Showing posts from May, 2013

What is detachment in the Catholic spiritual life?

Among Carmelite saints, John of the Cross, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites with Teresa of Avila, is not the most popular. Why not? He insisted that detachment was necessary for holiness. Many Catholics, misunderstanding his teaching, think it too hard and too dull. On first reading his Ascent of Mt. Carmel, they might be tempted to settle for luke-warmness.

On the other hand, nearly everyone loves St. Therese of Lisieux. The irony is that Therese was a true daughter of John, embracing all that he taught. If we reject John, we implicitly reject Therese as well.

Misconceptions about attachment Let’s examine some of the misconceptions about detachment.

First of all, the detachment John of the Cross speaks of is not aloofness. We should have proper affection for our family and friends.  It’s nonsensical to be cold towards your spouse due to a supposed love for God.

Detachment doesn’t mean denying the good that is in the material world. Rather, it means viewing temporal go…

My Visitations

I often reflect upon Mary's visitation to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56).  I think about the fact that the original scene probably attracted little attention from observers.  Two women, two relatives, greeted one another.  It was something that happened all the time.   

No one watching would have shouted out: "Quick!  Come see!   Here's a scene that will be written about in the Bible!"  

Mary visited Elizabeth because both had first BEEN Visited - Mary in a totally unique way, of course.  She came to Elizabeth carrying God Himself within her.... (continue)

Pre-Cana Contacts Wanted!

God doesn't always like my life to be easy. He'll get me to where he wants me to go, but he's gonna make me work for it. For example. The other day I sent out a general message on my social networks.
Pre-Cana Contacts Wanted! I am in discussions with a publisher who asked for a show of interest in pre-Cana materials (or a full program) intended for well-catechized weekly Mass-goers. If your parish or Diocese has a need for something like this, please leave a comment here with your contact info. Thanks! I thought people would come stampeding in. This is a need that I can see so clearly. Surely everyone else can, too, right?


God Demonstrated His Love

It was a conference for Sunday School teachers. The crowd consisted of down-to-earth housewives, mothers, even some older, benevolent grandmotherly types. Lots of nice, well-meaning women attending, simply trying to fill a need at their church. Most were mothers who wanted to be involved in teaching the faith to their kids. My friend and I were the only Catholics in the group and that added to a feeling of alienation. So, I came albeit grudgingly. I really did not expect to learn anything more than a few interesting tips on how to hold children's interest. I was pretty fed up with learning techniques and strategies. I wanted, no I needed, to receive more from God in my deepest self, in my spirit because I was tired and depleted. I did not need more facts. What I craved cannot be taught. It flows at the most unexpected moments from God himself. It did not look like it could ever happen in this setting. Then a nurse, with a freshly scrubbed face and no make-up, in running shoes and jea…

Is fear or love the better motivator?

Last week’s post on the Final Judgment (and Mr. Darcy and St. Therese) reminded me of two opposing views I’ve read in books about homeschooling. Some authors say that loving your students is the best way to motivate them to learn. Others say a healthy fear of the teacher is more effective. Here’s my take on the love versus fear debate.
The Machiavellian argument Niccolo Machiavelli famously wrote in The Prince:

“Here a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.”

Focus on a child’s fear of his parent(s)–whether it is called fear, respect, or discipline–seems to me to be particularly Protestant. I mean no disrespect to my non-Catholic fellow homeschoolers, but many conservative Protestants have a somber view of humanity. Calvin taught …

To Be a Setting Sun

Thinking of what has formed me spiritually, I look at the martyrs.   These holy ones inspire me not because I like suffering (which I definitely do not), and not merely because their intense gift of self to Christ is challenging (although it is).  I think I am enamored of them because their accounts pull me out of self-pity when I'm feeling arthritic, headachy, unable to find the car keys, or when it's raining for the ninth day in a row.

