29 Feb 2012

Pink Shirt Day!

Today we all wear Pink Shirts to represent how we are United against Bullying!
We do this in order to bring awareness to bullying issues and hopefully bring discussion as to what we can do to create a safe and respectful environment in all of our communities.

Why Pink you ask?
Well, Pink Shirt Day is not just an engaging way to get kids, especially students, though not limited to just them ;) thinking about bullying and what they can do to create a safe and respectful environment in schools.
All of this started back in 2007 when 2 High School Students in the Province of Nova Scotia, Travis Price and David Shepherd, took a stand against bullying.

These two Brave Students asked all of their peers to wear pink to school in support of a male classmate who had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt!
Little did they know that their actions would create a Grassroots Movement that would attract worldwide attention!
So...Make sure you wear Your Pink Shirt today and on March 31st, Stand Up to Bullying Day and April 11th International Pink Shirt Day!

28 Feb 2012

The Curious Case of the Evaporative Dinners

Last night, I bought a frozen Paul Newman pizza for dinner and our 12 year old made a large salad. Since our family comes home for dinner in shifts, I took a tiny slice of pizza and warned the 12 year old to leave enough for dad and his older brother. Guess I should have written a memo to the teen: I returned to the kitchen about 20 minutes later and there was no sign of the pizza. Seems between the two boys, the pizza was gone. Evaporated. A friend who raised four children told me that all pizzas should come with a label saying that one pizza serves half a teenaged boy.

I ended up serving really emergency food - cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli. Yuck and Yikes.
My husband read on my facebook wall that I was heating it up and said he'd stop by the deli for a sandwich. 

Read more here...

Into the desert with Our Lady

I have never given a Marian focus to Lent before, but this seems to be the year for it.

The picture that keeps coming to mind for me is of a young Mary packing up her infant child, all the earthly goods of her small family, and following where her husband leads her in the hope of escaping the wrath of Herod. What a lot of trust was required of her in unknown circumstances.

We don’t know much of her life after that, until she appears in some of the gospel stories, most notably the wedding at Cana when she quite memorably advizes: Do as He tells you.

The most striking image of all is that of Our Lady, standing at the foot of the Cross of her son, her Saviour. Everyone else has left Him, but her love of Him keeps her there.

I am going to ponder those three points over the next six weeks: trust, obedience, love.

Blessed Mother,grant me some measure of the faith you exhibited, so that I, too, may trust in God, be obedient to His Holy Will, and know His great Love for all. Help me to enter into the mystery of the desert in these days of preparation for the greatest mystery of all: the Death and Resurrection of your Son.

How about you? What are you hoping to do this Lent?

26 Feb 2012

Morning Mass and Lenten Lessons with Timothy Cardinal Dolan

On this sunny, blustery February day, we have just returned, our little family of four, from a standing-room-only Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, where the celebrant was the newly minted Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Given the politics of these days, I expected he might preach about the intrusions that politicians are making into Catholics' lives of faith. But he didn't, at least not overtly.

Instead, the joyful man in the red hat preached the Gospel, reminding us that, just as Jesus learned during his 40 days in the desert, during Lent we need to realize that our lives must be lived with God's will, not our will, for God's kingdom, not our kingdom, for God's values and not the passing values of the world we live in. (Thanks to my CL friend Dan Finaldi for sharing the photo he took after Mass) 
Read more here...


As a community of believers God asks us to look for, care for and pray for each other.

Karinann is hoping that we can all hold her up in prayer and thought. It seems that work responsibilities leaves her with little time for blogging, let alone anything else.

You might want to send her an encouraging email, or favourite prayer, or just let her know she is being thought of!


25 Feb 2012

An Introduction to "Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in the Works..."

Hello beautiful, catholic women! I am thrilled to be able to introduce myself and blog to you and to become a part of such a treasury in the catholic blogger world. I was raised catholic by my mother who above all else taught me to love Our Lady and the Eucharist. She prayed the rosary with me faithfully from an early age and often took me for "visits" to Jesus in the tabernacle. My father was protestant, so I was also exposed to many protestant groups and encountered several humble, christian people who molded my faith journey and gave me a deep love for beautiful worship through music, dance, and even art. I met my husband, a Baptist at the time, at a Baptist university where I was attending music school. He was studying to become a Baptist minister. Though I was not fully prepared to defend my faith well, he was intrigued enough to study further, and study, he did. He consumed every book he could get his hands on about the Catholic Faith. He finally came into the Church right before he proposed to me at Easter Vigil of 1997. (Please look here if you are interested in reading his conversion story). My husband is passionate about the Truth. Defending it, living in it, and never compromising it. I am passionate about Beauty, expressing it through the gifts God has given me, seeing it in my own life, and teaching others to do the same is sort of a personal mission. My husband and I both want to foster an atmosphere in our home that flourishes in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, all as relates to God and the Catholic Faith and to share that with others. This is what my blog is about.

In the past 10 years of my life there have been 2 significant influences. I have been introduced to and inundated with the beautiful life of homeschooling. The Lord has blessed me with an amazing community of catholic homeschooling families that have shaped our own family life for the better. I also sort of "stumbled upon" a formation program called Disciples of Jesus and Mary, written by our beloved, deceased Fr. Santan Pinto for all laity and religious. It is the spiritual formation of a disciple, meant to mold them in scripture, the writings of the saints, and the Church to serve in their parishes and be a light to the world. What I love about it, is it teaches people to look at their own unique calling and gifts and pushes them on to live it out to the fullest, for the glory of God and salvation of souls. As an overflow of this I have been inspired to write a children's book, and record a cd as I have been writing music since the age of 13. I hope to be able to share those things with my readers when I am done. These would simply be an overflow of the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness which (I hope) is already flowing through my life. Right now I feel God is calling me to focus on "the little things", the daily duties he has placed in front of me and the noble vocation he has placed upon me of nurturing these 5 little bodies, minds, and most importantly, souls. If we are faithful in the little things first, I believe God will bless our dreams as well. There is a lot of ugliness, deceit, and evil in the world, but sometimes if you allow God to change your perspective you can see all the hidden treasures he has placed in people, in his Church, and in life experiences. I hope that my blog is the story of some of these hidden treasures. May God bless you.

