Monday, January 31, 2011

Part 11 - Passion of the Catholic Church - In Mourning - First Part

To be quite honest, I'm not sure I understand this one and how it ties in with the subtitle, but then again, I'm a little slow on the uptake these days. Still, it contains some very beguiling imagery.

And now for something completely ridiculous....

So I'm sitting on the sofa the other night, absorbed in reading an email, when my daschund/chihuahua mix starts pawing at my leg and barking at me. He's short, so I give him a hand climbing up on the couch, but he' s not satisfied to merely be sitting next to me. Nope, he wants more, but what? He starts pawing at my arm and barking. I have no idea what he wants, and it's obvious he's not going to leave me in peace, so I click on YouTube and find a video of a weiner dog howling. Now the little pest is glued to the screen, and then he cocks his head from side to side, in a very animated manner, and his ears keep flipping up and down. Yep, that's it. He wanted me to change the channel so he could watch one of his shows.

Doesn't the little critter do it again tonight? This time I found him a Bichon Frise video. He was raised with a little Bichon, who sadly passed away last year. He actually leaned across the keyboard to sniff the screen. Amazing. So much for being a dumb animal.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Part 10 - Passion of the Catholic Church - It Is Done

Sunday Kitchen/January

Note to self: don't post pre-photos unless you're absolutely certain you're going to take post-pics. I forgot to get a shot of the meatloaf. And to tell you how good it was, there's none left, and one of the people at dinner was a vegetarian. The gnocchi I managed to catch before they were gone. You can still see a little bit of the foamy butter sauce and shitakes in the shot I posted. This was a bit of an exhausting day. I overslept by about 30 minutes, and it made a big difference. I had to hustle to get the tea sandwiches done, then move on to the homemade waffles. After Mass, we spent about an hour at the reception, which was quite lovely, and then it was back in the kitchen, where I made the gnocchi for today, put the meatloaf in the oven, and then worked on getting some meals together for the rest of the week. If I'm going to prepare some meals to make it easier on the nights when I work, I prefer to do this on a Saturday instead of spending most of Sunday in the kitchen. Not exactly a day of rest when you cook all day, is it? But part of last night was spent chauffeuring teens around and the other part prepping today's dinner, so there it is.

Our oldest daughter had to work today and didn't join us for dinner, but she's on her way over now for what's left. Matthew had a friend over, a young man I might have mentioned before. I don't know what happened to his father, and his mother was tragically killed when he was still very young. He is being raised by his elderly grandparents and I don't think he's getting all the help he should. Sadly, he dropped out of school last year. I think the times when he comes here for dinner or to play his guitar are the closest he comes to a normal household. M has made a lot of progress since we first met him. Initially, he couldn't even make eye contact with us. He would stand in the doorway with his head tucked way down. Now he comes in, asks how I am, if there is anything he can do for me, etc. He never turns down an invitation to dinner anymore, although he never eats much.

Last year, I let my son host a birthday party for his friend. It wasn't much but it was probably more than he'd seen before. I think it went a long way in breaking the ice. We ordered pizza and I got a supermarket cake inscribed with the boy's name on it. Since then, he's come out of his shell quite a bit. I'm sure he's on the autistic scale of disorders and once I tried to ask his grandmother if he saw anyone, but she took offense. I watched this kid cross the street once and I was horrified. He has no sense of when it's safe. I think it's only because of the grace of God and the protection of our Lady that this fellow is still in one piece.

Anyway, enough rambling. Time to say some prayers and get myself and the kids in gear for the week.

Oh, on the way back from church, Rebecca and I saw a red-tailed hawk up close and person. He was sitting atop a light post on the corner. I'd never seen a hawk sitting so low before. He looked a bit raggedy. Maybe he's as sick of the snow as we are.

Philly Church Project

For those of you who live in my neck of the woods, and even those of you who don't, here is an interesting website someone alerted me to after the TLM today. Take a look at some of the hidden treasures right here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. What you see and where it can be found might surprise you!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Part 9 - Passion of the Catholic Church - Forsaken


And Another Thing....

In almost every hospital I've worked in, it seems there is an expectation that you will not only be a good employee but a cheerleader for the organization as well. This is another struggle for me. There is only one organization in this world that I can get truly excited about and that's the Catholic church and everything that goes with it. The rest is so difficult for me. Unfortunately, as much as I'd love to, I can't be a stay-at-home mom and wife right now. So when my work day is done, I want to go home to my family. Soon, school will be starting again. I'm about as excited over getting my Masters as I am about getting a tetanus shot. This is why I look back at my life and ask how I got things so screwed up. Yes, it could be worse, I could have no job at all. I could still be leading a life of sin and spiritual neglect. But when you consider some of us spend most of our waking day at a job; for the love of God, it should be something we enjoy and feel good about.

OK, someone please tell me to stop whining and count my many blessings. This, too, shall pass.

Sunday Kitchen Prep

Here are some photos of the prep for tomorrow's dinner. My mother called today to tell us the snow has made parking on their road impossible, so we're not getting together for dinner tomorrow. Hence, the Sunday meal will be at home. We are having a reception in the rectory after the TLM tomorrow, and I'm bringing tea sandwiches this time because they're easy for people to eat without making a mess and they're pretty easy for me to make. Therefore, I wanted to get an early start on tomorrow's dinner, which is going to be polpettone di carne or meatloaf that is rolled up. I learned to make this from Maryann Esposito on Ciao Italia one sleepy Saturday afternoon. What follows is my own version. It takes a bit more prep than your standard meatloaf, but it's well worth it. You'll need:

2 1/2 lbs Meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork and veal)
2 eggs
1 cup of chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1 cup grated pecorino romano

1/4 lb prosciutto
1 cup grated Fontina or mozzarella cheese
2 medium sized baking potatoes, cooked and skinned, ready to be put through a ricer
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine

It helps to have a large cookie pan covered with a long piece of waxed paper. You'll see why. Mix the first 8 ingredients together. Then take the potatoes and put add them to the mix by putting them through a ricer and then mixing the riced potatoes loosely into the meat. Next, take the mixture and place on the waxed paper-covered cookie sheet. Shape into a nice rectangle, as shown in the pictures. Next, lay strips of prosciutto, single layer at a time, and then top the prosciutto with the shredded Fontina or mozzarella. Take one end of the waxed paper and use it to roll the meat into a loaf, as shown. If you're going to cook this at a later time, wrap it tightly in tin foil and refrigerate. If you're going to bake it right away, heat the oven to 350. Set the loaf in a baking dish deep enough to hold the meat plus the chicken broth and wine. Bake uncovered approximately 60-90 minutes, depending on your oven. I use a meat thermometer to make sure it's cooked before removing it from the oven.

Hopefully, I'll remember to take photos of the finished product. I like this recipe because it calls for carrots, and it's a sneaky way of getting the kids to eat vegetables. Using potato instead of breadcrumbs also gives the meatloaf a unique taste. I brought the leftovers into work at my previous job and had people ask me to make this for them for special occasions. When I had the time, I did. One of these days I'm going to substitute soperasata for the prosciutto and see how that turns out.

One of the charms of living in South Philadelphia is that when you walk through the neighborhood on Sunday morning, you can't help but notice a certain aroma in the air. That would be the scent of meatballs being fried and tomato gravy being cooked. (Remember, calling it sauce in these parts is akin to a sacrilege). I grew up eating "gravy" every Sunday, and it's almost always what my mother serves, so when we can have dinner at home, I like to mix things up a bit. The side tomorrow may very well be gnocchi in a shitake cream sauce again. Stay tuned!

St. Therese in her own words

"You know, Mother, how I have always wanted to be a saint. But alas, I have always noticed , when I compare myself to the saints, that between them and me there is the same distance that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trodden under-foot by passersby. Instead of becoming discouraged, I said: 'God would not inspire unrealisable desires, I can, therefore, despite my littleness aspire to sanctity. It is impossible for me to grow up, so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections. But I am going to look for a means of going to Heaven by a little way that is very direct, very short and very new.' "

Friday, January 28, 2011

Part 8 - Passion of the Catholic Church - Raising the Cross

No Turning Back: One Priest's Story of Conversion

"No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy" is a new book from Marian Press written by Father Donald H. Calloway, M.I.C. According to a review in the Catholic Standard & Times, prior to his conversion, Father smoked pot, snorted coke, dropped out of school, flunked rehab twice, got arrested, and found all the religion he needed in the Grateful Dead. "Just when he was becoming disillusioned with life, a book he finds in his parents' home about Mary Queen of Peace, changes everything."