A witness of, say, an Ignatius of Antioch can hush my whines at such times.  And fast.... (continue reading at The Breadbox Letters)

God, Mr. Darcy, and St. Therese

Are you afraid of standing before God on Judgment Day? Does the thought of facing Him make you fear death? Even if you’ve committed mortal sin in your lifetime, you only have to fear God in one circumstance–if you die unrepentant, or with no intention of confessing your sin as soon as possible. Here’s how my husband, St. Therese, and Mr. Darcy taught me to think of the Final Judgment with peace.

My husband and I met through Single Catholics Online (now Ave Maria Singles). After emailing and talking on the phone for several weeks, we decided to meet in person. As I was preparing for our first date, my hands shook from nervousness. I told myself, “There’s nothing to worry about. It’s just Dan.” We had gotten along great in our conversations. We already knew a lot about each other. We were friends. We were old enough to have been completely genuine with each other, rather than acting a part. What did I have to fear? If it wasn’t God’s will for our relationship to deepen, it…

But Jesus is in There!

As David waited expectantly for my wise response, I scrambled to think quickly but answer truthfully.
I was preparing dinner one afternoon, when five-year old David came running up to me with a serious look on his face. He was always full of energy and mischief but he also had a delightful spirituality that was not taught but inborn. Once again, David had another theological question for me, “Mum, does Mary live in my heart?” I did some fast thinking. Heaven is within us and Mary is in heaven, I thought. So I answered, “Yes sweetie, Mary is in your heart.” David sighed and concluded the discussion,“I guess that means that God is in my feet.” I laughed silently to myself and thought that was a very theologically correct concept since God is our foundation. I had no idea what went on in David’s head after that answer but I soon found out. It was about a week later, when all the kids who were old enough (and one who wasn't really old enough), were playing hide and go seek. When David…

Crash Course in Pro-Life Apologetics

Crash Course in Pro-Life Apologetics Why are you pro-life? 

What would you say if someone asked you that? Have you ever had to defend your position in conversation? Were you afraid to offend someone with your point of view? Were you afraid your reasons were just not good enough to persuade anyone? Take a look at these very good websites and brush up on your apologetics skills! At the pro-life conference this year, I attended a really good session on pro-life apologetics. The basic gist of how to be a good apologist is this: pro-choice people want to talk about anything and everything except for abortion itself. They want to talk about things like "back alley abortions,"  saving the life of a mother (which makes up under 1% of all abortions,) problems of poverty in our society, how other people overlook problems of poverty, a woman's choice, a woman's body and on and on.
Pro-choice people do NOT want to talk about the child itself being killed. They will s…

Virginity, Grief, and Healing

In my last post on Virginity, Rape, and Loss, I discussed the case of kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, who lost her virginity through rape. The forcible taking of her virginity and of her body clearly harmed her. But what about people who choose to give up their virginity through engaging in premarital sex? Is anyone harmed then? Does anyone suffer a loss?

Let's return again to the idea of virginity as a sign of what God wants for us. In the last post, I talked about virginity as a sign that the person belongs only to himself (or herself) and God. A person who possesses himself is free to give himself. And, much more than a bodily act, sexual or conjugal union is meant to be a complete gift of self.


Free review copy of my forthcoming e-book

I've been working on a new project I want your help with. I've written a short e-book that I think you'll love. It's on a topic dear to my heart. I'm keeping the specifics secret for a little while longer, but I'll tell you this much: it's on the spiritual life, and I believe it will change your life.

I want as many people as possible to read my e-book--not for my glory, but for God's. I want to help people become saints, and the first step towards union with God is knowing how to get there.

That's why I'm asking for your help. I only have so many readers. But many of you have your own blogs with as many or more followers than mine. So I have decided to give advance copies of my e-book to other bloggers who promise to help me spread the word.

