Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas reflections

After a relaxing and joy-filled visit with family, I am returning to comment on two events that recently made news in our diocesan paper. The first is an article featuring Jeff Skorik, the police chief of Marinette, WI whose faith helped him in dealing with the trauma of a school hostage situation and ultimate self-inflicted death of the young man responsible for it. What struck me about this article was the candor with which the policeman spoke about his faith. He and his wife had been signed up for weekly adoration, and when she offered to take his adoration time just days after the incident, he did not take her up on it, saying, “it was appropriate that I go to adoration.” The article went on to recount his renewal of faith. “When confronted with seemingly insurmountable challenges, someone who has faith in their life will come to that point very quickly.”

In a seemingly unrelated story, our former parish, St. Charles Borromeo in Chippewa Falls, was recently visited by a tragedy of a different sort. Someone stole the collection money from all of the Christmas and Sunday Masses. A significant portion of the collection had been designated for Casa Hogar, the orphanage very close to all of our hearts in the Diocese of La Crosse. When I heard of this event earlier today, my first reaction was that nobody would stand for this. Even if the culprits are never caught, the people of our diocese will not let this affect the orphans of Casa Hogar. I am confident that the money will not only be replaced, but surpassed by the generosity of faith-filled people.

In actuality, these two stories are deeply connected. Each reveals the providence of God’s great love through the folly and scandal of the cross. Benedict XVI has called it God’s “crazy love.” When humans fall short, God goes out of His way not only to restore us but to elevate us. He gives us the opportunity not only to be as we were but to be better than we were. God's answer to Adam and Eve’s sin...Jesus. God's response to those who crucified His Son...the offering of eternal salvation. To humans, God's responses to human folly seem ridiculous, but in the realization of this completely ridiculous love, disordered human actions provide us with the opportunity for true transformation. We are in need of ridiculous mercy. How wonderful is our God to condescend Himself to us so completely that we might be made worthy of everlasting life! When a bad thing happens to us or those we love, we should know that transforming grace is in super-abundant supply at that very moment in time, inviting us to be holier, more filled with the infectious love of Christ.

Blessed Christmas season to all of my readers! We celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ and His transforming, merciful love.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Upcoming event

Providence Academy is celebrating...

A Festival of Lessons and Carols

Thursday, December 16, 2010
6:30 pm

St. James the Less Catholic Church
1032 Caledonia St.
La Crosse, WI

An elegant evening of Scriptural readings, poetry and traditional hymns performed by the students of Providence Academy and accompanied by various instruments, including a string quartet.

A beautiful occasion designed to stir our hearts with joyful anticipation for the celebration of our Savior’s birth.

Providence Academy is a private, independent, classical academy in the Catholic tradition. Students range in age from pre-kindergarten through high school. For more information, please contact the office at (608) 784-6167.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cardinal Burke visits a little school

I thought I would return with a bang today. For all of you fans of the good Cardinal, I thought I would share with you a special visit we had with a distinguished guest today.

My children attend Providence Academy, a small school in La Crosse, WI with approximately 115 students. Students range in age from pre-K all the way up through high school. Their curriculum is firmly grounded in the classical model, requiring both Latin and Greek languages throughout the grades, building upon the traditions of history, philosophy, science and the arts in observing the truth about God's creation, and serving to support the gift of the Catholic faith.

Cardinal Burke has been a long-time supporter of the mission of our tiny school, and today he made an extraordinary effort to visit us in the midst of his busy schedule. He spoke about the importance of preserving this method of education that originated in the Catholic Church, and congratulated the efforts of those who continue to support this endeavor through much prayer and sacrifice.

My feeling after a day like this is profound gratitude. We are so blessed to have our children enlightened to the truths of reality which are ordered through the love of God. We are so blessed to know such a holy and humble servant of Christ, and we are completely, unfathomably blessed to be called to everlasting life through the sacrifice of our Lord. I am in complete awe of what mighty works God is accomplishing in us and through us each day. It makes me think about Mary in her beautiful words that are so appropriate for this season of Advent. "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant." I thank God for the gift of Himself, that He gratuitously condescends to meet us where we are and transforms us so that we might glorify His name!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beautiful tribute to life

Perhaps you have seen this before, but my sister just recently shared this clip with me. I thought it was just about the most beautiful tribute to life I could ever imagine in our present day. Life is always a gift, and the couple who is featured in this video realizes this. They experience the fullness of this little child's life in time compressed, recognizing that every moment of life is a precious gift from God.

Praise God for another day in which we are called to love Him and each other! Praise God for our tiny saints in Heaven who pray for us each day!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vote for life on this All Souls' Day

On this feast of All Souls Day, we ought to remember the population in purgatory who are being purified to enter into the Beatific Vision. We also ought to remind ourselves about the beauty of sacrificial love. The souls who are intensely suffering in purgatory need our prayers and our sacrifices. God is glorified when we love so much that our desire is to take upon ourselves the sufferings of others in order to lessen their burdens. Empathy is this great love and it is magnified through sacrifice, Christ’s and ours in union with His. We ought to live not for ourselves, but for the glory of God and for love of His creation.

It is a very important thing to contemplate as we head out to the polls today. We have a duty not only to vote protect the many innocent lives that are being thrown away by the devastating legalized practice of abortion, but also to offer sacrifice and prayer to ease the horrific suffering of everyone involved in the abortion industry. Many souls are at stake in this battle between life and death. Voting to protect life is just the minimum. Vote for life today, and continue to pray and sacrifice. Many souls are being lost at the expense of this unjust license to kill.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cardinal-designate Burke reminds Catholics of the duty to vote for life

In case there are any straggling questions about which way Catholics are obligated to vote in the upcoming election, our beloved Cardinal-designate Burke is communicating the message clearly, without equivocation. His concern is the soul of the voter and the protection of the unborn, two concerns that are not bound by the intimidation of 501(c)(3) statutes.

This is truly clarity of Church teaching by a good shepherd.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Institute for Pastoral Theology open class weekend

I am getting ready to attend another weekend of classes through Ave Maria University's Institute for Pastoral Theology. All of them are excellent lectures packed with solid theology and philosophy...challenging, but not so heady as to remain aloof to the students' comprehension. In case any one wants a taste of what I get to experience once a month, I am happy to provide you with the information about an upcoming "open class" weekend. I am linking to the flyer for the Janesville, WI class to be held the weekend before Thanksgiving, Nov. 19-21.

Free lecture. Excellent speakers. Come and check it out!

Archbishop Burke named one of the new Cardinals

Congratulations, our beloved Archbishop, soon-to-be Cardinal Burke! Our hearts are rejoicing because of the marvelous work He has accomplished in you. We have benefitted by Christ’s light shining through your holy examples of joy, humility, courage, faith and love. You are a great hope for us and the future of the Church. Certainly, as you often request, we are keeping you in our prayers. Deo gratias!

I would love to write more on this happy occasion, but since I am getting ready for another weekend of classes, please visit my friend Badger Catholic for more insight and some great quotes. Click here for the full statement by Cardinal-designate Burke.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spending time with my little guy

The greatest blessings are those unexpected gifts which come straight from Heaven. The time spent with my youngest son these past three and a half years that has impressed this truth upon my heart. His existence began with a fortuitous miscalculation, opening the door for God to bless us with a most needed addition to our family. We didn’t know we needed him until he was here, but we trusted in the excitement of our children despite our own concerns (money, space, time – the usual).

