loved one in that tragic event. Then in the fall of 2002 the sniper terrorized the area for weeks. Once again, these students were personally affected. Even if they didn’t know a victim personally, their own lives were turned upside down as all outdoors events were canceled. They lived in fear. Now they are waiting for the victim list from the Virginia Tech shootings to be released. Once again they will scan it for friends. They are very personally connected.

My second son is a freshman in college. He is the one still waiting to hear from two of his Virginia Tech friends. He is attending a very small school with just under 3000 undergraduate students. Since he has arrived on campus there have been four student deaths. This evening he commented to me how scary the world has become since he left home. I told him I don’t think the world has changed that much in the last year. I think he is just feeling a bit more exposed now that he is out of the safe haven of home. I am glad he has a strong faith and can rely on prayer to shore him up when he is feeling small and vulnerable. Phone calls from Mom and Dad don’t hurt either.

Tonight I am praying. I am praying for the victims. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord. I am praying for their families. May they find peace and consolation in Christ’s Divine Mercy and Love. I am praying for all the young people whose lives have been scarred by this and other tragedies. May they never lose hope.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Real Lessons in the Study of Abstinence-Only Eucation

Both the Washington Post and the Washington Times have front page mention of the latest study on “abstinence-only” education programs. Both report on the alleged “failure” of these programs because they do not perform better than the traditional “have-sex-safely” programs. Many are calling for the end of funding for abstinence-only education. Why? They work just as well as the long-standing “how-to-have-sex” programs that these folks support funding. Students in the abstinence-only program were more knowledgeable about the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

I would say the results of this study are disappointing but I wouldn’t say they are the sweeping indictment of abstinence education that critics claim. I really can’t tell from reading the news articles what the rigorous definition of an “abstinence-only” program is. The Times mentions that four different abstinence programs were used.

The Mathematica study involved 2,057 children, including 1,209 who participated in "Families United to Prevent Teen Pregnancy" in Milwaukee; "ReCapturing the Vision" in Miami; "Teens in Control" in Clarksdale, Miss.; and "My Choice, My Future" in Powhatan, Va. Students were typically 11 or 12 years old when they started the programs; follow-up surveys were conducted five years later.

How do we know we are comparing four varieties of apples in these programs? Are we sure that significant differences among these programs do not exist?

I think Harry Wilson from the HHS Administration has some important words:

The research offers important lessons for future abstinence programming, said Harry Wilson, commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at HHS Administration for Children and Families. "This report confirms what those of us who have experience working with youth already know: Interventions are not like vaccines; you can't expect a little dose in middle school to be protective through high school if abstinence education ends before the most important years."

The real issue I have with this study is that it did not control for the family environment. The news reports specifically state that the study did not control for variation in family income. I am guessing it also didn’t control for variables like single parents vs divorced parents vs married parents. Did the study control for parental attitudes about teen sexual activity? Did the study control for involvement in a faith community?

Perhaps what we have really learned is that sex-education programs independent of the family, whether they are school based or community based, are not effective in altering teen behavior. This shouldn’t be surprising. Studies of the D.A.R.E. program for drug and alcohol abuse prevention showed the same thing. Students raised in a family environment conducive to drug and alcohol abuse were more likely to abuse drug and alcohol. Participation in the D.A.R.E. program had no impact.

My position is that we should take sex education out of schools and put it back on the shoulders of the parents, where it belongs. No more outsourcing of character development or education in moral values. Because the truth of the matter is, those things cannot be outsourced. It is pointless to try and develop school or community based education programs that will be the overriding influence on teen behavior. Study after study shows public entities cannot replace parents. Parents teach their children one way or another. When divorced Mom is openly sleeping with her boyfriend, do you think her sixteen-year-old daughter is going to be swayed by an abstinence message at school? Church-based, school-based, or community-based programs can augment but not substitute for the lessons taught at home—whether these lessons are taught actively or passively. So perhaps the question is not whether abstinence-only programs should be state funded, but whether any sex-education programs that operate independent of families should be funded.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Technology Gone Astray

Rob Vischer at Mirror of Justice points us to this article from the Independent:

The prospect of all-female conception

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 13 April 2007

Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.

Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman's bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue.

