Friday, December 28, 2012

Tomorrow's saints

I just came across this list of the men and women who were beatified during 2012.  It's fascinating to learn more about the (canonized) saints of the future, and our new blesseds.  It's a very diverse group!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Have you seen "The Rich Gift of Love" yet?

It's been awhile since I've given a friendly reminder to watch Sr. Jane Dominic, OP's outstanding online series, "The Rich Gift of Love."  If you end up with some extra time during these days of Christmas and would like to delve more deeply into the mystery of God's love, then I highly recommend heading over the Newman Connection to watch an episode or two.  It's well worth the time.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Is Jesus in it?"

Bob Wurzelbacher has had some poignant reflections that he has shared online recently, largely based on his relationship with his oldest daughter. The latest, "Is Jesus in it?" is a great reminder as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas.

A couple years ago, my wife and I decided my then 2 year old daughter was old enough to watch a 30 minute Christmas cartoon. We only had a few to choose from on DVD, but as we thought of many of the popular ones, we were concerned they all had things in them too scary for a two-year old. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeerhad the Abominable Snow Monster, Santa Claus is Coming to Town had Winter Warlock… so eventually we settled on Frosty the Snowman.

So we excitedly told Ellie that we had a special treat for her after dinner.
“What is it?” she asked.

“We’re going to watch a Christmas movie!” we exclaimed.

Ellie’s eyes grew big as saucers as she excitedly put down her sippy cup and could hardly contain her enthusiasm as she blurted out, “You mean a movie that really has Jesus, Mary and Joseph in it?”

“Um, no, Ellie, there is no Jesus, Mary or Joseph. But there is a talking snowman and Santa Claus!"

“Oh”, she says.

Well, that little surprise did not go over as well as hoped. She reluctantly even seemed to agree to watch it, and decided the magician was too scary in the first part of the movie and wouldn’t watch the rest of it.

Read the rest at the "Being Catholic" blog.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Art of the Gift

Christmas has become the season for giving for appearance’s sake – grabbing a box of chocolates at Walgreens, slapping a red bow on the box and handing it to whomever you might feel the slightest tinge of obligation to say, “Merry Christmas.” 

When Christmas approaches, one of the first questions we hear is, “Have you finished your Christmas shopping?”  It’s a question typically followed by stress-induced sighs, eye-rolling and hair-pulling.

Have we forgotten the nature of a gift?

It’s a question worth pondering.  Giving has become an obligation, an inconvenience and a practice rarely rooted in a desire to participate in the giving of God.  Not only does our reflection about giving impact how we approach the presents under the tree this Christmas, but it also sheds light on the Gift that we receive in Christ becoming man, living, dying and rising for us. 

Perhaps we should begin with the realization that we are even able to receive gifts.  Before anything else, we received the gift of our very lives.  Where there once was nothing, God did not create simply something, but someone.  He literally loved you into existence. 

Although God did not have to create us, it was fitting that He did.  Why?  Because who He is within Himself is Love.  Love always wants to give and to be fruitful.  So out of His abundant generosity, God created us as a pure gift. 

But He doesn’t stop there.  He gave us the gift of free will and of intellect, and therefore the ability to love Him in return.  We aren’t robots who give a monotone, “I love you” upon command.  The gift to receive love and to give in return is an unfathomable blessing, yet one we often take for granted. 

God didn’t stop with the gift of making us in His image and likeness either.  When Adam and Eve used their free will and intellect to choose their own plan, instead of embracing God’s loving gift, He did not throw His hands in the air in disgust or leave us to our own pitiable plans.  Rather, He revealed His love to us in the most unexpected way – through another gift. 

Approximately 2,000 years ago, on a particular day in a particular town at a particular time, a particular woman gave birth to God incarnate.  In the greatest humility, generosity and desire for His creatures, God gave us the gift of Himself – a visible revelation of the Love that created us and then redeemed us.  The silence and simplicity eloquently captures our attention – God loves us each intimately and profoundly, and is willing to slip into our daily routines to offer us a glimpse of His radical love.    

What, then, is a gift?  It is something we cannot earn or produce for ourselves.  It is freely given.  It is a revelation of generosity.  It is irreplaceable.  It expresses and solidifies a relationship between two people.  A gift includes something of oneself, which, along with the gift, is either received or rejected. 

If the very meaning of our lives is gift, then how does our material gift-giving reflect this?  During this Christmas season, as we wrap our presents and check off our shopping lists, may we do so out of love, generosity and a desire to share in the love of God that is revealed in an outstanding way through the Baby Jesus entrusting Himself into our hands into our hearts.    

Friday, December 21, 2012

New Ruah Woods website!

