Wednesday, December 30, 2015

NUBBY Guest Post! Critical Thinking: Having better conversations

The Bubble has the best readers in the world! While I am on a minor blogging break, furiously working on my little book project, Nubby has graciously come forth to fill the gap and has written a fantastic guest post! Anyone who has spent any time in the Bubble over the years knows that Nubby is brilliant, witty, no-nonsense, and just a great Catholic lady. We all are about to learn something important right now. Take it away, Nubby!

CRITICAL THINKING – Having better conversations

“If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.”
-- W. Edwards Deming, PhD., statistician, electrical engineer, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant.

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford

Hello Bubble Readers,

Leila was kind enough to give me space on her blog to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on thinking – specifically, to give examples of two techniques that are sometimes used in logical problem solving in the private sector.  One can search for all kinds of charts or explanations online regarding the principles involved in critical thinking and various skills that should be practiced to acquire smarter habits of thinking (which are helpful), but here I’ve just written up a summary of two useful tools that I’m familiar with.

Before I begin a rundown on mere process, I think it’s important to take a step back and include an explanation of why we’re exploring this topic of logical problem solving on a faith-based blog in the first place. Why are these techniques valuable here or in any discussion?  Why is this topic of logical thinking pertinent to the interactions we have here in the Bubble? 

It’s common knowledge that here on Leila’s blog her purpose is to teach the faith and to engage the wider culture at large.  This means, of course, that her audience could be very broad and that her blog posts can usually generate a variety of perspectives from any number of people who respond in the comments section.  This can be useful and entertaining as we know.  Leila’s template here gives everyone a platform to contribute freely without censorship (unless there’s vulgarity), and she has always promoted the idea of clarity over agreement.  Her goal is to see transparency of thought -- not merely for purposes of debate, but for the wider idea of educating her readership.

And here we’ve hit upon the issue of why I’m writing about logical approaches to problems:  The main problematic issue that I see within the conversations in the Bubble (and Leila sees it, too) is that often times when commenters challenge the main idea of any given post of Leila’s, they typically start out with an emotional reaction and they continue to mentally wander around in that.  The comments get stuck in nugatory thoughts that ignore the facts and disregard the logical application of those, and so we just end up chasing opinions.  This doesn’t happen on purpose, perhaps, but it definitely illustrates why we should be (in my opinion) talking about logical reasoning, as we are in this post.

Picture the discussions like this:  There’s a wide open pasture with nothing but horizon.  Everyone wanders, everyone opines.  The point of the comments and of the interaction is to start fencing off the thoughts, to corral the thoughts, so that if we’re going to “wander” and challenge intellectually then we’re going to do that together.  We should aim to wander within the same logical parameters in order to clear up the thoughts, and to hopefully reach clearer intellectual insight on various points of discussion.  We can’t have good or (even entertaining) dialogue if everyone wanders and nobody’s thoughts tie into anyone else’s.  We can all agree on this.

So what’s a good approach to foster a better conversation?  Here are a couple of techniques summarized briefly and casually that will illustrate what Leila is shooting for here at the Bubble when she reiterates “clarity over agreement”:

Technique #1: Splitting the Dictionary

One problem-solving technique used in the business sphere is called, “Splitting the Dictionary”.   If you’ve ever played the childhood game, “Bigger than a Breadbox” or “20 Questions”, you’ll notice the similarities in technique.  How does it work?  A single question is asked that immediately divides the possible answers/solutions:  50% possible and 50% impossible.  A person then asks another question to split the remaining 50% the same way.  So in a mere two questions you have ruled out 75% of the possibilities. You’re now down to 25% to be analyzed.  That’s it.  The rest is off the table.

It’s a logical reduction. You can further split that 25% down with relevant questions and so on.  Consider how much irrelevance and conversational noise we’ve eliminated in just two questions!

This is a very useful method that drives clarity of thought.  This is probably the same formula used in those “magic mind reader”-type games.  You know, “Ask the thing a question and it will read your mind”?  They most likely use a similar splitting technique and funnel the possibilities.  That’s all.

The goal -- and the skill necessary -- is to ask pertinent, logical questions.  For instance, when you play “Bigger than a Breadbox”, an example of an unintelligent question would be, “Is it silver?”  Why isn’t this a smart question?  It’s not smart because you have not narrowed much down, not gained much new information, and you’ve left all the other colors besides silver as a possibility to sift through.

