Thursday, July 31, 2008

Word Fun

From a cool little site I just discovered, "Wordle."

This is from the text of my entry on Sacred Chant:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Language and "Gaydinistas"

I'm playing with words, myself.

Years ago, I was highly amused when Rush Limbaugh coined a new name for the angry, male-hating women of the "Baby Boomer" generation: the "Feminazis."

Today we have another group that has grown in political clout, powered by their own brand of hate. I sort of like the "gaydinistas." Like the early "Sandinista" regime that attempted to bring Marxism to Nicaragua, the "gaydinistas" are attempting to overpower the government and dismantle any remaining Judeo-Christian tradition that still influences our culture today.

I forgot to tell a story in my last post and thought it especially relevant after reading Jeff Miller's post about the new California politically-correct marriage licenses.

When I was giving workshops for single women who wanted to find love, I named the presentation, "5 Ways to Find a Husband After 40." I gave this presentation to local libraries and adult learning centers. One library invited me to be a part of their Fall program. The assistant library manager was very excited about it and intrigued with my concept.

Two weeks before I was to speak, she contacted me. She sheepishly told me that she had to "disinvite" me from the program. Why?

She explained that during a library committee meeting, she had submitted her list of upcoming speakers, which included me. When she mentioned the topic, one of the committee members loudly proclaimed that no such workshop was going to be given at their library. (It is interesting to me that no one requested my notes. So there was no rejection of the content since they had none. The rejection occurred simply from the title alone.)

I chuckled a bit when this poor woman was explaining the situation. I asked, "Tell me, I'm just curious - is this woman a feminist?" The assistant librarian said, "Yes." Then I asked, "Is she married?" I could hear the wry smile on the other end. "Um, no she isn't. Actually, she's a lesbian."

Gee. Color me shocked.

I told the woman it wasn't a complete surprise but ironic that she thought by banning me, it would ban women from wanting to get married and (gasp!) have a husband. I said it was also ironic that any glance in the self-help department of any library would show book after book on how to find love and get married. Husband and wife is usually the names married people call each other.

But be warned - this will not be allowed to continue unchallenged. If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, you can say goodbye to all those Hallmark cards that declare a Valentine's love for a husband or wife.

They'll start to declare love to "Party A" or "Party B."

My Darling Party A, my life was one big non-event before I met you...

Hmmm. Maybe I can make some money doing this...

Welcome to "The Closet"

For many decades, if someone was gay but wished to avoid any harassment, they were described as being "in the closet." The very act of admitting their preference for homosexual behavior was deemed "coming out" as in coming out of "the closet."

Today we are witnessing a total deconstruction and reconstruction of "the closet."

As a result of the gay movement, there is now a new group being shuffled into the closet - Christians and anyone else who does not agree with the militant gay activists' demands. If you have the audacity to question the assumption that people are born gay, you are immediately labeled a "hater" and a "homophobe." If you believe the Bible when it comes to sexuality, you are again harassed for your beliefs and implied "ignorance."

Last time I checked, few Christians were hanging out at a gay bar, condemning the patrons for entering and doing what they like to do. Why is it acceptable for some of these gay activists to harass Christians? Most Christians who oppose homosexuality simply hold such beliefs without engaging or forcing their convictions on others. They aren't picketing GLBTQ campus groups. They aren't hanging around a Gay Pride parade. They aren't frequenting the gay restaurants and preaching at folks as they wait for their table.

So what gives?

This - it is the way of the world. Remember, the world hates the light but loves the darkness. There is no rhyme or reason for it because sin has no conscience and as such - no capacity for logical reason. This is why a gay person can look you straight in the eye and justify why a Christian photographer should be sued for refusing to photograph a lesbian wedding but yet totally overlook that a person's conscience is getting the short end of the stick. Remember - one of the leftist's most powerful moves in their playbook is to redefine the meaning of a word. And most gay-rights battles are being won.

So "persecuted" was wrong when it applied to gays but acceptable when it is applied to Christians. And the reason it is acceptable is because Christians are being "unfair." So a gay person's "rights" trumps the "fairness" of allowing a Christian to believe what they wish.

Mind police, anyone?

I just read a chilling article about Brazil. The title alone was enough for me to cry, "mercy" to God. But we really shouldn't be surprised. The Bible prophesied how the world was going to get worse for believers the closer we came to Jesus Christ's return.

I have no idea when Jesus will return or anything about "the last days." All I know is that the world has been in a tailspin toward hell for a long time but now it seems as though things have sped up a bit. Brazil is a good example.

Take a good look at the article, The World Watches as Brazil Advances Toward a Homosexual Dictatorship. The gay agenda is nothing more than an attempt to force everyone to accept fascism. The gay agenda has become the lightening rod to attract all other anti-Christian forces. If Brazil caves to the demands, no one will be allowed to disengage themselves from the pro-gay culture. Either you embrace them unconditionally, or you're punished with a jail sentence.

When I was younger, I remember learning about homosexuality. It was spoken about in whispers or the brunt of jokes. I observed those who "came out" with interest and curiosity. The compassionate side of me sympathized with anyone who felt ostracized by society.

However, in the course of thirty years, I have seen the "gay movement" become more shrill, uglier, and more controlling than any gay man's worse nightmare of a "Mommy Dearest." It's horrifying and I can't decide if it's more horrifying that they are totally ignorant of it or that this culture is so accepting of such outrageous behavior. And don't even question the wisdom of allowing gay couples to adopt by pointing out that children of gay couples are more likely to grow up gay.

At first, homosexuality was described as a preference. A "lifestyle choice." Then it went to the argument: "Would I chose this for myself? This constantly persecuted way of life? No. It's not a choice, I was born like this..."

Then they wanted to be "accepted" more and acceptance meant acknowledging their existence by including them in whatever they demanded. Then they wanted to be "embraced" with more of the same. Now it is a full-blown war to propagandize the schools and businesses because acceptance and embracement isn't enough.

They want to be adored. Idolized. Worshiped. They want society to repent for all the perceived nasty things said or believed because if not, punishment must happen. Instead of Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world, now the sin of the world is demanding that conscience must be crucified. Of course this makes perfect sense because if conscience is killed, sin may run amok.

Some Christians may say, "Why fight?" Why, indeed. Did not Jesus Christ come for a reason? Was not His death to free all of humankind from the bondages of sin? And is not totalitarianism in direct opposition to the freedom that Christ has brought to the world?

Don't think. That's what the next demand will be from the activists. It is my prayer that Christians around the world will reject it and refuse to bow and serve the idol of Self. May God grant us the courage to fight.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Sacred Music

Before all else, worship is about God. It is the duty of the creature to know, love and serve the Creator, and to render to God the service of prayer, praise and thanksgiving that is his due.

Worship is about us, the creatures, only insofar as we desire with all our hearts to serve God as he tells us he wants to be served.

Historically, Gregorian chant is in direct, organic development with ancient cantilation -- chanting -- patterns of the psalms in temple and synagogue. This was the background and experience of the first Christians. So our chanting today is in direct relationship with theirs.

One can see, then, that when we sing the chant, we are truly "in connection" with our fathers and mothers in the faith.

- Father Samuel Weber, Director of the Institute of Sacred Music in St. Louis, from the interview given to Zenit, "Sacred Music That Serves the Word of God Pt. 2"

I clearly remember the time I expressed a love for Gregorian chant to my father. At the time, I was attending a non-denominational church which treated worship music like a mini-Woodstock. His response?

"You should," He said dryly. "You grew up with it."

Well, that wasn't totally accurate. He may have heard it as a young boy but I certainly didn't. By the time I was attending Mass, the worship was filled with folksy guitar music and earnest young people singing "One Bread, One Body." Gregorian chant simply wasn't on the menu.

Over the past twenty years, I have experienced a wide variety of worship and praise music. From organ arrangements to small guitar quartets to full studio bands - all of it has been enjoyable to a certain degree. And during the times in my life when I was especially in hot pursuit of God, I achieved a deep level of worship.

