Monday, December 22, 2008

Meditation: The Meaning of Life -- Magnification!

As it is unlikely that I will be posting again before Christmas, Merry Christmas! May the Baby Jesus bless you with the spiritual gift you are most in need of, may you welcome Him fully into your life, and may His Mother be your mother, too!


Perhaps I'm dense (or, more flatteringly, an astute Catholic :) ), but I've never really understood why people of faith struggle with the whole "why am I here/what is the meaning of life?!" question.

It used to be (long before my CCD/Catholic school religion classes in the '80s) that even children were taught -- through the Baltimore Catechism -- the answer to that question:
“to know, love, and serve God in this life and to be happy with him in the next.”
Though I don't recall ever hearing that as a girl, I do know that by the time I was in high school, I could articulate, in student-like terms, that we are on Earth to learn to love God, and that He takes us home to Heaven when we've mastered the skill adequately. My little ones, the eldest of whom is not yet four, are already learning an age-appropriate version of the answer in the Baltimore Catechism. Children are never too young to hear that message -- and neither are searching adults. After all, to do this takes a lifetime of work!

That brings us to the beautiful Office of Readings for December 21, this time an excerpt from St. Ambrose's commentary on the Blessed Mother's Magnificat in Luke's Gospel (also mentioned here):
A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works.
Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary's soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. In another place we read: "Magnify the Lord with me." The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God, but because he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted.
By the "Word of God," St. Ambrose is of course using a reference to Jesus from the beginning of St. John's Gospel. (Is it any wonder that St. Ambrose was so influential in the life of another great saint, Augustine?!)

The meaning of life, then, is to "conceive and bring forth" Jesus -- in a spiritual sense, to be another Mary! In order to do this, though, we must be as pure in the soul as Our Lady was in soul and body. To use her own words, we are to "magnify" the Lord; just as a dirty lens cannot properly convey to the eye what is being seen, if our souls are impure with sin, others cannot see Jesus properly through them!

We can also note the theme of godly joy which permeates this Advent season and these quotes ("be happy with [God]" and "rejoiced in God her Savior"). Though melancholics (such as I) struggle with this, we know that a sour person does not attract anyone and that, like everyone else, we must overcome the pitfalls of our natural temperament. The saints who were most effective in helping others find Our Lord were gentle, like St. Francis de Sales, and were cheerful, like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Neither was known for earthly attractiveness (nor, for that matter, was Jesus, Whom the Bible tells us was not physically notable), yet both drew even the most hardened of sinners and cynics. Why? Because it was impossible to escape the image of God they had within and were magnifying!

Dear Jesus, we beg You to help us conceive and bear You to the world, to magnify You as Your Blessed Mother did, with purity and joy! Blessed Mother, pray for us. St. Ambrose and all you saints of God, pray for us!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

3-D Image of Our Little Blessing Number Four!

During yesterday's ultrasound, though we had heard of the technology that has saved so many preborn children from abortion, Peter and I were able to actually enjoya 3-D image of one of our children for the first time. The sonographer was gracious enough to print us a color still shot: This is Little Blessing Number Four!

For those unused to viewing ultrasounds, what you're seeing is the baby holding his/her right hand and arm over his/her right eye. (The baby refused to budge from this position for much of the ultrasound, perhaps indicating our first camera-shy child!) Yet, the baby's nose, left eye and partially-open mouth are clearly visible! (The baby's mouth was opening and closing for much of the ultrasound, too.)

We are thrilled to have seen this picture and thank God for the blessing of preborn life evident here! Little One, we can't wait to meet you in March!

Meditation: Advent Humility (Isaiah 29:13-24 and St. Augustine)

Many days, it is a struggle to find the time to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, especially the Office of Readings, but inevitably when I do, I find at least one very special point for meditation. Periodically, I'll try to post a little Meditation on something particularly striking.

Here's the first of these posts.

This past Sunday's Office of Readings (for the Third Sunday of Advent) contained Isaiah 29:13-24 and a related sermon by our great St. Augustine. They lead us into an Advent meditation on humility. Of note:
Since this people draws near with words only ...
And their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men,
Therefore I will again deal with this people in surprising and wondrous fashion:
The wisdom of its wise men shall perish and the understanding of its prudent men be hid.
When we turn deaf to Him to attend to our own priorities, Our Lord will do what He must to get our attention, even render us foolish!
Woe to those who would hide their plans too deep for the Lord!
Who work in the dark, saying "Who sees us, or who knows us?
All who are alert to do evil will be cut off, those whose mere word condemns a man,
Who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim.
Our sins are never hidden from God, Who knows and understands them all. Those who use their cunning to harm others will be parted from God definitively.
Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale.
When his children see the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding and those who find fault shall receive instruction.
God desires for us to worship and adore Him (which Catholics do especially in Mass and Eucharistic Adoration). When we worship and adore -- when we heed Him -- though we sin, He will correct us and teach us. To worship and adore -- especially the Baby Jesus at Christmas -- and to acknowledge our need for His correction and teaching, all take humility, such as that found in a key saint of Advent, St. John the Baptist.

St. Augustine then explains that St. John the Baptist was the "voice," but Jesus is "the Word."
John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning, Christ is the Word who lives forever.
Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound.
When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine. In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away.
When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: "The word ought to grow, and I should diminish?" The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: "My joy is complete."
[T]he voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offense to the word...And the question came: "Who are you then?" He replied: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way for the Lord.'"
To prepare the way means to pray well; it means thinking humbly of oneself. We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares that he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory...He humbled himself.
The "voice" (St. John the Baptist) does what God made him to do and then quickly fades out so that "the Word" (Jesus) may remain with us. The saint's humble life and teaching -- the "wondrous fashion" of God -- prepares us for Christ's Presence, unlike Isaiah's sinner's cunning, which only steals from us!


In Advent, it is especially fitting to consider the Magnificat, Our Lady's humble response to St. Elizabeth, despite the fact that Our Blessed Mother was preserved by God from all sin (Luke 1:46-55, RSV-CE):
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."
We might also consider the lessons of the humilty of the shepherds who immediately came to worship the Baby Jesus, and the Magi who traveled far over much time to present valuable gifts to Our Lord. Finally, we might further explore the implications of a few contrasts: the humble faith of St. John the Baptist with the early assured doubt of John's father, Zechariah, literally struck dumb by God for a time; or Blessed Mother, who humbly accepted God's will to change her life, with Herod, who killed thousands of innocents to oppose God's will and assure himself of dominance; or even the humility and honest seeking of the Magi and shepherds with the self-satisfied entertainment-seeking of the latter Herod, who assented to Jesus' crucifixion.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine!
St. John the Baptist, pray for us, that we may be humble.
Blessed Mother, pray for us, that we may be humble.
Holy shepherds and Magi, pray for us, that we may be humble.
Dear saints and angels of God, pray for us, that we may be humble.

Advent: It's not too late...

... to prepare our hearts to welcome Our Lord this Christmas -- and again at the end of time! (Sometimes, despite our best intentions, our Advent preparations lag and we begin to feel frustrated.)

Here's a simple Christmas novena to the Infant of Prague to start today. I once heard that a good Advent exercise is to ask Our Lord for a spiritual "Christmas gift" and wait with expectant hope for Him to come. Perhaps, then, we can ask the Infant Jesus for whatever particular grace we most need at this time.