Yesterday Ruah Woods launched our new website!  It's a beautiful redesign. It's now easier to access information about the ministry.  Check it out here.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quote book

“Woman’s singular relationship with human life derives from her vocation to motherhood. Opening herself to motherhood, she feels the life in her womb unfolding and growing. This indescribable experience is a privilege of mothers, but all women have in some way an intuition of it, predisposed as they are to this miraculous gift.” -- Bl. John Paul II

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A love story, not a fairytale

Everyone has something to say about the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy. The pieces that try to use the shooting to make a point are numerous and opinions I'm largely uninterested in right now. But Archbishop Chaput's weekly column deals with the tragedy itself and the questions that we might have in its wake. As the bishop of an area that was plagued with its own school shooting (Columbine), he has the compassion, wisdom and insight necessary in this moment.

Scripture is a love story, the story of God’s love for humanity. But it’s a real story filled with real people. It’s not a fairytale. In Scripture, as in the real world, evil things happen to innocent persons. The wicked seem to thrive. Cruelty and suffering are common.

The Psalmist cries out to heaven again and again for justice; Job is crushed by misfortune; Herod murders blameless infants; Jesus is nailed to a cross. God is good, but we human beings are free, and being free, we help fashion the nature of our world with the choices we make.

This is why evil is frightening, but it’s not incomprehensible. We know it from intimate experience. What we never quite expect is for our private sins, multiplied and fermented by millions of lives with the same or similar “little” sins, to somehow feed the kind of evil that walks into a Connecticut school and guns down 26 innocent lives, 20 of them children.

Thirteen years ago, as archbishop of Denver, I helped bury some of the victims of the Columbine High School massacre. Nothing is more helpless or heart-breaking than to sit with parents who kissed their children goodbye in the morning and will never see them alive again in this world. The pain of loss is excruciating. Words of comfort all sound empty.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Prayer to the Holy Innocents

I haven't posted for a couple of days because I'm at a loss for words about the events on Friday. But this is a way to break the silence while still living in it:

Prayer to the Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.

Holy Innocents, you were killed because one man was filled with hatred, pray for those who hate that God may touch their hearts and fill them with love.

Holy Innocents, you experienced a violent death, pray for all who are affected by violence that they may find peace and love.

Holy Innocents, your parents grieved for you with deep and lasting sorrow, pray for all parents who have lost young children that God may wrap a warm blanket of comfort around them.

Holy Innocents, those around you certainly felt helpless to prevent your deaths, pray for all who feel helpless in their circumstances that they may cling to God for courage and hope.

Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God's love forever.


Friday, December 14, 2012

"The Mystery of Vocations"

This photo is making the making the rounds online, and one can easily see why:

The background is provided by Noel Marcantel (Noel Marcantel Photography) on his facebook page:

"The Mystery of Vocations"

Sister Marie Protectrice de la Foi (formerly Angelique Marcantel) embraces our father at the conclusion of the Mass where she and her fellow sisters received their habits for the first time.

She is now a Novice Sister of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara. I am indescribably proud of my sister. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe

"The Church, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, never comes alone, but always with Christ; he is her true measure and gift to the world." -- Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, "Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The perfect graduation gift?

Dr. Gillian Lockwood, a British fertility clinic doctor, has this to say:
‘One part of me wants to say that [egg freezing] should be every dad’s graduation present for his daughter. It would be a very safe, low dose, and you could have 20 beautiful eggs in the freezer. 'But – and it’s a very big but – I’m concerned about how that would alter a woman’s life choices, that they might think: “Well, instead of having a family with Mr Not Quite Perfect, I can afford to wait for Mr Absolutely perfect”.

Every Dad's graduation present for his daughter?! Yes, let's encourage treating young women like their bodies are machines that can crank out baby-making supplies.  Of course, there are many errors in the thinking that freezing eggs at age 20 is the answer to the quest for feminine "freedom," but the very idea that Dad should pay for his daughter to freeze eggs is horrifying.  

The answer to declining populations and later births is not egg-freezing.  It's learning authentic love, the truth of marriage and family, and the real identity of the human person, as made in the image and likeness of God who is loving, generous and faithful.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Carrots, Broken Slates and Puffed Sleeves: A Theology of “Anne of Green Gables”

Recently I began watching my "Anne of Green Gables" DVDs again.  It reminded me of the following article I wrote a few years ago for the no longer existing TOB "channel" on Catholic Exchange.  So, without further adieu ...
As a young girl, I couldn’t get enough of all things L.M. Montgomery.  I subscribed to the Anne of Green Gables quarterly magazine, read all of the books, enjoyed the movies, and even founded a fan club with a few friends.  This past week I dusted off my videos from the film and watched it with new eyes.

