Monday, September 8, 2014

End of Summer Reflection

We just went on vacation in Florida. I got to watch the sun rise over the bay and set over the ocean.

Isn't God generous, the way he lavishes beauty on us? There are so many sunrises and sunsets I don't even see. 

I like to think, though, that there's not a single sunrise that isn't seen by at least one human being on the planet. 

And maybe one morning you're that one person.

In which case, He made the beauty of that sunrise just for you.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Both Worlds

"You know he's a Grit, Miss Cornelia."

"Yes, he IS," admitted Miss Cornelia rather sadly. "And of course there is no hope of making a Conservative of him. But at least he is a Presbyterian. So I suppose I shall have to be satisfied with that."

"Would you marry him if he were a Methodist, Miss Cornelia?"

"No, I would not. Politics is for this world, but religion is for both."

         —Anne's House of Dreams

I rather laughed throughout Anne's House of Dreams at Miss Cornelia's opinionated ideas about denomination, even though I sympathized. Doctrine matters, right? But I was just about bewildered at the ease with which she dismisses the politics that (indirectly) kept her from marrying for so many years.

It seems to go the opposite way today. Many people easily dismiss religious differences among friends and lovers—but if their politics is on the wrong side, they are anathema. It's a shame, really. Politics is so polarized today, by which I mean two things:  the narrowness of the possibilities as well as the extremity of their opposition to each other. It's choking. 

I have become pretty thoroughly disillusioned with both parties in our country. I do believe that there are politicians on both sides that are good, sincere advocates of worthy principles, but I think the machines that are their respective parties too often work against them.

Ben Conroy's post about a Christian Left is hopeful, and encapsulates my thought on the attitude adjustment this world needs when it comes to addressing issues that matter and setting policies:

Sometimes those questions of means will put Christians sincerely trying to live the Gospel on opposite sides of political battles. If I think that a Universal Basic Income would virtually wipe out poverty overnight, and my friend thinks that it would be a dependency-creating disaster, one of us has to lose. In a culture that invested ordinary political disputes with slightly less life-or-death significance, this wouldn’t really be a problem.
I'd argue that the reason the questions are so life-and-death is that people have increasingly lost sight of the eternal, through either a loss of faith or a conflation of the kingdom of God with this temporal world. And the answers to this (to everything) are personal holiness and evangelization. Because this world matters, but not as much as the world to come.

That's what we need to agree on.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

An Answer to My Prayers

I went to confession this week. As part of the counseling my confessor offered me, he suggested that I unplug from the constant stimulation offered by electronic media and set aside prayer times in the morning and evening. It's so remedial. And yet I needed to hear that. I need to make that resolution and carry it out, because even though I do pray throughout the day, I have allowed regular, quiet prayer time to erode out of my schedule. 

I think it's normal in the life of faith for someone to have dry spells, when prayer is difficult. There are different reasons people may have for this difficulty. One of mine is a subconscious insistence that my prayer doesn't matter.

I believe God answers prayers. I believe sometimes he grants us the things we pray for, because of our prayers. I have had my prayers answered many times.

I just have a hard time remembering that.

I've taken a fatalistic response lately. God will do as He will. Furthermore, since I am Christian, I believe that whatever it is, it will be for the best—somehow. So why should I pray?

I know that it is wrong, or at least spiritually unhealthy, to be this fatalistic. Sometimes Jesus answered prayers, meaning he granted the things that were asked of him, but it was always for the good of souls—from the person whose prayer is granted to those of us through the centuries who hear the story. God uses our prayers to conform us to His perfect love. 

c. s. lewis pray prayer doesn't change god it changes me
Image source

I try to pray for God's will when making requests, but sometimes I'm better at it than others. 

Years ago, I had given birth five days before the morning my husband got a call from his sister that sent him running out with his boots barely on, not even bothering to close the door. As he raced to the house ten minutes away where my father-in-law had had a major heart attack, I prayed, "God, with you all things are possible. Please spare his life!" I begged St Jude, our family's newest name saint, to intercede, and dutifully tacked on to my garbled mental prayer, "Your will be done, Lord—but please do what I want!"