(H/T to Elizabeth Foss)

And, thanks be to God, it's not too late to examine our conscience regarding grudges and make a good Confession before Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On the "Worship" of Saints

A frequent misconception of the Catholic Church by Protestants is that we "worship" saints, especially the Blessed Mother, that we engage in idolatry. Most good Catholic apologetics sites include an effective rebuttal of that misconception, but I came across a truly classic rebuttal in today's Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours. The rebuttal is by none other than St. Augustine, replying to Faustus. Here are some pertinent excerpts from the reading (with my emphases and brief [comments]):

We, the Christian community, assemble to celebrate the memory of the martyrs with ritual solemnity [such as Masses offered in honor of saints on their feast days] because we want to be inspired to follow their example, share in their merits, and be helped by their prayers...[w]hat is offered is always offered to God, who crowned the martyrs [The graces come from God, and thus the glory goes to Him.]...So we venerate the martyrs with the same veneration of love and fellowship that we give to the holy men of God still with us...We honor those who are fighting on the battlefield of this life here below, but we honor more confidently those who have already acheived the victor's crown and live in heaven. But the veneration strictly called "worship," or latria, that is, the special homage belonging only to the divinity, is something we give and teach others to give to God alone...[w]e neither make nor tell others to make any such offering to any martyr, any holy soul, or any angel. If anyone among us falls into this error [The Church has always held saint-worship to be an error!], he is corrected with words of sound doctrine and must then either mend his ways or else be shunned [The one in error must amend his ways or be excommunicated until he does so.]...Yet the truths we teach are one thing, the abuses thrust upon us are another. [Despite ample Catholic rebuttal of this misconception of saint-worship, many Protestant preachers and evangelists continue to spread misinformation about veneration of the saints and try to use it to keep others from the Church. This is an abuse!]
Incidentally, this reading was apparently chosen because the saint we honor today, Pope Damasus I, preached the truth of the Faith to those who opposed the Church in the 300s-- and "promoted the cult of martyrs whose burial places he adorned with sacred verse." What a hero for our time: a pope who loved the Scriptures and those who died for Christ, and carried this love to those far away from the Church! Pope St. Damasus, pray for us, that we may follow your example!

Monday, December 8, 2008

3 Profundities (Two)

1. Advent, as we prepare our hearts for Our Lord's coming, is a fitting time to ask ourselves if our hearts are soiled by any grudges or unforgiveness. For most of us, forgiveness is a challenge.

In addition to examining our consciences for any resentments, I would like to recommend the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which comes from the spirituality and diary of St. Faustina Kowalska. By praying this short and beautiful chaplet (ideally daily), we ask Jesus' Mercy on our sins and those of our world -- Mercy we are all in great need of!

Also, for some practical explanations and advice regarding resentments and forgiveness, I recommend a little inexpensive book I recently finished: From Resentment to Forgiveness.

2. Like many who attended college, I had to take an introductory philosophy course as part of my general education requirement. I took mine the first semester of my freshman year and soured on it from day one, when I bought the texts for the class. The photocopy packet the instructor had prepared included an article in which a philosopher granted, for the sake of argument, that the unborn child was a human person, but then went-on to justify legal abortion for any reason anyway. The rest of the course seemed to be an exercise in mental gymnastics to justify evil by obfuscation and odd language.

This experience left me with a disdain for philosophy, at least as it is practiced today. Over the years, though, I've begun to wonder if I dismissed a valuable area of study, given that one of the Church's greatest saints, St. Thomas Aquinas, was a first-rate philosopher; also, one of my favorite Catholic authors/thinkers, Peter Kreeft, is a philosopher of Boston College (yes, an orthodox thinker at a Jesuit school!).

So, I've prepared an Amazon order with three introductory philosophy tomes to help me come to a classic understanding of the subject and learn how to better think: Kreeft's Philosophy 101, an inexpensive anthology of Plato's Dialogues put-out by Barnes & Noble, and Kreeft's treatment of Pascal's Pensees. We'll see how it goes -- or when I'm able to get to it!

3. As any parent knows, little children are great at holding mirrors up to adults' faces. My eldest (now 3) was helping me start a load of laundry the other day. As we finished putting the clothes in, she remarked "This is where we put the clothes and then they stay here for a really long time!" Though she was pointing to the washer as she said this, I laughed at the realization that my toddler had learned from Mommy's less-than-stellar laundry skills that clothes remain in the dryer and are not folded or put away for days sometimes! Mea culpa!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wheat: Fr. Z (WDTPRS)

A good source for reliable commentary on and discussion of matters liturgical (and otherwise) is the blog of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (often simply called "Fr. Z"): What Does The Prayer Really Say (WDTPRS).

Sometimes we forget that the Liturgy is our most important and beautiful prayer. Fr. Z helps ensure that we pay proper attention to carefully and reverently carrying-out this prayer.

A Fresh Start!

Thanks be to God, this Sunday (the first Sunday of Advent) marks the beginning of a new Church year -- a fresh start. Don't we all need a fresh start every-so-often? Another chance to stop doing what we shouldn't and to start doing what we should? And, God generously gives us one with each new dawn and each new year!

What could be a better way for a Catholic to begin this new year than by making a good Confession, wherein we acknowledge our sins before God with sorrow and receive the graces we need to amend our lives?! Somewhere along the line, many of us have forgotten the value of this sacrament or have neglected it. Most parishes have regular Confession times each week, usually on Saturday afternoon. Maybe tomorrow might be a good chance for us all to rediscover the great gift of forgiveness and grace, too.

At least one bishop has wisely decided to help his flock re-learn about Confession and Fr. Z. has a great discussion about it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

3 Profundities (One)

Here's the first installment of 3 of my brief random thoughts: "3 Profundities" (the idea is shamelessly stolen from Jennifer at Conversion Diary). I hope that you will see that the term "profundity" is tongue-in-cheek! :)

This is why it's called "3 Profundities."

1) As an only child, I was part of a family of 3. I loved to annoy my classmates by pointing-out that my family was just like the Holy Family, which implied a comparison of myself to Christ -- charming, huh?! :) Furthermore, there are 3 Persons in the Trinity (God). I took my fascination with 3s to such an extreme that in high school, I would often take the third parking space from the (conservative) right in the first row of student parking.

2) The term "profundities" is a favorite of mine from college, where I called my primitive little Web page "Profundity Place." It was even less profound than this blog, so its disappearance years ago was no great loss to anyone! Few even noticed when it vanished, including me (until months later).

3) Three briefs are easier to write than seven, especially when the baby is waking from a nap, a toddler is tantruming over nothing for the 13th time this hour, and a bad odor is wafting in from the third diaper-wearer in the living room. I guess we all know where I'm going now... :)

Wheat: Conversion Diary

One of the most beautiful things on this earth is when an atheist comes home into the Church. It's even better if the convert is intelligent, funny and a very insightful writer; mindful of this, I would urge you to visit Conversion Diary, where Jennifer often inspires me and always makes me chuckle. (It's also cool that she is the pregnant mommy of three little ones -- due in March, just like me!)

Also, I've stolen a blogging idea from her: 7 Quick Takes. Only, in my case, being less of a blogger than she is, having been trained as a journalist and writer of news briefs, and having an unnatural fascination with threes, I'll call my new feature 3 Profundities. The first installment follows.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Sad Opportunity

We've probably all had enough of election analysis by now, but I think that I need to briefly wrap-up what I began here, as well as make a few broader points.