Somewhere along the journey of broken slates, kindred spirits, dramatic renditions of old poetry and breathtaking scenes of Prince Edward Island, it struck me that Anne of Green Gables unknowingly weaves several theology of the body themes throughout its pages and film reels. 

It may seem hard to believe that the series that captured the hearts of young girls raised in the ‘90s can present us with living proof of the truth of John Paul II’s words, but I will leave you with a sampling of the ways in which I would argue the books and movies accomplish this feat.

  •          Throughout the story, we see the truth of John Paul II’s words in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis: ““Man cannot live without love.  He remains a being incomprehensible to himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it”  (25).  We see Anne Shirley’s life profoundly transformed by love. She is first deeply affected by the love of those who have adopted her – Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.  Soon after she meets the Cuthberts, the narrator remarks that Marilla realized that Anne was “[…] a girl who knew nothing about God’s love since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love” (Chapter 7).  Beginning with this type of parental love, Anne grows into a beautiful young woman, who is eager to love others.  From her students, to her neighbors to her future husband Gilbert Blythe, Anne takes the love that has touched her and shares it with others.

  •          Anne quips, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet” (Chapter 21).  This quotation is similar to John Paul II’s reflections on the “hope of every day.”  The late Holy Father noted that Jesus Christ gives us the grace to follow Him every day, regardless of our past sins, failings and mistakes.  Anne’s insistence that each day is a new opportunity rings true with John Paul II’s encouragement to accept the grace of the redemption each and every day.

  •          Anne says, “When I put on longer skirts I shall feel that I have to live up to them” (Chapter 30).  In her day, young women were allowed to wear longer skirts as a privilege and as a sign of growing older.   Anne’s innocent comment is indicative of the way our attitudes often correspond to our clothing.  Modesty clothing encouraged a respectful attitude.

  •         There is an understanding of the meaning of masculinity and femininity.  No wonder there has been a phenomenon with L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen and other authors of yesteryear who unhesitatingly describe women as women and men as men.  There is a respect between the two sexes that we don’t often see today.  And there appears to be more of an understanding of the great dignity that one possesses in being masculine or feminine.

  •          The relationship between Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe offers an Ephesians 5 scenario.  We see Gilbert continually offering his self-sacrificial love to Anne.  For awhile, she refuses to receive it.  She gives her occupation preference and, though well-intentioned, denies Gilbert’s love.  Eventually, she comes to see what a priceless gift he is offering, and she in turn receives his gift of love.  For both, the giving and receiving of love is not an easy task, but both are dedicated to it and to each other, despite the difficulties and challenges.  Montgomery describes the moment before their wedding vows: “But it was a happy and beautiful bride who came down the old, homespun-carpeted stairs that September noon--the first bride of Green Gables, slender and shining-eyed, in the mist of her maiden veil, with her arms full of roses. Gilbert, waiting for her in the hall below, looked up at her with adoring eyes. She was his at last, this evasive, long-sought Anne, won after years of patient waiting. It was to him she was coming in the sweet surrender of the bride. Was he worthy of her? Could he make her as happy as he hoped? If he failed her – if he could not measure up to her standard of manhood – then, as she held out her hand, their eyes met and all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty. They belonged to each other; and, no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. Their happiness was in each other's keeping and both were unafraid” (Anne’s House of Dreams Chapter 4).  

  •          And isn’t Anne’s prayer in Anne of Ingleside one that all women, whether physical or spiritual mothers, can embrace as their own: “Dear God … help all mothers everywhere.  We need so much help, with the little sensitive, loving hearts and minds that look to us for guidance and love and understanding” (Chapter 6).

Anne of Green Gables and the ensuing books and films do not purposefully preach or incorporate religious messages.  It is interesting to view them though the lens of theology of the body, to see how integral these themes are to what it means to be a human person. 

The lives of L.M. Montgomery and John Paul II overlapped for a brief period of time, but the papacy and writings of the late Holy Father were yet to occur during the author’s lifetime.  Regardless of Montgomery’s theological insights, her stories provide a beautiful depiction of the truth of the principles to which John Paul II dedicated his life.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"God called me on YouTube"

There's something about the Dominicans.  A few years ago, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist were invited on "Oprah" ... twice.  And now Marie Claire magazine is profiling another Dominican sister, this time from a cloistered order.

Sr. Maria Teresa of the Sacred Heart is the focus of the story.  The magazine learns about her life as a nun, becoming captivated by her counter-cultural witness.  

You can find the piece here

Friday, December 7, 2012

How will we end AIDS?

