Monday, December 29, 2014

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, is Anything But Solemn!

On January 1st, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

I like Mirriam-Webster's definition of solemnity:   formal or ceremonious observance of an occasion or event.  Proms are formal. So are most weddings. They are certainly not solemn. In fact, they are celebrations.

So why should we celebrate Mary?  Because God chose her as the vehicle for His Son's entrance into the world. Because all of Heaven held its breath when she was asked to take on this incredible mission, and she said yes. 

Mary gave us the perfect example of how we should respond to God. No matter how impossible His request, He will give us the necessary tools and support to carry out our mission.

All we need to do is say yes. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Joy Moves Like Sand

Image by S. Sepp
Wikipedia Commons
There are so many times when I've wanted to kick someone to the curb (metaphorically) for the ignorant things they've said about Christ or the Catholic Church.  Approaching people this way is like hammering a square peg into a round hole. The message might get through , but there would be a lot of breakage along the way.

The better option is to respond with love.  Love moves like sand through an hourglass. No matter how small the entryway, no matter how tightly closed the heart, love can work its way through those crevices and begin to build up, like the sand at the bottom of the hourglass.

Our first response is usually to take the devil's way. To holler. To outshout. To criticize or condemn (righteously, of course.) Satan loves conflict, because he's all about dividing and shattering relationships.

Try love next time and see what happens. It might not work right away, but as the reservoir builds up, soon love will become the dominant force.

Why not give it a shot? It worked for Christ.

And if you want to share the good news about how it worked, or complain how it didn't work (yet), I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Incredible Gentleness of God's Will

When we think about doing God's will, the images that come to mind are the extremes--St. Francis of Assisi who gave up all of his many worldly possessions, or the  Christian martyrs who gave up their lives, including 11 out of 12 apostles.  Or we worry that we will be ridiculed like the prophet Hosea or tested like Job. It's no wonder we  hesitate before offering to do only what God wills.

But God is very gentle with His creatures.

Today, I felt a strong pull to drop by our parish office. I chatted for a few moments with the single employee who had been left alone to cover for the day. From there, I was headed to the post office, and I offered to take the mail. She smiled with great relief, because she was going to have to take the mail herself after work. God wanted to give her a break, and He wanted to use me as His instrument.

Another time, I couldn't get it out of my head that I should walk up the street and visit an elderly neighbor. She was so happy to see me. She was moving to a retirement home and wanted to talk to someone not directly involved in the decision (her children) about her anxieties. God had called me to simply be there and listen.

There are so many saints who have been called to suffering, but if you read their stories, they were at a point in their spiritual life where they welcomed suffering to bring about greater good.

If we learn to listen to His voice, we can see many opportunities to do His will throughout the day, and most likely they won't involve torture or poverty.

He is the whisper, not the storm, and we are the voices and hands and feet that carry out His plan. It's an intricate plan with many small steps.

Don't be afraid of doing His will. He's a gentle God who will make it easy for us.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Dr. Who and God Have in Common

I was watching an episode of Dr. Who the other day. In this episode, the moon was a gigantic egg, and it was hatching. Human beings had to make the choice whether to allow a unique baby life form to live, or to nuke the egg and the enclosed life form and save humankind. That was the choice they thought they had to make, and Dr. Who wouldn't make it for them. At the last minute, they spared the egg. The moon hatched, and in its place, the life form left another egg, so the earth still had its moon.

There are so many analogies here: the value of unborn life, trusting in God, but what I really found interesting was the reaction of the character Clara.

Clara, the allegedly independent, spunky gal, was angry that she had been left to make the choice. No, she was furious. Here is the conversation, paraphrased.

Before the decision:

Clara:  Tell us what to do.

Dr. Who:   I'm not a human, and this is a decision that will determine the fate of human beings. This is too big a decision not to make on your own.

After the decision:

Clara:  How could you leave us? Why didn't you help us choose? You abandoned us.

Dr. Who: I respected you enough to let you make the choice.

Wow. That's exactly how it is with God.

The Creator of the Universe, the all-powerful Lord of all, respects us enough to let us make the ultimate choice--whether to be with Him forever or not.

And yet we rail against Him for our bad choices.

We consider the choice between Heaven and Hell unfair.  How could You be so cruel as to send anyone to Hell? Ahhh,  He doesn't make that choice. We do.  As Father Michael Schmitz points out, it's not a case of God sending you to Hell for (insert mortal sin here), it's a matter of you choosing (insert mortal sin here) over going to Heaven.

We want to be treated like grownups, but when it comes down to the tough stuff, we want the security and absolution of small children.

In past episodes of the program, the character Clara has been condescending to this 2,000-year-old genius.

How often are we condescending to God?  You came and told us what You wanted of us, and we keep second-guessing You, as if we know best.  Marriage? Sex? Life? The Eucharist?  We'll decide how far we'll believe You. We'll pick and choose what fits into our wants.

I seem to remember some people (and angels) from Geneses who had the same opinion.

The actors in Dr. Who are top-notch, but the writing over the past few years has gone to the dogs. Once in a while, you can find a nugget of truth in anything.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Taking God for Granted

It's so easy to take things for granted.  I remember how excited I was when I got my Kitchenaid blender. I bought all of the attachments, vowing to grind my own meat and roll my own pasta. I loved that it was deep red, which was a bold color choice for me. My entire kitchen routine was about to change.

Two years later and I store plastic grocery bags in the bowl.

It's not just things that get taken for granted.  Growing up, I took it for granted that my parents would always be there for me. That they would always love me. The latter happens to be true, and as for the former, so far so good.

