KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

If you are looking for a family friendly cookie...




I have been busy lately. Researching. Thinking. Analyzing. Writing. Praying. More Praying. More Praying. Not blogging.

But life is slowing down a bit and I need to come back to the spot where I blog and smile and just chat. So I have to share one of my favorite Christmas cookies. These are called Santa's surprise cookies. They are a peanut butter cookie wrapped around a mini Snickers candy. After baking you drizzle melted Dove milk chocolates on top. For the peanut butter chocolate fans in your home, these are a taste of Heaven. The recipe is here.

These are also great cookies to make with kids because they can be made assembly line fashion and there is a job for everyone. You make the dough and refrigerate it. Once it is firm (about 2-3 hours) someone needs to form it in to 1 Tablespoon size balls. Next someone flattens these balls and wraps them around a mini Snickers. It is helpful to have someone designated to unwrap the mini Snickers, but it needs to be someone who can be trusted to not eat them once they are unwrapped. Bake the cookies and cool. Drizzle with the melted Dove chocolates. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back to the Basics

Last night I had the privilege of speaking at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, VA. My talked was entitled, "Dare to be Catholic: living Catholic principles in a hostile culture. Normally my talks draw on a topic in which I can claim some level of expertise. Last night was a bit different. It was part pep talk and part brainstorming session as I came to the group as just another fellow Catholic trying to proclaim the Gospel. How can we effect a cultural change when the odds seemed so stacked against us?

And then I think of the Apostles. Twelve men. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no cable news, no email. Yet their faithfulness to Christ changed the world. So what's our problem? There were more than twelve people in the room last night and there are lots more than twelve faithful Catholics in this world.

And wouldn't you know it, Pope Benedict offered his own take on this topic today in his Angelus address:

He continued, "speaking about God means, first and foremost, being clear about what we must bring to the men and women of our time. God has spoken to us, … not an abstract or hypothetical God, but a real God, a God Who exists, Who entered history and remains present in history: the God of Jesus Christ ... as a response to the fundamental question of why and how to live. Therefore, speaking about God requires a continual growth in faith, familiarity with Jesus and His Gospel, a profound knowledge of God and strong passion for His plan for salvation, without giving in to the temptations of success. … We must not fear the humility of taking small steps, trusting in the leaven that makes the dough rise slowly and mysteriously. In speaking about God, in the work of evangelisation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must return to the simplicity and essential nature of proclamation: the concrete Good News of God Who cares about us, the love of God which Jesus Christ brought close to us, even unto the Cross, and which in the Resurrection opens us to life without end, to eternal life".
"Without giving in to the temptations of success..." Now that is an interesting phrase. But it means there are no shortcuts. We stay faithful. Even when it means that worldly success eludes us. Even when it means our social standing is threatened. Even when it means family members scoff at us. Even when folks unfriend us on Facebook. Always charitable. But always faithful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Think outside the big box store


Over the last few decades, I have become less and less enchanted with shopping malls. They remind me of cable television: lots and lots of choices, but very little of any value. So do not expect to see me in the crowds on Black Friday. Actually, I much prefer to do my shopping with a cup of coffee and a keyboard. However, over the last couple of years I have been stirred from my comfy chair to explore some local offering. I have really been enjoying the "buy local" movement, both for food and for unique gifts. 

Here in the DC area, I strongly encourage you to make it over to the Workhouse Arts Center. This is a lively hub of artisans with amazing talent. They will be hosting a special Black Friday showcase from 9am to 7pm.  I also love checking out the many refurbished historic downtowns in the area. Old Town Alexandria is probably the most well known, but I love Old Town Manassas. Historic Occoquan also offers cute shops and restaurants.

Virginia wineries offer another great local shopping opportunity. There are hundreds. My favorites are Cobbler Mountain, Barrel Oak Winery, Paradise Springs, Unicorn Winery, and Morais Winery. Ok. I have lots of favorites.

Of course, I still do a lot of my shopping online. I am more of a Cyber Monday person than a Black Friday shopper. This is a great way to support some of our religious communities.

The Dominican Nuns of Summit New Jersey offer a lovely selection of hand crafted soaps and lotions. I highly recommend the oatmeal face soap. And I love the lavender scented hand lotion.

The Carmelite Monks of Wyoming are roasting the best coffee to be found anywhere. Mystic Monks blend is my everyday coffee but I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Jingle Bell Java. This coffee is only available for a limited time and it is amazing. Even my dad, who is not usually a flavored coffee drinker, likes this variety.

For those with a sweet tooth, the contemplative nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey have high quality chocolate and caramel candies. Rich and smooth, they even come in lovely gift bags so that you have a ready hostess gift on a moment's notice.

The hardworking Trappist monks of Gethsemani Farms offer delicious assortments of cheese, fudge, and fruitcake. You can also add a musical component to your gift with one of their CD's.

I must mention one of my favorite orders, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. They have just released a new CD of Advent music. I have their previous Christmas CD and I feel like angels are singing to me whenever I listen to it. This order has a special place in my heart because they are devoted to praying for priests. They support their community by sewing liturgical vestments. In their work room they have a large crucifix. Every day they place the name of a priest at the foot of the crucifix and offer their prayers and work for his benefit. I sent them the names of several priests to include in their prayers.

I am not getting any kickbacks for endorsing any of these shopping opportunities. I am just hoping that this post will prompt you to think outside the big box store and the mall and make your gift-giving a more community focused endeavor.

Do you have any favorites?


Friday, November 16, 2012

God Answered Our Prayers


I have been musing a great deal about the state of our country and our culture. The recent election results were heartbreaking for anyone who holds to the Catholic principles of human dignity, the sanctity of life, subsidiarity and solidarity, and the defense of marriage as between one man and one woman. But I had a little epiphany the other day and I want to see what you think.

President Obama's agenda discards the most vulnerable--the unborn, the elderly, the disabled.  His health care plan relies on utilitarian ethics to save money. He promotes abortion as a good thing and asserts that women cannot succeed unless they thwart their feminine physiology. He usurps the authority of religious leaders to delineate the essential tenets of their faith. He usurps the rights of parents to make educational and health care decisions for their children. He rejects the uniqueness of marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman. The fact that our country elected a president who pursues such a radical agenda means that the United States is really a mission territory. There are many hearts and souls that need conversion. And I do not mean they need conversion to the Republican party. They need conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We cannot bring about the Kingdom of God through politics. That does not mean that it was wrong or fruitless to have worked tirelessly to support leadership that would be more in line with our principles. But political power reflects the culture more than it changes the culture. We cannot be victorious at the ballot box until we are victorious in the culture war. And we are at war. However, this war will not be won through violence. It will be won through prayer, through evangelization, and through love.