24 Feb 2012

Benedictine nun set to make splash at this years Oscar ceremony


Hello everyone,

I am writing to let you all know that we are at 49 authors!  This is a very exciting thing for Association of Catholic Women Bloggers!  We get emails quite often from Catholic women who would like to contribute to the site, and I wish we could accept everyone who asks, but Blogger sets the limit at 100, and we are half way there!

If anyone knows of authors who no longer contribute, authors who have stopped blogging all together, please let me know, like any good gardener knows pruning is the best way to make things bloom!


First week of Lent: A Time to Grow

Think about spring. Remember how plants push their way up through the earth. Trees sprout leaves and buds. Birds sing their best songs.

In spring we plant new seeds. We cut away dead twigs and stems. We prepare for a new life. Jesus talked about death and new life. He held up a seed and said, “I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” John 12:24

During lent we clear a place to plant seeds of faith and love. We work and pray. We grow in faith and love.

Stations of the Cross for Children and Families
Jelly Bean Prayer Activity 

Source: Faith First, Catechist Guide

from the readings for today

'Give Up Yer Aul Sins.' Sunday Reflections for 1st Sunday of Lent Year B

The Temptation of Christ, Tintoretto, painted 1579-81
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Gospel Mark 1:12-15 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. 'The time has come' he said 'and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.'

An Soiscéal Marcas 1:12-15 (Gaeilge, Irish)

Chuir an Spiorad Íosa amach faoin bhfásach é agus bhí sé daichead lá san fhásach á phromhadh ag Sátan. Agus bhí sé in éineacht leis na beithígh allta; agus bhí na haingil ag freastal air. Tar éis Eoin a bheith tugtha ar láimh, tháinig Íosa go dtí an Ghailíl ag fógairt soiscéal Dé agus ag rá: “Tá an tréimhse caite agus tá ríocht Dé in achmaireacht. Déanaigí aithrí agus creidigí sa soiscéal.”


Back in the 1960s Peig Cunningham, from County Donegal in the north-west of Ireland, was teaching in a primary school right in the heart of Dublin, in an area where there was still great poverty, the place where theVenerable Matt Talbot lived most of his years. She recorded the children telling in their own words some of the Bible stories she had taught them.

The tapes were found some years after the death of Miss Cunningham and issued as a CD and tape, with Fr Brian Darcy CP doing much of the work. Later Brown Bag Productions made a series of videos using the recordings.

The language of the child telling the story of St John the Baptist is a Dublin dialect of English. The accent and the terms used may take some adjusting to. But the message that the young girl repeats a number of times, Give up yer aul sins (‘Give up your old sins’) – the title given to the CD and tape – is very clear and is precisely the message of Jesus in today’s gospel: Repent and believe the Good News.

St Mark puts the preaching of Jesus in the context of the arrest of St John the Baptist. Jesus echoes the preaching of St John in Mark 1: 4: and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Below is a video on Matt Talbot (1856-1925) who lived only two or three minutes’ walk from the school where ‘Give Up Yer Aul Sins’ originated. He never attended that school, as far as I know, and his academic career in my own nearby alma mater, O’Connell Schools, was extremely short, since he was what is known in Dublin as a chronic ‘mitcher’ – one playing truant. But, with God’s help, he did manage to ‘give up his aul sins’ – mainly those connected with excessive drinking - and lead a life of extraordinary holiness. One of the most powerful graces from God in his life was regular confession.

May Matt, to whom I pray every day, obtain for each of us the grace to ‘give up our aul sins’, especially through the sacrament of confession.

Matt Talbot (2 May 1856 – 7 June 1925)

To learn more about this holy man who 'gave up his aul sins' read Mary Gaffney's article, Matt Talbot - the Workers' Saint.

23 Feb 2012

Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints | Catholic Homeschooling and Traditional Catholic: Lent Day One: Unplugged Living

Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints | Catholic Homeschooling and Traditional Catholic: Lent Day One: Unplugged Living: Lent Day One: Unplugged Living Our family is in the middle of packing for a big move across three states North of us so when I thought of...

A Meditation On, Of All Things, Moss

On a rare day off this week, I took our dog for a walk down our block, a block of century-old houses on tiny lots with scraggly lawns. The sun was bright, the sky was clear and my neighbor Anita, nearing 60, was seeding her lawn.

As we chatted, I noticed moss had taken over parts of her pocket-sized front lawn. I told her how pretty it all looks. Anita, who is some kind of scientist for a pharmaceutical company, said our neighbor Ruth farther down the block, a landscape architect with grown children, told her to let the moss grow. Moss, she said, is good for the soil. I am now thinking it is good for the soul, too.

Read more here....

Steven Curtis Chapman - Do Everything (Lyrics)

Iranian Christian pastor to be hanged ‘immediately’ | CatholicHerald.co.uk

Iranian Christian pastor to be hanged ‘immediately’ CatholicHerald.co.uk

22 Feb 2012

Our Wedding Album 2/22/92

Around the Horn

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you." That seems like a very strange Gospel reading, considering how many people will be asking us, with great concern: "Did you know you have a smudge on your forehead!?"

If you are a sport fan like our second son you will be seeing Tony Reali host of the ESPN show: Around the Horn, wearing his ashes very proudly!  So, what about this Gospel?  Does God call us to wear Ashes proudly to be a Evangelist; because we know we will be asked about that all day.  Or do we wipe our forehead and let our Lenten actions evangelize for us?

