18 December 2010

Holy Mother, Holy Child, Born of Each Other

An ordinary day had suddenly become the most miraculous day in human history.  She was no longer simply Mary, no longer alone in herself. How astonishing is the news the angel has just given her! The God she loves above all else has called her name; called her to come receive the most splendid gift. He chose Mary, and she chose Him. And in an instant the God whom the universe cannot contain was safely tucked inside the darkness of her womb, growing and becoming. Though she could not feel Him yet, He was there. Not just in spirit now, but in her… part of her as He’d never been part of anyone before.

Weeks pass…she looks no different, yet she is the chamber that now protects the Holy One as He grows.

Then one day out of the blue she feels Him! That first exhilarating movement that feels like bubbles… so slight yet unmistakably baby.  Mighty God now softly stirs with delicate arms and tiny legs. He formed the vast oceans and filled them with marvelous creatures, and now He floats quietly in the warm, pure sea created only for Him.

Soon He is kicking her, pushing her, and forcefully! He enjoys doing flips in this private pool; His ears now hear the sound of her voice, and He is quickly taking up more and more space in her body. He has always occupied her heart, and now she looks down at her round belly, places her hand over the spot where He kicks, and marvels at how He has taken her over. She eagerly awaits the moment when she can kiss His tiny face, count tiny fingers and toes, and hold Him close to her heart…the heart He captured long ago.

Finally, the appointed hour comes, and He who gives life to every man and creature now waits for His own birth. I AM the LIFE waits for His first breath. She must deliver her Redeemer. And suddenly, there He is in her arms! Eternity was cradled sleeping in her lap.

The mighty, sovereign Lord she bowed before was now wearing the skin of her own flesh and nursing at her breast! To be twice overcome with fierce and tender love; once as a mother for her child, and again as a servant daughter of her Savior.

What exquisite joy and affection she must have felt to smell the sweetness of His head, feel the softness of His new baby skin (all parents know there’s nothing better than baby skin), hear His baby sighs and snores, and snuggle His warm little body against her own in sleep. Heaven on earth – literally – and every moment was hers to savor. How indescribably sweet! No mother has ever known greater joy, nor ever will.

Yet she who was blessed with such an unspeakable gift also bore the greatest sorrow of any mother on earth. She gave Him life, raised Him, taught Him, tended Him, and adored Him only to suffer with Him the cruel death that would bring us Life.

By His Incarnation a holy mother was born.  And as though the blood He shed on the cross wasn’t gift enough, in His magnanimity He gave to us heaven’s most fragrant rose.

Now the Mother of the Savior is our mother, and how blessed we are to have the guiding light of her obedience and humility to illumine our lives and show us the way of faithfulness.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and do not delay!
  Blessed Mother, give us your heart so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, so full of love and humility that we might receive Jesus and love Him and you loved Him!

10 December 2010

Who God Uses

Stealing this from a friend's blog.  I know he won't mind.  It made me laugh, and it's just plain encouraging. 

The next time you feel like GOD can't use YOU, just remember...

Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer...
AND Lazarus was dead!

07 December 2010

1st Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

At Catholic Online

“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!” “You shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

Let this mystery teach us humility.

Mary’s answer to Gabriel is simply incredible, but it became much more precious for me when I stopped to ponder the middle of this story. We may miss the best part is we fail to recognize the humanness in Mary. Not sinfulness, but humanness. That’s the quality that makes this event so marvelous.

“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’”

She was greatly troubled! Scared, even? Can you see her expression; hear the thoughts racing through her mind? What in the world is going on?!? He’s telling me not to be afraid… what is this all about? A son? Now I’m confused. How can this be? I do not know man. God Himself will do this? The child will be holy? The Son of God?

Now comes the glorious ending: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”

She went from being troubled and confused one moment to being perfectly willing and trusting the next because of true humility. Her reply is remarkable not only because of what she said but because of all she didn’t say. She didn’t say, “Me? Why me?” Or, “But, but, wait…” She didn’t say, “I can’t…” Gabriel gave her precious few details about how this would all unfold, yet she didn’t hesitate to agree.  She understood it wasn’t really about her; it was about Him.

Mary didn’t say “yes” with a proud spirit or a self-congratulatory attitude, nor did she refuse out of a feeling of inadequacy or unworthiness. She knew she was a mere mortal, most unworthy. She also knew God was wise and loving and able. Her “yes” had nothing to do with her and everything to do with Him.

Yes to His plan, His will, His power, His authority. She took Gabriel at his word and believed that God knew what He was doing, and her part was to simply say, “I am at your disposal.” It was up to God to do everything else. It’s also noteworthy that she didn’t offer any assistance. She didn’t presume that she could add something to the mix that would make it better. She said yes, and then carried on as usual. Not knowing what would happen next or how it would happen, she left everything after that moment up to God.

That’s real humility. To say to God, “As You wish. You will do it. Do with me whatever You please. All glory is Yours.” It seems plain enough, but so often real humility gets all mixed up with false humility (which is actually pride). It seems more humble to refuse when asked to do something, especially something important, and we say self-deprecating things like, “Oh, I’m not that good,” or “I’m not smart enough,” or “I’ve never done that before,” or “There are lots of people who are better at this than me,” and on and on and on.

Don’t you shudder to think what might have happened if Mary had responded that way? She’d never been a mother before, so she was inexperienced. She may have felt there were smarter women in the community. She could have tried to defer and list all the reasons why she was right to defer. But thank God she was humble enough to say yes.

It’s not a mark of humility to say to God that His plan can’t be done because you’re not the one, you’re inadequate, you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not ________________ (fill in the blank).

Of course you’re not good enough. So what? It isn’t about you or me and what we don’t have. God has everything, God is everything and humility is just saying “yes” and not thinking too much or too little of you, but only of how great God is.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49

Mary, most mild, pray for me that I will humbly say “yes” to God in whatever He asks of me.


One Last Christmas

Grab the Kleenex now.  I'm still wiping away tears as I type this.  Sit down and watch, weep, and be amazed.

04 December 2010

Emmanuel: God's One-Word Letter of Love to the World

At Catholic Online

We hold in our hands during these weeks of Advent the treasure of all treasures.  The season beckons us to once again contemplate something truly astonishing.  It will pass us by if we are not careful.  In the stillness, as the earth is falling asleep for the winter comes a message, spoken with a single word.


The headlines are shouting doom and despair but today I am not listening.  Our culture is yelling obscenities but today I am not listening. Problems and annoyances are mocking and taunting me, but today I am not giving in.

Not today. Not now. For this moment I am enthralled by Emmanuel.

God is with us. GOD is with us. GOD is with us. Emmanuel. Close your eyes, quiet your heart and hear the word pass through your lips and realize what it means.

This is the thing that makes Christianity unique. This is what makes the Christian faith more than a philosophy or an abstract idea.  It’s what makes it the real deal.  This is what renders every other belief in every other god meaningless and a sham.

