Friday, November 27, 2015

Presentation of Mary and Preparation for Advent

Holy card, unknown artist
I hope you all had a very blessed Thanksgiving. We are far from our relatives but so very grateful for our friends here and the great weather! Feeling especially thankful for all God's gifts.

We pray daily: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is fascinating that the beginning of the liturgical year, Advent (praying for the coming of the Lord Jesus), is preceded by a minor feast of the Blessed Virgin on Nov. 21st -- that of her presentation (not to be confused with the Presentation of Jesus as an infant, celebrated on Feb. 2nd). At the age of 3, Mary's parents give her to the temple and little Mary consecrates herself completely in the service of the Lord. She is, of course, full of grace, and prepares herself so thoroughly that the infinite God deigns to enclose Himself within her virginal womb. Let us prepare our hearts like Mary to celebrate the mystery.

The link has some history and beautiful reflections. Enjoy!
Presentation of the Virgin by Titian, 1535

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Marian Eucharistic Conference Part 4: Jimmy Swaggart Made Me Catholic!

I saved the most entertaining of all the lectures for last. And I knew it was going to be good when the title of the talk was: Jimmy Swaggart made me Catholic. Tim Staples outlines his journey into the last place he ever expected -- into the Catholic Church -- in this talk and because I want to know the full story, I bought his CD, except that it was sold out and so now I need to wait for it in the mail. Patience! Briefly, Tim Staples grew up a good Southern Baptist and came to the Lord when he was 10. He had such a fire for God, he wanted to be a preacher just like Billy Graham. He had an ardent desire to save Catholics because he thought they were crazy idolators and brain dead. But in his teen years he fell away from the faith and along with his brothers got into lots of trouble with the law. He was 18 when he listened to Jim Baker, Tammy Faye, Jimmy Swaggart, and even through the Budweiser fog he heard the word, “Jesus.” And he realized how much he needed Jesus in his life so he knelt and prayed. He went home (and not in handcuffs)! He did some research and saw that they were part of the Assembly of God church so he went. It was huge. Electric. And everybody was smiling and happy and welcoming.

Here he takes a little diversion and says the first time he went to Mass and knew he was going to see ordinary bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, he thought he would burst. But all around the Catholics were ho-hum. He also wondered why they were so quiet and wanted to leave right after Mass instead of visit. His observations are not completely untrue. LOL. Too many of us take the miracle occurring on the Altar for granted, and think of His Body as a cracker. It's what hurts my heart the most. Actually, if you saw me at Mass sometimes, you'd think I was a sad tomato, but some of the psalms and Gospel stories touch my heart so deeply, I cannot help but shed tears of joy. My God loves me, a miserable sinner, so very much. 
Anyway, Tim experienced the love of Jesus here. Everybody invited him over for small home group Bible study. Tim says his desire to be a preacher was intensified even more. He read everything. But the problem was he had no high school diploma, no money, and no discipline. So he joined the Marines. And within two weeks he had enough discipline for all of us. He sought out every Assembly of God church wherever he was stationed and just exploded in his faith. He says, “Move over Jimmy; here comes Timmy!” And the end of his tour of duty, he served as a youth minister and after six months was voted unanimously to become a pastor. This was near his hometown too. It was perfect. But he had to turn it down.
Here’s why. Because in his last year as a Marine, he met Sgt. Matt Doula, a devout Catholic. And boy did Tim want to save him! They fought over doctrine. Tim recalls the first argument. He said, “Call no man father, and yet you Catholics are constantly calling your priests Father.” Usually most Catholics would sputter and go away. [Tim said, there must be a Code of Canon law 666 that says: Thou shalt not quote Scripture]. But Matt said, “Yes, that is true. But you do know there is more than one verse in the Bible, no?” Tim says that Matt took his Bible and proceeded to beat him with it metaphorically. He showed him not to take a single verse out of context but to look at verses and see how they fit. Scripture never contradicts. He quoted a number of verses showing that spiritual leaders are addressed as Father: Honor thy mother and father; Father Abraham; St. Paul becoming a spiritual father of Timothy, etc. What Jesus referred to earlier was in reference to not calling the emperor, God. It was about politics.
So you can imagine the year when Tim and Matt went back and forth about everything – praying to the saints, purgatory, transubstantiation, etc. If Matt didn’t know the answers, he’d go find them with the help of an Opus Dei priest. He gave Tim books to read. Tim read everything to find error and contradictions but could not. Catholicism made sense. After a year he thought he was losing his mind because he did not *want* to be Catholic. So as a last ditch effort to not becoming Catholic, he enrolled in the Jimmy Swaggart Bible school. But he began to argue with his professors. He found himself defending Catholic doctrine in his dorm room. he was schizophrenic. People asked him, “Are you becoming Catholic?” And he emphatically said, “NO!!!” Finally he was called into the office. Brother Andrew, an ex-Catholic, former priest, interrogated him. And Tim thought, he has 10 years of seminary training and I have so little. But after a couple of hours, Brother Andrew got mad at him and told him, “You are not going to be a Catholic. You ARE Catholic!” And with that he was dismissed from school.
A side note: Brother Andrew lost his faith in Catholics when he saw priests compromise the faith to support communism from the pulpit (Cuba, 1959). Tim Staples said: Don’t stop believing in Peter because of Judas. This is such an important point. The Catholic Church is a hospital for sinners. Don’t let bad Catholics shake your faith or steer you away from the teachings of the Church. A lot of kids leave the faith because they don’t know it or appreciate it. May we never take it for granted.  
Back to Tim’s conversion story. So he was no longer Protestant (the word itself means to protest against the Catholic Church) but he still didn’t want to be Catholic. In desperation, he asked a saint – Mary, “Is this true? Is the devil deceiving me? Help me find the Truth.” And she brought him home. Now his whole family is Catholic – his parents, his brothers (one is a priest), and of course, his wife and children. 

