Sunday, September 29, 2013

Grace-filled wedding day

I am about to collapse into a week-long coma, but before I do, here is a snapshot of the family after my daughter's nuptial mass yesterday. It was a dream.

Thank you for all your prayers and well-wishes, and I will post the official photos once we get them from the photographer!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Half a Quick Takes!

Wedding on the brain here, so sorry if there is not a lot of thought or meat to these Quick Takes! Of which there will only be four. Yep, half-baked Quick Takes. 

1) Just a week after my last post about the media distortion of Pope Francis' words and just a day after JoAnna Wahlund wrote her excellent piece about journalistic opportunism ("Pope Francis has single-handedly destroyed Catholicism"), the press did it again. They distorted and spun a very long Pope Francis interview, highlighting only the parts that serve their secular agenda. (What? You didn't see any news reports about the Pope's discussion of confession or his criticism of lax priests who denied sin? That was in there, too.)

This Catholic Vote piece is an excellent response for you to link to your facebook pages and email to your Aunt Martha:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Christianity is not a philosophy. It's not a list of rules nor is it a moral code. It's rooted in a Divine Person named Jesus Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega, and who came to save us poor sinners. As Pope Francis says: 

"God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

Trust God, not the media.

2) One of my most poignant real-life experiences with a stranger was reprinted at Catholic Stand this week. Remember my conversation with the air conditioner man who got "fixed"?

A friendly young air conditioner tech came over to check the system at our home.

Small talk led to him asking, “So how many kids do you have, anyway?”

“We have eight.”

Shocked, laughing, “Oh, are you crazy?!”

I was not offended; I could sense a good heart. ”Ha ha, well, two are in college, and so only six are in the house right now.”

Then he went and said it: “We had three, and then I got fixed.”

I didn’t even hesitate, and said with a smile:

“Oh, were you broken?”

Nervous laughter, hesitation. He really was not expecting that….

Read the rest, here.

3) Made me cry!! (Well, I didn't actually cry because I am not a crier, but if I were, I would have been in a puddle!) Sweetest thing ever. Nearly a hundred years old, and his spirit has not aged, nor his undying love for his bride:

4) Please, someone, go save Janna…. She is so precious, and so in need.

From someone who met her at the orphanage:

What touched me the most was every time I would rub her head or hands she looked at me like it was the most soothing thing that had ever happened to her – I will never forget that look.   It was as if years of horrible memories were released and she soaked up the gentle attention.

May God grant a family to this little princess.


Quick note: I have gotten incredible feedback from my "Women: Save your marriage. In five minutes" post. If you have read the book(s), please let me know if your marriage was helped; I will be reprinting your stories for a follow-up post designed to help and encourage others. I will keep all responses anonymous. My email is

Have a great weekend, everyone! And thanks to Jen for hosting!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Yawn. The press gets it wrong again.

Catholics can always count on the press to get it wrong.

The next time the press says that some !!New Teaching!! is bursting forth from Pope Francis that will change the Church and bring her into the modern day (man, they do get giddy when they report such things), just remember that it's a bunch of bunk.

If a family member, friend, or co-worker asks you about the headlines, you are on safe ground by responding, reflexively, that none of those teachings are new. And then yawn just a little yawn for emphasis. Because this is boring, honestly.

For example when the 4,623rd headline screams, "OMYWORD THE POPE SAID THAT ATHEISTS HAVE A SHOT AT HEAVEN AHHHHHHHHH!!!!" …that is boring. That is old news. About 2,000 years old to be precise.

I summarized the teaching way back in 2011, before there was a Pope Francis:

Am I a fortune teller? A soothsayer? Or, is this perhaps the same-ole, same-ole teaching of the Church throughout the ages? Yawn. You see what I mean? Boring.

When the press screams a headline like "HOLY CANNOLI POPE FRANCIS MIGHT CHANGE CHURCH TEACHING ABOUT PRIESTLY CELIBACY (EVEN THOUGH IT WASN'T HE WHO MENTIONED IT, WHOOPS) AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! …that is also boring. The discipline (not doctrine) of priestly celibacy has always been changeable and debatable. And there have always been married Catholic priests (I know two personally). That is old news.

I summarized the difference between discipline and doctrine way back in 2010, long before there was a Pope Francis:

Am I special? Do I have super-secret decoder-ring information that no one in the press has the ability to access? Or, could this always have been understood and accessed with minimal effort? Yawn. Again, boring.