I was sitting in Adoration the other evening, right in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and I caught my mind wandering. It's not as if this hasn't happened in the middle of a conversation before, but it suddenly struck me that I was taking it for granted that I was seated in a chapel ten feet from the God of the Universe!  

He was right there, in the monstrance. Body, blood, soul and divinity.

That shook me a little.

Isn't it great that He loves me anyway?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows and Why She Fills My Birthday with Joy

My grandmother used to tell me that I was lucky. "You were born on a beautiful day in September on a day of Our Lady."  It wasn't until last year that I became curious which "day of Our Lady" that was.

September 15 is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

My first thought was, "That's not a very happy thought."  But then I realized how powerful that tribute is. It was through her sorrows that Mary shared in the redemptive mission of Jesus, just as it's through the sorrows of our own personal crosses that we grow closer to Him and give Him glory.

There is a chaplet for Our Lady of Sorrows, and it wasn't until I read Our Lady of Kibeho that I learned the source.  Though devotion to the her sorrows dates back to the beginning of the Church, the chaplet came about in the 13th century and, more recently, was given to world again through a young visionary in Africa. Here is a beautiful video on Our Lady of Kibeho:

The seven sorrows of Mary are

The pronouncement of St. Simeon that a sword would pierce her heart.
The flight into Egypt.
Losing Jesus in the temple.
Meeting Jesus on the way to the Cross.
The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus.
The piercing of the side of Jesus and His descent from the Cross.
The burial of Jesus.

The simplest way to say the chaplet is to pray 7 Hail Marys while meditating on each of the sorrows, but here is a more detailed information on the devotion, chaplet and novena to Our Lady of Sorrows, as well as the promises attached.

I am very lucky indeed to have been born on a day dedicated to meditating on the sorrows of Mary and thereby on Jesus' passion.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pray, Pray, Pray is the Answer to Every Question

Notre Dame de Medjugorje from

I know the official Church word is still out on the appearance of the Blessed Virgin at Medjugorje, in part because the Church typically doesn't rule on apparitions until they have ended, but the message coming from the Mother of God is one that we should be able to follow in good conscience whether we believe in the apparition or not; whether we believe in the intercessory power of Mary or not.

She has been appearing there since 1981, and she consistently tells us:

Pray, Pray, Pray

It's difficult not to get depressed or worried by the slaughter of Christians, the sexualization of children, the objectification of women, the attacks on Church teachings by our own government and other alleged Catholics in power, and the general descent of our culture into hedonistic, anti-Christian paganism.

We have been warned, time and time again, about what's happening in our society and what's to come, and we've ignored those warnings, justified our wrong-doings, and relieved ourselves of the responsibility of speaking the truth.

The answer to all of it?  Keep on praying. Trust in Jesus.

In the message from the August 2, 2014 appearance, Mary said, "To follow me means to love my Son above everything, to love Him in every person without making differences.  I call you anew to renunciation, prayer and fasting. I am calling you for the Eucharist to be the life of your soul. I am calling you to be my apostles of light who will spread love and mercy through the world."

I have a particular aversion to fasting because, quite simply, I'm undisciplined. I want what I want when I want it, and that attitude has played a big part in our descent from principled children of God to little piggies rolling around in the mud.

Jesus had mercy on us even though we didn't deserve it. He died for our sins whether we loved Him or not, whether we had abortions or murdered someone or treated another with detestable smugness or racism. He died for us whether we beat our spouses and children or drank away our lives or treated our bodies like trash, having sex with any available partner under the guise of a "good time."

If He can do that for us, can't we hold our tongue when someone insults us?  Be kind to that stranger who smells funny? Skip that third latte and give the money to the poor?  

He's not asking much, but the reward will be great. Mary also said,"When you come before my Son, in your hearts he will see how much love you had."

Not how many toys. Not how successful a career. Not how many witty comments you made in His name.

How much love you had.

What can you do to increase that love today?  Here's a good place to start:


Monday, August 18, 2014

My Good Friday Talk on the Seven Last Words of Jesus

On Good Friday, 2014, St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church had a reflection on the "Seven Last Words" that Jesus Spoke from the Cross.  I was asked to reflect on the words "It is finished."  I've had enough people ask me about my talk that I'm posting it here:   

There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”

Our Lady of Good Counsel, where I grew up.
Picture from their web page.
It is finished. I might have spoken these words to Jesus as I wandered away from the Catholic Church. I had been raised in the 70's, and though I went to Catholic grade school and high school, it was a time when children weren't being catechized in the Rockford Diocese, with the thought that it would be above their heads and should wait until they were older, but older was too late.  When I began to drift away from the Church in my teens, I had nothing to hold onto, no foundation.  

Yet, even though my belief was waning, there was some part of me that still understood the importance of the Sacraments. I remember meeting with a teacher and crying because I didn't want to be confirmed. It would be wrong, because I just didn't believe. If I really hadn't believed, I would have waltzed through, no problem. I didn't catch the irony, that Jesus was reaching out to me in the hope that I might not leave Him.

I eventually stopped going to Mass at all. When I left the Church, there were plenty of people--plenty of ideologies--ready to jump in and fill the gap. We're made for worship, and if we're not worshiping God, we'll worship something else, whether it be money, work, good times, or, quite often, the self.

