Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! And a Note of Thanks

Wow, can you believe 2008 is about ready to close out? Neither can I! What a year it has been!

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank God for all of you. I am deeply touched that people read my blog and comment. I am blessed by my new online Catholic friends that I know would be even more fun to be around "in real life." I am astonished by all of the wonderful Catholic resources that are available online - the eBooks, message boards, news sites, etc., and have been so grateful to God for His continued education of my soul. It just is amazing to me that I can feel the warmth and love of the online Catholic community, even as I type alone in a room. It's as though the words are gentle butterflies, lightly landing upon my shoulder to let me know that I am not alone and there are so many others on the same path. Praise be to God for each one of you! I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will make Himself known to you in new ways in 2009 and your faith will grow even stronger!

Later today, I think I'm going to write my "Faith Story." I'm not sure really, what to call it. It's sort of like a "conversion-leaving-realizing-disillusionment-desert time-reclaimer" story. Ha! Does that sound confusing enough?

Well, I simply wanted to wish you all the very best 2009. Despite the gloomy economical forecasts, I am feeling a very strong anticipation for the spiritual forecast of 2009. Hold onto your hats, folks. I think we're going to see some major, glorious spiritual events in the new year!

Much love to you all. ~ Mary Rose <3

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Catholic Writer for National Catholic Reporter Goes Agnostic

Read her article (With Age, My Catholicism Holds More Uncertainty) and tell me what you think.

Fr. Z had a brilliant response to her in his entry, National Catholic Reporter: undermining your faith yet again. Here is a snippet and a classic example of why I so admire Fr. Zuhlsdorf. (Note: Fr. Z's comments are always in red and at times, he will emphasize the writers' words to draw attention to them.):

"His message focused on loving one another, without reservation, not on explaining the Trinity. And whether or not he is the Son of God seems a pointless discussion. [A "pointless discussion"? Lady… if Christ is not the Son of God, then you and everyone else are probably going to hell. Also, what circuit is missing from the brains of some lefties that keeps them from understanding that we can love one another and… AND... explain the Trinity? They are not mutually exclusive. This is not a zero sum game: either love or explain… you can’t do both. This so typical of most liberals: you can’t be smart, or intellectual or make distinctions or admit authority and still be nice.]"

I was truly saddened by this woman's article. What a shame. After all the years in Catholic church, she comes away with her faith in shambles?

We are all responsible for our Christian growth. Maturity doesn't happen overnight, nor does it happen isolated. We need one another and for Catholics, we definitely need the Mass and all of the sacraments. I could not help but respond on the site although I'm not sure what her response will be. I'm not sure if the comment will be reprinted, but here it is:

Dear Rose,

I have read your article with great interest, and also sadness. It would seem you have come to the conclusion that a critical thinker can't possibly take Catholicism seriously. I am returning to the Catholic church after being involved with non-Catholic churches for 25 years. What has impressed me, since my return, is the caliber of minds that have embraced Catholicism. Not only do we have the austere Doctors of the Faith, we have modern saints who have consistently set before us standards of excellence I aim to reach. I have been doing extensive research of my faith since returning since much of my spiritual formation was rather weak.

What is faith? Are we to only believe if we have everything figured out? (Which of course, isn't faith.) And is not the Catholic Church separate from all other religions? Or is it simply another "face" worn by an ambivalent God? Of course we have questions. Who wouldn't, if they were seriously pursuing God?

What has saddened me is how many Catholics believe that Mass and the tenets of faith should adapt to their own preferences and beliefs instead of the other way around. I didn't come back to the Catholic Church in hopes of changing it. I came back because I needed changing. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is to remind us all of that very sacred (and yes, I'd suppose you'd call it radical) act that occurred over 2000 years ago that released man from the bondage of sin so that we may live eternally with our Heavenly Father.

Mass is not to entertain me, stoke my persuasions about cultural mores, or make me feel good like a nice cup of hazelnut coffee laced with real cream. Our faith is to be strengthened during Mass, because as you've already pointed out, we live in a tough world. Jesus Christ didn't come to bring society justice - His primary purpose was to redeem mankind from sin. All these other "causes" I hear about are truly secondary. If a man or woman really understands their salvation, they'll treat the poor better, work to end racism, and generally treat their fellow man a heck of a lot better.

What you have become, Rose, is an agnostic. In which case, you probably shouldn't write for a Catholic newspaper. However, I can sympathize with you because I understand disillusionment. But since I spent decades in the desert, all I can say, my dear sister, is that it's not one bit better 'out there.' The Catholic Church is a fortress and I pray your eyes will be opened once again to the treasures within and hear once again, His voice. God bless you.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Battling a Cold - Bleh

Yes, my throat started to feel a bit raw on Christmas Eve. I was hoping it was from overexertion, but alas, no. Christmas Day I woke up and could feel my throat was starting that awful journey toward making me sound like a bad drag queen. I don't get sick often, but when I do, I simply hate it and grit my teeth until I feel better.

I'm truly hoping I feel better in a few days when my stepson is coming with his new wife for a short visit. It will be so great to see them again! My stepson serves in the Army and for now, he's stateside. He's already served in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am very proud of him.

We celebrate Christmas Day each year with my family. I was really excited that this year, I was able to share more with them about returning to the Catholic church and my love for the Traditional Latin Mass. My uncle and I had a really interesting conversation about girl servers at Mass. I pointed out to him that it confuses young girls. Quite frequently, a young boy who serves at Mass is getting his first look at the vocation of priesthood. Many priests realize while serving that they were called. If a young girl serves, she has really no track to follow. If she does feel as though she is called into a life of service, really, it should be into a convent or monastery.

Which now gives me a thought. Why hasn't there been any type of service available for young girls to help nuns? Wouldn't that be fantastic? A young girl serving in a convent, for example, could get a glimpse into the life of a sister. I'm sure the extra help would be appreciated.