Behold, Your Mother
He didn’t actually cover Marian doctrines because that’s the purpose of the book but he showed us how Catholic doctrines are intimately tied with Mary, the most perfect creature God made.
Why did God create us? He doesn’t need us. And in fact, this creation of His will kill His Beloved Son. There is one reason: He loves us into existence. And he creates us free so that we can love him back. It’s an extravagant love. St. Augustine says, Love is to will the good of the other. St. Paul says, pour yourself out for others without thought for anything in heaven. And so Jesus humiliates Himself by becoming one of us. In the letter to the Philippians, St. Paul says, He emptied Himself to take the form of a slave. So not only does Jesus suffer and die for us, making the ultimate sacrifice, He further humiliates Himself by becoming Bread and Wine in the Eucharist. He loves us so that we may consume Him.
The Gospel of John focuses much on the divinity of Jesus and the Eucharist. Jesus performs a Eucharistic miracle by feeding the five thousand. The Apostles distribute the food. And people believed in Jesus. But when He says, “I am the Bread of Heaven” and “the Bread is my Flesh,” people are angry. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? This is one of the “hard” teachings of Christ (the other one is on the indissolubility of marriage). But Jesus doesn’t compromise and say, the bread is a symbol. No, He is even harsher, saying, “Unless you eat of the Flesh of Man, you have no life in you.” And many left. He didn’t try to chase after them. You have to believe this.
From the beginning of Christianity, there were heresies. Some thought that only the spirit is good and matter is evil, but that does not coincide with what God said in Genesis when He created the universe. He said, “It was good!” There were people who said Jesus did not have a body. But He most assuredly did! He was conceived in Mary’s womb. Still others said, Jesus is not divine, that he was conceived from normal sexual relations between Mary and Joseph. The Christ spirit came upon Him and left it on the Cross. So if there is no Incarnation (God made Flesh) then the Eucharist becomes a symbol. However, we know that both Mary and Joseph had taken perpetual vows of virginity, so Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. We do not have two gods, one of the Old Testament and one of the New. Nope, Catholicism is the fulfillment of Judaism. We know that Jewish people do not accept Jesus as the Messiah, but they are free not to.
Mary is the daughter of God, the Mother of Jesus (and therefore God), and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. It’s hard to wrap all this around one’s head but in this is tied up the Trinitarian nature of God.
Anyway, check out Tim's books. He’s great. You can listen to him on Catholic Answers. He is very funny, very knowledgeable, and would make a fantastic tele-evangelist!!!! 