Like Dads and Moms all across America, Peter and I spent election night watching history-in-the-making on TV while taking care of our ordinary family responsibilities: feeding and playing with the kids, changing diapers, washing dishes, medicating headaches and nausea, getting the kids ready for bed, etc. Implicit in this is the lesson that the opportunities and challenges of ordinary life continue in obscurity while the cameras are focused elsewhere. Thanks be to God, the life quest for holiness and happiness can and does continue!

I know it's an oxymoron, but Tuesday's election results present us with a sad opportunity.

The Sad

As an unashamed pro-life/pro-family voter, of course I find the federal election results overwhelmingly disappointing.

We have put those whose worldview and priorities are deeply flawed in authority over all three branches of the government for at least the next two to four years (until the next congressional election and presidential election, respectively). This will directly lead to the loss of many thousand more innocent lives and will almost certainly involve attempted infringements on our most fundamental rights, particularly in the areas of free speech/freedom of religion and the intrinsic right of parents to raise their families in accord with their principles. This is very sad.

Furthermore, many state initiatives regarding the right to life were defeated (including a very weak parental notification initiative here in CA) and Washington state established a "right" to assisted suicide. More death.

Upon reading this well-reasoned and courageous election eve homily by Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, MO, I also must note that souls who consciously voted in favor of pro-death politicians and measures inflicted grave spiritual damage on themselves, as we do whenever we choose evil over good. Such souls probably would vehemently deny that this is what they have done, and they would probably react with great anger against the messenger rather than heeding the message, but it remains true. When we realize that we have sinned (as we all do many times each day), we must acknowledge the sin with sorrow before God and make a good Confession ASAP, before receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist again. The only serious sin that cannot be forgiven -- that can send us to Hell -- is the one we fail to repent of!

Among the few pieces of good election news was the passage of three marriage amendments (including one here in CA). This was unexpected (at least for me!) and endless court challenges -- already begun -- may yet turn these into defeats for the family.

I think it is entirely appropriate for us to be in mourning for the lives and souls tossed-aside and the vital principles trampled-on. Similarly, I find the jubilation, however moderated, of those who should know better (particularly Church leaders) to be misplaced and, frankly appalling, like dancing on someone's grave. Diplomacy and respect are good; providing aid and comfort to the Culture of Death are not!

The Opportunity

Of course, our lives as individuals and as a society are always marked by setbacks. When we hit a setback, we're told from our youth to shake it off and try again, and to repeat this as necessary.

In concrete terms, the setback presented by this election -- which God allowed for His own perfect reasons -- provides a plethora of spiritual and practical opportunities.

Spiritually, we have been given the opportunity, once again, to repent of our own sinfulness (magnified large in this election) and recommit ourselves to striving for holiness. This involves more than simply attending Mass/church services and "being nice"; it is a matter of really trying to love God and our neighbor each day, especially when it's hard. Though it's easy to forget, this is the most important thing!

As St. Teresa of Avila wisely wrote more than 400 years ago:
Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God. God alone suffices.
On a wider scale, we need to help our children learn the truths of the Faith despite the corrupt culture and to strive for holiness themselves. Then, we need to carry this message into our society, by our families' example and particularly by praying and sacrificing often for an end to abortion and other threats to life, for the needs of pregnant mothers, the ill and the needy, for the conversion of abortionists and anti-life religious leaders and politicians, and for those who stand for life at great cost. We need to be mindful that we are in a spiritual war: "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places!" (Ephesians 6:12).

Practically, we have to expand and publicize our efforts already well-underway, among them: support our local crisis pregnancy centers, ensure that palliative care is available to the sick, and care for those in need in our families and area.

Furthermore, on the political front, we need to vigorously defend against anti-life legislation! Thankfully, Washington's notorious gridlock and the press of real-world crises may well keep some of the ugliest dreams of President-elect Obama and friends from coming true. But, we will still need to be vigilant in urging our legislators to block any attempts to weaken protections for life and family, chief among them the misnamed "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA) that would virtually eliminate choices other than abortion in one fell swoop. And, if some helpful life-/family-affirming legislation should be proposed, of course we should support it just as forcefully!

May God bless us and our nation in this effort!

UPDATED 11/07/08

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Jubilee Medal of St. Benedict

I believe we have reached the final post of my personal election blogging marathon. :) Next time, I don't plan to wait six months between blog posts and then post a lot at once. I would love it if you would stick with me by subscribing in your blog reader! I always welcome feedback, either on the blog or at

A great resource in our spiritual life, especially for those of us attracted to the spirituality of St. Benedict (the founder of Western monasticism), is:


(This is an excerpt from Rev. Randall Paine, ORC, His Time Is Short: The Devil and his Agenda, [St. Paul, MN: The Leaflet Missal Company, 1989] pp.89-91. This EWTN link also provides a prayer to St. Benedict and other specific uses of the medal.)

This medal has long been regarded as especially efficacious in protecting its wearers against demonic attacks, and securing a number of special graces. Let us take a closer look at the inscriptions on its two sides. On the front of the medal we find St. Benedict holding a Cross in one hand, and the Rule of St. Benedict in the other. At his sides are the words “Crux S. Patris Benedicti” (“The Cross of the Holy Father Benedict”), and below his feet: “Ex S M Casino MDCCCLXXX” (“From the holy mount of Casino, 1880”). On that date, Monte Cassino was given the exclusive right to produce this medal, and special Jubilee indulgences were added. Still on this front side of the medal we find inscribed in a circle the words: “Ejus in obitu nostro presentia muniamur” (“May his presence protect us in our hour of death”).

The reverse side of the medal is where the real exorcistic force reveals itself. In the center is a Cross. The Cross, which St. Benedict so loved and often used as a powerful exorcism, is the sign before which even Dracula shrinked. The vertical beam of the Cross bears the letters “C.S.S.M.L.”, and the horizontal beam, the letters “N.D.S.M.D.” These are the first letters of the words: “CRUX SACRA SIT MIHI LUX” (“May the Holy Cross be a light unto me”), “NON DRACO SIT MIHI DUX” (“And may the Dragon never be my guide”). The four large letters at the corners of the Cross, “C S P B”, stand for “CRUX SANCTI PATRIS BENEDICTI” (“The Cross of the Holy Father Benedict”) ... In addition to the "Pax" ("peace") motto at the top, we find the following letters in a circle around the margin of this side: “V.R.S.N.S.M.V.” “S.M.Q.L.I.V.B.” … “VADE RETRO SATANA; NUNQUAM SUADE MIHI VANA” (“Get behind me, Satan; Never suggest vain thoughts to me”). “SUNT MALA QUAE LIBAS” (“The cup you offer is evil”). “IPSE VENENA BIBAS!” (“Drink the poison yourself!”).

This richly indulgenced medal can be worn around the neck, or be attached to one's Rosary, or simply kept in a pocket or purse. The pious intention of wearing such an object, together with the Church's powerful blessing and intercessory power, make it into an unspoken prayer which has been shown to be of great help in maintaining holy purity, bringing about conversions, protecting against inclement weather and contagious disease.

Many beautiful crucifixes, to be worn or hung, are embedded with this powerful medal. One site that sells them (and other Catholic goods) at a discount is GetFED at A priest would be glad to bless the medal for you. You may want to attach it to your sacrifice beads or scapular, or in a way that you always have it.