It wasn’t until a test revealed a concern about my pregnancy that we realized our material concerns were mere cobwebs in comparison to a possible threat to the life of our unborn child. The rest of the pregnancy consisted of monthly blood tests, multiple sonograms, and then a miraculous solution which the doctors could not explain. Our little Sebastian was born just before the spring of 2007, perfectly normal and healthy.

He now accompanies me in my daily errands, asking me questions, exploring the world, and keeping me stocked with an abundant supply of hugs and kisses. The older children are in school, so we have our special time together each day. Since I am not distracted by other things or people at this time in my life, I find myself imagining through this special relationship with my son, what joy Mary experiences in her Son.

My little guy has awakened in me a deeper love for Christ in the midst of our daily routine. I’m his girl, you see...his breakfast date, his lunch date, his dance partner, his carpool ride. He is always with me at this special time in his life, just as Jesus accompanied Mary during His first thirty years on earth. When people underrate the special relationship between Mary and her Son, I have to wonder if they have ever fully appreciated or accepted the love between mother and child. It is truly a gift from God.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pray the Rosary, soothe the soul

On this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I wanted to share some bits and pieces about praying it that I have collected throughout the years. One overarching theme stands out in my mind, however, that this devotion is something that each and every one of us can comprehend, incorporate into our lives, and spiritually benefit from.

The first misconception about the Rosary is that it is “vain repetition”. Usually, this criticism comes from people who claim scripture alone is the only authority (left up to the interpretation of each individual, of course). The term “vain” is key here. Repetition itself is not a bad thing. In fact, beauty is most often observed in the perfection of patterns. Humans were designed to enjoy repetition. Think about favorite songs, traditional family holidays, the daily routine that gives us a sense of peace. “Vain repetition” is a very different thing, however. It is an action that is not directed towards anything in particular. Its repetition does not have a purpose. Its words are empty. It does not invite contemplation. The Rosary, on the other hand, is directed towards the contemplation of the life of Christ, each repetition beseeching Mary to pray for us as we come to know and love her Son more deeply. Therefore, the Rosary could not be considered “vain” in its repetition.

Once we have overcome the squeamishness about repetition, the question of practicality often arises. Often people will say, “I would love to pray the Rosary if only I had the time.” Time is often not the real issue. It is desire. But, for the sake of argument, if time really is an obstacle, there are a variety of ways to overcome this. I have found that praying the Rosary in the car is most effective for a variety of reasons: 1) It keeps the kids from starting silly disagreements with one another 2) They are all strapped in, prevented from moving around and 3) Happy moms pray better. Another helpful idea is to break up the Rosary. Say one decade a night before bed. The family gets the benefit of the Rosary while taking into account the attention span of its tiniest members.

One of the greatest things about the Rosary is its universality. The Rosary has continued to thrive as a devotion in cultures throughout the world. My husband grew up saying it in Vietnamese. I learned to pray it in English. Our whole family has learned to pray it in Latin. Its beauty is unmistakable in any language. To the devoted Catholic who prays the Rosary with regularity, the comfort and the peace bestowed upon the soul by the prayer of our Blessed Mother is truly priceless.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Life without television

Throughout this past year, our family has undergone an experiment of sorts. We became “unplugged” as of September 1, 2009. Our television has been used as a monitor only without the programming of any cable, satellite or local stations. It’s been one of the best decisions we ever made.

What, might you ask, is the difference between watching DVDs and watching television? Commercials. It almost nauseates me to remember the constant barrage of junk that would daily seep into our brains. We would be watching a “family show” and when the commercials commenced, the floodgates of the culture spewed out into our living room, without concern about protecting the innocent members of our family. Family programming, my foot!

Beyond protection, though, there has been an unanticipated change in our children. They are more receptive to parental advice. It seemed to occur at about the same time, so my husband and I have made the connection, perhaps unscientifically, but not without reason. Television is one more voice that competes with parental authority. In television programming, viewers are held hostage to whatever voice happens to be on at the time. Advertisers know this. The Hollywood elite with anti-family, anti-faith agendas also realize this. Television captivates its audience. It literally makes captives out of each one of us.

In eliminating television from our children’s lives, we have actually freed them from captivity. And we have freed ourselves from additional battles that would have been introduced through the media of television. Hats off to the telecommunications company for raising our rates. We realized that life is much easier without their service. Hats off to the government for switching over to digital. We are one of the few families who did not get a converter box, and we are not replacing our television anytime soon. We prefer it as it is, a monitor that allows us to show our children good movies that will feed their souls.

EWTN? Well, there’s always the live stream on the internet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guilt is...GOOD

A homily I just heard this weekend reminded me about the concept of guilt. It seems that in our time, the only evil that exists is the feeling of guilt. Guilt is viewed as a negative emotion that stunts our growth as individuals. We attempt to rid ourselves of guilt by ignoring it, discussing it away, and if necessary, medicating it to numb its effects upon us. It is funny how some of the simplest gifts of God are really quite mistaken in our attempt to feel good.

Guilt is not the hindrance that we all imagine it to be. It is actually quite the opposite. We experience guilt as the product of a properly formed conscience. In fact, the truly sick person is the individual who goes through life experiencing no guilt, no regret for past actions or nudges to act according to a higher standard. In a world of pleasure seeking gone wild, we need to have our consciences fully functioning, and guilt is the indication that we are keeping ourselves in check.

The next time someone says “don’t feel guilty” to you, please be careful in discerning whether or not the intentions of that person align with the intentions of God. God intends for us to recognize guilt, process its validity, and renew our commitment to Christ. Guilt is good, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nature in revolt

One of my younger friends on Facebook just posted this article from the National Catholic Register. It is an eye-opening piece about how the chemicals and synthetic hormones in birth control pills are mutating fish. The article focuses on the hypocrisy of environmentalists to ignore such a prevalent and well-documented problem. Scientific findings have been available since 2005.

What confounds me even more than the inconsistency of the environmentalists is the failure of the average woman to make the connection between mutations in fish and mutations, say, in breast tissue. Some of these women, mind you, shun artificial sweetners, drink bottled water, go gluten free, eat organic fruits and vegetables, buy cage-free, grain-fed, hormone-free meat, and take their birth control pills religiously. When I see women coming together dressed in pink, raising money for the fight against breast cancer, I wonder how many of those same women would be so adamant in their protest against the harmful chemicals that continue to be pushed onto us by the mainstream medical establishment.

The ripple effects of contraception and its moral and social evils are so widespread. We should not be suprised that the physical mutations are showing up in our natural habitats. Nature has a way of being able to only take so much. When people speak about nature, there is often a disconnect with the Creator of nature. God is the author of all life, so when it becomes apparent that nature is becoming disfigured by harmful chemicals that are intended for the prevention and the destruction of His gift of life, we have to realize that God is allowing nature to revolt against the sin that has imposed itself. The fish are yet another warning, a wake-up call, a physical manifestation of the mutated contraceptive culture.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The irony of attraction

I recall my husband one time related to me a comment from our dear friend Nazareth Priest (way before our blogging days). It was regarding some "Cool to be Catholic" t-shirts that he had seen. He said, "It's not cool to be Catholic. It's darned hard." It struck me as funny and deeply insightful. We who love the Catholic Church and seek to follow Christ in our everyday lives know the constant battle with our own sinfulness and with the culture that continues to belittle us for trying.

