Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cool Trivia About The First Pentecost

I learned this after forty years of living.

I didn't hear about it as a preacher's kid growing up, though I would assume my dad knew it. I didn't hear about it as a pastor's wife, which I was for almost 13 years - until the nonsacramental marriage ended.

I didn't hear about it as a Protestant at all.

I heard it for the first time when I became Catholic.

Why were all those people from all those different countries gathered in Jerusalem that day? Because the day of Pentecost (the day the Catholic Church was born and the Holy Spirit came down) was a Jewish holiday.

Like Easter, which is tied to the Jewish Passover, Pentecost is tied to the Jewish Feast of Weeks. Shavuot. It means 7 weeks. "A week of weeks." It falls 49 days after the Jewish Passover. And so, all those people were on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

And they all heard in their own languages about the Messiah who had come and died 50 days earlier - Pentecost (50). That is the day the Holy Spirit came - how perfect!


Secret to businesses, schools, and the Christian witness

You hear it at every school faculty workshop in August - before the students arrive.

You hear it when businesses gather for goal-setting meetings and staffing workshops.

Husbands and wives talk about it when they are raising their families.

We need to be on the same page and be giving a clear message.

Today's reading at Mass is essentially saying the same thing. It is one of the coolest miracles of all time. It cannot be explained away. People from every language gather in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit comes. The Apostles begin preaching - but the people all hear in their native tongue. Everyone understands perfectly. Language is no barrier.

If you've ever tried to learn a foreign language (Spanish was mine) you know human limitations. Even a multi-lingual person might only speak four or five languages. Certainly, this was not a work of human intelligence. This was a work of the Holy Spirit who wanted Our Lord's disciples to be on the same page, clearly delivering the same message. God wants his people to be united in the faith, to be one body, to have one baptism, to be following one Lord of All.

Take another look at the reading from Acts of the Apostles - and think about how many languages were represented that day - all hearing with the same ears. Truly, one of the greatest miracles of all time!

Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

Are you still not sure if it matters that we share the same faith with the world? Do you still think it is okay that there are over 33000 different Christian denominations? Of course it matters. Let's get on the same page, preach the Gospel with one unified voice.

Invite someone to RCIA this year and help them to hear with the unified ears - the teachings of 2000 years, the voice of the Magisterium, the Church, born on that Pentecost Day.

Happy Birthday, Catholic Church.


What About The Charismatic Gifts Of The Holy Spirit?

Here is one of the best articles on the Catholic understanding of the Charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. You can read the entire article by clicking on

( The answer is clear from the biblical witness and has been borne out in the extraordinary missionary work of the Church. The purpose of Pentecost was the empowering of the Church with the very same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead! That is still the purpose of Pentecost. The gifts of the Spirit were given to the Church for the common good and they still are. Yes, they can be manifested by individuals, but they always serve the Church. I believe in what are called the charismatic gifts. I have experienced them and thank God for them. However, that experience is not the end, but only the beginning of a continuing invitation into an ongoing communion with the Lord and participation in His Divine Life and mission.


How Filled Are You

I am kind of tired of the Facebook quizzes. A few days ago, I took the one "How Iowa Are You" - and passed. I didn't like my score, so I took it again and passed again with a spectacular score.

Most of the tests, though, are really ridiculous. What color are you? What 80s sit-com character are you? And, of course, there are some I cannot repeat because they are too foul to put on a Catholic blog.

But, there is one quiz you won't find on Facebook that is appropriate for today - today being the Feast of Pentecost.

How filled with the Holy Spirit are you?

Yes, one can get a pretty good idea. Take a look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit. How many of them do you have? How about the fruits of the Holy Spirit? How is your life going in that area?

We take many of those ridiculous quizzes, but the self-assessment that really matters sometimes is forgotten. So, here's today's quiz. How many of the following do you routinely express in daily living?

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel (right judgment), fortitude (courage), knowledge, piety (reverence), and fear of the Lord (wonder and awe in God's Presence)

Fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity (love), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Holy Spirit has come. . .

Blessed Feast of Pentecost!

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.


We Have Been Nominated

Nominations have closed at Catholic New Media Awards. CBG has been nominated in a number of categories.

Voting begins June 1st. Thanks for your support!

Catholic New Media Awards

Friday, May 29, 2009

Grace in Suntea Moments

Okay. Still reading Peggy Noonan's book. And I thought of something I read today while making suntea.

She retells the story of an interview in which David Letterman asked composer and performer Warren Zevron, who was dying of cancer, "From your perspective now, do you know something about life and death that maybe I don't know?"

To which Zevron replied, "I know how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich."

And so it is with afternoons late in the month of May - and glasses of suntea. Without a doubt, it's all grace.


Fr. Alberto Cutie

I don't know Fr. Cutie. You probably know more about him than I do. But, I do know this. He is a priest. He was lifted (I believe, by God) to a position of notoriety and loved by his parish, community, and Church for proclaiming the Catholic faith with zeal and fidelity.

Then, he broke his vows. A media blitz ensued. And now he has left the Catholic Church and entered another faith community. His girlfriend is now his fiance. He has gone from Catholic priest to Episcopalian deacon.

In essence, it all comes down to obedience and vows. As Catholics, we (and Fr. Cutie at one point anyway) believe that he chose to be wed to the Bride of Christ.

And then, he chose to break his vows, something like having an affair in a marriage. But rather than stick around, honoring his vows to his Bride, he decided to run off with the other woman, to call her his fiance.

The media may wish to make this about celibacy. It is not about celibacy. It is about fidelity. Fr. Cutie has a Bride. He freely chose Her.

