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Showing posts from 2015

On Yellow Journalism and Immigration Reform

The Washington Post ends 2015 with a report on a protest by immigration activists opposed to the Obama administration plan to deport families from Central and South America. There are some aspects of both the reporting and the story that are notable.

First of all, the story is the lead article of the Metro section of the paper. It is accompanied by full color pictures of the crowd. The crowd shot is comparable to the crowd shot offered each year for the annual March for Life. However, the article indicates that the immigration protesters numbered about one hundred while the March for Life marchers number in the hundreds of thousands. If you were basing your estimate on the pictures in the Post you would think they were similar in size.

Secondly, the Post makes mention of the political ramifications of the proposed deportations without commenting on the fact that President Obama is moving to deport thousands of immigrant families from Central and South America at the same time he is p…

Family Life is a Domestic Pilgrimage

I always gravitated towards Pope John Paul II's description of the family as a domestic church. I will now add Pope Francis' description of family life as a domestic pilgrimage to my characterizations of the family. It is easy to be discouraged when our family does not look like bright images of television or social media. Take heart! Even the imperfect families are a source of holiness!

Head on over to Catholic Stand and see my reflection on the family as a pilgrimage in light of Pope Francis' Jubilee Year of Mercy.

When the teacher is getting test anxiety

It is hard to believe that it has been over three months since I last blogged. I have been teaching a 400-level Anatomy & Physiology course and I have not worked this hard since I was a student. I can honestly say that the last few months have been little more than a blur. It has been a good blur, but it is not a pace I can keep up indefinitely.

As always, challenges provide opportunities for growth. I think I learned a few things along the way.
1. It is okay to say "no". I have often been accused of having a helium hand. When a request for volunteers is made, my hand just floats up. This past semester I had to weigh the hand down and let others carry some of the load. I have to admit feeling a bit guilty when I didn't participate in every event and effort, but I am not the lynchpin.
2. I don't have to engage every argument or discussion. I admit I am opinionated. I also enjoy intelligent, reasoned discussion. I am not offended by a differing point of view and d…

Is gossiping beneath the concerns of a pope?

My latest article is up at Catholic Stand and I am a bit surprised by the reaction. I explored why Pope Francis has addressed the sin of gossiping on so many occasions. The first response was a diatribe on the "liberal" takeover of the Church and how the discouragement of gossiping is an effort to quash dissent. The next response complained that the Pope's frequent use of hyperbole makes it impossible to take him seriously.

Neither of these commenters addressed my analysis or the spiritual lessons I gleaned from Pope Francis. Rather, because my starting point was a homily by Pope Francis they ignored my words and attacked their inspiration.

Pope Francis is very different in style from both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Yet I have heard nothing that he has actually said that is a departure from Catholic teaching. I have seen many headlines written in the secular press that attribute meanings to his words that are just not there. I have seen many articles writt…

Why students are unprepared for college

A recent Washington Post edition featured a front page article on the declining SAT scores over the last 10 years. In spite of overhauling the test ten years ago the trend is consistently downward.

Cyndie Schmeiser — chief of assessment for the College Board, which owns the SAT — said she is concerned because the share of students prepared for college has stagnated for five years. Close to 42 percent of students who took the SAT reached a score of at least 1550[out of 2400], a benchmark for college and career readiness. The share was far lower for Hispanic students (23 percent) and African Americans (16 percent).As a mom, a physician, and an adjunct college professor I have my own ideas as to why so many of our students are not ready for college. I wrote here about my recent adventure teaching a 100-level course at a four-year university. I recently received the report of my evaluations by students. They weren't too bad but there was a definite trend. The number one complaint that …

