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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's Okay to Say "Because I said so!"

Amy Welborn posts about an overheard conversation between two women who are pre-K teachers. They were discussing the state accreditation process for pre-K programs.

The woman who'd been through it gave some tips. "Be sure you know the birthdates of the youngest and oldest in your room. They'll ask. You have to know it." "Always, always wash your hands. Come in the room, and the first thing, wash your hands." (can't argue with that). "Put up a bulletin board that's got all the children's photos on it that says something like 'Our school family.' They like that."

But here's what got me, and this is the part where I was so, so tempted to join in and just ask, "WHAT?" In hindsight, I should have. They wouldn't have minded, and it would have been enlightening.

They commiserated on the fact that state standards don't allow them to tell the children to walk in lines. I have no idea why and I have no idea what the alternative is.

They also shook their heads that they're not allowed to simply say "No" or "don't" to a child. "You have to give them a choice," one said to the other, who nodded. And then they both sighed.

After reading this I am not sighing. I am gritting my teeth. Children are not miniature adults. They do not have the reasoning abilities of adults. They do not need detailed explanations and justifications for the directions of adults. They need to learn discipline and obedience. They need to learn their wants are not the guiding principles for their behavior. They need to be kept safe by adults. This does not mean that we just bark out orders. Marketing and persuasion are important features of dealing with children. My kids were not too crazy about broccoli until I called it dinosaur trees. Then it was cool. Walking in a straight line makes it easier for a teacher to get a gaggle of kids from point A to point B safely. If she wants to make it a game and call it follow-the-leader, that is fine. However, if one child doesn’t want to play follow-the-leader, that shouldn’t excuse him from staying in line.

Thinking back on my days with toddlers and pre-schoolers, I can’t imagine getting along without the words “no” and “don’t”.

  • “Don’t put peanut butter in your sister’s hair.”
  • “No, you may not jump off the balcony on to the couch”
  • “Don’t flush toys down the toilet.”
  • “No, you may not put a frog in the bathtub.”

I really believe those who are advocating this always cooperative/never directive approach to teaching children have never actually raised children themselves. It may fit their theoretical psychological models, but sometimes in the real world you just have to say, “Do it because I said so!”

Hawk Encounter

This morning I went outside to walk through the garden and assess what damage the bunny, woodchuck and deer had done overnight. I noticed a lot of flapping of wings in the neighbor's back yard. The neighbors built a batting cage that is enclosed by netting. Apparently a hawk had managed to get inside and couldn't find his way out. He kept flying from end to end and getting caught in the netting. I got my boys and they worked for about an hour to help the hawk find its way out of the enclosure. It wasn't easy since they wanted to give those sharp talons and pointed beak plenty of room. Let me correct that. I wanted them to give those sharp talons and pointed beak plenty of room. I thought my testosterone filled college boys were a bit too cavalier in confronting the hawk. They could never get him to go back through the open door flap but they did lift the back wall of netting and eventually coax him out that end. One son did get a picture of him. He was not a happy hawk. He was much prettier when he had his wings spread.

What would you do?

I love having my kids involved in sports. There is a great deal to be learned from the hard work and commitment required to be on team. Many of life’s important lessons can be found in competition. Pope John Paul II acknowledged this when he set up the Vatican Office of Sports. Unfortunately, there is an ugly side as well. The pursuit of victory can lead to bending the rules and turning a blind eye to inappropriate behavior. The problem seems to be more acute in high school team sports and other competitive activities than in independent club sports. Perhaps that is because the high school team experience, whether it is the football team or the chess team, is so intertwined with high school social dynamics. Consider the following hypothetical scenario:

A high school athlete shows up at a team bonding party. It is at a senior team member’s home and is supposedly chaperoned. However, the team captain goes out and obtains beer for everyone. The athlete leaves as soon as she sees there is alcohol. She is the only team member to leave the party. Now what do you do? If she says anything to the school administration, the team will suffer disciplinary consequences, but it will be obvious who alerted the authorities since only one team member left the party.

She opts to just keep herself out of trouble. However, she also chooses to avoid team parties where there is likely to be drinking. The other team members openly talk about their drinking exploits throughout the season and occasionally make hurtful comments to her because she doesn’t join in. The coach endorses the party together mentality. The coach even makes veiled comments about her own clubbing exploits. The coach categorizes the non-drinker as a non-team player and harasses her for not participating enough in team social events.

The coach berates and bullies the players and encourages them to do the same to each other and to their opponents. The coach refers to other high school girls as “trolls”. She describes trolls as “the girls who are fat, have bad hair, bad teeth, and even sagging boobs.” She tells her team members that these “trolls” have no right to be at their parties. She encourages her team to think of the opponents as these “trolls”. She encourages the team members to make demeaning comments about the appearance of opponents. The coach also uses sexual innuendos to motivate the girls to win: “Winning is like kissing a really hot guy!”

The athletic director doesn’t want to hear about any issues until after the season is over. Broaching them now could threaten the team’s run at the championship title. He is very reluctant to question a winning coach. He calls the coach’s bullying “feeble attempts at sarcasm and just quirkiness.” So the athlete who doesn’t want to participate in drinking and bullying has limited options. She can suck it up and endure the hostile environment or she can leave the team. The option with the least negative social consequences is to finish out the season and never return to the team. Just close that chapter and move on. A sense of justice cries out for these offenses to be exposed and corrected, but the attempt to do so would have dire social consequences. The school administration would most likely label the issues as an individual’s problem and not a systemic problem so the social costs would probably not result in significant correction of any problems.

If a parent offered you this scenario, what would you recommend?

CLARIFICATION: The soccer team I have written about before is my daughter's club team and is nothing like the situation above. Club soccer has been a joy and tremendous benefit to my daughter. The situation above is an athletic team from a local high school.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Support for Catholic Athletes

The latest issue of True Girl magazine pointed my daughter and me to Catholic Athletes for Christ. This group formed in response to Pope John Paul II’s call to evangelize the world of sports and his establishment of the Vatican’s Office of Sports.

Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC) serves Catholic athletes in the practice of their faith and shares the Gospel in and through sports. We work with athletes at all levels of sport in an effort to promote a Catholic sports culture. CAC was formed in response to Pope John Paul II's call to evangelize the world of sports and his establishment of the Vatican's Office of Sports.

As St. Paul's epistles teach us, Christ is God’s true athlete and we are made perfect when, and only when, we imitate Him. John Paul II advises us that, "Every Christian is called to become a strong athlete of Christ, that is a faithful and courageous witness to His Gospel." We invite you to join us as an "athlete for Christ."

Ray McKenna,
Founder of Catholic Athletes for Christ

Tomorrow, my family will be involved in soccer games number 9 and 10 for the weekend. Both of my travel soccer players’ teams made the finals of the local tournament. However, we still managed to get everyone to Mass. I have had children playing soccer at one level or another for nearly 17 years and we have never missed Mass due to soccer. This has meant standing out sometimes, as my kids might miss a team dinner to attend Mass on Saturday evening so it doesn’t conflict with the Sunday schedule. It may mean an extra early start to Sunday as we get to Mass before the games begin. I appreciate the athletes involved with Catholic Athletes for Christ. They are providing themselves as role models and offering support to young athletes trying to stay true to their Catholic faith as they compete.