The Incarnation is the tenderest, most revealing, most daring love letter ever written:

“I love you so much.  I long for you.  You cannot become as I am, so I will become as you are.  You cannot reach Me, so I will inhabit you.  There shall never be anything between us ever again.  Your darkness is now My light.  There is no part of you I refuse.  I withhold nothing from you.”

Jesus came. He shed His robe of glory and put on vulnerable flesh. He became one of us, clothed in our skin and bones and blood and sweat and tears. He blessed and restored our humanity by inhabiting it Himself and closed the gap between mortal and immortal. By taking that mortal flesh to the cross to shed His precious and perfect blood, He bridged the impassable chasm between us and our Creator.

Our God has done the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the impossible, the radical, and the incredible. He came, and He remains. He is with us still.

Does a God of anger or arrogance humble Himself and take on the very form of His created ones in order to save them from their own sin? Does a God of contention lay His authority down and subject Himself to the law of the world He created? Does a vengeful God surrender Himself to an unjust death for the sake of those murdering Him?

And still, the world doesn’t get it! Still, the reality of Christ’s unabashed love for us is not understood. Still, He is with us, unnoticed. Still, we forget the magnitude of what He has done. Still, we are unaware of who He is. 

Rejoice! There is no distance between us and our God. We do not stand outside His door weeping, begging for a glance from His furrowed brow, or a crumb from His table. He has demolished the wall between us and carried us inside His house to enjoy everything He has, including the food of Himself.

Our God alone is worthy of praise and honor and awe and obedience because He has left no measure of separation between us and Himself. Out of love our King became our servant. Love compelled the spotless Lamb to become every wretched, repulsive, disgusting sin in order to free us, cleanse us and make us new. Love compelled the Lord who owes us nothing to pay everything to cancel our debt.

There is none beside Him.  Only Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Nothing in this world is more deserving of our attention, especially this season. Whatever else may be going on, our gaze should be fixed on Emmanuel. We should be looking expectantly at that manger with grateful hearts. We not only can rejoice, we must rejoice.

Of course, life will go on, and our obligations must be met. Work must be done and should be done. Important current issues must be dealt with and not ignored. But heaven forbid we blow past Advent in our haste, worry and stress, and fail to open our minds and our hearts each day to the miracle of Emmanuel. 

Heaven forbid we do not read this love letter.  It is an astounding reality our language cannot articulate.  It is the summation of our every need; the complete expression of God’s desire.  The Word made flesh.  It’s the only word the world needs to hear.

Emmanuel ~ God is with us! Rejoice!

01 December 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things: Traditions That Bring the Season Alive

at Catholic Online

Simple and profound, done with paper, yarn, glue and lots of prayer, these little efforts reap wonderful spiritual rewards for young and old alike.

Far beyond the decorations I’ve been pulling out of boxes all week, my most favorite Christmas things are the traditions we unpack and dust off during this joyful season.

This week I was providentially gifted with a brand new Advent/Christmas tradition for my family, one I’d never heard of before but instantly loved when I read about it. (Catholic Family Vignettes, thank you!)  Perhaps some of you will be familiar with it, but it’s more likely you’ve not heard of it before either, since I now know that it’s not practiced much anymore outside of monasteries in Europe.

I don’t even know what to call the tradition.  But it goes like this:  Every character in the Nativity scene has something valuable to teach us as we prepare for the Savior’s birth.  Each one has a unique role, and virtues they embody and model for us.  The names of all the characters are printed on slips of paper, along with the virtues they best demonstrate.  The slips of paper go in the proverbial hat, and each family member draws one.

You must trust that you will draw the one you’re “supposed” to get.  God knows!  Then you spend your Advent trying to learn the lessons and virtues of the character you drew.  You do your best to “be” who you drew, asking the Lord in prayer to help you each day.

Christmas Star
Virtues: provide a steady light to guide weary pilgrims.  A source of guidance and illumination.

Virtues: Proclaims the “tidings of great joy.”  A source of inspiration.  Obedient to the will of God.

Blessed Virgin Mary
Virtues: Meek, humble, modest and pure.  Full and complete obedience to God.  Holiness.

St. Joseph
Virtues: Humility, leadership and trust in God.  Chastity and patience.

Virtues: Leadership.  Listens to God.  Kindness to the lambs.  Goodness, tenderness, watchful care.

Virtues: Humility, docility.  Patiently bears all burdens.

Virtues: Hard work, diligence, patience and sacrifice.

Virtues: Docility, innocence, obedience and trust.

After dinner the other night, we all drew our “parts” and talked about what it meant to have humility or docility or to be a source of illumination.  It took a minute, but I was able to convince my 9 year-old that she really could “be” St. Joseph this Advent!  (She never expected to draw that one!)  Then she asked me, “Hey, Mom – what about the Wise Men?”  I think she’s absolutely right.  They should be in on this as well.  So this is my own addition:

Wise Men
Virtues:  Humility, perseverance, faith, piety, trust in God’s promises.

A beloved Austrian priest friend explained to me that this tradition was once very popular in Central Europe, especially the Alps and in Italy, but today it’s known only in a few monasteries and parishes.  He said that his order has been practicing this tradition for decades and their version includes things like the crib, the fire, the stone, etc.  There is a beautiful meditation for each character.  In his monastery, they do the drawing during the O-antiphon days before Christmas.

It is surely a beautiful new tradition in our family, one that I pray we will cherish for generations to come.  (If you’re wondering, there were some characters that didn’t get drawn at all.  Again, God knows what He wants to teach us and who we need!)

Other Favorite Advent/Christmas traditions:

Let’s call this one “Making a Comfortable Bed for Jesus.”  It’s wonderful when you have young children in the house.  I type up a long list of helpful deeds and sacrifices that can be offered up to Jesus, and cut them into slips of paper.  The slips go into a jar or bowl and we draw one or more out each day and do the suggested task.  When we’ve done our selfless deed, we put a small piece of yarn into a small “bed” we’re making for Baby Jesus.  The idea is we want Him to have a very soft, warm bed when He’s born, so we must do lots and lots of sacrificial deeds before Christmas!

I cut up pieces of yarn and leave the yarn and the deed slips somewhere the kids can all reach, and then we watch our little bed of yarn grow as the days go on.  This can be a great “course corrector” when a child is having a bad day, or frankly, when Mom is having a grouchy day!

We also love putting shoes on the front porch for St. Nicholas Day!  Visit The St. Nicholas Center website for all the details about this tradition, as well as great craft ideas you can do with your children.  St. Nicholas’s feast day is December 6, so hurry!!

Finally, we are so grateful to the hard-working family behind Holy Heroes.  They’ve put together a wonderful Advent experience that includes activities each day for the kids to do, including the Jesse Tree, fun word searches, coloring pages, and how to use St. Therese’s sacrifice beads to teach your kids about making a sacrifice, and learn the Rosary as well!  You can sign up to participate free of charge, and you’ll be glad you did.

All these traditions, these little efforts pay big rewards in bringing the Advent/Christmas seasons alive for children and passing on the truths of our rich inheritance, our Catholic faith.  It does a grown-up heart much good as well.