The researchers said they had already produced early sperm cells from bone-marrow tissue taken from men. They believe the findings show that it may be possible to restore fertility to men who cannot naturally produce their own sperm.

But the results also raise the prospect of being able to take bone-marrow tissue from women and coaxing the stem cells within the female tissue to develop into sperm cells, said Professor Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

And exactly how does this glorify God and His creation? This whole process violates the precepts of Natural Law on so many levels. First of all, children are to be conceived as the fruit of the love between a husband and a wife—one man and one woman. The longing to have and the desire for total self-giving—the eros and agape—of marital love is a reflection of God’s relationship with mankind. Pope Benedict XVI outlines this very clearly in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est.

Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love. This close connection between eros and marriage in the Bible has practically no equivalent in extra-biblical literature.

God gives us the gift of life. He gives us the gift of our sexuality so that we may have the privilege of joining with Him in the creation of this new life. All of our technological contortions of conception that take it out of the marital act—in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, embryo implantation, and now same-sex conception-- are an affront to the procreative purpose of our sexuality. Procreation is not the only reason for our sexuality, but sexual relations within a proper marital relationship is the only appropriate place for procreation. The technological capability to do otherwise does not give one the moral license to do otherwise.

My brother writes of this in his blog post, Inventing Good:

Man's ability to embrace science is a gift from God. Advancement in technology is good only if it is done for the glory of God's creation. The Internet can be used to spread the Gospel or spread pornography. What is a better use of the medical mind, curing cancer in children or solving erectile dysfunction in men? Does man spend billions of dollars ending hunger in the world or does he devote his time and resources to creating a better tasting dog food? Is luring consumers to the ultimate coffee drinking experience more important than inspiring people to shelter the homeless.

At what point, if ever, will man take a break, step back, and ask, "What has all of our invention really accomplished for our species?"

One answer that seems unlikely, today, is "It brought us closer to God."

I certainly do not advocate a moratorium on scientific research and discovery. However, the application of such research must be carefully weighed on the scales of Natural Law. Does the application acknowledge the primacy of God? Does the application honor the dignity of every human being from conception to natural death? Does this application lead our culture closer to Heaven?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Divine Creation

How on earth does anyone deny the existence of God at this time of the year? In spite of last week’s April snow shower, spring has sprung. Life is bursting forth everywhere. Daffodils fill my garden. Fragrant hyacinths line the front border like giant Easter eggs. Many of my perennials are poking through the earth. I have a couple of Bleeding Heart plants blossoming now.

And, oh, the birds! I have two tubular feeders filled with niger seed on my deck. They are constantly adorned with purple finches and goldfinches. I find the goldfinches particularly intriguing. When I first filled the feeders about three weeks ago, the goldfinches were barely recognizable. They all looked alike—more grubby brown than gold. Over the last few weeks though, the males have shed their winter dullness and put on brilliant yellow. They don’t change all at once. A week ago they still had large splotches of brown marring their bright yellow color. They looked like they had been splashed with mud. Now the yellow shines through clearly. They rival the daffodils.

Farther down in the garden I have a three-pronged bird feeder that, for now, is still impenetrable to the squirrels. One feeder holds peanuts. This is a favorite with three different varieties of wood peckers. Another feeder contains mixed wild bird food. It gathers cardinals, chickadees, bluebirds, and mourning doves.The third prong holds a suet cake that is enjoyed by all. In the woods behind my home I regularly see a pileated woodpecker and a large red tailed hawk. In spite of the hawk’s presence, the squirrels are too numerous to count.

Look very closely at the center of this picture and you will see Mama Mourning Dove sitting on her nest. Actually, click on the picture for the best view. This is right outside my office window. Once when she left the nest I could see that she has four eggs in the nest. I expect there will be little ones soon.

It is just impossible for me to believe that all these wonders of creation are the mere results of random chance. Pope Benedict XVI stirred the evolution/creation debate waters yesterday when he opined that science is too narrow to fully explain creation.

"The question is not to either make a decision for a creationism that fundamentally excludes science, or for an evolutionary theory that covers over its own gaps and does not want to see the questions that reach beyond the methodological possibilities of natural science," the pope said. Rather, scientific and philosophical reason must work together, he said, in a way that does not exclude faith. "I find it important to underline that the theory of evolution implies questions that must be assigned to philosophy and which themselves lead beyond the realms of science," the pope was quoted as saying in the book, which records a meeting with fellow theologians the pope has known for years.