Friday, May 25, 2007

8 Things Meme

Kitchen Madonna tagged me so here goes:

“Here are the rules: Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.”

1. I am a caffeine based life-form. Specifically, a coffee derived caffeine based life form. I use a Capresso coffee maker that grinds the beans then brews the coffee. My first cup of coffee in the morning needs to be from a ceramic or china cup. It is a bad day if my first coffee starts out in a travel mug and an absolutely horrible day if the first cup of coffee is held in cardboard or Styrofoam.

2. I love pretty dishes. Whenever the military packers come to move us they just stare at all the dishes and re-think how many dish barrel boxes they need. I have some very nice Wedgwood china and a very old set of Bavarian china that need to be washed by hand, but I tend to use the sets of china that will go in the dishwasher. A pretty table seems to make meals more special.

3. I love the game of soccer. Of course it is a treat when my children are playing, but I think once the kids leave home you will still find me hanging out at the soccer fields. In fact, if I ever won the lottery (first I’d have to buy a ticket) I fantasize of buying a home with lots of level land and building a soccer field. Build it and the kids will come. I’d wear my apron, bake cookies, and watch kids play soccer. Maybe I’d sponsor a tournament for little kids—the Soccer Mom Invitational.

4. I went to medical school because somewhere around the time I was 13 I heard that some people didn’t thing women should be doctors or lawyers. Well, no one was going to tell me I couldn’t be a doctor or a lawyer. I was a math and science geek so medical school seemed like the right path. As I look back, that was a ridiculous reason to want to be a doctor, but it did all work out. I loved the time I was actively practicing medicine but am very happy to have left it behind to focus on my family and on writing.

5. There was a time when I thought Cafeteria Catholic was a compliment. I thought it was an intellectual way to approach religion. By the grace of God, I found my way back to orthodoxy and brought my husband with me.

6. I love to grow things. I have been known to be planting flowers mere days before the moving van arrives. I try to leave every house with better landscaping than I found when I arrived. My favorite plants are perennials and they are even better if I didn’t buy them, but grew them from a cutting or seed that someone shared with me. My favorite gardening book is Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Allen Lacy. It is a great reference book for propagating plants but is so entertaining you can read it cover to cover like a novel.

7. Speaking of books, I am a committed bibliophile. Not only do I want to read a lot of books, but I want to own a lot of books. I love the internet, but I just can’t enjoy reading a novel online. I want to hold it and absorb the pages.

8. I have Southern roots (probably half Texas and half Dixie) and there are certain things I insist upon. I will not wear white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter. We will eat blackeyed peas on New Year’s Day. Iced tea is brewed (Sun brewed is delightful), not instant and is served with mint. My children will say “Ma’am” and “Sir” when speaking with adults and they do not call adults by their first names unless those names are preceded by “Mr”. or “Miss”.

It looks like just about all my blogging buddies have been tagged so I will open this up to anyone who wants to play. Please join in and leave a note in the comment box so we can read 8 things about you.

Or Both?

In light of yesterday's post, I thought I would share something that just arrived in my inbox.


Please read this entire address by Archbishop Charles Chaput to college students on May 22, 2007. Then pass it on to every Catholic you know. These words are a clarion call to all Catholics, young and old. I kept highlighting excerpts to post here, and before you know it, I had highlighted nearly the whole thing. So accept these two excerpts for now then read the whole thing.

First this:

But the problem is that much of American culture right now is built on an adolescent fiction. The fiction is that life is all about you as an individual—your ideas, your appetites, and your needs. Believe me: It isn’t. The main interest big companies have in your wants and mine is how to turn them into a profit. Part of being an adult is the ability to separate marketing from reality; hype from fact. The fact is, the world is a big and complicated place. It doesn’t care about your appetites. It has too many of its own needs, and it won’t leave you alone.

God made you for a purpose. The world needs the gifts he gave you. Adulthood brings power. Power brings responsibility. And the meaning of your life will hinge on a simple, basic choice. Will you engage the world with your heart and brains and faith, and work to make it a better place—not just for yourself and the people you love but also for people you don’t even know whose survival depends on your service to the common good? Or will you wrap yourself in a blanket of noise and toys and consumer junk, and stay a child?

Then this:

If you want to serve the common good and build a better future, you’ll never do it by hiding your faith in the closet. You’ll never do it by being Catholic in private and something else in public. History is made by people with convictions, and the courage and passion to live those convictions. The path to interfaith peace and religious understanding demands that we live our faith more deeply and authentically, not less.

The more truly we love the Church and live our Catholic faith with joy, charity, justice, mercy—and the courage to demand that other people, in other religious traditions, should do the same—then the more the God of love will become present in our midst. And he alone is the real path to peace.

These powerful words could be life-changing.

"I'm sorry." is not enough.

Michelle has some good thoughts on Justice and Forgiveness.

The prosecutor's argument for sentencing:

"In this situation the state must look beyond the feelings only of the individuals who are most directly impacted by this event," Fisher told the judge. "Society has an interest in what is done beyond the feelings of the victims."

Forgiveness should not mean walking away from justice. This is not one man's crime against another man. This is one man's crime against society by breaking its laws.

This is something I think is all too often lost in discussion of crime and punishment. Justice is not retribution or vengeance. It is the fair and appropriate response that keeps a community ordered and civilized.

As a mother, I have had the situation where a child has disobeyed. Perhaps the offense seemed very personal, for example lying to me. Not only has my child broken a rule, but his offense strikes at my heart since it is a betrayal of my love for him. Now once my child sees the great pain he has caused, he can become extremely remorseful. He can tearfully beg for forgiveness and profess his love for me. Because of my love for him, I will forgive him. But that does not mean he is not grounded for the next two weeks. His remorse and repentance may have dissuaded me from grounding him for life as my initial reaction suggested, but it does not remove the need for punishment. Some punishment is needed to keep my child's behavior ordered and civilized.

This is modeled for us in the sacrament of Reconciliation. We come with remorseful and penitent hearts and present our offenses against God. The priest does not say, “There, there. I know you’re sorry so just go along your way.” In spite of God’s merciful and complete forgiveness, there is still a penance required.

In the eternal view, in spite of God’s mercy and forgiveness of our sins, we may still spend time in Purgatory before we enter in to our Heavenly reward. There is no doubt that God’s justifiable anger over our offenses could condemn us to Hell. But His infinite Mercy allows us to repent. Yet this repentance is not enough. We must purify our souls in the just punishment of Purgatory to be made worthy of an eternity in God’s presence.

Take Time To Remember

It is Memorial Day Weekend. If your family is like mine, there will be steady stream of activity. Somewhere between firing up the grill, prepping the boat, or taking a dip in the pool, please lift up our military in prayer. We have an all-volunteer force. Men and women are willingly responding to a call to serve our country, knowing that it could entail the ultimate sacrifice. This weekend, we especially honor those who have died serving the cause of freedom.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis
Requiescant in pace. Amen.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Allow Me to Offend You

Check the temperature in Hades. I am about to give praise to the Washington Post for its defense of free speech. Actually, the kudos go to Marc Fisher for his column in this morning’s paper. It seems that a University of Maryland student, Mia Lazarus, went into a campus convenience store to purchase a quick snack, but the clerk would not serve her because Lazarus was wearing a pro-Israel T-shirt and the clerk found that offensive.

