Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

I have not read very many books where the narrator is developmentally challenged. I've only read one other MG book. It is far easier to let a sibling or friend tell the story. I had toyed with having alternating viewpoints in my own contemporary novel, but sustaining the voice of the intellectually impaired sister was difficult. In the end, her voice comes through clear and true through dialogue and I stuck with a single viewpoint, that of the sister who is ... for lack of a better term, normal. Except she's not. Ms. Giles has written a powerful story about two girls, Biddy and Quincy, who transition to living independently once they turn 18, the prejudices and hardships they face just because they are "speddies" and their hopes and dreams of the future. I found myself cheering them on for facing obstacles and crying with them when they were hurt. Giles left them in a good place, but I couldn't help but worry for them long after I finished the book. These characters will remain with me always.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

This was one of the most romantic books I've read in a long time. Based on the song, Scarborough Fair, the author weaves a tale involving a family curse and the love that breaks it. I loved the contemporary setting with a great cast of characters who race against time to solve the puzzle. As it says on the cover: a haunting, thrilling romantic puzzle. Just read it.

By the way, this book breaks many so-called writing rules. It has a prologue, multiple viewpoints, some by adult characters, mixing of genres ... but it's also brilliant. Anyway, just a reminder to write what the story demands.

True Grit by Charles Portis

This is probably the first old Western I've read. I enjoyed it tremendously. It speaks of a world where one is beginning to create law. By far, the 14-year-old Mattie has the strongest sense of justice. Loved her voice. This is a book appropriate for children and adults alike, a true American classic.

The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser

I have always enjoyed time travel stories but this one was very unique with body-swapping as well. Shay, a 20-yr old girl, stares into her grandmother's mirror on the eve of her wedding and is transported into her grandmother's body (Brandy) on the eve of her wedding. Shay-as-Brandy even gives birth to her own mother. Now think about that ... all the conundrums it causes, foreknowledge, etc. A really fun read.

The Ten Commandments by Msgr. Charles Pope

A concise little book by one of my favorite preachers. Fr. Pope shows how the commandments apply to daily life, how they free us to love God and our neighbor as we ought. It also has a good examination of conscience.  

Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity by Anthony Esolen

This is one of my favorite authors. I always look forward to his clear reflections in the Magnificat, and he does not disappoint in this book. In the Family Honor class Dagny and I just took, the last skit was about a couple who gets married and has a lot of baggage. They came to the altar broken. That's not to say that the grace of God cannot work in them ... Michael and I are prime examples of a couple who went through heartbreak and betrayal before we were married and who went on to make numerous mistakes, but we have finally come to the Truth and how it resonates in our hearts. Holy Matrimony: a covenant between one man and one woman, holy because it is set apart from any other kind of relationship; it makes us co-creators with God. The author makes arguments for traditional marriage not just because God meant it to be so, but through the lens of history, literature, and plain old common sense. This is a beautifully written book, perfect as supplemental material for marriage preparation classes.

The Gift of Living in the Divine Will in the Writings of Luisa Piccarreta by Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi

I'm smack dab in the middle of this book when my kindle freezes up and I am not reading this on the computer screen. I tried deleting this a dozen times and reloading and finally, after a week, it is working. This is the first instance of a kindle snafu. Still, it is a difficult book to read on the kindle. I often want to go back and look up something and unless I bookmark the sections, it is difficult to find. But this book is incredible in what it proposes, that we are coming into a new era where God is bestowing gifts that only Adam and Eve received before their fall from grace. Mary was the last human on earth before Luisa to receive the gift of living in the Divine Will. Much of this stuff I cannot wrap my head around, but it is making me understand my faith in a deeper way.

Christianity, Islam and Atheism: the Struggle for the Soul of the West by William Kilpatrick.

This is a must-read for people who are interested in what is occurring in the Middle East -- the persecution of Christians. I grew up knowing about all the world's major religions and believe me, they are not the same! Many people in the West simply do not understand that Islam is not tolerant of any other faith. Infidels are to be converted or killed. This is why we had the Crusades.