A friend passed along this unique look at the way the AIDS crisis in Africa is being treated.  It's a little lengthy but definitely worth the time to hear statistics and personal interviews with people who are closely involved in this fight.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Loving in the "bad times"

I enjoyed this article by Hallie Lord about the nature of loving one's spouse during difficult times. Conquering selfishness is a theme I often hear spoken to men (lay down your life for your bride, practice sacrificial love, etc.), but rarely spoken with such force to women. It's a good reminder then that:

In choosing to deprive Dan of care and affection, I had (conveniently) forgotten that though two had become one, there were three people in this marriage. On that cool October night that saw us married, we had not only given ourselves to one another, we had sworn an oath before God to “forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to be ‘subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,’ and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love.” (CCC 1642)

I hadn’t promised to love and cherish Dan only when he deserved it, had earned it or when I felt like it. I vowed to love him in good times and in bad. In my naiveté I had assumed we would always go through the bad times together. I’ve since learned that sometimes the bad times stand between us like a wall. Though challenging and perhaps even painful, it’s during these times that it’s more crucial than ever to choose love.

And it's a helpful clarification for all of us -- single, married, religious -- that we are called to love when we don't feel like it. It's something we can know intellectually but still struggle to live out in various circumstances. Reminders like this article, then, are very good!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Learning from the witness of Amy O'Rourke

Several weeks ago I posted about the beautiful witness of Amy O'Rourke during the immediate days after the tragic death of her husband Officer Patrick O'Rourke, who was killed in the line of duty (view videos of Amy here and here).
Recently, Amy was on Kresta in the Afternoon, an excellent Catholic radio program.  Her lengthy sit-down interview with Al Kresta covers more details about the O'Rourke's testament to family and faith.  It's a long interview but is certainly worth hearing.  You can find the archived show here. 

There's also this powerful television interview with Amy and her three daughters:

Keep the family in your prayers as they prepare for their first Christmas without their husband and father.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Quote book -- First Sunday of Advent

"My mother had this little idiosyncrasy of always wanting to see how the book ended.  When she began to read, she would always read the end, and then she would diligently go back to the beginning and read the book through.It used to amuse me as a child, and I started to do the same thing because you always like to do what your mother does.  

We want to see how it is going to turn out.  And we do know.  We know what is at the end of the path.  And so, if we die of anticipation, we should be dying of joy, dear sisters.  When we are not anticipating rightly because we are not going firmly forward on the path, is it not because we are anticipating lesser things?  I listed some of them here: What do we anticipate?  Do we waste our energy sometimes on anticipating how it is going to turn out?  We think: things are going to get worse and worse, and I don't think I can do this, and I don't think I can make that much effort, and maybe it won't come out right anyway, and I'd better not do it at all because maybe I can't -- and so I excuse myself from effort.

This is what we do.  We anticipate the wrong things.  Why do we not anticipate the best things?  Because even in the things that cause us the most suffering, God always has in mind something wonderful for which we need to be purified by suffering.  And so we know where the path ends." -- Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. in "Come Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting" 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saving hospitality

I keep seeing an article title popping up -- "Guess who isn't coming to dinner" -- from the New York Times. While on their site today, I noticed what the story is really about, the death of the dinner party, and it intrigued me enough to click.

In part, it's a different experience than most of us will have. The article discusses dinner parties with philanthropists and socialites who invite a diverse crowd for drinks, appetizers, dinner and dessert, lots of conversation, networking and an overall enjoyable evening.

That's New York. The rest of us in Ohio, Texas, Maryland, Minnesota and Canada probably don't receive such invitations. But it made me think about invitations to even a "simple dinner" -- a dinner with a few friends around an "average" kitchen table. Does that happen much anymore?

It seems to me it doesn't. And one reason is cited by "Miss Manners" in the New York Times article:
The influence of hand-held devices, Ms. Martin said, has been disastrous for the social contract. “People don’t even respond to dinner invitations anymore,” she said. “They consider it too difficult a commitment to say, ‘I’ll come to dinner a week from Saturday.’ ” Not only do they cancel at the last minute, they do it by text message.
Surely, this impacts even the most casual dinner arrangements with a friend or too. 

Other issues cited in the article include the prevalence of food allergies and hosts' subsequent skittishness to cook lest it be inedible for the guests. There's also the easier option of going to a restaurant with a group of friends, but as one interviewee says in the article, it's not possible to gather around a big table and talk in a restaurant like one can at home. 

Is the dinner party of New York alone in being banished to near extinction, or is hosting people in general becoming rare? I think it's both, but I also think it can be changed. My husband and I have enjoyed inviting people over for dinner, normally just one or two people at a time (though a rather substantial crowd for a small apartment on Thanksgiving). We've enjoyed the conversation, the opportunity to get to know others much better in a small setting. We've enjoyed planning a meal, learning to be host and hostess. 

