Friday, August 31, 2012

Prayer requests

I can't even begin to chronicle the number of young couples I have known during the past year who have had complicated pregnancies and deliveries.  By complicated, I don't mean extra morning sickness or a week of bed rest.  These young couples have faced scary diagnoses, counsel to have an abortion and various losses -- losses of a baby or of faculties they would expect a healthy baby to have.  

Some of these couples are chronicling their experiences via blog.  Rod and Maria are following their one month old daughter's need for a heart transplant.  Matt and Maria are writing about the remaining months of pregnancy awaiting their baby boy who has anencephaly.

There are plenty of others who do not have blogs, but these two blogging Mamas remind us to pray for all who are in a similar situation, and to learn from their courageous witness for life and love.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Making the Domestic Church Beautiful"

My latest article on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's "Being Catholic" blog appears today --

As we unpacked piles of boxes in our first place together, my husband and I began with the practical items we knew were necessary for daily life – towels, dishes, lamps.  But amidst the rush to find the practical, I found myself more eager to uncover a tablecloth, placemats, cloth napkins, the salt and pepper shaker and other kitchen table items to set a beautiful table for breakfast. Why would a nice table matter when the rest of the apartment looked like an obstacle course of cardboard, bubble wrap and wedding cards?  Because beauty is proper to a home.
In the months during engagement, I was surprised to find myself questioning why people have “nice things” or decorate a home.  What about a spirit of poverty, I thought.  What about detachment to earthly things and a longing for heaven?  Why have cloth napkins when death is inevitable, and in heaven we might realize that paper towels could have worked just fine?

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For what did St. John the Baptist die?

Apparently my post this morning was more appropriate to the day than I first realized.  Only an hour or two later, at Mass, Father gave a great homily in which he asked, "Why was John the Baptist martyred?  Did he die for the doctrine of the Trinity?  For the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?"

"No," he continued.  "John the Baptist died for the true definition of marriage."

It's true.  John the Baptist was imprisoned and absolutely hated by Herod's wife because of his outspoken testimony that their marriage was not valid.

But Father continued, "What do we learn today on the memorial of John the Baptist's martyrdom?  That his death for the definition of marriage was a death for Christ.  The Church shows us that these two are linked."

It's a great message for all of us to consider today.  Our defense of the true nature and definition of marriage is linked to our defense of our faith in Christ.  

Since when does "couple" mean three

Throughout the article, "Three-Way Marriage Ignites Uproar in Brazil," I kept asking myself, "How does couple now mean 'three'?"

Apparently, two women and one man recently "married" in Brazil, and defenders say the "couple" has the right to do so.  

The article focuses on one thing that the three individuals share -- their bank account -- as if shared finances are the stuff of which marriages are made.

And then there's this comment:
International television network Globo TV claims that the couple has been married for three months but just recently their union was made public.
Jurist Nathaniel Santos Batista Junior said the union was kept hushed to protect the rights of the couple in case they decided to separate or if one of the partners died, said a report from Globo.


How is this marriage?  

If it's all about some shared money and it requires secrecy in case someone changes his or her or her mind or dies, and it involves three people, then what resemblance to marriage does it really bear?  Why is marriage now seen as a continually evolving, formless blob that caters to our every whim, fantasy and desire?

But, on the other hand, if marriage has an objective form, if in a way, we serve marriage and the purposes inherent to it, then the way we view this Sacrament and vocation will be very different.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What about using the Pill for health reasons?

It's a question I've heard dozens of times, and I always give the same answer: The Pill doesn't treat the medical problem; it masks the symptoms.  If the symptoms appear to be gone, I think there's no problem.  But the real medical issue can get worse, as I happily live my life, only later to be confronted by  the news that things are much worse.  It's a story that's played out so many times to so many unsuspecting women.  

But there is another way!

I was delighted to read this testimony on

The OB-GYN told me I had PCOS—Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, one of the more common reproductive problems women face.  She proceeded to give me a list of the consequences of this: you may struggle with infertility, excess facial hair, irregular cycles, and cysts.  This list was followed by a list of different birth control medications which ‘regulate’ my cycle and ‘help the problem.’ I asked to have my hormone levels tested, to which she responded, “We don’t do that testing for this because it’s fairly easy to diagnose…” and I asked about charting, to which she responded, “That doesn’t work for irregular cycles like yours.”
Holding back tears I listened to her sincere concern for treating my excess facial hair (chock full of ways to use insurance to get it paid for) while I silently wondered if I’d ever be able to have children.  I kept quiet until she finished her spiel and told her I’d like “not to treat” at this time. “And the bicornuate uterus?”
“Yes…it’s more like a birth defect and nothing can really be done for it.  Women who have them have higher risks of miscarriage, of baby in the breech position, and of infertility.  Women who have it are almost always automatically considered high-risk pregnancies.”
Needless to say I left the office and cried in my car before continuing through my day.  I was shocked at how it was handled: the difference in reaction between the ultra sound tech and the ob-gyn; the lack of further testing available; the lack of treatment; the concern for my appearance-level symptoms over the proper functioning of one of my body’s organ systems. 
For all the hype about being ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-woman’, I felt pretty degraded as a woman and completely out of choices after interacting with our current healthcare providers and system.
The whole encounter sent me on a search to find some real medical options and knowledge about my health.

