30 Oct 2011

Catholics and Halloween

Image from fellow homeschool mom Josette

A quote from this article on Halloween's Catholic Origins probably sums up what I have been thinking and "talking" about lately on social networks and with people I know, (and just yesterday on Radyo Veritas, when I was interviewed because of this article on CBCP News about our homeschool group's All Saints' Day celebration on November 4):


"Let's not focus on werewolves, witches, goblins or other evil characters but maybe other virtuous people or heroes," he said. "If not saints, then have them dress up as a fireman or football player or G.I. Joe. There are a lot of good figures in our secular culture worth emulating."


In fact, I highly recommend all Catholic parents to read the complete article here, along with the other thought-provoking, inspiring articles about Catholics and Halloween below:
Should Catholics celebrate Halloween?
Christians and Halloween: Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

At the end of the day, Jesus reminds us that we are "in the world, not of the world," (John 17: 6-17), and that He has "sent" us into this world - so let's be the change we want to see in the world, and let God's love and light shine in our lives, for His greater glory! ;-)

Happy All Hallows' Eve everyone!

(originally posted here)

Celebrating All Saints Day

All of my previous posts and pictures about All Saints Day/Halloween can be found via my del.icio.us links here.

Some Christian blogs and even some Catholic forums have been vacillating about whether or not it is right to celebrate Halloween. My answer to that is absolutely it's okay to celebrate! as long as you understand exactly what it is that you are celebrating! There is really no historical connection between the setting of this feast to November 1 (naturally placing the Eve to October 31), and the Pagan Celebration of Samhain other than Pope Boniface moved the feast to the same time of year when Samhain is celebrated. But I like to look at it another way. The change of seasons and the harvest are gifts from God, even if the ancient Celts didn't quite see it that way, and as the scriptures say, "Test everything. Hold on to the good," and Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
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Goodnight Moom ala Steven King- by Calvin circa 2004

Christians have long honored the martyrs who have died for the faith and the Christian aspect of this feast day comes from 4th Century on as All Martyrs Day. It use to be observed the first Sunday after Pentecost and then it eventually came to include all of the saints known and unknown and the feast was set for November 1, making the vigil of course All Hallows Even, October 31.

The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every SeasonMary Reed Newland in her book "The Year and Our Children" put it this way:

The Feast of All Saints is one of the greatest of all feasts because it celebrates what could have been impossible. The cross is a tree that bears fruit. This is the feast of its harvest. The celebrations of the mysteries in the life of Our Lord are glorious and there is no detracting from them. But he was God. This day we celebrate the perfecting or human nature by grace pouring form the side of Christ on the cross, through His Church and His sacraments, remaking men after their despoiling in the Garden.


Aside from all the lofty things to be said about the saints and to the saints on this day, we want our children to understand in the marrow of their bones what the principal idea is: "We are so glad for you. Now pray, so we'll be there too!" And they must add to this and to every feast and endless: "Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making it possible."


For the Catholic family I believe preparing children for All Saints Day really is a year-long activity. Our liturgical calendar is full of feast days all year round and it is important to remember and acknowledge these events as they happen throughout the liturgical year. Parents should take the time and the opportunity for just a few minutes each day to educate our children about the holy men and women who have become saints.

A few years ago, I was inspired by Cottage Blessing's Spoon saints and so we tried to make a spoon saint for each saint that we talked about in depth during the year. Before Halloween I hope to have the children add each of the saints that they are portraying this year to our collection.


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I have several tools that help me keep on top of the liturgical year. Of course I use the links from Universalis on my blog, as well as Saint of the Day from American Catholic.

I also use this lovely Catholic Woman's Planner, and have a calendar from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception up on my wall. With these tools I can see and plan for the liturgical year, all of the feasts and commemorations, almost effortlessly.

Most days we read something about the saint for the day and we ask that saint to, "Pray for Us" after our prayer before meals.

57 Stories of SaintsDuring the year, I like to read more about the saints to the children.  I particularly like, 57 Stories of Saints by the Daughters of St. Paul, the Picture Book of Saints by Father Lovasik.

