Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Still Life From Long Ago

Hilary Jane at Orwell's Picnic reminded me of my own artistic creations, long ago. This was a still life I did in 1992 when I took some art classes from a wonderfully eccentric older single woman who lived in a mansion. (Her living quarters were on the ground floor and she rented rooms on the second floor. Her class studio was on the second floor.)

She would take various objects and throw them together on a table, with a white sheet draped behind it and that would be my "lesson." She was great in urging me to be stronger with my pencil, instead of lightly sketching everything. The dark shadows are the result.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prayer Request (Edited) Good news!

This will be quick. In a few minutes, we'll be going to the hospital where my husband will be having his colonoscopy. It's been almost one year since last year's cancer scare. His tumor was removed and no other cancer cells were found in his body. By God's grace, we pray that today he'll receive a clean bill of health.

We're both a bit nervous, so prayers for him, first and then for me. :-) I know God has everything under control. I ask that we both would be given God's grace to accept whatever is His will. Thank you so much and God bless you for your prayers.

Edited to add: Great news! They found just one little polyp and removed it. The doctor said he didn't need to see Mickey for another colonoscopy for 3 years. This is such wonderful news! Mickey was very concerned, as you might imagine, and of course, so was I. I am deeply thankful for your prayers. I felt the peace of God in the waiting area and knew I felt answered prayer. God bless you guys!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Are Catholics Returning to the Church More Traditional?

I ask this question because I've been noticing an interesting trend over the past few years. Most of the emails I've received from other Catholics who have returned to the Church have definitely been more traditional. I don't know if this is a result of growing older (and wiser) or if they, like me, had enough of the "non-traditional" style of church.

I think it's interesting. I know that when I came back to the Catholic Church, I wasn't coming back for women's ordination, "social justice," or anything having to do with social issues. I came back for the Sacraments. I came back for the liturgy. I came back because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass reminds me more than anything else of how far God went to forgive our sins and expresses His desire to make us into saints.

I view the non-denominational churches with compassion, for the most part. I know they're trying their best. My brother now attends one. But what they are unable to give are the Sacraments. If one were brutally honest with the history of the Church, they would understand that there has been an unbroken line of authority that started with the Apostle Peter and continued to our current Pope.

Spiritual authority was pursued diligently by the last non-denominational church I attended. There were teachings, books, CD's, mailing lists, newsletters, and magazines that were devoted to obtaining spiritual authority. Aside from deep Biblical study, the consensus was that in order to receive spiritual authority, one had to be chosen by God ("anointed"), and the requirement for that was having a humble heart.

I've devoted many years to serving the non-Catholic, non-denominational church. Throughout those years, I studied the Bible, prayed, and meditated. I met people who I would say did indeed have spiritual authority. But now that I have returned to the Catholic Church, I will say they can not compare to the Catholic holy men and women I've met since, who have something that seems much more authentic.

In my city, we are blessed to have some amazing priests. Some have just been ordained and are especially inspirational. I realize what a great sacrifice it is to become a priest. And I wonder if it is sacrifice that is truly the "secret ingredient" to spiritual authority?

Jesus Christ sacrificed a great deal during His life in order to bring men and women back to God. His ultimate sacrifice occurred on the Cross. However, without the sacrifice of the Cross, Jesus Christ could not have defeated death. By loving His Father so much and placing obedience to His Father's Word above His own preference, Jesus was glorified. ("And Jesus answered them, 'The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.'" - John 12:23)

This to me, is the crux of spiritual authority. We are called to live our lives through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to set aside our will so as to embrace God's will. Within the Catholic Church, we have an abundance of saints who did just that. They sacrificed all so that they were able to glorify God.

Sacrifice is a tough word. I learned about it when I was a small girl, within the Catholic Church. Somehow, amidst all the guitar-strumming and the "kumbayas," I was able to grasp that there was something greater required of us as believers in Christ. It wasn't about my needs being met or attempting to right all the wrongs in society; but it about laying aside my preference and seeking God's purpose.

Which brings me back to my original question.

The traditional Catholics I've met understand sacrifice. There is a beautiful humility about them. They're not running around, insisting that their Diocese recognize social issues or demanding that women become priests. They're not complaining when a parish decides to no longer use altar girls. They're not outraged when a parish decides to ban a "gay pride" Mass.

Traditional Catholics are focused on one thing only: becoming holy. It is by this deliberate intention that the rest of society will be affected. Do those who involve themselves with social issues not remember the early Catholic martyrs? Do they really believe that those martyrs were killed because they were protesting the injustice of Rome? Or maybe they think the martyrs were killed because they demanded a redistribution of wealth. Who knows? But I do know the reason the martyrs were killed was because even though it was illegal to be a Christian, they would not deny Christ. And they went to their deaths singing hymns of praise.

Our world is on fire. Those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear realize that now is not the time for insisting the Church try to make everyone happy. Instead, now is the time for us to gird our loins and prepare for spiritual battle.

Because when greater persecution comes, what will give us strength and hope? Certainly not the knowledge that our local parish decided to support some liberal political candidate who is pro-choice. No. What will keep us strong will be our faith in Jesus Christ, our obedience to God, our trust in the Pope and the Magisterium, and our devotion to our Mother Mary and the saints.

I think that is why many have returned to the Catholic Church. And I believe more will come.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Catholic Church: Sabbath, and The Lord's Day

Before retiring on Saturday night, I decided to pick up my copy of the Catechism to see what it had to say about observing the Sabbath. I knew it was one of the Ten Commandments, but realized I hadn't studied the Catechism to learn what it had to say about this particular commandment.

Section Two of the Catechism lists each commandment and how it relates to our Catholic faith. The article "The Third Commandment" was in the first section titled, "You Shall Love the Lord Your God With All Your Heart, and With All Your Soul, and With All Your Mind."

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work. 90

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath. 91

(90: Ex 20:8-10; cf. Deut 5:12-15, 91: Mk 2:27-28)

Within the Catholic Church, Sunday is called "The Lord's Day." However, within it is still the core purpose of what the Sabbath was created to do -- mainly, to allow God's creation, man and woman, a day of rest from their labors.

Within Mosaic Law, there were strict regulations of what Jews could and could not do on the Sabbath. Today there are still strict rules and rabbinical debates, discussions, and consultations over what is permissible on the Sabbath and what is not.

However, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17 RSV) As Christians, we are no longer under the Law, as St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans (emphasis mine):

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:19-26)

The Catholic Church considers Sunday attendance at Mass as a fulfillment of the Sabbath. I knew we were were obligated to attend Mass every Sunday, but for whatever reason, I never associated it with the Sabbath. I just thought the Church wanted to make sure we didn't go astray because once you start skipping Mass, it's all too easy to allow sin to enter into your life without even realizing it. (And to be certain, the Church does want to make sure that doesn't happen.)

But I was surprised to find this (II The Lord's Day):

Sunday - fulfillment of the sabbath

2175 Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ: 107

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord's Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death. 108

2176 The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship "as a sign of his universal beneficence to all."109 Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.

(107: Cf. 1 Cor 10:11, 108: St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Magn. 9, 1: SCh 10, 88)

So attending Mass is to "render to God and outward, visible, public, and regular worship" as a sign of God's goodness, kindness, and love toward all mankind. In other words, it is a powerful reminder to the world that God exists and loves mankind.

From another perspective, honoring the Lord's Day is a way to preach the Good News to the world that God is worthy of honor and worship. It is a sign that although everyone is busy the other six days of the week, believers in God and His Son take one day a week to pause and remember the goodness of God, reflecting His action and inaction when He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

The Catechism continues to instruct us on how to treat the Lord's Day:

2184 Just as God "rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,"121 human life has a rhythm of work and rest. the institution of the Lord's Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.122

2185 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.123 Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. the faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

(121: Gen 2:2, 122: Cf. GS 67 # 3, 123: Cf. CIC, can. 120.)