Praise music is, in my mind, a little outside the gate. It can get you excited about God, but the deeper more profound reflections are more likely to result from true worship. But worship has a tough crowd. Why?

Because we live in the age of entertainment and worship is, if anything - anti-entertainment.

Entertainment is all about me. It's how I receive something, whether a song or a movie. It's all about my response, my perception, my enjoyment. When I would listen to one of my many "Praise" CD's, it was almost like listening to Muzak.

"God is good..."

Oh, my mind would say, that's nice.

Worship is different. Vastly different. Worship is when I focus entirely upon God and realize that in the midst of everything, I am nothing. He is all. He is entirely and perfectly complete, perfectly perfect, and nothing can mar that perfection. Not for one second does true worship consider me except my response to Him. It's all about Him.

What other style of music could express that priority with such purity, except chant?

Not even Classical music could do it, with all its hoots and fanfare. Instruments almost spoil the soul's desire to ascend toward the heavenly realm. It's as though our spirits need to be unhindered and unencumbered as it reaches forever for the only communion that truly matters - knowing God. We know that we stand alone before God, we will stand alone before Him in judgement, and chant is a lonely song. It is a peaceful song, though, understanding that it must surrender all - even unnecessary notes - in order to connect with the Holy of Holies.

I think that God made us pretty smart. Smart enough to realize that for all the bombast of modern music, we know it's just a diversion. Maybe that's why the CD "Chant" has surprised even the monks who created it. (thanks to The New Liturgical Movement.)

We need the simple and pure because deep down inside, we know we can't fool God.

Catholicism and Mortification

I was almost tempted to add this to my "What I Love About Catholicism" category. But when I thought about the topic, I admit it isn't something I "love." It is something I admire. It is also a very hard topic to embrace spiritually. St. Paul says in Romans:
And if Christ be in you, the body indeed is dead, because of sin: but the spirit liveth, because of justification. And if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you; he that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. (Rom. 8:10-13, Douay Version)

I caught a portion of the radio program, "Life on the Rock." The host was speaking to some of the youth who had made a pilgrimage to Australia for World Youth Day. I was touched when a young girl shared how some of her fellow pilgrims deliberately chose to sleep on the floor in order to deepen their spiritual experience. I was stunned. What a stark contrast to the commonly self-absorbed younger generation!

Once again, I could not help comparing this attitude toward that of other youths in non-Catholic churches. Mortification is a foreign word to most of them. Although there were plenty of Bible studies and groups activities for the youth, not many were presented with the concept of mortification.

Mortification is also applied to the season of Lent, when Catholics ponder what they can sacrifice in order to identify with the sufferings of Christ. Identifying with Christ is what compels a Catholic teenager to willingly sleep on a cold, hard floor or fast for a certain period of time. Mortification is saying "no" to the fleshly desires and understanding there are more important things to pursue, such as spiritual maturity.

When I was in the non-denominational church, I would occasionally remember "The Catholic Way." This would include practices such as mortification, sacrifice, praying to the saints, and confession among other things. I would disdain most of it but the mortification part always intrigued me. There was something about it that rang true; especially in light of a culture focused on its own pleasure. And the culture was seeping into the church.

How the flesh fights against mortification! It would much rather have the soft permissiveness of one's own desire than the hard surrender of sacrifice. This permissiveness can often be cloaked in "Christian-ese." Sometimes I would hear how someone didn't feel "led by the Lord" to do something, laying the blame on God instead of admitting their flesh simply didn't want to be bothered.

What is the result of a life that does not embrace mortification?

Licentiousness. Rationalizing. Justification of satisfying fleshly desires to the point of sin. Not pretty. We are called to a life of holiness but this life does not happen automatically after praying "The Sinner's Prayer." It is an arduous journey, filled with opportunities to overcome the transient in order to obtain the eternal. Our lives on earth are a drop in the bucket compared to eternal life with God. Mortification is for me, not a way to "earn" salvation (Jesus Christ was the only One who could pay that price); but a way to chisel away the flesh that constantly opposes the things of the spirit.

I liken it to trying to listen to a gorgeous symphony in the middle of a crowded mall. There are so many distractions that would prevent me from fully appreciating all the nuances of the music. But remove the distractions - the preoccupation with consumerism, the loud babble of trivial conversation - and suddenly the rich tapestry of sound can be enjoyed.

I have fasted before for spiritual reasons. What always amazed me was how everything became sharper and clearer after giving my body a rest from eating. Suddenly I could see and hear more clearly. My times of prayer were distilled moments of truth without the constant yammering of my own will. My spiritual heart was more attuned to the voice of God and humility usually followed.

This type of mortification isn't alien to non-Catholics but there usually wasn't a climate for it. Catholicism trains believers to not only expect opportunities for mortification but heartily pursue them. We are being "conformed into the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29) and this shaping includes mortification.

I thank God for those young people who looked at hardship with a different perspective instead of complaining. What a wonderful example of pursuing a holy life!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Vindication of Humanae Vitae

Let’s begin by meditating upon what might be called the first of the secular ironies now evident: Humanae Vitae’s specific predictions about what the world would look like if artificial contraception became widespread. The encyclical warned of four resulting trends: a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.

(from The Vindication of Humanae Vitae by Mary Eberstadt)

Is that not amazing, or what? Forty years later and it all came true.

Wow to the nth degree.

More on Georgetown University and their LGBTQ Center

I was familiar with the letters "LGBT." (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgendered) But that "Q" was new to me. So I looked it up. I almost wish I didn't know.

"Q" stands for "queer and questioning." It is specifically aimed at teens who are starting to develop hormonally but wondering about their sexuality. (And who, I ask, created that "wonder" in the first place?) A book was published five years ago, GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens (Paperback). Amazon offers "sneak peeks" for many of their books so I decided to take a look. Here's a portion (emphasis mine):
"People who are questioning are uncertain of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Many teens are starting to be more comfortable identifying as questioning. (?) A lot of things are changing during adolescence, and deciding you are questioning takes the pressure off of immediately choosing a label like gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight."

Tell me, please. Why would a Catholic university host a group that encourages someone to question their sexuality?

Shiva Subbaraman, the first Director of Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center, has an impressive record of implementing training programs for the diversified, sexually ambiguous crowd. (And by the way, do you notice how often homosexuality has changed its name? It's confusing. Some like to be called "queer." Some lesbians like to define themselves as "gay." I don't understand why some groups are called GLBT and others are LGBT. Strange.) But I recently responded to a comment on "Why Catholic Identity Is Important" that GU most likely didn't hire Subbaraman to talk students out of pursuing a homosexual lifestyle.

I cannot overemphasize how damaging the institution of such a center will be upon the lives of the students. It is one thing for a secular university to have such a program, but a Catholic university? What was Dr. Olson thinking?

In Part Three, Section Two, Article Six of the Catechism of the Catholic Church , it says (emphasis mine):

Chastity and homosexuality

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

I'm not sure how much more clearer this could be.

Since I've been thinking about the beautiful Theology of the Body, by Pope John Paul II, I've begun to examine homosexuality in light of this teaching. The traditional Church, the Bible, and the Catechism all agree that acting upon homosexual tendencies is not God's plan or purpose for our bodies.

What is more, our bodies are, as Pope John Paul II said, a mystery. From the TOB:

Following the narrative of Genesis, we have seen that the "definitive" creation of man consists in the creation of the unity of two beings. Their unity denotes above all the identity of human nature; their duality, on the other hand, manifests what, on the basis of this identity, constitutes the masculinity and femininity of created man. (Man Becomes the Image of God by Communion of Persons)

There is such a mystery to the union of man and woman. There is no mystery to a union of man and man or woman and woman. The body is not an object of pleasure but a reflection of the divine relationship God has with man. God created man and woman to love one another. In that love is the pattern for the church. The masculine initiates, the feminine responds. There is the issue of headship and submission; sacrifice and worship. Marriage is a beautiful image of God's love for His church.