Do you have any great traditions to share?

Thank You

Thank you, Good Shepherd, for loving this little lamb today.  Thank you for a most surprising and unexpected gesture of love and affection.

I love you, Jesus!

27 November 2010

Advent Praise

For a season of expectant waiting

Of hopeful longing

Of quiet seeking

Of silent awe

Of joyful preparation

I give Praise to God

22 November 2010

Security or Unreasonable Search? Stop Treating Americans Like Suspected Terrorists

at Catholic Online

There’ve been many disconcerting stories from folks who’ve been subjected to the TSA’s new security procedures at airports around the country.  Three that most clearly illustrate the insanity and stupidity of these new screenings are the breast cancer survivor who was forced to remove her prosthesis from her bra and show it to the TSA agent; the image of a little boy standing shirtless near the metal detector as a grown man touches every inch of his half-naked little body; the bladder cancer survivor in Detroit who was left soaked in his own urine after agents broke the seal on his urostomy bag even though he begged them to be careful.

This is security?!?  Have we lost our collective minds?  Humiliation, undressing and groping are now the tools of counter-terrorism?

There is an uproar across the nation, but is it loud enough yet?  We’re on the cusp on having these “procedures” cemented into permanent existence if we don't soon halt this gross violation of rights.

I’m among those who think this is a 4th Amendment issue.   “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated…”

It is unreasonable to treat every passenger as a potential terrorist.  It is unreasonable to subject every passenger to being seen virtually naked and/or groped by a government official.  It is unreasonable and inexcusable to treat small children this way.  Random selection is not a sufficient reason, besides which it seems a laughable waste of time and resources.

3 year-old girls are not the enemy.  7 year-old boys are not the enemy.  Elderly nuns in full habit are not the enemy.  The overwhelming majority of people in the United States are not the enemy.  The enemy, by and large, is Muslim men.  But since the current administration won’t even name the enemy, let alone employ security measures that actually target the enemy, now every American citizen is treated as the enemy.

The fact is, if we’re only finding the chemical explosives hidden in a potential bomber’s underwear while he’s standing in security surrounded by hundreds of other passengers, then we’re finding out too late.  We’ve already failed.

Profiling is not a dirty word

We will never be secure if we are unwilling to do the logical, necessary, perfectly reasonable act of profiling.  That must be the first step in determining if someone poses a security threat.  As a law-abiding citizen, I have nothing to hide or fear.  I would much rather have someone digging into my profile than into my pants.

El Al is widely held up as the model of how to achieve airport security.  The Israelis have successfully kept their people and their planes safe from terrorist attacks and they’ve done it without requiring naked full-body images, reaching inside passenger’s clothing or groping people’s genitals.

Recall the interview in January of this year with Isaac Yeffet, former head of security for El Al in which he said, “Stop relying only on technology.  Technology can help the qualified, well-trained human being but cannot replace him.”  Every passenger flying El Al is interviewed in person before check-in by one of their highly-trained agents.

When asked what we learned from the failed bombing in Detroit last Christmas Day, Yeffet said, “We learned one thing. We do not have a good security system to be able to prevent tragedies in this country.  After Lockerbie, everyone thought, now we've learned the lesson of how to be proactive instead of being reactive. Unfortunately, September 11 came and we know the result. Thousands of people lost their lives. Security totally failed, not at one airport, at three different airports around the country.”

“In 2002, we had Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. This man gave the security people all the suspicious signs that any passenger could show. The man got a British passport in Belgium, not in England. Number Two: he flew to Paris; he bought a one-way ticket from Paris to Florida. He paid cash. He came to the airport with no luggage. What else do I need to know that this passenger is suspicious?”

“What did we learn from this? Just to tell the passenger from now on, you take off your shoes when you come to the airport? This I call a patch on top of a patch.”

His decisive recommendation for improving our security:  “Every passenger – I don’t care his religion or whatever he is – every passenger has to be interviewed by security people who are qualified and well-trained and are being tested all year long.”

That sounds reasonable, does it not?  It would require a redirection of funds and an investment in more than machinery.  It would require we put time and money into finding and training qualified people to handle the task of security.  El Al’s approach is far different from ours.  Their agents must be educated, speak two languages, go through long periods of classroom training, then extensive on-the-job training with supervisors to learn how to approach passengers.

It’s expensive, but worth it because it’s highly effective.  El Al passengers cooperate because they know the security interviews are truly done for their safety and they’re performed efficiently so people aren’t missing flights or being delayed without cause.

When asked what he thinks of the full-body scanners, Yeffet replied, “I am against it. This is once again patch on top of patch. Look what happened, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, hid the explosives in his shoes. The result -- all of us have to take off our shoes when we come to the airport. The Nigerian guy hid his explosives in his underwear. The result -- everyone now will be seen naked. Is this the security system that we want?”

Indeed.  Is this the security system we want?

Like many other folks, I can’t help but wonder what will happen when the next terrorist bomber hides the explosives inside his rectal cavity where it won’t be seen or felt.  Will every passenger then be required to submit to a body cavity search?  It’s the next logical step in this progression of insane actions.

We are forever reacting, always two steps behind because we care more for political-correctness than for real security.  Profiling is not a violation of anyone’s rights.  It is not discrimination.  It is common sense to know who the enemy is likely to be and look more closely at that individual.  It’s time we paid more attention to passengers before they enter the security area in the airport.

How many patches will we keep putting on top of patches?  And how many violations of fundamental rights by our bumbling government will we allow?  Many Americans simply do not trust the government, and that is not an unreasonable position.  Promises of scanned images never being saved are already broken.  Assurances of professional courtesy are hard to believe when some agents can’t even exercise common decency when dealing with people with medical conditions and equipment.

Napolitano, the TSA and now the President are all digging in their heels and insisting that these measures – these ineffective, invasive, humiliating and inappropriate procedures – are the best we can do, and in fact, what we must do.  Napolitano is even favorable toward TSA unionizing. Can you imagine?  Never being able to fire a lousy TSA agent?

Pardon the pun, but we got caught with our pants down on 9/11 and we still haven’t pulled them back up.  Now we’re treating every citizen like a suspected terrorist and calling it security.  We’re so clever.

21 November 2010


Praise to Jesus Christ the King!

Praise Him for His mercy!

Praise Him for His compassion!

Praise Him for His steadfast love!

Praise Him for His faithfulness!

Praise Him for His saving blood!

Praise Him for His power and might!

Praise Him!

19 November 2010

Little Star, Big Gift

Perhaps the greatest strength of a good children's book is its ability to communicate complex or grown-up ideas in the most simple and utterly profound way.

That's what Anthony DeStefano has done with his newest book, Little Star.  It's both the essence of Christmas and the essence of Good Friday all in one irresistible package.