New Picture Book of Saints: Illustrated Lives of the Saints for Young and Old, Saint Joseph Edition



Father Phillip Tells a Ghost Story (Padre Phillip Hoce Un Cuento de Fantasmas): A Story of Divine Mercy (Un Cuento de La Divina Misericordia)Father Phillip Tells a Ghost Story  has become a holiday tradition! This really does a nice job of incorporating the other connection with ghosts and the dead with their proper place in Catholic life with prayers for the dead and purgatory.

Throughout the year I try to encourage my children to choose which saint they would like to be for All Saints Day and then we decide about costumes. work on costumes. I have had a lot of success in the past with Simplicity Pattern 4797.  Bible characters are easier to make because you don't require a lot of extra detailing or fitting.

Costume ideas:
Archangels:  I had my boys wear white sweat pants and sweat shirts and just put the wings on their back. Gabriel had a trumpet, the Archangel Raphael carried a plastic fish and St. Michael had a breast plate and a sword!

John the Baptist. I took white long johns and died them brown and then made a tunic from fake fur. A wild wig added to John's rustic look and he also carried a honey jar and some fake books (John ate wild honey and locusts.

A simple tunic with a set of keys and you have St. Peter!

Here are some samples of what my children have been over the years.


Noah as St. Juan Diego


Gabriel as St. Isaac Joques

St. Tarcisius - patron of first communicates

All Saints Day circa 1997
                    Two Archangels and John the Baptist




 
   An angel and the Saint Kateri  Tekakwitha


 A block of wood with some holes to stick arrows in, hidden under a tunic and you have St. Sebastian! Martyrs are lots of fun and little boys like them because you can use lots of fake blood and that seems to appeal to their sense of gore that goes with Halloween.

Calvin once appealed to his sense of comedy by stuffing himself with pillows and a skull cap, which we glued fuzzy hair to, so that he could portray Thomas Aquinas! He carried a big old fashioned Ledger book as his Summa.
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Sam as St. Francis, Gabe as John the Baptist, Calvin as St. Thomas Aquinas, Izzy and Noah as Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego.




Gabriel wears a black medieval frock that I bought for a a buck at our local community center's yard sale . With that he has been Saint Isaac Joques and Father Damien the Leper. In another year we added a beard and voila - St. Ignatius Loyola!
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Father Damien, Saint Christopher and the Christ Child, Saint Tarcisius, Blessed Imelda

I made a midieval dress for Izzy when she was little.  Rosie is going to wear it this year. A $30 midieval dress from a Halloween Store was a great investment for us.  There are a lot of female saints from tht era.  Rosie can wear it in the future too!
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This year the kids are St. Anthony of Egypt,
Blessed Imelda (before she entered the convent!) and
St. Ignatius Loyola

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Added beard to our St. Francis robe and we had an instant St. Anthony of Egypt the Hermit.



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The kids with Grandma for the Halloween Brunch!


Izzy as an angel, and Rosie as St. Kateri.


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Zelie Martin and The Cure D'Ars
The_LaVictoire_All_Saints_

Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego


October 2010 062 October 2010 064 G.K. Chesterton October 2010 071 St. Veronica





I use cards from a collection called Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives. I can't find that available anywhere on the net. Old holy cards or other pictures you can find and save on the net also work very well.

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For us I put them on the table cloth and cover them with a plastic covering, that way the kids can talk about them during meals. I also put up some of the children's other holiday art including pumpkins and spiders!


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All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are a wonderful Christian time of the year. With a little thought and creativity it can make wonderful memories for families and provide our children with more education about their Catholic faith and Christian heritage as well as deepening their faith.



october 2009 and old halloween pictures 105 october 2009 and old halloween pictures 106



Other Links:
Women for Faith and Family.
A great article by Scott Richert here.

29 Oct 2011

'The greatest among you must be your servant'. Sunday Reflections, 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A


An Israeli soldier wearing phylacteries (tefillin), on his forehead and on his left arm, while praying.

Gospel Matthew 23:1-12 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, 'The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

'You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will exalted.