I can relate to that.

Although I was on an entirely different but every bit as dangerous path of my own, it was something I found at my parents' house one Sunday after dinner that changed everything. Sister Lucia had just passed away, and there was an article in the same paper referenced above about Fatima and the events that followed. When I read that the late Pope John Paul II was shot on May 13th, the same day the apparitions to the children at Fatima began, I couldn't put the article down. I remember my mother calling me to join the rest of the family for dessert, and politely excusing myself. The CS & T was always on the coffee table when we went to my parents' house for Sunday dinner. Why did I happen to pick up that particular copy? Shortly thereafter, I dug out my Rosary and have hardly ever missed a day reciting it yet. The rest is history.

Father Calloway is now a member of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception. How fitting that he would choose to belong to an order that not only belongs to Mary but are the "official promoters of the Divine Mercy."

Father Calloway credits the prayers of his earthly mother with bringing him back to the faith. And just like my mother never gave up on me, neither does our Mother in Heaven give up on any of us. I remember Father Corapi talking about how Mary picked him up out of the gutter, the way a mother would laughingly pluck her filthy little boy out of a puddle of mud.

"No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy" can be purchased on Father Calloway's website and will also be available at Catholic bookstores.

The Struggle

So, two weeks at the new job have concluded. Every day when I come home, my husband and my kids ask me the exact same thing: "So, what do you think?" I know they are waiting for the other shoe to drop. The OR I came from was run very efficiently (by me, I might add) and I'm accustomed to giving orders and having them followed. I don't mean that I ordered people around; I only mean that when I asked someone to do something, they did it. Here, people have been without a leader for so long, they're accustomed to doing whatever they feel like doing, when they feel like it. So anyone who asks more of them than they're used to giving is viewed with suspicion. I can deal with that.

What I'm finding more difficult is the social aspect that comes with being a director. When the day begins, I want to start it at Mass. When it ends, I want to go home to my family. At the risk of sounding like I live in a cave or a monastery, I really don't. But when I do "socialize", it's more than likely that the occasion centers around my church or my faith. My idea of a fun weekend is going to the Carmelite Monastery for a day of silent recollection. And at Lent, I really live it up and do two retreats; one with the nuns and the other with the priests and seminarians at St. Charles Seminary. On Sunday, we are having a reception in the rectory following the TLM. Although I've always had a bit of a difficult time around strangers or people I don't know well, I manage with this very nicely. I bring food, put on an apron, and wait on people, so the small talk is easier.

At work, there is an expectation that the directors will be good team players and attend every social event held at the hospital or by one of the doctors. Fortunately, I missed the Christmas party, but I won't be able to get out of going to the Spring picnic, the jocs versus the docs softball game, or the barbecue at Dr. H's vacation home. On Fridays, the nurse directors order out for lunch, and then meet and talk and joke around. On Fridays, I try to abstain from meat and eat in a more penitential manner, so I'm going to have to figure out how NOT to draw attention to myself. I prefer to eat at my desk, by myself, and when the weather's nice, go for a walk around the block and sneak in a Chaplet. That's not going to be so easy now. I also have a boss who likes to socialize outside of work, from what I've seen. I can tell it's going to be awkward.

I can't wait til someone asks me what I did over the weekend.

"Well, let's see. I went to Mass, Adoration and Confession on Saturday, followed by making Communion calls to my sick and shut-in parishioners that are assigned to me; and then on Sunday, I made the appetizers for my church's reception, took my son the altar server to his Mass, came home and went to the TLM, and then spent the afternoon at the rectory. Then we went to Vespers."

It's going to be interesting, that's for sure.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Part 7 - Passion of the Catholic Church - Crucifixion

How much longer, dear Lord?


Given the fact that we here on the East Coast are buried under yet another round of snow, with a bit more to come, I thought I'd post one more Dickinson poem. This one mentions snow, but has nothing to do with it really. I figured since we're in the throes of the dead of winter, you might enjoy it and find it relevant in some way. I love this poem.

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

-Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some days, it's just like this

A great Hope fell
You heard no noise
The Ruin was within
Oh cunning wreck that told no tale
And let no Witness in

The mind was built for mighty Freight
For dread occasion planned
How often foundering at Sea
Ostensibly, on Land

A not admitting of the wound
Until it grew so wide
That all my Life had entered it
And there were troughs beside

A closing of the simple lid
That opened to the sun
Until the tender Carpenter
Perpetual nail it down --

-Emily Dickinson

Part 6 - Passion of the Catholic Church - Carrying the Cross

Deliver us, Lord, from this kind of liturgy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Part V - Passion of the Catholic Church - Scourging

It gets worse before it gets better. It's always darkest before the dawn.

Living the Life

The Crescat has a good posts today on our vocations in life and how we sometimes catch ourselves saying we "missed our calling".

As you know, I started my new job last Monday. The only weekday on which I was able to get to Mass was Wednesday evening. This week, I decided to try going to the weekday parish that I've called home for the past three years to see how long it would take me to get to work, and since it's only taken me about 20 minutes, I've decided to forgo the suburban church a few miles from the hospital to stick with what I'm familiar with.

I have a few reasons for this. One, I'm assured there will be no liturgical abuses here. Second, the regulars at the 6:30 am Mass have forged a bond of sorts. We notice when someone is missing, or when someone is ailing or not quite themselves and we pray for one another. Third, there is a wonderful priest who I actually PRAYED would be assigned to this church. He was, a bit later than the cardinal usually makes assignments, and it's a joy to assist at any Mass he celebrates and listen to him speak. But if truth be told, I have a selfish reason for loving this Mass as much as I do.

And what would that be?

The sisters.

The Mighty Macs (IHM nuns) who taught me in grade school, along with watching "The Trouble With Angels" and "The Nun's Story" one too many times, left an indelible impression on me. Since that's not the route I took in life, I confess that I feel I get to live a small part of what I'm missing by going to the same Mass that the sisters do each morning. It's silly, I know, but it's one of those little things in life that bring such joy. The funny part is that these sisters and I seem to travel in the same "Mass" circles. We go to the same weekday Mass, and many times, I will see them at the same church where I go for confession and the same chapel where I go for Saturday Noon Mass and Adoration. Once, we even all showed up at the same Lenten day of recollection at the seminary.

Aside from the fact that I enjoy this Mass, I need it. I felt so disjointed after being out of my normal routine last week. I like the discipline that comes with rising so early and having a strict prayer regimen. I need the strength that I draw daily from the Eucharist. Sometimes, going to that Mass is the most pious thing I get to do all day because of work and family responsibilities. And if Mass is the most pious devotion one can manage, that's not a bad thing. I notice when I get up early for this Mass even on days that I don't have to work, I'm much more productive and waste far less time than I do if I get up at my leisure and go to a later one. My prayer life is more focused. I have more patience and more strength to endure the every day trials that can drive you crazy, like husbands. I understand why the strict structure of the monastic life is so important.


No photos to post of this, but I made a great discovery. If you add cup of club soda to a cup of buttermilk pancake mix, you get the best coating for fried fish. I accidentally took cod fillets out of the freezer instead of chicken tenders, so imagine my surprise when I opened the wrapping. Luckily, I had some seltzer and some delicious New Hope Mills mix on hand. The family loved it. I'll have to keep this in mind when Lent rolls around.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Part 4 - Passion of the Catholic Church - Suspicions

Part of an on-going series taken from YouTube and created by tutustuusmaterdei.

Irony or Hypocrisy, or Both?

The same folks who don't want the government interfering with their "right" to an abortion apparently have no problem asking that same government to let them pick our pockets to pay for it. In Pennsylvania, a group called Raising Women's Voices, a coalition of 27 pro-abortion organizations, held a rally to "highlight the importance of abortion coverage in the new health insurance exchanges required by the 2010 law."
This is an area where more must be done to combat the perception of some that abortion should be considered part of women's health care, right up there with pap smears and mammograms. Last week in Philadelphia, the news media and District Attorney's office continued to refer to the remains of the full-term dead babies in Kermitt Gosnell's horror chamber as "fetuses". Lots of complaints and corrections later, we are now hearing them correctly call them what they are - babies. Let's see if we can't get them to correct themselves on this issue.