I loved this conference even though I was missing out on Charleston's YALLFest. I hope next year they're not on the same weekend. But if they are, you know where I'll be! Thanks for reading and sharing. Ciao meow!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Marian Eucharistic Conference Part 3: Shockwaves of Abortion

Ending Abortion; Not Just Fighting ItFather Frank Pavone is probably most well known as the director of Priests for Life. The goal is to end abortion. They began their work in 1993. At that time there were 2000 abortion mills. Now, 600. Of course, that’s 600 too many but as you can see, the abortuaries are going out of business. But with prayer and sacrifice, and the many practical things we can do to support women and families, we can end this terrible holocaust of the unborn. Please see Fr. Pavone's books for guidance.

Myth #1: Abortion is a personal, private decision. Couldn’t be further from the truth. It kills the poor baby. And it affects not just mom, but dad, siblings, friends, and damages our relationships.
Men regret their lost fatherhood. Men are hard-wired to love and protect, but abortion takes this away. By law, he doesn’t even enter into the discussion. So there is anger at not being able to stop it, but for many men, it is the shame of participating in the abortion. So many boyfriends have taken their girlfriend to an abortuary. And the relationship is damaged. They never talk about it ever again. They isolate their pain. And there’s a lingering question: can we ever be good parents again? Can we have sex? Usually, the relationship breaks down.
Grandparents suffer from the loss of a grandchild, even if sometimes it’s the parents who drag their daughter to the abortuary. But many times parents don’t even know until years later and they mourn the loss.

Let’s talk about the siblings. What’s it like for a child to realize that mom had an abortion? Sibling survivors face some of the same trauma as soldier survivors. They have guilt. They wonder if they could’ve done something to prevent the killing of their baby brother or sister. They ask the question, “Why?” Mom says, “I didn’t want …” So this means she wanted me, so I’m alive. What happens when she doesn’t want me?
What does it mean to grow up in a country where the baby in the womb is not protected? You are not considered a person. It shakes your sense of security. Pro-choice people have slogans like: Every child, a wanted child. But that’s wrong. A child’s value should not depend on someone else. A child has intrinsic value. We have two generations of abortion survivors.

Let’s talk about the abortionists. Many have repented. Guess what? They got tired of killing. You never get tired of saving lives.
You cannot dehumanize a child without dehumanizing yourself. You cannot practice vice virtuously. Fr. Pavone said that he was at the trial of Kermit Gosnell and the sad part is that he is not the exception. The dirt and grime is the norm. The back alley is gone, but now we just walk through the front door. But what happens inside is still the same. Carnage.
Myth #2: Abortion is a medical benefit/a medical procedure. Again, it cures no disease. Note: pregnancy is not a disease. It does not advance the health of the mother. It kills her baby. It’s an act of violence. And it damages the mother. “I regret my abortion” is the litany of millions of women who’ve been devastated by it. They live with the pain and guilt of taking their baby’s life; they lose trust in relationships; and some women spiral into self-hatred and recrimination by having multiple abortions. They want a replacement child, but then feel they do not deserve one. And for many others, it is the cause of infertility. Abortion harms the woman ALL the time.

Throughout this talk, I kept thinking how contraception also affects all of us negatively. It is not healthy to stop the normal cycling of a woman's body. It sterilizes our marriage (I give you everything but my fertility). Children miss the siblings they never had. How much more joy would we have had in our lives when I think of how much joy our two children have brought! And on a global scale, you can see the demographics changing. People aren't even replacing themselves. The anti-child culture is a death culture.
Hope and Healing after Abortion
If you’ve been involved in an abortion, either actively or passively, and are hurting and sorrowing, there is help. Talk to your priest or rabbi or a counselor who respects life. These are just four healing national organizations for healing after abortion but there might be more local resources. 
Rachel’s Vineyard    Project Rachel   Sisters of life   After Abortion

Pope Francis has announced Jubilee Year of Mercy. Do not be afraid. The devil would like to make you believe you are not worthy, but there is no sin that cannot be forgiven if you truly repent.
I loved what Father Pavone said. We are fighting from a place of victory. Christ is Risen. He has conquered sin and death. Alleluia!