Too often, we focus on what is in the public eye while Jesus constantly sought solitude to be with His Heavenly Father. It would seem that being out of the public eye is where the real work of becoming like Christ, occurs.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Nothing long. I just wanted to wish everything the most holy and wonderful of Christmas' as we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, who came to save mankind from the sin that binds us. It is truly the most glorious thing, to think of how God, the Supreme Creator of the universe, chose to come to earth Himself in the form of a humble child so He could experience all of our frailty, our weakness, our temptations - all in order to forgive us our sin and then gather us up in His everlasting, loving embrace. Merry Christmas to you and God bless you and yours. :-)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. - Isaiah 9:6,7

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. - St. Matthew 1:23

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Need a Last Minute Gift for the Thinker in Your Life? Get Dave Armstrong's Ebooks!

When I returned to the Catholic church, one of the things I noticed right away was the huge increase in Catholic materials. Websites, radio and TV shows, and... books.

Ah, books. Those who know me well are aware that I am a huge bookworm. Nothing is more appealing to me than to sink my brain into a good book as I digest the author's thoughts and conclusions. My reading habit started when I was 7 years old. My teacher wrote on my report card: "Mary is a voracious reader." I loved the sound of that word. Voracious. My mind was on a voracious run through a literary forest, ripe with delight.

So, imagine my utter joy when I started to find good Catholic books that spoke about our faith, the saints, and current events. But one genre I wasn't expecting was apologetics.

I already was a huge C.S. Lewis fan, who is one of the best apologists we have for Christianity. There are others, such as Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and R.C. Sproul. But apologists for Catholicism? I had no idea!

I find it fascinating that our brothers and sisters who have converted to Catholicism seem to have a better understanding of the faith than many of those raised Catholic. It's actually a rather sad state of affairs since I can attest to the fact that the amount of teaching I had during my school days was rather thin. There weren't specifics about our Catholic identity, which is what I wanted. It didn't seem very exciting.

Cue Dave Armstrong and his wonderful Ebook Sale! I have the banner on the side, but basically he is selling 15 of his Ebooks for $25. I can vouch for the density of this lot. There is so much! I am reading his "One-Minute Apologist" and it's great. I also can't wait to read G.K. Chesterton's aphorisms. Dave tackles the typical questions we receive from others who are non-Catholic, curious (or demeaning) about our faith. I'd say load up on them, because I'm anticipating soon a greater need to defend our faith.

I'm not sure how many Catholics are reading my blog, but if you've been a life-long Catholic and haven't thought about witnessing to others about Catholicism, this set of Ebooks would be excellent. And for the price of a large pizza with some garlic sticks and soda - you'll get something that will benefit your body and soul in greater measure!

I know when I was younger, "evangelism" was something I'd assign to those rare visits by a Catholic missionary during Mass. But you know what? It's a big, wide world out there and people are hungrier than ever for meaning. As far as I'm concerned, we have the most meaningful message there is. Get Dave Armstrong's Ebooks and start spreading the word. :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Since When Was Christianity Supposed to Be Easy?

I have thought this frequently since returning to the Catholic church. There are many Protestants (Evangelicals, non-denominationals, etc.) who look at the Catholic church as a bunch of rules and regulations. They think Catholicism is strange with the whole "Mary thing" and the saints. Too often, they don't even try to investigate the reasons, instead choosing to believe hateful lies.

From all my years of involvement with non-Catholic churches, there seems to be an unspoken belief that Christianity is to be easy. We believe that Jesus Christ came to this world to pay the price for our sin. He died and was resurrected. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we believe and are brought into union with our Heavenly Father. We are to love God with every molecule of our being and love our neighbor as ourself. There are a few directives about church government thrown in but aside from that, it seems pretty straightforward.

Well, yes and no.

Yes, it's straightforward in how we are to live and who we are supposed to be following. But no, it's not entirely straightforward because we so often get lost. We were lost before we met God and once we've met Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, we still need some sort of track to keep us from going off the rails.

I still don't like the phrase "informed conscience" because I know how slippery I can be. I know how easy it is to justify my disobedience - which is sin. I can think my conscience is informed and make a certain decision - but how do I know this is the decision that pleases the Lord?

This is when I choose to trust the Magisterium and trust the Church Fathers. Now a non-Catholic can read that and say, "Whoa! Wait a minute! I don't need any high and mighty governing body to tell me how to live the Christian life! Who are they and what gives them the right?" Well, what do we think happened after Pentecost? Was it a free-for-all? Did all the new believers start running around going, "Gosh, I feel so good! So loving! I think I'll just wander off and meditate on the goodness of God and be nice to everyone..."

No. There was order. There was structure. There were directives.

Order is something that for some of us, is a difficult concept to accept. I think one of the reasons why it's so difficult is that it is a black and white proposition. It's kind of like the Army. There is a way to do something, then there is the Army way. I understand the need for an evolution of ideas, creativity, meaning out of chaos, etc. I am an artist, after all. I realize that sometimes things need to be messy awhile before it makes sense.

But with our Christian faith, there was order from the beginning. After much prayer, the disciples determined that certain needs had to be met (such as taking care of the widows) but the Gospel needed to be preached. Some are called to be preachers and some are called to take care of the widows. The disciples realized that for order to take root, they needed to devote themselves to much prayer and discussion as they planted those first churches. It wasn't easy. There was much persecution and suffering involved.

Which brings me back to my point. I don't think Christianity was ever supposed to be this "wow, this makes me feel so good" type of a deal. We're on this earth for a very short time and in that time, we're to be in constant communion with God, dying to self and allowing the light and glory of His Son to shine through our lives.

How does that happen when all we're worried about is how we feel? Does that help anyone else who is lost? And how do we get out of the miry muck of "self?"

This is one of the reasons why I am so grateful for the Catholic church. All of the 'extras' that our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ may criticize become important (and yes, I'll say it, vital) tools in helping me get out of "self" and into Christ. Praying the rosary keeps me grounded. Attending Mass faithfully and on Holy Days keeps me grounded. Going to confession keeps me grounded. And the Eucharist, remembering what our dear Lord did and consuming Him - isn't so much a freaky experiment in metaphysics as it is a required and needful act in order to bring us Life.

