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

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Words Matter

Rich Leonardi points us to a Vatican document released today that affirms there is only one acceptable form for the Rite of Baptism.

It is interesting that Rich should mention the Episcopalians. If one reads the information on the National Episcopal Church USA web site, one sees that in addition to a change in the wording of the Trinity, their understanding of the Trinity has also migrated:

One of the most difficult to explain, and often misunderstood concepts in the Christian faith is the belief in a trinitarian God, one God with three aspects. Often characterized as the 'Father,' Son,' and 'Holy Spirit,' the trinity represents God the Father/Creator, Jesus Christ the Son and Savior, and the Holy Spirit, or the creative, inspirational force at work in the world.

It is this 'three-in-one' characterization of God that some point to as contradictory to the doctrine of there being one and only one God, that somehow Christians pray to more than one god. Christian teachings and belief however are clear on this point: there is only one God, the Creator of the universe, who has three 'persons' or aspects, inseparable yet unique parts of the whole.

There are many metaphors for the Trinity, many ways of trying to conceptualize that which is almost beyond our grasp, but for Christians it is the way we interact with these three aspects that matter most. The Trinity provides structure to our prayers, our worship services, our lives.

As there is nothing new under the sun, this is really a restatement of the Monarchian heresy which holds that God has three “aspects” that are referred to as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The words matter. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Catholic Carnival 161 is up!

This week's Catholic Carnival has a wide variety of posts that are all worth reading. Many thanks to Fr. V. for hosting. As wonderful as all the posts are, this one from Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii is an absolute must-read. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No Latte after 5:30 pm today

Just in case you are in the habit of an early evening Starbucks latte or cappuccino, the entire complement of Starbucks stores will be closing today at 5:30 pm for three hours of employee training. For those of us who tend to be caffeine based life forms, it is good to know ahead of time if our usual source is unavailable. Though I truly do prefer my home brewed java to the Starbucks variety.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Lesson of Matthias

We draw from this a final lesson: while there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to each of us to counterbalance the evil done by them with our clear witness to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

--Pope Benedict XVI, discussing the selection of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot among The Twelve.

This is a very Catholic perspective of Salvation. We exist both as individuals as well as intrinsic parts of the Mystical Body of Christ. Jesus came to save each of us individually, but He also is the Redeemer of all mankind. His Passion, Death, and Resurrection are for our collective Salvation as well. When one member of the Mystical Body of Christ sins, the entire Body suffers. Therefore, we must work to atone for our own sins as well as the sins of others.

The prayers of the Divine Mercy Chaplet echo this concept:

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.

It is very easy to point our fingers at the “Catholic” politicians who support abortion and other facets of the culture of death. We can seethe with disgust for the priests who betray their vows with sexual sins. We can complain about the cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose which teachings of the Church they will accept. It is very easy to shake our fists at the bishops, priests and religious who fail to lead in concert with the Magisterium and shake our heads at the religious educators who water down the fullness of the Faith.

Yet, we are called to do much more. We must first get down on our knees and pray for God’s mercy. We are all sinners. There are those who are seriously damaging the Mystical Body of Christ with grave offenses. We must pray for forgiveness of our own sins as well as offer prayer and sacrifices in atonement for the grave sins of others. For every supporter of abortion we must offer our prayers. We must also offer our material support to crisis pregnancy centers, homes for unwed mothers, and other pro-life efforts. We must offer prayers and support for the victims of sexual abuse. We must offer compassionate yet faithful catechesis to all members of our parish. We must support efforts to make our liturgies reverent and prayerful. We must pray for our priests and bishops. Please remember to offer them kudos as often as you can. They are leading a counter-cultural Church and it is a daunting task.