And yet it's not only boring, it's inexcusable. How on earth does the world media get away with reporting on a subject without any knowledge of the subject? And since the teachings of the Church are so readily available, why aren't these reporters and pundits profoundly embarrassed and ashamed of themselves for their shoddy work?

As others have noted, the one good thing about all this journalistic malpractice is that Catholics have an opportunity to learn more about their Faith when this nonsense about our Church comes to the fore. I'm hoping that Catholics who wonder about these headlines and are faced with questions from others will being a study of Catholicism in earnest.

And maybe if they are corrected enough, some of the reporters will start to study the basic truths of Catholicism, too? That may be too much to ask, but hope springs eternal!

"I've often said that if a sports reporter was as clueless about his subject as the typical religion reporter is about his, he couldn't keep his job for a week."  -- Paul Thigpen

*Go here for a translation of the Pope's letter that has resulted in such a media frenzy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Women: Save your marriage. In five minutes.

This is going to sound like a cheesy testimonial, but stay with me.

Ladies, if you have been struggling in your relationship with your husband (and sooo many women do), I know a way that you can begin to change -- even save -- your marriage. In five minutes.

Trust me on this. I've seen it happen first hand.

Caveat: If what I'm about to say doesn't apply to you, then it doesn't apply to you. The women to whom it applies will know it. I knew it. Countless other women have known it and will know it.

If your husband is physically abusive, or if he degrades and is cruel to you as a rule, then this post is not applicable. Most husbands, however, are not physically abusive nor willfully cruel. Most husbands are generally decent guys. If you are married to a generally decent (if imperfect!) man, then what I am about to recommend will likely improve your marriage, even to the point of a complete renewal. And the results and changes will begin in less than a day. Perhaps even in five minutes. And no, I'm not kidding. You will save a lot on therapy bills and get a markedly better outcome.

Some background: Over the past few months, I have been shocked and dismayed by the number of women -- faithful Catholic women -- who have contacted me to tell me of their unhappy marriages. Some (not all) of these women were hinting that they even wanted out. I was shaken by the frequency of these conversations as well as the seeming lack of sin and guilt in the husbands -- at least nothing that should be the basis for divorce, a broken family, and devastated children. That these sentiments were and are coming from devout Catholic women who do not believe in divorce and who understand marriage as a sacrament is deeply troubling.

And yet at one time, I might have felt similarly.

Let me be clear: Divorce was never, ever an option for my husband and me, nor was it even in our lexicon. But there was a time in our marriage when tensions were high, feelings of affection were low, and things had generally broken down. Communication was terrible, and we had ceased assuming the good intent of the other. For my part, I had lost respect for my husband, whom I felt was not "a real man" (gosh, it's hard to type those words!). I almost disdained him, and I nagged, nitpicked, and criticized my way through most of our days.

Then one day about ten years ago, something happened that was the equivalent of getting a 2x4 smashed over my head. It was nothing outwardly dramatic, but in this event I recognized in one instant that I had created in my husband all the things that I in turn despised. I was immediately ashamed of what I had done to this man who had married me and who loved me, and I made a paradigm shift on the spot. Nothing has been the same since the day I had my epiphany, and our marriage is now strong and happy. I love and respect my husband dearly.

Cheesy shot, but yes, I love him!

Not long after that redemption of our marriage, I heard about a book by Dr. Laura Schlessinger called Woman Power: Transform Your Man, Your Marriage, Your Life, which I learned was the companion and follow-up to her best-selling book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. After reading the first few pages of Woman Power, I recognized my past self, and I knew that every woman in America needed to read it (including those not yet married).

Years passed, and of course, the book(s) left my mind.

But the recent conversations I've had with these Catholic women brought the books to mind again. Where one might expect that I would recommend a religious book or spiritual reading for these crises, I knew that the women needed something right now, something practical and immediate, to turn their marriages around. And so I started recommending The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands to the women who came to me. My only fear was that they would not follow through. Praise God, at least two of them did, and I want you to hear from them now.

First, a lively and intelligent Catholic woman with a Ph.D, children, and a lot going on outside of the home. She had written to me several times over the months about the sad state of her marriage, blaming it almost entirely on her husband and his "unreasonable demands". Her myriad complaints about this generally decent man were painful for me to read, and even more excruciating was hearing of the cutting, hurtful way she spoke to him.