Think about that life and where you get it. I can't help but say that I've never gotten it in fullness except through the Catholic church.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman for starting this daybook idea. If you'd like to join in, go here. More entries are there, too!

For Today, December 22, 2008

Outside my window... It is light, but extremely, bitterly cold. It was 1 degrees when I left this morning!

I am thinking... that I am absolutely not ready for Christmas this year. I have done nothing and I think it's because I just miss my mom. No decorations around our home except for my Advent wreath. I need to bake, though. That may put me more in a Christmas spirit! I just can't help but think, though, of so many people right now who are without a job.

I am thankful for... My job. Also thankful for warm clothes and shelter right now!

From the kitchen... Chili dogs! Mickey had a taste for them, so last night we had chili dogs and chips. I wanted to make spaghetti tonight to go along with the left-over chili, but he may want the hot dogs again!

I am wearing... tan chinos and a mauve-colored knit mock turtleneck. And yes, it was the same think I wore last Monday. How funny! But I do really wish I had some long johns on right now. The cotton fabric of the pants are really thin!

I am creating... Sigh. Nothing! I hope to create some baked goods though, as gifts. I did want to create a calendar, still. Just may be able to do it!

I am going... to create that calendar tonight come fire or flood!

I am reading... Still reading Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Okay. One thing that impressed me was in the back of the book, Stephanie Meyer had questions for discussion. One of the themes of the book (that I didn't pick up on right away) was temptation. How do we handle it? How is the main character handling it? Very nice thought-provoking questions that I do believe is important for everyone, especially young teens.

I am hoping... I can find a way to get something special for my sweet hubby for Christmas. We're keeping it small this year, but I do want to get him something nice.

I am hearing... The rush of the furnace, a car door just slammed outside. People are waking up to frigid weather but battling it to get to work.

Around the house... is still my small Christmas tree, waiting to be put up. I don't know if I'm going to put it up.

One of my favorite things... Drinking hot coffee when it's freezing outside! And yes, tea. (For my dad who keeps telling me to give up the coffee!)

A few plans for the rest of the week: Baking, creating, Christmas eve with my in-laws and Christmas Day with my dad and the rest of the family in Cincinnati. I believe I have to work on Friday so the trip to Cincinnati will have to be short and sweet.

Here is picture thought I am sharing... This is for Adrienne. She sent me these holy cards months ago and I wanted to let her know I had finally found a frame to properly display them. A few in the frame are from my mother's funeral and also her grandfather's. (Back in 1962. Those are the prettier cut cards!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'm on Twitter as CathPrdDaughter

Okay, you can all just slap me upside the head right now. I know I'm wacko for doing it, but I did. I created another Twitter account, this time for my Catholic-ness.

I'm on Plurk and do enjoy it, but I've been noticing some wonderful Catholics on Twitter that I'd like to interact with; but it didn't seem appropriate for my "work account" at Twitter. So I created a new Twitter account just so I can keep up with interesting Catholic folk with a few conservative Twitters thrown in. (#TCOT for those who 'tweet.' It stands for "Top Conservatives on Twitter.") Use that hashtag on Twitter's search engine and you'll see a bunch of stuff.

So. If you're on Twitter, follow me and I'll follow you back. I'm at:

Noteworthy Blog: Another New Blogger -The Heresy of Progress

Doug at The Heresy of Progress has a fascinating story of how he ended up "at Rome." I cannot tell you how much these stories mean to me. I am in awe when a Protestant brother or sister in Christ decides to "swim the Tiber" and convert to Catholicism.

I remembered telling my dad not too long ago: "I used to watch during Easter services, the new converts to the faith walk up the altar to be formally received and I'd think, 'why?'" Catholicism at that point didn't seem particularly interesting. It was just something I grew up with and for a variety of reasons, took for granted. I had never seen any attraction that Catholicism would have for someone not raised as a Catholic.

Oh, what a difference 25 years away from the Catholic church makes.

Now I get it. Now I completely understand and am both humbled and elated by my Catholic faith. We have such a precious gift but yet often, it is either overlooked or ridiculed by others. Tis fine. We "get it" and our prayers should be that others, like Doug, "get it" too. I am so thrilled to be alive at this time in history. I believe more are going to be "coming back home" and I am looking for opportunities everywhere to welcome them with as much love that has been extended to me.

So, welcome to the wonderful Catholic blogosphere, Doug!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on the Sacrament of Reconcilation: Dedicated to Amber and Those in RCIA

Thank you to those who have posted nice comments about my entry on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I believe that apart from the Eucharist, this is the most important Sacrament. Of course, it's my opinion, but I'll explain my reason for thinking this.

One of the most powerful weapons the devil uses to keep us from progressing in our faith is by tricking us into believing we are hopeless.

In fact, I'm going to pause here and ask you to read the above sentence slowly while focusing on the meaning.

When you focus on the weakness of your flesh, there is a spiritual battle raging to keep you stuck there, mired in your belief that whatever your sin may be - it is too much to admit to another human being, let alone a priest who is acting in persona of Christ.

There are many thoughts here, so bear with me while I try to capture them...

Jesus Christ pointed out to those who wanted to stone an adulteress that "he who had not sinned" could cast the first stone. None took Him up on the offer. Jesus Christ gently but firmly pointed out to the woman at the well that she was living in sin but yet engaged her in a religious discussion. She ended up being one powerful evangelist that day and I suspect, all the following days in her life. Jesus Christ lovingly welcomed the tears of a woman who poured expensive perfume upon His feet and said, "he who is forgiven much, loves much." The depth of her gratitude knew no bounds as she showered Jesus with her love.

Jesus always beckoned to the sinner to come closer and allow Him to forgive them. He came for the sinner, not those who thought nothing was wrong with them. He welcomed, even celebrated those who recognized their need for a Savior. Lives were radically changed after such exchanges with the Living Word of God.