And get ready for the arguments from the other side. You know, the one that says some abortions are necessary to save a woman's life. If you look at the statistics of those having late-term abortions for supposedly life-threatening conditions, you'd have to ask yourself what the CDC is doing about the epidemic of desperately ill women in this country. The numbers simply do not add up. If the number of women that sick they need an abortion to save their lives is accurate, it seems to me some of these women's groups are protesting for the wrong thing. They should be demanding to get to the bottom of what would have be a crisis of unimaginable proportions given the numbers. You know why you don't. Because they're full of it, and they know it.

Now, I'm not one of those folks who thinks the status-quo with the status of health care is just AOK. I do not think it is consistent with a pro-life philosophy to tell sick and injured people to suck it up if they can't afford coverage. I don't think it's consistent with pro-life beliefs to make children who, through no fault of their own, are born with chronic conditions, to be faced with no health insurance or exorbitant fees that make access impossible once they reach adulthood. That does not mean I support the current plan - in fact, I do not. But once it's defeated, I will be listening closely to see what the loudest opponents of the bill come up with so when we say we are pro-life, we mean it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Deformation Part III

For those just tuning in, this is the third in a series my pastor discovered on YouTube. The creator is totustuusmaterdei. I had nothing to do with this production but am simply presenting it here for you to watch and think about it.

A Messenger for Christ

The shortage of priests as well as societal changes have rendered nearly extinct a favorite Catholic tradition from my childhood. Known as the "block collection", the parish priests would schedule a few weeks in the fall when they would branch out and visit every home in the parish. The priest who visited our home would ask some questions, update our family information, and bless us and our home. The block collection was a big deal for my parents. The house had to be gleaming, everyone had to be on their utmost best behavior, and we would sit like statues on the couch with our hands folded on our laps, listening for the knock at the door that would tell us Father was near.

When Father reached the nearest neighbor's house, a runner would knock on our door to let us know we were next. This was like the two-minute warning so that we could do any last-minute straightening, end any inappropriate discussions, and shut the television, if it happened to be on.

Lately, I've been slightly at odds with some fellow Catholics who I think are interested in the same thing I am - the salvation of souls. Perhaps it's because I'm a revert and a somewhat (thought not entirely) converted liberal that I see things differently. I didn't vote for the current occupant of the White House, and I of course do not support his actions or policies that expand access to abortion in any way. But I don't have a visceral reaction to him the way some do, and I think this sometimes rankles folks. I guess because of my own past, I tend to look at him and his cohort of pro-abortion CINO Democrats as a challenge that I don't intend to let slip away.

Yes, everyone is capable of redemption, although some are more ripe for it than others. I think of St. Therese as a spiritually precocious 14-year-old, fasting for an entire day to that Henri Pranzini might undergo a death-row conversion and repent of his sins in the moments before his execution. This does not mean I would roll over and just allow an advancement of abortion rights without a fight. But I simply can't bring myself to use Hitler and Nazi analogies because quite honestly, I think most politicians are snake oil salesmen. However, the possible flaw in my approach is this: although Christ did willingly allow encounters with prostitutes and other sinners, those who were in darkness sought Him out. At least they were in His general vicinity, such as Levi when Christ called him down from the tree. The politicians and pro-abortionists are not, and they demonstrate no interest in drawing near to Him.

Christ does not chase us, but He does pursue us. No matter how many times we refuse to answer, He continues to knock. He doesn't pound the door down, but gives a polite rap, no matter how long it takes us to answer. When it comes to those who suffer from the same blindness that I once did, I liken myself to that messenger who went ahead to alert people that the priest was on his way. Sometimes, our neighbors would be hesitant to accept a visit because they didn't have the envelope ready or were ashamed that they hadn't been to church lately. This is where the messenger came in handy, talking them down, so to speak, to reassure them that Father only wanted to bless them and their home. Some still refused a visit, and others humbly opened the door, full of apologies.

I'm going to continue to play the role of that messenger. I'm not going to insult, condemn or even ignore anyone. I am just going to keep talking to them and hope that eventually, they'll get tired of me and at least look through the peephole. Obviously, I have no rapport with the president or politicians, but I do know plenty of people who support him as well as other CINO politicians. Maybe the laws will change, but until that happens, I prefer to continue to work on changing hearts and minds (oooh I know, that phrase might hurt some eardrums out there). You never know how just one word to someone at the right time can plant a seed. And while I'm at it, I need to pray and fast more, and talk about doing it less.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Deformation Part II

Coming to Terms With an Awful Truth

Everyone deals with their baggage differently, and let me tell you that I am no exception. Grief, anger, guilt, regret, shame and all the other miseries we carry around with us are sometimes visible to the world, or they are hidden, like a scar where a once-festering wound lay. Many years ago, just a week after I graduated from college, I did the unspeakable. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I did it anyway; the worst way to commit a mortal sin, with full and complicit knowledge of the gravity of my actions. I was one of those people who believed that if you engaged in the act of procreation, you should accept the natural consequences of that action. I preached it to others, argued with those who disagreed with me, and self-righteously condemned those who thought otherwise. Then, I found myself in a situation I thought only happened to other people. How quickly I changed my tune.

I was the good girl who never got into trouble, studied, got good grades, and followed all the rules. At least that's the way it appeared on the surface. The little girl that the nuns tried to recruit early on for the consecrated life grew up and killed her own child. I hid that awful truth from a lot of people, but I never hid it from God. I lived in dire fear that I would be struck dead before I could get to confession. A person I was very close to at the time had a friend who was a priest that he knew I would be comfortable confessing, to, and I did. But a few things were wrong. The priest never made me say what I did, and although I said I knew what I did was wrong and that I was sorry, I really had no regret in the way that I should have. Frankly, I was glad to have the whole thing behind me. Even though I confessed, I was still in the darkness. "It was a terrible thing to do, but it was the right thing for me to do" was how I looked at it.

Many years later, a priest I came to be friends with held a novena leading up the Feast of Divine Mercy, and he talked about a man who went through life with a terrible secret that he could not bring himself to confess. Father talked about how this secret became like an abscess, and the longer the man hid it, the worse it became. "Don't be like him" was how he ended the sermon. I thought he was talking directly to me. So the next day, I went to confession, and in a trembling voice, confessed my sin once again, only this time I knew the gravity of what I had done. I had done what was convenient for me, never giving a thought to what God wanted. I acted against the wishes of the father of the child, who was vehemently pro-life, and I never told him what I had done. I convinced him that I wasn't pregnant after all. I might have fooled him, but God was another story.

Perhaps worst of all, I caused other people to enter into my sin. The person who took me for the abortion, and the doctor who performed it. When I heard that he passed, I had a terrible vision of him being held accountable by God for what he and I did together. I pray to this day that he sought forgiveness and that he was shown God's mercy.

I have talked about what I did at length with my oldest and assured her that I would do everything under the sun to help her if she ever found herself pregnant before marriage. "I don't think I could kill my own child, but thanks, Mom", was her reply I don't know if I will talk to the youngest or not about it, because she's on a very different path than most girls her age, so I will wait.

God has forgiven me not only for my actions but for my blindness in thinking that what I did "was the right thing for me". I believe that He wishes to use me, as He has others, to bring light out of the darkness and to prevent others from falling into the long dark pit into which I had fallen.

Some months ago, I got into a debate with columnist on a very liberal blog about abortion. She aborted a baby that she was told was deformed and might not survive long after birth, and she was happy she had done this so that if the child had lived, it wouldn't eat up resources, etc. That kind of thinking is typical of a certain mindset of people. Anyway, I wasn't accusatory or anything, just trying to get her to see the same things I was too blind to see - that all children are a gift from God, that His Will takes precedence over ours, and that the child she destroyed was a sibling of the little girl she has now. The pro abortion folks came out of the woodwork to attack the minority of us who voiced our opinions on that blog, and more than one of them said "You're probably another one of those hypocrites who thinks that by saying you're against abortion, you can hide the fact that you had one."

That remark stung momentarily, but then I came back to say that if you are trying to dissuade a child from taking up a life of crime, who would be a more credible influence on him? A goody-goody type who never did anything wrong, or an ex-con who saw the hardships of prison first-hand?

Every so often, the devil's voice will try to get to me with attacks similar to the one used by the woman who called me a hypocrite. "You know you only regret what you did because you're not all holy and pure like those other Catholics you aspire to be like." By trying to plant those seeds in my mind, he would try to effectively shut me up and keep silent on the subject. I put the lid on it quickly and I see that God can use me to prevent other women from making similar mistakes. I believe only God has the right to take a life, except in valid cases of self-defense, and I believe no one is beyond His redemption. To think otherwise would violate trust in His infinite mercy.