Mia Lazarus put her chips and juice down on the counter and prepared to pay. But in the midst of the lunchtime rush, the cashier's eyes wandered to Lazarus's T-shirt, which expressed a political message that proved to be overwhelming for the clerk.

One glance at the words "Baltimore Zionist District" on Lazarus's "I Stand for Israel" T-shirt, and the cashier at the Maryland Food Collective, a crunchy grocery and sandwich shop in the student union on the University of Maryland's College Park campus, blurted: "Your shirt offends me. I won't ring you up." The cashier told Lazarus she could go to the back of the store to find another clerk.

What is so sad, is that our education system has done such a good job at indoctrinating our youth in the ideology of political correctness that neither the clerk nor Mia Lazarus could understand this incident as discrimination.

The collective's policy statement said it "respects the right of an individual worker or volunteer to remove themselves from the work environment and to choose not to act as an agent of the store."

In the law, this is known as discrimination. But a good many college students don't see it that way. Amazingly, virtually everyone involved on both sides of this incident is perfectly pleased with the new policy.

Lazarus, a junior from Baltimore, says she was angry and hurt when she was turned away, but she soon decided that the co-op's policy was a reasonable way to prevent anyone from being hurt. "If someone's offended," she said, "I'd rather have a conversation with them about it, but if they feel uncomfortable and just want to take themselves out of the situation, I really don't mind. It's not like the store's not serving me; it's just the individual. It's no different from when a cashier slips away to go to the bathroom."

How on earth did we manage to convince an entire generation that there is an inalienable right to not be offended? How did they learn that silencing ideas is less objectionable than a disagreement of ideas? Why do they think a disagreement of ideas is offensive?

You have your truth and I have my truth and we will respect each other’s “truths” so we will not speak of our differences because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I won’t say anything controversial because what is most important is that we all get along.

This is the fruit of moral relativism—the evil of which Pope Benedict XVI spoke in his first speech as Pope. Sometimes we are called to shake things up. We are called to proclaim the one Truth.

So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of hman beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of human beings, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; a person’s enemies will be the members of his own household. (Mt. 10:32-36)

In addition to threatening the constitutional principle of free speech, this unwillingness to offend is un-Christian. Maybe that is why so many in our politically correct, live-and-let-live society find Christianity offensive.

Catholic Carnival 120 is waiting for you!

It is time again for the Catholic Carnival. This week’s digest of posts on all things Catholic is hosted by Ebeth at A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars. This week timeless Catholic topics like Marian Devotions and the Eucharist are mixed with current events seen through a Catholic lens. Take a look

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Serious Apron Day Thoughts

Today is a serious apron day. My house looks like a hurricane hit. Some of the chaos is going to stay because we are getting the outside of the house painted. They power washed it on Monday and will start painting tomorrow. The grill and all my plants have been brought inside. My potted plants from the deck are not “deer resistant” and I do not intend to offer a smorgasbord for the local wildlife. As it is, I have discovered that “deer resistant” does not mean bunny, woodchuck, and chipmunk resistant as well. Still, there are lots of little piles of clutter that need to be cleared and surfaces that need to be dusted. I also need to get my laundry out of the way so kids can get theirs done this evening. Four kids home means lots of folks vying for washing machine time. I’m a bit behind because just as we added two more people to the laundry queue, my old dryer died. Good news is that Lowes does next-day delivery. The replacement is now in place and up and running.

So why the apron? Putting on my apron is practical. Lots of pockets to put bits of clutter for redistribution as I go from room to room. It keeps my clothes clean as dishwater and sauces splash. It also reminds me that I am Mom on duty and I have a job to do. It focuses me on the tasks ahead. My youngest child is the very visual one. He pictures the perfect outfit for me as my very cuddly, soft, chenille bathrobe topped withmy favorite apron. It is the merger of Mom’s hugs and nurturing with Mom’s cooking and cleaning. I don’t think that is a very practical combo, but it does tell me that my clothes send a message to my family as well as to myself.

Which brings me to the topic of clothes for church. With the warmer weather, the attire at Mass has taken on a new look. Shorts, flip-flops, spaghetti straps and bare midriffs have all made their appearances. And don’t think it is just the kids who are pushing the envelope of appropriate Mass clothes. Lots of adults look like they just walked in from the beach and we are an inland community.

I’ve heard the argument that God doesn’t care what we wear, but just as my bathrobe and my apron send a message to my family, our Mass attire sends messages to God. Are these the messages you want to send?

  • You know, God, meeting You today in Mass just isn’t that big of a deal. Just because I would take great care in my appearance if I were meeting an important client or dignitary, doesn’t mean I need to show the same respect when I encounter You.
  • I’m physically here today but I am really focusing on all the fun in the sun I will have once I get this Mass thing over with.
  • I’m not really into all that modesty and chastity stuff. It’s my body and I’ll flaunt it if I want to.

Church clothes do not need to be expensive and they do not need to be formal. But if you don’t think Mass is important enough to make your appearance clean, modest, and respectful, why are you going to Mass?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Theology of the Snooze Button

Jen has a post about seeking God before seeking the snooze button. I was reminded of this post when I saw this.

Since I have to get out of bed and drive my husband to the carpool lot, I can’t really hit the snooze button. But when I return home and the kids are already off to school, it sure is tempting to crawl back between the covers and catch a few more Z’s. Yet if I put the coffee on and keep plugging, my day goes so much better. There is something to St. Josemaria Escriva’s words:

Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If with the help of God, you conquer yourself in the moment, you have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish.

This sentiment is the basis for self-mortification and “offering it up”. We are made very aware of this during Lent when we give up something as part of our spiritual practice. However, self-denial is a useful form of Catholic spirituality all year long. We take on little sufferings and join our discomfort with Christ’s suffering on the Cross.

Sometimes these little “crosses” are incidental. On the day when I am in a hurry, I end up in the slowest line at the gas station. Instead of getting impatient and irritated with the lady in front of me who must try five different credit cards before finding one that will work at the pump, I can accept my inconvenience without complaint and offer this little trial as a prayer of atonement.

Sometimes I can intentionally embrace a little suffering as a sacrificial offering. “Father, please accept my self-denial of a thirty minute nap as a prayer for the souls in Purgatory.”

This is far easier said than done. There is great satisfaction in loudly lamenting every inconvenience, every trial, and every offense. But how much healthier it is for our spiritual life if we silently accept these hardships and offer our labors as an offering to God? Every act, every thought, every word becomes a prayer. We become increasingly able to die to self and live for God.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thoughts on Evangelization

About a month ago I was engaged in some discussions about “Evangelical Catholics”. For that reason, this article from Zenit caught my eye.

LONDON, MAY 20, 2007 ( ).- A new report on church attendance in the United Kingdom suggests that many Britons have no connection with organized religion, and that the majority of those who identify themselves as Christian never go to Church.

The Christian relief and development agency Tearfund released the report "Churchgoing in the U.K." in April, which revealed that more than half of those polled claim to be Christians.

