Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Here's to Marriage

Thirty years ago today, we said, "I do" and accepted each other in the Sacrament of Matrimony. I've heard some use the term "wild ride" to describe the joys and sufferings of marriage and family. I don't know if I would call it a wild ride, but I certainly would call it eventful. I can't even begin to tell you the struggles we've gone through -- struggles seem the most vivid, I guess. But, the fact of the matter is that they always have some element of humor, and certainly joy, attached to them in the retelling.

For instance, Eddie (our child with significant special needs) suffered a terrible accident when he was 15 yrs. old. He was thrown from a horse and suffered a broken jaw and many contusions and lacerations as a result of the fall. It was horrible and it was the result of a freak incident involving a baby calf (it's too strange to explain). Anyway, that was a trying time for our family -- so many unknowns involved with trying to feed a boy who doesn't suck through a straw when he has a broken jaw. The story of how we managed through it all is very complicated and long, but suffice it to say that God managed to work good through the suffering:

1. Eddie needed a feeding tube. When we were getting ready for the procedure, the doctor mentioned that they might not be able to easily place the tube because of Eddie's scoliosis. "What scoliosis?" we asked. Unbeknownst to us, Eddie was developing a severe and rapidly progressing scoliosis, which without immediate attention would have been inoperable had we not acted upon it very early. This accident brought it to our attention with enough time to get appointments and a surgery scheduled -- and even then, his curvature progressed so quickly that we almost weren't able to have the surgery. It was a blessing that came from a terrible suffering.

2. But, that's not all. Eddie broke his jaw which itself needed special medical attention. A wonderful oral surgeon from Georgetown Hospital took Eddie into the OR to examine the break and decide whether it would be best to wire his jaw shut or leave the break to heal on it own. It all depended on how the bone was broken and whether articulation at the joint would be diminished if left alone. Well, the doctor decided it was in Eddie's best interest to leave it alone and allow the head of the mandible to reshape naturally. After about 4 weeks, Eddie was doing something he had never done before. HE COULD CHEW! Now, how about that! Apparently, his jaw muscles were spastic and frozen until the break which relieved the joint and allowed it to move. Who knew being thrown from a galloping horse could produce such wonders?

I guess some might just call this event something of a "wild ride" (pun completely intended)! But truly, it comes down to looking beyond the joys and the sorrows to see how God is moving, working, loving and shaping your life. It's easy to get stuck in being happy only during the high moments and bitter and angry during the lows. The challenge is to be joyful during it all.

How does one achieve such a thing?

Surrender.

We were meant to give ourselves entirely to God and entirely to our spouse; to be good stewards of creation and relationship and to be fruitful and multiply. Well, we screwed that up pretty much in the beginning, but thankfully, Our Lord and Savior has redeemed us and restored our relationship with the Father through His Passion, Death and Resurrection. If we can see this good and be joyful in His sacrifice, we should be able to manage any struggle or difficulty with joy through His grace. We just have to let Him be a part of it all. That's where the joy lies in recognizing that fact: He moves through it all.

Thirty years has passed so quickly. But it hasn't gone by without the gathering of a host of amazing stories of sacrifice, suffering, elation, awe, each of which has brought with it an abundance of love, joy and thanksgiving. Each special moment has offered one more opportunity to grow closer to God and family and to share the wonder of it all through our encounters with others.

Here's to marriage -- here's to thirty more years of wonder and joy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

To Jesus through Mary Together and Beyond

33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by [Gaitley, Michael E.]
Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

Yesterday in my email, I received a touching reminder from my friend, Cathy. She and I share the same date for our Consecration to Jesus through Mary -- May 31st, the Feast of the Visitation. Each year since we discovered this common thread in our friendship, she has emailed me the day before our preparation is to begin to renew our consecration.  Today, our start day, also happens to be the feast of St. Louis de Montfort.

Last year, my friend Peggy made her Consecration to Jesus through Mary for the first time. She did so on May 31st. Cathy once again emailed me to prepare. In turn, I emailed Peggy to prepare and on the Feast of the Visitation, Cathy (out of state), Peggy and I made and renewed our Consecration to Jesus through Mary together.

And so the chain continues to grow because after I received Cathy's email yesterday, I reached out to several of my friends and asked them to join in preparation to make their consecration. Two more ladies will be preparing over the next 33 days to offer themselves entirely in service to Jesus through His loving Blessed Mother.

It's a reminder of love, this email from my friend Cathy. It's a bond between us that reaches out beyond us just as the Blessed Mother would want. I am so grateful for Cathy's continued concern for my soul; because of this gentle "get ready" that she sends me, I have an opportunity to do the same and remind and invite others to prepare.

Thank you, Cathy, for being a servant to Our Lady and sharing a simple email that becomes a much larger invitation to bring souls to God.

Day One was today -- but never fear, you can catch up. Start by getting the book 33 Days to Morning Glory, or visiting this Consecration to Jesus through Mary, St. Louis de Montfort site to do the True Devotion retreat to prepare to love better, serve better, and grow in holiness by consecrating yourself to Jesus through Mary!