Shame binds us. Shame is what Adam and Eve felt and they hid. The devil loves to see us scurry away to hide from God. Is there judgement? Judgement was done at the Cross. Jesus Christ paid the price so that we could face God and say we have been covered by the blood of His Son. Confessing our sin is showing God and His representatives on earth that we understand how we need Him and how much we need Jesus Christ. Yes, there are times our sins have repercussions and we have to deal with the consequences; but overall, God desires for us to trust in Him and not be afraid to approach Him.

When we stay stuck in our shame, the devil has a field day with us. Mind games are one of his specialties. Some go like this:

"Oh. So you're going to go to confession, eh? Ha. What a loser! And that priest is going to think you're a loser, too. Especially if you confess the same sin, you moron! Haven't you learned anything? What the heck are you doing in Mass, anyway? Planning dinner parties? Trying to figure out the real plot of Lost? Haven't you been paying attention, you pathetic twit? If you've not become a saint in the past three months, you might as well hang up your halo. Sheesh! Go back to the Unitarians!"

Or some such.

You get the point. The devil is sneaky, almost clever beyond words. But God is all-powerful and the Holy Spirit can cut through the heavy net of confusion and condemnation faster than you can say Jumpin' Jehosophat. You just have to be open.

Another thought: If you ever had any thought of reaching perfection while you're here on earth, it's probably a good idea to drop that little notion. We are frail, but in Him we are strong. It is a dichotomy, of sorts. On one hand, we're full of weaknesses, but yet He, who lives within us, is strong. The more we focus on Christ, the stronger we get. The more we focus on our weaknesses, the weaker we get. And nothing gives the devil more pleasure than getting us to focus on ourselves.

So be of good cheer! God loves us so much and Jesus Christ is reaching toward us to come closer, and allow Him to forgive us. I've heard that priests for the most part are delighted when we come to confession because they understand how difficult it can be. Remember, priests and nuns have to go to confession, too. But isn't it wonderful that we know that our confessing won't go any further than that small room? Believe me, I know about confidentiality or perhaps, the lack of it that occurs in most churches. Thank God that for us Catholics, our sins are not spread around, masquerading as "prayer needs" before others.

We have such a gift in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is a most awesome feeling to confess my sin and walk out the door of the confessional and kneel in prayer to get my soul right with Him. How glorious! I daresay there have been many a soul who have walked out from a confessional lighter in step than before they walked in. Don't allow the devil to steal that lightness from you.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. - 1 Peter 2:24

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Part II)

It has occurred to me that I may visit some of these topics again because of a new realization or insight that hadn't been evident to me before. The Sacraments are becoming very special to me and I'm amazed by the inherent beauty and grace of each one. I wish I could say they were becoming special to me "again," but that wouldn't be entirely true.

As a young girl being raised Catholic, it felt proper. Everything I was taught was received by me as what any good Catholic would do. I didn't relish each morsel of it the way I am now because back then, it was just what was expected. Unfortunately, we didn't have too many classes that focused on our Catholic identity and why we believed what we did. We had Mass and in school, religion classes. I barely remember studying the Catechism and sadly, don't remember much about the saints.

I knew "going to confession" was important but again, I didn't fully appreciate it for what it gave me; which was an opportunity to admit to God my sin and receive His forgiveness.

This past Monday night, a nearby parish had a special Sacrament of Reconciliation service. Six extra priests were brought in to join the parish's two priests in order to hear everyone's confession. I was touched by the entire night. As I parked my car at 6:57 PM and hurried through the frigid cold, I was slightly surprised to see so many also making their way inside the church. I pondered the choice we all had made to be there. I looked around and saw younger people as well as the older ones and thought, they could be doing anything else tonight. A myriad of tasks could have been attended to during this time, plenty to give an excuse for not being here. But here they are, coming out after supper, in the dark and cold, making the effort to connect with God and His incredible grace.

The worship director and a small worship team directed the parishioners in singing a response to the Scripture readings. We heard from the Gospel of St. John. We knelt and prayed in preparation for the sacrament. It was all done with the greatest of reverence and thought. There were around 70 people in attendance. After the final prayer, we were directed to the various stations around the building where the priests would be assigned. I chose one and waited in line.

I had printed out the Act of Contrition. I'm embarrassed to admit I used to know this by heart when I was a little girl. But I told the priest how I had recently returned and he was pleased by my effort. I tried to stay on topic by saying what my sins were, not explaining away anything, and he guided me to the point when I was to pray the Act of Contrition. I felt so enormously blessed afterward.

There are some who question this Sacrament. Our brothers and sisters in Christ who are separated from the Catholic church wonder why we need to make such a formal big deal out of it. In their eyes, we should be able to confess our sins to one another. I mentioned in this entry (my first on the subject of the Sacrament of Reconciliation) that in all of my years of involvement with non-Catholic churches, I rarely saw this practice followed. And it is to be a normal practice for us as believers in Christ.

We all fail in so many ways. To me, one of the hardest things to do is admit out loud to another human being our shortcomings. It is so much easier to simply pray to God alone and say, "You know I messed up again, Lord. Please forgive me. I am deeply sorry." But where is the witness to that? There is none.

There is something (and I'm going to admit right here that I love it) that tears at our flesh when we confess aloud to another person our sin. When I say "flesh," what I mean is our will, our own desires, our pride, our stubborn thought that we're really a pretty okay type of person. Now granted, there are some people who get mired in the thought that they are nothing more than a miserable worm crawling on the earth; but I don't believe God wants us to think that way about ourselves. Yes, we are sinners, but we are also the blessed recipients of His grace. In realizing how precious we are to Him - for our Heavenly Father to give up His only begotten Son in order to bring us in fellowship with Him - well, this is just the most amazing thing we will ever know! And when you really start to meditate on how much love that means, it would be hard to feel like a worm. Deep and profound awe is more like it.

