Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some "Best Lines" in the Gospel (by people other than Jesus)

The Word Made Flesh, Jesus clearly has the best lines in the whole Bible. There are way too many of them to try to pick which ones are the best. I had a verse playing in my head the other day, something someone said to Jesus. And as it sank into my subconscious and starting bubbling back up to the surface, I thought, "That's got to be one of the best lines in the Bible!"

I started looking for other lines like that, and decided to limit it to the Gospels because Paul and Peter and the other epistle writers had, of course, volumes of great lines crammed in their letters and, honestly, I haven't read all of the Old Testament. So I give you, in (mostly) no particular order, my take on:

The Best Lines in the Gospel by People Other Than Jesus

1) "Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

This is the line that got me started. It is a perfect, one-line prayer for us imperfect, sinful saints in progress, and one I use a lot. (Right up there with the line of the Psalmist, "O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.") So many times my faith falls short--and I am tempted to blame God for it, because isn't faith supernatural? Could I even have faith on my own if God had not given it to me? But I also know I am my own worst enemy, and I cannot expect to grow in my faith if I do not cooperate with Him; that my own sin often blocks His grace in my soul; and that even this is not an obstacle for Him if I allow Him to work in my soul and do not permit my pride to lead me into despair. This prayer helps me turn my weaknesses over to God so He can turn them into strengths.

2) "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Matthew 15:27

This is the Canaanite woman who comes out to Jesus and begs her to heal her demon-tormented daughter, and she is initially refused on the ostensible grounds that she is not of God's chosen people. I recently read that Jesus must have been delighted by her clever turning of His language. I love this verse for several reasons. First, she is so confident and bold in her faith--like many of the beneficiaries of Jesus' miracles, she knew Jesus could help her. Then, what boldness to lead her, in the first place, to approach a renowned figure who is other to her. She obviously knew what Jews typically thought of her kind, calling them "dogs" as a matter of course. But to persist after he has apparently rejected her! What courage faith gives her! And look what she says. Not only does she turn a common epithet to her advantage in her petition; but when she compares her request to the idea of mere crumbs of what Jesus has to offer, she shows us how high is her estimation of the immense wealth of Christ's mercy.

3) "Lord, it is good that we are here." Matthew 17:4

Poor, clueless Peter. He means well, but he doesn't even get done with his idea to camp out and pay homage to the transfigured Christ with Moses and Elijah, before he's cut off in shock and awe by the voice of God. But here's the thing. He knows something special is happening, and he's prepared to act on it.

Meditating on this is having Eucharistic implications for me. Ironically, Jesus is hidden in the form of bread rather than shining in glory in the Blessed Sacrament. But it is no less Jesus on the altar than it was Jesus on Mount Tabor. As someone who longs to get to Adoration but finds it difficult in practice to do so, I appreciate Peter's sentiment. You have to "be here" to be blown away by the grace of God that is available through the Real Presence.

4) "Be it done unto me according to your word." Luke 1:38

Mary's fiat, which presages Jesus' own perfect submission and obedience when He says to His Father, "But not my will but yours be done." Jesus' obedience even to death opened the way of life to the world. Mary's obedience didn't lead to her death, but it came close a couple of times. Mary perfectly images her Son, which is why she is a model for all Christians. (By the way, I was an adult by the time I learned something of the premium the saints place on obedience as a way of conforming to Christ, but that's a topic for another post, I suppose.)

5) "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." (Luke 2:48)

This seems to be the other end of the spectrum for Mary--that's why I love it. This so speaks to my mother's-heart. Immaculate Mary, the perfect mother, has lost her son. Her "tween" son, if you know what I mean. I have imagined this so many ways, allowing for the sinlessness of the main players. I wonder: how exasperated did she get? How much attitude did Jesus have explaining to His mother? How much relief at finding him, and chagrin at dismaying her, were felt? And there's this: sinless as she was, perfectly as her will conformed, she did not know everything of the mind of God.

And how many people, good Christians who in theory understand the value of suffering and why bad things happen to good people, come to a trial in their lives--some great grief or great anxiety--and say to the Son of God, "Why are you doing this to me?" Well, Mary said it too.

6) "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." John 11:21-22

This is Martha speaking to Jesus about Lazarus. In the midst of her pain, she expresses her faith in Jesus. Jesus in turn meets her where she is and walks her through that faith, leading her to affirm her belief that He is the Messiah. Martha's sister Mary, says the exact same line--"If you had been here, my brother would not have died." Her statement prompts a very different response from Jesus, one that in itself is profoundly worth pondering. But I love how Martha turns to Jesus in grief and trust and receives his strengthening Word.