A better question for a tidier conversation is, “Is it alive?”  Then you know -- in one question alone -- that your answer will only include those things logical to the answer of “yes” or “no”.  You’ve halved the possibilities in one question.  Your goal is to effectively cut in half, and then cut in half again, etc.

It’s all about reduction of possibilities so that you can focus on the more detailed questions of what logically remains.  This is a tool often used to get people closer to a solution.  It’s not statistics or math, but it is a way to reduce possibilities and to trouble shoot for a logical solution (or at least for clearer thought towards that).

Essentially what this sounds like in action in the Bubble is:

“Ok, here are the facts on the post on the Resurrection of Jesus (for example).  Here are the opinions. Everyone has given their input.  Now couple the facts to opinion.  Start with one question to ‘set the table’.  Ask one question to clear off what doesn’t belong and leave the rest for exploring.  Categorize: If this question is true, then, say, we’ll move 50% of these possibilities off to the left since they can’t be true, but we’ll move 50% to the right, because they potentially could be true.”

Then you’re on a systematic road to exploring, reducing, and perhaps seeing the logical answer -- or at least seeing the logic in the possible answers -- without someone popping over on to the other side of the dividing line, bringing up what has already been logically dismissed.  “Timeout.  We’re over here now, on the right.  These are the only pertinent possibilities.”

We use this method to parse and analyze.  We simplify, compartmentalize, reduce, and synthesize. We want to drive good dialogue and separate fact from opinion now that everyone has given their input, and from there we logically apply the facts and distill down the thoughts.

See, facts talk to logic, and logic gives clarity, and clarity gives the answer/solution.  So there’s no real discussion until we all agree on these: Do we all understand what is what?  Have we guided the thinking and explored together?  Have we pruned off the extra noise of the conversation and focused on what is relevant to the facts and therefore to the logic?

Technique #2: Extreme Contrast

There’s another logical tool implemented in problem solving application that deals with analyzing through extreme contrast.  Certain work projects have tagged these as, “a BoB and a WoW”.  That stands for “Best of the Best and Worst of the Worst”.  So we use what is called ‘extreme contrast’. We mix and match to trouble shoot a solution to fix the ‘worst’.

A simple example from everyday life I can use here is an example of two different light bulbs in two different lamps.  You know you have the Best bulb working in one lamp already.  That’s your tester to put in the lamp with the bulb that doesn’t light up.

If it lights up, then you know it’s a bulb issue with your non-lighting bulb, because this (best) one lights in this lamp (the other bulb didn’t).  If the best tester bulb doesn’t light up then we know it’s a lamp issue, because we know this bulb works since it came out of a lamp where it worked.  You need to prove if the bulb is any good and, likewise, you prove if the lamp has any issues.

Essentially, this extreme contrast is helpful to drive better dialogue in the Bubble because it’s a line of thinking that contrasts meanings of things against a standard (a Best or a tester).  It’s a process of holding up ideas to a standard that’s already in place (like our working lightbulb and working lamp).  We test what seemingly doesn’t work against what is already working (logically).  But so as not to confuse you, reader, just think in terms of these types of good questions that are outside the realm of feelings and peer inside at the dialogue, objectively:

Are the facts driving the logic? Does the logic align with the facts? Am I being accurate in my thoughts by holding them up to a firm standard or next to a working theory?

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
-- Albert Einstein

Leila’s aim in questioning her readers and commenters here is to promote thinking in a culture that, quite honestly, doesn’t “think” as much as it “feels”.  This is a common complaint we raise here at the Bubble, and the factors that contribute to this intellectual cultural laziness are many.  But this quote above attributed to Einstein should hopefully inspire us to stick with the learning process in order to acquire the skills to learn how to think better.

And this quote below from the late, great Pope St. John Paul II should inspire us as to the “why” it’s important to learn to correctly put the right questions together:

"Step by step, then, we are assembling the terms of the question. It is the nature of the human being to seek the truth. This search looks not only to the attainment of truths which are partial, empirical or scientific; nor is it only in individual acts of decision-making that people seek the true good. Their search looks towards an ulterior truth which would explain the meaning of life. And it is therefore a search which can reach its end only in reaching the absolute.” 
-- Pope St. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Little Shares and Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! Mary has brought forth the Christ Child for the salvation of the world! We continue to celebrate because Christmas is not over, it's just begun! Christmas is a liturgical season that begins on the Feast of the Nativity, December 25 (also known as the Christ's Mass, i.e., Christmas)! Continue to enjoy the Baby Jesus, Who brings peace on earth to men of good will!  <----- That's a reminder that if you want Christ's peace, you must be of good will.