An Soiscéal Matha 23:1-12 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin labhair Íosa ansin leis na sluaite agus lena dheisceabail: “Tá na scríobhaithe agus na Fairisínigh ina suí i gcathaoir Mhaois, agus ó tá siad, déanaigí agus coinnígí a ndeir siad libh, ach ná déanaigí de réir a n-oibreacha, óir ní mar a chéile beart agus briathar acu. Ceanglaíonn siad suas ualaí troma do-iompair agus buaileann siad ar ghuaillí daoine iad, ach ní áil leo féin iad a bhogadh le barr méire. Déanann siad a n-oibreacha uile d’fhonn go mbeifí á dtabhairt faoi deara. Sin mar a chuireann siad leithead ina bhfiolaictéirí agus fad lena scothóga; is maith leo an chéad áit sna fleánna agus na príomhshuíocháin sna sionagóga, agus go mbeifí ag beannú dóibh sna háiteanna poiblí, agus go mbeifí ag tabhairt ‘raibí’ orthu.

Ach ná bíodh ‘raibí’ á thabhairt oraibhse; óir níl ach an t-aon Mháistir oraibh, agus is bráithre sibhse uile. Agus ná glaoigí bhur ‘n-athair’ ar aon duine ar an talamh, óir níl agaibh ach an t-aon Athair, an té atá ar neamh. Agus fós, ná bíodh ‘múinteoirí’ á thabhairt oraibh, óir níl agaibh ach an t-aon Mhúinteoir, an Críost. An té agaibh is uaisle, beidh sé ina sheirbhíseach daoibh. Agus cibé duine a ardóidh é féin, ísleofar é agus cibé duine a ísleoidh é féin ardófar é.

+++
 
I am posting this in St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Ireland, where I studied for the priesthood from 1961 to 1968. I arrived in Ireland yesterday morning from the Philippines and here this morning.
 
One of my philosophy teachers here, the late Fr Joseph McGlade, served as a chaplain in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Many other young Irish Columbans were chaplains in the British forces at that time since they couldn't go to our missions in China, the Philippines, Korea and Burma. Father Joe told us that one of his Protestant colleagues used to quote today's gospel and criticise the Catholic chaplains for allowing themselves to be called 'Father'. Yet he didn't mind being called 'Padre', the Spanish for 'Father', and widely used in the English-speaking world as a title for military chaplains.
 
Jesus is reminding us that God our Father is the source of all life and that he himself is the only one who can teach the fulness of truth. He calls us to teach only the truth, not only in word but in deed. He isn't forbidding us from showing proper respect to our earthly fathers or to those who teach us. Rather he is calling us to be fully rooted in the love of God the Father and in the Truth that he himself, Jesus Christ, is. He tells us, 'the greatest among you must be your servant'.
 
 
This morning here in Dalgan Park I concelebrated at a Mass in which we remembered nine Columban priests who died violently in the Philippines. Fr Francis Vernon Douglas from New Zealand was scourged at a pillar in the Catholic church in Paete, Rizal, near Manila, by Japanese military police, taken  away and never seen again and died on 27 March 1943. It is believed that he refused to break the seal of confession.
 
Frs Peter Fallon, John Henaghan, Patrick Kelly and Joseph Monaghan were taken away by the Japanese from their parish in Malate, Manila, on 10 February 1945 and never seen again.Their colleague Fr John Lalor, was killed three days later by an American bomb that struck Malate Catholic School that had been turned into a hospital. He had also suffered at the hands of bandits in China before being transferred to the Philippines.
 
Fr Thomas Flynn was killed by Communist guerrillas in his parish in Labrador, Pangasinan, on 30 October 1950. He, like Father Douglas, had been a diocesan priest before joining the Columbans.
 
Frs Martin Dempsey and Rufus Halley were both murdered in the same area in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao, Father Martin on 19 October 1970 and Father Rufus Halley on 28 August 2001. Siblings of both of them were at the Mass along with relatives of the other Irish Columbans. Fr Dan O'Connor, a Columban from New Zealand, based in Pakistan and studying in Ireland at the moment, represented the relatives of Fr Douglas.
 
Philippine Ambassador Ariel Y. Abadilla was present at the Mass and after lunch laid a wreath in memory of the priests who had died violently in his country at the foot of the cross in the Columban cemetery in Dalgan Park.
 