I urged her to read Proper Care. To her credit, she did finally pick up the book and began to read. Before she even finished it, I received the following:
Started the book today. Yea, embarrassed. You nailed it. And all the little things I thought made our situation different...don't. So really we are just one more example for her book.
You saying you were ashamed of your behavior. I couldn't identify until I started the book. I couldn't see outside of how justified I was. I am so embarrassed. 
Here I work in positive behavior support and couldn't apply it to my home. I even knew of the author and didn't want to be seen with the book and be judged by other women. Ha! 
We even went to therapy. The result? The therapist listened to me gripe, somewhat made me feel justified, and [my husband] got nothing out of it and finally asked if we could stop going. I felt like we failed therapy, but I also knew it wasn't a match for us and therefore wasn't helping. 
And thanks for being someone I could go to. I am careful to only choose people to speak to that will support our marriage and not fuel the fire, but still I felt so alone because I wanted to protect my husband. Also, I didn't feel like I could identify with the Catholic women and their incredibly holy marriages. I was just feeling worse about mine. I am so thankful I had the wild hair to contact you about this. That must have been all God! And desperation. Thank you times 1000! 
Here is a quote I told to [my husband] just a month ago -- "You are not my world. I know you want to be, you just aren't." And I felt justified to hurt him that way because it was true. 
I conveniently ignored that part about leaving my family to become one with my husband. I regularly chose my family over him, among many many other errors like giving everything I had to the kids and expecting him to take care of me. Despite the fact I didn't even shower three days in a row, get dressed, etc. He would ask me to exercise, be healthy, want time to talk, be intimate. All ridiculous requests from someone who clearly didn't get how exhausted I was. I thought he was another demanding child instead of a helper with the kids. I was resentful. Exhausted. Felt justified. 
The therapist didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with what I was saying. 
My husband loves me, provides for us, loves his kids, plays with them, spoils me, gives me affection, takes me on regular dates, sends flowers to my house, bought me the biggest diamond when he proposed. And my response? I don't like roses, I like lilies. (I didn't say that out loud.) And he knows I love chocolates but none of those. Or, I didn't want a big diamond -- he clearly doesn't he know me and that I don't care about that stuff (I told him before we got married I preferred quality to size -- he bought both).   
You know what I sounded like? One big spoiled brat. All the while he works long hours at a job the last 8 years where he is verbally abused by his boss. A job he absolutely hates. But can't leave. Because our lifestyle doesn't afford him to make less. I say step down, we will make it work, but he has told me time and time again my spending habits don't back up my words, so while the sentiment is nice...I just kept thinking when he leaves the job, things will be better. The truth is, our marriage maybe wouldn't have lasted to another job. 
And also, what about "for better or worse"? He was going through one of the most trying things of his life and I was focused on how much it was negatively affecting me. Most of his anti-my-family is really attempts at protecting me from the drama. He is a good man. He is trying. I am ashamed. I don't deserve him. But I will make it better.

I asked her if I could use her words for this post and she readily agreed:
Anything I can do to help others. I felt so trapped, lost. I thought, "I blew my one chance at happiness and now I have to live with this man forever. Poor me. My bed. Now lie in it." Feeling so hopeless and alone. Very much felt controlled and indignant. Fighting mad. I would not be walked on, etc. He isn't perfect, but I never considered his point of view. Never thought I could be even half the problem. And there is something very wrong with that.

Ladies, let's be honest. We all know women like this, and it might very well be ourselves. But reading just a few pages of one book has saved her marriage. In minutes.

And then, another woman who was a virtual stranger reached out to me telling me how alone she felt in her marriage. She laid out her complaints against her husband and sounded, to me, like she was near despair. I asked if her husband was a decent man and she said he was a "great man". I asked her if he was a faithful Catholic and she said that he certainly was. After hearing that, I proceeded to gently, lovingly "let her have it", and I recommended The Proper Care and Feeding of HusbandsA few months later, I received the following:
I've been meaning to tell you that I did read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands after I spoke with you a few months ago, and it helped tremendously!!!! 
…I love my husband very much and sometimes I need a new perspective to help me realize how good things really are. Anyway, thank you for recommending that book….

When I asked her if I could share, I got this generous response:

Yes of course!  With so much divorce and brokenness in the world, I told [my husband] I want our marriage to be in protest of that. Thank you for sharing the testimonies that will only help so many hurting couples!

Now to the second caveat: Dr. Laura is not Catholic (she is Jewish), so these are obviously not Catholic books on marriage. I hope it goes without saying that I do not endorse or condone anything in these books that contradict the Catholic Faith. But the bulk of the content is sound and takes into account the inherent dignity of man and woman, and the truths of human nature.