Once you make your total consecration, you will be amazed at how friendships grow and develop through the bond created by sharing a consecration date. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Solemnity of the Annunciation

Photo courtesy of Patheos

I was reading my morning prayers and meditation and was struck by something that I suppose I must have heard over and over before, but this morning it resonated like a newly discovered truth: There was no fear in Mary. Now, being visited by an angel has got to be astounding, can't say for sure myself. But, from what has been written in Scripture and by countless saints regarding angels, it is an awesome and ecstatic event. Yet, Mary, pure of heart, knelt before the Archangel Gabriel, and without fear inquired about how she might come to be the Theotokos.


Step inside that event for a second:

You are Mary. You are young. You are simple and pure. You have been raised by wonderful and holy parents. We don't know that they are aware or if you are aware of your difference among your peers. Maybe because of your spiritual perfection you have suffered some ridicule or been admonished for your desire to remain untainted by the world. Yet, when the angel comes and suggests that something outside of the moral standard would be required of you, you don't cower; although he does remind that you should not fear. That reminder is because the visit of an angel is a fearsome thing, not because you are afraid of what he might want. And so, you recognize without a doubt the messenger from God. There is no question in your heart other than how it should come to be, your reason is working with your faith to make sense of the situation. But, even in the midst of what others might have immediate concern about -- their own reputation -- you simply say, "Fiat". You will is so tethered to the Father, that when He announces your participation in the Incarnation, you are ready and willing. You delight in being His handmaid, you delight in doing His will. And, that delight is a pure and generous consolation to you because what is about to happen to you is riddled with uncertainty and pain. The trials that you are about to encounter in participation with the will of God would crush any other person. You have been prepared from the moment of your Immaculate Conception for this level of participation. Not forced, but prepared. Not coerced, but chosen and free to offer your consent.

Pope St. John Paul II said this in his marvelous work Redemptoris Mater about the Annunciation:
The Annunciation, therefore, is the revelation of the mystery of the Incarnation at the very beginning of its fulfillment on earth. God's salvific giving of himself and his life, in some way to all creation but directly to man, reaches one of its high points in the mystery of the Incarnation. This is indeed a high point among all the gifts of grace conferred in the history of man and of the universe: Mary is "full of grace," because it is precisely in her that the Incarnation of the Word, the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature, is accomplished and fulfilled. As the Council says, Mary is "the Mother of the Son of God. As a result she is also the favorite daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace, she far surpasses all other creatures, both in heaven and on earth" (RM 9).
Ahh, thank you, Sweet Virgin, for your YES and for understanding the message of the angel so clearly and with full faith and consent. Thank you for having not even a moment's hesitation in bringing Our Savior into the world, for giving Him life, for nurturing Him and training Him for the duty he had before Him. Thank you for being ever present to Him with your humble spouse St. Joseph, for being the model exemplar of what makes a Holy Family. Thank you for never doubting your role in the Incarnation which places you higher than all other created beings. Thank you for being Our Mother, too.

Blessed Solemnity of the Annunciation! Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Women -- Today, I'll wear blue


It is March 8th in the United States of America, and as I understand it:

I am supposed to prove my worth as a woman by going on strike

I am supposed to seek the appreciation I deserve by ignoring what I am supposed to do

I am supposed to stick it to those who neither appreciate me or value me by wearing red...

and throwing my family, my job and my world into chaos!

Now, let's just take a moment to think about this.

Who can afford in this economy to not show up for work? That's just downright irresponsible! And what about all those people that we serve, let's say school children (girls and boys) who will lose a day that could have been intellectually productive? And, healthcare professionals (nurses and doctors, administrators, etc.) who will put their patients (men and women) at risk by not showing up for their shifts. How will they justify that in the name of self-importance? Or, or the female government officials who will walk out of their floors of the Senate and Congress in just a few minutes? What about the women constituents they represent, and the men, who they will have a day without effective government?

Women, do you want to be appreciated? Do you want people -- men and women -- to appreciate what you do?

Then, DO IT WELL!

This strike is selfish and foolhardy. Your silliness only hurts people. Women do not belong to a selective organization that strikes; we are a vital part, dare I say the heart of society!

This movement makes women look like whiny, helpless, "I only have worth based on other people's opinions of me" ninnies.


I do believe that if I want to be appreciated, I better darn well deserve that appreciation through humble service.

If I want to be respected, I better live in a way that is respectable.

It is said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

If women only want a momentary sense of satisfaction, then squeak away. But, ultimately, this will be short lived and nothing with change unless you learn to appreciate who you are as a woman first, then act in a way that calls down upon you dignity and respect.

So, women, can we please take these word from Mulieris Dignitatem to heart?
A woman's dignity is closely connected with the love which she receives by the very reason of her femininity; it is likewise connected with the love which she gives in return. The truth about the person and about love is thus confirmed. With regard to the truth about the person, we must turn again to the Second Vatican Council: "Man, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self". (MD 30)
 You first must open your hearts to love and in return GIVE OF YOURSELF -- therein lies your dignity based on love.

