Saturday, March 26, 2011

Inspirational Video: The Tide Is Turning - Pro-life Students Standing Strong

I'm reading Abby Johnson's story, Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line. (It is well written and an amazing story.)

I've also heard stories from pro-life old-timers who wondered who they would pass the torch to regarding this issue. Well, they need not wonder anymore. The college students are more than willing to take the torch and are making a difference. As this video says, 1/3rd of their peers were aborted.

I wonder if the pro-choice folks back in the 60's and 70's factored that little bit of information in their quest for abortion-on-demand across the nation? This current generation of "Millennials" are not only more politically active than previous generations after the volatile sixties, they've made this issue personal. To them they are active, have grown with the Internet and know how to use it to mobilize. Read it and weep, NOW members.

This generation is not only ticked off that abortion killed 1/3rd of them, they're willing to put it on the line and do more than just wish abortion was a thing of the past. They're committed to making sure it is a thing of the past.

God bless these students. They are amazing. This video shows it. (mantilla nod to Catholic Vote and Thomas Peters.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Feast Day of St. Joseph - And Remembering Mom

I'll be visiting my mother's grave today, to remember her and also thank St. Joseph for his continued intercession. It's been four years now, since my mother passed away, and I still think of her everyday. Losing someone you love is never easy. But losing your mother is especially difficult. She was the one who brought you into the world, created a sense of security, and nurtured you as you grew up. You are blessed if you have such a mother in your life and really blessed if you had one as loving as mine.

My family has a special connection to St. Joseph. Several family members on my mother's side have passed away on the feast day of St. Joseph. My mother's name is Josephine. She is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Cincinnati, on St. Joseph's Way. My brother's middle name is Joseph. So it isn't a surprise that when my mother passed away on the feast day of St. Joseph, I'd start looking into him.

What I didn't realize, until I was watching an EWTN program that explained it, is that St. Joseph is the patron saint of the "Happy Death." This is because by tradition, it is said he died with Jesus on one side and Mary on the other. How much better could it get?! I also discovered that St. Joseph prayers are powerful for those who are grieving the death of a loved one.

The day after my mother passed away, I visited a nearby Catholic gift shop and found a St. Joseph necklace. I bought two, one for me and one for my brother. My brother, who is away from the Catholic Church, didn't think much of it but did take it. I wore mine everyday for two years.

There have been many times when I cried out, "St. Joseph, pray for me!" as I felt overwhelmed with grief. And within minutes, I would feel comforted. His prayers still mean the world to me and when I ask for his intercession, I receive comfort and also, warm memories of my mother.

So today is a special day. I'll spend some time with my brother and we'll both be thinking warm and loving thoughts about the incredible woman who nurtured us and scolded us when we acted like jerks. She raised us better, after all. :-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI: No to Christianity 'a la carte' #Catholic

One of the many reasons I love our dear Papa, is for exhortations like this:

Priests must not preach “Christianity 'a la carte'” and should be willing to approach even uncomfortable aspects of the Gospel, Pope Benedict said in a meeting with priests last week.

In a meeting with priests and religious from the Diocese of Rome on March 10, the pope led a Scripture meditation as the “pastor of the pastors.”

Can I get a huge AMEN from the pews?!

I know I'm not the only one asking for fidelity to our faith. Many good Catholics who have been at it longer than me have written reams of letters to their local bishops to point out times when their pastors were unresponsive to their concerns regarding the doctrine of our faith. It was good to read this article because it shows that Pope Benedict XVI is well aware of the problem and in pastoral love, admonishing priests to not go the route of being a "Cafeteria Catholic."

There are hard truths and the Catholic Church is one of the few I know willing to say them. Our position on life, death, and marriage is what makes us villified, mocked, and hated in the world. Being pro-life, for instance, means being willing to suffer the consequences. (As so poignantly expressed by Fr. Frank Pavone.)

Emphasizing that Catholic marriage is a sacrament and not a right, is also increasingly unpopular in world that wants to destroy the sacred.

