Monday, February 28, 2011

The Mystery of The Kingdom

Right after my return to the Catholic faith, I discovered that the shrine a few blocks away offered not only daily Mass, confession and adoration, but that the Rosary was prayed each night followed by Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.  That is where I came to love these prayers and the great mysteries attached to them.  The priest always bowed his head at the words "sacrament of your Body and Blood" and I find myself doing likewise.

V. You have given them Bread from heaven 
 R. Having within it all sweetness 

Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us the Eucharist as the memorial 
of your suffering and death.  May our worship of this sacrament of your Body
and Blood help us to experience the salvation you won for us, and the peace of 
the kingdom; where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, 
forever and ever.     
R.  Amen. 

I sometimes wonder what an atheist or non-Christian would think if he ventured into church during Benediction.  And I think that if he could see the love with which the priest elevates the Monstrance containing the Sacred Host, he might be moved to consider  what it is about this ritual that would cause such devotion and reverence.  And I think that if our posture and our expression  reflected the awe of having so sacred a Mystery in our midst, a non-believer could not just walk away, unthinking and unmoved.

I once heard this said by an atheist of the way Catholics nonchalantly receive the Eucharist:

"If I believed what you believe, I would crawl on my  hands and knees to the altar".

How many can't even manage to fold their hands or bow their heads, let alone crawl?

My Jesus, Mercy!  Mary, Pray for Us!

(Photo used courtesy of St. Therese of

White Lies

There has been much written in the blogosphere about whether or not it's ok to lie if the motive for lying is to uncover some evil.  The case of Lila Rose and her undercover expose on Planned Parenthood  most recently comes to mind.  I don't really have a problem with this because of the greater good that may be accomplished.  For every PP staffer caught in an illegal act, there are many more who get away with that sort of thing all the time.

Truth be told, I've been known to engage in a white one myself here and there.  In fact, I told one today so that I could leave work after my honest 8 hours of work had been completed.  Since I started my new job 7 weeks ago, I have not put in less than 9 or 10 hours, 5 days a week.  I had a bad weekend and I wanted to go to confession.  The shrine a few blocks down, thank God, offers confessions Monday thru Saturday, at 11am til Noon and again at 4pm til 5pm.  I didn't want to chance getting there late because if there aren't a lot of people around, the priests lock up a little early, so I left work at 3:30 and got there for the start of confessions.  We had an extraordinarily busy day, but the entire schedule was wrapped up by the time I left. Still, I felt I had to offer some excuse to my boss, who comes in hours later than I do and forgets that when she's just getting warmed up, it's time for me to go home.   I preempted her by sending an email and telling her I had a personal matter to attend to that would require leaving at 3:30.

"I hope everything is ok", she wrote back.

"Yes, I just have something I must do that can't wait until I have a day off".

I'm not sure how you tell someone ""Actually, I  screwed up big time and I need to go make things right with the Lord."

Unfortunately, something really stupid set me off last night and caused the old me to make an appearance and say some unkind things.  I thought that person was long gone, but with right combination of a headache and a minor crisis, it didn't take long to resurrect the ugliness.   Maybe it was God's way of telling me I'm just a little too comfortable with my holiness.  Whatever it was, it gave me a well-needed  kick in the pants.

I only thank God that I have the sacrament so close to where I live.  I have gotten over the scrupulosity of feeling the need to go every few days, but there are still times when even venial sins can weigh us down and it's good to relieve ourselves of the weight they exert on us.  I was brief, I was blunt, and I was gone.  Not a bad way to cap off a Monday.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Chaplet to St. Therese

For those times when you have an urgent need but not the nine days or even nine hours for a Novena, there is always the Chaplet to St. Therese.  It's very easy to pray, even if you don't have a set of chaplet beads for that purpose.  Make the Sign of the Cross, and say: "St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Patroness of Missions, Pray for Us".  Then say the Glory Be 24 times, in thanksgiving to the Holy Trinity for each of the 24 years the little Saint spent on this earth.  

There is also a very simple, child-like prayer that we pray at our church at the Monday night Novena. Here it is:

St. Therese, please pick me a rose from the Heavenly Garden
And send it to me with a message of love
Ask God to grant the favor I implore
And tell Him I will love Him
Each day more and more.

Through the Glorious Intercession of St. Therese...

... the traditional Latin Mass at our parish is seeing more and more new faces, and as a result, more and more regulars

...a man has been seizure-free for the longest period of time since his diagnosis and has not missed a single day of work in nearly two months

...a work situation for a friend has vastly improved and the person responsible for her harassment has been transferred to another department

As Bishop Noser wrote, it is only upon entering Heaven that we shall see all the good that St. Therese has done on our behalf  because of her intercession.

"Only when the angel shall have said 'time is no more' - then shall I be able to rejoice, because the number of the elect will be complete."

Pater Noster by Heiter Villa-Lobos

Our schola sang this today at the TLM during the offertory and I thought the top of my head was going to come off, it was that beautiful.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snowflake Soup

I got hit with a terrible headache today, probably related to the impending rain.  You can always tell when I'm housebound because you'll see multiple posts throughout the day.  Aside from Noon Mass and Adoration and a quick trip to Target to cheer Rebecca up a little bit, I didn't do much else.  We got Chinese take-out for dinner and because Matthew decided he was going to eat with his buddies, there was a lot left over.

A few years ago, I saw a recipe for something called Snowflake Soup.  I found that the best time to make it is when I have some Chinese leftovers.   You need some chicken broth, rice, seafood (shrimp works best), chicken,  raw egg, soy sauce and garlic. Those fried crispy noodles added to won-ton soup are a plus, if you can get them.  A few hours before you want to make the soup, pick out the chicken and shrimp from your leftovers and chop them up to a coarse mixture.  Beat one egg and add the seafood-chicken mixture to the egg.  Add about 4  cloves of finely chopped garlic,  a little bit of soy sauce for flavor, mix,  and refrigerate for a few hours.

When you're ready to make the soup, heat the chicken broth, about 8 cups worth.  Add the seafood-chicken mixture to the broth,whisking it well throughout .  Then, take about a cup or so of cooked white rice, add it to the soup, and then beat it with the whisk, until the rice is minced to bits.  Let the soup simmer and then serve with the crispy fried noodles on the side for everyone to add as they please.  It sounds like a mish-mash, but the scent of this soup cooking is heavenly.  To call it soup is a bit of a misnomer because the finished product more closely resembles a porridge.

Snowflake Soup was on the menu at a local Thai restaurant here, though I've only ever had my own version.  It gets its name because the rice, when whisked, takes on the appearance of tiny snow flakes.  I plan to make some on Monday.  Growing up, we nearly always had soup on Mondays.  Old habits die hard, though this isn't my mother's beef vegetable soup by any stretch of the imagination.

"I Rejoice to be Little...

...because only children and those who are like them will be admitted to the Heavenly Banquet" -
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

Could You Not Stay Awake With Me One Hour?

Our Lord's question of exasperation to Peter, James and John took on new meaning today in the adoration chapel.  What, if anything  should be done about people who fall asleep and snore out loud on a repeated basis?

Prayer Request for a Cardinal

Please  keep Cardinal John Foley in your prayers.  He is ill with leukemia and anemia and has returned to the Delaware Valley after submitting his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI.   You might think of sending Cardinal Foley a card or note at his place of residence, St. Joseph's Villa, which is the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's home for retired or convalescing priests.  Because of his illness, the long flights to and from Rome caused the cardinal to develop blood clots in his legs, which is a potentially fatal risk.

Cardinal Foley is a native son who was born and raised in Darby and typical of his good humor, he joked that he is not faking his illness in order to return home.  Write to him at:

St. Joseph Villa
1436 Lansdowne Avenue
Darby, PA.

