Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gregorian Chant Video

I came across this video. It would be good to listen to it early in the morning. I loved the photographs.

Blessings to you. :-)

Monday, September 29, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Standards, Rules, and Vows

Last night, I checked my old non-denominational ministry's website, as I occasionally do, to keep up with any news. They have grown exponentially and with such growth comes challenges. I noticed there was yet another "news alert" regarding a well-known evangelist and his separation from his wife. Since I wasn't familiar with this person, I did a search. One of the links mentioned several other well-known Christian pastors who had experienced marital problems, many deciding upon divorce as the solution.

I remember years ago, my reaction when I first heard about Amy Grant divorcing her husband and then quickly marrying Vince Gill. Something inside of me died and it took time to figure out what I was mourning.

I realized as a Christian, that I had placed more well-known Christians on a type of pedestal. They didn't ask for this, I know. However, at that point, I believed that all Christians were truly putting forth every effort to become more like Jesus Christ. This meant that they didn't leave their husband and break up another marriage by pursuing someone else's. Although I realized non-Catholic churches didn't condone divorce, there wasn't an internal government system to underscore the seriousness of such an act.

What was even more tragic was that Amy and her husband at the time, Gary Chapman, led youth meetings in their barn. I couldn't help but wonder what type of example this was setting for the younger believers. It seemed to play right into the worldly thought that our own will trumps vows taken before God and their family and friends.

Which brings me to the Catholic Church. The Church takes vows very seriously. Vows are taken by priests and nuns when they enter into their Holy Orders. Standards are upheld within Dioceses and rules are followed within the catechism and canon law. It reminds us as Christians that we are not our own and have surrendered our will to God as we seek to follow Christ each day.

Christians from other non-Catholic churches are seeking to follow Christ, too. But it's almost like trying to travel without a map. It's not good enough to say, "Gosh, I'd love to visit Nashville..." and then set off with a full tank of gas. You need to have directions.

Such is our journey of faith. It's not enough to say, "I want to be a good Christian." You need to read your Bible, attend church, and hang around people who are also going in the same direction. You need to be open to being uncomfortable but realize God will give you grace for the trip. You need the guidance of standards, rules, and vows to stay on track.

I still am greatly saddened when I learn of a Christian leader's failed marriage. I know how tough full-time ministry can be and relationships often suffer. This is why I'm thinking that a priest or nun's vow of chastity is a very good thing. I know that many Catholics (and non-Catholics) have criticized this vow. They figure that a priest really can't relate to them since they aren't experiencing the same challenges as being a husband and father. But they are a "husband" - only their spouse is the Church. They are also a "father" but have many children. Shepherding a church takes a great deal of time and energy and if one is married, that time and energy is decreased.

There is a beautiful flow with how Catholics order their world. There are feast days and faith markers such as First Communion and Confirmation. There is a specific process for getting married and Baptism for new infants. There is even a special rite for those who are near death. There is comfort in knowing where you stand with the Catholic Church.

In this day and age of "anything goes," I am finding not only comfort but wisdom in how the Catholic Church has operated throughout the millennia. God gave us rules for our protection and the Catholic Church has sought to uphold them. Amen and amen.

A Simple Woman's Daybook

I was disappointed when I realized I missed entering my daybook last week. I really do enjoy reading what other women are doing. The simplicity is very relaxing. If you'd like to join in, check out Peggy from "The Simple Woman" and her entry here. For more entries from today, click here.

For Today - September 30, 2008
Outside My Window... is the midday sky, with large, transparent clouds painted upon light blue. The leaves are starting to turn gold and auburn.

I am thinking... I need to conquer the Apple operating system! I still need to learn how to operate iMovie for work.

I am thankful for... my husband, who was pretty patient with my anxious moments when we drove back home from North Carolina.

From the kitchen... will be my version of Subway's "Spicy Italian" - pepperoni, salami, green peppers and onions layered inside of a Pillsbury Italian Loaf (rolled out), tuck in the top and sides and then bake. Right now it's filled with the aroma of fresh coffee that I am enjoying with CoffeMate's new flavor, "Cinnamon Bun."

I am wearing... blue shorts, a very outdated tank top with some tears (and I never wear this top anywhere but home!), and my trusty old Birkenstock sandals.

I am creating... a digital scrapbook for my stepson and new daughter-in-law. I have another digital scrapbook page I'll be creating today just for fun.

I am going... to possibly enjoy a bike ride later today. It's a gorgeous 75 degrees right now!

I am reading... Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. Phenomenal book. It was lent to me by the founder of the company I am currently contracting with and is the reason why he is able to get so much done in a day. I love it!

I am hoping... my contract job becomes permanent. I think I'm ready for some predictability.

I am hearing... Rush Limbaugh on talk radio. Maybe I should ask the government to bail me out.

Around the house... are still boxes with books. I am also hoping to get some used bookcases soon so they have a better home!

One of my favorite things... sipping flavored coffee while thinking about God and the Church.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Working early tomorrow morning, then a full-day Wednesday. My other part-time jobs will be for Thursday and Friday.

Here is picture thought I am sharing... This is me, riding my blue Giant bicycle, which I really love. We're finally able to ride our bikes where we now live!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back Home

Whew! What a whirlwind weekend! We left on Friday to travel to Durham, North Carolina and it took about 9 hours to reach our destination. (Which wasn't too bad since a straight drive would have taken about 8 hours.) We left yesterday after the wedding to drive back (starting at the oh-so-wonderful hour of 5:30 PM.) and after missing one of our turns, (and thus adding an extra hour to our drivetime just for fun...) we arrived home at 3:45 AM this morning.

The wedding was wonderful, although it was outdoors and the air was slightly humid and hot. Northern NC had received a huge amount of rain and we thought it would have brought in cooler weather. Well, not so much. And my outfit was a long sleeved number. I was definitely overdressed for both the location and the weather!

I still can't believe my stepson is married! He has a wonderful gal for a wife and I know she'll help keep him on the straight and narrow! It was great to meet our daughter-in-law's extended family. (How strange to think "daughter-in-law" now...!) Dustin's fellow Army buds were in the wedding and they were great to meet, too. I could tell they all have fun together and enjoy great supportive relationships.

One thing I discovered was McDonald's "McCafe" drinks really did help keep me awake! Okay. I think it's safe to say I'm hooked on the flavored lattes! I had a Vanilla Latte on the way down, then a Caramel Latte and a Vanilla Latte on the way back to Columbus. For around $3 for a large, they give Starbuck's a serious run for their money. (I used to be a Starbuck's barista and know the same sized drink would run well over $5.) All I cared about was having some espresso to keep me awake. My husband is one of those types who won't let me fall asleep because as he says, "you have to keep me awake!" So I needed some extra help. Thank God for McDonald's!

I'll be working on creating a scrapbook for the new couple, part of our gift to them. Mickey took some great photos and they had another photographer also at the wedding. (I'll be using Mickey's photos, only.) I'll be busy with that project for awhile!

I've determined that my husband's traveling style and mine are so different. Me: Let's blaze through the speed limit by going 5 miles over. My husband: Let's be extra careful not to be pulled over by a psycho cop and go exactly the speed limit. Maybe even less.

Arrrggghhh!! If I had gotten out of the car and pushed it at times, we would have gone faster!

God love my husband, though. He puts up with a lot of harping at times from yours truly...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Going to a Wedding!

My stepson is getting married tomorrow in Durham, NC, so I'll be away for a few days. If you're a new visitor, check out the tabs on the left to read some older posts. I'll be back soon and with plenty of photos!

Thanks to everyone who reads and comments. It really means a lot to me, but more than anything, connecting with other Catholics is my greatest joy. God bless all of you richly!