I think the "Cool to be Catholic" t-shirts were invented to attract young people. I don't know how effective these are. Even if young people don't see through the veiled attempt of adults to manipulate them through the "bandwagon" and end up buying into the message that being Catholic is cool, aren't we setting them up for a huge reality check? Many times they aren't going to be "cool" or attractive to their peers. Is being "cool" what we're in this for?  Pope Benedict doesn't think so.
"In my view, a Church which seeks above all to be attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for herself, she does not work to increase her numbers and her power. The Church is at the service of Another. She serves not herself, not to become strong; rather, she serves to make the announcement of Jesus Christ more accessible: the great truths, the great powers of love and reconciliation which appeared in Him and which always come from the presence of Jesus Christ." -Pope Benedict XVI, September 2010.
In the ironic world of attraction, we can spot those who are trying too hard to get noticed. They are desperate for attention, unsure about who they are and where they are going. In seeking to be attractive above all else, the subject creates a superficial facade that repels all who seek truth. Pope Benedict's view of how the Church should conduct Herself is not unlike the advice we parents would give to our teenage who God created you to be. Be holy, and be confident that the light of Christ will attract those who really appreciate who you are.

God and Hagar

Since I am up working on my Old Testament paper, I thought I would take a break to quickly reflect upon a sometimes overlooked figure in the bible. One of the narratives from the Old Testament that captures my imagination is the story of Hagar, the maidservant of Sarai (later Sarah), wife of Abram (Abraham). I feel such empathy for her whenever I read it. Sarai tells Abram to have relations with Hagar because she is unable to provide him with a child. Immediately after she learns that Hagar conceived a child, Sarai regrets her own suggestion and becomes violently jealous. To please his wife, Abram tells Sarai that she may deal with Hagar as she pleases...and she does something harsh (we’re not told what) that makes Hagar flee.

The Angel of the Lord visits her, comforts her, and directs her to accept her duty. She returns to Sarai and submits to her (Gen. 16:1-15). This pattern is again repeated after the child, Ishmael, is born. Sarah’s anger is reawakened as she sees her son Isaac and Hagar’s son Ishmael playing together. She wants them gone. God lets Abraham know what his will is regarding Isaac and that he should honor the request of his wife. Hagar, once again in a desperate situation, panics when her water runs out and abandons Ishmael under a bush in the wilderness.

The Angel of the Lord visits her, comforts her, and directs her to accept her duty (Gen. 21:1-21). The formula is not lost on me. As I prepare for my September weekend of classes, I am comforted by this story about Hagar. We all feel overwhelmed at times, knowing that there is more to be done than hours in the day will allow. And in the moments when we need Him the most, when our bodies and minds are exhausted, Christ visits us in prayer, comforts us as only He can, and after we have received His refreshing grace, He lovingly instructs us to accept our duty and get back to work.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Credo Catholics vote pro-life

Here in Wisconsin, an interesting race is shaping up between two Catholic politicians, or rather, two politicians who claim the Catholic name. Julie Lassa, whose name many in the Diocese of La Crosse may recall from her whiney leak to the press about Bishop Burke’s attempt to dialogue with her about her personal inconsistency of being Catholic and holding a “pro-choice” position on abortion, is running against Sean Duffy, pro-life Catholic father of six children, in the Seventh Congressional District. (Duffy also happens to be endorsed by my good friend and fellow blogger, Badger Catholic.)

From this little bit of information that I have provided, Credo Catholics should be able to make the choice rather easily. Abortion is not an issue. It is a fundamental right to be born after conception. There are no complicating factors such as poverty or rape or incest. Those are all peripherals...smoke in mirrors meant to distract from what the plain truth entails...are we pro-death or pro-life? It is truly that simple. Notice that I have not even mentioned the political parties of the candidates above. It just does not matter.

This is one of the reasons that I am rather frustrated by old-school party affiliations. Up here in Wisconsin, many Catholics (I call them crustycatholics) still vote with the political party that was associated with the only Catholic President ever to hold office, regardless of what views they hold. John F. Kennedy was president in the 1960s. It’s the year 2010. Times have changed. Crustycatholics don’t respond to change. Credo Catholics do. Credo Catholics vote according to their properly formed consciences and would never view the right to life as “one issue among many.”

With the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, American politics have seemed to absorb this fundamental human right into the list of issues of that we debate about...taxes, healthcare, wages, abortion. Don’t make this mistake in thinking it is just another issue. The right to life transcends all other matters.

So this November, vote as if your soul depended upon it...because it does!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thank you for welcoming me!

I just wanted to take some time out and thank some of my fellow bloggers who have tagged me in the recent weeks.

Anne at Imprisoned in My Bones, you have been a support to me from the very beginning. Your encouragement is unyielding and uplifting.

Colleen at Thoughts on Grace also kindly mentioned my blog. Thanks, Colleen!

I didn't actually realize that people who didn't know me would be reading and following my blog. It's really cool. I am glad that you are enjoying it, and I look forward to the conversations and friendships that will come out of it.

Finally, to all of my readers, thank you for supporting Catholic blogs. Our presence is so important on the Internet. May God's blessings be upon us so that He may use us as His instruments in the New Evangelization.

Our Lady of Sorrows

It gives me great joy on this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to be able to share with you an excerpt from Savifici Doloris, an Apostolic Letter written by the late great John Paul II. In my past year of study, this letter greatly helped me in truly appreciating the role of suffering in faith. His words are so gentle and kind, speaking to the very heart of a Christian disciple...
It is especially consoling to note—and also accurate in accordance with the Gospel and history—that at the side of Christ, in the first and most exalted place, there is always his Mother through the exemplary testimony that she bears by her whole life to this particular Gospel of suffering. In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakeable faith but also a contribution to the redemption of all. In reality, from the time of her secret conversation with the angel, she began to see in her mission as a mother her "destiny" to share, in a singular and unrepeatable way, in the very mission of her Son. And she very soon received a confirmation of this in the events that accompanied the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and in the solemn words of the aged Simeon, when he spoke of a sharp sword that would pierce her heart. Yet a further confirmation was in the anxieties and privations of the hurried flight into Egypt, caused by the cruel decision of Herod.

And again, after the events of her Son's hidden and public life, events which she must have shared with acute sensitivity, it was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the Cross together with the Beloved Disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. And the words which she heard from his lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers.
As a witness to her Son's Passion by her presence, and as a sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of suffering, by embodying in anticipation the expression of Saint Paul which was quoted at the beginning. She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she "completes in her flesh"—as already in her heart—"what is lacking in Christ's afflictions ".
To read the complete Apostolic Letter, visit the Vatican's website.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rejoicing over the repentant sinner

This past Sunday, our wonderfully brilliant pastor delivered a homily in the tradition of St. Ambrose. I am currently reading St. Augustine’s Confessions, so this quote comes to me readily. St. Augustine writes about St. Ambrose, “By his eloquent sermons in those days he zealously provided your people with the fat of your wheat, the gladness of your oil, and the sobering intoxication of your wine.” Beautiful.

Father’s homily focused on the Gospel, the parable of the Prodigal Son. He painted the picture of what the Jewish audience would have been thinking about Jesus’ story, that it would have been shocking and very uncomfortable for them to hear about a son whose father would have welcomed him after such disgrace and outright disrespect. Similarly, the woman searching for what would have been the equivalent of a penny and the shepherd leaving behind his sheep to search for the lost one are stories that would have seemed senseless, and upon reflection even now, they still transcend human understanding.