He celebrated Sunday Mass.  
At this time of the year, with nature dying, it is typical to read from about the end times.

Jesus says in the Gospel, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” He is coming back in the Flesh to save and to rescue and to judge. He will separate good from evil. We don’t know when, “but of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” This is our Christian faith. In the final judgment all the good we do here – fighting for truth, justice, life, peace, etc. –  our cooperation with God’s grace, will be purified and exalted and it will endure forever. So there are eternal consequences to our actions now. All creation will be set free from evil. So we wait in joyful hope – active hope – to build the Kingdom of God. Let us invoke the Holy Spirit to come upon the earth and renew. Let no human law be above God’s laws.
The final words of Scripture end with: Come Lord Jesus!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Marian Eucharistic Conference Part 2: Miracle of EWTN and Suffering

Fr. Joseph Mary Wolfe led us in a lovely sung chaplet of Divine Mercy. He spoke about the Miracle of EWTN. I didn’t realize I already *knew* him because I don’t always pay attention to who is giving the homily during the Daily Mass broadcasted from EWTN, but as soon as I heard his voice, I knew that I knew him. And I remembered reading about him in Raymond Arroyo’s book about Mother Angelica (I reviewed it previously). When he'd gone to help Mother as an engineer, she knew he’d be one of her priests! He recalls the two signs at EWTN:

“Unless you’re willing to do the ridiculous, God cannot do the miraculous.”
“We don’t know what we are doing, but we’re good at it.”
Don’t you just love this joyful confidence of Mother Angelica?
God’s Providence

God chooses an obscure nun in Alabama with only $200, who knows nothing about radio or TV to build a network to spread the Gospel to every place on earth. She trusted God to provide even though she had no idea what 12 cloistered nuns will do with a satellite dish in the backyard. Mother said, “Faith is on foot on the ground, one in the air and a queasy feeling in the stomach.” But the Word inspires others to support the work. Father Joseph recounts a time when a nun who did the accounts told Mother that they had no more money. Mother said, “Why are you asking me? Go to the chapel.” So through prayer, all is accomplished. There is another saying at EWTN: Just in time! The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is the heart of EWTN. The vocation of the Poor Clare nuns is to pray. The network is the voice.

Miracles of Mercy
God gave us two mothers in our times to teach us how to do the works of mercy. Blessed Mother Teresa focused on the corporal works of mercy, whereas Mother Angelica focuses on the spiritual. Father told us the story about a man in the porn business who came upon EWTN late at night when Mother had an eye-patch on (she’d just suffered a stroke but wasn’t ashamed to go on TV). That image immediately endeared him to her – look, a pirate nun! She was admonishing the sinner and her words pierced his heart. So he secretly watched EWTN when his roommates were gone and came into the Catholic faith, giving up his old life in the porn industry. God doesn’t delight in punishing the sinner, but wants the sinner to repent and come to Him.
Father told another story about a man who went from one church to another in search of truth but there was so much conflicting information, he became agnostic, thinking that the truth is unknowable. When he was laid up for neck surgery, he came upon EWTN and somehow the channel was stuck on it (Providence?). Mother was counseling the doubtful. He realized that we can know Truth and he came into the Catholic faith.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to EWTN and been comforted by Mother’s words or by the many other programs that are on, whether it's on parenting or prayer.
Father Joseph gave a beautiful lecture on the Meaning of Suffering. I was lucky enough to hear tidbits of it since he took some time before and after the Sacrament of Healing to learn about my pain and also our conversion and the trials we face now. I know my suffering has meaning because Jesus's suffering has meaning. He said, “Our prayers are never so sincere until we are suffering.” How true it is. But it is with great hope that we pray for healing.