So I took the way of Eve. I know better than God. What does the
St. Therese of Lixieux, Doctor of the Church
Picture from EWTN
Catholic Church have to offer me? Sure, they have Doctors of the Church like St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Teresa of Avila. They have tradition that dates back 2,000 years and scholars and laymen and religious who have been studying and proclaiming and leading the way since the very beginning. What did they know compared to the latest pop psychologist or celebrity on television? So I went on ignoring God, or even worse, dismissing Him in a Star Wars mentality. The force is in everything. I was getting my religion from science fiction films.

I might have been finished with God, but He wasn't finished with me. He'd pop up every once in a while, in a pang of conscience or a warm childhood memory of Midnight Mass or the thought of the warm and generous priests and nuns I had known, but I'd push Him aside and go MY way.

I finally heard Him calling me back to Him and His Church a few years ago, but this time I listened. It was subtle. I missed the sense of community I'd grown up with, the social aspect of belonging to a group of people who believed in something greater than the thrill of the job or the excitement of the latest toy. Something greater than themselves. Something not of this world. And I missed that glorious way the beauty of the Sacraments and the traditions of the Church lifted my eyes up to God. 

I wanted to experience that again, so I made a half-hearted attempt to attend Mass. Infrequently. When I found time, because I was a very busy girl. Busy with stuff.  I had tried a few denominations, but they didn't feel right. I went to OLPH. I tried Saint Kateri, but you were too happy for me, and I was wary of emotionalism without foundation, or spirituality. I'd seen enough "spirituality" in the New Age practices when I lived in Los Angeles.

The final knock on the head was a copy of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis that I'd had on the shelf for years. I finally read it.  It's a series of letters written by the demon Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, giving him advice on how to secure the damnation of an ordinary young man.  One passage caught my eye.

"Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that suits him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches." 

Ouch!  He was talking about me.  Unfortunately, there were many other references in that book that were applicable to my relationship with God, and since this book was essentially a manual on how to get to Hell, I thought I better make a sincere effort to get back on the right path.

I made the decision that I would come back, not when I felt like it, but with a 100% commitment. And I would get to know, really get to know the Church and her teachings.  I started coming to Mass every week at St. Kateri because it was close and I'd have no excuse not to make it.  I learned that St. Kateri had Bible studies, and I joined.  I delved into the teachings of the Church, actually cracked open my Catechism of the Catholic Church, and I ate up those wonderful Lighthouse CD's--the ones we have on the welcome cart-- like they were candy.  

And I was amazed by what I learned.  That Jesus' yes to God in the Garden of Gethsemane--"Let your will be done."--was a reversal of Adam's no to God in the Garden of Eden. That Mary was the new Arc of the Covenant.

I learned that every single one of us will live forever, but we get to choose where we will spend it.  I learned that when Jesus died on that cross, that he knew every sin I had ever committed, every sin I will ever commit, and he still loved me enough to die for me so that I could be with Him for eternity. He died for me, personally.

I was amazed, but I was more than a little irritated, too.  Why hadn't I known all this stuff? Why didn't 12 years of religious education even touch on these amazing facts, and tidbits, and traditions?  And why hadn't anyone explained that I could have a personal relationship with God? That I could  talk to God, and that He would answer?

I also learned, through an incredible spiritual director, how to discern if it was God who was talking or the Enemy. For example,  I remember when I first began to attend daily Mass, I was embarrassed. These were REAL Catholics who were faithful, and they probably knew that I was an impostor. They'll think I'm arrogant or trying to be holier-than-though, or that I think I'm special because I'm here every morning. That would be the voice of the enemy, because of course God wants you to be at Mass if you can. 

The Enemy, however, will pop into your head for all he's worth to keep you away from God, and there's really only one way around that.

I began to develop a relationship with God, and in His infinite mercy, He timed it so that by the time my husband had a serious work accident that required emergency brain surgery and a long recover, I already had that relationship with Him.  Jesus and Mary were there to support me through the entire ordeal. It wasn't an easy time, but He actually gave me grace and, yes, joy during those rough times. And I reached that point in our relationship by talking to God, by spending those 10 minutes a day with Jesus that Father Albert mentions occasionally.  Those ten minutes will change your life.

I didn't come back to Christ and His Church because I was brilliant and figured out some equation to better living. I came back because He called and guided me back. I came back because, even though I thought I was finished with Him, Jesus wasn't finished with me. He still isn't.

I think that when He said "It is finished", He was referring to His time on earth showing us how to be his disciples, through examples, so that when He rose from the dead to conquer sin and death and eventually returned to the right hand of His Father, we would be prepared to carry on with his work, with His guidance and that of the Holy Spirit.

I couldn't find the artist attribute,
but this is one of my favorite paintings.
When Jesus told Peter to walk on the water, He showed us to always keep our eyes on Him.

When the woman was cured of the hemorrhage, he showed us we should always trust and have faith, no matter what the trial or how long it lasted.

When He called Zacchaeus the tax collector down from the tree and had dinner at his house, He showed us not to separate ourselves from sinners like the Pharisees, but to love them.

And when He said, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone" He showed us we were ALL sinners, that we should NEVER judge, but forgive, just as He forgives us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It is finished.

Christ's time on earth as man is finished, but His role in your life is not, if you will only invite Him in.

Take the next minute to reflect on that one thing that's keeping you from having a personal relationship with Christ. Your worries, your fears, that vice, that strained relationship, that past sin that YOU think He can't forgive. Hand it over to Him. Let Him in, because Jesus isn't finished with you.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Facilitating Trust in God with Author Connie Rossini

Connie Rossini is a wife and homeschooling mother to four boys.  She writes a spirituality column for  The Prairie Catholic, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota. She's the author of several books on spirituality and trust in God, and I am very happy to have her here on Bad Martha.