I'm Religious, Not Spiritual: A Word About Sacrifice

Carolina Cannonball, who I have said could be my twin separated at birth, has written a post recently about spiritual quitters and slackers. The quitters are those who have left the Catholic church because they couldn't accept the hard moral beliefs of our faith.

The "slackers" are those who have stayed behind and drag everything down. In fact, some of them try to make it miserable for the rest of us. Instead of just admitting they're really Protestants and joining some church that does ordain women and gays, they prefer to stay within the Catholic church and attempt to remake it into their own image - which is a very flesh-like image, I may add.

The whole point of Jesus Christ coming to earth was to redeem man. This redemption took place as Jesus willingly laid down His life and became the Lamb of God - who took away the sin of the world. He was crucified unjustly but yet God's justice was satisfied by this Perfect Offering. Jesus embraced His cross, knowing His heavenly Father would receive the greater glory.

However, Jesus also did something that is often forgotten by church-goers. He is the Perfect Pattern. It is by watching Him and emulating His behavior that we also are given the grace to travel the same path, to sacrifice as He would have us sacrifice and love as He would have us love. It is His sacrifice I think about when pondering the state of His church today.

When I refer to "church," I am going to include our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ. Although they are separated brethren, they still are trying to follow Him. There are many people who are aware of their daily faith, how they respond to the world and have nothing but a desire to please God in their hearts. Those aren't the people who concern me.

The ones who do concern me are those who want to remake the church in their own image instead of conforming themselves to the image of Christ.

We are to be transformed by Him, by God's truth, by His great love for mankind. We are not to be transformed by the world but yet this is exactly what has happened in churches that want to be "relevant" to our culture. Ugh. I cannot tell you how much this irritated me when I was in my twenties and it irritates me even more now. We are NOT to appeal to the world with outstretched hands, begging to be accepted into their cool and trendy little clubs. We are NOT to minimize the power of the Gospel in order to be more "palatable" to the world. We are NOT to twist Scripture into personalized outfits, branding our faith as if it's the latest clothing line from Tommy Hilfiger.

In fact, when it comes to Truth (who is Jesus Christ), one size really does fit all. And as much as we chafe against the rough threads of Truth because it scrubs against our selfish flesh with such persistence, we are still required to put it on. As St. Paul said, we are to:

Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24)

Where is the transformation when some Christians are marching lockstep with the world, who are demanding "equal rights for gays" and the ordination of women into the priesthood? Where is the renewal of the spirit of the mind when these same people insist that the church must "progress" in order to be relevant to our society?

You know, the Truth has stood for two millennia and more. I don't think it's going to lose it's potency because it's not concerned about being relevant, but by being faithful.

Jesus was disappointed often by the lack of faith His disciples had. He even went so far as to say, "And when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8) Where is that faith? Why is it that faith must undergo some sort of warped reality show make-over in order to be presented to the world? Why does faith have to be sugar-coated, mass-produced, and then gift-wrapped in shiny paper to attract the world?

You know what folks are really attracted to? Authenticity. Forget the wrapping, the slick marketing ads, the carefully crafted slogans - they want real. This is why I believe Gov. Sarah Palin has struck such a deep chord in the minds of so many. She's real. She is so doggone real that she stands in stark contrast to all the spinmeisters who love nothing more than to coat their candidate with a thick layer of gloss. People look at her and say, "I'd like to be around her. I'd like to even share a beer with her and tell her what I think about this country." And they sense she'd listen.

Well, I'm laying down a gauntlet, ladies and gents. I'm tired of the woefully anemic "spiritual" label that is so "cool" to wear these days. "Oh..." the Oprah-robots will say, "I'm spiritual. But still Christian!" Bleh. Enough already. Just admit it. We are enemies of the world. We have nothing in common with the world, or at least shouldn't. We are an anomaly, marching toward a different destination than the self-seeking, pleasure-lusting world. We are in mortal combat, deflecting the wiles of the enemy who continues to try to lure us with promises of ease and likability. (And if there is one thing some Christians so desperately want - it is to be liked.)

So. Here is my new motto: Religious, Not Spiritual.

In fact, stay tuned because I'm going to put it on a t-shirt. Yep. And I'm going to wear it. In fact, I'm going to go to some huge mall - maybe even around Christmas, and wear it. I might even do the baseball cap with this motto, too. Yes, I'm going to do my own "advertising campaign" but with a twist.

I'll be setting up a Cafe Press to do it. I just feel it's time that we who are loving our God take a stand for religion. Religion is often mocked because of its uncompromising precepts. And Catholicism is especially mocked because it simply won't change like the wind in order to please those who have yet to die to self. So the t-shirt is going to have a Catholic-flavor to it.

For me, it's time to take a stand and say how very badly we need those precepts right now. No more playing footsie with the world. At least not on my turf.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I Did Not Know This: Robert Bork Became Catholic!

Holy cow! I can't tell you how excited I was to read about Robert Bork's conversion to Catholicism five years ago. I just happened to visit The Catholic Thing and found this article about it.

My heart literally leaped for joy when I read it. Robert Bork's book, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, has been one of the most thought-provoking books on the roots of liberalism in our country. Robert Bork has a brilliant mind and I always mourned the loss of his presence on the Supreme Court. Until now.

After reading Austin Ruse's excellent piece on the conversion story of Robert Bork, I was happy to agree with him. God always is working with a much larger picture than our human minds can comprehend. What we take as a disappointment, God uses as a stepping stone toward something much greater than we can imagine. Such was the case of Robert Bork. Although he would probably have made a fantastic Supreme Court judge - at what cost would it have been to his eternal soul? We will never know. But we do know that God has everything under control and guides our lives with His loving hand. Everything has a purpose and God uses everything to bring us closer to Him. Congress may have rejected Bork but God had already accepted him if Robert Bork responded to His call.

Perhaps it was the disappointment of not being accepted for the Supreme Court that sent Robert Bork into a quiet place, asking deeper questions about life. He was an atheist then and now is Catholic. I'm sure it was a challenging road for him, but one he made with the prayers and blessings of many, including his wife (who had been a nun for 15 years).

I am always thrilled when I read of bright minds coming into the Catholic church. They have wrestled with the larger philosophical questions of man and God and found that God indeed has given His truth to the Catholic Church. Through the tradition of the church and His Word, He has preserved us. An intellectual should love to think about God above all else but many times, it's the opposite. Intellectuals often like to think of themselves "beyond" God. With the power of their mind guiding them, they feel confident there is no need for a god.

The greater the intellectual who bows before God, the greater God's glory shines into the world. When an intellectual humbles himself before God and admits he doesn't have the answers and is a sinner who truly needs to be saved - a beautiful witness to the frailty of mankind and our constant need for God's saving grace is released. Intellectuals often illuminate the path for others as people say, "What has he seen in the Catholic church that I haven't?"

Glory be to God Almighty for bringing such people into His Kingdom! The feast table at the Marriage of the Lamb is large, and we are all invited.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hey! I Won Something!

Ha! Angela M. of Where Angels Go, has awarded me the "I Love Your Blog" button as long as I answer the questions below with one word, as all awardees must do.