We all choose to do things in the manner most comfortable to us. I prefer to reach out to those who suffer from the same blindness I once did. Planting seeds comes more easily to me than wielding a hammer, so I leave that approach to others. A few years ago, a pro-life friend asked me when I was going to the go the March for Life in Washington. "When you go to an anti-war demonstration with me" I told her. She didn't say anything, but I did go on my first March with her two Januarys ago. I am still opposed to the death penalty, the Iraq war, euthanasia, and the destruction of embryos for stem-cell research, but I don't feel the need anymore to march for any of those causes. If we add up all the deaths from wars, violence and the death penalty together, it's doesn't even begin to approach the number of children who never had a birthday, a first Christmas or a trip to the zoo.

Humans are the only species to willfully destroy their own offspring in-utero. What should be the safest place on earth for an innocent life can now be a place of unspeakable violence. I still think we have a long way to go to support women who choose life over abortion, and I think we have not done enough as a society to protect the children we do have from violence, particularly the kind that comes from the hands of their own parents. How much longer will God tolerate this? I don't know the answer, but I know that I will do whatever I can to help others see the truth, because one way or another, it always outs.

Remember the words God spoke to Cain. "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground". We are our brothers' keepers, even the ones we can't see.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Telling It Like It Is

Over at the Anchoress, I was reading some of the comments in reference to the horror chamber conducted by a man who delivered full-term babies and murdered them by driving scissors into the base of their skulls. The following is an excerpt that really struck me for its frank and accurate assessment of what goes on in any abortion clinic.

"Here is the deal. When a woman first decides to kill her kid it does not matter whether or not the place is full of cats, donkeys or speedfreaks.

A murder is a murder. And whether you paint the place pink and gold with emeralds covering the floor, it does not matter. Kids are being killed there.

The rest is just scenery.

Apparently, the place looked just like it should according to its purpose.

All abortion clinics are slaughterhouses. This one was just honest enough to look like one."

Lord have mercy.

The Deformation of the Catholic Church

Some time ago, my pastor discoverd this series of videos on YouTube, and my daughter subsequently put them on one CD for him. I thik I will post one video from the series each day and spare you all my drivel for awhile, though there may be a post tomorrow related to the date.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Bishop, Obama and Tuscon

I read what Bishop Thomas J Tobin had to say about the president's speech last week in Tuscon. I must admit some of the same thoughts ran through my mind, given Mr. Obama's abysmal record on abortion. I thought of all the little Christina's that never got an opportunity to discover life's joys, like ballet, Little League, etc. I thought about the irony that we are so devastated when tragedies of this magnitude occur, yet many more lives have been lost to abortion, which is an act of violence against innocent life, repeated over and over again, every day. We get worked up about that which we can see, and we forget about that which is hidden from us but is a reality all the same. These ironies are not lost on me.

Still....I must confess to some disappointment. Had not it been so easy for a psychologically impaired person to purchase a gun and ammunition of mass destruction, there would have been no opportunity for the president to give that speech. Am I wrong to wish that just one word could have been mentioned about the insanity of making weapons which serve no legitimate purpose so accessible? I don't think it detracts from the unborn to call attention to other travesties which continue to snuff out innocent life, so long as abortion remains the primary focus. Do you?

Let's see if we can't have a respectful discussion about this.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oh, the Humanity, Crying out to Heaven!

Lucky for me, there is at least one church in my neighborhood with an evening Mass once a week. By evening, I mean 7pm or later, in this case, confession at 7pm and Mass at 7:30. Following the Mass is a novena to St. Rita, saint of impossible cases. The Adoration chapel is open until Mass begins on Wednesday evenings, even though the Blessed Sacrament is no longer exposed. (He is still there, just the same, but repositioned at 5pm when the friars begin Vespers). Going to this Mass gives you a good idea of the suffering and desperation of so many people and while it's difficult to see people in so much pain, it is edifying to know that in that desperation, they have turned to God and one of His most powerful saints.

Sometimes, it's pretty obvious that those pleading for God's mercy are not all that familiar with the Catholic Mass. They don't know when to stand, or what to say, so it's an opportunity not only to join my petitions to theirs, but to ask God to grant them the grace to return faithfully to the fold.

It also occurred to me that when a person is so closely entwined in a difficult situation, it's not always possible for them to pray. Many years ago, before my youngest was finally diagnosed with Marfan's(and not something with a much worse prognosis as was feared, Thank God), I could not pray. I asked other people to pray for us, and then I simply told God that I was too involved and couldn't separate myself from the anxiety long enough to do or say anything but "Lord, I trust You, please handle this for me." And He did. So when I'm at this Mass or others like it, when the cries of desperation surround me, I feel it is my turn to reciprocate, to pray for those who may not be able to pray for themselves or perhaps have too much pride to ask for God's help.

Tonight was also an opportunity to ask St. Rita's intercession for those I only know through blogging but who tug at my heart just the same. God loves them, and so do I. And I hope they know that now St. Rita, the saint of the impossible who bore the marks of Christ's passion and love on her forehead and in her heart, is praying for them as well.
Peace all

PS- blogger spellcheck isn't working, so cut me some slack :-D

Monday, January 17, 2011

Off to an Auspicious Start

Even though my new job is not in a Catholic hospital, it was still an encouraging first day. My Brown Scapular was visible as I was being introduced to one of the surgeons, and he was nearly ecstatic. "You're obviously a religious person," he said, "and that's something that means a lot to me. I'm Jewish, but I'm married to a devout Catholic. I love people who aren't afraid to display symbols of their faith."

At first, I thought he was pulling my leg, but as he went on, I could see he was not. I told him that I rely heavily on my "friends in high places". And then suddenly, the charge nurse, was who was showing me around and making introductions, produced a St. Therese holy card that she keeps in her scrub pocket at all times.

Another thing I learned is that my predecessor normally came in to work around 9am. I don't intend to do that, as that would surely be taking advantage, but at least I know it will be fine if I'm not there at the crack of dawn. I may even be able to continue to attend Mass at my usual weekday parish, provided I can get to work by 7:30am. It will still be some time before I can do this as there are processes I need to observe that happen very early. But hopefully, in about a month, I can fall back into my familiar routine.

Thank you Lord!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Serendipity!

In college, our president loved to use the word "serendipity". She was a religious sister who belonged to the Missionaries of St. Francis Cabrini and she bravely had her office in the same mansion that housed our dorm. Anyway, whenever I hear that word, I think of her.

Today my son was scheduled to fly solo for the first time as an altar server. For the past few months that he's been in training, he made it clear he didn't want me to be there. He's the kind of kid that doesn't like to sing in front of us or be applauded and we respect the delicate boundary that protects him. Still, he wasn't putting on a performance. This was Holy Mass. I thought about sneaking in after Mass started to get a glimpse and then he threw me for a loop. I wanted him to get to the sacristy a half hour early so he could ask any last-minute questions and be well prepared. As he was walking out the door, he tossed one of his famous comments designed to inflict maximum guilt at me. "It would be nice if my own mother was coming." And out the door he went.

I was planning to go to the Latin Mass as I normally do at Noon, so to say I was caught off guard is an understatement. As soon as the door closed behind him, I charged upstairs to get ready and enlisted Rebecca to do the same. I can't tell you the look on his face as he was carrying the crucifix to the rear of the church and saw us all there.

He did very well, even for his first time, and did his best to keep his shoulders straight and his hands clasped upright. I am hoping that, like his sister, being in such proximity to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will impart a greater love for God and reverence for the Real Presence.

Afterward, I thanked the priest who celebrated Mass for his patience. When Matt reached us after changing out of his alb, he had the biggest grin on his face. "You didn't think I'd be here, did ya?"

"Nope, but I'm glad you were."

So am I!

Around the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Stand for Life
Reminder that January 22nd is the 38th Anniversary of Roe v Wade. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion, 55 million children of God have been destroyed in what should be the safest place in the world - their own mother's womb. Join the Pro-Life Union and Generation Life at a prayer vigil at the Philadelphia Women's Center at 8th and Cherry at 7:30am, followed by a procession and Mass at St. John the Evangelist at 9:30am.

