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 Jägerstätter

Thursday, November 27, 2008

technical difficulties

I am typing this using the hunt and peck method with my left hand. I took a tumble last night when I hit a frosty patch of grass. I suffered a very nasty break to my right forearm. I will find out Tuesday if the manipulation of the bone pieces is stable or if surgery will be needed to keep everything lined up. Needless to say, blog posts will be brief for a while.

Good news is that all the preparation for Thanksgiving I did yesterday will make it easy for my husband and kids to get dinner on the table with a little (okay, maybe a lot) of supervision by me. Nothing can spoil my joy at having the entire brood back in the nest. God is truly good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings to All!

So far today I have baked one pumpkin pie and one pecan pie. I have boiled and mashed the sweet potatoes for tomorrow. I have baked one batch of cornbread for dressing. The turkey neck and giblets have been simmering with onions, celery and seasonings all day so that I have plenty of broth for dressing and gravy. A few last minute cleaning details to go. I will set the table for tonight.

Then I will go to the airport to pick up my daughter, second son, and oldest son's fiancee from one flight and my oldest son from another flight. We will have everyone home by midnight if all is on schedule.

Tomorrow it will be up for Mass (A Mommy Day of Obligation!) then the feast begins around 1pm. I really don't know when I will get back to the computer to blog. Therefore:

May your Thanksgiving Day be filled with blessings. You will be in my prayers. I will certainly be saying a prayer of thanksgiving for the readers of my blog. May God keep you and bless you always.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Catholic Carnival 200

Sarah takes us on a very sheepish adventure in this week's Catholic Carnival. In addition to some great posts by Catholic bloggers, there is a great pictorial essay about shearing the sheep on her farm. You will be fascinated by both!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Feast of Christ the King

On Monday I will speaking to seventh grade CCD students and their parents about living the liturgical calendar. As I wrote here, learning to live the rhythms of the liturgical calendar are an excellent way to work catechesis into your family life.

Tomorrow is the last Sunday of our liturgical year. It is the Feast of Christ the King. I was surprised to learn that this is a rather new addition to the Church year. Pope Pius XI proclaimed its celebration in 1925. From the Catholic Culture web site:

The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of man's thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ's royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.

Today's Mass establishes the titles for Christ's royalty over men: 1) Christ is God, the Creator of the universe and hence wields a supreme power over all things; "All things were created by Him"; 2) Christ is our Redeemer, He purchased us by His precious Blood, and made us His property and possession; 3) Christ is Head of the Church, "holding in all things the primacy"; 4) God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion.

Today's Mass also describes the qualities of Christ's kingdom. This kingdom is: 1) supreme, extending not only to all people but also to their princes and kings; 2) universal, extending to all nations and to all places; 3) eternal, for "The Lord shall sit a King forever"; 4) spiritual, Christ's "kingdom is not of this world". — Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Gandas

I find it fascinating that in 1925 Pope Pius XI was concerned about a culture that was leaving out God. In some ways it is reassuring to know that we are not the first age to face the scourge of secularism. After all, Adam and Eve were tempted precisely because they thought they could be like God and no longer be dependent on Him. So perhaps such tendencies are just part of our fallen human nature. On the other hand, it is a little bit discouraging to see that in the last century, with all its atrocities wrought by those rejecting God, there is still a strong push to remove God from everyday life.

As we celebrate this Feast of Christ the King, read the 1947 annual statement from the United States bishops.

No man can disregard God — and play a man's part in God's world. Unfortunately, however, there are many men—and their number is daily increasing—who in practice live their lives without recognizing that this is God's world. For the most part they do not deny God. On formal occasions they may even mention His name. Not all of them would subscribe to the statement that all moral values derive from merely human conventions. But they fail to bring an awareness of their responsibility to God into their thought and action as individuals and members of society.

This, in essence, is what we mean by secularism. It is a view of life that limits itself not to the material in exclusion of the spiritual, but to the human here and now in exclusion of man's relation to God here and hereafter. Secularism, or the practical exclusion of God from human thinking and living, is at the root of the world's travail today. It was the fertile soil in which such social monstrosities as Fascism, Nazism, and Communism could germinate and grow. It is doing more than anything else to blight our heritage of Christian culture, which integrates the various aspects of human life and renders to God the things that are God's. Through the centuries, Christian culture has struggled with man's inborn inclination to evil. The ideals of Christianity have never been fully realized—just as the ideals of our Declaration of Independence and of our Constitution have never been fully realized in American political life. But for that reason these ideals can neither be ignored nor discarded. Without doubt, Christians have often failed to meet their responsibilities and by their transgressions have permitted ugly growths to mar the institutions of their culture. But wherever, despite their lapses, they have held steadfastly to their Christian ideals, the way to effective reform and progress has been kept open. The remedy for the shortcomings and sins of Christian peoples is surely not to substitute secularism for godliness, human vagaries for divine truth, man-made expedients for a God-given standard of right and wrong. This is God's world and if we are to play a man's part in it, we must first get down on our knees and with humble hearts acknowledge God's place in His world. This, secularism does not do.