Although Catholics do not have the strict guidelines of Jewish people, we are still expected to treat Sunday differently, refraining from work or activity that hinders the worship owed to God. It would seem there is latitude given to us as Catholics regarding what work or activities would "hinder" this worship. Personally, I know that after spending some time in thought and prayer, I realized I had been mowing through Sunday as though it was Saturday -- which caused me to question how was I honoring the Sabbath? Was I taking the time to properly honor God on this day? Or was I only giving Him a cursory nod of recognition for one hour during a Sunday Mass before heading off to do what I normally do the rest of the week?

Whatever you do, consider prayerfully what you do. I know for me, I am taking time to unplug from the Internet and spend the day reading and reconnecting with family and friends. I also prepared my home so that on Sunday, my time isn't taken up with laundry, cleaning, and cooking. For me, this ensures that I gain the benefits of fully resting, and yes, it has made a difference. I believe God knew how crazy our lives would become with all the obligations we would have, the responsibilities, and the demands on our time. Giving us one day to rest is a gift to us, helping us not only to recharge our batteries to but to re-invigorate our relationship with Him.

This section in the Catechism is well-worth reading and studying. I know there have been so many times in my life when I have felt fragmented; pulled in so many directions that I didn't know which end was up. And tired? When I push myself to do more and more and more, my natural bodily defenses wear down and lo and behold, I get sick. Or miss important events. Or forget important things. The list could go on.

My intention in writing about the Sabbath was not to claim that Christians were to honor the Sabbath in exactly the same way as Jewish communities (who are, for instance, forbidden to drive on the Sabbath), but to revisit this commandment and ask: what does it mean for me? How can I as a Catholic live out this commandment in a way that fulfills what God has intended?

There are many ways to honor the Sabbath, or the Lord's Day. I think what is important is simply that we take the time to inquire what that may entail.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Falling In Love With The Sabbath

We do not use the Sabbath merely as a "breather" to gather strength for our coming labors. We work during the week for the sake of creating our Sabbath rest.

The difference between the work we do the rest of the week and the rest we do on the Sabbath lies in the object toward which each is directed. With our labor during the week, we seek to change and improve the world. With our rest, we seek to change and improve ourselves and to renew our relationship with God, family, and community and truly feel how much we have to be grateful for. - Senator Joe Lieberman, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath

I am really loving the Sabbath right now.

At the moment, my window is open to the night sounds. The soft chirping of the crickets rise above the occasional sound of a car. My work is done for the day and I've prepared my home for the Sabbath.

I can't quite explain how good it feels to be so intentional about all of this. I know my life will have ups and downs and at times I won't have an entire day to rest because of various reasons. But I know that I will try to protect this day in a way I never have before. Like a newly discovered treasure, I wish to keep it sacred and precious; not wanting to toss it aside. I may dally with meaningless diversions at other times, but the Sabbath has now become the meat of the week, the delicious, flavorful Prime Rib that makes the other days of Ground Chuck bearable.

Since "confessions" has been an ongoing theme, I'll share yet another. I don't spend enough time with God. As much as I love and honor Him, I don't yet spend much time in prayer. It wasn't always like this. I used to be involved in deep Scripture study and prayer when I was involved in the non-denominational churches and even after returning to the Catholic Church, faithfully prayed the Rosary and started to discover various prayers, which I loved. (The Sacred Heart of Jesus is one.)

I'm not sure if there was any one main reason, but over the past year, I became busy with other projects and started to decrease my time in prayer. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you've seen me start several projects and then stop. There have been a few I've continued, but often I have a multitude of ideas but then lose interest after launching them. I've heard this is a weakness for creative folks.

But honoring the Sabbath is starting to turn me around. I have been looking forward to tomorrow all week. It's Wednesday, only three more days and then the Sabbath!

I have tasted the serene fruit of the Sabbath and now want more. I want to connect with my heavenly Father, focus on what is truly important, reconnect with my husband and allow my mind to take a break from all the concerns and worries from the week. I want to give one day to God to thank Him for everything He has done for me. I want to return to work on Mondays without dread or a feeling of weariness. It's quite amazing to me that taking the steps to make sure I don't do physical work on Sunday and setting aside my computer would make such a huge difference in my life, but it has.

I hope to discover more things tomorrow. I know that tonight I was ready to complain to my husband about something work-related and then stopped myself. I thought, "Tomorrow is the Sabbath. Jewish people take a break from even thinking about their jobs. I think I'm going to follow their lead." So I even started my "Sabbath thinking" early and decided to not even mention work and certainly won't tomorrow. In fact, if I think of it at all, it will be in gratitude to God for giving me a good job.

I'll be interested in anyone else's experience with honoring the Sabbath. It's becoming a bit of an obsession now with me and it would be interesting to see if anyone else has experienced a difference in their life such as becoming more peaceful or gaining a spiritual insight they didn't have before.

I'll keep you posted. :-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Surprising Benefits of Honoring the Sabbath

"Say to the people of Israel, 'You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; every one who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.'" And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. - Exodus 31:13-18 (RSV)

And Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day. The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain.

He said: "'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. "'You shall have no other gods before me.

"'You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

"'Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your manservant, or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
- Deuteronomy 5:1-15 (RSV)

I remember as a small girl that Sunday was different from the rest of the week because we 1) attended Mass and 2) my father insisted that this was a "day of rest" and because of that, did not do any physical labor. Saturdays were usually a busy day around our house. My father would often be out in the yard, pruning bushes, tending a garden when we had one, or mowing the lawn. Or perhaps he'd be downstairs at his workbench trying to find a solution to something that wasn't working right. My mother and I would be in the house dusting, cleaning, and organizing when needed. Sundays were a welcome day of general inactivity although I do remember my mother often spending time in the kitchen, cooking the evening meal.

I discovered the book by Senator Joseph Lieberman called The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath. A few of my friends and family were surprised I'd read a book by Senator Lieberman because my politics are quite different than his; however, I have always had the utmost respect for him because he truly is a man of faith. The book validates this by Senator Lieberman's beautiful explanation of the traditions associated with Judaism as it relates to honoring the Shabbat, or as we Gentiles know it, the Sabbath.

Those close to me know that I have "a thing" for Israel and Jewish tradition. In fact, when I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, I attended a Messianic Congregation for awhile, loving their service on Friday night, filled with these same traditions. I loved how a woman with a veil on her head murmured a prayer at the front of the room, two candles lit as she motioned with her hands a welcoming gesture, inviting the Sabbath to visit us once again. I remember the lovely peace and unity I felt as I looked around the room, noticing men with a kippa on their head, reverently bowing as they said their prayers. These were men and women who were raised as Jews and had accepted Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha'Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah) as their Lord and Savior.

When I first attended a Messianic Congregation service, I remember feeling as though I had been walking with one leg and then suddenly, the other leg was attached. I felt balance in this service, for I had realized long ago that Jesus Christ was a Jew who came first for the salvation of the Jewish people, and then for the Gentiles. I have always looked to the Jewish people as my brothers and sisters in the faith, even though some have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah. I like that the Catholic Church continues to pray for unity to happen.

The Sabbath, as honored by the Jewish people, is a beautiful time of rest and reflection upon God's goodness. Although I grew up with the knowledge that Sunday was somehow "different," I eventually lapsed into treating it almost no differently than Saturday. As I read Senator Lieberman's book, I became convicted, realizing I was not honoring the Sabbath well and I wanted to change that.