Egads. One word? How on earth can an Italian answer anything with one word?!! However, I will give it my best, so here goes. Oh, and those I nominate - scroll down and follow the directions on the bottom of the post:

1. Where is your cell phone? extinct
2. Where is your significant other? bed
3. Your hair color? Silver
4. Your mother? Heaven
5. Your father? Ohio
6. Your favorite thing? Rosary
7. Your dream last night? lost
8. Your dream/goal? writing
9. The room you're in? office
10. Your hobby? scrapbooking
11. Your fear? boredom
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Hawaii
13. Where were you last night? work
14. What you're not? humorless
15. One of your wish-list items? PagePlus
16. Where you grew up? Cincinnati
17. The last thing you did? Drank
18. What are you wearing? cotton
19. Your TV? Off
20 Your pet? none
21. Your computer? workhorse
22. Your mood? happy
23. Missing someone? Mom
24. Your car? black
25. Something you're not wearing? shoes
26. Favorite store? Michaels
27. Your summer? excellent
28. Love someone? hubby
29. Your favorite color? blue
30. When is the last time you laughed? today
31. Last time you cried? today

Now, for you recipients of this award, here's the deal:

* Display your award.

* Link back to the person who gave you the award.

* Nominate at least 7 other blogs.

* Put links to those blogs on yours.

* Leave a message on the blogs of the people you've nominated.

* Enjoy your award!

I award:

Kimberly at Catholic Family Vignettes
Carolina Cannonball at The Crescat
Stephanie at The Digital Hairshirt
Rachel Gray at Infused Knowledge
Cathy of Alex at The Recovering Dissident Catholic
Chris at Chris & Co.
Jeff Miller at The Curt Jester (Although I highly doubt he'll play. I don't think I've ever seen him respond to a meme but I could be wrong. He may like the button, though...)

Have fun trying to squeeze your life into one word!

The Power of Ritual

I've been thinking more about ritual and the importance it has in our lives. I know that often, the Catholic church is criticized by some for being too "ritualized" and the inevitable verdict: boring. I well remember when I was younger, how I craved action, "something different" and the Wow Factor.

I am also pondering how often I'd shake my head when I saw that in many places, only "old people" went to the Catholic Church. I'd watch them in their pews, heads bowed as they silently prayed, and assumed they were only there because they knew their life was slowly coming to an end and they needed the inactivity of a boring, predictable service.

I suppose it goes without saying I am revisiting those conclusive thoughts. I realize more than ever that ritual does have a place in our lives. It stabilizes us. It places stakes in the ground so that our tents can hold strong against the winds. Ritual serves as a framework from which our faith can hang, like a fine piece of tapestry, properly presented to enrich our lives.

One of the things I've been surprised about was how quickly ritual has grounded me in my faith again. I know some people (even some Catholics) make light of saying the Rosary. But reciting those prayers over and over again as I meditate upon the Mysteries does something profound in both my mind and heart. It centers me on God. It reminds me of what was done and how what was done affects my life today.

These type of rituals are very basic. When I was in a non-denominational church, we had no ritual. Nothing was "basic" because New was the key word of the day. No matter how something was done the year before, it needed to be "different" this year. Everything always had to change because... because... I mean, really. Why does some things need to change, anyway?

Maybe I'm sounding like one of those old people, but I don't like change just for change. I can appreciate improving something but I've wondered how much of this "change" is actually productive? Is it effective change or is it a fad? Fads have come and gone within the church but one thing remains standing - the Word of God. This may be why so many people love the Bible. It emphasizes God's unchanging nature, His faithfulness to His people through thick and thin and His promise to us for our future.

The Roman Catholic Church has her stability, too. No matter how many have tried to attack her or minimize her existence, she continues to sail on. It gives me a great deal of delight to know that the Mass I'm celebrating was what Joan of Arc celebrated. There is ritual that has been passed throughout the ages to the Catholic Church and it holds us all together.

When I was in my twenties, I loved the "freedom" I felt from a non-denominational church. I loved feeling untethered to any central church government because at that time, I thought government meant control. Now I see things differently. A church government keeps things on track for the good of the people. Yes, there are corrupt officials, but there are also good ones. It is a microcosm of human nature. The rain falls upon both the good and the evil in the world and God still blesses sinners.

He has given us ritual for a reason. I am so thankful He did.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What Catholics Don't Have: Slick Marketing

I recently viewed a non-denominational church's website and remembered well the "outreach" of the web.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the Internet (of course!) and the many opportunities it affords to evangelize. However, there is a huge difference between Catholic parish websites and non-Catholic websites - and in my eyes, it is a very good thing.

In America, we've become brainwashed by Fifth Avenue. For those outside of this country, "Fifth Avenue" is a term often used to describe the advertising efforts that New York City has perfected. It's all about image, baby. At least, that's what "they" tell us.

This focus (and dare I say it - obsession) with image has now catwalked into most non-Catholic churches and strutted its stuff to the point where a good mega-church worth its salt must have an advertising/marketing/publicity department. Visit any website of a mega-non-denominational church and you'll be greeted with the web wizardry of Flash media, embedded videos, downloadable worship songs - all glossed with slick colors and of course, the ubiquitous taglines.

Since when did churches need taglines?

Well, in the United States, taglines are as common as a corner Starbucks. They're everywhere.

"Come As You Are - You'll Be Loved!"

"The Little Church With The Big Heart!"

"40 Days of Love: We Were Made For Relationships!" (the newest campaign from Saddleback Church)

"Disciples Making Disciples!"

I mean, yeesh. Are we so shallow with our religion that we need a constant holy carrot dangling before our eyes in order to lead us to that noon Sunday service?

While my husband and I were taking a bike ride, we pulled into a denominational church's parkinig lot. When we left, I noticed the sign heading toward the main road. It had a cheery little goodbye: "Thanks For Popping In!"

This cultivates a terrible attitude about going to church. Instead of it being a holy event, a time to break away from the rabid self-centeredness of the world - we are instead faced with it while trying to worship God. It's all about the "Wow!"

Holiness does indeed elicit a response, but it's not a "Wow, that's so cool!" It's more of a "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned..." It's a place where we know we can't hoodwink God. A place where the facade of the world's pleasures and distractions are to fall away as we glimpse our sinful humanity, God's divine mercy, and the amazing sacrifice Jesus Christ made by submitting to His Father's will by taking up His Cross.

Those kind of truths don't play well on a slickly produced website or a multi-media mega-church presentation.

Thank God for the Catholic Church. No bells or whistles. Just pure conviction as I get my head, heart, and soul straightened out for another week in Babylon.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gianna Jesson: Brave Activist for Pro-Life

On Wednesday, I happened to catch "The Laura Ingraham" show and heard a very passionate young woman speak against the horror of abortion and Obama's lack of any ethical honesty about it. She comes with a unique perspective. Over 30 years ago, her mother tried to abort her. She survived. When the nurse saw that little Gianna was breathing, she took her to a local hospital where she was saved.

What struck me about Gianna was an absolute stunning amount of optimism and joy as she spoke to Laura. Although she has cerebral palsy as a result of the botched abortion, she was literally bubbling over with gratitude toward God for saving her, both physically and spiritually. As a Christian, her love for her Savior is obvious. As a survivor of a saline abortion, her witness is radically powerful.

View her ad below before YouTube decides to pull the plug:

Not surprisingly, Obama's camp is trying to downplay the truth.

The truth is Obama voted four times to deny healthcare to babies who survived an abortion. He is trying to claim that he thought it would lead to abortion being made illegal. I still can't fathom anyone denying healthcare to a helpless baby, but there it is.

Here is a little more from CNN and some interesting comments by Bill Bennett:

This definitely is not looking good for Obama.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Has Surprised Me: Fellowship

When I was younger, I remember our Catholic parish being large and fairly impersonal. Many would dart out the door immediately after receiving communion. There were the nods to familiar faces, but little else.

Then my family transferred to a smaller parish. When I was 20 years old, I accompanied my mother on a weekend retreat called "Christ Renews His Parish." To this day, I have very fond memories of that beautiful weekend. It was the first time I felt as though I got an opportunity to really know some of my fellow parishioners. We continued to meet as a group for a few months and then it stopped. I remember feeling sad when it stopped.