Do read the whole statement. Tell me if by the time you finish it your jaw isn't on the floor as you say, "the bishops were saying this in 1947?!" This is twenty years before Humane Vitae. And once you are finished, perhaps you would be inclined to offer an Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

By the way, the material I linked in today’s blog is found at the web site. You will find the best liturgical calendar at that web site. Every single day includes a link to information about the liturgical feasts and suggested prayers and activities. If you find yourself using this site on even an occasional basis, consider offering a little donation to keep it going. There is a tremendous need for faithful, easy to use web sites to get out the Good News of the Faith.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Links Aplenty!

Some days the blogosphere echos with a common theme. Consider these links:

Start off with Karen Hall's explanation of why we should worry about the creeping socialism offered by Obama.

Then take a look at Fr. Z's stirring video and commentary.

Finally, pay heed to Fr. Neuhaus at First Things.

Then when you are done with all that, get to your knees in prayer, put on the armor of God,and follow St. Michael into battle.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Praying for and supporting those who pray for us

Today, November 21, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary. As Pope Benedict mentioned in his Wednesday address, this is a day to remember in prayer our cloistered religious communities.

After leading the Angelus, the Pope called the attention of his audience to the approaching feast of the Presentation, celebrated on November 21. He reminded the faithful that the feast day is traditionally marked for special prayers for cloistered religious communities. The faithful should recognize the constant support provided by the prayerful witness of these religious, he said. "Let us in our turn pray for them and for new vocations, and undertake to support the material needs of monasteries," the Pope said.

May I make another suggestion? In addition to praying for them, consider supporting the many cottage industries that support their communities. Taking a cue from the Anchoress, I would like to make some suggestions:

The Holy Transfiguration Skete is a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine rite which is in union with the Pope in Rome. It is located in the far reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The monks support their community with the Jam Pot. I spent four years living in the Upper Peninsula and developed a taste for thimbleberry jam. The good monks have thimbleberry jam and more!

The Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel offer high quality gourmet mustard. Devoutly Dill and Hallelujah Jalepeno are on my shopping list.

The Dominican Nuns of Summit New Jersey support their life of prayer with a variety of handcrafted soaps, lip balm and hand cream. I absolutely love the lavender hand cream!

The Trappistine Nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey feed our souls with prayer and feed our senses with delicious creamy caramels. Just in case any of my CCD students are reading this, your teacher really likes chocolate caramels!

As I type this post I am sipping Mystic Monks coffee. My favorite is the Mystic Monks Blend but my next order should include a bag of the Hermits’ Bold Blend that has been highly recommended. You may have read about these industrious monks in Wyoming. They have been featured in the National Catholic Register as well as my home diocesan paper, the Arlington Herald.

The following religious orders are not selling anything, but they are truly faithful to the Magisterium. Consider adding them to your Christmas list and offering a donation.

Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
the Nashville Dominicans
Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker
Sisters of Life
Appostles of the Interior Life

"Obedience Delayed is Disobedience"

As many of you know, I absolutely love the game of soccer. I knew nothing about the game until my oldest started playing nearly twenty years ago. Now I am a committed fan. That is why this intersection of two of my passions--the Catholic Church and soccer—sets my heart aflutter. Read the whole article. (registration is required, but worth it!). Think about this article being the headline story on the front page of the sports section of the Washington Post. There is not a single derogatory or snide comment about the Church. It is an extremely well written piece that really captures the essence of being called to the priesthood. The writer lets Chase Hilgenbrinck tell the story of how his call to the priesthood was stronger than his call to be a professional soccer player.

With more free time on his hands than he knew what to do with, Hilgenbrinck set a goal of reading the entire Bible. He read books on Catholicism, particularly those by Scott Hahn and Karl Keating that his parents gave him. He also prayed regularly.