Now, to a few Little Shares...


I love Catholic blogger, author, and speaker Devin Rose. Indirectly, Devin is a huge reason why this blog exists. I have followed him for years, and now I am honored to count him as a friend. Devin was an atheist in his early life, became a Baptist in his college years, and then found the fullness of the Catholic Faith in 2001. He is an amazing Catholic apologist. And, like so many millions of men, he was a slave to pornography for many years.

I am so thrilled to announce that Devin has designed a program that will help lift other Catholic men out of the sin and despair of porn addiction. The program contains every weapon a man needs to conquer this monster, and best of all, it includes personal, one-on-one support and advice from Devin himself. Check it out, and go to battle:


Throughout the centuries, there have been countless volumes written about the Marian Doctrines and in defense of our veneration of Mary. Yet, sometimes the simplest off-the-cuff statements resonate most profoundly. Our buddy Chris Sawaya came to the defense of the Blessed Mother recently, when an anti-Catholic fundamentalist burst on the scene spewing ugliness and ignorance in the comments. I loved Chris' response so much that I put it on my Facebook page. The reaction there was astounding, and someone even asked if Chris' words were copyrighted! Here is what he said:
And John, it's ok to love Mary. Jesus certainly did. If the Angel Gabriel took time out of his busy schedule to talk to a human and use the greeting "Hail, full of Grace" you're probably ok with honoring that person.  
Not to mention, who wants to hear on judgement day "dude, did you really spend all that time dissing my Mama? Why don't you say it to my face?" 
Brilliant, I tell you!

And here's another that Chris heard once, and that stuck with him (and now me): "Be nice to Mary, her Son will be your judge."


You might not be hearing from me for a while, for a couple of reasons. First, I have decided to write a casual little self-published book. There have been enough providential nudges that I finally took the hint and decided to get writing. I have kinda suspected that I would one day attempt to write a book, but I always thought it would be a compilation of Little Teachings. I'm a little surprised that the subject matter is of a different nature....

It's still taking shape, but the tentative title is Raising Up Chaste Catholic Men in a Pornified Culture, and I'm enlisting the help of my three oldest sons (ages 22, almost 18, and 15). I am really excited about it! Believe me, I know it's a big risk on so many levels, but I ask for your prayers as I spend the next few weeks putting it all together. As soon as the bulk of it is complete, I'll be back to blogging, but I need to minimize distractions until that time. (I am like a child, easily distracted.)


A second reason I won't be blogging for a while is that both my daughters and their families are coming to town! Hooray!! 

I realize I have not provided any updated photos of my two grandbabies, nor have I announced that my older daughter and her husband are expecting their second daughter in May! Yes, Miss Felicity will have a sister for life! Here she is, our sweetie pie, at 18 months:

She had a white Christmas!!

And my handsome grandson David is nine months old already! Enjoying his life and his very first Christmas!

My daughter told me he really loved eating the bows!


God bless you all this Christmas season, and I'll be back soon!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Synod Report is out in English; LGBTQ agendas are dashed

Did anyone notice?

I never wrote about, nor was I at all concerned about, the Synods Of Bishops On The Family that convened at the Vatican in recent months amidst much hand-wringing and controversy. I was saddened by the number of Catholics who were up in arms and full of anxiety, who followed every news report, interview, and conspiracy theory, wondering what the final result would be.

Why was any faithful Catholic worried? Why do we not trust the Holy Spirit? Jesus Christ is not dead, He is fully alive and the Head of His Church.

Finally, the English translation of the The Final Report of the Synod Of Bishops is out, and it is a steel-strong, unassailable re-statement of the truths of marriage, family, and human sexuality. The report, as the National Catholic Register has noted, has "not only dashed the hopes of those who hoped the Church would jettison its historic and biblical teaching on sexual ethics, it blew them to hell."

For the millionth time, the hopes of the heterodox were raised, and for the millionth time, they have been dashed. When will people understand?