To insist upon feeling like a worm would almost be like a loving spouse telling his beloved how much he adored her and she pushing him away saying, "No, I cannot receive this love because I am such a mess..." How would that make the loving spouse feel? He'd feel rejected and sad because it is a very sad thing when someone is unable or unwilling to receive the love you have for them.

Confession gives us the opportunity to experience that love all over again. It keeps us humble as we realize how fragile we are, how damaged we've been from sin, and how we desperately need the forgiveness of our Father so that we can go out into the Babylon world and try again. Living the holy life and becoming a saint doesn't happen overnight. Every saint that we revere had their own temptations and failings. The difference between them and the nominal Catholic is that they kept hammering away at it, going to Mass faithfully, receiving the sacraments, and understanding the need for grace.

At a certain level, I relished my discomfort as I stood in line. I enjoyed knowing I was being humbled because you see, I have a strong spirit, a pretty healthy-sized ego, and I need to admit more often when I am wrong. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives me this opportunity and I am more thankful each time I receive it that I have the opportunity to receive it.

The priest made me smile at the end when he told me "welcome home." He said that other churches may be fine and have good things, but they don't have the faith in fullness. If only my other brothers and sisters in Christ could experience this sacrament, they may understand a little more what that fullness entails.

As it is, I thanked God once again for His love for me and for all the priests who so faithfully listen to our prayers. God bless our priests!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Disney Loves Me - They REALLY Love Me!!

What fun! Feel free to send this either to yourself or someone special! I loved hearing Goofy say my name! (And having my own special ride awesome!)


A SimpleWoman's Daybook

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook blog for the great idea. Visit her page today for more entries!

Since I got a little bit of a late start, I completed my entry at work. Just for anyone who is shocked I'm not wearing my emerald green bathrobe and nightgown. ;-)

For Today, December 15, 2008

Outside my window... the light is beginning to peek out from the horizon. It is extremely windy, though.

I am thinking... about Christmas. Can't believe it's next week!

I am thankful for... Online Christian friends who remind me of what is truly important.

From the kitchen... Well, last night we had Chicken Divan, which I love. Tonight I'm toying with fixing Spaghetti Carbonara or picking up Chicken Teriyaki for dh, Kung Pao Chicken for me from our local Asian carry-out.

I am wearing... tan chinos and a mauve-colored knit mock turtleneck. Very comfy. And mauve reminds me of Gaudete Sunday and this week's Advent candle. :-)

I am creating... Goodness. Nothing! I created an appetizer spread for my husband's ukulele group, which met on Saturday at our home. I didn't have time to create my digital scrapbook pages. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get my mojo back!

I am going... to go to Confession tonight in preparation for Christmas. I have become more aware of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and how important it is to my life.

I am reading... (blushing) Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Yes. A local book club that I belong to (but haven't attended faithfully) decided to read this book as the January book-of-choice. I know the buzz around it but thought it was for young teens only. I'm surprised by how much I'm enjoying it. Meyer actually is fleshing out the character of Bella pretty well.

I am hoping... I can figure out what I'm going to do for Christmas gifts. My husband's brother asked if we could refrain from exchanging gifts but I'll still give a baked good. I'm just not sure what to bake. Suggestions?

I am hearing... Silence. The furnace just stopped blowing. I'm at work at the moment, so this is a little bit of a different environment.

Around the house... is my small Christmas tree, waiting to be put up. I'm feeling a little sad about my mom, so maybe that's why I'm not so much into the Christmas spirit this year.

One of my favorite things... watching "It's A Wonderful Life" with my husband during this time of year. Sometimes I wish I could crawl into Frank Capra's world. I would have loved living in the 1940's and 50's!

A few plans for the rest of the week: Confession tonight, maybe some networking event later in the week for work if available. Figuring out what to get for my sweet husband for Christmas. Maybe decorating. We usually keep the decorating low-key, anyway, so it's just a small tree decorated with a few Christmas things placed around our home. But it is our first Christmas in this place and really, I should finally get the fireplace tools so we can enjoy a fire on Christmas morning!

Here is picture thought I am sharing... last night's dinner. Yummmmm!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Favorite Rosary Meme and My Story

Oh, that Adrienne! How I love her. She has saved me from obsessing over Twitter and she's exactly right. I needed something to snap me out of that drivel and this meme is perfect! This meme is special because it gives me the opportunity to share why this rosary means so much to me.

My first cousin, Andrea, was able to travel to Italy for an extended college exchange program. While there, she visited the Vatican and bought several rosaries, blessed by Pope John Paul. This particular rosary is made up of wooden beads, in a deep rose color. They are supposedly created from compressed rose petals and smelled like roses when I first opened the plastic container.

When my mother passed away in March 2007, I asked my father if I could have this rosary. (He also was given a rosary by my cousin, but he placed it in the coffin during the visitation hours. He asked for it back but somehow, the funeral home forgot. The rosary is now buried with my mother while I have the other one.) He quickly said yes and I placed it in my purse. Now remember - at this point I had no thought or desire of returning to the Catholic church, let alone any desire to pray the rosary. It was just something I knew my mother loved and a memento of her love for "trinkets." (Yes, that was the way I looked at it during that time.)

My father later said he knew it was a good sign when I asked for the rosary. I didn't use it right away, but it was in my purse, a loving reminder of my mother and her devotion to her faith. During this past February, my sister-in-law's father passed away. For some reason, I felt a strong insistence within to pray the rosary for her and her family. They aren't Catholic, but I felt as though I should pray it for them.

My prayer life at one time had been robust and rich. But at that time, it was as scrawny as a malnourished child. Praying the rosary took a little effort and concentration. It provided a great way for me to start getting back on track with meditating on the things of Christ. So I prayed the rosary that day. And then less than a week later, I felt prompted to pray it for my first cousin who was going through an anxious time. Soon after that, I discovered our local radio station played a recording of Mother Angelica praying the rosary with her sisters, each morning. I started to pray with them and noticed an increase of spiritual hunger in my life.