Spiritual Pilgrimage to Italy Fall 2011
So, what are you doing between September 24 and October 4th? Why not consider coming with us on this spiritual journey to some of Italy's most sacred shrines? Rome, St. Rita and St. Pio, among others! People from all over the country will be joining us as we depart from Newark's Liberty Airport en route to Rome. The total cost of the trip is $3277 per double occupancy and includes everything including meals, transfers and tipping, plus trip insurance. Call 215-546-833 for more information. 22 seats have already been sold.

Mass for People with Disabilities
On March 20, 2011 The Archdiocese will holds its annual Eucharistic Liturgy for persons with disabilities and their families and caregivers. The Mass is scheduled for 2:30pm with Cardinal Justin Rigali the celebrant. A light reception will follow. Please call 215-587-3530 for more information.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Last night the house was finally quiet enough for a few hours that I could read this book, and I did. I don't want to give anything away for the sake of those who haven't read it yet, but I think if we could put this book into the hands of folks on the other side of the fence, it might do some good. I have to say that I saw a lot of myself in Abby Johnson as she wrestled with what she did for a living and how she justified Planned Parenthood's existence.

I worked for a hospital that had many excellent surgeons on staff but which also allowed late-term abortions to take place. When I first started working there, the D & E's, as they're called, took place in a free-standing center that was part of the hospital but had its own staff and director. Occasionally, staff from our OR were asked to cover these cases, but if a person objected, they could not be forced to participate. Every year, the number of people willing to be assigned to these rooms dwindled to the point where any new hires for the free-standing facility were told that working in the D & E rooms was mandatory. Since I worked in another specialty, I didn't think too much about what was happening in the place that issued my paycheck. I had been asked once to work in this room when I first arrived at the hospital. At the time, I considered myself in that nebulous area known as "I'm personally opposed but feel other women should make their own decisions." Still, I refused. I saw clearly that my participation would not mean assisting in surgery but in the wholesale slaughter of an infant and I wanted no part of it.

After I underwent my conversion, I felt especially grateful that I had never been duped into aiding and abetting infanticide, and I had a new-found appreciation for the staff who secretly slipped adoption information and other anti-abortion literature to patients as well as the offending surgeon. No one was ever "caught", but I admired their bravery in taking a chance.

Then, the decision was made to move the doctor who performed these procedures to our side of the street. I objected as strenuously as I could, but I was overruled. In our "leadership" meetings, I had a woman stand up and point her finger in my face and tell me that at least hospital abortions were safer than having them in a back alley. "Who are they safer for?" I asked her. "The baby still winds up dead, regardless." I was proud of myself for leaving her speechless, but I did not succeed in stopping this. And when I thought about it, maybe it was good that I didn't. The only thing that was different is that this travesty would be taking place in the same facility as the surgeries I supervised, so I couldn't claim ignorance anymore.

I happened to be in the recovery room one day when a young woman was brought in from one of the OR's. She was sobbing uncontrollably. I could never just walk away from a crying person without asking if they needed help, but she had several nurses and anesthesia personnel around her who were trying to console her. I heard her telling them she was very sorry about what had just taken place, but she had two kids at home and no support and felt she did the best thing. But I could tell she knew what she had just done was very wrong. I didn't think it was the right time to affirm this with her, but I have prayed for her ever since that she would seek God's forgiveness and be enlightened.

I tried to talk to a priest about what was taking place and how I could remain there, even though I did not take part in the infanticide. I could tell this was as much a quandary for him as it was for me. He was one of the priests who brought Holy Communion to the sick at our hospital. Countless priests and nuns had been among our patient clientele. Did they know what was going on? One would expect to hear that abortions were taking place at Planned Parenthood. But did they know that a hospital renowned for bringing babies into the world was also notorious for bringing innocent life to a deliberate and brutal end? And what right did I have to point fingers when I'd been taking a paycheck from this institution for years?

I have since left that hospital but I can't not think about the nurses and techs who assisted that doctor as casually as they would an ear nose and throat doc who performed tonsillectomies. Maybe if I had the courage that the members of Coalition for Life did, my colleagues might have undergone the same enlightenment that Abby Johnson did.

Friday, January 14, 2011

And Now a Word From....

Not to worry, I don't have any sponsors, but I would like to plug a very valuable resource for Catholics and their families - Tan Books and St. Benedict Press, which have teamed up to bring us a wealth of Catholic treasures. I order my St. Therese Novena and St. Michael chaplet booklets from Tan, which I then place in strategic places in the hope that someone will find them and make use of them. This time around, I've extended my order to include a booklet on St. Raphael. This little gem is packed with valuable information and advice for newly married couples as well as anyone who'd like to learn more about this Angel of the Lord,and like most Tan booklets, it's a quick read.

The next time you're in the market for Catholic books, please consider ordering them from Tan/St. Benedict Press. The return on your investment is infinite, believe me!

Who to Thank?

In the past I had an unhealthy and dangerous interest in the spirit world. I was both intrigued and terrified by the movie "The Exorcist" and it doesn't seem that long ago when just the sight of that horrid face would have me looking over my shoulder. I know better now. However, a book was recommended to me and I promised that it was the last thing that I would read about the subject. "Hostage to the Devil" was written by the late Malachi Martin, a laicized Jesuit priest who chronicled five contemporary exorcisms that had been audio recorded.

In one of the cases, the priest was demanding information from a demon and he was told that the man being exorcised had a late grandfather who had essentially run interference for his grandson for years to protect him. When asked who had appointed the deceased with this task, the demon told the priest in so many words that it was Jesus Christ Himself.

I have likened my own conversion to the experience of being the lone survivor of a plane crash where all of the other passengers were killed except me. When I look at other heretics who I shared a laugh or some derision at the expense of the Catholic church, I wonder why I am so fortunate and to date, they're not. After reading the account of the exorcism of the young man, I began to think that maybe my maternal grandmother had something to do with it. I know that my parents prayed for my conversion, but when I asked both of them, both said it was never an urgent prayer. Both of them have told me that they knew I would come back and trusted God would see to it. However, I am convinced that my conversion came about through the fervent prayers of someone. And God-willing, someday I will know who I need to thank.

My grandmother did ordinary things in an extraordinary way. She suffered for most of her life, yet never uttered a complaint. She prayed the Rosary faithfully and went to Mass so long as she was able to get herself there. When the youngest of her five children was still an infant, her husband dropped dead of a massive heart attack. There was no Social Security back then so she had to go to work. Each of her children were sent to live with relatives until she could get herself back on her feet. My grandmother went to work for more than 40 years sewing drapes in a factory. Although she never had a spare dime to her name, her generosity to others was remarkable. There was always some relative sleeping on the couch for a time and holiday dinners saw an assortment of society's rejects around her table.

She had Paget's disease and toward the end of her life, developed both renal failure and lung cancer. The last six months of her life were not easy and were filled with pain and suffering, yet like her beloved St. Therese, she never uttered a single word of complaint. I was in nursing school at the time she was so sick, and after class, I would stop by the house to give my aunts a hand. I even spent the night at the hospital with my grandmother when I thought the end was near, and I can't help but think that she was determined to repay me in the best way she could, with treasures stored in Heaven through a life of joyful suffering.

God and Suffering

A few years back, I was still in my heretical stage, traveling from one church to another, in search of something I would never be able find in the places I was seeking to find it. I remember at one particularly liberal church, I know I would not be staying long, even though I still felt some unexplained animosity to the Catholic church. "You know," the rector began, "if anything annoys me to no end, it's someone who tells me a tragedy happened because if was God's will. Why would a benevolent God allow evil?"

Even in the haze of the sin in which I was living, I could recognize the times good emerged from something seemingly evil. I think back to the horror of September 11 and the sight of the Congress singing "God Bless America" and hugging one another when, the day before, some members were ready to lynch others over something trivial.

We may never know why God permits terrible things to happen, at least not while we're serving our exile, but faith requires that we accept what He sends and that would join it to the suffering of His Son on the cross.

St. Therese took an almost childlike view of what it cost God to send us suffering, saying that He would hide His face because He could not bear to watch. I thought of something a minister said after his only son drove his car off a bridge in an apparent suicide. "When my son went off that bridge, God's was the first Heart to break."

Something to think about.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Finding Joy in Suffering

Some of the blogs I follow have mentioned the terrible flooding in Sri Lanka, Brazil and Australia with the appeal for prayers. Rightfully so. One commenter asked the question that permeated many of the psalms and that people of all beliefs continue to ask: why are good people made to suffer?