Read it all here.

And look up pro-Natural Family Planning doctors here.  They do exist, and they are far better for women's health than a doctor who nonchalantly prescribes the Pill because it's the easy thing to do.   

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fighting for a Cure without Komen

I love this!  A mother of a Kenosis graduate began this alternative walk to fight breast cancer, and it continues to grow.  This year, Bishop Binzer will be present.  If you are in the Cincinnati area, check out this unique opportunity to raise funds to fight breast cancer, without supporting the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who in turn supports Planned Parenthood.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The War on Women

Kristine Cranley, a fellow graduate of the John Paul II Institute, has been studying St. Edith Stein's writings on women this summer.  She begins sharing the fruit of her labors in this blog post about the "war on women."  It's long, but well worth the time, especially for women to continue to learn who we are and who God calls us to be.

Just to get you started:

The claim that there is a ‘war on women’ going on is a serious accusation.  According to the news, women everywhere are under attack by the Catholic Church because of their refusal to pay for women’s contraception and abortion.  As a woman who works for the Catholic Church, these assertions affect me directly, because the accusers claim to be speaking in my name in their attack of my Church.  I have had to ask myself seriously whether I am truly under attack, and by whom?  Are Catholicism and Femininity intrinsically opposed to each other such that one is incompatible with the other?
The question has forced me to ask even deeper questions regarding the nature of femininity itself.  What does it mean to be a woman?  Are women essentially different than men or the same? Is there an ideal of femininity toward which I am supposed to strive?  What do I need in order to flourish and find fulfillment as a woman?  Do contraception and abortion help me to reach this fulfillment or distance me from it? 

Find it all here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

More info on "The Rich Gift of Love"

For those interested in learning more about Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP's new video lecture series, "The Rich Gift of Love," a few more details are available at the Newman Connection article linked here.   Thus far I have been unable to locate a release date or manner of release (website?  YouTube?), but my hunch is that the Newman Connection will keep us ... well connected with the details.

An exception for rape and incest?

Anyone who has ever gotten into a conversation or debate about the legality of abortion has been confronted with the above question.  It's a common come-back line from those who support the ongoing legalization of abortion.

But what about those who were conceived after rape or incest?  And what about the women who were victims of the crime?

There's more to the story than first meets the eye.  A recent commentary by Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner looked at the issue quite insightfully.  I'd have to echo the sentiments, after having talked to people in similar situations as well.  

The article?

Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin thinks that, as a scientific matter, Jenni Maas shouldn't exist. Mitt Romney thinks that, as a legal matter, Jenni didn't have the same right to exist as the rest of us do. Many others seem to think her mother should be ashamed that Jenni exists at all.
Jenni was conceived when her mother was raped by a boyfriend as a teenager. She is a human reminder of an uncomfortable truth denied and minimized by people on all sides of the abortion issue: Rape can result in pregnancy, which means it can create innocent babies.
"A lot of people like to sweep it under the carpet," Jenni told me Wednesday. But, if commonly cited statistics are correct, hundreds of thousands of Americans walking around today were conceived in an act of rape. Jenni, and legions like her, raise a tough question for pro-lifers who don't want to talk about rape cases. Her smiling face and growing family -- she has three kids of her own -- is also damning to pro-choice people who argue that abortion is a necessity for a woman impregnated by rape.

Well, that was just a sneak peak.  To read it all, click here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Rich Gift of Love: Coming Soon!

A major thank you to Kristen at "The Love of Christ Impels Us" for sharing this wonderful news!  Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, will be releasing 28 videos, each 20 minutes long, about self-gift, love and the Theology of the Body.  I have heard Sr. Jane Dominic speak before and could listen to her for hours.  Watch the trailer below, and be prepared for great things to come.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Catholic Speakers ... vote's almost over!

