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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Conserving and Preserving

I am in full summer canning mode these days. Actually, it would be summer canning, drying, and freezing mode.

My dehydrator has been busy drying mint for later use and drying lavender blossoms, rose petals, and hydrangea petals for potpourri.

Basil is harvested for pesto which will be frozen.

A combination of herbs and jalepenos from my garden and fruit and tomatoes from the farmers market are combining for some wonderful canned goods. I am not worrying about adding pectin to my processed fruit. According to my go-to cookbook, How to Cook Anything by Mark Bittman, if you heat anything to 224-degrees it will jell. Maybe. Everything has thickened but I am not sure if I would call it jelled. Cherries did. Strawberries, not as much. But that is ok. There is a name for jam that is a bit runny. It is called conserve. It still tastes great on a hot biscuit or over some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.

Last Saturday after my farmers market run I went to Target and bought some more canning jars. The 20-something guy at the checkout asked what I was going to use the jars for. I looked at him and said, "Canning?". He was shocked. He didn't know anyone actually canned food anymore. I told him I thought it was making a comeback. Lots of my friends go to the farmers markets and can fruits and veggies. His was response was, "Yeah, I guess there are still a few hippies."

Well, since last Saturday I have put up three pints of tomato-jalepeno-cilantro salsa, 8 half-pints of strawberry jam/conserve, 3 pints of peach jam, and 7 half-pints of blueberry peach jam (maybe conserve--jury's still out on that batch). Perhaps it is time to break out my tie-dye t-shirts and bell-bottom jeans.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What can it hurt?

Friday evening, the vigil of the Feast Day of St. Thomas More, American Catholics began a Fortnight for Freedom. Today our priest spoke extensively about St. Thomas More and his deep abiding faith. He was willing to die for his faith. He refused to sign a statement approving of King Henry VIII's divorce from Katharine of Aragon. Nor would he sanction the marriage of the King to Anne Boleyn. His friends and family pleaded with him to sign. What would it hurt, they asked, if he just signed the document. He didn't have to really believe it. Just put his name to it and his life would be saved. Yet, Thomas More would not compromise the integrity of his faith even if it meant he would be killed. He would not risk his soul for earthly treasures.

Some will dismiss the current Fortnight for Freedom as political grandstanding. Why should the Church raise such a fuss? What would it hurt to just accept the HHS mandate and pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients? Isn't it more important to be helping the poor? Church leaders and the faithful laity who are sounding the alarm over the HHS mandate know that there can be no compromise. Once freedom to fully practice and live our faith is undermined, there will be a steady erosion of the rights guaranteed the First Amendment to the Constitution. Archbishop Lori, in his opening homily for the Fortnight for Freedom stated:
The efforts of the government to divide the Church into a worship wing and a service wing do not spring from a theoretical interest in how churches are organized. It is part of a broader movement to limit religious freedom to freedom of worship — to accord a fuller degree of religious liberty to houses of worship but a lesser degree of religious freedom to charities, hospitals, and universities.
If left unchecked, this tendency will continue to diminish the influence of religion in helping to shape the character of our country, not only by our words but above all by the way we conduct our ministries of service
But this tendency to ask, "What can it hurt?" is not limited to issues of national importance. Every day we are tempted to bend the rules. What can it hurt if I gossip just a little? She makes me so angry I need to vent. Or what can it hurt if we use contraception for a little while? We will be open to children later. Or what can it hurt if we live together for a while before we get married? We love each other and we will eventually get married. Or what can it hurt if I sleep in today and miss Mass? I will go on another Sunday. 

I would answer these questions with another question: Do you really believe that God loves you? Do you really believe that His love dwarfs every other love you have ever experienced? If so, do you really think that God would ever want anything other than what is best for you? So do you trust that His will for you is always in your best interest, even when you cannot see it? 

Every time we try to cheat and say this or that Church teaching does not apply to me at this time, we are saying that we really do not trust God. Our judgment is better than His. We know better than God what is best for us.