"Gender ideology" is utterly rejected (Section 8, emphases mine):
Today, a very important cultural challenge is posed by “gender” ideology which denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without gender differences, thereby removing the anthropological foundation of the family. This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative guidelines which promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, which can also change over time. According to our faith, the difference between the sexes bears in itself the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). “This tells us that it is not man alone who is the image of God or woman alone who is the image of God, but man and woman as a couple who are the image of God. [...] We can say that without the mutual enrichment of this relationship — in thought and in action, in affection and in work, as well as in faith — the two cannot even understand the depth of what it means to be man and woman. Modern contemporary culture has opened new spaces, new forms of freedom and new depths in order to enrich the understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much skepticism. [...] The removal of the difference [...] is the problem, not the solution” (Francis, General Audience, 15 April 2015).
Homosexual "marriage" is denounced as a lie (Section 76):
Regarding proposals to place unions of homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family” [CDF]. In every way, the Synod maintains as completely unacceptable that local Churches be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies link financial aid to poor countries to the introduction of laws to establish “marriage” between people of the same sex.

There was also no mention of admitting the divorced and remarried (without annulment) to Holy Communion, as had been widely rumored. Nothing has changed. Why did anyone think it would?

Every Catholic needs to be at peace with Christ's promises. Our Lord would not have warned us against building our houses on shifting sand if He had not also provided the firm ground on which we are to build. His Church is that unshifting ground, and those who have built upon it have nothing to fear.

When will we learn to trust?

It's important to note that the Synod Report is not primarily concerned with gender ideology and homosexual "marriage" (aside from the rejection of their veracity). There is so much more, so much goodness and beauty and mercy in it, and so much help and hope for families today, rooted in eternal truths and promises, all of which are made for human flourishing. Read it all, here.

I am grateful to Pope Francis for convening the Synod, and I love what he is doing to bring in the lost sheep. He stands for unwavering Truth even as he reaches out in mercy and love to a world that, without Jesus, has no hope.

And did you all know that today is the pope's birthday? Let us each offer up a prayer for the Holy Father's intentions today!

Happy Birthday, Papa!

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why I am glad that "everything happens for a reason"!

I had no idea until recently how emotionally charged is the sentiment, "Everything happens for a reason".

In recent months, a few blog posts have been making the rounds on Facebook and social media blasting the use of the phrase, and even denying the basic truth of it. Here, here, here and here, for starters.

I'm not going to lie -- I've been disturbed down to my bones that even good and faithful Catholics have re-posted or lauded these articles.

Now, a huge caveat: I fully understand that some people are simply decrying the phrase as unhelpful or insensitive in the immediate aftermath of an intense suffering or grief. Indeed, there is much to be said for simply listening to someone in great pain, being present to that person, holding a hand, loving the person through a hard time, and being silent as they grieve or try to cope.

After all, we are all individuals, we all react differently to a crisis or tragedy, and we all need different things to help us in the moment. Recognizing the deeper meaning of something can certainly come later, when the agony starts to lift.

But the outright denial that everything happens for a reason, well that I don't understand. Here is an example of what I've been seeing:

If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go. 
Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit. 
You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go. 

I am left stunned by this. How can this be? How did we get so far from understanding the truth of God's Providence and what it means for us as Christians?

I am fairly certain that none of the authors I linked is Catholic, and I recognize that outside of Catholicism there is no understanding of redemptive suffering, no theology of suffering at all. This in itself is a loss, and a barrier to the true peace and joy that can be ours even in a dark and painful world.

Think about what God has told us about His divine care, down to the last detail: He knew each of us before he knit us in our mothers' wombs. Every hair on our heads has been counted. Not even a tiny sparrow falls to the ground outside of His will. Everything, everything is accounted for in God's Divine Providence.

So how could it possibly be that some things do not happen for a reason? And how could it be that our own trials and sufferings are random, arbitrary, accidental, if the greatest sin and suffering of all, the brutal torture and crucifixion of God Himself, was the very planned, very meaningful instrument of the redemption of the world and our salvation?

How could the world's gravest evil and suffering, i.e., the Cross, have a reason, but yet our lesser sufferings do not?

It's simply not possible.

We know from Christ Himself that God would not give His children a stone when they ask for a loaf of bread. Isn't everything, our joys and our sorrows, given to us by the very Hand of a loving Father? If we are weak and imperfect and do not understand His ways at the moment, does it follow that there is no reason, no purpose to those ways? Of course not.