It's easy for me to respond, sitting in my heated house with running water and electricity. I don't understand why good people seem to suffer while others don't. But I am reminded of a sermon that was given by an Episcopal priest in the days after Katrina, which was right before I returned to the Catholic church. The homilist urged us to consider that every indignity suffered by the flood victims was by no means foreign to Christ in His Passion at Calvary. Our Lord suffered in a way that few of us would have survived for an hour, let alone three. So why does suffering continue to confound us?

We can look at the words of St. Therese for guidance. In the face of the heartbreaking physical and mental demise of her own dear father, she remarked that the Hand that wrought such suffering was that of Jesus, and she said that eternity would not be long enough to thank Him for it. She said she recognized His touch and wondered why her family should be singled out for such merit. Why? Because she, perhaps better than anyone, living or dead, understood the benefit of suffering. Suffering was not something to be dreaded but embraced. To think that Christ would consider any of us enough to share in His Passion can be overwhelming. Remember her words: "Suffering itself becomes a joy when we seek it as a precious treasure."

May she intercede for those who suffer that God may grant them the strength to endure.

They Say That All Good Things Must End, Somehow..

I heard that song on Sirius this morning on my way to my appointment. It holds true for my 10-day hiatus that the end is near. On Monday, I start a new job at a new hospital, one that does not perform abortions. It's been wonderful to be at home, spending time in Adoration nearly every day, cooking comfort food for the family and watching the birds. No, there won't be any appeals for donations to feed them, although I can't promise there won't be photos, especially if I can steal one of Mr and Mrs Cardinal as they are making their daily visit at dusk, when all the other birds have returned to their nests.

I would dearly love to be able to work part-time, but that's not in the cards right now. With all of the physical problems that my youngest has, I can't afford not to have an excellent insurance plan, so that reason alone will probably keep me working until she's able to obtain her own policy some day. My husband is self-employed so I carry the benefits.

Without so much time on my hands, I won't be blogging as often as I have been. This new job is going to be a bit of a spiritual challenge for me. For the past six years, I've had a job that no one else has wanted to do, so I was pretty much allowed to set my own hours. I went to Mass nearly every morning for the past three years before work, managing to pray my chaplets and my Rosary before clocking in at 7:30 am. Now I have a commute and must be in by 7am so even though I have found a church near the hospital with a 6:30am Mass, it's still going to take some time to settle in before I can get there and figure things out.

Truth be told, there are times when I thought I should have just stayed put for the sake of making my devotions, but I truly do not believe that God expected this of me. The environment I just left was toxic in so many ways that I don't know how I could have stayed or what good I could have done by remaining on there.

I am praying that I won't be compromising my faith in any way (hard to see how any situation could be worse than the one I just left but...) that I will do my job in a manner worthy of Christ's name and that I might actually enjoy my new job and draw more souls closer to Him.

Offer it up to God

If, like me, you went to Catholic school in the 60's and 70's, you were probably advised at least once to offer some insult or injury up to God. So I'm going to offer nearly my entire day. The alarm went off sooner than I was ready for it, but hey, at least I was still alive to hear it, right? My appointment, part of a pre-employment physical for new my job, took 2 hours longer than it should have and the icing on the cake was that the doctor dilated my pupils. Even with sunglasses, this made driving in snow a joy. And the cherry on that icing? My husband lost track of time and sat waiting in the car with Sirius radio blaring and his headlights on and killed the battery, which meant having to wait for Triple A. At the risk of offending my gentle readers, it's times like this that make me want to refer to my marriage as a martyrdom. The man is on his own planet sometimes, and I'll leave it at that.

I didn't make it to Noon Mass as a result. I hadn't eaten this morning and I guess I could have really enhanced the sacrifice by waiting until I got back. Well, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak, so I didn't get there. I did, however, get to Adoration. I was so grateful to be there that I promised I wasn't going to let the usual things disturb me. Like the woman who could have sat anywhere but chose to sit directly behind me and breathe heavily down my neck as she was praying her Rosary out loud. Or the two women who came in and rattled their paper bags from the gift shop and then engaged in a therapy session with each other. Or the autistic man who started to set the chapel up for Vespers, banging doors, kneelers and anything else he touched, even though Vespers wasn't set to start for another 90 minutes.

At some point, I heard another two women come in and sit down and shortly thereafter, I heard one of them break down in heart-wrenching sobs. I have no idea why but I would imagine she had just suffered some loss in her life. She cried out loud that Christmas had been so difficult and she thought when it was over, she'd be better, but she's not. Her friend soothingly told her it was ok to cry, and then she said the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the both of them. As disruptive as it might have been, it wasn't. It was almost as though the Lord was letting me share what He hears all day long in that chapel. And, as I have mentioned before, it was also an opportunity to add someone to my prayer intentions. I don't need to know everything about everyone to know that everyone needs our prayers.

If I were to be totally honest, I would have to tell you that there was a time in my life when I secretly entertained the idea of joining a contemplative order. Obviously, that is not how my life panned out and I think that I am probably exactly where the Lord wants me to be. I might would have enjoyed life as a Poor Clare a little too much for it to have had much merit. As I was watching a show on a Benedictine Abbey on EWTN last week, I heard one of the monks talk about the gifts each person enters with. If a person enjoys cooking and wants to be the cook, that is the last job they'll be assigned, because the most important thing is that the person desire to be with and serve God, not that they want to be a cook in a monastery.

St. Therese made much spiritual use of everything available to her, emptying herself in the process so that she could be filled with Christ. How much use am I making of that which the Lord sends me? And do I accept it joyfully, or with a groan of "why, Lord?" Today, I confess it was more of the latter but I'll try to do better tomorrow. No time like the present though.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Italian Market Presepio

This is probably the last week the presepio in Di Bruno's window will be on display. I was taking a walk in the wind and slush just now and decided to give one last shot at getting a picture or two. I don't have the right equipment to capture the scenes without the reflection of the Frank Rizzo mural imposing on the characters, so this is the best I could do. Fleisher Art Memorial, which technically owns this 18 and 19th century Venetian collection, has its own display of copyrighted photos at Flickr.

I especially love the angels equipped with censers hanging above the scene.

In the meantime, the hubby is lamenting the loss of the tree. I proposed that we get a miniature fake tree that we could put up in the live tree's place once it starts dropping its needles. He's going to think about it. We could have put it on a platform and get my son's trains out of the attic and the little magnetic ice skaters and carousel and create some eye candy for the bleak January and February days ahead.

Witness for Life on January 22nd

Still not sure about whether the bus trip to D.C. is on or not. In the meantime, here is something closer to home. Saturday January 22nd marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v Wade. In Philadelphia, a prayer service will be held that day outside the Philadelphia Women's Center at the corner of 8th and Cherry Streets at 7:30 am. At the conclusion of the prayer service, participants will process to St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church at 13th and Market Streets for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 9:30 am.

Please also pray not only for the women who are considering abortion but those doctors, nurses and techs who are blind to the error of their ways that they may undergo conversion. Without willing participants, there would be no abortion.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Day of Dread, Otherwise Known as Taking Down the Tree

Burning the Christmas Greens

by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Their time past, pulled down
cracked and flung to the fire
--go up in a roar

All recognition lost, burnt clean
clean in the flame, the green
dispersed, a living red,
flame red, red as blood wakes
on the ash--

and ebbs to a steady burning
the rekindled bed become
a landscape of flame

At the winter's midnight
we went to the trees, the coarse
holly, the balsam and
the hemlock for their green

At the thick of the dark
the moment of the cold's
deepest plunge we brought branches
cut from the green trees

to fill our need, and over
doorways, about paper Christmas
bells covered with tinfoil
and fastened by red ribbons

we stuck the green prongs
in the windows hung
woven wreaths and above pictures
the living green. On the

mantle we built a green forest
and among those hemlock
sprays put a herd of small
white deer as if they

were walking there. All this!
and it seemed gentle and good
to us. Their time past,
relief! The room bare. We

stuffed the dead grate
with them upon the half burnt out
log's smouldering eye, opening
red and closing under them

and we stood there looking down.
Green is a solace
a promise of peace, a fort
against the cold (though we

did not say so) a challenge
above the snow's
hard shell. Green (we might
have said) that, where

small birds hide and dodge
and lift their plaintive
rallying cries, blocks for them
and knocks down

the unseeing bullets of
the storm. Green spruce boughs
pulled down by a weight of

Violence leaped and appeared.
Recreant! roared to life
as the flame rose through and
our eyes recoiled from it.