"It started out a lot with me doing all the talking and me trying to say everything that I needed to get out," he said. "But it was in the silent times of prayer, whenever I shut up, it was like, 'Okay, now feel this.' . . . This idea of the priesthood kept permeating my heart. It was just there all the time."

The way he describes it, Hilgenbrinck's call to the priesthood came gradually. It is not like he woke up one day and God told him to become a priest.

"No miracles happened here," he said. "It was just I felt that way, and it progressively got stronger every single day for two years."

At first he resisted. He did not want to be a priest. All he could think of were the negatives. To begin with, he'd have to give up soccer. But that wasn't even the biggest obstacle for him.

"I can't be married," he said. "I can't have kids, and that was scary because I'd always envisioned myself as a married man."

Besides, he loved playing soccer. He was doing well with his team in Chile, Nublense. He figured he could just wait until his career was over before he had to make a decision. Then he read Hahn's book, "Rome Sweet Home" and came across the line, "delayed obedience is disobedience."

This article is going to be on the kitchen table when my youngest gets home from school. Not every young man is called to the priesthood. However, every young man and woman is called by God to a vocation. Chase Hilgenbrinck offers the perfect example of being open to that call. He prayed. He listened. He responded.

May God bless Chase on his journey to the priesthood. Oh, and perhaps he will find time to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. The North American Martyrs soccer team could use his talents in the next Clericus Cup.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Serenity and Fortitude of Angels

Today we mark the memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was born in Italy in 1850 but eventually traveled to the United States as a missionary. She became a citizen of the United States and was the first United States citizen to be canonized. Today’s Magnificat offers a poignant reflection from St. Frances Xavier Cabrini:

What shall we not do for the love of such a loving God, so generous that he has called us to follow him so closely and to continue the mission of Jesus on earth? Let us correspond to so great a love. Let us be generous, and remember that the salvation of the world is entrusted to our charity. We can do nothing because we are poor and weak, but let us have a lively faith and trust in him who strengthens us. Let us expand our hearts to help so many souls lying under the yoke of the king of darkness. With the fire of our love, let us break the heavy chains keeping them bound in the terrible service of the devil.

When we see our efforts are unsuccessful, let us throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus. Groaning over the world’s iniquity, let us beg his divine heart to lay bare his infinite treasures of mercy. Then let us return again to our work, without giving in to exhaustion. Hardships must never discourage the spouse of Christ; rather, they should make her stronger and more determined. Do not be dismayed by rejection and mockery. Go forward always, with the serenity and fortitude of angels, because you are the angels of the earth and so must continue on your way in the midst of so many contrary influences. Everyone can be serene when things run smoothly; it is in difficult situations that fidelity and constancy are proven.

These are trying times. I feel like the little toehold of holiness we had in our culture has been swept away by the latest election. There is no doubt that there will be an increase in the cultural hostility towards faithful Christians. The economic uncertainty can leave one feeling more than a little bit anxious.

Pope Benedict, in yesterday’s Wednesday audience, illustrated how faith and a focus on Heaven steadies us in tumultuous world of today.

Our life in this world, marked by trials and tribulations, must be inspired by the hope of heaven and the expectation of our resurrection to glory. Paul’s rich eschatology, linking the “already” of Christ’s resurrection to the “not yet” of our life in this world, is reflected in his statement that “in hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24). This same joyful expectation of the Lord’s return and the fulfilment of the Father’s saving plan is seen in the ancient Christian prayer with which he concludes his first Letter to the Corinthians: Maranà, thà! Come, Lord Jesus!

Therefore, let us be mindful of the words of both St. Frances Cabrini Xavier and our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and “go forward with the serenity and fortitude of angels.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Veteran's Day Encore Presentation--Mother of a Soldier

I published the following last November. It seems fitting to publish it again. The picture is my oldest son whose engagement I celebrated in my last post. He will be deploying to Afghanistan in just a few months. Please keep him and all our military in your prayers. Consider adding this Rosary to your devotions.

Using the sorrowful mysteries:
Agony in the garden: for deployed soldiers and their safety
Scourging at the pillar: for wounded soldiers and for their healing
Crowning with thorns: for deceased soldiers and repose of their souls
Carrying of the cross: for families of deployed, wounded and deceased soldiers, and for strength and comfort.
Crucifixion: for our nation, for the victims of war and for peace in the world.
And now for an encore presentation of Mother of a Soldier:

Yesterday evening I received this picture from my son. He is a senior at Texas A&M and in the
Corps of Cadets. If all goes as planned he will be commissioned as an officer in the United States Army. Just last week he received his branch assignment, Combat Engineers. He is thrilled.