Blog Awards and Other Random Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

I'm not sure how I feel about this subject.  There is much talk about it elsewhere on the blogosphere.  I seek the Holy Spirit's guidance on most of what I write about here, excluding my kitchen capers and silly pet stories.  I don't think it would sit right with me to seek or accept an award for His Work.  Am I wrong?  Would I change my mind if my blog one day garnered the most votes in a contest where it's actually permitted to vote early and often? I would hope not.

Back in my more liberal days, I was very engaged in politics.  My husband called me "Joycie Letter" after an SNL skit about a pen slinger who slayed people with his letters to the editor.  Somewhere in our archives is video of me lambasting the members of our City Council on several occasions. One was for attempting to sneak through a change in the city's charter. Another was for attempting to force a trash facility on a neighborhood already inundated with environmental hazards. My husband keeps an entire scrapbook with my letters and editorials.  Anyway, after my reversion back to the faith, I just couldn't pick up a pen on behalf of a political issue again.  I would sometimes get chided by acquaintances for  letting my talent for surgical strikes by ink go to waste.  One day I heard a little voice in my head say to me " You can put what little writing ability you have to work for ME."  And thus, this blog was born.

I have been feeling guilty about turning down an invitation to a party by someone at my new job.  Every year this woman holds a fund-raiser based on the name of a holiday invented by George Constanza's father on Seinfeld.  She asks not for money but for simple donations to a charity she's involved in, which is a worthwhile cause.  I might have mentioned before that I panic when I'm invited somewhere.  I just don't do parties very well.  I'm on the reserved side and  I am just so uncomfortable in certain social situations ( most of them in fact).  I resigned myself to the fact I was going to have to go UNTIL I realized it fell on the First Friday of the month.  I try to do something penitential on most Fridays, but particularly on the first one of every month.  So I respectfully declined the invitation.  I said I have a commitment every first Friday.  Well, I do, don't I?  Don't we all?  Perhaps she'll ask me what that commitment is, and I will tell her it's a day dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I do my best to go to Mass, confession and adoration.  Since I work now on Fridays, the confession and adoration part can only happen after work.

Something else occurred to me with this, and that is that the bigger sacrifice would be not to go to confession and adoration but to go the party.  So then I have an argument with myself about which would be more pleasing to the Lord, and I already know the answer.  It can't be a bad thing that being with Jesus is not a sacrifice for me (except when I wake up with a migraine and would rather sleep than go to Mass at 6:30am) so why keep hacking away at this subject?    Besides, I have a large enough extended family that there are certain social functions with them I can't avoid, so there.

The other day at dinner, something dropped that made a loud noise and I nearly jumped out of my skin.  This prompted Matthew, who's on the autistic scale of disorders with pervasive developmental delay, to turn to me and say:  "Mom, you're even more autistic than I am.  Remember when stuff like that used to really bother me? It doesn't anymore."

He's right.  When he was a little boy and even as recently as a few years ago (he's 16 now) he would hold his hands over his ears if we were walking down the street and had to walk past a compressor or jackhammer.  He couldn't tolerate sirens and I would have to get him in off the street any way I could if one was passing. He didn't like singing or music on the radio.  He's overcome that.  I, on the other hand, seem to be getting worse about sudden loud noises. Worse, if I walk into the house and the television is set a Husband Decibel (you ladies know what I'm talking about) it's all I can do not to explode until I can find the remote to turn it down or off.   The kid may have a point.  Way back when, as we were going to doctors to have him tested, I would have to fill out profiles that were meant to determine if a person was autistic.  I thought it was pretty odd that more of the flags applied to me than they did to him.  It occurred to me that maybe autism in some children may simply be an exacerbation of little idiosyncrasies they inherit from their parents.  Matthew was unfortunate to inherit a lot of quirks from his mother, most of which I have learned to deal with.  Weird, eh?

When my son was younger, a lot of what he said never made sense.  He would ask what I thought were the most illogical questions.  All he was doing was questioning the world as he saw it.

In addition to his other issues, Matt has Scheuermann's disease, which is a deformity of the spine that causes a hunchback.  If he stands ramrod straight, it's not so apparent. The brace that could have corrected some of it is an instrument of torture and Matt just couldn't wear it.  Pain is the indication for surgery and thank God, Matt has had none.  I used to ask God why He had to give my son this added cross to carry, but I don't anymore.  It is what it is.

The other day Matt was in a t-shirt and I noticed he wasn't standing up straight, but the hump didn't seem as pronounced.  Who knows? I surely don't, but perhaps you will be good enough to keep him in your prayers and in your added generosity, ask God to continue to give me the guidance to do the right thing for him. Because he's a good-looking kid, I also pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary to keep him pure and free from all corruption.   In His wisdom, God made Matt a big kid, so I no longer worry so much about kids picking on him, but I do worry about him lacking the judgment to avoid certain moral situations.  But at the same time, I trust that Mary will continue to keep him safely under her mantle.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Holy Family at Rest

This painting, by Franceso Mancini, is shown on my calendar for the month of February.  Today, people were aggravating the living daylights out of me, so I closed my door and just got lost in this for awhile.  I love the expression on the faces of Mary and Joseph.  They give no indication that they are fleeing for the very life of the Child who sits on Mary's lap. I can't tell if those are cherries or raspberries or strawberries that the Baby Jesus is offering to St. Joseph, but there is something so endearing about the scene.  I'm the last person in the world to interpret or analyze art, so I offer my thoughts with the caveat that I am an ignoramus on this subject.    With that said, how many of us who are parents can remember the wonder of watching our children discover such joy in so little an act, such as taking something out of a dish and handing it to someone else. I'm sure there is a greater message here.  The Child Jesus, who would save humanity from eternal death by His own on the Cross, is handing out little treasures from a dish His mother is holding.  Would these be graces offered through her mediation?  I don't know, but I just love looking at this.

I love religious paintings that include the angels.  Here, one angel holds a garland above the Virgin Mary's head.  The other two are reading from a book.  One of the angels has a look of surprise on his face.  Why?  How much do the angels know? Have they just discovered the fate that awaits the Child on Mary's lap when, as an adult, He enters Jerusalem?

Maybe some of you who are art aficionados can offer some reflection.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I posted something the other day on Charles Untz, a remarkably pious young man who was taken by God at the age of 18.  Please read this and pass it along to someone else who may need encouragement on their journey of faith.


I was thinking about this poem by Auden today.  I won't reprint the whole thing here, just one verse.  If you've ever prayed the Litany for Humility, you'll probably relate to this.  We're constantly struggling against our own nature, like salmon swimming upstream, in our journey not only to meet Christ but to be assumed by Him so that we are no longer recognizable.  Cain could not bear that God looked with more favor on Abel's gift than on his.  Had Cain gotten it right, he would prayed for God to favor Abel over him.

That others may be holier than I am, provided I am as holy as I should be.  Lord, grant me the grace to desire it.

The windiest militant trash 
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish: 
What mad Nijinsky wrote 
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart; 
For the error bred in the bone 
Of each woman and each man 
Craves what it cannot have, 
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

from September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shaken, But Not Deterred

Sometimes,  it's hard to see that line that separates doing what's right from crossing a boundary reserved for God alone.  Admittedly, I am often fumbling along, hoping that I'm doing and saying the right thing.  If I do all  for the Glory of God and not for the sake of winning accolades for myself, I feel certain I'm on the right path.  The rub is making sure what I'm doing really is for God's glory and not my own.

I have been struggling with the things I say to those who think I should just keep my mouth shut about abortion.  I can never, ever stand in judgment of someone else.  Nor can I abdicate what the church teaches about the sanctity of life for fear of offending someone.  Sometimes the accusations are painful and at others, they're personal attacks that make me angry.  If I respond in kind, I am no longer acting on behalf of the truth but on my own agenda.  That can't happen, ever.

I have also been struggling with the prayers and novenas that I am asked to offer for others.  Someone said to me the other day, in an almost accusatory tone: "Why does God always give you what you ask for?"