Welcome, Connie!

I first heard about your writing when I came across a copy of your book, "Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That will Change Your Life."  Change your life?  Of course I grabbed a copy!  How do you hope that reader's lives will be changed by reading your book?

Two of those lessons have been life-changing for me: the absolute necessity of daily prayer, and the importance of trust. I think we all have "aha" moments in life when we make huge changes in our outlook and habits. I tried to put together a list of some of the typical insights that help people change. And with each lesson, I gave one or two concrete suggestions for people who already know these things, but have not been practicing them faithfully.
 Carmelites are contemplative.  As someone who was pursuing the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (the 3rd order for lay people), were you surprised when your path led you to the decidedly public and active route of writing a book?  And what prompted you to write it?

 Not really. I've always been a writer, and I've been writing a spirituality column for the local diocese on and off for a decade. But there have been times when I've been tempted to quit, because I feel unworthy. I have a long way to go in my own spiritual life. My husband has encouraged me not to let that stop me.

I originally envisioned the book as a gift to my blog readers, a thank-you for subscribing. But once I put it on Amazon (as a favor to a reader who asked for a Kindle copy), it began to reach a much wider audience. That part did surprise me!
Your book, though bite-sized, actually includes more content than it first appears, because you have links to blogs you've written.   For writers who consider this a great idea,  did you write the blogs based on the ideas mentioned in the book, or include the ideas based on blogs you had written?

I wrote the posts first. I find it helpful to be really focused on my blog. It takes some months of blogging, I think, before a person is sure what his blog is really about. The Five Lessons book actually helped me to sharpen that focus. I want people who read it to know that if they come to my blog they're going to find a similar focus and perspective.

Your blog, Contemplative Homeschool, focuses on raising contemplative kids. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to homeschool their children in an environment they can control. What tips do you have for parents whose children are exposed to the secular school environment every day?

 Great question! Even though many parents put their children in a traditional school, it's still their responsibility to see that their children learn to live for Christ. The first thing we should all do is model the behavior we want to see in our children. That means finding time for daily mental prayer and making sure our children know it's our top priority. We also need to cultivate openness--openness to life, to the teachings of the Church, to God's grace, and to the needs of those around us.

We need to spend time with our children and limit their exposure to the bad things in the culture. I severely limit my kids' use of electronic media, because I want them to spend more time relating with me and each other. I also don't want them encountering threats to their faith at an age where they can't handle them.

We need to strive for a genuine love for God, humility, and a selfless love for our spouse and children. Then we can trust God to watch over our children's souls.

You have a new book that was just released, "Trusting God with St. Therese".  Readers can get the story behind the book here, but could you give us a brief account of why this topic is so personal for you?

 Trust has been an issue for me my whole life. Some of that's due to my temperament, but there were also some incidents in my childhood that hampered my ability to trust. The biggest was my sister's death in a car accident when I was six. I was sitting next to her before the accident. She had prayed for a safe trip that morning. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized how much that affected me. When I had my own kids, I feared that our prayers for safety were meaningless, because we could experience tragedy anyway. Frustration with my lack of spiritual growth also caused me to question God.

For those who aren't familiar with St. Therese of Lisieux's  little way, could you explain it?

 After doing the research for this book, I see that the little way is all about trust. St. Therese did not perform extraordinary deeds. She didn't have the strength. She began to see that great trust and love could take the place of great deeds. She performed little acts, not to gain merit for herself, but simply to please God and to offer for others. She believed we should remain humble, always relating to God as little children relate to their loving Father. A father is delighted with his children's efforts, even when the children are too little to do a job perfectly. He readily forgives their faults. Therese rejoiced at her littleness, because a very little child can be carried more easily than a big one. We need to let God carry us, rather than relying on our strength to make us holy.

What do you hope readers will gain when they read "Trusting God"?

I hope that they will recognize how very good God is, how loving, how merciful. God is not looking for a reason to punish us. I hope that readers will feel God lifting their burdens off their shoulders. I want to help them surrender their fears, doubts, and frustrations to Him, so that they can become the people God created them to be.

I love how you include action steps at the end of each chapter in "5 Lessons".  Do you do the same in "Trusting God"?

 Yes! Each chapter ends with questions for reflection and practical suggestions. I always try to give readers specific help.

What's next for you?

I'm working on a small booklet for parents called A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child. I hope to do a booklet for each of the four temperaments. I will include templates, book lists, projects, and memory verses, so parents can create a tailored plan of spiritual growth for each child.

Thank you, Connie!  Find out more about Connie on her website

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Lord's Prayer and the 10 Commandments

I realized as I was praying The Lord's Prayer one morning that it is really a call to follow the 10 Commandments.  Here is how it came at me:

"Our Father, Who art in Heaven"

1st Commandment -  I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.

Right from the beginning of this prayer, He tells us who to worship. We have one Father, one God, albeit a Triune God. He is in Heaven, not here on earth in the form of a celebrity or money or fame or fortune.  Whatever your focus is on, that is what you worship. Where is your focus? Another way to put it is What's the one thing that you can't let go of? If it's not God, it's getting the way of your relationship with God.

"Hallowed be thy Name"

2nd Commandment -  Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Most people think this commandment is just about swearing.  There's plenty of that going on in movies, television, and coming out of the mouths of teenagers (which probably means they heard it at home.)  It's more than that, though. It's about respect.