I just love the way Pope Benedict thinks! I have no problem accepting the idea of an evolutionary process. However, I also firmly believe that this evolutionary process was guided by a Divine Hand.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Check out

Just wanted to remind you of a newcomer to the collection of online digests of Catholic teaching and commentary. You will see quite a list of contributors including big names like Carl Olson and Mark Shea as well as little names like moi. And they have really cool coffee mugs.

Food for the Journey

I wish I could say that I made Daily Mass every day without fail. Alas, I am not there yet. Some weekdays I have a very good reason for missing Mass. Other days it is just laziness that keeps me away. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Why should Daily Mass attendance be a goal? Think of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Every day is like a journey to Emmaus. I will encounter Christ throughout the day. But will I recognize Him? Like the disciples I can be distracted by the world around me. Christ can be standing right before me and I will look high, low, and all around and not see Him. Yet when I attend Mass and receive His True Presence, my eyes are opened. Of course my eyes are also opened when I receive Him on Sunday. But then comes Monday and the laundry, dental appointments, soccer practices, music lessons, bills and deadlines hide Him from me. Daily Mass uncovers Him for me once again. I can see Him in the grocery store clerk and the barista at Starbucks. I can see Him in the little old lady driving 10mph under the speed limit on the Parkway. I can try to imitate His infatigable love as I repeatedly pick up dirty socks, gather newspapers, and load the dishwasher.

One of the Emmaus road sojourners from Scripture is Cleopas. He wistfully laments, ”The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;” Poor Cleopas. He had his own vision of The Redeemer. Christ’s Passion and Death did not fit into this vision. It is so easy to be like Cleopas. We put God, Christ, and the Church into our own vision and plan. When it doesn’t fit we get confused or doubtful or even angry. By the grace of the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, our eyes are opened. We replace our own vision with the vision of God. We are able to say “Thy will be done, not my will.”

Daily Mass offers the nourishment I need for my daily journey to Emmaus. My heart may burn when I read His Word in Scripture. But He is truly made known to me in the breaking of the bread.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Washington Post Peep Show

What do you do with all those stale Easter marshmallow Peeps? Take a look at the Washington Post Peep Show for some ideas. These are too funny!!

Catholic Carnival 114 is waiting for you!

Take a look at Catholic Carnival 114. There is plenty of material to make sure you don't slip into spiritual doldrums after Lent.

Wise Words from Cardinal Arinze

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I am a great fan of Cardinal Arinze. (Note the link to his webcast on my sidebar.)The Apostolate for Family Consecration has produced this video of Cardinal Arnize that is perfect to watch now that Lent is over. We have just spent forty days in penance and prayer increasing our spiritual strength. So what do we do with this newly found fortitude? Cardinal Arinze gives us clear concrete instructions on the calling of the lay faithful. He outlines our responsibility for the present moment.

The video is just over forty-five minutes long so go ahead and make your coffee or tea and settle in for the perfect spiritual pep talk. Better yet, gather your spouse and older children (probably ages 12 and over) and watch it together. We are each called to live lives of holiness and to be saints. Let Cardinal Arinze explain to you how it is done.

Divine Mercy for Straying Souls

Today is the fifth day of the Divine Mercy Novena. The Apostolate for Family Consecration is continuing a podcast of each day’s devotional meditations. Today we bring the souls of those who have left the Church to The Divine Mercy of Jesus.

Today bring to Me the souls of heretics and schismatics, and immerse them in the ocean of My Mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart; that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal, and in this way they alleviate My Passion.

Just two days ago we celebrated the great feast of Easter. Sitting with us in the pews, were countless souls who have separated themselves from the Church. It is so easy to write them off as “C&E” Catholics. Yet these souls still hunger enough for Christ’s Church that they will make it to Easter Mass. We do not know what keeps them away. Perhaps it is ignorance, anger, pride, or pain.