For me I love seeing Catholic Celebrities proudly being out and Catholic on TV, in interviews, wherever.  I think the more positive examples we have of the Faith could only do us, the world, good.  But does that come across as flaunting our faith, the nanner-nanner of the spiritual?  Or is because we wear the Sign of the Cross in Ashes on our forehead that we invite people to come up to us to ask us about it, invite into a dialogue about Jesus, Faith?

Same-Sex Marriage; insights of a clinical and forensic psychologist

The blog Anglican Mainstream has a link to Dr. Hansen's blog page where she presents her professional opinions regarding same-sex marriage and homosexual parenting. I have placed the whole of the article on my other blog, Watching, thinking & praying. I am presuming that Dr. Hansen will not mind my doing this. it seems to me that these insights are of great importance.

Dr. Trayce L. Hansen is a licensed psychologist with a clinical and forensic practice. She received her Ph.D. from the California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego, in 1997. Dr. Hansen’s professional experience is varied and includes work in multiple clinical as well as forensic settings. She is particularly interested in issues related to marriage, parenting, male / female differences, and homosexuality. Dr. Hansen has extensively reviewed the research literature in these areas and occasionally writes commentaries based on her findings that have been published worldwide. She has been heard on local and national radio and interviewed by the web and print media. Dr. Hansen also consults on legal cases and has testified in both deposition and court hearings related to her professional expertise.

Always have a way out that is different from the way in.

Anthony Horton, 43 didn't make a lot of money, drive a fancy car, own an amazingly huge home with a beach cottage in the next state.  He didn't have a loving wife and family and he didn't have a desire to achieve greatness in terms believable only to those having more than he.  Anthony was a simple and kind man with a heart, a mind, and a soul.......and something to share.  Too bad he perished in a subway fire on Sunday.

Mr. Horton lived in the subway tunnels of NYC where he found his solace and peace.  He had a reputation of being a gentle kind man, a prolific artist, and loved music.  He shared his story with a lady who eventually helped him write a book, "Pitch Black."  In it he shared what he learned living in the tunnels, where he found his creativity and some rules of thumb that we can all take a lesson from, including:
  • Always carry a light.
  • Anything you need can be found in the garbage.
  • Always have more than one spot.
  • And, always have a way out that is different from the way in.
The Church teaches and I believe that God is in everyone; He was truly in Anthony as well.  Yes, he had problems, don't we all in one degree or another.  But in these few rules of thumb in his book, I see God's presence and love in this man's life.

God is truly in all of us, so during Lent many of us make great plans to be closer to Him.  In the process, we  test the body's will power, decision making, and discipline of time management.  All in all, we want to be different, more of something and less of something else.  So we make plans each Lenten season reading books and finding inspiration for our journey.  Making plans for myself, I've been inspired by Mr. Horton and his rules of thumb:

- "Always carry a light." Carrying the light of Christ with me through the tunnels of life, finding the good in everyone and every situation that come into my path.  I'm not the nicest person at times and this needs to change. 

-"Anything you need can be found in the garbage".  Knowing that there are adversities everywhere, that I do make mistakes, but through Christ's love for me I can make a garbage moment or attitude better through prayer and faith in Him; I'll make that my mission of change.

-"Always have more than one spot."  There are more places to be than just in the present, remembering where we have come from and knowing how we got here, being humbled by the hard lessons of life, can continue to change our hearts and minds.  The pain of a situation is the strengthening of the character for the future.  The martyrs gave us that lesson through the ages. I'm not just in the here and now, I'm a compilation of where I have been and where I am headed.  We are not promised tomorrow, nor a rose garden, but we are promised the hope of something far better before us.  Christ is our hope, and I must keep my eyes on Him in whatever or where ever I am.

-"And, always have a way out that is different from the way in."  At the end of this season of Lent, will I have a different outlook than I did when I entered?  Will I come out a better person, a changed person?  That is my goal, just like the paralyzed man who wanted to see Jesus so bad that his friends made a hole in the roof for him to be lowered.  Through his faith and determination, he was cured and instead of leaving the same way he came in, he went out the front door, forever changed.

Changed forever, ending up much different, closer to God, a better person, than when I came into Lent.

21 Feb 2012

The Crown

Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel The Crown takes readers on an odyssey through the England of Henry VIII during the bloody period of the dissolution of the monasteries as seen from the point of view of a young Dominican novice. There are many aspects of this extraordinary novel that contemporary Catholics will find that they can relate to, namely the confusion in the Church and the compromises of many of her members to political persecution and social expediency, as well as the heroic stand taken by those with the courage to speak truth to power. In Tudor England, speaking truth to power, or even silently trying to follow one's conscience, often meant dying a hideous death. Young Joanna Stafford finds that in those intense times there is no such thing as spiritual mediocrity; either she must take the high road or face perdition. Joanna is not one to settle for less than heroism anyway, having entered a strict Dominican monastery where she looked forward to an austere life of poverty, chastity and obedience. When she leaves the monastery without permission to help a relative who is condemned to death for championing the Catholic faith, she sets off a chain of events which lead her on a spiritual journey into the heart of the mysteries of faith, of sacrifice, and of royal power.

The title of the book signifies a mysterious relic, the crown of a holy Saxon king, which Joanna is commissioned by the wily Bishop Gardiner to find for purposes of his own. Joanna knows that not finding the crown could mean the torture and execution of her father, who already languishes in the Tower of London.Yet, along with the elusive and tangible crown, there are many other awe-inspiring crowns in the novel, the crown of martyrdom, the crown of virginity, the crown of Our Lady, the blood-splattered Tudor crown, the pagan crown of ancient monuments at Stonehenge, the crown of the foundations of a lost monastery and the Crown of Thorns. Even as the symbolism of the crown is repeated throughout the novel, so Joanna finds her vocation tested as she learns to overcome her worst fears. It is a story in which spiritual victory comes as the fruit of earthly defeat.