The point was that God’s love for us is unbelievable, incomprehensible to the human mind. We think that there should be some sort of earthly justice that responds in kind to the evil deeds done by another person (particularly if they are done to us). Not so, with the superabundant love of God. The repentant sinner is welcomed with a loving embrace.

To conclude his homily, Father offered to us a challenge for our modern time. How would we respond if one of the 9/11 terrorists repented and was welcomed into Heaven after having successfully plotted such a heinous crime? Would we be able to humbly rejoice in the victory over sin and death in that terrorist’s soul, or would we be so proudly bitter about the injustice of a sinner’s consequence?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11

Nine years ago, my husband and I and our three children were living in an apartment outside of D.C. My husband was in law school and at class for the day at Catholic University. I happened to turn on the television at about nine o’clock that morning. What I saw was the beginning of what would be the most horrific day for our nation in my lifetime.

Panic gripped me when I realized that I could not reach my husband on his cell phone. The systems were overwhelmed with the amount of calls and shut down. My anxiety further increased when I heard that the Pentagon had been hit. All I could do was to wait and pray.

When my husband walked through the door, I was so relieved to see him and have him with us. The television remained on as we continued on with the activities of the day. Images of the planes impacting the two towers became burned into our memories from the constant replays.

For the next week, an eerie silence descended upon us. We took our children to the playground that was a part of our apartment complex. There were no planes overhead. The sky stood completely still, and I imagined that God was closer than ever to all of us in the quiet of our sorrow.

For nine years, we have remembered, rebuilt, and re-envisioned ourselves as a people and a nation, but have we stopped to take a look at God’s hope that daily surrounds us? This morning, a beautiful boy was born to my sister and her husband, their sixth. I cannot think of a better way to commemorate the tragedy of 9/11 than to recognize the hope of life that God brings into the world.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The blessing of God's law

My husband and I had the rare gift of being born in the seventies to parents who did not believe in using birth control. Both sets of parents were Catholic at a time when even some priests were confused about the Church’s teaching on contraception. Even though each set of parents lived in different countries to begin with, they were able to hold to the universal truth that love desires manifestation. Being open to God’s gift of fertility in their lives, my husband’s family had four boys, and my parents had four girls. It wasn’t until high school that I realized not only that my parents practiced Natural Family Planning, but that they seemed to be rare in their grasp of Catholic Church teaching.

This is why contraception and sterilization have not been issues of discussion in our marriage except in the context of rejoicing over the Church’s wisdom in condemning these acts as contrary to nature. God has given us five beautiful children who are wonderful in every way, not designed by us but given to us by a loving Father. It makes me think that we are too narrow in our intentions when we pray. We pray for this thing or that thing that we think we can absolutely not live without. God is smiling all the while, knowing that He has greater joy planned for us than we could ever imagine.

Contraception and sterilization close us off from receiving God’s abundant graces, spiritually and physically. Without God’s grace we are sad, hollow shells who wander about aimlessly. When we allow ourselves to be open to what God wants, we are whole human beings, living according to the purpose of our existence. It is only in this wholeness that we ever truly can be happy.

The reason that I bring up this topic on this day is because of an article I read about how the European population is in danger of being overtaken by Muslims not by force but by births (not news, really). Europe has ceased to live according to its Christian heritage, and now they are reaping the bitter fruits of impending submission to an anti-Christian force. All of us are in danger of the same fate if we do not allow God to fill us with His love.

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods which you have not known” Num. 11:26-28.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Taking time to nurture marriage

It has been nearly a week since I last posted. We are in the midst of many changes in our household. My husband just shifted in his job situation, our children started back to school, and I went back for my fall semester of classes. There are times when my husband and I don’t get to spend time together as much as we would like, and I think that is pretty common for our day and age. Families are busy, and the temptation is to focus on the details rather than on the big picture.

If we obsessed about the sheer multitude of things that each one of us had to accomplish in any given day, the priority of objects would overwhelm us. Sometimes, in fact, that does happen. It is easy to lose focus on what is really important unless prayer is a part of our daily lives. God takes priority in our lives. Every day should be ordered to pleasing our Lord. When He’s pushed aside, we are easily confused in a society that aggressively competes for our affections.

God directs us back to the mission He has entrusted to us. As married couples, we are called to help one another on our journey toward heaven and to share our love in such a way that the physical manifestation of our love and God’s love combined also becomes our path to sanctity. Children are the wonderful gift of God whose love is so great it cannot be contained. Even so, the marriage itself has to have priority for the benefit of the couple and of the children. The best gift any father and mother can give to their children is the love and support of a joyful marriage.

I am absolutely in awe of the great gift of such a wonderful and loving spouse who knows this to be true. This past weekend we enjoyed a dinner out (even though I had five loads of laundry to fold, a five-page paper on the Hebrew words used in Genesis looming over me, 300 pages left in St. Augustine’s Confessions and my reading for Christian Anthropology to complete). Fantastic dinner, incomparable conversation, side-splitting laughter...we still enjoy each other’s company like we did in college, only now it’s richer and deeper, carrying with it all the experience of life and a mature faith in God.

Time out with the hubby...just what the Holy Physician of souls ordered!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On suffering

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us.” Romans 8:35, 37

All of us have encountered people in our lives who will claim that something bad destroyed their faith. It’s the old “problem of suffering”. They might say that if there is a God, that He could not will bad things to happen, because evil cannot come from pure goodness. This is simply good reasoning in a narrow scope. The problem is that God’s goodness is bigger than simply willing perfect earthly happiness. His desire for us is to behold His glory, sharing in His perfect love for an eternity in Heaven.

Love freely chosen is infinitely superior to robotic mind control. I think everyone could agree upon that. Because God wants us to choose Him freely, out of love, it necessarily follows that there are going to be people who don’t desire God. We call this rejection of goodness, sin. It is in the world because God is willing the greater good of free will. Sadly, rejection of goodness is responsible for a great multitude of sufferings, wars and famine, family conflicts and the devaluing of human life.

There is, however, a suffering that seems more scandalous. It is the scandal of the cross. Every saint has encountered it and considers it a great gift. It is the suffering that arises out of no consequence of personal sin, but in the invitation to walk the steps with Christ to Calvary. Each of us, in order to purify our love for our Lord must consider what we are attached to that keeps us from fully loving. Suffering helps us do this. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” If we can get through trials, distresses, poverty, or even death with the love of Christ as our strength, Faith has conquered.

Thankfully, I have encountered more people in my life whose faith has been strengthened by suffering. It is those whose faith was built upon firm ground. Whenever I get to talk to one of these inspirational people, it fills me with a humble thought. Please, God, when my suffering comes, shower me with the grace to glorify You.

Monday, August 30, 2010

One thing

During my adult life, I have been introduced to so many great and holy people who have been instrumental in my life of faith. From time to time I find myself revisiting these nuggets of good advice. One of these popped into my head as I was planning for the upcoming school year. It came from a mother of ten children... “Just do one thing.”

I think that so many of us try to take upon too much when we get excited about organizing our lives. We like looking forward to the possibility of change that could occur provided we follow our strictly regimented plans. The plans are often developed with an idea about ourselves that we are superheroes, not subject to fatigue, frailty or failure. What happens when our overly ambitious expectations collide with the reality of the unanticipated? We come to a stand-still.