7) "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Luke 5:8

Peter gets it wrong again, I guess. But I totally get it. We sinful creatures need Jesus, but sometimes, we see the vast gulf between our sinfulness and his holiness and we turn him away. Sometimes it is out of humility, in which we recognize with not a little fear how unworthy we are. But sometimes it is out of false humility--that sickly, twisted version of pride in which we remove ourselves from God's healing grace because we are too good to approach his goodness while we are so bad, or something like that. You can tell the difference by your response to what he says next. When He goes, do you wallow in self-pity and blame, or do you leave your self-image behind and follow Him?

Seeing how I just picked a few quick verses based on my own memories and reactions to them, there are bound to be plenty I missed. What would you choose as a "best line"?

Addendum: I have been working on this for about a week and a half, but I just saw this meme at Melanie's The Wine Dark Sea, which is in my blog reader, and Daria's Coffee and Canticles, which I just added. I am shamelessly jumping on their coattails, despite the fact that I clearly break the rules by having too many verses and excluding 69 of the books in the Bible. Also, since I was not tagged, I'm not tagging anyone, but if you play along or have a thought, I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Prayer for Daily Neglects

My homeschool advisor once gave me this advice. When I told her how frustrated I was with the little I was accomplishing because of my own faults and weaknesses, she said to find and say this prayer every day. I have only recently begun to do that; but it really is a deeply consoling prayer. (It probably is an effective prayer for helping to grow in holiness, too, because--although many copies of the prayer include the caution that it is not meant to replace confession--it is like confession in this respect, that by habitually having recourse to this prayer, I think I am becoming more mindful of my actions and choices during the day.)

Prayer for Daily Neglects

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with all its love, all its sufferings, and all its merits.

First To expiate all the sins I have committed this day and during all my life.
Glory be to the Father...

Second To purify the good I have done badly this day and during all my life.
Glory be...

Third To supply for the good I ought to have done and that I have neglected this day
and during all my life. Glory be...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real--5/26/11

round button chicken

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life


A view from our front door. I love our home.


Happiness is having a big brother swing with you. And a young man who loves his little sister so much he lets me take a picture of him (as long as it's with her).


My little guys are into wildlife right now--so much that they seeded the side lawn with deer corn. My husband and I laughed at the thought of what it will look like a few weeks from now if we don't mow, and the birds and squirrels don't get it all. All today, outside our window, we heard this noisy guy. He's got a lady friend to chirp with him too, and there's another couple of cardinals who hang about the place.


I found this on my camera. My six- and eight-year-olds borrowed it the other day. They can't focus or hold the camera steady or even frame the shot yet, but (like me) they can't resist a sight like this.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Baby Names for Mary

Baby Names for Mary...
in the Mary month of May
I’m thinking about baby names these days. We have a baby—possibly our fourth girl—due in July, and we always try to find both a saint’s name and a family name for our child. And in this month of Mary, I’m thinking: what better patron to choose for your baby than the Blessed Mother?

We Catholics especially have named our girls after Mary for centuries. It’s one of the most popular names in English for the last 400 years, according to Nameberry, a baby name web site that offers information and advice on style and naming trends as well as the customary database of names and their meanings.

But according to their ranking, which tracks a name’s usage in the U.S. for the last 130 years, Mary as a baby name choice has fallen off considerably. The Social Security Administration, which released its statistics for baby names in 2010 last week, shows that even in the last ten years,  "Mary" went from a rank of 47 to 109.

The authors at Nameberry say: “May, as any Catholic schoolchild can tell you, is the official month of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  Which might make Mary an appropriate name for a girl born this month, except after a 400-year run, Mary is more than ready for semi-retirement. The good news is that you can hold onto Mary’s symbolic value by choosing one of her fresh appealing variations. And there are literally dozens of them ...”

They came up with a handful of options. I had fun coming up with three times as many. I cast a wide net for names that I find appealing or intriguing, with some of the most obvious first, and some that might not at first glance be associated with Marian naming tradition—incognito Mary names. (Many are non-traditional enough that I’d still want a “regular” saint’s name like Catherine or Therese to go with it, but I’d know it is for Mary!)

The Hebrew form Miriam is in the Old Testament; Mara is too. Maryam (Aramaic) and Mariam (Greek) are New Testament forms of the name Jesus’ mother bore, of which Mary is actually an Anglicized version. The Latin Maria is a beautiful, classic name. Mariel is my favorite French version. The Irish Maire and Moira are also appealing.