Will students at GU receive any instruction on the "Theology of the Body?" Highly doubtful. Instead, they will be welcomed to blindly follow their own lusts, soothed by the words of a lesbian who will assure them their same-sex attraction is just another way God created man and woman.

If that is the case, why is there an emphasis placed on the "questioning?" Why should the presumed outcome be an active homosexual or transgendered life? Why not instead encourage our Catholic students to understand that sexuality is not a "choice." That if born a man, you are a man for a reason. And if you have no sexual desire for women, could you be called to make God the entire passion for your life? Why are these "choices" not offered? (Note: I do not believe the best place for a man with homosexual tendencies to be a seminary. Why endure such temptation?)

The Catholic church has a mandate to love one another and help each person live a holy life. A holy life often requires self-denial and sacrifice, the elevation of God above man. Will Georgetown University change it's mind? Or will they continue to champion the politically-correct relativism of today?

I pray for a change in policy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Relativism and the Catholic Church

Since I've been away for many years, I've slowly been learning what has changed within the Catholic church, and what has stayed the same.

What has changed is a departure from a strong historical and biblical foundation laid by Jesus Christ and passed to St. Peter. How attractive are the philosophies of the world! How easy it is to consider other perspectives and deem them acceptable and right! The fact that many of these perspectives are counter to what God has proclaimed in His Word seems to be beside the point for those on a quest for "enlightenment."

I'm going to quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy regarding an explanation of relativism because they did such a good job of it:

Relativism is not a single doctrine but a family of views whose common theme is that some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is somehow relative to something else. For example standards of justification, moral principles or truth are sometimes said to be relative to language, culture, or biological makeup. Although relativistic lines of thought often lead to very implausible conclusions, there is something seductive about them, and they have captivated a wide range of thinkers from a wide range of traditions.

I admit I'm not very patient with those I call "lazy thinkers." These are people who "go with the flow" of whatever someone else tells them without challenging the premise of the statement.

For example - suppose you were going through a difficult time with the break-up of a romantic relationship. Suppose your friend, Alice, says, "We need to let go of that which is no longer true."

Most people in this circumstance would pause, and then say, "Well, I guess you're right. The relationship is just no longer working for either of us and I need to let it go."

Okay. Cue a huge red sign blinking on and off "THINK MORE!"

What is the real premise of this statement? That truth is relative. That what was once "true" for the person in the relationship is not "true" for them today.

My frustration is that many people do not know how to apply proper definition to their life. They mistakenly think of a preference as a "truth."

For instance, when I was a little girl, I loved canned frosting. My favorite was chocolate. I considered myself enjoying a slice of heaven if my mother baked a chocolate cake with this type of frosting on top. I savored every morsel.

Today? That same type of frosting is much too sweet for me. I much prefer a sprinkling of powdered sugar or even melted semi-sweet chocolate. But I don't care for the canned frosting anymore.

Is that truth? Or is it a preference? It's the latter. When I was a little girl, I preferred canned frosting. Today I don't. A preference is simply that - a preference that can be changed by a multitude of influential factors. It is confusing to name this preference "truth."

Truth isn't a lump of clay to be shaped into whatever form suits our current purposes. It isn't a set of beliefs that exist for one situation but yet not for another. Does this sound extreme? Certainly in today's permissive society where "anything goes" if it "works for them."

Truth is a person. His name is Jesus Christ. It was He who said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Not "one of the ways" to the Father but THE Way. That statement was certainly extreme, certainly black and white.

Truth never changes. God's love for us never changes. His call for a holy people never changes. His requirement that sin be forgiven never changes. Sin has separated God from man since the Garden of Eden. The snake said, "Did God really say..."

And the snake is still saying it today. Believe me. There is no originality when it comes to the devil's schemes.

This relativism has now permeated the Christian church. I saw the same thing in non-Catholic churches and now recognize it in the Catholic church. There are many good Catholics, fighting the good fight, but there are many Catholics who feel they are also fighting the good fight. The only problem is that it is a fight for the preservation of their own flesh. And this is the very thing we are called to crucify. The saints of old didn't become saints by "letting go of what was no longer true" for them. No. They embraced Truth, they laid down their lives for Truth so that Truth would shine forth from them, bright as the noonday sun.

So the battles over women fighting to be priests is just that - a battle for their own preference. They are fighting against truth. The truth hasn't changed. They have. What was once before embraced by them is now "no longer true."

To be honest, I can get confused when I wonder about what is "true" for me. It's much clearer to pursue Truth and obey God's word.

As Mark Twain once said, "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."

Amen, Mark Twain...amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Video: You Are a Garden

I created two more videos, which is actually one teaching. (I was better in keeping each segment closer to the allotted 10 minutes...)

In these videos, I discuss how a single woman is to guard her heart and look at herself as something precious. God is cultivating us in many ways and for a woman desiring marriage, He doesn't want just anyone tramping about the garden. :-)

I shot the videos in a different location, which may work better watching me sit behind a computer!

I hope you enjoy them.

Video One

Video Two

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Still Revolting - Womenpriests and Their Folly

It's been all over the news lately. A bunch of Catholic women from Boston calling themselves "Womenpriests" were supposedly "ordained" on Sunday, July 20. Flaunting their rebellious attitude toward the Vatican's stand on prohibiting women from becoming priests, this group said the three women who were ordained "are responding to a heartfelt call to serve the church as priests." (MN to The Curt Jester)

Do they not read the Bible? Here are a few verses they might have missed. And isn't it interesting that it's from a letter by St. Peter?

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(1 Pet. 2:13-17 RSV)

If St. Peter was telling the Roman Christians to not be lawbreakers of any human institution, how much more should they not be lawbreakers of their faith? How much more important is obedience and submission to Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church?

Here is another interesting portion from St. Peter's second letter. It's long, but I wanted to place the verse I was reading to be placed in context of what was said:

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment;if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomor'rah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Bold and wilful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones,whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed, reviling in matters of which they are ignorant, will be destroyed in the same destruction with them, suffering wrong for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation, carousing with you.(2 Pet. 2:4-13)

St. Peter connected those who indulged in their own lust with those who defiled authority. The two usually go together.

Not only does scripture condemn such willful behavior and remind us that we have died to Christ, no longer living for our own pleasure (Gal. 2:20), but there is a call to live a holy life of submission to both government and the Church. Of course there are times when we cannot bow to the false idols of a corrupt government (and the early Christians died because of their refusal to do so), but living a life of submission is the believer's calling.

If you read the New Testament, it doesn't take long to see there is a pattern between those who despise authority and those who are submissive. The former are judged, the latter are blessed. There are promises for those who live their life in submission to God but warnings for those who insist on doing things their way.

My beef with this whole mess is this: Do these women believe in any authority at all? It would seem not. If not, then why maintain membership within a church that recognizes such a hierarchical chain of authority?

It's as though the women have a bad case of schizophrenia. On one hand they want the authority of being a priest but on the other, they are destroying any power of that very authority by their refusal to submit to it.

You can't have it both ways, ladies. You can send a Goodyear Blimp to sail across St. Peter's Square with the message "WE ARE ORDAINED" but saying it over and over, won't make it true.

Prayer Request: Employment Opportunity

If you think of it, I'd truly appreciate your prayers for an amazing job opportunity. I say amazing because it would allow me the opportunity to work directly with young Catholic women on a college campus. I have no idea if the fact I noticed this job ad is providential or not, but I sent my resume. We'll see what happens. Thank you!

What I Love About Catholicism: The Rosary

When I traveled to Chicago a few weeks ago, I was in the midst of praying my very first novena. I had never done one, even as a young girl. Novenas weren't taught in my progressive all-girl's Catholic high school, so this was one part of the Catholic experience I never had.

I was able to find a pocket of solitude each day to step away from the busyness of a conference, and pray. During this time, I reflected upon what the rosary has come to mean to me. I am still in awe of what God is doing in my life through this unexpected return to my Catholic faith. For so many years, I fell right along my fellow non-Catholic believers in criticizing many Catholic practices, including praying the rosary. I considered it the "repetitive prayer" Jesus condemned in St. Matthew 6:7:
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

That was the King James Version using the word "repetitions." But if you look at the Greek, the word is battalogeĊ, and it actually means to "stammer" (as in stuttering), to use many idle words, to babble.

