Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Monday, March 31, 2008

Prayers for Sister Mary Martha

Sister Mary Martha has charmed us for months with her incredible wit and her no holds barred faithful catechesis. Please offer your prayers now for the repose of her father's soul as well as the consolation of Sister Mary Martha and her mother.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O LORD, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Divine Mercy and The Apostles

We are continuing our study of The Apostles by Pope Benedict. This has been an interesting exercise. I expected to be fascinated by Peter and Paul. However, the one Apostle I cannot get out of my head is Matthias. I wrote about him a month ago when we first covered his chapter in the book. However, he is brought back to mind as we offer the Divine Mercy Novena this week. Just as Matthias was called to make atonement for the transgression of Judas, we are called to offer prayer and sacrifices for the sins of others. It is not enough to just atone for our own sins. We must seek to bring Christ’s Mercy to the souls of all sinners.

Perhaps this is the most significant lesson to be learned from the Apostles. They are so much more than a collection of individuals with individual conversion stories. They formed the Church. It is a unique communal body that cannot be separated into independent individuals. It is the Mystical Body of Christ. It is wounded by the vice of sinners and healed by the virtue of saints.

Now there is enough of the Prodigal Son’s older brother in me to feel a “That’s not fair!” welling up. It is very tempting to say folks have free will and if some want to ignore the Law of God and rot in Hell, then so be it. I think that is why the Divine Mercy devotion is so valuable. It takes us out of the self-righteous judgmental mode and puts us in the merciful mode. We have a Christian responsibility for the souls of our neighbors. So we pray for all sinners (ourselves included). We pray for those who have separated themselves from Christ’s Church. We pray for those who have become lukewarm in their faith.

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.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

An Evil Use of Tax Dollars

I finally filed my income tax return. Ugh! I guess I would feel better if I thought the government was putting my money to good use. But then I read an analysis like this one in the Washington Times:

Americans may be surprised to learn that Planned Parenthood has plenty of money, and taxpayers are contributing a large part of it. In 2005-06 it took in nearly $1 billion and boasted a surplus of $55 million. More than one-third of its income — $305 million — came from government subsidies. Its president receives an annual compensation of almost $1 million.

Do read the entire essay. It outlines the way Planned Parenthood ignores requirements to report suspected sexual abuse, targets minorities, and plays strongly partisan politics. As the authors state in their final paragraph:

One must wonder, then, whether taxpayers should continue to support an organization that is flush with money, has been willing to skirt or ignore laws intended to protect the people it claims to serve and may be targeting minorities with a practice many Americans believe immoral.

I can answer that question with a single word: NO!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Catholic Carnival 168 Broadcasting from North of the Border

A Canadian Catholic hosts this week's Catholic Carnival. Sean offers a varied selection of posts from bloggers and podcasters alike. Enjoy!

Pro-Life Message in the Sports Section

Even in March I am not much of a basketball fan. I do follow the March Madness brackets especially when schools to which I have some connection are advancing, but I don’t think I have watched five minutes of a basketball game in years. So it was not the outcome of a game that brought me to tears as I read this morning’s sports section in the Washington Post. Rather it was this story:

Max Bass looks up to Flowers because the Wisconsin guard represents everything that has defined the Gaithersburg child's life -- tribulation, perseverance, diligence, triumph. Michael wears No. 22, just like Max.

Flowers, though, says Max and his family have done more for his personal growth and maturity than he could ever dream of doing for them. When you discover you are the idol of a kindergartner who has battled leukemia since he was 2 1/2 , Flowers says, you grow up in a hurry.

Read the whole story and make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy.

Now as heartwarming as this story is just based on the facts, I think there is a much more profound message within this narrative. This is a story about the value and dignity of every human life. This is a story about redemptive suffering. Only God can trace all the ripples that spread from each human life story. If left to us mere mortals to judge, we might declare a life shortened by disease or scarred by suffering as a tragic mistake. Indeed, Great Britain is allowing parents to test their embryos for their potential to develop cancers as middle-aged adults. Is a life cut down by colon cancer at age fifty really not worth living?