One plot element in The Crown involves a series of famous tapestries which hold clues to solving several puzzling scenarios. Even as the tapestries are woven by the nuns at Dartford Priory, the author has woven her story so that many clues hidden in the narrative, which make the novel a mystery and a thriller as well as an intriguing work of historical fiction, containing many details of monastic existence and of the struggles of the poor in the sixteenth century. It is refreshing to see the Reformation from a Catholic point of view, one reminiscent of Robert Hugh Benson. I came away from the book marveling at how God's plan is like a vast tapestry of which we only see a tiny portion and yet every thread has a distinct purpose. Through her stumbles and falls, Joanna is confronted with her own weakness yet she rises with new strength, gaining insights which help her to see beyond the surface of things.

Here is my interview with the author Nancy Bilyeau.

(*NOTE: The Crown was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.)

Fiftysomething: Shrove Tuesday

Fiftysomething: Shrove Tuesday: Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offences. Wash...


heart speaks unto heart: LARGE FAMILIES ARE WITNESSES OF FAITH, AND A SOURC...: Vatican City, 15 February 2012 (VIS) - "In today's social environment, families with many children are witnesses of faith, courage and optimism....

17 Feb 2012

Some Thoughts About Lent

Driving along in town to pick up our daughter in the new Catholic high school I got to thinking about Ash Wednesday and what it means to be repentant.  The ancients would put on sack cloths, roll around in ashes and walk through town to prove that they are a sorry sinner.  Since doing that in modern times would cause more serious result, what can I do this year that would be different and more in keeping with my personal relationship with God.  I surprised myself one afternoon while driving home with carpool students in the car. I always ask them 2 questions after they're settled in and we are on the road home, "What was the best thing that happened and what was the worse thing that happened to you today."  I give them the choice of which question they want first, but they have to have an answer for both.  One day I asked the kids what they were doing for Lent?  They all said what they were giving up, candy, chocolate, soda, etc, then I said, "OK that's your physical sacrifice, what about your spiritual sacrifice?  What are you going to do to help get closer to Jesus?  I don't remember the specifics, but they were not surprised or taken back by my question, they knew what I was talking about and knew they needed to do something spiritually during Lent as well.  Nice.

In the past, I dreaded Lent, especially right after Christmas thinking about this dark season of sin and  penance, it certainly was not a fun time to look forward to. During advent we are waiting, preparing a place in our lives for Jesus, appreciating the amazing gift of the incarnation to redeem the world.  It's a miracle, a gift, the promised answer to prayers of old!  During Lent, the time is spent as a time of examination, reevaluation, and sin.  Pain, sorrow, torture and death consume the readings and the Friday stations of the cross are times of great sadness and remorse.  Definitely, Christmas is more fun and pleasurable to live through!

OK, so here we are again with Lent upon us and there is no getting away from it.  Absolutely, anyone can get through it without fasting, surely there are those who do not pay any attention to this solemn time of year, but what do they gain? Without a time of looking inward into our deepest of deep selves and working out some problem areas that we don't think we need to change any other time of the year, we would not make any progress with our relationship with God!  If we didn't stop to ask that question that made Mayor Koch, of NYC famous: "How am I doing?" we wouldn't have to look inward for an answer.

So in recent years, I have come to welcome this season as a good time, as I stop to roll up my sleeves in the face of my sinful ways. Each year is a new opportunity; I may still be working on the same issues, though, but still taking time to chisel away a small part of the ways that hurt our Lord and stain my soul.  Each year a smaller part of what makes me build walls melts away in prayer and mortification.  Each year, I get a chance to tell God I am so sorry and I want to change.  Each year, I get a chance to do this all over again, but each year I am that much closer to God. 

What am I going to do different this year?  Meditation seems to be the buzz word along with the Divine Mercy chaplet and the Jesus prayer.  Making time for Jesus in these prayers and quiet time along with the mantra, "Eat to live, not live to eat." No snacking and drinking nothing but water...save on cup of coffee in the morning only. Physical and spiritual fasting, check!

How about you?  Care to share??  I'm interested!!

7 Quick Takes

This is my first posting for 7 Quick Takes Friday; this is a meme that shares those 7 things that were most important, interesting, or faith-filled for the week past.  I am kinda of excited by it is the opportunity to share with other moms/bloggers about our lives and I thought it might be something ACWB's would enjoy and a new way to share our faith with others.

1.  Spent this week without my hubby, he was away in Europe on a business trip.  :(  Find much strength and good will :)  But the week got very long in the tooth as the girls and I missed him by day 5 :(

2.  Had a great week getting to spend time with the kiddies. :)

3.  Shared more laughs than drama with our twinnie 16 year old girls :)

4.  Listened to their funny, inspiring, thought provoking stories about life at a Catholic High School and learned that our girls are so wise, caring and loving :0  Related some of my own, I was in an all girl Catholic High School in my beloved Washington DC

5. Was there when our eldest twinnie, someone who could easily be a therapist, had to vent, let out all the burdens of others onto someone else's strong shoulders, glad I was that person.  Shared techniques on how to not let other's burdens become hers.

6. On day six had an emotional breakdown from all the tiredness of being both Mommy and Daddy.  My hubby and I have been married 20 + years and he has gone on business trips every year of our married life, in fact there is business trip season in our house: the time daddy will be gone on trips.  When we were first married he was only going on trips to the states where his company took him, now with more responsibility he is going out of the country. : \

7. So excited to have daddy come home. :) Girls and I went to airport to pick him up, were like kiddies on X-Mass morning!  :)

On Recent Calls to Make NFP "Cool..."