First off, that's misleading.  My prayers are always answered, but they're not always answered in the way that I had hoped they would be.  I simply don't ask God why.  First off, He's probably not going to answer, at least not in this life and secondly, to ask would mean I did not have faith that He knows best.  Once we surrender our will to His, it no longer matters why.

I was thinking today that I should not talk about praying for others, at the risk of sounding like a braggart of sorts.  Some of the favors I have been granted made  the hair on my neck to stand up and goosebumps to break out on my arms.  This frightens me, not because I doubt the power of God, but because I might lose sight of the fact that I am a nothing, a shameless beggar standing with cap in hand, pleading with God to grant a favor.  This was on my mind when I went to bed last night, as well as this  morning at Mass.  Then I heard today's Gospel from St. Mark and I thought how amazing it is when Scripture seems to speak so loudly, just when we need it.

Mark 9: 38 - 40

John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us."

But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.

For he that is not against us is for us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Seminarian Update

Phillip Gerard Johnson, the seminarian for whom so many are praying, posted some good news today following his latest medical appointment.  Please keep those prayers coming.  If you are so inclined, you might read this and ask Charles for his intercession on this seminarian's behalf.

May Jesus Christ be praised, now and forever, and in all things, may God's Will be done!

Looking Forward to Lent

Unlike a few years ago, when Ash Wednesday fell so close to the Feast of the Presentation that all the churches in Rome were in a bust to take down their presepios....Lent comes a little later this year.  I've heard some priests mock giving up chocolates or other food or drink as something only children do.  Those priests have never seen me when I have to go more than a day without a Pepsi.  Still, I do think as we get older, there are more spiritually enriching exercises we can engage in.

Someone wishing to remain anonymous asked if I could give some suggestions for ways to observe Lent.  Here are some suggestions.  Because I listed it doesn't mean I've necessarily been successful at it.  And by all means, please feel free add other ideas in the combox.

Daily Mass

Maybe your work schedule or children's needs make it nearly impossible to get to daily Mass.  Make a plan to try to attend at least one Mass in addition to your Sunday obligation and see where that takes you.  If you don't go to daily Mass because you're too tired to get up in the morning, make an effort to get to bed that much earlier.  Think of Sts. Therese and Faustina, who, even in their extreme illnesses, would do everything possible to receive the Eucharist each day.


I would bet many of you are already regulars.  Take it one step further.  Try fasting for a few hours before-hand.  If this is out of the question for medical or other reasons, try to do some small penance while in the chapel, such as adding a layer of clothing.   I have to tell you that ever since I discovered that St. Therese would not so much as cross her feet while sitting, I have major guilt when I do this at Adoration.  It's a small price to pay when you consider the position Our Lord held on the cross for 3 hours.

Be Nice to Someone Who Drives You Nuts

You know who that is, that person who manages to push all your buttons.  Maybe an unexpected act of kindness would be giving them a phone call or inviting them to dinner.

Do Something Small  but  Nice for Someone in Need

I think an oft-overlooked lesson in the loaves and fishes Gospels is that when we give from what little we have, God repays us ten-fold.  When you go grocery shopping, take one of your favorite things out of the cart and put it back and put whatever you would have spent on that item aside for Operation Rice Bowl or some other Lenten alms-giving program.  Maybe your church collects gift certificates to supermarkets for those in need.  Take the money you'd spend going out to lunch or on some small luxury item and use it to buy a food gift card for a family or a single person in need.

Don't Let Your Right Hand Know What Your Left is Doing

Doubt it would be an issue for any of you, but just in case...  resist letting others know to the best of your ability.  St. Therese lamented that she could not perform acts of sacrifice without Our Lord knowing about it.  She felt that He would feel bound to repay her and she wanted to spare Him the trouble.

Go Out on a Ledge and Invite a Lapsed Catholic to Mass

I was shocked to death when I did this and my neighbor said yes.  Of course, I don't know if she's gone since, but, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Support Your Parish

I don't just mean financially.  If your parish has special devotions for Lent, such as Stations of the Cross, try to get to every one possible.  It may seem hard at first, but when Lent is over, you'll be wishing you still had these devotions to get to.  The answer to that, of course, is to replace them with others, such as Adoration.

Reading Scripture

Father S pointed out on his now defunct blog that while it's noble to read what the saints have written, there is nothing to compare to the words Our Lord Himself spoke.  I need to do this more often, and Lent is as good a time as any.

Make Someone the Focus of Your Prayers and Sacrifice

It need not be anyone you know personally, though that would work too.  Maybe it's your hair stylist who's living in sin, or your co-worker who's practicing wicca. Maybe it's the alcoholic you've seen sleeping on a park bench.

Before You "Vent" About Someone, Pray for Them First

This is advice given to me by one of my confessors.  Chances are if you do this, you won't need to vent after all.

Pray for Bloggers Who Have the Audacity to Offer Advice to Others

Particularly yours truly :-D

Monday, February 21, 2011

Prayer Requests

Tonight as we were praying the novenas to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, St. Jude, St. Therese and St. Padre Pio, I could hear a woman quietly sniffing and sobbing a few rows behind me.  At the conclusion of Benediction, I turned around to see that it was the sister of the woman I accompanied a few months back to Fox Chase Cancer Center.  It would appear that the cancer has metastasized to her liver and only palliative measures can be offered.  Please keep both ladies in your prayers.  They're very close to one another and I know that the sister who is caring for the one who is sick is worried about being alone in the world.  I think of Our Lady's words to Sister Lucia: " My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge."

Would that it be for the rest of us as well.

Jesus Driving Out The Evil Spirit

In case I haven't mentioned it yet this week, I love this movie.  I think Robert Powell was the best movie Christ ever.  Anyway, if you heard today's Gospel, or even if you didn't, this is worth a look.  Tonight at our Monday Novena, our priest talked about the Father of Lies.  Yes, possession is creepy and titillating and people are intrigued by that which scares them to death.  But the truth is, it is a far worse possession  for our souls to belong to the devil because we willingly handed them over than it is for movie effects of writhing on the floor and foaming at the mouth.

"This kind can only be driven out by prayer."

The Evil One is working overtime.  What would you do to save someone you love from his grips?  What would you do to save someone you never met?  If you're not already doing it, please pray the Rosary every day.  And if you are, think about adding the Chaplet to St. Michael.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Church Music

Over at Linen on the Hedgerow, Richard has a great piece about loyalty to Pope Benedict XVI and church music.  You simply have to see the photo of the tambourine for yourself, so pay him a visit.  Meanwhile at our parish, today was Septuagesima Sunday, which means violet vestments and altar linens, no more Glorias or Alleluias and the more solemn version of the Credo.  My daughter took a walk with me this afternoon and complained that she doesn't like this version of the creed. I told her we should never complain about anything we hear at the TLM.  At least we know we'll never have to hear On Eagles Wings.

Over at Advent Journey, Mary Christine also has a post about church music.  I laughed when she said she was "snotty" about music.  Demanding the best we have to offer Our Lord should not be viewed as snotty.

In order to assist our pastor with the numerous house calls that need to be made to sick and shut-ins each month, I remain an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, although I do not take part in distributing the Eucharist at Mass.  Normally, I make my calls once a month from the Saturday evening vigil Mass and I realized yesterday that this is the only time I'm hearing Sunday Mass in the Ordinary Form.  I have decided that if the entrance hymn is of the Gather Us In variety, I will continue to pray the Rosary rather than participate. God love our pastor.  You can never tell what he's thinking by looking at him, but I know it kills him as much as it does me that our hymn selection at the Novus Ordo leaves so much to be desired.  On the other hand, I am so grateful to have a Mass to hear at all, especially when there are Catholics in other countries who do not.  

I should be ashamed of myself for even thinking this way, let alone out loud.  But, there it is.  You see.  I, too am a church music snob.  So be it.