The point is we are called to do so much more than highlight the negatives. We must make up for the failings of ourselves and others with positive action.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Apostolate for Family Consecration

The Apostolate for Family Consecration is beginning their 40-day program for family consecration:

During this home retreat both St. Louis de Montfort and Pope John Paul II will reveal to you that we are able to change ourselves, our families and even the world as long as we connect ourselves more completely to Our Lady. Through Mary, but also in union with St. Joseph , the virgin father, we will be joined to Christ in a much deeper way. We will become consecrated to Jesus, through Mary in union with St. Joseph , who lived this consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary most perfectly. This is the consecration that will change your life!

Please join us worldwide to make or renew this Consecration. Simply because this is the key to bring renewal to the Church and salvation to the world. Please do it for your family, for the Church and the World.

The first day was actually yesterday but it is definitely not too late to begin. Go to the Family Consecration web site and get started. My family participated in this last year. You can read about it here and here. You will be awed by the power of this family prayer.

Labradinger Update

We’ve had Athena, our now nearly 7-month-old Labradinger (Labrador/Springer Spaniel mix) puppy for about 3 ½ weeks. We were told by the animal shelter that she had been a gift to a couple who was expecting a baby. Once the baby arrived, an energetic puppy was just too much to handle. We were warned that she was not housebroken in any way shape or form. Actually, she has been a dream to train. Within 24 hours she would sit on command. She is now crate trained. Housebreaking is pretty much complete except for when she gets too busy playing with the kids. Just like a toddler, she would rather keep playing than take a potty break. She also has boundless energy. I have been walking at least five miles a day with her. This is great for my waistline and keeps my leather furniture from being a tempting outlet for her energy. However, today we are inside. It is sleeting outside. I am happy to walk her in the cold, in the rain, and even in the snow. I draw the line at sleet. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find the sleet uncomfortable at all. I guess it will be endless games of fetch today. My entire spoken vocabulary will probably sound something like “Sit! Stay! Good Girl! Down! No!” She does sit quietly while I pray the Rosary out loud. This may be a very prayerful day.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Conversion: Thoughts from Pope Benedict XVI

“To be converted” is not to seek after one’s own success, not to seek after one’s own prestige, one’s position. “To be converted” means to stop constructing a personal image, not to work at constructing a monument to oneself, which could often end up becoming a false god. “To be converted” means accepting the suffering of truth. Conversion demands that truth, faith, love become not in a general way, but day by day, in the little things, more important than our physical life or than comfort, success, prestige, and tranquility in our lives. In fact, success, prestige, tranquility and ease are those false gods which largely impede truth and true progress in private and in public life. By accepting this priority of truth we follow the Lord, we take up our cross and share in cultivating love, which is to Cultivate the Cross.

--Pope Benedict XVI, Journey to Easter

Pope Benedict XVI presents this passage as an examination of conscience. When have I cut corners in practicing my faith for the sake of my own success, prestige, tranquility, or ease? When have I stayed silent because speaking the truth might “ruffle some feathers”? When have I worked to be “discreet” about my faith for fear of offending?

Living, as we do, in a culture that worships “diversity and tolerance”, the assertion of an absolute truth is often viewed as bigoted or narrow-minded. The reality is the Truth of Christ is true freedom and truly inclusive. The Truth of Christ transcends politics, race, gender, and any other man-made divisions. How can we justify hiding this Truth for a moment of earthly ease when to do so jeopardizes an eternity of true love and peace?

Catholic Carnival 160

Take a look at the beautiful assortment of posts in this week's Catholic Carnival, hosted by Melissa at A Third Way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

American Life League Video Report

Take a look at the latest pro-life video report from the American Life League. It is very well done and gives hope for the future as the pro-life movement is energized by youth.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Eternal Happiness

You may know Fr. Dwight Longenecker from his blog Standing on My Head. He is a former Anglican priest who entered the Catholic Church thirteen years ago. The February 10 issue of the National Catholic Register has a terrific piece by Fr. Longenecker. He writes of his surprise to find two distinct “churches” within Holy Mother Church. The first the "church" focused on happiness in eternal life. The second is the group centered on earthly happiness.