That is why the wise and holy mother of ten suggested that instead of trying to reform our whole existence in a list that would take us hours to write, we should practice one small virtue, something that we know we need to improve. It is marvelously simple but difficult enough to challenge even the most skilled people among us. We all have certain virtues we struggle with.

It reminds me of a book that I read in college by Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue. In it, Kreeft explains how the Cardinal Virtues (prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude), the virtues that we practice in our daily lives, prepare our souls to receive the Theological Virtues of faith, hope and love. It is a remarkable book that I highly recommend for anyone who would like to understand more about the Church’s teaching about virtues. Certainly all of the virtues are important, but we all know that there is one in particular that God is calling us to grow in. It is not the same for everybody.

As fall approaches and the kids head back to school, it is a wonderful opportunity to begin to work on my one thing, and I look forward to God’s grace in helping me with it. He knows I am going to need it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The beautiful process of learning

This weekend, I am away from my family, on a retreat of sorts. I am currently enrolled in a master’s program of theological studies through the Institute for Pastoral Theology based out of Ave Maria University (IPT). This is my second of three years that I will be attending classes once a month, eighteen hours at a time. “Why are you doing this to yourself,” many have asked. I couldn’t always answer that question, but this weekend it became clear.

I love to learn. I love to discuss. It is not satisfying to engage myself in a hobby that simply occupies time. Dr. Herrman, my professor for Christian Anthropology, gave me this thought that I had needed to express my reasons for wanting to return to the academic life...“knowledge augments the soul.” I had experienced that last year in my first two semesters of theological studies, though I could not have proclaimed it in such a concise statement. As I learned more about God and who we are in relation to Him, my prayers became more vivid, less nebulous. I suddenly was aware of beauty that I had recently taken for granted. I made connections that had eluded me up to then. It is again as it was on my first day of class. I am realizing that the more I learn, the more I am blown away by the unfathomable, audacious love of God.

Thank God for good and faithful professors who love Christ and His Church! It is a joy to study at the feet of great scholars who are dedicated to Truth. Instead of spending all of my time sifting through mounds of dirt in order to find one gem, I am privileged to open a chest of treasure and study each jewel for as long as my time will allow. It is the eighteen hours in a weekend that some have told me would be too much for them to sit through. I cannot imagine there being any fewer hours. There is no wasted time in IPT. We are beholding precious gems that our loving God has been itching for us to uncover.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A mother’s powerful love

Today we celebrate the feast of one of my favorite saints, St. Monica. I love St. Monica because she had the tenacity of a faith-filled mother, and without her constant intercession and suffering on behalf of her misguided son, we would not have the great St. Augustine, his skillful defense against the Pelagian heresy, or his beautiful theological works. St. Augustine offered momentous contributions to the Church in a time when people were confused about doctrinal fundamentals. A man with such an important role in the Church would have simply “not been” if not for a mother’s love.

It cannot be repeated enough that mothers have great power, but not in the way society defines power. This power cannot be claimed, bought, or even earned. It is a gift that grows within the recipient, sparked by humility and an awakening of love. It is nourished by the Sacraments and flows out of the recipient. This power comes from Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

Some women clamor for what they have been told will give them greater power. They cry about the injustice of not having their contraceptives covered by insurance. They whine about having pressure from the Church to vote with a Catholic conscience on matters of life. They complain about not getting to stand in front of a congregation and “play priest”. In each of these attempts to grab for power is the failure to understand that in denying who they are as women, as mothers, as sisters, they are giving up the only true power that was ever available to them.

St. Monica, though she most likely didn’t have to struggle with such silly notions of a modern feminist agenda, must have struggled with questioning the pain of motherhood. Her son was blatantly living in a sinful manner, not having regard for moral teaching or authority. She must have found the burden of being a wife and a mother difficult. She must have felt completely powerless, but in that powerlessness, she found a strength that did not originate from her own doing. She found the power of a mother’s love that Mary knew, a love that would suffer completely for the love of her Son.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reality and beauty: seeing as Christ sees

As we approach the weekend, I am getting more and more excited about returning to classes. This is my first weekend of my second year of theological studies. I’ve ordered all my books, scheduled the sitters and arranged for my lodging. Each month for the next ten months will be spent reading, writing, studying, and, of course, praying. It is such a joy to have the opportunity to study theology, because, in the words of one of my professors, I love to study what is REAL.

Since my classes are held away from home, each weekend of classes is like a monthly mini-retreat. A generous Mother Superior has offered us rooms at the nursing home and convent she runs. This opportunity further enhances the retreat-like experience and also provides multiple opportunities for inspiration. It is commonplace to observe one of the sisters giving the elderly residents hugs or listening patiently to their conversations that may, at times, be confused. It was something that struck me so deeply last year that I became devoted to praying for these sisters and their mission. Residences for the elderly are places that are often joked about as drab institutions where undesirable old people go to live out the rest of their miserable days. While some institutions unfortunately may not recognize the gift of the elderly, the home run by the sisters gives hope to any visitor. It is a place that gives the comfort and the peace of Christ at a time when it is most needed. These sisters are preparing their residents for Heaven. It is beautiful to witness.

So why do I like studying what is real? Reality helps us to recognize beauty in places often overlooked. It enables us to see past this existence into a world where everyone is wanted and appreciated. In reality, we get to see as Christ sees.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Family time

This weekend our family has set aside time to be with each other. We had our Saturday morning obligations, but after those were over, we spent the entire day together. That’s not to say that every moment was perfect, but an overall joy pervaded throughout the course of the day. As I unloaded the dishwasher, my three-year-old came up and danced to the music I was listening to. I took some time out to dance with him. His bright face glowed as I spun him around the kitchen. My husband and other son were talking and folding clothes in the next room. Our daughters were floating in and out of the rooms, dancing in the kitchen, taking clothes from the stacks of folded laundry and putting them away. We were all working together, not seeking the escape of entertainment, but connecting amidst the work of daily household chores.

The joy of family life is as simple as this. Children love being with their parents, laughing and talking, and, yes, even sharing in the work. Not every day is as easy as this, but a day like this is worth ten of the days when I felt overwhelmed, tired or frustrated. It is a testament to the grace of God within the Sacrament of Marriage...easy yoke, light burden. My husband and I fortunately took to heart the advice of an old priest who told us that the priorities of marriage are as follows: God first, spouse second, children third. He was so right! When we prioritize our lives in this way, there is work, but it is a joyful, fruitful work that is evident in days like these. Thank you, God, for yoking me!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The role of parents in education

As we approach another start to the school year, I would like to share some thoughts about the parental right and responsibility of parents to educate our children. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “crowning glory” of marriage is the procreation and education of children. Procreation and education are inseparable in the openness to life within marriage. One cannot exist as a fruit without the other. Sadly, in our culture today, the concept of procreation itself as an element of marriage is questioned, but even beyond procreation, our right and our duty to educate our children is often downplayed, even among serious Catholics.

“The fruitfulness of conjugal love extends to the fruits of the moral, spiritual, and supernatural life that parents hand on to their children by education. Parents are the principal and first educators of their children,” CCC 1653.

For this reason, my husband and I set out to take on the whole kit and caboodle when we were in our early years of marriage. We attended our first homeschooling conference when our oldest daughter was just six months old. We did research, bought a great number of books and other resources, and loved many of the aspects of teaching our own children at home. Five years ago, we uncovered another option for our children...a wonderful private classical academy right in our own area.