An unlikely little star gives all he can give out of love for a tiny king... and we are all reminded of the difference a selfless, loving sacrifice can make.  It's the Christmas story like you've never heard it told before.  Whether 2 or 92, Little Star is a book you'll love to read Christmas after Christmas, silent night after silent night.  And when you look up at the brightest star in the sky on that holy night, you'll smile in a brand new way.

You can purchase this delightful book on Amazon.

13 November 2010

Opinion: New TSA Security Measures Go Too Far: Be Seen Naked or 'Enhanced' Pat-Down? I'll Drive, Thanks.

UPDATE:  See also "Security or Unreasonable Search?  Stop Treating Americans Like Suspected Terrorists"

at Catholic Online

I see long car trips in my future.  Lucky for me I don’t mind driving.  Barring unexpected emergencies, I think my flying days are over.  Count me among the many, many Americans who are unwilling to be seen virtually naked and/or physically groped by a government employee.

The reports coming from all over about the Transportation Security Administration’s new airport security measures are alarming.  Since late October, airports around the country have begun requiring an “enhanced pat-down” procedure for anyone who refuses the full-body scan.  People who have experienced this pat-down tell a very different story than the official statement given by TSA.

First, travelers describe the shout-out:  “We’ve got an Opt-out!” which is yelled at the top of the agent’s lungs so everyone around can hear.  Next, they’re taken to a roped-off area usually still in view of everyone else going through security and the “pat-down” begins.  The agent begins at the ankles and works his way up, now using the palms of the hand and the fingers when necessary, feeling every inch of the traveler’s body – including the genitals and breasts.

What used to be done with the backs of the hands is now done with fingers and palms, and much more thoroughly and intrusively.  Passengers are describing it as fondling, groping, aggressive, humiliating, and over the line.

TSA swears that these pat-downs are done by a person of the same gender, but the reports I’ve read this past week say otherwise, that woman are being patted-down by men, and that even small children are being searched by agents of the opposite sex.  Though frankly, there’s NO WAY this side of eternity I would allow any adult to search my child’s body and touch my child’s genitals, man or woman.

This is going way too far.  This to me is simply the beginning of the end of appropriate bodily privacy.  This is a forced invasion under the guise of safety. The underlying goal is that people will gradually become accustomed to having their modesty shredded in public and their bodies exposed or groped whenever the government deems necessary.

Thanks to the Shoe Bomber we’re all walking through security barefoot.  Fine, I don’t care how many people see my feet.  But the latest bombing attempts – have they been discovered on a terrorist’s person?  No, they’ve been found in the baggage beneath the plane.  Meanwhile, we’re doing virtual strip-searches and groping people’s genitals.  Doesn’t it just seem like the terrorists are two or three steps ahead of us?

Along with the gross bodily invasion, my objection to these new security measures lies with TSA agents themselves.  In the last ten years, I have flown numerous times with my small children and sadly, my encounters with TSA agents have been ridiculously consistent.  There surely are some agents who defy the trend, but time and time again, I found them to be unhelpful and indifferent.  Traveling alone with small children isn’t easy and security after 9/11 made it even more difficult.

Trying to manage a stroller, car seat, carry-on’s, plus two or three kids under age 4 is exhausting.  Removing everyone’s shoes and jackets; collapsing the stroller while holding the baby; hoisting the stroller and car seat up onto the x-ray machine belt while holding the baby; having my walking child(ren) pushed by the agent through the metal detector alone; trying to keep my eyes on my child(ren) while the agent stands there waiting for me to dismantle everything with one arm; finally making it through with the baby only to find our shoes, bags, stroller, car seat, & jackets left in a heap for me to collect.  All the while, the TSA agents just stared, or glared if I wasn’t moving fast enough.  These excursions through security always left me sweating, worn-out, and angry.

On my last flying adventure, I was battling food poisoning from the day before.  I was dehydrated and barely able to keep myself upright.  Going through security, the agent confiscated my small water bottle despite my pleas and then “selected” me for a more extensive carry-on search.  I was carrying my infant daughter and I begged to be allowed to sit down before I fell over, but the agent refused and forced me to stand there while she spent ten minutes going through every article in my carry-on.

So no matter how often the TSA assures the American public that their employees are “professionals” who are “specially trained” to handle these enhanced security measures in a “respectful manner,” I don’t buy it for a second.  I’ve seen otherwise.  And now more than ever, passengers are at their mercy.

We’re supposed to trust that these images are never saved but deleted immediately.  Sorry, but I don’t buy that either.  Suppose someday, God forbid, another lunatic successfully boards a plane with explosives on his/her body somewhere and blows up the plane.  You don’t think TSA is going to want to be able to go back and review the scans from that day to try to find out who the terrorist was, how the explosives were missed and which agent missed them?

Knowing human nature, is it so implausible to think that since these incredibly detailed full-body scans are randomly selected, more physically attractive people will just happen to be randomly selected for the honor?  The counter-argument is to make the scans mandatory for everyone then, right?  Even infants?  Little children?  The elderly?  The disabled?  Am I the only one who thinks the terrorists would be laughing their heads off at our clueless, politically-correct inability to actually protect ourselves?

I do not trust the TSA to handle images of people’s naked bodies with respect or to keep their word that these images will be deleted immediately and not stored.  I’m not at all okay with being intimately felt up by a TSA agent in places only my husband has the right to touch, and I see absolutely no reason whatsoever why children should be subjected to such a violation at the hands of an adult stranger.

Did you know that TSA’s background check procedure only requires employees to disclose felony convictions that occurred in the previous ten years?  Department of Homeland Security guidelines list 28 disqualifying convictions, one of which is rape and aggravated sexual abuse, but it does not specifically mention crimes against children.  Is it possible the TSA agent patting down you and your children was convicted 11 years ago of sexually assaulting a child or raping a woman?  Sure seems that way.

It will be interesting to see how TSA responds to the new instructions given to Muslim women this week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR):  “In the “special recommendations for Muslim women who wear hijab,” it states: “Before you are patted down, you should remind the TSA officer that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question, in this scenario, your head and neck. They SHOULD NOT subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down.”

Will TSA back off from giving Muslim women the “enhanced” pat-down?  This confrontation is sure to play out very soon.

We all want our planes to be safe.  No one wants to be afraid to fly.  But there has to be a better way to achieve security than this.  (And indeed, there is.)  If full-body scans are indeed essential, then I want only a specially-trained radiologist looking at it and proof that the images are deleted.  If invasive bodily pat-downs simply must be endured, then I insist that specially-trained, thoroughly background-checked doctors and nurses are the ones doing it and that my children are left alone. I refuse to surrender my modesty, privacy, and bodily respect just to get on an airplane.  It’s not worth it.

07 November 2010


"I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have being."  Psalm 146:2

This morning I'm giving Praise to God for His tireless pursuing.

For His love which never ends.

For His mercy. Other gods want the blood of their people but our God wanted us so He spilled His own blood.

For this gorgeously bright autumn day and the spectacle of color.  I LOVE it!!

For my kiddos and my husband... I know, they're on my list every week but I can't help it.  I still pinch myself and say, "They're mine?  Wow..."