Let us remember in a special way these souls as we pray today’s Divine Mercy Chaplet. Let us pray that something from Sunday’s Easter experience will be the spark to ignite the flame of true Faith. Let us pray that they will join us this Sunday, on Divine Mercy Sunday. What a perfect Sunday to return to the Church and feel the healing power of God’s Perfect Mercy.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Divine Mercy Devotion

Somewhat lost in the Easter shuffle is the Divine Mercy devotion. From the website:

In the early 1900’s, Our Lord gave many great mystical graces to Sister Faustina of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland. He also gave her a mission - to tell the world that He is Mercy itself, and that before He returns as a just Judge, He is coming as a merciful Savior. Jesus called Faustina His “Secretary of Divine Mercy”, and commanded her to write everything He told her. In obedience, Faustina kept a diary, now called "Divine Mercy in My Soul", and published by the Marians Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This printed diary fills over 600 pages. Over 7 times He told her that this message would prepare the world for His final coming.

Pope John Paul II was a great believer in the Divine Mercy Devotion. The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy can be prayed at any time. The prayers of the chaplet are counted on a Rosary. The Novena to the Divine Mercy began on Good Friday and will conclude this Sunday on Divine Mercy Sunday. Instructions for praying the chaplet and the novena are here.

What is beautiful about the novena is it brings a different group of souls to Jesus each day. Since Good Friday we have presented the souls of all sinners, of priests and religious, and of the devout and faithful Christians to Jesus in our prayers. Please join today as we bring the souls of those who do not believe in God to The Divine Mercy of Jesus.

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

For the Sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Regina Coeli

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.

Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Alleluia! He is Risen!

A Blessed Easter to All! May the joy of the Resurrection fill your day. Pax Christi.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

These Parents Should Be Ashamed

Exactly what does the left wing want? The town of Littleton, Colorado is unveiling a statue to honor fallen Navy Seal, Danny Dietz. A Littleton native, Dietz was killed while serving in Afghanistan. The statue is modeled after a photograph of Dietz and shows him holding his military automatic rifle. Because of the weapon, a few citizens are protesting the statue as “glorifying violence”. They say it should not be located so close to schools and playgrounds.

A group of Littleton parents is opposing the design and location of a memorial to a fallen local Navy SEAL, Danny Dietz, who died in combat in Afghanistan two years ago.

They say the statue, depicting Dietz clutching an automatic rifle, glorifies violence. In Berry Park, it would be within blocks of three schools and two playgrounds.

"I don't think young children should be exposed to that in that way - unsupervised by their parents or any adults," said Emily Cassidy, one of the mothers.

On the other hand, anti-war protesters are having kids make fake cluster bombs out of balloons to be used for a “family-friendly Easter cluster bomb hunt”.

Seven-year-old Alvin Mitchell worked intently yesterday on what looked to be a blue balloon wrapped around a tennis ball. It was a fake version of a cluster bomb, and the real thing, he pronounced, can "blow you up and kill you."

The fake bombs Alvin and a dozen other children were making at a peace workshop will be put to use Monday in Lafayette Square. As hundreds attend the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn, a smaller group will gather at the park on the north side for what is being billed as a "family-friendly Easter cluster-bomb hunt."

Honoring a soldier as a hero and realistically depicting him carrying a military weapon is harmful to children but having children make fake cluster bombs is not?

I actually think both of these groups have very little regard for their children and are using them as pawns. The Colorado group opposes the current war and is using the argument that a soldier statue will harm children to avoid giving any positive press to the military. The peace group is using their children as fodder for publicity by allowing them to build and play with fake cluster bombs. Both groups should be ashamed.

Did Lent Make A Difference?

In just a few hours we will sing Alleluia and proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Risen Indeed!” So, what did the last forty days mean? What did I learn from Lent? How will Easter be different because of Lent?

Spiritually, the last forty days were dominated by our Family Consecration. Like so many other milestones of faith, this consecration was not an end but a beginning. I learned that my personal prayer life is important, but committing to a family prayer life is crucial as well. I thought we were doing pretty well to get to Mass every Sunday, say grace before meals, and add in a few extra prayers during Advent when we lit the candles on the wreath. This Lent we pushed ourselves a bit and discovered we could do more. We have a family vocation in addition to our individual vocations.

