Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let's all help a young woman get into the habit!

Here is a happy thought for the Advent season. We are all in a time of preparation, and if we have been privileged, we will know that the time of Advent is a blessed time of spiritual preparation. I say that I am privileged because I owe all that I have and know about the Catholic faith to the hard work of some dedicated people in my life through the grace of God.

I thank God everyday for giving me good and wise parents who know that faith is a priority. While growing up, I attended Mass at  a parish that was faithful in a diocese that was faithful, and through the sacrifices of my parents and other generous parish tithers, I was able to attend Catholic schools all throughout my childhood and teen years.

One of the encounters with a holy example of radical love for Christ, however, would shake me to the core. I simply would not be where I am today if not for the dedication of the religious sisters who taught me at my high school. They wore their habits, something I had rarely seen in my grade school years. They knew their faith, and they educated us both by word and by deed. When I most needed to see the love of Christ present in my surroundings, there they were, teaching me and guiding me on the path to young adulthood.

This is why this appeal is so close to my heart. A classmate of mine is willing to become one of these shining examples of Christ through a great deal of personal sacrifice. The past three years, she has worked very hard in  her classes and is graduating with me this May with her Master's degree in Theological Studies. While she has been able to pay along the way for this program she is currently finishing up, her undergraduate debt remains...the only obstacle to her entering the convent this fall.

Please, if you are able, join me in supporting her undergraduate debt reduction. We NEED good sisters. They are the lifeblood of so many apostolates in our Church today. Thank you for your generosity!!!

Here is the link to her blog:

GIVING IS HABIT FORMING

Isn't that a cute and clever name?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thanks be to God for our holy bishops

Bishop Alexander Sample
I've been pretty busy lately trying to finish up my studies and teaching part-time at my children's school. In the midst of working on my exams, I took a break to check my Facebook and came across this article on LifeSite News... Contraception a ‘clear factor’ in decline of church numbers: Michigan bishop.

I just love it when bishops come out and say what so many of us in the pews have been observing for years. It is so wonderful to know that the shepherds are seeing clearly the wolves who are threatening to devour us.

This gives me great hope for the Church of the future.

Oh, and by the way, I am LOVING the new English translation of the liturgy. It is so beautiful and prayerful. I feel like I am encountering Christ for the first time every time I go to Mass...another reason to be grateful for the wise leadership in the Church!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A timeless struggle

Many of us know that the struggle between life and death is one that plays out in many different ways throughout history. Life Site News recently featured a short film that beautifully weaves together three issues with the same thread of conscience. In each time period societies are forced to cut through the rhetoric of politics to realize the basic truth of the dignity of human life. The question is...what will finally open our eyes to the horror that is taking place in our present society?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's ALWAYS about LIFE

I live in Wisconsin, where, since last spring, we have been engaged in a bitter war over...well, let's face it...it's about money and power. I repeat. The war is over money and power, and for the last few months, I've watched as normally sane people have engaged in animal-like behavior at the thought of having less money and power. Some actually seem possessed, maybe not in a literal demonic way, but they have become possessed by possessions. I think that the attachment to possessions can become so powerful sometimes that it makes us crazy. We lose the ability to think clearly or reason, and eventually we are able to communicate only in vulgar words of rage. Attachment to anything but God achieves this goal that delights the enemy. It is the ultimate distraction from goodness.

So forgive me for being bold, but I must say that in knowing how God is completely devoted his precious creation of human life, I would have to reason that voting for a candidate who favors giving more money and power to people over the protection of sacred human life is completely abominable.

Some would say that our recall elections are about the rights of the workers. I would say, what better way to be distracted from what really matters? Is life sacred or not? As Blessed Mother Teresa said, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." For those of us who live in a region that has been bullied into a recall election, we have to consider the grave responsibility of our votes. Most, if not all, of the pro-union candidates have horrific records when it comes to voting for the protection of unborn life. Don't be fooled by side issues. It's always about life.

I'm voting for LIFE on August 9 where I live.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On trusting

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

It is this passage from proverbs that I woke up remembering this morning. Proverbs 3:5-6. It is my husband’s favorite. We have all our children memorize it.

So what is trust? More precisely, what do we do when we trust? Primarily, we love. We have to love in order to trust. Secondly, we enter into a reliance upon this love. Thirdly, there seems to be an element of uncertainty on the part of the one who trusts. This would require faith and hope.

The theological virtues, then, compel us to trust first in God and then in those whom God has chosen to lead us to Him. Therefore, we must trust in our fellow humans, all the while knowing that only God’s love is perfect, and that humans are capable of choosing to reject it.

Is it scandalous to say, then, that God trusts? God loves. Love is creative. God’s greatest creation is man, who was created to love freely. There is uncertainty in creatures with free will. However, God is also omniscient, so he knows exactly what will happen. Therefore, might we say that God has a sort of transcendent trust...a trust that is so great that despite having the knowledge of every evil thing that has happened, is happening or will happen, that allowing the world to play out in time cannot conquer the glory that is to come?

So if God who knows and loves most perfectly is willing to keep us going in all the messiness of life for His greater glory, the least I can do is to keep trusting. Will my heart be broken again by someone I love? Almost certainly, but He knows what He is doing.

“Therefore, I will trust Him...He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.” – Blessed John Henry Newman

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A letter of anger and hurt

Be forewarned: The following letter is an exercise at coming to terms with my own anger. It is not intended to offend anyone, so please read with caution.

A LETTER PRESUMING TRUTH IN THE STATEMENT BY YOUR COMMUNITY:

Dear Sheepdog,

I am angry. I guess I feel fooled and hurt...and sad for those whose faith was damaged by an arrogant opportunist. It’s one thing to fail. It’s quite another to unabashedly persist in defying the moral code you continue to preach, and to repeatedly attempt to cover up your sins with the money you have earned by these good people who trusted you, because of your mask of fidelity.

Now the truth comes out.

First a trickle of disobedient rhetoric, a slight clue that should have revealed your dark intentions especially when juxtaposed against the light of our Lord, who died for us, and all those who were doing their best to keep your corruption from hurting us.

As more stones fell from your fortress of lies, you continually held that you were unjustly persecuted, even to the point of disgustingly likening yourself to Christ Himself during His passion.

And then today, the final crack in the dam broke, revealing you to be who you are, a snake-oil salesman who just happened to be selling the real thing.

Though my anger at your hypocrisy still remains, I do not wish the wrath of judgment upon you. I pray that you spend the rest of your life repenting in solitude, speaking no word to anyone but God. And I know that God will be merciful to you, if you only ask.

Your once inspired listener,

Beth


I realize that maybe it's too much to ask for charitable comments after calling you-know-who a snake-oil salesman, but I still welcome your thoughts about my anger.

I am praying for holiness. We all could use some more.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The legacy of a good pastor

Our beloved former pastor on the feast of Corpus Christi
This past Sunday, on the feast of Corpus Christi, we said goodbye to our beloved pastor. After sixteen years of serving our parish, he has been called to shepherd another flock. All of us in the parish have known that this change was inevitable. Pastors don’t normally get to be in one location for such an extended time. Yet so many of us have become attached to him as we would a family member. The sadness I am feeling did not hit me until I realized this evening that he would not be there this coming Sunday. It gives me great comfort and joy to share some reflections about his last Sunday Mass as pastor of our parish.