Least Known Treasure for Lay People's Spiritual Growth

Here is one of the greatest treasures of the Church, one that I lived most of my life knowing nothing of:


The site linked above is a splendid directory of online LOTH resources.

Here's my summary: The Liturgy of the Hours, which is sometimes called the “Divine Office” or “Breviary,” is — after the Holy Mass — the greatest prayer of the Church. It is prayed by priests, religious, and some lay people. The Church encourages us all to pray this beautiful prayer, as a sign of unity and to enrich our daily prayer life with the treasure of centuries of Christians, most notably early monastics like St. Benedict. One may even pray constantly by organizing her day around the hours.

The Liturgy of the Hours consists of seven “offices,” generally prayed every three hours: The Office of Readings (usually before Morning Prayer), Morning Prayer (at 6), Midmorning Prayer (at 9), Midday Prayer (at noon), Midafternoon Prayer (at 3), Evening Prayer (at 6), and Night Prayer (at 9). The “major” offices are generally held to be Morning and Evening Prayer, but one can benefit from praying whatever offices suit her schedule. In general, each hour consists of a hymn, three psalms/canticles with antiphons, short New Testament readings, and other prayers. The Office of Readings consists of the hymn and psalms, along with a reading from the Scriptures and one from the writings of the early Church Fathers, saints, Vatican II, etc.

There is a great free Website with excerpts from the LOTH (though in a different translation than the approved set):

There are three main publications of the LOTH: the complete four-volume set — used one volume at a time ($145 delivered from Amazon), Christian Prayer ($26), and Shorter Christian Prayer ($14, with the four-week Psalter and Morning and Evening prayer). The four-volume set comes with several useful reference cards and the publisher also sells a very helpful annual guide inexpensively.

For further information, visit:

Finally, if you would like an inexpensive, step-by-step guide to praying this beautiful prayer, I've found The Divine Office for Dodos useful.


This post is a continuation of the previous post, "Plan of Life/Wheat: EWTN."


In his splendid book of detailed meditations on the entirety of all four Gospels, The Better Part, Fr. John Bartunek points-up the importance of meditation in our daily lives. He defines meditation as “lifting the heart and mind to God through focused reflection on some truth of God’s revelation. It involves the intellect, the imagination, the memory, the emotions — the whole person” (p. 21). When we use ready-made meditation books, though, we “easily slip into the spiritual reading mode: instead of using the points of reflection as springboards for focused personal reflection, attentive listening to the Holy Spirit, and intimate heart-to-heart conversation with Christ, [we] simply read, understand, agree, and move on … yet, unless you learn to go deeper, to personalize your prayer more, you will limit your growth in virtue” (p.24).


He describes a very simple and effective four-part method of meditation, summarized as:
  • concentrate (Recall that God is present, seeing you and listening to you, and that He has something to say to you that you need and want to hear. Ask for whatever grace you need most.)
  • consider (Read the text slowly and calmly until something strikes you; if you wish, perhaps read it again or read a commentary. If it’s a Scripture, perhaps place yourself in the story to listen to God’s word to you. If it’s a commentary, perhaps ask what the words say about the Church, or you and your resolutions, or your responsibilities as a Catholic/spouse/parent/worker.)
  • converse (Savor what God is telling you and talk to Him in your own words, perhaps of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, or supplication [ACTS]. If you wish, when you response quiets, go back to the text for more.)
  • commit (Make a specific resolution. Thank Christ for your meditation. Jot any insights down in your journal [perhaps noting the text you read]. Make a concluding prayer, perhaps an Our Father/Hail Mary/Glory Be.)

Plan of Life/Wheat: EWTN

Have you found that the daily quest for holiness called for in our Faith from the time of our Baptism is inextricably linked to our human search for happiness? Are you therefore searching for a practical way to live holy Faith in daily life -- to be happy here and in Heaven?

Or do you perhaps have an interest in/attraction to certain devotions (Sacred Heart, Divine Mercy, Our Lady of Fatima, etc.) or spiritualities (Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican, Ignatian, etc.), but find yourself overwhelmed by the possibilities? Maybe this post may be of use to you.

As I began my professional life after college, I gradually realized that I had to fan the spark of my love of the Faith into a fire of living the Faith in daily life. But, I soon discovered that one cannot dedicate herself to even a fraction of the absolute plethora of useful devotions and spiritual practices that the Church has gifted us with in the last 2,000 years. So, I set about selecting what would be most helpful for my spiritual life and growth in holiness. It's still a matter of trial and error, but I have a mostly workable Plan of Life (a daily/regular spiritual regimen), which I will likely post on at length. It would help to have a wise spiritual director (such as a gifted priest or sister) to guide me, but like many others, I have not yet found one who is available. So, I pray and search.

Enter, again, our reliable guide, Fr. John McCloskey, this time providing us with:


Fr. McCloskey notes that integrating these habits into one’s life is a gradual process that may require some modifications, but at the same time a priority overriding lesser things/timewasters. He estimates that the habits as he describes them will take about an hour-and-a-half per day, but will yield unexpected benefits.

  • morning offering (Rise promptly to offer your day to God, in your own words or with a formula.)
  • meditation for 15 minutes (Please see the next post, "Meditation.")
  • daily Mass (If you cannot attend daily Mass, perhaps consider spending some time before the Blessed Sacrament or at home prayerfully reading the Mass readings and praying a spiritual communion (asking to receive Our Lord spiritually since you cannot receive His Body and Blood at Mass). The Mass readings, in text or in audio with a homily, can be found at EWTN.
  • examination of conscience (Before bed: give thanks to God; ask His grace to know your sins; examine your thoughts, words and deeds in each part of your day, especially in light of the previous day’s resolutions; pray an act of contrition; make specific resolutions to avoid these sins in the coming day; and pray an Our Father. This is a summary of the method of St. Ignatius.)
I would be remiss if I didn't recommend here the greatest work of one of the greatest spiritual directors who ever lived, the Gentle Saint, bishop St. Francis de Sales. His Introduction to the Devout Life is very readable and practical, several hundred years after his death.

Finally, in creating this post, I am greatly indebted to one of the foremost sites on the Web and TV for authentic Catholic spirituality, which I highly recommend: Mother Angelica's EWTN. Among the exhaustive resources there, you will find schedules, live feeds, and videos/podcasts of their excellent programming, including daily Mass and numerous spiritual shows. You will also find a very large library of texts, audio and video, and a religious catalog.

UPDATED 11/06/08

On Drowning by the Page

Way back in May, when I first decided to write this post, I apparently had it in mind to make book recommendations. I now find this rather amusing, so I'm retooling my original idea.

You see, I'm one of Those People. You might know one of us: we love to read and learn, so we start many books on many different topics, all at once. For a while, we read a few pages in each book every single day, then less frequently, and then as other books catch our eye and we get busy, we forget some of the first books entirely! The result, predictably, is two-fold: no book gets even half-read and there is at least one high pile of partially-read books cluttering our house at any given time!

So, rather than give some "partial-book" recommendations at this time, I'm going to link to a better source and recommend that we all bite-off no more than we can chew at once!

A very sharp and reliable priest, Fr. John McCloskey, has written "A Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan." Below, I've reproduced some info on it that I wrote for a brochure some time ago. Perhaps, as I make my way through my ever-growing library, I will actually post some recommendations of my own.


