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.