Providence Academy is a private, independent, classical academy that teaches in the Catholic tradition. Our children go to daily Mass, attend weekly Adoration and Benediction, learn about history, literature, science, music, math, etc. in the context of Christ, the center of our lives and of all of history. What changed us from homeschooling parents into Providence Academy parents was the realization that our children would have greater opportunities for growth in this environment. It has always been our philosophy that we would homeschool until we were convinced that we could entrust the grave responsibility of forming our children to an institution that could give them more than we could.

While we still incorporate aspects of a homeschooling culture into our home environment, it is a great gift to be able to experience our children coming home from school and engaging us in conversation about something wonderful they have learned that day. It is also gratifying to know that other children are getting the same opportunity for formation and having the same discussions with their families when they return home.

The Church, in Her infinite wisdom, has declared that the education of children is the primary responsibility of their parents. Whether homeschooling or otherwise, I am glad that God has given us the ability to discern what type of education fits the needs of our children. After all, education is for the child, not the child for the education. Who better to determine that than the ones who have loved them the longest on earth?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mary and the unanticipated gift of humility

Every once in a while, because of the pacing of our lives, I find myself completely out of juice. Today was one of those days. It seemed that all of us were exhausted from the events of this past week and my husband was out of town for the weekend, so the executive decision was made to go to the later Mass at the cathedral downtown. The kids started arguing in the car and I was at my wit’s end with them as we pulled out of the driveway. Eventually I remembered to keep our Sunday tradition of saying a family Rosary on the way to church. But truthfully it was the incessant fighting that jolted my memory. I was out of sorts, not in a good mood, not feeling the urge to pray but knowing that I had to. Thankfully we were able to complete the entire rosary just as we were pulling into the parking lot of the cathedral, which, I might add, was quite a feat since every decade or so I was yelling at one of the kids to “face forward!” or “stop whining!” or “get back in your car seat!” I arrived at Mass frazzled, thinking “Mary, I thought you were on my side here...isn’t the Rosary supposed to make everyone peaceful and serene?!” Embarrassingly, I didn’t even realize that it was the Feast of the Assumption until I saw it on the Mass sheets.

Mass didn’t go much better. The fights continued in the pew and my three-year-old son kept attempting to climb over the pews and mess with his older brother and sisters. We had to go out twice, once for potty break and once for behavioral issues. While in the corner for time out in the gathering area, he kept saying, “YET ME GO!” and struggling. Mind you, I have written a pamphlet for parents giving tips on getting their kids to behave properly during Mass. There’s nothing like misbehaving children to reduce a parent to utter humiliation.

That’s when it occurred to me...gratitude for humiliation, for spiritual ineptitude, for exhaustion, for irritation. It is when we have these profound experiences of inadequacy that our faith in God is given an opportunity to grow. All I could say after a day like today is thank you, God, for allowing me to stay grounded. I am closer to dust than I ever knew, and I have faith that you are molding me each day, even though I don’t see it.

Though I didn’t really understand the connection when I began to write this evening, I suppose this post is fitting for the Feast of the Assumption. It reminds me that Mary is always interceding for us in Heaven, praying for us to become humble and open to God’s grace. Thanks, Mary! You must have been praying extra hard for me today!

Christ's victorious love

This past week I got to witness some great events that gave me glimpses of the victorious love of God. In our Church right now we are encountering an opportunity, an invitation to become transformed by Christ’s love. This call is perhaps more palpable now because of the mounting tension between the culture and Christ. Everyone seems to feel it, yet only a few are able to recognize how Christ is calling us to an increasing holiness of everyday life.

Unfortunately, we see the effects of sin all around us. It is in the culture in which we live, and if we don’t constantly protect ourselves against its powers of seduction, we are in danger of losing our souls as well. The Sacraments are God’s armor against the onslaught of sin that is waged against us. The Sacraments give us the strength to love and remind us that in order to become who we were truly meant to be, we must become more like Christ and less like the world. In other words, when we, as the Church, take on the social habits of the culture, we are nothing more than a sham. If there is scandal in the Church, it is because we are not acting in accord with Christ. The answer is radical transformation that starts in the hearts of each individual member of the Church. The awareness of the harsh reality of sin in the Church should compel us to recommit ourselves to Christ, not to become detached from His love.

For this reason, I was especially moved this week in seeing a new bishop take firm hold of a diocese in crisis. He is embracing the members of a suffering parish in a time of need. It is the fatherly love of a man whose heart is centrally focused upon the mission of Christ.

I also had the providence of attending a wedding of a young couple deeply in love with God and each other. It is a beautiful reminder of Christ’s love for each one of us whenever we see true married love, a covenantal union that mirrors the relationship of Christ to his people, the Church.

And lastly, today, though I am not able to make the trip, a former teacher of my oldest daughter will make her first professions as a religious sister. The faith of this young woman has impacted our parish and her former students profoundly. Her holy example of dedication in listening and responding to her vocation inspires all of us to rededicate ourselves to being open to Christ’s call in our lives.

Christ is victorious! We know how the story ends, but it is frustrating sometimes to feel that the world is crashing in around. It gives me great hope to witness these victories of Christ’s love over a culture of sin and death.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"An awakening to the Gospel"

I had the honor and the privilege of attending the Installation Mass of Bishop William P. Callahan yesterday afternoon. It was a breathtaking liturgy, one of the most beautiful I have ever attended. Dr. Brian Luckner and his choir were accompanied by an orchestra and filled the cathedral with the most beautiful music, a sound certainly befitting of such a blessed event.

Bishop Callahan delivered a theologically deep and passionate homily about Christ as the central focus in our lives and the gift of His Church in unifying His believers. I have included some of my favorite parts in the following collection of quotes:

“God speaks to us in our humanity, in the performance of our ordinary daily tasks. We have come to know by our faith and our direct experience that God is not an ‘intruder’ from outside the human condition imposing Himself upon humanity; rather, God has revealed Himself as one with the human condition, radically and profoundly present in the mystery of human life and experience.”

“Throughout history Jesus continues to speak through His Church and its apostolic witnesses. Today the Church marks with great joy the feast of St. Clare, the Virgin and the companion of St. Francis of Assisi. The witness value of their lives of holy poverty in obedience to the Gospel continues to inspire people of all ages with a vision of hope that is born from the truth of its teachings and the reality of its practice in daily human life. The marrow of the Gospel continues to give life and hope because it is born from the teachings and the life of Christ Himself. It is not mere philosophy or a self-help program; it is the very essence of human need, fulfillment, and the blueprint of our very destiny.”

“Christ is, and always must be the starting point of our faith! It is He who sets our human compass; it is He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is He who in the face-to-face communication with the Father shares an authentic and personal dialogue of love. This Trinitarian companionship forms the grist of the establishment of all life and most certainly is the epicenter of the formation of the Church.”

“In sending forth of the apostles, Trinitarian love is articulated and becomes fully expressed in the apostolic life and mission of the Church. The invitation to witness to Christ begins with sharing His—Trinitarian—life and work of bringing the Gospel to all creatures. From the beginning, Our Blessed Lord chose human companions to be with Him in the task of establishing His Church. He sent them out to call others to penance, to heal the sick, and to proclaim the Good News. He sent them out together so that they might have the strength of fraternity, the assurance of protection on the way, and the guarantee that the integrity of the message would remain true and verifiable. This apostolic nature of the Church remains intact to this day and is fulfilled particularly in and through the ministry of bishops for the authentic sanctification, education, and leadership of God’s people.”