These priest were not the kind of religious leaders Jesus had in mind when he said, 'You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach'. These were men who stayed with their people laid down their lives to show the love of God the Father and whose lives and deaths revealed the Truth who is Jesus our Teacher, who taught us above all the love of God the Father by laying down his life in obedience to his will.

Rick Santorum: Family

28 Oct 2011

Dancin' with Geoffrey Chaucer During Eighth Period



It's been quite a week. Nothing is wrong. It's just been a week filled with work and more work, then parenting and housekeeping and hardly anytime to sleep or to think. And so by the time today rolled in, I was bone tired.

My high school juniors, who take a yearlong course in British Literature, have moved on from the Anglo-Saxon Era into the Middle Ages. We're reading Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. So, given the week and the subject matter, don't you think it makes sense during the last class on the last day of a long week to dance?

Read more here...

Trusting your instincts

In ‘A Landscape with dragons’, Michael O’Brien writes about children knowing whether something (or someone) is good or bad. Their little souls are still sensitive, whereas we adults have taught ourselves to disregard that awareness. Perhaps the world or our busyness drowns out the voice of our guardian angel who is prompting us to steer clear of a certain person, to turn off a particular movie, or to not try to drive home in a heavy snow storm.

O`Brien advises parents to not scoff when children talk about monsters under the bed, because doing so teaches them to distrust their own discernment. Good discernment is so important in living a Godly life. Just as our conscience must be formed, our morality developed, our code of ethics established, so our ability to discern needs to grow in strength and maturity.

That discernment is a gift we all have, men and women both. There is a lot of emphasis on `women`s intuition` but men have it, too. The inherent differences between men and women means the gift is expressed in different ways, but the common purpose of instinct is preservation – safety from spiritual and physical harm.

I think women are inclined to trust the promptings of their instinct. For example, a mother is fierce in the protection of her children and ensuring the integrity of the home. What keeps us back from being fierce all the time, is the need to also be nice, to not upset other people, to offer help when we can see it is needed. It is the struggle between being kind and being safe that sometimes leads women into danger. We`ve all heard stories of assaults and abductions and think that could never happen to us, in this country, in our neighbourhood. And yet it does. It happens not because women are smaller, slower, weaker, or dumber, but because we sometimes ignore that little voice that tells us to look after ourselves first. If we are reacting on behalf of our children – or anyone else who is relying on us – we will respond appropriately. But we hesitate when it is comes to ourselves.

I have an illustration. Years ago I shared an apartment. It was in a well-maintained, respectable building so we had no concerns about safety. One afternoon while home alone, I was wakened from a nap by strange sounds coming from the door to out apartment. Then I heard voices, and I realized someone had been fumbling with the lock and was now in our hallway. Totally confused by the situation and having just been in a deep sleep, I stumbled into the living room, unsure of what to do or say to the two men now standing in my home with a case of beer tucked under an arm of each of them. I said something along the lines of, ``Umm... what?” I didn’t want to offend them, but I was also afraid to go near them. Though I knew I had every right to insist they leave, I was almost afraid to offend them - if I were British I might have offered them tea. With as much polite insistence and I could muster, I asked them to leave. Turns out they were visiting a buddy in the building who was getting married the next day, and they simply went to the wrong apartment.

Contrast that with the time I was looking after my five nephews in their home. We were going through their bedtime routine, when I heard a knock at the door. I ignored it as we weren’t expecting anyone, it was late, and I don’t like to answer the door when I’m home alone. The next thing I heard was the door opening and heavy boots stepping into the front hall! A voice called out, “Hello” but I was already half way up the stairs, yelling, “Get out! Get out! Get out!” I charged into the hallway, hands out in front of me, and pushed the man out the door and down the porch steps while shrieking at him to get out of the house. I didn’t give a thought to how he was feeling or what he thought of me. Poor man... he turned out to be the landlord come to repair something. Once I realized who he was I stopped yelling at him, but I took him to task for not phoning ahead, and for just walking into our house. I must have got through to him because he always kept a safe distance from me after that.