But is praying the rosary "vain?" Is it babbling to God? No. On the contrary, it is an ancient meditative practice that has purpose. In fact, I have discovered the joys of praying the rosary that before were unknown to me. I thought of what my previous experience with prayer had been while involved in non-Catholic churches.

I first need to state that I have an insatiable need to communicate to God. I have had this need ever since I was a young child capable of thought. I would talk to God as though He was one of my friends. I knew He existed. I knew He was watching. And I would sometimes write letters to Him. (As much as I hoped to wake up one morning and see a magically written response to me, it never happened. Still, I tried that method for a few months.)

I would love to go on Catholic retreats during my teen years. I loved to walk outdoors and meditate upon God's goodness. I'd occasionally tell Him my woes, but mostly I just admired His handiwork and worshiped Him for it. My love for prayer expanded when I became "born-again" at age 20. I immediately sought out books on prayer, developing a prayer life, and joined prayer groups. I learned about the differences between confessing prayer, petitioning prayer, worshiping prayer, and interceding prayer. I learned different postures for prayer. In the midst of that, I learned about fasting.

So prayer has been a huge part of my life and I miss it if I don't do it regularly. Prayer is one of those things we know we should do, but often our days become so full that we neglect taking the time to do it. I remember hearing some statistic years ago that 57% of American pastors prayed less than 20 minutes a day. Korean pastors prayed 90 minutes a day. (When I tried to find this statistic, I only found a piece by Jerry Falwell in 2000. The study he references probably exists online but I could not find it.)

I pondered the many times I was involved in prayer groups. Talk about babbling! Some people who get involved in prayer groups do not understand the distinction between praying and preaching. A prayer is a communication from myself to God. It can be confession, a request, or a celebration of God's many wonderful attributes. But it is not preaching. There were quite a few times during some all-night prayer sessions when a well-meaning believer would take the opportunity to drone on for 15 minutes, pulling various scripture verses from their Bibles. What they did came close to an expository teaching. Then they thought it was a prayer because at the end they'd hastily say, "In Jesus' name, we pray..."

Did we get off topic from the focus of our prayers? Absolutely. It would require the leader to gently remind everyone that we were there to intercede for the church and not veer off into a request for healing Aunt Margie's bunions. (Although we were asked to keep Aunt Margie in our prayers afterward.)

So what does this have to do with praying the rosary? This: praying the rosary keeps me on track from falling down the rabbit hole of my distracting thoughts. Praying the rosary keeps me from elevating my own perceived intellect above my need for God's mercy. Praying the rosary disciplines my spirit to meditate upon God's amazing love for mankind and the sufferings His Son endured so that we might be saved. The rosary reminds me of the humility and submission of Mary and her Son so that all would know God. The rosary reminds me to be joyful as well as sorrowful. The rosary reminds us to rejoice in God's glorious mysteries.

It doesn't sound so much like babbling, now, does it?

When I returned to the Catholic church, God used the rosary to pull me in. The line was thrown and I caught it. I didn't know why and even while reciting the prayers, I was dubious. He in His great mercy impressed upon me the need to return to this basic way of praying. I discovered that my local Catholic radio station had a broadcast of Mother Angelica and her Sisters at Our Lady of the Monastery praying the rosary each day from 7:30 - 8:00 AM each day. I realized I needed to do this and so, I would arise each morning with the purpose of starting my day with this type of prayer.

I am going to be so bold as to say that praying the rosary has "turbo-charged" my spiritual growth within the Catholic church. I have embraced so many things that I had rejected for years, so quickly, that I am literally stunned. I am seeing prayers answered like never before. God is so faithful to me, even though I am becoming aware in a deeper way of how totally unworthy I am.

The rosary is indeed a secret weapon and should be cherished by all Catholics. I am hoping I have the opportunity to share this with more people as I continue my journey. I love my rosary and love to pray it. Even at my most devout moments in life, I didn't have many times when I prayed for 30 straight minutes.

The rosary allows me to do it. Praise be to His holy name...

As I was praying the rosary at the conference, I thanked God for this practice.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Creative Exercise - My First ATC

An ATC is an "Artist Trading Card." Scrapbookers have branched out into different paper hobbies, including greeting cards, altered art, and collage. Some started to create small altered cards, often collage creations to trade with other fellow hobbyists.

Of course the digital gals didn't want to be left out, and so digital ATC's started to pop up. I am on a digital design team (for Debra Tope, who creates some pretty amazing funky designs) and she gave us a mini-kit to create something fun. This is my latest creation.

For any digital designers out there, take a peek at Debra's designs. They really are unique!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Should Catholics Blog? In a Word...Heck Ya!

A friend sent me an essay, "Should Catholics Blog?" , by R.J. Stove. I cringe when I see titles like this because I know I'm in for a rough ride. (I also get a kick out of message board threads with similarly worded titles and some brainiac responds by simply saying, "No.")

To summarize the essay, the writer feels that Catholics should not blog. Why?

1) It's addictive and wastes time, much like television.

2) Anonymous people take great delight in stirring the pot.

3) Snarky comments are encouraged.

4) The English language is greatly maligned.

5) de facto anti-clericalism

I will be the first to admit the Internet is a vast ocean and certain parts of it are nothing less than raw sewage. I think most people who know those spots will try to avoid them. Addiction to pornography is a very serious problem but so are apathetic officials who allow a strip club to open near a school. Problems like these are not relegated to the internet. It only means we as Christians need to be more vigilant than ever.

His point about television is well taken, but I disagree with a straight comparison. Spending hours watching television can be mind-numbing. There is no interaction. Information is coming at the viewer with little time to process or respond. It's straight, in-your-face programming that can negatively affect a person if they don't balance their life with other mental fare.

The internet, however, is a far different animal. Not only does it disperse information, it dissects it, analyzes it, and applies it - sometimes in one fell swoop. The internet connects individuals who otherwise would never have met. (And sometimes that's not a good thing.) Finally, the internet is able to reach a larger audience within a shorter amount of time than any other medium in history. It is an amazing invention, filled with inherent weaknesses but also strengths.

Now, anonymity? Ah, that is truly the bane of many a blogger. Blog software now offers the ability to disallow anonymous comments. Some message boards are enforcing signature rules to prevent them. But I still think a certain degree of anonymity can be helpful, especially if one is discussing controversial developments within a competitive industry. Take for example scrapbooking. (I know, a silly example but bear with me.) The scrapbooking industry went from a small hobby in 1995 to a 2 billion dollar industry today. Along with all that dough comes the pretenders, the wannabes, and the sharks.

There is great competitiveness within the industry to be a member of a design team. Design teams create layouts using their manufacturers products. (Such as paper and embellishments.) But the industry had turned into such a back-biting, hostile environment that some decided to comment anonymously on faceless blogs. Why? If their real name was discovered, it was almost certain they'd be blackballed from future publishing opportunities. Is it fair? Of course not. But I can't blame the ladies for trying to keep hidden so they can earn a few extra bucks for their families.

So perhaps there is someone within a parish who is stuck there but wants to vent anonymously. Of course in a perfect world, it would be great to go to a trusted spiritual adviser, but what if they have none? We are built for relationship and if the only way someone can find it is through the internet, then so be it. It's not perfect but at least it's something.

Snarky comments? Do we really have that much of a thin skin? I've been saddened to see our society descend to lower levels of rudeness but what is the answer? Put someone's head in a half-Nelson until they cry "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned!"? Sure. Like that's going to happen.

As far as the English language being maligned...well, you see what I do to it. Sure, there are many bloggers who Talk. Like. This. But I read them anyway because you never know when you'll stumble upon a life lesson God wants you to learn. He made even the simple wise, so as far as I'm concerned, I try to give everyone equal time.