Lately I’ve been stumbling across articles in the mainstream media about NFP, written by Catholic laywomen, who are taking a stab at the mysterious reason that so many women ignore this Church teaching choose instead to contracept.   One popular idea seems to be that it’s because NFP just isn’t “hip” enough.  They seem to think that if the Church just did a better job “marketing” NFP and upgrading the books and methods to make them more attractive, women would be falling all over themselves to sign up for NFP classes, while tossing their birth control pills out by the handfuls. 

They go on to say that maybe if the NFP teachers looked a little cooler, with a few less children, women would be more attracted to the idea too… and can’t we make the methods less scientific?  That shouldn’t be hard, right?  It should be easy!

Each time I read an article like this I was left with a feeling that something was a bit off in the understanding… Read the entire post here!

'My child, your sins are forgiven.' Sunday Reflections, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 2:1-12 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, word went round that he was back; and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as the crowds made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, 'My child, your sins are forgiven.' Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, 'How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?' Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, 'Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven" or to say, "Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk?" But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,' - he said to the paralytic - 'I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.' And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, 'We have never seen anything like this.'

An Soiscéal Marcas 2:12 (Gaeilge, Irish)

Roinnt laethanta ina dhiaidh sin, ar theacht ar ais go Cafarnáum d Íosa fuarthas fios go raibh sé sa teach,agus bhí an oiread sin daoine cruinnithe ann nach raibh slí ann fiú amháin timpeall an dorais, agus bhí sé ag labhairt an bhriathair leo. Tháinig daoine ag tabhairt pairilisigh chuige ar iompar idir ceathrar. Nuair nárbh fhéidir leo teacht ina ghar mar gheall ar an slua, nocht siad an díon os a chionn, agus tar éis dóibh poll a dhéanamh, lig siad síos an tsráideog a raibh an pairiliseach ina luí inti. Nuair a chonaic Íosa an creideamh a bhí acu, dúirt sé leis an bpairiliseach: “A mhic, tá do pheacaí maite.” Bhí cuid de na scríobhaithe ina suí ansiúd ag smaoineamh ina gcroí: “Cad a bheir dó seo labhairt mar sin? Is diamhasla dó é. Cé fhéadann peacaí a mhaitheamh ach amháin Dia?” Ach thuig Íosa láithreach ina spiorad go raibh an smaoineamh sin ina n-aigne agus dúirt sé leo: “Cad a bheir na smaointe sin in bhur gcroí? Cé acu is fusa, a rá leis an bpairiliseach: ‘Tá do pheacaí maite,’ nó a rá: ‘Éirigh, tóg do shráideog, agus siúil’? Ach chun go mbeadh a fhios agaibh go bhfuil údarás ag Mac an Duine ar an talamh peacaí a mhaitheamh” – dúirt sé leis an bpairiliseach: Deirim leat, éirigh, tóg do shráideog agus gabh abhaile.” D’éirigh seisean agus thóg an tsráideog láithreach, agus d’imigh amach os comhair cách, ionas go raibh alltacht orthu uile agus gur thug siad glóir do Dhia á rá: “Ní fhacamar a leithéid seo riamh.”

Fr John Looby SJ, editor  of the wonderful monthly of the Irish Jesuits, The Sacred Heart Messenger , told of an incident when he was a young priest. He was driving in a remote part of the west of Ireland when his car got bogged down after veering of a road that hardly anyone used. He stood by his car, wondering if anyone would come along who could help. Eventually a car came along and stopped. Out stepped four or five young men, aged about 20 or 21 who laughed when they saw his predicament. Then they went over to his car, picked it up, put it on the road. Then they got back into their own car, still laughing.

I’m certain that the four men who carried the paralytic in today’s gospel were just like the men who helped Fr Looby, young, full of energy, imagination and care. Would older men have had the audacity to remove the tiles from the roof and lower him so that Jesus could see the situation of their friend?

Jesus, seeing the faith of the four enterpising young men, responded in a way tha they and the paralysed man hadn't expected. My child, your sins are forgiven. When challenged about this he showed his authority to forgive sins by saying, I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.

Dr Bernard N. Nathanson (31 July 1936 – 21 February 2011)
The late Dr Bernard Nathanson, a leading abortionist in the USA who later became a leader in the pro-life movement there, was baptised by Cardinal John O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, in 1996. Dr Nathanson was Jewish and had been an atheist. He was once asked why he had become a Catholic. He said that no religion provides as much opportunity for forgiveness as the Catholic Church does, and he had a lot to be forgiven for.
This is the last Sunday before Lent, a season when the Church calls us to repentance, to accept responsibility for our own sins and to acknowledge God’s loving mercy. The Church has always carried on the mission of healing, both of body and soul. As a priest, I have experienced God’s love for us in our weakness and sinfulness, both as a confessor and as one confessing his own sins. I don’t know what I would do without being able to go to another priest, acknowledge my sins, especially since I seem to be telling the same ones each time. But I come away knowing that God loves me, that he wants only the best for me, that he wants me to go away with a spring in my step, like that of the young man he ordered to get up . . . and go off home.

14 Feb 2012

An Interview with Author Nancy Bilyeau

I recently read a magnificent novel, The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau, which deals  with the fate of some English  Dominican nuns during Henry VIII's "reform." I was delighted and honored when Nancy agreed to be interviewed. I will be reviewing the book as well in a future post. To quote from the book description:

An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . .  

EMV: Nancy, welcome! Congratulations on your magnificent novel, The Crown, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was especially impressed by the research that went into making it one of the most authentic novels of the Tudor era that I have ever read.  You bring to life the beauty and peace of the cloister even as it is about to be destroyed. Can you tell us a little about how you began your journey into the past, and where you found the best sources on such a turbulent, controversial epoch?