What's an easy way to increase the chances of survival of hosting friends for dinner (or brunch or lunch or any meal, for that matter)? Sunday. What if we saw a revival of Sunday brunches and dinners with friends, little celebrations of the Sabbath? It's a day of rest and a day to share conversation and food. If we attempted to invite guests on one Sunday a month, or every two months, then perhaps the art of hospitality would be kindled into remaining.

The Christmas party season will be here in no time, but where will the entertainment and hospitality be in January?  

On Sundays.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another contrast

There's something new everyday, and these days it's often not good.

In Britian, sickly newborns may be placed on the "death pathway."  

In plain English that means they will be left to starve to death, sometimes for 10 days, with no food or drink.

And it's in the name of not wanting them to suffer since their life will be less than "perfect."

Awful, awful!

But, of course, along with the terrible news that is accumulating in a world where we just have to be "God" at every moment, there are moments of goodness too.

A few come to mind right now.  It's not that they're happy stories, but they are beautiful stories of sacrifice, true compassion and authentic love, even in the face of suffering.

There's the story of Baby Vivian.

And Baby Joey.

And Babies Hope and Grace, who shared one heart.   

Even if the hospitals, the doctors and the medical world push egregious things like the "death pathway," there are courageous mothers and fathers who embrace the gift that has been given to them. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Quote book

"In the name of liberation from male 'domination,' women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine 'originality.'  There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not 'reach fulfillment,' but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness.  It is indeed an enormous richness.  In the biblical description, the words of the first man at the sight of the woman who had been created are words of admiration and enchantment, words which fill the whole history of man on earth." -- Bl. John Paul II 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"I was so lucky"

I've been involved in the pro-life movement for so many years that I often take for granted the pro-life and post-abortive testimonies I hear. But it's occurred to me that not everyone has heard stories of saved lives, abortion regrets and heroic defense of life. And even if someone has heard dozens of such stories, each story is unique and is good to hear.
So, here is a post-abortion testimony that I highly recommend reading. I came across it today and wanted to share:
In December of 1998, I was 23 years old. I lived with my parents and worked at a non-profit in the DC area. I was dating a DC rock icon, and that was, to me, the most important part of my life. Together, my boyfriend and I drank a LOT. So I was never surprised to wake up feeling hungover. Until the day I felt hungover without having partied the night before. Half way through the day, something clicked. I looked at a calendar. I had missed my period. I took a pregnancy test that night and was not the least bit surprised to see that it was positive. When I called Brian to share the news, he simply said, “Let’s take care of it.” I WAS SO RELIEVED. I felt so lucky to have such a caring boyfriend who wouldn’t make me face this “choice” on my own. He reassured me, “Don’t worry, I’ve done this before.” PHEW. So lucky!
When we arrived at the clinic, I checked in and Brian paid for the procedure with his band’s AMEX. That actually made me laugh. It was a little over seven hundred dollars, because I was lucky enough to be able to afford to be anesthetized for the procedure. So lucky. I remember very little about the procedure. I remember the abortionist introduced himself (though I didn’t feel like I was making the best first impression, there on the table in nothing but a surgical gown) and the nurse inserted my IV. He told me he had a daughter and actually started talking to me about mutual interests that she and I had. In retrospect, I am so disgusted. This father was making a living sucking the life out of women, and had the nerve to mention his own daughter to me. As he performed an ultrasound, he looked over my shoulder—the screen was behind me—and said, “Perfect! You’re just about eight or nine weeks.” Obviously I knew nothing about fetal development, but I felt so lucky that I was “just about eight or nine weeks.” And shortly thereafter, I fell asleep. When I awoke, I was being wheeled to the recovery room. I was helped into a recliner. Then I sat, in a room full of recliners, with girls who obviously couldn’t afford the anesthesia, who were all sobbing. I felt so lucky sitting in that room, thinking I must be the only one with such a wonderful boyfriend who would help me through this. When I had waited long enough, Brian picked me up. He had been at Home Depot to pass the time. Seriously. He was considering home improvements while a child of mine (maybe not his) was being killed. It really was no big deal. I was so lucky.

You can read it all here.  And I highly recommend that you do.  This excerpt is no way to end the story!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The doctor and the teenage girl

I came across two articles today.  The first says that the American Academy of Pediatrics has released a new policy statement, encouraging pediatricians to inform their teenage patients about emergency contraception, and to write a prescription for "Plan B" if the patient is sexually active.  