His true Bride has been very good to him. Faithful. Doting, even.

We are damaged, as members of the Bride. We have to pick up the pieces. Sometimes bite our tongue. Sometimes cry in private. Sometimes set the record straight when it is necessary.

But we are the Bride, and it hurts very much.

Here's the thing. Fr. Cutie, if he ever believed the Catholic Church was true, is in for a lot of pain. Nothing can "top" the Bride for long. Nothing stays that appealing. In a world of change, She remains fresh and pure and beautiful.

And real happiness is grounded in some basic principles. Faith. Truth. Fidelity. Obedience. Love.

Okay, Bride. Let's pick ourself up. We can handle this. We have handled much in the past. But no wife says to the world, "Oh, it's okay. It's understandable. I get why he was unfaithful." So don't be that kind of Catholic. Be a part of the true Bride of Christ, saying "It hurts. But I still want him to come home. We'll figure this out - if only he comes home."


Thursday, May 28, 2009

How I Spent Four Hours On A Yellow School Bus Today

Thankfully, I had the foresight to bring a book along with me today on the field trip. My new son-in-law passed it along to me on Sunday, and I grabbed it as I headed out the door this morning a little after seven AM. Peggy Noonan's inspiring prose is elegantly woven together in a complete work entitled John Paul the Great. Like the title and the beloved pope, the books itself is great.

It is appropriate to leave you with a quote, taken from JPII himself, on his first visit to Poland after being named pope (found on page 32).

As a bishop does in the sacrament of Confirmation so do I today extend my hands in that apostolic gesture over all who are gathered here today, my compatriots. And so I speak for Christ himself: "Receive the Holy Spirit!"

I speak, too, for St. Paul: "Do not quench the Spirit!"

I speak again for St. Paul: "Do not grieve the Spirit!"

Now, just days before we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, these words of John Paul II are as appropriate as ever.

And if you have four hours to pass on a big yellow school bus with some sixty elementary-aged kids, I highly recommend taking along Ms. Noonan's book. It almost turns a field trip into a pilgrimage - almost.

After A Field Trip With Fourth Graders

I spent the day at the Missouri State Capitol Building with all the fourth graders from my daughter's school. My mind is mush. More later when I can think. And now. . . a nice glass of wine to go with the mush.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Endings

Life isn't like good fiction. It doesn't end well - as far as I can tell from an earthly point of view.

Someone we love dies suddenly. A friendship sort of just slips away. People who were hugely important in our lives at certain points - well, we can't even remember their names after a few decades.

We don't usually get that great wrap-up moment for a Hollywood goodbye. A chance to say how much someone meant to us.

Too much is left undone. Untied. Unfinished. Definitely not good fiction.

I believe one of the great benefits of the Communion of Saints is that we will have the chance to have perfect "communion" on the other side. No hurt feelings to get in the way. No tragedies to tear us from each other when we aren't ready. All of eternity to be together without feeling rushed. No complicated relationships.

Finally, a chance to tie up those loose ends and have that happy ending - except it won't have to end. Take another look at the shoelaces. Notice, they form a heart. I chose the picture for that reason. The untied ends will come together well - one day.

And if you are struggling with a particularly difficult ending, visit Our Lord in Adoration. He is the source of the pending happy ending. He alone orders all things well.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Year of St. Paul Intersects with Year of Priests

Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Church will celebrate a special year for priests beginning on June 19, 2009. The year will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Vianney, Cure of Ars.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the Church would observe a celebration in honor of St. Paul the Apostle, from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009.

From June 19, 2009 to June 29, 2009 we will be celebrating two incredible things: St. Paul and all priests. It's like the part of a Venn Diagram that intersects. You know, that part in the center where two significant things come together.

I don't know about you, but I think those 10 days hold so much possibility. Maybe consider setting aside that time for a novena. A special novena. Perhaps a novena for priests to rise up with the kind of zeal of a St. Paul and faithfulness of a St. Jean Vianney.

That's what I plan to do. See you there - where two fantastic years intersect!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Waiting For Pentecost

Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck in wait-mode.

Waiting for someone to call.
Waiting for the weather to change.
Waiting for test results.
Waiting for a change of scenery.

What were those days like for the Apostles, those days between Our Lord's Ascension and Pentecost?

Did they have the sense of waiting, but not even sure what exactly they were waiting for? And did they ask themselves, when the Spirit comes, what will it mean? What will it bring? How will things change?

Acts 1:8-14
"It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away. When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Predatory Nature of Advanced Cultures

We watched a movie this afternoon. The Day the Earth Stood Still.

It's a sci-fi flick. Not great, but entertaining enough. Near the beginning of the movie, Kathy Bates' character reminds everyone that advanced cultures always have one of two responses when they encounter less advanced cultures. History proves it.

The more advanced culture enslaves or kills the less advanced culture.

She then reminds everyone that the alien in the next room is a member of a more advanced culture. Americans, indeed the entire world, are the weaker life form this time. Be warned. We must take them out, or they will destroy us. (Of course, the not-so-subtle message is that we should learn to be more kind to one another - and most especially to the alien among us.)

Over dinner tonight, I reminded my husband of the quote. He nodded and said it is the premise for almost every sci-fi movie or book. And I guess he's right.

But I wasn't thinking about a fictional world when I repeated Kathleen Bates' line. I was thinking about the unborn.

What happens when a more advanced culture encounters a more primative culture? They enslave them or they kill them.

Sci-fi movies and books are notorious for making us look at ourselves a little closer in order to make us become a little more humane - to animals or aliens or any living thing.

