Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy St. Valentine's Day

Putting on of Ashes, Missal à l'usage de Saint-Didier d'Avignon, c. 1370 
Memento homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris:

Remember man, you are dust and to dust you shall return.

The children's writing community is shaken from the allegations of sexual harassment. But we are no different than others in the entertainment industry. Just because we write about bunnies doesn't mean that we haven't breathed the same air that puts Hugh Hefner on a pedestal. We live in a culture that objectifies women and women are sick of it and finally pushing back. But until we can see people as people and stop using them like things, nothing is going to change. 

Although I have never been harassed at a writer's conference (there are perks to being older and wiser), I have observed and heard inappropriate comments by the few men in attendance. I was grateful that it wasn't as bad as it was in academia/science where women were in the minority. Alas, these days, in our efforts to be just like men, it's not unusual to hear equally crass jokes from women. Sigh. I do hope that bringing this infection to the surface is going to allow us all to heal. Lord, help us to stop sinning.    

The antidote is, of course, real love. In the preparation for Lent we heard the passage from 1 Cor 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  It's fitting that this St. Valentine's Day falls on Ash Wed. I include a link for a wonderful article on dying to self for love. Wishing you a happy St. VaLENTine's Day. God bless.   

Friday, February 9, 2018

Immaculee Ilibagiza -- Light and Salt

Last Friday, we had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Immaculee Ilibagiza, author of LEFT TO TELL, a miraculous story of hope and forgiveness during the Rwandan holocaust of 1994. I'd read the book a few years ago when a good friend recommended it to me, and then Max read it in his Theology class. We both agreed that it's grace from God that allows a person to forgive such heinous crimes. Briefly, in 1994, when the plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down, within the hour, Hutus began killing Tutsis. It had been well-orchestrated. The world did not intervene to stop this massacre--I remember hearing the news and could not understand why nobody would stop the killing--and by the time they did, three months later, 1 million people lay hacked, shot, or burned to death. It was neighbor against neighbor. People forgot their friendships. Immaculee says hatred masked any and all love and the truth. She prayed what Jesus prayed on the Cross, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

This short video: gives a good summary and this slightly longer one shows how and where Immaculee, along with other women, survived:  and this short article explains the conflicts between the two so-called tribes. And our local newspaper did a wonderful write-up of the event.

Briefly, Immaculee's parents were prominent teachers in their community, devout Catholics. People came to them for advice but they only had their faith. She said that her father told her to go to a Protestant preacher's house. He was Hutu and would keep her safe. He put her in a tiny bathroom (3 ft x 4 ft) off his bedroom. She said, "I can't stay here. It's too small." But no matter. Things can always get worse. He returned with five more women. And later still, with two more. They had to be absolutely quiet and they stayed like that, sitting, standing, sleeping on top of one another for 91 days! The preacher would bring a plate of food whenever he could and the eight women would share the meal.

After a week, she was fed up with the fear and anger and sorrow in her heart. The preacher kept a radio in the bedroom so that they could hear the news. Private radio stations were used to propagate hate. They were giving away prizes for the most number of Tutsis killed.

She had the presence of mind to ask for a Bible from her protector. He gave her one and she already had her father's rosary. Prayer brought peace. She prayed many rosaries each day. I loved how she explained it--the rosary is simply meditating upon the life of Jesus with His mother Mary in a very organized manner. And Mary really teaches her to pray--to pray with her heart. She'd being with "Our Father" and get stuck.  "Are we really all His children? No, no, no. Not the evil people who are trying to kill us. Alas, they too are God's children and He loves them." That simple "our" helped her to see her would-be killers as her brothers. In our Lord's Prayer, we ask to be forgiven as we have forgiven those who've trespassed against us. This is the verse that she could not pray. So she skipped it. However, Our Lord is very patient and eventually Immaculee was able to ask for the desire to forgive and later was able to forgive those who killed all her family (except for one brother who was out of the country at the time).

She told a very interesting story about Our Lady of Kibeho. It is the only Marian apparition that has been approved on the continent of Africa and the message from our Lady is not just for Rwanda or Africa but for the whole world. She appeared to three young girls and encouraged them to pray from the heart, take the faith seriously, and to love one another. She showed them visions of what would happen--the massacre--if the people did not turn to God. Immaculee remembers this from the time she was a child, how the girls shook from the terrible visions they had. This was twelve years before the massacre.

This is the same message of Fatima--return to God. But we don't listen. Immaculee is trying to change that. She is light and salt with her message of hope and forgiveness, without which there can be no peace. Parce, parce, Domine! 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

An Interview with Me

Hello friends, hop on over to the website of David Alan Binder to read an interview with me. I get to feel like an expert for just a few hours. I don't actually know how people find me and I should've asked that but I do appreciate getting to know other writers. Oh, another thing. I lied. Perhaps you'll catch it and share in the comments.  