Then I started to look for that sense of fellowship, but outside the Catholic church. I did find it, and relished meeting with other believers who wanted to learn more about God and grow their relationship with Him.

I never expected to find this in the Catholic church. So I am both surprised and delighted that the parish I now attend has such fellowship. Immediately following Mass, there is a "donuts and fellowship" time in the "undercroft" of the church. It is so nice to see familiar faces, meet new people, and catch up with what's going on in one another's lives. It's also great to learn about events.

Speaking of...I need to catch up with someone on a possible Mass tomorrow morning...

Anyway. Maybe some of you have experienced this kind of fellowship for years, but to me, it's a surprise that fills me with much joy. I can see that God has been working with the Catholic church to connect people beyond the school functions. I see more retreats and special events available, too. All in all, it's wonderful and necessary for us to stay strong in our faith. We need Mass and our private devotions, but we also really need one another.

Ahoy There, Matey!

It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Every year, when this comes around, it makes me laugh. It's just plain silly fun to have a day designated to talk like B-rated old flicks showing pirates talking with a weird British accent.

So, have some fun and check out this article to discover how it started and what made it popular.

Now go out there and shiver someone's timbers!

Still Here After Windstorm '08

My last post was on Saturday, September 13. Little did I know it would be five days until I could update my blog again.

Sunday was a beautiful day. The temperature was around the mid-70's and there was a nice breeze in the air. My husband and I discussed riding our bikes but we both noticed the breeze was starting to turn into a strong wind and decided to forego the ride. We spent the afternoon relaxing and I thought I'd make dinner a little earlier than usual, which turned out to be a good choice.

Just as we finished dinner, around 5:20 PM, our power went out. We had seen our lights flicker a little and started to hear an increase in the wind. After our power went out, we started to hunt for the candles and the flashlight.

My husband and I spent the rest of the night looking out the window and talking to a few family and friends about what was happening. One tree in our yard split at a branch that looked to be around 10 inches in diameter. Only later did we discover that we were experiencing the winds of a Level One hurricane. Ike certainly didn't slow down before blustering through Ohio!

We were blessed. Our power was only out for 24 hours. As I type this, many Ohioans are still without power and some won't have their power restored until the weekend or even Monday. Although our damage is nowhere near the destruction that Galveston and Houston experienced, it still brought its fair share to our area. One woman called a radio station to say her power had been restored after days without it - only to have the tree that had fallen on the line burn to a crisp after the power came back on, which promptly destroyed the power line, leaving the area once again without power. Talk about bad luck!

Although our power was restored after 24 hours, our Internet connection was not. Our service provider had to wait until power was restored to the hubs and evidently, our hub was still without juice. After four days, we just got our connection back today around 3:00 PM.

So I'll be catching up with emails and such. It's strange to be without the Internet when you're used to having it available 24/7. Yesterday, I almost went into a Panera's to see if I could hop online but then thought better of it. The place was packed because so many people were without their Internet. I decided I'd tough it out and get reacquainted with my new home which still could use some organizing.

But still, I have to admit I am very glad I'm online. It can be pretty frustrating when you have a thought, think "I've gotta blog about this!" - and then realize you can't!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pandora & Music

I think it's interesting that Facebook has a Pandora application. It's fun to look at the musical choices of others. I have thought Pandora has had a unique take on Internet radio for awhile, now.

What's strange is when I hear groups re-produce music from the 80's. In the latest I just heard, INXS re-recorded their "Need You Tonight" with a sharp electronica/house edge. It sounded fresh but a little weird since I remembered it well when it first came out.

I like to listen to high energy music sometimes when I'm creating a digital layout or doing something design-like on my computer. Anything "danceable" is good for me. :-)

Anyone want to share some of their favorite groups? Since the Internet has spawned so many indies, it is tough to keep up with everyone. I don't even try so I may discover some new favorites from what you recommend.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Castitas" Video - College and the Alpha Male: Part One and Part Two

Okay. I'm coming off as a complete goob during Part One when I refer to the online radio show, Catholic 2.0 with its host, Commander Craig. For some reason, I called him "The Captain" instead of "The Commander." Sheesh!

I "met" Brian P. Craig through Facebook and thought his concept intriguing. Since I worked at a radio station eons ago, I can vouch for the fact that producing radio isn't easy, especially when you're trying to do everything yourself. So I definitely am giving him a big "nod of the mantilla" for boldly going where few people would ever go.

In these videos, I talk about the book, Sex & the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses by Donna Freitas. I never heard of Donna Freitas until I heard her interviewed on Catholic 2.0. (Show Date: 8/2/08) I was fascinated because it focused on an area and demographic I wanted to reach. Her book is surprising, bittersweet, and wistful in its description of the "hooking up" culture that exists on college campuses.

Although I wasn't able to go into as much detail as I would have liked, I want to reiterate here that women have the power to change that culture. However, in order for it to change, there must be a large population of women who say, "No more." Those who keep saying "yes" even when they'd rather not, make it difficult for everyone else to say "no." I'm not a feminist per se, but I'm all for sisterhood solidarity when it comes to protecting women's chastity and virtue. Men have had it too easy for far too long and women are now bearing the brunt of the sexual "freedom" from the sixties. In fact, I'd say that women are more oppressed by societal expectations that she is "liberated" than they were in the 1950's.

I don't believe women can date like men or sleep around like men. The sexual experience for women is near to her heart because God has created it so. After watching girlfriend after girlfriend try to play it loose and fancy-free, every one of them ended up broken and empty.

Perhaps this is why I feel so strongly about doing what I am doing. I don't want to see young women get caught in the same trap. Cherish yourself because God cherishes you. He has created you for beauty and love - not to be treated like a cheap pair of shoes worn by every selfish guy on campus. God will give you the strength to say no as long as you are open and willing to hear His voice. When you are at your weakest, He will quickly rush toward you, scooping you up and bringing you close to His breast. You can rejoice in knowing you are not alone and not without resources. God will meet your every need.

So, here is Part One:

And...Part Two: (After much editing, I barely got it in under the 10 minute mark!)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Ago Today: Remembrance of 9/11

I am sure like everyone else, you remember where you were when you heard about the terrorist attack on 9/11.

I remember this period of time clearly because it was when I was falling in love with my soon-to-be husband. Mickey had not yet asked me to marry him, but it was clear our relationship was getting serious quickly. We had met online at the end of July 2001 in a Christian chat room - of all places. I certainly wasn't expecting to meet anyone significant in a chat room, but there he was, handsome and full of politeness for everyone. I privately messaged him to ask if he was as serious as his photo seemed to be and he quickly typed, "Some people wonder if I'm ever serious!" It was the start of a beautiful relationship. His personality was revealed to be warm, funny, playful, and as I soon discovered - extremely intelligent. In addition, he had devastatingly gorgeous eyes, lips, and cheekbones. (What can I say? I appreciate good bone structure.) Yes, I was smitten.

So on that sunny Tuesday, I went to work like most people. At the time, I was working part-time at an in-house print shop for an annuity company. We had a company meeting that morning. After it was finished, I saw some of the executives huddle together in the front, one talking animatedly. I figured it was industry talk. Then they announced what had happened in New York City. I remember feeling fuzzy, as though I was having a bad dream. We quickly dispersed to our departments. One woman had a small TV in her work area and we huddled around it. I was stunned to see the footage of not just one, but two planes run straight into the Twin Towers.

My fuzziness evaporated and turned into a mixture of rage, fear, and a deep sorrow for the lives lost. During lunchtime, I dialed Mickey's phone number. I was grateful to reach him. He was the first person I wanted to connect with about the event. We quickly said how we couldn't believe what was happening and just was relieved to have each other. We prayed for the survivors, the families who lost their loved ones, and the first responders.