Brandon Vogt is hosting a fun (but challenging) opportunity to choose your 15 favorite Catholic speakers.  Time is running out, as the vote ends tomorrow.  Click here for the chance to weigh in with your favorites.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


This is an article from a couple of years ago, so the "January 7" refers to 2010, but I think the message is still quite relevant for today.  It came to mind recently, and I thought it was worth reposting (it first appeared in my column on


Pink.  Green.  Black.  Blue.

In the “spirit of breast cancer awareness,” on January 7, women furtively messaged each other to encourage posting their bra color on their status.  Soon, facebook was covered in a rainbow of colors, with women giggling at what they thought was their little secret.

Imagine their surprise when men began posting statuses and comments of their own:

“Ladies! Your colors. TMI!”

“I feel adequately aware of breast cancer thank you very much.”

Another man posted a color as his status.  When women began commenting, he wrote, “Oh, and if you girls got an interesting mental image, now you know how it feels...those mental images aren't fun...”

Judging by the ensuing conversations, most women seemed amused by the experience.  I was quite disturbed.

Unfortunately, an effect of the Fall is that men and women experience blindness to the reality of how the other thinks and acts.  Women were upset when men complained that seeing a particular individual’s bra color resulted in picturing the color on the person.  There was the usual flinging of blame and rally cries of, “Well, then that’s your problem.”

But whose problem is it?

No one should deny that men need to challenge themselves to purity of thought in such an instance.  However, what responsibility do women have to help them to better live a chaste lifestyle? 

Before becoming pope, John Paul II wrote, Love and Responsibility.  While the book is well-worth the read, even the title deserves some examination.  Integral to love, purity and friendship is responsibility for the other person.  He wrote, “ The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person the more true love there is” (Wojtyla 131).

John Paul further explained that modesty is not hiding or running away from love, but rather is opening oneself to love, with the ability to discover the wonder of the person as a person (and not just as a body or a collection of body parts).

This summer, in the midst of teaching Theology of the Body for Teens at Ruah Woods, one of the teen boys in the high school class broached the topic of modesty.  “I have a question for the ladies here,” the sophomore said.  “Are there ways that guys dress that you would consider immodest?”

The room sat in stunned silence, as young men and women alike began fidgeting, looking at their books and avoiding eye contact.  This young man’s earnest question inspired a spontaneous request that all of the students begin writing down what they would consider immodesty for the opposite sex.  More than twenty teens scribbled furiously, visibly taking the question to heart.  When they had finished their brainstorming, my co-teacher and I read the remarks aloud. 

The teens were quite honest and bold with their responses.  Young women shouldn’t let their underwear show, wear short skirts or shorts, or low-cut tops.  One young man wrote, “If your mother says it’s inappropriate, it probably is.”  Young men were challenged not to let their pants sag down, to wear a shirt and to avoid clothing that is too tight.

For the rest of the summer, the teens expressed interest in learning how they could better respect the opposite sex by their clothing, words and actions.  They learned to be more honest in sharing what could help them to better live a chaste lifestyle and found that they could be challenged in ways that would assist the opposite sex.

These teens came away with an invaluable insight – men and women are different, and in order to love one another, we need to learn how we can better respect each other.  Rather than blame struggles with chastity on the other individual’s “issues,” we have a responsibility to create a culture in which all of us living chastity is possible.

It’s time we all – men and women – take seriously John Paul II’s exhortation in Theology of the Body: “Christ [...] assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man; at the same time [...] he assigns also the dignity of every man to every woman” (TOB 100:6).

I imagine that most women never gave the color-status a second thought.  That’s a problem.  Each of us needs to consider how our actions, our words and our clothing affect the opposite sex.  To live purity in today’s culture cannot be an every-man-for-himself venture.  Truly embracing chastity requires consideration and respect of the other.

From our facebook statuses, to the shirt we choose to wear, to how we speak to an old friend, we are faced daily with challenges to living purity.  The words of St. Josemaria Escriva are just as relevant now as when he first spoke them, "To defend his purity, Saint Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, Saint Benedict threw himself into a thornbush, Saint Bernard plunged into an icy pond . . . You . . . what have you done?"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quote book

"The devil will try to upset you by accusing you of being unworthy of the blessings that you have received. Simply remain cheerful and do your best to ignore the devil's nagging. If need be, even laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Satan, the epitome of sin itself, accuses you of unworthiness! When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!"    -- St. Teresa of Avila 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A new look at Romeo and Juliet

Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith has a fascinating insight into the famed "Romeo and Juliet," which bears an important lesson for today.

