Monday, September 28, 2009
Today is a different story. Almost every other middle-aged woman I see has had some "work" done on her face. Celebrity magazines are filled with women who have had their skin snipped, stitched, pulled, or removed - all in order to look as though she is perennially in her twenties. How ironic that it was when I was in my twenties that I thought older women looked fantastic.
I saw a photograph tonight of a political giant whose wife looked as though she had one Botox session too many. It just looks unnatural for a woman to obviously be "a certain age" and her forehead looking like a taut peach. And what does it communicate? "Please let me continue to be relevant! I know my worth is only as important as how young I look!"
There is a fear in our culture of aging. Perhaps there is even a greater fear in looking old. When I allowed my natural gray to go wild on my scalp, I received the harshest criticism from my brother. For almost two year, every time he saw me, he'd laughingly say, "Get a bottle! Why are you letting your hair go?" Meanwhile, my husband, who strongly encouraged me to embrace it, loved my gray hair. And after I got used to seeing what my hair really looked like after decades of coloring it - so did I.
Recently, my fifteen-year old niece remarked, "Aunt Mary Rose, why do you and my parents have this vertical line thingy between your eyebrows?" I laughed and told her it was life. I was able to hold off the effects of aging until just recently. A few months ago, before I turned 47, I looked in the mirror and finally saw the faint hollows under my eyes. Now they could have been there before and I ignored them, but I now saw them very clearly. I smiled. Shrugged. Went on with my day.
I thought about the beautiful women in my life, some who are older than I am but filled with the joy of the Lord. When I meet them, I don't stare at their wrinkles. Instead, I stare into their eyes, which are filled with a deep, abiding love they have for their Lord. It is evident in everything they say and do. This is the beauty that women receive as they mature in their faith and love for those in their life. Love will always soften a person's face. Always.
So when you look at some of the more "perfect-ified" faces of the celebrities, remember that they are chasing the elusive butterfly of youth, and age eventually catches up with us all. Meanwhile, the wisdom of a woman, her assurance and generous love for those in her life - will always trump a plastic surgeon's knife. See if you don't agree.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Already this new addition is making waves. Andrea Peyser, writer for the New York Post, had this to say (emphasis mine):
And while you were snoozing, the creators of American Girl, which is sold by Mattel, got bold. They engaged in all-out political indoctrination.
Snuck into the collection is a doll that comes with a biography that is weird and potentially offensive enough to keep Mom running to the Maalox. Gwen, you see, is harboring a terrible secret.
She is homeless. A homeless doll.
In the history books that come with every American Girl doll -- bringing to life these little monsters until impressionable little ones believe they are actual people -- you learn that Gwen's father walked out on the family. Her mother lost her job.
As the little kiddies learn to read about this doll as if she's a human being, one learns that, as fall turned into winter, Gwen's mom lost her grip.
Mother and daughter started bedding down in a car.
For $95 -- more than your average homeless person would dream of spending on a rather mediocre baby substitute -- Gwen Thompson can be yours. A mixed message if ever there was one.
Mixed message, indeed. I just found out yesterday about this new addition to the popular "American Girls" doll collection. And I was stunned. What were they thinking? I remember when I first learned about the "American Dolls" years ago, and thought it was a wonderful idea. The company created a doll during important times in our country's history. First, there was a Swedish immigrant doll, one of the first introduced, in 1986. The doll, Kirsten Larson, described life in the United States during the mid-1800's. The dolls have their own stories reflecting what life was like during that time period. (And of course there are the expensive accessories that accompany each doll and its historical time frame.) The historical periods covered are The American Civil War, Edwardian (or Victorian), The Great Depression, and World War II.
All sounding fine and dandy, so far. But then Mattel had to start going political. Pleasant Rowland, who created the company in 1986, sold it to Mattel in 1998. It was after 1998 that we started to get the "politically-correct" dolls such as a Native American doll who lived before the white settlers arrived and a Mexican doll who lived in New Mexico before it was surrendered to the United States during the Mexican-American War in 1848. (Which wasn't United States "American" since the doll's characters either lived before our country was born or was part of another country before being joined to the United States.)
Then of course, there was the 60's and 70's era, which produced "Julie," who lived in San Francisco during 1974. Her story focuses on cheerful societal changes like divorce, gender equality in sports (Yes, really.), America's Bicentennial Celebration (nice they noticed), environmentalism, the disability rights movement, and feminism. Change your world, Julie!