In the jagged flames green
to red, instant and alive. Green!
those sure abutments . . . Gone!
lost to mind

and quick in the contracting
tunnel of the grate
appeared a world! Black
mountains, black and red--as

yet uncolored--and ash white,
an infant landscape of shimmering
ash and flame and we, in
that instant, lost,

breathless to be witnesses,
as if we stood
ourselves refreshed among
the shining fauna of that fire.

All God's Children

At a nearby Adoration chapel, there are signs everywhere pleading with folks not to give money to people who solicit. The faithful are implored to direct those asking for money to the friary. There is one recalcitrant individual who is undaunted and preys on the unsuspecting. She once tried to assault an elderly priest as he was sitting in Adoration, and I'm not sure her problems can all be blamed on the ravages of a life of addiction. I can pray for her to be released from that which binds her, but I'm all too aware of her cunning and violent nature to ever be moved into giving her anything.

Then there is this fellow I know from the days of handing out care packages to homeless men and women. In winter, the packages had the additional items of gloves and hats. As I handed this man his gift bag one day, he tore the hat and gloves out of the bag and put them on immediately. Then he gave me a big hug, saying "Miss, do you think you could tell some of these women out here I'm not as bad as they think?" I still laugh when I think about it and particularly every time I see him.

Anyway, this fellow never bothers anyone in the chapel, nor does he ever ask for anything. He sits a few doors away from the church, greetings passersby. He is the one homeless person that I trust will buy himself food if I give him money. Yesterday, when I came out of the church, he was overjoyed to see me, or at least he did a convincing job of making me think so. "Miss!", he yelled, "don't worry about me being crazy. We is all crazy and God still loves us. You crazy too." I couldn't really argue with him about that!

Any time I see him, he reminds me of the hat and gloves and shows me that he still has them. Then I am treated to a profuse stream of "God Bless you".

Today, he appeared to have finally found a woman who he convinced to believe he wasn't "that bad", and he had her do his bidding for him. You could tell she wasn't quite accustomed to asking for money, and she could barely get a word out of her mouth before he'd correct her. Since I had never heard him beg before, I was a bit surprised. Maybe he's too proud to beg, but not too proud to have it someone do it for him?

"Don't ask for tokens - we ain't taking no bus anywhere."

"Don't ask nobody for nothin without sayin' please. And don't forget to say God bless you!"

"When somebody gives you somethin, you say thank you, you hear?"

His companion appeared to be clean and adequately dressed and her presentation was one of a new employee who is being oriented to their first day on the job. She didn't look homeless but perhaps she was new to the streets. Everybody has to start someplace, including the indigent.

I was thinking about how I have been seeing this character around for the past few years and how some others have not been so lucky. Some have perished due to illness, others met a violent end. There is one man that we believe is probably autistic who sits in Adoration at another nearby chapel all day. We think he's autistic because he doesn't speak to anyone and eye contact is difficult for him, yet he seems to understand. At one of the soup kitchens where I volunteered on Saturday mornings, he would be the first to grab a mop to clean up afterward. I've always wondered if the reason he sits in church is simply because it's the one warm place he can go without being asked to leave, or if something else draws him. I'll never know. I can only pray to God to continue to watch over him and those who live on the streets in a world of their own, never harming a soul.

New Book Exposing America's Abortion Factory

As you have have heard, Abby Johnson's book "Unplanned" is being released today. Johnson is the former Planned Parenthood insider who has converted and written an expose of what "choice" really means. Those who saw the webcast last night say it was astounding.

A friend emailed me and asked to help get the word out that if possible, we should try to purchase the book today. First day sales are important and what's more, book chains that see brisk sales of the book will be compelled to give it a prominent display in their stores.

The book is also available through Ignatius Press. I will add to this later if anything else pertinent comes to mind. I was on my way out the door to do some much-needed grocery shopping before the snow hits when I got the email.

Thanks all!

Monday, January 10, 2011

More Thoughts on the Arizona Tragedy

Little Christina Taylor Green was the daughter of former Phillies baseball manager Dallas Green. She was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania in the hours after the September 11 tragedy. The picture of innocence and hope, she's gone all too soon.

By contrast, the shooter, Jared Loughner, had his mugshot plastered all over the media today. He appeared to be smiling, which made the photo all the more chilling. As is typical of tragedies involving the mentally unstable, all kinds of people are coming forward now to say they knew he wasn't quite right. Classmates blogged that he scared them and one person went so far as to say he was the kind of guy who comes to school with a gun and kills people. I haven't seen anything written about his parents, or what kind of childhood he had. The little bit that we do know is that he was rejected by the Army, was unemployed, and was asked to leave his junior college and seek a psychiatric evaluation. And, that somehow, he was able to get his hands on a gun, a gun he used to put a bullet into a woman's head at close range.

It's hard to feel any sympathy for Loughner, but I do. Father Benedict Groeschel once went so far as to say that mental illness is the crown of thorns that those who bear it must suffer. People don't ask to have psychological problems. Unlike childhood cancer or muscular dystrophy, there are no telethons for children who come into the world with a brain that's less than perfect. More often than not, they're singled out by classmates for harassment and left in isolation to deal with their pain. I have no idea if that has been the case with Loughner, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Parents of children who are not quite right mentally also bear a special cross. There are always accusations that they didn't do enough or pay enough attention to the signs. Only they know whether or not that is true. What's more, treatment is exceedingly expensive and often not covered by most health insurance plans. And so-called treatment is often a shot-in-the-dark. There is no panacea for mental illness, no chemotherapy to cure the illness and send it into remission.

One thing we can be assured of, and that is the infinite mercy of God. At times like these, I take particular comfort in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Christ died for the ungodly. We may not be able to think about extending forgiveness to a monster who would kill a nine-year-old child. But that's the foundation of our faith. I think of the image seen on so many memorial cards at funerals that depict Christ on a steep mountain slope, swooping down heroically to scoop up a wayward lamb.

In the aftermath of the Virgina Tech tragedy, the anguish and pain that was the shooter's life came to light. A friend asked me if I thought he had gone to hell. I told her I didn't know, but that I had a recurring image of Christ offering him the only consolation he had ever known in his life. Who knows? None of us do. The only thing we do know is that mercy and forgiveness are there for the taking and we have only to ask. We can take it a step further and beg for it for someone repulsive. Where is the grace in praying only for those we can tolerate?

May God have mercy on those who lost their lives. May those responsible for this seek His mercy and forgiveness.

Pray for Vocations

Parishes around the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were asked to hold an hour of Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament for the intention of praying for more priests and religious this week. Tonight at St. Paul's, this intention will be added to the usual Monday evening Novenas to the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, St. Jude, St. Therese, and St. Padre Pio. The Novenas take place at 7pm and are followed by Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

A Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament for the Increase of Priestly and Religious Vocations

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the eternal Father, Son of the Virgin Mary, we thank you for offering your life in sacrifice on the Cross, and for renewing this sacrifice in every Mass celebrated throughout the world.

In the power of the Holy Spirit we adore you and proclaim your living presence in the Eucharist. We desire to imitate the love you show us in your death and resurrection, by loving and serving one another.

We ask you to call many young people to religious life, and to provide the holy and generous priests that are so needed in your Church today. Lord Jesus, hear our prayer. Amen.
—Cardinal Justin Rigali

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Kitchen II

On Tuesday, I made a huge pot of gravy to take for my last day of work. I wanted to treat my staff to some good old fashioned South Philly cuisine. I took the gravy (see previous post if you wish to argue this point) that wouldn't fit in the crock pot and refrigerated it to use as a base for later. Since my mom isn't feeling well and doesn't want to come here for dinner, that would be today.

For Tuesday, I made meatballs, braciole and pork. For the pork, I took two tenderloins, cut them into stew-sized chunks and sauteed them in olive oil and garlic before adding them to the gravy. No pork today, but I did have meatloaf mix for the meatballs and some flat steaks for the braciole.

To prepare the braciole, take some chopped garlic, some fresh chopped parsley, grated Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper and coat each slice of steak. Roll up the steak and either string together or stick with a toothpick. Brown lightly in some olive oil and then transfer to the simmering gravy to finish.

For the meatballs, I will add a disclaimer here that no one makes them like my mom, but my mom never taught me how to cook. Everything I know, I taught myself pretty much, so mine do not taste exactly like hers, but they're pretty good. Anyway, I had about 2 pounds of meatloaf mix to which I added one jumbo egg, salt and pepper, some chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped parsley and some plain breadcrumbs. After mixing together, I decided to add a little bit of grated locatelli, just to firm the meat up a bit.

