Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Like a Virgin -- like you've never seen it

When I was young and stupid in 1984, I positively reveled in Madonna's blockbuster hit, Like a Virgin, and my 17-year-old self was blown away by the pop phenomenon's live stage performance during which she writhed around on the floor in a white wedding gown -- a scene still seared in my memory. I never could have imagined that 30 years later I would hear a new incarnation of the song and get chills. And want to cry. And be absolutely transfixed. And be so incredibly grateful to know what this sister knows. 


From my obsession with Madonna in the '80s to my obsession with my Faith today, I just can't believe how far the Lord has taken me. The lyrics, which once seemed to me deliciously scandalous, provocative, titillating, now reflect for me exactly how it is and how it feels to be transformed by Christ. I really don't even have words for the beauty of what Sister Cristina has done here. She gets it. I get it. Together we get it -- no less than the secret of the universe. And my friend Leticia Adams gets it, as one who was redeemed and transformed by the Bridegroom after her "life living in slutsville". Read what she has to say.

I sit here tonight so grateful for the pure gift of grace that is our Catholic Faith. 

Thank you, Jesus. And thank you, Sister, for redeeming my experience of the song, three decades later. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pope Francis' closing statement to the Synod. Worth the read!

Originally posted by Rodrigo Guerra López. Thank you!

Pope Francis at the conclusion of the 
Extraordinary Synod on the Family
October 18, 2014

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

Friday, October 17, 2014

You want true peace? Three steps.

This is not groundbreaking to anyone else, but a couple of weeks ago, I had my own little epiphany.

To experience true peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding, one must do three things:

1) Forgive.  And I mean truly forgive, and I mean everyone.

2) Detach.  Detach from all earthly, creaturely things so as to attach to God.

3) Accept.  Accept all joys and sufferings as if they came to you from the Hand of God.

No, it is not easy, but yep, it is just that simple.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Quick Takes: Guess who I met?! (Take #6)

Late have I posted thee, Quick Takes...

1)   I have read a lot about discerning God's will over the years, and I've even written about it myself. But this piece by Peter Kreeft is the best I've seen yet:

Kreeft gives us five principles and six clues to discern the correct path when we are in doubt. Check this out:

Here is a sixth clue. If God has one right choice in everything you do, then you can't draw any line. That means that God wants you to know which room to clean first, the kitchen or the bedroom, and which dish to pick up first, the plate or the saucer. You see, if you carry out this principle's logical implications, it shows itself to be ridiculous, unlivable, and certainly not the kind of life God wants for us—the kind described in the Bible and the lives of the saints. 
Clue number six is the principle that many diverse things are good; that good is plural. Even for the same person, there are often two or more choices that are both good. Good is kaleidoscopic. Many roads are right. The road to the beach is right and the road to the mountains is right, for God awaits us in both places. Goodness is multicolored. Only pure evil lacks color and variety. In hell there is no color, no individuality. Souls are melted down like lead, or chewed up together in Satan's mouth. The two most uniform places on earth are prisons and armies, not the church. 
Take a specific instance where different choices are both equally good. Take married sex. As long as you stay within God's law—no adultery, no cruelty, no egotism, no unnatural acts, as, for example, contraception—anything goes. Use your imagination. Is there one and only one way God wants you to make love to your spouse? What a silly question! Yet making love to your spouse is a great good, and God's will. He wants you to decide to be tender or wild, moving or still, loud or quiet, so that your spouse knows it's you, not anyone else, not some book who's deciding.

Read it all here, and stop fretting about what to do!

2)   The press and social media have been abuzz with the tragic story of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who is suffering from a devastating cancer and is set to commit physician-assisted suicide in just a few days. This poignant response to Brittany comes from another young woman who is also dying of cancer:

Please pray for all involved, and please remember that the "right to die" eventually becomes the "duty to die". Lord, have mercy.

3)  A while back, I began to press my friend Jenni (mother of nine, longtime blogger) to write her husband's vasectomy reversal story. She was gracious enough to give in to my pestering, and the result is here:

Jenni and her husband are not the only couple I know to have undergone a reversal of either a vasectomy or a tubal ligation. Although the Church does not require reversal for those who repent of the sin of sterilization, it's an incredibly healing and beautiful act for those who can take that step. And God willing, it often ends in the gift of more children.