But what about the innocent ones? What about our unborn children?

Either there is virtue in being kind to those who cannot defend themselves against us, or there isn't. But if humans are called to be more humane, why aren't the unborn among those we protect?

Starting a Catholic Blog

It's World Day of Communications and you are Catholic! What a great day to start your own Catholic blog.

Pick a name for your blog.

Go to the upper right hand corner of my blog and click on CREATE BLOG. You may have to set up a Google/Gmail account. It's easy. The instructions will walk you through it.

If you are a beginner, plan to spread the word to family and friends first. Just say, "Hey, I started a blog about the family and what's going on. You can read about us at (insert your blog address here)." If you are a beginner, just let your little light shine. Be yourself. In fact, if you are writing for family and friends, they probably won't be clicking on to your blog to learn the faith. It will just show through in little ways. Maybe write something overtly Catholic every 4 or 5 posts. Let the rest just be little pieces of daily faithfilled living (more subtle, that is).

And that's about all there is to it. In time, you will learn new things, become a better writer, and grow a readership. And you will take your place as a Catholic in the great effort of World Communications.

The most important thing is that you remain faithful to Mother Church. Remember, you are Catholic. You are called to let a little light shine through you.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

What's Your Number?

You hear the question posed everywhere. On the television. On the radio. What's your number?

Sometimes it has to do with your credit score. Sometimes it refers to a sales campaign for a certain mattress company.

But I think the most important number to you is probably the number of members in your family. It determines how many place settings you put around the dinner table. It predicts how many stockings you hang above the fireplace at Christmas. It is the number of heads you count when you are at the zoo or the park. That number is the most important number in your world.

And I suppose it has been like this since the beginning of time.

Psalm 127:5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of [children]; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 128:3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine Within your house, Your children like olive plants Around your table.

So I guess the question is this: What's your number? Do you have a quiet voice telling you that there might be one more to add to the family number? Is God trying to tell you that you aren't quite there yet? Be open to the Spirit's call. For all time, children have been a blessing from God.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Calling All Introverts

I like to stay at home. If I had my preference, I would be a reclusive writer and only my closest family would know me.

But that is not God's plan.

A long time ago, I heard someone say that the best presidential candidate would be the one who loved his country, but absolutely did not want or seek to be the president. He alone would understand that he is called to serve, not to be served.

Insiders say that is how it was for Pope Benedict XVI. He wanted to live a quiet life. He did not seek to be the Shepherd of the entire Church. His love for the Bride of Christ enabled him to say yes when he probably preferred to say no.

The same is true for many of the Saints. They lived in obscurity, only to rise up and give witness to Truth. It was God's good pleasure to lift them up.

So, it is okay to prefer being little and hidden. It just isn't okay to cling to it when God calls you to speak up.

It is possible, likely even, that you are a wonderful candidate for spreading the Gospel - for the very reason these holy ones were called. Your goal is not personal gain. It is all for Christ.

You have a light. Go ahead and let it shine.


Once Upon a Time, When I Was Wesleyan

At five, I didn’t realize how much life imitates falling dominoes or how one seemingly insignificant event calls into being the next and the next. I’d yet to memorize the verse that says all things work together for the good of those who serve the Lord. But I knew there was a God. In fact, I knew God existed before I was fully aware of my own existence.

That’s how it is when Dad’s a preacher.

By the age of five, God is at the core of all things. You have doubts about the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. But the Great I Am simply is.

At five, it doesn’t seem strange that Dad’s a preacher. Having a farmer or a trucker for a dad sounds weird. But having a preacher for a dad is normal. He has a church. People come to hear him speak. Mom is the church pianist. And you sit on the front row and behave until the benediction. You go to every potluck dinner, where everyone calls you by name and helps you fill your plate with whatever your heart desires.

When I was eight or nine, I invited Jesus to come into my heart. It was the normal progression in the evangelical and fundamentalist denominations. First, you teach a child. Then, the child chooses for herself.

From that point forward, I not only knew God was real, I knew that the Lord Jesus Christ was living in my heart. And I absolutely fell in love with Him. It was the beginning of my love affair with Our Lord; it set the stage for receiving the Eucharist - though that would not come for a very long time. Indeed, I learned to love deeply, and decades later, when I understood what I was receiving in Holy Communion as a Catholic, I almost couldn't bear it. It was too wonderful, so intimate, to have this one I loved take the form of something I could receive within me - literally and spiritually.

The summer of my ninth birthday came to a close, and my sister and I prepared to start a new school year.

In December of that school year, my parents got a phone call that my grandfather had fallen into a grain bin on the family farm and the local fire department was at that moment shoveling corn onto the frozen ground in an effort to find his body. The recovery team believed he had climbed to the top of the bin with a wrench in hand in order to break through the frozen layer of ice that sometimes forms on the grain during Iowa winters. He’d done this task many times through the years, but this time something went wrong, and he fell into the bin and suffocated. When he didn’t show up for the evening meal, grandma went looking for him. She had her suspicions when she realized the bin’s drier wasn’t working. A wrench had jammed up the gears. Grandpa’s wrench. The one he’d used to break through the crust of ice just before losing his balance. The wrench had made its way to the bottom of the bin and become lodged in the drier. My dad left the ministry soon after that terrible night, and we moved to the farm to help grandma.

I now had a farmer for a dad.