Monsignor Keith Barltrop, director of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization (CASE) of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, tells ZENIT in this interview that the key to successful evangelization in the modern world is renewing a sense of confidence among Catholics in their faith.

Q: How did the decision by the bishops of England and Wales to establish CASE three years ago herald a change in the way the Church engages with evangelization?

Monsignor Barltrop: First of all, the decision to establish CASE heralded a recognition by the bishops that there was already a certain amount happening at grass roots level in England and Wales regarding evangelization, but it needed more official support and coordination if the challenges of 21st century Britain were to be met.

When the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, asked me to help in setting up CASE, he told me that we needed to look at such new ecclesial movements and distil the secrets of their success into the mainstream of parish life, so that evangelization would no longer be a foreign, or even an embarrassing, concept to Catholics, but something they felt happy to engage in.

The bishops were thus trying to root in English and Welsh soil the understanding that Pope John Paul II gave the universal church -- that the time has come for a new evangelization. By that he meant that secularization had made such inroads into what were once Christian societies that the Church needed a new ardor and new methods in evangelization.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to evangelization in Europe today?

Monsignor Barltrop: The biggest obstacles are sheer ignorance or "forgetting" of the Gospel, and the fact that many people who think they know what Christianity means actually have a distorted and woefully incomplete picture.

The "forgetfulness" of Christianity -- summed up in the well-known saying that "God is missing but not missed" -- is a phenomenon with a complex origin. In the 20th century the twin disasters of Communism and Fascism led people to become profoundly disillusioned with all attempts to explain and save the world. People have now become consumers of spirituality and religion, as they are of material products, and Catholic truth itself can become one more lifestyle option among others.

This problem is compounded by the way values of Christian origin -- such as justice, equality and human rights -- have become detached from their Christian roots and are now even being turned against the Church, so that the very proclamation of the truth is seen as somehow oppressive and destructive of human freedom and happiness. In such a world it becomes difficult to avoid the impression that evangelization is about clever manipulation of the truth or, even worse, associated with that fundamentalism which the modern world both fears and is, paradoxically, responsible for.

Q: Why is it often difficult to engage Catholics with the need to support evangelization?

Monsignor Barltrop: In Britain, one of the main factors is that evangelization is associated with a certain kind of Protestantism, or with related images such as people preaching aggressively on street corners and "televangelists" looking for money.

By making known a variety of Catholic methods of evangelization, and especially by associating it with the Eucharist and Eucharistic adoration, CASE tries to get across the message that there is a Catholic way of evangelizing.

There is also the problem that evangelization is seen as the preserve of specialists, but we want Catholics to see that it is fundamentally about living and sharing their faith in everyday life, with the people they meet at home, in the office or in their neighborhood.

This means Catholics need to recover a sense of confidence in their faith, and to see it as something coherent -- nothing less than the splendor which radiates meaning to every corner of the universe. Where there has been poor catechesis, liturgical deformation or a false understanding of ecumenism or interfaith work, Catholics lose the sense that the Gospel is a marvelous treasure that all need to hear.

Do read the whole article, but the third question and answer that I posted is one that I think we all need to take to heart. First of all, there is a Catholic way of evangelizing. It must be rooted in strong catechesis, faithful liturgy, and a strong Catholic identity. We should not present Catholicism as just another flavor on the menu of Christianity.

Secondly, evangelization is not the bailiwick of those with special training. Living our lives as faithful Catholics is in itself a powerful form of evangelization. As a parent, I witness to my children when they see me pray, when they hear my reflections on my spiritual reading, and when I bring the liturgical calendar into our family activities. When we engage in spiritual and corporal works of mercy, they see our faith put into action. As a family, we witness to the other families in our community when we go to great lengths to make sure we make it to Mass every Sunday. We do not allow our secular activities to keep us from our weekly worship. By unabashedly letting our faith direct our political, social, professional, and leisure activities, we offer an example of what it means to lead a Catholic life.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Book Meme

Ebeth from A Catholic Mom climbing the Pillars tagged me for this book meme.

How many books do you own?

To many too count! I think we have bookshelves in every room in the house and still have stacks of books looking for a home.

Book(s) I am reading now:

1.The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Books I've read recently:

1.The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
2.Time and Again by Jack Finney
3.Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans
4.God’s Invisible Hand: an interview of Francis Cardinal Arinze by Gerard O’Connell
5. The Complete Works of Flannery O'Connor

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me:

1. My Bible
2. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
3. Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein
4. Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway
5. Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi

This was fun! Instead of tagging, I will just invite anyone else who would like to play to post a link to your answers in the comment box so we can all take a look.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

They Do Play Soccer in the Convent!

My husband has always said (with only a smidgen of seriousness) he hopes to send our only daughter to the convent. This is not a high-minded support of vocations. This is his fatherly reluctance to share her affections with any mortal man. Over the years as our daughter’s passion for soccer grew, the convent didn’t seem very likely. This is the daughter who insisted on wearing soccer shorts under her ankle length First Communion dress. Then I came across this picture.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist is one of the fastest growing orders in the country. They have been profiled in both the Catholic and the secular media. This is from their mission statement:

By living this strong sacramental and liturgical prayer life, we hope to:

  • Attract and form women to be faithful religious serving the Church for the good of souls, especially through the total gift of themselves as spiritual mothers and brides of Christ.
  • Establish and support Catholic schools steeped in the rich culture of the Catholic faith to nourish the spiritual formation of youth, their families and society.
  • Promote the culture of life and respect for the dignity of each person through apostolic work.
  • Respond to the needs of the Church arising in the third millennium through teaching, catechesis and evangelization.

How beautiful it is to see so many young women responding to God’s call to consecrated religious life. I certainly have no indication that God is calling my daughter to such a life. But if He is, she will be happy to know she can bring her soccer ball.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Read me at

You can read my latest contribution at

If that is what you mean by support, please take it elsewhere.

How many ways can John Edwards tick me off? First he supports anti-Catholic bigots. Now he is urging his supporters to use Memorial Day as a day of anti-war activism.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is calling on his supporters to turn this year's Memorial Day into a day of antiwar activism, saying that the best way to honor the troops is to demand an end to the Iraq war.

Never mind that this is the day we are supposed to honor those who have given their lives in the service and defense of our country. I believe James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal puts it best:

"Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is calling on his supporters to turn this year's Memorial Day into a day of antiwar activism, saying that the best way to honor the troops is to demand an end to the Iraq war," the Washington Post reports. Edwards, who voted for the war, has set up a Web site for his effort.

Andrew Sullivan has observed of Edwards, "He's pretty, he has flowing locks, he's young-looking." But as lovely as Edwards may be on the outside, it is ugly to try to turn a solemn day honoring those who died in the service of their country into a political stunt.

What'll he think of next, turning Christmas into a day of pro-abortion activism?

I would like Mr. Edwards to know that I am a military veteran. My husband is still on active duty and is a combat veteran. My son will be commissioned as an Army officer in one year. We do not consider Mr. Edwards’ denigrating the current military efforts for his own political gain as support of the troops.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

I wish I had heard about this earlier. Last night at the Washington Nationals baseball game it was Stitch and Pitch night.