What this play warns us about is the privatisation of love. Of course we admire Juliet and her Romeo, but the truth of the matter is, surely, that love is not a purely private matter. It has public resonance and the rite of marriage is always to be celebrated before proper witnesses, who represent the community in which the marriage takes place. Married love is a special relationship, but at the same time one of the many sorts of relationship that goes to make up the web of relationships that is society.
So, Romeo and Juliet and the Friar and the Nurse all ought to have given more thought to the needs, not just of the young couple, but of Verona itself.

You can read the entire commentary here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quote book

"Intense love does not measure ... It just gives." -- Bl. Mother Teresa 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Whether naps are necessary for salvation?

Anyone who has read even a few pages of St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologica" will appreciate this humorous attempt at answering the above question.  Read it here.

And I might add that a Saturday is a great day to put this advice in action.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Hopeless romantics"

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York always has a way with words.  He recently addressed the Knights of Columbus conference and spoke a bit about the Sacrament of Marriage.  

Let's start with the moment of humor:

It’s good to be in California; they love us here in Anaheim. Heads up, though: one of the bell boys here at the hotel did complain to me that we knights don’t tip that well. “We love these Knights of Columbus,” he said, “but, they arrive with the Ten Commandments and a ten dollar bill . . . and leave without breaking either!”
Carl, thanks for giving me the “honeymoon suite.” I was a bit surprised. Let me assure you that’s the first time that’s ever happened!
I am reminded of the story told by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Seems as if he, too, was offered the “honeymoon suite” at a hotel where he was to give a talk. It was in a southern city, at that time unfamiliar with Catholics. As Archbishop Sheen was leaving his honeymoon suite for supper, the housekeeping attendant asked if she could turn down the bed, and the archbishop told her he would appreciate such service. When he returned later that evening, sure enough, the bed was turned down, and there was a mint on both pillows. On one side of the bed was the archbishop’s pajamas laid out; on the other, apparently for Mrs. Sheen, was his beautiful lace alb he wore for Mass!
Which brings me to my topic: Marriage.


We are such hopeless romantics that we contend the best way to get a hint of how God loves us now, and in eternity, is to look at how you, married couples, love one another. “The love of a man and woman is made holy in the sacrament of marriage, and becomes the mirror of your everlasting love . . . ,” chants the Preface in the Nuptial Mass.
You see why we, mostly celibates up here, look out upon you married couples with awe? We gaze out now at thousands of icons, reflections, mirrors of the way God loves us.
Now, you are, we are, the first to acknowledge that this romantic, poetic, lofty, divine lustre of marriage can at times be tarnished a bit in the day-in-day-out challenges of lifelong, life-giving, faithful love.
Tension, trial, temptation, turmoil - - they come indeed, but - - just as Jesus worked His first miracle, at the request of His blessed Mother, for a newly married couple at Cana by turning water into wine - - so does Jesus transform those choppy waters of tension, trial, temptation, and turmoil, into a vintage wine of tried-and-true-trust in marriage.
So, brother knights and wives, I thank you for being such metaphors of God’s love; and I exhort you, please, to continue, now, more than ever, to be so.

You can read the rest of Cardinal Dolan's remarks here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

And we're back!

I've always been fairly insistent that this not be a personal blog, but during my six week active blogging hiatus, I did something I've never done before ...  I got married!  So, I suppose it's time to break precedent and be a bit more personal.  

On July 7, we had a beautiful nuptial Mass on the hottest day in Cincinnati in seventy-something years.  We were incredibly blessed to have five good priest friends concelebrating the Mass.

And after our vows and ministering the Sacrament to one another, we have begun our vocation!  One month later, we continue to learn each day how to love, how to give, how to receive, and how to embrace God's plan for our lives more fully.  Thank you for your prayers, and please continue to pray for us as we grow into our married vocation.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Oxytocin, Vasopressin and a Tale of Two Voles

I wrote this way back when for the blog I began for Pregnancy Center East.  The blog continues, passing through new hands whenever new chastity educators are hired, and so this post is still available there, but I'd like to repost it here.

Once upon a time, there was a meadow vole who was quite promiscuous in his behavior. He would mate with several voles and practically ignore his children. His cousin, the prairie vole, on the other hand, remained faithful to one female vole. So, scientists decided to give extra vasopressin (a hormone found in the prairie vole) receptors to the meadow voles, which have fewer vasopressin receptors.

"The results were remarkable. After the V1a receptor gene was introduced, the former playboys reformed their ways. Suddenly, they fixated on one female, choosing to mate with only her -- even when other females tried to tempt them," reported the BBC News.

The Role of Vasopressin

So, what does vasopressin do? And what does it have to do with humans?