For atomic clocks that automatically adjust the time so I don't miss Mass on time-change days like today!

For the many cups of hot cocoa we've been drinking around here lately.  Gotta love it.  Bring on the whipped cream or the marshmallows.  And the biscotti.  Yum.

Glory and Praise to our God!  Have a wonderful week everyone.

04 November 2010

Random Act of Culture: Hallelujah at Macy's!!

On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia. Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ - the world's largest pipe organ - the OCP Chorus and throngs of singers from the community infiltrated the store as shoppers, and burst into a pop-up rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" at 12 noon, to the delight of surprised shoppers.

This event is one of 1,000 "Random Acts of Culture" to be funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation over the next three years. The initiative transports the classical arts out of the concert halls and opera houses and into our communities to enrich our everyday lives. To learn more about this program and view more events, visit randomactsofculture.org. The Opera Company thanks Macy's and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ (wanamakerorgan.com) for their partnership, as well as Organ Music Director Peter Conte and Fred Haas, accompanists; OCP Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden, conductor; and Sound Engineer James R. Stemke. For a complete list of participating choirs and more information, visit operaphila.org/RAC. This event was planned to coincide with the first day of National Opera Week.

26 October 2010

Opinion: Leaders or Scoundrels? 2010 Election Could Change Everything

at Catholic Online

There’s nothing quite election season to leave a bitter taste in your mouth, is there? This election season is particularly acidic.  I’d say I’ll be relieved when it’s over but the problem is it never seems to end.

When I take note, state by state, of the weaselly, dishonest, greedy, smug, power-drunk creeps that are being elected and re-elected to our government’s chambers, I am both disgusted and flabbergasted.  It’s appalling that so many men and women without honor are rising to positions of consequence; it’s downright mystifying that having shown their true colors they are rewarded for their disgrace with another opportunity to be publicly disgraceful.

It’s tempting to think that the virtue of leadership has been all but eradicated.  What has happened to honor?  What has happened to our appetite for it? What about integrity?  What of self-control, decency, respect, graciousness, humility, or honesty?  It’s a lazy, drowsy, ignorant and disinterested electorate that does not require virtue and good character from its officials.

Oodles of our public servants routinely cheat, lie, and steal to their hearts’ content.  They break their private and public vows again and again.  They make excuses and justify and hold a press conference to perform a tearful apology and then cheat, lie and steal some more.  They have no honor.

It’s not perfection I’m looking for, and certainly not a savior.  I have a Savior.  I’m simply longing for a genuine leader.  Someone who will remember who works for whom here.  Remember Barbara Boxer’s tantrum earlier this year when a senior military officer had the decency to call her “Ma’am” and she dressed him down like he was a snotty adolescent?  “I’ve worked so hard for that title,” she whined.  Boxer desperately needs reminding that if indeed she has worked hard, it’s supposed to have been for the people, not to get herself a title.  She’s a public servant, not the Queen of Sheba.  (And if military protocol is so offensive to her, by all means we should make sure she’s never subjected to it again.)

I’m longing for a leader who doesn’t explain away his own failures by intimating the masses are just too stupid to understand what he’s trying to do for us.  The condescension coming from the President toward Americans is unbelievable.  Those who don’t agree with him and aren’t thrilled with his policies and plans are just “not thinking straight.”  Anyone not voting for Democrats next week is accused of being “scared” and giving in to fear instead of facts. 

He goes on the radio and makes a pitch to African-Americans to get out and vote for Democrats, implying they may not understand the importance of this election.
“Everybody in the barbershops, the beauty shops, and at work — everybody’s got to understand: This is a huge election; if we turn out in strong numbers, then we will do fine. If we do not, if we are depressed and decide, ‘well, you know, Barack’s not running right now, so I’m just going to stay home,’ then I’m going to have my hands full up here on Capitol Hill.”
Naturally, it’s all about him.  Isn’t it just a tad insulting that the President assumes the only reason African-Americans will get out and vote is to support him?  And “we’ll” be just fine as long as Democrats are re-elected?  Who’s “we?” 

He continues to insist the reason Americans aren’t skipping with glee over the new health care law is that we still don’t understand it; we either didn’t listen or he didn’t talk about it enough or didn’t use small enough words for the peasants to comprehend.  (Well, there may be a grain of truth to that – Nancy Pelosi herself said the bill had to be passed in order to find out what was in it.)

Again and again, this President shows his arrogance and his contempt for those who aren’t falling in line with his agenda.  It seems in his mind it just can’t be possible that we have seen him clearly, heard him clearly, understood him clearly and rejected all of it soundly!

The snobbery continued this week when he said that if Republicans wish to come along for the economic recovery ride, “they gotta sit in back.”

Where are the leaders who are willing to place themselves under the same laws and penalties they wish to inflict on us?  If the Obama/Pelosi/Reid Health Care Extravaganza is so fabulous and benevolent, why isn’t everyone on Capitol Hill joining in the party?  They grouse at the mere suggestion that those who write the law should be subject to the law.  No, the peasant citizenry must applaud the Royals new prescription even as the Royals refuse their own medicine.

This year we’ve seen ordinary Americans assert their right to question and criticize their government officials, doing it peacefully and legally and yet those citizens are regularly caricatured by this arrogant administration as racist, bigoted, dim-witted crazies who are a dangerous threat to the country.  Since when is protesting over-taxation and too much government interference a sign of being unhinged?  I seem to remember another group of citizens who got tired of being taxed to death by an overbearing government…George, Tom, Sam, John, Ben, Richard, Stephen, Charles, etc.  They pledged to each other, “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

My, how things have changed.  It seems the only things sacred today are “tolerance” (meaning everything must be tolerated except the belief that some things are immoral and just plain wrong), political correctness (we mustn’t call something what it actually is), “choice” (legal child extermination) and the right to demean Christianity, especially Catholicism.

Give me a man who would rather die than behave dishonorably.  Give me a woman who will not degrade herself or spill her own child’s blood.  Give me a man who is faithful to his wife and family.  Give me a woman who prizes true femininity.  Give me a leader who elevates our discourse with his speech.  Give me a leader who inspires by virtue of his character and actions.

I’ll take a man who’s made a mistake, acknowledged it honestly, taken responsibility, and worked to correct it any day over one who passes the blame, covers it up or tries to rewrite history.  I’ll take a man who has failed once or twice over a pompous prince.

Give me a leader who serves.  Give me a leader whose strength is his humility and integrity; whose gift is her savvy and wisdom and grace.

These men and women will be the reward of the citizens who diligently seek them, support them, demand them, and frankly, become them.  How long will we punish ourselves with tyrants, thieves and scoundrels?  I still believe there are men and women with honor out there and they could be our elected leaders.  (I’ve made my choice for our 45th President!)  The question is, will we choose them?

9th Circus Court of Appeals is Anti-American

The 9th Circus has done it again.

I can't scream loud enough.