Finally, the anti-clericalism. Yes, it exists. Is the answer to simply turn off the computer? Why not respond with a thoughtful argument? I have witnessed many such intelligent discussions on various websites and message boards. And yes, people did respect one another. I know. Amazing. But it can happen.

At the end of this fellow's essay, he lamented the fact that good writers couldn't make a living with all the "free content" online. I think this is the real reason for the essay. He's upset because people are spending so much time eating junk food that they can't possibly consume his Filet Mignon. Good writing, he bemoans, is ignored while the masses lap up "dumbed-down" ideas.

I say his complaint is the very same of classical pianists, ballerinas, and barbershop quartets. The masses have always clamored for the simple and easy. Anything that requires thought is usually passed over for the latest Paris Hilton development.

So what's the answer?

Keep ringing the bell. Don't give up and don't abandon the greatest tool of communication the world has ever seen. I came back to the Catholic church precisely because I was online. If it weren't for blogs, I never would have discovered the Traditional Latin Mass, the Roman Missal of 1962, Gregorian Chant, the Divine Hours, Archbishop Fulton Sheen and his Wartime Prayer Book, the saints, the great selection of Catholic newspapers, Theresa Tomeo, Dr. Scott Hahn, EWTN, Ave Maria Radio, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, a "Coming Home" program for Catholics, the right parish for me, a multitude of new online friends...the list could go on.

I'm especially grateful for the friends. God knew I was going to be making a decision that would not be popular with my non-Catholic Christian believers. He also knew I'd need support as I re-entered the atmosphere. Sure enough, He was faithful by providing me the right friends at the right time.

So should Catholics blog? Only if you want to continue Jesus Christ's mandate to find the lost and make sure they hear the good news.

If not, there's probably a "Matlock" episode you can watch.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

If You're Interested in Fr. Zuhlsdorf's Visit to Cleveland 8/9

Keep your eye on his post here. The location is still being discussed but Fr. Z will be the ultimate decision maker. Who knows what his schedule will be? But it would admittedly be great to see him in Ohio.

Let's Shock Some People

I have been following the news for World Youth Day in Australia. I also read about various groups who planned on protesting the Catholic church and the Pope by doing some extremely idiotic things like giving condoms to the pilgrims and having gays kiss each other in front of those traveling to the WYD events.

I am inserting a huge eye roll, here.

Julie, a blogger, (Connecticut Catholic Corner) wrote:

Let's imagine for a minute that Muslims were having a WYD. What would happen if anti-Muslim protesters were handing out pork to Muslims? Or lets say Jews were having a WYD and protesters were handing them shellfish? How would the world view it if anti-Muslims or anti-Jews were being intolerant and forming coalitions to "annoy" them? "A newspaper ran a competition for the best anti-Catholic T-shirt. And an ABC host urged men to bait Catholics by going naked, but for a condom." (quote from Australian Andrew Bolt-more below) Would the world be appalled at such a display of intolerance for other faiths? Yes! But where is the outrage for Catholics? Barely a blip in the media over the "cracker" mental midget last week desecrating the Eucharist and taking great pleasure in belittling Catholics and our faith, and same now with WYD in Australia.
I understand Julie's irritation. I'm not thrilled when the Catholic church or Christianity is bashed. But let's not fool ourselves. The media is hostile to Christianity. And the reason media is hostile to Christianity is because Christianity insists upon moral absolutes. The media doesn't seem to have a problem with promoting and defending Islam but there may be good reason for their actions. (Keeping their head connected to the rest of their body may be it.)

Hollywood depends on Christians protesting their latest productions, which often glorifies sin on every level but denounces authentic faith. And why shouldn't they try hard to offend? Controversy is one of the best types of free publicity one can get.

So. Here's my suggestion.

Ignore them.

Pray for them, but ignore them. They are much like the schoolyard bully, trying to get attention any way they can and using as many tools as possible to control the conversation. Wouldn't it be funny to just walk by those protesters, acting as though they simply don't exist?

The sad news, though, is that they do exist. God sees them, and grieves over their hardened hearts. My prayer is that some of these young people become instant missionaries and preach the gospel when they can, but not allow hate a reaction. Love conquers all.

What I Love About Catholicism: Spiritual Alignment

I have mentioned that the Catholic church has what I call, backbone. Maybe it's because I woke up this morning with a backache, most likely due to twisting it during the night. But I was reminded of a few thoughts I had last week which had to do with how Catholicism focuses on what is basic and of utmost importance.

Our backbones, when aligned properly, allows the rest of our body to function properly. What especially is affected is our walk, our movement - progression from one point to the next.

When someone's backbone is deteriorated, as is the case with a good family friend, then you can forget about walking long distances. I also have a cousin who has a rare degenerative bone disease. She is confined to a wheelchair and can only stand for a very short period of time.

When you have a strong backbone, you can accomplish many great feats. I am in constant amazement of what the human body is capable of doing each time I watch the Olympics. A high diver leaps into the air, rotating hips and torso, bending and reaching with precision until finally executing a perfect flip, entering the water with barely a splash.

Or watch gymnastics, speed skating, pole vaulting, or basketball. Watch any sport and you'll see how amazing the body can twist, bend, and contort. Under the disciplined efforts of the owner, it achieves great success.

The Catholic church's backbone is the Eucharist. It is the source and summit of the life and the mission of the church. (If you've not read the results of the 2004 General Assembly of the Bishops on the topic of the Eucharist, you're in for a treat.) From the preface of the General Secretary:

Today, the Church is undeniably experiencing a certain “Eucharistic need” based not on an incertitude regarding the presentation of doctrine—as occurred in the period of the Second Vatican Council—but on a Eucharistic practice which calls for a renewed attitude of love that is expressed in acts of faith in the One who is present for those continuing to search for him in our world: “Master, where do you live?”.

Whomp! There it is! Three cheers for Pope John Paul II. He knew where the focus should be and it wasn't on whether to include brass instruments in worship. We needed to be reminded (always, in my mind) that the focus of the Mass is the Eucharist.

When the backbone is aligned, everything else falls in place.

One of my recent "light bulb" moments came when I remembered how it worked with my non-denominational church. The focus wasn't on Communion because rarely was Communion celebrated. Instead, the focus was on the preaching and having a kickin' worship team. Now I love music, and having a great worship team is fine and dandy - but if the focus is on the team, the church service is out of alignment.

What often happened was that the preaching and the worship competed against each other. The worship team would have many occasions where they felt "led by the Lord" to keep playing well past the allotted time for worship. The preacher would then try to "go with the flow" but itched to do what he felt called to do. Sometimes I witnessed the preacher getting on the platform with the worship team to start singing along; which I thought was presumptuous and seemed to validate the preacher's need to be noticed.

Occasionally, the preacher would cut the worship time, causing slight rifts in the worship team. Either way, there was a constant tension between the two.

This tension does not exist within the Mass. Yes, there may be priests who think people are attending to hear a glorious homily but I bet they're in the minority. Priests, from all their training, know the pinnacle of the Mass is when he offers up the Body and Blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is when we remember who He is and what He has done for us. When we focus on the Ultimate Sacrifice of both Father and Son, we understand more deeply our Father's desire to reach the world with His amazing love.

Get that, and you'll be spiritually aligned. And if the universal Catholic church gets that, it will be able to walk for miles and miles, and not be weary.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Baby Got Book

I can't resist posting this. For those unfamiliar with the song, it's a satire of sorts from the song, "Baby Got Back," which was a popular 1992 rap song by Sir Mixalot. I was laughing throughout the entire video. Pretty clever, Dan Smith! (Mantilla nod to The American Papist)

Okay...the video was no longer available at YouTube. Go here, instead.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Review: "Catholic Saints Prayer Book" by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

I've had the pleasure of meeting Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle online and have been touched by her dedication to encouraging women and celebrating overall her Catholic faith. She is a humble lady, simply wanting to share her love for God with everyone she meets. I can't fathom how she finds time to write since she has five wonderful kids and a husband. Talk about busy!

She sent me her book, Catholic Saints Prayer Book. It is a beautiful small volume, perfect for giving to a teacher or even your college-bound sons and daughters. (Giving college kids anything about saints is an excellent idea.)