If Christians put the pursuit of happiness in this life as the primary goal, everything changes. Suddenly the Church is not perceived as an army engaged in a spiritual battle, but a mutual self-help group in which people try to make each other happy.

Church buildings cease to be marvelous buildings transcendent with beauty that take us to the threshold of heaven, and they become functional meeting halls where the mutual self-help group meets once a week.

When the pursuit of earthly happiness becomes the driving force, religion becomes utilitarian. Whatever is useful for making one “happy” is what is good. Whatever is not immediately useful is discarded.

So, for example, what use is religious art or glorious church architecture? There is no immediate usefulness, so the images are pulled down, new art is not commissioned, and if it is, it must be crudely illustrative or didactic. In other words, it has to do something and be useful.

When religion becomes a function to produce happiness here and now, hymns become comforting, banal songs about us and our problems and how God will make us happy.

When the quest for holiness is replaced with the quest for happiness, the priest ceases to be an agent of God’s supernatural grace in the world and becomes a therapist, a social worker or simply an avuncular administrator of the mutual self-help group.

When religion is expected to merely produce happiness, then worship is stripped of mystery and it must become entertaining. When religion is expected to simply make people feel better instead of being better, no one preaches on the difficult or hard hitting subjects.

The pulpit becomes a platform for pious platitudes that make people feel nice, and the confessional ends up empty.

In the end, it is not only the confessional which is empty.

Do read the entire article. Lent is the perfect time to make sure our goal is centered on eternity and not just the here-and-now.

Rise and Do Not Be Afraid

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”

The account of the Transfiguration offers so many different points for reflection. What struck me as I listened to this reading this morning, was that Jesus provided reassurance to his Apostles when they trembled at the sound of the voice of God. Perhaps it was because we were seated behind two nuns wearing habits, but this scene brought to mind vocations. God calls each of us to a vocation. He calls us to different tasks throughout our lives. Sometimes, we hear his voice and just tremble. “You can’t really mean that, God. How can I possibly do that. I must have misunderstood. You must mean for me to do this instead.” Yet, Jesus is there to touch our shoulder and say, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” Certainly we find Jesus through prayer. However, we also find Him in the Eucharist. Through this Sacrament, Jesus continues to nourish and strengthen us so that we can confidently respond to God’s voice.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Catholic Carnival is a Font of Lenten Wisdom

Ebeth is hosting this week's Catholic Carnival. I am a bit late posting this but this is definitely a Carnival worth savoring.

Friday, February 15, 2008

American Catholics and Marriage

Seeing as how yesterday was Valentine’s Day, I had planned to post something happy and sentimental on love, marriage, children, etc. However, living the life of love, marriage, children, etc. kept me from the computer most of the day. And every time I did log on for a moment, this headline kept staring at me from my iGoogle page. The link takes you to a Catholic World News story about a survey of self-identified American Catholics and their views and experiences of marriage. It is not a particularly upbeat picture. The bottom line is Catholics as a whole, are just like the rest of the American population when it comes to ideas about love, marriage, and divorce: Marriage isn’t necessarily a lifelong commitment and divorce is an acceptable solution. However, there are some interesting nuggets to ponder.

First of all, the survey analysis finds four distinct response groups: Pre-Vatican II (born before 1942), Vatican II (born 1943 to 1967), Post-Vatican II (born 1968-1980), and the Millennial Generation (born 1981 or later). The Pre-Vatican II generation was most likely to be familiar with and agree with the Church’s teachings on marriage. Interestingly, the Millennial Generation is closer to the Pre-Vatican II generation responses than are the middle generation cohorts.

I think there are a couple of explanations for this. The Millennial Generation are the children of the Vatican II and Post-Vatican II generations. Remember the selection of respondents to this survey is based on those who are self-identified as Catholic. I think members of the Millennial Generation whose parents had drifted away from the Church are less likely to identify themselves as Catholic. Therefore, those of the Millennial Generation who still identify themselves as Catholic are more likely to be faithful Catholics.