"Stitch and Pitch" games, sponsored by the National NeedleArts Association, bring knitters to Major League Baseball games -- 23 of them this season. The events are designed to promote knitting, but they also have a profound effect on conversation in the grandstands. In most of RFK Stadium, the talk Monday night was of the Nats finally sweeping a series this season. But up in section 518, among stitchers, the conversation was . . . different…

Downstairs, near a barbecue stand in the stadium's concrete walkways, Barbara Paley, the NeedleArts Association's marketing expert, was explaining the cosmic meaning of Stitch and Pitch.

"The rhythms of baseball and the rhythms of the needle arts fit together perfectly," she said. "They're both timeless. There's no time limit."

I grew up watching baseball. I have a souvenir bat from the Houston Colt 45’s (that is pre-Astrodome days). I spent countless hours watching the Tulsa Oilers. The Oilers were a AAA minor league team for the St. Louis Cardinals so Tulsa was a Cardinals town. In 1967 my elementary school gathered the students into the gymnasium and hooked up a television on the stage so we could all watch the World Series games that were broadcast in the afternoon. By the time I was a teenager, a summer evening at the ballpark was the preferred social outing for my crowd. We watched some of the games, but we also did a lot of wandering around, giggling and whispering about the cute guy hawking Cokes behind first base.

As soon as my children were old enough to play, they started T-ball in the spring. However, the next fall they started soccer. Once they tasted the non-stop action of soccer, they really never considered baseball again. Before you know it, I was hooked on soccer too. It is constant action with no time-outs. The attacks and counter-attacks move at breakneck speed. It combines dazzling individual skills with precision teamwork. After watching soccer, going back to the slow, measured pace of baseball is really difficult for me. That is why the Stitch and Pitch games appeal to me. All that empty space while the pitcher and catcher alternately nod and shake their heads, while the coaches do their hand signal dance, and while we watch the sixth foul ball with a strike count of two can be filled with stitching. I have never learned to knit, but I love to crochet and cross-stitch. Rather than feeling impatient or bored, I will feel relaxed yet still productive.

There are no more official Stitch and Pitch games scheduled for the Washington Nationals, but I may make a game this season anyway. I will just remember to take my bag of yarn along as well. Stitch one! Stitch two! Stitch three!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Catholic Carnival 119 is waiting for you!

Catholic Carnival 119 is packed with lots of great reading from many blogs I had not been to before! Thanks to Stevenfor hosting. One post that stands out for me is this one, The Ten Most Important Issues Facing the Catholic Church in America. This list could and should inspire a treasure trove of new posts in the Catholic blogosphere.

Well, this is probably all the posting from me today. I'm off to pick up my oldest son from the airport as he returns from Texas A&M for the summer. My nest will be complete. Oh, happy day!

Democrats continue their anti-Catholic activities

First John Edwards thinks anti-Catholic bloggers are suitable for his campaign staff. Then nominally Catholic Patrick Leahy takes a swipe at the Catholic Church. Now, House Democrats think they can dictate to the Pope how to lead the Catholic Church.

Eighteen House Democrats, led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), are responding to Pope Benedict XVI’s statement that indicated he would support Mexican bishops if they were to excommunicate Mexican legislators who voted last month to legalize abortion in Mexico City.

The Pope made his remarks last Wednesday during a news conference aboard a plane before he was to begin a five-day visit to Brazil.

“We are concerned with the Pope’s recent statement warning Catholic elected officials that they risk excommunication and would not receive communion for their pro-choice views,” the lawmakers said in a statement issued yesterday. “Advancing respect for life and for the dignity of every human being is, as our church has taught us, our own life’s mission.”

The Democratic lawmakers said that the suggested penalty “offend[s] the very nature of the American experiment and do[es] a great disservice to the centuries of good work the church has done.”

If one reads the Pope’s remarks, he made it very clear that the actions of the Mexican bishops was nothing new or arbitrary.

The excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the (canon law) code. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in Communion with the body of Christ. Thus, they (the bishops) didn't do anything new or anything surprising. Or arbitrary."

The Pope leads the world wide Catholic Church. He was speaking the Truth to individual Catholics. If those individual Catholics happen to be legislators, their position does not absolve them from their responsibility to live every aspect of their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Church. The Truths of the Church transcend governmental structures and political parties.

The papal spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi reiterated this:

But Lombardi added that politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. "Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. ... Politicians exclude themselves from Communion."

Pressed again to say whether the lawmakers were excommunicated, Lombardi reiterated: "No, they exclude themselves from Communion."

Pope Benedict is not threatening Catholic politicians with excommunication if they support abortion. He is just making sure these politicians are fully informed and understand the complete spiritual consequences of their professional activities. It would be irresponsible for him to do otherwise.

Church of the MDG

It is easy to pick on the Episcopalians, and I want to be clear that is not what I am trying to do right now. They are going through some tough times as the leadership of the church pulls away from traditional orthodox Christianity and moves towards a secular agenda. To get a feel for this, take a look at the Easter Message from Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.

As this Lent draws to a close, take a careful look at your life. Where has God been at work during this fast? What new life can you discern?

For my own part, I will celebrate the new life that has been growing hidden in the lives of leaders in this church. We are blessed with leaders, lay and ordained, who are increasingly aware of their God-given ministries to lead this people into fuller participation in God's mission of healing the world. I celebrate the work of God expressed in the gathering of Anglican women at the United Nations in late February and early March, who were able to say to the world that attention to mission is what unites us as a Communion. I celebrate the gathering of people from all across the world in South Africa, at the TEAM (Towards Effective Anglican Mission) conference, to build stronger partnerships for doing that healing work, especially around AIDS and HIV. I celebrate the gracious way in which the bishops of this Church engaged each other in discussing challenging and difficult matters in the meeting just past, and affirmed the focus of this Church on mission. I celebrate the many, many healthy and vital congregations of this Church, engaged in God's mission of healing the world. The Executive Council joined in worship at one, St. Michael and All Angels, in Portland, Oregon, recently, and saw passionate engagement in children's ministry, the work Episcopal Relief and Development, abundant outreach in the community, and a lively life of worship.

Her entire message is all about what wondrous things we mere mortals are doing. Not once, in her entire message, does she mention The Cross or our Redemption from sin. Indeed she doesn’t mention Jesus at all until she signs off with the Easter proclamation, “Alleluia. Christ is Risen.” If you look at the bulletin insert that contains this message you will see it contains a sidebar for, the new Episcopal web site launched on Earth Day to celebrate the Episcopal Church’s adherence to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDG have become the Episcopal Church’s new Gospel.

To emphasize their true identity as the Church of the MDG, the Episcopal Church ran a full page ad in the op-ed section of the NY Times. You can read the full text of the ad here but some interesting excerpts are:

It's also Epiphany Church in Los Angeles, where Cesar Chavez rallied the United Farm workers. And Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland, Maryland, whose basement was a major stop on the Underground Railroad to freedom for enslaved African-Americans. And St. John's Church in Greenwich Village, a meeting place for gay and lesbian action following the 1969 Stonewall uprising.

You notice they are putting the gay agenda as one more rung on the civil rights ladder?

That's a heritage drawn from our deep roots in nearly 2,000 years of English Christianity, and shared by a worldwide Anglican Communion that unites nearly 80 million people in 164 countries through prayer and ministries committed to caring for "the least of these," as Jesus commanded, by reducing poverty, disease, and oppression.