I wish we had a leader like Winston Churchill who wanted to stir the hearts of the British people to make war against Germany. He said:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

St. Francis and the Sultan (1300s) Cappella Bardi, Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence

I think that's enough for now ... Tell me, what good books are you reading right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sacred Fire

I've been reading a ton of books but I wanted to review Sacred Fire: Practicing Devotion to the Heart of Jesus by Philip Michael Bulman by itself since I have  many thoughts on it. And also because it's the Feast of Saint John Paul II the Great!!!

Sacred Fire is the second book I’ve read on the Sacred Heart; the first one being a classic by Fr. John Croiset, the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690). However, I wish I’d gotten my hands on Bulman’s book first because it’s much easier to read.

The first part of the book traces the evolution of this devotion beginning with St. Gertrude (1256-1302), who not only had visions of Jesus but also of St. John the Evangelist! On his feast day, she asked why he had not written more plainly about the Sacred Heart in his Gospel, given that he rested upon the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper. St. John said that such "revelations about the Sacred Heart had been reserved until later ages, that the world might be aroused from its torpor, and animated, when it had grown cold, by hearing of these things."

Wow! It makes me want to get her works. And this is the beauty of Bulman's book. With each saint who was given some revelation about the Sacred Heart, it makes me want to dig deeper, so that I too may have the pleasure of being enclosed within His Heart.

And this is the way Bulman traces the history of this devotion. The last two sentences of the chapter on St. Gertrude are: A French edition of Gertrude's Legatus was published in 1671. It is possible the book was read aloud in an obscure convent in Paray-le-Monial, where a young woman named Margaret Mary Alacoque had recently become a novice.

Bulman follows St. Margaret Mary, who popularized  devotion to the Sacred Heart, then the various Carmelite nuns who picked it up. St. Therese's Story of a Soul fell into the hands of Teresa of the Andes, and ends with modern-day St. Faustina, whom St. John Paul II canonized, the first saint of the new millennium. It is this continuity that makes Sacred Fire such a joy to read. 

The second half of the book deals with the actual devotion, its Scriptural roots, and the promises of the Sacred Heart. Fisheaters has an excellent summary. Briefly, one must receive Holy Eucharist frequently, keep a Holy Hour on Thursday night, attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on first Fridays of the months as a reparation not just for our own sins but the sins of the world, and celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This means, one must go for confession frequently as well :) Just sayin'

I remember our priest exhorting us to devote ourselves to the Sacred Heart because It is the fount of all graces. Catholics are often shown with the rosary, but as anybody who prays the rosary knows, Mary takes hold of us and brings us to Jesus. We'll be celebrating our second anniversary of consecration of our family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Nov. 9th. I am so very grateful for this book that has brought a greater love and understanding. Thank you, Mr. Bulman, for writing a very important book.

A happy Feast day to all.
Pray for us, Saint John Paul II.

Monday, October 13, 2014

On Being a Vegetarian and World History

My daughter, who occasionally goes through phases where she says she's a vegetarian got this tee-shirt for her dad's birthday. Of course, all he has to do is cook some steak or ribs ... and the phase is over.

Every time Michael wears this shirt, I am reminded of this hilarious essay. I do not know who the author is, but if you know, please let me know in the comments:

For those that don't know about history ... Here is a condensed version:

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups:

1 . Liberals, and
2. Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement.

Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q's and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement.

Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. Those became known as girlie-men. Some note worthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer, mostly Bud or Miller.They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, engineers, corporate executives, athletes, members of the military, airline pilots and generally anyone who works productively.
Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America . They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Here ends today's lesson in world history:

It should be noted that a Liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond to the above.

A Conservative will simply laugh.

And there you have it, History 101.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

On Angels and Demons: Notes from ME Conference Part II

Rev. Joseph Leo Iannuzzi
Of all the lectures, I enjoyed those of Fr. Joseph Leo Iannuzzi the most because I learned so many new and interesting things. He did his doctoral dissertation on Living in the Divine Will. It is a private revelation* given to a mystic, Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta. 