Secondly, I read an article about a teenage girl in Great Britain who suffered seven heart attacks in a matter of minutes, as well as hundreds of blood clots, which doctors now say were caused by one month on the Pill.  

Most emergency contraception is an incredibly strong dose of the Pill.

A teenage girl nearly died from one month on the Pill.  (And she's not the only one.)

Our pediatricians think teenage girls should have immediate access to emergency contraception.  

Is this caring, insightful, good medicine for the true good of the patient?  

I think not.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

"The Mass of the Very Old Men"

I really enjoy Elizabeth Scalia's writing. She's honest, eloquent, observant ...
In her recent piece for First Things, she captures the beauty of masculine spirituality ... at 7 am Mass at her home parish. 
You'll read descriptions like this:
6:40 AM: Across from him, on the left, a stiff-kneed gardener brings his weekly gift to Mary–clippings from his own yard. Throughout the year he matches his seasonal snippings with the liturgical calendar and creates a cohesive narrative of shape and color. In the depths of winter, he brings promise with witch hazel and hellebore, and spring delivers the deep purple crocuses and irises so eloquent of repentance and sorrow; they are followed by graceful branches of deep yellow forsythias and then comes a riotous profusion of roses, day lilies, and coneflowers throughout the summer, before he quiets things down with the simple Montauk Daisies of September. Now, he is bringing the last of his storm-battered, rust-colored mums, intermingled with the few remaining pretty leaves and some acorns kept back from the squirrels. Soon he will bring the spear-sharp-tipped holly, marking Advent with a prophecy of Lent; the gifts continue.
6:42 AM: Behind me comes the rhythmic rattle of a rosary against wood, and I know that into the pew has slipped a cheerful small man who rarely does more than smile and nod because he does not like to admit his hearing loss, which reveals itself in his booming responses to the Mass.

And then hear the thoughts meandering through her head on an early Sunday morning.
Sit down with a cup of coffee and maybe leftover pie from yesterday and read, "The Mass of the Very Old Men."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!
As you enjoy your turkey today, don't forget about the gift of giving thanks.  It's a gift we have because we are human -- creatures with free will, intellect, the ability to love, and the means to express our thoughts, feelings and experiences.  

So give thanks!

And if you are looking for a little something to read while you wait for the potatoes to boil, or the dishwater to be full of suds, or the guests to arrive, then check out Cardinal Dolan's piece in the New York Post.  It's about giving thanks, yes, but it's also about the importance of not forgetting what it means to be human, what it means to be present.

The stores, we hear, will open on Thanksgiving. Isn’t that a sign of progress and liberation? Sorry, but no — it’s a sign of a further descent into a highly privatized, impersonal, keep-people-at-a-distance culture, one that values having stuff and doing things over just being with people whom we love, cherish and appreciate.

You can read the rest here.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An 80th wedding anniversary

Here's some good news for this day before Thanksgiving -- John and Ann Betar will celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary on Sunday.  John is 101 and his wife is 97 years old.  They shared their story and their advice with ABC News.  

I think one of the things I enjoy about these big anniversary stories is the way the reporters appear to ask the question, "What's your secret?"  There's a bit of shock that in such a divorce-heavy culture that two people would remain married for 60, 70, 80 years.  And I love that the response of the couples always seems to be one of great simplicity.  It's almost as if you can see the husband and wife shrugging their shoulders and saying, "I said I'd love my spouse and I do, and my spouse loves me."  

These couples don't have a formula or a secret ingredient to life-long love.  They have commitment.  They have faith.  They seem to have an understanding that they don't magically create marriage, but that they participate in it by accepting the call to marriage and living it fully, even during the inevitable hardships.

In any event, it's definitely worth a few moments to ponder the simple witness of John and Ann Betar

(Incidentally, their wedding anniversary is the feast day of the first married couple who were beatified together!  Their feast was also their wedding anniversary.  The Betars and the Quattrocchis would have actually been alive and celebrating their wedding anniversaries on the same day for nearly two decades.) 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"The boys and girls don't hold hands"

Anthony Esolen has an excellent piece in Crisis Magazine that begins with the observation that "boys and girls don't hold hands." They used to, of course, but walk onto a college campus today, and there's a striking absence of it. 
Read the column to learn why this is a problem and what Catholics can do about it. 
It is irresponsible in us, then, to let our youth muddle and meander; to suppose that marriage will eventually “happen.” For my whole life, the ecclesially minded have asked, “What can we do to keep our youth in the Church?” And their attempts haven’t worked, because they have viewed young people as consumers of a churchly product, rather than as boys and girls, young men and young women, with obvious natures and needs.
So then—I call upon every parish in the United States to do the sweet and simple and ordinary things. Not everybody can speak learnedly about church architecture. Not everybody wants to hear about that. Not everybody can speak learnedly about grace and free will. Not everybody wants to hear about that. But everybody can learn to sing, everybody can learn to dance, everybody can watch a good movie, everybody likes a picnic, or a hike, or a trip to the beach, or a goofy time at the bowling alley, or a softball game, or an ice cream social, or coffee and tea and doughnuts. It is not good for the man to be alone—or the woman!