Now think about it. When has God ever used a person or a group of people who were rich and powerful when He needed to effect a major change? Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, the Apostles, and Jesus Christ Himself? One of the most powerful aspects of the evangelization of the Apostles is that they persisted in their message after the Ascension even though doing so led them to their deaths. So that is where we are. Are we willing to persist in the Good News, in Catholic principles, even if it means a degradation in our public standing and power? Are we willing to suffer insults, discrimination, and persecution for the sake of the Gospel? Are we ready to give our lives for our faith? If we can answer yes to these questions, then the impact of our evangelization will be multiplied. Perhaps our culture is not ready to hear the Truth from those protected by positions of power. They must first hear it from those who proclaim it in spite of the personal costs.

We prayed our Rosaries, novenas, and prayers of supplication for the defeat of the Culture of Death at the ballot box. God answered our prayers. He said, "No." Or at least He said, "Not yet."

The Psalmist said:

Put no trust in princes,
in children of Adam powerless to save. (Ps 146:3)

So now our job is not to start grooming a candidate or platform to woo the voters in 2016. Our mission is the same as it was on November 5: to pray without ceasing, to love God with all our hearts and minds, and to lover our neighbor as ourself. We must commit ourselves to both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy--feeding the hungry and instructing the ignorant. Future elections may provide a crude metric of our success, but as Mother Teresa said, we are not called to be successful, but to be faithful. With God's help and grace, we may someday look at our culture and find that it reflects the Gospel. Only then will there be a chance that we might elect a leader of righteousness and virtue.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spiritual Informed Consent


A couple of days ago I wrote about how the bishops have not done a good job protecting our Catholic brand. They have allowed too many people to wave the Catholic banner as they offer false and damaging teaching. We are a thinking Church. Every Catholic must follow his informed conscience. In addition to knowing what the Church teaches and why it teaches what it does, an informed conscience must know the repercussions of a given choice or action.

As a physician, I am very familiar with the concept of informed consent. Patients cannot make intelligent information about their health care unless they have all the information about the benefits and risks of their medical options. It is my job to give my patients this information.  I think it would be helpful to use this approach as part of catechesis. Consider it spiritual informed consent.

The goal of medical care is optimal health. The ultimate goal for spiritual health is Eternal Life. Christ died for us that we might live. The gift of Salvation is ours if we choose to accept it. But we do have to accept it. How do we accept it? By doing the will of the Father. Therefore, we reject this great gift when we choose not to do God's will. Every time we sin, we are turning our back on Eternal Life.

Now just as diseases vary in their severity and curability, so too our sins vary. Some are more lethal to our souls than others. The sin of missing Mass, sexual sins, the sin of abortion, murder, and others are so significant that we call them mortal sins. They completely separate us from God. Even these mortal sins can be forgiven. Nothing is too big for God's mercy. But we have to approach God and ask for this forgiveness. We must be truly repentant. And if we have not confessed and received absolution for one of these mortal sins, we should not present ourselves to receive the Eucharist.

So here is where spiritual informed consent comes in. Catholics need to know what constitutes a mortal sin. Having taught seventh grade religious education for many years, I learned that many Catholic families had no idea that missing Mass for reasons like  soccer games, vacation, or visiting relatives is a serious sin that needs to be confessed. Catholics need to be told that defying Church teachings has consequences. If you know that the Church forbids the use of contraception and you do it anyway, you have put yourself out of Communion with the Church. It is no different than if you defy Church teachings on marriage and get a civil divorce and remarry without a decree of nullity. There seems to be no problem telling divorced Catholics who remarry not to receive Communion. Priests should tell Catholics using contraception the same thing. If these Catholics choose to persist in using contraception, then at least they do so knowing full well the consequences. It is not right to let them go their merry way without giving them all the ramifications of their choices.

This information needs to be given by priests from the pulpit. In addition, every marriage prep class needs to offer the full Catholic teaching on marriage and the reasons for this teaching. But it also needs to include the serious effects of ignoring this teaching. Similarly, every Baptismal preparation class, First Communion class, and Confirmation class should offer sound teaching that includes the spiritual injuries that occur when this teaching is rejected.

God gave us the gift of free will. We can choose to follow Him or to go our own way. In order to make an intelligent choice, we need to have the whole truth about the consequences of our actions. We need spiritual informed consent.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My annual Veterans Day Post


This is my annual Veterans Day Post. It seems fitting to publish it again. The picture is my oldest son from his college Corps of Cadets days at Texas A&M. He is now an Army officer and has one deployment to Afghanistan under his belt. I again ask that you 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.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Protecting the Catholic Brand

An article by Lisa Fullam at dotCommonweal erroneously proclaims same-sex marriage is consistent with Catholic social teaching. Fr. Araujo at Mirror of Justice offers an excellent response to this article and rightly notes that part of the reason that many young people are accepting same-sex relationships as the norm is because they have never been offered a clear presentation of the Church's teaching. Many of those who wrongly claim to speak for the Church are giving a distorted version of Catholic teaching: 
...nominally Catholic institutions of higher education, which have an extraordinary influence on the young, are not teaching what the Church teachers; moreover, these institutions are not exploring why the Church teaches what she teaches in spite of assertions to the contrary. For the most part at many institutions that claim the moniker “Catholic”, students are being exposed to a shadow magisterium which is a corruption of rather than intellectual fidelity to Church teachings on the neuralgic issues of the day including marriage. While these young may be receiving a great deal of education, they are not receiving the wisdom of the Church; hence, their knowledge of what the Church teaches and why she teaches what she does is being eviscerated. In addition, both catechesis and evangelization are suffering rather than prospering as a result of false doctrine being disseminated by a growing number of teachers who are employed at the once-traditional but now-nominally Catholic institutions.
Fr. Z also questions the use of the moniker "Catholic" by the National Catholic Reporter. This periodical is a hotbed of dissent from Catholic teaching yet it is still allowed to call itself Catholic. Fr. Z notes that in the issue before the election the paper gushed with support for same-sex marriage and trivialized the importance of pro-life issues.

I lay the dismal state of catechesis of Catholics in America at the feet of our bishops. They have not spoken out boldly enough when those waving the Catholic banner spout erroneous teachings. They have not protected the Catholic brand. Ex Corde Ecclesiae demands that Catholic universities uphold Catholic teaching and theologians must obtain a mandatum from their bishop to ensure they are faithful to the Magisterium. Yet the bishops have been passive and not vigorously supported compliance by theologians. The result is that there has been no quality control and catechetical chaos has ensued. It is time for the bishops to offer definitive guidance about who speaks with the Church. When someone claiming to be Catholic spews catechetical nonsense, there must be a clear and public correction. Failure to do so will, as Fr. Araujo rightly points out, eviscerate the knowledge of Church teaching.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Are you better off now...


The Good News is that God still loves the world through you. You are God's Good News. You are God's love in action. Each time anyone comes in contact with us, they must become different and better people because of having met us. We must radiate God's love."


—Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

The lovely quote above was sent to me by the good folks at PrayMoreNovenas.com. If you have not signed up for their services, I highly recommend it. It is a wonderful online prayer community that takes advantage of the Church's great treasury of novena prayers. You get a daily email reminder each day during a novena. There is not an active novena going on now so they posted the above reflection on Facebook. It was exactly what I needed.

The last year has been nothing but political candidates flooding the airwaves with messages that we will be better off if they are elected. But politicians are not the only ones who should be asking the question, "Are you better off now than you were before?" Each of us needs to be asking that question. When I open my mouth to speak or post a comment on Facebook or write a blog post have left I my audience a little bit holier? Are the people standing next to me in the grocery line a little bit better off for having stood next to me? Did I bring my family closer to Heaven today?

This does not mean that I should  always be somber and do nothing but spout Scripture and platitudes. St. Teresa of Avila said, "A sad nun is a bad nun. I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits." Joy, humor, and even a little snark are very effective in conveying the love of God. A smile or a word of encouragement may brighten the day of the harried mother in the grocery store. 

Making someone smile or offering comfort is actually the easy part of radiating God's love. Sometimes, God's love does not make others feel all warm and cozy. Instead, it makes them downright uncomfortable. Offer it anyway. But instead of offering it as a condemnation, offer it as an invitation. Be prepared. This very likely will not give us immediate positive feedback but we have to be confident that when we offer the truth, we are planting seeds. The Spiritual Works of Mercy demand that we admonish sinners and instruct the ignorant. There is nothing loving about turning a blind eye and allowing others to persist in error.

In the months ahead, I know that I will be encountering friends and family members who are living outside the Church. It doesn't do any good to sneer at them or shun them. It also doesn't do any good to pretend that I condone their choices. I will steadfastly offer my family and all I meet the teachings of the Church. I will propose the Church by example and with words if necessary. I want all those I love to accept these teachings. I will pray for them. (See St. Monica's list!) After they encounter me, I hope they know that there is a real alternative to their current path and it is the path that leads to eternal life. This is the hard part of radiating God's love. It is not illustrated with hearts and flowers and rainbows. It is illustrated with tears. But if the tears flow from repentance and conversion, they will be followed by everlasting joy.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Participation Trophy Generation

First let me say that I love teaching anatomy and physiology at the community college. It is a tough course.  Students enter this course with great dreams of becoming a nurse, doctor, pharmacist, physical therapist, dentist, or other allied health professional. Then they meet the mountain of minute details that must be memorized. Some dig in and get the job done while others realize the biomedical sciences are not their real love after all. Every semester I am in awe of some of my students as they overcome obstacles, appreciate the opportunity to get an education, and excel.

Then there is another segment of students. And, unfortunately, it seems this group is growing. These students tell me the course is too hard and I need to make changes to accommodate their desire to make a B, the minimum grade required to enter many of the health professional programs. These students think that because they signed up for the course and paid the tuition they are entitled to a B.

Sorry. This is not your rec league soccer team where every one gets an impressive trophy just for being on the roster. Too many of these kids have been coddled and sheltered. Mom and Dad did not let them taste failure. Protecting the almighty "self-esteem" was paramount. For a short time one of my sons was in a Cub Scout den whose den leader would not allow any boy to receive an award until the whole den had achieved the honor. That way no one felt inferior to anyone else. But that also meant no one felt the thrill of exceptional achievement. It was mediocrity for all, excellence for none.

It is a shock for some of my students to find out the real world does not hand out participation trophies. Your success or failure is based on performance and no one is there to cushion the fall when you don't perform.

I put a lot of work into my course. I show up early so that I am available to answer questions. I provide detailed study guides and scour the internet for helpful web sites and videos to share with my students. I do my best to make the lectures interesting and give them clinical anecdotes to make the dry facts more memorable. But they have to meet me half-way. I cannot help them if they do not show up on time to class, do not do the homework, or do not study outside of class. Cramming the night before an anatomy and physiology test is like trying to memorize the phone book.

So maybe as parents, we need to rethink this whole non-competitive, self-esteem boosting movement. Now I agree that kindergarteners do not need to be playing cut throat competitive soccer. But at some point they have to learn that just showing up is not enough. Failure is a real possibility.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

St. Monica's List



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. (2 Phil: 14-16)

This is from the first reading today. I am disappointed by the election results, but I am not disheartened. I know that I voted according to faithfully Catholic principles. I worked with many good and holy people to educate others about these principles. Even if we did not sway the votes for this election as we would have liked, I am confident that we planted seeds.

So what now? Actually, not a lot changes. I still pray. I still serve God. I still know that my salvation resides in Christ. And I still take to heart the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations.

With that in mind, I have a challenge for you. Make a list of the people you know whose hearts have turned away from God and are in need of conversion. They can be public figures whom you have never met or they can be family members who have fallen away from the faith. Now pray for their conversion. And tomorrow, pray for them again. And pray the next day and the next day. Just keep praying.  Add more people to the list as you think of them and make a note when you think there has been progress. 


This is going to be my St. Monica list. St. Monica is my patron saint and she is a fervent intercessor for those who have strayed from the Church. I know she will be happy to join me in prayer for the return of lost souls to the objective truth of Christ. I hope you will join me as well.


Monday, November 05, 2012

In case you missed it...

I have been busy churning out words but most of them have not appeared on these pages. In case you didn't catch these articles:

Seeking the Kingdom of God Transcends Politics  I am down on me knees begging that Mitt Romney wins. However, I also know that my vocation does not change based on the election results. I will seek God no matter what. An Obama administration will make it harder to live as a Catholic. But with God, all things are possible.

The Affordable Care Act and its Unaffordable Costs  The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, presents a real danger for the elderly, disabled, unborn, and others who are infirmed. Committees and agencies that use utilitarian principles will be making judgments about who is fit to receive medical care and who is not.

Obama's "Equality" and "Liberty" for Women  This president believes that women cannot succeed unless they thwart their natural female physiology and become more like men. His lack of respect for women is appalling. He treats like we are just a bundle of lady parts that vote.

HPV Doesn't Make Young Girls Go Wild  A new study that demonstrates girls don't go sexually wild when they get the HPV vaccine is supposed to put parents' fears to rest. What many people don't get is that the controversy is over making the vaccine mandatory. This decision belongs with parents, not the state.