And death with dignity, not death for convenience, is another uncomfortable truth as more Catholics attempt to remind society that the least among us still deserve an opportunity to live and die according to the wishes of loved ones, and not by governmental decree.

Without a strong moral compass, founded on the principles that Jesus Christ gave us, our world is plunged even deeper into darkness. It is by proclaiming the entire, full Gospel of Jesus Christ that we are truly a light to world, and salt to preserve it.

Praise God that He has given us such a wise and loving Pope! Continue to hold Pope Benedict XVI in prayer as he preaches the full Gospel, and the hard truths of our faith.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cool #Catholic Site: Why I'm Catholic

So this is how Twitter can work...

My blog posts are automatically "tweeted" on Twitter with an auto-feed I set up, which is why I usually am adding the hashtag #Catholic to my titles. (Just in case you were wondering.) Whenever I can improve a process or automate it, I'll do it. Since there are times when I schedule the publishing of a post, having an auto-feed do it for me while I'm off driving to work or doing something else is of great value. I use Twitterfeed for this purpose.

Yesterday, CathTechTalk "re-tweeted" my blog post tweet, which caused me to check out their Twitter account and read through some of their recent tweets. That's how I found out about the excellent site, "Why I'm Catholic."

It is so hard to keep up with all of the wonderful, powerful, beautiful Catholic websites and blogs, but when I find them, I try to highlight them. At this site are stories from all types of people who converted to Catholicism as well as some revert stories. I also saw The Curt Jester's Jeff Miller featured, which should be a good interview for anyone unfamiliar with Jeff's story. (Even if you are familiar, it's still a good read.)

This is a roundabout way of saying why I still love Twitter although I'm not on it as often as I used to be. (Which may change. Or not. I have several Twitter accounts I work on.) Twitter is still a great tool that allows me to reach out to others with my message and also, discover fantastic resources such as the "Why I'm Catholic" site.

So check it out! I'll be adding it to my blogroll on the side. And if you'd like to follow me on Twitter, please do. I'm CathPrdDaughter. :-)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Of Men, Knighthood, and Fighting to Protect #Catholic

The reason that we became warriors in the first place was to protect the people we love.
- My husband

I was touched by a New York Times story I found through "Auntie Seraphic's" wonderful blog, Seraphic Singles. Her Sunday entry, Love in the New York Times, was a sad tale of a young woman's quest to find real men to date -- and not "guys." Her definition of "guys" were young men who wanted nothing to do with committing themselves to a relationship, instead preferring a cloudy haze of hanging out and occasional casual sex.

I was both saddened and angered by the article. Saddened that so many young women now have this to deal with, and angered by the seemingly never-ending consequences of radical feminism in our country.

I had a very long discussion with my husband regarding the topic. Basically, I wanted to know how he developed his respect for women. Did it begin when he was younger? What influenced him?

His answers were a mixture of his upbringing, his involvement with Japanese martial arts, and his desire to follow the Biblical pattern for a marriage. My husband had a father who modeled to his sons how to treat women. One time, my husband's older brother back-talked his mother and received a quick slap from his father as he said, "I don't ever want to hear you disrespect your mother like that again." The point was made. You respected your parents and especially didn't mouth off to your mother.

My husband was raised in an era when men usually helped women with heavy burdens like grocery bags and luggage. When he was 20 years old, he became involved with martial arts and was especially intrigued by the Samurai warriors. The Samurai have a code called bushido, translated as "the way of the warrior." Part of the code is treating others with respect and honor. This extended to how the warriors treated women, especially their wives.

I asked my husband if knighthood was similar to the bushido. He said yes. I found it interesting that long ago, throughout the world, there could be found a certain elite class of men who fought for justice, defended the defenseless, and showed respect and honor to women.

When he said the quote I posted above, suddenly I had a revelation of how much we have lost when we started to raise boys who were forbidden to fight.

Feminism destroyed this natural inclination in men by claiming it was wrong to fight, under the guise that "two wrongs don't make a right." Suddenly, fighting either in a battle or simply fighting to defend a woman's honor was attacked. The concept of a righteous battle faded as more and more young boys were scolded for fighting and older young men were belittled for wanting to join the military.