I then called everyone else I knew throughout the day to tell them I loved them. My parents, brother, friends. I felt alone and in shock that something of this magnitude could happen.

I may add more thoughts throughout the day. For now, I'll say some prayers for those who have lost loved ones and those who are still dealing with what happened on that fateful day.

Here's a video I found. It's long, but it's also very raw in its footage. Videotaped by the NYC Fire Department. Never forget...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Praise Report: New Job!

I am in awe of God. My gratitude toward His infinite mercy and providence truly knows no bounds at this moment. Through a very odd set of circumstances, it looks like I will start a brand new job next week!

What is amazing to me is that I could not have asked for a more perfect job. In fact, I have been searching for this type of a job for quite some time, with no success and today, it literally fell into my lap. So next week, I will be "testing out" my new position as a Graphic Designer/Writer/PR assistant/Web Design Support for a small company. I am beyond thrilled that God has answered my prayer to find a position that would utilize my college degree, and my writing/designing skills.

The company culture is a good fit for me. They're a great group of people who genuinely enjoy working together. It is a casual environment and for the most part, laid-back. I don't sense that the company president is a frantic ball of nerves, demanding everyone to wrap themselves around his personal brand of crazy.

I'll be in a "testing phase" because both of us want this to be a good fit. If I'm not what they need, they'll interview more people and I'll bow out. If they're not what I like, it's understood I'll move along. I have several part-time jobs but quite honestly, I need more income - hence the requests for prayer and petitions.

What is wild is that just this morning during Mass, I asked God to please bring me an opportunity to use my talents, education, and skills. I was getting a little discouraged because I realize I'm not, as they say, "a spring chicken" anymore. As much as some companies would deny any bias against older applicants, I know it exists. One look at my resume and anyone could tell I've been working for quite some time. And some read that as potentially problematic because older employees generally ask for higher pay (and typically deserve it) and are not as "pliable" in attitude.

In other words, older employees often don't mince words and if they have a bad attitude, it will not likely change.

So. This company is willing to give me a chance and I am ready to make the most of it. Now my prayers will be that I'll be on the same page with their vision and able to execute it with precision. I'll still be praying!

Meanwhile, I wanted to thank you if you sent up a prayer or two for me. Job hunting is never fun. Although I've been searching for a part-time position, I'm thinking I'll be able to deal with an office environment full-time if it is a creative position. And this position will definitely be using every creative bone in my body.

Thank you God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Mother Mary, St. Joseph, St. Anthony, and all the saints who heard my cry! Amen and amen!

What I Love About Catholicism: Marriage

Some of you may know that I am in the process of going through the annulment process on behalf of my husband's previous marriage. My husband had been married briefly in his twenties and was single for 12 years before marrying me. When we met, I was very far from the Catholic church. I had just ended my time at a major Christian ministry and was attending church services at my hometown non-denominational church. When my husband and I finally married, we did so at that same church. I didn't seek any connection with the Catholic church because as far as I was concerned at that point, I was never going back. It simply didn't matter.

Last year, after my mother passed away, I started to feel this niggling thought of returning to the Catholic church. I fought it for a few reasons. It wasn't until I started to investigate returning that I realized just because I wasn't married before didn't mean the Catholic church could quickly convalidate my marriage. My husband's first marriage needed to be annulled first before that could happen.

When I met with the parish priest who is our advocate, he confirmed that I could not receive the Eucharist until this was done. I thought it was a good way to help me absorb the Real Presence because at that point, I wasn't buying into transubstantiation. In fact, I am aware that many Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence but that communion is simply a symbolic act. I understand well their beliefs. However, I will say that over the past few months, the Lord has been speaking to me about His Presence during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I am understanding Him in a new way and am so very grateful.

This denial of the Eucharist to me is not "cruel" but instead emphasizes the importance the Roman Catholic Church places on marriage. The Catholic church takes marriage seriously because our Lord Jesus Christ took marriage seriously. We know from the Scripture that Jesus spoke against divorce. But yet how often do we see Christians getting married for the second, third, or even fourth time and hardly anyone bats an eye?

When I was involved in the non-denominational churches, I remember meeting some people who were re-married. I remember couples getting divorced and it didn't seem much was done to speak against it, at least from the pulpit. I didn't feel that stern rebuke from heaven, and all seemed well if the two people involved just couldn't get along and decided to part ways.

After visiting another parish (the one I usually attend today), I made an appointment to speak with the senior pastor. I explained to him my situation, just to make certain that I was to refrain from receiving the Eucharist. He confirmed this was true. Then he said something interesting. He leaned toward me and said, "Isn't the Catholic church wonderful to care enough to do this?"

I nodded vigorously. In fact, my beloved priest hit the proverbial nail square on the head. I said, "You know what, Father? I feel loved. Cared for. It's like a child who will constantly push the boundaries with her parents. She feels loved and cared for when they say no, when they set rules and tell her it's because they love her so much that they'll protect her. That's how I feel right now. Protected."

Not condemned, but rather awaiting a possible reprieve. I made a mistake and I pray God will untie the knots that bind me. But to me, the Catholic Church is alone in telling me I screwed up and now I need to rectify the situation. That's what I love about Catholicism. It will tell you the hard things no one else will tell you but quickly add that you are still very much loved and it is because you are loved so much that a chastening must occur.

I want to point out what the Episcopal Bishops are doing in California. They don't seem to be taking marriage seriously at all. In fact, it's downright sinful what they're doing. It doesn't seem to phase them that the purpose of marriage is to raise holy families. In fact, the Episcopal Bishops say they are fighting against Proposition 8 because they are "calling for compassion, love and equal protections" for homosexuals.

The interesting thing is homosexuals already have equal protections. In fact, I'd venture to say they have a preference in the courtroom. As for compassion and love, they also receive this, but "tough love" isn't something they seem to value. Tough love is telling someone they're going down the wrong path. This is what Catholicism is known for and at the same time, reviled for doing so. If it's one thing a sinful world cannot abide, it is pointing out their sin.

The Catholic Church isn't afraid of making waves because she knows her calling. We have a Higher Authority to answer to and it isn't the Supreme Court. No matter how light the world makes of marriage, we know otherwise.

I hope I will be able to receive the Blessed Sacrament soon. Meanwhile, I am so deeply grateful more than I ever thought I'd be for Catholicism and her strong committment to the Sacrament of Marriage. For it is a sacrament, holy, and ordained by God for those called to this vocation. Returning to the Catholic Church has reaped many benefits, and to me, this is one of the greatest - honoring God's plan for love between a man and a woman.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Don't Care What the World Wants - A Rant

A recent poll shows that 22 countries want Sen. Barack Obama as our President.

You know what? I don't care. When it comes to choosing our next President, I don't care what the world thinks and frankly, I think it is rather rude and presumptuous of them to think they should have any influence at all. During our last election in 2004, I was shocked when I heard stories about people from other countries flying in to help the Democratic campaign. These people did not live in the United States, nor did they pay taxes. But yet they felt they had the right to be a part of our electoral process because as one said, "who America chooses as their president affects my life more than who my country chooses as president."

For the love of pete. I know some may say this statement is true, but I still say - so what? Our country's government entails more than foreign policy and exports. I don't think I'm alone in saying I am weary of the world's judgment of our country but yet has the expectation that we are to be a generous parent, forever supporting financially everyone who needs it.

