Saturday, August 30, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Organized Religion

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.

There was a time when I would quickly define myself as a "Christian" but not religious. By that, I meant that Christ came not to establish a religion but a relationship. I held anything religious in disdain, believing it Pharisaical or void of meaning - behavior and attitudes propelled more by guilt than anything.

How the years can change one's opinion.

I can relate with many young students aversion toward organized religion. To them it seems oppressive and resistant to honest questions. The "do as you're told just because" argument doesn't fly with them, nor should it. Catholics can be rigorously intellectual and still remain faithful to the Church. In fact, most of the Catholics I've been meeting lately have been exactly that - highly intelligent men and women who take seriously their journey of faith.

I think organized religion has been unfairly judged and found wanting. Certainly there are the overbearing religious leaders who really aren't leaders. There are misguided and selfish people in every area of life - not just religion. But with religion, it would seem that a person applies what I call the "one burnt cookie" approach. If this type of person has "one burnt cookie," they swear off cookies altogether. There is no mercy given, no charity found. They've made a blanket decision that since their personal experience was a negative one, then all organized religion must be negative. And of all places, they refer to televangelism to justify their opinion.

I've been on the other side of what I now refer to as "un-organized religion." (Otherwise known as non-denominational churches.) And you know what? It can have just as many annoyances: a revolving door of pastors and constant chaos masquerading as change per "The Holy Spirit," to name a few. But I can't criticize them too much. For so many years, I thrived on the constant change, wanting the "new" more and more. However, although I did like the change when I was younger, as I began to age, I started to get frustrated.

Was the "change" truly a move of God, or the results of a fickle pastor? How fair was it to fire the youth director because his wife had the nerve to tell one of the pastor's kids she couldn't continually show up late for drama practice and disrupt the group with her chattering? How wise was it to scrap weeks of preparation for a major conference registration process because the associate pastor wanted to do it differently? How considerate was it for the senior pastor to decide he wanted an entire warehouse moved in one weekend and only gave a few days notice to everyone?

And some wonder why I have so much gray hair...

Perhaps organized religion was a natural progression for me. The Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator pegged me as an ENTJ. I actually fell in the middle between being an extrovert and introvert. But I was off the chart as a "J" - which stands for "Judging." The other end of the spectrum was "Perceiving." The "J's" like order. Lists. Closure. The "P's", on the other hand, like to keep their options open. They like change. They're the ones who will hop in a car and say, "Hey, let's just drive around and see where the road takes us!" Meanwhile, the "J" is running around, grabbing maps from Google, lists of possible restaurants within a 50 mile radius and making sure the cell phones are powered up.

I can't explain how good it feels to be back in an "organized religion." I relish it. I think that most people would admit there is value in order. Nature shows us order and ritual within the cycles of the seasons. There is a beginning and an end. I believe God knew we would need security by having these rituals repeat themselves over and over. Order brings with it calm and grounding. Ask any foster child what they want more than anything and you'll hear an answer that runs along the same lines. They want a stable environment.

Catholicism offers one of the most stable environments around. Although there many be those who don't completely agree with the Pope, they still attend Mass. They still receive the sacraments. They still celebrate the holy days.

I'm also wondering if ritual is for older adults. I'll be mulling that one over more, but it would seem that most youth cannot appreciate ritual. It bores them. Perhaps they look at the older people in attendance and think of resignation. I know I didn't feel resigned at all as a youth, but full of bustling energy that I channeled into my spiritual quest.

There is a quiet energy within organized religion, if one pays attention. It requires an intentional concentration on what is happening around you. Only by awareness will ritual avoid becoming rote. And right now, I am noticing that organized religion can be a good thing. A very good thing, indeed.

Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington

I can't help but think of the movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" when I think of Governor Sarah Palin as the VP pick and possible future VP of the United States.

She is an outsider. She doesn't cozy up to the political elite but stays close to her base. I've got a very good feeling about this woman and admire her accomplishments. She has a strong sense of ethics and was responsible for creating Alaska's Petroleum Systems Integrity Office. She decided to have a Down's Syndrome baby after learning about his disability while the baby was still in her womb. That says volumes about this woman.

If Washington needs anything, it's a shake-up. Palin may be just the person to do it.

And if you hear a knock on your door, it just might be me, asking for your vote. :-)

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Pro-Death Crowd Goes Nuts Over Palin

The Democrats are livid that John McCain has chosen not just a woman, but a woman who is pro-life.

For what it's worth, I couldn't help but respond to the above Huffington Post entry but I doubt it will see the light of day. Many of the women who commented were bemoaning the fact that Sarah Palin was pro-life and goodness, how on earth could they possibly go forward unless they had a woman who adored abortion?

My comment:
For pete's sake...can some of you women think beyond your own bodies? Dag...there is so much more at stake in this country's future than abortion! Give it a rest, already!

I am appalled by the "one-note symphony" some of the liberal women keep singing. It doesn't seem to faze them that a woman was chosen as the VP nominee. No. They instead whine that it wasn't Kay Bailey Hutchison. They can't rejoice in knowing a woman like Sarah Palin worked her way to the governorship of the state of Alaska, beating the Republican incumbent and then going on to beat the Democratic rival. They can't celebrate the fact that this woman has followed their gameplan of being a working mother who has accomplished much while having a family of five and a husband.

No. They're stuck on the one issue that obsesses them. The one issue that truly is more self-centered than any issue this country has ever had. The one issue that has killed millions of babies, stolen from our society a future generation that could have provided skills and talents to benefit our nation, and has wounded women more deeply in their soul than any sword could.

I continue to be puzzled about why abortion is such an obsession for the Democratic party. Why is it so important? Because it allows a woman to do something that is inherently against her nature? Because when a woman decides to kill her own growing baby, make no mistake - she is killing herself. She is betraying her own instincts as nurturer and choosing a lie.

There is so much more to abortion, more than I can talk about right now. It is a tragedy at best and a barbaric nightmare at worse. It is a grave sin and pure evil. And yet some of these thickheaded women keep yapping about it as though it is the best offering for women.

It angers me. I have known women who aborted their babies and they mourn. They mourn what could have been and mourn the death of their own soul. Only through the power of God's grace can forgiveness be had and healing begin.

Governor Palin thankfully doesn't have to deal with that. I am beyond thrilled we have a strong woman who will stand up for the weaker citizens of our country.

I have to look around at all the other pro-choice women and say: Where is your strength, woman? Where is your wisdom? But yet you expect other women to follow you and complain that the V.P. candidate isn't a serious contender because she doesn't promote your lies?

Shame on you.

The Lady Has It!

John McCain has chosen his V.P. and it's a lady!

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is his choice, a virtual unknown, but yet from the bits and pieces I'm gathering from talk radio, she's is going to be an extremely good thing for the McCain camp, and hopefully, America.

She's pro-life and a spunky lady. An avid hunter, fisherman, and loving the outdoors - she is going to be a great person to connect with middle America. And on Laura Ingraham 's show, Laura shared a conversation she had with a woman who is on the inside of the Democratic track. The anonymous woman said if McCain picks a woman, all bets are off. Hillary's supporters are still angry about the treatment of "their woman." Now they have someone else and I'm wondering how many will jump ship.

Congratulations, Sarah Palin!

I wasn't excited before about the GOP pick, but now I am!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pelosi's Blunder On Abortion

Much has already been said about the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and her very bad decision to enter into the area of Catholic dogma regarding abortion. Power does not necessarily equal intelligence. On Sunday, during an interview on "Meet the Press," she did something so profoundly stupid that I can't believe she's really all that bright.

No matter what she believes about abortion, it isn't within her circle of power to start telling everyone the Catholic church is still "unsure" about when life begins. First, it has been made abundantly clear that Pelosi's reference to St. Augustine is wrong. Secondly, how much more clearer does God have to be regarding the sanctity of life when He included "Thou Shalt Not Murder" in the Ten Commandments? I don't think Christianity is that fuzzy on the issue.

Fr. Z has a very good collection of links
to his entries on Pelosi's blunder, which in turn highlight other commentators' views on the event. I find it amazing that the U.S. Bishops are taking a united stand against Pelosi's presumption. From what I've been learning, it would seem that many U.S. Bishops lean left. But when it comes to Catholic dogma, I suppose they must denounce what Pelosi said.