Get Jenni's blog, Circling Jericho, on your blog roll or reading list; her writing is beautiful and she keeps it real, all the time

4)  "When did female empowerment become female infantilization?"

Yeah, that's what I'd like to know!

"Women once were encouraged to be strong and independent, to brush aside insensitive words and actions and to emerge stronger. But now, politicians, pundits, even celebrities are feeding an outrage machine by telling women they should be offended by anything and everything."
And as a woman, that offends me! This is dead on:

If I were a feminist... well, I am a classical feminist, but if I were a feminist as manifested today, I would feel weak and frightened and threatened by every word spoken or act taken that did not agree with my very narrow worldview. I would feel like a victim at every turn, to the point of not being able to hear someone say "bossy" without starting a national movement to eradicate the word, and the seemingly innocuous acronym "TMI" would assault my delicate ears as a personal affront (read the article; this is for real). Goodness, I would be so helpless that I'd be reduced to forcing others buy my contraception for me (if I used it, which I don't), because it's too tough to walk to the Walgreens on the corner and use my own money to buy it, and it's unthinkable to even suggest that my lazy boyfriend/partner/husband get off the couch and pay for the contraception himself.

I'm glad I'm not a modern-day feminist because I prefer to be strong, competent, and independent. And all grown up.

5)  I'm pretty sure I'm a crack cocaine Words With Friends addict. (Sorry, I get those two things confused.)

6) So, I just got home from the most amazing evening! Five hundred of us gathered to support 1st Way Pregnancy Center and to hear this wise and beautiful woman speak:

Shameless picture-dropping

Abby Johnson, when I read your book and even posted about it, never did I imagine I would one day call you a friend. You are a gifted speaker, and honestly, you could be a stand-up comedienne with your perfectly timed comic relief in the midst of an incredibly delicate subject. You had us rolling in laughter -- and shedding a few tears as well. Someone on Facebook said tonight that she could have listened to you all night. I concur. Yes, I'm all fan-girly right now. But honestly folks, there is a reason that the abortion industry is very, very afraid of this woman. Abby, keep kicking the devil's butt. You were made for this.

7)  And maybe someone out there was made for little Jesse.... He needs parents, and perhaps they are reading this right now:

Click my picture for more info!

Jesse is four years old and is blind. He had a difficult start in life, but is doing well now. From his profile page:
He was abandoned at the gates of his orphanage when he was 9 months old. His blindness was caused by an untreated eye infection, and he was so ill he was sent to a palliative care home to die. He arrived a very sick and frightened little boy but was nursed back to health and given the opportunity to gain confidence and trust others around him. He is currently healthy with no further medical problems but is delayed in some areas of his development such as walking and feeding himself.
Read more about Jesse here, and please pray for this precious child to find a family of his own.


Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks to Jen for hosting!

Friday, October 3, 2014

It was not moral for the U.S. to drop the atomic bomb

This may be a first for the Bubble: A discussion about the morality of dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to bring about the end of World War II. Many faithful Catholics in America are confused on this issue, so let's try to get clarity. 

First, please understand that confronting this issue did not come easy for me. When I finally came into my Faith twenty years ago after realizing that the Church is what she claims to be, I had to bend my will on a number of major issues. One of those issues was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. I had always been a supporter of that action, but I had to reverse my position. Once I decided that following Christ and His Church was more important to me than even my strong American sensibilities, there was no other option.*

Now, you all know how much I love and admire Dennis Prager. He is a Jewish scholar and commentator who is brilliant and logical and good, and it is his motto that undergirds my blog: "I prefer clarity to agreement." Recently, as part of the ongoing Prager University videos (which I normally adore), a priest gave a talk about why it was not wrong to drop the atom bomb on Japan. I cringed. I have no idea how the priest was able to argue that error in light of Church teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear:
Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons—especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons—to commit such crimes. (CCC 2314)
There is no wiggle room here.