As he walked up, I became overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude, having been blessed to be a part of this small inner-city parish for the past eight years. Some of the faces in the congregation were parishioners who had come and gone and had made the special effort to travel to this Mass to give Father their best wishes and to thank him for being a part of their lives. Many of the people in attendance were parishioners who had attended the same 10 o’clock Mass every Sunday that I had seen throughout the years. It was an entire community of people whose lives had been profoundly augmented by the grace of a good pastor.

Directly in front of me sat a man whose struggle for the past few years has been simply making it to Mass. I have observed the slow deterioration of his body each week that seems to correspond with an increasing joy of being at peace with Christ in His suffering. Another elderly gentleman will often extend his hand to this dear man in friendship upon returning from Communion. This gesture of kindness always makes me smile and consider the hospitality that our pastor had always striven to foster within our parish.

A few pews back, I could hear the sounds of toddlers whose parents had been formed by Father’s excellent instruction about marriage and family life. He always took the time to meet with a young couple and ensure that their marriage would be built on the firm foundation of Christ’s vision for spousal union. Many young families have been drawn to our parish because of Father’s dedication to speaking the truth in love.

While I watched my son serving at this Mass, I recalled the vocations cultivated within our parish, undoubtedly inspired by our pastor’s own commitment to serving Christ and His Church. It has been a tradition at our parish that altar servers are male, while the girls are trained as “handmaids” in charge of preparing the altar before Mass. Father’s wisdom in allowing this organic development of tradition to continue has had the effect of building the confidence in both boys and girls in pursuing their vocations.

Yet for all these accomplishments and countless others achieved by our pastor’s tireless cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit, I would have only my own memory to rely upon. Our magnificent pastor, in his last homily, only spoke of the good works of others and most humbly said that his proudest accomplishment during his years at our parish was providing a noble liturgy that is performed according to the mind and heart of the Church.

He told us that Christ, whose presence he had the honor of bringing to us through the Mass, blessing us with in Benediction, and providing us with in Adoration, is the One who binds us together in such a way that his absence would be only in body, but not in spirit. This feast of Corpus Christi, he said, was a most appropriate way to conclude his time with us as our pastor. Christ has been at the center of his ministry from the very beginning, and now our parish has the opportunity to share the bright light of our faithful servant with another community.

I’ll never forget how he concluded his homily. His final parting words were “I love you.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a pastor say that to his parishioners. It’s so bold, but I have no doubt that the love of our pastor was such that he would have walked through fire for any one of us. Now THAT is “In Persona Christi”!

Thank you, God, for the gift of having such a great pastor. Thank you for the bittersweetness of life in which we are privileged to experience your love most profoundly, in the departure of a strong and caring shepherd who tends his flock as You would, with a firm and loving hand.

Monday, June 20, 2011

St. Francis de Sales on true devotion

I thank God for the gift of reflection amidst scandal and disillusion. While it is heartbreaking to witness a champion of faith crumble in the face of adversity, a situation such as this can actually call us to reexamine our own understanding of what it means to live a life of devotion. What is true devotion to God and how do we seek to live this life in Christ?

St. Francis de Sales has a thought-provoking insight about spiritual devotion in his spiritual masterpiece, Introduction to the Devout Life, “There is only one true devotion but there are many that are false and empty. If you are unable to recognize which kind is true, you can easily be deceived and led astray by following one that is offensive and superstitious.”

Just how easy is it to be led astray? Very easy. Super easy. So easy that if we are not constantly vigilant, especially when we are doing some good work, our weaknesses will be found. Do we struggle with obedience, detachment from worldly possessions? Are we hot-tempered or arrogant? Do we prefer the affection and adulation that we get from others over the glorification of God and the furthering of His Kingdom? Do we rationalize disobedience or attachment to wealth in order to promote the mission that has become our own twisted creation?

It is easy for us to point fingers at someone else and say that these are not our problems, but just as quickly these same weaknesses could be on the brink of taking down any one of us. What are we to do? Again, I turn to St. Francis de Sales.

“Genuine, living devotion, Philothea, presupposes the love of God, and hence it is simply true love of God. Yet it is not always love as such. Inasmuch as divine love adorns the soul, it is called grace, which makes us pleasing to his Divine Majesty. Inasmuch as it strengthens us to do good, it is called charity. When it has reached a degree of perfection at which it not only makes us do good but also do this carefully, frequently, and promptly, it is called devotion.”

I hope that whenever we experience disappointments, whether it be with friends or relatives, coworkers or people in roles of leadership and ministry and especially with ourselves, the sadness of detaching from our worldly affections will draw us more deeply into the love of Christ and into the joy of sharing in the communion of truly devoted believers.

Deo gratias. Let’s all continue to pray for each other.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Dad did right: 7 QuickTakes

Since my last QuickTake for Mother’s Day proved to be more effective at producing Mom tears than all of my past cards put together, I thought I’d do another in anticipation of Father’s Day. But first I’d like to share a few quick observations about the importance of fathers in general.

Fathers are underrated in our culture today, which is sad because I think they are so vital to the success of a family. Fathers are often dismissed on one hand and then made to feel guilty about not being involved (a la “Cats in the Cradle”). They are stereotyped, judged and derided at every attempt to assert their God-given role of leaders and protectors of their families. It takes a very special man to rise above these cultural obstacles and become the loving and supportive leaders our families so desperately need. My father is one of these men.

His own fatherhood flourished in a household of five women, none of whom were shy about expressing their opinions about any given subject. This list is dedicated to you, Daddy (yes, I’m 36 years old and still call my father “Daddy”)...seven QuickTakes on what Dad did right:

1. He always went to Mass with us. This is a big deal, I’ve come to realize through years of parish-watching. Men are sparse at Mass, and I didn’t realize the extent of this until our first Mother’s Day at our current parish. All mothers and daughters were invited to process in with flowers for Mary. The remaining men could have filled only the first three pews. A wave of gratitude washed over me as I realized how blessed my mother and sisters were to have my father always with us at Mass.

2. He spent time with us on his days off. One of my fondest memories from childhood was Saturday mornings. The smell of coffee and pancakes would beckon me to wake. As I entered the kitchen, my sisters would be gathered little black-and-white TV, and Daddy would sometime pause to watch and laugh as Coyote fell off a cliff and got pummeled by an anvil.

3. He used his talents to relate to us. Some fathers might be daunted by having four daughters, being puzzled by these feminine creatures. My dad played to his strengths. He put us all in sports, and he coached our teams (usually all girls). I remember watching A League of Their Own with my dad, and watching him laugh as Tom Hanks shouted, “There’s no crying in baseball!” I think that’s something he had wanted to say on more than one occasion.

4. He worked for his family. When people get all weepy about how their father wasn’t there for them enough, I sometimes wonder if they aren’t taking for granted all the time he spent working for them at his job. This sacrificial love is not unnoticed by me, especially now that I know how much it costs to provide for a family.

5. He talked to us about important things. My dad has a great sense of humor, but he also likes to keep up on what is going on around him, especially in relation to faith and politics. His natural interest in history always made for great discussions about social and economic policies that would have an impact on our God-given freedoms.

6. He enforced curfew. If we weren’t home by a certain hour, I knew that our Dad would come looking for us. I think I had a healthy fear of my Dad showing up somewhere, a little discombobulated because of lack of sleep, and full of lecture notes he had compiled on the way.

7. He set a standard for my choice of spouse. My dad is a faithful husband and father who always worked hard and found true joy in his fatherhood. My own husband had the bar set high for him, and I was pleased to know that I could find a man who could measure up. I wouldn’t have settled for anything less.