The hardbound book is beautifully designed, with a lovely painting on the cover and illustrations inside. The pages are a soft gloss, with a calming green decorative border on the edges of each page. Donna-Marie managed to concisely capture the birth and death dates for each saint, their Feast Day, the saint's patronage, information about their life, and a prayer to that particular saint. Here is one of my favorites:

Prayer to St. Joseph

Dear St. Joseph, you were an ordinary man, a humble carpenter. But you were a prayerful, holy soul, the foster father of Jesus, a model for us all. Please guide me in my own journey through life, and help me be aware of God's specific call to me. Help me to see that in my own life God is calling me to greater things for His glory. Please pray to the Blessed Trinity for me to be granted the graces that I need most. I pray that I can be faithful to my state of life, totally trusting in God's divine providence for me. St. Joseph, pray for all who invoke your aid. If it is in God's holy will, please grant me (here mention your request). Amen.

Isn't that wonderful? I just love this little book of the saints.

I have to admit, appreciating the saints has taken some time. I have witnessed years of anti-Catholic perspectives. One of the biggest gripes Protestants and non-denominational believers have with Catholics is their presumed "praying to the saints." For years, I would declare, "There is no mediator between God and man but Jesus Christ." Of course, no one else could have redeemed us but Jesus Christ. No other sacrifice would do but a perfect one and Jesus Christ was the only one qualified to do it. He was, is, and shall be forever perfect, loving His heavenly Father with perfection, doing His will with complete surrender. No one can or should ever take the place of Jesus Christ.

However, I think my non-Catholic brothers and sisters misunderstand what is going on when Catholics venerate the saints. When prayers are offered up (I am partial to the very brief, "Pray for me, St. Joseph!") I am not worshipping St. Joseph, but asking St. Joseph to count me in his prayers and supplications before the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1,2 says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 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. (RSV)

You know, I've read those verses many, many times. I just thought the witnesses watched. But who could watch a race and not cheer? St. Paul was telling the Jewish believers that they had support. These verses took on fresh meaning as I realized those who have gone before us are now in heaven, praying for the Church to be perfected. Doesn't that make sense?

Aren't we asking the saints to put in a few prayers on our behalf that we would be made worthy of the promises of Christ? Of course. I still worship Jesus Christ for who He is and petition our Heavenly Father for all things. Scripture also tells us that the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:26, 27 RSV)

Ever since I've started to embrace the saints more, I have felt a new confidence enter my faith. I feel as though I do have a huge group of saints who are pulling for me. They know how difficult the journey can be and they are praying that we can overcome our trials and tribulations.

Donna-Marie's Catholic Saint Prayer Book is the perfect way to encourage others that they also have a group of saints who are "pulling for them" to persevere. It's a great gift for either yourself or someone you love. Enjoy it and be blessed! Click on the title to order.

Just Doing a Little Renovatin'

I can't help myself. If there are options, I must play with them. I designed another Header image. I don't know why Blogger limits the width to 718 ppi, but they do. Then they put a stupid box around it to make it look like it's not sized correctly.

So....I discovered how to remove the box. Ahhhh...much better.

And for those wondering, the photo is from my parish and yes, that is Fr. Jonathan Romanowski celebrating the Gregorian Rite. (A Low Mass. It was, as always, awesome.)

Do we have a gorgeous altar, or what?!!

Self-Esteem and the Battle of the Mind

I taped another entry for my Castitas group. Bear with me as I figure out a few things. I pieced together two separate tapings. I have no idea why the lighting was different because nothing seemed to change. I simply stopped after my 10+ minutes and then started for the next segment.

I tried my best to edit the video so it would be exactly ten minutes for each segment. Alas, I was unable to do it! So I posted the entire thing on Google Videos. (The video runs 20:47) I also would like to improve the sound quality.

Meanwhile - the content: I am speaking about the relationship between having self-esteem and the battle in our minds. There is a direct connection to how we see ourselves as Christians and our ability to ward off the attacks of the enemy. When we know who we are in Christ and able to meditate constantly on the Word of God, we are better equipped to resist temptation and keep focused on what God wants of us. As a Catholic, I am understanding the role of the Sacraments more and realize they also play a very important part in strengthening our faith.

I'm not sure if I communicated my message as clearly as I had hoped. I will be revisiting this topic again. It is one I feel very strongly about and is currently relevant to younger people who are more susceptible to societal pressures than ever before.

Thanks for watching and if you have any helpful tips, please pass them on!

Oh, and I'm not thrilled with the still shot Google used on my video. It looks like I'm half-snookered. Yeesh...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I miss my mom

Today was a hard day as my grief hit me like a Mack truck. Often, there are moments when I think of my mom and tear up a little. I think of her a bit, pray, ask God to bless her, and then I move to the next thing.

But today found me crying more than usual as I felt the huge hole that never will be filled by her presence again. I love her so much.

It is a small consolation knowing she would be absolutely thrilled by my journey back to the Catholic church. I also know she'd be very happy knowing I'm just in love with that imitable Mother Angelica.

Have you read Raymond Arroyo's biography of her? I'm reading Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, And a Network of Miracles and it's a simply stunning story of a woman who has risked everything for her Beloved Spouse. I remember my mother telling me about her a few years ago and she said I'd probably get a kick out of her. I had no idea who she was back then and never had the chance to hear her or watch her broadcasts.

Now I know. You know what, Mom? You were right. :-)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Help A Nun Out: A Hysterical Find

I happened upon Sister Mary Martha's blog and saw she had an Etsy site. Whoa, baby. Now you're talkin'.

Etsy is an online craft mall without all the annoying crowds. I work with one gal who sells scrapbook kits and knew of another who created cute decorative dolls. (Don't ask me who because now I forget and Etsy is huge.)

So I checked out Sister Mary Martha's Etsy store, Heaven Help Us, and....oh, my. Be prepared to laugh. Out loud. Hard. Her stuff is quintessentially Catholic but also funny with a capital HA!

I'll probably eventually buy something. I just don't know what it will be. There are so many saints to choose from! And my life could certainly use a battalion of saints right now.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Premature Sexualisation Pushes Young Girls Toward Depression: New Study

As I was scanning the news online, I came across this (emphasis mine):

"Premature Sexualisation" Pushing Young Girls into Depression and Self-Harm: New Study
By Hilary White

July 14, 2008 ( - "When I was 11, I read a teenage magazine for the first time and that is when it kind of clicked, 'I should be like this'," says one young girl surveyed in a study by Girlguiding UK and the Mental Health Foundation, that has revealed three leading potential "triggers" for serious mental health problems in girls: premature sexualisation, commercialisation and alcohol misuse.

More generally, the report reveals a loss of childhood innocence and says girls today experience high levels of "stress, anxiety and unhappiness". The study found that premature sexualisation and pressure to grow up too quickly are two "key influences" in the anxiety felt by girls.

"Sexual advances from boys, pressure to wear clothes that make them look too old and magazines and websites directly targeting younger girls to lose weight or consider plastic surgery were identified as taking a particular toll," the report says.

"Premature Sexualisation" Pushing Young Girls Into Depression and Self-Harm: New Study

How sad. This is one of the many reasons why I feel so strongly about reaching out to younger women regarding chastity and self-respect.

Years ago, I felt prompted to see the movie, "Thirteen." I don't have children, but I sensed God wanted me to see a glimpse of what many younger women endure in school. It wasn't pretty.

"Thirteen" is a gritty, unpleasant movie. Chronicling the life of a young thirteen-year old girl raised by a single mother; it shows the unvarnished truth of life for many such teens. In order to be accepted or seen as "cool," one must throw themselves headlong into a life of deception, drugs and alcohol, and self-abuse. The film showed one previously innocent thirteen-year old girl being systematically corrupted by the "popular" girl - who in reality was an abandoned child.

Where were the voices in their lives? The adults who would tell them they were heading down the wrong path? A parent who closely watched who her daughter befriended? Mothers who knew what mothering really meant?