2000 years of English Christianity? Someone please explain this to me.

As Catholics, why do we care what is up with our Episcopal brethren? If you go to the web site that I linked above for the full text of the ad, you will see it is the blog of Rev. Susan Russell. Her blog banner contains a quote from Sr. Joan Chittister, a dissident Roman Catholic nun. Sr. Joan Chittister, Fr. Richard McBrien of Notre Dame, Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, and a whole host of nominally Catholic politicians who publicly defy the Magisterium are among those who hope to lead American Catholics down the path of the Episcopal Church.

Of course, the good news is we have the assurances of Christ that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. In recent years we have been eternally blessed with both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to shepherd us on the path of the True Gospel. Consider Pope Benedict’s recent words to Brazilian bishops:

In this work of evangelization the ecclesial community should be clearly marked by pastoral initiatives, especially by sending missionaries, lay or religious, to homes on the outskirts of the cities and in the interior, to enter into dialogue with everyone in a spirit of understanding, sensitivity and charity. On the other hand, if the persons they encounter are living in poverty, it is necessary to help them, as the first Christian communities did, by practising solidarity and making them feel truly loved. The poor living in the outskirts of the cities or the countryside need to feel that the Church is close to them, providing for their most urgent needs, defending their rights and working together with them to build a society founded on justice and peace. The Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor, and the Bishop, modelled on the Good Shepherd, must be particularly concerned with offering them the divine consolation of the faith, without overlooking their need for "material bread". As I wished to stress in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "the Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the sacraments and the word" (No. 22).

The sacramental life, especially in the celebration of Confession and the Eucharist, here takes on a particular importance. As Pastors, it is your primary task to ensure that the faithful share in the eucharistic life and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You must be vigilant to ensure that the confession and absolution of sins is ordinarily individual, inasmuch as sin itself is something profoundly personal (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Reconciliatio et Paenitentia," 31, III). Only physical or moral impossibility exempts the faithful from this form of confession, in which case reconciliation can be obtained by some other means (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 960, Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 311). It is appropriate, therefore, to instil in priests the practice of generously making themselves available to the faithful who have recourse to the sacrament of God's mercy (cf. Apostolic Letter "Misericordia Dei," 2).

4. Starting afresh from Christ in every area of missionary activity; rediscovering in Jesus the love and salvation given to us by the Father through the Holy Spirit: this is the substance and lifeline of the episcopal mission which makes the Bishop the person primarily responsible for catechesis in his diocese. Indeed, it falls ultimately to him to direct catechesis, surrounding himself with competent and trustworthy co-workers. It is therefore clear that the catechist's task is not simply to communicate faith-experiences; rather -- under the guidance of the Pastor -- it is to be an authentic herald of revealed truths.

Notice how Pope Benedict emphasized that all missionary activity begins with Christ. All of our good works ring hollow if we leave out Christ. Note also that the Pope highlights the intimate connection between our works of mercy and the Sacraments. So beware those who bang the “social justice” drum to the exclusion of the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. We cannot allow their voices to be the only ones heard.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Karen Stohr Responds

Karen Stohr responds to those who are critical of her support of pro-abortion Catholics as commencement speakers for Catholic institutions. This statement seems to most characterize her position:

We also want to remember that the moral status of abortion/ESC research does not immediately transfer to the act of voting to support or uphold legal abortion/ESC research (or voting for people who vote to support or uphold legal abortion/ESC research.)

I believe Dr. Stohr is seriously mistaken. Recent statements by Pope Benedict XVI can leave no doubt that a public official who votes to support or uphold abortion or embryonic stem cell research commits a gravely immoral act.

Catholic officials have been debating for some time whether politicians who approve abortion legislation as well as doctors and nurses who take part in abortions would subject themselves to automatic excommunication under church law. The pope was asked where he stands on the issue during the flight to Brazil, in his first full-fledged news conference since becoming pontiff in 2005.

[Reporter] "Do you agree with the excommunications given to legislators in Mexico City on the question?" a reporter asked.

[Pope Benedict XVI] "Yes. The excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the (canon law) code. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in Communion with the body of Christ. Thus, they (the bishops) didn't do anything new or anything surprising. Or arbitrary."

Therefore, I repeat my contention, that a public official who supports abortion has demonstrated a significant defect in his or her moral formation. This defect is severe enough to preclude his or her from serving as a role model for Catholic students.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Is it a Scandal?

Mirror of Justice posts an op-ed piece on commencement speakers for Catholic schools. The author, Karen Stohr, disagrees with her alma mater’s decision to rescind an invitation to U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to deliver the commencement address. Sen. McCaskill is an ardent abortion and embryonic stem cell research supporter. I have excerpted a portion of Professor Stohr's comments below. You can read her entire essay at the link above.

No, the real moral concern must be that having McCaskill as a commencement speaker somehow would constitute an endorsement of her views by a Catholic
institution. But is that the case?

By their nature, educational institutions are places where controversial ideas find a platform. I am a faculty member in the philosophy department at a Catholic university. Every semester, I assign my students readings that conflict with Church teaching, alongside traditional Catholic sources; indeed,
I cannot teach philosophy any other way.

At its core, education consists of the common pursuit of truth. Catholic educational institutions, like their secular counterparts, have faith in the power of human reason to discern what is true and what is not. The job of an educator is to help students expand and develop their intellectual capacities, and that requires confronting new ideas and grappling with opposing points of view.

The path to knowledge is a difficult and murky one, and making our way forward is a joint effort. Commencement exercises are a celebration of education as a communal project. In asking someone to speak, an institution honors that person's ability to contribute to that project, but the invitation cannot possibly imply endorsement of each and every idea she contributes. If that were the standard, commencement speakers quickly would become extinct.

Rescinding McCaskill's invitation to participate in this celebration does more than demonstrate disagreement with her views on abortion and stem cell research; it also expresses the attitude that she is not worth listening to on any subject at all and denies her any rightful role in this communal pursuit of

That is hard to reconcile with Christian love and respect for human dignity.

As Professor Stohr herself points out, when she as a Catholic educator presents reading assignments of material in conflict with Catholic teaching, she does so with a side-by-side presentation of faithfully Catholic material. A commencement address offers no such opportunity for explanation or clarification. The address is meant to offer graduating students ideas and thoughts to buoy them in their future endeavors. A speaker who is so diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching on such a fundamental issue as the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death cannot be trusted to provide the guiding words to send our graduates forward in a manner faithful to Catholic teaching. Consider a person whom you know persistently lies about his social activities. Would you then believe everything he tells you about his professional activities? But he insists he only lies about social activities and he is always unfailingly truthful about his professional activities. Does that alter your trust in his professional veracity? I don’t think so.

A commencement speaker should be someone who has integrated Catholic teachings into his or her life in an exemplary fashion. It is an honor to be so chosen. With very public and enthusiastic support of abortion and embryonic stem cell research, Sen. McCaskill has demonstrated a significant flaw in her moral formation. Such a defect makes her an unsuitable choice as mentor for Catholic graduates. To honor her with such a role is most definitely a cause of scandal.

Wear Your Apron on Monday, May 14!