If you have at least 100 followers on various social media, and have time in the next 3 weeks to read a short e-book and help me publicize it, please send me an email. I'm at crossini4774 …

A Whispered Hello

Our whispered hello to God and each other is called prayer. I am not just reciting theology when I remind you that there is neither time nor distance when we live and move and breath in the Spirit. When someone dies or moves far away, I don’t have to say good-bye just whisper hello, a different kind of hello that moves with the speed of light to brighten each heart when I think of them. As believers, we are all connected in the Mystical Body of Christ. God is the great “I AM” who exists in yesterday, today and tomorrow. His Spirit mysteriously unites all of us, intimately present to each soul, all at the same time. Our whispered hello to God and each other is called prayer. We are never alone. We live in the Spirit and He dwells in us. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who pray for us and support us, they are as near to us as our next breath because they are also in the Spirit and He is in them. Let’s welcome the Word of God and the prayers of the faithful because they are like …

Virginity, Rape, and Loss

Elizabeth Smart, a kidnapping victim who was abducted at age 14 and then raped and held for nine months, stated recently that her religious upbringing had caused her to lose hope after being sexually violated. Based on a schoolteacher's talk about abstinence, Elizabeth concluded that after being forced to have sex, she no longer had any worth as a human being. "Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value," she said.

This led to an intense flurry of Internet posts and commentary on the value of abstinence-only sex education.  Critics such as Calah Alexander focused on the fear-mongering aspects of abstinence-only programs, which sometimes compared a girl who had lost her virginity to a dirty glass of water or a chewed-up piece of gum. But perhaps a more helpful line of inquiry would have centered on the value of virginity itself and its relationship to the value of a human person.


A Certain Way

There is a certain way
of living in the presence of God
through which,
if the soul so desires,
it can remain always in prayer
and continually aflame
with love of God.

It is realized
by carrying out one's duties
with the thought of
doing God's will,
and taking delight in that. 

St. Alphonsus Rodriguiz

Math can be poetic

I was good at arithmetic in school (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing), but I never had a mathematical mind. I struggled through algebra. I don't retain dates or phone numbers well, despite my good memory. When a friend decided to major in math, I didn't understand it. How boring, dry, difficult, cold!

I've changed my opinion since homeschooling. D and M have the Rossini affinity for numbers. They're interest ignites mine. But beyond that, I've learned that math can be beautiful!

I first heard the term poetic math in this article from Mater at Magistra. Author Lesley Payne says that math, like literature, can " instill in our children awe toward the beautiful, poetic aspects of creation."  Scientists use math to discover laws of nature. So shouldn't lovers of beauty appreciate math as well?
Math, poetry and patterns One thing that transformed my view on math was thinking about it in terms of patterns, not numbers. Joseph'…

I Forgot to Say Hello

all about melanie jean juneau

People look at me, their eyebrows shoot up, their mouths drop open and they sputter, ”YOU had 9 children??"

My writing is humourous and heart warming/ thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of my call and my witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life, especially a life lived in God.
Continue reading at....

Preaching, Teaching, and Washing Dishes

"Wash more dishes," my spiritual director inevitably advises me. This kicks off a prolonged spate of whining on my part. My children are brilliant whiners, and they have taught me well. "But ... I'm not good at it!" I insist plaintively, sometimes silently, sometimes out loud. "And I don't like it. And I didn't do enough of it as a kid. Or as a young adult. I'm not meant to wash dishes. I'm better than that! And who cares about dishes anyway?" Oh, wait, the Holy Father recently told us no whining? But...


A Friend Faces Death: "I am Surrendering to Something"

Two weeks ago, I published a video my friend Rita had put on youtube. Her husband, Frank, (pictured holding the cross) suffers with from advanced-stage neuroendocrine cancer. Today Rita put up another video, one that shows her husband continuing to bear witness to the Mystery that called each of us into being and the Mystery to whom we all are destined.

As Frank copes with chemotherapy, "I'm still in pain and thanks for every day that I wake up and my eyes are still open," he says.

Keep Reading...


