Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beginning 2011 with Icons of the Saints

It's time to highlight another blogger. Today's blog post comes from Offer It Up. This Catholic blogger (Fr. James Kubicki, S.J.) loves icons and encourages all of us to turn our hearts to God as we pray with the icons of the Saints. Consider adding an icon of your Confirmation Saint to your sacred space during 2011.

Don't have a Sacred Space in your home? Check out this Catholic by Grace article from the 2005 archives:

My junior year of high school seems like a lifetime ago.  In reality, it was 1981. The place was Riceville, Iowa.  My sister and I ended up in a very small debate class comprised of five Catholic boys and two preacher’s kids. My sister and I were the preacher’s kids.
My sister and I were the only children of Protestant clergy in a predominantly Catholic student body of less than three hundred.  I remember a few of my Catholic friends asking me how it was possible for a priest (referring to my father) to be married and have children.  I’d laugh and tell them my dad wasn’t a priest. They usually stared at me in confusion while their minds created a new schema, one that accounted for strange Protestant ideology.
Bob Johanns was one of my Catholic friends and a fellow student in that debate class.  He was strong on personal apologetics, and we regularly debated the Protestant-Catholic question with all the goodwill of two friends.  A year later, I had the pleasure of meeting his mother at their house.  I liked her immediately. 
Her faith and charity radiated from deep inside her.  She gave me a brief tour of their ranch-style home on their large Iowa farm.  I remember walking through the doorway of a little room in the back of the house.  It was a prayer room, complete with a little kneeler, a few sacred objects hanging on the wall, and a book or two close at hand.  As my foot crossed the threshold, I immediately sensed something sacred and holy about the place.
The desire for holy things and a holy place for prayer is not part of the Protestant mindset.  Protestants believe holy objects like the Ark of the Covenant, Elijah’s mantle, and the hem of Christ’s garment became completely unnecessary once the Holy Spirit could dwell in the human soul.  That’s a tough concept to argue against, but sacred places and prayer are not mutually exclusive.  I have learned that when all the senses are invited to the moment of worship, something incredible happens.  We are souls with a body, and we bring the whole person with us when we worship our God.
In addition, many Protestants bristle at the idea of visiting holy shrines or making pilgrimages, because they believe the human soul has become God’s holy sanctuary; so shrines and sacred places are obsolete.  The notion that the Lord is found only in the recesses of the human soul is a difficult concept to refute, but Protestants readily admit that there are unholy places.  If that is true, then there must be holy places too.  I may have been only a teenager at the time, but I sensed even then that Mrs. Johanns’ little room was a very holy place.  I simply remember wanting that sacred room in my own house.
Finally, I have it.
I spent some of Christmas vacation (2005) preparing one bedroom for prayer and worship.  It has my mark on it, but more importantly, it has Our Lord and Our Lady’s mark.  I remember the moment when it went from being an empty room to being God’s room.  After an hour or so of cleaning and arranging sacred icons about the room, I suddenly realized that the room had that indescribable something about it. The Lord had transformed the space into a place of prayer.
If you have a space in your home for something like this, I encourage you to set it aside for something holy.  If you do not have a room available, consider designating a favorite chair or corner as a place for prayer. 
Of course, we are to pray without ceasing; so your prayer life will not be limited to this space, but it is a blessing to have a place set apart, a place where you can go and meet Our Lord without the distractions of this world vying for your attention. 
Blessed New Year to you, and blessings on your sacred space.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blessed Feast of the Holy Family - JMJ

A couple of years ago, a local parish school was in a tight spot. Their 7th and 8th grade language arts teacher had a broken foot and an injured back. “Would you consider subbing for about four, maybe five weeks,” the principal asked. I agreed to help out temporarily, but when health issues prohibited the teacher from returning, the principal said the position was mine if I wanted it.

Just weeks earlier, I had decided I liked being a stay-at-home mom and occasional freelance writer. Indeed, I was quite happy with my little life. A contemplative by nature, I spent my days reading and writing and well, contemplating. I did not want to return to the classroom after eight years’ hiatus from teaching, and I certainly didn’t want to take on middle school students in a K-8 setting (my previous experience was in secondary and tertiary instruction).

But by the time I realized the classroom teacher wasn’t coming back, I had become attached to the students. Somewhere along the way, they had become my students. I cared too much to subject them to another transition. So, I signed contract and finished the year at Immaculate Conception School.

Almost immediately, I noticed that many of the students routinely jotted the initials JMJ at the tops of their papers. I had read Story of a Soul. Although a new convert, I knew that St. Therese had written JMJ on every page of her diary as a physical reminder that she dedicated every page of her life to the Holy Family.

I thought it was awesome that my students were doing this small thing for God, too. Dedicate every little thing to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Yes, even a page of notes on characterization and story maps could and should be given back as an offering of love.

What I found really offensive, though, was the occasional incident in which a student cheated, and my eyes always went to the JMJ at the top of the student’s page. The cheating seemed to stink like rotten meat when it was done on a page dedicated to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. What does JMJ mean to them anyway? Does it really make a difference in how they live their lives? Is the dedicatory heading so routine that it has become a mechanical scrawl at the top of the page, along with their name, the date, and the class title? Shouldn’t it affect how they live their lives? At the very least, shouldn’t it deter them from cheating on the very page that boasts the Holy Family’s initials?

Sometimes, I would talk to my students and ask them these questions. I never singled out the offender du Jour. I suspected they all could benefit from a moment of self-reflection. So, I occasionally brought it up for general reflection and made a few comments about the importance of matching our words (both written and spoken) with our actions.