And that’s how things would have stayed if not for a couple of local Presbyterian churches who happened to be without a pastor. But that is another story for another day. It is enough to say that my first love for Jesus began when I was just a child - when I was Wesleyan. Even then, He was preparing me to come all the way home, to recognize Him in the Eucharist and to crave this Bread of Life with my whole heart and soul. Indeed, all things do work together for the good of those who are called.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Name It And Claim It - The Eyes Still On Earth

It was November of 1990. I was on my way back from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, having just returned from a trip to England. I wasn't familiar with the radio station, but it was Christian. So, I settled in to pass the drive back to Dyersville, Iowa, presumably in good company.

The preacher was a wealth-and-prosperity teacher, the kind that truly believes you can name-it-and-claim-it.

Literally, he announced that people were calling in to say they had received boats, and cars, and homes! He encouraged the listeners who had not yet found the source of all good things to call with their pledge that moment. And their wildest dreams would come true.

I wondered what the poor people of third world nations would say to that. I wondered what Our Lord would say to that.

Maybe the answer is in today's noon reading.

Colossians 3:1-2
Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth.

If we truly are Christ's, we don't mix up earthly gain with heavenly riches. Certainly, it is possible (especially in our country) to be prosperous and heavenly minded. But prosperity teaching actually has one fundamental flaw. The eyes are fixed on things of earth as the spirit tells itself that it is really being very holy. It is probably the worst self-delusion there is.

God gives good things, no doubt. And sometimes, those things are earthly gain. But the wise man does not confuse what it means to keep the eyes on the prize. He never presumes that being godly means being prosperous.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Little Gifts For The Blessed Mother

Most mothers find little notes and pieces of artwork from their children stuffed in nooks and crannies around the house. I find them in odd files on my computer. Here's one my daughter did recently. I found it when I was uploading a picture to my blog. It made my day.

It also made me wonder what I have done lately for the Blessed Mother. As much as I love these creative little love notes, I'm sure she delights in little trinkets left for her to find.

A smile when I feel like frowning.
A visit to the Marian garden where I pluck a few weeds.
A stop by the Adoration Chapel and light a candle at her feet.
An extra purchase at the store that I later drop by the food pantry.

Almost anything will work, but I'm guessing you are far more creative than I am. If you think of something really terrific, leave the suggestion in a comment.

Once Upon a Time, When I was a Methodist. . .

In the 1990s I went on a Walk to Emmaus Women's Retreat in North Georgia. On that first day of the three-day retreat, we learned that this United Methodist retreat had sprung from a Roman Catholic retreat experience called Cursillo.

I was suprised. Shocked. Confused.

There have been moments in my life when I have come face-to-face with my anti-Catholic bias. This was one of those moments.

The Walk to Emmaus Retreat was fantastic, powerful and a potentially life-changing retreat. I could hardly believe that we had "borrowed" the concept from the Catholics.

Had the retreat leaders told me that this experience came out of the charismatic or evangelical movements, I wouldn't have been surprised, but I had an idea of the Catholic Church back then, and it didn't fit with this incredible encounter with grace.

I am ashamed I ever felt like this because, the truth is, every good gift we have from Our Lord Jesus Christ has been entrusted to His Church in such an abundance that it has spilled over into other faith communities. The keeper of the Faith has always been the Catholic Church - from the moment of that first Pentecost day when the Church was born. Any honest read of history proves this. She has given all believers the powerful teachings on the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Redemption.

When I became Catholic, I frequently heard a prayer that I first learned on that retreat. To this day, when I hear that prayer, I think of my old bias, and I am humbled but I am also in awe of a God who would shower the Catholic Church so richly that her treasures spilled over and enriched so many other faith communities.

What is the prayer? It is the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.

I attended the North Georgia Women's Walk to Emmaus where I sat at the table of Deborah. . . and this is the Catholic prayer that has filled my life with good things:

Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Divine Love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth. Oh God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructed the hearts of the faithful, Grant, that by the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. We ask this through Christ Our Lord.


What made me think of the prayer today? The Gospel reading for today's Mass is from John 16 (12-13):

I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth. . .

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Peter, numero uno?

For 40 years I never thought of Peter as having a higher position than any of the other apostles. He was one of the 12. That is all.

Then I became Catholic.

As with all those things that run counter to Protestant theology, I had to dig in and figure out why the Church talked about the Primacy of Peter. Why should we consider him the first Pope?

I reread the text - and clearly, Peter is the Rock. Upon this Rock, Christ has built the Church.

Then I read passages in which Peter clearly is leading the way. A careful reading of the Acts of the Apostles proves this.

But I missed something obvious, something I should have seen even as a child.

I did not realize that every Gospel list of the 12 Apostles always has two things in common. Judas Iscariot is dead last.

And St. Peter is always, always first.

Clearly, the Primacy of Peter is everywhere in Holy Scripture. This Apostle becomes a kind of Prime Minister of the Church, like Eli'akim in Isaiah. Even the passages describing Eli'akim and Peter are all too similar to be dismissed. Peter holds the keys.

In college fine arts classes, every painting we studied had Peter holding the keys. There is a reason for this. Time out of mind, Peter has been numero uno, the Rock, the Prime Minister of the Church, the Keeper of Kingdom Keys. The greatest artists of all time merely reproduced on canvas what the Church throughout time has known and taught. Peter is the first pope.

I still don't know how I missed it for four decades. But I did. Not any more. I read Holy Scripture with my eyes wide open.


So Much For President Obama's Free Exchange of Ideas

My daughter was eating breakfast this morning while I reviewed pictures at Catholic News Service (video clip from YouTube). She asked me questions about Notre Dame and why they would invite (and honor) the President. I had no good answers.

"Maybe they didn't realize he is for abortion," she said.

"No, I'm quite sure they knew precisely how he feels about abortion," I told her. Then I recommended that she look to other Catholic universities when she considers a college (in about seven years).