Mother Angelica says, “Embrace the suffering when it comes to us.” When I asked whether she ever prays to be released from this life (she is 92 and has been bedridden for several years) he said, "No, she wants to suffer for Christ." That's heroic. To me, she is already a saint, like Mother Teresa was when she was alive.

St. Paul of the Cross says that the typical human response to suffering is “Why me?” God expects it. But the answer comes from the Cross. “Come, follow Me.”

St. Francis of Assisi links suffering and love. He loved the Cross, the sign, and he cried because Love is not loved. Two years before his death he prayed for love to burn in his heart as much as he could bear, and to suffer as much as he could bear. He wanted to share in His Beloved’s suffering. His excessive love.
In the Crucifix, all virtues are manifested: the greatest humility, obedience, patience, fortitude, kindness, charity. And the great saints learn their theology by contemplating the Passion of Christ.
Father Joseph told us about growing up in Iowa on a farm. Despite the hard work, it was idyllic. It was everything for his parents but there came a time when they couldn’t bear it financially. So they decided to give it up. In one day, all farm equipment was auctioned off, the house sold. There were tears. Why? Years later, the parents told him it was the best thing that could’ve happened. Their jobs working in a Catholic school and Church allowed them to attend Daily Mass. Both his Mom and Dad were able to spend more time in Adoration. It was wonderful for their soul working at the school and church (that’s not to diminish the dignity of the work they did on the farm, raising their kids). But we must look at everything from the lens of an eternal perspective.
The story of our creation is one of love. God loves us so much, he willed us into existence. And he creates us free, so that we can choose to love Him back. A good friend of mine and I are having a discussion about creation and Original Sin, and she reminded me of the Exultet that is sung at Easter Vigil: … O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ. O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer … (and I am grateful for friends like these who are happy to discuss such things!)
Back to Father Joseph: We don’t understand God’s ways, but we must know that He loves us and trust that He has our best interests at heart. Have hope. Let us suffer with joy and patience.
He spoke about two types of sufferings (taken from the works of Alice von Hildebrand) – illegitimate suffering and beautiful suffering.

Illegitimate suffering is when we hang on to disappointments, when we don’t forgive, when we are envious of others' good fortunes, when we are ungrateful, when we look down upon serving others, and it causes us to suffer.
The Lord will usually point the way out of this suffering – you learn to forgive, serve others, and become thankful. He says a mother of 10 had this saying on her wall. LOL. So true! I have a similar saying about having cookies but not the sprinkles :)
We have victory on our side. Have a litany of Thanksgiving and our spirits will begin to lift.
Beautiful Suffering

Alice says that the minute you begin to love, you suffer. A young couple in love marry and conceive a baby. They are immediately concerned about the pregnancy going well, and worry whether the birth will go smoothly. If the child gets sick, the parents worry. They want what is best for the child. Motherhood and fatherhood has a sacrificial element to it. What father wouldn't choose to suffer to spare his own son?

A man who says, "I'll love you until someone better comes along or until things are good." isn't loving at all. A husband says to his wife, I will lay down my life for you, in good times and in bad. That’s love. He will work hard to provide for his family and it’s a beautiful suffering. There’s a cost to this love.
When you suffer with someone, it's a beautiful suffering. It is called compassion. It’s not getting them out of the way so that it’s convenient for you, or exhibit a false mercy. This is why euthanasia is so bad. You deprive the person of love and grace during this time of suffering. I can't tell you how comforting it is to know that people are praying for me when I'm sick. And I too suffer with my friends who are disappointed or depressed or hurting. Father Joseph told the story of man he accompanied while in a coma, going through the 10 Commandments and the act of contrition. He prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet. Tears leaked out of sick man's eyes. He died that night, full of the peace of God.
The last is to suffer *for* someone. The supreme example is Jesus. He says, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down willingly.” When we suffer and unite ourselves to the Cross and offer it to our Blessed Lord for any intention, for healing of a child, for a father who has lost his job, or for conversion, it is a beautiful suffering. Father Joseph shared the story of Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a young woman who by our worldly standards certainly did not have a successful life. Two babies died soon after birth, and when a third was conceived, she was diagnosed with cancer. She waited to have chemotherapy so that her son could live. But it was too late for her. Cancer took her life before she even turned 30. But this is a story of beautiful suffering. She reminds me of St. Gianna, another mother, who refused to have an abortion to save her own life.
Since you've suffered so long to the end, I'll share a story that Father Joseph shared: A seminarian had to write a 15-page paper on suffering. After his ordination, the first set of readings had to do with suffering, so he thought he’d use the same paper. An elderly woman came up to him later and said, “I never knew what suffering was until I heard you preach.”