In essence -- the natural desire of men to want to find something worth defending; and then doing it, has been ripped away. In its place, we now have a generation of young men who not only don't know how to fight, but wouldn't know what to fight for if given the opportunity. Aside from our brave men and women in the military, fire departments, and police -- most younger men avoid confrontation of an enemy like the plague.

I grew up with the wise words, "It's always better to use your head than use your hands." However, my father and the men of my family realized that there were times when defending those you loved meant taking a stand. I won't ever forget the time when some teenagers decided to vandalize our home because my father placed a fence on our property, which covered an entrance to a wooded area. One night a big rock was thrown through my window as I was sleeping. (It landed on my bed, thankfully, not on my head.) The next week, a matic (a gardening tool) was thrown through the window again, this time narrowly missing my head.

What did my father do? For one week, he camped outside with his rifle. Of course we called the police, but my father decided he'd do what most normal men would do. He was defending his family from any further attacks.

I remember when the Virginia Tech murders happened. A deranged student nonchalantly walked through the classrooms, lined up the students, and then shot them methodically -- all this while not one man rose up to attack him. After the horrific massacre, I cried out to my husband, "Where were the men?! Could not a small group of them rushed this nutjob and tackled him to the floor where they could have disarmed him?" Obviously the answer to my question was a tragic "no." This generation of young men had the fight bred out of them long before they arrived at college. It was ironic that one of the bravest men during that long ordeal was a Holocaust survivor, who physically prevented the killer from entering his classroom until almost all of the students had escaped through the classroom window.

When men are not clear on what they should defend and why; they become disillusioned and directionless. They have no understanding of honor, let alone knowing how to responsibly conduct themselves in a relationship.

One of the things I deeply desired before I married was to find a man who would fight for me. I meant this on several levels. I wanted a man who would put forth an effort to win my affections and also, a man who would defend me if I was in danger. I will never forget my second date with my husband. We attended the huge Labor Day festival in Cincinnati at the riverfront, to watch the spectacular fireworks show in the evening. The crowd at this annual event is massive, and we finally found a small empty piece of land to stretch out a blanket. After awhile, I got up, saying I needed to find a restroom. My future husband also stood up.

I looked at him, slightly surprised. "Oh, do you need to visit the restroom also?"

He smiled. "No. But I'm going to accompany you. It's a big crowd here and I don't want you to be alone and unescorted."

Can you imagine how shocked I was at the time? I had never had a man say such a thing to me and of course, I was immediately smitten. If I had thought highly of this gentleman before, at that moment he was placed on a very high pedestal!

I know I am old-fashioned in many ways, but I really don't think I'm that different from most women. Most women yearn to be cherished by a man in a relationship and treated with respect. I'm hoping such men aren't completely gone. Our young women are still looking for them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Wives, Submit to Your Husbands... #Catholic

Old Woman Praying by Jacob Cornelisz Van Oostsanen

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. - Ephesians 5:22 (NKJV)

Few Biblical subjects are more controversial with women than Ephesians 5:22. The concept of submission is almost foreign to the American individualist mindset. Submit? Tell that to the American revolutionists who courageously stood up to King George III and told him to pound sand. Tell that to those who fought for the end of slavery. Tell that to the brave men and women who fought in World War I and II. Submit? In the words of a wise man, "In a pig's eye..."

Although it is admirable to fight against injustice, St. Paul's admonition to women and men (in Ephesians 5) does not pertain to righteous battles but toward the battle of the flesh. This battle is one that all of us are locked into until the day we die. We have come before God to surrender ourselves, to declare that we are sick and in need of the Great Physician, and in doing so, submit ourselves to His will as Jesus Christ did during that very difficult night in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I remember my first confrontation with submission. It was 1982. I was 20 years old and had just joined an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter on campus. I was excited to discover students who, like me, wanted to dig into the Bible. It was during one Bible study that started my journey toward the topic of submission.