Spiritual Bouquet for Pope Benedict XVI

Over at Father Z's place, he's got list of devotions and sacrifices we can make on each day leading up to March 19th, which is St. Joseph's Feast Day.  The idea is to offer each for the intention of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in a spiritual bouquet. The entire priesthood from the Vicar of Christ on down could certainly use this kind of help.    Father has the combox closed or I might suggest to him a day of blog abstinence.  "A day of fasting from food or another thing" is a choice, but given his penchant and ours for blogging, I think something that specifically applies to the "internets" might be a good choice, don't you?  Anyway, go over to WDTPRS and take a look for yourself.  There's no such thing as too much holiness.

Philadelphia's Catholic District Attorney

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has been at the forefront of two earth-shattering investigations which have placed Philadelphia in the national spotlight these past few weeks.  He's also a practicing Catholic who is deeply involved in his church and in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.  You can read about him here.  Don't be mislead by the stupid MSM headline.  Unlike our last DA, Seth Williams did something other than turn a blind eye to Kermitt Gosnell's chamber of horrors.  Take a look at the article I linked to above in today's Inquirer and see that it is possible to be a Democrat and a good Catholic at the same time.

You might want to skip the rest of the stuff on the Church in today's Inquirer.   I hate it when people  use a scandal and a human tragedy as an opening to advance an agenda.

My youngest daughter will be 15 next month and in many ways, we are attached at the hip.  I'm not complaining, believe me, and every day I thank God that a teen-aged girl  still sees something in her mother that makes her want to hang out with me.  A consequence of this is that she is sometimes at my side while I'm blogging.  She was concerned yesterday that I would be too harsh on someone who commented and had an opposing view based on her own personal tragedy.

Let me be explicitly clear that anyone is welcome to comment here, so long as the dialog is respectful and appropriate.  Something directed you here and perhaps to other Catholic sites.  The last thing I would want to do is have anyone believe they are being judged.  Quite the contrary.  I have a pretty big log in my own eye that I need to have extricated before I lean over to pull out your speck.

Whenever I attend a retreat at Carmel, Mother Prioress will always send a welcome through a spokesperson about how no one comes to Carmel by accident.  If you're there, it's because God called you there.  Well, this humble little blog ain't Carmel, and I don't mean to pat myself on the back by saying this, but it's entirely possible that you found your way here because God wanted us to talk.  Sometimes, He plants a seed and it takes years for Him to see any yield for it, but He is a patient gardener, and He will wait.

I could write a post every day on some sinful behavior I engaged in before my conversion.  I don't because I either don't think it would be helpful or because I know it would qualify as WTMI and offer no spiritual benefit to myself or anyone else by rehashing it here.  I say this because I know that some of the folks who stumble onto Catholic blogs are wandering in the desert right now.  They might feel intimidated to share anything with Catholics who are on a different path on their journey.    Let me assure you that many of us have "been there, done that" and this is a safe place for you discuss any moral or theological issue that may be weighing on you.

Let me also say that if you've done something you know is in direct contradiction to church teaching and you haven't been to confession, please get there, even if you don't think you need to go.  Sometimes, I'll encounter a person who knows they should go to confession, but also knows they're going to repeat the sin.  Many of us are repeat offenders of some sin or another.  You should still go, not only to hear what counsel the priest offers but to receive graces which will help you overcome your weakness.  Think of it as chemo for the soul.  The cancer is never defeated in one treatment.  It takes repeated, subsequent therapies before the malignancy is overpowered.  Confession is a lot like that for some of us who struggle more than others.

At the risk of sounding like an Episcopal Church sign..... whoever you are, and however you found yourself here, The Little Way welcomes you.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thought for the Day From St. Therese

"On waking I think of all the pains and sufferings awaiting me, and I rise feeling all the more courageous and light of heart in proportion to the opportunities I foresee of proving my love for Our Lord and of gaining - mother of souls as I am-my children's livelihood.  Then I kiss my crucifix and laying it gently on my pillow, I leave it there while I dress, saying: 'My Jesus, Thou hast toiled and wept enough during Thy three and thirty years on this miserable earth.  Rest Thee today. It is my turn to suffer and fight' "  - St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

Spectacle on the House Floor

After we say Grace at dinner, my husband takes the television off  mute to hear the news.  Dinner just happened to coincide with the start of ABC's broadcast of national news, and the network chose to lead into their program with the revelation by Rep. Jackie Speier that she had underwent an abortion.  Her speech followed that of Rep. Chris Smith.  However, after reading further about this stunning moment on the House floor, the story isn't quite what you might think.  Sadly for Rep. Speier, she lost a pregnancy at 17 weeks because of what sounds like an incompetent cervix, which is a cervix which cannot withstand the weight of the growing baby and opens suddenly, causing the woman to miscarry.   What she underwent to remove an already-dead baby is a hell of a lot different than what other women "endure" when they decide to abort an already fully formed baby.

The congresswoman was perturbed because she felt that Rep. Smith intimated that women undergo these procedures "cavalierly".  In fact, that's not what I got from his speech.  He was talking about those who perform these procedures.  I worked at a hospital that permitted late-term abortions.  Thankfully for me, I never participated or witnessed what went on, but I talked to enough other people who initially agreed to participate, but quickly changed their minds because of what they saw.  Tiny body parts flying all over the room, including on the doctor's surgical attire, as though the developing child was a tumor that deserved to be hacked to bits.  Some of the babies were aborted because of what's cleverly termed "dysgenetics", but more often than not, they were aborted because their mothers decided they didn't want them and were persuaded that "getting rid" of a pregnancy, no matter how late-term, could be handled as easily as taking out the trash.

When I was pregnant with my son, a friend who was an aspiring midwife lent me two books. One was The Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong.  Penny became a midwife whose practice almost solely encompassed the Amish in Lancaster County, PA.  I highly recommend it. The other book was called Spiritual Midwifery.  It's about a project that started sometime in the 70's by a group who decided to leave society and form their own church and their own community, which they called The Farm.  To this day, I couldn't tell you what their religious beliefs were. I know they weren't Catholic.   I don't think they'd necessarily be insulted if anyone called them hippies.  Until their community was established, they lived in school buses.  Women came to them from all over the country to experience their method of gentle and natural childbirth.  At the end of the book, the midwives devote several chapters to prenatal advice and information on how to sterilize instruments, etc.  But what interested me most were the stories of pregnancies and childbirth that did not go as hoped for. 

It was the practice in medicine some years ago to describe anencephalic babies as monsters because of their grotesque appearance.  As you may know, anencephalic babies do not survive  long after childbirth, if at all, because of a catastrophic malformation of the neural tube, from which the brain, skull, etc arise.  The midwives delivered one such baby.  His parents named him, and he surprised everyone by  clinging to life for a couple of days.  The midwives put a hat on his head to cover his deformity, and for short time that he lived, his parents loved him and cared for him as they would have had he been perfectly formed.  He was alive, and everyone involved recognized how precious a thing that was, that despite the overwhelming odds stacked against him, he not only survived childbirth but stayed in the world long enough to allow his parents time to absorb what happened and to grieve appropriately.

A nurse that I know who once participated in abortions but has since repented and reformed told me of the time an anencephalic baby was delivered at what had been scheduled as an extended D & E, which is just a medically misleading and clever way to describe a late-term abortion.  She had been told the woman was five months pregnant.  She delivered what appeared to be a full-term anencephalic baby.  The staff thought he was breathing and wanted to call the nursery to send the neonatologist.   The doctor quickly wrapped the baby in a drape and attempted to whisk him out of the room. When the nurses objected, he told them the woman knew the baby was deformed, she wanted it aborted, and the child wasn't going to live anyway, and he took the baby from the room.  Quite a stark contrast from the story recounted in Spiritual Midwifery.

The Farm midwives made it abundantly clear that they would not perform abortions, nor would they refer women to practitioners who did .  If this band of so-called hippies, living without indoor plumbing and camping out in buses, could get it right, what's wrong with the rest of society?