Today, I will not strike, I will not wear red. Instead, I will serve with love following the example of my Blessed Mother. Oh, and by the way, I'm wearing blue.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Who Represents Me?

image courtesy of CNN

I have never watched so much news in my life!


Or, discussed the issues with so much passion before.

Or, read so many political opinions.

Or, tested so many political opinions against the teachings of my Church.

I find so much opposition to common sense and civility.

Even discussion of the upcoming Superbowl is riddled with political overtones: Brady and Trump support; security heightened at the stadium; negative fan reactions, etc.

What on earth is going on?

I thought I lived in a country where differing opinions were welcomed; maybe compromise can't be met, but the ability to voice a contrary view has always been a constitutional right protected by the 1st Amendment.

I have never had this much interest in the workings of my government before. It's like not being able to look away from a serious car accident and wondering if it could have been avoided while hoping that everyone involved will be ok. Maybe that's part of the issue for me: Do I have a sense of guilt about the current state of our Constitutional Republic?

I'll tell you what I've done over the last several years, and you decide whether I should acknowledge this sense of guilt.

1. I made a conscious decision early on with my husband that our children would not enter into the public indoctrination system (my very strong opinion should be clear here -- I don't think what happens in public schools should be called education, especially with the emphasis on agenda based information,  "teaching to the test", and the ratcheting up of questionable sexual rhetoric-- only three of myriad examples.)

2. After many years of watching Catholic Schools bow to the Federal Blue Ribbon Program for validation of their curriculum, I bailed and took my children home. While I loved that we were in an environment where God was taught, I didn't want the Federal Government to have any level of influence on the way my Catholic teaching was imparted to my children. Buh-bye.

3. I Marched for Life -- and **GASP** brought my children with me! That's right. Every year, peacefully -- no riots, no breaking windows, no setting fires, no vulgar hats/costumes. Nope. None of that. Just smiles, rosaries and a walk past the Supreme Court. A couple of years back, a counter protest was removed by the police because they were impeding the progress of the March and causing disruption...(there were 500,000+ of us who were peaceful in our civil protest, while about 8-10 of those who opposed our views caused a situation that resulted in arrests...hmmm.)

4. I taught my children History, Science, Composition, Literature, Grammar, Religion, Math, Latin, Handwriting, Art, etc. I infused our belief system throughout the curriculum and always encouraged discussion and debate. I taught my children to evaluate, to research, and to care about what was being presented to them. I taught my children to think, to critique and to trust but verify. I am the primary educator of my children in both faith and academics before any outside source (CCC 2221-2230). I taught my children to think. And, of course, my husband supported and encouraged this effort.

5. I was blessed to be able to enroll my children in a private Catholic School that supports what we valued most in education -- that ability to think in an environment that teaches both faith and personal character. Obedience is expected, but creativity is not stifled. They are not seen to be in opposition. Obedience opens the door to true freedom. This is Catholic teaching: "By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth" (CCC 1740).

6. I have contacted State Representative, Congressmen and Senators, members of the Board of Education, Federal officials, signed petitions. I have prayed for our government, our society, our religious freedom, our Church, other religions, our family and friends, etc. I have prayed with my family outside of abortion clinics. I didn't scream my issues but wrote letters expressing my concerns clearly and cogently. I spoke with respect to people who disagreed with me in the interest of having an intelligent conversation where both sides could share their opinions with dignity. (Notice: no fires, axes, pepper spray necessary.)

7. I voted consistently for people that I believed would represent my values and convictions. I didn't get much satisfaction in that regard for more than a decade or so. (I made no threats, but made sure to up my activity in #6.)

8. I could go on and on. But, I won't because this is sounding braggadocious, which is NOT what I wish to emphasize at all. I know many people who have done these things, as well. I am not alone in my efforts.

The point of this is that I can't think of what else I could have done. So I continue to discern: Have I done everything I can to help? Am I helping now?

Do any of you find yourself thinking the same way?

It's a terrible place to be. I have made every effort to be a faithful, patriotic American, a good Catholic wife and mother; to wait out the administrations that didn't fully align with what I believed. And in a way that was representative of the rich history of our country, I accepted that leadership until such time as it would change.

And, what am I met with when the tables are turned and the outcome of this election wasn't what others wanted or even expected?

Crying!
Safe Spaces!
Coloring Books!

then...

Violence!
Vulgarity!
Threats!

...and on, and on, and on...

It's disturbing, but not surprising based on how our culture has been churning around us. The culture of death has done nothing if not gain incredible support over the last four decades.

The result: no one who voted for this change is permitted to enjoy their victory because bullies (from the anti-bullying camp) have decided that they won't allow it. They speak peace and tolerance, but exude none toward people who disagree with them. This is a sign of how we have devolved as a society. It's a statement about what our culture represents today.