I know where this bold (some would call arrogant) attitude comes from. My heritage. Back in the early 1900's, my great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy. They spoke no English and started their life as field workers, picking vegetables to earn a meager living. Soon, my great-grandfather decided to start his own produce business. Their children learned English and proudly served in the Army during World War II. The produce business flourished and still exists today, operated by the great-great grandchildren.

People like my great-grandparents built this country. They poured their lifeblood into their families and shaped this nation into what it is today. They owned the country for all of their dedication and hard work.

Now fast forward to today and the "globalization" of everything. I can deal with imports and exports from all over the world but don't tell this country how to run itself. Don't try to tell Americans that because our country is successful while other countries have struggled, we are somehow obligated to listen to them and do their bidding. There are few things that enrage me more than seeing my great-grandparents contribution to this great nation minimized because somehow, a bunch of other countries think they're entitled to it. My great-grandparents sacrificed much not only to bring success to their own lives, but to the country and in my eyes - they deserve some respect.

We have urban sprawl, decreasing populations in the cities while surrounding rural areas are growing, the needs of our educational system, health-care system, social security, and the very real threat of a shrinking middle class. Yes, our country is concerned for the world and we can't afford to be isolationists; but the bottom line is that we as a nation have the right to examine our candidates without worrying what the world thinks. If you're from another nation and care so much, then become a citizen here - pay taxes, and then vote. That's the American Way.

I think I'm safe in saying that most Americans are not for Big Government. We don't cotton to the idea of the government deciding every facet of our lives. This is not a socialist country. (At least, not yet.) We try to rein in extreme control at every opportunity, including the checks and balances our democracy provides. I think "The Great Experiment" has done pretty well for all the ups and downs our country has experienced.

We have no idea how our presidential candidates have been presented to the world, but I sense Sen. Obama has been presented in a glowing light. Still, it's not the world's call regarding who will run our country. The decision belongs to the American taxpayer alone.

And those other countries can keep their own money, too. In fact, here's a thought: For all their complaining about the United States, why not instead channel those donations toward their own country?

Now that would be newsworthy.

A Priest's Thoughts on Pope Benedict's "Journey of Hope"

I am thrilled to have read such a well-written and thought-provoking piece from Fr. George Welzbacher (good German name!), which was featured on Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog. Since my mind is still on the issue of Catholics and social justice, it especially caught my eye.

I agree with Fr. Z that at times, the "Pastor's Page" of the church bulletin doesn't offer much, but this article was pure meat. Wow. All I can say is the Church of St. John at St. Paul is one blessed parish to have such a wise and courageous priest! I may place a link on the side of my blog just to keep up with their pastor's page!

Here is a snippet of what Fr. Welzbacher said:

Paul is telling us that if we fail to shape our behavior in accord with our faith, we will very soon shape our faith to accord with our behavior. That formula fits the so-called "progressive" Catholic quite well. As St. John tells us in his Second Letter: "Anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son" (2 John :9). There is a kind of "progress" that means turning our backs on God.

Pope Benedict has come to our shores to rescue those who have suffered shipwreck in the faith, or at least to rescue those who are willing to accept the terms that will permit such rescue. Such terms of rescue call fundamentally for a return to the "sound doctrines of which St. Paul speaks, the doctrine protected and proclaimed in Christ’s Church ("the pillar and bulwark of the truth"-1 Timothy 3:15) by the Holy Spirit against the devil’s ceaseless attempts to subvert that doctrine. As Pope Benedict announced, "A people of hope is a people willing to make a change," a people willing to make whatever changes in their lives may be needed to bring them into harmony with Christ’s truth. Whatever may have been the previous course of their lives, if they are willing now, under the grace of God, to change course and and to take Christ’s teachings as the only true compass, they can find their way home to safe haven through "all of life’s tempestuous seas." That is his message to us.

Great stuff!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman for this idea. I have found myself looking forward to Mondays as never before. (!) It is surprisingly relaxing to read other women's Daybooks. If you'd like to join in on the fun, click here.

For today, September 8, 2008

Outside My Window...
the birds are chattering and the sun is starting to peek through the green leaves of the tall trees. I am grateful more than anyone knows that the view of our new townhome is not looking across a parking lot, another building, or a street - but trees. I love trees!

I am thinking...about my busy week. But quickly am thinking of the trees again. Each time I look at my window, it reminds me of God's beautiful creation.

I am thankful for...my job (ha - got you! Thought I'd say "trees", didn't you?!!) and my husband. Also for our new location that allowed us to take a bike ride yesterday without fearing the traffic. We finally are somewhere that has a proper bike path alongside the road.

From the kitchen...will eventually come a green pepper, onion, and cheese omelet, toast with butter and maybe strawberry jam. I'm not sure about tonight since I'll be working. I may make some pasta salad with veggies for my hubby.

I am wearing...light tan shorts, a floral sleeveless pull-over that has these big red flowers all over it. It's worn but loved since it used to belong to my mother.

I am creating...digital layouts and playing with design ideas. I am stretching my photo-editing software programs to the limit and beyond!

I am going...to work late today, early tomorrow morning. I also will be going to Mass again on Wednesday since I missed the TLM yesterday. I am surprised by how much I love the Traditional Latin Mass. Knock me over with a feather, but there it is.

I am reading..."The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. I pulled it out (again!). I have only read half-way through it but want to finish it this time. I used to be so good with doing "The Morning Pages..."

I am hoping...I can finish that book! And that it helps me move forward creatively.

I am hearing...Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the radio. The station is re-broadcasting his old series, "Life is Worth Living." I adore not only his rich voice (they had such excellent diction in those days!) but the content. What a brilliant mind.

Around the house...are still boxes that need to be unpacked but...I just threw out one more! Hopefully in the next few weeks, there will be no more of these types of boxes.

One of my favorite things...is getting up early to write, with my delicious hot cup of coffee with a little milk and sugar and having the window open while listening to the sounds of nature.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Work, still looking for a good part-time job but if Michael's starts to give me more hours, that might be enough. Calling my brother to sing "Happy Birthday" very badly - a family tradition. Thinking it may be time to start making chili again since the temperature is starting to cool. Maybe...

Small addition: I just heard a gaggle of geese fly overhead, honking their way to everyone ahead! I get such a kick out of the sound of geese.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...A photograph of a sunset from Madison Lake

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Catholicism and the Trap of Social Justice

But how can a man be just before God?
- Job 9:2

I bet if I gave some of you three chances to guess what the homily today was about at St. My Way, you'd nail it on the first try.

Today, we heard a reading from Ezekiel and how he was appointed a watchman for Israel, alert to any occasion where Israel slipped into sin. Ezekiel was commanded by God to warn them. It is an amazing command in that God always warns His people before judgement comes. He gives man the opportunity to repent, for God's wrath can be turned by a humble and contrite heart.

This portion of the Old Testament is often used to show the role of prophets in society, which is what the priest did today. He said how churches have to be careful with politics because they can lose their non-profit status if they promote one candidate or party over another. However, he quipped, "We can maintain our non-profit status but be non-prophet to our society." That got a round of applause.

I don't want to give the impression that I don't care about social justice. I know we as God's people are called to "defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy." (Ps. 82:3) The Church is to extend herself to a hurt and dying world. However, I do believe there is a proper order to things. I see many Catholics falling into the trap of placing a pursuit of social justice above all else.

There were two other readings today - one from Romans, talking about loving one another and the Gospel from St. Matthew, where Jesus emphasizes how important it is to confront sin in our brother. It would have been great to have heard how we can walk out the truth of those readings in our everyday life. But instead, the emphasis was placed on social justice.

Why is it that some Baby Boomers are so stuck on this concept? I was just talking about this last night with my husband. "Isn't it interesting, " I said, "That those who came of age in the sixties were usually protesting something. It was always a battle for them, whether it was Vietnam, women's rights. or abortion. It's always about the fight. Could it be that they know no other way of existing? That they don't know how to be at peace?"