Thank you, Daddy, for being such a great husband and father. Your fatherly example continues to bless our family each day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Get along or get to work

Summer is in full swing at our house. Our children seem to have the need to be kept busy. I don't know why they have a problem with finding something to do, but after a while the restlessness of relaxation causes them to argue and break things. Last count, we had 10 destructive mishaps in the past two weeks and countless arguments.

Needless to say, my house is becoming very clean. By summer's end we might just get all the closets cleaned out, and I won't have had to lift a finger. As a friend of mine once said, I will either have peace and quiet or at least a very clean house.

I will argue to the death with someone who claims there is no such thing as original sin. It's alive and well at the Nguyen household.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thank God for rotten vegetables

I can always tell how busy we’ve been by the number of rotten vegetables I have to throw out when I finally get around to cleaning out the refrigerator. Today was that day of reckoning. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would put us at around a 9.8.

The worst one was the drippy bag of decomposed lettuce I pulled from the crisper drawer. There are not too many things grosser than that.

Whenever I am in these situations in which I am having to suppress my gag reflex, it helps me to contemplate the putridity of sin. This chore of cleaning out a neglected refrigerator this morning led me to reflect upon the times in my life when I was “too busy” even to remember God, how He had provided me with a treasure trove of nutritious delights, and I had let them spoil.

Thank you, God, for this reminder. You are so good to communicate things to me according to the mode in which I am most readily available to receive them, in the ordinary experiences of everyday life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A female's defense of male ordination

One of the great things about getting a master’s in theology is the opportunity it presents in witnessing to my faith. The dialogue usually goes something like this...

“So...you’re going to school?”

“Yep.”

“What are you getting your degree in?”

“I’m working on my master’s in theological studies.”

“So what are you going to do with that? Are you going to be a minister?”

“No, I’m Catholic.”

Then it goes one of two ways...

EITHER

a) “Well you know you can’t be a priest. The Catholic Church forbids that.”

OR

b) “Why can’t you be a priest? I’ve heard of women being ordained.”

So here are my responses to both statements. (Perhaps I will just refer people to my blog anytime this issue comes up.)

The Church does not forbid the ordination of women. It doesn’t have the authority to ordain them. If Christ had wanted women priests, don’t you think that his own mother would have been the top candidate for female ordination? We follow Christ’s lead in this matter. Furthermore, the old argument that Christ was bound to the cultural limitations of His time doesn’t fly with me. He broke all kinds of social rules...remember the big stink that was raised about his disciples not fasting? Remember the encounter with the sinners and the tax collectors, the prostitutes and the lepers? If Jesus would have wanted women to serve His Church in this capacity, He would have made it happen.

Secondly, I am perfectly fine with not being a priest. I’ve seen their job, and don’t particularly want it, and I’m abundantly thankful that there are men who are willing to answer the incredibly demanding call to serve the Church in the person of Christ. People who look at this vocation as just another career path are completely missing the boat. God is the one who calls. It’s not up for a power grab.

Finally, women are not being ordained as priests. Even if they do go through the motions of an ordination ceremony, they are still not ordained. The Holy Spirit doesn’t show up for fake sacraments.

So I guess my stock answer still stands. I love being Catholic, and I don’t want to be a priest because it’s pretty clear to me that God is not calling women (any women) to that particular vocation. It doesn’t make me less of a person. It doesn’t decrease my capability of growing in holiness. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, read Lumen gentium. It is the cure for many modern misunderstandings about the Church.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Excuses, excuses

I've got some ideas floating around in my head for future posts, but I haven't had more than 15 minutes to sit down and think about them.

Well, that's not completely true, but I have been incredibly busy during the day and into the evening. The first week of May we celebrated a Confirmation, a First Communion and Mother's Day. We've participated in two May crownings...Yay, Mary!...and I've finished up my second year of classes.

After returning from my classes on Sunday night, I slid right into a crazy week of school activities, work and babysitting children for a friend of mine who just gave birth to my new Godson. He's so yummy!

I am going to be Godmother to this gorgeous new little boy!
 With so many wonderful things happening this month, it's no wonder that my writing has taken a back seat, but I have to admit that I could have squeezed in some more posts here and there, but enjoying a few DVDs after the kids are in bed has been my guilty pleasure for the past few nights. That down time has been like taking a drink of water after being thirsty for weeks.

So here's looking forward to the summer...looser schedules, no homework hanging over my head, and a stack of books that's been waiting for me to devour. I might still be able to find excuses not to keep up with my blogging, but they probably won't be as noble.





Wednesday, May 11, 2011

IPT still accepting applicants for the Janesville site

The Institute for Pastoral Theology, the master's program in which I am currently enrolled, is accepting applicants for the fall semester. The nearest location and the one that I attend is in Janesville, WI, but there are other sites throughout the country. It is a three-year program designed for working adults who have either finished their bachelor's degree or have a total of 90 college credits. The master's degree earned is an MTS, master's in the theological studies.

Many people have asked me, "So what are you going to DO with this degree once you are finished?" That question always makes me chuckle because one of the foudational Thomistic principles that is introduced in the first semester is "operatio sequitur esse" (translation: "action follows upon being"). Action flows from being, and not the other way around. We don't act ourselves into being. This is a counter-cultural notion, and it is one of the primary themes our Holy Father Pope Benedict XI has been stressing. "Modern scientific thought has increasingly shut us up in the prison of positivism, thus condemning us to pragmatism," (Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today). In other words, "doing" is valued, while what should be the primary focus of cultivating "being" is ignored, or worse, condemned as laziness and impracticality.

So maybe I should say that I am not DOING anything with my degree. Rather, I am allowing God to chisel away at my being (in order to intensely purify my understanding of the faith) right now in preparation to participate in the "doing" of God through me. How God is going to call upon me to use this great gift of intense, reflective study has yet to be fully revealed, but then again, I am already participating in His mission in my vocation as a wife and mother. So even if my ultimate task in life turns out to simply pass on a more vibrant and accurate understanding and witness of faith to my children, this time and effort will have been more than worth it.

Finally, I wish to submit that this program is centered in Christ and completely faithful to His precious Church. It does not soft-pedal truth, nor does it float inaccessibly beyond comprehension in theological speculation. This formation is pastoral, meaning that it presents a theology in action, a theology that is no less than doctrinal, no less than deep and pentrating, and no less than eminently transforming.

Look into it. I promise it is three years that will awaken your faith, refresh your soul, and prepare you to witness to the light of Christ.

Also check out some local friends who have blogged about the program:

Badger Catholic: One way to get an authentic Catholic education in Wisconsin

Making Things Visible: Dr. Douglas Bushman - Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Random stuff Mom did right - 7 QuickTakes

I borrowed stole this idea from Fear Not Little Flock:

In preparation for Mother's Day, I will attempt to undo all the snotty teenage things I ever said to my mother in a completely grateful post dedicated to my own Mama. She has born the brunt of four daughters and their critical opinions for far too long, so here goes...Seven things Mom did RIGHT.

1. She read us bible stories at bedtime. My foundational catechesis came straight from my mother. She always explained more than what the story told, and took the time to answer our questions. I am certain that this is what insulated me against the fluffy touchy-feely catechesis of the eighties, but I can still cut out one heck of a butterfly!

2. She prayed for our future husbands. I don't presume to know the inner-workings of the Holy Spirit, but let's just say that I know two things: a) my mom prayed, and b) I have an awesome husband who is dedicated to Christ and His Church, to me and our children.