I've begun reading this tome (without my hand getting tired, thanks to my kindle) and simply fascinated by her life. She lived on only the Eucharist for 60 years! Although bedridden, she had no sores. Only after a priest would bless her could she be propped up to write (she was ordered to do so once they figured out her condition wasn't normal, that she was having visions). She was in good health until she contracted pneumonia at the age of 80, when she died. She was a contemporary of Padre Pio and he read her visions as well. I am so thankful her little pamphlets caught the eyes of Fr. Iannuzzi. He has not only translated her writings but also given a larger context. It truly is amazing how God chooses a lowly woman to reveal Himself and a humble priest to bring it to the world. God bless you, Father. 

Fr. Iannuzzi covered a great deal of theology about angels and the fall of man. Some things to know about angels. They possess a far greater intellect than we can imagine. They can see the consequences of all their actions (it reminded me of the character in Men in Black III who could calculate all possibilities and thus make the correct decision) and this is why they cannot be forgiven if they do not choose God. Every creature is tested before entry into heaven and the angels had individual tests. Those that passed can no longer sin. They are with God. Those that didn't joined Lucifer. This angel of Light rebelled against the foreknowledge of God being incarnated as a human, a creature with an intellect far below those of angels. I will not serve, he said. Lucifer enters the garden to stop the Incarnation.

It is a mystery why God allows temptation but had Adam corrected Eve, we'd still be sinless. Adam would've been the prince of the human race, Christ, the King. But Adam loved Eve more than he loved God. Jesus tells Luisa that before the fall, they both lived in the Divine Will. After the fall, you can see there is an immediate correlation between natural disasters and diseases -- all creation groans from the sin of Adam.

Jesus is the new Adam. He lived in the Divine Will. He was tempted and tested in the desert. But it wasn't over. He was tempted and tested again on the Cross. It was His complete obedience to the Father that set us free from sin and death and the power of Satan.

Mary lived in the Divine Will. Her test was the Fiat. So be it.

Since you've stuck with me so far, I'll share a Catholic joke Father told. Why did Mary and Joseph take a donkey to Bethlehem?

Because she gave her Fiat to God.

To learn more about living in the Divine Will, please see http://www.ltdw.org/

Fr. Iannuzzi spoke at great length about other visions of Luisa that shed light on salvation history but I want to share some notes on his second lecture on Spiritual Warfare and Demonology without resorting to Part III. While he was in Rome, he assisted the Vatican's Chief Exorcist, Fr. Gabriele Amorth. So ...

No one is exempt from Satan.

A story: A man tells his wife to not buy anything expensive but she comes home with a gorgeous red dress, with a hefty price tag. When the husband sputtered about it, she said, "It was like Satan whispering that I'll look good in it so I just wanted to try it on."
"Then why didn't you tell him to get behind you?" said the husband.
"I did," said the wife, "and he said it's fabulous."

Nowadays, most people don't think much of Satan or believe in his existence. We've lost our horror of sin. If you've read the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, you already know this is one of Satan's strategies. Because now he can move around without being detected. But Satan is real and so is hell and as much as we'd like to believe that it is empty, the many saints who did have visions, saw hell populated, and among them priests ... priests who led their flock astray. St. Teresa de Avila always cracks me up even when she is serious, with her sorrow for especially the Lutherans.

God allows Adam to be tested. He fails; sin and death enter the world. But God sends his Son -- Jesus Christ -- to save us and to destroy the work of the devil. The faith of our parents saves us. We are like the paralytic, bound in sin. They bring us to the baptismal font and baptism begins the work of sanctification. At baptism, we receive the gifts of faith, hope and love. Through practice, these gifts grow in us. But it's not a free pass ... concupiscence remains even after baptism. It takes work on our part to grow in holiness and the outpouring of grace from God. And as we all know, it's not easy, the work part. We fall again and again. I tell you, the Church is a great hospital for sinners. I know, because I am a sinner, and without a sacramental life, I would fall deeper and deeper into sin. Jesus saves ... again and again, in the sacrament of confession and by feeding me Himself. 

Satan is always prowling about like a lion, ready to pounce upon us. But Jesus taught the Apostles to cast out demons in His name. It is a direct and solemn command that we can use as well. 