They were nowhere to be seen. One mother was a recovering alcoholic who was trying her best but falling short of connecting with her daughter. The other "wild child" didn't have a mother but was staying with a cousin who really didn't care when this thirteen-year old girl came home and even gave her a beer from time to time. How "cool."

I am thinking about this story in light of the youth attending World Youth Day in Australia. What kind of impact can these young people make in their schools and with their peers? Their influence cannot be overestimated and more than anything, we need to gird these young missionaries with prayers and novenas. They truly are in the lion's den of society but by the grace of God, they will emerge in one piece, victorious in Christ.

Pray for our sons and daughters, that they would not only know of God, but really know Him.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Step Backwards?

I'm back from the Windy City conference and raring to go with my business. However, I still had some ideas come to me while away from home. One of them was the idea that the Gregorian Rite (or Extraordinary Form Mass) was criticized by some who say it is a "step backwards" for the church.

I pondered this thought. Suddenly, I realized that for many younger people; it isn't a "step backward" because there is no "backward" for them. They don't remember the Traditional Latin Mass. They don't remember hearing Gregorian chant or receiving the Eucharist while kneeling. It's all "new" to them.

It would seem that most of the ones complaining are those who were raised with this Mass when they were young. And they wanted change.

Well, guess what? The young still desire change. And many of them see that change in the form of experiencing something they've never experienced before - the Traditional Latin Mass.

I don't look at the resurgence of the Gregorian Rite as a "step backward" at all, but a step forward to remember the foundation of the Catholic church. I am so thankful for Pope Benedict XVI and all he is doing to remind us of what a treasury of faith we've been given. We are blessed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sooo....Guess What I've Been Up To?


Or in other words, "video blogging." I decided to try my hand at videotaping a message and found it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be! First, my hands were doing things I never thought they'd be doing (as in wildly waving all over the place as I was talking...). Secondly, there was this weird whooshing sound the perceptive microphone captured and I realized it was the ceiling fan.

Then the light coming in from the window gave my face a weird cast. Oy...there are many considerations to videotaping that I am just beginning to learn.

I spent yesterday doing several "test" runs and then finally recording a full 19 minutes of a teaching. However, I decided to re-record everything today because 1) 19 minutes is too long and 2) practice at least starts the journey toward perfection. It's going to definitely be an area of growth. Bear with my spurts and stumbles. I hope what I said will encourage some young women.

I also discovered that my smaller Casio camera did a much better job with the video quality and sound. Unfortunately, after 7 minutes this morning of taping, the battery died. So I had to start from scratch using my Kodak Easy Share camera, which presented the issue of having a .MOV file instead of an .AVI. (.AVI files are easily edited within the Microsoft Movie Maker program.) I'm not impressed with the compression of the files, so my apologies. It came from converting the .MOV files to the .AVI files with the only program that worked for me today. (I tried four others to no avail.)

So, without further ado and in my "not-so-good-hair-day" and "froggy voice" moments, here they are. ("Honor" had to be divided into two sections since YouTube has a limit on the length of videos.) Also, I'm going to be on vacation the next few days and won't be near a computer until Saturday night. Have a great rest of the week!

My Introduction:

"Honor" - Part I

"Honor" - Part II

Sunday, July 6, 2008

St. Maria Goretti

Martyr for Purity
Patron Saint of Youth, Young Women, Purity and Victims of Rape

Maria was born in 1890. Her father died when she and the other five children in her family were small. At twelve, Maria was already very pretty. She helped her mother on the farm, in the house and with the care of the other children. She never complained because they were so poor. In fact, she cheered up her poor mother and was a great comfort to her. She went to Mass regularly even though it meant a two-hour walk. Maria also received the sacrament of Reconciliation as often as she could. A young neighbor, Alexander, tried a few times to make Maria sin. She absolutely refused. She did her best to avoid him. July 5, 1902, was a hot summer day. Maria was alone in the cottage mending clothes. Alexander came again to try to make her sin. He dragged her into a room. When she tried to scream, he stuffed a handkerchief into her mouth. Yet Maria managed to keep saying, "No, no! It is a mortal sin. God doesn't want it. If you commit it, you will go to hell." And she struggled as much as she could. Alexander panicked. He stabbed her furiously with a dagger. Then he ran away. Maria was taken to a hospital, where she died about twenty-four hours later. During her last hours, she forgave her murderer. Her only worry was for her mother. With great joy, the girl received Jesus in Holy Communion. Then she went to heaven. Alexander was sent to prison. For a long time, he did not repent of his horrible crime. Then one night he had a dream or vision of Maria offering him flowers. From that moment on, he was a changed man. When he was freed from prison after twenty-seven years, his first visit was to the Goretti home. He asked Maria's mother for forgiveness. Then Alexander spent the rest of his life as the gardener in a nearby monastery. Maria was declared "blessed" by Pope Pius XII on April 27, 1947. He appeared on the balcony of St. Peter's with Maria's eighty-two-year-old mother, Assunta. Three years later, on July 25, 1950, the same pope declared Maria a saint. He called her "a martyr of holy purity." Today we may want to pray for women who have suffered abuse.

You can find more information here and here.

Official Prayer to St. Maria Goretti

Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God's grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (here insert intention), and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Prayer Before a Dance or Party

Dear Saint Maria Goretti! The world teaches that we must please others in order to be popular. Conscience demands that I please God more than one who asks an evil thing in the name of false love. Teach me by your example to instill into others a real respect for modesty and purity. Through your powerful intercession, help me to make of this evening an occasion for helping others to become spiritually stronger. Grant that others may see in me reason to change their ways, if that be necessary, and that I may have the courage to resist any temptation to sinful conduct. Let others be led closer to Jesus and Mary by my example. Oh Little Saint who wanted to be popular only with your Divine Master and His Blessed Mother, help me to imitate you. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Prayer Before a Date

Dear Little Saint Maria Goretti! Teach me that God must be my first love and that all other love is based on Him and Him alone. Obtain for me the grace to cease toying with the occasions of sin and to remember that my body and the bodies of all in grace are temples of the Holy Spirit, destined someday for a glorious resurrection. Through your beautiful example, teach me the value and dignity of Christian modesty. Grant that I may never be the occasion of dragging others into Hell, by suggestive words or evil deeds of any kind. Through the merits of your Martyrdom, obtain for me the grace to turn aside from sin, no matter what the cost, so that one day I may enjoy Heaven with you and all the other saints. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

(Mantilla nod to Catholic Fire.)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

What I Love About Catholicsim: Toughness

This may strike some long-time Catholics as a little odd. Especially if they've not attended a non-Catholic church and especially if they've not been a part of a non-denominational church. One of the traits I am beginning to appreciate about the Catholic church is its toughness, its unyielding ways, its insistence that you prove yourself worthy.

Jesus Christ is like that. He didn't say to His followers, "Hey, come on by and hang with Me. We'll kick back, relax, catch a few plays at the annual Dionysus Festival and see if we can relate to the drunken revelers and talk about My Father." He also didn't say, "Don't worry if you still have a hankerin' for cheap, soft porno books. You'll get the hang of the holy life eventually. It's all good."

No. He said, "Follow Me," and He meant it. He wasn't doing cartwheels in order for the sinners of the day to "relate" to Him. He was confronting them with bold claims and even bolder demands.

At my last non-Catholic, non-denominational church, the associate pastor said something very interesting. He said that for the most part, the church today makes it easy to join the church and hard to leave. However, Jesus made it hard to join Him and easy to leave. What was particularly interesting was that this ministry's approach to duplicating Jesus' pattern verged on legalism. In other words, jump through all these hoops and we might accept you. But they were the ones constructing the hoops and they weren't Biblical sound hoops, at that.

Now that I've returned to the Catholic faith, I can see a bigger picture of what Jesus did and how the Catholic church is the only one I can see doing what He commanded in fullness. There are certainly other Christian churches doing much of what the Catholic church is doing, but I agree with what Pope Benedict XVI said last year - they have the truth in part. Non-Catholic churches have painted themselves in a corner. They have focused so much on being "relevant" to the current culture that they have marginalized the hard truth of Scripture. In addition, they are dependent upon the Bible alone because there is no universal church in their eyes to help them apply God's truth to their lives.