Right now, women across the United States and the blogosphere are searching thrift stores, ebay, and their mother's linen drawers for aprons to wear May 14th. Some are making their own. Wearing their aprons inside and outside of their homes, Apron Moms will celebrate their pivotal role in making a house a home.

As the search for domestic bliss continues, a search that includes cleaning and decluttering, cooking tasty nutritious meals, educating children, and the care and feeding of husbands, women will celebrate the difference they make in the lives of their families. They know an apron is like a uniform that conveys authority, unconditional regard, and motherly wisdom all at once. Apron Moms know aprons are about cooking and cleaning but they are also about emotional availablity, hospitality, and femininity.

On Monday, May 14th, apron wearing women will drop children off at school, go to the post office and grocery store, and greet their families at the door wearing their aprons. Some will go to their work outside of the home. But regardless of where they spend most of their day, they will post pictures on their blogs of the places they boldly wear their aprons.

There will be a virtual cocktail party at 5pm CST to giggle about our experiences, to toast the internet's role in bringing us together, and to plan next year's Apron Mom March on Washington.

The devil very well may wear Prada but authentically feminine women wear aprons!

For further information, please email the Kitchen Madonna at

I have purchased one of Kitchen Madonna’s aprons and it is a treasure. I was wearing it when my 12-year-old came home from school yesterday and he immediately gave me a big hug saying, “I love to see you wearing an apron because that means we will be eating something good!” (Last night’s meal was tortilla soup and grill cheese sandwiches, but the dear boy did make a point of telling me the meal “hit the spot”) So I will be wearing my apron on Monday, as I do most days. Hope you will be too!
Check outKitchen Madonna's apron shop and find the perfect style for you.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sleep is not in a mother's job description

I’ve been rather slow about blogging this week and to tell you the truth, I think it is because I am a bit sleep deprived. Monday night my daughter was out and about leaving encouraging messages on the cars of all the seniors on the high school soccer team. Tuesday was the last regular season home game and it is tradition for the younger players to honor them in this way. In any case, she didn’t get back home until around midnight. Tuesday night my son who had just arrived home from college met up with his old high school buddies and they decided to go to the late night showing of Spiderman 3. He didn’t return home until after 1:00 am. Last night this same son joined his new college buddies as they drove towards New York City for a couple of days of sightseeing in the Big Apple. Of course I stayed awake until I knew they were safely ensconced in New Jersey. Now I don’t have to stay awake for all this. My being awake will have no impact on what happens when the kids are out of the house. I know my college son is spending some late nights out while he is on campus at Rice and I certainly don’t keep tabs on his comings and goings while he is away. But once they are back in my nest, sleep is not going to come for me until I am sure they are safe and sound. So I putter around the house, keep a candle lit, and carry on a “chat” with Blessed Mother and St. Monica.

There was a time when I thought that once we got through the middle of the night feedings, diaper changes, drinks of water, and nightmares, motherhood would not be a vocation requiring sleep deprivation. The truth of the matter is motherhood knows no office hours. If the kids are out and about, I am on the clock and ready to spring into action if needed. I have jumped into the car to retrieve a teen when he or she called and said, “Come get me. Someone just showed up with beer at the party”. Usually, though, my nighttime vigils are just times of prayer. I pray for their safety. I pray for their good judgment. I pray for their friends. The kids sort of roll their eyes when they walk in the door and see me dozing in the comfy chair with my Rosary in hand. In spite of their bold proclamations that there is absolutely no need for me to wait up for them, I think they find it comforting to come home to a mother’s somewhat drowsy welcome. I know in the not-too-distant future, my nest will be empty and I really will be able to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. In the meantime, I will keep the coffee brewing and enjoy my late-night motherly vigils.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Reflections of a 7th Grade Catechist

This evening my CCD class meets for the last time. It has been a good year but I am happy to see it end as well. It has been truly exhausting. For several months now I have been teacher, Catholic cheerleader, “mom”, and taskmaster to a dozen middle schoolers. And in the end, I’m not sure it matters too much. I would love to think I inspired or motivated these kids in their faith. But the truth is my tiny little weekly encounter is insignificant to the lessons being taught in their homes.

Probably about five or six of the kids come from strong Catholic homes. I know they attend Mass every week and their faith is talked about at home. What we did in class reinforced the teaching of their parents. Being Catholic is a family focus for them. When I mentioned patron saints, novenas, the Rosary, feast days, or specific prayers, they didn’t give me blank stares. I was speaking a language they had heard before.

Another four or five kids attend Mass most Sundays but I am sure that is the extent of their Catholicism. The faith doesn’t get much attention other than a spot on the Sunday calendar and that spot can be pre-empted without too much effort. These students politely listened to the lessons and even joined into the discussions on occasion. But I am afraid their take home message is going to be, “Isn’t that interesting. Not too relevant to my daily life, but interesting.” Being “churchy” isn’t normal for them. I hope this year has at least planted some seeds that eventually germinate, even if they lie dormant in indifference for several years.

Finally I have a couple of kids who really thought I was out of my head when I said that our faith should influence every aspect of our lives. They rarely attend Mass. Their parents have made it clear that religion is an onerous obligation with no real benefit other than keeping Grandmother happy. Once the Confirmation box is checked they can be done with it. I really hope that something in their later lives takes them back to this year and they say, “Oh, now that makes sense”. My prayers for them will do far more for their conversion than any lecture I gave in class.

Maybe this is just fatigue talking. I worked very hard to help these children take their lessons home and incorporate them in their families. But that was my individual effort and not something intrinsic to our religious education program. In some ways I think parish religious education programs can fall into the same trap as sex education programs in the public schools fall into. They don’t trust parents to teach their children so they exclude parents and try to teach everything themselves. Parents cannot be replaced. They will teach, either actively or passively. We would be far more effective in teaching children if we did a better job educating their parents rather than trying to replace them.

UPDATE: For more of my thoughts on this topic, see this post.

The Catholic Carnival is Up!

Please run on over toPostscripts from the Catholic Spitfire Grill for this week’s Catholic Carnival. Lots of great posts from a very wide variety of blogs. Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii is after my gardening heart with a post on a Mary Garden. She links to this resource which could keep me reading for hours on end. It is her fault if I get nothing else done today. Matthew at A Catholic Life has a well written piece on the Errors of Centering Prayer. That one may inspire a blog post of my own if I can pull myself away from all the reading about Mary Gardens. Do go over and look at the whole menu of posts in this week’s carnival. What a feast!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Hollywood Nuns

Sister Mary Martha has a cute post reflecting on nuns in the movies. Her favorite is Heaven Knows Mr. Allison with Deborah Kerr. She also mentions Audrey Hepburn in A Nun’s Story, Mary Tyler Moore in A Change of Habit, and the worst of the bunch, Whoopi Goldberg’s Sister Act.

This got me to thinking about other movies depicting nuns. There is The Singing Nun starring Debbie Reynolds. This was a pleasant movie that highlighted both the conflicts and rewards of religious life. If only the real life story of Sister Luc Gabriel was as uplifting.

Two Mules for Sister Sara joins Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine. While Shirley MacLaine plays a nun the entire movie, it seems there is more to her than a calling to the religious life.

Lilies of the Field was a hallmark of Sidney Poitier’s film career. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his starring role. This was the first time a black actor won the top male award.