In studying the pictures from Sunday, I had a few thoughts. First, it is obvious that President Obama's call for "a free exchange of ideas" is a farce. The President speaks freely from his podium, while others are taken away in handcuffs - priests, religious, laity. There is no free exchange of ideas on this day.

Secondly, I'm not sure there should be a free exchange of ideas, but the one who should not be speaking his mind at ND is the President of the United States. There should be no "free exchange of ideas" because this speaker has passed legislation that protects the right to take the life of the unborn - at every stage. If he had supported legislation for genocide or another holocaust or slavery, he would not have become president and he certainly wouldn't be honored at Notre Dame. Sometimes something is wrong - so wrong that the viewpoint simply shouldn't get a public venue. At the very least, it shouldn't get a Catholic venue, a Catholic honor, a Catholic endorsement (standing ovation, crowd chanting "Yes We Can", pat on the back, smiles and accolades). As Catholics, that is how we feel about abortion. It is an intrinsic evil. Yet, who is silenced?

Who has been denied the public venue? The pictures speak for themselves. . .


Monday, May 18, 2009

Meet My Saint-Maker

His name is Max.

We didn't go on a puppy-finding mission. Max came to us, and he turned our life and house upside down.

A couple of years ago, our grown daughter did the prodigal thing. She packed up her stuff and decided to strike out on her own - with her standard-sized poodle.

Two years later, she came back home to regroup. Worn out by life choices and life events. She moved in for about six months - with her pregnant standard-sized poodle.

The litter was born on our kitchen floor. All five labradoodles.

And the journey to sainthood took off.

One by one, the puppies sold . . . except for Max. But by the time he was the last puppy standing, we had fallen for the goofy looking, lovable puppy, and we didn't want to see him go.

So we bought him from our daughter - at a discount because we had helped her raise the litter and get them out the door.

Then, the daughter moved out again, and left the standard-sized poodle at home. The mother poodle is big, but Max is ENORMOUS.

And there is not a day that goes by that he doesn't have a Marley and Me moment. Sometimes, I react rather badly. But sometimes, I dig deep into the wellspring of grace and surprise myself.

In those moments, I realize that Max has become one of my many saint-makers. And I offer it up for the daughter who still dabbles in the prodigal way.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

I do it every week. It is part of getting ready for Mass. I walk over to a little container that I keep in the kitchen, I open it, and I pull out the envelope for today's offering. I write a check, put it in the envelope, and we head off to Mass.

Today, there were two envelopes dated May 17. I was ready to toss the second one in the trash (I admit it), when I saw the name of the special collection on the envelope.

Catholic Communications Campaign

Talk about being convicted. That's what we are about, isn't it? That's what Catholic bloggers say they are doing. Spreading the Good News?

But if I am not willing to give to this collection, how can I truly say that this is my ultimate goal? Do I really want to share the Gospel - or do I just want a forum to share my own thoughts?

The Catholic Communications Campaign
United States Catholic Conference
3211 Fourth Street, N.E.
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Asking God for Good Things

I petition Our Lady of Grace for many things.
I always approach the Body and Blood of Our Lord with joy in my heart. But I always have a concern that I leave at the altar.

I never waste that moment in the Mass where the priest asks for silent petitions. I'm always a beggar before God.

These moments are usually filled with some degree of heartache, because I'm usually standing in the gap for someone I love, begging for healing of body or soul.

But Thursday evening, at the Confirmation Mass, I did something I rarely do.
I asked God for a very joyous thing. The idea of it sends my spirit soaring. And I thought of Our Lady, who requested that first miracle of Her Son. It was not a request to raise someone who was sick or dead. It was not a request for healing of body or soul.

They have no wine.

So, I asked God to send more vocations to the priesthood. And, if it is possible, let one of those vocations be placed upon my own grandson. (I don't have any grandchildren yet, so I may be a little ahead of the curve.)

To appreciate the full measure of the miracle, you must understand that I come from a family that has been Protestant for centuries. My father was a Protestant minister. I converted just a few years ago. I have four children. Only one of them is Catholic. The possibility of having a grandson who senses a call to the priesthood is, well, practically impossible.

But so was the miracle of turning water into wine. And so, I asked.

Friday, May 15, 2009

World Day of Communications Observed Sunday, May 24

We do it because we love it. Blogging. Podcasting. Twittering (though I'm more of a Facebook kind of gal). We send YouTube clips and share electronic articles.

But really, there's more to it than love of technology and joy of social networking. As Catholics, we love to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can't "not do" it. If we don't sing His praises, the very rocks and stones will cry out. . . as Holy Scripture says.

There is no faster way to reach such a great number of people than through digital technology. And so, we enter this world without knowing what we are really doing, learning faster than the speed of light, and we wait for the nibbles. And we pray that, somehow, somebody will be inspired and encouraged to keep fighting the good fight.

On this 43rd World Day of Communications, the Holy Father has some advice, namely that of encouragement, saying, "Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm. You know their fears and their hopes, their aspirations and their disappointments: the greatest gift you can give to them is to share with them the 'Good News' of a God who became man, who suffered, died and rose again to save all people."

Together, with the Holy Father, let us celebrate the wonderful gift of sharing the peace of Christ through technology!

Happy blogging, twittering, youtubing, or whatever else you do to spread the Word.

Teach Me How To Pray - And To Know Whose Help To Enlist

One of my favorite quotes is the famous saying by St. Therese, "All is grace."

The beauty and truth of this saying pops up everywhere - if you are willing to see the Hand of God in the little things.