Before that incident, and based on what had happened earlier in my apartment, I used to wonder how I would protect the boys if something like that ever happened. Instinct kicked in and I didn’t question it for a second. When it came to protecting myself, though, I hesitated because I wasn’t sure I was justified in reacting the way I wanted to.

It is so important we listen to that voice, whether it is our guardian angel, or our God-given instinct. Scripture tells us to get rid of our eye if it causes us to sin. We must choose our friends wisely, avoid scandalous activities, not partake of blasphemous entertainment etc. How can we do all of that if we no longer trust our own discernment?

25 Oct 2011

Watch The Young Nuns

Tonight the program is airing in the UK and hopefully we'll get to see it online here in the U.S.

From The Anchoress:

Speaking of encouraging our children to serve the church, the BBC is looking at the slow but steadily-increasing numbers of young women investigating the consecrated life:


Catherine describes herself as “a girly girl” who loves to be pampered. She has also wanted to be a nun since she was four years old.

Like many of her contemporaries, the 25-year-old has spent the last few years travelling, partying and studying for a degree in languages at King’s College in London.

She also worked as a model, but for her it was an unfulfilling experience and left her thinking again about devoting her life to God.

“I went to castings, they always wanted me to do catwalk shows,” she says. “I remember after my first professional paid show, going home and feeling really empty. Feeling like ‘is that it’? ‘That’s not great as I thought it would be’.

“I love people and I love having a good time, but that’s not all there is.”

Read the full story here.

24 Oct 2011

The Tea at Trianon Forum

Please visit the new Tea at Trianon Forum. It will be a place to discuss the same topics we discuss on my blog, but in more detail. Anyone can join. On the forum people will be able to introduce topics for discussion. Comments will be posted immediately, without having to wait for me to moderate them. Members will be able to post links and pictures and make block quotes, which is so much easier for trying to get one's point across.

There are three main rules: 1. Be polite. 2. Be polite. 3. Be polite. The forum is for ladies and gentlemen. If you are not a lady or a gentleman then it is not the forum for you. Courtesy must be observed at all times. Members are asked to refrain from personal attacks, sarcasm, slanderous remarks about ANYONE and general snarkiness. While questions and inquiries are welcome, any attacks upon the Catholic Church or the Pope will be deleted immediately. We also ask that our guests stay on topic. Off topic comments will be subject to deletion. Please be prepared to back up any news or historical assertions with a reference, either the title of a book, the name of an author, or an internet link to a reliable source.

I think it is possible for people to debate topics, to agree and to disagree, without it becoming ugly. It does not mean that we ever compromise the truth but it does mean that others have a right to their point of view (even if it is the wrong point of view.) I really want it to be a forum for shy people, for those who do not usually enjoy forums as well as for those who do. I want it to be one place where people can express their ideas without being attacked. We may agree to disagree, we may express contrary opinions, but we will do it with regard for the basic humanity of our fellow members.
--
Elena Maria Vidal is the author of the historical novels Trianon, Madame Royale, and The Night's Dark Shade. Please visit Elena at her Tea at Trianon blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

'Greater Love: Richie Fernando SJ', a joy-filled Filipino missionary



I haven't been able to post for more than a week as I was giving an eight-day directed retreat to eight sisters of the Missionaries of Charity near Manila. While I had some access to the internet it was rather slow.

I had intended to make a post here on the murder of Fr Fausto Tentorio PIME, a 59-year-old Italian priest, in the Diocese of Kidapawan, Mindanao, on Monday 17 October. I will save that post for a later date. As I was looking for a video about Father Fausto I came across one about Brother Richard Michael 'Richie' Fernando SJ, a Filipino Jesuit scholastic who died while trying to prevent a troubled and disabled young man in Cambodia from throwing a grenade. That was in 1996 - on 17 October. Father Fausto gave his life exactly 15 years later.

I remember the mixture of sorrow and pride I felt when I read of the death of Brother Richie, pride as a missionary in the Philippines that a young Filipino seminarian had given his life so spontaneously in order to save the lives of others while on overseas mission, and sorrow that a young life had been cut short. Some months later in the Columban house in Manila I met an Irish Jesuit priest who had been in Richie's community in Cambodia. I shared my feeling of pride and sorrow with him but he could only share his grief at the tragic loss of a brother.