What about me? As the year came to a close, I realized that I had offended Our Lord more than any one of those students who carelessly jotted JMJ at the top of the page and moments later let their eyes roam to a neighbor’s paper or slipped a cheat-sheet from their desks. I had told myself that this year was for them. I was here for them. I loved them so much that I wanted to stay with them for the year and save them from another transition. In truth, I routinely went home and complained to my husband about how much our lives had changed by my going back into teaching. I told God He could have this year, but next year - well, next year would be different. No more mornings that began at five. No more falling into bed by nine in the evening. No more stacks of essays to grade. No more cheating students. I wanted my life back.


With only a handful of weeks left in the school year, I paused for reflection - and I reflected on my life’s page. JMJ was clearly scrawled across the top of my life, but I was not living out my promise to the Holy Family. My life was not completely dedicated to God. I realized with great shame that my life was dedicated to me.

Give me the grace, Blessed Mother, to live my life for your Son and not for myself. JMJ - every minute of every day.

No kidding. No compromises. No self-deception.

It is so like God to use children to teach us an important spiritual lesson. Strange, isn’t it? And for seven months, I thought I was there to teach them.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Midnight, he kneels before the manger

There are moments, tiny glimpses, when I see something like it's the first time I have seen it. Last night at Midnight Mass, that happened.

It is a powerful thing - seeing your parish priest in the beautiful vestments of this holy night - and then to see him kneel in that garment before a baby in a manger. In this kneeling priest, I see the wise men who were dressed in royal robes, kneeling. In this kneeling priest, I see the humble shepherds, kneeling.

And this morning, I opened up my Magnificat booklet and read:

No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a new-born child.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Arise, Shine, for your Light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!


Friday, December 24, 2010

What It's Like To Have A Baby Boy on Christmas Eve

From the time I knew people existed beyond my immediately family, I have felt a special bond with my Aunt Alice. We were both teachers, we both experienced failed marriages, and we were both blessed with a bunch of beautiful daughters and a son . . . an only son . . . both born on Christmas Eve.
Seven minutes before midnight on December 24, 1985, my Stephen Michael was born amid the comforts of a hospital and with the assistance of a physician. Many years earlier, my aunt gave birth to her James Paul in a car, alone, on a different Christmas Eve.
The year Stephen was born, I thought a lot about Aunt Alice and her Jimmy. I also thought about them on the Christmas Eve my son turned fourteen. I knew we would have a cake. He would open his presents. We’d celebrate until nightfall, and then we would begin to turn our thoughts and minds more completely to the first Christmas Eve.
The year my son turned fourteen, I thought of Aunt Alice, how she would probably be sitting in a church in South Dakota with her family. Probably thinking about Christ’s birth and the birth of her son. For Aunt Alice, though, there would be a space in the seat beside her – filled only with the memory of a tender blond son, killed in a car accident when he was just fourteen years old.
As I sat with my family that year and sang Christmas carols and watched the lights on the Christmas tree, I thanked God for my son’s life. And I prayed, “Not this one. Not this only son of mine, born on Christmas Eve.”
But I knew then – as I know now, that the message of Christmas is more than the message of a baby's birth. The message of Christmas – camouflaged in swaddling clothes, shepherds’ staffs and a proclaiming star – is a cross and an only begotten son, born in a stable. It is the story of a Heavenly Father, and His love for you and me.
It’s the story of a young woman who said yes to God and bore the Messiah, the long awaited Son of God
It’s the story of Jesus Christ, fully God, fully man, who existed from the foundation of the world. The only man who ever chose his own mother. The one who chose his own name before he was even born. The perfect little Lamb of God. Born to die.
Such a precious gift to give, such a terrible price to pay – that I might be redeemed. That I might be eternally saved.


The Girl Can Write! Check out #1 of Small Successes

A Perpetual Jubilee: Small Successes, Volume 15: "1. I’ve never been good at teaching life skills, partly because I’m a control freak, and partly because it was usually easiest (in the..."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Prayer - from one who is standing at the threshold of eternity

If you scan the column at the right, you will see a picture of Fr. Kirk Larkin. I have asked all of you to pray for him as he is probably facing his last Christmas with his family. Fr. Larkin was diagnosed less than a year ago with a stage four brain tumor. I am blessed to be part of his CaringBridge journal, and the note he posted tonight really puts all of the Advent preparations into right order. And so, I share a piece of Fr. Larkin's Christmas prayer with you. Please continue to pray for him and for his family.

To me, everything seems just a little different this year.  So often I would get caught up in work, family, Christmas gifts or any number of other things that are not of real importance.  This is nothing more than focusing on my human needs rather than my Spiritual…which is always a struggle for me.  But thanks be to God, at this point in my life, nothing is more important to me than praising God and giving Him the glory that is due to Him and Him alone.
  When I am able to turn things over to God, my life not only seems to be more fulfilling, but it is also most pleasing to God Himself.  I pray that you will find the joy and happiness that only God can provide us in a special way.
-Fr. Larkin, Advent 2010


Iowa Preacher's Daughter Becomes Roman Catholic (From PK to RC)

My journey from Protestantism to Catholicism is as complex and beautiful as the God who orchestrated it.

During my early childhood, my father was a Wesleyan minister. When I was eleven, Dad changed denominations and became a Presbyterian minister. Dad’s faith journey wasn’t easy. He had high regard for the Wesleyan focus on holiness and sanctification. But his scriptural study had given him a new appreciation for infant baptism and many other things which the early church held sacred, things spelled out in the Apostle's Creed, things that were more Presbyterian than Wesleyan. The importance of seeking God’s Truth at any cost was the most important faith lesson my father taught me.
In October of 2003, Dad underwent surgery for a herniated disk. Six weeks later, an MRI showed that Dad had developed a massive staph infection and sustained a fracture to his back. They began immediate intravenous antibiotics and put Dad in a back brace. Before the medication could work, Dad died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism. It had not been an easy death. He was only sixty and had spent the previous eight years battling a number of neurological disorders as well.