NB: I’ve been interested in English history since I was 11 years old and saw a re-broadcast of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” on television with my parents. Ever since that time, the Tudor period was my particular passion, and I read the major books about the time. I pored through the major biographies, from J.J. Scarisbricke’s Henry VIII to Garrett Mattingly’s Catherine of Aragon. Every time a new biography on Anne Boleyn was published, I bought it. I do think I have all of them. When I began the research for The Crown, I dove into all books and sources on the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Pilgrimage of Grace, which was the 1536-1537 rebellion in the North against the Protestant reforms. I found some of the most helpful books written almost a century ago: F.A. Gasquet’s English Monastic Life (1906) and Cranage’s The Home of the Monk: An Account of English Monastic Life and Buildings in the Middle Ages (1926).  On the other end of the spectrum, British History Online is an amazing Internet source of contemporary and secondary source documents.

EMV: There are very few novels that tell the story of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII from the point of view of an insider. The only other novels in a similar vein that I have read are The King’s Achievement by R.H. Benson and Miracle at St. Bruno’s by Philippa Carr. What inspired you to have a nun as your heroine? And why a Dominican nun in particular?

NB: I wanted to write my book from a woman’s point of view but it took me a while to decide which woman. I wanted to write a mystery thriller because I enjoy reading them so much myself. I fused two of my favorite genres: the historical novel and the thriller. So would I have a “real” woman—a queen or princess or lady-in-waiting—as the protagonist? I decided no, that would be too difficult and possibly contrived to have, say, Queen Catherine Parr solving murders when she’s not fending off conspiracies to drive her off the throne. I wanted a fictional heroine, someone who is doing interesting things in a turbulent time. I have always been intrigued by nuns, and so I thought it could yield high drama, to write a nun’s story at the most fraught moment of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. I picked the Dominicans because I’d read a little bit about Saint Catherine of Siena and she interests me. And Dartford Priory was where I wanted to set the book, and that was the only house of Dominican sisters in England pre-Reformation.

EMV: Your heroine, Joanna Stafford, is a zealous soul, in love with God and ready to serve Him with all her heart. However, she sometimes has trouble with obedience which make some of the nuns question her vocation. The upheavals of era disturb the course of her novitiate as well. Do you think, under normal circumstance, that Joanna would have been happy being a nun?

NB: Yes I do. In my conception of her, Joanna finds a peace and a sense of fulfillment in Dartford Priory that she’d known nowhere else in her life. And she has the intelligence and resilience to succeed at it. I thought a lot about the spirituality of my heroine. I didn’t want to make her a nun forced to enter a priory. For one thing, my research yielded the fact that that didn’t happen very often in late medieval England. The image of the wild and restless girl imprisoned in a convent—it’s not too accurate. When Henry VIII’s commissioners seeking to “reform” the monasteries made their visits across the country, the nuns were asked, together and sometimes separately, if they wanted to leave, and very few did. And after the dissolution, some nuns continued to live in small groups and try to carry out their vocations for the rest of their lives. In Dartford, a half-dozen of the real nuns ended up leaving England after the reign of Queen Mary and lived in near-poverty in Holland.

EMV: I thought that your portrayal of Katherine of Aragon was especially powerful. She knew Henry better than anyone, having been married to him the longest, and the pieces of information that slip out when she makes her brief appearances in the novel are tantalizing. What made you focus on Katherine rather than the other wives?

NB: Oh her image has suffered so badly. Today people seem to feel that the middle-aged, stout woman should have stepped aside for the young, sexy lady-in-waiting. Just give up your husband, throne—and your dignity. I think you’ll agree that very few women today would feel that way about a friend who had been married to a man for 20 years. Katherine of Aragon was a very, very popular and beloved woman with the commoners, the nobility, and the monastic orders of her country. There was a reason for this! She was kind, generous, highly intelligent, gracious, decisive, and devout. She was fierce in time of war; when Henry was in France she defended the country capably against Scottish invasion. In her youth Katherine was beautiful. Katherine supported what we would consider today a feminist position: She believed her daughter Mary could rule the kingdom as a queen. Katherine’s mother, Isabella, ruled in her own right, and that family had a history of very strong and capable female rulers: Margaret of Austria and Mary of Hungary spring to mind. But Anne Boleyn has such a fix on our collective imaginations that readers today often root against Katherine and Mary—and for Anne to become queen and have that son Henry wanted. It’s rather bizarre.

EMV: I also loved your depiction of Katherine’s daughter, Mary. So often she is shown as being dour, bitter and depressed, but in The Crown she is every inch the granddaughter of Isabella of Castile, determined, savvy and authoritative. What are your thoughts on Mary’s complicated psyche?

NB: I feel Mary’s reputation has suffered enormously too, in this case in comparison to Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth. Mary is seen as weak and vindictive and cruel. Yet how strong she was! She defied her father’s tyranny for so long and supported her mother in exile. She only submitted to him when it was a question of her survival and she was urged to sign the papers by Eustace Chapuys, the Emperor’s ambassador. She stood up to constant pressure from her younger half-brother to forsake her religion. Edward and his minsters would certainly have taken harsh measures against her if not for Mary’s Hapsburg relatives. And then very few people expected her to raise an army and take the country when Edward died—to fight for her right to succeed. But she did it and with amazing courage. And Mary brought forth the same loyalty among friends and servants as her mother did—more than Elizabeth did later. Mary never minded when her ladies got married and had children—she gave them presents and stood as godmother over and over. Now Mary suffered psychologically through all of this. Her naturally kind and generous nature did darken in some respects, though not as much as people think today. “Bloody Mary” is such a tragic legacy.