I know not all Boomers are stuck. But it seems that the more liberal Catholic churches are filled with such people. It's always about changing something, sometimes just for the sake of change. But I think they're missing a very important point.

God did not send Jesus Christ into the world to balance social justice. He sent Him to pay the price for man's sin so that man could enter into relationship with his Creator. Sin is the problem and Jesus Christ the solution. It can't get any more clearer than that. What a poor person needs first is the message of salvation. Sure, give him a bowl of soup, but be sure to tell him God loved him enough to break through this hard shell of a world in order to reach him.

What struck me is that God is just, and demanded justice for the sin of Adam. But within justice is obedience. In the Kingdom of God, justice cannot happen without obedience. Jesus Christ obeyed His heavenly Father, even unto death. So did many saints. Obedience to God was the first priority in their lives - not in leveling the social playing field.

What happens when we obey God? What occurs when we engage society first in their need for a Savior? Radical evangelism. When Christians are not afraid to speak to others about Jesus Christ, then social change will occur naturally. Once a non-believer is persuaded through the power of the Holy Spirit to repent and ask God for forgiveness, do you think he may be prompted to treat his fellow man a little better? A little more kindly? Would he not have more compassion?

One of my pastors from a non-denominational church told our congregation that many people came to him, complaining that they were depressed. His solution: volunteer. Give of yourself to others. As he explained, "It is hard to focus on our own problems when we're focused on someone else's." When we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, we will be given all the tools necessary to serve society. But we must go to Him first, not some political action committee that keeps bringing up water from a dry well.

From all my years involved in ministry, I can vouch for the fact that many of the most successful outreaches are done by Christians who have their houses in order. They seek to share the Good News with everyone they meet. In doing so, they are given many opportunities to serve.

Society needs such committed believers more than ever.

My Surprising Visit to the College Campus Mass

You unlock this door with a key of imagination
Beyond it is another dimension
A dimension of sound
A dimension of sight
A dimension of mind
You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance
Of things and ideas
You've just crossed over into...

...The Twilight Zone!

Hoo, boy. Talk about alternate reality.

I live near one of the Top Ten universities and in a city where everyone is "nuts" about college football. In an O-H area that loves to scream I-O. Okay, I think you've got it.

Since I'm working on reaching Catholic college women, I thought the logical place to meet them would be at the Catholic ministry center's Sunday service. I know. It's a stretch, but I was game for the challenge.

How little I know.

So out the door I went with my favorite aqua, teal, and cobalt blue scarf on my head, wondering what Mass would be like. I had already been forewarned by a friend that I'd probably "hate" it. I knew it would likely be more "progressive." I suspected I'd have to deal with a large worship team and a legion of EMHC's traipsing up to the altar during communion.

Well, I wasn't wrong on those counts. What I was wrong about was the idea I'd meet young Catholic students at the service. You know who was there? Older people. As in "over 60." The majority of the people there were over 55 years old. I'd say they were 80% of the group. The priest looked like he was 70 years old (but probably was more around 62). In the area I was sitting, I could count on both hands the number of typically aged college students (those between 18-25).

The interior was more a rec hall than a church. Plenty of ugly plastic chairs. No kneelers in sight. Everyone stood during the consecration. My friend was right. I didn't like it.

Then there was the issue of "gender-inclusive" language. When we were reciting the Nicene Creed, instead of saying, "By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man," they said "became flesh." For the love of pete. Then later, during the Consecration, there was a part where "Him" should have been said but they said "Christ" instead. Go figure.

Right now, my husband and I are about to take a bike ride, but I'll blog more later about what was talked about during the homily.

And after all these years, it still feels weird to me when people clap during a Catholic Mass...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Catholicism and Feminism

Since Gov. Sarah Palin has exploded onto the scene, I've been watching with great interest the response by feminists. Not surprisingly, they loathe her. As I've sifted through possible reasons why this is, I've been reminded of how Catholicism has shaped my identity as a woman.

When I was a young girl, one of the first lessons I remember learning at the feet of the good sisters was personal responsibility. I was responsible for my own choices, which led to the state of my mortal soul. No matter how "popular" a certain behavior may have been from other children my age, I had to examine it through the lens of Catholic doctrine - that I was created by God to honor and praise Him, receive His Son and His sacrifice, to honor His mother, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, lead the life of a saint. High goals, indeed.

I learned independence from those years in Catholic schools. There is a toughness about Catholic schools - or at least it existed back then, that reminded me that whining never led to anything good. If I wanted to accomplish something, then by all means get on with it and quit waiting for someone else to do it for you.

This is why I had the reaction I had when I discovered feminism. There was a deep inner core within that balked at the idea of having the government do anything for me. Why would I need them? It was my life and if I couldn't accomplish something on my own, then I had only myself to blame. In my eyes, it was akin to finding love. Who wants someone to love them because the other person felt "obligated" to do so? Where is the joy in that? There is none because we all understand what free will means and to me, feminism was never about freedom but control.

I have a very low threshold for controlling personalities. As soon as some famous feminist steps up to a mic on television and tells me why I "need" the feminist movement, I'm looking for the nearest sneaker to throw at the screen. Any good nun worth her salt in the fifties would have told that woman that we as Catholics don't "need" anyone except God. Those types of nuns taught me the meaning of suffering, self-sacrifice, love, grace, forgiveness, and a rock-solid aversion toward whining. If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it's the constant stream of whining I hear from radical feminism. That's what it sounds like to me. One big "How Dare You!" whinefest.

This is why I feel there has been a visceral response to Gov. Sarah Palin. I could almost hear the chorus of many other independently-thinking women out there shouting, "Finally! A woman like me! A woman who understands she doesn't need some rabble-rousing bitter group of women to make her life easier!" Even though Gov. Sarah Palin left the Catholic church, I suspect the seeds that were planted within her have now borne the audacious fruit we are all witnessing. She didn't need legislation in order for her to walk into that school and take charge of the PTA. She's a natural leader - but a leader with a difference. She's not carrying that huge 5-ton chip on her shoulder that says she lives in an unfair world and needs a pack of barking dogs to keep the mean men at bay.

Most of my girlfriends are Sarah Palin types. They raise their children and brook no arguments from them. The Catholic women are a special breed and I hold our Blessed Virgin Mary responsible. How can a Catholic woman not look to Mary and treat her as the perfect role model? And what did Mary do? She listened. She trusted. She obeyed.

And this is where Catholic women run into trouble with the feminists. Their trust isn't in the government, it's in God. As Christians, we are are exhorted constantly to trust in God. We have the stories of the saints who did trust in God and God accomplished wondrous things through their lives. That's the kind of trust we want to have, not in some shrill harpie demanding that we shelve religion because Government with the Big G is going to save us all.

Gov. Sarah Palin knows this is not true and it is absolutely driving the feminists wild. She isn't playing their game - never has and hopefully never will. They are almost foaming at the mouth over her supposed "betrayal" of them, and make no mistake about it - they are about as livid as a scalded cat that she isn't playing for their team.

One of the more amusing criticisms I've read about Palin is that she was too comfortable with the political speech, that for all her words about not being an "insider," she sure was acting like one. I had to laugh. Gov. Sarah Palin has managed to do something that is extraordinary as it is rare. She gave a speech that was wickedly smart in its political prowess but yet did so in such a real way that everyone could imagine having a beer with her while doing it. She connected with the average person who has felt disconnected from the government for many years and this terrifies her opposition. So of course they have to throw everything at her including the kitchen sink.