Thanks for hanging on with me. More to come! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Marian Eucharistic Conference Part 1: Two Pillars of Catholic Faith

We rolled into Greenville last Friday excited to go to the Marian Eucharistic conference only to hear of the terrorist attacks in Paris. But even through the numbness, I was not surprised. ISIS has been killing Christians in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere but these events don’t make the news much. In fact, the current administration will not label this as genocide. Thud! The attack on Paris hits closer to home. This could happen here on our soil again. I only have to think back to 9/11. I pray for the people of France. France, that was once a Catholic country, home of some of my favorite saints, has abandoned its Christian roots. You cannot fight ISIS, with its ideology, with secularism. You can only fight it with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Fr. Mitch Pacwa, a Bible scholar, polyglot and an expert on matters of faith explains the current situation regarding Islam. Read and educate yourselves.

Saturday morning, the conference started with Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered by Fr. Wade Menezes. This is a summary of his homily: It is the best way to begin anything, but also a response to the terror attacks. The Gospel reading was about the persistent widow and it is a parable for persistence in prayer. He focused on three virtues to increase faith: constancy (being patient and not falling into despair), long-suffering (bearing wrongs with equanimity because we have HOPE), and standing strong in times of temptations (resisting temptations makes us strong). All this through the grace of God, so frequent the Sacraments! Father Wade recounted the famous and prophetic vision of St. John Bosco in which the Church is a huge ship in rough waters. At the helm is the Holy Father and he is guiding the ship between two pillars, the larger one having atop, the Blessed Sacrament exposed and the smaller one a statue of Mary, under her title, Help of Christians (note, not just Catholic, but all Christians). The ship is being attacked by demonic forces. They hurl all sorts of things, including books (evil propaganda?). The Holy Father manages to steer the ship to safety through the two columns.
These are dangerous times. We are mired in the culture of death -- there's genocide, terrorism, suicide attacks on the global level, but on the personal level, there's abortion, euthanasia, contraception, unnatural marriage, cloning, and excessive materialism that degrades our humanity. We need to be vigilant, have a strong faith and must strive to be in the state of grace. These are times of trials and temptations, persecution but we need to live our Christian faith. And what a gift we have in our Catholic faith -- Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and His Mother, who always points the way to Him.
Coincidentally, I came across this very politically incorrect quote from St. John Bosco but in light of the terrorist attacks, I believe him.  “It would take too long to tell you all the stories about this famous impostor (…) Mohamed’s religion consists of a monstrous mixture of Judaism, Paganism and Christianity. Mohamed propagated his religion, not through miracles or persuasive words, but through the force of arms. [It is] a religion that favors every sort of licentiousness and which, in a short time, allowed Mohamed to become the leader of a troop of brigands. Along with them he raided the countries of the East and conquered the people, not by introducing the Truth, not by miracles or prophecy; but for one reason only: to raise his sword over the heads of the conquered shouting: believe or die.”
Now before you throw rotten fruit at me, listen. The vast majority of Muslims I know have more in common with us than not. They desire the same things we do, struggle as we do, but they are followers of a man that leaves their holy book to many interpretations, which is exactly what is happening with ISIS. All we can do is to pray.