Once shaped into balls, I added the meat to some hot olive oil and browned them on each side, also adding them to the simmering gravy to finish.

I was going to make gnocchi, but I made them earlier this week and I don't feel like making them again, so I'm sticking with the much simpler lasagna. There is a photo here of the gnocchi from the other night. I still have quite a bit of ricotta on hand as well as some no-boil lasagna noodles, so it was an easy decision.

Sunday dinners are always a big deal in our house. I'm not married to eating pasta every week, so a lot of times when we don't go the grandparents, I will make short ribs or a rib roast or something else that roasts in the oven and gives the house that wonderful Sunday scent. Last week, we had a friend of my husband's over and I roasted the brother of the turkey we had for Thanksgiving. This week, our oldest is coming with a friend. I hate the thought of anyone having to eat alone on Sunday, unless of course it's by choice.

BTW, the dogs do the happy dance all day long when they smell a pot of gravy on the stove. My mother has spoiled them and into thinking they're entitled to a meatball of their own. Smart little critters.

Sunday Kitchen

This being Holy Family Sunday on the Traditional Calendar, I did something special for breakfast this morning. And because Grama is ailing, dinner is at our house today. Watch out Father Z - I have some photos to share of my creme brulee French toast as well as the Sunday gravy. (Warning: if you refer to a tomato sauce cooked with meat as anything other than gravy in these parts, you'll be laughed out of the neighborhood. You want to live in South Philadelphia, you call it gravy. End of discussion!)

OK, take a loaf of good challah bread, eggs, half and half, butter, brown sugar, vanilla and corn syrup and get busy. Butter a large baking pan, big enough to fit 6 slices of thick challah.

Next, take a cup of loosely packed brown sugar, a stick of butter and 2 TB of corn syrup and melt together in a saucepan.

Meanwhile, beat 5 eggs, add 2 tsp vanilla and mix with 1 1/2 cups half and half.

When the butter brown sugar mixture is done, pour into the buttered baking pan.

Next, slice up the challah and place in the pan, pressing slices to fit as necessary. Pour the egg cream mixture evenly over the bread. It should like like this. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night. Let sit at room temp for 30 minutes before baking in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until slices are golden brown. Remove one slice at a time, and flip so that the carmelized size is facing upwards. Trust me - no one will be asking what time lunch is after having this for breakfast!

Tragedy in Arizona

Here are my thoughts on the tragedy yesterday that resulted in the death of an innocent 9-year-old child and others whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My comments will not be popular with some, but I feel someone has to say them. So, have at it, if you must.

1. The person ultimately responsible for this is the person who pulled the trigger.

2. Using this tragedy to assess OR deflect blame is equally shameful

3. A person rejected by the US Army as mentally unstable ought not be able to buy a gun.

4. The 2nd Amendment is not one of the 10 Commandments. Stop treating it like it is.

5. The 5th Commandment refers to our words as well as our actions.

6. The politics of personal destruction, whether committed by the right or the left, have no place in Christianity and particularly in Catholicism. Talk radio and cable news opinion shows do nothing except to incite and anger the already-convinced. No liberal ever underwent a conversion by watching Fox News. No conservative ever flipped sides listening to MSNBC. Put the purveyors of hate out of business. Turn off the TV and/or radio and think for yourself.

7. Prayer is always our best resort. Is our first allegiance to God, or to some political party or ideology?

God have mercy on us all.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Little Things

My daughter has been an altar server for the Novus Ordo at our parish since she was in 4th grade. Now that she's in 9th grade and prefers the Traditional Latin Mass, I thought it was time for her to hang up her alb, but we also didn't want to leave the pastor high and dry because the number of children willing to serve has been almost nil. In October, she was given the charge of training a little boy who himself is now in 4th grade. He is adorable and resembles a cherub with his curls and blue eyes. Rebecca took her charge very seriously and she let him do as much as possible under her tutelage so that, once on his own, he'd be prepared for anything. It was a very endearing thing to watch. She, being twice his height, resembled a loving big sister more than the senior server, directing him to receive the gifts with Father or ring the bells at the Consecration.

Shortly before Christmas, Father decided it was time for the new server to fly solo. There have been a few charming moments and he still needs a bit of direction, but he will figure things out. Tonight I got to see him serve all by himself. Thankfully, our pastor and our weekend assistant are endowed with ample patience and they took everything in stride. It was a beautiful sight.

Another beautiful but wholly unexpected sight took place at Mass this evening as well. Instead of an Extraordinary Minister , our pastor came out at the Agnus Dei, appropriately vested in a beautiful stole, to help the celebrant distribute Holy Communion. It's possible this has happened before and I wasn't there to see it, but I was both surprised and delighted. The EM's at our parish are very well trained, so you don't see the abuses that take place in some other churches, but still - if there's a priest on-hand, I think it's better that he assist the celebrant rather than an EM.

It was also nice to see that so many people were undaunted by the snow and ice and made it to Mass this evening. I will know I'm batting a thousand if the creche is left up until February 2nd. We'll soon see!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hanging on to Christmas in More Ways Than One

Here are a few not-so-hot shots of the Christmas tree and some of its ornaments. I would love to leave it up until February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation, but we'll have to play it by ear. The nativity in the front window as well as the two nativity sets in the house will stay up until then.

Make Way for the Unclean!

In today's Gospel, Jesus cleanses a leper and sends him to show himself to the high priest. In his sermon, the priest described how lepers had to ring a bell and cry "unclean!" to warn the rest of society that an undesirable was passing through. I thought about this today and how I sometimes feel like a leper when I'm among very holy people. Part of me wants them to know how unclean I've been so they don't mistake me for something I'm not, lest they catch the sinfulness that keeps me several rungs below them.

First, there probably isn't a commandment I haven't broken to some degree or another. No need to go into detail, just suffice it to say that I probably been there and done that. Nuff said. What's worse is that some of this took place after I'd had children. I'm not just responsible for getting myself to Heaven but all the little souls that were entrusted to me through matrimony and childhood as well. What a miracle that I made that u-turn when I did.

When I see very large families at the TLM and realize that the mothers don't work outside the home and the fathers willingly support their families, I feel some measure of sadness that my husband and I did not take this route. We were never the kind of family that made the acquisition of material possessions the focus of our lives, but we could have done things better. Believe me, I thank God every day that He sent me the grace to correct the situation before it was too late, but still...

On what may seem like an unrelated note, I was watching a program on EWTN last night and realized I hadn't seen a particular priest host in a few years. Concerned for his health, I did an Internet search and the result was not pretty. Suffice it to say I have added his intention to my novena to St. Therese this month. Just as situations like his can rock our faith to its core, so can conversion stories like mine and others help shore up the faith of others who are struggling. Jesus picked all sorts of characters to be His apostles. He continues to use some of the most unlikely people to spread the Gospel message and be His witnesses in this world, including me.

At Christmas, my sister revealed that she started to go to Mass again on Sundays. When I praised her for this, my oldest wasted no time in pointing out how there was a period in my life when I, too, didn't think going to Mass was important. "I really don't see how you can be one way one day and another the next."

I asked her to consider that perhaps this is how God intended to use me to persuade others to return to the fold. I have a certain credibility to skeptics as a revert that a perfectly faithful person may not. Without leprosy, blindness and lameness, there would be no opportunity for miracles. Perhaps it's the same way with faith and sinners.

First Friday Meditation: St. Therese on the Tender Heart of Jesus

"Tears for God? This must not be! Far less to Him than to creatures ought you to show a mournful face. Our Divine Master comes to us in search of rest - to forget the unceasing complaints of His friends in the world, who, instead of appreciating the value of the Cross, receive it far more often with groans and tears. Would you be as the mediocre souls? Frankly, this is not disinterested love. It is for us to console our Lord, not for Him to console us. His heart is so tender that if you cry, He will dry your tears; but thereafter, He will go away sad, since you did not allow Him to repose tranquilly within you. Our Lord loves the glad of heart, the children who greet Him with a smile. When will you learn to hide your troubles from Him, or tell Him gaily that you are happy to suffer for Him?

"The Good God, Who loves us so much, has pain enough in being obliged to leave us on this earth to fulfill our time of trial, without our constantly telling Him of our discomfort. We must appear not to notice it." - St. Therese of the Child Jesus