Following his death, I went on a quest for answers as to why the Lord of love and mercy would allow my dad to endure such suffering.

After a lot of seeking and searching, I found the answer in a book by St. John of the Cross. In his book Dark Night of the Soul, this saint explains that we should rejoice when we go through profound suffering, because God has not abandoned us, even if it seems like He has, but rather He is making good use of us (Starr translation 138). Protestants believe we are to pray for healing from our suffering or for strength to endure our suffering. Protestants do not subscribe to the teaching that they are to “contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1499). In other words, they do not see the eternal value for the Kingdom of God in simple or profound human suffering. To them, suffering for the cause of Christ is primarily limited to persecution for one’s faith. What about a sore throat or a herniated disk? Could those be crosses as well? Could they be united to Christ's suffering and somehow be efficacious for the Kingdom of God?

While my father’s life taught me to seek the Lord for answers, his suffering provided me with the question the Lord wanted me to ask. By asking that one question on suffering and by seeking with all of my heart for the answer, the Lord was able to lead me home to the Catholic Church.

When my father died, I inherited much of his personal library, and I perused those books in a quest for answers. Once I had exhausted his library, I borrowed books from Saint Louis University library and purchased others at a local book store. By June, I had read some fifty books, including Confessions by St. Augustine, Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross and The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila.

I suppose my life as a Protestant was over at that point. When a Protestant falls in love with the saints, there’s no turning back. That’s how it was for me.

That fall, I enrolled in RCIA classes and began exploring the tenets of the Faith. I learned that the Catholic Church places a high premium on holiness and sanctification, AND they hold firmly to all that the early church taught . . . because they WERE the early church. I had followed Truth, and I had found my way home. On August 14, 2005, in the Year of the Eucharist, I received Our Lord, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in my First Communion.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Googling Your Way into the Blogosphere

It is okay to feel overwhelmed by all those gadgets and blogrolls and widgets. There's nothing like having Johnnette Benkovic tell the world that your blog is worth visiting (Women of Grace 12/16/10). It certainly makes a blogger want to take that blog to the next level and make that blog praise worthy.

We learn from one another in this mysterious world of technology. We feel inadequate much of the time.

It's okay. Go ahead and feel inadequate. But don't let that stop you from sharing the Faith. I'll be honest with you. Just yesterday, I googled "how to add an email subscription to blogger" and I figured it out.

Just yesterday, I googled "how to add a blogroll to blogger" and I figured it out.

Just yesterday, I saw the "Catholic Converts" button on another blog and thought to myself, I want that! So I clicked on the button and figured out how to add it to my blog.

On Christmas Day of 2004, my husband gave me a laptop. I hadn't had access to a computer since 1998. The following year, I began writing for diocesan newspapers...and learned how to be adept at email and attachments and google searches.

In December of 2008, I started blogging. Imagine that... just two years ago this month!

In these last two years, I've joined Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn.

My friend, you can do this. You can spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by blogging. It's a good month to get started. Join the angels of glory. Tell the digital continent that the Messiah has come.

Google "how to start a blog" -

and share the news that was proclaimed over 2,000 years ago. A Savior has come. He is Christ the Lord!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Speaking of Small Successes

Here's a blog that's worth visiting. I really enjoyed her witty take on being a Catholic mom - check out the postings called Small Successes. The repeated post-theme (Small Successes in this case) is an effective tool for helping readers to see your blog as unique, interesting and memorable. They'll be more likely to return again another day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm the foreigner

The other day, a man left a comment on one of my posts. I didn't publish it. I hit delete instead. The comment had nothing to do with the post. The man was venting. He'd seen my article in his diocesan paper and had a few things to say to me.

His main problem with my article appearing in his diocesan paper was that I am a foreigner. Yes, that's the word he used. Foreigner.

I'm not sure if he called me a foreigner because I'm a convert and not a cradle Catholic. That was certainly part of his beef against seeing my article in his Catholic newspaper. But he also wrote something about my living in Missouri. So maybe that's why he called me a foreigner. Bottom line, I was a convert and I wasn't even from his state. Foreigner.

And you know what? I am a foreigner. This whole Catholic journey is still new, still fresh, still a learning experience for me.

A few weeks ago, I went to EWTN for a taping of Women of Grace. I stayed in the Regina Coeli house. I wasn't even sure how to pronounce the name of the building I slept in that night. That's what it's like when you read your way into the Church. You don't know what you're doing half of the time, and you don't know how to pronounce what you're reading the other half of the time.

It's all a great big new adventure. You need a map, and you need a translator.

But I think that's why diocesan papers sometimes publish what I send them. I am still in the discovery phase. I am still in awe of this new, complex and completely beautiful Church. And some readers out there like to read about those moments of discovery. It's like watching a toddler on Christmas morning. The parents experience Christmas through the eyes of their child - and they can't help themselves. They smile great big smiles. Sometimes, their eyes fill with tears. Re-discovering is almost as wonderful as discovering something for the first time.

Today, at Mass we read the lineage of Our Lord. St. Matthew names just three women, all foreigners. What were they doing in that list of Hebrew fathers? They just don't belong there.

Forty-two generations, and Matthew doesn't name any of the other women. Not Sarah. Not Rachel. Not Rebecca. But maybe that's the point. Maybe it's the oddity of it all that gets Tamar and Rahab and Ruth in the list. Maybe it's the familiarity with Sarah and Rachel and Rebecca that makes Matthew exclude them.