This is not meant to trivialize sickness and suffering. We are not meant to seek out suffering. I do not wish hardships or illness or tragedy on anyone. However, we are also not supposed to fear our crosses. We are called to remember that Christ has already carried the heaviest Cross—the sins of all mankind. When we join our suffering to His Cross, we will join in the glory of His Resurrection.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

She Can't Afford the Right Shoes

Yesterday I found my way to the local strip mall beauty salon. Since it was the day after Easter Sunday and most folks did their primping last week I was the only customer. As my stylist set about giving me a trim I listened to the conversation around me. One stylist looked like she was in her early thirties. She talked about her two children one of whom is a teenager. It became obvious that she is unmarried but now seeing someone. She stated clearly that she was not about to have any more children. If her new beau wanted children he was going to have to look elsewhere. She had a boy and a girl. Why did she need any more children? Another beautician chimed in how it was better to have one “good” child than a house full of children for whom you could not provide everything. After all, children want a new pair of name brand shoes every week. You can’t do that when you have a lot of children.

I was very silent during this exchange. It was so sad to hear children spoken of as acquisitions rather than gifts from God. It was unbelievable that someone would reject the gift of life because they couldn’t afford the right brand of sneakers for more than one child. I really didn’t know what to say. I paid for my haircut and went on my way. But I have felt haunted by these sentiments ever since.

When did our culture turn parenting from a self-giving vocation to a parent-centered avocation? Having children is now about the benefits children provide for the parents. It completes their image. The thinking isn’t much different from a man who might seek a beautiful woman to look good on his arm. In the same way this man showers his eye candy with jewels so that she befits his stature, parents shower their children with material goods and enrichment programs so that they reflect well upon Mom and Dad. If they can’t give their children name brand clothing, a new car, private music lessons and an Ivy League education, why have children?

I believe this mentality developed forty years ago with the widespread use of contraception. Children are no longer a sign of God’s will for a marriage. Rather they are something we control based on our own will. The Church clearly states that couples are to be prudent with their fertility. There are valid reasons to avoid conception by abstaining from sexual activity during fertile segments of a woman’s reproductive cycle. However, the inability to provide the latest and greatest of worldly possessions does not strike me as one of those valid reasons. We are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. If you have not read it, I urge you to read it now. It is clear the prophetic nature of this document was not appreciated forty years ago. We must pray that it is appreciated now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Heart of the Liturgical Year

I will be focused on the Easter Triduum and away from the computer until Monday. I leave you with the words of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Easter Triduum, which the Church now prepares to celebrate, invites us to share in the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. These days are the heart of the liturgical year. On Holy Thursday the Church recalls the Last Supper. At the Chrism Mass, the Bishop and his priests renew their priestly promises and the sacramental oils are blessed. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates Jesus’ institution of the sacrament of his Body and Blood and his commandment that we should love one another. On Good Friday, we ponder the mystery of sin as we listen to the account of the Lord’s passion and venerate the wood of his Cross. Holy Saturday, a day of silence and prayer, prepares for the joy of the Easter Vigil, when the light of Christ dispels all darkness, and the saving power of his Paschal Mystery is communicated in the sacrament of Baptism. May our sharing in these solemn celebrations deepen our conversion to Christ, particularly through the sacrament of Reconciliation, and our communion, in the hope of the resurrection, with all our suffering brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Holy Week Catholic Carnival Aggie Style

As many of you know, my oldest is a senior at Texas A&M. Therefore, I am happy to usher you over to Mary's Aggies for the Holy Week Catholic Carnival. Say "Howdy!" then indulge in the many wonderful posts to help you appreciate Holy Week and more.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Eco-friendly palms?