EMV: In the novel, Joanna and the other nuns have taken the Oath, and yet they admire the courage of those who died rather than take it, such as the Carthusians and Thomas More and Bishop Fisher. I never realized that so many nuns did take the Oath and yet they were dissolved anyway. Why was Cromwell so determined to destroy consecrated life in England, especially when the monks, nuns and friars did so much good work in health care, education, and feeding the hungry?

NB: It was a financial imperative. The country was approaching bankruptcy. The land grab of the monasteries—that is what it was—poured more than a million pounds into the royal treasury. The King and Cromwell assured people that hospitals and schools would replace the abbeys and monasteries that were emptied and often destroyed but that rarely happened. The money went to building new palaces and to war, mostly. Also the property was turned over to courtiers so that they would be more bound to the king than ever. There are social problems in the late 16th century that some historians attribute to the loss of the safety net provided by the Catholic orders. And there were other sorts of losses. For example, at Dartford Priory the sisters educated the girls from local families. After the priory was destroyed, no one else taught the Dartford girls to read in an organized way for many, many years—centuries, actually. A grammar school was formed in the town in 1576, but that was just for the boys.

 NB: Cromwell was also someone who supported Martin Luther’s ideas and so he had that motivation. Henry VIII had an extremely complicated and ambivalent attitude toward the monastic orders. He tried in the beginning to personally persuade some of the leading friars—the men who became the Carthusian martyrs—to see the divorce from his point of view and agree to support him as head of the Church of England. But when they repeatedly refused, they were starved, tortured and then killed in the most painful way possible. Henry himself did not ever support Luther and many times tugged the religion of his country back. One of the other reasons besides need for money that Henry VIII pushed through the Dissolution of the Monasteries was that he did not want hotbeds of educated men and women loyal to the Pope thriving in his country. There was monastic support for Pilgrimage of Grace, and that strengthened his resolve to crush the abbeys. Once they were turned out from their homes and could not wear their habits or practice their faith in the same way, friars, monks and nuns were no threat.

EMV: One of the aspects of the book which most intrigue me are the Howard tapestries which contain messages and symbols woven into them. Did such tapestries really exist?

NB: These specific tapestries all come from my imagination. Tapestries were a beautiful and thriving art form in medieval and early modern England. One of the good things about Henry VIII is that he collected and appreciated tapestries. Nuns wove and embroidered tapestries during this time period, though the larger ones were woven in France and the Low Countries. So I took the next step, and had my Dartford Priory become a center of tapestry production. It helped me strengthen one of my themes and that was how much the sisters lived and worked as a team. I was absolutely thrilled to receive an email from a Dominican sister in the United States saying that she’d read my book and I got right the essential nature of the life of the sisters and how they interacted with the friars.

EMV: Do you think England suffered in the long run from the dissolution of the monasteries?

NB: I can’t say that England would be better off if it had remained a Catholic country, like France and Spain. That is too enormous a question. But I can say that England suffered from the destruction of those beautiful buildings. There is so little to see of these magnificent abbeys and priories today, it’s just heartbreaking. Most of them were torn down and stripped for the value of the bricks and the lead. The Dominican monastery in London called Blackfriars was famous throughout Europe for its beauty and magnificence. When the Emperor Charles visited his aunt, Katherine of Aragon, in the 1520s, he stayed at Blackfriars, not at one of Henry VIII’s palaces. It was a huge complex of buildings. Today all that survives of Blackfriars is a piece of crumbling stone wall not more than five feet long. I’ve seen it; there is a small plaque next to the wall in a park. It brought tears to my eyes.

EMV: Thank you very much, Nancy, and I can’t wait to read more of Joanna’s adventures in the sequel!

(*NOTE: The Crown was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.)


13 Feb 2012

Forever in His Heart

I wonder if people still carve hearts in trees on St. Valentine's Day?  Or at any other time, for that matter:  names of loved ones etched inside a heart, linked together by a + . Names not just scribbled on a piece of paper, but put onto a more permanent object; something expected to last.  "I will love you forever," the hearts declare. "I shall carve your name inside this heart, for I never intend to let you go."

"What will we do," asks St. Francis de Sales, "when, in eternal glory, we see the most adorable heart of Jesus through the holy wound in His side.. a heart in which, written in characters of fire, all of us will be inscribed?  Ah!  We will then say to the Savior, 'is it possible that You have loved me so much that You have even written my name in Your heart?'"

"See, I have carved your name on the palms of My hands," says the Lord to us. (Isaiah 49:16).

He never intends to let us go.

Spiritual Development of Children

We have four children so we have been through all the spiritual-emotional issues that come with a variety of children.  One thing that we, as mother/parents, do not consider is the spiritual development of our children.

A twitter conversation between Meredith Gould and I @MeredithGould RT @USCatholic: Why aren't Gen X and Y in church? Ask them... bit.ly/yphT3l and my response: @MeredithGould as for why Gen X and Y aren't in church, they need being feed emotionally, have a priest that does that they will be there

One of the books I studied during my formation for Spiritual Direction: 1994 - 1998, was Professor James W. Fowler, a developmental psychologist at Candler School of Theology, was the book Stages of Faith.  In it he describes children's spiritual development from birth to mid-life:
  • Stage 0 – "Primal or Undifferentiated" faith (birth to 2 years), is characterized by an early learning of the safety of their environment (i.e. warm, safe and secure vs. hurt, neglect and abuse). If consistent nurture is experienced, one will develop a sense of trust and safety about the universe and the divine. Conversely, negative experiences will cause one to develop distrust with the universe and the divine. Transition to the next stage begins with integration of thought and languages which facilitates the use of symbols in speech and play.
  • Stage 1 – "Intuitive-Projective" faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious.
  • Stage 2 – "Mythic-Literal" faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic.
  • Stage 3 – "Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to religious authority and the development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one's beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.
  • Stage 4 – "Individuative-Reflective" faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one's own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one's belief.
  • Stage 5 – "Conjunctive" faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent "truth" that cannot be explained by any particular statement.
  • Stage 6 – "Universalizing" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment". The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.
As a mom I have one son who left the church for years, mostly during his turbulent teens, but came back when he befriended a very warm and nurturing priest who could relate to his issues and not take offense.  A second son who is very intellectual and logical and finds his faith to answer those logically needs to understand the world, he is very Augustine!  Our twin girls, one very active in the pro-life movement, who has issues with the church, especially one priest, but loves her Chaplain in her High School who is warm, nurturing, and understanding; the other twin who accepts her faith as just part of her life.