It's the unexpected things that get noticed - those things that don't fit. Those are the very things that make the reader stop and take a second look.

What was Matthew saying when he captured that genealogy? What do Tamar and Rahab and Ruth have to do with it?

Perhaps Matthew (and God through Matthew) was saying that the foreigners are welcome in this new Church. Perhaps he was saying that He sent His Son so that all people might be saved. Perhaps the names of these three women suggest something very important. Jesus Christ is coming, and He's coming to bring life and salvation to all nations.

Yes, I am a foreigner. And I'm guessing that man is too - unless he's Jewish like Jesus and the disciples. Because the message of the genealogy of Jesus Christ is this: God formed a people to be His holy nation, so that from that nation, His Son would come . . . and even a foreign girl like me might swim the moat and climb the castle wall in order to claim the Catholic Church as her Home.

I'm Tamar. I'm Rahab. I'm even kind of like Ruth. I wasn't born into this Family - but praise God! He has invited even me to come to Him.

The next three posts share the story of Tamar, Rahab and Ruth. I hope you enjoy reading about these three women.

Blessed Advent 2010

Ruth: Young widow becomes the third woman named in the lineage of Jesus Christ

Life in Bethlehem was difficult for the foreign-born widow. Ruth’s future was dim. Wake up every morning, go into the field, glean whatever you can from what’s left behind. Deal with the ridicule, the stares, the teasing and snide remarks, all for a handful of grain. Barely enough so a young widow and her mother-in-law won’t starve.

Go to bed, bone-tired. Get up early and do it all over again.

Today. Next year. Every year, until you are too old to do it. But God had another plan.

The Hebrew people might not have been inclined to embrace a foreigner, but Boaz was no run-of-the-mill Hebrew man.

He was wealthy. He owned a number of fields. He was well-liked in the community, a leader. A man of status, with people and harvest crews under him.

And he was the son of a foreigner. His mother? Rahab, the Canaanite woman from Jericho.

And perhaps God chose Boaz to join the line. . . because he would have a soft spot in his heart for a foreign-born woman. A woman like his own mother.

One day, while in the field, Boaz asks about the woman who gleans with the other women.

That’s Ruth, my lord. Naomi’s daughter-in-law. She is here every day. Sun up, sun down. She comes behind us like the other gleaners, to gather what we leave, and to take it back to Naomi.

She does that for Naomi?

Every day.

Very good. Let her glean. Oh, and leave a little extra behind for her. And tell the men to leave her alone. They mess with her; they deal with me. Make sure they understand.

Yes, Sir.

Eventually, Boaz and Ruth marry and have a son. They name him Obed.

And Obed has a son, and names him Jesse.

And Jesse has a son, and names him David.

And David has a son. . . and so on . . . and so on . . . until--

Son of David, born in the City of Bethlehem, a savior, who is Christ the Lord.


Rahab: Canaanite woman becomes 2nd of three women named in Our Lord's lineage

Rahab was a pagan woman who lived in the City of Jericho. She was an unlikely addition to Our Lord’s family tree, and yet, Rahab is one of only three women mentioned in the Gospel account of Our Lord’s lineage.

Before Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, he sent spies to check out the Canaanite Land. Rahab gave these men shelter, and when the king’s soldiers came to seize the Hebrew spies, Rahab sent them on a wild goose chase. She said they had already left Jericho, but if they hurried, they just might catch up with the spies. When the coast was clear, Rahab told the Israelite spies to head for the hills and wait a few days before they returned to Joshua and reported their findings.

Why had Rahab agreed to hide the men among some stalks of flax in her home? For some reason, Rahab had been given the grace to see that these men served a God far greater than any she had ever known. If she threw her lot in with them, she would be spared the destruction that would come eventually.

The spies guaranteed the woman safety in exchange for providing them a sanctuary. When the walls of Jericho fell, Rahab and her family were the only ones who survived.

But the story of Salvation History does not end there.

The Book of Joshua doesn’t tell us what happens to Rahab after the destruction of Jericho, but we read about it in I Chronicles 2:12. One of the spies, a man named Salma, marries Rahab. And they have a son named Boaz. And Boaz marries a woman named Ruth.

Ruth and Boaz become the great-grandparents of King David.

The Gospels name just three women in the lineage of the Messiah. All three are foreigners. Tamar, Rahab and Ruth.

With these women, God gives us the first glimpse into His plan for salvation, a plan that will extend to people of every nation.


One of the Oldest Christmas Traditions.

The great “O” Antiphons begin tonight. They are verses traditionally sung around the Magnificat at vespers in the days before Christmas.

Tonight's "O" Antiphon: "O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reached from end to end, and disposed of all things sweetly and mightily... "


Tamar: rejected widow becomes a mother in the story of Salvation History

The Gospel account of Our Lord’s lineage mentions just three women by name. Obviously, there were other women in the genealogy running parallel to the Old Testament patriarchs, but only three are named.

Tamar, Rahab and Ruth. Foreigners all.

And yet, these women were hand-picked by God and woven into the fabric of Salvation History, becoming part of the greatest royal household that has ever existed.

The first woman mentioned in the genealogical list is Tamar, a Canaanite. When we first see Tamar in Holy Scripture, she is married to Judah’s son, Er. All we know about Er is that he has offended God (though we aren’t given the details), and he pays for the offense with his life. According to levirate law, the next eligible son must step in and marry the widow. His number one duty as the Kinsman Redeemer is to produce an heir for the deceased brother. Onan, younger brother to Er, takes Tamar as his wife, but he is selfish and refuses to father a child with the young widow, because he does not wish to share any of the family inheritance with such an offspring. God takes the life of this husband as well. Tamar turns to Judah for help.