Just curious. Did anyone's parish offer eco-friendly palms this Palm Sunday? Ours looked the same as they always have. Do we really have to evaluate the environmental impact of absolutely everything?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Look What I Found!

Who knew?!! The Diocese of Arlington has an online library of its Theology on Tap presentations. Looking through both the topics and the presenters, this looks like a treasure trove of solid catechesis. These presentations are geared for young adults but I think anyone high school age or older will enjoy them. I especially liked Dawn Eden’s January 21, 2008 presentation on chastity and Fr. Leo Patalinghug’s (of Grace Before Meals fame) May 21, 2007 presentation “X Marks the Spot” that teaches the significance and the power of the sign of the Cross. Take a look and pass along this super resource.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Enjoying the Visit--thanks for asking!

For those who are asking, this week’s visit with my son and his girlfriend is going great. Don’t expect any big announcements. They still have a lot of growing to do but they are obviously very fond of each other. Time will tell.

She is a lovely young woman who definitely has my son’s attention. She’s been a real trooper when it comes to her visit. The flight up here was her first time on an airplane and it was a bit bumpy landing in a Baltimore rainstorm. After a little over an hour drive home she was greeted by a very excited labradinger puppy. Soon afterwards she was greeted by a very smelly couple of folks—my husband and younger son returning from the Boy Scout mulch delivery project. Then the high winds took out our power for the next six hours. Through it all she smiled unfailingly. We went to 7:30 AM Mass in the morning since my younger son was an altar server. Upon our return she and my son volunteered to fix a pancake breakfast for the family. I know my son is smitten because he donned an apron and flipped pancakes. For my oldest to be cooking in the kitchen is an event worthy of recording in the Family Bible.

They have spent the week exploring the sights of Washington DC. I think she has enjoyed herself and we have certainly enjoyed meeting her and sharing my son with her. Thanks to all who have prayed for us. I will certainly say a prayer for your children as well. They are all growing so fast. This song currently playing on the country music stations resonates with me in a special way this week. It really does seem like it was only a blink of an eye ago that my oldest was a little guy in an oversized Atlanta Braves baseball hat planning on being a professional baseball player. I remember when I married a lieutenant. In a few short months I will be the mother of a lieutenant. This journey is going by way too fast!

A New License For Teens--And It Is Not For Driving!

The musings of Professor Dan Markel have not moved from his blog to the legislature—yet. However, the fact that there are intelligent folks who really think like this is enough to send you to your knees in prayer. I would not call Professor Markel a fringe lunatic. He is a respected law professor at Florida State University. Yet he is proposing that we develop a teen sex license analogous to the driver’s license.

I described the sex-ed license quite quickly: minors above a certain age (e.g., above 14, 15, or 16?) wishing to have consensual sexual relations with other minors above that age or with adults should have to take a sex-ed course whose completion gives them a license to have sexual relations and possession of the license would, in conjunction with other conditions, work as an affirmative defense against prosecutions for statutory rape. This sex-ed license would cover information about safe sex, the risks of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and genetic defects arising from consanguineous relations.

Fortunately, there are superior legal minds on our side of the issue. Fr. Robert Araujo, SJ offers an eloquent rebuttal of this absolutely mind-boggling suggestion:

I have read and reread Professor Markel’s interesting but flawed proposal. After many readings, I just wondered if he thought that young persons are the equal of a person of his years in every regard? If so, this is a flawed assumption. This flaw is exemplified in his subsequent remark that he is “not opposed to say, gay triplets having sex (or marrying) each other, provided certain conditions are satisfied.” I wonder what “conditions” he had in mind since he does not elaborate on what they are or might be? For the time being, I shall put aside the specifics about these triplets as to whether they are identical, fraternal of the same sex, or fraternal of both sexes.