And, this is not reflective of me, or anyone I know, at all. Yet here I stand, with many of my friends, even after peaceful and respectful efforts to express discontent with the way things in our country had been progressing. Where do our values fit in this culture?

Anarchists don't represent me. Hollywood doesn't represent me. Feminists don't represent me. Whiny college students don't represent me. Democrats don't represent me. Republicans don't represent me.

Who represents me?

Who represents you?

We are in a situation that is leaving innumerable people uncomfortable and various others violently disruptive.

This administration has only just begun. I will be watching for productivity, accountability, honesty and transparency. I'll be waiting for the dignity of society to be restored. I will hope that people will wake up and see that the lapse in reason that motivates them to destroy property, hurt people, and create chaos in an expression of distress for not getting their way. The mob mentality does no good and only serves to make our country appear unstable and impotent as a leader in the world. That is not who we are, is it?

I will be watching more news than ever before discussing politics and varying political opinions more than ever before, and testing all of it against the teachings of my faith. And, I will be praying for the world and for this administration.

What will you be doing?

How will you help?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

On social media, divisiveness and a Trinified society

The realm of social media has fascinated me for a long time. At first, it was like a new toy that I wanted to play with constantly -- it was addicting and consuming. I had to learn how to use it prudently. Then, it became a medium for reconnecting and establishing new friendships. Ultimately, however, it has become a headache.

In this forum, we try to develop connections that seem real and tangible; most often they are artificial and superficial.

What do I mean by that?

Well, we truly do not know most of the people with whom we are dealing. We will most likely never meet these people who are engaged in daily conversation/interactions online. Often, we limit our engagement to only people who share our perspective or make us feel good about our position on a matter, be it faith, politics, family, you name it.

It's a "safe zone" of sorts. An insulated opinion bubble in which we hide ourselves and find validation for our own opinions and put up a facade about ourselves that is completely unrealistic. For instance, I post pictures of my food; it looks tempting and delicious most of the time. You will never taste that food, and very possibly, it could taste like utter crap. But, everyone says I'm an amazing cook. It's validating and it strokes my ego. That made me stop and take pause a couple of years ago -- and I stopped posting so many pictures of my food. It was becoming prideful.

Back to the bigger point. Even I have come to established one of those "safe zones" where I can test opinions among a like-minded crowd before sending them out to the public realm. However, I am finding trouble stating opinions without getting shouted at, called divisive, etc. even in that space. In a place where once I felt comfortable to put out a critique and have a discussion, I am now getting shouted down. No argument or discussion. Just name calling and high anxiety posts.

This is so disturbing to me and it should be to you.

I posted at the beginning of 2017 that I wanted to branch out and return to actual engagement with human beings for my socialization. I wanted to have "real" friendships again, away from the screen and the comm boxes and the virtual relationship. I am headed there now.

It is my contention that the world of social media itself is divisive. There is no accountability for one's information being accurate, no filter for one's opinions, and no consequence for being mean-spirited or downright obnoxious in this fantasy realm of relationships.

Who needs that?

I have big opinions. I fact check and sometimes someone else comes up with alternative facts. If I am wrong, I often apologize and move forward. But, the tone has changed. I want to have civilized discussions/debate. However, the forum, even among a select group of people I have come to trust, has devolved into name calling and malicious sentiment.

We are meant to be a society that is Trinified, made in the image and likeness of God and respresentative of this truth. For the most part, I don't see this on social media anymore. And, now I am being told loudly that my attitudes and opinions displayed there are also lacking. This is frustrating in a very real way.

I will henceforth post pictures of puppies, food and things of little substance intellectually because this medium has left the realm of intellectual discovery and discourse.

Here you are social media -- my effort for today.



I'm going to get a cup of coffee and call a real friend.

God help us all figure out how to interact again for the sake of the salvation of mankind.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Stay Innocent, My Friends! Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas Eve!!!

From our house to yours!



If you set your heart aright
and stretch out your hands toward him,
If iniquity is in your hand, remove it,
and do not let injustice dwell in your tent,
Surely then you may lift up your face in innocence;
you may stand firm and unafraid.
For then you shall forget your misery,
like water that has ebbed away you shall regard it.
Then your life shall be brighter than the noonday;
its gloom shall become like the morning,
And you shall be secure, because there is hope;
you shall look round you and lie down in safety;
you shall lie down and no one will disturb you. (Job 11:13-19)


Never let go of the HOPE of Christmas!
The Fun -- The Joy -- The Wonder!
Stay Innocent, My Friends!

Preparing!
Preparing Still!
Making things perfect!

Waiting for His Coming! Soon...Very Soon...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Oh, the egalitarian HYPOCRISY!

I stayed away from this space during the election and the aftermath -- which was seemingly toxic fallout to some. Peaceful transition of power say others -- streets filled with riots, protesters and offensive slogans and symbols.

"Not My President," they shout.

What?