It wasn't long before my husband called to tell me my father-in-law was gone. I immediately turned my will toward accepting God's. My faith and my confidence in his love for me were not discernibly shaken. 

But my belief that he listens to my prayers took a severe beating.

My faith life suffered as I began to see less point in praying. The formal, memorized prayers became dry acts of faith that God was paying attention, rather than meaningful communication in a relationship.

One January we were on a road trip to visit relatives, when we heard breaking news on the radio. A congresswoman at an informal political event in Tucson had been shot. As the story became more and more awful I prayed, "Lord, I will take it as a personal favor if you let her live." 

When the announcers reported her death, I bowed my head.

Then later, I was out of the car for a few minutes when my husband texted me: "She's alive!"

I don't think I had even heard her name until that day. I know there were other victims. I can't count how many people were more immediately and profoundly affected than I, or how many more millions had been praying. It's hard for me to imagine that God did anything in her situation for the sake of my prayers.

But maybe, just a little bit, I should.

God uses prayer to change us, and we don't always know how He's going to do that, before or after our prayer. That doesn't mean we never know, and it doesn't mean we need to know. 

If you need reasons to bother with prayer, read 10 Positive Things That Happen When We Pray. You may know these things, but it helps to see it spelled out. And if you're having trouble practicing prayer, maybe these Carmelite prayer tips will help.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Another sacrament celebrated—Praise God!

We celebrated Aidan's Confirmation last Wednesday! Aidan chose St Michael as his patron for Confirmation. Bishop Gregory John Hartmayer came to our parish and confirmed over forty people, and we knew from last year that he likes to have a little "chat" with each confirmand as he anoints him or her. We were sitting a little nervously while he questioned each person about his saint, or his sponsor, or some aspect of the faith that he is to have learned. We have studied our faith and go over the basics many times over as the children go through the years, but our bishop admitted he likes to try and "catch" them. He asked Aidan about—not St Michael, because there were at least two other Michaels before him—but who the other archangels were and what they did. Fortunately, Aidan sailed through his questions.

(Incidentally, having participated in, and witnessed, the process of Confirmation preparation and surrounding life factors for two different teenage children in back-to-back years has made me a proponent of celebrating Confirmation at an earlier age, as some dioceses do. Already having those sacramental graces while completing the ninth grade can only help!)

Before the anointing part of the Mass, the bishop gave a homily in which he said that the gift of the Holy Spirit he thought they would need most at this point in their lives is courage. Serendipitously, his sponsors (his grandparents) had chosen this as a Confirmation gift. 

They gave it to him at the reception, so we shared with the bishop. 

He appreciated the coincidence. 

Congratulations, my dear, sweet son! 

Come, Holy Spirit!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Devil's Finest Trick... to persuade you that he does not exist.  - Charles Baudelaire

I'm tired right now, but I feel somewhat compelled to address the Harvard/Satanist issue, even if I have to cobble together others' better words on the subject.

Basically, some group calling themselves Satanists are advertising that they will hold a "black mass" for "educational purposes," that they will use a consecrated host but they don't want to offend anybody, and they miscommunicated and it won't be a consecrated host (why bother with that), not by their definition anyway, and no, not by other people's either. Elizabeth Scalia follows the story herehere, here, and here (so far) and keeps rounding up the reactions, including her own:

This is not quite what he had said to me, earlier, and it seems to me to be word-parsing that cannot be overlooked. Did he mean that while he, Lucien Greaves would not call the host consecrated, others would?
I’m not sure how any performance of a Black Mass would not be an ipso facto denigration of the Catholic religion. “Tolerance” and “Sensitivity” have become such tricky things.