Psalm 139:13-14New International Version (NIV)
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.Pregnant with my seventh child, I was bedridden in the high-risk, neonatal wing of the maternity ward for a week.  I was waiting for a housekeeper to come to run my home and help tend my six children. Although I faced 6 months of bed rest, that one week gave me perspective and kept me from sinking into self-pity. Two other women in my room were desperate to keep their babies in uteri and finally become mothers. One of the two had suffered five miscarriages. She was stuck in a ward room for months, only going home after the birth of her baby.
Secretly we all feared that we would lose our babies. Suddenly our fears materialized as a high-risk woman’s baby died in her womb. That poor woman had to endure an induction and labour for hours, only to push out a dead ba…

Kids, Birds, and Bees (A Review of Growing Up in God's Image)

"What have I taught you about, God, love, marriage and, uh, sex?" I recently asked my twelve-year-old daughter. "Well, in school, they told us about how boys grow whiskers about the time they start to date. And they showed us gross drawings of bodies," she grimaced. "Anything about God or love?" I asked. "No," said my sweet parochial school student. "Did I teach you -- anything?" I asked. Awkward grins on both faces. Again came my daughter's answer, "No." And I realized that I had somehow managed to leave out something really important.

Part of why my husband and I hadn't gotten around to the birds and the bees talk was because we were afraid of doing it wrong. We would occasionally search for a book to help us explain the beauty of God's plan for our bodies to our children in an age-appropriate way. We never really found one until now. Growing Up in God's Image, by Carolyn J. Smith, is that book.



If God is willing...

" Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain'; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that'" (James 4:13-15).

This passage from James the Apostle can almost seem silly. Should we really preface every statement of intent with "God willing?" I used to ask myself this question. That changed in the summer of 2002.

 I was a new mom, struggling to adjust to sleepless nights and no time to myself, when it became clear that I would have to return to work. Never in my life had I considered being a working mother. In fact, I'd had many discussions in which I had said, "There is absolutely no way I would work when I had small kids." But circumstances were against me. I had no other choice, if my…

Like Moses

"Every mother is like Moses... she prepares a world she will not see."  (Pope Paul VI)

Jacob and Esau contemplative homeschool unit

I have been blogging lately about my method of contemplative homeschooling. Here is an example of a unit I did a few years ago with my boys on Jacob and Esau.

The best way to start these units is for you (the parent) to meditate on the Scripture passage you will study with your kids. In this case, prayerfully read Genesis 25:29-24, 27:1-40. Since this passage is long, you could spread your meditation over 2-3 days or choose a smaller portion of the text to meditate on.  Identify the main elements or themes of the story that speak to you and use them as part of your studies.

The themes I chose for this unit were twins, telling the truth, and comparing and contrasting. (I created this before I began starting each unit with my prayer time.)

Narration: Read "Esau and Jacob" from The Golden Children's Bible aloud. If you have a different Bible, use only the parts of the story that correspond to the sections of Genesis noted above. Have your kids narrate it back a…

Catholic Mom's Cafe: Exclusive offer for Catholic Mom's Cafe followers!...

Catholic Mom's Cafe: Exclusive offer for Catholic Mom's Cafe followers!...: I have exciting news to share with you! If you leave a simple short comment on this blog post about what the beautiful vocation of mother...

Catholic Baby Names...and Tugboats

I was named after a tugboat.


I was born in the late 1950s and many girls I went to high school with shared that tugboat’s name: Cheryl Ann. Apparently in the mid 1950s there was a popular show called “Waterfront” which starred Preston Foster as the captain of the L.A. Harbor tugboat.

To this day, whenever I run across a woman who appears to be around my age and whose name is Cheryl, I can almost be certain that her middle name is Ann. In fact, I spoke at a recent conference and while signing books was asked by a woman if my own middle name was Ann. Her nametag identified her as a “Cheryl” and we immediately connected. A chuckle erupted between us and our heads nodded in agreement. Yep, we were each Cheryl Ann.