“As we gather in this beautiful cathedral today, we witness a ceremony that is different from other rites of passage or the mere ‘passing of the baton’ to a new chief executive officer. This is an event that affects all of our lives throughout this diocese. The recognition of a new Shepherd for this local Church is truly meant to be an awakening to the Gospel—an awakening that stirs devotion and love, honor and service to Jesus Christ – the focal point and the only true constant in our lives.”

It is apparent from these words of Bishop Callahan that he is eager to get to work. What a great gift to be given a bishop that is so full of the energy and the passion of Christ! It will be wonderful to experience the flourish of life that will come out of this diocese under the leadership of Bishop Callahan.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcoming a bishop

The Feast of St. Lawrence always reminds me of my college Catholic campus center. Each year we would have a barbeque on the memorial feast of St. Lawrence. Gotta love that Catholic humor! This year I experienced a very different feast of St. Lawrence. I attended the traditional vespers prayer vigil that is a part of the installation ceremony of a new bishop. Beautiful psalms, hymns and chant were all part of this prayer that is integral to daily Catholic liturgy, the Liturgy of the Office. It was a fitting welcome for our new bishop, the Most Reverend William Callahan. The feast of St. Lawrence was also a most fitting feast to hold this special welcoming because of the manner in which St. Lawrence suffered and died for Christ.

As the homilist noted this evening, suffering is beneficial to others. Whenever we give of ourselves, suffering comes with it. We die to the part of us that wants to do what we want and we give that service, that time, that food, that money—whatever it was that was going to be used to please ourselves—to another person. This is what St. Lawrence did. He sacrificed his life, his comfort, his flesh for the souls of those who witnessed his death. There is no greater witness to faith than a person who suffers for Christ.

Why suffering? Suffering goes against our nature. Every inclination tells us that suffering is bad and pleasure is good. Avoid pain, seek pleasure. Psychologists have developed whole treatment regimens based upon this axiom. It is for this very reason that suffering is such a valuable witness. We are not inclined to suffer, yet we welcome it when we know it will benefit our beloved. Love’s evidence is suffering. If our beloved is Christ, how is it possible that we could benefit Him? We cannot contribute to Christ’s intrinsic glory. The glory of Christ is intrinsically complete. We can, however, contribute to the glory of Christ that extends outward and encompasses the Church. Our suffering allows us to participate in the redemption of man with Christ through His suffering on the cross. As a wise professor of mine said, we are either crucifying Christ or being crucified with Him. As I would say, there is no mushy middle.

It is with this knowledge about suffering that the installation of a bishop commences. The faithful are aware of the sacrifices this man of God has made up to this point in his life. We are also grateful that he is about to witness Christ’s love in a very special way for each one of us in the diocese he is about to shepherd. Thank you, Bishop Callahan, for loving all of us enough to suffer for our salvation. We look forward to having you lead us by your holy example.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Christ-inspired hospitality

Every so often we visit an extraordinary family on a beautiful piece of land that we so lovingly refer to as “the farm”. This closely-knit family has built separate residences on the same acreage and often still meets at the main house for dinner together each day. All of the cousins get to play together and are quite good at including all of the different ranges in age. My children have a blast whenever we visit. The greatest part about being there is the hospitality. Visitors are welcomed with such warmth and generosity that one cannot help feeling that this farm is a special place of the grace of Christ.

It has become a tradition that whenever we visit we bring the ingredients to make a special meal. Since my husband is Vietnamese, the most requested recipe seems to be eggrolls. It is a combined effort of mixing, rolling and frying that brings the whole family into the kitchen. Everything is done in shifts, and the fruits of the effort are enjoyed by all.

The conversation is another phenomenal aspect of the gathering. Culture and politics, religion and entertainment are all topics of conversation. No subject is left unturned, and by the end of the day, the world has gotten smaller. Neighbors will stop by, extended family members from a different country are sometimes in town for a visit, and each person contributes a little bit more to the richness of the experience. Not every visitor to the farm is Catholic, but each person who walks onto this hallowed ground of hospitality knows that there is something spectacular about it. It is the love of Christ that welcomes them, and it impresses upon me the universality of the call of Christ.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The beauty of a good confession

I am employed part-time as a library substitute. Since I started my job at the library, I have come across all sorts of interesting books, some that make me wish I had more time to read and some that inspire me to pray for the soul of the person who just read them, if you catch my drift. One of these books that I recently noticed upon check-in was a book that documents what seems to be a fairly new trend, postcards or letters sent anonymously with the most horrid written, sometimes typed, confessions. As I looked through the book, the thought occurred to me that confession is a natural desire of the human soul.

St. John Vianney, whose feast is celebrated on this date, is most well-known for his hours devoted to hearing confessions. This dedicated priest had such a deep respect for the value of confession to the souls of the faithful that he would remain in the confessional for up to sixteen hours at a time. It is wonderful to read about his life and all of his sufferings he endured for the sake of his devotion to our Lord and His Church.

Confession seems to be one of those misunderstood things. It seems that some people find it adequate to confess their sins directly to God and be done with it. However, the psychological aspect of grave sin is not addressed when this is done. It seems that we, as humans, need to have human verification that God has forgiven us. All of the sacraments have these tangible aspects. God knows that our faith is aided by our senses, so sacraments are the perfect instruments by which we receive God's grace. I pray that those people who feel the desire to confess will have the grace to recognize God's gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Church.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hob-knobbing with the good guys

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending dinner with my husband at a Canon Law convention. Though I only joined him for dinner, the conversation was intellectually stimulating and very pleasant. It was no ordinary Canon Law conference. This was put together by our good friend, Archbishop Raymond Burke, whose reputation for fidelity has become legendary. Fr. James Conn, S.J. (another super-cool Jesuit) and Fr. John Coughlin, O.F.M. also joined the panel discussion that followed which happened to be moderated by my husband. It was delightful to hear these fine canonists converse about the application of the Church's law, not at all like the American legal system. As all of the panelists reminded us, the Canon Law system is not primarily focused on penalties. It is a law that is geared toward the sanctification of its members. The good of the person or persons is always the goal. Frankly, this type of law interests me more than any other. Would that all law had as its end the true good (the good that God intends for us).

There is a misconception that canonists are stuffy legalists that never make it out of the chancery to converse with real people. This could not be further from the truth. The canonists I encountered tonight were witty, charming and full of conviction. They also love the Church. I cannot vouch for every canonist, but it has been my experience that people who are in love with Christ and His Church and have the knowledge to pair with their faith serve as the most delightful company. Thank you, gentlemen, for the great conversation.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Looking forward

One of the great joys of motherhood is knowing that all the effort, all the tears, all the messes and the daily grind of life is not pointless. We are raising a small army of warriors for Christ. It is not a physical battle (although some days I think my kids could hold their own in that way as well) but primarily a spiritual battle in which the spirit of the world constantly seeks the weak and the disillusioned as its prey. Strong souls and strong minds will allow the light of Christ to work within them and through them to combat the culture of death with love.

It is so gratifying to have conversations with my older children now that involve faith and morals. I sometimes smile at the prospect of some poor atheist encountering my grown children and being totally caught off-guard by their cheery quick-witted responses. This, more than anything on earth, is what I look forward to...seeing my children in action for Christ.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Super-cool Jesuits

Since today is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, I thought I would share some fond memories of learning about the Jesuit order. In my Church History class in high school, Sr. Marie Bernadette (now Mother Marie Bernadette) of the IHM sisters taught us about the true reformation (the Catholic reformation) within the Church following the council of Trent. At that time Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuit order to reform morals by way of Ignatius's own spiritual exercises, to engage in missionary work and to promote education and scholarship. The coolest thing that Ignatius of Loyola did was to require all of his Jesuits to take a fourth vow...a special oath of fidelity to the Holy Father.