In the times of the Old Testament, if you uttered the name of God aloud, in any context, it was a death sentence. When you say, "Oh, my God!" or "I swear to God!" you are using His name loosely, without reverence. This is a big deal. Repeated use makes His name casual. Since when you say God you are calling on Him, you better have a better reason than you lost the reservations at your favorite restaurant.

If using His name casually should cause us concern, then using it to swear is even worse, and it's a habit we must break.

According to Our Lady, who appeared in 1846 at La Salette, France, she was struggling to hold back Jesus' arm for two reasons.  The first was because of the offenses against His Holy Name.

"If my people will not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son's arm. It is so heavy, so pressing, that I can no longer restrain it...The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son's name.  These (using Jesus'name in vain and not honoring the Sabbath) are the two things that make my Son's arm so burdensome." 

Here are some substations:  Good gad! Oh, my stars! My word! Better still, get clever. Liz Lemon of 30 Rock used to say, "What the what!" Not offensive at all, and kind of funny.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

So, what is His will?

3rd Commandment -  Thou keep holy the Sabbath day.

Another offense against God--the second half of Our Lady's message at La Salette, from Jesus.

"I have appointed you six days for working. The seventh I have reserved for myself. And no one will give it to me. 

In Egypt, the Pharaoh learned the hard way--through seven plagues--that God was serious about letting His people have the seventh day for worship. Dr. Tim Gray gives an excellent talk about this that makes it crystal clear what we should be doing on Sunday. He mentions that his family turns off the internet access on the Sabbath. I've been doing this as well, and it really helps keep my mind focused on what's important.

4th Commandment - Honor thy father and thy mother.

He gave us our parents. They aren't perfect, but it's His to judge, not ours.

5th Commandment -  Thou shalt not kill.

We don't have the right to take a life that God has given, including that of an unborn child, but it's more than that.

Words in anger can kill the spirit. Ask any child who's been verbally bullied or mocked.

VI  Thou Shalt not commit adultery.

Adultery kills a marriage. Casual sex kills the soul, slowly but surely. It objectifies the people involved, making them mere tools for sexual pleasure. Objectifying people is one of the favorite tactics of the enemy. Look at Communism.

"Give us this day our daily bread"

VII  Thou shalt not steal.

God gives us what we need. When we steal, it is a direct slap in the face to God. That includes stealing time from your employer by searching the internet and posting to Facebook when you should be working.

You can steal the glory that belongs to God by claiming it for yourself.

"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

VIII  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbors.

Gossip kills reputations. I can't imagine angels gathered around the celestial water cooler, gossiping about another angel. Yet we gossip and kill people's reputations loudly on Facebook. Why do we do it? Because we feel our opinion is justified. We need to smear this human being or politician (yes, they are separate species) in order to right a wrong. We feel they've given us offense by their words, their position, or their actions. And along the way, we fill in the details with conjecture instead of facts, make assumptions, and assign motives.

And of course there are lies.  The lies we tell about others to make ourselves seem more important. The lies we tell to revenge ourselves.  The lies we tell to get people to believe something that's not true to get their vote, to batter the opponent, to gain financially.

"And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil."

IX  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.

X Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

Quite often, we envy because we have our eyes on someone else's blessings and not our own.  Adam and Eve had almost everything, but they wanted the one thing that wasn't theirs to have, and so they tossed away all that God had given them, and in the process, lost everything.  That's what we do when we covet what doesn't belong to us.

Isn't it amazing how Jesus gave us everything we needed in order to follow Him?  The Lord's Prayer is a simple prayer, one many people know, and it's a path straight to Heaven, if we follow the instructions.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Luminous Mysteries: The Who What Where How and Why of Christian Discipleship

There are questions at the forefront of every conscientious Christian's mind:  How can I live an actively Christian life? How can I reflect the face of Jesus to everyone I meet? How can I be like Christ? It sounds like a monumental task. It is. But Jesus made it easy for us by providing the example of His life in an instruction manual called the Bible.

The Luminous Mysteries hit the highlights of Jesus' ministry. They are like the crib notes of Christian living.  For those unfamiliar with the Luminous Mysteries, these are the Mysteries added to the Rosary by St. John Paul II to mark Jesus' ministry on earth.  When we pray the Rosary, we meditate upon each Mystery. How does it apply to me today?  What do I need to learn from it right now?What is Jesus showing me through this Mystery of His life?  Or we can simply soak it in.

The Luminous Mysteries spell out everything a Christian needs to know about how to live like Christ: Who What Where How and Why.  Those who pray the Rosary will notice I've taken liberties with the order of the Mysteries to make them fit the order of the questions, but I'm sure they will understand that the important part is the Mysteries themselves.


The Baptism at the Jordan.

"After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and [i]he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”  Matthew 3:16-17 

WHO is called to live like Christ?  We are. Everyone who was baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  With our baptism, we become followers of Christ, with the Holy Spirit as our guide.


The Preaching of the Gospel  

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Matthew 4: 17

Repent and Believe. This is What we're suppose to do. We repent of our sins so that God's grace can move more freely in us, and then we can embrace Christ's teachings more fully.

Repenting goes hand in hand with forgiving. "Forgive us our trespasses as You forgive us." You and I don't know what is in someone's heart, and you don't want to throw out Peter with the bathwater. Peter sinned BIG. He denied Christ. He tempted the Lord not to complete His mission on earth. He started avoiding uncircumcised Christians until Paul chastised him. Yes, Paul chastised the Church's first Pope. But it was done with love, and Paul didn't hold a grudge. Neither did Peter. We can't repent if we're not willing to forgive.