Walking the path of St. Monica

St. Monica has always been a favorite of mine. You will notice I have her as a patron of this blog. I dearly love Mother Mary, but let’s face it, she was “full of grace” and was the Mother of God. I can often relate much more to St. Monica who had her own set of failings and was the mother of a real hellion,( Not that I am saying any of my children have come close to the exploits of the young St. Augustine). 
My prayer list used to include young moms with intentions for safe pregnancies, babies that sleep through the night, toddlers with fevers, and grade school struggles. Now that my circles have aged I am praying for elderly parents, sick spouses, college admissions, job applications, and holy spouses for grown children. And I am praying for a plethora of good and holy mothers and fathers who are having their own St. Monica experiences. Today on the Feast of St. Monica I knelt in Mass with a heart full for prayers for so many mothers and fathers whose hearts are breaking from waywa…

Looking for Air Fryer recipes

I really did not think I needed another kitchen appliance. But then I got an email suggesting I try this air fryer. I had no idea what an air fryer was but this sounded intriguing. Using a convection heating system I could get crispy results just like deep frying while using little or no oil. I have a wonderful Calphalon deep fry pan that is perfect for Friday fish dinners but I have to buy an extra large bottle of cooking oil every time I use it. If I am just cooking for two that is a bit much.

My E'Cucina Air Fryer arrived yesterday. It is amazing! I made french fries from fresh potatoes. The instructions said to toss those with a little oil before cooking. They came out crispy and delicious. For lunch today I made my husband a Monte Cristo style grill cheese. Again, turned out wonderfully. He enjoyed the first one so much he asked me to make him another. Tonight I made coconut shrimp using one of the recipes in the pamphlet that came with my fryer. It was amazing. It was a thr…

Gramma's House

This morning I tackled my wildly overgrown backyard garden. The garden is such a hodge podge of flowering plants. There is no master plan. I see something at the nursery or in a garden catalog that I just have to have and I make room for it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. And while I have cured myself of my packrat tendencies in many areas of my life, the garden is not one of them. I need to thin out some of the plants but just hate throwing away perfectly good plants so I am always looking for a new home for the extras.

Today was more weeding than tending to established plants. There is something therapeutic about ripping weeds out of the ground by their roots. I had thought about taking my phone outside with me to listen to an audio book as I worked, but I decided I needed the silence. Nothing but the natural outdoor noises and my thoughts filled my head.
After so many years as a nomadic Air Force wife I find myself just now realizing I am settled. We have now lived …

The taint of abortion on fetal tissue donation

The donation of human tissue and organs, including fetal tissue, for research and therapeutic purposes is not intrinsically evil. In fact, if done according to strict moral standards it is a very positive and generous act. However, tissue recovered from an abortion bears the stain of the evil of abortion and must be rejected. In my latest article at the HLI Truth & Charity forum I try to get past the "ick" factor and delve into the roots of why the use of tissue from aborted fetuses fails the test of moral acceptability.
Here is a snippet:

...Celebrity Sarah Silverman distills the support for this with herTwitter messagethat it would be “insane” not to use the fetal remains of abortion for the greater good of science and education. Her utilitarian ethos decries the waste of perfectly good fetal tissue.But there is the rub. Organs and tissue obtained from aborted fetuses are not “perfectly good”. We need to apply the same moral principles to the use of fetal tissue for sc…

A Mother's Heart: When things go awry

My latest article is up at Catholic Stand. Perhaps because I am working on a presentation that deals with how a mother relates to adult children, Pope Francis' general audience last week struck a chord with me. He used the imagery of a mother's heart to describe how the Church deals with the civilly divorced and remarried. Here is a snippet of my response:

Those of us who have children have felt the pain of a child’s misbehavior. It may be something minor such as the disobedience of a young child. It may be something more significant during the rebellious teenage years. It may be something heartbreaking as our adult children make poor life choices and face devastating consequences. No matter how old our children are or how badly their actions hurt themselves or us, they never stop being our children and we never stop loving them.I believe that is what Pope Francis was trying to convey about the relationship of the Church with those who have divorced and remarried. They are no …

The Intergenerational Domestic Church

I have a new project I am excited to share with you. I will be speaking at the Together in Holiness Conference in Houston on April, 2, 2016! I am very excited to be working with the wonderful folks at the John Paul II Foundation for Life & Family who are organizing this event.