Perhaps during this Fortnight for Freedom we can pray for the courage to trust God in all things, large and small.

St Thomas More, pray for us.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gathering daily flowers

I love my garden. Sometimes I can bring in armloads of peonies or hydrangeas, or daisies and make large impressive arrangements. Some mornings, though, my garden yields something much smaller. This morning I picked a single rose, a few white pansies and some sprigs of lavender. This little nosegay resting beside my sink is very calming. Not as flashy as a table centerpiece quality arrangement, but still beautiful.

It is a good reminder that sometimes I want to do great and wonderful things, but my resources and energy are not enough. Occasionally my day's work looks like a dozen long stem roses. But most days, a single rosebud is all I can muster. And there are definitely days where I am lucky to gather a yellow dandelion.

I cannot solve world hunger but I can support the local food bank. I cannot rid the world of sickness but I can bring a meal to  a sick friend. Some days it is an accomplishment to just smile at the person standing next to me in the grocery store line.

Today I am savoring the fragrances of rose and lavender. Nothing earth shattering or newsworthy. Just the blessings that are meant for me on this day.

Connecting the dots in a contraceptive culture

The dots are out there. My latest Zenit article looks at the alarming increase in breast cancer among women ages 25-39. What is the etiology of this meteoric rise? The rapid rise in breast cancer among young women correlates well with the rapid rise in hormonal contraceptive use as well as the increased incidence of abortion. There are also numerous studies showing direct relationships between breast cancer and contraceptives and breast cancer and abortion. These published articles also found that the women most affected are women in the age 25-39 demographic and the effect is most pronounced the younger women start using contraceptives.

So why are health care policy makers establishing clinics inside schools to hand out contraception to girls as young as 12 and 13? Why are we making the Plan B hormonal abortifacient available over the counter for these girls? Why has the HHS declared these carcinogens to be essential health care for women and so necessary that their provision trumps religious liberty?

This is happening because the real war on women is being waged by those who think women are defective if their fertility is intact. They want unfettered sex without consequences. They think children are a curse and abortion is a blessing. Those who currently have government power are methodically expanding the Culture of Death.

If we love our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters, and all other young women we must take back the culture. Their lives depend on our building a Culture of Life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Loving both puppies and porcupines

Weddings and funerals bring out interesting family dynamics. Seemingly mature adults are reduced to the level of squabbling toddlers. Decades of perceived insults and injuries rise to the surface and “That’s not fair!” rings through the air. Sometimes literally. Sometimes through hurtful remarks. Sometimes through passive-aggressive behavior. 

I thought about this as I read this beautifully written essay, Love the Sinner, by Bernadette O'Brien. Consider this paragraph:
“You can’t blame me for hating my mother-in-law—if you knew what she’s done to my family….” “How could anybody condemn us for expressing the fullness of our love for each other, just because we haven’t had a little ceremony and exchanged rings?” “The Joneses are simply unbearable—if we do talk about them behind their backs, it’s all true, anyway!” “It doesn’t hurt anybody if I look at pornography.” Excuses for sin are always some kind of rationale to explain why the sinner ought not to be punished. The focus is still on the character of sin as an offense, even as the offense is “justified” and the defendant pleads to get off scot-free. But God is not really “hurt” by sin; He is almighty, supremely happy, perfect, and unchanging. No, the grief of Jesus Christ during the Agony in the Garden was in seeing how man, whom He loves so much, insists on enslaving himself, maiming himself, murdering his own soul in a frenzy of insane self-hatred (for that is what it is, even if man does not realize it), in spite of God’s always-available mercy, and His never-ending love.
Clinging to a grudge is a refusal to love. Refusing to love is a refusal of God. Refusal of God is sin. I know it always seemed like Mom loved him best. I know she is so self-centered that she never gives you the time of day. I know he is a braggart and an incessant name-dropper. I know that she is always looking for ways to criticize you. The list goes on and on.  Oh it is hard, especially within families. Family relations are messy. Some relatives are as easy to love as soft, cuddly puppies. Loving others, however, is like snuggling a porcupine. That's ok. Just because we don't embrace the porcupine, doesn't mean we have to hate him. We respect those sharp quills and interact as they allow.