The Wedding at Cana  

When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. John 2: 9-11

Jesus wasn't ready to begin his ministry, but at the urging of his mother, he performed His first miracle and changed water into wine.  He did this to save the newly married couple from big-time embarrassment.  He saved their dignity.

Anywhere we see human dignity being molested, whether through hunger or homelessness, cruelty, or unjust laws, that is were we need to reach out and show the world Christ's love. It isn't just about being nice. Some of the biggest sins are sins of omission--not speaking out against evil. Not performing your role as mother or father to your children.

G.K. Chesterton reminds us that it is easier to help those unknown, unnamed people far away than it is to have patience with that uncle with the irritating habit or be kind to the neighbor with the barking dog. (my examples) We need to be active in the bigger picture of things - helping missions and campaigning against abortion - but we also need to love our neighbor, the one right here.


The Institution of the Eucharist 

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”  Matthew 26:26

Christ gives us Himself - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  He is the Word.  We need to read Scripture. We need to pray, not just listing off petitions, but forming an actual relationship with Him. We need to live in communion with Christ's teachings. To give us strength to do all of the above, he gave us Himself in the Eucharist. He gave us this amazing way to physically take Him into ourselves.  It's the most intimate and powerful support tool we have.  Don't settle for weekly Mass. Receive Jesus as often as you can at daily Mass.


The Transfiguration

And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.  Matthew 17: 2

Why?  Why should we follow His teachings?  Why should we make every effort to reflect His face to the world? Why does any of this matter?

Because Jesus is Lord.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Father, Help My Unbelief

Faith is a Gift. It's a grace from God. Our own faith may falter, and that's why the community of the Body of Christ is so important. It can carry us through those times we can't see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

I have faith.  If I rated it on a scale of one to ten, sometimes it's at the top of the scale, and it sometimes drops to a four or a five.  The latter usually occurs because I've unconsciously put too much importance on my role as a believer instead of on the power and mercy of God.

I've prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament for many dire situations. When the hubby was in his accident, I had the faith of expectant prayer. I knew in my heart that my hubby would be healed, though I always submitted, "God's will be done," and I was prepared to accept His will, whatever He decided.  There have been other life-threatening situations that friends and family have experienced, and with many of them, I felt confident that my prayers for healing would be answered.  Note that I did NOT have a premonition, and I wasn't given the gift of Prophecy (which is being a mouthpiece for God's Word.) Just a sure faith that it was God's will that these people be healed.

However, there was one woman who had a serious illness. When I would pray for her, I usually felt nothing, and when I did experience a sensation, it was doubt mixed with fear.  I cannot see into the heart of another, but from her choice of church, it seemed she didn't believe in Jesus. And I knew that her painful journey had led her into Pantheistic practices.

I worried that Jesus would not be able to work his miracle without her cooperation.

Mark 6:  Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Jesus couldn't work His deeds of power because the people didn't believe.  He could  have cured them all if He wished. He's God. But He wanted them to cooperate with His grace. And this was my worry.

By Spc. Lindsey Schulte [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What I had failed to recall was the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2.  Jesus was in Capernaum, and there were so many around Him that four men who had brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing couldn't reach Him. So they cut a hole in the roof of the house where He was staying and lowered their friend down to Him.

The passage never mentions the faith of the paralytic.  His friends  had faith, and through their faith, Jesus healed the man.

This woman had many people offering prayers for her. Many Rosaries were said for her healing. I forgot the power of the prayers of the community. I forgot the power of our  faith, and so, when the woman was healed, I felt joyful surprise.  I also felt shame.

I had faith in my prayers, but didn't have faith in the prayers of the community. I isolated my belief and made it dependent on my interpretation of circumstances, as if there were criteria to be met before Jesus would act.  Spiritual Pride.

We have The Prayers of the Faithful at every Mass where we come together as a community to offer our intentions.  This is a good reminder that the many can pray for the one, and that the one doesn't have to be in a good mood, or grateful, or even believe in order for the prayers of the many to reach God's ears. They believe, and that's enough.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Are You Clever or Kind?

We've all been there. That annoying situation, that in-your-face confrontation, that awkward moment that left you feeling like a fool.  It's the scenario that we replay in our heads thinking I wish I had said (insert clever comment here.)

We receive our training from movies and television, where even the five-year-old has something smart (and not the good kind of smart) to say to Dad. People spend oodles of time on Facebook and YouTube trying to win accolades for their clever put downs. 

But is clever always the best response? 

Here are two examples from my experience.

I was in a state capitol with a woman of Asian descent. We were wandering aimlessly when a security guard, who might have thought we were lost, said, "Your tour group went that way."  There had been a group of Japanese people taking a guided tour of the building, and he made the assumption that we belonged with them. This wasn't exactly a hub of international visitors, so he probably wasn't exposed to much ethnic variety.  He was trying to be helpful.

My friend assumed her most stereotypical Asian accent and said, "I not with them. I married to American doctor." She whispered the last with many nods and smiles as if it were a great accomplishment. 

She could have said, in perfect English, "Thank you, but we're not with them.'' That would have been nice. Instead, and I could clearly see this from the man's expression, she had embarrassed him. No, she took it a step farther. She rubbed his nose in it and humiliated him by making fun of him. I'm sure she felt very clever as we walked away. 