3. She always went the extra mile for us. I'm talking crazy extra...like pulling all-nighters because she worked 12-hour shifts at the hospital and would come home to realize that we needed help with a school project.

4. She ran background checks on our boyfriends. Ok, not formal ones, but she did call her friends in other parishes to give her the "low down" on the guys we were dating. Nothing very interesting ever surfaced, but she was on top of it.

5. She wrote us letters. In this age of computer everything, I fondly remember my mother's handwritten notes. Sometimes she would write an "I love you" on our napkin that she placed in our sack lunches. Sometimes she wrote us a letter expressing her gratitude for having us as her daughters. I've kept many of these, and I don't know if I've ever told her that.

6. She rejected the "wisdom" of her culture. As a young Catholic mom in the early seventies, she went against the grain and followed the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church regarding family planning instead of getting caught up in the tidal wave of contraceptive propaganda. I learned from her about the effectiveness of NFP and the natural spacing that often occurs as the result of breastfeeding. These are lifelong habits of fidelity which I am looking forward to passing on to my own children.

7. She taught us to pray. Every night, we prayed as a family. Every Sunday we attended Mass together. She taught us how to say the Rosary and continues to promote a life of prayer in devotion to Our Lord through Eucharistic adoration. These are the vital tools I continue to use everyday. Prayer is the life of Christ that flows through our daily activities.

Thanks Mom, for these and all the gifts you continue to share with our family. I know we don't say it enough. We love you, we appreciate you, and we thank God for the gift of you! Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

"See what love the Father has given us...

...that we should be called the children of God; and so we are."

On Wednesday night, this scripture passage,1 John 3:1, kept popping into my head as I witnessed my oldest daughter receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. She is God's gift to me, a call to live my life not for myself but for Christ, and I am humbled by the blessings she continues to deliver. I don't deserve a daughter so lovely, so kind, so beautiful and patient, so full of faith and conviction. Yet God's merciful love is lavish...incomprehensible, and dare I say CRAZY?! (Pope Benedict did.)

My daughter, whose confirmation name is Therese, on the left, next to our pastor

My prayer tonight is for all of the newly confirmed young people. In the words of Bishop Callahan, they are the future of the Church. It gives me great hope to see a cathedral filled with young Catholics and their families all renewing their faith in Christ and allowing the Father to shower His gifts upon all of His beloved children.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Climb on the LIFE train!

It's contagious...It's outrageous...It's a nation of young people joyously proclaiming the message of LIFE!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mercy me!

I just love the Archbold brothers. Their faithfilled reflections delivered with humor and frankness are completely refreshing, and it is a joy to read their take on the news of the day or something of the mundane delivered from a new perspective.

Also, I enjoy the consolation of knowing that our family is not alone. There are people all over the world who think the way we do, have the same values, and appreciate joy in laughter and tears. When you're Catholic, and you actually believe and submit to Christ and His Church, all sorts of kindred souls start to emerge. Communion is a beautiful thing.

Today Pat Archbold wrote a great article about the economics of mercy...and wouldn't you know that I have thought the same thing about the availability of confession. It needs to be abundantly offered.

"Confession needs to be available throughout the day, week in and week out, everywhere it can feasibly be provided so that when the desire hits, people know that mercy is just a quick trip to the Church away. By Saturday afternoon, the feeling may likely have passed."

Confession is Christ's merciful love in action. Many pastors are awesome at offering this sacrament at different times throughout the week, including Saturdays and Sundays before Mass. But sometimes I have heard the comment that nobody comes, therefore the priest will reduce hours in the confessional. This, I think, is an instance in which the laity needs to provide feedback for these misguided notions of cutting back hours of confession availability. If you provide it, we will come. Maybe not instantly, but slowly, like a steady trickle that flows through a crack in the dam before it bursts open.

From a mother's perspective, confession availability might be likened to providing supper every night for the family. Sure, it's disheartening when I take time to prepare something that is healthy, nutritious and delicious...and only half the children eat it. But if I stop offering them healthy food, their bodies are going to malfunction and start limiting their ability to physically perform the tasks they need to work and play. How much more is the spiritual life affected by the spiritual malnutrition that is perpetuated by the lack of the sacrament of confession? This sacrament is vitally important in our culture today that is increasingly growing in adversity to the faith.

Thank you to the wonderful priests who serve us so faithfully day in and day out. Be assured of our prayers for you. We are all being called to heroic sanctity. Our family feels the weight of the world everyday, and I know that the priests are right there in the thick of it. Only lives of ongoing conversion directed toward holiness are going to ease our burdens, offering us the consolation of God's abundant mercy and more workers for the vineyard.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prayer request

The Badger Catholic: Prayer request

Badger Catholic posted this prayer request today, and I am compelled to pass it on. Please pray for the health of this mother and baby. Their family is being heroic in the face of death. It is a complicated pregnancy with a very high risk of losing both mother and baby. What is not understood in our present culture is the noble witness of a mother risking her life to save her child. Pray for their continued strength and courage. Pray for all of us, that when confronted with a situation in which Christ calls us to witness in accepting His cross, we will embrace it lovingly, with the firm conviction of participating in His redemptive suffering.

Beautiful St. Gianna, pray for us!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Barefoot and Pregnant: What a Woman in Crisis Really Needs

This wonderful article witnessing to the hope that exists after an unplanned pregnancy was posted to FB by a friend of mine. I had written about my own experience with a past unexpected blessing earlier this year, and Calah, the author of this same article had left a comment, sharing, "This is beautiful. I, too, kept the baby, and she changed our lives as well. It's amazing, the work that God can do if we just let him." I am so glad that she had the courage to write about her journey in greater detail. She simply blew me away!

Please visit her blog...

Barefoot and Pregnant: What a Woman in Crisis Really Needs

We need to keep sharing our stories about the triumph of life over the culture of death. It is a vital part of winning hearts.Thank you for inspiring us with your story, Calah. I know your witness to the hope that exists in the midst of a less-than-ideal situation will prompt others to take another look at this issue of human dignity. In acknowledging the dignity of mothers to be mothers, we are encouraging them to embrace the dignity of their children.

LIFE IS ALWAYS A GIFT!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wonderful new blog...a must-read conversion story

I quickly have to share a post from a new blogger. It is a beautiful, honest and truly courageous post that deserves to be recognized. We need to continue to pray for conversions. We never know whose heart God is going to open at any given moment.

Refiner's Fire - So what's my story?


Now I gotta get back to work...and please pray for me. I am entering into a crucial week for my studies.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chile...a country that protects human life

Since I was looking for a little good news after the Wisconsin supreme court elections, I am so pleased to have found this. The Chilean govenment not only protects the unborn; it produces entertaining commercials to promote respect for these tiny humans. Way to go, Chile!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A light that shines in the darkness

The Chicago Pro-life Joy Mob has struck again. These pesky youngsters keep thrwarting the pro-abortion protesters' rallies of doom and gloom with smiles, contagious energy and true joy. This video, like the past one, demonstrates the stark contrast of the two groups.



This is the way to win hearts. I would wager that a woman who finds herself facing a difficult pregnancy with an uncertain future couldn't help being comforted with the joy-filled hope of these pro-life young people. Sadly, this clip will not be shown in the mainstream media, so we need to do our best to get this message of hope out. Please pass it on.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The answer to the new atheism

During my son’s swimming lessons at our local YMCA today, I decided to sit out in the lobby to study my flashcards for canon law and enjoy a cup of coffee. My peace was interrupted by a lively bunch of elderly gentlemen engaged in a conversation about all the wars brought on by religious differences. The new atheism poison had reached its tentacles into the souls of these sweet old men and was doing its best to try to squeeze out any remnants of faith before they die. Sad.