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mark your calendar for Wednesdays with Pope Benedict

I have much to write about. It has been a busy two weeks. But before I cover anything else I must encourage you to make Pope Benedict's Wednesday general audience part of your Year of Faith commitment. Every Wednesday the Holy Father offers his teachings and reflections and they are not to be missed. Today he once again discussed the role of faith in the modern world:

"In our time", the Pope said, "we need a renewed education in the faith. Certainly this must include a knowledge of its truths and of the events of salvation, but above all it must arise from an authentic encounter with God in Jesus Christ".
"Today, along with many signs of goodness, a spiritual desert is spreading around us. ... Even the ideas of progress and well-being are revealing their shadows and, despite the great discoveries of science and progress of technology, mankind today does not seem to have become freer. ... Many forms of exploitation, violence and injustice persist. ... Moreover, there are growing numbers of people who seem disorientated and who, in their search to go beyond a purely horizontal vision of reality, are ready to believe everything and the opposite of everything. In this context, certain fundamental questions arise: ... What meaning does life have? Do men and women, we and coming generations, have a future? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?"
 Do read the whole thing. The Pope offers some challenging questions: Is my faith in God as solid as the faith I have in exact scientific calculations? And if I claim that it is, do I trust God or do I merely assent to his existence? Do I open myself to Providence, relinquish my control and let God take the wheel?

Pour your coffee and think about that. Then join Pope Benedict XVI every Wednesday for more great catechesis.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pilgrimage for Life and LIberty

Today the US Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsored a pilgrimage for life and liberty at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC and I was fortunate enough to go. It was amazing. First of all, the upper church was packed. This is a huge church and we were packed like sardines in the pews and there were people standing in the side aisles and in the many small chapels that line both sides of the church. There were even rows of chairs set up in the open area behind the last pews. The Shrine web site says the upper church seats 3500 and with all the chapels has a capacity of 6000. Bet you didn't see any news coverage of thousands of Catholics gathering to pray for life and liberty.

Archbishop Lori of Baltimore was the primary celebrant. He is the leader of the USCCB ad-hoc committee on religious liberty. He gave a rousing homily that resulted in a standing ovation when he was done. I normally do not like applause during Mass, but somehow his words needed an immediate response. Our faith is under attack. The secular culture is trying to push us into a closet so that our faith is unseen and unheard. But Christ calls us to proclaim the Gospel in every aspect of our lives. We do not hide.

Perhaps one of the most important things that Archbishop Lori pointed out is that the HHS mandate is not an isolated issue. It is a harbinger of things to come. He is very right. Obamacare has at least a thousand places where the wording is "The secretary shall decide...". There are already committees in place to decide who gets care and who does not; what care will be given and what will be withheld. First they make us pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization. Then they will forbid the provision of nutrition and hydration at the end of life. They can declare that everyone over some arbitrary age is ineligible for cancer treatment. There is already consideration of withholding anything more than palliative treatment for stroke victims over the age of 70. These are decisions that should be made on an individual basis at the bedside by a patient(or his surrogate) and his physician. They cannot be ethically made by bureaucrats in Washington. Yet that is exactly what Obamacare promotes.

Religious liberty will be attacked on more than the health care front. In Canada, an education minister has declared that Catholic schools cannot teach that abortion is wrong. Expect to see the same sort of thing here if we allow the radical secularists to control our government.

This pilgrimage marked the beginning of a Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty. Even if you could not attend the pilgrimage you can join in the prayer. Please offer a Rosary or other prayer every day for the next nine days for the intention of Life and Liberty. As the Gospel said today, with God, all things are possible.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Confessio and Caritas

Pope Benedict XVI offered an extemporaneous reflection on the Year of Faith at the Terce service for the Synod on the New Evangelization:
Because God shows Himself in the figure of Jesus, who is the Word, with a content which asks only to enter in us. The willingness to suffer also belongs to the Christian confession, said the Holy Father: Confessio carries within it the concept of martyrology, in the sense that it expresses the willingness to bear witness even up to the sacrifice of life. And it is this that guarantees our credibility. The Confessio should remain in heart and mouth. It must necessarily become public, because the faith carried within must be communicated to others, proclaimed, with the courage that derives from intelligence.
Because God, the Pope stated, is not only a spiritual essence. He enters in the life and senses of man. Thus in the Confessio the force of our senses is necessary, which are mutually penetrated in the symphony of God.
All of this presupposes Caritas, which is love that becomes ardor. According to the Pope, it is the flame that kindles others and becomes the fire of charity.
The Christian must not be tepid: this is the greatest danger. Going back to Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, the Pope explained that Fire, Spirit, is light, color, and force. God’s power is the power of transformation. Thus vigor creates the movement of Caritas, which becomes fundamental for Evangelization.
This is so wise. We must be unfailingly faithful. We cannot compromise our faith. But we must not be angry Catholics. We must always live our faith in love.

Marginalizing parents

This article in the Washington Post struck a nerve. A pediatrician writes of how he struggles to provide quality care to teenage girls but the mothers of these girls won't give him the privacy he needs to ask the tough questions about sex, drugs, abuse, and other sensitive issues. And then when information comes to light about a sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy, he cannot share this information with a parent unless the minor girl consents.

I empathize with his dilemma. In my years of practicing medicine I have faced many similar dilemmas. A mother brings her daughter in for what she thinks is the stomach flu. I run a pregnancy test and it comes out positive. The law says I cannot tell Mom this result unless her daughter gives me permission to do so. This right to privacy extends all the way down to twelve-year-olds.

I know why the law is there. Parents can be intimidating and in some cases there may be a risk for abuse. However, in the vast majority of cases, parents love their children and want only the best for them. They may be angry. They may be hurt. But they still love their kids. In fact, no one loves their children more. No one wants to help their children more. A daughter in a crisis pregnancy may be so afraid of the anger and disappointment that she cannot anticipate the love and support that will follow the initial shock. Is it right for the law to stand between a child and parent at a time when a child needs her parent more than ever?

In this article, the physician really does want to include parents in the management of a teenager's crisis pregnancy. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Some doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are on a mission to make sure their young female patients know that they can get birth control pills without their parents knowing. I have heard from many young women about how they have been badgered in the exam room by a health care provider who is anxious to help them get around what these zealots see as oppression of free sexual expression.  If these young women state they are virgins, the providers encourage them to feel free to explore their sexuality. Maybe if they don't have a boyfriend it is because they would prefer a girlfriend? It's all good! One nurse practitioner actually suggested to a young girl that she wear a bra that showed off her breasts more.

So as a parent, what do you do? Do you stay or do you go when the doctor asks for privacy? Here is what I did. Since our medical care was in military facilities, we were never able to establish a long term relationship with a health care provider. As a doctor, I know it is more comfortable to ask a young girl about sexual activity when her mother is not in the room. And it is a question that must be asked. So I gave them that privacy. But I also tried to prepare my daughter for this solo talk.  I told her that the doctor was going to ask her if she was sexually active. The doctor might offer her birth control pills. I explained that the doctor may be used to seeing young girls who engage in activities we have told her are wrong. He is taught not to judge the morality of his patients' actions so he is trying to offer any and all care she might need. He has no way of knowing how strong our relationship is so he might not be anxious to include me in the discussion of these sensitive matters. I also let her know that there was nothing she should ever feel she had to hide from me. Nothing would ever make me stop loving her.