So they are left bobbing along in a sea of many voices, caught up in the current of popular trends and often drifting into the waters of relativism. There is no anchor. There is no lighthouse to lead them home save the few orthodox Catholics who may cross their path and challenge their soft faith.

My father is quite a character. Raised on a tobacco farm by hard-working German parents who instilled in their children tenacity and stubbornness; he is not afraid to confront people, especially when his Catholic faith is being disparaged. Recently, he was telling me of one occasion when a co-worker made a snide remark about Catholicism.

My father leveled his very penetrating gaze at this man and said, "You don't have the guts to be Catholic. It takes discipline and quite frankly, we live in a very undisciplined world." Go, Dad.

My father is right. Catholicism isn't for wimps. Jesus Christ told His disciples that they were expected to sacrifice everything to follow Him. He talked about how rough it was going to be and it was. He talked about how the world would hate them and it did. He talked about how some of them would be martyred for the faith and it happened. Everything He told them came true. But everything He told them demonstrated that it was a tough calling but the glory they would receive was unspeakable in its beauty and more deeply satisfying than a lifetime living for one's own pleasure. He promised freedom from the bondage of sin and that happened, too.

And when it happened, the Apostles rejoiced, knowing that their Lord and Savior went through hell in order to bring them heaven.

We have our own crosses to bear, each one of us. To bear whatever cross God has given requires a toughness of faith. Catholicism is the place to get it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My War Against "Cool"

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.(1 Peter 2:9 RSV)

and the NIV:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

In light of watching Dawn Eden's interview about modesty, I thought about how many Christian women have forgotten they belong to God and in turn, allowed themselves to be led by the world. What does it mean to be "God's own people?" What does it mean to belong to Him?

If we look at the inverse, we know that if we don't belong to Him, we are in darkness. We know from this verse that the result of being called out of the darkness is a joyous declaration of praising our Heavenly Father for His goodness. This type of declaration can often be downplayed in order to be seen as "cool."

If you haven't guessed already, I'm not a big fan of cool. I may say "Cool!" or "Awesome!" to articulate my agreeable state of being at the moment, but I actually deplore the idea that we Christians should be "cool" in order to attract unbelievers to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I don't think salvation falls anywhere near the concept of "cool." In fact, salvation is so far above it that the term cannot even be seriously considered according to God's revelation.

I'll never forget my reaction when I realized the non-denominational church I was attending planned on transforming their service into a "seeker-sensitive" one. Immediately, I had questions. What did that mean? Is it even Biblical to be "sensitive" when preaching salvation to the lost? How did this approach line up with the Biblical definition of church?

When I started to understand what "seeker-sensitive" meant, I experienced a mixture of sadness, anger, and irritation. I took offense because I didn't believe it was the right path for the Christian church and I still don't.

Some Christians like to point out that since Jesus reached out to tax collectors and prostitutes, He was being "cool." They define this as being "seeker-sensitive." I could not disagree more. Jesus Christ had a life-changing message and He was bringing this message to whomever would listen. The fact that He ate a few meals with such folk doesn't mean the same thing as a church employing large-screen monitors for entertainment, a professional worship team, and a charismatic pastor who preaches from the latest pop-psychology book.

When one becomes so focused on "relating" to the world, it doesn't take long before he or she is conformed to the world; not transforming it. Some Catholics would quickly say this is what happened to the Catholic church after Vatican II.

When I was attending the non-denominational churches, I saw a great deal of worldly behavior. Young women, especially, would often wear immodest clothing. And why not? No one was challenging them to consider themselves set apart, as God's own people who have a radical calling to the world. This calling is in direct opposition to the self-centered actions of a world who does not know Christ. When I can't tell the difference between "Christian" heavy metal and the world's, I think there's a problem. Why are we so afraid to be different?

When we are so attached to what others think of us, whether they see us as being "cool" or not, our witness is severely hampered. If we are trying too hard to be heard by the world but the world is simply hearing the same message but with a different tone, will they really listen? Does the message touch them in the place God wants to touch them?

This is part of the reason why I feel so strongly about issues such as modesty. I believe that when a woman devotes her life to God through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she should look different and act different. Her clothing is no longer a vehicle to get noticed or validated as being desirable. Her heart is now being clothed in quite a different way and it is reflected in her appearance.

We are called to be God's people and this brings with it a serious obligation. Will we forever be caught up in this mad pursuit to be "cool" or will we accept that others may always think of us as being just a little strange because we're so in love with our Lord?

I write such things to remind myself to pursue God at all costs. For me, this is in direct proportion to how deeply I have died to a desire for validation from the world. My Lord's opinion, truly, should outweigh the highest praise from the world. Amen and amen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Respect

Maybe it all started when I was a young girl, genuflecting toward the altar before I entered the pew. Or maybe it was addressing our teachers as "Sister" or "Father." (or Mr., Miss, and Mrs. ) Or perhaps it was a combination of all those different acknowledgements toward that which was holier, more educated, or older and usually wiser. Catholics know how to treat others with respect.

I also think a focus on the "dignity of life" permeates a Catholic's heart. If a person is faced with God's truth of cherishing life, it's a good bet they won't abuse themselves or mistreat others.

Years ago, I tried to live in an urban neighborhood. This particular part of town was known for its crime and poverty. However, a few visionaries tried to transform the neighborhood by adding art galleries, hip restaurants, and a few trendy bars. Artists and writers were drawn to the Friday night "gallery crawls" and an eclectic coffeehouse offering open mic nights for poetry. Since I fell into the artist crowd, I thought it would be a pretty cool thing to make my home in the midst of it all.

It didn't take long for me to notice there was a turf war over the area. On one side stood those who had lived there for years. Even though the buildings were in disrepair and chaos often erupted in the streets, it was still their home. They looked at those creating the new businesses as interlopers. They just didn't belong.

On the other side were the up-and-coming creatives who loved the old buildings and wanted to restore them to their former glory. Urban living was becoming attractive to many who wanted to be near downtown and places like the symphony and ballet house.

I was so naive. I thought since I lived near other artists, we'd have some kind of instant community. This did not happen. (Because it's just so doggone uncool to be friendly...) And in time, I discovered it wasn't the adult long-time dwellers who intimidated me. It was the kids.

One weeknight, at around 2:00 AM, I awoke to the sounds of voices outside my window. In the apartment building courtyard, I heard swearing and more noise. As I peeked out of my window, I expected to see a few older teens making a racket. Instead, I was saddened and stunned to see two small boys around the ages of nine or ten years old. Why were they out so late? Wasn't it a school night? Didn't anyone care where they were?

I ended up calling the police who arrived and escorted the young boys out the front door. (Officer: What are you guys doing here, anyway? Do you live here? Boy: No, we don't live here, but the door was open!")

After that episode, I pondered the issue of respect. Obviously, these young boys weren't taught to respect themselves because if they were, they would have naturally respected someone's property that was not their own. So much of society's ills is the direct result of people not respecting themselves and others. Jesus had an excellent point when He said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." He knew if we truly loved ourselves, it would follow that we'd treat our neighbors well.

When priests and nuns started to wear "street clothes," I felt a sense of loss. First, I do believe that religious clothing is a witness to the world. There is a difference between the sacred and the worldly. But I also felt that it diminished the respect usually given to those who had surrendered all in order to devote their entire life to Christ. Could it be that the vestments worn by our priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals are a way of maintaining respect?

I can't help but wonder what would have happened to me if I had not been raised Catholic. Would I have given in to the gravitational pull of the culture, compromising any thought or pattern of morality? Would I have absorbed relativism like a sponge, insisting that it really didn't make a difference whether I was a thief or a liar?

It is only by the grace of God that He placed me on a solid path from the very start. Sure, I wandered. But somehow I knew the right direction that would get me home.

God is so very, very, very, very, very, very good.