The video above is the first of a four-part production by Jesuits in Manila. At the end of each part you will find the link to the next.

I read somewhere very recently that joy should be even more characteristic of Christians than love. The two, of course, go together but we have the English expression 'as cold as charity' which comes out of the experience of a joyless Christianity, the kind you read about in the novels of Charles Dickens, for example. In everything I have read or heard about Brother Richie Fernando he has come across as a young man of loving faith filled with joy, a joy that is characteristic of the faith of so many Filipinos.

Fr Christopher F. Amoroso MSP, a young members of the Mission Society of the Philippines serving in Japan, wrote an article in the May-June 2011 issue of Misyon, the Columban online magazine I edit, Misyon and My Vocation, on how reading about Richie Fernando in our magazine led him to the priesthood.
Yesterday was Mission Sunday. Fr Fausto Tentorio PIME and Brother Richard Michael Fernando SJ are true faces of the missionary church.





23 Oct 2011

Some thoughts on bearing fruit and losing loved ones

From the blog of my friend Dr Gerard Nadal,  Coming Home 
Note: It’s been two weeks like no other. Yesterday we had the funeral mass and burial of Jon in Warwick, NY. We also had the memorial for Kortney and Sophy in Virginia.

Today, on the Lord’s Day, we rest.

Tomorrow, all will return to our lives and a new normal, a phase of healing and living the rest of our lives marked indelibly by the searing events of the past two weeks. As we keep the Blythe, Gordon, and Scharfenberger families in our prayers. 

Here’s Deacon Kandra:

By a happy coincidence, this gospel touches on a theme that was so vital to Pope John Paul. In the parable, a tree is given one more chance to bring forth good fruit. The gardener gives it that chance; he offers it the gift of mercy. John Paul, you’ll remember, was beatified on the Feast of Divine Mercy. In fact, the opening prayer for this mass begins, “Oh God, who are rich in mercy…”

My take on loss and bearing good fruit
Today we bid farewell to Sr John Baptist SCRC, a beautiful nun who was only 50 years old of cancer, and dozens of people have come to her beside to pray one last time with Sister whose tender blue eyes and ever-present smile reflected Heaven.
My 14 year old daughter Bella was musing on what a shame is was that good people like Jon, Kortney and Sr John Baptist go home so young. We were peeling apples for a pie at the kitchen table. Suddenly she picked up an apple and said with a smile, “God always picks the ripe apples!”
Jon, Kortney and Sr John Baptist have accomplished their purpose in this life. No, we’re not satisfied, we wanted Jon to save more babies, either marry or go into the priesthood, and we know Benjamin wanted to raise his unborn daughter Sofy with his new wife Kortney.

We wanted Sr John Baptist to beam her radiant smile at us, take our hands, as she always did, and reassure us that “this too will pass” as we mourn her death. But these three have accomplished their life’s mission, sanctity. This is our mission as well, we are all called to be saints, these three were ‘ripe’ in that they were already full of God’s grace and love, and ready to go home. That is why the pain felt at their loss is so keen. 

We mustn’t begrudge God His excellent taste in wanting to pick the ripe apples. After all, they drew their sweetness from Him. 

22 Oct 2011

Celebrate the Feast of Blessed John Paul II with a new DVD series

Review of John Paul II; The Man, The Pope, and His Message
By Alberto Michelini
Leticia Velasquez
Catholic Media Review.
Volume 8 I Am Your Voice: The Pope on Human Rights
Catholics have long enjoyed the work of papal videographer, Alberto Michelini. Now under a special arrangement with the Vatican, what was formerly available on video has been converted to a four DVD set containing five hours of dramatic documentary footage, organized by topic into ten 30 minute films. Each film focuses on a different aspect of the pontificate of Blessed John Paul; including youth, children, the poor, the family, Marian devotion, historic events, a day in the papal apartments, and the working world. The series is available in English, French, and Spanish.  The companion website wwwjohpaulseries.com for this DVD set has free downloads of companion discussion guides for leaders and participants for each volume with tools for group discussion. This makes this series an ideal tool for teachers to use in Catholic school, CCD, and parish adult ed programs. Study groups could use these films in private homes. Homeschooling mothers from the JPII Generation will find this ideal for teaching their children about the legacy of Blessed John Paul.