I'm so thankful to have some of the true Jesuits still around and doing a fabulous job of living in the original spirit of the Jesuit way of life. Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN comes to mind as one of these Jesuits. The IHM sisters were coincidentally the first to introduce me to his work. Sr. Mary Catherine's Apologetics class invited him to speak about Catholics and the New Age, his newly-published book at the time. Many times our paths have crossed since then. He taught my husband Old and New Testament scripture in his Master's program, and last year we were fortunate enough to have dinner with him at our pastor's rectory. He is always learning and teaching with a joyful wit that always keeps his company on their toes. Fr. Mitch Pacwa, thank you for being a super-cool Jesuit, just like St. Ignatius and his original followers.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Martha's anxiety

I spent the night helping out at a fundraising dinner for my children's school. It was a delightful evening with everyone pitching in and cheerfully working even though it was very warm and we were in a small space for the amount of traffic that was going through. The generous people who open their home to this fundraiser every year work so hard to make it a beautiful event so that attendance will be high from year to year. The volunteers who organize it are so dedicated to Christ and the mission of the school that their anxiety about the event is transformed into eager helpfulness. I couldn't help feeling thankful to be in the midst of such joy-filled company.

On the way home, as I was relating this experience to my husband, he reminded me that it was the feast of St. Martha. I laughed. I've always loved Martha because of her encounter with Christ in scripture. "Martha, you are anxious about many things," Christ said to her. She was doing all of the work and concerned herself with what her sister was, or, in her mind, was NOT doing. This gives me great hope, because although we get to experience service in the Christ-centered way as it should be, like the event this evening, so many times we look over at what other people are doing and concern ourselves with their business. This is what causes the anxiety that Martha had. I love to see instances in which saints demonstrate the human failures that all of us have and yet are able to overcome them in their dedication to opening themselves to the perfecting counsel of Christ. St. Martha, pray for us to be transformed by Christ's loving wisdom!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Delighting in God's will

It is such a gift to be able to reflect upon the will of God at a time of night when all the children are tucked in and the swooshing of the dishwasher is the only sound in the house. Last year, I had the opportunity to read Uniformity With God's Will by St. Alphonsus de Liguori. It is so calming to contemplate the will of God in everything. We go through life making decisions and many times the outcome is not what we expect. God's will in our lives brings us to venture outside of where we are comfortable and to become stronger in our faith than we ever thought we could be. It is our conformity with God's will that is the key to great joy in our lives.

"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."

"Furthurmore, we must unite ourselves to God's will not only in things that come to us directly from his hands, such as sickness, desolation, poverty, death of relatives, but likewise in those we suffer from man-for example, contempt, injustice, loss of reputation, loss of temporal goods and all kinds of persecution. On these occasions we must remember that while God does not will the sin, he does will our humiliation, our poverty, or our mortification, as the case may be. It is certain and of faith that whatever happens, happens by the will of God."

And that is why the man is a saint. Pray for us, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, that we might embrace God's will with your same delight.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The fruits of a faithful marriage

Today, on the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, I have been reflecting upon the gifts of a faith-filled marriage. Sacramental marriage is a great gift and has always been viewed by the Church as a vocation in which a man and a woman are aided by the Holy Spirit to grow in holiness and virtue. The beauty of marriage is that both of the spouses, with their hearts firmly attached to Christ, aid each other in the spiritual growth that is necessary to perfect us for heaven.

That being said, among faithful Catholics, much attention has been given to the physical fruits of marriage...children. Thanks be to God! Openness to life is vital for a faith-filled marriage. But there are other fruits cultivated in a sacramental marriage that contribute to the good of the spouses, the good of the children and the good of society. Generosity, forgiveness, trust, compassion, empathy and sacrifice are all fruits of a Christ-centered marriage. These fruits are desperately needed in our society today, and it is up to us to cultivate good married relationships starting with our own spouses.

The mission of a married couple extends further than ourselves. So many of our priest friends are greatly edified to see married couples opening our hearts to the love of God. This is marriage as God truly intended, and it makes them grateful for their own vocation. In this current climate of hostility toward the pristhood and the Church, we need strong marriages more than ever to shine Christ's light into the world. Sts. Joachim and Anne, pray for us!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pope Benedict's solution for world peace

This is why I love Pope Benedict XVI...he takes a modern issue and meets it head-on with the timeless wisdom of Church teaching. Peace and environmental issues are often usurped by those who reject God and objective morality. Benedict reasons that protection of creation guided by God's objective morality offers the only true hope for peace.

"If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation. The quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation. In the light of divine Revelation and in fidelity to the Church’s Tradition, Christians have their own contribution to make. They contemplate the cosmos and its marvels in light of the creative work of the Father and the redemptive work of Christ, who by his death and resurrection has reconciled with God 'all things, whether on earth or in heaven' (Col 1:20). Christ, crucified and risen, has bestowed his Spirit of holiness upon mankind, to guide the course of history in anticipation of that day when, with the glorious return of the Saviour, there will be 'new heavens and a new earth' (2 Pet 3:13), in which justice and peace will dwell for ever."

This is the information that belongs in the news...a revolutionary plan for peace. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The gift of poverty

Poverty is one of those overlooked virtues these days...especially with all the emphasis on the economy, the employment rate and various budget crunches. It seems that the "health and wealth" gospel has crept into the consciousness of many faithful people of God. Wealth is viewed as a blessing, and, consequently, poverty becomes a curse. It is simply the opposite in reality. Poverty, when embraced in the spirit of humility and trust, is a great treasure. Wealth, on the other hand, often becomes a burden and a constant threat to the humility that is necessary for spiritual receptivity.

It is a great gift to realize that God provides in all situations. Poverty in spirit helps us to receive this grace, and it makes us attentive to those who need the love of Christ. Poverty empties us of ourselves so that Christ can fill us up, and if Christ is within us, we cannot help but seek out those who need Him the most. This is the reason that poverty is listed among what are called the evangelical counsels...chastity, obedience and poverty. They are Christ's net to gather His fish, and we are the blessed participants in the harvest.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teachers and witnesses of faith

Among the many gifts that God has given us, great teachers are right at the top. St. Dominic, who founded his order in the thirteenth century, sought to defend the Church against heresy, ignorance and immorality through intense study and the embrace of poverty. Faith and reason are the bedrocks of our Catholic faith. Reason supports faith and faith gives light to reason. Thankfully, this lesson was introduced to me before I ventured into college. My parents prepared me to be receptive to holy teachers and holy teachers, fortunately, were a part of my high school faculty. This wonderful group of religious sisters, the IHM Sisters of Wichita, Kansas, has an interesting history – one that involved a choice – to follow the cultural tide of experimentation, or to hold to Church teaching with a firm conviction of faith. Their choice to be faithful to Holy Mother Church was the choice that also brought them to be my teachers.

Faithfulness brings God’s people together. I thank God every day for the gift of faith He continues to shower upon each one of us, and I pray that when God’s call to be faithful is presented to us that we will have the courage and the conviction to respond joyfully as Mary did, “Fiat!” Thy will be done.