Her father-in-law decides to send Tamar back to her family, but promises to send for her when his younger son is old enough to marry. In time, though, Judah’s own wife dies, and by Levirate law, he is free to marry his own daughter-in-law and provide an heir for his sons’ inheritance. Judah does not send for her.

Tamar waits and waits. She who has been abandoned three times, she who has no hope for a child, she is the one God sees. God chooses Tamar to be named in the line of David, the lineage of Christ, and His will cannot be thwarted by disobedient husbands or a forgetful father-in-law.

One day, Judah passes through Tamar’s town on business. He sees a woman and, thinking she is a prostitute, he lays with her. He does not have the proper payment, so he leaves behind some personal items and promises to send payment.

Months pass. Eventually Judah learns that his sons’ widow is pregnant. Judah is furious. He demands that Tamar pay for her transgression with her life.

Before the sentence can be carried out, Tamar produces the personal items of the one who compromised her. Judah is shocked when he discovers that he is the father of Tamar’s child. Humbled, he admits that his sin is far greater than Tamar’s, and he now does the honorable thing and takes Tamar into his home and cares for her.

Tamar bears him twin sons. Perez and Zerah. Perez becomes the next link in the royal family. An unlikely offspring of an unlikely mother in less than ideal circumstances.

The abandoned and rejected one is raised to a position of noteworthy maternity.

No longer forgotten. Or abandoned. Or rejected.

A symbol of God’s faithfulness, and a symbol that redemption will eventually be extended to all people of all nations. And God will lift us from the mire of sin and shame.


When You Can't Think Of Anything To Blog About

One of the difficult aspects of keeping a blog is that it takes a lot of effort to generate new material constantly. Perhaps you cannot write something terrific every day, but you should try to have new material every day. And that can be tough to pull off. All too often, we think the material has to come from us - that we have to generate it all. Nobody is that creative. Even the most talented writers would admit that they simply cannot come up with something engaging every day.

Be willing to highlight someone else's work. Point your readers to others who are in the blogosphere.

Today, I'm pointing you here:

What Can We Learn From A Genealogy - like the one we find in the Gospel of Matthew?

I used to wonder why so many pages of the Old Testament were dedicated to the lineage of the Fathers of Israel. Why was it a good use of space – all those pages dedicated to tracking genealogy, all those lists of how this one begot that one? Even the New Testament starts out that way:

Here it is, folks. Before we tell you about the Messiah, let’s get the record straight. First there was Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Judah, and Perez, and Hezron and on and on. Then David, that’s right, King David. And Solomon, and on, and on. Fourteen generations from Abraham to David and fourteen from David to the Babylonian Exile, and fourteen more and there He is. Jesus, the Son of the Living God. God keeps His promise to Israel!

Doesn’t it seem like a waste of paper? Why not have a few more uplifting verses in there instead? Why not describe the early years of our Lord’s life instead of giving us the Family Tree?

And then it begins to make sense. The clear line of succession, the evidence of the Plan – all of it – every single human link to Christ matters.

Then Jesus Christ is born in Bethlehem, dies on a cross, rises from the dead, and ascends into heaven. And the rest of history is one great muddle.

Or is it?

For a God who loves the details, shouldn’t there be a continuation of leadership? A new list of Fathers? Shouldn’t there be a new lineage, a clearly defined succession of holy men (and some not-so-holy individuals, too, just like the Old Testament lineage), and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as the One to connect the Old and the New? If the Old Testament prepares for the Messiah’s birth by preserving the lineage, and the New Testament announces the Messiah’s birth by reviewing the lineage, what would logically come next?

Then, Jesus proclaims, “I say you are Peter and on this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Clearly, Jesus is declaring a new lineage. He’s specifically announcing the beginning of a list of those who will prepare for His return by preserving the message of Jesus Christ and passing it on to each generation.

Maybe you’ve never seen the list of Holy Fathers. If you’re like me, you didn’t know there is one. And if there is one, you’re not so sure you should care. But you should care. It proves that Jesus Christ cares about His Church. He breathed on Her, and carefully placed Her in the hands of Peter, and She grew.
Take a minute and check out the list of Holy Fathers:


When you sing His praises in the unlikely places, it will have the greatest impact - Opera Company of Philadelphia "Hallelujah!" Random Act of Culture


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ready to Start a Catholic Blog?

For a how-to tutorial  Click HERE or Click Here

If you would like to jump past the how-to and go straight to a variety of blog templates, click here.

If the blog templates overwhelm you, click here and just be willing to play around with it for awhile.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One of the Coolest Online Diocesan Newspapers - check out page 2

North Coast Catholic goes high tech... Just a click away.

The Verses I Never Saw Before: Marcus Grodi and Denise Bossert

Deep In Scripture (click link below to view show)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

While On My Knees

I was on my knees today, praying before Mass began, when I overheard one woman tell another woman, "We have no more wine back there." The two women went off together and returned before Mass began.

Sure enough, there was wine on the Altar at just the right moment.

Another Woman's words echoed in my ears. "They have no more wine." And I realized that I was smiling.

St. John of the Cross and a Premature Baby

Late in the afternoon on Sunday, I sat in a chair at St. Louis Lambert Airport, waiting for my flight to board. The flights were delayed due to bad weather, but that was fine with me. I was hoping to get a call on my cell phone before boarding the plane (and hearing the flight crew's command to turn off all electronics). I held the phone in my right hand, ready to answer it the second I heard it ring.

I was waiting for my daughter to call and tell me that our second grandson had arrived safely into this world.