So, I used Saturday to prepare and barely made it to midnight before my activities were done! (This was my fault for dawdling and not getting some things done earlier.) I usually do my laundry on Saturdays but especially made sure it was done. I wrapped up the dishwasher detail, making sure our everything was already cleaned and put away. I used the time to prepare our home as though a guest was visiting us because indeed, the Sabbath is a "guest" that appears only once a week.

I looked at various recipes, finally deciding on a Crock Pot chicken recipe that was simple. I boiled the noodles Saturday night, cut up the vegetables for the salad, and even boiled the water for my French Press and made coffee, pouring the fragrant liquid into an insulated carafe and tightly securing it before I retired for the evening. I was trying to avoid using the stove on Sunday. The only thing I did Sunday morning at 7 AM was put three ingredients into the Crock Pot and turned it to the low setting so it would be ready by dinner.

I also decided to stay off the computer. All day.

In case you didn't read that right, I meant to say ALL DAY. As in no checking email. No playing around with my digital photography or digital scrapbooking program. No surfing. No checking political websites.

I was 99.9% successful.

At one point, I was going to check a blog a friend had suggested. And this is where God exhibited a wonderful moment of chiding toward me. I opened my laptop, did a search for the blog, and found it. Suddenly, my husband appeared to ask me a question and then gently teased me by saying, "I knew you couldn't stay off the computer!" I was annoyed with myself for being weak and quickly shut the laptop's cover, saying, "Well, I was doing pretty good until you showed up!"

Ha. Good thing we both have a sense of humor. :-)

So other than that lapse of discipline, I did indeed stay off the computer for the whole day.

I realized something else: a great amount of my time is spent on the computer. Not only do I use it for communication with friends, family, and colleagues; I also use my computer for creativity and for accomplishing work (both my day job and side business.) What on earth was I to do without it?

After my husband left, I took the laptop off my desk and placed it elsewhere. I took the Bible and Senator Lieberman's book, and unearthed my journal, which I hadn't written in for (gulp..) six years. Yes, I actually used to write in a journal for many years before getting a computer.

So I read and meditated on the portion of Scripture that was included in the Sunday Mass' readings for the day. I had enjoyed Mass and spent a good amount of time catching up with friends at our "coffee and doughnuts" time afterward. I determined that I was not going to stop at a grocery store to pick up items needed for lunch or dinner, having already made the trip on Saturday. Earlier in the morning, I enjoyed a cup of coffee that was still hot from the carafe I had prepared the night before.

So during the day, I spent time reconnecting with my dear husband, taking a nap, and using the rest of the day for Bible study, personal reading, and even delving into a personal development workbook that I've had for years but never completed.

At 5:00, our dinner was ready. I emptied the cold noodles into the Crock Pot to warm them and quickly put together the salad with everything already cut and sliced. My husband and I tucked into our meal and enjoyed watching a movie together.

All in all, it was one of the most relaxing and refreshing Sundays I've had in quite awhile.

Throughout the day, I enjoyed silence. I noticed I was restless at first, but soon calmed down. I drove to Mass without the radio, which I usually do anyway, but this time I was mindful of the silence and used it intentionally for prayer.

By the time Sunday evening came, I felt like I was Jell-O. Soft. Pliant. Relaxed.

And here's the best part. That feeling stayed with me throughout my workday on Monday.

I haven't usually experienced the dreaded "Monday Blues" because my job has been fairly enjoyable. But lately, my boss has been stressed which has filtered to the rest of the company. For about six months, I've started to not look forward to Mondays, mainly because they've started to become full of frantic meetings with methodology upon methodology being hyper-designed. (Can I go to the bathroom? I'm not sure. Is there a methodology for that?...)

So on Monday morning, when a co-worker came into my office to start the day complaining (as she usually does), I actually didn't get irritated. In fact, I listened, said a few encouraging words, and then returned to work.

As she yapped on and on, I felt as though I was inside a warm, protective cocoon. I thought, This is what grace feels like. Thank You, Lord. Really. Thank You.

I truly believe that if I had not spent the previous day in rest, I would not have had that response. In fact, when another co-worker asked how my weekend went, I told him that I celebrated the Sabbath in a very special way and truly rested. I said, "I still feel like I'm in "Sabbath-land!" He smiled politely but I realized he didn't fully understand what I meant. But then again, he is the father of a toddler and just had a new baby. I think "quiet" and solitude are not common guests in his home at the moment.

What about you? How do you spend the Sabbath? Do you feel that you wish you could be more "still" before the Lord on this day? What's holding you back?

All I know is that it did take some extra planning to create the "day of rest" but my goodness, was it ever worth it. I am already looking forward to my next Sabbath Sunday, thinking about what I'll make for dinner and make sure we have fresh fruit available for breakfast and cold cuts for lunch.

Sabbath is indeed God's gift to us. But I didn't expect the graces of honoring Him to extend into the rest of the week. God, You are indeed so good!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Prayer Request (Edited) Good news!

My friend Kimberly has need for prayers for her little girl, Abigail, who recently visited an eye doctor, where some abnormalities were discovered in the nerves. She was referred to a neurologist and will likely have an appointment soon.

My friend is a home-schooling mother who has had many challenges to her own health last year. Little Abigail is nine, and I know that no mother wants to see their child go through anything like this.

Would you join me in prayer for Abigail's healing, and for peace and comfort for the family? I always ask for God's will to be done, but still, we are encouraged to ask our heavenly Father for help in time of need.

Bless you for doing so and I'll keep you posted.


UPDATE: Abigail is going to be alright! From her mother:

After 4 hours with a pediatric ophthamologist we have a diagnosis: Optic Nerve Drusen, astigmatism, farsightedness and intermittent esotropia.

This is wonderful news! It simply means that Abigail has a congenital eye disorder that could possibly cause problems later, but most likely will not. She has difficulty coordinating her eye movements and can't see things well up close. A very small cross to bear, considering the alternatives imagined by her very worried parents...

Thank you for praying! I can't imagine what it was like, wondering if the worst was ahead for this dear little girl. God is so good and merciful!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Take Heart: He Who Is In You Is Greater Than He Who Is In The World

Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:4-7

(Photo from Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog)

I just posted these verses on Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog to encourage him and a priest in need of prayer. I felt that perhaps someone reading my own blog may need to hear this.

We saw from the protests in Madrid regarding World Youth Day that the world is becoming more vocal regarding their hatred for the Church and anything having to do with God. The violence is escalating. No longer satisfied with hurling insults, some went so far as to physically attack these young pilgrims who came to Madrid to hear our Holy Father and partake of the Youth Day events.

I have a problem with violence but especially, violence against children and young people. The radical, fascist left, though -- has no problem attacking young people who are gathered together to celebrate their faith. Those of us who are Christian should not be surprised though, by the ugly vitriol that is coming at us with increased frequency. Although we are not outright condemning their sin, we are standing strong for Biblical truth. That in itself is cause for these types of attacks.

We stand for absolute truth in a world obsessed with moral relativism. We stand for purity in a world full of impurity and sexual recklessness. We stand for fidelity to God's commandments in a world hell-bent on destroying them. Because we stand, because we refuse to compromise on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, we are reviled.

So was Jesus Christ. So were the Apostles. So were all the saints. Folks, we're in good company! That God would choose us to be alive in this time so that we may glorify His name above ALL names is the highest honor He has given to our generation. We have been called out of the world in order to be a witness to it that God is in control, He reigns, and His mercy endures forever!

This world is a passing mist. What lies beyond our mortal coil is more beautiful and true than we could ever imagine.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Above all, forgive. And love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Phoenix Diocesan Cathedral: No Altar Girls (And the Liberals Go Wild)

Poor Fr. John Lankeit. He has quickly become persona non grata within his diocese after making the decidedly unpopular decision (with certain segments of the parish) to stop the practice of using young girls as altar servers.