About a year and a half ago, I had witnessed this spiritual and intellectual attack on the other range of the age spectrum. My atheist English professor was hell-bent on snuffing out the seeds of what he would define as “childish superstitions” under the ruse of “being open to new ideas.” His constant barrage of emails cited the new stars of atheism, mostly Dawkins and Hitchens. This was an upper-level class of highly-motivated English majors, so we were divided into three major categories...none of which were ambivalent to the agenda he was pushing. The first group was a lost cause, completely soaking up every argument he touted against the “evils of closed-minded Christian dominance”. The second group found his obsession with religion annoying in a class in which English was supposed to be the dominant focus. The third, much smaller, group of only three of us was vocal in our opposition and provided counter-questions to his faulty assumptions.

This new atheism is basically a rehashing of all arguments against faith which have at their foundation a presupposition of the supremacy of empirical science. It is an arrogant assumption, to say the least, that holds the modern scientific method as the standard by which we determine all things to be true. It does not presuppose an openness to the question about God’s existence. Rather, it presupposes a doubt about God’s existence. “I’m not going to believe in God unless his existence can be proven scientifically.”

That’s really ridiculous. How can we, mortal beings, subject an infinite, immortal, spiritual substance to the tests of science which only can measure tangible realities? If only we could see God, experience Him in some sort of a profoundly human way. If only God were to enter time and take on a human nature so that we could somehow record His existence in some sort of a book, and then we could go back and scientifically recover artifacts from the time of his life here on earth, and miracles that defy science could continue to be collected by some sort of an institution that is dedicated to the proclamation of His existence and mission...If only...

We have the answer to this “new atheism” right now. It is Christ and His Church. This is Benedict XVI’s reason for his recent dialogue with the gentiles. His intention in opening dialogue between religious and non-religious is to establish a common ground upon which the good of man can be realized. This is the first step in planting seeds for conversion. Pray for our Holy Father. In the strength of Christ, he is bravely countering the loud, angry voices of atheism with the still, small voice of God’s joyful love.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring snow

I am a Kansas girl, through and through. So when it comes time for spring, I have certain expectations...thunderstorms, wind, warmer weather. Spring snow is something I have not yet adjusted to. That’s why a morning like this will send me into the doldrums.

This morning, I opened up the front door and was greeted by a yard full of the fluffy white stuff. It was all over the yard, on the driveway, and draped over the car, with a layer of ice underneath. Fantastic. We were on our way to swimming lessons, and I had to scrape the car.

“Ugh. Not more snow!” My audible complaint was overheard by my three-year-old son.

“I like snow, Mommy.” His words ignited a shift in my perspective in the way cute little child-like observations about life often do.

“Look, Mom. I see my footsteps.” Yet another heart-melting reminder about the beauty of things overlooked.

In that moment I recalled the story about St. Francis Borgia, whose travels in the middle of a snowstorm took him to the doorstep of a Jesuit house. His arrival in the middle of the night was unexpected, and no one heard him knocking on the door. The snow continued through the night, and he was not discovered until the next morning. All of the men who lived in the house were embarrassed and felt sorry that he had suffered exposure in the cold.

The rest of the story, in the words of St. Alphonsus de Liguori, is as follows...

“The saint however, said he had enjoyed the great consolation during those long hours of the night by imagining that he saw our Lord up in the sky dropping the snowflakes down upon him.”

My recollection of the story brought me back to the observation of my son who had prompted it. He didn’t think about the annoyance that a spring snow might bring. He was basking in the wonder of his footprints in the snow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Upcoming event at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI

Announcement from The Institute for Pastoral Theology...

LENTEN DAY OF REFLECTION - March 26, 2011 (9 am - 4:30 pm)
The Institute for Pastoral Theology and the national Marian Catechist Apostolate are jointly hosting a daylong retreat at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on March 26, 2011 in LaCrosse, WI. In addition to Mass, confession, and adoration, three reflections on the theme of redemptive suffering will be presented by Professors Douglas Bushman and Ben Nguyen. There will also be an information session on the IPT.

This will be a great opportunity for a spiritually and theologically nourishing Lenten mini-retreat. The event is free and open to the public, so please plan to attend and spread the word to those who may be interested in a Lenten retreat or who are interested in learning more about the IPT. Lunch ($10) is available for purchase by calling Terry Knothe in the Marian Catechist office at 608-782-0011. Click here for more information.

SCHEDULE FOR THE DAY

9:00 am                Arrival / Registration

9:30 am                Talk #1 The Suffering of the Father of the Prodigal Son

10:15 am              Talk #2 In Christ We Respond to Sin as God Himself Responds

11:00 am              Lunch ($10.00 - Please pre-purchase by calling 608-782-0011)
                            Confessions available 11:00 am - 12:15 pm

1:30 pm                Talk #3 Offering It Up: The Doctrine of Indulgences Revisited

2:30 pm                Institute for Pastoral Theology Information Session

3:00 pm                Free Time

3:30 - 4:30 pm      Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament / Departure


IPT ALUMNI AND FRIENDS GATHERING – March 26, 2011 (evening)There will also be an evening event for IPT students, alumni, friends and all those who would like to remain informed about what the IPT is doing. This event is also scheduled for March 26 and will be held at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe so that those who have come for the Lenten Day of Recollection can stay for the evening event as well. The social will start at 5:30 pm at Culina Mariana (the Shrine’s restaurant) followed by a buffet dinner. This will be a great opportunity to keep in contact, renew friendships, and learn about all the exciting developments with the IPT. There is no cost for the event, but be sure to contact the IPT office at 866-866-1100 or ipt@avemaria.edu to reserve your seat. We hope to see you at one or both of these events!


You can bet I'll be there...Shrine, IPT, the opportunity for quiet reflection, and time with my hubby!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weep with those who are weeping

Since it’s Lent, I am taking the time to meditate upon the gift of sorrow. During the past ten years, I have witnessed a number of tragedies, beginning with the death of my aunt in July of 2001. She died almost instantly in a car accident while on vacation with her family in Colorado. She had been active in the Church towards the end of her life, often touring the country to talk about stewardship. Her death completely stunned us. It made all of us wonder why something like this would happen to someone whose faith had compelled her to live in service to God.

A few months later, the tragedy of 9/11 struck at the hearts of everyone in the nation. The lives of so many husbands and fathers were stolen by an act that completely disregarded the value of human life. These men had families, and their families needed them. It was something to make us wonder.

Since then, in our small community of friends and acquaintances, we have seen so many suffer the death of a spouse or the loss of a child, and we always wonder.

Tonight as I think about all of the devastation in Japan, again, I find myself wondering. What is it about suffering that God wants us to learn? I know that when someone suffers, it compels us to compassion and true empathy. We find ourselves asking what it would feel like to walk that path that might have seemed so distant before. Witnessing someone else’s suffering is transformative. It calls us to consider our purpose in life, to caste away the endless debris of worldly concerns that constantly invade our minds. And if we allow it, the observation of suffering will penetrate our hearts to make us into actual participants in the suffering of others.

It is this experience of suffering that gives me joy, not happiness, but true joy. It is the bittersweet mixture of sadness and hope. We mourn for the evil of death and the world that would take from us the happiness of living with those we love, but we also experience the love of Christ that surrounds us with the comfort of people who are always mindful of the hope of everlasting peace and heavenly bliss.