I am praying for the grace to love both the puppies and the porcupines. I know some relatives think I am a porcupine. I will do my best to soften my quills. I hope they can love me anyway.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pope Francis: Salvation is an all or nothing choice

One of the interesting things about the papacy of Pope Francis is that he has been saying a public Mass every day and we are receiving reports of his homilies every day. His teaching for today is a wonderful follow on for my last blog post.

Consider this quote:
"This is salvation: to live in the consolation of the Holy Spirit, not the consolation of the spirit of this world. No, that is not salvation, that is sin. Salvation is moving forward and opening our hearts so they can receive the Holy Spirit’s consolation, which is salvation. This is non-negotiable, you can’t take a bit from here and a bit from there? We cannot pick and mix, no? A bit of the Holy Spirit, a bit of the spirit of this world ... No! It’s one thing or the other. "
Why is this choice so hard? Most of us say we desire salvation. So why is it so difficult to choose the way of the Holy Spirit? Pope Francis answers that question as well:
Why do people "have their hearts closed to salvation?". The Pope said it is because “we are afraid of salvation. We need it, but we are afraid" because when the Lord comes "to save us we have to give everything. He is in charge! And we are afraid of this" because "we want control of ourselves". He added that in order to understand "these new commandments," we need the freedom that "is born of the Holy Spirit, who saves us, who comforts us" and is "the giver of life"
C.S. Lewis also covered this topic as well in his book, The Great Divorce. If you have not read it yet, add it to your summer reading list.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

What a mother really wants

My post over at the Truth & Charity forum about the change in membership policy with regards to openly homosexual boys in the Boy Scouts has generated quite a bit of conversation. Please feel free to head over there and join the discussion.

One of the commenters offered the following:
What if your sons were gay? Wouldn't you want them to be supported and happy and grow up to be decent men who fell in love and got married to the right man - rather than closety and ashamed and even dishonestly marrying a woman to conceal what they are? 
In a word, no. As a mother I hope for my children's happiness, but what I really want is their holiness. My job is to do everything I can to help them to the eternal joy of Heaven. I love them too much to want a temporal worldly happiness that imperils their soul. I want all of my children to live chaste lives. If I had a gay son I would not want him to yield to his inclinations anymore than I would want my heterosexual children sexually active outside of marriage.

When my children were younger, if I left all nutritional decisions up to them there is a good chance their diet would have consisted of Captain Crunch and ice cream. I know the physical consequences of such a diet so as much as it would have made them happy to forever forego vegetables, I made them eat their green beans.

Likewise, sexual gratification may be pleasurable and thrilling in the short term, but unless it is part of a marital relationship between one man and one woman, it is contrary to natural law and immoral. It is demeaning to our human dignity to suggest that we are no better than animals in the wild and have no self-control over our sexual urges. Same-sex attractions are a cross to bear and may be a barrier to having a heterosexual relationship, but they are not a license to indulge in disordered and immoral behavior.  The long term and even eternal physical, emotional and spiritual consequences are too dire for me to wish them upon my children.

So yes, I do pray for my children's health and happiness, but what I really want for them is Heaven.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Why the change in Boy Scouts membership policy is problematic for Catholics

In my latest HLI Truth & Charity Forum article, I address the problems presented by the new BSA membership policy that allows homosexual Boy Scouts.

...Bishop Robert Guglielmone, the USCCB liaison to the Boy Scouts, was not pleased with the policy change but seemed resigned to it. Bishop Guglielmone stated it was a change that could accommodate Catholic teaching. Canon lawyer, Dr. Edward Peters, seemed to reach the same conclusion in his cogent analysis of the membership resolution.When dealing with this issue isolated to the theoretical realm, Bishop Guglielmone and Dr. Peters are correct. However, when looking at this in the context of a real Boy Scout troop and real Catholic families, it is difficult to see how it can be workable.

Continue reading here.