It's a strange-looking equation, I know, but another priest has used it to justify his decision to ban girls from serving at Mass. Father John Lankeit, rector of the Phoenix diocesan cathedral, SS. Simon and Jude, argued, "The connection between serving at the altar and priesthood is historic. It is part of the differentiation between boys and girls, as Christ established the priesthood by choosing men. Serving at the altar is a specifically priestly act," according to the Arizona Republic. Girls will be allowed to be sacristans, preparing things for Mass like the altar societies of old.

Lankeit points out that not permitting girls to serve is part of the pastor's prerogative, but I wonder what would happen if he started restricting the ministry of lector to men, since that office, like the instituted ministry of acolyte, was also formerly part of preparation for priesthood. For that matter, "porter" was once the first step to holy orders, so by that logic hospitality ministers should all be men, too.

Those who took this practice too seriously for their own good are of course, going crazy (or as Fr. Zuhlsdorf likes to say, "throwing a nutty") over it. Before I respond, I always like to check the history of a situation. What has the Vatican said regarding altar girls to serving Mass? When did it happen? Why did it happen?

I found a few things. First, a helpful explanation on EWTN's website:

Many Catholics are perplexed by the authorization of girl altar servers by the Pope. They are uncertain about the pastoral wisdom of this decision given 1) the shortage of vocations to the priesthood, 2) the traditional place of altar boys as a source of vocations, 3) the tendency of some younger boys to not want to share activities with girls and 4) the natural religiosity of the female sex which results in their saturating non-ordained offices in the Church. Yet, it is a decision which has been made by the highest authority in the Church and to which Catholics must defer and make their peace.

See: [/library/curia/cdwcomm.htm]*

It is important to make some theological distinctions, too. This is not a matter of faith but of Church discipline. While having boys serve at the altar is a long-standing ecclesiastical tradition it is nonetheless a human institution, NOT divine, and therefore capable of change for sufficient reason. The judgment about what is sufficient rests with the Holy See.

What MIGHT have been those reasons? Since the Church had already opened other non-ordained offices to women (Reader, Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, chancellor, marriage tribunal official and so on), all of which were previously excluded to women, and in some cases lay men also), the exclusion of girls from the unofficial office of "altar server" was something of an anomaly. In fact, it was on canonical grounds which the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts proposed ending this exclusion. For his part, the Pope may have been looking ahead to the publication only a few weeks later of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, his letter affirming the male only priesthood. The two decisions taken together amount to drawing precise theological lines between what is Church tradition and what is Apostolic Tradition, allowing women all offices in the Church not excluded by Divine Law (such as the priesthood).

* The letter to Catholic Dioceses from the Congregation for Divine Worship was released March 15, 1994.

Then I found on the Vatican's website, the Congregation for Divine Worship And The Discipline Of The Sacrament Instruction index, which included this section (Chapter II, The Participation of the Lay Christian Faithful In the Eucharistic Celebration, 2. The Ministries of the Lay Christian Faithful In the Celebration of the Holy Mass) Emphasis mine:

[47.] It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension.[119] Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these.[120] Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers. Whenever such associations are international in nature, it pertains to the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to establish them or to approve and revise their statutes.[121] Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established norms.[122]

What I find interesting in section 47 is that the entire section speaks mostly of using boys or youth as servers because it bears the fruit of sacred ministers. This is the focus of Fr. Lankeit. In an age of dwindling vocations, he simply wants to create an environment in which a young boy has the opportunity to experience service at the altar, which may allow him more opportunities to discern a vocation to the priesthood or diaconate.

Here is where presumption entered: Many parishes looked at this new practice of using altar girls as a right, as though young girls were entitled to it; evidently under the guise of "fairness." But it was never to be received in that way from the very beginning. The Congregation for Divine Worship made it clear from the start that this practice was under the authority of the Bishop and he was to use discretion whether to make it available or not.

Furthermore, the practice was to be done in observance of the established norms. What are those "norms?" The Traditional Latin Mass is a good example. Just recently, the Vatican came out and said that female servers were not allowed to serve at the Extraordinary Mass.

Permission for female altar servers came with the Circular Letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments of 1994. However, the rubrics of the 1962 Missal did not allow for females on the sanctuary during Mass.

The letter, signed by Mgr Guido Pozzo, Secretary of Ecclesia Dei, said that "permitting female altar servers does not apply to the Extraordinary Form".

All I know is that the young boys at our local Traditional Latin Mass loathe putting on their long black cassocks and smelling perfume, obviously from when a girl wore them when serving the Ordinary Form Mass.

Do I blame them? Of course not. I can also say from observation the results of allowing young girls to serve at Mass are telling. Whenever I attend an OFM, and girls are serving, they are either the majority of the servers or the entirety of them. Boys at that age typically don't want to be involved if girls are doing it.

On the other hand, I observe my local EFM, where we have a large processional. In fact, there are usually no less than 14 boys and young men serving at the altar. We have boys as young as 6, high school boys, and a few in their late twenties and early thirties who serve. When the seminarians show up, it gets pretty crowded!

Does this exclude girls from contributing to the parish? No. There are other areas of service available but since they're not as prominent as serving at the altar, often they're overlooked or minimized. These services can be within the sacristy or outside of it within the many activities of a parish. It can be involvement with CCD or a ministry to the poor and invalid. We have a hurting world that is desperate need of the saving graces of our loving heavenly Father and there are a myriad of ways to respond. Serving the altar during Mass is just one part of it.

However, I will say this: our parish that celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass has produced more vocations than I've ever seen in my life from any other parish. These young men are responding to the more traditional expression of our Catholic faith and the proof is in the numbers.

I would love to learn how much the vocations have increased since 1994, in the parishes that have used altar girls. I'm suspecting -- not much. But such logic seems to fall upon deaf ears for those who insist upon "fairness" but have no understanding of the larger issue at stake; I'm sure such a statistic will never be shared.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Prayer Request

I just found out that the 38-year old son of a parishioner has died due to drowning. The parishioner and his wife are very active supporters and promoters of my parish's Traditional Latin Mass and a Solemn Requiem Mass will be offered for the funeral on Friday.

Prayers for the family would be very much appreciated.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Detoxificaton: Juice Fasting and Perhaps Fasting For The Mind?

One week ago, I sat in our hustling, bustling undercroft after Mass with my friend, Kimberly, as she excitedly shared her discovery of juicing, and in particular, juice fasting. She had watched the documentary, Fat, Sick, And Nearly Dead; and was convicted. She found a juicer on Amazon reasonably priced, and ordered one.

She and her family live in a rural area, around farmers. So she already has a lovely garden bursting with fresh produce. (And yes, I'm envious!) But as she shared with me her story of experiencing what could be the beginning of rheumatoid arthritis, I realized she may have been on to something. Kimberly is younger than me but has undergone surgeries and various health issues during the past year. This is a busy mother with six children who homeschools. As you can imagine, she doesn't have time for such things! After doing a ten-day juice fast, Kimberly says she feels amazing and the aches around her joints have decreased considerably. She has lost 16 lbs. and feels that her health has significantly improved.

However, after talking with her, I was also convicted and because we're also Netflix customers and this documentary was in the "instant view" section, we were able to stream it to our TV and watch it. My husband and I were amazed by the story of Joe Cross, an Australian, and his journey toward health. Along the way, he traveled to the United States and started to talk to people about what they ate. When you hear one person say they'll eat whatever they want, it sounds normal. But when you hear one person after another talk about the junk food they eat, you get a clearer picture of how far we've fallen from enjoying the wonderful bounty of delicious food God has created for us.