I started this blog in 2006. It has gone through a couple of iterations. In the beginning I was writing as a Catholic mother and doing my best to keep my kids Catholic and maintain our domestic church. But time marches on and the kids are grown and now my husband and I are looking at an empty nest. What does "downsizing" the domestic church look like?
My presentation at the conference will focus on three main areas. First, how does my relationship to my spouse change once the kids move out. Secondly, How do I relate to our adult children especially in matters of faith? And finally, where do I fit in, or for that matter, do I fit in at all into the domestic churches my grown children have establish…

Some Thoughts After Teaching College Freshmen

Where did July go? It seemed to disappear as I taught a very fast paced 100-level course to mostly college freshman at a four-year university. I have been teaching this same course in a community college for over five years. It was an interesting and perhaps even an enlightening experience.

I would first like to say that about a third of my class was a joy to teach. They came to class well prepared. They were attentive, inquisitive, diligent, and motivated. They give me hope for the coming years. I am sure they will do great things in the future.

I am really not sure about another third of the class. They never came to lecture. I saw them on testing days but that is about it.

Another third came to class but never really seemed engaged. They were always looking for a shortcut. Their most frequent question was, "Do we have to know all of that?"

Since this was a summer course the students had various motivations for attending. Some, I think, were hoping a summer course would b…

Wherein I get a bit radical

My latest piece is published over on Catholic Stand.  The Obergefell decision is now the law of the land. There are lots of Protestant sects falling all over themselves to embrace it and include same-sex marriage as part of their religious doctrine on marriage. So be it.

I am not sure that the Catholic Church can or should focus on turning back the clock to a time when the legal definition of marriage matched the Church view. In my article I argue that now that civil marriage as well as marriages in numerous Protestant churches includes same-sex couples, it is clear that the underlying view of marriage in these settings is incompatible with the Catholic view. Therefore, we need to stop assuming or pretending that they are the same thing. Actually, they have not been the same thing for decades. When marriage is viewed as a union that can be easily dissolved because one or the other party no longer finds the union personally satisfying that union was never a marriage in the Catholic sen…

For the Supreme Court It is All About the L-U-V

Like the free-love advocates of the 1960's, the Supreme Court has declared that marriage is just a piece of paper. There is nothing unique or transcendent about this union. What is really important is all the happy-clappy, rainbow-filled "luv".

I am not happy with this development, but I am also not surprised. Perhaps now those of us who believe that marriage is something more than the legal recognition of the mutual affection of consenting adults will awaken from our delusion that the state ever shared our view of marriage.

It has been decades since legal marriage has been more than a partnership that impacts taxation and property ownership. With the onset of no-fault divorce it became easier to dissolve a marriage than to dissolve many business relationships. While the words of the ceremony may say, "until death do us part", the state view of marriage is "until it is no longer fun for one of the parties".

In my latest article at the HLI Truth and C…

When life gives you beets...Make chocolate cake!

Today's produce  box from the farm co-op arrived today. I unpacked lettuce, green beans, squash, blueberries, cherries, peaches, eggs, and beets. About those beets... I am just not a fan. I have tried. I roasted them. I boiled them. So what else can I do with beets? I can make chocolate cake!

With the help of Google I found this recipe for chocolate-beet cake. As far as I am concerned, chocolate covers a multitude of sins and this was a wonderfully moist, fudge-like chocolate cake. The recipe called for topping it with creme fraiche and poppy seeds, but I just made a sauce from a few of the fresh cherries I had. It was lovely!

I feel a little guilty about using my vegetable to make chocolate cake. But I did use cherries to make a salsa to serve with grilled chicken so I guess it evens out. In any case, I think everyone in my household is now looking forward to finding beets in our farm co-op box if it means chocolate cake is on the menu.



Eat your vegetables!