Of course this is your president, and your country and your system "of the people, by the people and for the people". Remember Abraham Lincoln? All people. That means that sometimes the government will go in a direction you don't agree with...and you...go with it, until you use your powers of influence to stem the tide and turn it in a direction that suits your beliefs again. It's called a Constitutional Republic for a reason -- we operate under democratic principles with a governing document that guides the federal portion of our government and allows for states to have individual governing powers which then inform and assist the federal government in overall governance. It was never intended that the federal government would intrude this extensively into the lives of its citizenry (ah...another word currently up for redefinition).

During the George Bush the elder years -- I was not a fan. I broke no windows, stormed no streets in radical protest. During the Clinton years -- the same; The Bush minor years -- similar sentiment but for his response to 9/11 which I thought was astounding and conjured patriotism from its dusty bin in a forgotten hovel); the Obama years -- possibly eight of the most difficult political years to endure, even as a decidedly less enthusiastic Republican (not sure I even identify there any longer.)

No wailing and grinding of teeth, no violent childish outbursts. Respect for the office, prayer and hard work to bring back rational thought and debate about the state of our nation, policy and process.

So why does a designer of Michelle Obama's clothing have to make a preemptive denial of service to the soon to be First Lady? How is it suddenly noble to deny service to someone based on differences in values (read: hypocrites who destroy small business owners' livelihoods over wedding cakes and catering and flowers because they are considered bigots and less than noble in upholding their values.) Designer Sophie Theallet says: "Integrity is our only true currency." -- if you agree with me on what constitutes having integrity,  defined by Merriam Webster as: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values Theallet misses the mark in her statement by about a continent. Can I buy one of your expensive dresses with my integrity currency? And let's face it, how unegalitarian -- equal rights for all, except for you and you and you because you don't believe what I believe and therefore your integrity is inconsequential.

And then there's the issue of VP elect, Mike Pence. He just wanted to enjoy an evening at the theater with his family -- an event open to the public, not a political venue. He gets schooled by the cast, booed by the audience. Told that he is feared because "their beliefs" will not be represented. What if we had tried to school a Democrat elect? Does courtesy, decorum, integrity mean anything? Have you not been taught? This is not how you deal civily with other people, especially people you want to listen to your concerns. You do not back someone into a corner and hold them captive at a public event and read your grievances to them, no matter how eloquent you deem them to be.

It smacks of bullying. But,wait...these are the egalitarian elite. Everyone's beliefs are to be respected...unless you don't believe what they believe. Hypocrites!

I hate no one -- why should I even have to put that disclaimer here?

I'll tell you why.

Because having a difference of opinion is automatically an indicator of hate these days. You hate me because you think that I'm a bad person because we disagree.

Not even remotely accurate. I don't necessarily like what you are doing; but YOU, you I care about. I want you to do what will ultimately make you happy instead of watch you wallow in what is obvious to everyone now, a puddle of hate hidden under a banner of mistaken compassion.

And so, here you have it. A little glance into the window of my take on the distasteful behaviors of a small group of community agitators and their hierarchy (to include the mainstream media).

To those who agitate and cause disruption in our society, I say this: This means of behaving not what was intended for you -- goodness and happiness is what you are meant for. Need to read more about it? Go here to my safe space. I'm also willing to listen, to love and to help. You don't have to live like you have been living, in anger and in contempt for others.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mercy Meditation # 1


A Mercy Meditation for the week:

We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach. Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love. -- Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 265

The depths of us where nothing else can reach -- our soul. Jesus is there; infinite love reaches there. "Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary" (CCC 851). We can be moved to do things with great courage and great love when we learn to retreat often to that treasured place and be filled with the spirit of courage and mercy to be restored and reinvigorated for the mission. 

Truth is never out of date, and we can share this truth if we endeavor to enter into that deep, indwelling relationship with Truth. And, where we find Truth, we will also find the first bearer of the Truth, Mary, Our Mother. "'But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. And so they turn their eyes to Mary': in her, the Church is already the all-holy (CCC 829).  Blessed Mother, be our sure guide to those depths in our soul where we will find your Son and gain the strength and wisdom to share the Truth with others with love and mercy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

First, Change Your Life

The leaves are starting to fall on my driveway.

A new school year has begun.

And in my world, a new season of life is emerging.

I bet you think this is going to be a post about empty nesting.

Well, if you know me, you know that's not true. I have a very full nest. But, that doesn't mean that circumstances in our family aren't changing dramatically.

First Life Change -- New Home

In gearing up for the coming onslaught of changes, we moved to a new home. A home that allowed for the amount of living space necessary to have our children come and go, move in and move out, and hopefully, bring home the grandkids some day.

I can't believe that I am at the point of anticipating grandchildren, but I am. There are none on the horizon as yet, but that doesn't mean I am not at the stage in my life where I have to contend with the reality that the next child born into our family will not be my own. [Swallow hard; choke back the tears].