I remembered that years ago, my grandmother (RIP, Grandma C), had given me a juicer. I didn't know what to do with it and couldn't imagine using it. But I thanked her for the very nice gift and put it away in one of my cabinets. This juicer has moved with me over the past 15 years, give or take a few. Seriously. I never thought to give it away and now am so glad I didn't. After watching the documentary, I found it and took a closer look. Sure enough, it's a centrifugal juicer and could do the job of juicing vegetables and fruits. Thanks, Grandma!

At the moment, I'm drinking a delicious fruit juice breakfast drink of strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and a banana. I juiced the first three and then placed the fresh juice in a blender with some ice and the banana. I add pineapple when I have it. (And I do have one in the fridge, I just haven't peeled it, yet.)

In one word: heavenly!

I've been doing an intermittent juice fast for six days. I juice for breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner, and then eat a healthy meal for my third meal. (2/3rds of the meal is vegetables and 1/3 meat.) I'm now going to enter a full fast (all three meals will be juiced vegetables and fruits) for 10 days to give my system a "re-boot" and detoxify it. I've already weaned myself off sugar, caffeine, and wheat products. So it's going to be interesting to see the effects of the full fast.

I've already seen results. I've lost six pounds, and gained more energy. I'm starting to sleep better, too. I used to have puffiness around my lower legs and ankles and I'm amazed to see that I no longer have that. And yesterday during the Latin Mass (where there is plenty of kneeling), I noticed my knees weren't aching as much. Very interesting!

I also got the book, Total Juicing: Over 125 Healthful and Delicious Ways to Use Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Juices and Pulp by Elaine LaLanne, widow of Jack LaLanne. I'm finding some recipes I can't wait to try. I think it's really interesting, mixing different vegetable and fruit juices together to make something delicious. (Note: some of these drinks can taste intense, though! Especially anything using kale.)

As I experience a fast, I'm thinking it may be good to fast from the gloom and doom news, too. Instead, I'll be listening to good music and praying more than I have been. I've been wanting to do this fast but was looking at it from a "lack" perspective, such as "I won't be eating food" and then I focused on all the ramifications of that. Now I'm looking at it with an abundance perspective, such as "I have more time to pray, to enjoy other things, to get things done." With the "fasting" of my mind from the negativity of the news, I think I'll also reap some benefits.

Who knows? Maybe it will jump-start some blogging topics! :-)

Friday, August 5, 2011

John Corapi and Why I'm More Anti-Super Hero Than Ever

I found this in my comment section:

As much as I would like to agree with you I can not. The situation with John Corapi is horrible, BUT the response of Fr. Corapi is wrong. He is choosing to not be obedient!He took a vow of obedience. Right, wrong or indifferent he abandoned his priestly life and has turned his back on the Church he proclaimed to love! - By bgualteros on "My Heart Is Saddened, But I Understand: Fr. Corapi Leaving Priesthood"

"bgualteros," I now stand with you.

At first, I (like many others), thought Fr. John Corapi was being deliberately targeted by those who were his fiercest critics. And in my eyes, those were the liberal Catholics who believe in things such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and the ordination of women as priests. When I returned to the Catholic Church, I was appalled by the level of worldly thought in it. Instead of preserving the truth that had been lovingly given to the Church, parts of her now seemed to be selling herself out to the highest bidder; which in the world, ends up being whomever has the power. And to me, the leftists have always been about power.

But back to Fr. Corapi. When I first heard him, I was deeply touched. I thought, "Here's a man who is unapologetically Catholic, who speaks the truth without fear, who encourages Catholics everywhere that we have a purpose and a mission to become saints. And in order to do that, we need our priests to tell us the truth and exhort us to run the race faithfully." I really did think he was an amazing priest.

But then, as we all know, accusations started to fly. We also know that false accusations have been flung at good people ever since Adam committed original sin. The moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God was the moment mankind entered into blame-shifting and false accusations.

Many have compared Fr. Corapi's situation to Padre Pio or even Jesus. They have rightly reminded others that even though someone is falsely accused, the response -- if we are to pursue holiness -- is to accept it as God's will for a higher purpose.

Within a church, there is a hierarchy of leadership. Even the smallest rural church usually has a small board of trustees or group of elders who help the leader with church operations. The pastor is accountable to that group. When a leader falls, it offers an opportunity to that church to either restore him or reject him. Many usually show the pastor the door. But in the Roman Catholic Church, it is a bit more complicated.

When Fr. Corapi was accused, he had the opportunity to be restored within his community. This is how the Catholic Church works. They don't want to laicize a priest but instead, restore him so that he can spiritually, mentally, and emotionally return to the calling upon his life.

However, Fr. Corapi chose not to do that. And that is what made all the difference to many of his followers. I still don't know what is true regarding his circumstances. But I will say that how he has responded in the face of these criticisms has told me more than words ever could.

He opened a blog called "Black Sheep Dog." (Strange title. On one hand he wants to be seen as a shepherd but on the other, an outcast.) He has painted himself as a victim, which to me runs completely counter to his past teachings about suffering and spiritual warfare. Life is tough. It certainly isn't fair. But according to God's word, we are promised that God will judge and bring justice according to His purpose. We can take that to the bank and for me, that is what gives me hope to live out each day.

I think this is what disappointed many of his followers. Instead of embracing suffering, as he has taught in the past -- he rejected it. So in essence, his credibility shattered as his new message became, "When the going gets tough and I can see no way around it, I'm quitting. I'm not ready to lay down and die!"

This mindset troubles me greatly. I emphasized the "I" because it reveals how often we can go off track when we rely solely upon our own perspective of a situation. None of us goes through life alone, even though we may be alone much of the time. If you're a Christian, you're never alone. We have been told by Jesus that He would not leave us orphans and He hasn't. He has given us the Church and the Scripture. Together, they both nourish and strengthen the believer as he makes his journey from birth to death.

Priests and all those who have taken vows may not be married but they still have plenty of support to help them when they need it. Instead of returning to live within his religious community, Fr. Corapi chose to "go it alone." Black Sheep Dog? I'd say he's more of a Lone Wolf. And believe me, I've seen plenty of them within the non-denominational church. In fact, perhaps the reason I empathize with his predicament is because to a certain extent, I'm one, too.

It is easy in our busy lives to isolate ourselves. It takes extra effort to make time to meet with friends and family. However, it is vital we do so if for nothing else than to allow ourselves to be transparent with those who love us and receive counsel and direction.

Fr. Corapi's bewildering choice was the beginning of several disappointments I experienced with others I had admired. I love to be around people who are positive and it's no surprise I gravitate toward leaders who seem to emulate that. I like people who are big thinkers, who are risk-takers and reject naysayers who claim something can't be done. Those are the type of people who bring progress to the world and growth to human development.

But too often, such people start to believe their own hype. They begin to expect special treatment -- then demand it from their followers. Just recently, I learned of James Arthur Ray's conviction in a trial that held him responsible for three deaths in a sweat lodge ceremony. Ray, for those unfamiliar with him, was a popular self-help guru who made millions through speaking and selling his books. He was someone many looked up to but in the aftermath of the tragedy, ended up being another flim-flam artist who deliberately preyed on the wealthy, played upon their insecurities, and manipulated them. A woman who worked at his events for years finally became disillusioned enough to write a book about the tragedy in Sedona, Arizona although still tries to salvage her beliefs by claiming she still learned some things.

Well, I've learned some things, too. I've learned to stop focusing on those who seem to be "celebrities" and instead focus on God. I fear that for many, such personalities become an idol of sorts. Instead of looking to the Bible and our Church for guidance and instruction; they follow some charismatic leader, swallowing every word without question.