One of the Bible study's leader was a strong young woman who was only a few years older than myself. We were engaged in some type of Biblical exercise but for some reason, I didn't want to play along. She insisted. I resisted. We went back and forth until finally I did what she wanted but I was digging in my heels every step of the way. Afterward, I started to ponder the concept of submission. When was it required? How were we to respond? What did we do when every fiber of our being was shouting, "No!" to what was being asked?

Looking back, I still hold the view that the leader was slightly heavy-handed. However, it did start my journey. One of the things I've learned about submission is that if the Biblical pattern holds, we are to submit in spite of the conditions. For example: we are to trust our leaders and submit to them, even when we see their weaknesses. Unless they are asking us to do something that goes against our conscience or is in direct disobedience to Scripture and the Church, then we must prayerfully ask for God's grace to submit.

My favorite teacher for submission is Elisabeth Elliot, a beautiful Protestant woman who was one of the few brave enough to talk about submission. I used to listen to her radio program years ago and she would discuss this topic on occasion. One of her books, Let Me Be a Woman, tackled it but she'd mention it in other books, too. She would often say that a wife was to submit to a husband but to remember that his authority was not earned but received from appointment. She also was the first woman I heard say that the woman actually had the easier job. A woman is to submit to her husband but it is her husband who is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, sacrificing Himself for her.

Submission is trust. Again, this is a difficult concept for many women who were raised in a culture of "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan..." Women of my generation grew up with feminists telling us there was nothing we couldn't do once we freed ourselves from the "oppressive" chains of men. So there is a very real perception that if one "submitted," she would be exploited and used. The defiant stance of feminism therefore provided a strong wall that promised to protect women. But for many, it only made them suspicious of men and untrusting in relationships.

It took me some time to trust people in general. I went through a difficult time in grade school where I was teased and mocked. Although it was not the most enjoyable time of my life, I learned many lessons. Because of the teasing, I withdrew but explored my own interests, which at the time were reading and drawing. Many of us have similar stories where we thought we could trust someone and they disappointed us, sometimes hurting us deeply. It is always a challenge to forgive and move past such experiences, but through Christ, we are called to do so.

And, we are called to submit to the leadership in our lives, despite having flawed leaders. This is probably one of the most difficult callings of the Christian. Because I was single for so long and did not have a husband, I found myself praying often for God's wisdom in submitting myself to the leadership of my church. One incident in particular stands out.

I was the main intercessor for my small church and had a few other women join me during scheduled times of prayer. One day, I was praying alone in my apartment and felt very strongly that God was giving me a very specific message for my pastor. I felt such a strong sense of urgency about it that I wrote it down in a letter, got on my bicycle and rode to the pastor's home, which was nearby. I arrived breathless and talked to him briefly. Then I gave him the letter. During the prayer time, I sensed that I was to give the letter to my pastor but not talk to him directly about it. I also got to very clear impression from God that after I did this, I was to "let it go." No follow-up. No asking my pastor what he thought. Nothing. I was to completely let it go. And I did.

This definitely was not my usual mode of communication. I was a leader in the church at the time and often would offer my views on various topics and church developments. Along with a small group of six leaders, we would gather frequently to discuss the vision and mission of the church. So this kind of approach was not a usual one for me.

I think the entire episode was an exercise of submission to both God and my pastor. I submitted to what I believed God was calling me to do and also submitted to my pastor's leadership. My pastor never spoke to me about the letter and I never brought it up, even though what the letter addressed was a potential powder keg at the time within our church. For reasons I will never know, my pastor did not diffuse a divisive situation and eventually, the keg blew up and some people left the church. I could see all of this clearly but yet felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to not speak of it at the time to anyone. It was hard-core submission for me, and one that broke my heart. My only consolation was knowing that I had obeyed God to the best of my ability and if I my heart was broken, what of His? I prayed for His grace for the rest of that week.

In Ephesians, the Greek word for "submit" is hypotassō, and it means "to submit one's control, to yield to one's admonition or advice." When I look at the verse about wives submitting to their husbands, my eyes are immediately drawn to the following words: as to the Lord. It's a two-parter. As wives, submission isn't supposed to be a foreign concept. We already are called to submit to the Lord - both women and men. Yielding is not easy for anyone. However, when we do yield to God's will and obey His commandments; when we yield to the Church and the Magisterium, when we yield to our priests and bishops -- something miraculous occurs. Our hearts are softened and God now has a pliable soul to shape and mold for His purposes, not ours.