Tonight as I pray for those who are suffering in Japan, my hope is that they will recognize how in their moment of vulnerability, God’s arms are reaching out to embrace and hold them in communion with His people, we who suffer with them in Christ.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Charity on the internet

Something I have noticed on the internet recently is an awakening, a new zeal in Catholics being informed about their faith and having a desire to share this with others. It is wonderful to see people excited about truth...wonderful, beautiful, life-giving truth.

But I think that from time to time many of us are so used to operating in this culture of hard-hitting, investigative journalism that we might be tempted to drift into writing or speaking in a sarcastic tone. I’ve noticed that many Catholics will chide their opponents in a similar way that is seen in political news programs. While I understand that there is a desire to present the Church as something that is relevant to our culture, I think that this misguided attempt often borrows the flaws of the secular culture in the process.

The Church is relevant on its own merit. It does not need to be dressed up or promoted in such a flashy manner. “Noble simplicity,” a term that is often defined incorrectly to argue for stripping liturgies and churches of beautiful traditions and art, would be much better utilized to describe the manner in which we are called to share our faith. We are called to be holy in the noble simplicity of everyday life. “It is obvious then to all that all of Christ’s faithful, no matter what their rank or station, have a vocation to the fullness of the christian life and the perfection of charity and that this sanctity results in the promotion of a more humane way of life even in society on earth,” (Lumen gentium, 40). The simplicity of holiness makes the Church relevant. To the extent that we are participants in the holiness of the Church, we share in this communion of mission.

Believe me, I am often, and I mean OFTEN tempted to say something snarky to those whose views contradict reality, but sometimes I look at words I had just written on my computer screen and it occurs to me that my intentions were not born out of love, but out of a desire to have people chuckle at my clever comebacks (which, upon a second reading, are not even that brilliant!) If you have followed my blog and have no idea what I’m talking about, praised be God! He is doing a great job of editing. If, however, you have been able to recognize my struggle in presenting the faith joyfully, without ever being condescending towards those whose positions I am incensed by, it is because I am getting in my Editor’s way.

Please keep all of us who are attempting to spread the faith on the internet in your prayers. We are attempting to bring the light of Christ into a venue that is ridden with hostility and self-gratification. Pray that we stay close to Christ in this mission so that we don’t fall into the same errors we are attempting to correct.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Praised be God! Another Lent!

There is a certain joy in recollection, in fasting, in abstaining from the pleasures we are comforted by. In the quiet of prayer, we are able to focus upon Christ and His wonderful love for us. It is a deep, abiding, penetrating love, a love that delights in our attention and relentlessly pursues us in our distraction. His love is overwhelming and a little puzzling at times. How could someone so perfect, so holy, so wonderful, be completely in love with me? Yet He is...with all of us.

It reminds me about a recent conversation with a coworker of mine. She had just finished reading the Old Testament, and I had just finished my second semester of Old Testament studies. We got into a discussion about God and His unbelievable patience. She and I both have a number of children, so we were inclined to identify with God on a parental level. It became very clear to both of us that God’s number of “second chances” were astonishing. She commented that God’s habit of giving them chance after chance to come back to Him almost exasperated her. She said that as a mother, her attitude with her children after this much defiance would be, “okay, buddy, you are outta here!”

Many people believe that the Old Testament is “God in a bad mood,” but I have to challenge anyone who holds this opinion to actually READ the scriptures. God walks with Adam before the fall, and he continues to communicate with them and insert Himself into their daily lives throughout the Old Testament. And then, He does the unthinkable...sending His Son incarnate to instruct us, die for us and rise to give us hope in God's plan for our everlasting union with Him. As my Ecclesiology professor, Douglas Bushman, would say, “do you get the feeling that God is more than a little OBSESSED with us?!”

When this realization of such profound love finally captures our minds and hearts through grace, we experience an urge to reciprocate this love with complete devotion, and desire to participate in our Beloved’s activities. We are suddenly confronted with the reality that this participation might involve a little more than we bargained for. We will suffer, and the deeper our love grows, the more we will suffer because Christ's sufferings were, well, incomprehensible. In Lent, we recollect that we unite our sacrifices and daily sufferings to Christ who gave His life for us, and in so doing, we are given the unbelievable gift of participating in His redemptive suffering. I just can’t get over that! It’s truly amazing!

May our sufferings become precious gifts to our Lord this Lent!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Answering God's call to holiness and mission

There are wonderful examples of God's work all around us, and in this vein, I would like to share a little tidbit about Erika, a friend of our family. We have watched her grow from a lovely teenage girl into a wonderful woman with a missionary’s heart. It has been her ambition for quite a few years to follow God’s call to do missionary work in poorer countries, to serve as Blessed Mother Teresa would say, “the poorest of the poor.”

Because of the gift her blog, Summons of a Wayfarer, I have gotten to follow her on the journey from her feeling God’s tug at her heart, through her narrowing down the missionary organizations, all the way up to her current status. She is preparing to go to Thailand as a member of the organization, Heart’s Home.

I am so grateful to Erika for sharing her journey with us. She has introduced us to this beautiful Catholic organization I never knew existed. The basic mode of operation of this organization is its residency in a neighborhood. The missionaries live very simply among the people they serve and will not turn down requests for help from anyone. The witness of their holy lives is their evangelical tool.

It’s exciting to see a young person so profoundly living out Lumen gentium, Vatican II’s document on the Church. This lay apostolate is putting into practice what the authentic spirit of Vatican II is urging. “On all the laity, then, falls the glorious burden of toiling to bring the divine offer of salvation ever more and more into the reach of all men of all times and all over the world. They must have every path opened to a whole-hearted personal participation, as their strength and the needs of the time allow, in the saving work of the Church," (LG, 33).

Please remember Erika in your prayers as she lives out her 18-month commitment in Thailand. She is leaving behind family, friends, the comfort of familiarity and air-conditioning (in Bankok, the hottest city in the world) to answer God' call to serve. In addition to prayers, Erika still needs sponsors. Our family is sponsoring her both through prayer and a monthly offering. Please consider her mission in your Lenten sacrifice.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The things we learn in poverty

One of the greatest lessons God has taught me up to this point in my life is the importance of not getting in His way. Each time I think about certain events in my life, painful though they were at the time, I have to laugh at how I would start to feel like I couldn’t breathe (as if I were drowning). I would panic and flail my arms about, trying to swim, only to find myself in deeper waters. It’s what we do. We’re human, and we freak out, sometimes at the most inconsequential things.

One of these instances will forever be imprinted in my memory. We were living out in the D.C. area while my husband was continuing his education. Our family, consisting of me, my husband and three small children lived in a shabby apartment that was also the residence of a community of cockroaches. Thin walls and thin floors constantly betrayed our movements and voices to our neighbors which were often answered by banging on the floor by the childless couple down below.

On top of the stress of big city living, we were broke, borrowing to support our family through student loans which frequently ran dry and were eagerly anticipated at the beginning of each semester. We budgeted as best we could, but it was often down to the wire.

I’ll never forget that fall semester when my husband called and told me that there had been a mix-up with the student loans and that we would have to wait an additional month to get any money. I was crying (more like wailing), wondering how we were going to get basic things...milk, eggs, bread.

I also wondered why God would allow us to be in this situation when we were really striving to do what was best for our children. We had made the decision that it would be better for me to stay at home with them while they were young. We were living in obedience to the Church’s teaching about married love being both unitive and procreative. My husband was working so hard to provide for us, attending school during the day and working as many extra hours as the university would allow.