What is the major component is that the Priest is who cares deeply, nurturingly involved with the people who come to him is the one that young people will see as reflecting God for them. That priest lives, adores and exudes his faith attracts young people, all people by droves.  A priest who lost his desire for his faith will lose younger people because they do not see why they should follow a faith that is dry.  A priest that has issues that blocks him from truly being present will drive young people away because they see themselves as a priestly after thought.  A priest that feels that the priesthood is just another job will drive young people away.  As young people mature in their faith and life and find that what is of importance is the faith and the priest is just a man, then they are more likely to go to church no matter what the priest, until then being feed is important to them.

Love to hear your faith story, your children's faith story.

Fiftysomething: Ecclesiastical treasures saved

Fiftysomething: Ecclesiastical treasures saved: Press release from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales Ecclesiastical Treasures Saved The Archbishop of Southwark, the Most

SAINT Valentine: martyr for the sacrament of matrimony

Shrine of St Valentine, Church of the Order of Carmel (OCarm), Dublin

I have been 'crusading' for some years now to put the 'SAINT' back into SAINT Valentine's Day. Below is what I posted a year ago.

St Valentine's Day is a big thing here in the Philippines, though usually called 'Valentine's Day'. For some it is an excuse fo fornication and adultery, for others a day to be grateful for friends. It is also a day for getting more money from consumers.

You can find something of the true story of St Valentine, a priest who was martyred for his defence of the sacrament of matrimony,in Misyon, the online magazine I edit for the Columbans in the Philippines. You can find it here.

Below is the Opening Prayer from the Mass of St Valentine. You can find all the prayers and readings for his feast on the website of the Carmelite Friars (OCarm) in Ireland. Though the feast of St Valentine is no longer on its General Calendar – 14 February is now the feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius – the Church still venerates him as a martyr who defended the sanctity of marriage. He was truly a model diocesan priest.

Full post here.

12 Feb 2012

Engines and lungs of prayer

I posted this piece at The Feminine Gift.

The Shadow of a Building.

Yesterday I was a time traveler, myself and 30 or more others stood or sat freezing on a cold Cardiff day and for a span we were in pre-reformation Wales.
As our presiding Priest said in his homily, this building is normally a shadow of a church, without its congregation and the services of a Priest it isnt a church, but today we join with the generations of people for whom this church was a part of the story their lives and a memorial to their souls, For an hour it was a church again. The service was organised by the Cardiff University Chaplincy, and has becom an annual event for the Saturday after St Teilos day (9th Feb) The figure of St Teilo astride his faithfull white deer can be seen to the left of the altar in the picture below.

 A small group were singing Byrds Mass for three voices, in Latin in the chancel of  St Teilo's Church which is as near as modern archaeological skill can make it a church rebuilt and decorated to what it was before The Kings Great Matter.

Stone floor, benches against the walls white washed plaster outside , and inside, covered with wonderful paintings on every  wall. Above us a Rood loft ornately and intricately carved and painted in bright colours. And every wall showing the unlettered and  certainly Welsh speaking people ,Saints and their stories, warnings of Judgement and objects of veneration from the life of Christ.

In the chancel the altar was being used as an altar and not just as set decoration for an exhibit. A robed priest assisted by acolytes and servers. The sweet scent of  incense and the eternal mystery of the mass.
There is a wonderful exuberant naivity about the paintings which have been recreated from the fragments that remained on the walls beneath the layers of plain whitewash and paint that had been put on to obliterate them. Its a miracle of painstaking work by the staff of St Fagans.
 We had a normal OF Mass (with the new wording) for the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes so that it was an ordinary Parish Church again for that hour, we sang along with the small choir when able using Latin for the Offertory ,Sanctus etc and the Greek Agnus Dei .

 And despite being purely acapella our rousing Offertory Hymn ' Lord Accept the gifts we offer ' and reccesional   Lourde's hymn were  both tune full and heartfelt.

Not only did we have a reverent and beautiful Mass ,there was Benediction with a Monstrance brought specially for the occasion like all the other items used at the Mass. carried through the Museum grounds by the Priests and other helpers.

St Fagans National Museum of Welsh Life   http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/stfagans/   is a large and fascinating place with cottages , farmhouses,shops and many other items re-creating Wales past and the buildings have been painstakingly brought here from all over Wales, renovated and decorated to show a particular place and time from the thousands of years of Welsh history, and yesterday St Teilos was truly a Catholic church for an hour as it contained that most precious and holy thing that the museum can never replicate the True Presence of God in the Blessed sacrament.

The walls bear many images of Jesus and His Passion but yesterday He was Truly present just as He had been for centuries until the personal passions of a King swept away the beloved faith of the people. I hope the visitors who waited patiently outside for our service to end gained a Blessing from hearing us!

Augustine is not an Excuse

Da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo.  -St.Augustine A few weeks back, the incorrigible Milo Yiannopolus posted  his side ...