Fr. McCloskey’s complete list can be found at:

Catechism of the Catholic Church – Catholicism Explained/Theology
Boylan – Tremendous Lover – Spiritual Reading
Caussaude – Abandonment to Divine Providence – Spiritual Reading
de Sales – Introduction to Devout Life – Spiritual Reading
Escriva – Way, Furrow, Forge – Spiritual Reading
Guardini – The Lord
Lewis – Mere Christianity – Spiritual Classics
Liguori – 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation – Spiritual Reading
Lovasik – The Hidden Power of Kindness – Spiritual Reading
O'Connor – Flannery O'Connor: Complete Stories – Literary Classics
Phillipe – Interior Freedom – Spiritual Reading
Scupoli – Spiritual Combat – Spiritual Reading
Sertillanges – Intellectual Life – Misc

Many of these books can be found new and at a steep discount at, or sometimes even new or used at It’s a great idea to buy what you can so that you can loan or refer to the books later. The local library system may also have some of them.

Please note that has
several other excellent articles by Fr. McCloskey, which I

Wheat: Catholic Culture

There are many Web sites out there that call themselves "Catholic." Sadly, even for the seasoned Catholic, it can sometimes be hard to determine if a site really contains the truths of the Faith. That's why I'm glad to use and highly recommend Catholic Culture. Among many other services, this site reviews many other "Catholic" sites for fidelity, resources, and usability.

Among other helpful features, the site provides, all for free:

  • detailed and useful information on the current day/saint in the Church calendar, with links
  • helpful news and commentary from Catholic World News
  • commentary on Catholic culture, as the site name implies
  • an extensive Church library

Why a "Catholic Family"?

The short answer is: We're a Catholic family because that is what Our Lord wants us to be! We love Him because He is Love and so we strive to please Him.

Since that answer is probably not too useful, I'll flesh it out some, recognizing that the full answer is literally beyond any human comprehension.

(As a relevant aside, to say that something is beyond our understanding is not a "cop out" or an aggrandizement, as some seem to think, but is rather a simple statement of reality. There are simply some things -- in fact, a lot of things -- that we cannot explain because we have finite minds and hearts, and God is infinite.

One good working definition I've found of that slippery virtue of humility is that it is the recognition of the truth about ourselves and about God -- that we are flawed and He is perfect. So it is truthful and humble to acknowledge that there are things that cannot be explained.)

In a way, this whole blog is a fuller answer to the question, but here's the bottom line.

We are Catholic because:
  • In love, God made us and sustains us, AND Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity (God), established the Catholic Church to be His Body on earth, AND Jesus made clear His desire that we be part of Her. The New Testament (part of God's Word) overflows with references to the Church (just pick a page and you're almost certain to find at least one reference to Her). One of the best Web pages explaining this and so much more is Catholic Answers.
  • The Church has stood the test of time, just like Jesus said it would ("And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" [Matthew 16:18].)
  • We were blessed to be raised in the Church and -- in more than three decades of living in the world -- have never seen anything else that approaches Her truth and beauty, most especially in the Mass, the Eucharist (Jesus' Body and Blood, His greatest gift to us!) and the other sacraments. We love Her!

We are a family because:
  • Through a mind-boggling array of circumstances over many years (indeed, from before time began), God created my husband and me for each other and, at the perfect moment, brought us together in marriage.
  • Furthermore, at exactly the right moments, He used our marital sacrament to bring forth four children. It is likely that He will do so again.
  • We are, then, the "domestic Church."
We are a Catholic family, then, because that is what Our Lord wants us to be and we want to love Love! This is a reality too beautiful for words, but that yearns to be expressed in words regardless! So, I shall try!

My "Epistlette" on Voting and My Voting Experience

Yesterday afternoon, I sent a brief e-mail to all my family and friends (probably the only people who may read this :) ) regarding today's vote. Here it is:

Hi, Family and Friends. I hope this short message finds you and yours well, even though I don't keep up with you as I would like. Peter, the kids, and pregnant Mommy are all fine.

You know that it is very rare for me to send forwards or mass e-mails, except for periodic updates on our family. But, I know that I must send this e-mail because I care about my loved ones and, frankly, I am very concerned about what our nation will look like after the election this Tuesday.

Rather than write a newspaper-length editorial (and you know I have done it and I could again!), let me pose two simple questions for the contemplation of the thoughtful voter -- after all, we are not grade-schoolers voting in a student council popularity contest! Voting on our federal and state leaders and certain laws (propositions) is one of the most important things we will ever do, and I'm sure that most of us have been ruminating on our votes for a while.

Very simply, can you think of any weightier concern for a nation than more than a million innocent babies' lives being taken legally through abortion each year, and the wholesale maiming of their mothers -- a people decimated?

And, is there any better way to protect and strengthen our society than to vote for candidates and measures that support the rights and well-being of the family: moms, dads, and their kids?

Of course, I am concerned about the economy (what large family living on one high-school teacher's income isn't?!), the lives of those in Iraq, and many other issues, but *first things first*!

One's answers to the two questions above make the vote for president and many other votes, too, quite clear. Especially in states like California, where we have parental notification and marriage amendments on the ballot. Under my signature, I've linked to three excellent guides that outline core principles for voting, two for Catholics and the latter for non-Catholic Christians.

So, bottom line, I'm hoping and praying that my family and friends *vote pro-life and pro-family* on Tuesday. For us and for our country.


My husband and I have already voted. This is a post I made on another site about our Central CA voting experience:

We're in Central CA and turnout seems to be very high locally. My hubby and I both voted already.

He had to stand in line when they opened to wait for a "secrecy shield" that covers less than half the ballot (!) -- anyone can see who you chose for president, but then again, they can just look at our yard sign or cars to see that. :)

I didn't have to wait, but they did make me get my jacket from the car to cover my "NObama" shirt with pro-life button, and remove the McCain/Palin button from my purse. (The jacket buttoned easier before I was pregnant four times in four years!) Like [another poster], I find this rule ridiculous (no free speech in the voting booth?!), but it's not worth fighting for me; it's the vote that matters most, after all.

I did make sure to claim my free cup of Starbuck's coffee and walk around a local park after drinking it for a while so that everyone could see my shirt and the stickers on my car, though. :)

Most of the country already knows what's at stake here in CA, so I won't bother saying much about that. Just, in charity, please pray that we don't get still more death forced on us, and that Prop 4 (parental notification on abortion) and Prop 8 (marriage amendment) pass!

I suppose that covers what I want to say about the election. Maybe I'll work out my election jitters (I know, very Catholic-nerdy) by blogging some more -- if the kids will let me! :)

It's been a while...

... since I last posted, but I'm just now coming out of a first-trimester funk; our fourth Little Blessing in as many years is due in March.

I can't promise that I'll blog those many posts I have in mind and have promised previously any time soon, but if you are interested in reading them when I do, you can do what I've done and subscribe to this blog and many others through a free blog reader. The reader will automatically show you any updates to the blogs you subscribe to.

May God bless you and yours this Thanksgiving and Advent!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How Do You Sleep At Night?!: Sede Vacantes

On either side of the "narrow gate" of Christ and His Church, there are those who see it but refuse to enter it; some of them want to enlarge it, some of them want to make it still narrower, and some want to move it altogether.