In my left hand, I held a book about The Ascent by St. John of the Cross. I willed my mind to engage the words of wisdom found there. It required effort - the proverbial balancing act between this world and that world. But somehow, by grace, I managed to think about both of these things with deep affection and attention.

It was the kind of moment that merits remembrance. A teaching moment, when the soul realizes that it is possible to have one foot in the joys of this world and one foot in the joys of the eternal world--and that the joy of the now does not eclipse the joy of the Eternal Now

And the call came. Little baby boy. 6 pounds, 8 ounces.

And the speaker announced that it was time to board the plane. I marked the page in The Ascent and stepped into line.

As the plane made its own ascent, I thought of my new grandson and prayed that he would live up to his name... a Hebrew name that means The Lord is my Life.

Blessed Feast of St. John of the Cross, 2010


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Marian Apparition in U.S. Receives Approval by Diocesan Bishop

The full story can be found at:  Catholic News Service:

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has approved the Marian apparitions seen by Adele Brise in 1859, making the apparitions of Mary that occurred some 18 miles northeast of Green Bay the first in the United States to receive approval of a diocesan bishop.

Bishop Ricken made the announcement during Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

What Happened in October of 1859?

Brise, a Belgian immigrant, was 28 when Mary appeared to her three times in October 1859. The first appearance took place while Brise was carrying a sack of wheat to a grist mill about four miles from Robinsonville, now known as Champion.

A few days later, on Oct. 9, as Brise walked to Sunday Mass in Bay Settlement, about 11 miles from her home, Mary appeared to her again. After Mass, Brise told the pastor what she had seen. He told her to "ask in God's name who it was and what it desired of her," according to a historical account found on the shrine's website.

On the way home from Bay Settlement, Mary again appeared to Brise. When Brise asked who the woman was, Mary responded, "I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners and I wish you to do the same."

She told Brise to "gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation. Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the cross and how to approach the sacraments."

Brise devoted the rest of her life to teaching children.


Friday, December 3, 2010

My Favorite Blog Post - why I love the Immaculate Conception

Have you ever watched a television program that changed your life? Well, that’s what happened to me – but it took more than five months for the full impact to hit me. It began on July 16, 2004. I caught the tail-end of a Journey Home program (EWTN), and I was immediately drawn to that night’s guest. On a whim, I wrote Mary Beth Kremski and attempted to explain something that I didn’t completely understand myself – my growing desire to enter the Catholic Church.

I had been fascinated by Mrs. Kremski because she was a Third Order Carmelite – or at least that’s what the tag line at the bottom of the television screen said. I didn’t know what Third Order meant, but I knew that the authors of the books I had recently read were Carmelites. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila – only they lived in the 1500s. I had no idea that there were Carmelites living and breathing today! What luck! I had to write her. I had so many questions.

We exchanged just one set of letters in August, and then the communication ended. I turned my attention to the local Catholic Church and decided to try RCIA class and see what would happen from there.

In December of 2004, the RCIA leader at my parish introduced the class to the Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception. I’ve come to the conclusion that our Blessed Mother was gently guiding me through this part of my journey, but at that moment in time, she seemed to be nothing more than one major stumbling block for me.

I announced to the entire class that I couldn’t accept that Mary was conceived without sin. I was willing to admit that Protestants had let the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction, relegating Mary to a minor role in the Christmas story, but I felt that was in response to excessive Catholic Mariology. I explained that, while I believed the Lord could do that for Mary, I was convinced it was highly unlikely that he did do it. At that moment, I didn’t even have enough faith to say, I believe, Lord help my unbelief.

The terrible thought hit me then. Where does one go when she believes in Apostolic Succession, the Papacy, Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, and all Catholic Teaching, except the Immaculate Conception? What was the name of that denomination? I felt like Peter when he said, where else can we go? This is a difficult teaching, Lord, but I’ve nowhere else to turn.

After many attempts to help me understand, my RCIA instructor mentioned that I had the option of placing a petition before the Blessed Mother. If I had sincerely given myself to the task of understanding and I still couldn’t embrace this teaching, he told me that I could always ask Mary to show me the Truth.

As an Evangelical, I had placed many petitions before the Lord. That was not a new concept. And I didn’t have a problem with asking Mary to answer my petition. I just didn’t think she would do it.

I knew a lot was riding on this petition. The Immaculate Conception was the one obstacle that stood between my father (a Presbyterian minister) and the Catholic Church. In fact, if he could have resolved this issue, I’m convinced he would have converted to the Catholic Church thirty years ago. Before I made my petition to Mary, I prayed, “Lord, I will follow you wherever you lead, even if it is down a road my father could not take. I just want to get this right. And so, I beg You NOT to answer the petition I place before Your Mother if this teaching shouldn’t be embraced.” Then I turned my heart to Mary and laid it on the line:


If you are as the Catholic Church says and if you love me, please answer this petition. I want someone to communicate with me by your inspiration. I need the communication to encourage me in the faith, and I don’t want it to be from Catholic friends at the school where I used to teach or my Catholic in-laws. I don’t want it to be from anyone in my parish. All of them—well, I have shared this struggle with some of them, and they may know through earthly tongues that I need to be propped up. Mary, I want the message to come from you to the ears of one who could know no other way. Please choose someone who, for me, would represent the Universal Catholic Church. Then I will know I am right where I am supposed to be and that the Church’s Teachings are ALL correct, terra firma, especially the Teachings about you. Please answer my petition before the end of the year—I know, that’s just two weeks.

This petition is rewritten word-for-word from my journal entry for December 12, 2004, the day I said the prayer. I knew it was unlikely I would receive a response. Almost as unlikely as the Immaculate Conception, I thought.