Problem is that Satan doesn’t leave us alone. In Matt 12:45 we learn that the evil spirit “goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first. Thus it will be with this evil generation.” That’s why exorcisms have to be performed multiple times.

Did you know that confession is actually an exorcism? Fr. Iannuzzi said that repressed mortal sins are often the cause of severe depression and other physical ailments that defy medical explanation. After prayers and absolution the person is often miraculously healed. The Sacrament of Healing, which I have received a few times for severe migraines, is also an exorcism. I gain 50% reduction that lasts a good 6-8 months that no physician can explain. It's better than even the placebo effect (which is typically 30%). I am much better now since I started my treatment on low-dose beta blockers, but I am still susceptible, like the weekend of the conference. I have been purified through this suffering and no longer afraid of any attacks because I know I can offer it up. I would never choose it, however. I’m still too weak and always prefer not to sacrifice.  

An interesting tidbit: evil spirits reside in arid places. There are several references to this in the Bible, the most famous one being that Jesus went to the desert to fast and pray and there he was tempted. The early Church Fathers went to the desert to combat Satan too. 

Another interesting tidbit: The Latin Rite is more effective for casting out demons.

But we can use any language to do simple exorcisms, to heal the family tree, free ourselves from hauntings or involvement of the occult.

There are three parts:

1. Prayer – of liberation, praise, thanksgiving, intercession, and in tongues (this is where the Holy Spirit takes over). Of all these prayers, the prayers of praise are the most powerful. Satan hates for us to praise and thank God.
2. Word of God – read Psalms and the Gospel with conviction. Believe!
3. Command the evil spirits – to leave, and to never return in the name of Jesus. You can command them to go to the foot of the Cross or to hell.

A person has to go through a thorough physical, mental and spiritual evaluation when demons are suspected. Fr. Iannuzzi said that people who are possessed have these signs: chronic depression, repugnance to holy objects and prayers, resentment, levitation, extraordinary physical strength, violent, knowledge that the person wouldn’t normally have.

Confession, Mass, Adoration, Exorcism, Litany of Saints, Crucifix, blessed salt, oil, Holy Water, profession of baptismal promises are the tools of the trade. Father said it takes on average 3 years to cleanse the person from evil.

After all the stories Fr. Iannuzzi shared, I was surprised that he’s not a scaredy-cat priest. Au contraire. He is calm and funny, a man at peace and without fear. Jesus is his Rock.

He said that Satan can enter your memory and intellect without your consent, but he cannot enter your will without your consent. And God allows Satan to test you. Resisting temptations make you stronger. This is why it is imperative you live in the Divine Will.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our Daily Bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Michelangelo: Last Judgment

*A note on visionaries: Catholics are not required to believe any private revelation, even if it has the imprimatur of the Church. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Notes from the Marian Eucharistic Conference: Part I

Last year Michael and Max went to the ME conference  and I chided them for not taking notes ... but this year we all went and Michael was busy scribbling right beside me :) What joy to share this with my sweetie. But also hard because it convicted me on so many things ... thank goodness I am alive so that I can amend my life. The lines for confession were long even though there were five priests! I'll tell you right away that by Sat. afternoon I developed a rotten migraine that persisted for 3-4 days more but every minute spent at the conference was worth it given how much I learned. The speakers were brilliant, on fire, and fanned the flames of love in my heart. And to spite the devil, who didn't want me to be at this conference, I share freely with you. Warning: long post and it's only Part I. You'd best grab a cup of tea.
Fr. Bill Casey Fr. Bill CaseyFr. Casey told us the story of a Pakistani boy, about 10 yrs old, who after his confirmation, spoke about Jesus to his playmates. The mullahs were enraged and said he was proselytizing, defaming Islam, and committing blasphemy. He was sentenced to death by hanging. The Christian community prayed for justice and the boy was acquitted by a secular judge. But at the bus stop, he was shot and another family member killed. I believe he died later too. Fr. Casey said, "he is a more loyal son of the Church than I am."  