It appears that a primary motivation for his sex-education licensing proposal is to “provide a safe harbor from prosecution for relations with minors.” Well, I am sure that would be a relief to many, including members of our Church, who have been accused and convicted of child molestation. When all is said and done, does the conferral of a license by the State mean that a person of tender years is truly capable of doing something with dramatic and often drastic consequences that result from sexual relations? I realize that Professor Markel puts some limitation on his proposal, but he nevertheless suggests that we might start with children as young as 14 years old who are to receive sex education licenses. Children of this age, and older, may consent to mowing the lawn at one moment but may well rebel at the thought in the next. So what does this say about their ability to consent to sexual relations—be they with other “minors” or with adults, as Professor Markel opines?

Of course, I think the clincher is Fr. Araujo’s last paragraph:

Finally, let me offer a thought on his critique of parental notification or vetoes. His position is that there should not be any requirement for parental consent in a sex education licensing scheme as he has presented it. But with the implementation of his proposal, he drives one more stake into the heart of the basic unit of society—the family. When we remove children from the supervision and control of parents that is properly theirs, where will young people turn when they finally realize they have encountered problems to which they have no answers or solutions? That they may carry a sex education license in their wallet affords little comfort and no protection.

My thoughts are we opened the door for this proposal when we allowed public institutions like schools to become the primary purveyors of sex education. This education belongs in the home. I am not sure how we close the door. I think it begins with parents being ever vigilant about ceding parental control to the state, school, or even the local parish. God gave these children to you. They are your responsibility. Delegate duties as you see fit to the state, school, and parish. But never abdicate your parental role.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Family Meals in Your Domestic Church

Three decades ago when I headed off to college, dinner was still served family style at Rice University. At six o’clock, all university activities stopped. Rice operates on a college system (think Hogwarts) so each college had its own routine for serving the evening meal, but the general procedure was to sit eight to a table, pass around serving dishes of mystery meat and overcooked vegetables, and enjoy lively conversation. The food was lousy. The fellowship was priceless.

My son is now at Rice and the college system still thrives there. However, family style meals have given way to the food court style servery. There are lots of choices and the food is definitely tastier than when I was a student.There is no set dining time. Unfortunately, such a dining style is not a new experience for most of the students. They did not grow up in homes where you turn off the television and the computer, close the books, and gather at the table for a meal. Catching a meal on the run is the only way they know to eat. Perhaps this makes sense in the college setting. It makes no sense for families.

Study after study illustrate the benefits of family meals. There are fewer behavior problems, higher SAT scores, and better eating habits in children who have family meals at least three times per week. In many households, this can seem daunting. I promise you the benefits are worth the effort. Dinners do not have to be fancy. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup are a favorite around here.

You will have to look at your family and see what is flexible and what is not. During the early years of our family, both my husband and I worked full time as Air Force officers. We had three children under the age of four. There is no way I could have a set dinnertime. Meals consisted of a lot of convenience foods that could be served pretty quickly once we were all home. An early dinner was at 6 pm. It was not unusual for us to eat at 8pm or later. Our kids didn’t seem to mind since eating together was just what we did. I don’t think they ever realized there was an alternative. This flexible style continues to work well. I've cut back on my employment, but now the kids have activities. We structure our meals around soccer practices, Scouts, music lessons, etc. as much as possible. I do not get everyone’s knees under my dinner table at every meal, but even through the teenage years, I have gotten most knees there for most meals. Since I am home most of the time, I am cooking more and using less convenience foods. I love my crockpot! Cooking in big batches and freezing half also keeps me ready for harried schedules.