I don't understand what comfort there could be in believing that God is not all powerful, and that pain and suffering and agony happen to us indiscriminately and incidentally while He watches helplessly? Who could find comfort in a world spinning out of control, "ruled" by a God who only picks up the pieces after the randomness of the moment begins to settle? To my mind, that is incredibly unsettling.

And thankfully, it's untrue.

We are a fearful and anxious people precisely to the extent that we don't understand that a loving Father is in control and that His Providence covers us at every moment.

It is only in total trust, only in total abandonment to God, that we can find true freedom from fear and anxiety, to be graced with the peace that surpasses all understanding. To find Christ's peace and joy is to say, without reservation, "Thy will be done" -- and then to give ourselves over to whatever cross has been fashioned for us by the Lord, for our perfection and sanctification.

This is our Faith.

One of my favorite passages from one of my favorite books is hard for modern Americans to hear:
The distinction between what God wills and what He merely permits is extremely important on the theological level. When it has to do with real life, however, with unavoidable events and our reaction to them, we might wonder if speculation about the difference is not often a subtle form of escapism. If God does not will the evil that befalls me, I do not need to accept it. Then I may in good conscience rebel against it. 

And we know, from the example of Job and the saints, that this rebelling against unavoidable suffering is not the good path. God can be trusted in all things that He places in our lives -- all things. Even in our lowest and most excruciating moments, He knows what He's doing and why. We can be sure that it's always for our good, never for our harm.

I find this teaching on total abandonment to be so comforting, so true and real, that I have ordered my life around it, just as we are all called to do. When I was in my darkest moments, how very comforting and welcome would have been these words from Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade:

If God takes away your peace of mind, very well, let it go with the rest; God remains always, and when nothing else is left to you.

This kind of trust, this level of surrender to God's Providence is nothing less than complete freedom. What balm for the soul!

And so, to all my friends and family: When I enter a crucible of suffering again (and I will, as we all will), I give my full and unrestricted permission for you to comfort me with the true and sweet and beautiful words that so many inexplicably decry:

Everything happens for a reason.

Nothing is random.
Nothing is meaningless.
Nothing is out of His plan or His control.

To that I say, praise God!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"RELIGION: Because Thinking is Hard"

Let's think about this.

My 15-year-old son and I were pulling out of his large public high school when we spotted a bumper sticker on the back of a student's vehicle:

Image result for religion: because thinking is hard

Apparently, this is a popular saying among "free-thinkers" (atheists, agnostics, secularists), and although "religious people are blind followers" is a standard platitude, I had not seen this particular incarnation before. 

I started to laugh, but it was my son who nailed it:

"Wow, that's so ridiculous, because I'm sure she goes along with whatever belief is popular right now."

Bam! Good thinking, son!

I would bet the farm that the young woman with the bumper sticker holds the most popular, fashionable, and faddish thinking on abortion, gender/transgender/LGBTQIA, sexuality, gay "marriage", racism/sexism/classism (and "safe spaces"), environmentalism, "death with dignity", gun control, etc., etc., etc.

I don't believe for a minute that she's thought about centuries of Catholic scientists who have done the work and made the discoveries she takes for granted; I don't believe she's thought about, much less read, myriad Catholic philosophers whose entire raison d'être is the search for and love of Truth; I don't believe she's thought about where universities and schools of higher learning originated; and I am certain that she has no background in the thought and history of Western Civilization itself. 

I have no doubt that her worldview is as predictable as it is disconnected to any ideas that are actually her own.

The good news is, she's young (we've all been there), and, God willing, she has many years ahead of her to start actually thinking.

Your thoughts?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Why God came in human flesh

As we begin the Advent Season in preparation for Christmas, it's a good time to remember and meditate on why Christ came to us in the flesh in the first place! 

I'm not convinced we think or know enough about this topic, which is foundational to our Catholic Faith and key to the mystery of our lives and our eternal salvation. 

So a repeat/refresher/review is in order:

In my "What I Never Learned in CCD" series on the basics of salvation history, we talked about how painful it is for a soul to be separated from God, and that all of life is really a search for union with the Trinity (even though many souls are not consciously aware of what they are longing for).

From the beginning, humanity has tried to “make things right”, attempting to heal the rift that has existed between God and man since that first sin in the Garden of Eden. The primary means to that end has been offering sacrifice.

Sacrifice is, by definition, a giving up or offering of something precious.