We are fighting the flu here. Or rather, Dagny is. I'm trying not to catch it. I've been disinfecting keyboards and doorknobs because of my many years as radiation safety monitor in the Membrane Group  lab. I'm hyperaware of how things get contaminated. Your pointy fingers are the worst at spreading everything. All you sick people, sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

As you can see, we have the best help! Our furry friends teach us to rest, smell everything, and go for the soup. Please pray for us. Thank you.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018


I enjoyed OPEN TO THE SPIRIT: God in Us, God with Us, God Transforming Us by Scot McKnight. To have a book just on the Holy Spirit is a gift. McKnight does a good job collecting Scripture passages to shed light on Who this third Person of the Holy Trinity is, why we should open ourselves to Him, and how. He includes many anecdotes about the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in his own and other people's lives and McKnight encourages the reader to remain open to the Holy Spirit.

Some criticisms. I'm surprised that the beautiful prayers and litanies to the Holy Ghost were not included. I view this as a serious omission given that we have a treasury of these. In fact, the early Church prayed its first novena for the Holy Ghost from Jesus' Ascension until Pentecost. And it is common to sing Veni Creator Spiritus for all important occasions like confirmation, ordination, dedication of a church. We sang it for New Year's Day! And one of the most beautiful litanies composed is that to the Holy Ghost:  Why a book about the Holy Spirit wouldn't have this is a mystery.

For a better treatment of how the Holy Spirit comes to be and the Holy Trinity, I recommend Frank Sheed's book: Theology for Beginners

Thanks to Blogging for Books for an ARC of Open to the Spirit.

REDISCOVER JESUS by Matthew Kelly was a Christmas gift from Stella Maris Catholic Church. And what a wonderful gift to remember who Jesus is. I have yet to feel like the honeymoon is over, but I remember what it was like to lose my faith at the age of 12, how much I missed my Best Friend, yet refused to speak to Him because I didn't understand suffering. I read this book with delight and it's classic Matthew Kelly with his direct approach and takeaways at the end of each short chapter. And there are exactly 40 chapters, one for each day of Lent, coming up in just two weeks on Feb. 14--why yes, on St. Valentine's Day! So if you haven't picked up a copy, do so.

How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic Church by Kevin Lowry is both entertaining and insightful. You all know I'm a sucker for conversion stories because there are so many roads leading to the Truth of the Catholic faith, and this one involved "beer and billiards." Kevin was a Presbyterian preacher's kid as well and he details one of his greatest pleasures regarding them. I won't spoil it for you.

The book is in two parts; Part 1 is his conversion and Part 2 is Stumbling Blocks: how all those weird things about Catholicism turn out to make sense--Eucharist; Confession; Mystical Body of Christ; Mary; Faith vs Works; Authority; Church's Imperfections; himself. He does a great job of explaining how he turned these "stumbling blocks into stepping stones." I think Protestants who are curious about Catholicism would enjoy this very much.

Every Day with Mary is a daily devotional edited by Dr. Mary Amore. Each month focuses on one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, for ex. Jan is on peace. Each daily meditation refers to Mary and how she expressed that virtue in her life. She is our guide to Jesus. May we all be clothed in her virtues. Ave, gratia plena.

I end this post with some pictures that Max took when he went to the March for Life in WA-DC. He stayed with a friend who's at Georgetown. It's great to see so many young people who value life. They have lived with missing siblings and friends their whole lives.



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Best Confession Ever!!!

Aren't they all? You might walk in with some trepidation*, yet you walk out of the confessional light and carefree, pure and holy (if only for several moments), all fear and sorrow gone, with the resolve and the grace to amend your life knowing ALL your sins are forgiven.**

And here's what happens when you run into your friends in the confessional line. You make your penance--I still remember one time when we were newbie Catholics in WA, sharing our penances with each other and my husband and kids were told to pray 3 Hail Marys, and I received a decade of the rosary!

"Whatever did you do?" they asked.
"I'm not telling!" I said. "God has already forgotten :)"
But I digress.

After you make your penance, you stand outside because it's so lovely and everything is clean and bright like your soul and one by one, friends gather to catch up. You've not had a chance to do this for a while and it is getting a bit chilly (here in Charleston, anything below 70 is cold) so you decide to continue at the local pub over drinks.

Best confession ever!!!