As I think about this, it is only fitting that I received this picture on Veteran’s Day. November 11 was initially the day we commemorated the end of World War I—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. However, contrary to the hopes of the time, World War I was not the war to end all wars. In the decades that followed, thousands of men and women have stepped up to serve in the United States military. November 11 is now a day to honor all of them.

Back in July I wrote this post about the growing gap between those who serve in the military and those who do not. I sent this post to Rochelle Reed, editor of the San Luis Obispo Tribune, who wrote of her disappointment when her son chose to join the Army. She responded with a cordial note that asked in all sincerity how I could reconcile my life of faith with service in the military. I sent her this response:

Every time a human being is killed it represents tragic human failure. The United States military does not seek out opportunities to kill. Rather, the military is a defensive body. The members of the military swear an oath to uphold and defend the ideals and principles of the American Constitution even to the point of giving their own lives. No one detests the horrors of war and seeks peace more than soldiers.

It is interesting that you should ask how a soldier can reconcile military service with the Commandment not to kill. I just spent last evening with Fr. Michael Duesterhaus. He is a Catholic priest and a Marine Chaplain. He has already done two tours in Iraq and will leave for a third tour in June. His work has taken him to the outermost reaches of Iraq. He fully supports and affirms the military mission in Iraq. He sees great value in the work done by our military there. He sees no contradiction in military service and the service of God.

I believe the reason for this is that the mission of the military in Iraq is to defend the freedom and dignity of every Iraqi citizen as this nation establishes itself as a democracy. When enemies of this mission try to undermine it with deadly violence, a military response with deadly force may be required. As I said above, every time a human being is killed it represents a tragic human failure. However, it is not always the failure of our military. If a policeman kills a criminal who is threatening to murder his hostages, it is not necessarily the failure of the policeman. I feel the same way about the use of military force. It should never be used wantonly. Every effort must be made to settle disputes via peaceful means. The use of military force represents a diplomatic failure.

The military does not decide when diplomacy has succeeded or failed. That is the job of statesmen. Notice I said statesmen, not politicians. Politicians have partisan agendas to increase their own power. Statesmen have no agenda other than to seek the greater good for their nation. I do believe we have far too many politicians in both political parties and not enough statesmen. When the military is told the nation needs the force the military can bring to bear, the soldier responds bravely. There is no joy in killing. There is no place for vengeance. The military should never be used to settle a score.

Has every decision to use military force been correct? No. Has every military member behaved with the integrity and honor expected of a soldier? No. Just as there are teachers, clergy, journalists, and politicians who betray the ideals of their profession, there are soldiers who do not live up to legacy of honor of the United States military.

I do hope you are proud of your son. It reflects very well on the job you have done as a parent that he will so generously serve a cause much greater than himself. I am sorry others have not communicated this to you. I hope that both you and your son are able to see that members of the military are not blood-thirsty war mongers. Rather they are honorable men and women seeking to do what is right for our country so that our democratic principles are preserved for future generations.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

He Popped The Question!!!!

I am one bubbly mom today. My oldest son asked his girlfriend to marry him and she said yes!!!!! I am so excited. If it is possible, I am just as happy as my son. You may remember he brought her home to visit this past spring.

I knew it was coming since I have been doing all the legwork to get the ring. The Army doesn't give you a lot of time off for this sort of thing. It has been so much fun to help out like this. But I have had to keep it a secret since he wanted to surprise her. I have been about to burst with the news. It will probably be a fairly long engagement since she has to finish school and my son will most likely be deploying to Afghanistan in early 2009. The wait will make the wedding all the more sweet.

And take a look at this ring. It is a princess cut diamond set in white gold. Beneath the diamond is a sapphire. The picture doesn't do it justice. In person it will take your breath away.

UPDATE: For those with Texas A&M connections, he took her on a walk after Mass at St. Mary's and proposed under the Century Tree.

UPDATE 2: I now have pictures

More Thoughts and a Question About the Collection Basket

In light of my post on an alternative way of giving, you might be interested in these words from Fr. Neuhaus:

The Campaign for Human Development (CHD) is an annual collection in parishes, usually on one of the last two Sundays in November. It used to be called the Catholic Campaign for Human Development but the Catholic was dropped, which is just as well since it has nothing to do with Catholicism, except that Catholics are asked to pay for it. Some bishops no longer allow the CHD collection in their dioceses, and more should not allow it. In fact, CHD, misbegotten in concept and corrupt in practice, should, at long last, be terminated.