You can find the article here

Monday, November 19, 2012

The court room -- perhaps an unlikely place to save a life

Perhaps you have followed the story of Elisa Bauer, a 32-year old woman in Nevada who was nearly ordered by the court to have an abortion.  If you aren't familiar with Elisa's story, or if you are interested in an excellent overview of the last few weeks, be sure to read Joan Frawley Desmond's report in the National Catholic Register. It's a story we should be acquainted with as we experience new hurdles in the task of building a culture of life.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quote book

"The new evangelization is not simply a reaction or a means of being relevant, but it is a relationship that communicates Christ to others through our living in communion with Christ." -- Msgr. Brian Bransfield in "The Human Person According to John Paul II" 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"A Little Girl Called M.C."

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse has a gift of articulating the reasons for marriage to remain marriage -- a lifelong institution that one man and one woman may freely enter together. She has an excellent explanation of one effect of same-sex "marriage" on children, and, in her column, in particular on a little girl known in the court as M.C.
A little girl known only to the public as M.C. is a public victim of the redefinition of marriage in California. If lukewarm Christians are tempted to sit out the marriage battle because they find it too contentious and emotional, they might give a moment’s thought to the situation of M.C.

Little M.C. was born in March 2009, to a woman named Melissa. Melissa had contracted a marriage with a woman named Irene in October 2008, during the window of time that same-sex marriage was permitted in California. Melissa had become pregnant with M.C. by a man named Jesus in the summer of 2008, prior to the state-sanctioned “marriage” ceremony.

Melissa and M.C. lived with Irene for 3 or 4 weeks after M.C.’s birth. When Melissa moved out, Irene attempted to obtain joint legal and physical custody of M.C. Melissa got in touch with Jesus, the child’s father, who had since moved to Oklahoma. He sent her money, and stayed in contact with her.

Melissa was not happy with Irene’s continuing attempts to be involved with her and M.C. In September 2009, Melissa’s new boyfriend, José, attacked Irene, stabbing her so severely that she had to be hospitalized. Melissa was imprisoned, charged with accessory to attempted murder.

M.C. was taken into foster care. At that point, the urgent question arose: Who are her parents? Who can and should care for M.C. while her mother, Melissa, serves her prison sentence?

Dr. Morse outlines the case and its implications for the country here. It's definitely worth reading and sharing.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stuff Christian singles hear ... over and over and over again

I found this on Sr. Miriam Heidland's blog and found it quite true.  It's both amusing and sad.    

What's the answer to living singleness well?  I think it's to surrender all to Christ, continually trying over and over again to do so, to place one's trust and one's whole self in the Lord's hands, and to admit that awaiting a vocation is a kind of suffering.  Certainly, good things can come from the waiting and the discerning and the trust and the patience, but it's also true that awaiting an opportunity to give one's self in a vocation for a life of love (whether through marriage or the consecrated life) is difficult and a suffering.  The question then becomes, what do we do with this suffering?  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Witnessing Life-Long Love"

Several weeks ago, I mentioned the Love and Fidelity Network's essay contest. The winners have been selected, and the first and second place essays are now available on the Network's blog. The first place piece is written by Courtney Skipton Long and begins:
In September of 1977, a young, twenty-three-year-old man promised himself to his twenty-year-old bride. Forever. She wore white. He wore a tux. The flowers were the shades of autumn. It rained on their wedding day.

Their story is perhaps not all that different from most other early-stage Baby- Boom marriages of the 1970s and 80s. They met in high school, she went to college, he worked, they moved around, settled down, and then started a family.
As a child I understood the significance of a wedding. I understood that you found one special person and promised yourself to them. Forever. But, I never thought about what it actually meant to be married. For me, it was just some far-off day. I will wear white. He will wear a tux. The flowers will be the colors of spring. It will be sunny.

My mother always says that she married her best friend. My father is of fewer words, but you can tell that he married the girl of his dreams by the sparkle that is always in his eyes. As my parents celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary this year, I found myself wondering, “how am I going to emulate my parents’ marriage?” For a single girl this might seem like an odd question. But, like any want-to-be-married person out there, I am still looking for my version of my mother’s best friend.