Also, this generation came of age under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. He brought the Church into the information age and made the teachings of the Church more visible than any prior pontiff. We must credit him with bringing the Millennial Generation back into the folds of the Church.

Another interesting trend seen in this survey is that frequency of Mass attendance is a reliable predictor of survey response in many areas. Those who attend Mass every week are most likely to understand and agree with Church teachings on marriage, see marriage as a vocation, least likely to be divorced, and most likely to view marriage as a sacrament that extends beyond the wedding day. They also have more children than those who attend Mass only a few times a year or less. This is most likely a correlation and not a causal relationship. Though, I would also not minimize the powerful grace of the Eucharist in supporting Catholic marriages.

The USCCB commissioned this study to guide its programs for marriage preparation and support. I will be interested to see how they use these results. Any suggestions?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Humble Gifts are still Worthy Gifts

Today I found my “Lenten desert” in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. My daughter is getting a sports physical. Rather than being perturbed at the predictable delay I am enjoying this time for reflection that I would have struggled to fit into my day otherwise. Today’s Magnificat offered these words:

It is not for those who are good alone to help Christ; it is most of all for sinners, for the weak, the hesitating even the selfish, to force themselves to take up the cross; and in the cross of Christ, even those who seem to be lost find salvation and joy.

Every day, hidden under our sins, abject in his need, Christ says to the sinners who put out a hand or speak a word to help him: “This day you shall be with me in paradise!”

--Caryll Houselander (British mystic, poet, and spiritual teacher)

How many times have I hesitated to help because I didn’t think my contribution would be significant enough? How many times have I said, “I am not qualified enough to help. Leave this to someone who has more skill, someone who is richer, or someone who is holier.” How many times has pride kept me from helping because I was afraid my efforts would look foolish?

So rather than judging my charity by my prediction of its success, I pray today that I may freely offer whatever I am able to give to any who are in need. My humble efforts, however inadequate, are graciously accepted by Christ.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Reflecting on the Face of Christ

I would like to continue on the theme of encountering God by setting other things aside and finding the “desert” in which to focus on Him. During the Last Supper, the Apostle Philip makes a request of Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”(Jn 14:8) Jesus responds, “ How can you say ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?...Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me.” (Jn 14: 9-11) In his book The Apostles, Pope Benedict uses this exchange to remind us that to know the Face of God we must contemplate the Face of Jesus. He goes on to tell us how important this spiritual exercise is. If we do not study the true Face of Jesus, then we are inclined to envision Jesus as a reflection of ourselves. We make Him in our image rather than making ourselves over in His image.

The True Face of Jesus transcends politics, nationalities, or any other arbitrary divisions made by man. The Face of Jesus should unite all of us just as He united the diverse band of the Twelve Apostles. The success of the apostolic community stemmed from their willingness to set aside their own agendas and preconceived notions and take Jesus as the source of Truth.

I think this is an idea that I should mull over before the Blessed Sacrament. There in Eucharistic Adoration I can see the Face of Christ before me. With the gift of His grace, I can better see Him as He really is, and not how I wish or presume Him to be.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Grace of the Desert

In putting aside all preoccupations we encounter our Creator.

This Lent I am using Journey to Easter by Pope Benedict XVI as my spiritual reading. This is a collection of reflections he used when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and lead the 1983 Lenten retreat for Pope John Paul II. It is good for me to read these words. The last week has been a week of putting things aside. First the arrival of a six-month-old Labrador puppy has diverted my attention from a number of other things on my to-do list. Then the arrival of the flu to our household further took me away from a great many household tasks. We all seem to be on the mend now and our puppy has settled into a routine, but these recent detours from my agenda have served to show me that my agenda just isn’t that important. Several times in the last week I found myself having to just sit quietly as I supervised our puppy or as I nursed my own or someone else’s illness. I used that time to pray a Rosary and lift someone up in prayer during each of the decades. So often I find my prayers are said on the run. Forcing myself to sit quietly and spend time in prayerful reflection has been a blessing. Pope Benedict understands this. His introductory reflection focuses on Jesus’ retreat in the desert:

First, the desert is a place of silence, of solitude. It is the absence of the exchanges of daily life, its noise and its superficiality. The desert is the place of the absolute, the place of freedom, which set man before the ultimate demands. Not by chance is the desert the place where monotheism began. In that sense, it is a place of grace. In putting aside all preoccupations we encounter our Creator.