My sympathy goes out to Rep. Speier or any woman who loses a baby.  But her speech was misleading and no one should allow the emotions she intended to provoke to blind us to the reality of what PP is all about.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Caution and Folly in Philadelphia

I came home from work to the news that three priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have been suspended from active public ministry pending further investigation of charges that they exhibited inappropriate behavior toward minors, to varying degrees.  Of course, no one knows the truth except the priests, the alleged victims, and God.  In light of what transpired last week, I think this is a good step for the Archdiocese to take.  The priests are not charged with anything and quite possibly, they won't be.  However, this at least shows the faithful that the Church in Philadelphia is going to proceed with caution and err safely on the side of children.  None of us wants to see the reputation and character of innocent priests ruined.  Anyone who would bear false witness against a priest would undoubtedly place themselves in very serious moral jeopardy.  But given the track record on this issue, I think the cardinal's actions were prudent.

On another note, a letter to the editor in today's Philadelphia Inquirer urges the faithful to stay home from Mass on Sunday and withhold their contribution to the collection.  The writer advises those "who must go to Mass" to do so in another state, like New Jersey or Delaware.  Doesn't this guy miss the mark completely?  He is urging people to commit a mortal sin and deliberately offend God because he doesn't like the way the Archdiocese has handled the issue.  Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!  The offenses committed against God were enough.  Why we do want to compound that outrage by encouraging the faithful to neglect their Sunday obligation?

All I know is that last night, the Mass I attended was celebrated by a priest who could scarcely walk because of his debilitating arthritis.  He has many physical challenges, with rheumatoid being just one of them.    All of the men left as soon as Mass was over.  I am never comfortable walking on the altar or in the sacristy, but I offered Father some help putting things away, and he gladly accepted.  In some way, his difficulty in just being able to stand made me think of the other night, when the priest knelt on the floor in front of the Blessed Sacrament, seemingly bearing the weight of all the problems in the Church on his shoulders.  This is quite a heavy cross these man are carrying.   Will we be like the Cyrenian, and take some of the weight from them, or would we be like the Romans, and make a difficult journey even that much tougher?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For the Love of God

A silly thought occurred to me tonight at Mass.  I like to pray my own litany of Saints after receiving Holy Communion, and being a creature of habit as previously noted, I call upon each saint in a particular order.  Usually St. Teresa of Avila comes right before St. Catherine of Sienna, and I messed up the order, which made me think how ordinary women might react to a perceived slight of any kind.  The saints, I am sure, are happy to oblige to my daily plea to pray for us.  What they couldn't care less about is adulation and in particular, in what order I call them.  They have everything they could ever want in Heaven, true, but it's how they lived on earth that made them extraordinary enough to merit that capital "S". On earth, as in Heaven, they put Christ before all things, most particularly their own wants and needs.  Hard to imagine saints having egos.  If I want to have union with Christ, I must rid myself of mine.


Well, you know what they say - when you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Blogless Friday

I'm disappointed that this has not caught on with many other bloggers, but I plan to go ahead anyway.  Keep spreading the word.  This will be a good pre-Lenten exercise and those who have committed to keeping Friday blogless will, I know, make good spiritual use of the time normally spent blogging, etc.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Creatures of Habit

The Lord apparently decided today would be a good day to try my patience.  It began with some jackass paging me at 1am.  This has been happening more and more so I finally asked to have a new number assigned to me so I can get some sleep.  Then I get to Mass with barely enough time to say a few decades of the Rosary and I notice someone is in the pew where I normally sit.  Had this been a newcomer, I wouldn't have thought twice about it, but the poacher was someone I normally see.  This is the only time I have a "regular" seat.  Most of us who assist as this Mass sit in the same exact spot.  It throws everything off when someone else is in your pew.  But really, it's not that big a deal, except when you make the mistake of sitting in front of the poacher and they spend the entire Mass sniffling and then clearing their throat instead of just blowing their nose.  I know that somewhere around the 10th snort, I threw my shoulders up.  Shame on me.

St. Therese is reported to have become soaked in sweat from the strain of sitting near a sister who clacked her Rosary beads in choir.  Eventually, Therese came to hear that sound as so much music that came to embody the sacrifice of enduring that torture which she offered daily to the Lord.

"Everything in the religious life has much value", she said. "Pick up a pin from a motive of love and you may save a soul."

If that's so, then I pray at least 20 souls were loosed from Purgatory today.


Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted some comments today. If one of them was yours, please don't take it personally.  I am a techno-klutz.

My Lady's Knight: Charles Untz

The following is taken from the website run by Charles' parents and was written by one who knew him, just in case you didn't have time to visit the website.

Young man's gifts will continue to inspire family, friends

by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn
            During this past year I had the great privilege of celebrating Mass on the occasion of the golden jubilee of Father Bernard Reiser, pastor of Epiphany Church in Coon Rapids.
            Among the servers were two brothers, Charles and Bryant. Charles was about 17 years old at the time and his brother a few years younger. I was impressed by their attentiveness and impressed by their demeanor. In fact, in the sacristy, I asked Charles if he would be interested in the priesthood. he responded positively.
            The Untz family is an extraordinary family. Every morning Mr. and Mrs. Steven Untz, the parents, and Charles and Bryant, the sons, would be at the 6:30 Mass at Epiphany parish. Last Monday, the feast of St. Joseph, was no exception. There they were at the 6:30 Mass.
            Later that day, Charles was killed by an automobile on his way to work at his part-time job at a turkey farm across from his home. The following morning, Mr. and Mrs. Untz were at Mass at Epiphany Church, but this time accompanied by only one son, Bryant. Charles was in Heaven.
            I had the opportunity of reflecting with friends of the Untz family and Father Thomas Wilson, the associate pastor of Epiphany parish.
            Everyone who had the opportunity of reflecting with others about this extraordinary young man agreed that Charles possessed spiritual maturity, prayerfulness and virtue far beyond that of his 18 years of age, which he reached only two weeks ago. He displayed this in his love for the Church and in a special love for Our Lady and the Holy Father, his constant prayer before our Lord and the Blessed sacrament and devoted service to community and youth activities.
            Like every day of his life, Charles was honoring a commitment on that Monday morning. Whether it was his job, chores at his own family's hobby farm, assisting with YOUTH 2000 retreats, leading his Boy Scout Troop or serving 6:30 a.m. Mass at Epiphany, Charles was a man who honored commitments. And, he did so with dedication.
            Those who knew him and worked with him were amazed at the level of reliability and consistency in such a young man.
            Father Wilson told me that he had known Charles for three years and never knew him to miss a commitment. He had a personal integrity, but his spirituality was even more impressive.
            He began praying the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church's prayer, in his early teens, a habit that takes many years in the seminary to develop. he was known to have spent entire nights on YOUTH 2000 retreats in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling with only the Scriptures in his hands.
            His interior life seemed to have been demonstrated on the exterior with a sense of peace and presence that only one who is truly in tune with God can show. The image of Charles and his family kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer in the very early hours of the morning at Epiphany Church will live with many from that parish forever.
            That prayerful presence of the young man was noticed by most as he served Mass. He loved the Sacrifice of the Mass and looked forward to serving the 6:30 Masses every other week, (alternating weeks with his brother, Bryant.)
            It was there that people began to realize that Charles was different. Not just because he was a little older than most servers, but because he had a presence about him that can' t be taught.
            Charles Untz certainly had what it would take to be a priest-love of God, love of the Church, love of people and a desire to serve.  On the occasion when I met him, I had the privilege at one time of speaking with him about a possible vocation to the priesthood. Father Tom Wilson, the associate at Epiphany, often spoke to him. Father Bernard Reiser, the pastor of Epiphany, would speak to him on other occasions about a vocation to the priesthood.
            From a spiritual, social, and emotional standpoint, he seemed like an excellent candidate. He felt as though he were called to the priesthood, but he struggled with just how that would happen. He was accepted at St. John Vianney Seminary and would have done very well there or in any other seminary to which he might have been called.
            Charles Untz was a young many- a young man of service who served well in his 18 years and would have served well for many years as a priest. What a great mystery all of this is. His death brings sadness to all of our hearts and in a special way to the hearts of his wonderful parents and brother, to Fr. Reiser and Fr. Wilson and to a host of his family members and his good friends.
            But his death also reminds us of the reality of the Communion of Saints. The ties that bind us in the Church do not end with bodily death. Bodily death will cancel out no one. Any one of us can look at the untimely death of the young man and wonder  out loud to God: "Why Charles? He was so good. He could have done so much."
            And the Lord's silent reply would be: "He can do more good from here." The good friend of Epiphany parish and the possible future priest is gone from this earth, but he lives on in the Body of Christ.
            So many live with precious past memories of a virtuous and prayerful young man, but we still look forward to a life of unity with him in the Mystical Body of Christ, which knows no earthly limitations. God is good always to His Church.
            The precious gift of Charles Untz in this world for 18 years and two weeks is ample proof of the goodness of God.
            My heart goes out to his good parents and to his brother, Bryant, and to Fr. Reiser and Fr. Tom Wilson, and I hold them all in prayer. Let all your memories, Mr. and Mrs. Untz, and Bryant, and Fr. Reiser and Fr. Wilson, sustain you and console you.
            There are many memories but one which should give you the most consolation would be the occasion when Charles received his Eagle Scout Award. he was asked what he wanted to do.  " Become a Saint," he said.