My daughter had many of these one-on-one talks with health care providers over the years as she got her yearly sports physical. Some were innocuous. Some were obnoxious. I think having prepared her beforehand helped her to be ready to answer the questions honestly and not be surprised by the very blunt and sometimes embarrassing discussion.

Medical training focuses on getting the right information and providing the right treatment. When the parent is needed to get a history, doctors are happy to include them in the process. However, I know my training treated parents as an obstacle to care instead of as a partner in care as the children reached adolescence and on in to their teenage years. In most cases this is just wrong. Do we really have to assume parents are the enemy when in most cases they are our greatest ally? Is it right to marginalize all parents because occasionally there is a parent who cannot offer appropriate support to their child?

What has your experience been? As your children get older, do the health care providers assume you are a loving parent or do they treat you as if you are a problem for your child?


Friday, October 05, 2012

Forgiveness in this season of politics

Politics can be overwhelming. I am heavily invested in the upcoming election. I am passionate about the moral and spiritual consequences that await us on November 7 if the culture of death prevails. And unfortunately, those passions can get downright testy and uncharitable. So it is against this backdrop that I read Msgr. Charles Pope's discussion of forgiveness in Our Sunday Visitor. I continually struggle with forgiveness. People hurt me, hurt those I love, hurt the country I love, and hurt the Church I love. I take this very personally! Does forgiveness mean I am supposed to put all that aside and embrace them over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee? Not necessarily.

Msgr. Pope offers a more realistic view of forgiveness. It is a gift from God. It allows us to view the past without the anger, resentment, and desire for revenge that consumes us when we fail to forgive. Even that is not easy. But with the God's help and grace, it is doable. Forgiveness means I can think back on past hurts and feel sorrow. I can recognize the injustice. I can pray that the perpetrator of the offense will someday also recognize the harm he has done and repent. But his repentance is not a condition for my forgiveness.

Sin has consequences. Causing harm has consequences. I may never again be able to trust someone who has betrayed me. I may find it necessary to limit my time with someone in order to protect myself from future hurt. But I have to be honest. Am I doing this out of self-preservation or as a passive-aggressive way of punishing someone? No one should have to submit to abuse. But can I put up with a relative who offers nothing but a non-stop stream of criticism as an act of charity? Am I ready to accept an apology? Or am I really hoping that there is never a reconciliation so that I can continue to cling to my sense of righteous indignation and inflated sense of superiority? Oh, Lord, I am so glad I am not like that man!

Forgiveness means I acknowledge and regret the hurt but don't fantasize about revenge. I don't eagerly await their comeuppance. I don't rejoice in their humiliation or misfortune. I do not have to like those who have caused me pain, but I do have to love them as Christ loves them and as Christ love me--warts and all. It is a tall order and only possible with God's grace. But it is possible. And who knows? Maybe someday we actually will share that cup of coffee or glass of wine.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Abortion Providers want Conscience Protection

Yes, you read the title correctly. Now abortion providers want conscience protection because their consciences compel them to provide abortion. My response is published at CNSnews.com


In the September 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Lisa Harris laments that there is no discussion of conscience protection for abortion providers: 
"The persistent failure to recognize abortion provision as “conscientious” has resulted in laws that do not protect caregivers who are compelled by conscience to provide abortion services, contributes to the ongoing stigmatization of abortion providers, and leaves theoretical and practical blind spots in bioethics with respect to positive claims of conscience — that is, conscience-based claims for offering care, rather than for refusing to provide it."
Read the whole article here.

Friday, September 07, 2012

NFP vs Fertility Awareness

My latest HLI article is up at the Truth & Charity Forum:

In the latest issue of Ethics & Medics, the monthly publication of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Elliott Bedford offers an excellent article encouraging us to use the HHS mandate as an opportunity to evangelize to Catholics and non-Catholics alike about the Church’s teaching on contraception. It is clear in the discussions surrounding this mandate that previous attempts to catechize the faithful have been unsuccessful. The current controversy over the HHS requirement that all health insurance plans cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacients  provides a teachable moment to clarify Catholic principles, especially as they were presented in Humanae vitae.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Need a new analogy







Many of the topics I cover when I teach anatomy and physiology are not intuitive. I have to find analogies to help my students visualize what I am saying. When we cover chemistry, I have to explain isomers. These are compounds that have the same chemical formula but different structures. In past semesters, I have used Tinker Toys to illustrate this concept. If I give each student the same assortment of wheels and dowels and asked them to build something using all of their allotted Tinker Toys, each of their structures would have the same composition but be shaped differently. They would be isomers.

Yesterday was the lecture on isomers. I spoke of Tinker Toys. I got blank stares. I have now hit the point where none of my students have ever seen much less played with Tinker Toys. That is so sad. Am I really that old?

Friday, August 31, 2012

As happens so often when I attend daily Mass, this morning I found just the words my heart needed. The looming election with its consequences for the soul of the country weigh heavily on my thoughts. There are family issues that have furrowed my brow. But this morning, the psalmist eased my anxieties and lifted my heart:

You bring bread from the earth and wine to gladden our hearts.
God will provide. I am called to remain faithful. Enjoy the fruits of Providence.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Feast of St. Monica






St. Monica is a patron of this blog and a very special saint to me. She is the mother of the great St. Augustine. Now, I have a tremendous devotion to our Blessed Mother. But, if truth be told, there is a part of me that says, "You know, Mary was full of grace and born without the stain of original sin. That certainly gives her a leg up on the holiness scale." Monica, on the other hand, had a fallen nature,  She had foibles and weaknesses. Yet she was still able to be a great wife and mother. She never gave up on her son when he was careening down the wrong path. She followed him doggedly. He said he was going to Rome so she went to Rome. Of course, he actually went to Milan. So she followed him to Milan. She prayed for him without ceasing. She didn't try to do it alone. She sought the counsel of St. Ambrose. Her son eventually did repent and became one of the greatest minds of the Church.  I look at St. Monica and think, "She was a Catholic mom, just like me. I can do this. I can persevere even when things are looking bleak."

St. Monica, please pray for all mothers. And please pray for all of our children, especially those who are struggling.






Friday, August 24, 2012

Is your physician your advocate?

My latest article for HLI America explores the changing attitudes of the medical profession when it comes to the principle of "First, do no harm". An increasing number of physicians are accepting the practices of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Here is a snippet:

For millennia the physician has been charged with being an advocate for the patient. Part of the impetus for the original Hippocratic oath was to ensure that doctors would not be paid by an enemy to give poison instead of medicine. Patients should be able to come to their doctor when they are sick and weakened, and have no fear that their vulnerability will be exploited.