Case in point: Lately I've been worried about my daughter - the grown daughter who is still trying to grow up.

Sometimes, I don't know how to pray for my own children. As they enter adulthood, I'm not even sure what their needs are anymore. What do I say when I pray?

More specifically, which saints are best equipped to help me intercede. This non-Catholic daughter doesn't even have a patron saint. So, I'm on my own to figure this out.

Which brings me to the email I received yesterday from my grown, poodle-loving daughter. She writes, "I thought you would appreciate this picture."

I certainly do. Now I know who to ask for help with intercession.

Everything really is grace.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Robert Wants His Mother

Tonight, we had our parish Confirmation Mass. After the Mass, we all went downstairs to the Grand Hall for refreshments. The place was packed.

Father and Monsignor (who was there by special request of the Bishop to stand in his place) enjoyed the festivities and made the rounds congratulating the students in our Confirmation class.

And then they turned toward the sad face of a little boy, and both Father and Monsignor stooped over to see what was troubling the small child.

After a quick review of the situation, Father announced to the room that "Robert has lost his mother." And then the two robed clergymen took that little boy by the hand, one on each side, and led him around the Grand Hall until they came across his mother.

Okay, converts. That's what it's like, isn't it? We were that little boy. Then, some clergyman took us by the hand and led us to Mother Church, and we ran into her arms, relieved.

Look around you, Catholic brothers and sisters, there are crying sons and daughters who want their mamas too.

Maybe you are the only one to lead them home to Mother Church.

So keep your eyes and ears open and learn from these priests. Robert wants his Mother and you can help.

By Popular Demand

I was in middle school. The Presbyterian Church had General Assembly in the East two years in a row. Baltimore one year and Philadelphia the next, I believe. I remember seeing picketers in front of the building where the pastors and other representatives of the denomination gathered for a week to discuss church issues. I asked Dad (who was there as a delegate to the General Assembly) why the people were picketing.

They wanted the denomination to give God's stamp of approval on homosexual unions. The idea that the denomination would do that seemed outrageous. I voiced my thoughts to my dad. He said he didn’t think they would ever approve it. Clearly, the denomination shouldn’t see it as a viable “marriage” and more specifically, the idea that Presbyterian pastors should be able to have openly-gay relationships was unthinkable. They'll never pass it, he said.

But because the Presbyterian denomination decided things by vote, every year the gap between those who were against gay marriage (and gay clergy) narrowed. The views of the culture were moving, changing the stance of the denomination.

It is a story that is told and retold in every faith community but one. It not only affects denominational teaching on gay marriage, but it has affected everything from artificial contraception (beginning in 1930 when the first denomination changed its position) to abortion.

Truth is up for popular vote.

It comes slowly, over the course of generations. We can only trace the path of change over the course of time by looking at history. And this is a history that you will not find in the textbooks.

We know that God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We know, too, that truth does not change – even though the times are constantly changing.

There is only one Church that has withstood the changing tides of time. One Church that teaches her tenets of the Faith and never changes them once they are laid down as official Church teaching.

The Catholic Church.

She alone is a solid rock. She alone has a light that shines and never fades or is extinguished. When you lose your way, your sense of direction gone, your moral compass broken, she sends out a light.

You may say, that can’t be right. My senses told me that truth was over here or over there. But her light shines steady and strong and the seasoned sailor knows to trust the beacon that shines.

Now, aren’t you glad you are Catholic? I am.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Our Lady of Fatima

Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Fatima!

For converts, the stories of special visits by the Blessed Virgin Mary seem almost too incredible to believe.

If we try, however, even our skepticism regarding apparitions falls away. It seems to make sense that Mary would choose to come to children, like the three in the story of Fatima. Poor children. Innocent. Shepherds of the field. Humble and unknown except in their own families.

Very much like Mary had been when the angel Gabriel came to her.

It is in this story that one of the simplest of prayers is given to humanity. Before Our Lady appeared to the children, an angel visits them, calling himself the Guardian Angel of Portugal. And he tells them to offer up everything in reparation for sin and for the conversion of souls.

Then he teaches them some new prayers. The simplest one of all goes like this:

"My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask pardon of You for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You."

What an easy prayer to integrate into daily living. On this Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, maybe you could commit this to memory and incorporate it into your daily prayer life.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Surprised by Answered Prayers

I've been told a couple of times lately that I am naive in terms of my faith. I must admit that I have a simple faith. I believe that God is listening, and He cares for us far more than we can imagine.

And so, I ask Him for pretty much everything that is on my heart. One of the many things I have laid before Him is a woman I met almost two years ago.

Our children were in soccer together. As often happens, we sat beside each other on the bleachers and tried to strike up a conversation. She asked me what I do, and I told her that I write for Catholic papers and magazines. She admitted that she was a cradle Catholic but hadn't gone to Mass in many years. Before they moved to our area, they attended her husband's denomination. But since moving to the area a few years back, they simply hadn't attended anywhere.

I invited her to come back home to the Catholic Church. My own joy at being Catholic was obvious. She sighed, said her parents and siblings would probably like to see her come back, but there were commitments that sort of precluded Sunday Mass attendance. Her husband had to work on Sundays. . . probably wouldn't come with her. . . and so on.

So, we let it go. But what she didn't know is that I put it to prayer - not constantly - just when I thought of it.

And I had been thinking about it a lot lately - even though that conversation occurred almost two years ago. No reason. But just wondering - and praying.

Well, guess who I saw in the narthex after Mass a week ago? Yes, she was there. I couldn't help it. My eyes filled with tears, and I asked how she was doing. She said she was ready to come home. She didn't receive the Eucharist, she said, because she was still waiting for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But, it would happen, she said. And then, the girls will come in. I have to get myself in order first, she told me. Then, the girls.