How we choose to name our children is important. In her new book “The Catholic Baby Name Book,” Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur takes that importance very seriously. 

With more than 10,000 names, Fagnant-MacArthur covers a lot of ground. Flipping through the pages I found many…

Social Media in the Marriage and the Family

"I’m not that interested in 'mass' communications. I’m much more interested in what happens between this person and the one person watching. The space between the television set and that person who’s watching is very holy ground."

The traditional family unit has been negatively hit from so many directions in our world in recent times.  Now state and federal courts are, at a few homosexuals' constant and indignant urgings, adding to the destruction of the traditional and healthy institution of marriage by passing legislation redefining marriage to allow same-sex couples to enter this institution.  It completely shocks and amazes me how these educated and elected individuals can be party to the destruction of the central and so necessary human structure.  But, alas, the members of traditional marriage have sadly and selfishly been part of the destruction of marriage, too with spousal abuse, divorce, and infidelity. How can we possibly prot…

Enjoy - turn it up real LOUD!


Letting Your Child Go with God: A First Communion Story

I cried at my eldest daughter's First Communion, but promised myself that I wouldn't cry for my middle daughter's. No such luck. Standing behind my sweet Maria as she received communion from the priest, I broke down and barely managed to receive the host myself. As for the wine, forget it.

Much to my delight, my daughter Maria chose to receive Holy Communion in the mouth rather than in the hand. During the First Communion training session, the Director of Religious Education told the children they could receive the host either in their hands or in their mouths. Then the Catholic schoolteacher told the children they had to receive in the hand only. Our poor Maria was confused as to which instruction to follow.


Find your spiritual idiolect at Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network

Everyone has an idiolect--a collection of personal speech habits that is different from anyone else's. Have you ever thought about your spiritual idiolect? Since your soul is unique, you have a personal way of speaking to God that no one else completely shares. Today I am announcing the creation of a new blog that will help you find and fine-tune your spiritual idiolect.

Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network is a community of Catholic bloggers who have come together to promote growth in Christ. Each of us has his or her own blog on authentic Catholic spirituality. Some of us are Carmelites. Others are Benedictines. Some practice Ignatian spirituality. Others' blog posts are more eclectic. We hope that by sharing our spiritual idiolects, you will find yours.

You have a secret name known only to God Jesus told the Apostle John, "To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which n…

Following Mary's steps in hope, faith and love

Diary of a Country Mother: a review

Cindy Montanaro is a Secular Carmelite and former homeschooler. She is also the mother of Tim, a boy she and her husband adopted as an infant. Tim had Tourette Syndrome, phobias, and other mental health issues. In 2005 he died tragically. Their story was published recently by Roman Catholic Books. Dairy of a Country Mother--so named by Tim when no one dreamed he was soon to pass away--is a gem to share with any mother this May.

"Five years ago today I picked up my pen and started a year-long journey of prayer, meditation, and writing. I envisioned an extended period of time in which to record, before memory failed me, all the little humorous and profound incidents that made up my son Tim's short life. " So begins this beautiful memoir of a boy who loved people. It is a story of the joy he brought to everyone he met. It is a record of his mother's faith and acceptance. It is an exploration of the meaning of Tim's life, which Cindy generously shares wi…

When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

A Totally Biased Review of

Since I'm now a monthly columnist with, I can't really write an unbiased review. But this is still an awesome site! It has articles from more than 150 columnists, who write mainly on the topics of faith, family, and fun. Updated content appears frequently, averaging between ten and fifteen articles a day. The site also offers podcastsvideos, and give-away contests.


'We will come to him and make our home with him.' Sunday Reflections, Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C

The Holy Trinity, Unknown Russian Icon Painter, 1690-17-10 [Web Gallery of Art]
Readings(New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings(Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Gospel John 14:23-29 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)
Jesus said to his disciples, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
"These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say t…