Imagine Catholic families around the world gathering to pray in their domestic churches on a regular basis. I used to think of this as a valuable technique to instill the faith in children so they would keep it as adults. It was preparatory work. It was a drill to build habits that were important for adulthood. Now I see our family prayer is an awesome power for the here and now. This prayer brings Grace. With this Grace we can effect change. Indeed, we must. As a wife and mother I must lead my husband and children to Heaven. My husband seeks to lead our children and me to Heaven. Our children must individually seek to lead each other to Heaven. As a collective family unit, we must lead other families to Heaven. As a community of families we must lead other communities to Heaven.

As I approach this Easter, I come with a new appreciation for my individual responsibility as well as my family’s responsibility to cooperate with God’s plan for Salvation. Christ died for all our sins and he conquered Death with His Resurrection. I must accept this Redemption by turning away from sin and surrendering my life to His will. As individuals and as families we must do what we can to help others open themselves to His saving Grace as well. This action begins with prayer.

Friday, April 06, 2007

New Jersey Christian Terrorists?

I hesitated to blog on this because it is Good Friday and I really don’t want to rant needlessly. However, perhaps Good Friday is exactly the right day to discuss this. According to this news report, school officials in Burlington Township, NJ staged a mock terrorism drill.

BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP — The scenario has played out in real life across America: Gunfire echoes through a school and students are held hostage.

But police, faculty and staff lived out their own make-believe version yesterday of just such a tragedy at Burlington Township High School, complete with Kevlar-clad officers, armed suspects and students portraying the wounded and dead.

Who are these fearsome terrorists? Christians, of course.

Two Burlington Township police detectives portrayed the gunmen. Investigators described them as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the “New Crusaders” who don't believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class.

Was there a reason to specify this was a pair of avenging Christians? Can you imagine the response if the scenario suggested the gunmen were Islamic fundamentalists or gay students seeking revenge on those who didn’t accept their lifestyle? The ACLU would be camped at the schoolhouse door in support of the offended special interest group. However, offending Christians doesn’t merit a single word of protest.

Today we remember how Christ took up his cross and marched steadfastly to Calvary. With complete trust in the Father, he suffered death, but then triumphed over death on Easter Sunday. As Christians in today’s world, we too must take up our cross. Even as our secular society ridicules and sneers at our faith we must place our trust in God. Our triumph will be in Heaven.

The Way of the Cross with Pope Benedict XVI

The Way of the Cross at the Colosseum will be led by Pope Benedict XVI today. The meditations were written by Monsignor Gianfanco Ravasi and can be read here.I highly recommend this site as a devotion for today. The artwork is also very nice.

Holy Week Catholic Carnival

I know I am a bit late getting this posted, but there is still plenty of time to enjoy this week's Catholic Carnival. I particularly enjoyed this post on the Triduum from A Catholic Life. There is so much in this Carnival to enjoy, I am sure I will be reading it into next week! Enjoy!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Triduum Begins

I just returned from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The Triduum has begun. My twelve-year-old was a bit irritated when he realized that Holy Thursday was not really a Holy Day of Obligation. This day falls into the category of Mommy Days of Obligations. Like Thanksgiving Day, our family will be at Mass. I cannot imagine ignoring the Mass that celebrates the institution of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. We were blessed this evening with an inspiring liturgy. Even my pre-teen with the adolescent attitude came out of Mass saying, “That was an awesome Mass”. Our three priests concelebrated. There was plenty of incense and lots of Latin. The church was packed.

Tomorrow we will commemorate Our Lord’s Passion with the Good Friday liturgy as well as the Living Stations of the Cross. Our high school youth group offers this dramatic presentation of the Stations of the Cross annually on Good Friday. My daughter spent the afternoon practicing for this. She will spend several hours tomorrow in the final rehearsal. It is humbling to pray the Stations and reflect on the incalculable love God must have for us to have endured His Passion and Death for our salvation.

Finally we will rejoice in the Resurrection on Easter. Like Mary Magdalene we will announce to all that Christ has risen! I am rethinking my Easter outfit since there is a freeze warning for Northern Virginia. Some forecasts even call for a few snow showers. In spite of these dire predictions, I will wear white shoes. I’ve been abstaining from white shoes since Labor Day. A few snowflakes will not hinder me from donning white pumps.

A Blessed Triduum to all. I hope you are able to take advantage of the many liturgical celebrations of the season. Follow closely the Passion of Christ and you will sing a heartfelt “Alleluia!” on Easter.