We wives may never fully understand what it means to our husbands when we show such trust. However, I think one of the benefits can be seen over time. This type of submission leads to a peaceful home. As a wife places her trust first in God and then in her husband, she is saying that God is in control. And when we accept that truth, we find rest.

I do not say such things without a bit of a tug-of-war still playing in my heart. I know such things are not easy but yet there is a blessing to obtain that overcomes my resistance. Doing the will of God will reap enormous rewards in our lives and in my opinion, the greater the reward, the greater the opposition to it. Jesus Christ submitted His own will to His Father's because He could see the glory that awaited Him. As Hebrews 12:2 says: "...looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

That is what I hope to focus upon during this Lent. Whatever I am asked to submit to, may I see ahead to the "joy that is set before me." Submission, in the vast scheme of things, seems to be wildly disproportionate to the reward we'll receive when we trust and yield. Praise God He has given us His Son to show us the way.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What I Love About the Catholic Church: The Strategy Is Already Set #Catholic

Occasionally, I'll visit one of my old non-denominational church websites to check on their latest venture. It never fails to amaze me how the scene changes constantly. If it's not the addition of a new building, or a new service, it's the addition of a new approach or strategy. Some of you already know the gist of what I will say, based on some of my previous posts.

But I can't help but repeat it: I am so glad I am a part of the Catholic Church. So, so, sooo glad.

One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is that our "strategy," (to use a modern church term) was determined centuries ago, by the words of Jesus Christ: Go out into all the world and make disciples. He didn't say, "Create new programs that will need to be totally overhauled every year and tweaked into perpetuity." He also didn't say, "Keep everyone's calendars as busy as possible because I'd rather have you burned out than rusted out!"

The non-denominational church and recently, the trendy "Emerging Church" are both needlessly expending effort where none is really required. Church should be simple. You gather in one spot to sing hymns, meditate on the Gospel, share Communion, fellowship a bit and then leave -- to go into the world to be a witness for Christ.

If you've never been a part of a non-denominational church, I can attest to the this rock-solid fact: you have no idea how busy life is until you join such a church and then "become active." That phrase, "becoming active" is actually deceiving. It's more "allow the church to consume your life to the point where you have no other life." Sure, there are some who have placed very firm boundaries and told various department heads "Thanks, but no thanks. I am unable to lead the choir/Bible study group/children's ministry," but most people, when they get involved, feel it is their duty to do such things; much to the detriment of their own home life and sanity. Being active is good, but allowing oneself to say "yes" to every need in a church is not.

It has been twenty years since my old non-denominational church began and it is still in its "development" phase. It is still planning and changing for the umpteenth time the way they "do church." It is still working on yet another strategy for reaching out to the neighborhood. The small home groups are still struggling, not one of them seeming to last more than two or three years before another leader needs to be found and more members recruited.

Some Christians wonder what the appeal is of the Catholic Church. Apart from the historical precedence, some may look at it and think, "What do they really do? They attend Mass and that seems to be about it." But there is so much more. For instance, many Catholics enjoy a rich interior life because we're not running around from one high-speed event to the another.

The other aspect of the Catholic devotional life is that we have daily prayers to ground us. We have the Divine Office, where there are set prayers for morning, afternoon, and evening. We have special prayers for special occasions. These types of devotions have existed for a long, long time and give many Catholics a strong foundation. We don't have to re-invent the wheel because Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints already did it. We don't have to create a new strategy with every passing season because we have the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Canon Law, and the Magisterium; who already have done it.

All of that history leaves Catholics the opportunity to follow tradition and not spend incredible amounts of time in "planning sessions" to come up with the next new approach for "doing church."