This is the Chapel in Bishop England where I hear daily Mass.
I'm sitting in my favorite corner with
St. Joseph standing guard above me.
I'd had a migraine since Friday and meds weren't doing a whole lot and it didn't seem like a good idea to go to a noisy place but when I asked Michael (isn't he a good husband to drive me to confession because I was unable?) he was in. We already had dinner waiting for us at home and Dagny was taking a nap after work. We had such a good time and half-way through a mango-pina-colada I realized my head was doing much, much better.

Wow! Maybe the confession has something to do with it. After all, it is a minor exorcism. I've not kept a record of confessions but maybe I'll add that to my calendar with a big C. I keep a Mass journal and boy is it ever helpful to remember how God has been speaking to me. But maybe it was the rum :)

As much as confessing my sins is uncomfortable, it humbles me and prepares me to receive Holy Communion. There is nothing greater than this. It's Jesus Himself. No matter what happens, even if it's something terrible in the news about a pedophile or corrupt priest, I could never abandon this ship. To whom shall I go? I am so happy when I can go to Mass. It's the best 20 minutes of my day. I return home blessed with Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all upon my lips.

Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all!
How can I love Thee as I ought?
And how revere this wondrous gift,
So far surpassing hope or thought?

Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore!
Oh, make us love Thee more and more.
Oh, make us love Thee more and more.

Had I but Mary's sinless heart
With which to love Thee, dearest King,
Oh, with what ever fervent praise,
Thy goodness, Jesus, would I sing!

Thy Body, Soul and Godhead, all!
O mystery of love divine!
I cannot compass all I have,
For all Thou hast and art is mine!

Sound, then, His praises higher still,
And come, ye angels, to our aid;
For this is God, the very God
Who hath both men and angels made!

Etymology here and I am in awe of the people who've written poetry that is theologically sound! Wow!!!

I can't wait until St. Clare of Assisi is finally built here on Daniel Island and we'll have a perpetual Adoration chapel. Scroll down the website for a proposed design--isn't it gorgeous?!!!

*Kneel, cross yourself, and begin, "Bless me Father for I have sinned ..." continue for instructions if you've been away from this sacrament for a long time. As Father Z says "Go to Confession!" Amazing grace for sure.

**Words of Absolution (what the priest says to you): God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

This is Stella Maris, where we hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.
The marble floor had to be removed to repair the sub-floor, damaged during Irma. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the New Civil Rights

I have a dream speech is just one of handful of speeches, including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, that define us as Americans. I look forward to reading The Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation by Drew Hansen.

Today the most dangerous place for a Black child is in his or her mother's womb. They have more risk of dying from abortion than to live to adulthood. How many will we sacrifice on the altar of greed? 

Parce Domine!

This week many hundreds of thousands of people will congregate at States' capitals to March for Life as well as to WA-DC. It'll be cold and snowy, without many creature comforts. It really is a sacrifice for those travelling to march. But they do this because they believe all life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death. Just as we think it's unimaginable what the Black people have endured, so I want future generations to think it unimaginable to kill a child in the womb. The right to life is the most basic right. Let us pray to grant all babies in the womb personhood. I am praying for you all who are making the journey this week to March for Life. God bless you and keep you safe!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Family Stories

I love handmade cards and calligraphy and can always expect something special from my artistic friends for my birthday. I had such a lovely day catching up with an old friend at lunch and celebrating the new Starbucks opening on Daniel Island. That's my girl! I can just sit back and admire her. 

My youngest aunt has given me a project for this year--collecting family stories. Many of you know I've been writing about my mom so including my siblings and cousins feels spot on. Here's one from my sister. I'm about 2 yrs old and my sister is 5. She'd parade me around the neighborhood as "my beautiful sister!!!" The neighbors thought it was strange but our mom let my sister take full charge of me. I was a "living doll." She even convinced our older brother to play house where they were the parents and I, the baby. Apparently I went along with everything. The funny thing is that I remember chafing against all the extra mothering and supervision. I always wanted to run off. Of course, I was older by the time I remember, around age four. But I also remember that when I had to go to school, I didn't want to leave my sister. I think I screamed that entire first year when she left me with the nuns. Memory is a strange bird. It'll be very interesting to see how different people remember the same events and each other. And it'll be fun to be the official secret keeper :)

I pulled a picture of our kids at a similar age. Fun to see the resemblance. I wish grownups were as cute as kids.

My sister also sent me this with a caption: the young writer. I'm about 10 and I had not yet discovered A. J. Cronin (physician turned writer) and the dream of writing. My heroes were Mother Teresa, Fr. Damien of Molokai and Dr. Albert Schweitzer. I was interested in medicine and wanted to be a nun-doctor. But even back then, my sister and I played "What If" where we made up stories about the people around us. We kept this up in our teens. And I'm still at it :)

I love these snowy portraits of my kids. Family: my greatest gift.