Does citizenship mean NOTHING anymore to anyone? Why don't we just hold open elections where the whole world can vote? Who cares, right? We're halfway there now.

If you're not a legal American citizen, YOU DON'T GET A VOTE. PERIOD.

When will this madness stop? What is wrong with these people?

24 October 2010


"Every day I will bless thee, and praise thy name for ever and ever."  Psalm 145:2

Praise the Lord for this glorious autumn dayThe drive to church this morning was so colorful and beautiful!  Every day more and more green is giving way to orange, yellow, red and gold.  Just gorgeous.

Praise Him for the cooler weather, which I can't get enough of.  I'll have to suffer through this coming week, however, since our forecast calls for 80 degrees again!  Yuck!

For a wonderful day yesterday, baking and decorating pumpkin and leaf cookies with my girls and a good friend.  Plus, my husband became a 4th degree Knight!  I truly have a knight in shining armor.  And he's surrounded by fair maidens!

For a fun week ahead... my aunt is visiting which will be lots of good times for everyone.

For His steadfast love and patience and mercy that is always new.  For the way He is chipping away at the hardness around my heart, so gently, and teaching me how to love.

For the joy of knowing so many truly good men... good men are becoming too rare, and it's such a blessing to a woman to know them and be cared for by them.  I pray for three good men to make wonderful husbands for my girls someday.  Or maybe two... I'm still hoping one of my girls will become a nun.  :)

Enjoy the week ahead.  The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you!

22 October 2010

Don't Call Her Ma'am: Call Her Former Senator, Please!

I love this!  Brilliant!  Barbara Boxer is an arrogant, condescending, rude woman.  She dressed down a senior military officer like he was a stupid adolescent.  No respect whatsoever. 
Yet I fear it'll take a miracle for the people of California to vote her out of office.  CA seems to love rude, condescending, man-hating feminists.

Call Me Senator from RightChange on Vimeo.

17 October 2010


"Praise the Lord!  Praise him from the heavens, praise him in the heights!  Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!  Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!"  Psalm 148

I want to Praise Him today for being faithful and patient and generous.  He is tender and gentle and compassionate.  He gives wonderful gifts.

For the love He shows me through my husband, and the blessings He has brought me because of my husband.  Not the least of which is my husband!

For the temperature outside... 50 degrees!  I'm loving it!  Hubby said this morning, "Jen, I think Fall has really, truly fallen."  AMEN!

For warm stew, warm bread, good wine, and a comfortable home.

For my little ladies and the awe of watching them grow.  (Too fast, if you ask me!)

For peppermint mochas.  Mmmmmm...

For the chance to use my voice for His glory and the good of His church and witness to the truth in a world overshadowed by lies.  Here am I, Lord.  Send me.

Share your Praises with me this beautiful day!
God bless you this coming week with more joy than you can hold.

14 October 2010

"Potential Human Beings": Bill O'Reilly Slams Abortion Euphemisms, Then Uses One

at Catholic Online

Words have great potential.  They can build up or just as easily tear down; heal as easily as harm; unite as easily as divide.  They can also manipulate and conceal the truth.

Words twisted out of their proper meaning into a refashioned one have perhaps the greatest potential of all – the potential to convince untold numbers of well-meaning yet vacillating people to accept a lie they would otherwise reject.

Nowhere in our society is this played out more clearly than in the abortion battle.  The pro-aborts depend on verbal shenanigans to persuade and give moral cover to the evil act of killing the child in the womb.  Among the abortion peddlers’ favorite euphemisms are “terminating a pregnancy,” “choice,” and “reproductive rights.”  These deceitfully constructed terms are preferred over the word abortion itself because they brainwash people into forgetting all about the baby.

Everyone who saw The O’Reilly Factor on October 7th got a double helping of this dehumanizing rhetoric, and sadly some of it came from Bill O’Reilly himself.  In a segment with Alan Colmes and Monica Crowley about “nanny state” government intrusion, Colmes argued that Republicans are the worst offenders because they want to prevent homosexuals from marrying and take away “reproductive rights” from women.

O’Reilly started out strong by saying that abortion is about life and death, not “reproductive rights.”  Colmes countered, “It’s giving women the right to do with their bodies as they choose.”  Then, to my dismay, O’Reilly offered up the latest euphemism du jour:  “That sounds good,” he said to Colmes, “but what happens to the potential human being in the process?” 

The discussion concluded with O’Reilly asking Colmes whether the government should protect the lives of potential human beings, and Colmes replied, “No, because you cannot tell when it’s a potential human being, you cannot answer when that becomes a human being.”

There it is:  potential human being.

Not 30 minutes later in his Culture Warriors segment, while discussing that horrible woman in England who said she’d be the first to put a pillow over the face of a suffering child, O’Reilly told Margaret Hoover that abortion sloganeering has desensitized people to the seriousness of abortion through the use of euphemisms like “reproductive rights.”  When Hoover objected to him conflating “reproductive rights” with a woman suffocating a child to death, O’Reilly sternly told her, “Whether you believe in abortion or not, it is a very serious issue.  And to cloud it under the euphemism ‘reproductive rights’ is insulting – insulting – to the potential human beings who lose their lives.”

Bill, you may have meant well, but Pot, meet Kettle.  By calling your preborn neighbors only “potential” human beings, you are guilty of the very same sloganeering and deceptive euphemisms you properly denounced on your program.

There are no “potential” human beings.  Only human beings, with the potential to grow and change and come closer every day to being the person God created them to be.

The pro-abort strategy now is to insist that we cannot know exactly when life begins and therefore, whatever classification you put on the occupant of the womb (zygote, embryo, fetus, baby), it is only a “potential” human being, not an actual one.  As such, it’s not a matter of life and death, but solely a matter of a woman’s personal choice and “rights.”  Therefore, no need to question the ethics or legality of abortion or consider the life being killed, since what is being destroyed was only “potential.”

Now genetically and scientifically, the matter is settled.  Immediately upon conception there exists a new and unique member of the species Homo sapiens.  Is there any time from conception to birth when the child is a cat or a whale or a potato?

So now come the ambiguous, subjective definitions of what makes us human and when we become fully human and when a human deserves the right to his/her own life.  Some will contend that intelligence is required, or independence, or utility. 

The pro-aborts insist that a human being is only an actual human being deserving of life if and when the mother decides so.  If she wants the child, the child is a human being.  If she doesn’t want the child, it is at best a “potential” human being, but more likely just an insentient parasite.  For the abortion propagandists, humanity is irrelevant.

I expect the abortion peddlers to perpetuate this false and dehumanizing notion that the child in the womb is merely a “potential” human being, but not O’Reilly.  O’Reilly is Catholic, and a high profile one to boot.  The responsibility of his faith obliges him to know better and to defend the humanity and right to life of every child in the womb from the moment of conception, period.

In fairness, O’Reilly has on many occasions been a vocal advocate for the preborn and I appreciate his willingness to speak out when no one else in the media would dare.  He helped Jill Stanek put the spotlight on Christ Hospital’s infanticide over a decade ago.  He was willing to call the late Dr. George Tiller exactly what he was – a baby killer.  He didn’t shy away from pointing out the funding of abortion in Obamacare.  In many ways, O’Reilly is an ally in the fight to protect the preborn.