Now, I understand that many people of good will argue that The Bomb was simply the only course of action to preserve our nation, our freedom, our way of life, the lives of millions of innocents that may have perished if we didn't act, etc. They say that our action reduced net suffering and prevented the deaths of many more innocents than it caused, and that we mitigated a greater evil by performing these military strikes. That is the justification I used myself, and it's what I hear most often from supporters of the bombings.

But Catholics know from moral theology and Moral Reasoning 101 that we have no permission to sin, even if we mean to bring about a greater good. We've discussed before that the ends do not justify the means, ever.

Think about it logically: If we are permitted to commit evil in order to bring about good, then what on earth can't be justified? If we may target and kill a few hundred thousand non-combatants to win an important war, then why may others not kill a few million in gas chambers or gulags to save a nation and a way of life? Hypothetically, if I could save the whole world and all her treasures by torturing and murdering just one child (maybe your child?), I should do it, right?


Evil is evil and we may take no part in it, even to bring about a greater good. Heck, there is not a genocidal dictator who has ever lived who did not justify his crimes against humanity by appealing to what he believed to be a greater good.

Psychologically speaking, there is something else about the nature of the atomic bomb that lulls even good Catholics and good Americans into perceiving it as morally licit: When great distance lies between a killer and a victim, the conscience tends to deaden. Catholic Answers' writer Christopher Check ("Dropping the Atomic Bomb was Wrong. Period.") refers to retired Army Ranger Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's findings on the topic:

...while psychological trauma is not uncommon among infantrymen who have been in close combat, Col. Grossman did not find “a single instance of psychiatric trauma” associated with long-range killing. That includes the pilot and crew of the Enola Gay, the B-29 Super Fortress that dropped “Little Boy” on the people of Hiroshima. Indeed, Enola Gay’s pilot, Col. Paul Tibbets, went to his death claiming that he never felt guilt or lost sleep over having dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Indeed, he flew reenactments of the event at air shows. 
Grossman provides eerily antiseptic testimony given by Allied bomber pilots and crews who firebombed Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo. These campaigns together claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 noncombatants, mostly women, children, and elderly (because men of fighting age were off fighting). The bombers reported feeling “fascination” and “satisfaction” but not guilt or regret. 
Grossman’s argument should provoke us to ask if many people’s comfort with the bomb does not derive, at least in part, from a condition of distance from the event. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 180,000 civilians. Would supporters of the bombings be as sanguine if a battalion of Marines had been sent into the same cities to bayonet an equal number of women, children, and elderly?

I am an American patriot and I love my country more than anything other than my Faith and my family. Accepting the fact that the U.S. was dead wrong in dropping The Bomb was one of the hardest things I had to do when I embraced the fullness of the Catholic Faith. But it was not hard for me to understand the moral principle: We don't target and kill innocent people, no matter what the cause, no matter the potentially disastrous outcome if we don't. We are to serve the good, not bring about the good. We act virtuously in our every action, and we leave the outcomes to God.

It is better, as Christ said, to lose our life to save it, than to save our life and lose it. What does it profit any of us to gain the whole world but lose our soul?

This world and this life are not the end. Winning a war or preserving a nation or even preserving the entire earth is not worth going to hell for. The priest in the Prager University video may be right on every other issue of the Faith, but he is dead wrong on this one.

We must think with the mind of the Church, act as Christ would act, and leave the outcomes to God.


*Bending one's will to think with the mind of the Church is not a case of "blindly following". For perspective on this, read here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Quick Takes: What? No slippery slope?

1)  So, I think I have at least six readers left, and at least two of them have actually contacted me to ask me if I am okay, since I have been so scarce around here!

Yes, I am definitely okay, and I truly apologize for being such a pathetic excuse for a blogger. My story this time is that I went to visit my second daughter and her new husband in Charleston, SC! So much fun! I am completely, 100% over my fear of flying (I even took the red eye alone to get to the east coast and thoroughly enjoyed it) -- I guess the desire to see one's children can crush a phobia.