What is interesting to me is this: Government has enforced a separation between church and state. Nativity scenes have been removed from government property. The Ten Commandments have been removed and prayer is forbidden in schools. (Nothing can set a die-hard ACLU member into a mad frenzy more than hear someone mention the name of Jesus Christ anywhere outside of a church.)

But yet Nancy Pelosi takes the very bold step of discussing her faith and yet isn't slammed for it. Why? Because she is promoting the culture of death, which is a favorite among liberals. I suspect they were rejoicing in the wings because Nancy hurled a two-pronged zinger in the race to the bottom of history. She mocked the Catholic church and upheld a woman's "right" to kill her unborn baby.

I wholeheartedly agree with Fr. Z when he mentioned the comment by the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. Rev. Reese said, "It is a big mistake for politicians to talk theology."

Fr. Z opines, "What if they get it right?"


I congratulate the House Republicans who demanded an apology from Pelosi. (Don't hold your breath, GOP...) Pelosi remains unrepentant and is forging ahead with more outrageous opinion.

Meanwhile, I'll be very interested to hear what her Bishop has to say.

More Propaganda From the Siggies

The reason I'm in a groove regarding entries on the gay agenda is because the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association just held its annual conference during this past weekend in Washington, D.C.

Many schemes for pushing pro-homosexual propaganda through the media were hatched. If not for the internet, I would be distraught. Right now, I'm just annoyed. It's no surprise that most journalists are pro-choice, pro-gay, anti-Christian, anti-family, and are usually liberals. But to be so bold as say they will purposefully avoid going to Christian sources for new stories because they won't bow to the SIG (Sexuality Is God) is startling, even by today's low journalistic standards.

Do you know what is so amusing? Their talk about "telling the truth" as journalists. Here is an excerpt from the article, 'Gay’ Journalism Conference Panel Targets Religious Influence on Public Policy (emphasis and comments mine):

Organizer Mitchell Gold claimed the purpose of his session, titled “Oh God! (or Allah…Or Buddha): Reporting on Issues of Faith & Religion,” (The title should have been "Lying About Issues of Faith & Religion) was to discuss how homosexual journalists can report more accurately on religion. (Easy answer: They can't because they loathe religion with every molecule of their being. Religion is Enemy Number One to them.)

If that was really Gold’s purpose, then he recruited a very odd panel of experts. The panel included just one journalist, David Waters of The Washington Post. The other participants were former United Methodist minister Jimmy Creech, Episcopal seminary president Ian Markham, and Ann Craig, Director of Religion, Faith & Values for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The discussion quickly degenerated into a seminar on how journalists can “conquer” the religion debate to advance the homosexual political agenda. Not surprising, given that Gold, a furniture magnate, is the founder of Faith in America, a homosexual activist organization targeting the religious community. (And if you are a Christian and want to increase your blood pressure, you can check out his site which has an ad for a site, "Would Jesus Discriminate?" It claims the traveling Ethoipian was the 'first gay' converting to the church because...he was a eunuch. Which I suppose to this guy meant he was 'gay.')

According to Gold, “the single biggest [obstacle] to gays having equal rights in the country is religion,” so “I set myself to learn about it.” GLAAD’s Craig said, “We’re not getting anyplace until we begin conquering the debate” in the religious community. (Read: Conquering faithful Christians so they have no choice but to embrace homosexuals and bow to SIG.)

David Waters, editor of the “On Faith” blog, which appears on The Washington Post and Newsweek Web sites, urged reporters “not to go” to established leaders like Robertson and Dobson, contrasting them to “real people”:
I think, as journalists, our No. 1 obligation is obviously to the truth, and if we’re going to be about the truth then we have to fight and we have to fight for space and for time to tell the right story and to tell the real story, (Wait. So the "real story" isn't Americans being rightly concerned about coercion and control within the media?) and I think the best way to go about that, at least I’ve found in my experience with my own reporting and with other reporters, is to take time and not go to the Pat Robertsons and the James Dobsons of the world but to find the real people who are really struggling with this issue. (In other words, change the conversation on same-sex marriage and how most Americans do not agree with it because you don't like the truth. Instead, gin up sympathy by placing gays as victims. Sure, Christians are getting railroaded out of the discussion but the gays are the victims...)

This is what annoys me. These "journalists" are intentionally creating the story. Forget that there are real people who hold opposing views and beliefs. They're not wanted. Instead, the media would much rather paint a rosy little picture of everyone agreeing to all the demands of the gay mafia.

There is no journalism anymore. Only storytelling. Those in the mainstream media are only telling their stories - and trying to pass it off as truth.

The Siggies Are After the Politicians

Tim Gill, a billionaire, addressed the LGBT crowd at the Democratic National Convention on Monday to give them a battle plan for advancing the gay agenda.

In short: Target politicians who are sympathetic to homosexual issues and pour money into their coffers.

As Gill explained:

“Every single advance for gay rights has come at the state level,” Gill said, saying the most important thing the Democratic LGBT delegates could do is “go back and support those pro-gay state legislators, and eliminate the anti-gay state legislators.”

He encouraged the delegates to donate to state candidates out of state, especially in rural areas.

The billionaire homosexual activist also counseled the audience not to donate to unwinnable races, but rather to focus their donations where they will most likely change the outcome of elections.

“Just a little bit of money goes a long way,” he said.

If all the LGBT delegates donated fifty dollars to specially targeted races, which he numbered at no more than ten or twenty per election year, Gill said “we can get rid of them.”

"Them" is us.

As Gill quipped, "The only way bigots are going to learn is if we take their power away from them."

You know what would be fantastic? If someone had a website that listed all the pro-family politicians and their voting record on the issues. I know that would be major. Maybe someone already has one. Meanwhile, keep an eye on your local races and support the politicians who protect the sanctity of marriage and strong pro-family legislation. The Siggies will be working overtime to knock them out of the political arena.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Spiritual But Not Religious"

I look within myself for my spirituality and to answer the meaning of life. - Amy, college student interviewed for the book, Sex & the Soul by Donna Freitas
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! - David, Psalm 139:23, 24

I am reading the book, Sex & the Soul by Donna Freitas, who is the Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University. Her book begins with the provocative "hooking up" culture that exists on most college campuses and the surprising development when her students decided to make a difference by taking a stand.

They admitted they didn't really enjoy the non-committal sex they had, but it was part of college life and they weren't sure how to change it. Freitas worked with them as they developed the idea for a one-issue, onetime student newspaper called Dateline SMC, focusing on sexuality on the campus. They began a conversation and finally discovered there were many others who were unhappy with the "hooking up" culture on campus.

What I find fascinating is a belief I've come across before from young people and some adults. Amy's quote is a good example of the type of mindset that often accompanies the description, "spiritual but not religious."

What does this mean? In Amy's world, it means she uses her own perception as a moral compass. There is no adherence to the Bible; instead, the Bible is used to confirm or validate her own feelings. It reminds me of how some people will decide on certain opinions and then scour the Bible for verses to justify them. Forget the fact that as Christians, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, not by our own assessment of our situation but by a humble surrender to God and a conscientious decision to seek His will and not our own.

In fact, I think I'd like to make these verses the "mascot" verses for "Castitas."

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:1,2

What does it mean to present our bodies as a living sacrifice? If you're a Christian, I think I'm safe in saying it doesn't mean deciding to have pre-marital sex because you think it's "your decision" and totally separate from your belief in God. I also think we are challenged to carefully look at the world and its patterns of behavior and compare it to how God wants us to live. And renewing our minds means there must be an opposing spirit that is trying to get us to not renew them - to accept status quos, lazy thought, and "going with the flow" because its easier. Remember - a river takes the path of least resistance and will often twist and turn. It is not the most efficient way for the water to reach its destination.

So it is with faith. Continue to take the path of least resistance and you will have stunted growth. Set your sights upon that which is more challenging or difficult and you will grow in your faith by leaps and bounds.