Imagine my surprise at answered prayer.

Don't forget the toilet paper!

Do you buy items for a local food pantry? You should know that there are many things that Food Stamp recipients cannot purchase under the governmental program - things they still need in order to care for their families.

You should know that the following are excluded:

Non-food items. This list is obviously expansive and includes personal hygiene products, home products, cleaning products, toys, and basically anything that cannot be consumed as food.

So, when you are at the store picking up a few things for yourself and for the local food pantry, don't forget the toilet paper, feminine products, soap, and anything else that cannot be eaten but you consider necessary household products.
Go and be Christ's hands and feet!


Monday, May 11, 2009

"Offer It Up" - translate please. . .

We are a family of new Catholics, but we are beginning to learn the language and speak it more fluently.

Language, you may ask? What do I mean by the Catholic language?

I’m talking about strange words and phrases that Catholics understand but things which mean something different – or nothing at all – to non-Catholics and converts. For example, Grace means so much more than how we defined it as Protestants. Back then, it was almost the same thing as mercy.

Grace and mercy.

I wasn’t really sure how they were different from one another. And we used acrostics to help us understand Amazing Grace a little better.

God's Riches At Christ’s Expenses. (GRACE)

But grace is everywhere. It is in all things and all moments that lead us to Christ, keep us in Christ, and help us to grow in Christ.

But I think the Catholic phrase that has been uttered most in our house lately is “offer it up.” Now that is a uniquely Catholic phrase.

The other day, my husband asked me what it means. I tried to explain it. I sort of floundered for awhile. But I tried really hard. "It means that everything I do and everything I experience is offered back to Jesus Christ as a living sacrifice. We are sent into the world at the end of the Mass to become little priests (prophets and kings). The priest stands in the place of Jesus Christ (sacramentally) and offers up the sacrifice of the Mass. We go into the world and take the place of Our Lords’ hands and feet, offering all that we are and all that we do for the salvation of the world and the good of the Church."

It goes deeper. . . I offer up my disappointments and my hopes. My work. My moments in the garden and my moments in the shower. Those times I need a pain reliever for minor aches and those times I cry out in excruciating pain because I broke a bone or tore a ligament.

I offer it all.

Mopping the floor. Cleaning the carpet when the dog throws up. The agony of waiting for the phone to ring, when the one you need to hear from most of all just isn’t calling.

The disappointment when medical treatments fail.

I offer it all.

My husband says he still doesn’t understand it – but he likes the idea of it. And he’s trying to practice this new thing.

It’s like learning a foreign language for the two of us, but our daughter gets it in a way that we don’t. She is like the child who grows up speaking the language of the new world - fluently. For the transplants, it’s harder. In time, though, they get pretty good at it.

So, I’m offering it up.

At least, I’m trying.


Unpacking Dreams

I spent the last few days packing and organizing. Now, I guess I’ll spend the next few days unpacking.

We were scheduled to leave for a family vacation to Disney World. Cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents. Everybody.

It’s a tradition. Well, at least we’ve done it a couple of times before.

But this one will have to be postponed. Grandpa isn’t doing great. Chemotherapy is supposed to save his life, but it seems to be doing a real number on him instead.

Originally, the doctors said to leave the family vacation on the calendar. They would work around it, they said. You don’t postpone life when you don’t know what life is going to bring.

So we planned. We dreamed. And now, we are in a state of uncertainty.

We don’t mind putting aside the plans. The adults are far too worried about bigger things than Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. There’s a greater dream that’s on our minds.

What about Grandpa? Grandpa needs to get better.

So, as I put away the clothes and the swimsuits and the sunscreen, I keep praying. Lord, bring him back from this edge, where life's uncertainties are very real and hope is harder to come by. You are a God of restoration - restoring the body, the mind, and the spirit. Teach us to have faith in that simple truth.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day


Prayer of the Month of May

O God, Who wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he be converted and live, grant we beseech You through the intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, Saint Joseph, her spouse, Blessed Junipero Serra, and all the saints, an increase of laborers for your Church, fellow laborers with Christ to spend and consume themselves for souls, through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.


Discernment and God's Will for Me: Books I Would Like to Read Next

I always have this running list of books that I want to read next. It's like God uses people in my life to whisper where He wants me to "pan for gold". Sometimes it is in a new place or sometimes He simply wants me to dig deeper right where I am.

Here are a few on the list.

From a guy named Paul who commented on friend's Facebook (I don't know Paul at all):

"I have found in my life so far that when we try to impose what we think our life should be that we are truly lost. We must let go and just deal with what God wants from us at each present moment. All we have is the present moment. Seek to do God's will in the present moment and the rest will fall into place. Oh yeah I also found great peace in this book:

Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence
By Father Jean Baptistle Saint Jure S.J.
Saint Claude De La Colombiere S.J."

From a dear friend and spiritual mentor on the subject of discernment:

"I can share this much. The two books I'd get to start with discernment are:

1) The Discernment of Spirits; and

2) Spiritual Consolation.

Both are by Timothy M. Gallager, O.V.M. You can probably order them through Barnes and Noble. The first teaches about the difference between 'consolation' and 'desolation', movements of the spirit by which we can discern if something is of the Lord or not. "


Friday, May 8, 2009

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd

We’ve gotta stop keep meeting like this.

Bob and I see each other every Friday morning at 3 A.M. This morning, he met me at the door of the Adoration Chapel and asked me to unlock the passenger door to my car. He pulled a lilac bush from his car and placed it gently on the seat of my Volvo.