It was at this moment of angry prayer that God’s grace must have directed me to Proverbs. I was looking for a small piece of wisdom that would give me advice for a situation that seemed so unfair and frustrating. I also wanted something to offer my husband in apology for my lack of docility. What I found was Proverbs 17:1 “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” God doesn’t promise to provide for us monetarily, but He always gives us what we truly need.

What I experienced was the fear of Peter on the water. When his eyes were on Christ, having faith in His power, resting in the hope of His promise, and being convinced of His love for Peter, Peter walked on water. When he started to panic, not trusting in Jesus, but in considering only what he knew to be true about the principles of water, he started to sink.

Don’t underestimate the gift of poverty. Don’t overestimate the promise of wealth. In demanding more money people often forget what beauty God reveals in the space we are often too ready to fill up with our own wants and desires. I thank God for this lesson in early married life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A little boy on a mission from God

I found this story on one of my favorite blogs, American Papist, today. It is a story about a boy born without significant parts of his brain, and he continues to baffle doctors by what he is able to do.



Notice that the doctor admits when he sees a little boy who can defy so many expectations, it makes him realize that the medical community doesn't begin to know the smallest portion of what they thought they knew about the human brain. I smiled when I heard him say that. It made me think about the Intelligent Designer who allows us to take part in His creation, and rejoices when we humbly achieve knowledge for the sake of His love, which is all encompassing. This little boy was sent to this earth to teach all of us about this Divine love, about the hope in circumstances beyond our understanding, and about the certainty of faith in God's will.

Friday, February 11, 2011

God's presence at the crossroads

I am not convinced that personal experience is the best argument against the practice of abortion, but I do find inspiration from people’s accounts regarding their own encounters at the crossroads of life. I think all of us can relate to being in a situation in which we’ve dug a hole for ourselves and God comes in to ask us if we want to keep digging or if we would like to stop and allow Him to help us out. It is the most beautiful experience to be up to your neck in a mess of your own doing and to realize that God loves you enough to come in after you.

Such was my situation in my sophomore year of college. I was young, in love, and a little lonely, having just had an argument with my parents over the guy I was dating. We clung to each other in a way that only married people should, both emotionally and physically. Then one day...panic. “What if I am? What would we do?” I went to the student health center for the test.

While waiting for the result, my heart was racing. A million thoughts ran through my head, most of them driven by fear. My name was called, and I approached an older woman with a kind face. I sat down.

“Well,” she said, “It’s positive.”

She must have seen my jaw drop, because she quickly asked me if I had thought about what I might do. In that moment, I felt completely exposed. I wanted to run, to be anywhere but there, having to deal with all of the consequences of my irresponsible behavior. I wanted it to go away.

Thank God I got to have those feelings. Though I didn’t have to deliberate between choosing life and choosing death, I received the understanding of helplessness, and it formed me in compassion for those who feel desperation in the face of an overwhelming situation. I can truly say that I've been there.

As the lady waited for an answer, I struggled to find the words to say. I wanted to make a statement, to proclaim that abortion is not morally permissible, to be resilient in the face of adversity. All I felt was shame and fear.

“I’m keeping the baby.” It was the only thing I could say.

Tears welled in her eyes as she reached out her hand to hold mine. “God bless you,” she said in a whisper.

As I reflect upon this encounter, I feel the hand of God reaching out to touch mine. I hear the words of His blessing comforting me in my shame, and I receive the gift that He has bestowed upon me, an unworthy college girl, too frightened to proclaim the words of His truth.

God supplied what I needed at that moment through the actions and words of a courageous woman of faith. That day I was confirmed in my belief that every child is a blessing because I recognized His strength and comfort in my weakness.

She is a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl, our oldest daughter, and our reconciliation with God through our vocation of marriage has been the most wonderful gift of all.

Learning to recognize God's gifts in our lives is so important. Abortion destroys God's most precious gifts and makes it more difficult to distinguish truth and beauty from the seductive lies of our culture. I pray that our country will one day realize how abortion is harming our whole society through the rejection of God's goodness.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Common sense of the senseless?

I don't have much time to keep up with news, but the story about the Planned Parenthood employee who was caught on tape collaborating in illegal activities against young teenage girls has been gnawing at me (not something I feel the need to include in this post, but "Bravo!" to Lila Rose and the people of Live Action for pulling up the carpet to reveal the rot). The resulting fallout from the public scandal (PP's response) finally compelled me to weigh in on the absurdity of using words without considering their meaning.

There has been some talk about the term “common sense”, particularly regarding Planned Parenthood’s employee training. What struck me as odd is that the term “common sense” is being used by a group that has been senseless from its inception and degrading of the common dignity of the human person.

Let’s define “common sense” according to human standards, shall we? Starting with the term, “common”, meaning what is shared by all. What exactly IS shared by all? The fact that humans are comprised of both body and soul, that our lives are directed toward a purpose, that our activity is distinct from animals: these are all observable realities. We think, we reason, we have tools and solve problems. We contemplate complex moral issues. We deliberate. In short, there is nothing that can explain the intricacies of the human existence other than the existence of a soul which animates the body. The term “common”, therefore, cannot deny the reality of a shared human existence.

“Sense” is another term that cannot be used flippantly. It is a means of gathering knowledge about perceivable realities. We use tangible senses to determine action. Simple instincts in conjunction with our senses compel us to remove our hand from a hot burner or to spit out something that tastes bitterly poisonous.

In putting the two terms together, we get a powerhouse of meaning. Sensate knowledge combined with what is common to all humans, namely the soul, ignites all the capacities of human intellect and will. Memory, reasoning and the desire to act in accordance with goodness (what is good for our bodies and souls) comprise this uniquely human gift of “common sense”.

No organization that supports the destruction of human life can invoke this standard of using “common sense”. Its mission is to support the willful termination of human life which denies the dignity of the human and the reality of the soul. In effect, Planned Parenthood is training its employees deny their own innate wisdom, and the result is evidenced in the cold words of someone who is clearly desensitized.

Friday, February 4, 2011

IPT open class weekend Feb. 18-20 in Janesville, WI

Have you ever thought about studying theology? Are you interested in finding out more about a master's program in theology that offers you both the flexibility of fitting into a family and/or work schedule while providing you with the personal contact of top-notch professors and the camaraderie of enthusiastic classmates? The Institute for Pastoral Theology is offering open classes in several locations throughout the country. I thought I would post information about the upcoming classes in Janesville, WI, where I attend. The lectures are so unbelievably fantastic, and they are FREE! Just sign up and get there.



Ave Maria University’s


invites you to an



Speakers and topics for the weekend include:

Dr. David Twellman
New Testament II: The Pauline Epistles “The Corinthian Correspondence
Friday Feb. 18, 2011 7 pm – 9:50 pm

Prof. Ben Nguyen
Canon Law “Understanding Jurisdiction, Church Documents, and the Rights and Duties of the Faithful
Saturday Feb. 19, 2011 12:30 pm – 6:40 pm

Prof. Douglas Bushman
Ecclesiology “The Mystery of the Church: Giving Glory to God
Sunday Feb. 20, 2011 8 am – 3:50 pm

Classes are held at St. John Vianney Catholic School in Janesville, WI.

Please contact the IPT office if you plan to attend.