What was interesting about Amy's story is she admitted she kept a Bible in her room and would turn to it often for inspiration. She admitted to praying to God quite frequently, trusting He was ordering her life. But when it came to sex, suddenly God wasn't in the picture. When it came to allowing God into her house, everything was accessible to Him but the "sexuality room." That room belonged only to Amy and she obviously didn't want God to crash her party.

College students who want to pursue spirituality but not be seen as "religious" are all avoiding the same issue - an honest discussion about sex and how their religious beliefs affect it. Whenever I've come across someone who wanted a spiritual life but didn't want the "religious" label - it is 99.9% certain they want to be able to sleep with whomever they want with no guilt. They balk at the idea of absolute truth for in their mind - there are no absolutes. It is a life filled with the options of a cafeteria-style offering of religions. Like Marianne Williamson, creator of the New Age "A Course In Miracles," they cobble together the most palatable collections of belief and expect it to support them.

It's like taking some old pieces of wood, a little metal, some plastic, and trying to build a piece of scaffolding. It's not going to be strong enough to endure years of outdoor weather and use. Plus, many of the pieces won't even fit well together and end up coming apart after stress is applied. Such is the life of one who insists upon "being spiritual but not religious."

When you follow Jesus Christ, you are called to die to your own will. This means not only embracing beliefs that offend what is called "the flesh," but trusting that God knows what He's doing when He insists upon such obedience. Is it hard? Absolutely. But it is not impossible with the grace of God. I lived 17 years as a celibate before meeting my husband. Did I mope around, depressed that I was missing out on all the "fun" of non-committed sex? No, not by a long shot. I was involved with church activities that included great fellowship, friendship with lively brothers and sisters in Christ, and excellent mental stimulation through personal study.

Some college students make the mistake of enlarging their sexuality so that it orders their entire world. As Christians, we are challenged to live counter to the world, seeking the Kingdom of God and its righteousness first, not our own satisfaction. When we get our priorities straight as believers, it makes all the difference in our lives. Suddenly, we're on the other side of self-serving behaviors. We can see that focusing on self only made us feel emptier and more unsatisfied. When we focus on God, we are given so many blessings that we wonder what took us so long to relinquish control.

The world will always tell us we need to do things ourselves. Trusting in God for His wisdom is never easy, but we can take great comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ went before us, surrendering all to His heavenly Father and asking God to protect us from evil. Jesus prayed one of the most beautiful prayers for us in John 17 and one of the things He stated was we are not of this world.

If we are not of this world, then where should our allegiance be? To God alone. When it comes to following Jesus Christ, there is no way around it. God is to be obeyed even as His Son lived a perfect life in obedience to Him, even to the point of death.

And I think that is at the heart of what is scariest to those who are "spiritual but not religious." If they truly placed their entire trust in God, what would He ask of them? What would He command as "off-limits" in their life? Obedience to God will make the strongest self-willed man either quake in his boots or stand defiantly with an upraised fist, saying "No!"

But with submission comes an amazing peace that passes understanding. This is, sadly, what the "spiritual" are missing out on - and it is the prized quarry they chase. To their own detriment, their attempts to capture this elusive treasure falls short and causes great frustration.

In acceptance, lieth peace. (Amy Carmichael, Scottish Missionary to India)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sexuality the New God In California

California has ruled that sexual orientation laws trump religious freedom.

Yes. We are fast approaching the day where Sexuality Is God. I may begin to refer to this as SIG and those who ascribe to such a belief, the Siggies. It is almost laughable until you realize that real people are experiencing a systematic attack that not only wants to silence those who have religious objections to homosexuality - but destroy them.

Consider the counselor from Atlanta who was fired from her job simply because she told a prospective lesbian client that she wouldn't be able to provide adequate counseling because as a Christian, she didn't agree with same-sex relationships. The counselor was cordial and referred the lesbian to another counselor who, according to her, provided "exemplary" service.

Mike Adams, in an article published on Townhall, had this to say:

What this case – taken by the Alliance Defense Fund - all boils down to is the unreasonable accommodation of gay activists who simply cannot tolerate the existence of anyone, anywhere who does not accept the gay lifestyle. And to the extent that we accommodate them, we are helping to create a very “uncivil” rights movement. And it is a trend with dangerous implications.

I would go even further to say that gay activists cannot tolerate anyone who does not bow to the Sexuality Is God movement. Their worship of their sexuality is priority. It orients every aspect of their life and their worldview is only viewed through its prism. All must bow to their SIG for if one doesn't, this is the consequence: Eradication of self and purpose from society.

Now in California, we have the judicial system ruling that a person's religious beliefs must bow to the State. Forget about the separation of Church and State. This only matters when they don't want Christians praying in schools or mentioning Intelligent Design. Or when they want to outlaw Christmas. Or when they want to prohibit a Bible study group from meeting but will welcome the local group of Wiccans. Or...or...the list is growing.

I am beginning to think this is why Pope Benedict's visit to the United States came at such a prodigious moment in our history. I believe God sent him to remind us of our calling because hard times are ahead. Pope Benedict expressed quite eloquently the importance of maintaining a presence in the public square. Too often, Christians are relegated to the back of the bus, told to hush up and do as they're told. Meanwhile, the bus is tottering closer to the edge of a cliff and we're supposed to act like we don't care.

We cannot be silent about this, no matter how inconvenient or risky it may be to speak out about these injustices. Gay activists mock Christians by claiming we're over-reacting. Others say this is just desserts after the years of demeaning and critical treatment from the church. But it's not a "live and let live" attitude Siggies have. They're out for blood and are intent upon destroying anyone who will not acquiesce to their demands.

It is ironic that the same people who have whined for decades about being discriminated against are going full bore toward doing the very same thing.

Instead of simply saying, "Okay. They don't agree with what I'm doing. I'll find someone else who does..." They have to fight tooth and nail to make sure everyone "gets used to it." And who has assigned them this task of making sure everyone joins in lockstep with their brand of fascism?

No one. This is an age-old tale of man insisting he can do what he wishes, with no repercussions from anyone. God already responded to this type of lapse in judgement when He booted a third of the angels from heaven along with their gang leader, Old Flint.

Railing against God doesn't have a track record of positive results, but I doubt the Siggies are paying any attention.

Reclaiming the Sacred Body

As I continue to research topics regarding chastity and sexuality, I realize that our culture has truly profaned the sacred.

We have a weekly newspaper in town that features a social calendar. I used to suggest to the women attending my dating workshops to pick up a copy and scan the various groups and activities available. Joining new groups or trying a new activity can help a single person enlarge their social circle. While looking through one of these weekly publications, I noticed a sex column. I won't give the writer any added exposure by mentioning his name, but suffice it to say this column left nothing to the imagination. It was vulgar and raw, treating sex as nothing more important than choosing the menu for dinner.

The topics discussed were so explicit in nature that I was surprised to see it available in a free newspaper, which are quite plentiful in the bars and restaurants around town. I was disgusted by the content, and angry.

I was angry because I knew the type of belief system this column encouraged. Men and women both were treated as sex objects and sex was only seen as a means to an end, a brief satisfaction of bodily lusts while rating the sex partner in terms of how well they performed.

It is easy for me to focus on such craziness, but since returning to the Catholic church, I realize my response needs to change. Instead of changing other people, I need to change myself first. Sinners who have no understanding of their need for a Savior are going to behave like sinners. Sinners who understand that need are going to consistently progress toward holiness.

Our bodies are sacred. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two shall become one flesh."

But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Cor. 6:15-20

For women, dressing modestly is a wonderful way to reclaim their bodies as being sacred. For singles, it is important to establish boundaries regarding the type of physical affection you will give. A single friend had a wonderful solution to her need for touch. She treated herself to professional massages at least once a month. I thought that was fantastic. We all need the human touch but if you're single, you many not get it as often as you'd like. Professional massages are a great way to not only improve your overall health, but it's a safe way to receive this human touch.