That's a BIG change, and one that I'm sure many people aren't prepared to have sneak up on them so quickly. I made the mistake among a group of similarly aged women of saying that we are the new generation of matriarchs to help the younger moms along the way. I know that they were kidding, but suddenly there I was, Marie-Antoinette before the Revolutionary Tribunal. Off with my head! Perhaps they didn't say it, but I'm sure the reaction was one that came from the same level of denial that I am in -- that my prime is past, that the years ahead will be different as I pass the torch to those coming up under me. I pray that they will see the value of my years of experience and allow me to be a source of wisdom and a guide along the way.

Second Life Change -- Eddie Ages Out

Well, we didn't decide to uproot our family just because of the hope of grandchildren. Eddie turned 22 yrs. old last April, and with that came his "graduation" from the school system. He loved his bus ride; I believe it was his favorite part of the day. Sure we thought about keeping him home all those years -- his experience in the system wasn't always stellar; and if he could talk, I'm sure I would certainly have been appalled at what was permitted outside of parental view (no different for my typically developing children). But, he liked getting up and going to school -- so we indulged him for 20 yrs. with a routine. And, we are grateful for the many wonderful memories we did experience for him.

But, now those hours fall to me to fill and make fruitful. It's a BIG change. Eddie is, for the most part, pretty easy going. When he's upset though, especially for reasons we can't figure out, he has a high pitched whine that sends the dog into a tail spin of howling! Dear me, it's a sound cacophony of epic proportions, and one I haven't quite figured out how to manage or eliminate. Yes -- it must go!

Back to the house -- we moved to get a house with land and a pool. Eddie LOVES the water, and he has made excellent use of the pool in our back yard this summer, as have we all. It's like having a retreat vacation available 24/7. But, somehow, I got elected to pool maintenance duties. Oh well, small price to pay for Eddie's radiant grin when he's playing in the water. Now, to figure out how to keep him happy and entertained in the winter.

Third Life Change -- Retirement

Here's the BIG ONE of all BIG CHANGES

Lyle will be retiring at the end of September. After more than 40 years of service to our country in uniform and as a civil servant, he will come home to be at the service of the family. It's a huge transition, one that I'm sure will take about 24 hrs. to get used to (he's really looking forward to this). As you can imagine, being the father of six kids takes some effort, especially when one has significant special needs. But, I think the hardest thing Lyle has ever had to do is be my husband. It's not easy having a saucy Sicilian bride for almost 30 yrs. He's done well holding up under the stress.

But, to be serious for a moment, it does mean life changes, role reassignments, relationship shifts. It's all natural, it's all normal; but, it's not all easy. The paperwork alone when someone retires is staggering -- now, add that to the pile of paperwork for Eddie leaving school, applications to qualify for services, buying and then refinancing a house. We are up to our eyeballs in paperwork, and he hasn't even retired yet!

And then, what is a man to do after more than 40 years of getting up and going to work everyday? Lyle has a plan for us -- it starts with daily Mass. Good plan so far. From there, he's working on it. It makes me smile to hear the various ideas. I think he'd make a great travel agent -- he loves to research and plan peoples trips. As I said, the plan is unfolding.

Final Life Change -- First, Change Your Life

Well, it all comes down to adapting to things uncertain, things unknown -- you know like having faith. With the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa right around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to assess and reassess and implement some changes. For instance, Lyle will be coming home to me and to the family on a full time basis (weird to think of it that way, but it's true), so how do I change my life to make this a seamless transition? Blessed Teresa of Calcutta recommends this:

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

So, I need to remember to be loving even when my routine changes dramatically with so many people in the house during the day. He should come home to be happier. That's my job. Just like it has been with my kids for all these years -- they should come home to be happier and go off again feeling loved.

It's never about making the other person change, making them adapt to your environment. It's about making the other person feel welcomed into a new situation; and your love in just that simple gesture will leave them wanting to change whatever is necessary to make you happy, to bring you joy.

First, change your life. That's the motto for the emergent changes in my world. They will all be crazy wonderful because God's will guides them all. 

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Are Women Hated by the Catholic Church?

***Republishing a piece I wrote a few years back on the dignity of women in the Church; and how ordination is not a means of increasing a woman's dignity and value in the Church. It seemed timely.

Are Women Hated by the Catholic Church?

By Kathryn Vestermark, MA (c) 2016

August 30, 2010

It has been announced that the Vatican is preparing to release an update to the 2001 norms established to deal with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. In essence, the Vatican is simply putting on paper what has been in practice since 2001 in relation to these norms. However, at the same time, while updating this particular portion of the norms, they also decided to address the issue of attempted women's "ordination." Both matters, sexual abuse of minors by clergy and invalid attempts to ordain women, fall under the classification of "delicta graviora," the most serious crimes against Church law.

Does this decision by the Church to measure these two issues under the same category show an insensitivity, or even misogyny, toward women? Is the Church equating women with sex offenders?