Backtrack to grade school.  I grew up in a largely white European and Hispanic neighborhood, but we did have a few black students at our Catholic grade school. One, whose name I can't recall, I assumed was a member of a foreign royal family.  He had rich, dark skin and a delicate bone structure, stood tall and slim and always carried himself with something more than dignity. He rarely condescended to talk to the rest of us. For some reason, this meant royalty to my 11-year-old mind. I probably associated it with an order to the young prince not to mingle with the peasants.  

John was the complete opposite. He was short, friendly, and very funny. Not class clown funny, but he often made us laugh with his wry comments and his celebrity imitations. One day, he told me that over summer vacation he planned to lay out and get a tan. I laughed my head off, assuming this was another joke. Then I noticed he wasn't laughing. He said, "What's so funny?" And in my wisdom, I replied, "Black people don't tan."  

John had a choice. He could have made me feel like an even bigger idiot than I already did, once I realized my error. It would have been difficult, as I was already searching for a rock to crawl under, but he could have. John chose to be nice. He simply explained that, yes, black people do tan.  He left me with something to think about. He opened my mind to question future assumptions.  And he left me in his debt for not raking me over the coals, for not assigning ill will where none existed. From that day forward, John ruled, as far as I was concerned.

The problem with clever, at least in the form that is worshiped by our modern society, is that it comes at someone else's expense.  We decide they deserve to be mocked for that comment or action and that we, in all our blamelessness, should be the ones to do it. We're looking for a rush--all those pats on the back from those who agree with us, the likes on Facebook, the re-posts. We assume we know their motives, their intent, and their entire life philosophy, and we never give them a break for misspeaking or simply having an off day.  

There have been many, many comments made by people I know and sometimes even like and respect that have been so off base, so ludicrous, that a clever response is almost made-to-order. And often theirs is a response to something I've written, so to hold back my clever comment means I may let them think that they were right. It takes humility, but I've managed to choose Nice so far, with God's help. 

Maybe they were repeating something without checking the facts. Maybe they are having a bad day. But even if they meant exactly what they said, I've kept the lines of communication open for future discussion, because I didn't embarrass them with my cleverness.

It could be as simple as the person who left the comment did not know that black people do tan. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Gentle Plea to Catholics: Stop Burying St. Joseph!

 I love St. Joseph. He is the patron saint of the worker, the Patron of the Universal Church, and a good guy to get to know. (Anyone known as The Terror of Demons is someone I want on my side. And that terror is caused not by Buffy the Vampire-like powers, but by his humility.)

And I love having statues or paintings of saints around the house. They are a reminder of the example set by these people--an example of how to live like Christ.

And, being Catholic, I believe in the intercession of saints, both those with a capital "S" and those friends and relatives who have passed on.  And with the popular book and movie "Heaven is for Real",  maybe Protestants will even believe. After all, one of the things that Colton does in heaven is pray for his father.

Finally, I understand that certain saints are the patrons of professions or situations, because in life, they either worked in these industries, worked miracles in Jesus' name for certain people, or received a certain miracle themselves.

St. Peregrine is the patron saint of those with cancer, because he was miraculously cured from cancer.

St. Genesius is the patron saint of actors. He was an actor, and legend has it that during a performance of a play that he wrote to mock Christians, (appropriately enough, during a baptism scene), he converted to Christianity. It cost him his life.

St. Monica is the patron saint of alcoholics. Her son, St. Augustine, embraced an immoral life, and she prayed for him for many years until his conversion.

Image from
I get it. These stories are inspiring, and people keep up these devotions because they've seen results.

And then we have the  "St. Joseph Home Seller Kit".

The practice is to bury a St. Joseph statue underground in order to sell your house.  Burying a statue is weird enough, but there is something particularly disturbing about burying it upside down.

I can even understand why people think of St. Joseph as an intercessor when they need to move. He uprooted the Holy Family and took them into Egypt and back again at the advice of a messenger of God, which was a difficult task.

And I want to be clear:  I'm not questioning the intentions of people who bury the St. Joseph statue.  I just don't believe they've thought through what there actually doing.

Here is an example:

My mother wants me to visit her, so she buries a Jackie doll in her backyard to get me to come.

First off, I would be flattered that I had my own doll. Then I would be incensed that Mom would bury it in the backyard. I mean, why not just ask me?

And there it is in a nutshell. It's all about relationship, whether your talking to Jesus or Joseph.  Neither Christ nor his saints (including His mother) are at our beck and call. Performing rituals to get something out of them is a bit impersonal, insulting, and, dare I say it, pagan.

Does this mean you shouldn't ask St. Joseph for his help?

Not at all, but have a conversation with him! Tell St. Joseph your need, and ask him to intercede for you. You would ask family members to pray for you, and St. Joseph is a member of that big, extended family--the Body of Christ, also know as the Universal Church.

I know that many Catholics look on this practice as a harmless old wive's tale, but I think that it demeans both the importance of St. Joseph's role in Jesus' life and the relationship that should exist in prayer, whether you are praying to Jesus or asking for the intercession of a saint.

You can be confident in your prayer, knowing that God answers all prayers, but have the humility to understand that it will be according to His plan and His will.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in asking St. Joseph for his intercession, but please do it in a respectful manner!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Divine Mercy Saved My Sanity

Where to start. Probably with how I was losing my sanity.

My husband had been in a terrible work accident. He had to undergo emergency brain surgery, and they were keeping him sedated, so I had no idea how he would come out of it.  There were side issues, but I think that's enough of a cause to push a wife to the brink, don't you think?

Now, for an explanation of Divine Mercy. 