What did Israel and the church do with the sacred? It was covered, hidden, or elevated. It was given special honor. Reclaiming the sacred will not happen overnight, but there are steps we can take each day to reach our goal. it may include:

  • Curtailing entertainment that profanes the sacred, such as R-rated movies, TV shows, books, magazines, and newspapers
  • Carefully selecting friends who share your values
  • Deleting off-color email jokes and asking the person sending them to not send those types of jokes anymore
  • Walking away from a group who are sharing sexually-explicit jokes
  • Meditating on the Bible
  • Attending Mass faithfully
  • Reciting the rosary

When we fill our minds with the things of God, we become more sensitive to sin and its consequences. I know that since I started to pray the rosary more often, I am much more conscientious of my actions throughout the day. Praying the rosary in the morning orients me in the right direction.

I also cannot speak highly enough of renting film classics if you want quality entertainment. I'm a big Frank Capra fan ("It's a Wonderful Life" is my ultimate favorite.) and any film that has Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in it is sure to bring a laugh. There were so many great actors during "The Golden Age" of movies that you will have a difficult time choosing which one to watch first. It is immensely refreshing to watch a movie that doesn't automatically focus on the sexual antics of the characters.

Our bodies were created first for God. I pray that I would remember this and encourage others to do the same. When it is dark, focusing on the darkness won't bring about the light. May we all be lights to this darkened world.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Simple Woman's Daybook

I have been fascinated by my friend Kimberly's inclusion of this, every Monday (Catholic Family Vignettes). Although it is late in the day, I decided to go ahead and do it since Monday is the day for the group of people who do this. I am grateful to Peggy of "The Simple Woman blog who is the clever and creative woman who started The Simple Woman's Daybook. Visit her blog for some truly interesting information about living the simple life.

For today, August 25, 2008

Outside My Window... is the sound of the cicadas, relishing their own symphony of sound, the breeze is blowing inside at a perfect 75 degrees. The sun is low but it is still light outside. Oh, I love the long days of summer!

I am thinking...about how to rid our kitchen of these teensy-tiny little ants. I've never seen ants so small! But they're annoying and they need to find another place to live. We're already moved in.

I am thankful husband who works hard and my new parish home. I've met such a great group of folks already (including Kimberly!)

From the silence. I just finished prepping the coffeemaker for tomorrow morning since my hubby gets up very early. (1:30 AM!) And...paper towels soaked with ammonia, stuffed in the little space of a counter where the ants were trying to conduct their annual convention.

I am wearing...beige shorts, a gray tank top and barefoot, my hair pulled up and held by one of those truly elite alligator clips. Aren't I the fashion plate this evening? (I'm going to have to get dressed up for these entries...)

I am creating...more digital scrapbook pages and it feels good. I was on a bit of a hiatus for the last few months. I just seemed busy with too many other things and didn't feel motivated. Now I'm getting back and love some of the new kits I've been "gifted" with.

I am start hunting for part-time jobs. I've actually "advertised" myself on Craigslist. All I've received so far were responses from two people trying to get me to sign up for the same direct sales organization. Um, no.

I am reading...Sex & the Soul by Donna Freitas. Love this book already. She is talking about how many college girls are very unsatisfied with the whole "hooking up" culture that permeates college campuses. I'm not surprised.

I am hoping...that I find a good part-time job soon that will give me more of a consistent working schedule.

I am hearing...the hum of the floor fan. The nice thing about this new home is its ability to keep cool. I'm about ready to click on my Pandora music list. Not sure if I'm in a "Coldplay" mood or a "Jake Shimabukuro" one...

Around the house...are boxes that still need to be unpacked and the contents need a home. I'm still working on purging but it's going slow. Ugh. Why do I collect junk?!!

One of my favorite things...after my work is done, to sit down to the computer and write what's on my heart.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Looking for that unique part-time job, working at Michael's tomorrow. Figuring out who still needs my new address. And getting back on track with my Pampered Chef business which has been woefully neglected during the move.

Here is picture thought I am sharing... A lovely dusky photo of a beautifully serene place in town - Pickerington Ponds.

The Real Purpose of Womenpriests?

Most traditional Catholics are aware of the bogus group, "Womenpriests" who continue to insist upon fake ordinations in order to validate their own pursuit of power. I've expressed my opinion in older entries; but now realize there may be something more dangerous underneath their pathetic ceremonies and defiant declarations that Rome is behind the times.

From the Wall Street Journal came this:

The Womenpriests come from a dissenting feminist tradition in the Catholic Church -- one in which a leading religious sister has even declared the Eucharist "defective and inadequate" for women. (!!!!)This tradition argues for renewing the church with a model "not geared to a hierarchy but inclusivity," as Ms. Meehan explains it. But those who are faithful to Rome argue that it is precisely the focus on the Eucharist -- and Christ's identity -- that necessitates an all-male priesthood. In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared that "the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women."

"The Problem With Liberation Ordination" by Kathryn Jean Lopez

So now we get to the heart of it.

The Catholic church service is called the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for good reason. The Passion of Christ is remembered with the priest standing as both a High Priest offering the sacrifice and an icon of Christ, re-enacting the most momentous event in the history of mankind - when God accepted the sacrifice of His Son to atone for the sin of the world.

When Catholics think of this - really think of it, the only correct response is awe, humility, repentance, and deep gratitude. Jesus Christ told His disciples that whenever they took the bread and wine, they were consuming His Body and Blood. It is a deeply sacred and mystical moment, one that will affect everyone who gives serious consideration to what is transpiring during the Mass.

The Mass is what holds Roman Catholics together throughout the world. If Catholics had to go underground because of persecution (and many already have done this or are doing it...), the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass would hold true and continue to bind them together.

What better way to destroy the Roman Catholic Church than try to minimize the importance of the Eucharist? It's evil, plain and simple, and any woman or man who denies the Real Presence ought to be lovingly corrected and if they still resist, removed from fellowship according to Matthew 18:15-17.

The Womenpriests are dangerously conniving and try to hide their manipulation behind an argument of fairness. If they were to succeed in destroying the sacredness of the Eucharist, what do you suppose would happen? Nature, as it's said, abhors a void. The Eucharist would need to be replaced with something - and that something is elevating man as god. Remove Jesus Christ and you remove the need of man for a Savior.

Because Womenpriests know that the obstacle toward their goal is the Eucharist, they will begin to try to celebrate Mass with the intent upon relegating the Real Presence into simply a snack. It will hold no meaning, just a watered-down reminder that Jesus was the Son of God. But it won't stop there. They'll begin to say Jesus was a "good teacher" among many teachers. It will open the door for more "inclusivity" of other religions. There will be intra-religious services celebrated, all in the name of "acceptance" and "tolerance."

Meanwhile, the Real Presence will be gone, thought of as nothing more than an outdated belief that has no purpose for these "progressive" women. I ask you, "progressives," what are you progressing toward? It would seem a destination I'm trying to avoid, and I know I'm not the only one.

These exercises of grand presumption are accomplishing nothing more than exposing them for what they are - caught up with the folly of the world while denying that God has a purpose, a plan, and a hierarchy for a reason.

It is to their eternal detriment that they continue to "kick against the goads." We need to continue to pray that the scales of blindness fall from their eyes.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clarification on the Video: Relationships and Tolerating Bad Behavior

After watching my latest video, it occurred to me that I should clarify a statement I made regarding bad behavior in a relationship. I mentioned that too often, women tolerate shabby treatment by men, such as Jennifer Aniston tolerating the ending of the relationship via text messaging.

When a relationship is at the end - and receiving a rather abrupt end, at that, there isn't any "tolerating" because the relationship has ceased. The best one can do at that point is not respond to such caddish behavior and move on.

To elaborate on the issue of tolerating bad behavior, here is one trustworthy rule: Establish relationship boundaries in the beginning. You will be able to maintain the health of a relationship if it is evident early on that you will not tolerate mistreatment.

For instance, imagine you meet a seemingly wonderful young man who makes you laugh and looks like David Beckham. He's all smooth moves and cool friends. He makes a date with you on Friday to meet at a club on Saturday night. He's a no-show. Afterward, he's full of excuses and charms his way back into your life.

I usually give someone a second chance. Life is filled with inconveniences and the trick is separating the honest good excuses from outright lies. But if a person starts to show a track record for inconsiderate or rude behavior, it's best to end the relationship rather than wait for the cell phone drama.