Diminutives of Mary abound. These nickname-names strike me as a delightful reminder of being a cherished daughter of her Heavenly Mother. Maisie is adorable, and so isMimiMamie is a family name, so I’m biased; so are Molly and Polly, in fact. (I really like Moll, too.) Other favorite derivatives of Mary are MarabelMariMae, and Maren.

Mary as the New Eve inspires EveEva and, indirectly, EdenVirginia becomes a tribute to the Blessed Virgin. Donna, “lady,” is a possibility. Marit is an Aramaic version of “lady” that has the added benefit of phonetic similarity to "Mary"—an interesting option, although Martha is a more familiar one with the same origin.

The various titles and honorifics of Mary are full of choices. ReginaReina, and Quinn honor Mary as the Queen of Heaven; for that matter, so can Heaven and Caeli, both of which have been used for girls. I love both Stella and Maris from “Star of the Sea,” and Luz from “Bearer of Light.” Consuelo comes from Our Lady of Consolation.Dolores and Deirdre could relate to Our Lady of Sorrows.

The Litany of Loreto is rich with possibilities that relate to Our Lady. Just a few: Amabel and Amilia (Mother most amiable), Mercy and Mercedes (Virgin most merciful),Sophie and Sophia (Seat of wisdom), Ivory (Tower of ivory), Portia (Gate of heaven), Angelica (Queen of Angels).

Attributes of Mary can suggest names as well. Grace and the Latin Gratia reminds us that Mary was full of grace. Immaculée and Concepción also honor her sinlessness. Place names based on apparitions are popular names; consider Carmel, LourdesGuadalupeFatima.

From Spanish and Portuguese come Nieves and Neves, for Our Lady of the Snows. A baby Gracia could be the namesake of Our Lady of Altagracia, patroness of the Dominican Republic. Pilar honors Our Lady of the Pillar, an apparition and dedicated church from apostolic times.

Various symbols, especially flowers, associated with Mary are lovely name choices: Rose, the queen of flowers; Lily, for Mary’s purity; Iris, a symbol of her Seven Sorrows. The almond, a symbol of Mary’s favor, gives us AmandineCora means “maiden” and is related to “heart.” Even Mary’s traditional color, Blue, has become an intriguing name possibility.

And I haven’t even come close to listing all of them. Is your favorite "Mary" name on the list?

— Nicole Stallworth is a wife, mother, and (as life allows) writer who blogs from Georgia at Saints in Progress. Her ninth baby is due in July, so she is also looking for masculine names in case she has her sixth boy.

Baby Boys for Mary!

I love all of the feedback from the Faith & Family Live article "Baby Names for Mary"! I saw many beautiful names in the comments that I couldn't list in the article for space reasons. Some that I thought of, I never saw. And some I saw, and thought, "Why didn't I think of that!"

One commenter asked about boys' names. I considered including them, too, and if space had allowed I probably would have added a section for them. Boys' names are a bit harder, though. There are so many great and worthy names for boys from other sources, and the attributed meanings of "Mary"--"beautiful," "grace," "lady" (although not so much "bitter" and "sea")--are decidedly feminine. So some of these are a stretch. Of course in some cultures, and by many religious, the name Mary is used as a second name. It's been done here before, but most people want decidedly masculine names for their boys.

Mario is one of the most obvious; Marius is related. There's Marion, the given name of John Wayne, and Mark, which has mostly a phonetic similarity in its favor in relating to Mary.

Merritt is possibly derived from Mary, star of the sea, and possibly Old English for "boundary gate." Mabry has similar origins; Mayes could also be from "Mary" or May. Gilmore is Irish, meaning "servant of Mary."

Reginald (Reggie!) could be adopted in honor of Mary's queenship. Pax and Placido honor her as Queen of peace. Stellan is a great name that, though etymologically different, can be used as a masculinization for "Stella Maris." Of course there is Christian, as she is the Help of Christians. Gold, Golden, and Aurelius (for "House of gold") have entered the name fray. And what about Mary's title as the Tower of David?

Speaking of David, Jesus' genealogy, which is also Mary's by blood or law, could be mined for names. (Different versions are given in Luke and Matthew.) There are well-known names like Seth, Jared, Noah, and Nathan. Names like Keenan and Joram are versions of such ancestral names. Mary could have been biologically of the house of David, i.e. descended from Judah; or, as the cousin of Elizabeth, she could have been descended from Aaron and Levi. (Or both, as St. Thomas Aquinas held.)