Pope Francis asked us to receive his encyclical, Laudato Si', with an open mind.  We need humility to accept God is the Creator and we are the created. We need enlightenment to see all life is a gift but human life is uniquely made in the image of God. Because of our exceptionalism we need wisdom to be good stewards of life on earth.

The entire encyclical is a call to conversion which means each of us needs to take an honest look at our lives and lifestyle to see where our relationships with God, with other people, and with nature need improvement. This evaluation must be based on reason, not emotions. For example, many of us want to do our part and recycle and we feel good when we throw our paper, glass and plastics into the  big blue recycling bin. Yet, this article in the Washington Post shows how our emotional need to do something and be "green" may lead us to misguided efforts that accomplish little and may actually harm the environment. Pope Francis points out in

Laudato Si'

I have finished my first, albeit quick, reading of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si'.My first thought is no one should draw any conclusions about this encyclical unless you read it yourself. There are enough phrases and ideas that can be cherry picked to support diametrically opposed ideologies and media news outlets are already doing so. This encyclical is not wed to any ideology. This is not an encyclical about climate change though climate change is discussed. It is a statement about the reality of Man and his place in the world. Such truth transcends politics.

The overarching  theme is that as human beings we are in a relationship with God, in a relationship with each other, and in a relationship with the natural world. These relationships are intrinsically interconnected and any distortion of one of these relationships will distort the others. They cannot be addressed in isolation from each other.

The Pope reminds us we are called to be good stewar…

The Saga of Anna's Promise

I am going to admit that I sometimes buy a bottle of wine because I like the cutesy name or the clever label or the pretty bottle. Likewise, I am a sucker for roses named for people or places or ideas that are special to me. Which is why I bought the rose pictures above. This is Anna's Promise, named for one of my favorite Downton Abbey characters. 
The fact that I am now seeing my first blossom on this rose seems like a miracle. I am not sure naming a rose after a character who always seems to be facing a traumatic experience is a good idea. I ordered the roes online and it arrived as a seemingly healthy bare-root rose with no leaves but several very thorny canes. I promptly planted it in a large pot with quality soil and gave it a good feeding. Alas, Virginia had an exceptionally long winter which subjected this poor rose to multiple snowfalls and numerous freezing nights.
I waited and waited for signs of life after the temperatures warmed. All of my other roses were sprouting …

Lord, to whom shall I go?

Here is my contribution to the discussion of #WhyRemainCatholic instigated by Elizabeth Scalia.

Essentially, I believe the Catholic Church is who she says she is: the one, holy, catholic apostolic church founded by Christ. I trust the words of Christ when he declares that He will found his Church upon the Rock of Peter. Peter and his successors hold the keys to the Kingdom. That which they pronounce bound on earth will be bound in Heaven. That which they pronounce loosed on earth will be loosed in Heaven. (Cf. Matthew 16:17-20) I have a lot more to say about this so head on over to Catholic Stand and read the whole thing!

Gardening Lessons

I come from a long line of gardeners. I have happy memories of spending time in the garden with both of my grandmothers. Sometimes we were tending vegetables that would eventually end up in cans or frozen so that the fruits of summer could be enjoyed long after its warmth had faded into the cool gray of winter. Even as a child I found this self-sufficiency very satisfying. I still always have a pot of something edible growing. This year it is jalepeno peppers and lots of different herbs.

My real passion, however, has been growing flowers. My goal is to always have something blooming from spring through fall. Most of my plants are perennials so it is fun to welcome them back each year. The daffodils are first. Then the peonies. Eventually the azaleas begin to bloom. Early spring also features the bleeding hearts, amsonias,   and wisteria. I supplement with a few annuals, especially those that either reseed themselves like morning glories or allow me to gather their seeds in the fall f…

Why I want my grandchildren to remain Catholic

Madonna and Child by Parmigianino, 1525

Elizabeth Scalia has challenged Catholic writers to expound on why they remain Catholic. I will probably join in that discussion more directly in the next few days but first I wanted to combine this theme with another that has cropped up among Catholic authors--the Benedict option (Saint, not Pope Benedict). The Benedict option suggests that the future of Catholicism will be small enclaves of faithful believers who withdraw from the world in order to nurture and grow the faith.