I suspect that Jennifer's relationship with this guy showed early signs of bad behavior, but she tolerated it. It's little wonder that it ended the way it did but few women are blindsided by such behavior. It begins as a leak before the dam bursts and regret floods into a single woman's life. I know. I've been there.

So keep your eyes open at the beginning of a relationship. Notice if a man keeps his word or making excuses all the time. There are times for forgiveness, but also times for a "straighten up and fly right, pal" discussion. Ask God for wisdom because if there is any area we need guidance with, it's our relationships. He will provide.

Friday, August 22, 2008

New "Castitas" Video: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I'm slowly getting my life back in order after The Big Move. I will say St. Anthony is getting a good workout as I beseech him to help me find stuff. I tried to be careful with my packing but needless to say, it will take a few more days to unearth everything. (Especially the library book that was due yesterday...)

This video was prompted by the news story of Jennifer Aniston's boyfriend breaking up with her via text message. I was slightly surprised. I'm aware of the whole "friends with benefits" phenomenon where people text an acquaintance to see if they'd be up for an amorous rendezvous. Ending a relationship by sending text over a cell phone is perhaps the flip side of the 21st century's idea of intimacy.

The video is a little over 15 minutes long. I decided to go with Google this time and forgot about their quality. My apologies for that, the extreme lighting, the wailing cicadas in the background...I'm still in a learning curve regarding creating videos. Maybe if you have it on while not watching it will be more enjoyable!

I met a lovely young woman after church this past Sunday and hope to get to know her better. I'm going to be organizing a "real life" meeting for college-aged Catholic women in my area very soon. The purpose would mainly be to provide a stable support group for women who wanted to live chastely, with dignity and self-respect while trusting in God for their future.

Here's the video, cicadas and all!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Saints

Today, we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux Abbot, Doctor of the Church — 1153

When Bernard finished his schooling at nineteen or thereabouts, he had, in addition to the advantages of noble birth and natural talent, the sweetness of temper, wit, and personal charm that make for popularity. Subject to strong temptations of the flesh, he often considered giving up the world, and even forsaking the study of literature, which was one of his greatest pleasures. He felt attracted to the Benedictine monastery at Citeaux,[1] founded fifteen years before by Robert of Molesme, Alberic, and Stephen Harding. One day Bernard knelt in prayer in a wayside church, to ask God's guidance as to his future. On arising all doubt had vanished and he was resolved to follow the strict Cistercian way of life. His uncle, Gaudry, a valiant fighting man, and Bernard's younger brothers, Bartholomew and Andrew, declared they would accompany him, and an appeal was made to their eldest brother, Guy. He, however, had a wife and two children; but when his wife soon after entered a convent, he also joined them. Gerard, another brother, was a soldier, engrossed in his calling; still, after being wounded and taken prisoner, he also heard God's call, and on his release followed the others. Hugh of Macon was also won over, and others who had previously given no thought to the religious life. Such was Bernard's eloquence that within a few weeks he had succeeded in persuading thirty-one Burgundian nobles to go with him to Citeaux. Bernard and his brothers gathered to bid their father farewell and ask his blessing. Only one son was left behind, Nivard, the youngest, and as the party rode away, Guy called to him, "Farewell, little Nivard! You will have all our lands and estates for yourself." "Oh," answered the boy, "then you are taking Heaven and leaving me only the earth! The division is too unequal!" Such was the pervasive spiritual atmosphere of this age of faith. (source: EWTN)

It has taken me some time to embrace the saints of old. One of the earlier lessons I learned from my non-Catholic churches was that Catholics "worshiped Mary and the saints" and this was not Biblical.

Because I had little instruction on how to defend my Catholic faith, I surrendered it. The Bible said that Jesus Christ was the mediator between God and man, so why would we need anyone else? I didn't realize how to distinguish Jesus' role as Redeemer from a saint's intercessory role. It still is taking me some time to absorb this, but I think I'm finally getting it.

Because of Adam's sin, man was separated from God. Throughout the Old Testament, God patiently led His chosen people, Israel, to a carefully prescribed set of laws so that they could repent and make reparation for this sin. As we all know, the Jews had a difficult time keeping the Law. They would fail time after time; and then a godly leader would arise, leading them back to their Adonai.

God, in His infinite mercy, sent His Son, Jesus Christ to do what man would never be capable of doing - redemption. Only Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, was able to be sacrificed in order to take away the sin of the world.

Saints are men and women who have forsaken the world, took up their cross, and followed Him. They persevered through trials and tribulations, always seeking to glorify God with their heart, mind, and soul. We are all called to be saints.

Now praying to a saint, in my mind, used to mean I was elevating them to the same level of Jesus Christ. Prayer automatically meant worship. But the more I've thought about this, the more I'm beginning to see that prayer is a communication from me, a request or a petition. We are told to make our requests be known to God with confidence, as St. Paul wrote to the Hebrews:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

I heard an argument for praying to the saints that went like this: do you ever ask for help from a friend? Do you appreciate it when they think of you and send a letter or call you on the phone? Such is our relationship with saints. We are asking for help because God knows we need it. When I pray to a saint, I am not worshiping that saint for worship is only for God. But I am asking for help, knowing that we are a very large family and all in this struggle for holiness together.

One of the benefits of returning the Catholic church has been this new awareness of the saints. In Hebrews, we are told that a great "cloud of witnesses" surround us.
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. (Hebrews 12:1)

I find it very interesting that right after mentioning we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, we are reminded that it Jesus who is the supreme authority of our faith; not a saint. Can't get any more clearer than that!

Still, we're surrounded by a multitude of witnesses, watching us complete the race, enduring the exercise and overcoming any obstacles toward finishing what we started. We have Jesus Christ, who did finish what He begun when He took the form of man.

Since we are in the midst of the Olympics, what do people do when watching a race? Sit quietly and observe? Of course not. They stand, they cheer, they scream encouragement toward their chosen runner, pressing them on for a victory. When their runner finally crosses that finish line as the winner, they rejoice, savoring that victory almost as much as the one who ran the race.

Our saints know how difficult this life can be. They are encouraging us by their intercession for our needs. In the book of Revelation, we're told that the prayers of the saints fill the bowls brought before the throne of God. (Rev. 5:8, 8:3,4) I will attest to their efficacy. It has been surprising to me how I now truly feel "covered" - a term often used by non-Catholic Christians who covet the intercessory prayers of others. How ironic that after all my years of involvement with intercessory prayer, I now accept the intercession of the heavenly saints.

Intercession doesn't stop at the grave. Thank God for His saints, who continue to petition His throne for our good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Deception of Soap Operas

I grew up with a mother who would watch "soap operas" while she did her daily tasks around the house. She'd flip the TV to whichever station had her show and blare it throughout the house while she cleaned, did laundry, and prepared meals. During the summertime, I'd help and eventually started watching soap operas, myself.

Soap operas are, for most women, a guilty pleasure. On the surface, the characters on a soap opera seem to live in a perfect world. For the most part, everyone is thin, beautiful, and have gorgeous clothes. They look so sleek, so smooth, so totally amazing. But as any die-hard fan can tell you, looks go only so far. Beneath the surface lies an ugly world of deceit, manipulation, selfishness, foolishness, and at times - pure evil.

And yet women (and a few men) lap it up, day after day.

Why? When I was in high school, I declared to my mother I was no longer watching soaps because I thought they were stupid. My exact quote: "Mom, soap operas never allow anyone to be happy! As soon as a couple finally finds love, something bad has to happen to tear them apart. It's ridiculous! I'm done!"

For the most part, I was done. I didn't watch soaps in college and then I started working in "the real world" where I was gone during the day and had no VCR to record the shows. I easily forgot there were such things as soap operas.

Today my working schedule is more flexible and I'm often home during lunchtime. One day, while munching a sandwich, I turned on the TV to find...yes, a soap opera. I absentmindedly started watching it, trying to deny I'd probably be sucked in. The next day I did it again, and again, and again. I was embarrassed one day because my husband came home early from work and caught me. I quickly made the excuse that I was just eating lunch and just happened to watch TV and the program just happened to be on. I don't think he bought it.