Another approach to Mary could be through the saints who had a particular role during her life: Joseph, her husband; Joachim (or Joaquin), her father; Gabriel of the Annunciation; Simeon, who prophesied her partaking of her Son's Passion; John, who became her son at the foot of the cross; Luke, whose gospel is distinctly Marian and who is said to have painted her portrait. (Joemar combines "Joseph" and "Mary" into one name.)

It would be impossible to list all the saints devoted to Mary, but some had particular connections to her. She gave the scapular to Simon Stock at Carmel, her miraculous likeness to Juan Diego, and three secrets to Francisco at Fatima. Dominic popularized the devotion to the Rosary. Louis de Montfort promulgated consecration to Jesus through Mary. And of course, our beloved John Paul's motto was "Totus tuus."

And I think Loreto would be a great devotional/place name for a boy.

Can you think of any?


...Faith and Family Live readers! Today my little piece about Marian baby names is featured there, and yes, several of the names I mention are possibilities we are considering for our little one if we have a girl.

In the meantime, feel free to look around and say hello. After almost a year of blogging, I'm still just splashing my feet. You might like this post about making mercy available, or this one about a recent episode of ETWN's Sunday Night Prime. I might suggest a tour of the Rosary in Fine Art if it wasn't still a mess--my goal is to finish it by the end of May--but you can always poke around while it's in progress.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Things not to do when you're a weepy pregnant woman

Look in the mirror before you shower, or after you shower

Go more than three hours without some kind of caloric intake

Sort through your other kids' outgrown clothes

Watch Youtube videos of surprise marriage proposals like this and this

Make birthday cakes for one-year-olds

Read stories like this one

...or blog posts like this one

Think you can keep three children ages 4, 2, and 1 quiet and still on your own at Sunday Mass

Make your husband miss Communion by sending him out with the three unruly children

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Last night, I wished I had cable TV

Of course, if I did have cable TV, I would probably have to program it permanently to EWTN to avoid the black hole cesspool many bewildering choices available in TV entertainment. But EWTN was the exact option I would like to have had last night, because one Dr. Damon Cudihy, whom I knew in college, was on Fr. Benedict Groeschel's Sunday Night Prime to discuss "Standing for Life in the Medical Field."

Dr. Cudihy was the Respect Life co-chair in our campus ministry and went on to become an OB-GYN practicing authentic pro-life medicine, even suffering at some point a level of persecution due to his philosophy. I didn't even know of his appearance on ETWN until I saw some friends refer to it on Facebook after the fact.

As it turns out, I managed to catch the program on this morning's rerun at their website, and although a DVR would have been nice, so I could pause and return as the demands of the morning allowed, (and maybe do more than just paraphrase, as you will see,) I was able to hear much of the conversation.

There were three things I took away from the hour that, though I may have heard them before, struck me afresh. The first was that the Hippocratic Oath has basically been thrown out in the medical profession. They don't even take it anymore--instead, Dr. Cudihy said, what usually happens is that in medical school people sit around in circles and come to some consensus on what are essentially meaningless platitudes about being good. He said that in a way it's a measure of honesty, since because of the widespread practice and acceptance of abortion and contraception most doctors cannot honestly take such an oath.

Another is the lack of informed consent in the widespread prescription of birth control, particularly when it comes to the increased risk of cervical and breast cancer with the Pill. (I will have to check the download of the program when it becomes available for more exact citations!) A woman's chance of cancer increases about 200% after 5 years and 400% after 10! If you were ever on the Pill, did your doctor tell you about these rates of increased risk? Did he or she even tell you that your risk increased at all? I've heard it referred to in a general, dismissive way by some doctors, as if to say, "Oh, but it's worth it--it's an acceptable level of risk."

This goes to the third point I took away. One of our mutual friends later commended Dr. Cudihy on saying this: "There's a deep psychological wound done to the woman when we treat her fertility as a disease that needs to be stamped out." She's right, of course, but I was struck even more by what followed that. Dr. Cudihy spoke of a colleague saying that "the greatest preventative medicine is contraception." He then pointed out the terrible logic that followed that fallacy: that 1) life, namely conception, is a disease--not just fertility, life is a DISEASE--and 2) abortion is the curative medicine to treat it. This is truly the belief of a culture of death, and it is widespread in the medical community and in society at large.

I am deeply grateful that Damon Cudihy has become such an effective witness for life, and personally proud to know him. I pray God raises up more like him. Damon, you inspire me with your courage and commitment to become more outspoken, as Fr. Benedict said, in defense of life.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On the Loaves that Multiplied

Mark Shea knows how to put things.