Meanwhile, my husband went to his 25th college reunion at Emory University in Atlanta for a couple of days, and then he joined me in South Carolina. And oh my goodness, for a few moments he and I sat blissfully in the lobby of the Francis Marion Hotel in downtown Charleston -- the site of the 2015 Edel Gathering!! It is gorgeous, ladies! Consider making the trip!

Thanks to my wonderful mom and my oldest son (a senior in college) for helping to care for the kiddies while we were gone! It's been a million years since Dean and I have flown off and had a vacation together far away. Usually we do 24-hour getaways just down the street, but now that I'm flying again, we may be going to far-flung places a lot more often!

Anyway, since I've been traveling, it's been hard for me to catch up with everything else in my life and to clear the way for blogging. I trust that will change now that I don't have trips planned for a while.

Also (in case you're interested in my psychology), I find that it's so much more fun to have the interesting combox conversations than it is to write the original post in the first place. I think it's because I'm too picky about my own writing and it takes so long to satisfy the editor in my head. :) Maybe I need to let some of that perfectionism go so that we can actually have some combox conversations again!

2) Thank you to my wonderful son-in-law Dirk for helping my husband fulfill his dream of (finally!!) shooting a gun. More than one gun, in fact. And he was a good shot! Killed a zombie or two, and some bad guys.

We had a wonderful time at the range, and seeing the salt of the earth folks there -- husbands with wives, women alone and with friends, law enforcement and military -- just made me feel good to know that if ISIS comes around, there will be plenty of citizens that are not going down without a very strong fight!

3)  So many people deny the slippery slope when it comes to issues of sexuality and marriage, but I just wonder if they are following the news at all? It's so obvious that one "progression" leads to the next, and it happens with such predictability that I am baffled when people still scoff. Here is the latest, but certainly not the last:

Incest a 'fundamental right', German committee says

According to the ironically-named "German Ethics Council":
“The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”
You got that? Sexual urges are paramount. They trump all.

Look, Germany has the premise all wrong about the truth and meaning of human sexuality, but if you accept the faulty premise, then the logic is sound. If the standard is that "consenting adults" may do whatever they want sexually, then incest is perfectly legit, and should be legal. Marriage equality, y'all. People who say it should mean it, no? And more and more, they do mean it. Just last week I was debating gay "marriage" with a young man, and when pressed, he admitted that he has no problem with incest.

From a German academic, via Professor Robert P. George on Facebook:
"And here comes the best of it: Immediately [after the German Ethics Council's decision] discussions started about legalization of zoophilia. Recently there were reports of increased sex tourism to Denmark where zoophilia is legal already."
Western European nations are the "enlightened" nations, keep in mind, and the legalization of bestiality is being openly discussed and in some places is already allowed.

But remember, "There is no slippery slope!"  ;)

4)  I love this C.S. Lewis quote, posing a conundrum about atheism that has always puzzled me. Namely, why do atheists trust their brains to give them truth?

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

Anyone have a good refutation of his argument?

5) What kind of granny would I be if I did not post more pictures of Felicity Virginia??

There is her serious look (much like her own mother, who was always "thinking" at that age):

Three months old! This was taken on her mother's 23rd birthday.

There is also her amused and whimsical look:

And of course, practicing for her future canonization, there is her look (and pose) of sanctity:

6) Lest anyone accuse this granny of playing favorites, here is my second beautiful grandchild! Sex still unknown, but isn't he/she beautiful?? I can hardly wait till March! Ahhhhh!

Thank you to our dear daughters and sons-in-law, for being so open to life! What a gift that is to our whole family!

7) If you or someone you know is open to the gift of a child for your family, please consider happy and lovely seven-year-old Angelina, who has spina bifida:

Click my photo for more info!

From her information page:
From a family who met her in June 2014:  "Somebody come get this girl, Angelina.  She is such an awesome kid.  So happy and smart. She just needs a family and she will thrive. She is 7 and may be in an institution soon. She does not belong there.” 
A family who met her in 2011 says she’s the happiest child, always smiling and laughing.

Please pray for Angelina and spread the word!


Have a joy-filled weekend, and thanks to Jen for hosting!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ted Cruz blew it.