Ten years ago, CHD was exposed as using the Catholic Church as a milk cow to fund organizations that frequently were actively working against the Church’s mission, especially in their support of pro-abortion activities and politicians. Now it turns out that CHD has long been a major funder of ACORN, a national community agitation organization in support of leftist causes, including the abortion license. ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is under criminal investigation in several states. In the last decade CHD gave ACORN well over seven million dollars, including more than a million in the past year. It is acknowledged that ACORN, with which Sen. Obama had a close connection over the years, was a major player in his presidential campaign. The bishops say they are investigating the connection between CHD and ACORN. They say they are worried that it might jeopardize the Church’s tax-exemption. No mention is made of abusing the trust of the Catholic faithful.

What most Catholics don’t know, and what would likely astonish them, is that CHD very explicitly does not fund Catholic institutions and apostolates that work with the poor. Part of the thinking when it was established in the ideological climate of the 1960s is that Catholic concern for the poor would not be perceived as credible if CHD funded Catholic organizations. Yes, that’s bizarre, but the history of CHD is bizarre. The bishops could really help poor people by promptly shutting down CHD and giving any remaining funds to, for instance, Catholic inner-city schools. In any event, if there is a collection at your parish this month, I suggest that you can return the envelope empty—and perhaps with a note of explanation—without the slightest moral hesitation.

This reminds me of another topic I’ve been meaning to broach with my readers. What do you think of the automatic payment plans for parish giving? I have just signed up with our parish to have our monthly giving deducted directly from our bank account. I can designate to which special collections I want to contribute. (CHD did not get checked.) This is definitely a more convenient method for giving. Also, when I visit another parish on Sunday, my home parish does not have to wait until the next week to get my doubled up contribution. However, after all these years of plopping an envelope in the collection basket, I feel very awkward just passing the basket on without contributing. It seems silly to put in an empty envelope, though I know some pastors recommend this so they can “take attendance”. (Our pastor has made no such suggestion.) What do you think?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Marriage is not the same thing as hiring a general contractor!

The main point of this article is to illustrate the disappointment of gay couples over the rejection of gay marriage in so many states, most notably California. It also tries to paint gay couples as just like their heterosexual counterparts. Most of the article is very forgettable. However, this quote sums up the problem with our culture’s modern view of “marriage”.

"We're out shopping for our renovated kitchen," says Jeff Van Luyn, with his partner, Jim Stanko. They're not being segregated. They're not being denied entrance to public places. "So how much can we complain?" They buy a juicer, a cutting board, some hand towels.

Van Luyn thinks that the problem is the religious undertones that have become associated with marriage. "When it's just a contract. Like the contract we had with the guy who remodeled our apartment."

I hate to break it to these guys but religious undertones didn’t just recently get associated with marriage. From the beginning, marriage has had religious significance. It is only recently that our culture has tried to remove religion from marriage and make it “just a contract”. What happens if you don’t like the work of the guy who remodeled your apartment? You hire someone else. This is not how marriage is supposed to work. Marriage isn’t a contingency agreement. You promise to love each other in good times and bad, sickness and health, for richer or poorer, until death do you part. It is supposed to last a lifetime. It is a vocation through which you serve God. Feel free to make a legal contract with whomever you please. But your legal contract is not marriage.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Praying for the Dead

Sometimes people think the “social justice” movement within the Church is a new thing. Actually, it dates all the way back to Christ:

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

(Mt 25: 35-46)

The Church codifies this in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

* Feed the hungry
* Give drink to the thirsty
* Clothe the naked
* Shelter the homeless
* Visit the sick
* Visit the imprisoned
* Bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

* Admonish the sinner
* Instruct the ignorant
* Counsel the doubtful
* Comfort the sorrowful
* Bear wrongs patiently
* Forgive all injuries
* Pray for the living and the dead

It is important to remember there are both Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and one group is not more important than the other. We are called to do both. This morning I attended the funeral Mass of an elderly priest. I didn’t know him. He was not from our diocese but had retired to this area many years ago. He had been ill for many years. He really didn’t have many friends or family in the area. Father mentioned this a couple of days ago and encouraged anyone who was able to come to the funeral Mass. Praying for the dead is one of the spiritual works of mercy.