Sister Faustina, a Polish nun, had mystical experiences where Jesus appeared to her over a period of time. To sum it up in my own words, He said that His Sacred Heart hurt because it was overflowing with Mercy, but people weren't coming to Him for His Mercy. That's the short version. You can read Sister (now Saint) Faustina's diary
 Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska for more information, and I recommend that you do. This was a private revelation, so Catholics can make up their own minds whether or not they believe it, but it was vetted by the Church to make sure nothing conflicted with Scripture or the teachings of the Church, and it received their approval. And it's so important!

The Divine Mercy Chaplet

The chaplet is said while gazing on an image of Jesus with red and white rays coming from his Heart. At the bottom are the words "Jesus, I Trust in You". 

The original Kazimirowski painting.

Here is an excerpt from the Diary that explains the meaning of the rays: 

During prayer I heard these words within me: The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the water that makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls ...

These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when my agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.
 (Diary, 299).

On the Our Father beads, you pray the words, "Eternal Father, I offer you the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world."

On each Hail Mary bead, you pray the words, "For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."

On Wednesday evenings, I would go to the chapel and pray the Divine Mercy chaplet. We would sing it, which added a dimension to our prayer. I also prayed it over my husband, and I prayed it at the hospital with his mother.  

I received such consolation from Him and a feeling of peace--that everything would be alright, and He would be with me through all of it. 

I received His Mercy.

It pains me that so many have turned away from Jesus, or that they think they don't need Him any longer, even if they believe. He died for us and rose again to open the gates of Heaven, that we might be with him for eternity. He made it possible. He issued the invitation.

We need to cooperate with that Grace every day. We sin, which separates us from God. We undergo trials. More Christians have been martyred over the past century than all the previous centuries combined, and it's on the rise. We still desperately need His Mercy, and so it it necessary to say: 

"Father have Mercy on us, and on the Whole World."

Monday, February 24, 2014

"My Life with the Saints" by James Martin, SJ, is an Easy Way to Discover Some Saints

Many people turn to Saints in times of trouble, for example, or for intercession. It's like having an older brother or sister who faced the same situation you're going through, one you can  turn to for inspiration or advice. They are our cheerleaders, leading us to Christ through their examples.

There are Patron Saints for various illnesses, professions, and attributes. St. Peregrine, who was cured of cancer, is the Patron Saint of those suffering from the disease. St. Therese of Lisieux, also know as The Little Flower for her little steps to Jesus, is the Patron Saint of depression. I think Blessed Mother Teresa will probably be the Patron Saint of the marginalized.

I would like to learn more about Saint Jerome, because it sounds like he had the same difficulty I have with playing nice. His biting sarcasm made him enemies, even in the Church. Like when he snarked about some Roman clergy,  "All their anxiety is about their clothes.... You would take them for bridegrooms rather than for clerics; all they think about is knowing the names and houses and doings of rich ladies." Ouch.

Have you ever wanted to meet a few Saints but you just didn't have time to delve into their lives detail? Or maybe you weren't sure which Saint might speak to you -- who you might relate to -- and you didn't want to pick through several books.

"My Life with the Saints" is one book that contains stories of many saints.  Written by James Martin, SJ, (that would be Society of Jesus, which makes him a Jesuit) Father Martin introduces several Saints he met during his journey as a priest. Told in an easy-to-read conversational style, the book relates how Father discovered each holy person and what he learned from their example.

Saints he covers include Joan of Arc, Therese of Lisieux, Ignatius of Loyola, Thomas Merton, the Ugandan Martyrs, and Mother Teresa. You can see from the list that not all are canonized Saints and not all are individuals, but  all of these people lived their faith with conviction (and sometimes died for it,) and their example can bring us closer to Jesus.

Winner of the Christopher Award, which salutes media that  "affirm the highest values of the human spirit."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Was Miley Cyrus Sexually Abused? Why Isn't Anyone Asking?

From this

To This

We see her onstage imitating fellatio, simulating sex with older men, and masturbating with a giant hand. We giggle or gasp or frown. Feminists say it's just a woman expressing herself and are pleased. Those with solid moral standards dismiss her behavior as slutty.  Some men (especially father's with daughters) are shocked; some men, those who appreciate a chance to objectify women, are gratified.

Why isn't anyone asking the obvious question? Is Miley Cyrus' behavior a result of having been sexually abused?

Sexually abused girls, with their lowered sense of self worth and their skewed view of sexuality, tend to act out. They sleep around. They use sex for attention, or as a means to be loved. They have so little sense of worth that they believe how others view their body defines their value. Or they act out as a means of having control. Sound familiar?

You can hear the stories of those who have been abused from Oprah or Johnnette Benkovic. Or check out support groups for those who were victims of sexual predators. They all say the same thing: Their abuse resulted in promiscuity, which reinforced their low view of themselves.

Miley might have given us a clue when she labeled her congregation as hypocrites. Was her abuser someone she trusted? A youth minister? A member everyone else viewed as especially holy?

She also got into drugs. Sexually abused minors often turn to drugs to numb the pain and humiliation of what they've gone through.

There are so many clues pointing to this young woman's possible abuse, but our culture is so fixed on objectifying women that we're ignoring the obvious. From the media's emphasis on women as sexual objects to our politicians' push for sexually active minors, we're making it easier for abuser. Abortions for 12-year-olds without parental notification? A predator's dream come true. No awkward questions. No proof.

Is this young woman really enjoying herself? Or is she crying out for help?

We don't know, because no one has asked the question.