Honestly, as a Palestinian married to a Jew, I am both compelled and repelled by the situation in the Middle East.

My dad was born in the Holy Land, and he was just ten years old when his mother left dinner cooking on the stove in the rush to get her five children out of the country during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 (i.e., the establishment of the modern state of Israel). The young Catholic family fled to Egypt, forever leaving behind everything they had and knew. They were even for a while without their husband and father, as my grandfather ended up in a refugee camp somewhere in the desert, his wife and children not knowing for six months if he were dead or alive. Can you imagine?

The situation in the Middle East is delicate. It is complicated. It is nuanced. It has a history going back thousands of years, which is hard for Americans to grasp. I support Israel, but I do not support every action of Israel. I love the Jewish people, and I love my fellow Christian Arabs. I abhor the violence and persecution that is occurring in the Middle East by radical, brutal Islamists with no conscience, and I believe that unfathomable evil must be stopped. I stand with my Christian brothers and sisters who are undergoing hardships that we in the west cannot (yet) imagine, and that is why I am so disturbed by what Senator Ted Cruz said and did the other night at a gathering meant to support those suffering Christians.

I know the organizer of the In Defense of Christians Summit (IDC), and it is heartbreaking that the only narrative coming out of the days-long event are reports of "bigotry" leveled at persecuted Christians who are now being accused of supporting terrorists. This unfortunate outcome is largely thanks to Ted Cruz's stepping in doo-doo, then walking off the stage when his ill-advised comments were not embraced. He continues his self-righteous grandstanding in the regular and social media, and I can't make sense of his tone-deafness, arrogance, lack of finesse, and/or lack of geopolitical knowledge and insight. I honestly thought he was smarter than that.

But I guess I am getting ahead of myself.

If you are not familiar with the story, here's an overview of what happened that night:

Click and read the whole article, but here is an excerpt:
...When Cruz took the stage, however, after two days of declarations of Christian unity and recognition of the widespread persecution of peoples of all faiths, his remarks emphasized his devotion to the state of Israel. The crowd applauded faithfully as Cruz made the argument that ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, as well as Syria and Iran, were all equal participants in genocidal bigotry. Cruz then transitioned. After saying, “Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice. A humanitarian crisis. Christians, are being systematically exterminated,” Cruz then turned to the 1948 formation of Israel, a sensitive subject for many Palestinian Christians, and declared that "today, Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.” 
It was at that point that some in the audience objected to Cruz turning a celebration of Christian unity into a lecture on a divisive subject that many in the crowd experienced as part of their everyday lives. Cruz returned accusations of hatred. Even then, most of the crowd tried to reconcile with him as Cruz continued on to speak about “Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals [applause] who seek to—[applause]. If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ [applause].” As he continued to press the issue, however, the crowd increasingly urged him to “move on” and booed, leading him to lament those “consumed with hate” and depart. 

More analysis for those who are not familiar with the geopolitical realities of the region:

Some highlights:

When Cruz was supposed to give the keynote address and discuss the deadly serious topic of persecution of Christians, he instead insulted a largely immigrant and foreign crowd as a group that didn’t understand their own political situation and stomped out of the room after calling them a bunch of haters.

Yeah, that's not so smart.

Christians who are persecuted have political views that may not align with U.S. interests. Who knew? For many of us, our concern about genocide of Christians isn’t limited to those who are perfectly aligned with our views. 
Ya think?

And this:
One can certainly argue in support of Cruz’s statement — politically, at least — and yet also recognize how fraught the topic is for Christians in the region.

It's worth noting here that Ted Cruz is an evangelical Christian, and evangelical Christians have a different biblical and political understanding of the modern state of Israel than Catholics do. Catholics know that the "new Israel" is the Church. By contrast, evangelicals view the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 as some sort of biblical fulfillment with heavy eschatological implications. Ted Cruz is an evangelical, and that influences (and skews) his understanding of things.

The Church herself is very sensitive to the plight of Palestinians and of Christians in the Middle East. While supportive of Israel's right to exist, the Church has always been prudent and measured in how she speaks of these delicate issues. Catholics must think with the mind of the Church, even more than we think of American or Israeli (or any nation's) interests. American Catholics too often default to the Protestant understanding of things in this predominately Protestant culture, but we would do well to stand with the understanding and experiences of our fellow Catholics -- the bishops, priests, and laity of the actual region.