You can read all of the essay here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Another home run by Cardinal Dolan

The United States bishops are meeting in Baltimore this week, as they do every November. This morning, USCCB president Cardinal Timothy Dolan addressed them. His choice topic surprised many: Penance.
To be sure, the sacraments of initiation - - Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist - - charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization. Without those sacraments, we remain isolated, unredeemed, timid and unfed.

​But, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance -- a repentance from within that can then transform the world without.

​What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.

​We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? "The Kingdom of God is within," as Jesus taught.

Read it all here. If you have time for nothing else, take a good look at section II, which has some insightful, beautiful and challenging lines.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quote book

"Must all women become religious*** in order to fulfill their vocation as women?  Certainly not.  But it certainly does mean that the fallen perverted feminine nature can be restored to its purity and led to the heights of the vocational ethos which this pure nature indicates only if it is completely surrendered to God.  Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloistered walls, she must be a handmaid of the Lord everywhere." -- St. Edith Stein 

*** Note: Religious here refers to the consecrated vocation of nun or sister.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

What does the legal "redefinition" of marriage mean for us?

... In part, that we have to live the reality of authentic marriage even better.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said in a statement, "I especially call on all people to pray and to build a renewed culture of marriage and the family. This is a fundamental task on which the future good and stability of our society, and particularly that of our children, rest."
He also explained that the legal "redefinition" of marriage does not change the reality of the institution of marriage, which will always be unchangeable.  

You can read his statement here.

Reaffirming authentic marriage is going to be an incredible challenge in our culture, but since marriage is the ultimate expression God has chosen to reveal His love to His people since the beginning of creation, it's incredibly important to protect, defend, affirm and celebrate the gift of authentic marriage in our culture.  

The USCCB has for years asked the question, "What have you done for your marriage today?"  It's time to start asking us all, "What have you done for marriage today?" 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Beauty will save the world

Originally on Catholic Exchange's TOB "channel" and probably once upon a time on this blog as well ...  But I think it's something to consider anew, especially during our current times ...

In reading George Weigel’s concluding volume on John Paul II’s life, The End and the Beginning, I was struck yet again by the beauty of Polish culture.  It strikes me whenever I read tales of Catholic Poles secretly and even dangerously protecting their identity through various cultural expressions.  They would share poetry, act out Polish plays, enjoy a clandestine concert.  And through their culture – poetry, music, plays, art – they were able to preserve a sense of their dignity and of their identity as Poles.  In the face of horribly demeaning, dehumanizing behaviors surrounding them, they looked at the beauty of art and true culture and were raised to something higher.

But what do we have?  I wonder if we were underground Catholics attempting to reinvigorate our sense of dignity and our American identity, what would we share?  Would we reminisce over Shel Silverstein poetry, risk our heads over some Lady Gaga tunes, and illegally perform SNL skits?  What “culture” have we cultivated in the last fifty or so years, and would it be worth risking our lives over?  Is it even culture? 

In his, “Letter to Artists,” John Paul II wrote about the importance of true art, even going so far as to say that “the Church needs art” (#12).   Artists have a calling to represent the beautiful, and beauty has a key role in our lives.  The late Holy Father wrote,
“Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence.  It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future.  That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy.  It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: ‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!’” (#16).

Do we surround ourselves with beauty?  Our dear Polish brothers and sisters of yesteryear were willing to risk their lives for beauty.  We have all legal freedom to visit the art museum, listen to Mozart or watch a Shakespearian play, but how often do we enjoy these things?  Are we more likely to flip on reality TV, bob our heads to rap on the radio or spend our time reading chain e-mails?  When do we have the opportunity to walk into breathtaking churches that truly raise our gaze heavenward?  How often do we encounter true beauty? 

I think true beauty is so foreign to us that many times we can’t appreciate it.  True beauty requires the patience of taking time to appreciate it.  For me, John Paul II’s poetic language is deeply beautiful, causing me to highlight, underline and asterisk much of his masterful imagery.  Yet time and time again I hear people complain that John Paul’s writing style is too much for them.  I hear variations of, “I mean, come on, John Paul, just get to the point!”  But maybe the beauty and the poetry and the necessity of patience to receive it is part of the point.  And we are missing it. 

On that note, let me quote the Holy Father in his aforementioned “Letter to Artists” when he challenged, “Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy” (#16).   

While these words are directed to artists, those of us on the receiving end of art and beauty can certainly pray to be led “to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy.”  And in our pursuit of true beauty and authentic culture, may we be led to a deeper encounter with the Author of beauty.

Let’s make this a time of seeking true beauty, for as Dostoyevsky once wrote, “Beauty will save the world.”