I keep coming back to the concept of suffering. Catholicism is the only religion I know that not only makes room to understand suffering in our lives, but seeks to embrace it. This is a quandary for feminism. They see suffering as something to be avoided at all costs and if it can't be bullied into submission, then let the judges change the scenery. Suffering needs to end, in their eyes, because it has no purpose in their self-centered world.

But in a Catholic woman's world, suffering has a far greater purpose. It purifies her. Cleanses her. Strengthens her so in the end, together with God she emerges a more compassionate person because of it. A woman usually has that "giving gene" that opens wide to share herself with her family and the world, but a woman who has submitted to God, including suffering, is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Feminism doesn't know what to do with such women. These steely women infuriate feminists because they see before them what a real woman should look like, and the hard-core feminists aren't anywhere near looking like that.

The feminists see a strong woman, a smart woman, a loving woman who doesn't repel men, a woman who understands what being a woman is all about and doesn't see it as being a handicap; and they simply are stunned. They see all of their goals achieved but not by the path they espouse. Either they can't understand or they refuse to accept that true independence for women isn't something that comes from without, but from within. It isn't a matter of banging on City Hall's door, demanding to be recognized and served. It's a matter of closing the door to the world, surrendering to something bigger than self, and asking for grace.

The feminists will be trying to throw much at Gov. Sarah Palin. In their efforts, they are exposing themselves to be the ugly hateful women that most other women avoid. As I told my father years ago when I woke up from the nightmare of following feminism - I have yet to meet a happy radical feminist.

I still stand by that comment today. And if anything, I think it was easy to see that overall - Gov. Sarah Palin is a happy woman. And I couldn't be more happy myself to see it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Oprah Couldn't Handle Palin

There's a big dust-up today regarding Oprah Winfrey's decision to not have Gov. Sarah Palin on her show. Supposedly, the reason is a commitment from Oprah to not have any political candidates on her show. Here is her response to The Drudge Report:

OPRAH'S STATEMENT: "The item in today's Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this Presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over."

So it didn't matter that she had Sen. Barack Obama on her show in January 2005 and October 2006. That was then and this is now.

Here's my thought: Oprah does not want to be placed in the position of having to defend Sen. Obama and worse - lose. If Oprah is about anything, she's about looking good on her own show. I can't say that I blame her but let's not mince words. Oprah is well aware that this country, and to some extent, the world; has been hit by a "Sarah-nami." Gov. Palin has taken the country by storm and the Republicans are now experiencing their own thrills and swoons with the tough-talking lady from Alaska.

I think Oprah has painted herself into a corner. On one hand, she doesn't want to rock the boat by having a guest who can deftly shoot holes into the legitimacy of Obama's campaign. But on the other hand, her show is about motivating and inspiring women - and what is more inspiring than a "hockey mom" who became the first woman the GOP chose to be the second-in-command of this great nation?

Us Magazine blew it and so has Oprah. I have to admit I'm enjoying this immensely. At every turn, the mainstream media is trying their darnedest to either snub or mock Gov. Sarah Palin. And it's backfiring already. Us Magazine has lost thousands of subscribers for their backstreet tactics. Who knows what will happen with Oprah.

Meanwhile, Gov. Palin sails on, focused on her destination.

Blogger Stuff: New Widget Added - Blogs I'm Following

I have to admit that there are just way too many good blogs out there! Since returning to the Catholic church, I have found some great blogs that have helped me in my journey. Some are just "hi-freaking-larious" (according to the ever-popular 'Carolina Cannonball' and her blog, "The Crescat) and some are very informational (such as Fr. Z's blog, "What Does The Prayer Really Say).

I decided to make use of the new Blogger widget, that updates a blog list with the most recent entries. I think it's cool. My list will most likely change, according to how many other new blogs I discover, but for now, it's fairly lengthy enough. And yes, I know my left hand column is getting busy. There's just so much out there! :-)

I still want a better reading list, though. I think Blogger improved it. I need to find it and test it out.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back to Catholic Stuff: Praise Report

I simply wanted to publicly thank the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Anthony for their petitions regarding my work situation. I've been sending out resumes and have not had any success in getting an interview. This gives me a slight surreal feeling since I have a college degree and decades of administrative experience. My desire is to work part-time in an office environment for a company or organization that actually interests me.

So in other words, I don't want to work for real estate, a doctor, or a company that manufacturers the plastic cheese part that goes into the mousetrap.

It's hard, harder than I thought. One part-time job I applied to had 171 responses. 171! For part-time!

I'm also pursuing creative ideas for bringing in an income such as writing and design. I'm moving into the direction of writing but also fiddling around with computer graphics, which I love.

Anyway. My part-time job at Michaels did give me more hours for next week and a few more tomorrow. I am very grateful to God and to the saints who stood in the gap for me. I feel very upbeat about the future. What is tough is to resist applying for just "any job." By the time one hits their forties, they know what they're good at doing and which environments best suits them.

If you're also looking for a job, have you noticed how many "thrives in a fast-paced environment" job ads there are? Ugh. Sounds to me like a company that expects you to pack a 70-hour work week into 40 hours. No thanks.

My Respose to Gloria Steinem's Slam on Sarah

Bear with me while I'm still in the throes of my delight with Sarah Palin. I can hardly think of anything else! I am thrilled and in awe of what she did last night. However, I'm not the only one in awe although Sarah's critics are trying their best to deny what last night meant to the Republicans.

So Gloria Steinem thinks Sarah is "the wrong woman with the wrong message?" She thinks the only thing she shares in common with Hillary Clinton is a chromosome? (News flash to Steinem: This is a good thing.) And then she calls Sarah nothing more than a younger Phyllis Schlafly? (Again: this is a great thing.)

My husband asked me a few years ago if I had always been interested in conservative politics or if it was a recent development. I've never leaned left and as a matter of fact, my husband jokingly says I'm just to the right of Darth Vader. I suppose it's safe to say that like Sarah, I also have a bit of the pit bull in me, too.

The first book that made an impact on me politically was Phyllis Schlafly's The Power of the Positive Woman, which I found in my high school library. When I read about her accomplishments without any help from the government, I was hooked. It resonated in my own independent heart. One of the toughest things I've ever had to do is ask for help. I'd much rather muddle through on my own than ask anyone for help, but sometimes help is needed. Phyllis Schlafly didn't ask for anyone's help to get her into Washington University's Law School, where she earned her J.D. In addition, Phyllis Schlafly went toe-to-toe with the feminists and helped prevent the ERA from being ratified.

So if Steinem thinks she's minimizing Sarah Palin when she compares her to Phyllis Schlafly, she couldn't be more wrong.

Part of the fun of having my own blog is to print my response to liberal pieces, which all to often decide not to print my comments. Here is a portion of what Gloria Steinem said:

Here's the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president. We owe this to women -- and to many men too -- who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or confronted violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to Shirley Chisholm, who first took the "white-male-only" sign off the White House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.

But here is even better news: It won't work. This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.

Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."

And here is my response:

Unqualified? What executive decisions has Hillary had to make? Zero. She's never been in charge of a shopping cart, let alone a PTA club. She knows nothing about making the hard decisions that are made daily from the Governor's desk.

I am proud of Palin. She is tough. She knows how to gauge competition. She's smart - able to outwit Big Oil, which is one of the Dem's favorite targets. She exudes such a realness that it makes Hillary look like like a Madame Tussauds' wax figure. Next to her, Hillary has all the intrigue of lint.

I'm thrilled with Palin and not for one New York nano-second do I believe she's not capable. She is.

Gloria Steinem and her ilk seem to be unable to tolerate a strong woman who is pro-life. And they are going to try their dead-level best to destroy her for it.