This is what many women who disagree with the teachings of the Church on the male-only priesthood would have you believe. But theirs is a shallow argument based on a desire to grasp for power, and subordinate sacred tradition to modern politics. Their claims of "misogyny" in no way prove any level of disrespect for women by the Church. Rather, their treatment of the issue is where the disrespect lies.

What is being listed and codified are actions: the act of attempting to ordain women, and the act of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy. Both of these actions are against God's law, and the laws of His Church. Women and men are created and called good by God, but what they attempt to do knowingly and of their own free will can seriously violate Divine law.

Perhaps examining this from a secular perspective would help. The act of murder is unlawful and can be considered a felony offense; the act of prostitution is also unlawful and can also be considered a felony. Both are felony offenses, but this would not mean equating murder with prostitution. They are similar only in that the acts are grievously criminal and can be categorized under the same heading: that of felony.

If this can be understood in relation to a secular example, why would some women have a difficult time relating it to Church law?

Jesus established a male priesthood, a teaching the Church has maintained since its beginning. But Eileen Di Franco, an invalidly ordained female "priest," attempts to pin this apples-to-oranges comparison of sex abusers to women's ordination on the Church in an op/ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Vatican has informed her, and other women invalidly "ordained," that they are not priests, and have incurred excommunication.

This step acknowledges publicly the grievous nature of their disobedience, and removes them from licit reception of the sacraments. Without a doubt, and with a basis in Scripture, the Church has the authority to do this (cf. Mt. 16:19 -- power to bind and loose).

The conclusion Di Franco draws is illogical; she believes it is all a result of the Church's hatred of women. She goes as far as to call into question the Early Church Fathers' position on the Blessed Virgin, proclaiming it to be "pathological veneration of the Virgin Mary." This suggests that the Church Fathers conspired to find one woman to use as their "poster child" so that they could maintain exclusive power and subjugate women. Obviously, this is a bizarre, anachronistic claim with no sound basis in historical fact.

Since Di Franco is clearly in violation of Church law, her situation is easier to adjudicate. In the case of sex offenders, there are any number of variables that must be considered. It is certainly a more intricate process of adjudication. And, as such, these two issues are not comparable, save for where they land under the code's classification. One is an obvious and overt breach of Church law; the other needs to be carefully investigated to protect and preserve the rights and reputations of all involved.

Indeed, the Church does love and respect women in their holy vocation to the religious life, as wives and mothers, or in a single life, as is beautifully stated in John Paul II's Mulieris Dignitatem. Mother Church entrusts women with many vital functions empowering them to be fully active participants in the life of Divine grace. Women do not need to change what is good and true and necessary for salvation in order to feel a sense of value and purpose. That is a function of a well-developed relationship with Our Lord in the Sacraments.

Sexual abuse of minors and women's ordination are not equivalent; one cannot compare the two in terms of the acts themselves, beyond their being serious and impermissible. Furthermore, in the case of alleged sexual abuse, one must carefully determine if there is abuse at all. In one case, guilt is obvious from the start; in the other, guilt must be clearly determined. Thus, the Church is updating the treatment of both issues, to adjudicate both forms of scandal appropriately.

This is done not out of "hatred" for women, who are made in God's image, but from a desire to prevent both sexual abuse and sacrilege.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Moral or Immoral? How to decide regarding human actions in today's world

Cloak of Conscience, Anna Chromy: 2010
What an interesting and, let's face it, frightening summer this has been. The attacks on innocents around the world is becoming more frequent and startlingly more savage. The latest massacres of police officers and the martyrdom of Fr. Jacques in France while he celebrated the Mass causes such grief in me that I have a difficult time expressing how dejected I feel about what we have been witnessing. But, this is not about my feelings or yours -- it's about good and evil human behavior.

What are human acts? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a human act this way:
Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil (CCC 1749).
They are actions which are freely chosen; they involve discernment of the conscience; and therefore, they can held to moral judgment. But, there's a definitive qualifier --  the are one or the other: good or evil.

How does one go about determining the goodness, or the evilness -- the "what-ness" of the act. There has to be some determining moral factors involved. Again, it's not about how one feels about an action -- good things can often feel bad (vaccinations, surgery, ending a bad relationship); bad things can often feel good (premarital sex, drug abuse, excessive drinking, scourging someone on Facebook). Thank God for the hierarchy of the Church and the source of wisdom they put forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church! She instructs us this way on making moral determinations regarding human actions:
The morality of human acts depends on:
- the object chosen;
- the end in view or the intention;
- the circumstances of the action.
The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the "sources," or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts (CCC 1750)
We are given an outline -- determiners so to speak -- of how to approach the moral discernment of a human act. These three qualifiers must be considered; but based on what?

First, let's discuss the object of the action. This object is the matter of the human act, or the thing that will be acted upon. It is determined by the conscience to be either good or evil and the will is directed accordingly to act upon the true good, or to avoid the obvious evil (that is in a properly formed conscience -- this you will see is also an issues involved with the intention of the act). The object, for the act to be considered moral, must always be good.