Can you think of any more recent movies that focus on women religious? What are some your favorites?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Evangelical--a loaded word

Not too long ago I was engaged in some discussions about the term “Evangelical Catholic”. Those associated with groups and movements who describe themselves as “Evangelical Catholics” couldn’t understand why such language raised the hackles of many Catholics. As an explanation, consider the negative response of “Evangelical Christians” when Frank Beckwith, the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, recently came into the Catholic Church. The following response is from Dr. James White, Director of Alpha & Omega Ministries:

Let's ponder the hypothetical situation of a President of the Evangelical Theological Society converting to Roman Catholicism in the midst of his tenure. In 1998 I attended the national meeting of the ETS in Orlando, Florida. At one of the sessions some of the founding members were being asked questions about why they did certain things, why they wrote the statement of faith as they did, etc. A woman asked a question of the panel. "Why did you write 'the Bible alone' in the statement of faith?" The ETS statement of faith is very, very short. It reads:

"The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."

Roger Nicole rose, slowly, and made his way to the podium. He looked out at the lady and said, "Because we didn't want any Roman Catholics in the group." He then turned around and went back to his seat. While most sat in stunned silence, I and a friend with me broke into wild applause. The brevity of the response, and Nicole's dead-pan look, was classic. Most looked at us like we were nuts, but we appreciated what he said. Here, one of the founding members made it clear that the ETS was founded as a Protestant organization and that primary to their own self-understanding was a belief in sola scriptura.

Anti-Catholic bias has deep roots in the evangelical sects of Protestantism. Trying to co-opt the language of these movements and imbue it with Catholic meaning seems destined to propagate confusion. Nor should there be any attempt to “re-invent” Catholicism in the Evangelical Christian model. Certainly we should evangelize. We take to heart the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

But we will evangelize as Catholics, always mindful that we lead others to Christ through both Scripture and Tradition.

Continuing the Joy

Keeping with the theme of joy, take a look at this heart warming piece.

(H//T to Kelly at Lady in the Pew)

Cause for Joy

From today’s Magnificat:

It is in this very situation that all of us, and especially our children, adolescents, and young people, need to live faith as joy and to savor that profound tranquility which the encounter with the Lord gives rise. The source of Christian joy is the certainty of being loved by God, loved personally by our Creator, by the One who holds the entire universe in his hands and loves each one of us and the whole great human family with a passionate and faithful love, a love greater than our infidelities and sins, a love which forgives. This certitude and this joy of being loved by God must be conveyed in some palpable and practical way to each one of us, and especially to the young generations who are entering the world of faith. —Pope Benedict XVI

For someone who was labeled “God’s Rottweiler”, Pope Benedict XVI sure spends a lot of time talking about joy and love. It is so very easy to get sucked into the vortex of ranting. Modern liturgical music is abysmal! The state of catechesis today is pathetic! Too many “Catholic” politicians are hypocrites! I do not deny the truth of any of these statements. I also think as faithful Catholics we must work tirelessly to rectify these problems. Sometimes, though, in the crusade against heterodoxy we can lose sight of the joy of orthodoxy.

So I guess today’s post is a pause in the ranting to just step back and revel in the joy of our faith. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Through one eternal sacrifice, Christ redeemed mankind. Christ continues this self-giving in the Holy Eucharist. He comes to us truly present—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—at every Mass. His mercy is so great that there is nothing we can do to make him turn from us. If our relationship with Christ is ruptured, it is because we have turned away from him. We need only turn around and run towards Him, and the same arms that opened wide on the cross for our salvation, will open wide to welcome us back. With such assurances, how could we help but be anything but joyful.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bluebird of Happiness?

Calling all ornithologists! I love watching all the varieties of birds at my bird feeders. I have two finch feeders that are usually populated with goldfinches and purple finches. Today, however, there was a new visitor. Using my Peterson Field Guide it looks like a Mountain Bluebird. Of course that would be unusual to see here in Virginia, but the guide does say that occasional wanderers are spotted east of the 100th Meridian. I have seen occasional Eastern Bluebirds, but they have a reddish belly. This one is just brilliantly blue all over. I did snap a picture which I've posted. He is at the bottom of the feeder. One of our typical goldfinches is on top. If anyone can give me an identification, I would appreciate it.

UPDATE: I believe the mystery bird is actually a blue grosbeak or an indigo bunting.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"What Next, God?"

I am a planner. I set goals. I want to keep on schedule. When I exercise, I want to know how far I go, how many calories do I burn, and what is my pace. Everything is calculated. I guess that is the math/science part of my brain at work. This is great for being productive and organized. However, it leads to great anxiety when the data is skimpy and I can’t work out an algorithm to model what comes next.

The problem comes when I forget that God is the lead engineer on this project. He doesn’t give me the big picture. I am just a subcontractor. He sets me up with one task. Before I expand this task or push on to another I need to check in with God to make sure I am following His blueprint. Sometimes I get carried away, thinking that I have the master plan all figured out, and just keep going my merry way. Of course that means I usually run into a solid wall where I think there should be a door and I realize I wasn’t following God’s instructions at all.

We are reminded of this in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

While they were worshiping the Lord and Fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.

The early Christians didn’t have the big picture. They weren’t making plans for a Church that would last 2000 years. They were seeking moment by moment the will of God. I am not advocating giving up planning for the future. I am saying that we cannot become slaves to our plans. We need to be open to tweaking them as God directs us.

Twenty-five years ago I was certain I was going to become an OB/GYN physician. I loved promoting women’s health. I felt I could relate to women patients on so many levels. It just seemed like the perfect fit. I could do so much good there. Then my husband’s Air Force assignment took him to a remote base with no OB/GYN residency programs in the area. There was a family practice residency in the nearby town. Did God want me to be an OB/GYN or was that my plan? After much consternation, frustration, and finally prayer, I realized my vocation was marriage. Practicing medicine was my career. I felt living apart for four years so I could study OB/GYN was too big a compromise for my vocation as a wife. I chose to live with my husband and study family medicine. And of course, it turned out to be the best thing I could have done. Training in family medicine offered so many more opportunities as we traveled around the country from Air Force assignment to Air Force assignment.

I look back and can cite countless other instances when my plans were stymied but God’s plan rolled along smoothly. The truth is my view of the future is only a guess. It is certainly colored by wishful and willful thinking. It is very tempting to use my prayers as a sort of progress report to inform God how things are going and what I plan to do next. Instead, I need to surrender my plans and just ask God, “What next?”

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Today is the second of our yearly feasts honoring St. Joseph. From Catholic Culture:

The feast of St. Joseph the Worker was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in order to Christianize the concept of labor and give to all workmen a model and a protector. By the daily labor in his shop, offered to God with patience and joy, St. Joseph provided for the necessities of his holy spouse and of the Incarnate Son of God, and thus became an example to all laborers. "Workman and all those laboring in conditions of poverty will have reasons to rejoice rather than grieve, since they have in common with the Holy Family daily preoccupations and cares (Leo XIII)."

Today is a good day to apply ourselves to our daily tasks with the virtue of diligence. Let our labors be a prayer and sacrifice to Our Lord. May we also say a special prayer for all those whose faithful, hard work make our own lives more comfortable.