Evidently, reflecting on our nation's history wasn't enough for Mattel. They turned their dolls into mini-activists, promoting "causes." And now we have The Homeless One.
After a lineage of dolls that represented young girls rising to the challenges of their own place in history, how does it make sense to introduce a doll that is victimized? How is such a story encouraging to a little girl? And the irony of charging $95 for a "homeless" doll (without accessories!) seems to be lost on Mattel.
Women have come a long way throughout history. I had hoped that even a toy company could accurately represent the growth and opportunities that have been afforded women over the last 200+ years. What angers me about this new offering is that it is not supportive, positive, or encouraging. A young girl, once she learns the story, will most likely feel fearful and insecure. Is that what we want for our little girls?
And that doesn't even cover the father aspect of this sad tale. According to "Gwen's" story, her father abandoned her and her mother. Big, bad men! Selfish! Immature! Mean! Oh, yes. That's the attitude I'd love to encourage in my little girl. Not.
And then there is the mother, who obviously has been destroyed by the situation. Of course, this is reality for many women, but do we really want to bring such harsh realities to an 8 year-old? Do we not try to protect our children from the injustices of the world until they're old enough to understand there are many complications to life?
It galls me that instead of focusing on a woman's resourcefulness and "toughness" (as shown by the earlier dolls), we have "The Victimized Woman," who can't seem to pull it together for her daughter. She goes to "Sunrise House," which helps the homeless, and says, "Without Sunrise House, I don't know where we'd be today." Hmmm. Wonder where Sunrise House gets its money? I can't find the info but if that's not a set-up for the Big, Loving Government to take care of us all, I don't know what is.
Bottom line: I think Mattel did a horrendous job of research and development for this concept. I think it's a bad idea all around, the worst I've seen yet for a toy. The American Girls doll collection started out so well, and was an admirable project to help young girls understand the history of our country. But they've gone off the rails on this one. They should be ashamed of themselves, for turning what is a very real and tragic problem, into a commodity.
If you're upset about it, I highly recommend going on Twitter and tweeting the heck out of it. Astonishingly, they only have two Twitter accounts: @MattelRecruiter and @mattelmba. I say "astonishing" because any major Fortune 100 company that doesn't have a presence on Twitter is ignorant of social media's effect for a brand. Nevertheless, let them know if you think it's a bad idea. I'm sure if this topic started to trend on Twitter's list, someone (I hope) will notice.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Since my background within the non-denominational church was full of prophetic training and teaching, I was especially intrigued by Padre Pio's confessional. From Catholic.org:
Padre Pio had the ability to read the hearts of the penitents who flocked to him for confession which he heard for ten or twelve hours per day. Padre Pio used the confessional to bring both sinners and devout souls closer to God; he would know just the right word of counsel or encouragement that was needed.
This was amazing to me. I haven't written much about this but if you're familiar with the early history of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, you'll remember it was founded on operating in "the gifts of the Spirit." This included the prophetic gift, which could be either foretelling future events or having a "word of knowledge" about someone that was divinely given. During my time in Charlotte, North Carolina, I trained with a ministry to grow in these gifts. Aside from the many pitfalls and distractions that some experience while doing this, I still believe it is a good thing to pursue our spiritual gifts and use them for the propagation of the Gospel.
It surprised me to see this spiritual gift exercised so boldly in the Catholic Church - and what better place for it to happen than within the confessional! This, to me, was what the spiritual gifts were meant to do! Draw people closer to God!
A little more background on the prophetic: This area is probably one of the most misunderstood and most abused spiritual gifts in the Church today. Some have looked at this gift as a way to prophesy glorious future events for their lives. I first discovered spiritual gifts in my early twenties. I remember feeling very excited about it. Who doesn't love gifts?! But I realized early on that spiritual gifts were meant to do one thing - bring us closer to God. It could either be something to exhort the believer to hang on, don't give up, believe God has everything in control; or it could be something that would convict a non-believer that yes, God does exist and sent His Son Jesus Christ to save him.
One time, I was in a Bible study group, meeting in someone's home. After I prayed with someone, a girl said to me, "You have the gift of prophecy."