Unfortunately, the sacred trust of the doctor-patient relationship is being strained by a new ethical model. Physicians are being urged to place the “greater good” above the needs of their individual patients. A disregard for the sanctity of human life as well as a utilitarian philosophy that judges the value of a patient to society is becoming more mainstream in the medical profession. This is evidenced by the increasing number of articles in respected medical journals that call for approval of assisted suicide and euthanasia, euphemistically called “assisted dying.”
Please read the whole article here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Transitions





I just returned from a quick trip to see my Dad for his birthday. It was a really great visit. It is still hard to grasp that my mother is not there. Her mark on the house is everywhere. Dad is gradually adapting to life alone in the house. Every time I visit we take up a task to make the house more his. This time we cleaned out the pantry. It has been a year and a half since my mother died and there were still boxes of tea and other food items that my father will never use. We tossed out a great deal and loaded up a bit for the food pantry. We gathered 3 boxes of canisters and storage containers for a thrift shop donation. Visiting Dad also is like a little mini retreat since we make it to daily Mass as well as the Divine Mercy devotion.

The home front is also in flux. My youngest moves into his college dorm in a couple of days. I am going to miss all of his daily comings and goings. Once he moves out, the upstairs will be pretty empty. I am glad he will just be up the road and able to visit regularly.

I begin my fifth semester of teaching anatomy and physiology at the local community college. Summer vacation is over and it is back to work. I am excited to get back to teaching, but not too excited about the time crunch it always brings. Still, with no competing high school activities, life should be at least a little simpler.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecc 3:1)
As we transition from one season to the next, I pray we shall always see God's purpose.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pro life reflection on Olympics

My latest HLI America article is up:

I am an Olympic blubberer. Whenever I read the news stories or watch the competitions I need a box of tissues nearby. The drama of the competition, the heartbreaking falls, the soaring successes and the inspiring narratives all reduce me to tears. The 2012 Summer Olympics tugged at my heartstrings with so many stories, but none more so than the bronze medal winner in the shot put, Reese Hoffa. When the reporters put the microphones in his face seeking a comment after the medal ceremony, he took advantage of the platform to extol the virtues of adoption.
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A reading just in time for the political season

Both parties now have their tickets set for the 2012 presidential election. The campaigns are accelerating. I am sure I will utter a word or two about politics on this blog. I am sure a reader or two will disagree with me. But as we enter in to a discourse over the issues let us remember yesterday's second reading:

Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,

as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. (2 Eph 4:30-5:2)

 Having a different opinion and supporting this opinion with facts is important. That is how civil discussions are constructed. Making broad ad hominem attacks is quite another matter. It is perfectly acceptable for two Christians to disagree and make their cases forcefully. However, let's keep focused on the issues. Let us respect the dignity of all who enter the fray. I will do my best to live up to this ideal. I hope you will too.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One day at a time

As of now, all my children are adults. My youngest just celebrated his eighteenth birthday. Amazing! Back when I was responsible for all the school stuff, scout stuff, soccer stuff, youth group stuff, etc, I wanted to minimize my trips to the grocery store. I was all for buying in bulk. And actually, buying 7-8 gallons of milk at a time really only lasted about a week. Now my life is paced a bit differently. I am working more than I did a few years ago, but it is more according to my agenda and less according to the whims of the English teacher or the soccer coach.

I also have fewer knees under my kitchen table at meal times. Often there are three of us, but it is not unusual to just have two. Every now and then we get four or more for dinner. Gone are the days of filling one grocery cart with just milk bread and breakfast cereal.

It really works out easier now to make a couple of small runs to the grocery each week instead of a huge run every two weeks. I am also learning to buy from the farmers market according to what I will use over a few days rather than weeks. When I first tried shopping at the farmers market I found I still had my stocking up mentality. The produce was all so gorgeous. I bought great quantities. But then it would spoil because I couldn't use it fast enough. Now I plan my meals and think about what I will use over a couple of days. 

Summer is wonderful because there are two farmers markets very nearby. One on Thursdays is my source for fresh eggs and amazing ethnic foods in addition to the produce. The one on Saturday offers a dairy that makes incredible chipotle cheddar cheese, another that sells fresh Greek yogurt, and an orchard owner that offers incredible peaches and apples. Both markets have an ample supply of squash, tomatoes, onions, and greens. And I have learned to pace myself. I can buy just one tomato at a time if that is all I am going to use.

 At the time when all my children were home it made sense to fill the pantry to the gills. Now, we have the luxury of a little more simplicity. Shopping is now a leisurely outing and I have time to take advantage of items with a great fresh taste but a limited shelf life. Apparently I am not the only one who prefers freshness. As I looked out my window I noticed that the goldfinches were completely ignoring my feeders full of nyger seed but were delicately perched on the rudbeckia blossoms and feeding on the dark seeds in the center.

I like this new rhythm in my life. I still have some long term goals and short term deadlines looming. But I am also better able to appreciate life one day at a time. I wonder what I should have done, if anything, to have found this peace sooner.  Maybe it is just that as the years go by I see God's grace and goodness more and more. I realize my role is to cooperate more than control. The little pressures are put in perspective and it is easier to let go.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Pray with me...

Right now there are quite a few members of my circle of family and friends who are facing challenges and sorrows. Let me offer a few lines from the Universal Prayer of Thanksgiving After Mass. This is a rather long prayer, but it covers all the bases. I say it after every Mass. The verses that seem to speak the loudest right now are:

Guide me by your wisdom,
Correct me with your justice,
Comfort me with your mercy,
Protect me with your power.

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.
May this prayer provide aid for those in need.

Through Christ our Lord we pray.

Friday, August 03, 2012

What's for dinner?

I am trying out this recipe. I've been trying to be a little more organized with my cooking. I am taking full advantage of the local farmer's markets but I need to plan or I will succumb to buying so much of the gorgeous produce that I cannot use it all. I've experimented a bit with some new vegetables and grains as well. This recipe uses quinoa, a very high protein grain. I also made tabbouleh using barley and my abundant supply of mint a couple of weeks ago. You may notice these recipes are meatless. And it's Friday. And it's not Lent!

The Church never took away the requirement for acts of penance on Friday. What she did was remove the specification that the penitential action had to be abstinence from meat. The reality is that once the restrictions on meat were lifted, most Catholics did not replace it with anything else. In fact, I had no idea we were even supposed to offer up some sort of sacrifice on Fridays until about five years ago. So I tried to come up with a penance on Fridays. Well at least some Fridays. On occasion. If I remembered.

Then a couple of years ago I was at a Catholic conference and some lovely habited nuns who were also in attendance commented on how grateful they were to find grilled cheese sandwiches in the lunch line. I asked them if their abstinence from meat on Friday was part of their order's discipline. They smiled and explained that they had just returned to the tried and true Friday penance.

I thought about that. Why was I trying to reinvent the wheel? For years and years, Catholics offered meatless Fridays as a communal penance. What was the point in trying to find something new? The Bishops of England and Wales actually reinstated meatless Fridays for their diocese. Now that I have given up meat on Fridays for a couple of years I can understand why. As more and more Catholics return to meatless Fridays, there is increased solidarity in the Catholic community.  It strengthens the Catholic identity of the community when everyone engages in the same act of penance. It builds a Catholic culture.