So, since the end of March, I've been praying the rosary every day with a few exceptions. I admit some days I'm more focused than others, but I know praying the rosary has changed my life. I am still surprised by all of this. God does indeed work in mysterious ways!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Twitter Etiquette and Why I Think People Are Hooked On Twitter

A rather raunchy video is making the rounds right now, "Twitter Ruined My Life!" An enterprising young man has used this video to both poke fun at Twitter users while increasing his own followers. His message though, isn't too far from the mark. Twitter has become a social phenomenon and I'm right there in that crazy bunch of social butterflies. With one exception.

I'm "twittering" as part of my job.

Which has led to a whole slew of questions for a girl who loves communication and anything that helps people connect. However, Twitter has genuinely perplexed me on several levels. Let me first explain my very short history with Twitter, so these thoughts are not from a "I'll-die-if-I-can't-Twitter-about-this" person.

I joined Twitter about three weeks ago. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it is a "micro-blogging" platform. You join and can then interact with the hundreds of thousands users through their website (and other applications, like TweetDeck, if you'd like) and your interaction is based solely on typing a response to the question, "What Are You Doing?" And the response, by the way, has to be 140 characters or less.

So for an example, here's a very full "tweet" (what messages are called):

Drinking coffee while blogging. As a marketing tool, Twitter has some advantages. I've met people I'd otherwise wouldn't have met for work

Those three sentences together equal exactly 140 characters, also called a "Twoosh" by some because I nailed my thoughts within that very tight limit.

When I first came onto Twitter, I didn't know anyone except my boss. Then I started to "follow" a few people on my Gmail account. On Twitter, you "follow" people and sometimes they "follow" you back. The whole "Follower" concept is extremely clever and adds to the addiction. I'll explain.

As a "newbie," you really don't know anyone so you try to pay attention to a huge amount of chatter. It's almost impossible to pick out who will interest you and who's worth following. There are all sorts of people involved with Twitter. Young, old, rich, poor, working, unemployed, etc., etc. Some people do "tweet" about ordinary things ("Ugh. Snow.") while some have used Twitter in a very creative way such as writing mini-stories within the narrow parameter of 140 characters or less.

So, if you're like me, you start looking for help. Guy Kawasaki was my first stop since he's a big guru in the world of start-ups (he was with Apple back in the beginning) and has leveraged Twitter to market his new site, Alltop. My boss is a huge fan of Guy. Guy is actually a rarity on Twitter. He has over 30,000 followers but yet... he's a genuinely nice guy. He'll even respond every once in a while to a direct message. That's pretty breathtaking when you realize he has thousands of people pinging him day and night.

One of the first helpful pieces I read was this: How to Use Twitter as a Twool (ha...cute title)

Now, that entry is if you want to use it for business, which is why I'm there. Kawasaki mentions a few places in the entry to find the "movers and shakers" in Twitterland. The "Twitterati" if you will. So, I dutifully check out the spots and started to follow the big names. The theory is this: if you add big names, many times they have an "auto-follow" feature that will add your name to their list, thereby growing your own list of followers. On the surface, this sounded great until I realized I really didn't want to be following some guy who talks about wine all the time because as much as I enjoy a glass, I'm not really an aficionado.

I quickly added anyone who was a marketing or communication person. I also began the search for people in the technology field, since this is now my field, also. I've always loved technology, so finding them and at times engaging them has been enjoyable.

But plodding through Twitterland in Search of Meaning has been an adventure. I'll add more later to this entry, which will probably be pretty long by the time I'm done. And no, I'm not going to "tweet" about it. ;-)

Part II

Regarding "followers":

1) They are following you because you seem interesting
2) They are following you because you're connected
3) They are following you because of some other reason such as you're a woman. Or a brand name and they want the latest news.

It would seem that Twitter brings out the high-school mentality all over again but with a brand new shiny face. People are followed or unfollowed at times simply because they're following boring people. Or they don't have as many followers and so, must be boring themselves. (Note: it's a good practice to check to see the followers of someone who just started to follow you before you decided to follow them back. Case in point: A Muslim started to follow me. When I checked his profile, I saw that about 99% of his "tweets were from a Muslim author talking about Islam. When I checked who was following him, I discovered that about 90% of them were women. I had a hunch that these women just absentmindedly added him to their follower list without checking. Personally, I got the creeps and hence, did not follow him back.)

It ends up being a twisted conglomeration of logic to determine whether someone you most likely will never meet should really have that much bearing on how you see yourself. Which brings me to part of my title: why are people so hooked on Twitter?

Here's my take. People are hooked on Twitter because ultimately, people want to have a conversation. And perhaps more importantly, people want to feel they matter. When I first came to Twitter, I was amazed by the tiny blurts of what someone was doing at the moment. I remember saying to my husband, "I don't need an audience for my life." That might seem disingenuous since I have a blog, but my blog is specifically about my journey back to Catholicism. It's more a compilation of thoughts than what I'm doing from day to day since I really don't think too many people would be interested in what I had for breakfast. My only concession is "The Simple Woman's Daybook" on Mondays and my own "The Perfect Day" daybook I'll do from time to time. As I writer, I am conscientious of saying something interesting. Otherwise, no one would bother to read this thing except my beloved father. (Hi, Dad!)

But back to Twitter. I believe people are putting their words out there in hopes of having someone respond. Logging on to Twitter as a new member and trying to think of something interesting to say is akin to walking into a crowded stadium during an exciting game and yelling, "Hey! I just had THE best martini in the hot club, Shakers!" Other than getting shoved around, no one would care. Twitter is a constant hunt for people who care.

Now for my next point - etiquette. Or as I call it, "Twittequette." There are few no-no's. For instance:
1) Don't curse. Especially if you're a business person unless you work for yourself and are stoking the "Bad-Boy-Early-Steve-Jobs" image. There are a lot of smart-alecs on Twitter. Cursing is a part of their image.

2) If using for business, don't speak negatively about a client. It's very stupid and risky. Not only is there a good chance it will get back to the client, it will make you look foolish by broadcasting your ignorance.