I regret that the hard efforts of so many people working for unity and to help our persecuted brethren has turned into something divisive. Cruz is no dummy; he should have been savvy enough to know better, and he should not continue to agitate and grandstand this issue now. It's also sad (if predictable) that many in the media have taken to sound-byte sensationalism instead of taking time and care to give us real perspective, real journalism.

But hope springs eternal, and Christ will bring good out of this unnecessary debacle. From IDC president Toufic Baaklini:
For more than 48 hours, our initial IDC conference was successfully bridging divides of faith, language, geography and politics. It has not been easy, and not without challenges. Tonight’s events make clearer than ever, that the [IDC] is desperately needed in a world that remains divided to the point where even the most fundamental value of life and human dignity are cast aside.

Amen, and Lord have mercy.

**UPDATE: Here's an excellent summary of what happened in that room, from Catholic Vote...

What I saw at the "In Defense of Christians" Summit 

And here's an excellent interview with IDC Executive Director, Andrew Doran, who is the brother of a dear friend of mine. He explains all the amazing and seemingly impossible things that were accomplished at the summit, despite the Ted Cruz sideshow:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Such a painful day for America.

Thirteen years later, it almost seems like it was just a bad dream, doesn't it? Then again, it's such a part of us that I don't really remember what life here was like before the terror of that day.

I cannot imagine what it is like for the survivors when this anniversary comes around.

Today, I want to ask you to share your memories of that day. Where were you when you found out what was happening? What did you do? Did it affect your faith? Did you know anyone who perished or lost a loved one? Feel free to mention those people so that we can honor their memories and pray for them.

I was 34 years old in 2001, my husband and I having recently settled into our new home with our five children, all under the age of ten. It was very early in Arizona when the Twin Towers were attacked, and I was awakened by a call from my friend Bethany. She was crying and told me to turn on the TV. Groggily, I did, and what I saw was like something out of a movie: The first tower had black smoke billowing around it. The second tower had not yet been hit. As the second plane hit, and then the collapse of the first tower, and later the second tower, I watched with a combination of shock and horror. The reporters were as stunned as the rest of us.

Somewhere in those first minutes I went downstairs to tell my husband what was happening, and we watched together until the children woke up, at which point we turned off the family TV and denied access to the TV in our bedroom. We didn't tell the children anything as far as I can remember (it was too traumatic and confusing to sort through at the moment), and all but the youngest (a one-year-old) went off to school.

My husband went to work, but within an hour or so I asked him to come home. He worked for the government at the time, and I was terrified that government buildings were going to come under attack. No one knew what to think, so my husband, like so many others, came home. Together, we took our baby to his scheduled Gymboree class, and the few people who showed up were as subdued as we were, exchanging somber, worried looks, but barely talking to one another as we went through the motions of singing and playing with our children. We came home, and the rest of the day was spent watching news coverage in disbelief. I've lost the memory of when the Pentagon was hit, or when the heroes of United 93 took down their plane in a Pennsylvania field. There was much confusion about how many airplanes may have been hijacked, and the nation was bracing for more attacks. I don't remember how or when my older children got home.

It was surreal.

Nothing would ever be the same.

I kept repeating to myself, "Lord, have mercy."

May we never forget the victims and their families, and may we continue to pray for all of those who suffered so terribly at the hands of brutal mass murderers.

Please tell me your story of that day.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother!

Today we joyfully celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother! Mary made herself known to me in an extraordinary way when I was just a little girl, and she waited patiently for me, with a mother's love, while I wandered in the darkness for many years. I thank my wonderful parents, and my father especially, for instilling in my heart a deep love for Our Lady.

To honor our Heavenly Mother on her birthday, please leave a comment telling us what she means to you, how she has affected your life and faith journey, or how she has led you to her Divine Son. I can't wait to hear!