So you manage to get the family together around the table—then what? First you pray. The very basic act of saying grace before meals puts God in the center of your family. Use the meal time to teach good manners, but don’t make dinnertime conversation a steady stream of corrections. Work on behavior a little at a time. Waiting patiently as food is passed is the beginning of self-discipline and self-control. Teach by example and always say “please” and “thank-you”. Don’t forget to thank the cook. My husband has always been very good about telling me “thank you” for preparing the meals. The children have learned by his example. Now when they eat at someone else’s home they are always good about thanking the host or hostess for the meal. During mealtime conversations is also when children learn to listen. Once again, you must teach by example. My boys always wanted to describe their playground athletic exploits in excruciating detail. Listening patiently as they painted a verbal picture of their heroics keeps them talking at the dinner table. As they get older, the topics become far more interesting and relevant. What starts off as prattle about the most amazing touchdown pass may very well end up as an insightful conversation about teenage angst. Mealtime is the time for family members to share their priorities, schedules, plans, wants, and needs. We share the faith with discussions of what’s coming up on the liturgical calendar. We talk about what is doable and what is not. The children learn to share and compromise. Good manners learned in the family community will make them much better citizens in our larger communities. Without this training, children grow into adults who always expect to get what they want when they want it. As Bishop Loverde states in his essay on manners:

Manners inform and guide the way in which we encounter each other. Manners allow us to die to ourselves and place the needs of another before our own.

So once again I encourage you to peruse the web site of Grace Before Meals. Support this movement to re-establish the institution of family meals. We will strengthen our communities one Domestic Church at a time. Around the dinner table is a good place to start.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mind Your Manners

Bishop Loverde’s column in this week’s Arlington Herald really struck a chord with me. The column’s title is Courtesy and Civility: A Path to Communion. From there Bishop Loverde muses on how all of our technological advances have taken the time for silence out of our lives. Cell phones, computers, and televisions that are supposed to keep us so connected, too often actually make us more disconnected. We ignore the person standing in front of us to respond to a ringing cell phone. We read on the internet about events in Africa yet ignore the events within our own family. Ponder these words from Bishop Loverde:

Lent can remind us to, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). What a gift we have in Christ’s Eucharistic presence! We experience a profound and fruitful stillness at every celebration of the Mass. In our struggles with stillness, Our Lord comes to us. In a world which causes our lives to be fragmented, Christ is always the source of communion, orienting us in proper relation to each other and to God. With every reception of the Holy Communion, we reenter into the truth of who we are as a people—made to be in relation to one another and ultimately to God. But what guards this communion, this being from and for God and one another in the liturgy?

Manners inform and guide the way in which we encounter each other. Manners allow us to die to ourselves and place the needs of another before our own. There are certain manners we are taught from childhood at the family dinner table. Likewise, our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist requires “manners” which are a sign of the splendor and dignity of the great Sacrament we receive.

The General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) presents us with certain “liturgical etiquette” proper to our reverence of the Blessed Sacrament. The Mass is to be celebrated according to certain norms. These norms allow our veneration for His True Presence to be rightly ordered—they place us within a structure where we are most free to offer authentic worship. In a way, the order of the Mass teaches “good manners,” enabling us to welcome and participate in the Paschal Mystery.

It is a blessing to have such a faithful bishop! However, reflecting on Bishop Loverde’s words also point to another topic. Notice he said, “There are certain manners we are taught from childhood at the family dinner table.” This assumes that the family dinner table is a common experience. Sadly, this seems to be less and less the case. I have much more to say on the topic of family meals so look for that in the next post. In the meantime, take a look at the website, Grace Before Meals for recipes and conversation about family meals.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A bit distracted

I know I haven't posted much in the last few days. I guess I am a bit distracted. In fact I am almost giddy! My Texas A&M senior will be home for spring break on Saturday. I am not sure when he will be home again. He gets commissioned as an Army Second Lieutenant in early May and heads directly to his first assignment. However, what has me feeling bubbly is that he is not coming home alone. He is bringing home his sweetheart! (Is my little guy who was so brave when Daddy went off to war really old enough for this? For that matter, am I old enough for this?) I've never met her. I guess that is part of the downside of sending your child 1500 miles away to college. I just want to make this introduction as warm, welcoming and relaxed as I can. Do keep us in your prayers. Blessed Mother, St. Monica, St. Ann, and all other mother saints, please pray for us!