3) Don't "tweet" about really stupid things such as your bathroom habits or descriptions of any other bodily functions. Yuck.

There may be more but those are the ones that immediately come to mind. Now for my #1 "To Do" for Twitter.

Be polite.

That's it, really. I have a huge bugaboo with people in our society who have lost their manners. Maybe they never had them. Maybe they weren't raised with manners. But it's tough to think that even in our broken school system, somewhere along the way a child wasn't taught to say "please" and "thank you."

When I joined Twitter, I started to pick up on the fact that if you had 30,000 followers and many of them sent a message to you with the "@" sign, there was a good chance you weren't going to be able to respond. But direct messages? I think that is a little different. You can't send a direct message to someone unless they're following you. I've sent many direct messages with just comments. I don't expect an acknowledgement, although it is nice when it happens.

What is frustrating is when you have sent a direct message to someone with a link, and they don't respond at all. Everyone who is into these social media applications and/or texting, know that THX, TNX, TX, or THKS means "thanks." It doesn't take too long to type those letters. It's especially nice to say thank you to people who took the trouble to find a web page that would possibly interest you, copy the address, and then shorten it to a link so it could be sent to you.

Little things, but they can mean alot.

This past weekend, I spent way too much time on Twitter. I was still trying to figure it out, and yes, got caught up with it. I went to bed on Friday night and Saturday morning, I was able to quickly scan the "tweets" that occurred when I was sleeping in a little under an hour. At that time, I was following around 143 people. The beauty of Twitter is that those "tweets" are so short and many times, people type even less than 140 characters.

Granted, someone who has even 1,000 followers probably would have taken longer to scan the "tweets." But if they had any direct messages, it would have been a little less and if they were given a link, a quick click to see it would let them see if it was a good referral or not. Even if it wasn't, someone took the time to send it and a quick "THX!" would be nice.

So, that's my rant about Twitter and how really, I don't feel many people are connecting with each other at all. My husband reminded me that it is a micro-blogging platform, which means that I shouldn't care whether anyone responds to me or not. But it's turned into a strange "instant messaging" medium as far as I'm concerned. And people will continue to hunt for others who will respond to them and even better, follow them.

I Tweet for work but I Plurk for my Catholic faith. So if you'd like to add me as a Plurk buddy, I'm "CatholicProdigalDaughter." Plurk feels much more "homey" to me and I've felt as though I've had an actual conversation with someone. It's a different application and to me, much more social.

Twitter to me has become a place to connect with people in an industry and getting news. I am convinced of its power in those arenas. But if you want friends, I'd suggest getting offline and joining a cycling group. Or a book club. Because really, there is still nothing online socially that beats a good face-to-face conversation. :-)

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman for the fun! Check out her site here for more entries!

For Today, December 8, 2008

Outside My Window... It is dark. The snow melted from the rooftop but is still on the ground. Brrr!!

I am thinking... about Twitter. More on that in another blog post.

I am thankful for... My darling husband. Today we celebrate 7 years of wedded bliss!

From the kitchen... a quick and easy meatball-and-noodle recipe with fresh veggies, homemade pumpkin pie for dessert. At the moment I'm drinking good hot coffee with Sweet Italian Cream.

I am wearing... My emerald green bathrobe, long-sleeved pink cotton nightie, and my fuzzy slippers.

I am creating... Logo for work and my background design for Twitter. That's it. I still didn't do any digi scrapping this weekend!

I am going... to be celebrating later our anniversary with my husband. Very special!

I am reading... Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin. It's a marketing book and pretty interesting.

I am hoping... I can make sense of Twitter and not see my weekend "twittered" away like this past weekend!

I am hearing... The very soft hum of the computer and silence. In a few minutes, I'll be taking my shower and listening to talk radio, as usual.

Around the house... Christmas decorations that still need to go up. My advent wreath, which I need to pay more attention to.

One of my favorite things... snuggling with my hubby while watching a movie. We recently rented Star Wars I, II, and III. It was a welcome view compared to some weird movie I rented about Bob Dylan that didn't seem to be about Bob Dylan at all.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: I will be attempting to create digital scrapbooking pages and giving thought to what I will be baking for Christmas. I'm going to be low-key and not bake as much but I do want to bake a few things. I may put up our small Christmas tree!

Here is picture thought I am sharing... Last year, I asked Mickey if he'd set up his photography studio and if we could take some photos of us snuggling. Yes, it was staged, but truly mimics what we usually do many nights, when watching a movie together. I wanted to scrap a page that commemorated our "snuggling." (Yes, I'm a big romantic sap!) So, we took some photos and this was one of them. I am extremely blessed to not only have a husband who loves me like this, but indulges my crazy requests such as "Hey! I've got an idea! Let's turn the couch toward the camera and snuggle while it's self-timed to take photographs!" Yep. I'm a character, alright. :-)

Friday, December 5, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Catholic Men

Months ago, I wrote about loving Catholic women. (It's here, if you'd like to read it.) Just recently, I realized I hadn't written about Catholic men and goodness, it's high time I give honor to where honor is due.

For some reason, even when I was away from the Catholic church, I would look at Catholic men with a great degree of admiration. There was something substantial about them. I'll even go so far as to say that in my eyes - Catholic men are real men. The ones who embrace Catholicism fully, with no apology for looking to Rome and submitting to the Magisterium. They are usually men with a backbone. I liken them to the Marines. There is a blend of respect, acceptance, and resolve that Catholic men have that sets them apart from men from other churches or denominations.

If you notice, these type of guys are the ones who will fix a flat tire for a woman, who will go out of their way to make sure their wives get a breather every now and then, and will pitch in and help on a Saturday if their parish needed them. They're helpful, loyal, and persevering. In fact, in another age they would be considered the most noble of knights. There is a noblesse oblige in their life. They have been given much and realize the importance of giving back.