I was very impressed to see so many of the home-schooling families at the funeral Mass. There were at least eight altar boys for the Mass in addition to all the children in the pews. It is a cause for great hope to see so many families living the Church teachings in their daily lives. It is from such families that future vocations are nurtured.

It is especially appropriate to remember to pray for the dead during the month of November. This is month is dedicated to praying for the souls in purgatory. On All Souls Day our priest shared the following prayer from St. Gertrude:

"Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."

In addition to offering a prayer for the souls in Purgatory, please also offer a prayer for the soul of Fr. Louis Gagnard.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Loving Lost Sheep

Dale Price writes what I want to feel, but just don’t.

This is not a call for quietism, as the Church states in the Catechism (2234-2243). Section 2242 sets out in black and white the limits of what any state can command from its Catholic citizenry. However, the Magisterium is equally clear that we have to listen to what Wordsworth memorably called the "Stern Daughter of the Voice of God" -- duty:

It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one's country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community (2239).

Please note that the emphasis here is in the original. As you can see, corrosive partisanship is not on the list of duties. As Catholics, we are held to a higher standard, and we need to meet it. Given how polluted the public square is these days, we have no choice.

Finally, if Scripture and Tradition are leaving you particularly unmoved today, let me offer pragmatism: Shrill, bitter, and paranoid is no way to go through life, son. Nor are they a blueprint for a reversal of electoral fortune. Obama did not campaign on a mantra of bitter, vindictive gloom, and there is a simple reason for it: Nobody wants to be in the same room with a guy who spews this kind of talk, let alone vote for him.

Obama is our next president, like it or not. Our marching orders are clear: Pray for him and our country, work with him where possible to achieve the common good, and fight like a Maccabee when he oversteps his bounds -- all the while remembering that November 2010 and 2012 will be here quicker than we think.

In my heart, I know that I should not be bitter or resentful. Yet I don’t even want to open the newspaper or turn on the television because the sight of Barack Obama turns my stomach. His agenda is unspeakably evil and the country I love elected him as our next president. I feel hurt and betrayed. There were not a lot of campaign yard signs in my neighborhood but there was a sprinkling of signs for both McCain and Obama. I haven’t yet spoken with neighbors I know supported Obama. I really do not want to. It feels like a chasm between us. You know I can civilly argue and discuss foreign policy, economic policy, or health care and agree to disagree. On the other hand, my response to the support as a common good the slaughter of unborn children is both visceral and primal. The human person exists at the moment of conception and is entitled to intrinsic dignity and respect from that moment to the moment of natural death. I can’t compromise on this. It is the truth. Period.

If it were up to me and my fallen nature, reconciliation with Obama supporters would be hopeless. The good news is that is not up to me. There is God’s grace. Through prayer and through the Sacraments, I will be able to love my enemies. It is going to take some time. And loving my enemies does not mean I will ever love or accept their actions. But hate will never lead to the conversion of their hearts. For the sake of the vulnerable, I must love. And then maybe, as in today’s Gospel, the lost sheep will be found and all will rejoice.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Alternative Ways to Give

The USCCB collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is coming up in a couple of weeks. There will be no check in the collection basket from me.

Washington DC, Nov 5, 2008 (CNA).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has begun investigating the more than $1 million in church grants given to the voter registration group ACORN. Fearing the grants may have been used in partisan or fraudulent ways which could threaten the Church’s tax-exempt status, they have hired forensic accounting experts.

Workers with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) are being questioned by state officials and the FBI about voter registration forms they submitted with signatures from Mickey Mouse and members of the Dallas Cowboys football team, the Washington Times reports.

ACORN’s registration efforts target low-income neighborhoods believed to favor the Democrats. Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama himself once worked with ACORN as a community organizer and lawyer in Chicago.

According to the Washington Times, the Catholic Campaign on Human Development (CCHD) granted $1,037,000 to ACORN in 2007, including a $40,000 grant to an ACORN affiliate in Las Vegas that the Nevada attorney general’s office raided last month as part of a voter fraud investigation.

In fact, I think I am done contributing to any general funds, either USCCB or Diocesan. I am going to contribute my cash directly to specific projects. For example, I will give money directly to Christ House rather than give it to the Diocese and hope they distribute it to Christ House. I will donate directly to Gabriel Project and Project Rachel instead of giving to the Diocese to dole out to these pro-life causes. After the Catholic Charities fiasco in the Richmond Diocese and the ACORN scandal of the USCCB I am not confident that these umbrella charities are the best way to share my treasure.