This Month's Novena to St. Therese

It seems I never run out of intentions to pray for.  I just got another shipment of  Joy in Suffering, a wonderful novena booklet to St. Therese published by Tan Books.  Compiled by Bishop Noser, this little jewel includes 3 mini-sermons each for 9 consecutive days.  It takes about 15 minutes a day to pray.  I leave these in strategic places for other people to find.  When someone asks me to pray for a particular intention, I say this novena for them and then I give them their own copy and urge them to do the same for someone else.

Among this month's intentions are a cousin who is only 51 and may have prostate cancer, another cousin in her early 20's with symptoms of MS, a young girl having seizures,  and a new intention that I'm going to offer every time I pray this novena - the conversion of someone not necessarily close to me but who I am aware is living in mortal sin.

Of prayer, St. Therese herself said it best:

"How wonderful is the power of prayer!  It is like unto a queen, who, having free access to the king,obtains all that she asks for."

How right she is.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Weight

Tonight, in lieu of the Gospel for today, our pastor chose to read the one where Jesus sends forth 72 disciples with instructions on how they are to travel, etc.  "Pray the Heavenly Father to send forth laborers."  And in lieu of a sermon, Father asked us to pray in silence for all those "profoundly affected" by the news of the past week.  Expecting that Father would sit down in his chair in his silence, he threw us off kilter slightly by instead kneeling down in front of the Blessed Sacrament, where he remained for some time in quiet prayer.

As I watched him, I felt an enormous weight, so much so that it made me ache. And then I realized that I have had it all wrong about why Father is so upset.  He could not care less about himself.  He can deal with the shame that comes from the guilt by association of sharing a vocation with a small minority of priests who succumbed to evil.  The pain he feels is not his own;  it is from the constant attack on Our Lord.  Here is a priest already struggling with the loss of reverence and the sheer disrespect and indifference shown to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  I can't speak for him or any other priest, but it must be so difficult to do everything you can to win souls back for God, only to have them yanked away by an evil that has no right to exist anywhere, let alone in Our Lord's house.

Last week, I spoke with my friend Father Bill, just briefly, about this subject, and my fear that I am not doing all I can to counter the attacks by people who  use this scandal as an excuse to further attack the church.  In his typical way, he chuckled just a bit and told me not to worry too much about what people think.  "Jesus picked 12 Apostles. One of them was a traitor.  What does that tell you?  Stuff like this even happened to Our Lord.  He goes on, and we go on with Him."

This, too, shall pass.

Keeping Priorities Straight and Other Random Thoughts

What does it say about me that I know almost every line in the Godfathers I and II by heart, while St. Therese practically memorized the entire Imitation of Christ?  Not much.

Remember when Tiger Woods held his comeback new conference and announced he was returning to Buddhism?  Rachel Maddow could not control her exuberance that Woods, in her words, "did not kowtow to Jesus".  Given the level  of his play of golf since then, maybe he should rethink that Buddha thing.

I have one sister.  My mother and father would like to have had more children, but my mother had a hysterectomy when she was very young, so it was just us two siblings.  We fought like cats and dogs.  It's still difficult for me to be around her sometimes and keep my mouth zipped.  Still, can you imagine one sibling killing another?  We complain about the violent society that we live in but look at our roots.  Adam and Eve had only just gotten started when Cain murdered Abel.  Not very good percentages when you think about it.

The priest gave no homily at Mass this morning.  Maybe that's not so unusual for an early morning weekday Mass.  At work today, I heard a few people talking about the latest news on the abuse scandal.  One woman reported that her pastor gave no Sunday homily.  I can't imagine such a thing, and I can only begin to imagine the grief, anger and shame that many priests carried with them to the pulpit this Sunday.  I wanted to give my pastor a hug after Mass yesterday, just to let him know we are behind him and feel the burden he carries.  But I'm not an outwardly affectionate person and I think he would probably pass out from shock if I did that.  I normally only extend my hand to priests.  It has everything to do with respect.  I wouldn't presume to grab hold of Christ and plant a kiss on His cheek if I saw Him, and I don't feel it's appropriate for me, as a woman, to hug or kiss a priest unless he initiates the gesture.  I will bring my daughter with me to the Monday evening Novena tonight and that will be enough of a demonstration of support, as we will offer the prayers for the intention of all our faithful priests as well as those struggling to be faithful to their charism.

Aside from being the opening day of Spring Training in Clearwater, Florida, this is also Valentine's Day.  My husband lucked out when he found me, boy.  I don't expect a card, flower or chocolates, I don't like jewelry or fur and I wouldn't be caught dead driving a luxury car.    I got him an encrusted brie I found at Wegman's, with 3 hearts embossed into the crust.  He got me a lobster tail from the bakery.  A lobster tail, for the un-itiated, is a pastry filled with whipped cream and raspberry mousse.  The pastry is made of the same stuff a sfogiatelle is made from.  I look forward to having it when we come back from church.

Happy Opening Day of Spring Training/Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anticipation for a Very Special Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow is a day I have longed for!  It is a day I dreamed about ever since the cold November rain turned to December snow and January ice.  Tomorrow is a day that warms the heart.  It gives us hope.  It brings with it the thrill of the unknown.  The promises made will begin to come to fruition.  Will there be disappointment?  How could there be?  Do you know what tomorrow is?

That's right, sports fans.  Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training tomorrow.  Cliff Lee will be back in a Phillies uniform.  God is in His Heaven, and at least on a mound of dirt, somewhere in Clearwater, all will be right with the world.

Blog Abstinence Friday

Having a blog is a wonderful thing.  I can write about anything I want and people are free to read it or ignore it.  Sometimes, it's little too much of a good thing.  I don't watch television except for sports and some news here and there. I would hope this blog offers something worthwhile, but let's face it.  The world will go on without  my drivel, like talking about my job or my menagerie of kids and/or animals.  Truth be told, I enjoy blogging just a little too much.  Maybe if I had been doing this for a few years and had hundreds of followers like the Crescat, I could complain of boredom, but I'm in a different place.  I look forward to signing on and sharing some burning thought or revelation.

In light of the horror that has made Philadelphia the epicenter of moral decay, perhaps you will join me in making this Friday a day of blog abstinence.  We will use the time we normally spend reading our favorite blogs, commenting and posting, in prayer for all the outrages committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus, particularly here in the City of Brotherly Love.