Yet, like so many Catholics, he seems to be either ignorant of authentic Catholic teaching or uncomfortable defending it.

For all our sakes, let’s review what the Church teaches about the human person:  “Man exists as a unique and unrepeatable being, he exists as an “I” capable of self-understanding, self-possession and self-determination…However, it is not intellect, consciousness and freedom that define the person, rather it is the person who is the basis of the acts of intellect, consciousness and freedom.  These acts can even be absent, for even without them man does not cease to be a person.”  (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 131)

As to the cowardly tendency of many to say that abortion is “between a woman and her God,” we should remember this: 

“Certain sins, moreover, constitute by their very object a direct assault on one’s neighbor.  Such sins in particular are known as social sins…Social too is every sin against the rights of the human person, starting with the right to life, including that of life in the womb…”  (CSDC, 118)

Regarding the alleged “right” to abortion, the teaching is crystal clear; there is none.  There IS a right to life: 

“The right to life, from conception to its natural end…is the condition for the existence of all other rights and, in particular, implies the illicitness of every form of procured abortion and of euthanasia.”  (CSDC, 155)

“Concerning the ‘methods’ for practicing responsible procreation, the first to be rejected as morally illicit are sterilization and abortion.  The latter in particular is a horrendous crime and constitutes a particularly serious moral disorder; far from being a right, it is a sad phenomenon that contributes seriously to spreading a mentality against life…” (CSDC, 233)
In truth, birth does not elevate the humanity of the child to a new, previously unattained status. The child in the womb is fully human from the moment of conception and as Catholics, we are gladly burdened with the duty to proclaim and defend this truth against the deceptive euphemisms of our time.  We’re not lacking in this country for public Catholics who don’t know and don’t live their faith, or worse, flaunt their open disregard for Church teaching.  What we need are more Catholics who know their faith thoroughly and profess it unapologetically. 

Bill O’Reilly has great potential to become such a Catholic.  Each of us has that potential.  Here’s hoping we all exceed our potential.

(By the way, the Compendium is available on Amazon.com and Catholic bookstores everywhere.  Every Catholic should have one.)

10 October 2010


"If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful -- for he cannot deny himself."  2Tim 2:11-13

I am horribly late posting this today, but better late than never.  It is never too late to Praise our God!!

I Praise Him today for His faithfulness.  Though I am faithless and fickle and easily swayed and distracted and prone to wandering, He remains faithful.  He cannot be otherwise.

Praise God for the gorgeous days we've had, though it's been far too warm for my taste.  You know how I love the cold weather and it's been in the 80's this week.  Much too warm for fall.  But later this week it is supposed to cool down, which means I'll be praising Him even more!

For the joy of my family, for being home with my children, teaching them, playing with them, and hopefully building a good home for them.  I so often feel like I'm failing at all of the above, but I'm the only mom they've got, so I better keep trying!

For my husband's love and affection, and his willingness to do things that make me happy.  He loves me better than I deserve.  Lord, make me a worthy wife.

For pumpkin spice waffles... with homemade whipped cream.  Yum.

For hot cocoa... with homemade whipped cream.  YUM.

For the brownie recipe I found last week and tried.  Let me just say - YUM.

If you're new to My Chocolate Heart, I post this meme every Sunday.  It's the Lord's Day and I want to give Him praise for all He's done and all He's given.  Please join in by linking up below and share your Praises!  You can borrow the picture of the heart and use it on your blog and link back here.  I look forward to reading them.  God bless you!

04 October 2010

U.S. Soldiers Committing Suicide: The War After the War

at Catholic Online

Do you recall President Obama’s speech last month on the Iraq war?  Vaguely?   I remember hearing some TV pundit saying that night after the speech, “The problem for Obama is that he delivered good news on a topic nobody cares about.” 

Is that true?  After so many years, are we just so weary of hearing about the war and the billions of dollars spent that we’re not interested anymore?  With all due respect, we don’t have the right to not care anymore. 

June, 2010 was an historic month for U.S. soldiers and not in a proud way.  The Army reported a record number of suicides – 32 total.  Every day during June, at least one of our soldiers took his or her own life.  That knowledge grieves me.  I hope it grieves all of us.   

Just last week the news from Fort Hood, TX was once again senseless and tragic.  It seems four soldiers took their own lives; one of them also killed his wife first, leaving their two young children orphans.

The simple fact is after 9 years of war, the Army is severely stressed.  Troops have faced multiple and extended deployments that have taken a harsh toll on soldiers and their families.  Long separations can strain even good relationships and troubled ones may crumble under the stress.  But the bottom line is there is simply no way a soldier goes off to war and returns home untouched by what he saw and experienced on the battlefield, and the hidden wounds may be the most deadly.  Too many of our heroes are coming home only to fight the war after the war – the battle for their peace of mind, their self-worth, and their lives.

(This article is not meant to be a referendum on the war.  I’m not interested in trashing President Obama or President Bush or Democrats or Republicans.  Nor am I interested in criticizing the Army.) 

The Army is well aware of the problem and they are taking it very seriously.  I recently had the opportunity to speak directly with COL Christopher Philbrick, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force.  He readily acknowledges the extraordinary stress the troops are under and the reality that many of them need help dealing with the psychological, physical and emotional effects of a brutal war.

When I asked him about the stigma attached to behavioral and mental health needs, the reluctance of many military members to seek help for fear of harming their careers, he admitted such a stigma has been around a long time, but today’s Army is aggressively working to eliminate it.  “Is the stigma gone?  No, it is not,” COL Philbrick told me.  “Is it less prevalent than in the past?  Yes, it is.”

New standards being implemented across the board call for every soldier of every rank to receive a series of behavioral health consults before deployment, during deployment, and upon returning home.  The Army is even taking advantage of Skype technology to provide long-distance help to soldiers – even those in theater – when counselors are not immediately available in person.

I asked him if there was one message he’d like to communicate loud and clear to every soldier, no matter their rank or circumstances, and he replied without hesitation, “Raising your hand and asking for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness.  The days where help could not be found are over.  You are not alone, and there is hope and help.  You can get better.”

COL Philbrick directed me to a new video recently released and posted on the Army’s suicide prevention website, called “Shoulder to Shoulder: I Will Never Quit On Life.”  I’ve watched the entire video and I share COL Philbrick’s hope that it will be widely viewed and utilized to reach soldiers who need to know that they’re not broken or weak or unwanted – they can heal and their lives can be good again.

I’m very glad to hear about what the Army is doing to take care of its soldiers, but is that the end of the story?   What about the rest of us?  What about the community of faith?  Can we provide more than just moral and patriotic support, more than care packages?  Indeed, we can. 