This post deals with those who wish to both displace and narrow the gate beyond what Our Lord intended. They are "sede vacantes," those who insist that the Seat of Peter ("sede") is vacant ("vacante") -- in plain English, those who believe in the Church and the papacy, but hold that the current pope is not validly elected and that the Catholic Church is not really, well, the Catholic Church any more. Therefore, for them, their pope-less band is the "Catholic Church," not that group of imposters in Rome and elsewhere, and if you're not one of the chosen few of them, you're a heretic.

I've only recently become somewhat acquainted with this rather bizarre belief by reading and attempting to understand the webpages of some of its adherents. It seems that this group (small, but loud and obstinate) does not believe there has been a valid pope since Pius XII, who reigned until 1958, and dissents from anything proceeding from the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, including the Ordinary Form of the Mass, recently canonized saints, recently approved Church movements, and just about any papal teaching that doesn't directly derive from Pius XII or an earlier pope. That covers a lot of ground.

I have a hard time understanding the logical or emotional appeal of the "sede vacante" position, particularly since its adherents don't seem interested in explaining it beyond spewing strange conspiracy theories, or in debating it, and seem to pride themselves on being a tiny "remnant" of the real Church. Additionally, I don't see how their problems can ever be resolved. The conundrum they've asserted (a pope-less Church and invalid actions galore for four decades) has no solution and their habit of fault-finding/-inventing and bitter rebellion will make it hard for them to ever humble themselves and re-enter the Church. Nonetheless, I'll attempt to identify and address their major arguments.

Sede vacantes hold that a cardinal named Siri was elected pope in the conclaves of 1958 and 1963, but was prevented from assuming power by some sort of conspiracy. Of course, as conclaves are secret, only the cardinal electors can state with any authority what occurs in them, and they are sworn not to. Furthermore, Cardinal Siri himself remained obedient to the popes of the Church until his death in 1989, so it seems hardly likely that he considered himself a pope-in-exile. The sede vacantes, like all conspiracy theorists, have their photos (in this case, inlvolving the colors of the different emissions of smoke from the conclave) and bad guys, but they are long on innuendo and short on fact or reason.

Still more illogically, sede vacantes hold that Vatican II and the popes of that time and subsequent to it have somehow been "condemned" by popes who were dead before the council even met! Essentially, the sede vacantes will cherry-pick the statements of popes whom they like and apply the words of these popes to popes who don't suit their tastes. It's quite a trick to assert that a dead pope condemns a successive pope from the grave! There are other serious problems with this argument. For one, when He established the papacy upon Peter, Christ assured the invincibility of the Church (Matt 16:18) and if She truly has no pope, She has been conquered and He lied, which He cannot do. Also, the Church teaches that each pope is a successor of St. Peter and holds all of the powers of that office, so the powers of the office do not "dilute" over time (that is, it is erroneous to say that St. Peter was the pope with the most authority, that each of his successors have had less authority than those before them, and that Pope Benedict XVI has still less authority than Pope John Paul II).

What the sede vacante position boils down to is a profound disagreement with the doctrines and implementation of the Second Vatican Council -- "modernism," in their catch-all term. Hence, the mental contortions to discredit the Council and recent popes. There are many legitimate complaints about the implementation of the Council, though the documents themselves are quite profound. Our Holy Father has frequently critiqued the changes-for-the-worse in liturgy and one need only look at the sad decline in practice and numbers of many religious orders to see big problems, but the spiritual-Luddite mentality of the sede vacantes and their ugly rhetoric that often smacks of anti-Semitism (for example) is not the solution!

My admittedly limited dealings with members of this group have been frustrating and, for the reasons I've discussed above, I doubt most Catholics will get very far in discussions with the sede vacantes. However, we always have recourse to prayer and that, frankly, is what I recommend for these souls lost in their self-made sea of errors. And, it is also important that we pray that they not lead more troubled Catholics out into the murky waters with them!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wheat: Two Books and Regnum Christi

I'm a real bookworm and I could easily recommend/loan anyone a hundred Catholic books, but I just had to recommend these two titles for the top of your reading list:

Searching for and Maintaining Peace was recently given to me by a friend and it is small and easy to read, but very powerful. Few of us can say that we have peace with any constancy, but Christ repeatedly mentions that He wants us to have it, so... Fr. Philippe's book is cheaper than a meal out and will be with you for a lot longer! :)

The Better Part
provides detailed meditations on all four Gospels and a powerful primer on spiritual growth through meditative prayer. The primer is probably worth the price of the book by itself, and the meditations will easily last for years to come. Though many are "into" spiritual reading and Bible study (which is great!), Fr. Bartunek makes the point that our spiritual lives and growth will stagnate if we don't have a vibrant life of meditative prayer. Hence, this book, which is more for meditation than study.

Finally, Fr. Bartunek mentions free daily lectionary meditations available by e-mail through Regnum Christi. They're as good as the book and only take a few minutes! The Regnum Christi site itself is chock-full of useful stuff, and I've also included the direct link to the meditation subscriptions.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How Do You Sleep At Night?!: The Abuse Scandal

This is the first installment of How Do You Sleep At Night?!: Catholic answers to common objections.

(The title of this series comes from a rather heated exchange I had recently with a fallen-away Catholic on a secular news blog. He was angry that I remain Catholic and defend the Church after learning of the sex abuse scandal. So, his beef is the first topic of this series.)

The sex abuse scandal is probably the most common objection raised against the Church in the United States today. The question seems to be: If Catholic priests can abuse children, how can the Catholic Church be Christ's Church and how can people stay in it?! Out of sheer Christian charity and honesty, this question must be addressed directly. Here's my brief answer:

Fact 1: Many people over many years were abused by a very small minority of Catholic priests and leaders.

On a related note: The vast majority of Catholic priests and leaders are, at a minimum, upstanding citizens and, in many cases, striving heroically for holiness. Thus, it is a grave injustice to claim that all or most priests are abusers and to make jokes with that punchline! We do not lump the innocent with the guilty! Abuse is no more rampant in the Church than it is in any other religious group or secular group (teachers, mailmen, plumbers, etc.).

Also, many of the accused priests are dead and are thus unable to defend themselves, and even if they are still alive, they are forced to try to prove, often years later, that they did not do what they are accused of -- the burden of proof seems to be on the defendant, not the plaintiff here; this raises the distinct possibility that people wanting to make a fast buck off of the Church at the expense of Catholic parishioners and genuine abuse victims may lie! Additionally, there are many people who hate the Church's positions on abortion and other issues and would be more than glad to lie to harm the Church's credibility! Furthermore, some of the accusers "recovered" their memories of abuse through highly suggestive "therapy" that may in fact convince them of the reality of some things that never even happened!

In fact, though abuse did happen, it is likely that the scandal has been inflated for malicious reasons.

Fact 2: In addition to being a violation of civil and criminal law, sex abuse is a grave violation of immortal Catholic teaching -- God's Law -- against the abuse of children, homosexuality, abuse of one's priestly authority, etc. God is the most offended party!

On a related note: The Commandments and Church teaching and law predate the civil and criminal codes -- and are firmly opposed to this sort of abuse! The fact is that if the priests in question had followed the Commandments and Church teaching, there would be no sex abuse scandal! There is no problem with Church teaching, then, for it is in place to prevent these evils.

Abuse of even one person is a grave wrong done to him and to God! Sex abuse victims need proper psychological and spiritual care and are also entitled to punative damages (money from the guilty to punish them for their offenses) from those who hurt them.