The soap opera was "The Young and the Restless." It wasn't a show I had ever watched before so it took some time to learn about the characters. Still, I caught on quickly who the players were and started to observe them as though I was an anthropologist who just stumbled on a rare find. I remembered what I said when I was younger and wondered how long the show would go before it would ruin someone's love life.

It didn't take long. Within a few months, they took a promising young couple and used, of all things, the overused ploy of a woman acting as though she was pregnant so she could steal away someone else's fiancee.

I was amazed. On one hand, I figured since I had been away from soaps for about 25 years, the writing would get more sophisticated. Not even close. The writers, in fact, were playing the same tricks they had when I was younger. Bring a couple together, then have the man "accidentally" sleep with another woman so she could break the couple apart. Yawn.

What occurred to me was how soap operas can ruin a single woman's real chances for love if she's not careful. I have no idea how many young single women are tuning in, but if the story lines are an indicator, it would seem the soaps are trying to reach them. Several main characters are in their twenties. But their constant swapping of love interests gets frustrating and confusing. You have to wonder if the characters have any lick of sense at all or simply the slaves of their own desire.

Which brings me to why I think they're detrimental to a person: Soap operas present on the surface a life most would like to live - financially well-off, beautiful, successful. But then the soaps give that lifestyle a nice knife in the back by constantly creating turmoil and anguish. For some fans who lead a very different kind of life, it may give them a sick sort of satisfaction to see that even rich, beautiful people suffer, too. But deep inside, what is the message?

I believe the message is you can't trust success. You can't trust happiness because sooner or later, some tramp is going to stalk you and your beloved and ruin everything. Is it any wonder why some people who love soaps also thrive on drama in their own lives? It's a set-up. It's difficult to find contentment in your own life if you can't trust that something good is not only going to come to you but stay with you.

So, I've sworn off soaps again, this time I hope for good. Even though it was almost an hour of my day, it added nothing to my life. It isn't entertaining to me to watch people suffer. It is why I watched "Melrose Place" years ago and then stopped after a few episodes. (A night-time soap opera...blech.) It is also why I stopped watching "Desperate Housewives" after the first season. TV writers succeed by making characters miserable. Hollywood reasons that no one would want to watch a show where everyone was happy most of the time. Why, that's boring!

So, do I want to fill my life with fictional characters who are unhappy and dealing with constant conflict? No thanks. I think I'll fill it instead with studying the great saints of old and how they overcame trials and tribulations by pursuing God with every molecule of their being.

Now that's far more interesting than some soap opera.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm Baaaack! (And How NOT To Do A Move...)

I'm finally (almost) settled in our new townhome. I am extremely grateful for more living space. We really needed it. Before, we were in a tiny apartment with almost two house's worth of possessions between us. Getting married late in life can have a few inconvenient consequences, such as accumulating "stuff" and then marrying someone else who already has accumulated "stuff." Then collect "stuff" together as a married couple. So all our stuff has made us feel...well, rather stuffed.

Thank you to everyone who thought of us in prayer. All I can say is that I can't imagine how much worse it would have been without the intercession of the saints! We did have amazing weather, which was a huge blessing. (Nothing like trying to trudge large, unwieldy boxes in the rain...)

But, seriously? It was crazy. Moving is never on anyone's Top Ten List of Fun Things to Do. ("Hey, Joe...let's say we grab a few boxes and start moving this Labor Day weekend! Don't you just love the smell of packing tape?!") Moving is physically demanding not to mention stressful as we re-orient ourselves to a new environment. Since I'm now in a much better mood, I decided to make a list of how NOT to do a move:

1. Decide that a 30-day notice is for amateurs. You can pull off a move in a week's time, no problem.

2. Packing boxes doesn't take that much time. It's much more important to check your email. You've got peeps, for goodness sakes! Need to keep in touch!

3. Your blog is of the utmost importance so it's vital to keep updating it every day, even though you have boxes to fill. Ditto for the Facebook page because everyone is just dying to know what you're doing this very minute. ("Staring at boxes, needing to be filled...")

4. Speaking of boxes, you really don't need many. Just haul over what you have, empty them, and re-use!

5. Sleep? Who needs sleep? Wake up at 2:30 AM. Empty out more boxes for the last leg of the move the next day. Then drag your tired body throughout the day, punching holes in the walls of the new place with sharp edged objects because you don't have the strength to carefully carry an empty sack, let alone a heavy box.

6. Take time to chat at length with the mailman while under the gun to get out before the ex-apartment's office closes. Find out what his real dreams in life are, including his retirement plans.

7. Forget to check the apartment office hours, which actually changed so when you swing by to drop off the keys, you see a nice, big closed door.

8. Forget to check the open office hours on the weekend. Yes. Changed again.

9. Dolly? Who needs a stinkin' dolly? Real men like to carry boxes one at a time.

10. Forget how heavy clothes can weigh. Forget getting a few extra wardrobe boxes from U-Haul. Forget that the one you currently have has lived through three moves, was stuck in the basement a few years, and has the creases to show for it.

11. Forget that creases in a wardrobe box buckle under weight.

12. Forget how heavy books can be when grouped together. Forget how heavy magazines can be. And why are you keeping old magazines, anyway?

13. Forget purging all unnecessary items from your household like: broken cassette tapes, old books that no longer have any meaning for you, an old stereo system that plays LP's that you insisted on carting around for decades "just in case you wanted to play records again", records that can now be bought on CD's, coffee cups...oy...they deserve a category all their own.

14. Forget that for the past twenty years, you've collected quite a collection of coffee cups because people like to fill them with stuff and give them as gifts. Or they're part of a gift basket. Or a door prize. Or the company which you now curse decided it would be a swell Christmas bonus. At any rate, you now have a collection that could shame the inventory of your local card & gift shop. Forget that you live alone or with one other individual and only need two.

15. Forget that you will never, ever plan on having a dinner party for 50 so you need all those coffee cups. And really, who wants to be swigging coffee from a cup that says, "Deadlines, Schmedlines...I'm Going Shopping!"

16. Forget that you planned on re-gifting those coffee cups. You cheapskate, you.

17. Forget to mark boxes properly so you spend an inordinate amount of time looking for important things - such as your computer speakers.

18. Forget to occasionally vacuum behind things so when you move, you and the few suckers you roped into helping you will be sneezing all over the place.

19. Forget to throw out stuff every once in a while from your fridge, the back of the microwave cart, those stupid cabinets above the refrigerator that are never used. Trust me. The Smithsonian isn't going to want it for their collection of Average Twenty-First Century Americana.

20. Imagine that your car is really an SUV and therefore, can carry much more stuff than a Mini Cooper. Smash everything into every nook and cranny and then pray a police officer doesn't notice and write you up for reckless driving. Who needs rear vision? That's what side mirrors are for.

21. After all that fun, imagine you have the energy of an Olympian and do some thorough cleaning. Don't worry. Your body appreciates the extra challenge.

So much fun that I can't wait to do it again! And if you believe that, I have some property near a flood plain I'd love to show you.

All kidding aside, I really love our new space and plan on living here until the end of the ages. And I'm getting rid of the coffee cups. I promise.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Moving Days.... Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, it's my birthday today and my big present is...packing! Yes, we're moving and although I've been packing off and on for the past week, I still have much more to do.

Today I'll be packing away Old Faithful, here. We hope to have our cable connection again in a few days. So meanwhile, if you're a new visitor, take a look at some older entries or discover some new blogs and websites from the sidebar. I simply love the Catholic presence on the Internet!

If you know of a saint who helps with moving - please lift up a petition for us! As soon as we're settled, I'm going to see if my parish priest can visit and bless our new abode. Meanwhile, God bless you and hope it's sunny wherever you are. :-)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Sacred Space

St. Mary of Ostrabrama Roman Catholic Church
in South River NJ

As I was packing away my gazillion books, I came across a unique hand-made volume by a Christian woman who attended the same non-denominational church as me in Charlotte, North Carolina. This book is extremely unique. It is filled with Christian poetry, thought, and "word art" - all examining the question of how our starved souls seek satisfaction. (A little alliteration with my morning coffee...)

This woman is extremely gifted, not only in creating such a book but she is also a musician, and now - has founded a 24/7 prayer center in Charlotte. (I don't think they're quite up to praying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week yet; but it's a goal.) I was happy to see she was still up to her creative adventures.