Fr. Casey posed many questions:
Why do Catholics in America fail to defend the Church and her teachings?
Why are we intimidated by the secular, pagan conquest of this country, this culture of death?
Why are we concerned with offending everyone but God?
Ouch! Don't think what's happened in other countries will not happen here. Freedom isn't free. We must fight to defend the faith. Can I hear an Amen?

Bellini: St. Jerome Reading
Persecution is coming to America. The hot button issues on which we will have to remain faithful on are defense of life and the covenant relationship of marriage. Mother Teresa said, "If abortion isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong." And we are seeing that now.
Fr. Casey reminded us from Scripture: If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31) Perfect love casts out fear. (Jn. 4:18) I have been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). 
In another lecture, he spoke about abiding ourselves in the Living Word of God. That means read the Bible, folks. We just celebrated the Feast of St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate. He said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." I just read a great essay on him, a saint with True Grit. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant. Christ established the Church and the Church gave us the Bible. It took more than 300 years to compile the Sacred Books and another thousand years to divide them into chapters and verses, but what a gift to humanity. Here is a little history lesson

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
 Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers (the Dynamic Deacon) spoke about several things with great passion -- on faith and family mostly, that charity begins at home, as does faith formation. You cannot give to your children what you don't yourself have. This is so true. If we don't practice our faith, we cannot expect our children to, and this is particularly true regarding the faith of the father. Grace flows through him to the entire family. Deacon Harold sees a lot of couples with troubled marriages. He first tells them to pray together. The problem is that marriage becomes a cross, and when they divorce, they are putting down their cross and making their kids pick it up. Jesus says to pick up your cross and carry it.

In another lecture, he encouraged us to evangelize. He talked about sowing seeds and then getting the heck out, letting the Holy Spirit water and nurture those seeds. He spoke about CS Lewis' argument about Jesus Christ. Either He is who he says He is (Jesus is God) or He is a lunatic or charlatan.

I loved what he said about God wanting to be in a covenant relationship with us, which is an exchange of persons. Contrast that with what contracts are: an exchange of goods. I think this is the first time I understood that sense of belonging. I am Yours. You are mine. It is the same with marriage. Covenant. Not contract.

Dr. Ricardo Gomez spoke about the Eucharistic miracles he investigated to debunk Catholic claims of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the little piece of consecrated Bread that looks and tastes like bread. Instead he was converted from unbelief to belief. Praise God! He studied consecrated Hosts that began to bleed and that were preserved. Blind forensic tests showed that the tissue was human, damaged and inflamed (presence of white blood cells) denoting *living* tissue (even though some of the tests were conducted after several years had passed). Christ's Sacred Heart bleeds for us. I do not need a miracle to believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but many of these Eucharistic miracles have occurred because the priest had doubts.

I am always in wonder and awe of our priests whom Christ has given the power to change ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Not even our Blessed Mother, who was the most perfect creature was given that power. No, it rests in the consecrated hands of the Catholic priest. Even demons know this. That's why the Catholic Church is the most despised institution in this world.

Fr. Peter Striker, Rector
Fr. Peter Stryker shared the story of young Adele, a Belgian immigrant to WI, and her visions of Mary who instructed her to teach the Catholic faith to the children. It is the first approved Marian apparition site in the US. 

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop Guglielmone gave his homily on humility. You all know how hard this virtue is for me to practice ... but I am getting there slowly ... through obedience. Fr. Casey reminded us what humility is not: being a doormat, wimp, lazy, mediocre, thinking less of yourself, doing little or nothing. He said to acknowledge the gifts and talents given to us by God and to use them for the greater glory of God. Ad majorem Dei gloriam. So dream big and have the confidence that God is with you. Stay tuned for Part II.

(I swiped this picture from their website with Max serving at Mass)

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Sweetest Things


I've not tasted a watermelon as juicy and sweet as our homegrown one. We've watched it grow for weeks, even as fiddler crabs tried to pierce through the skin (they succeeded with the cantaloupe but I picked it before they could damage it further and ate it before it ripened completely). Dagny picked this melon and captured the sweetness on film. Can't you just taste it? Heaven!