In my latest article at the HLI Truth & Charity Forum I address why not only will I remain Catholic, but I pray that my grandchildren and their children and their children will remain Catholic as well. I cannot withdraw from the world when there is work to be done and battles to be waged to protect my grandchildren's religious freedom and spiritual future.

While being faithfully Catholic may have created some social hurdles for my children, there was never a real th…

A Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything May Not Be for Everyone.

The Miracles of St. Ignatius by Peter Paul Rubens
As I mentioned in a previous post, I am reading The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ. There is so much wisdom here that I always come away with a valuable insight. Yet, I hesitate to recommend this book freely. My problem is not with Ignatian spirituality. My difficulty lies with Fr. Martin's application of this spirituality. As always, the devil (quite literally) is in the details.

For example, I found Fr. Martin's discussion of an Ignatian approach to prayer to be inspirational. The idea of bringing everything to God, holding nothing back, and of taking quiet time to listen to God's response caused me to slow down. It is similar to the reminder to pray a Rosary, not just say a Rosary. The difficulty comes with the lack of discussion of discernment. Fr. Martin speaks of our desires as urgings from God that we should listen to rather than resist or dismiss. He leaves the poorly catechized reader with …

Sin, Righteousness, and Condemnation

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican

The Gospel this morning had some interesting words from Jesus:

For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. (John 16:7-11) It is not our job to convict the world. That has already been done. Our job is to believe in Christ and lead others to believe. Our job is to align our desires with Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life and help others to do the same--for God's glory, not our own. Failure to see past the power and principalities of this world condemns us.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

For many years I have been drawn to Ignatian Spirituality. Yet it has been somewhat of a pushmi-pullyu relationship. My experience with the Jesuits calls to mind the nursery rhyme about the little girl with a little curl in the middle of her forehead. When Jesuits are good, they are very very good. When they are bad, they are horrid!

I once was part of a weekly prayer group. We used a book series of daily meditations that I found both quite helpful and quite troubling. I loved the essential principles introduced each day but their practical applications seemed twisted. Both the author and members of the prayer group were using these principles to endorse homosexuality, contraception, women priests, and general dissent from the Magisterium. It was only later that I realized this series of meditations was written by a Jesuit and based on the Spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius.

On the other hand, I have found many Jesuits who are  brilliant and ardent defenders of the Faith. They apply…

Writing Round-up

Once again I find my words showing up more at other venues than here. You might enjoy these articles.

At Zenit.org I address the issue of religious liberty and healthcare workers. Read the whole article at the link but here is a snippet:

Every profession is vulnerable to this religious discrimination, but perhaps none more so than the medical profession. Health care workers are intimately involved with matters of life and death on a daily basis. Catholic teaching, in accord with natural law, professes that all human life has intrinsic dignity from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death and faithful Catholics seek to uphold this dignity in every aspect of their lives, including their professional activities. Catholic health care workers are increasingly challenged by a secular health care system that offers little or no protection for the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly, and has little regard for religious principles.
Writing at the HLI Truth & Charity Forum …

Little Epiphanies and Old Habits

It seems like many of my recent posts address the recent transitions of my life like spending Advent as empty nesters and musing on the why's and what if's of Christmases past. Tonight I had another little epiphany about my current state in life. As I begin to pack away Christmas ornaments I don't really have to pack them away so that they are ready to move across the continent on a moment's notice.

For thirty years I carefully secured every single ornament so that it could withstand a military move. Even though the last nine years of my husband's career were spent in the DC area I was always prepared for the announcement that we would be moving again. My husband has been retired for three years now and we are not planning on leaving our current home for the foreseeable future. I probably don't have to make sure every breakable ornament is cradled and cushioned. Barring another rogue earthquake, once the boxes are put on the basement shelves they will not be m…