Words of Wisdom for November 5, 2008

There is a lot of wisdom from Catholic bloggers today:

Greg Sisk captures my sentiments exactly

Jay Anderson gives us the next steps

Julie D sounds the call to soldier on.

The priest who celebrated Mass this morning is from Kenya. He said look at the media. The world is celebrating the election of another president of the United States. They would have celebrated, no matter who won. They are celebrating the success of American democracy. That said, he continued that there are many Americans who are very confused. People who seem to be very smart with advanced education and powerful positions do not see the stark reality of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. They cannot see that marriage is only between one man and one woman. They cannot see that children are gifts from God and are to be welcomed into our families. Therefore, we must not despair. We must be joyful so that we can be people of the Gospel, the Good News. We must be a light to shine on Truth and dispel the confusion.

Therefore, I will not mourn. From the words of today’s First Reading:

Do everything without grumbling or questioning,
that you may be blameless and innocent,
children of God without blemish
in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine like lights in the world,
as you hold on to the word of life,
so that my boast for the day of Christ may be
that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.


Read this and know that yesterday was a victorious day!

St. Michael: Ora Pro Nobis

This just seemed like the perfect prayer to start today.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..

Bishop Loverde: What Are You Going To Do?

As I said earlier, I hope the bishops keep talking. Now I have a question for my own bishop: Bishop Loverde, what are you going to do about Gerry Connolly? He claims to be Catholic. Yet he approved anti-Catholic smears aimed at his opponent, Keith Fimian. He supports abortion. He also has some problems with the Church’s stand on women’s ordination. In a reader survey about the role of women in the Church, he wrote the following to the liberal publication, U.S. Catholic :

The good women are ignored. The good men are silenced.
--Gerry Connolly

Bishop Loverde, I love that you are out there praying at the abortion facilities, blessing our pro-life pharmacy, and writing great columns in the Arlington Herald. But now you have your very own “Pelosi problem”. Gerry Connolly is now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. What are you going to do?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Will the Bishops Keep Speaking?

I go to daily Mass most days. Today, on Election Day, there were far more people than usual. The group praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary after Mass was larger as well. Churches around the country are opening their doors for people to come and pray. Many parishes are offering Eucharistic Adoration and prayer vigils for the election. For the last two weeks I have received dozens of emails recommending various novenas, Rosaries, and intercessory saints for the election. I’ve been a voter for thirty years. I have never seen such a recourse to prayer. What is different today? The stakes for people of faith are higher than they have ever been before.

I am not the only one who recognizes the difference. The bishops are worried. Over one hundred bishops have spoken out about the primacy of life issues and the moral obligation to oppose abortion. With every passing day the statements grow louder and stronger. Bishop Finn gave his sharpest statement yet when he asserted that the fate of our eternal salvation is at risk if we vote for a pro-abortion candidate.

My plea to the bishops is that they continue to speak out on November 5th, and November 6th, and every day thereafter. I am heartened by their current words, but I am frustrated by their timing. Where have they been for the last thirty years? Where were they just one year ago? If they had been quicker to take a courageous stand and publicly chastise the Kennedys, Pelosis, and Bidens who parade around as “good” Catholics but flout Church teaching they could have made a difference. As it is, it looks like the rich and powerful get a pass. It doesn’t inspire the average Catholic in the pew to take the teachings of the Church very seriously. They tried the kind gentle pastoral approach. It is time for some tough love. We need more than exhortations. It is time to tell some folks that they are no longer in communion with the Church. Excommunication is not meant to be punitive. It is meant to be a wake up call to repent and return to the fold.

I don’t know how the election will turn out. The pundits say Obama has it in the bag. Maybe so. It really doesn’t matter. Truth does not change based on who sits in the White House. Human life is sacred from conception to natural death. Period. This is God’s law. An Obama presidency will unleash the full force of the culture of death. Faithful Catholics will be called to battle these forces. There are many who call themselves Catholic yet support the proponents of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and other intrinsic evils. Most dangerous are the ones who hold positions of power or are priests and religious. They are in actuality enemies of the Faith. It is time our bishops clearly identified them as such.

A Psalm for Election Day


1 Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;

2 hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught

3 at the voice of the enemy,
at the stares of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering upon me
and revile me in their anger.

4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death assail me.

5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.

6 I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest-

7 I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;

8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm."

9 Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech,
for I see violence and strife in the city.

10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.

11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were raising himself against me,
I could hide from him.

13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,

14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave, [b]
for evil finds lodging among them.

16 But I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.

17 Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.