Furthermore, it is inaccurate to call much of the abuse "child abuse." In reality, much of the abuse was man-on-man homosexual abuse, with boys almost at adulthood. Here again, if Church laws about celibacy and homosexuality had been followed, there would be no sex abuse scandal!

We all need to strive to eliminate the sin from our lives, then, and follow Church teachings. Those who smugly assert their moral superiority over abusive priests are often turning a blind eye to their own sinfulness and, in some cases, grave sinfulness against God!

Fact 3: Many bishops handled the scandal poorly, attempting to cover it and rehabilitate the offenders within the Church.

On a related note: Many have attributed the basest of motives to the bishops. Their motives may have indeed been bad, or they may have been doing their best to protect the Church from the very outpouring of hate that has materialized! Perhaps they also thought that it was their pastoral duty to try to rehabilitate abusive priests. Though they made mistakes, as all of us do, they are now learning from them and turning accused abusers over to the authorities, even in cases of very flimsy accusations. Who knows how many innocent priests have been ruined by false accusations?!

Furthermore, a number of those involved in groups that accuse the bishops have long had an anti-Church agenda and are less than diligent about weeding-out false abuse accusations. The same can be said about many of the plaintiffs' attorneys, who have at times bragged about their efforts to eliminate the Catholic Church! Attempting to undermine the Church has become a nasty little cottage industry. Who pays the price of this profiteering off of abuse? The real abuse victims, of course, as well as the many good priests subject to public contempt, the Catholic faithful who suffer the loss of parishes and services, and the poor and others served less by the impoverished Church! This is shameful; American justice does not punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty who cannot be made to pay, let alone those whose guilt has not been proven!

The bottom line is that flawed and sinful priests do not make the Church any less Christ's, as every last person on earth is a sinner. Sin is no "smoking gun"! Priests, though in service of the unblemished Body of Christ, need Christ's saving power just like everyone else! Catholics, then, are obliged to stay in the Church and honor the priests who bring Christ to them in the sacraments because Christ wills us to be part of His Body! We only punish ourselves by removing ourselves from the avenues of God's grace out of spite for His Church and priests!

Wheat: Catholic Answers and PhatCatholic Apologetics

"So, I've got these objections to the Catholic Church..."

For Catholics who don't have all the answers (that's about 98 percent of us!) and for all seekers hungry for the truth about the Faith, there are two really great sites that come to mind.

One of the most esteemed and helpful Catholic apologetics groups (Catholic apologists are basically people who defend and explain the Faith) is Catholic Answers. They have a number of outreaches, including a very thorough searchable webpage, a call-in radio show, and the best Catholic forums on the Web. A feast!

Another great apologetics site, especially for young adults, is PhatCatholic Apologetics. The author is a gifted writer who is studying at the Catholic powerhouse in Ohio -- the Franciscan University of Stuebenville. He's really good at finding and giving solid answers to questions he is e-mailed, and he has a set of apologetics links that cannot be matched elsewhere.

My blog cannot even approach the depth of these two fine sites, so what this blog lacks can be found there.

Wheat: Light Weigh and St. Josemaria Escriva

This is the first little installment of Wheat: nourishing links of Catholic interest that I recommend. (I'm still working on some of the more substantive posts I promised.)

In "About me," I mentioned my involvement with The Light Weigh and Opus Dei.

Light Weigh is a Catholic weight loss program based on spiritual growth. In the end, the weight loss is only a fringe benefit of an improved relationship with Jesus in the Faith, feeding ourselves on what is we really desire and need. It's a 12-week program that you may repeat as often as you like; you meet weekly with a group (usually at your parish) to do a brief Bible study and to watch a video. You receive a large spiral workbook, a three-CD series, and a bag of spiritual aids (St. Therese sacrifice beads, finger Rosary, Holy Water bottle, Pieta prayerbook, novena cards, etc.). The price is a little steep, but the program works, and you often make really great friends, too.

After three babies in as many years -- and no weight loss between them -- I found an announcement for this program in my parish bulletin and decided to try it. (In my single life, I once lost a lot of weight on Weight Watchers, but I knew that I wouldn't have the money or the time to attend the meetings, do the food logging, join the gym and exercise, etc. again.) I'm almost through my first session of The Light Weigh and I've lost a little less than a quarter of what I have to lose. Frankly, I had hoped to do better, but I had several weeks where I simply didn't follow the program and broke the good habits I was forming. I'm sure that I will lose steadily once I consistently follow the program and form good habits.

Opus Dei is one of the most misunderstood groups in the Church. Simply put, "The Work of God" is a group whose members and cooperators seek to make holy their daily lives in the world as an offering to God for His purposes. Really menacing, huh?! A particularly good introduction to Opus Dei and livable Catholic spirituality is a searchable website of the prolific written works of its founder, St. Josemaria Escriva.

My husband and I are cooperators of Opus Dei, which means that we are not members, but we do support The Work with our daily prayers and voluntary contributions. We regularly attend cooperators' circles, where we meet to pray and hear a brief talk by a member on a spiritual topic. There are also mornings/evenings of recollection with a priest and lay members, doctrinal classes, and retreats available for cooperators. Opus Dei was the first spiritual program that seemed to really make practical sense to me as a wife and mother.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What's to come...

... when I get the time to post more:
  • Why a “Catholic Family”?
  • Least Known Tool for Lay People’s Spiritual Growth
  • Bible Study for Catholic Moms and Other Distracted People
  • On Drowning by the Page
UPDATE (5/6/08):
  • Scripture Alone v. Scripture and Tradition
  • Do You Want Everyone To Be Catholic?!
  • How Do You Sleep at Night?! (The Series)
  • Wheat (and maybe Chaff, if necessary)

I've sent an e-mail about this blog to the family and friends I have in my address book; please let me know if you would like to receive a notice when I update this page, otherwise I won't annoy you with them! :)

Please feel free to comment. I hope not to have to moderate the comments. Disagreement is fine, but I'll draw the line at inappropriate language and verbal abuse.

Thanks and God bless you all!

A Word About "The Word"

nerdy Catholic details about Bible translation and study

I'm a Catholic nerd, so when I got inspired a few months back to delve deeper into the Bible (and what a blessing it's been, but that's another post), I did what a Catholic nerd does: I spent hours and hours reading-up on Bible translations to find the best one. (I probably overdid it.) Unsurprisingly, there's not a whole lot of consensus. Bottom-line, though, is that there are generally three trusted versions of the Bible for Catholics:

  • Douay-Rheims (with notes by Bishop Challoner and another version with further notes by Fr. Haydock)
  • Revised Standard Version -- Catholic Edition (often called the RSV-CE)
  • The Jerusalem Bible
Let me give you the brief skinny -- in lay-speak, as that is all I know -- on each of them and then let you know what I do with each translation. Then I'll let you know of some very, very good news for the future! Finally, I'll explain why I don't use the American bishops' New American Bible that often.

The Douay-Rheims is very old (originally published in 1582) and is written in old-style English that probably appeals to the same aesthetic tastes as the Protestant King James version. The notes by Bishop Challoner are very sound, but old and obviously not reflective of even the good modern scholarship. It's available for free online here.

Furthermore, in 1859, Fr. Haydock made extensive annotations, which are a gold-mine of thoughts of the Church Fathers and other sound commentary. Thanks to the hard work of a transcriber, these notes are also available for free online here.