Our Lady didn’t make me wait very long. In the mailbox the next day was a letter from the woman who had appeared on The Journey Home the previous July. I had not heard from her since August when her one and only letter arrived. BUT, in December of 2004 she decided to write me a second time to encourage me in the Faith and let me know she was praying for me. Her letter was dated December 8, 2004. Above the date, she had hand-written The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. With tears streaming down my face, I read her two-page, single-spaced letter.

I had been ready to abandon the journey. I knew it would drive me crazy to teeter on the fence for very long. That’s why I had put a time restriction on the Blessed Virgin. That letter sealed everything for me. Like Thomas when he touched the wounds of Our Lord, all my doubts were gone instantly.

Mary is my Mother! And like the truest mother, she loves me and knows me better than I know myself. After all, she knew the very thing I would ask of her before I even asked it. Mary Beth Kremski’s letter had been dated four days before I made the petition, arriving less than twenty-four hours after my request for help. Our Lady proved herself to be the Immaculate Conception and a Mother with impeccable timing.

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Virgin! Mary, conceived without sin! Remember, thou wert miraculously preserved from even the shadow of sin, because thou wert destined to become not only the Mother of God, but also the mother, the refuge, and the advocate of man; penetrated therefore, with the most lively confidence in thy never-failing intercession, we most humbly implore thee to look with favor upon the intentions of this novena, and to obtain for us the graces and the favors we request. Thou knowest, O Mary, how often our hearts are the sanctuaries of God, Who abhors iniquity. Obtain for us, then, that angelic purity which was thy favorite virtue, that purity of heart which will attach us to God alone, and that purity of intention which will consecrate every thought, word, and action to His greater glory. Obtain also for us a constant spirit of prayer and self-denial, that we may recover by penance that innocence which we have lost by sin, and at length attain safely to that blessed abode of the saints, where nothing defiled can enter.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

V. Thou are all fair, O Mary.
R. Thou art all fair, O Mary.
V. And the original stain is not in thee.
R. And the original stain is not in thee.
V. Thou art the glory of Jerusalem.
R. Thou art the joy of Israel
V. Thou art the honor of our people.
R. Thou art the advocate of sinners.
V. O Mary.
R. O Mary.
V. Virgin, most prudent.
R. Mother, most tender.
V. Pray for us.
R. Intercede for us with Jesus our Lord.
V. In thy conception, Holy Virgin, thou wast immaculate.
R. Pray for us to the Father Whose Son thou didst bring forth.
V. O Lady! aid my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.

Let us pray

Holy Mary, Queen of Heaven, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and mistress of the world, who forsakest no one, and despisest no one, look upon me, O Lady! with an eye of pity, and entreat for me of thy beloved Son the forgiveness of all my sins; that, as I now celebrate, with devout affection, thy holy and immaculate conception, so, hereafter I may receive the prize of eternal blessedness, by the grace of Him whom thou, in virginity, didst bring forth, Jesus Christ Our Lord: Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, in perfect Trinity, God, world without end. Amen.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Save The Date

Okay, here are the air dates that I have so far. I will be on the following programs:
  • Women of Grace will air on Dec. 16 at 10:00 AM Central time (11:00 Eastern) on EWTN - You may watch online on/after 12/16/10 at
  • Deep in Scripture will air ON THE RADIO on Dec. 15 at 1:00 Central (2:00 Eastern) - You may watch online on/after 12/15/10 at
  • The Journey Home program will air on January 10, 2011. This will be the one-hour conversion story, from Iowa preacher’s daughter to Roman Catholic.

Thanks for praying and have a very blessed Advent,

Denise Bossert


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Catholic By Grace Article - 2010

I was nearing my ninth birthday, and it was the time in childhood when seemingly insignificant experiences begin coalescing into memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives – like the sweltering summer day when my best friend and I sat on the sidewalk in front of the parsonage where my family lived. After trial and error, we found a limestone rock, and we practiced drawing stars on the concrete. We had learned a new method, two inverted triangles rather than the star formed by an unbroken sequence of five lines. A lady came up the sidewalk and smiled at our work. She was older than my mother, a member of that indefinable period of womanhood that exists somewhere between the age of mothers and grandmothers. “Are you Jewish?” She asked the two of us. We stared at her blankly. “That’s the Star of David,” she explained. “The Star of my faith.”

I looked at my friend. I could see that she didn’t know any more about Jewish faith than I did. So we sat in silence. The lady shrugged her shoulders and kept walking.

There was a missing link in the chain. We were connected to the lady who paused to talk to us, but we didn’t quite know how we were related.

The woman stopped because she wanted to know if we shared a common bond. When we didn’t reply in the way she expected, she just kept walking. She didn’t recognize anything familiar or familial about us either.

We were strangers.

She went off to live her life. We kept playing on the sidewalk in front of Faith Wesleyan Church and the pastor’s house on the corner of 2nd and Walnut Street.

Today, I know what the missing link is in the chain that connects me to that woman. In the fullness of time, God’s Son entered the world, born of a virgin. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the link. From the House of David, God raised up a poor and humble girl. And she became the Mother of God himself! And then she became the Mother of the Redeemed as well.

Every Advent, I haul the boxes up from the basement, and we begin trimming the Christmas tree. Many years ago, I bought a handmade Star of David from a Jewish glass artisan in Atlanta, Georgia. The Star is cobalt blue. It’s stunningly beautiful, yet simple and unadorned.

I carefully open the tissue and find a place on my tree for the Star, with its two triangles – bearing the same image of the star my friend and I scratched into the sidewalk so long ago. And I think of the woman who paused and asked, “Do you know what you are drawing?”