Lots of obfuscation about — the Father of Lies likes to sow confusion.
A key aspect of this mess is that the people responsible for the event profess no particular belief in anything. This is just an academic exercise meant to broaden the mind beyond conventional ideas of religion or something. Callah at Barefoot and Pregnant describes the confusion and the danger:

And it makes it worse, somehow, that the people doing it aren’t actually Satanists, despite their name.
Greaves says his Satanism is “a metaphorical construct” meant to unshackle the world from belief in supernatural good or evil because belief has “led to horrible things” and “the idea of Satanists as deviants has never done the world any good.” 
I can’t help but think about the little girl in The Exorcist, who just thought she was playing a silly game.

.... I really worry about the other possibility…especially for young college kids going to see an “educational reenactment”. I’m glad they are not using a consecrated host, but I’m seriously confused about why they’re doing this at all. This idea of being a Satanist in order to “unshackle belief” or change the perception of Satanists as deviants makes zero sense to me. A Satanist is, by definition, a deviant-they are deviating from Christianity. There could be no Satanism if there wasn’t first a Christianity. It is a totally reactionary religion, born solely from the desire to deviate-to be deviant. The straight-laced sour-faced church ladies aren’t imposing some kind of artificial judgment upon Satanists because they’re different, or they wear black, or whatever. To be a Satanist is to deliberately choose evil over good, deviance over obedience. You can’t unshackle someone from a false perception if the perception is factually true.

And Tom McDonald takes it the next step:
The modern so-called Satanists who make all the noise are not really Satanists. They don’t actually believe in Satan. Most are atheists who couch their so-called “Satanism” in terms of resistance or philosophy. It’s not a religion, but a critique of religion, or somesuch blather. It’s all theater.


The problem, however, is that their deep ignorance and hatred has left them stumbling around in a very serious, very dark place.

And even though the Satanic Temple is a fraud, Satanism is quite real. It’s just that real Satanists don’t advertise the fact.

The Satanic Temple is saying they’re performing a black mass, about which they seem to know nothing, which makes its educational content precisely nil. At first, they said they were using a consecrated host, but then walked back that claim, possibly in response to the ensuing outrage.I do believe they intended to use a consecrated host, because in their first response they claimed they had one. I can’t imagine they care at all that desecration of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is wicked, offensive, and hurtful to millions of people. They want us to be hurt. That’s why they’re doing it: to wound people they do not even know, because in their philosophy we are beneath contempt, and because they don’t believe they’re actually doing anything at all. They obviously don’t believe in the Real Presence, so it’s a all a big lark to them, regardless of the good people who will weep at the very thought of it. They want those people to weep, and in this way they are truly doing the Devil’s work.

See, they may not believe in Satan, but Satan believes in them, and he knows Useful Idiots when he sees them.

Of course, being slippery is a characteristic of these Useful Idiots, people who want to be considered the forward-thinking, populist enlightened of society. Mark Shea calls them out for actually being "pantywaists passive aggressives" instead.
There’s something unique to our time about people who engage in obvious hatred of Catholics while wanting very much for people to like them and not feel offended. Man up, people! If you are going to spit in the eyes of God and your Catholic neighbor at *least* have the stones to not make mewling pleas to be liked for it.

And that's the part that scares me. I know people who, I am afraid, would fist-pump this kind of activity as a "super-awesome" way to fight the power. They think for themselves. They be the change.  But when it comes to actually talking about such things in substance, they cheerfully abstain from the drama—to each his own, that's your belief, it doesn't work for us. No need to argue about it. It's literally page one of Screwtape's playbook:

Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" or "false," but as "academic" or "practical," "outworn" or "contemporary," "conventional" or "ruthless." Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.

Well, there's plenty of jargon surrounding this story. The best response is prayer, and Sherry brings that call to prayer home:

So if you'd like to join the blog rosary in this month of May for all those affected by even the intent to form a blasphemy on the Eucharist and the mass, post this picture on your blog and just leave a note in the com box. You can also pray anonymously, but I think knowing others are praying, that we are really a community of Catholics, who pray for those who hate the Eucharist, and who do not know what they are doing, and who are doing things which can destroy themselves, is a comfort and a good way to fight against the cackling devil and those who think this harmless. For some evils, the only recourse is prayer and fasting. This is one of those moments.