After my experience with the last non-denominational church I'd ever be involved with; I can say I was disillusioned on a major level. In fact, I was so disillusioned that it would be years before I felt comfortable in a church again. And when I found that comfort, of all places, I found it sitting in a pew attending Mass the day after we buried my mother.

I still admire people, but no longer am in awe of them. I thought I had given that up but yet again, recently, discovered another leader I admired in the business world also proved to be an opportunist. The "authenticity" I thought I was seeing seemed to be a facade. Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist, author, and Apple Fellow, was someone I admired because of his business moxie. He has written several books about start-ups and being an entrepreneur.

I followed him on Twitter. He even responded to a few of my tweets which of course, made me feel good. I thought it was amazing that a man who had so many "followers" was genuinely trying to engage people. Then came Google+ and I received an invite from a co-worker for the newest addition to social media. I started to look for familiar faces to follow and found Guy Kawasaki. I added him to my "circle" and soon my "stream" (a stream of posted updates from people you follow) was filled with Guy's endless promotions.

His recent promotion was to push his latest book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, And Actions. What an ironic title, given that his behavior was soon going to change my mind about him and not in a positive way.

One day, I saw an update from him that featured a cover of Newsweek Magazine with Sarah Palin on it, and under her photo, her quote "I Can Win." He said that the best caption for the cover would win a free copy of his book. Then added his own caption that said something like, "If you do, I'm moving to Canada." The rest of the comment/entries were 97% anti-Palin.

I quickly typed a comment: "I am sorry to see this. I was hoping Google+ would be a place where I'd see big ideas discussed and new opportunities discovered."

Kawasaki's comment? "Well then maybe you shouldn't follow me because with me, nothing is sacred."

Really? Nothing is sacred? At that point I was tempted to say, "Nothing is sacred to you, perhaps, but the almighty dollar." Here was a popular speaker and respected businessman, who just wrote a book about enchanting people; totally going against the concept by deliberately polarizing people, let alone offending those who like Sarah Palin. It was at that moment I realized Guy Kawasaki wasn't that different than any opportunist who takes his gold wherever he can find it.

When someone who claims to "enchant people" uses popular politics to advance their agenda, it's time to say goodbye.

So pray for John Corapi. Pray for those who follow him. In fact, I'd say pray more for those who followed him, that they may discover Who truly is the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, and Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Because no matter what the world does, Our precious Lord Jesus Christ is with us, and will never let us down.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What I Love About Catholicism: Old People

I hope I don't offend anyone by saying "old people." I know we live in a youth-worshipping culture that causes such silly phrases as "40 is the new 20" and "50 is the new 30."

We have lost something significant when we not only reject the graces of growing old, but actively try to avoid them. There are rewards for aging but too often, those rewards are unacknowledged. I'll elaborate.

When I first attended non-denominational churches in the late 80's, I was giddy with excitement. The church was filled with other "twentysomethings," vibrant and full of energy. The oldest people were around 60 and there weren't many of them. Every once in awhile, I'd look around during a Sunday service and think, where are all the old people? I probably should have explored that question more but I was too busy dancing to the worship music.

Now that I'm back with the Catholic Church, I am thrilled to see "old people." Our local Traditional Latin Mass has a beautiful representation of every age group. Contrary to some thinking the TLM only attracts old people, our Mass has many younger families in their twenties. It also has families that have teenagers, and younger singles, middle-aged folks (raising hand), and those in their seventies and beyond.

Oh, how I love to see them all, but especially the old people.

Here's why: Do you ever notice how calm you feel around an older person who you know has finally figured out a few things in life? That's called wisdom. And boy, oh boy -- how badly we need it.

Wisdom tells you to think through things and not react. Wisdom tells you to forgive and move on instead of holding grudges. Wisdom tells you to avoid sin and pursue the good. To use the younger vernacular, wisdom is what old people are "rocking."

As some may already know, with maturity, comes wisdom. This is what was missing from my non-denominational church. Old people weren't attending because they were mature and didn't need to be entertained like kindergartners. Or maybe they weren't attending because at that stage in their life, they needed more than Christianity Lite. Since they were nearing the inevitable day where they'd be leaving this earth, maybe they realized they needed more to go on than Joel Osteen's latest feel-good pop psychology.

I've always loved to be around old people. It started when I was younger and would sit around the dinner table after a family gathering, listening to my older Italian uncles. They'd take various nuts from a large bowl, crack them loudly, and discuss the issues of the world. There was a lot of wisdom from them.

Then there were my hard-working farmer grandparents who were no-nonsense and raised their sons and daughter to not complain but take action. I didn't see my uncles as often but when I did, I loved hearing their homespun tales that often revealed deep wisdom.

Being around old people helps me realize that our Catholic faith is a tough one. It isn't based on flighty emotionalism that will evaporate in the morning. Our old people in the pews have fought in the trenches and lived to tell the tale. They've survived the craziness of the 60's and 70's. They were kicked around by the "modernists" who wanted to introduce everything under the sun -- from Eastern meditation practices to receiving the Eucharist in the hand. And after all that, they still are Catholic.

Their devotion encourages me. They are the "unsung heroes" of the Catholic Church. When I first started to attend the non-denominational church, I remember discovering Titus 2:3-5:

Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited.

Reverent. Sober. Good. Sensible. Chaste. Domestic. Kind. Submissive.

Those all live under the umbrella of wisdom. I started to ask God to bring such women into my life. One was Elisabeth Elliot, who ironically has a brother who converted to Catholicism and wrote about it. (Thomas Howard) Elisabeth has the heart of a Catholic although she is Evangelical. But she is full of wisdom.

I didn't find too many older women in the non-denominational church. I had to find them through books and tapes. And even though I had left the Catholic Church, there were still "older women" and saints I followed who kept the faith. Mother Teresa and St. Teresa of Avila were two I especially loved.

We need old people because we will always need to be taught the right way of doing things. The old people have gone down the road and learned how to avoid the potholes. It helps to listen to them. You also learn that although emotions are wonderful, you need to consider other things when making choices. There is a rich, deep vibrancy about old people that often is missed because our culture only focuses on the shallow things. Old people are definitely not shallow. Like an old river that runs deep, so are old people within the Catholic Church.

Are there old fools? Of course. There are some older people who never seem to acquire wisdom. They're the ones running around, trying to act like their twenty years younger. Some women are like this. They so fear aging and appearing undesirable that they go to great lengths to dye their hair, get plastic surgery, and gallop through life wearing a mini-skirt to prove otherwise. Those are not the "Titus Women" I want.

I also think that the Catholic "dignity of life" extends especially to old people. Not only is the Church concerned with those just born, but those who are close to dying. There is indeed a respect for life that spans across the demographics. Thank God for the Catholic Church, who champions the cause not just of the unborn, but those who society would like to shrug off, as though our old people are some type of nuisance.

So this past Sunday, when I looked around and saw all the beautiful gray heads, I felt love and appreciation swell within me. I thanked God for them and asked that He would provide for them and watch over them.

Because our sad and shallow world needs them more than ever.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers

I've been slowly reading through Donna Marie Cooper-O'Boyle's latest book, A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers, and will say it is a gem on many levels.

The introduction revealed something Archbishop Fulton Sheen said about women that previously, I did not know.

Which stands up better in a crisis -- a man or a woman? The best way to arrive at a conclusion is to go to the greatest crisis the world ever faced, namely, the Crucifixion of our Divine Lord. When we come to this great drama of Calvary, there is one fact that stands out very clearly: men failed... On the other hand, there is not a single instance of a woman's failing Jesus.

Archbishop Sheen was referring to a very specific time in history because we all know there have been many women since that point who yes, have failed Jesus. But during our Lord's most trying time, the women were there.