Each Advent, I glance at the figures on my mantel shelf, and I see a young woman peering over an empty manger. She’s waiting for something. She’s waiting for God’s promised Son. And then my eyes go to the Christmas tree, where my blue Star of David hangs on a branch. The string of Christmas lights plays off the smooth handcrafted glasswork. And I realize that I have an answer for that woman who paused to talk to me on the sidewalk in front of my dad’s church in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

“Yes, I know what I’m drawing. I am connected to you, dear-lady-with-no-name. And you are connected to me. Your daughter has become my mother.”

Like two triangles intersecting.

The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

November 2010 - Exclusive to the St. Louis Review

We visited the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. when I was thirteen. A few of the collections were particularly memorable. The locomotives in the train room frightened me. That’s where I first realized that I was a little claustrophobic. The fifty-two foot Foucault Pendulum and the American flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem were fascinating. We spent three days visiting the Smithsonian. Each day, my sister and I ran straight for the railing where we could look down and watch the pendulum swing back and forth. At the end of each visit, we said our good-byes to the stained and weathered American flag.

But the two things that I remember the most were the Hope Diamond and the Bradford Toy House.

I wanted to take these two things back with me to our Iowa home. I wanted to own the Hope Diamond. I wanted to play with the little people in the Bradford Toy House.

I think I fell in love with the diamond and the toy house for the same reasons that I am fascinated by the lives of the saints.

Their testament to the faith shines brighter than the Hope Diamond. Their lives are the epitome of what it means to be holy and righteous. And yet, they often lived lives of no great notoriety. To be great, they had to become small – like the little family that lived in the Bradford Toy House.

They had to wash floors, give what they had to the poor, take care of the dying even if it meant they would succumb to the illness and die as well. They had to live in obscurity, like Mary and Joseph who shared their lives and home with the Lord of all creation. Little lives. Nobody gave them a second glance. They weren't on the nightly news. Nobody interviewed them. They didn't live in a palace. They rode on a donkey, not in a BMW. They worked for a living. Hardly the life one would expect for the greatest mother and father of all time.

They had to shine like diamonds on the inside, but live like the littlest of God's creatures on the outside.

It is a paradox. Like putting the Hope Diamond in one hand a miniature Bradford figurine in the other. They don't go together at all . . . and somehow they fit together perfectly.

Holy Mother Church is blessed to have many shining examples of those who fought the good fight and ran the race well. As the Catechism says in paragraph #828 the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. Bottom line, the saints show us how to become holy. They lead us in the journey to personal sanctification.

When I hear the Litany of Saints or read the biography of a holy one, I am encouraged. I see that true holiness is possible. It is not a pie-in-the-sky mirage. It is not some diamond that only the world’s rich and famous can possess. It is within our grasp.

It is all decided in the sphere of the human will. I choose Christ. Or I choose self. I pick up the crosses in life. Or I magnify my wants and desires. That is not to say that personal holiness is easy. Attaining heroic virtue and sainthood is difficult.

But it is not impossible.

Listen to the Litany of Saints. And be filled with hope. With God, all things are possible. He can take a soul and make it shine more brightly than the Hope Diamond. He can teach your soul the little way of the saints.

It’s like holding the Hope Diamond in one hand and a Bradford figurine in the other. They don’t seem to go together at all. And yet, somehow, they are a matched set.

Climbing Stone Mountain

Father said, "The word for the day is mountain."

It's in the Old Testament reading from the Book of Isaiah. It's in today's Gospel Reading from the Book of Matthew.

And it's in the Mass. We ascend the Mountain of the Lord when we go to Mass, when we hear the Word, and when we receive that Word. Finest wheat. A banquet table. Finest wine.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? It's been awhile, but I have done it. Stone Mountain, Georgia. The experience is very much like the description in Sacred Scripture. You get on your climbing shoes. You approach the mountain full of energy. And when you are about there, when you can see the top, you suddenly feel exhausted.

It was in this moment that I looked at my cousin Nancy. Her face was crazy red. She looked beat. Absolutely beat. "Do I look as red in the face as you look?" I asked her.

Someone took our picture right about then. And yes, I was as red in the face as Nancy.

We turned back to the mountain and gave one another a pep talk. "We've come this far."

"That's true."

"I think we can do it."

"I'm game if you are."

When we stood on the top of Stone Mountain, the wind came in great, mighty waves. It cooled our faces. Changed them back to their proper colors. Restored our bodies, like some kind of medicine.

And we stood on that rock. That mountain of granite. And we quietly viewed the beautiful Georgia landscape.

In today's Gospel Reading, Jesus accompanies the crowds to the top of a mountain. In pity, he works a great miracle. He feeds thousands with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish.

The people are seated around him. They'd followed him for three days. They'd climbed the mountain with him. They were probably looking quite pitiful about then.

He gave them the Word - Preaching. Teaching. Feeding their hearts and minds.

And then, he gives them sustenance for the journey. Like the Liturgy of the Word which is followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist...

Today, I received the Bread of Life. I held the Lord Jesus Christ in my hand. So small. So rich.

I received the Blood that saves. I held the Cup of Our Lord and raised it to my lips. Sweet. Finest wine.

Today, I stood on the Mountain of the Lord. And he had pity on me, too. Out of love and pity for this weak, frail form, He gave all that He has to give.

He gave Himself.

And the Wind of the Holy Spirit washed over me as I looked out on the vista from that Mountain. I turned to make my way back down the hillside. And I am doing what every climber does. I'm telling you about the climb.

You've come this far.

I think you can make it to the top.

I'm game if you are.

Okay, let's climb together.

I'll meet you on the Mountain tomorrow morning! On the Mountain where stone gives way to His Flesh. And we are changed.

Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.