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good movie and a book with a wonderful ending

Just thought I would briefly post about the movie we saw this past Saturday. The Rite is a movie about a young (deacon?) who goes to Rome to be trained as an exorcist. I must admit that I am always hesitant to see any exorcism movies ever since my regrettable viewing of the original exorcist movie back in my college days (it was an old movie even then - but still yucky even by today's standards.)

However, it seems that someone in hollywood is interested in a semblance of accuracy. I won't give much away for those of you who are interested in seeing it, but just to let you know, it is surprisingly faith-affirming. It also makes you extremely thankful to be a Catholic.

The movie is supposedly loosely based (emphasis on the "loosely") upon the recently released book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio. It is an interesting book about the life of Fr. Gary Thomas who was recently trained to be an exorcist under the tutelage of a more experienced one. My thought as I was reading the book was that the author could have benefitted from a less secular view of the Church. He attempted to be "fair" by presenting "both sides" of what amounted to some inaccurate understandings of Church teachings. This was my first impression throughout the first half of the book.

However, as the book went on, an interesting shift seemed to occur. His language when speaking about the Church became more protective. I wondered if the act of writing and researching the book was beginning to affect his perspective. Lo and behold...at the end of the book, the author writes, "The writing of this book became a journey of sorts for me as well. It helped me to reconnect with my faith in a way that I never expected when I began researching exorcism." Phenomenal.

I would have to recommend both with just a few reservations. The movie is not for the faint of heart. There are some disturbing images that have to do with demonic possession and there are some hollywood moments that any well-formed Catholic could recognize, but overall the movie is so good at promoting the faith that it almost seems like an advertisement for the Catholic Church. The book, also, is a good read that does, at times, present a slightly secularized view of the Church that seems to be remedied with the author's own gradual transformation towards the end.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Renewed in the commitment to life

Since I just finished reading Unplanned, Abby Johnson’s harrowing autobiographical account about her journey from Planned Parenthood clinic director to the pro-life movement, I am so inspired. For those of you who have not read it, you must. It is one of the best books I have ever read about what it takes to capture the hearts of those involved in the abortion industry. Since I read the book in day (I literally could not put it down), I am still basking in the wondrous grace of God that allowed this marvelous work to occur in this woman. I am glad to be able to share with you some of my reflections upon her story.

It has always been my belief that the pro-life movement was in need of a consistent, peaceful and loving voice. Not just because we need to win people over, but because we need to BE consistent, peaceful and loving before we are able to share that with others. The peaceful protesters (a.k.a. Coalition for Life) who eventually won over Abby Johnson did not just act a certain way in order to convince her to switch sides. Rather, they were completely genuine in their concern for the mothers, their children and even the clinic workers. Abortion hurts everyone. All are victims, even the ones who convince themselves that they are providing and performing abortions out of compassion.

Abby Johnson also recounted what the effects of negative protesting achieves...further division and hardening of the heart. I know that many of my friends still maintain that showing graphic pictures of aborted babies is effective. In my experience, however, I have had the same visceral reaction as Ms. Johnson. She said that the graphic pictures and name-calling simply made her dig in. She became more attached to her pro-choice stance because she thought she was protecting the women from people “like them.” I can say the same thing from a different perspective. My heart is not moved to fight any harder for the pro-life movement when I see crazed protesters. In fact, I think that these protesters have driven away many of us who have wanted to contribute peacefully, recognizing that love is more powerful than intimidation.

But a ray of hope has come to us. I have also seen many of my friends involved in the “Forty Days for Life” movement, and I have even participated peripherally, offering sacrifices and prayers on their behalf. But I must admit that before I read this book, I was not aware of its history or its widespread appeal, not to mention that its philosophy is completely in line with what I had always believed a pro-life movement should be. After reading this book, I am renewed in my commitment to pro-life efforts. It is a renewal that all of us need to experience who have been long-time supporters of the pro-life movement. Without renewal in our energy, in our faith, in our love for all who are deeply wounded by this terrible injustice, we can become complacent, simply going through the motions without thinking about what it is we are actually doing. We are opening our souls to God’s merciful love so that we can be His instruments of grace. That is no small task.

This weekend, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we should be doing everything we can to peacefully bring an end to the violence of abortion. It has claimed the lives of so many in my generation and younger and damaged women in a most horrendous treachery and violation of their dignity. We ask God to renew us and shine His merciful love through our hearts so that our country might see through the rhetoric to discover the beautiful gift of life.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pope John Paul II's beatification set for Divine Mercy Sunday

"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II's intercession, clearing the way for the late pope's beatification on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday.

Pope Benedict's action Jan. 14 followed more than five years of investigation into the life and writings of the Polish pontiff, who died in April 2005 after more than 26 years as pope.

The Vatican said it took special care with verification of the miracle, the spontaneous cure of a French nun from Parkinson's disease -- the same illness that afflicted Pope John Paul in his final years. Three separate Vatican panels approved the miracle, including medical and theological experts, before Pope Benedict signed the official decree."


For so many of us who grew up during John Paul II's papacy, the announcement of his impending beatification is a hugely anticipated event. His contributions to the Catholic Church are copious and continue to enrich the faith of all who read his writings and those who are fortunate enough to recall their interactions with this blessed man. I was able to see His Holiness from a distance at World Youth Day in Denver, 1993. It is a memory that I still recall with such clarity and gratitude...that I was able to see a saint in the making. I remember that he was so energized by young people, and his love for all of us was palpable in his homily at the final Mass.

We are living in a time of great opportunities for sanctity, and we are abundantly blessed to have Pope John Paul II to provide us with his great example of a life lived in the constant love, mercy and trust in God. John Paul II, pray for us!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Calling all potential priests...

On New Year’s Day, we were invited to dine at another family’s house. Our husbands have known each other for a long time. My husband had been his student and later worked with him at the diocese. It was so wonderful to be able to reconnect with them in the midst of a busy Christmas season. Also in attendance was Fr. Joe Hirsch, whose specialty is vocations recruitment, mostly for the Diocese of La Crosse, but he’s been invited to speak in other locations about the need for answering God’s call.

During the course of dinner, he shared with us a portion of his talk that he gives to young men. He begins by asking them how many have considered being a priest. Maybe one or two will raise their hands. He then asks them to consider cancer and its devastating effects upon people’s lives. Upon this reflection, he holds up a pen and tells them to imagine that this pen is a shot that contains the cure for cancer. He asks them what they would be willing to give up to distribute this cure. Would they give any amount of money? Would they give up being able to have a wife and children?

Then he asks them what is worse, to lose your life, or to lose your soul? Most children will know that the loss of the soul is eternal, but the loss of the body is only temporary. He asks them, after seeing the wheels turn in their heads for a moment, “isn’t the spiritual cancer of sin even worse than physical cancer?” Their response is “yes!”

By that time, he is ready to drive home his point. “The priest has the cure for spiritual cancer. Through the Sacraments, people are continually cured by sin and its devastating effects. Isn’t that worth a substantial sacrifice? Wouldn’t you give anything to help cure spiritual cancer? Consider the priesthood. Is God calling YOU to be an instrument of His cure?”

Beautifully put, Fr. Hirsch.

In the following clip, Fr. Hirsch explains what is needed to truly discern a vocation to the priesthood:




Please share this with the young men in your life. We should all be mindful of potential vocations to the priesthood within our own families and parishes. They need our encouragement and prayers, especially in this time of trial when the priesthood is being so viciously attacked. On this day we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, when Jesus began his earthly ministry. May we all pray for God’s call to be answered in greater numbers.