 I will reach out to those I know personally, because evil must be resisted and publically, by those who know it to be evil. Even if it is a hoax, those who presented it, need prayers. Even if it is stopped now that people in positions of authority know about it, these people need our prayers.

I do like this proposed response, too, from Pascual-Emmanuel Gobry, whom I've just recently started to read:

My suggestion would be, if this does go through, and if Christians want to respond somehow, to do it not with protests, but with standing outside and singing hymns–hymns of joy, and love, and mercy, and forgiveness. I’m serious. Bring tambourines. Dance. They who have eyes, they will see.

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sometime Other Than Now

God bless Jennifer Fulwiler. She's obviously very excited to have her memoir, Something Other Than God, finally published. And she should be. Besides the universal fact that it's shake-the-world awesome to have a book published that you wrote with your own brain, Jennifer Fulwiler is one of the most insightful, funniest, most gracious and down-to-earth writers on the Internet. She's easy to read, but it's also so often edifying, or consoling, or enlightening to hear what she has to say about living, sharing, and deepening her love for God. I'm looking forward to reading her book (and I am shamelessly participating in a contest or two of hers).

I haven't received my copy yet, despite having preordered it—in the nick of time, I thought, to get it on her publication day, but no. I wasn't sure for a while when I would get around to buying it at first. I just knew that I would, and as soon as I saw it listed for preorder, I added it to my wish list of Catholic books. That list has so many coveted titles that if I tried to buy all of them at will, my family would go broke.* But as the buzz grew, I thought I'd just check out Amazon's "Look Inside" and read what I could. Believe it or not, I think what clinched it for me was Chapter 6. I love a good love story, and I got one page into the growing courtship of Jennifer and her husband Joe when the Amazon preview ended. It's like asking a friend, "So, how did you two meet?" and having all the other guests arrive before she finishes the story. So I decided to join this party.  Heh—true to form, I get to be a wallflower and watch all the others for a while. See you later, Jen, and congratulations!

*(These coveted titled are not even close to adequately represented. If you are a Catholic writer and your book is not on my list, it's likely an oversight I've been meaning to correct. Either that, or I just need an introducton. E-mail me. Seriously.)

Friday, April 25, 2014


...and Mrs. Elton, in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet and her basket, was very ready to lead the way in gathering, accepting, or talking--strawberries, and only strawberries, could now be thought or spoken of.—"The best fruit in England—every body's favourite--always wholesome.—These the finest beds and finest sorts.—Delightful to gather for one's self—the only way of really enjoying them.—Morning decidedly the best time—never tired ... cultivation-beds when to be renewed—gardeners thinking exactly different—no general rule—gardeners never to be put out of their way—delicious fruit—only too rich to be eaten much of—inferior to cherries—currants more refreshing—only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping—glaring sun—tired to death—could bear it no longer—must go and sit in the shade."
I always think of this scene in Emma when we pick strawberries, which is becoming a yearly thing for us. We haven't successfully grown more than a handful all of any given season yet, but there are two or three places close enough by where we can go to pick our own. 

Especially with as many pickers as we have (and we usually go with a group, too), it doesn't take long to pick all we can eat before they spoil, plus some to freeze or process. We went armed with bonnet and baskets, and everyone very enthusiastically dove into the task of finding the reddest, ripest strawberries they could find. (Except 2-year-old Anwen—she really liked the green ones.) 

Still, it doesn't take long for the little ones to get tired. And since I don't have canning down yet, I don't mind calling it quits as soon as everyone has one full basket, give or take. 

We've frozen about a fourth of the haul. Now I need to figure out what to do with the rest! What feast days are coming up?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Homeschooling: Doing It Right

Hey, Mom, you know that big scratch I got when I slid down a tree? 
"It looks like Alaska!"