It gave me great encouragement to read those words. The rest of the book is comprised of prayers for single women and married women, briefly covering how each is a vocation. The chapters of the book are divided into such topics as: The Joys of Womanhood, Challenges Women Face, The Mission of Women, and Mary, A Model for Women.

The Mission of Women is one that I think is needed more than ever by the Church and our culture. Sometimes a mother may not realize how influential her mission is as she cares for her children on a daily basis. Yet what could be more important than raising children to be faithful and obedient to God? When such children grow to become adults. the lessons and discipline of a mother reaps great rewards as that son and daughter go out into the world and influence others.

The prayer called, My Distinct Mission:

Within all the innumerable things I do as a woman,
right down to the core of it all
lies the call to my distinct mission from God.
I pray that I may fulfill it lovingly throughout each day
while praying actively, through my hands, in service,
and contemplatively, on my knees,
to please God
and help my neighbor find his way to heaven.

There are so many hurting and confused people in our midst. As women, we have a special grace to speak words of kindness to them. This to me, is one of the most beautiful things about being a a woman. God has allowed us to be vessels by which He pours His love into so that we can then pour it into the world. There are songs and poems written about "a woman's touch." I believe it is God's call to every woman to discover that her unique "touch" is and then minister that in her own life.

The book is small, and can easily be slipped into a purse or even a pocket. The thick, semi-glossy pages are decorated with flowers and the text is a combination of prayers, beautiful quotes from such saints as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Ambrose. It is a perfect gift for any woman in your life and will bring great encouragement to her.

To learn more, go to Donna Marie's website, where you can order the book. Ladies, keep praying. Our world needs it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Regarding "Celebrity" Priests, Michael Voris, and Tone of "Professional Catholics"

My thoughts have been focused on the situation with Fr. Corapi. It's difficult to think of him as simply "John Corapi," although I know that is what he is to be called, now that he left the priesthood.

This development is something I never thought I'd witness within the Catholic Church. Believe me, I've seen plenty of Christian "celebrity" ministers fall as a result of sexual sin -- everything from inappropriate touching to full-blown affairs to cavorting with male prostitutes. It's never pretty and always devastating to the minister's followers.

Michael Voris from Real Catholic TV had an excellent admonition to all of us: Watch the tone when weighing in on the Corapi story.

I was grateful when I saw this video. Grateful, because too often those who usually exercise caution and wisdom are suddenly bewildered by such events and quickly rush to point fingers. The fact is, no one knows exactly what has transpired behind the scenes regarding Fr. Corapi, his accuser, and certain key players in the Church. No one has walked in this man's shoes except Fr. Corapi himself.

So you have those who are his followers who are upset, those who really don't like him but are now trying to act like judge and jury, and finally those who really don't care for "celebrity" pastors.

Serving the Church is one of the most difficult jobs around. Priests especially are called into a sacrificial lifestyle, and now I am looking at their life as a wider expression of our Savior's life. You cannot call anywhere your home. Your time is not your own. You have few belongings. You are expected to respond to requests that occur at the most inconvenient times. But again, a priest understands that he took vows to do this very thing -- to be in persona Christi for the faithful.

With the non-denominational churches, the same dynamic exists except without the Sacraments. I remember talking to a man who shared that when growing up, his pastor father never took the family on a vacation in 17 years. I couldn't even imagine what that would be like, blessed to have a father who took our family on annual vacations all over the place.

Here's the thing: when you have a teaching gift, people hunger for your words. Yes, the Holy Spirit inspires the one with this gift to speak the truth, but the words are coming out of someone's mouth. And that "someone" is pursued by a multitude. Think of Jesus' reputation as He journeyed from town to town. Once it is discovered that someone has a powerful gift for preaching and teaching, believe me, crowds will come.

Fr. Corapi has such a gift. It isn't something he asked for. It is something that was given to him by God and he was called into service. It is a blessing for the Church overall that he was obedient. But I'm sure he realized the truth about this particular gift. Personally, I think it is one of the heavier burdens to carry. And here's why:

The person who has the gift of teaching cannot rest, deciding to do something else like work in a soup kitchen. The gift burns in his heart like a fire. He digs deep into scripture reading and prayer as he seeks God. The revelations he receives as a result of this constant study is the fruit that is given to audiences who seek truth and encouragement.

It is a beautiful gift and when it flows from heaven, it can provide miracles. As Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." We all know the feeling we get when someone says a word of encouragement to us that comes at the perfect moment. We feel as though God has stepped into our lives to let us know we're not alone, that He is present and sending us His love.

But as much as people crave to hear someone who has this gift, they also fear it. Many fear the power it can bring. Some are jealous of the attention it gives to the teacher. And some mistakenly believe that if only they can win the approval of a minister with a teaching gift, then his gifting may be imparted to them.

The teaching gift is a very "out there" gift that overall, attracts a lot of attention.

So, on one hand you have people clamoring for a gifted teacher, but then when that very teacher runs into trouble, they abandon him.

Much like the disciples abandoned Jesus Christ.

I'm not comparing Fr. Corapi to Christ, per se, just pointing out the patterns I've noticed over the years as I've observed ministries rise and fall. What is hurtful to me is not so much what Fr. Corapi decided to do, but how those who see themselves as faithful Catholics are acting. I think there is such little understanding and compassion because few Catholics know the pressure that someone like Fr. Corapi was under for most of the last twenty years of his life.

Christians have a tendency to place their leaders on pedestals. And then when one of them makes a mistake, there is an outcry. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot build someone up as being perfect and then outraged when that person proves that they are not. No one is perfect. We are all sinners. And each one of us are trying to find our way home to be with our Holy Family.

Fr. Corapi needs our love and compassion during this incredibly difficult time in his life. God knows the situation and as far as I'm concerned, is the only one who can rightly judge it. We can take lessons learned from this experience and apply it to future gifted teachers. Maybe we can learn to appreciate the gift without idolizing the giver. Maybe we can learn to cut someone some slack when the expectations we have of him fall short of our desires.

I remember one of the conferences we had at my former non-denominational ministry. The ministers who were asked to speak had incredible pressure to deliver powerful teachings. Imagine standing in front of thousands of people, who are there to hear what you have to say, and who have been following you for the past decade or so, buying your books, your tapes; and now are there beaming at you, filled with great expectation that you're going to be like Moses coming down from the mountain with a divine revelation.

What would you do? How would you act? What emotions would go through your mind as you stood before those people?

Most likely, you'd be praying your heart out.

Those who are called into such a ministry actually experience a "dying to self" every time they get up to speak. Imagine it: if they speak and it's a "dud," those who follow them will chatter about the mediocrity of the teaching. But if their teaching rocks the socks off the crowd, they'll be metaphorically hoisted upon their shoulders as countless faces rush up to tell the teacher how "anointed" he is and how "blessed" they are because of him.

It's a dangerous mixture of embarrassment and pride for the teacher. And it goes on, and on, and on.

The speakers at the conferences I served at had a remedy for all of that. They didn't talk much to the attendees.

There was a special room for the speakers where they could hang out, because if they even dared to spend ten minutes in the main halls of the conference venue, they'd be overrun in seconds by needy people. People who wanted to be prayed for, people who had stories to tell, people who wanted to ask for a job within their ministry.

A few of the teachers I saw behind the scenes were actually depressed. The demands and expectations of crowds of people would weary them. It was another reason why they needed that private space so they could rest. Again, as Jesus had to remove Himself from the crowds to have communion with His Father, so too, do spiritually gifted teachers need to spend time alone to be restored.