There is no moral obligation to take this path. But there is a requirement to do something. I really would encourage you to think about joining the meatless Friday movement. It offers spiritual benefits for you as an individual as well. Perhaps more importantly, it helps strengthen the flailing Catholic identity in our culture.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

I refuse to hide in the basement

Most of the time I really like what well established Catholic author and my Northern Virginia neighbor  Elizabeth Foss writes. But today on her Facebook page she endorsed and linked to this blog post by Jen Hatmaker:

This is precisely how I feel about the Chick-Fil-A debacle and all the other accoutrements of the culture wars. I am so over it. I'm so over the fear mongering and the hate propaganda. I'm over the political posturing and power plays. I'm over the finger pointing and name calling. The storms are raging overhead, and let me tell you something: 
I'm going to the basement.
Jen Hatmaker goes on to invite us all down to her basement to contemplate the really important things like love, feeding the hungry, justice, etc. She hates how the Gospel has been turned into a "bludgeoning tool".


I have very mixed feelings about this hiding in the basement thing. I agree we do not need to rage at people. We need to love everyone, even those who disagree with us. We need to treat everyone with the dignity and respect they are entitled to because they are children of God. Name calling and demonizing our opponents offer no solutions. 

That said, I will not hide in the basement and allow attacks on my faith and on my family to go unchallenged. I will stand up for the voiceless and the marginalized and speak loudly. The unborn, the disabled, the elderly, the sick need my voice. My children and my children's children need me to stand up for virtue. They need to have the freedom to live a faithfully Catholic life--not just on Sunday in church but every day in every aspect of their lives. Anyone who thinks the "culture wars" are just about people with differing opinions trying to live and let live is naive. People with true moral objections to homosexuality are being forced to provide photography services, reception halls, and catering services to gay weddings. Catholic social services have to cease serving the children in need if they will not provide adoption services to gay couples. The US government refused to renew the contract with Catholic immigration and refugee services because they would not provide abortion and contraception to victims of human trafficking. Catholic businesses are being forced to pay for abortifacients, contraception, and sterilization for their employees. 

So I will not hate those who attack my faith and family. I pray unceasingly for their conversion. But I will also not condone, minimize, ignore, or accept the evil they endorse. Standing up for the truth of the Gospel does not mean I am using it as a bludgeoning tool. Saints put on the armor of Christ and wield the sword of His truth. They endure the discomforts of battle. They do not hide in the basement.

UPDATE:
While I am not hiding in the basement, I am also not looking conquer or vanquish a foe. I am hoping for conversion. Please see this post.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Seeking souls instead of gold at the Olympics

In these turbulent social times, i sometimes have a tough time making it through the newspaper. Even the comics get tangled up in the issues of the day. My refuge is often the sports page. I love athletic competitions. Not being a great athlete myself, I love to read about the feats of those who are. Athletes are not saints by any stretch of the imagination, but normally the stories focus on values we can all agree upon: discipline, strong work ethic, perseverance. Other than Barcelona FC, I don't have a strong emotional attachment to many teams. I always cheer for the National League in baseball because I hate the designated hitter rule. I tend to cheer for the team with the best back story.

The Olympics is the mother lode of inspiring stories. There are so many obstacles, challenges, and come-backs. However, I was feeling a bit jaded this time around. American soccer goal keeper, Hope Solo, has been dishing about the bacchanalia that takes place in the Olympic Village. Olympic organizers are distributing 150,000 condoms to athletes. The health director of Brazil's Olympic team claims such sexual exploits are both normal and necessary for such physically fit young people.

So I was so happy to read this article in the British Catholic Herald:
Twenty-four hour exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will be held in St Francis of Assisi’s church, Stratford, east London, throughout the Olympic Games, it has been announced. 
Not just in London but throughout the country the Church is gearing up for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 
Priests and religious will be on hand in the Olympic Village for athletes, coaches and officials, with chaplains available for visitors to the Games. Spiritual and pastoral hospitality centres at St Francis’s church and at Westminster Cathedral will offer Masses in different languages, talks by priests, and will also provide a place for volunteers at the Games to “chill out”, according to Frank van Velzen, assistant Catholic coordinator of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I don't know how many athletes will take advantage of this spiritual opportunity. However, it is nice to know that the British Catholic Church sees an opportunity to celebrate virtue while others are promoting vice. This is what the "New Evangelization" is all about. As Pope Benedict XVI has clearly articulated, we need to "re-propose" the Truth. We cannot assume that others already know what the Church is about. Even years of Catholic education are no guarantee that someone is well catechized. I am saddened at how few of my own Catholic school compatriots are still active practicing Catholics.

So I will enjoy the competitions. I will marvel at the physical prowess. And I will pray that these athletes recognize their talents are gifts from God and seek a closer relationship to Him. May the efforts of the Catholic Church in England bear much fruit. They may not win gold medals but they will win souls.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Melinda Gates pushes dangerous solution and more

I know I said I would use this blog for more than just linking to my articles published elsewhere, but I think you will find the following interesting.

Melinda Gates is busy pushing her population control on Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. She is covering it with the veneer of trying to improve women's health. Her methods, however, are dangerous and will harm more than they could possibly help.  Read more here.

This article generated quite a bit of media buzz. I did a taped interview for LifeNews radio. Not sure when it will be broadcast. Today I did a live interview with Janet Parshall. You can find it here. It is the broadcast dated July 26, 2012.

Finally, my latest HLI Article for Zenit is up. While prenatal testing is a benefit and a blessing at time, it can also be used for evil purposes. Read the whole story here.

All of my HLI America work is archived here.

Hope you find this work thought provoking and helpful.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's Natural Family Planning Awareness Week!

In case you haven't heard, the bishops declared July 22-28 Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. My contribution for the week is up at HLI America.

Pope Benedict XVI offered an encouraging message to the recent meeting of the Equipes Notre Dame (translation: Teams of Our Lady), a pro-marriage apostolate. The Holy Father invited all Christian married couples to be “the gentle and smiling face of the Church.” There is no greater way for couples to achieve this than to joyfully open their marriage to the gift of life.
Head on over to HLI America and read the whole thing!

In addition, Dr. Donald DeMarco offers some great thoughts on NFP as well.

And I highly recommend the series of posts by Elizabeth Foss.

Happy NFP week!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Exceeding Expectations

I have to admit I settled into daily Mass a bit complacently today. I saw that the celebrant was a priest with a very thick accent. Combine that with a less than stellar sound system and I am often lucky to understand much at all of what he says. But that is okay. I am grateful for his presence and grateful for the Eucharist. I smugly consoled myself with a reminder that I don't necessarily need a rousing homily at every Mass.