Mother Mary, help of Christians, come to our aid. Teach us to love your Son. May He reign in all our hearts.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou O Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, by the power of God, thrust down into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen. 
Fr. Wade also gave a lecture on Being Faithful to Your Daily Duty. Briefly, it means working out your salvation through your station in life. No one is exempt from the universal call to holiness. If you are a student, study. If you are a priest, live the priestly vocation. If you are mother of eight children, care for and educate the children. But in all cases, there must be a balance between prayer, work and recreation. A good resource is Opus Dei.
He talked a great deal about mercy given that the Jubilee Year of Mercy is about to begin. God is love. But Mercy is Love's second name. We need mercy because of the reality of sin. God is more interested in our future, what we can become, than our past. If we sincerely repent, God's grace pours out on us. Confession is one of the Sacraments of Healing. If St. Augustine, a former lust-addict, fathering a child out of wedlock, can become a Doctor of the Church and an expert on moral theology (hee hee), there is hope for all the rest of us!
Everybody knows that St. Augustine gives credit to his mother, St. Monica, for his conversion. But what most people don't know is that she was an alcoholic. After a maid called her on it, she resolved never to touch drink. And at the same time, she continued praying for her son. Talk about her strength of will. All by the grace of God! We accomplish nothing by ourselves.
Faithfulness in our daily duty trains us to fight for the crown of salvation (St. Aug/St. Padre Pio).
So ask yourself how you've failed in your daily duty. For this you need good self-knowledge, otherwise you cannot grow. Know your virtues, so you can advance them. Know your vices, natural or acquired, to uproot them. Virtue breeds virtue. So does vice.
Father Wade has three personal prayers for growing in self-knowledge:
Lord, please walk beside me today. Put your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.
Dear Lord, help me to become the person my dog thinks I am.
And my favorite is the Tweety-bird prayer.
Father Wade quoted a lot of saints. Too many to do justice. So all I'll say is that when saints come onto your radar, become intimate with them. They'll have much to teach you.
I missed the second lecture he gave on Being Other-Centered because I was being anointed and prayed over in the Sacrament of Healing by Father Joseph Mary Wolfe, a most gentle priest whom I've heard on EWTN, and who works there both as an engineer and priest. Thank you Father.

Monday, November 16, 2015


My daughter went to the fair and got this beautiful mehendi (henna) design by a professional. I love her long, tapered fingers -- she has my sister's hand. I have always loved this traditional Indian art form to celebrate the big events in life -- marriage, birth of a new baby -- even the smell is relaxing and calming. And it's a time to share stories.

We bought some online and practiced. I made a much simpler design on my hand. You can see how my daughter likes the more intricate designs. I think with practice, we could become mehendi artists too! So many interests, so little time!

Note that the color darkens after a couple of days from a deep orange to a rustic brown. I got several strange looks at the Marian Eucharistic conference this weekend ... a few people were brave enough to ask me what in the world it was. Strange how people can be afraid of the unknown. I'm like a cat -- curious.


Thursday, November 12, 2015


Well, it looks like I'm going to have to be patient. Healing with this treatment is a slow process. My neurologist showed me her data and I saw a rapid reduction in migraine frequency, upto 50%, in the first three months. So I'm going to take it easy. Sleep when I need to. Sit out on my porch and rest and relax and read. Write when I can. Hang out clothes. The sunshine is back.

I love hanging out clothes. There's nothing fresher than sleeping in sheets with the faint scent of grass and flowers or pulling out a sweater for the winter with a hint of summer in it. Over the years, I've had several types of lines both indoors and outdoors, some rigged up by myself, others bought. So here's a little summary. And lest you think laundry is too mundane a topic, it has sparked several short stories and poems, two of which have been published (in Highlights and Ladybug)! So never underestimate the joy in the mundane.

Free-standing drying racks from Walmart or Amazon are a must when we have torrential downpours.

Umbrella style. Pardon the terrible quality of the photo. I took a quick picture of an old photo, but you get the idea.

My favorite is one with multiple retractable lines -- this is great both for indoors and outdoors. These are the most cost-efficient and space-efficient ones.