So perhaps what I have learned this past week is that my Lenten journey may be a little less scripted than I originally thought. Instead of making my Lenten activities a check-list of spiritual tasks, I think I will work harder to let myself enter the “desert” each day and find the grace of an encounter with Christ.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Candlemas Blessings!

Before the day is over, I must blog about the lovely Mass I attended this morning. Today, February 2nd, is more than Groundhog’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday Eve. Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas. Jesus, the Light of the World, was brought to the Temple. It is customary on this day to bless the liturgical candles that will be used in the coming year. Individuals may also have their devotional candles blessed on this day as well.

This morning’s Mass began in the vestibule of the church. The liturgical candles were neatly stacked. Mass attendees were invited to add their own devotional candles to the collection. We all gathered in the vestibule and each of us carried a small, lighted taper. Father blessed the candles and we processed into the church. The choir sang the Propers of the Mass and the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei were all chanted in Latin. There was plenty of incense.

I am not sure how many people came just for Candlemas and how many people at Mass were the regular Saturday morning Mass-goers. Lots of folks did bring candles to be blessed. Even though Candlemas will not fall on a Saturday next year, I do hope our parish continues to mark the Feast with such a joyful yet reverent Mass. It is an occasion for the whole parish, but I think it is especially important for the families. It helps them live the rhythm of the liturgical calendar and bring the Faith into their domestic churches.

Simplest Ever Cake Recipe

One of my husband's co-workers brought this to work. It is nothing fancy, but if you need a very basic cake, this is the ticket.

1 box cake mix (any flavor)
1 can diet soda (any flavor)

Mix together. DO NOT ADD EGGS, OIL, ETC. Just mix cake mix and diet soda. Pour into 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350-degrees as directed on cake mix package--probably around 30-35 minutes.

That's it! It is best to use colas with chocolate cake mix and lemon-lime type sodas with lighter cake mixes. I had a box of red-velvet cake mix that we mixed with Diet Coke. It was pretty good! This is a great idea for college students in a dorm who may have access to a common kitchen but don't want to buy eggs, oil, etc for the usual cake mix. Top it with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whip cream and it will look pretty special. Let me know if you try it!

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Valentine's Gift for your Favorite Military Wife

If you have taken a look at my bookshelf in the sidebar you may have noticed the book Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul. I have a couple of essays included in this book. The profits from the book sales go to the foundation. They sent this press release yesterday and I am happy to pass it along:

January 30, 2008. The #1 Valentines Day gift for Military Wives is a personalized, autographed copy of the book sure to touch her heart.

The well-received book, Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul, has often been suggested as the standard issue for military spouses. Autographed copies are available exclusively via the co-author’s MilitarySoul Foundation web site at: It is a 501c(3) non-profit and all proceeds go back to the military community. The book is also in military exchanges and bookstores around the world or order online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and numerous other sites

This book acknowledges, inspires and entertains the military wives who are serving as active duty members or supportive spouses. It celebrates the courageous women who raise families, maintain homes and uphold the most positive attitudes when facing the fears of losing a loved one. It shares the pride, emotion and triumphs achieved by past and present military wives everywhere.

The stories in Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul focus on the often-overlooked women that are a vital part our military team. In light of the on- going world situation it is more important then ever to recognize these heroines by compiling their stories for all to read.

An autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul will be a treasured Valentine’s Day gift.

Chicken Soup for the Soul® titles have sold more than 80 million copies, literally transforming the lives of readers from all walks of life.
(This post is also posted at GI June)