I looked at her. "Really? I guess I need to learn more because I don't know anything about it." She smiled. So that started my long journey toward studying about the spiritual gifts. There is much said about them in the New Testament, primarily by St. Paul. But for prophecy, there are many examples in the Old Testament as well. (Hence the "Major" and "Minor" prophets. Also, there is a difference between the office of a prophet and a prophetic gift.)
Prophetic people are intense. We can see these in many of the Old Testament prophets and, with our modern ones, such as Padre Pio. You don't mess around with a prophet. They see things pretty much in black and white. There isn't much gray to them because they see God's directives as being as plain as the nose on your face. And because of that, prophetic people are not the most diplomatic folks in the church. However, they are a gift to the Church and I would love to see more of it within the Catholic Church. I know it's there, I just want to witness it myself.
Padre Pio wasn't known for his tact. He was known for hitting the nail squarely on the head time and time again. I also think the reason his confessional was so popular was because people have a deep-seated need to be known. It blesses us to no end to realize God indeed knows our hearts, our fears and desires, and wants to draw us to Him. Even being chastised is better than not being known at all.
I also have to chuckle when I think of an Italian having this gift. Since I'm half-Italian, I can knock my heritage a bit. (smiling) Italians are very passionate people. They love passionately, and fight passionately. Tempers flare pretty quickly but then an Italian will settle down and move on to what's next. So with Padre Pio being in a confessional for ten to twelve hours a day, it's not hard to imagine that on occasion he would come down hard on a few folks. Some probably needed it.
I don't know what it is about the tough exterior of a person that makes us want to either make him smile or soften, but I'm sure many were drawn to Padre Pio's strict, no-nonsense approach and loved seeing him laugh. Those who are no-nonsense have a way of making us stand up a little straighter in our seats and pay attention to our lives. Padre Pio was certainly such a person and I am very grateful we had him. I'll end with a prayer for his intercession. Also, on this same page is a prayer I've often prayed after receiving Communion. It is beautiful.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I've written before of my disdain for the "social justice" agitators in the Catholic Church because I think they're confused. The downside is -- they're also very vocal and to the undiscerning ear, sound Biblically correct when thumping for the cause. It has irritated me for quite some time and, as often is the case, I ponder it until I can figure out why it irritates me.
I've noticed that those who push the "social justice" agenda usually lean left in many of their views. Along with social justice is an obsession with ordaining women as priests, approval of homosexuality, and a frequent attitude of dissent with Rome. Those traits are enough to make me suspicious and warn me that they may be in deep, spiritual danger. I have pointed out that all too frequently, a focus on "social justice" can distract a person from true spiritual growth. As I've said before, Jesus didn't die on a cross for a cause. He died for the sin of the world and to bring us salvation.
I've discovered another reason why I react so strongly toward this deceptive "cause." And it's because of this: Mercy.
I haven't yet found an online Catholic Bible with study aids, so I used the Blue Letter Bible. I did a simple search on the words "Justice" and "Mercy." In the Bible, the word "justice" occurred 28 times. "Mercy," however, is mentioned 276 times.
Why bring this up? Because I believe that we as the Body of Christ are called more to show mercy, than justice.
Who, really, can dispense justice? In John 14:27, Jesus says this:
We are to follow Jesus' example, which included not judging others (regarding the state of their soul) but to love one another and show mercy. Yes, we need to be discerning and wise observation of spiritual things is necessary. But we are not to demand justice from a fallen world. Life, as we know it here, is unfair on many levels. Evil men acquire wealth while good men go poor. Dishonest men succeed while honest men fail. Greedy organizations thrive while selfless ones wither. Is it our job, as the Body of Christ to right all the wrongs in the world?
Someone may say, "Well, aren't we to called to defend the defenseless?" I'm not sure about that. If someone has relevant Scripture verses, please share them in the combox. I know in Psalm 82, there is a plea for justice but the plea is made to God our Father. On numerous occasions, Jesus would show mercy to the sinner and would turn the other cheek when treated unjustly.
There is something arrogant about thinking I can change the world into acting justly. The world hates true justice. It is why the devil worked so hard to prevent Jesus Christ from being born, let alone live. He knew that judgement was coming but it came in an unexpected way. Only by sacrificing His own life did Jesus accomplish the justice that was required by His Father.