18 He ransoms me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.

19 God, who is enthroned forever,
will hear them and afflict them—
men who never change their ways
and have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.

21 His speech is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.

23 But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of corruption;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.

(H/T Michelle)

Monday, November 03, 2008

John Paul II: Evangelium Vitae

Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life was issued as an Encyclical by Pope John Paul II in 1995. The entire document is well worth our study, but for the purposes of our election tomorrow, please read and reflect on this selected passage:

72. The doctrine on the necessary conformity of civil law with the moral law is in continuity with the whole tradition of the Church. This is clear once more from John XXIII's Encyclical: "Authority is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently, laws and decrees enacted in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience...; indeed, the passing of such laws undermines the very nature of authority and results in shameful abuse".95 This is the clear teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who writes that "human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence".96 And again: "Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law".97

Now the first and most immediate application of this teaching concerns a human law which disregards the fundamental right and source of all other rights which is the right to life, a right belonging to every individual. Consequently, laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law. It might be objected that such is not the case in euthanasia, when it is requested with full awareness by the person involved. But any State which made such a request legitimate and authorized it to be carried out would be legalizing a case of suicide-murder, contrary to the fundamental principles of absolute respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life. In this way the State contributes to lessening respect for life and opens the door to ways of acting which are destructive of trust in relations between people. Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.

73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. "They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live" (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: "the midwives feared God" (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God-to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty-that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for "the endurance and faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10).

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it".98

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

74. The passing of unjust laws often raises difficult problems of conscience for morally upright people with regard to the issue of cooperation, since they have a right to demand not to be forced to take part in morally evil actions. Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement. In other cases, it can happen that carrying out certain actions, which are provided for by legislation that overall is unjust, but which in themselves are indifferent, or even positive, can serve to protect human lives under threat. There may be reason to fear, however, that willingness to carry out such actions will not only cause scandal and weaken the necessary opposition to attacks on life, but will gradually lead to further capitulation to a mentality of permissiveness.

In order to shed light on this difficult question, it is necessary to recall the general principles concerning cooperation in evil actions. Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).

To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right. Were this not so, the human person would be forced to perform an action intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, and in this way human freedom itself, the authentic meaning and purpose of which are found in its orientation to the true and the good, would be radically compromised. What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Encore Presentation of Communion of Saints

I know All Saints Day was yesterday, but go ahead and read this previous post on the Communion of Saints.

Solid Doctrinal Catechesis From the Pulpit. Wow!

I wonder if our young priest reads NLM:

Heaven, Hell and Purgatory: the Reality of Sin

At times, the argument is made that the use of black is contrary to our Christian belief in the resurrection. While Christians are indeed a people of hope who believe in the resurrection of the dead this should in no way be understood as contrary to the use of black. While we are a people of hope, we are also called to be a people aware of the reality of sin, death and judgment. Our salvation, and that of our loved one's, while we hope for it -- and in our own case, work to attain it -- is not a foregone conclusion. Pretending it is so does neither us nor our loved one's any substantial good. If we obscure these realities, or presume the heavenly bliss of the faithful departed (what some refer to as "instant canonizations"), we really are being rather devoid of charity in point of fact -- like presuming a sick family member is not so sick as to need care and tending and therefore go merrily along our way without regard for them or their current state.

This presumption has another side effect for us: what we presume for others we may well also presume for ourselves and therefore we potentially neglect the state of our own soul. If we neglect the reality of sin and judgment by presuming salvation for the dead -- not facing any other reality or possibility, including the possibility of purgatory -- why should we think any differently for ourselves or strive to live a life of greater holiness and with more perfect contrition and penance?

The somber, reserved, mournful tone of black vestments on All Souls (or at Requiems) can be a powerful reminder then, not only of the prayers (and particularly the Masses) we should offer for our dead, but also of the need to care for the state of our own soul.

On this Feast of All Souls our priest came out in black vestments. The chalice veil was also black. He used his homily to provide very sound, basic catechesis on the doctrine of Purgatory. Our goal is not to just slip in the back door of Purgatory, but rather to desire Heaven. Father emphasized the reality of both Heaven and Hell and advised us to live our lives accordingly. He noted the black vestments serve as a reminder to us that the souls of the dead need our prayers. He implored us to pray for the souls in Purgatory: our friends and family as well as the unknown souls who have no one else to pray for them.

This dear priest was just ordained this past June. There is great hope for the Church if he is typical of what they are graduating from the seminaries these days!