Nonetheless, all these things are wrong and stupid, as is the naturalistic reading of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. That’s because all common sense is against it. The notion that it is a wonder worthy of mention in all four Gospels that ancient Near Eastern semites shared their food is something that *only* suburban American cheapskates could believe.

It's nice to have some genuine multiculturalism around.

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real--5/5/11

round button chicken

Pretty. Happy. Funny. Real.

Thanks to Danielle Bean and Cake Boss, I started getting a little more creative with the kids' birthday cakes a few years ago. They tell me what they want and we work together to make it doable. (I have already told one young man that when his turn comes in a few months I will make a mega-chocolate cake but no, it will not be a 7-tier Death by Chocolate with chocolate fondant, chocolate ganache, and buttercream-flavored icing with fondant pictures on it.)

This one was made with the nature-loving birthday boy at my elbow. He wanted squirrels and birds and trees, so that's what we did. I used a page from Draw Right Now 6 as inspiration. He ok'ed every placement. This is what we came up with.

I think I did ok; my wonderful family told me it looked like a painting. {pretty}

The birthday boy was happy, and that made me {happy}.

My husband was so {funny}--he started slicing the cake in the middle of nothing, dropped down to another blank space, and declared he couldn't bear to cut into the design. Such a sweetie. But we made it to eat it, so I commandeered the knife!

{Real} And, as you can tell, this picture was taken post-candles. And the picture is taken from a video (not that I'm a pro on a point-and-shoot) in my dining room's dimmed lighting. And contrary to my husband's flattery, I will not be opening a bakery any time soon. But these family cakes are fun, and my kids make me excited to be able to please them when each birthday comes!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blessed John Paul II

I don't think I can call this blog "Saints in Progress" without noting something about the beatification of John Paul II. But as one blogger put it, it seems as though everything has already been said by someone else. I simply couldn't think of anything to say. I don't have any personal stories about him, or any teasable, deep connection with him. For almost my whole life until his death, he was the only pope I knew--he was the personification of the Catholic faith to me, and I loved him and defended him and watched him. I have always been grateful for his work in the Church and the world, and (though I knew it even in college when I was arguing and writing letters to the campus newspaper against the vitriol aimed at him) it is dawning on me more every season how profound and far-reaching that work is.

Now that I am more mature (even than I was six years ago), I look forward to learning more from his legacy of thought, and to getting to know him as, you might say, an individual, now that he has (presumably) attained heaven and realized the fullness of who God made him to be.* I will say, though, that what I hope is most firmly rooted within my soul is something he preached throughout his pontificate. Something I find myself needing to hear and know and believe more often now than I did in college, or perhaps even six years ago...

Do not be afraid.

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us!

*May God one day grant me that merciful and glorious fate!

100 Species Challenge--Yellow Wood Sorrel

When I identified the pink wood sorrel, I learned about this one and realized we have this one growing about the place too. I went back for a picture, but it was early evening and the flowers had already closed up for the day. Both the leaves and the flowers of yellow wood sorrel are smaller than the pink, and the leaves sort of fold back a little more; they are both supposed to be edible. Maybe one day I will get up the courage to try some.

1. Dogwood (Cornus florida)
2. Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa)
3. Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii)
4. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
5. Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)
6. American holly (Ilex opaca)
7. Pokeberry (Phytolacca americana)
8. Pink wood sorrel (Oxalis articulata)
9. Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta)

Yikes, only nine? I'd better get on the ball!

Monday, May 2, 2011

100 Species Challenge--Pink Wood Sorrel

Now that it's spring, I think it's time to jump back into my 100 Species posts!

I had to identify this one after a little 2-year-old who loves flowers brought me some of these. I hadn't really thought much about them before, except that they are wildflowers, prettying up the place when they appear, but too small for vase arrangements. You can't see here, but their leaves look like shamrocks, so at first I just tried a Google search of "purple shamrock" and checked the image results. Turns out there's something called a "purple shamrock" that looks distinctly different from this, but they are related plants--the image that helped me nail this ID was a collection of three different "Oxalis" that included both pink wood sorrel and the purple shamrock.

1. Dogwood (Cornus florida)
2. Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa)
3. Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii)
4. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
5. Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)
6. American holly (Ilex opaca)
7. Pokeberry (Phytolacca americana)
8. Pink wood sorrel (Oxalis articulata)

The Visitation

The Visitation, Jan Scorel.

Next mystery: The Nativity


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