Monday, March 10, 2014

An Online Daily Mass Schedule

My Lenten resolutions are nebulous—to do a little fasting and spend more time with the Lord.  But I think that works for me this year—there are many ways to pray, and if I dabble in several of them I'm bound to find that I have in fact shared more of my life and my heart with Him, and I may even form a new habit with the kids.

Here's one option, since I still have squirmy little ones who need some training on behaving in church: Mass online. It's certainly not the same as being there in person, but it has advantages. I can pick a time most convenient, explain or correct as loudly as I need to, even pause (if it's an uploaded version rather than streaming).

Here are a few options, in case you feel similarly inclined. All times are Eastern.

EWTN—8:00 AM (Live)
Catholic TV—9:30 (Live)
Daily Mass (YouTube channel)—about 11:00 AM
EWTN—12:00 PM
The Daily Mass—by 12:00 PM (requires you to submit e-mail)
EWTN—7:00 PM
EWTN—12:00 AM

More here

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Children's Stations

Yesterday we went to the Stations of the Cross. It was one of those things that I decided in the back of my mind that I need to do with the kids this Lent. We always seem to skid into one Friday Stations service in all of Lent (a few crucial minutes late, likely as not), and I felt that we were all missing something vital in our devotional lives not to put more emphasis on it. (I've been feeling similarly about daily Mass lately.)

So we went. When I take all the kids to church by myself, I count it as a success if most of us are present inside for most of the time, and nobody loses any bodily fluids in the pew. Today I was obliged to exit with both little girls right when the procession was closest to our pew. The two-year-old kept bowling her brother over going back and forth to the holy water font; and while I managed periodically to stave off the three-year-old's otherwise incessant whining by pointing out that everyone was looking at her (being in the direct line of vision between the entire congregation and the priestly procession), I could not stem the wails that followed her solid and self-inflicted blow to the head on the hymnal rack.

It was a relief to read Leila's words at Like Mother, Like Daughter about taking children to the Stations of the Cross.

Now, here’s the important part. You need to go there so that you can pray the Stations as your devotion. Not to “teach” the kids. They are coming along because they go places with you.

Will they be squirmy? Probably.

Will they slide under the pew and hit their heads on the rack that holds the missalettes and hymnals? Yes.

Will they have no clue as to what’s going on? Pretty much.

That’s okay. Little by little it will dawn on them. It may take years (and will certainly take years in the case of the one-year-old, of course).

The important thing is that they experience it as something outside of themselves, something about Jesus, something that inspires wonder precisely because it’s mysterious and desperately sad and also beautiful. They will sense a closeness to Jesus, if only through your own closeness.

That is living your Lent with them.

Don’t require affirmation from them. Don’t look for signs that they are getting it or experiencing wonder. Just live it.

Oh, Auntie Leila, you do know, don't you?

There are a lot of wonderful suggestions at the post for bringing this devotion to your children, and bringing them into it. I love a good new idea. I think I might plant a seed in one or two of them about building their own stations somewhere in the house or outside, let them "come up" with the notion and run with it.

I have some fine arts images of the Stations of the Cross that I can think up some uses for; and some of the fold-out miniature Stations printout activity that was available online a while ago. And when we came home, my seven-year-old asked if they could watch the Stations of the Cross for children that they remembered seeing some time ago.

I'm looking forward to this Lent, due in no small part to an eagerness to share with my family and witness their growing devotion, God bless their sweet hearts.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Renegade Poetry Friday honor of my fifth-times-two child, who keeps us all busy. I haven't seen or done a Poetry Friday in a long time, but this well-known poem ebbs and flows in my insides, begging me to claim it.

“Song for a Fifth Child (The Value of Values) “
by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullabye, rockabye, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Lullabye, rockabye, lullaby loo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo,
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my “Roo.”
(Lullabye, rockabye, lullaby loo).
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs;
Dust, go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby,
And babies don’t keep.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Day

Busy, busy, always busy here (for which we always welcome prayers) but at least today we're not going anywhere. Last night the snowfall, today the play. It started pretty early, since there is already a sign here and there of melting on the ground. Not that it's going anywhere with the temperature what it is, but the kids were anxious to be out there before breakfast. 