Volume 8 “I Am Your Voice” is the powerful film on human rights; Pope John Paul is seen interacting with and addressing poor, sick and persecuted people from every corner of the globe.  A heartbreaking cry of misery is documented in this film; from the slums of Latin America and Calcutta, the prairies of Canada, the plazas of South Korea, the Australian Outback, the savannahs of Africa, and the shipyards of Gdansk. The desperation of the members of the human family who are callously denied basic human dignity are heard by the man who himself suffered under two oppressive regimes.  South Americans who are living forsaken in squalid slums while neighbors enjoy luxury, occupying land was stolen from them. African lepers whom the government has forgotten, living in filth, workers who are deprived of just wages and political freedom, aboriginal tribes whose numbers are decimated yet remain proud of their culture. The Pope listens to their pleas with love and tells them “The Church hears your voice”
He responds to such pain with tears of compassion, embracing the disconsolate and dying, and railing with righteous indignation at the perpetrators of injustice at the rich who ignore the hunger of the poor, and the violence between protesters and police in Chile while he shouts to the multitude, “Love is stronger, Love is stronger!” John Paul speaks unflinchingly in defense of human rights at the United Nations in 1979, attempting to awaken the powerful of the world from the somnolence of egotism. He prays with profound sorrow at the grave of murdered Polish priest and Solidarity activist Fr Jerzy Popieluszko. Not taking sides for political purposes, as he is often accused of doing, the Pope is consistently on the side of the downtrodden, pointing out that the Church cannot be silent when human dignity is at stake.
During this moving footage, the narrator adds context to the scenes, and quotes from John Paul’s numerous encyclicals dealing with social justice; allowing viewers to grow in understanding of the Church’s position on human rights issues, as a preferential option for the poor,  while avoiding the errors of Liberation Theology. He says that Christ came that we might have life abundantly, yet does not favor one political solution over another, rather, he attempts to stir the consciences of those in charge of the world’s economic systems, both left and right. For this he receives criticism for “dabbling in politics”.
Today there are protests of increasing intensity around the world, expressing frustration with injustices both political and economic. The Holy Father addressed this in his speech at the United Nations in 1979 when he said, “wars develop when inalienable rights are violated.” His warning was fulfilling the prophetic duty of the Church, to be the voice of the oppressed. He exclaims “the Church cannot be silent when human dignity is at stake”. One of the most emotionally charged moments of this documentary is when John Paul II upbraids his fellow Poles in 1991 in Kielce when he reminds them, shortly after the Solidarity Movement brought freedom to those behind the Iron Curtain and there  was a movement to tell the Church to get out of politics with regard to abortion. He reminded his countrymen that a child is a gift from God.
No human being is forgotten in John Paul’s passionate defense of the dignity of mankind from birth to natural death. These films are compellingly narrated using the best of John Paul II’s encyclicals to educate the public about why Pope John Paul is called the Great and why millions attended his funeral shouting “Santo Subito!”
Don’t miss this outstanding series which offers an unparalleled opportunity to relive this extraordinary pontificate, and grow in your appreciation of the historical legacy of soon to be St John Paul.
In the spirit of the Gospel as well as out selfless Pope, It is “better to give than to receive”, CCC of AMERICA is hosting a contest: JPII They Love You. People who go to the Pope Series website to complete a brief web form in order to enter someone of their choosing to win a DVD set (valued at $49.99). They will have only 50 words or less to say why they are entering that particular friend, relative, neighbor, CCD teacher, Priest, etc to win a copy of the series.
More information may be found at this website; wwwjohpaulseries.com

My Clenched Fists

Here is a prayer by Henri Nouwen.  It speaks deeply to me because, much as I’d like to deny it, most often I do stand before God with clenched fists.


Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love,
unconditional, everlasting love.
Amen.