What do you say?  Will you join me?  We will abstain from reading and writing on Friday, February 18th.  We will offer this small sacrifice in reparation.  Can you get the word out to other bloggers?

God Bless you

The Philadelphia Saga Continues

It's enough to make your head spin.  Our pastor read a letter from Cardinal Rigali regarding the abuse scandal, as well as a follow-up statement the cardinal made in response to the news that 37 priests who stand accused are still in active ministry.  The cardinal released a statement assuring the faithful that there are no priests in active ministry who stand accused.  So who do we believe?

That's where we get into a bit of semantics and word play.  I have the feeling that somewhere between the Archdiocese's position and the statements of the grand jury and the victims, the truth lies, waiting to be uncovered.   I continue to support my pastor and my parish.  I would be a liar if I said I didn't have reservations about the Archdiocese.  While my pastor read the statement today, nearly in total lieu of a homily, you could feel the heaviness and the sorrow.  No one walked out, and I didn't think anyone would.  I wondered if the same was true at the Novus Ordo Masses.  However, after reading the statements from District Attorney Seth Williams, himself a Catholic and the same man who drove the investigation into Kermitt Gosnell's horror chambers, I must question the wisdom of the Archdiocese investigating complaints itself.  The victims appear to have fared no better than they did before the scandal first broke.  One of the victims deemed to have no credibility took his own life a year after his claims were dismissed.  The DA has urged any other victims to come directly to his office rather to than to the committee set up by the Archdiocese to handle complaints of abuse.

When it comes to the lives on innocent children, it's best that if you must err, you err on their side. Does this mean every accusation is credible? No, but the church risks too much by being the sole entity that reaches that conclusion.   Some people think this is all about money.  In the end, it's going to cost the church much more than dollars.  And Our Lord will be crucified yet again.


May we participate in the Sacred Mysteries today with the same rapt attention and devotion with which Mary stood at the foot of the cross.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Prayer Request for a Seminarian

Father Z has a post including a video of a talk given by Phillip Gerard Johnson, a seminarian who has been battling an inoperable brain tumor.  You can read it about here.  On an earlier thread here, I mentioned that I had been praying for this young man, though I did not mention him by name.  I also mentioned that I was praying for him to another young man  I learned about from Father David Engo.  His name was Charles Untz and you can read about him at My Lady's Knight  Charles had hoped to enter the seminary, but God called him home in a most sudden manner.  Perhaps you might think of  reading about this very pious and spiritually precocious young man and praying to him on behalf of Phillip Gerard Johnson.  I know that if it is God's will to allow to come to fruition that to which he called Phillip, he will be ordained.  I also know that Charles Untz was an extraordinary young Catholic who demonstrated a remarkable devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Furthering his cause will help bring greater honor and glory to God and may effect a miraculous cure that will enable Phillip to not only reach ordination but a long life of service to Jesus Christ as one of His priests.

May God's Will be done!

Girgadis Mist and Friends

I mentioned earlier that my oldest daughter studied equine science and barn management for a short while.  Although we live in South Philadelphia and are of modest means, she rode from the time she was six years old.   She was pretty fearless but more importantly, she had a very gentle touch that nearly every horse she rode took to immediately.  Pictured above is one of the horses she showed locally.  It was a sad day for me when she decided to take down her ribbons, which decorated the entire perimeter of her room on a wire cord.  Misty, pictured above, seemed to adore Caitlin and in return, I adored Misty.  One day, I tried to bring  her in from the paddock and she gave me a hard time, running in the opposite direction from me.  I hadn't brought any treats with me to lure her, so I went into the trunk of my car and opened a bag of carrots I had brought for her.  Taking a single carrot with me into the paddock, I walked toward the corner where Misty was hanging out.  Suddenly, she charged at me, full tilt boogie, and I closed my eyes and waited for death.  She skidded to a perfect halt so that we were literally nose to nose. Then she took the carrot and let me put a lead rope on her and lead her in.  I don't know that I ever came so close to buying the farm, as they say, but Misty had it all under control.

A few years earlier, my sister caught the equine bug and she quickly decided she didn't like riding schoolies, so she bought herself a horse She could not have children, so she could afford the expense.  All my life I wished I could have one, so I was thrilled because I was the more experienced rider and my sister liked letting me tune up her horse for so that he was safer for her when she rode.  Tempe was an older gentleman horse, a Hanoverian who had been imported from Germany and he had the trademark Hanoverian brand on his rump.  He loved to eat treats of any kind.

I decided that when Tempe saw us, he didn't see people, but the individual treats we came to represent.  For instance, my sister was a bag of Stud Muffins, a decadent equine treat loaded with oats and molasses.  My children were bags of carrots and I, his Aunt Joyce, was a can of Pepsi.  Occasionally, on a hot day after cooling him out, I would let him share a can of Pepsi with me.  He would carefully slurp from the can, toss back his head, and then his eyes would roll around as if he was in some kind of Nirvana.

Tempe could be a handful when a mare was around. He would get himself so worked up, we had the vet run some testosterone tests on him.  He was a gelding, but he didn't  behave like one when it came to women. Still, the sight of his bridle and saddle would always bring him back to the reality that he had to go work and he would calm down enough that we could tack him up.  When I would attempt to put his bridle on, he would lower his head way low, where I could reach, as if to say: "Madame, I am now completely at your service."

One day shortly after I turned him out at pasture, a woman came running into the barn in hysterics because two horses were fighting and one of them had kicked the other, knocking him to the ground.  My heart sank as I ran out with her to the paddock.  Tempe was standing there in shock, bleeding from a wound to his shoulder.  The horse who had inflicted the damage was a Fresian, who was cavorting with the same mare that Tempe had taken a fancy to.  By some miracle, I was able to lead him back to the barn.  We called the vet and my sister and gave him some Bute, which is the equivalent of horse aspirin.  The vet suspected he may have sustained a fractured shoulder, but the only way to tell for sure was to get an x ray, and we needed to take him to New Bolton for that (New Bolton is the same equine hospital that the racehorse Barbaro was taken to following his breakdown in the Preakness).  Worse, he'd have to be shipped in the trailer and the vet wasn't sure he'd be able to withstand the ride.  She cleaned the wound out and left some antibiotics to give him.

For three weeks, I drove out to the barn nearly every day to tend to him.  I would take him into the wash stall, run cold water over his shoulder, and insert some antibiotic ointment into the puncture wound.  I also had to take his temperature.  Horses don't open their mouths for you, so you can guess where the thermometer went.  Tempe hated the wash stall, but he was very good about letting me take his temp.  I would walk him back to the aisle and wrap his legs in standing bandages.  As I knelt down to apply the wraps, I would occasionally feel his nuzzle in my hair, as if to say "Hey, thanks for doing this for me."  I hated the fact that he was hurt, but I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to spend so much time with him.

Tempe couldn't be turned out with other horses and we never turned him out alone in case he worsened.  One sunny October day when I didn't have to work, I took Rebecca, who was four at the time, to the barn to visit "Uncle Tempe".  He neighed loudly when he saw us, so I took a bag of carrots and brought him into the small paddock to enjoy the sunshine.  I was sitting on a rock scrubbing out the water trough in the paddock when I heard Tempe behind me.  He stomped his hoof one time, and then he lowered his head over my shoulder, so that our cheeks were touching.  And I knew what he was telling me.  He was telling me that he had had enough.  I called my sister and told her we needed to put him down, soon, before he grew too uncomfortable. Although he still had a good appetite, he had lost several hundred pounds, and he was no better.  He would never be able to be turned out with other horses again, and that was what he lived for.

We set it up with the vet for Monday, after the weekend.  It was a very sad and difficult thing to do,  but through the grief I felt incredibly blessed to have known such a beautiful animal.  I was away from the church at the time this all happened, but I also knew there was no way I could ever look into the face of a horse and deny the existence of God, the Creator of all things.