All I ask is that some who have quickly judged what has happened with Fr. Corapi, have a bit of mercy. A gifted teacher's life is far more difficult than you can imagine. I think the devil especially hates such a gift because God uses it to convey His truth. Knock down the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.

Please continue to keep the situation in prayer and ask all the angels and saints that God's truth will prevail. I have hope that it will. It's just that I also am praying for the least amount of collateral damage, as possible. Mercy, oh God.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end, amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Heart Is Saddened, But I Understand: Fr. Corapi Leaving Priesthood

When I first saw the story on Pew Sitter, I immediately gasped. There are almost no words for the injustice that has been foisted upon many good priests and now, it looks like we can add Fr. John Corapi to that unfortunate group.

From the blog, The Black Sheep Dog:

All things change, only God stays the same, so I have to tell you about a major change in my life. I am not going to be involved in public ministry as a priest any longer. There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone, and I shall be gone. I have been guilty of many things in the course of my life, and could easily and justifiably be considered unfit to engage in public ministry as a priest. The present complaint that you have heard about is, as far as I know, from the one person that I can honestly say I did more to help and support than any human being in my entire life. I forgive her and hope only good things for her. I am not going to get into a back and forth or argument with the Church or anyone else about this matter.

There are many reasons why this issue saddens me.

First, there is little recourse a priest has when he has been accused of any wrong-doing. Immediately, in our "post-abuse" culture, the priest seems to be seen as guilty. Whether he is or not doesn't matter. He's been accused and for many, the assumption is "where there's smoke, there's fire."

Second, the Roman Catholic Church is a highly politicized organization, as far as organized religion goes. And within that organization, there is a high amount of scheming, strategery, and spin that would make a hardened Washington D.C. lobbyist blush. It's no surprise to anyone that Fr. Corapi was loathed by many in the Catholic Church because of his traditionalism and stubborn obedience to the Magisterium.

Third, and this is a truth I discovered myself when I was more heavily involved with ministry - the ones who are the enemies of the truth are often sitting right next to you in the pew. When the Bible talks about them, I used to think it referred to unbelievers in the world. Now I think it mostly pertains to other believers in the Church.

Many don't think of themselves as opposed to truth. Some do. But how I've finally found my peace about this is to realize that all of us, especially me, are on a journey toward holiness. That journey takes our entire lifetime.

Fr. Corapi is a man whose heart burns for the truth. If you've heard his homilies and teachings, you can quickly see that he is not about to lie down and let people deny the truth or mock it. At least not on his watch.

I remember one of the things he often would say, "I'm not going to hell for any of you!" And you know what? I felt loved and protected when he said it. Because that's why we need our priests. To tell us the truth. To keep us on the straight and narrow. To let us know when we're on the edge of a cliff and about to fall off of it. They keep us headed toward heaven.

I have no idea what his ministry will look like, but I believe Fr. Corapi is a very gifted man and one way or the other, God is going to continue to use him.

So, a goodbye to you, Fr. Corapi. My heart is breaking but I understand why you're making this decision. All I can say is that there are still going to be plenty of Catholics who will follow you and I'm sure you're going to be preaching the same things to encourage them.

For those who love Fr. Corapi, please add his new blog to your RSS feeds and websites: The Black Sheep Dog. God bless you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An Open Letter To "Ethel" And Every 17 Year Old Girl Who Thinks Andrew Weiner Is Cool

Dear Intelligent Young Woman,

I'm typing this late on a Saturday night because I can't get to sleep.

I can't get to sleep because I'm thinking of you. I'm thinking of the anonymous junior-high girl who was drawn into this mess with New York Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner and his slimy ways. I can't get to sleep because I'm thinking of how many young women (and older women), still think Rep. Weiner is "cool."

Newsflash: He is not.

A 46-year-old married man (who married a smart, accomplished woman just last July), who sends lewd photos of himself in his underwear and talks dirty to women he's met over the Internet, and, who deliberately follows high school girls on Twitter - is not a nice guy.

He is not admirable. He is not trustworthy. He is, in fact, the equivalent of pond scum -- and I may have just insulted pond scum.

Feminism has failed you. You may have been taught in high school that women are so "empowered" that they can now dress like tramps if they want but men aren't allowed to make obnoxious remarks about them but I'm here to tell you the truth.

Men will always think obnoxious thoughts about a woman who obviously has no respect for herself and parades her body as a piece of meat. Because that's what wildly immodest clothing will do. It marks you as someone to be used.

Sadly, when women are then treated disrespectfully by men, when they are seen as nothing more than sexual playthings, they act surprised.

It's no surprise. Men are wired to respond to a woman sexually and if a woman makes it easy by talking dirty and dressing provocatively, then it shouldn't be a surprise when scumbags like Anthony Weiner show up on the front page news because a bunch of women thought it was "cool" to act that way.

When I was a young girl in high school, I will never forget my Italian grandmother, who could only speak broken English, giving me her version of the "birds and the bees." I was talking to her while sitting on my bed and she was next to me. Suddenly, she took her hand and very quickly and lightly, patted my legs in the middle. She said, "This? This is for marriage. You no-a give this-a to a boy-a, unless he-a marry you."

I couldn't help but smile and slightly felt embarrassed. But I loved my great-grandmother and assured her I would "keep myself" until I was married. I also felt enormously blessed to have a matriarch in our family who cared about my well-being so much.

Our world needs more women like my great-grandmother.

Young woman, if you're still reading, I have this to add: Even if your father isn't around as much as you'd like, you still deserve a man who will love you and treat you with respect.

As tempting as it is to get attention from men by dressing provocatively or swearing like a sailor -- it will not, I repeat, NOT give you what you truly desire. Which is a man who will love and cherish you.

Men do not love and cherish women who post updates on their Twitter that sounds like they're a p0rn queen. They do not respect a woman who wears clothing that makes them look like a streetwalker. These are time-tested truths that have endured throughout the ages. Feminism has not, can not, and will not change this truth. Believe me. I've seen how feminism has tried to make a woman "equal" in the bedroom.

It doesn't work.

I've seen women try to "date like a man," meaning they sleep with whomever they want, as much as they want. But they quickly find there's a little problem with that approach.

No matter how casual a woman may view sex, a man will always think even less of it when he's with a woman who doesn't care. So that means a woman will sleep with some strange guy but if she tries to do it again, chances are the guy won't want anything to do with her. Again, I've seen it happen.

And the "enlightened and empowered" women are in total befuddlement as to why, even though they're offering themselves to a man "with no strings attached," that still, he won't call her back.

You are worth more.

But in order to find a man who will love and cherish you, you need to first respect yourself and start saying "no."

No to looking cheap. No to loud, obnoxious talk. No to swearing. No to putting overtly-sexual updates on Twitter and Facebook. No. No. No.

Will you be popular? Decidedly not. Will you be respected? Absolutely.

Think feminism has backbone? It's a lie.

A woman with backbone will tell a man like Anthony Weiner to get away from them and go trolling under a bridge. A woman with backbone will instantly delete any man who sends lewd photos of himself to her on Twitter or Facebook.

A woman with backbone will stand strong in the face of mockery and derision from the (idiotic) "cool" people because she values herself and knows she was created for a truly special relationship with a man that doesn't involve being a part of his personal brothel.

I'll close with another story. When I was 27, I worked with a married man who flirted with me constantly. He also was amazed that I wasn't partying hard like most women my age and sleeping around. One day, he sputtered, "What do you think, that it's made of gold?!!" (Referring to my sexual organ.)

I shot back, "As a matter of fact, it is."

I didn't get married until I was 39 but I will tell you this. God gave me a man who totally adores me. He will do anything for me. He would give up his life for me. And I totally adore him right back.

That, my dear young woman, is the kind of love you were built for.

Don't settle for anything less.