"The day of the Nativity of the Mother of God is a day of universal joy, 
because through the Mother of God, the entire human race was renewed, 
and the sorrow of the first mother, Eve, was transformed into joy."

-- Saint John Damascene, Father and Doctor of the Church

Mary, Mother of God, by Tracy L. Christianson

“In trial or difficulty I have recourse to Mother Mary, 
whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear.” 

-- Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Quick Takes: Barely on time, but full of good stuff!

1. Sooooo, here I am, doing so much better and back to normal (whatever that means)! It's funny how much I have leaned about myself (not always pretty!!) and also about God. I'm still pondering it all, and it's been a rich source of spiritual growth, even as I would not wish panic attacks on my worst enemy.

There is the fun irony of how NaPro Technology has helped me get relief from my peri-menopause symptoms. Why ironic? Because, as longtime readers know, my blogging came about because of the support of the IF (infertile) Catholic bloggers, who took me (a crazy fertile) under their collective wing. These ladies were often helped by the amazing medical treatment pioneered by Dr. Hilgers at the Pope Paul IV Institute in Omaha, who has since trained many other doctors and health care workers. The philosophy of NaPro is to pinpoint and treat the actual underlying disease or disorder in order to fix and heal the body so that it works properly, rather than simply to mask or override the problems by using IVF or ART, or by reflexively prescribing the Pill for every known female/menstrual disorder. 

I have a dear friend, a doctor and a fellow Catholic mommy, who is a NaPro practitioner. She used her knowledge to help me in my quest to feel healthy again, and suddenly it was I who was receiving (and teaching my husband how to give) injections of POI (progesterone in oil)! I never thought I myself would be the happy beneficiary of all the great NaPro innovation that I have been advocating for years. God is good!

2. I am so excited to report that for the first time in six years, I hopped on an airplane! I went to see both my daughters (and granddaughter) in Omaha! My mom and sister came with me from Phoenix, and my younger daughter, whom none of us had seen since her wedding, flew in from the east coast to join us for a baby shower that my elder daughter's wonderful mother-in-law and sisters-in-law were hosting! So, it was a spectacular girls' reunion! Omaha is a fabulous city with the nicest people ever and a stellar diocese, and I'm just gonna say right now that there is a reason that the zoo there is considered one of the best (if not the best) in the nation. Wow! Yes, there are a lot of exclamation points in this paragraph!!!!

What's that you say? You'd like to see photos of the amazing shower in which no detail was left unconsidered? Here are just some of the lovely touches that I marveled over -- it was like breezing through a Parisian fair:

Yes, that is a cupcake ferris wheel!

This was the coolest thing!
Cups filled with cotton candy, and we filled them with pink and/or blue lemonade!
The sugar dissolves in the lemonade, and voilà!

My daughter loves hot air balloons, and look at those little stuffed animals in the baskets!

Here is our incredible hostess, Kathy, who is the sweetest and most gracious woman in the world! We share grandma duties, proudly!

Loving grandmas! We can't get enough of our little Felicity!

And what an incredible treat to finally meet -- in person -- the woman who found the perfect "match" for my daughter when I asked her to scout around! Dear Mary, one of those original infertile bloggers I was just talking about (now with a precious little daughter of her own) was able to come to the shower!

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match! She did!

Without beautiful Mary, there would be no Felicity...

Thank you to all the amazing people who made the fun and joy possible. I sure do miss them, but now I feel like I have a home away from home in Omaha, Nebraska.

Can't wait to see my girls again soon....

3) Speaking of amazing people, Teresa is a dear friend of mine, and has been since I knew her as a mere girl in my kids' first Catholic school. She's now all grown up, an incredible intellect, a pure and holy soul, and currently hoping to join the cloister, to pray for all of us in silence and love for the rest of her life. 

Before she can enter the cloister, she has to retire her student loan debt. If you feel moved to help her, in any amount, I promise that your generosity will be returned to you tenfold in the power of her prayers before the Throne of God. I vouch for her personally... she is the real deal, and she will flood us with the grace she merits in her vocation of prayer and sacrifice. Read her story:

The Sparrow Has Found a Home

An excerpt:
A cloistered nun commits herself to a particular monastery where she prays and sacrifices for the rest of her life. This life of prayer is her "job", and therefore, she does not leave the walls of her monastery except for a grave reason.   
So, when I visited the monastery, I had no intention of joining. How could this boisterous Catholic gypsy remain in any one place for the rest of her life--and in silence?? Yet, I went anyway. Who could have imagined that it would be here that I would finally find what I had sought so ardently? 