A First

My hair saga came to an end today.  I was fortunate to get the last appointment of a new stylist at a neighborhood salon.  It turns out he went to the same college where my oldest daughter went for equine studies before she decided she didn't want to earn a living mucking stalls. Apparently, he decided the same thing.  Anyway.... he did a very nice job, if I don't say so myself.  So nice, that I didn't want to ruin my hair with a hat.  But I was going to Mass at noon, followed by Adoration, and I didn't want to go without covering my head.  So I did it.  I wore my brown mantilla.  I decided to offer up all the stares and second looks I got, and there were a few, in reparation.

I made my First Holy Communion in 1967.  If you forgot your veil, you got a tissue bobby-pinned to your head. I never forgot mine, Not once.  I remember the odd feeling of going to Mass without a head covering.  Well, that's how it feels to me now to enter into the Divine Presence without some extra outward  sign of reverence. Now that I got the first time out of the way, it will be easier the next and the next until it becomes second nature.  Maybe it will encourage other women to do the same, and then the gawkers will be less inclined to stare because what they're seeing will not be all that unusual.

In the words of St. Therese, we can never love the good God too much.

Friday, February 11, 2011

More Shock and Revulsion in Philadelphia

When will it end?  The thought of all the lives ruined is too much sometimes.  Could anyone blame these victims if they ran as far away as possible from the faith in which they were brought up?  Think of how this compounds the sins of those who violated the innocence of the lives entrusted to them.  Their immorality would be bad enough.  But to drive away from the Church which you were ordained to serve a poor soul who, through no fault of their own,  was victimized by the worst kind of pervert, the kind that preys upon children?

My father, as I may have mentioned, is a staunchly conservative man.  Many was the time my mother had to referee a political "discussion"  between us, especially in my younger and more liberal days.  Tonight, I stopped by their house because my mother called me at work and lured me with a pizza in the oven just for me.  By the time I was able to get there, they had already started their dinner.  My father was unusually quiet and didn't eat much at all.  When I asked him what was wrong, he said two words:

"Those priests."

My father went on to say how sickened he was and how worried he is for the Church.  Invariably, every time there is an eruption of this sort, it's the non-practicing Catholics who are the first to get in line to take pot-shots. He also feels badly for the decent priests, already stretched thin, who have to bear the brunt of this.  He wondered out loud how long God is going to allow these abominations to continue before He sends us His wrath.

My father went on to tell me about a waitress at the diner where he worked a second job some years ago.  She was a single mom who managed to put two sons through Catholic high school.  The younger boy decided to enter the seminary, but he struggled with his studies and was asked to leave.  Naturally, there are two sides to every story, and who's to say that this is the real reason the would-be priest was asked to move on?  My father said that every once in awhile, he thinks of that young man and how though maybe not the brightest person, he would have made a more upstanding priest than the sort who have just had their mug shots plastered all over the news.

"I can't believe they don't know what these guys are when they try to get into the priesthood."

I reminded him that pedophiles are often very good at hiding their dirty little secrets.  There are plenty of teachers who have molested children who no one ever suspected until the awful truth came out.

There will of course be all kinds of speculation about whether priests should be celibate, whether women should be admitted to the priesthood, etc. and the church hierarchy can thank themselves for that.  I must admit to the temptation of considering that perhaps if married men were permitted to become priests, there wouldn't be such desperation for priests that perverts are given a blind pass.  I'm not saying that the abusers did what they did because of celibacy.  They did what they did because they're depraved, period.  I'm simply wondering if  the church would be better served by allowing decent men who happen to be married to serve God.

Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams put it succinctly: "It's time for the church to put protection of children ahead of protection from scandal."

Respectful comments are welcome.  Belligerent and attacking remarks will be ignored.

The Voice and the Face of an Angel

My first crush was on this fellow.

The Little Saint of Lourdes

When I was a little girl, my mother let me stay up later than usual one Sunday evening so I could watch "Song of Bernadette".  I cried at how Bernadette suffered, and I cried at the wonder of the Blessed Mother descending to earth to appear to a humble and nearly illiterate girl.  For a week after that, I imagined that I saw the outline of the Blessed Mother in the illumination provided by my night light.  When I admitted the folly of this, I cried some more for thinking myself worthy of my own apparition.

When it came to time to be confirmed, there was no doubt whose name I would take.   Unlike Bernadette, I was a good student and always at the top of the class.  But I  struggled with neatness and technical ability and I was often humiliated by the nuns for it.  I remember getting a 100 on a spelling test, and the second grade nun picking up my paper as if it were soiled with dog dung and comparing it to Susie Q's paper, who also got a 100 but whose paper revealed her perfect Palmer penmanship  Susie Q also had a head of blond hair perfectly coiffed into French curls that bounced ever so adorably when she shook her head, which was often.  Sister dropped my paper to the floor.  "I can hardly stand to touch this," she scolded, "come up and here pick it up."

I felt lower than a cockroach at the moment.  I wanted to say to her " But I got a perfect score, doesn't that count for anything?"  But I didn't.  I picked up my paper in total humiliation and went back to my seat.  That's why I could relate so much to Bernadette, who is one of the most overlooked saints in the Catholic church.  A few years ago, my dear friend Father Bill invited me to a series of talks he was planning to give on Lourdes.  I lent him the book "Bernadette Soubirous: In Her Own Words" and apologized for not being able to hear the talks due to my work schedule.  Father loved the book and decided to make the talk mostly about the virtuous Bernadette, whom Our Lady saw fit to speak to on 18 different occasions.

Although "Song of Bernadette" is a beautiful movie that I think is very true to the real story, it could of course not capture every detail of Bernadette's life and the events that lead her to the convent in Nevers.  The Soubirous family was so poor that her little brother was observed eating candle wax off of a window sill because he was so hungry.  Some of Bernadette's relatives were less-than-desirable, not unlike some of our Lord's distant relatives. The dilapidated home her family lived in was reputed to have once been a jail.

Some of the later apparitions that took place at Lourdes happened on days when Our Lady had not arranged for Bernadette to visit her at the grotto. At least once,   Bernadette received an aura in the wee hours of dawn, and she recognized the feeling as her call to go the grotto.  Sure enough, Our Lady came to her.

When deciding upon a convent in which to consecrate her life to Jesus, she endured many grillings by priests and nuns alike.  When she expressed concern that she had no particular talent that she could offer, she was told "Well, I'm sure you can manage to chop carrots nicely."   Bernadette was heartbroken about having to leave her mother behind to care for so many children on her own.  Her mother died not long after she joined the convent and Bernadette was nearly inconsolable.

Once Bernadette settled upon the convent at Nevers, a decision was made that she would address the entire community about the apparitions, during which the sisters could ask her any question they wanted with the stipulation that the topic would never be raised again.  Well, it was never raised by the sisters but that did not stop the curious from seeking out the little nun who would later be canonized a saint.  People would go out of their way to have Bernadette touch something so that they could one day have a second class relic.  When she would become wise to this, Bernadette would sometimes become exasperated, but she never displayed anything but humility.  She also was subjected to harsh treatment by the novice mistress, who was skeptical of the validity of Bernadette's visions.

St. Bernadette suffered from asthma all her life.  She developed tuberculosis, which eventually took her life.  When a tumor was discovered on her knee, the doctors were dumbfounded at how little she had complained given the excruciating pain it caused her.  Finally, on April 18, 1879, St. Bernadette was called home at last.  The Blessed Virgin had told her during the apparitions that she could not promise to make her happy in this life, only in the next.

St. Bernadette was completely selfless.  She did not leave behind profound writings that would enable her to be one day called a Doctor of the Church.  She lived in service of others, even at the height of her extreme suffering and pain.  She did not complain, ever.  Of all the souls on earth at the time, The Mother of God saw fit to appear to that one.

Pray for us, St. Bernadette,  that we may one day see Jesus and the beautiful vision that you were privileged to see 18 times at Lourdes.