I have wanted a lilac bush with purple flowers since I was about twelve. I still remember the scent of a lilac bush in full bloom. And that scent pulls me back to childhood just as vividly as time travel, if there really were such a thing.

My little lilac bush sat in the front seat of my car and waited for me to finish praying. Two hours later, I got in the driver's seat and headed for home.

I already have the whole thing planned. That bush will grow into a lovely mature plant and my own grandchildren will build olfactory memories of the days spent at Grandma's house. And I will tell them the story of Bob, and how we met every week before the Blessed Sacrament.

And they will get a sense of the connection that exists between generations (Bob is in his eighties) and a greater appreciation for memories and they will discover just how important prayer was to their grandmother.

Yes, I am about as sentimental as they come. And I cannot wait for lilac blooms in my own back yard. And as for grandchildren, I think I'm ready for those, too.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

So Heavenly Minded They Are Of No Earthly Good - who says?!

I've heard the cliche more than a few times. Some people are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good.

But that does not fit Catholic theology in the least.

Those who truly have their eyes on the prize (heaven) know what it takes. They are familiar with Our Lord's words. Feed, clothe, visit, nurse those who are considered the neediest and you do it for Jesus Christ himself.

And those of you who forgot to feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, or nurse the sick, well you don't get in. No heavenly rest. No celestial reward. You get eternal damnation.

I didn't make it up. Don't blame me.

So really, to be truly heavenly minded, one must be about the business of doing the most earthly good. For whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus Christ himself.

Go and be so heavenly minded that you cannot help but be of the greatest earthly good.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Breaking Bread and Praying the Our Father

Fr. Dominic of Breaking Bread was one of my favorite Catholics before I ever considered entering the Church.
I became a fan about ten or twelve years ago. That's when I began baking bread.
I am not exaggerating when I say I make bread (or baguettes or rolls) almost every day.

And I find that it is a spiritual experience. It was probably the first daily activity that crossed over and became a moment of grace for me.

As Catholics, we know how to translate everything into such moments. Everything can take us to the throne of grace.

Even baking bread.

I mix and knead, and as I move through the two or three hour event of baking bread, I pray the Our Father.

Give us this day. . .

I roll out the dough and put it in a pan.

Our daily bread. . .

I let it cool and share it with family and friends.

And I reaffirm my Catholic faith. "Everything is grace" (as St. Therese said). Even baking bread.

It is time for me to do a second round of kneading. The bread dough is calling.


When My Children Are Hurting

There is little difference in how my heart responds. Whether my adult children are hurting or my young daughter needs me, I feel a compelling desire to answer the call.

Everything in me says, "Go to them."

My heart beats faster. My adrenaline surges. And all I know is a child of mine is hurting.

Flesh of my flesh - is calling to me.

And so it is with the Blessed Mother. We belong to her. Through the participation in Holy Communion, we literally become flesh of her own Flesh and Blood, Jesus Christ.

We cry out to her, and everything in her says, "Go to them."

Her immaculate heart beats faster. She knows just one thing: one of her children is hurting.

And so, with great confidence, we turn to her and pray the Memorare.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Those Catholic Priests. . . and the (un)faithful

Dad had high hopes that one of his daughters would follow in his footsteps and become a pastor. I remember how he encouraged my sister and me to go into ministry. And, I remember shutting him down on the spot.

It wasn't that I was against women preachers back then. It was a Protestant trend that seemed neither right nor wrong. It just was.

I had a problem with it because I saw how critical parishioners could be. I had no desire to take that on. I had enough trouble pleasing one boss (at the cafe where I worked). Preachers had as many bosses as they had parishioners.

I sometimes have the same concern for priests. They have some things easier. The theology is not up for grabs. As long as priests are faithful to the Magisterium, that shouldn't come back to bite them in the you know what.

But there are still a lot of Catholics out there with a whole lot of spiritual pride and superiority complexes. They seem to feel they are entitled to criticize their clergy and bishops and even their pope.

I don't care for that very much. One of the many things I love about being Catholic is how (at least traditionally) the faithful respected their spiritual authority.

It is something I hope we don't lose altogether. I pray that this is just a phase. But I have my doubts.

I pray that I will put a guard on my own tongue. And, I pray that I will always remember how hard it must be to have so many people who feel justified in speaking their minds.

Do something truly Catholic. Honor and respect your priest.


Piano Lessons and Faith Lessons

My piano lessons were on Monday nights. I still associate Monday evenings with Mrs. Barclay and the tap, tap, tap of her pencil on the piano as she tried to drill a sense of rhythm into my mind.

My daughter has piano lessons on Tuesday nights. She doesn't know it, but I always have a sense of dread on Tuesdays, and I'm not even the one having the lesson. It's just that it's hard. You always feel inadequate.

There's never a moment when you have it all figured out. You never graduate from piano lessons. You just keep doing it or you quit.

The faith journey can feel like this. In fact, some mothers opt out of raising their children in the Church because of their own memories, their own sense of inadequacy. And yet, we get our children into piano classes, because we know it is good for them. We sign them up for team sports, because we know it is good for them. We make them go to school and do their homework and read books. We make them do all those things that are really good for them.

And yet, some parents drop the ball on faith formation because of their own "demons."
If that's what has happened in your family, then maybe it's time you set aside those memories and do the right thing.

Introduce your children to the faith.

Now, I think I will go play the piano a few minutes before my daughter's lessons. That's when I remember that it was indeed worth it all.

Most things that are "good for you" are worth it all in the end.