The one we have now on our porch is expensive. We didn't have a place to bolt the retractable line so I wanted Michael to make one with brackets but he didn't have time so he went in search online and bought the Versaline. I love it. It's exactly as I wanted. And no running up and down the stairs if there's an afternoon squall. Nor getting bit by mosquitos outside. The porch is perfect. You can see the free-standing drying rack in the corner in a previous post.

Not only is it wonderful to hang out clothes, but it saves a lot of energy. Dryers are costly. Ours also makes a horrid whining noise, so I use it minimally. 

I also enjoy being outdoors and of course, no post about laundry can be complete without the mention of a gem of a book by Kathleen Norris. The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work.


Monday, November 9, 2015


On Friday I went for my first set of Botox injections -- 31 of them. I confess I cried through it all ... but, but, but ... the results: aside from the stinging sensation, within 2 hours the migraine I already had began to subside. I took some ibuprofen to help it along. Over the weekend, we went for Boeing family day. The factory is shut down for this event and we get to see how the planes are built. It never ceases to amaze me how intricate the process is. If you are ever in Seattle, check out the Museum of Flight. I had a headache but again, with help from some Tylenol I was able to walk and tolerate the noise of thousands of people milling about in the factory and the bands outdoors. And I keep getting better. Sunday night, we went out to eat with some friends and I could have a conversation, even a spirited discussion about religion and politics, something I couldn't do before with a headache. Today, we're having torrential rain but I haven't had to take anything. Pain is at a tolerable level. The Botox is working to kill the pain pathways.

Pain is an indicator of something being wrong. I know my brain is not wired properly. So the Botox isn't curing the underlying issue. But not to be in constant pain is such a relief, I cannot stop thanking God.

I've been praying for healing for a long time. And I've tried many, many medicines, all of which helped for a little while but then stopped working. In fact, I've received better results from the Sacrament of Healing. Five years ago, my neurologist had recommended me for Botox but the insurance denied it. They wouldn't budge. It is expensive. I've done my share of protein purification to realize why. Just thinking about growing enough Clostridia and not accidentally getting poisoned yourself during the production of botulin toxin in large quantities and purifying it for injecting in humans can give one a headache. Now this treatment is FDA approved for chronic migraine. I wish I could've had this healing five years ago, but who can understand the ways of God? Not I. But I trust Him and His timing in all things. And I thank Him. Harry's on the highway to hell and I couldn't be happier.

I can only think of the book of Job. How much he suffered, but stayed true to God. If you are suffering, do not give up hope. Be persistent in prayer. Recruit prayer warriors. I thank all you who've been praying for me steadfastly. When I was weak, you were strong and didn't give up. God bless you.

And now that my health is better, I must establish better habits to build up the Kingdom of God. I need to take better care of my family, be a better friend, and write better books. Ad majoram Dei gloriam

Today we also celebrate our anniversary of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart. I love that it falls on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica -- the first church publicly consecrated after the Christian persecution. It's the Pope's church! Most people think it's St. Peter's but that's not true. So, lots and lots to celebrate and to give thanks for.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My Sister's Art

Yesterday's All Souls Day Requiem Mass was beautiful. Sometimes I wonder how many conversions are brought about simply because of Beauty. I brought a list of our loved ones who've gone before us with me to pray beforehand and wouldn't you know ... it's grown since last year. Sigh. I like to think they're in heaven, but just in case ... we pray for them. Today I am both tired and happy, thinking about my brother and sister and our shared losses.

Since I was in Texas, I got a chance to see some of my sister's old art. She's the talented one in our family, making beautiful clothes for her children, doing really fine work with her hands to decorate her home. We were both given the same training by my mother but my sister took great care with her handiwork. Everything she does looks professional. In contrast, I cut corners, not having the patience. But what a pleasure it is to see good art.

The chess-board is one of her first paintings. My favorite is the painted flowers on the left. The flowers wioth the pink frame are actually cross-stitched. I love what she did with the Crucifix -- painted the five wounds of Christ. She wanted the sense of the bloody Sacrifice without making the Corpus gory. I think it's just perfect. Enjoy!

And as Neil Gaiman says: make good art.