I can't help but wonder what this country would look like if those who are so focused on "social justice" causes instead focused more on showing mercy and forgot the whole legislative process after all. Laws are written and forgotten - but the mercy of God is unending. Many of our saints became saints because they consistently showed mercy. Even Mother Teresa, whom some would call an activist for the downtrodden, was known for her mercy. I'll close with one of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes:
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
“We’ve heard anecdotally that the youngest people coming to religious life are distinctive, and they really are,” said Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. “They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.”
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Well, he is still a newlywed, so I'm sure he has more interesting pursuits now than checking up on his daughter's blog...
So, of course it's been a busy week and I'm trying to catch up on emails, etc. I'm also creating a Shutterfly book for a friend, which hopefully, after it's done, will be something she will cherish.
Do you know about Fr. Leo? He's a very fun and totally engaging priest who has his own food show, "Grace Before Meals." I love watching him cook and the lucky folks who happen to be nearby to taste his yummy creations. I didn't realize how serious he was about cooking until I read this article. Yep. Fr. Leo went against Iron Chef Bobby Flay - and won! Holy Fajita!!
The writer of the article caught some funny lines, such as:
Father Patalinghug pulled out his rosary during the judging. “Do you want one?” he asked Flay.
“What number are you on?” Flay replied.
“I lost count,” the priest admitted.
Fun times. It's good to hear about a priest bringing joy to others through cooking. Go, Fr. Leo!
Friday, September 4, 2009
The Vatican has proposed sweeping reforms to the way Mass is celebrated, it has been claimed.
Communion on the tongue, Consecration celebrated ad orientem (facing east) and renewed use of Latin could all be re-introduced to ordinary Sunday Masses as part of proposals put forward by the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Andrea Tornielli, a senior Vatican watcher, reported last week that the congregation's cardinals and bishops voted "almost unanimously in favour of greater sacrality of the Rite" at a plenary meeting in March.
...Mr Tornielli said these were the first concrete steps towards the "reform of the reform", a notion outlined in Pope Benedict's 2000 book, The Spirit of the Liturgy. The book argues that some of the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council got out of hand and needed reform as they no longer reflected the changes envisaged by the Council Fathers.
Vatican Seeks Reform of the Reform
I often talk to my father about the Traditional Latin Mass and why I love it so. It's usually preceded by one of his stories about how his parish is disrespectful toward Mass, either by talking incessantly during the liturgy or female lectors in mini-skirts. Each time he ticks off another irritation, I say, "Well, that's one reason I attend the Traditional Latin Mass." He agrees with me and is tempted to find a Traditional Latin Mass nearby if things don't shape up in his own parish. (On top of the mini-skirted female lector, he also has a pastor who enjoys kissing all the women, which I admit strikes me as very odd.)
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Here is Kimberly's site: Catholic Family Vignettes and her first post about her planner, then her second. If you look to the right column on her blog, you'll see a link to Scribd, where she is hosting her pages.
Leave her some love on one of her blog posts and keep her in prayer. She's a mother of nine children and six of them are still home. All are being home-schooled by this very loving, very devout and amazing Catholic mama. She and her family are a treasure for our local parish and she shows her beautiful generosity by offering this planner for free. Thank you, Kimberly!
I'm also going to be trying something new with my digital scrapbooking classes. I reserved a hotel conference room locally to host a Saturday half-day workshop. I still have no idea if this is going to be a boom or a bust, though! The adult-learning center I usually teach at has put my regular class "on hiatus" for the Fall session but I still wanted to teach. However, I'd like to reach "College and Career" age women (between 20-35 years old) and the adult-learning center admitted their core students are more middle-aged. I think it's a marketing issue and I'm going to test it to see if I can possibly mix it up a bit. So, I'll be calling college newspapers around town soon to see if I could submit the event in their publication.
Yesterday, I was thinking about all the people praying for me. Have you ever thought about this? We have friends and family who of course, pray for us on occasion (if they're the praying kind). But if we're Catholic, we have our priest who is continually lifting us up in prayer. Then we have the saints who are praying for us, plus Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Can you imagine how much more difficult life would be if we weren't surrounded by so much prayer?!! It's pretty amazing and I for one am deeply grateful.
So, bless you for reading. I know I've not written as much as I would have liked but I suspect things are going to increase again soon. :-)