I thought again about art and faith. It's slightly surprising I haven't talked about this at length yet simply because I am an artist. Art has always held a special meaning for me because it is a part of who I am. I define myself as an artist, although I've not drawn anything in ages. Still, art has been a part of my life ever since I could hold a crayon. I developed my drawing skills throughout junior high and high school, even intending to major in art. My first declared concentration of study was graphic design.

Long story short - I had an older adviser who thought it best to discourage as many students as possible from pursuing art so they wouldn't be "disillusioned" when hit by the "real world." I was one of them. My malleable nineteen-year old ego was not prepared for challenges, and so I made the mistake of believing those who questioned my purpose. I switched majors. God allows such things for a reason and I've benefited in many ways from my degree in Communication Art. However, I find it an endless source of amusement that today I am teaching digital design, which is in essence, graphic design. So my education during those years didn't go to waste, after all, and I'm happy because I'm using the talent God gave me.

During the years when I was involved with non-denominational churches, I was both a member and a leader of a Christian visual artist's group. One of our projects was to install an exhibit at the church, showcasing the group's artwork. We carefully hung paintings and photographs around the lobby area, but nothing was installed in the main sanctuary.

Sanctuary. Catholics have a different understanding of the word. For non-denominational churches, the space they use for worship is not seen as sacred, per se. It is simply an area to gather, a large meeting room, as it were. After the services, the space would usually fill with loud chatter as the churchgoers would greet one another. So although this large space was called a "sanctuary," it didn't hold the same meaning for me as a place for peace and reflection.

Many people appreciated the exhibit and were fascinated with much of the art - especially my co-leader's installation of his own "found objects" work; which consisted of an assortment of objects found in a garbage dump, painted, and arranged so that the entire piece was draped from the outside roof. It was to symbolize how God has taken us all from the garbage heap of life, connected us, and made something beautiful.

What was interesting was the senior pastor's decision to only allow the exhibit to remain for a few weeks. He didn't want any of the art inside the sanctuary, preferring the simple, bland white walls with a few international banners hung from the rafters. He didn't understand how much we crave sacred art and to be honest, neither did I.

Not until I read about the 24/7 prayer Center did I realize how the Catholic church has always known of the need for sacred space and sacred art. When I read of how visitors wept when they went through the prayer center, I understood. They were weeping because a part of their soul which had been crying out for a sacred expression of man's yearning for God - was heard. They wept because within a non-Catholic church, the role of art is given very little recognition.

Non-Catholic churches have a myriad of ways they try to bring art within its chambers. It is no small feat to have a church allow such an exhibit as we had, let alone bless a group for trying. But Catholic churches do not need to wrestle with the question of whether art is "appropriate" or not. We already have artists within our faith-filled lineage that have produced some of the world's greatest masterpieces. Michelangelo, Donatello, Botticelli, and Raphael were just a few of the brilliant artists who brought the Biblical narrative to life. When we gaze upon these great works of art, we are reminded of who God is and His unceasing love for mankind. And if we really ponder it deeply, the understandable response is weeping.

It occurred to me that for many who seek a connection with God apart from entering a Catholic cathedral - only have modern art. Modern art has its moments, but in my opinion, it can't hold a candle to the immense beauty of ancient art. Especially for young people, art is a powerful conveyor of both our desire for God and His desire for us. God has given man the ability to create and that ability, when offered back to Him, can transform him. It shines a light upon all the dark places and when offered as a sacrifice; purifies and elevates us to a place we know that only through the grace of God, we may reside.

As I knelt this morning during Mass in my parish, surrounded by stained glass windows and confronted with a magnificent altar, my thoughts were drawn toward a Holy God who sacrificed His only Son so that we may be saved. I was reminded of how many saints had murmured the same prayers, reciting words that humble and beseech our Heavenly Father for His mercy. I was reminded of God's extraordinary grace for struggling mankind.

This is what sacred space means for me. It is a place to be reminded that we will always, always need God's mercy and that God, in His infinite love, will give it.

A Cornucopia of Book Recommendations!

During Fr. Zuhlsdorf's visit yesterday, I suggested that a great addition to his blog would be a "Must Read" section for converts and reverts. There are so many books available on Catholic apologetics and spiritual formation that it is quite easy to become overwhelmed!

After my return to the Catholic church four months ago, my home has been filled with various books on Catholicism and living the faith. I am a huge bookworm, so devouring books is nothing new. But I had no idea there would be so many!

So, Fr. Z posted a request for book recommendations on his blog and wow - did his readers deliver.

This entry will most likely be updated. I'll post a permanent link to it on the sidebar. Please note, some of these books are obscure or no longer in print. I wasn't able to thoroughly check each one, but tried to find the author where none was originally listed. I first checked with Amazon although anyone could "Google" a title to discover its availability.

So far, here is the list:


Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine -Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Catholicism and Fundamentalism - Karl Keating
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization — Thomas Woods
Belief of Catholics - Ronald Knox
Why Do Catholics Do That: A Guide to the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church - Kevin Orlin Johnson
A Short History of the Mass - Alfred McBride
For the Visitor at Mass - Angelus Press
Doors to the Sacred:A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church - Joseph Martos
Christian Sacraments in a Post-Modern World - Kenan Osborne.
This Is The Faith - Canon Francis Ripley
A Short History of the Catholic Church - Jose Orlandis
Catholic Christianity – Dr. Peter Kreeft
A Shorter Summa - Dr. Peter Kreeft
Summa of the Summa - Dr. Peter Kreeft
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma – Ludwig Ott
Christ’s Redemptive Sacrifice - William F. Hogan
The Shape of Soteriology - John McIntyre
The Teachings of the Church Fathers - John Willis
Catholicism for Dummies - Father John Trigilio and Father Kenneth Brighenti
The Confessions - Saint Augustine
What Is Truth - John Rist
Dante's Paradise - Tony Esolen
Why I am Still a Christian - Timothy Radcliffe
A Biblical Defense of Catholicism - Dave Armstrong
The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants - Dave Armstrong
Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church - The Right Rev. Henry G. Graham
Faith of Our Fathers - James Cardinal Gibbons
Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger: The Untold Story of the Lost Books of the Protestant Bible - Gary G. Michuta
Radio Replies Three Volume Set by Leslie Rumble, Charles M. Carty
Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church - Stephen K. Ray
Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic - Patrick Madrid (editor) and Foreword by Scott Hahn
Surprised By Truth 2: 15 Men and Women Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons For Becoming Catholic - Patrick Madrid
Surprised by Truth 3: 10 More Converts Explain the Biblical and Historical Reason for Becoming Catholic - Patrick Madrid
Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith - Scott Hahn
By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition - Mark P. Shea
The Heresy of Formlessness - Martin Mosebach
We Believe - Mgr. Alfred Gilbey
Lead Kindly Light - Thomas Howard
The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church - Hans Urs Von Balthasar
Catholicism Christ and the Common Destiny of Man - Henri De Lubac
Spirit of Catholicism - Karl Adam
Apologia pro Vita Sua - Cardinal Newman
Mary and the Fathers of the Church - Luigi Gambero and Thomas Buffer
Conversion and the Catholic Church - G.K. Chesterton
Crossing the Tiber - Stephen K. Ray
Upon This Rock - Stephen K. Ray
Catholic Source Book - Peter Klein
Four Witnesses: The Early Church In Her Own Words - Rod Bennett
Dissent From the Creed; Heresies Past and Present - Richard M. Hogan
The Unexpected Way - Paul Williams (Convert from Buddhism to Catholicism)
The Glories of Mary - Saint Alphonsus
Cosmas, or, The Love of God - Pierre de Calan
Faith and Certitude - Father Thomas Dubay

Spiritual Formation

Triumph - H. W. Crocker III
Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton
The Everlasting Man - G.K. Chesterton
Franciscan Prayer - Ilia Delio
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller
The Way - St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer
A Map of Life - by Frank Sheed
Theology and Sanity - Frank Sheed
Theology for Beginners - Frank Sheed
The Ascent of Mount Carmel - St. John of the Cross
Seven Storey Mountain - by Thomas Merton
Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing - Dr. Peter Kreeft
Making Sense Out of Suffering - Dr. Peter Kreeft
The Art of Dying Well (or How to be a Saint, Now and Forever) - Robert Bellarmine


Question and Answer Catholic Catechism - Fr. John Hardon
Catechism of the Council of Trent

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Cleveland Blognic With Fr. Zuhlsdorf

Well, there weren't too many fellow bloggers in attendance. In fact, I think it was pretty much Kimberly of Catholic Family Vignettes and myself. Fr. Zuhlsdorf and his host, Fr. Ireland, arrived with a few others from Fr. Ireland's parish. A few were unfamiliar with Fr. Z's blog, which was surprising to me. I suppose I live in a rather insulated world, assuming every Catholic has heard of Fr. Z!