Right now everyone is back inside cozy and warm, although snowman-making is on the agenda for the afternoon. We might try our hand at some other fun stuff for indoors; I have always wanted a weather day to try these snow balls, and watching last night's snowfall inspired me to look up this pretty winter birch art project for the kids

This is actually last night's dinner, and I'll have to buy another slow cooker before I can make it again. Someone, ahem, left the insert on the stovetop last night, and someone, ahem, turned on the wrong burner this morning, and the result was a burning smell, then a crack and a pop, and a crock with the bottom broken right out. Fortunately we have leftovers. It's good for meatless Fridays, too.

Vegetarian Chili

One can black beans, rinsed and drained
One can of garbanzo beans or white navy beans, rinsed and drained
One can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 to 2 cans baked beans
One can of corn, rinsed and drained
One can of diced tomatoes
6 ounces of tomato sauce
2 ounces of tomato paste
Half cup diced green pepper
Half cup of diced onion
1 teaspoon (two cloves) minced garlic
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon oregano 
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon parsley

Throw it all in the slow cooker and cook on high for two hours or so, and serve with crackers or cornbread. Add in cooked rice, cheese, or both, if you want. You can even throw in a cup of rice while it's cooking, which will thicken up the chili somewhat. 

What cold-weather comfort foods do you serve on snowy days?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

First {phfr} of the year!

Happy New Year! Are you ready for a new start? We have our patron saints, and I have my resolutions made. I wish there was a generator for accountability partners. I could use one. 

But let me share with you a few moments from this baby year.  This is our church, in a picture taken with my iPhone's panoramic setting. I love using it, even if I haven't got used to it. Also, I think maybe some distortions are sort of built into it. The pews, for example, are not angled; that's just the result of me standing in one place and pivoting while I take the shot. 

Still, it's beautiful, isn't it?

And this is the pilgrimage replica of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which came to our parish last weekend as part of the From Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage. Fr. Peter West from Human Life International came and spoke about the icon and the pilgrimage during our Sunday masses, and after each mass people were invited to come up to venerate the icon, and take a holy card touched to it if so desired.

The original icon is said to have been "written" by St. Luke the Evangelist. I have been thinking a lot about such "original" images as the Shroud of Turin and the tilma with Our Lady of Guadalupe, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that this image would be at our parish for the weekend. I'm still thinking about this one, and lately my thinking has remained deep in the realm of "pondering." But I might share some thoughts soon about images in your spiritual life.


What do you do when you're in the middle of a polar vortex and everyone comes down with sore throats and messy noses? Eat mint ice cream! 

It may seem like a strange choice to voluntarily eat a cold dessert with freezing temperatures outside, but thanks to the miracles of modern temperature control, at least it's easily done. Both the cold and the mint of the ice cream are soothing to suffering heads. You could even do a Little House thing and make your own, if you have the snow (we don't) and the flavoring. 


Dominic is the size of a two-year-old, but he hadn't eaten anything other than breast milk until two nights ago. (He's also trying to walk. Please.) He's gotten so that he's not sleeping through the night, or even longer than about ten minutes, without me nursing him (or at least beside him, fooling his unconscious little mind into thinking that he's still nursing). He's a bed hog, too, wanting the middle, or trying to go perpendicular and push someone off the bed. 

Jason and I made the decision to start him on solids to supplement our breastfeeding, so that we two adults could get some sleep. So this is his first time having solids—rice cereal, to be exact. (That doesn't count the times somebody lets him lick an apple or suck on an ice cube!) It seems to be helping.

Don't let the tongue fool you. He likes it. Babies are always funny when they eat. 

So that's life. As always, pretty and happy and funny and real are conflated, and it's wonderful that way. 

Read more at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

round button chicken


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