The vole escapades interested scientists in researching vasopressin in humans. Although not much is known about its effects, many refer to it as the "monogamy molecule."

In an article entitled, "The Two Become One: The Role of Oxytocin and Vasopressin," Dianne S. Vadney wrote, "Essentially, vasopressin released after intercourse is significant in that it creates a desire in the male to stay with his mate, inspire a protective sense (in humans, perhaps this is what creates almost a jealous tendency) about his mate, and drives him to protect his territory and his offspring. The value of such tendencies toward the maintenance of marriage and family can easily be anticipated."

Economics professor, Jennifer Roback Morse wrote about vasopressin in her book, Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World. She says that although men may have a desire to have sex with multiple women, vasopressin helps them to counteract this tendency. She writes, "The man's body tells him that having sex with a woman puts that particular woman into a new and different category. This is not merely an attractive woman: this is a woman who may give birth to his child. She is, therefore, different from other women. The sex act has changed her from a potential sex object to the potential mother of his children, with all that this implies. No matter how sophisticated we think we are, our bodies continue to respond to the sexual act in this way."

Dr. Morse adds that vasopressin causes men to be jealous toward a woman with whom he has been sexually active. It also causes him to be loyal. She gives the example of the vast majority of men who go to great lengths to provide child support for their children, even if they are not permitted to see them. "The view that most men, most of the time, have no attachment to their sex partners is a caricature, a cartoon version of reality. While it may be true that men attach to their sex partners less than women do to theirs, men are not simply looking for a sexual release, but attach to their partners somewhat differently than women attach to theirs," writes Dr. Morse.

What about oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a hormone released in both men and women. Because a response is enhanced by estrogen, women tend to have stronger reactions to oxytocin, which is "thought to be released during hugging, touching and orgasm in both sexes. In the brain, oxytocin is involved in social recognition and bonding, and may be involved in the formation of trust between people and generosity."

So, how does it effect sexual relationships? There are a couple of ways oxytocin affects us in sexual relationships that have ended.

Dr. Eric Keroack said, "Emotional pain causes our bodies to produce an elevated level of endorphins which in turn lowers the level of oxytocin. Therefore, relationship failure leads to pain which leads to elevated endorphins which leads to lower oxytocin the result of which is a lower ability to bond. Many in this increased state of emotional pain and lower oxytocin seek sex as a substitute for love which inevitably leads to another failed relationship, and so, the cycle continues."

Based on the work of Dr. Keroack, we also have this explanation:

"An interesting finding in oxytocin research is the likelihood that oxytocin inhibits the development of tolerance in the brain’s opiate receptors. The excitement of sex is partly credited to endorphins exciting opiate receptors. As a human relationship matures, fewer endorphins are released. If sexual relationships are well bonded, though, the oxytocin response maintains the excitement despite how few endorphins are released. This keeps excitement present between oxytocin-bonded couples.

"In the same way, though, these studies reveal the rationale behind an inability of some to stay bonded in seemingly good relationships. People who have misused sex to become bonded with multiple persons will diminish their oxytocin bonding within their current relationship. In the absence of oxytocin, the person will find less or no excitement. The person will, then, feel the need to move on to what looks more exciting."

In Summary

Mary Beth Bonacci has a great summary of the normal effects of oxytocin and vasopressin: Oxytocin causes a woman to be forgetful, decreases her ability to think rationally -- and causes an incredibly strong emotional attachment to form with the man she is with. Men also produce some oxytocin during sexual intercourse. But their bodies also produce a hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin, called "the monogamy molecule," kicks in after sexual activity, and its impact is to heighten a man’s sense of responsibility. It encourages that part of him which says, "My gosh, she may be carrying my child! I’d better get serious about life! I’ve got to get to work, to provide for this family!"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Prayer for priests

Let's pray for our priests on this feast of St. John Vianney, their patron.

By the late John J Cardinal Carberry

Keep them; I pray Thee, dearest Lord.
Keep them, for they are Thine 
The priests whose lives burn out before
Thy consecrated shrine.
Keep them, for they are in the world,
Though from the world apart.
When earthly pleasures tempt, allure --
Shelter them in Thy heart.
Keep them and comfort them in hours
Of loneliness and pain,
When all their life of sacrifice
For souls seems but in vain.
Keep them and  remember, Lord,
they have no one but Thee.
Yet, they have only human hearts,
With human frailty.
Keep them as spotless as the Host,
That daily they caress;
Their every thought and word and deed,
Deign, dearest Lord, to bless.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quote book

"Yet this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive “power from on high”, enabling us to be salt and light for our world." -- Pope Benedict XVI