I don't use the Douay-Rheims as often as I probably should, mostly because the Challoner notes are minimal, I do not have a print version of the Haydock (which is very pricey, well over $150 most places), and I prefer not to do Bible study online. Also, I find the old English text and some of the commentary hard to digest -- not impossible, but involving more effort than I usually can give. Nonetheless, if I want to really dig deeply into a particular passage or topic, this is where I go.

The RSV-CE is a modern translation that preserves much of what is sound and poetic in older versions. (I understand that it is also good for use with some Protestants, as they use a less-complete version of the same translation, the RSV.) Unfortunately, there are almost no notes and those that it does have are often printed in an appendix rather than on the proper page. There is a Second Edition, but I understand that many prefer the original. A "bootleg" copy is available online, but I don't vouch for its reliability, let alone its legality!

This is the translation I quote from and often read from for reflection (I have the original Ignatius version, which is nicely printed and inexpensive.). I'm not alone, as it used a lot by those who explain the Catholic Faith to others (apologists). It is proper and elegant, which makes it a joy to read, and its word choices often inspire a slightly richer meditation on a passage than other versions.

The Jerusalem Bible of 1966 is not to be confused with The New Jerusalem Bible, an inferior revision. The original is an evocative modern translation with excellent modern study notes (for the most part). Like all Bible notes, these are not inspired and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, and must be read with intelligence and the mind of the Church. If you are considering purchasing the 1966 text, be sure to try to get a copy with the notes. I don't think this translation is available online, legally or otherwise.

This is my favorite Bible! I went through a good deal of trouble and expense to buy an old and relatively rare copy with the notes online, but it has been worth it. The text, though somewhat British, makes good sense to the modern reader, and the notes provide good background and explanation.

That brings me to the good news! Ignatius Press, one of the best Catholic publishers (their most notable author is Pope Benedict!), is in the process of compiling the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, including the contributions of noted convert Scott Hahn, using the RSV-CE (Second Edition). Several books of the New Testament are already available for about $10 each (softcovers), but my understanding is that the entire Bible, in one volume, will be available in the next couple of years. Many of us are awaiting this publication with enthusiasm (and hoping that it will be more affordable than buying each individual volume)! I have the volumes that contain Matthew and Acts and I find them very good, at least as useful as my Jerusalem Bible. In addition to copious footnotes in understandable terms, they also have sets of questions in the back for study and for reflection.

Finally, regarding the American bishops' New American Bible, which is used at Mass: It is easy to understand, but is often a clunky and (as I have read) less-than-faithful translation, so I prefer not to use it for study or meditation. I have read that many English-speaking peoples use the Jerusalem Bible at Mass, but our bishops have mandated the use of their translation, so this is not an option for us. Ditto for the RSV-CE and certainly the Douay-Rheims.

I would be glad to post more on this in the future and probably will.

About me

You'll wish you hadn't asked! When the baby wakes-up, though, I'll post this and put you out of your misery! (This rather irregular method of posting will mark most of this blog, as blogging is secondary to my occupation -- see below!)

I'm Kristen, a Catholic wife and stay-at-home mom to three little ones (that is: three under the age of three -- yes, we've been blessed!). We live in a little farming town in the Central Valley of California, though our parish and most of our non-home life is in Clovis/Fresno. My husband is a high school social studies/math teacher and, when I was paid in currency other than children's kisses, I worked as a journalist and a paralegal. This job is much better! I grew-up near San Diego and spent more than a decade in Arizona before returning to CA. I still miss San Diego sometimes, and I even miss Tucson a little, mostly at sunset and on weekends. I don't miss Phoenix -- it's hotter than you imagine and is mostly paved; there's not much within a couple of hours drive to "get away" to, etc. But, this farming town has lots of grapevines and three national parks are in our "backyard." I like to travel, too, though when I was able to do so freely, I wanted to be more of a homebody.

I attended eight years of Catholic school in SoCal and loved it (mostly). I also attended five years of public school, plus another five at Arizona's premier state college, the University of Arizona. (Yes, I took five years to get my degree and I've been running late ever since!) I was a Girl Scout for nine years and earned the Silver Award (the second-highest award) before we moved. I played the classical guitar, swam on a team, and tried most of the other sports open to girls. I'm not an athlete, but I do like to hike. I am an avid reader and writer. I was the Comment Editor of my high school paper and a columnist and news writer for the UA paper. My first real job was as the assistant editor of a Catholic newspaper; after some community college retooling, I took an entry-level paralegal job at a large civil law firm. I'm currently in on-the-job training as a mother and I do better with some parts of it than others. Does anyone have a magic wand for folding laundry?

I'm also a pro-life activist, though my activism is mostly confined to the home while the kids are small. My husband and I did make the Walk for Life West Coast in 2007, though. If it's legal and helpful to the vulnerable and those who care for them, chances are good that I've done it. Before I met my husband, my late father and I led a large and productive parish pro-life group, I volunteered at a hospital, a nursing home and a crisis pregnancy center, I wrote articles and gave speeches, and I prayed at abortion centers, among other things. I always love to talk about pro-life advocacy, so feel free to chat with me about it.

I'm an only child and was blessed with parents who loved me enough to give me the best they could, most especially the Faith. My Dad died of cancer in 2005 and my Mom is in moderate but stable health. We are blessed with good friends, especially through Opus Dei and The Light Weigh.

As for the trivia. I have a lot of "favorites": On TV, I regularly watch NCIS and Law & Order (I prefer SVU, like most fans). When I flip it on for reruns, I'll watch JAG, Magnum P.I., In the Heat of the Night, Crossing Jordan, and others. I enjoy "light" movies, mostly. My favorites include Top Gun, Pretty Woman, Airplane, most of the "Brat Pack" movies of the '80s and The Sound of Music. I read a lot of blogs, mostly Catholic ones, and follow the news pretty closely, especially politics. I once considered joining the Navy, but they wouldn't take me because of a rather common thyroid condition.

That's it in a nutshell.

One more thing, though. Please know that I keep all of you whom I chat with in my prayers and I always appreciate your prayers, too. Let's talk!

The Narrow Gate

If you've arrived here, on this brand new blog "We Are a Catholic Family," chances are good that you've read a post by me on another site, perhaps a news site or a Catholic site. Thanks for coming! I hope you find something here worth your time to read.

My goal is to make posts faithful to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in places where they might reach someone who needs to read such a post (as we all do -- what blogs do you think I read for encouragement?!). I post in places where most readers are ignorant of and/or hate the Church, in places where a lot of the folks are "just like me," and in places where the readers seem to think they are more Catholic than me or even the Pope! In other words, I'll talk with just about anyone if it will serve my one purpose in posting: I want to be a little roadside sign pointing to the narrow gate!

As you might guess, this "narrow gate" is the one Christ spoke to us about in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 7: 13-14: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.")

Christ is that gate, which we enter by following Him through the hills and valleys of our daily life. And, Christ has given us the Catholic Church to guide us on our way. We will only be happy -- imperfectly here on earth and perfectly in Heaven -- if we strive for holiness, which is nothing more or less than conforming to Christ as taught by His Church, suffering and rising.

So, I would consider myself most richly blessed by God if I could be a little sign, one of many such signs along the road of your daily life, one that points to the narrow gate.

Posts to come: About me (gotta have one of those, right?!); Why Roman Catholic?; A Word About "The Word" (nerdy Catholic details about Bible translation and study)