Still, it was a very enjoyable event. Fr. Z shared a few amusing stories about his first experiment with podcasting and what he'd like to do with wacky parishes. (Destroy and pour salt on the ground so nothing every grows there again...) I got my answer to why special vestments are important. (Because it visually reminds us of the separation between the sacred and the profane.)

Fr. Z is a highly personable priest, which some may have gleaned already from listening to his podcasts. But what his podcasts don't reveal is his extreme politeness, sensitivity, and receptivity to strangers. From my many years of contact with "famous" Christians, I can vouch for a certain weariness they carry by the high expectations often forced upon them. When strangers meet a writer, for instance, there is a presumed intimacy they believe exists. It is a delicate exercise to exude both warmth and appreciation for those who are "fans" while still maintaining boundaries. Fr. Z. does this so well that you'd almost think he was your long-lost cousin! For all his profound insights and knowledge, he is extremely approachable. Yes, color me impressed!

Below are some photos from the event. We hope to eventually get Fr. Z to visit our hometown someday. Hilaire, a gracious gentleman who drove for almost 3 hours to get us to Cleveland, especially made Fr. Z smile when he showed him a photo of him and his "Uncle Joe", who was none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now our beloved Papa! Hilaire is a funny guy!

Fr. Z confirming that Italian espresso is hands down, the best espresso on the planet.

Fr. Z and Fr. Ireland with a parishioner. Fr. Z must still be thinking about that wacky parish...

Fr. Z and Fr. Ireland

Fr. Z and my friend, Kimberly

Fr. Z with the very funny "Hilaire" (Who will most likely now introduce this photo with the question, "Hey, wanna see a photo of my Uncle John?")

Yours truly with Fr. Z

Friday, August 8, 2008

Foremost UK Gay Activist Admits There Is No Gay Gene

Not that I ever believed there was a 'gay gene.' However, I find it fascinating that a gay activist actually admitted there is no such gene.

Whenever confronted with the idea that people are "born gay," I have quickly pointed out that God is not going to condemn homosexual behavior and then proceed to create a human being who has no choice in the matter. It simply doesn't make any sense.

I know there are "levels" of same-sex attraction. Those who choose the homosexual lifestyle may indeed have a predisposition toward it. But they're not predestined, which is - as this activist says, a completely different issue.

I'm almost certain this will get very little press. It is unfortunate because there are many homosexuals who truly believe they have no say in the matter. Because they believe they were "born that way," they seek no other solution for understanding their sexuality.

Chastity is for everyone.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf's Visit to Cleveland, Ohio Aug. 9

If you are in the Cleveland area tomorrow, Fr. Zuhlsdorf, owner of the blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say, will be at a South Euclid coffee house on Saturday, August 9 from 10:30 - 12:00 for an informal blognic.

Since I had trouble embedding the Google Map code before, I'll just post the link:

Phoenix Coffee Co. (Mayfield and S. Green Road)

I truly look forward to meeting other Catholic bloggers and lovers of Catholic tradition. God willing, see you tomorrow!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dawn Eden, "The Thrill of the Chaste," and Chastity in Marriage

I haven't written as much lately because we're in the midst of a move. Ugh. Although I don't enjoy moving per se, it does give one the opportunity to purge and the added anticipation of a new environment. We do not have much room here, so I'm looking forward to having a little more room, especially in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, I've been reading Dawn Eden's The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On. I am in awe of her transparency. She is very honest in sharing her story, no holds barred. From all my years of celibacy and chastity, I can relate. Although at times it can be a difficult calling, it is not impossible. God gives us the strength to endure many things and for singles, enduring the loneliness can be achieved when we lean on Him for support.

I just posted on the Facebook group, "Castitas," a recommendation for this book. As I was typing the message, I started to think of how my call to chastity has changed since marrying.

Before, as a single, I tried to refrain from lusting after men. No small task, given the huge amount of sexploitation this culture imposes upon both sexes. I am not immune, for instance, to the sight of a well-sculpted man or someone who has a smile that could take your breath away. But as I had practiced rejecting certain movies or magazines as a single because of the paths toward temptation they'd bring; so I realized I needed to protect my marriage.

I do this a few ways. First, I never speak negatively about my husband not only in public, but to anyone. If there is an issue I have with him, I bring it to him. I also pray about it, but I figure God and my husband are the only ones to really hear it. Our society has become so used to "venting," that it's become a national sport. So much criticism of others has been paraded as "venting" when in essence, it is gossip and serves no good purpose.

When women gather, it is very easy for the conversation to turn toward husbands and boyfriends and how men overall aren't "stepping up to the plate" in a variety of areas. I'm not real keen on that kind of talk. In fact, I take offense for my brothers because most of the time, they're trying their very best. And some of us ladies aren't exactly berries and cream all the time, either.

Jesus commands us to love one another. Is it loving to be critical of the one person who shares with you the greatest intimacy? We are also instructed to edify and exhort one another. Griping about someone's faults won't build up anyone.

The other decision I made was to knowingly avoid any inappropriate conduct with other men. This included forswearing my love for contra-dancing. (Some of you may be saying "Contra what?...") Contra-dancing is like square-dancing except you have two lines of dancers instead of a square. You always dance with your partner, but then you dance with your neighbor. The lines weave with each other so that you end up dancing with a lot of people.

When I asked my husband if he'd consider joining me in attending a dance event, he flatly refused. When I asked why, he said, "Because I don't want to hold any other woman in my arms but you." can a lady argue with that?

So because he was honoring me by this response, I honored him by saying no to any future contra-dancing. I had a few of my friends say I should go anyway and have fun - but to me, I wouldn't enjoy it. If my husband's idea of chastity is to not dance with other women, how could I in good conscience minimize that by doing what I wanted to do? I couldn't and I'm so glad I haven't. We have found other activities to do together such as hiking and biking and I'm a happy gal.

One thing that has surprised me is how often married women openly lust after other men. This is not living a chaste life within marriage. It is as though a woman is saying to her husband, "Look. I know I said I was committed to you until the day I die, but hey...I'm still human! I can still appreciate some of God's finest pieces of workmanship when I'm at the gym. No big deal!"

Well, not exactly.

How many times have we given in to temptation? And what proceeds temptation? It's not like I plan on eating half a box of cookies. First, I may see an ad for the cookies. I look at the page, lingering on the luscious images, almost tasting the cookie as I look. Then, I may swing by the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner. As I pass the aisle for cookies, again I think of the ad. The aisle beckons, telling me I deserve a treat because after all, I'm worth it. (Ugh. I loathe this phrase. That will be for another entry someday...)

How many days have I ended up with a box of cookies because that advertisement won?

I liken it to lust. When a married woman doesn't understand what chastity within marriage means, she can easily be led down the path of temptation until she's in bed with some slimeball who has no qualms about sleeping with a married woman. She has in minutes destroyed something precious, something God intended to be an intimate connection and a reflection of His fidelity to us.

So even when you marry, you must realize boundaries need to be set. And boundaries will always be tested because that's just the way it is. God allows us to be tested to purify us, but He is quick to answer our cries for assistance.

I may write more about this in the future. I realize that I made many of these decisions long before I married. I asked God to give me a man who would appreciate these choices and He answered with a resounding yes. I cherish my husband and thank God for him daily. I think the more we appreciate our loved ones, the more love God gives to us for them. I think that is just wondrous.