Also, feel free to read Woman Power first (as I did). It is can stand alone, and will lead you to want to read Proper Care anyway (though by then you may not even need to!). In fact, I read Woman Power first and only read Proper Care last week for the first time, as I wanted to make sure both were fresh in my mind when I wrote this post.

Women, I want us to love our men -- our decent, loving husbands -- in the self-donative way that God intended, and not with the disposition of the current toxic culture. We can crush our husbands or uplift them with a word, a glance, or an attitude. Honestly, ladies, we hold all the power to destroy or save our marriages. Read the book(s) and tell me what happens in the aftermath (either here in the comments, or email me privately).

Too many marriages end in divorce or go on for years and decades with both spouses in misery. It does not have to be that way. Marriages can be saved, children's homes and stability preserved, right now. Change your marriage in minutes. No joke. Please, try it. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

*I did a follow-up post of women's reactions after reading the book, here.

Also, I was thrilled when the Diocese of Omaha linked this blog post to their website!


I should state that I am not a paid promoter for Dr. Laura or her books (although I have always loved her work). In re-reading both books last week, I checked them out of my local library. No doubt your library has a copy or two. Check them out! And if you buy through a link on my blog, not a penny goes to me -- all amazon proceeds go to the orphans and the families working to bring them home.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Do you think she caught the irony? Can you?

So, I was terribly saddened to read an article about Christian bakery owners who had been bullied by gay activists into closing their doors, and I ventured into the comments.

At one point, a Christian who upholds natural marriage was answered by a pro-gay "marriage" Christian named Patricia. Patricia said to him:

Sending unconditional Love to you, in the spirit of the Christ in whom I believe. Peace be with you. 
And could you please share the passages in which Jesus told us not to love someone? My Bibles don't seem to include them.

I decided to jump in and answer:

Patricia, I would be glad to show you what Jesus said very explicitly about marriage: 
It would be the height of disingenuousness to claim that gay "marriage" could fit in with his words.

Patricia came back with a comment that left me shaking my head at the magnitude of the irony! See for yourself:

If you or the writer of that post has an original copy of the Bible, please share. 
Your evidence is from a book that has been documented to contain thousands of mistranslations and errors, and reflects the limited knowledge of the writers. My goodness, if you're going to promote adherence to everything the Bible mandates about a man sleeping with a woman, we must demand that every husband and wife who have slept together during her menses should be banished from town. 
Let's be real: There is a lot of truth in the Bible; but everything in the Bible is not true. Earth is not flat, and it's not the center of the Universe. Jesus was not born in a barn AND in Mary and Joseph's home in Bethlehem. The Bible commands us not to kill, but gives us 52 reasons that we should kill each other, ranging from murdering adulterers to impudent children. 
We have absolutely no way of knowing what Jesus actually said. None. And it amazes me that those who call themselves followers of Jesus go through great pains to obfuscate his overarching message: Love ye one another. 
Jesus taught that we should love everyone unconditionally, including our enemies. He taught that even if someone has offended us, we should forgive them seventy times seven. He said that we are One: Whatever we do to the least of us, we also do to him. 
How anyone could conclude that Jesus would object to people who love each other making a lifelong commitment to each other is beyond my comprehension. But, I respect your right to believe it.

I responded:

Patricia, you may not recognize the irony in your own comment. Let me ask you a simple question. You say you are a follower of Jesus: By what authority do you know about or believe in Jesus and what he said? Thanks!

Not sure where it will go from here, but as an exercise in critical thinking, can anyone spot the myriad ironies in Patricia's thinking?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pope Francis calls for a day of fasting and prayer for Syria

Tomorrow, Saturday, is a day of prayer and fasting for Syria and the Middle East:

On Sunday, the Pope declared in his Angelus teaching that Saturday Sept. 7 would be an day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria. The prayer rally will take place in St. Peter’s Square from 7 p.m. to midnight, on the vigil of the birth of Mary, the Queen of Peace. “Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love,” the Pope asked people around the world. “She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children!”

As a Christian Arab myself, the conflicts in the region are particularly heart wrenching for me and for my extended family. Prayer is the only hope for this largely hopeless part of the globe.

For those unfamiliar, fasting means that we restrict ourselves to one main meal during the day, with two smaller meals not adding up to the larger meal. We also forgo snacks. Many people choose to live on only bread and water during a day of fasting.

As for our prayer, I can't think of a stronger spiritual weapon than the Rosary.

Mother Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for all your poor children!

**Thanks to Margo for the USCCB guidelines for this day!