After 9 long years, human nature dictates that war-fatigue easily takes over and if we do not have a loved one serving, the battle can seem very far from us and impersonal.  It’s easy to put it out of our minds.  It’s gone on for so long now that it just blends into the background of our daily lives.

(Again, this is not a referendum on the war!  The point of this discussion is to rally the troops – by that I mean the Prayer Warriors.)

May I urgently beg you to bring it back to the forefront?  Bring it back to your private prayer times and bring it back to your parish’s mass intentions if it has been absent lately.  

We need to pray for our heroes’ protection against depression and the spirit of suicide and hopelessness.  Even after they have returned home to “normal life,” Satan is still working to destroy them through despair, guilt, anger, grief, and fear.  Let us do what we are uniquely equipped to do and carry them to Jesus, imploring the intercession of the angels and saints.   We owe them that.

Let the rest of the world read this and scoff and say, “How stupid and meaningless!”  I don’t care.  We know the reality of the spiritual realm; we know the truth of things unseen.  It’s not a battle against flesh and blood; it isn’t fought with rifles or bombs.  It is fought on our knees with persistence and faith. 

October is the month of the Rosary – what better way to pray for our heroes than to place them in Mary’s arms.  Offer your rosary for them.  If your parish prays a communal rosary, offer it for them.  Remember them when you spend time in Adoration.  Pray the chaplet of St. Michael for them.  Get specific and pray that our heroes’ hearts and minds will be kept safe from suicide and despair, fear, hate, guilt, anger and every other device of the enemy.  Pray that the families waiting at home will remain strong and faithful.

Look around you and see the soldiers in your community, in your church and pay attention.  It may sound surprising, but soldiers who’ve been there say that when someone actually asked them whether they were thinking of hurting or killing themselves, they were honest about it.  If you think there’s a soldier or family in your midst who needs help, be brave enough to say something.  You might save a life. 

Most of all, please keep praying.  Do battle for our troops as they fight the war after the war. 

For more information and resources, go to http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/

26 September 2010

When Prayer is a Struggle: Just Do It

at Catholic Online

It feels like a terrible thing I’m about to say, but here goes:  I often have a very hard time with prayer.

I wish I didn’t.  I wish I had a heart like St. Therese or John Paul the Great or St. Francis de Sales, but right now I don’t.  I’ve been struggling greatly with discouragement and futility and a lack-luster, ho-hum spirit.  Combine that with the busyness of homeschooling, childcare, housework, and other responsibilities and it’s a recipe for defeat.

Why is it such a struggle?  Everything in me wants to be closer to Jesus.  There’s nothing in my heart that wants to reject Jesus and choose the world instead.  Yet I continually seem to be clawing my way up the mountain loaded down with frustration and doubt instead of walking steadily along the path of trust and devotion.

I love Jesus.  There is no doubt about that.  He is my Wonderful, merciful Savior.  I will not let Him go.  That much I know for sure.  So why doesn’t that translate into a vibrant, rich, colorful, fulfilling prayer life?  What’s wrong with me?

What’s wrong is that I’m me and not the idealized, perfected image of me that I want to be.  I have many weaknesses to overcome.  If I am ever to do that, I need help.  And Jesus, being ever wise and helpful, gives me what I need – struggle.

The struggle is a gift because the most important thing I need to learn is simply to be faithful.  To commandeer Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It.”  Like strengthening a muscle through repeated exercises, my heart needs some strength training, and some days the weight is heavier than others.  There are those sweet times when prayer is joyful and rewarding and inspiring, but then there’s times when it’s like schlepping through thick mud and it feels utterly pointless.

It is a test of my faithfulness.  It’s the weight of perseverance.  It will strengthen me if I carry it.  I don’t have to run with it, only walk.  But if I truly want to grow in devotion and holiness, I am obligated to struggle.  There’s no assurance that I won’t fall or fail miserably – quite the opposite.  Sure as the sun will rise, I will fall.  I’ll screw up.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m obligated to struggle anyway.

Devotion is proven during the hard times; the flat, stale, monotonous times.  It’s easy to fall in love, but staying in love requires great effort.  God has heard me say I want to love Him more, and He obliges my request by giving me ample opportunities to prove it.  It’s up to me to push my weak heart to resist the complacency and excuses and distractions and come to Him in prayer.

I recently read “The Sustaining Power of Ritual: Emotions, Celebration, Boredom” by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser and it was a good dose of encouragement.  He begins like this:  “Never travel with anyone who expects you to be interesting all the time.  On a long trip there are bound to be some boring stretches.”

He writes in a reassuring way about the purpose of ritual and habit in our spiritual lives.  Everything is not exciting, brimming with emotion and romance all the time.  That does not automatically mean there’s something wrong.  There is something important to be said for routine and duty.

“Duty and commitment without heart will not ultimately sustain themselves.  However, with that being admitted, it is important to recognize and name the fact that any relationship in love, family, church or prayer can only sustain itself over a long period of time through ritual and routine.  Ritual sustains the heart, not vice versa.”

“Anyone who prays only when she can affectively bring along her heart and soul will not sustain prayer for long.  But the habit of prayer, the ritual, simple fidelity to the act, showing up to do it irrespective of feelings and mood, can sustain prayer for a lifetime and reign in the roaming of the head and heart.”

Jesus knows what meager, pitiful things I have to give Him even on my best days.  It’s not Jesus who tells me I must prepare an extravagant banquet for Him every time I pray, but the enemy of my soul.  That way he can persuade me to skip prayer when I am feeling stressed or disinterested or unmotivated.  It’s pointless to pray when your heart isn’t in it, he lies. Why bother?

Well, I need to bother because it’s the only way to resist the liar.  It is never pointless to pray and Satan knows it.  And whether I say, “Amen” and feel any better for the time I spent in prayer or not is beside the point.  I’m building spiritual muscle and training my will.  I’m showing the Lord in my small way that I’m not a fair-weather friend but a sincere follower.

The good news is that as Catholics we have a rich storehouse of prayers at our disposal to help train our weak prayer muscles.  The Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Angelus, etc., are all tailor-made for developing a sustaining ritual of prayer throughout the day.  There’s also no shortage of wonderful devotional books with daily readings to jump-start your prayer and focus your heart in the right place.  My favorite right now is the In Conversation with God series by Francis Fernandez.  (It’s easy to find on Amazon and most Catholic bookstores.)

Whether the prayers spill out of a full heart and roll off the tongue or whether it feels like schlepping through mud or as dull as watching paint dry, it’s all good.  The hardest part may be just showing up and doing it.  It takes repetition, time, determination, and humility.  It’s a struggle I don’t think is going to go away anytime soon.  But fidelity through the hard times is the evidence of love; faithfulness when it’s easier to give up is the mark of devotion.

So there is only one thing to do – pray.  If it doesn’t come easily, pray all the more.  And be assured that by doing so your heart will be strengthened, your faith increased whether you can immediately perceive it or not.  The struggle is not there to frustrate you or discourage you but to condition your soul for the battle.

Just do it.  And remember you’re not alone.  I’m schlepping right along with you.


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