But somehow today I did understand his words. The Gospel reading was:

While Jesus was speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside,
asking to speak with you."
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
"Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?"
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
"Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Mt 12:46-50)


Then Father went on to explain that Jesus was not trying to be disrespectful to his family. His love for his mother is unquestionable. Rather, he was using this opportunity to teach his disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who do the will of his heavenly Father will be as close to him as one would expect blood relatives to be. What an awesome prospect!

I am ashamed of how little I expected to get from Mass today, but I am grateful the Word pierced my arrogance and revealed a glimpse of the Kingdom.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Time to fly


As I mentioned yesterday, I've grappling with letting go--mostly of stuff. But I am also having to let go a little bit of my baby. My youngest graduated from high school last month and will be moving on to college in just a month. Unlike his older siblings, when he heads off to college he will be going five miles up the road instead of 1500 miles across the country. He is going to live in the dorm for at least the first year so that he can get a taste of independence and learn to handle money, time, and school without Mom and Dad right there to double check things. I am pretty sure he is ready. But it is hard to watch the last one fly. Of course, based on his older siblings, the flight in August will probably include a return leg or two and maybe even a few stints back under our roof. However, it will never be the same.

Now all through high school, I did not give my kids total free rein. I had to know where they were, who they were with, and what time to expect them home. I still had veto power over some activities. When the older ones left, it was easier to relinquish that control because they were so far away there was nothing I could do about anything anyway. With the youngest staying so close, I am having to make a conscious effort to give him the freedom a college freshman deserves. I made a first step last night.

He said he and his buddies from high school wanted to go see the midnight showing of the new Batman movie. It is a three hour movie. That means he would not be home until nearly 4am. That is an automatic no-go for my high school student. But for my college freshman, I did not object. I did not actually wait up for him but I did not sleep soundly either. He texted me around 3:15am to say he was coming home. Once he was back safe and sound I slept.

Then I got up and checked the news as the coffee brewed. I saw the horror that occurred at the midnight showing of Batman in Aurora, CO. I felt a pit in my stomach. That could just as easily have happened in Virginia as in Colorado. My heartfelt prayers go out to all those who lost loved ones in this tragedy. I pray for the repose of the souls who died. 

This little voice in my head was trying to tell me, "See, you should have put your foot down. You should have said no!" But I poured my coffee and silenced that thought. As much as I want to keep my "baby" safe, he is a young man, not a little boy. He deserves the chance to use his judgment and make his choices. I have taught him what I can and will continue to offer guidance when I can. I will be ever on my knees in prayer for his safety, health, happiness, and spiritual growth. But it is time to let him fly.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Should it stay or should it go?

As I mentioned yesterday, my mother had a tendency to collect things. I believe I inherited bit of that tendency as well. However, the propensity to hoard that my husband brings to our marriage makes my side of the family look totally detached from things. He wants to save everything. "It might be useful someday!" are frequent words as I try to declutter. Which is why this article recommended by Fr. Z caught my eye.  It offers a pretty good psychological explanation of why we hang on to things. Yet, all the explanations in the world are worthless if they do not also offer a solution. I like this idea:

Now, knowing the power of the bias, for each item I ask myself a simple question: If I didn't have this, how much effort would I put in to obtain it? And then more often or not I throw it away, concluding that if I didn't have it, I wouldn't want this.
Let this anti-endowment effect technique perform its magic for you, and you too will soon be joyously throwing away things that you only think you want, but actually wouldn't trouble yourself to acquire if you didn't have them.
The first twenty years of my husband's Air Force career we spent uprooting and moving every one to four years. Moves make you purge excess baggage. It has to be pretty important to move from one coast to another. We did have to make an exception for the three boxes of Hubby's textbooks that moved from house to house with us for those twenty years without ever being unpacked. I think I have finally winnowed that down to just a few books.  It has been mostly a positive thing that the last ten years have been very stable and we have stayed right here in the Metro DC area. The downside, is that we have ten years of accumulated stuff and are in desperate need of purging.

In ten years, our family has morphed from four kids at home ranging from elementary school to high school to effectively no children at home but four adults who spend varying amounts of time in our house. Our oldest has a fully established household of his own. Our second is with us full time right now but we see that becoming more part time in the near future. Our third is in the local area but has her own apartment more conveniently located to graduate school. But our house is still home. Our fourth will be headed to college and dorm life but is still based out of our house. Do we still really need all those relics of childhood?

Well, complicating this picture is the welcome addition of grandchildren. We have a house full of adults but I still want to be welcoming and fun for grandchildren. Having my daughter-in-law and granddaughter live with us while my son deployed to Afghanistan means that we restocked our supply of baby and toddler goods. While they are not living with us now, I hope they visit often and want there to be some familiar toys for their children to look forward to seeing. In addition, now that my daughter is engaged, I can see the possibility of another family of children coming to visit.

Right now, my approach is to look at how sentimental is the item, how easy would it be to replace it, how hard is it to store and how often will it be used. I have two huge plastic totes full of wooden train track and accessories. We started collecting it when my oldest was only a year old. It would be outrageously expensive to replace it, I have many happy memories of my children playing with it, and it and it is completely out of sight when stored. The same goes for our set of wonderful unit blocks made from smooth maple wood. And there is no way you are going to pry our copy of Goodnight Moon out of my hands. However, all electronic toys, Nerf guns, and most of the books that were never sentimental favorites can go.

Exactly how long are you supposed to hang on to the trophies and medals associated with childhood? We have boxes of soccer and tee-ball trophies. My kids do not want the participation trophies from their first year of peewee soccer but am I supposed to keep them stored in my basement? If one of my children is ever President, will these trophies be included in their presidential library? My brain says they should go. My heart is holding on a little tighter.

Looking at my closet, I have gotten a little more disciplined in recent years. If I haven't worn it in a year, it goes. I have gotten rid of most of my "skinny clothes". I am sure some of you have similar collections of clothes that you can't wait to get back in to once you lose weight. I decided that these clothes were providing no motivation for my weight loss plan and if I did lose weight I wouldn't want to wear them anyway. I will reward myself with something new. So they are gone.

Let's just not talk about shoes. I am not exactly Imelda, but I do have more than my share of footwear. Even in this category I have made progress. I still use the one year rule--most of the time. And when I buy a new pair of shoes I try to see if I can get rid of another pair.

Finally, in addition to upping my tossing out activities I have been relooking at my acquisitions. If I see a need, I try to repurpose something I already have to fill it rather than immediately going out to buy something new. I decided that I needed something like a small end table next to my desk to hold various cables, headphones, etc that were cluttering my already small desktop. I was browsing through online catalogues and thinking about a trip to the thrift shop to see if I could find something that fits the bill. Then I remembered that I had a small black wire mesh three drawer cart up in my bedroom. I really didn't use it for much other than another horizontal surface to catch clutter. I cleared out the drawers and brought it down to my office space. Perfect!

I am not in any danger of being selected for one of the hoarder reality shows. But it is tough for me to declutter. How are you doing in this area? Any tips?