If you cannot contribute any funds, please pray for her. Like I said, she is the real deal, and a fervent believer that prayer is more powerful than any gold. Your prayers will connect you efficaciously in the Communion of Saints.

I love this woman!!! 

4) While I'm at it, I want to draw your attention to another friend who has a time-senstive need to meet his goal for a special project. Catholics, you all know the wonderful, wacky, brilliant Patrick Coffin, from Catholic Answers! He has teamed up with a quality movie-maker to make Call of the Void. In Patrick's words:
[The movie] is about a man named Steve who struggles with a very difficult past. He has had, among other things, a bad car accident, which not only haunts him but has led to delusional thoughts. We can’t give away the ending but a major theme is the cost of refusing the help of other people and the burden placed on us by the gift of free will. Not everything Steve sees or says is rooted in reality. We the audience do get a glimpse by the end, of what’s real and what’s a figment. The film stands in the tradition of noir, with a touch of suspense.
To finance the film, he's started a Kickstarter campaign that will get things rolling. The culture is screaming for something different, and here's our chance to help. Even one dollar is accepted and appreciated, and every level of donation comes with a gift or gifts if the goal is met (if the goal is not met, your keep your money). Only days to go, so click below for more info and a video:

Call of the Void

5)  So, up at the top I mentioned that I've been pondering all I have learned, spiritually, after my two-week long, basically unrelenting, panic attacks. One of the big issues that came up was the issue of trusting God in suffering. So when Connie Rossini introduced me to her newest book, Trusting God with St. Therese, I told her I'd be thrilled to promote it. 

Talk about suffering. Connie has a sad story to tell:

On June 10, 1974, our family was driving to the annual Catholic Charismatic Conference at the University of Notre Dame. We began our journey in Spokane, Washington, where we had spent a weekend on retreat. Just outside Missoula, Montana, the car rolled over three times, landing in the median of the freeway. I was in the back with the seat down and no seat belt. So were two of my siblings and two friends. 
I ended up with stitches in my leg and a bump on my head. My sister Terri, who had been sitting next to me, was thrown from the car and died. She was ten years old. 
Why did God let this happen? Didn’t He know where we had come from and where we were going? Hadn’t He heard Terri’s voice, when she had volunteered that morning to pray for a safe trip?

It's the kind of tragedy that everyone fears, because it hits right at the heart of trusting what Jesus told us. When someone has been through a horror of that magnitude and comes out with deeper faith and peace, I listen to her. And when she pairs her experiences with the experiences and teachings of St. Therese, I can't resist.

Are your fears, weaknesses, doubts, and anger keeping you from intimacy with Christ? Do you struggle with despair? Let St. Therese teach you perfect trust. 
Learn how Therese of Lisieux trusted God through tragedy, scruples, spiritual darkness, and physical suffering. Connie Rossini pairs episodic stories from the saint’s life with memories of her own quest to trust. With Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and insights from psychology, Rossini leads readers to surrender their lives completely to Jesus. 
Practical and accessible, Trusting God with St. Therese includes questions for reflection that make it perfect for book clubs and faith-sharing groups.

The books seems awfully timely to me.

6)  I know this is a couple of weeks old, but I just love seeing our universal Church, uniting us near and far. We are all members of the same Body of Christ:

7) These brothers need a home! Trey and Trent are very close and love each other dearly. The younger boy is 9 and has some mild special needs. The older boy is 11, developing on track, and has no special needs.

Can you see these boys as members of your own family? They would thrive with the love of a mom and dad (and siblings!).

For more information on Trey and Trent, click here.

Please pray for them and pass along their information to your friends. That's the way these kids find their way to permanent homes.

Have a blessed Labor Day, and thanks to Jen for hosting!