If you're someone who can relate to this, and you've not thought seriously about Catholicism, I ask you to really consider it. You may be amazed by the depth of spirituality you will experience without all the hyper-activity. It truly is a blessing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: The Gargoyle Code by Fr. Dwight Longenecker

(Click here, not image, to learn more)

I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis, and remember well reading his fictional book, The Screwtape Letters, where a senior demon was "instructing" his nephew demon on the darker art of tempting, deceiving, and ultimately pulling into hell their charges.

It's not the type of book you could apply the word "enjoy," as though describing a pleasant Sunday drive on a spring day. Lewis' book put many Christians on notice that temptation is not always obvious but the intent is always deadly. The goal of the devil and all his minions is the same: destruction of God's beloved creatures, the objects of His love, mercy, and grace.

The Gargoyle Code is written in a similar vein. The book opens with an introduction by an angel who greets the reader by saying, "All blessings to you from the Lord of Light and the Fire of Love. May you know the powerful purity of the most Blessed Lady, and the radiant goodness of all your brothers and sisters in glory. Alleluia! Amen!" The angel reveals that what is being shared are discovered pieces of correspondence between servants of the Dark Lord; namely, Slubgrip, a proud and manipulative demon and Dogwart, who is still young and inexperienced in the realm of temptation.

What is different is that this fictional book of temptation is written from a Catholic perspective. I liked how the book was written with the Lenten season as the backdrop, complete with the sections divided by the weeks of liturgical year. (Starting with Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, and ending with Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.) The book is meant to accompany spiritual reading during this time of year and could be used as a springboard for meditation on examining one's conscience.

Indeed, the "angel" introducing the book says this:
"And now I must urge you to something which may not be pleasant for you. Please know that I make this request out of the great and radiant love for your soul. I must urge you with all the power and grace within me to read this correspondence as you would read a mirror. As the fiends discuss the poor souls in their charge, see yourself. Do not read in a detached manner as if you are reading about someone else, but engage your heart. Ask for the light to see how you are like the poor souls in these pages. Only then will you be able to spot the fiend's activity in your own life."

It didn't take long for me to become convicted. Slubgrip walks his apprentice through various types of temptations, making it clear how anything not done in moderation has the ability to distract us and pull us away from our relationship with God. Slubgrip's "patient" (the one he is supposed to tempt and eventually drag to hell) is a traditional Catholic man who has a serious illness. Dogwart's "patient" is a young Catholic man who struggles with knowing what to do with his life and if his faith really means anything.

I don't want to spoil the revelations that each of these "patients" experience, or the diabolical scheming that each demon employs in order to steal them from God; but suffice it to say, the storyline is very well-written and kept my attention. In fact, I finished the book (just over 100 pages) in a few days. I would silently cheer the patients as they went through a maze of trials, happy when they found peace and disappointed when they took the enemy's bait.

I've not read any other books by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, but truly enjoyed this one. It gave me pause for thought on several occasions. Catholic stereotypes are tweaked, and readers of Fr. Longenecker's blog, Standing On My Head, will recognize them: the traditional Catholic who is actually a snob, the modern architecture parish that brings shudders to those who love cathedrals, the young idealistic Catholic woman who acts like a "puritanical, prissy, prima-donna." It's tempting to think such characters are in no way close to how we act, but after careful prayer, we may be surprised to see the truth.

The "hierarchy" of the underworld is also explored, revealing how traits such as selflessness and loyalty are non-existent although sacrifice does make an appearance, albeit in a devilish way. It made me realize just how blessed we are, how beautiful Jesus Christ is, how loving our God is and how kindly and mercifully He treats His children. Whatever honesty we have, whatever fidelity we may show, whatever is good and honorable and noble -- all have their origin in God. As Fr. Longenecker's book shows, the enemy's kingdom is dark, evil, and hateful. The book is a strong warning against anyone who feels that "once saved, always saved" is the way to live one's faith. Each day we are presented with the question: Who will you believe and obey?

I highly recommend reading this book during Lent. In fact, I'll be re-reading it again, more slowly and prayerfully, according to the book's Lenten schedule. I have a feeling I'll be frustrating whatever demon has been assigned to me, as I do.