I love seeing the men serve at Mass. Maybe it's because for so many years, I saw women do most of the work within a church service. I especially enjoy seeing adult men as servers for a Traditional Latin Mass. It just touches me.

In our society, men have often been pushed to the side so women can have their "rights." Equality and all that. But yet in this rush for equality, there has been a deconstruction of masculinity. Men haven't been appreciated for being men. Instead, they've been demeaned, ridiculed, and mocked. I've seen far worse treatment of men by women by the same women who had complained of being "mistreated" by men. Some equality.

Catholic men take it all in stride. Maybe I'm partial to Catholic men because my father exhibits these traits. He was the one who would correct my brother and I if we acted up in Mass. He was the one who made sure we attended Mass. And he was the one I'd occasionally catch a glimpse of early in the morning, kneeling in prayer. I remember how proud he would be if we were asked to bring up the gifts for offertory. There was nothing "wimpy" about him nor his devotion.

I'm noticing lately how many of the male radio show hosts I listen to are Catholic. I didn't realize Bill O'Reilly is, but evidently, his latest book is about his Irish-Catholic upbringing. Then there is Sean Hannity who demonstrates the traits I just mentioned. Strong and hardy men. They have grit.

Our world needs such men more than ever. I pray that God raises up the type of men who will not flinch in the face of opposition, because I believe we're going to see an increase of it. May God bless all the Catholic fathers who are trying to raise their sons to be faithful servants of God. Your commitment is a shining example to all around you that to be a real man, you need to worship a real God. Fight the good fight, good honorable men.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Excellent Post: Where Are Our Priorities?

So often, we will shell out money for things we want but balk when the church asks us for help. Fr. Jay Toborowsky has an excellent post on his blog, Young Fogeys, on getting our priorities straight. (nod of the mantilla to Laura Lowder. Thank you!)

  • If a football coach tells parents their son needs to memorize plays to be on the team, the parents agree. If a priest tells parents their child needs to memorize prayers or facts about their faith to be a better Catholic, the parents argue.
  • If a soccer coach tells parents they need to get their child to team practices three times a week, the parents change work schedules and arrange carpools. If a priest tells parents they need to get their child to a practice before a big liturgy, the parents complain.
  • If a cheerleading coach tells parents that they need to raise money so the team can go to a competition at Disney World, the parents sell candy bars and wash cars. If a priest tells parents that they need to raise money so the altar servers can get new robes, the parents remark that "It's always about money".
  • If a school teacher isn't pushing his/her students to read and do math beyond their grade level, then he/she isn't thought to be doing their job. If a religious education program pushes students to know and understand their faith beyond their grade level, then the program is thought to be "unrealistic".
How true...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New "Castitas" Video - Focus

A very dear lady wrote to me to ask how I handled temptation when I was single. In this video, I explain how I was convicted over my entertainment choices. Very often, placing God first means looking like "the church lady" to others. If we're serious about following Christ, we have to die to the opinion of others and fully embrace Him.

When you think of it, what will last - Entertainment Tonight or God? :-)

Hope you enjoy it. Hint: YouTube changed their screen size. Choose "Watch in high quality" at the right-hand bottom of the video to get a clearer view. Isn't it funny that my topic is focus but my video ended up fuzzy? Ha!

Great Idea: Catholic New Media's Advent Calendar

This is a excellent idea. Check it out!

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman for this fun daybook. Check out other entries today. If you'd like to join in, visit her page and the instructions are at the top.

For Today, December 1, 2008

Outside My Window... it is dark, but I have the blinds down. I can feel the coldness from the window. Brrrr!

I am thinking... about how much I want an Apple computer. It's not good. I have a perfectly good computer, although it does give me fits at times. I just really like Mac's software. My husband is annoyed by the whole "Mac thing." He thinks they're overpriced. :-)

I am thankful for... my job, food, shelter, friends, family. I am especially thankful for being able to celebrate Advent this year within the Catholic church. It's the first time I can remember really going into this season with an Advent mind and heart.

From the kitchen... Drinking strong coffee laced with Italian Sweet Cream. I so want to make an omelet but I'm still stuffed from last night's dinner! So it will likely be cereal. Later tonight, I want to try a new recipe - Chicken with Bow-Tie Pasta. Since I had some leftover ingredients from the weekend uke get-together, I figured I may as well find good use for them. I found the recipe on Hidden Valley Ranch's site.

I am wearing... my nightgown and my emerald green robe with my soft tan slippers lined with polar fleece. Ahhhh.

I am creating... digital scrapbooking page and created my own Advent wreath yesterday.

I am going... to work. This week will seem long since we had such a short week last week! Still, thank God I have a job. I've been saying this still each day!

I am reading... still reading The Mass of the Early Christians by Mike Aquilina. I am fascinated by the early accounts of historians such as Ignatius, who describe the Eucharist with such reverence and have hard words for those who do not receive it as the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am hoping... I can plan well for this Christmas. I'll be baking but I want to plan ahead so I'm not running around like a chicken with her head cut off two days before the big day!

I am hearing... the soft hum of the computer, the clicking of the keys. It sounded like someone just left next door.

Around the house... my Advent wreath, a nicely de-cluttered den, thanks to hubby finally putting his stuff away in a box, a less cluttered living room due to me finally putting things away or throwing them out.

One of my favorite things... is early morning prayer. I lit the first candle in the Advent wreath and thanked God for this season. I'll be reading scripture throughout the day.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Nothing special. Work and coming home, fixing dinner, and spending time with husband catching up on his day. I do want to put up our small Christmas tree. My husband isn't really "into" it but as soon as I start to put it up, he's right there tweaking everything I do!

Here is picture thought I am sharing... My advent wreath! I decided to make one. I bought a small wreath on sale from Joann's for $1.80, then the little votives from Hallmark for $2.00 each. I had votive candle holders already. I figured if I was going to have a flame anywhere near a wreath, I'd go with the candle holders. My husband is not familiar at all with this tradition, so I'm hoping this will be a nice way to help him think about this season's meaning, too.