Just considering the object of the action is not enough. One must consider: what is the intention of the act?  According to the Catechism, "the intention resides in the acting subject" -- in other words, it addresses why you intend to do what you are about to do. What is the end that you wish to achieve? (Here, your brain should be registering the old adage: the ends never justify the means.) Is the end you are aiming for good? Will it result in a good outcome? Is God and His will the ultimate good that is sought? The Catechism also reminds: "One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it (CCC 1752). In one fleeting moment a good action can become something less than good just based upon what is the perceived end goal of that action. And, thus, the intention of an action must always be good for that action to be morally good.

The circumstances of an action which are "secondary elements of a moral act" (CCC 1754). What exactly does that mean? They must be taken into account, but how do the circumstances (and the consequences) contribute to the morality of the act? The Catechism continues:

They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent's responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil (CCC 1754).
In brief, the circumstances can mitigate responsibility, but do not change the overall quality of the action. A morally evil action remains a morally evil action, but if one is somehow coerced or is ignorant of the fact, they are less culpable for the evil action, if not at all. And, it also offers a gradation of how good or how evil; clearly someone who takes a pen from work is not a equally guilty of evil action as someone who willfully takes the life of another person.

Then, what does this all look like by means of example? Here is one to consider:


  • I am going to give a friend a ride --  (could be good or evil based on unknown intention & circumstance).

  • I am going to give a friend a ride to the abortion clinic (could be good or evil based on unknown intention & circumstance).

  • I am going to give a friend a ride to the abortion clinic to peacefully protest for life (good object, good intention, good circumstance = morally good act).

  • I am going to help a friend by giving her a ride to the abortion clinic to procure and abortion. (evil object, potentially good intention, bad circumstance = morally evil act)
If any one of the three (object, intention, circumstance) is evil, the act is morally evil. All three must be ordered toward the good. Again, the act will remain morally evil even if the culpability or the quality of the action performed is mitigated in some respect based on circumstances.

Back to an earlier thought -- what of the conscience in all of this? The Catechism refers to the "judgment of conscience" in paragraph 1749. It is imperative that in order to make moral decisions/determinations -- in order to act in a human way, one must have a conscience conformed to the good. This conscience must be formed in such a way as to be able to clearly determine the goodness or evilness of an action. It cannot be swayed by the prevailing attitudes of culture and it must be taught right from wrong in such a manner as to be able to see the pitfalls of cultural tolerance as regards human behavior. Indifference, tolerance, relativistic tendencies, fear of rejection, sentimentality -- these are but a few of the cultural maladies that hinder the proper formation of conscience.

What is a properly formed conscience? The Catechism offers this:
A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings (CCC 1783).
The conscience must make judgments "according to reason" -- one must think things through, or discern, before acting. Another adage comes to mind: Look before you leap. There are things that must be considered -- sentimentality is not thinking; emotional responses often result in unforeseen consequences that are less than desirable. Since this is the case, the Catechism affirms that the conscience must be educated -- taught what it may have forgotten as a result of sin and concupiscence. This education is crucial, and as a result of a rather harsh swing toward secularism, it has been treated as a less than necessary area of the human person to receive training.

It is excruciatingly obvious that this neglect in proper conscience education ordered toward good is replete with terrifying consequences. When one falls out of step with the ordered good of the object, intention and circumstances; when one thinks that what they are doing is good based on falsehood and sentiments; when one determines that they are supremely in control without regard for the consequence of their actions on others, this is when evil flourishes.

The Catechism also directs that the "education of the conscience is a life long task (CCC 1784). Therefore, if we teach from the earliest years of formation that an evil is good, and a good is evil, if we misdirect the conscience based on lies and misguided interpretations of truth, what will result is a poorly formed conscience unable to rightly direct actions toward the ultimate good, or the will of God. The will of God becomes distorted, unclear and indiscernible to a malformed conscience. If this conscience further instructs and forms other consciences the problem perpetuates and becomes as is witnessed in recent events a pervasive issue of evil that is difficult to control. This in part can explain why good people are being slaughtered for what others perceive to be a "good", albeit a very deranged perception of good.

In all, there is much work to be done -- first in helping people see that their judgments are less than informed based on the state of their formation of conscience. This can never be achieved by unjust means -- one cannot drive the Bible into the brain of an atheist with a sledge hammer, just as one can never retaliate what is perceived to be an evil with further evil actions (self-defense is a topic for another time, I am speaking here of vigilante justice). First, prayer must proceed all that is done; thoughtful reflection on an action and it's morality is a must. Then, a concerted effort to share the good in a way that reinforces freedom through self control and the dignity of each and every person as a child of God must be at the forefront of the discussions, debates and decisions as a nation/world moves forward in uncertain times. Be reminded:
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. (Eph 6:10-11)

This is the armor that is at the disposal of a people who a witnessing the chaos in the world today -- the strength and power of God in informing everything that a person does so that they might stand for what is true and good with a clear conscience.