We've talked earlier about the nature of love, about how love is an act of the will and must be freely given and freely received (or it is not love), how love must have an object, and how love is always fruitful. And, true love is always sacrificial. Think of our own relationships with our family members and loved ones: We sacrifice for them, i.e., offer ourselves and our lives for them, out of love.

In Old Testament days, before Jesus came to earth, the people offered sacrifices to God in order to show them that they loved Him, to thank Him for His many gifts, and in order to make up for their sins. Then, just as today, the sacrifice most acceptable and pleasing to God was one offered with a pure heart, out of true love.

The thing being offered or sacrificed was always burned or destroyed, to show that it was being given back to God completely. It was also the best that the person had to offer; for example, farmers would offer God the “first fruits” of their harvests, and a shepherd would give his best lamb.

After a while, in Moses’ time, priests were appointed to offer the sacrifices on behalf of all God’s people.

Interesting to note that, while God’s chosen people (the Hebrew people, also known as the Israelites) were offering all those sacrifices to God, the pagans were busy offering sacrifices to their false gods as well. This is natural, not surprising. God has left His “thumbprint” on each person’s soul, a distant echo of Himself. Everyone, on some level, knows that we are separated from God, and that sacrifice is needed in order to make up for our sins. Unfortunately, there were occasions when the pagans sacrificed human beings to their gods, something that the true God never requires!

But getting back to the Hebrew people, the purpose of all these elaborate, bloody, ritualistic sacrifices was a deep longing to make up for Adam’s sin and to “build a bridge” back to God. In reality, all those millions of sacrifices were pointing to, or foreshadowing, the only Sacrifice which actually could build a bridge back to God, namely Jesus’ own offering of Himself on the Cross.

Think about it, and try to follow my logic here: To make up perfectly for the sin of Adam (i.e., to reconcile God and man perfectly), man’s sacrifice would have to be perfect. Yet, how could sinful man offer a perfect sacrifice when he himself is imperfect, and when the gift, no matter how good, is imperfect as well?

The answer is that he couldn’t; it is simply impossible.

So we humans really had a problem. Those millions of animal and other sacrifices just couldn’t reconcile us completely, perfectly, to God. We were still lost.

Only God, Who is perfect, could provide a perfect sacrifice. 

And that's exactly what God had planned for our reconciliation all along. “In the fullness of time,” the Second Person of the Holy Trinity -- the Beloved Son -- came down from Heaven and became man. He became one of us, fully human, while remaining fully divine (i.e., sinless).

Jesus Christ alone, the God-Man, could represent both sides!

Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Cross was the perfect offering, the likes of which no other man could present to the Father. As true man, Jesus is able to act on behalf of all mankind. As true God, the Sacrifice is utterly perfect, therefore completely acceptable to the Father. Jesus, as both Priest and Victim, offered Himself, out of pure love, in atonement for all of our sins.

If God had never come to earth by taking on human flesh, if the Second Person of the Holy Trinity did not become Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin's womb, we would still be in our sin. There would be no bridge between us and God. Heaven would be closed to us.

But instead, perfect Love reconciled Heaven and earth, God and man.

Christ's Sacrifice of love was so powerful, so beautiful, so complete, that it unleashed a torrent of grace upon the earth, which washed away the sin of Adam and redeemed the whole human race, reopening the gates of Heaven.

Think on this glorious mystery during this holy season of Advent, as we await the coming of our Savior.


Aaaaand as if to prove how imperfect we really are, here is a view of the Millers' Advent wreath today! Yes, last night we found ourselves still without Advent candles, so we improvised, and badly. Note that the purple (my son's chess tournament participation ribbon) and the rose (speaks for itself) are present! One child held up a tea light during prayers, in the general vicinity of the wreath, ha! We will do better next week, that's for sure.

Blessed Advent to all!

And don't forget that you have four more days to enter the book giveaway from last Friday! Good luck!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas gift ideas and a DOUBLE book giveaway!!

I am so excited!!!

I love, love, love being able to give you guys free stuff! And, I love books so much!

Two books should be on your Christmas gift radar, one for your kids, and the other for you.

First, I want to tell you about the book written by our very own Bubble reader, commenter, and friend, Becky Arganbright. A while back, Becky emailed me about an idea she had for a simple and beautiful children's book about St. Thérèse, the Little Flower. It was such a lovely idea, and I knew that the story would be so appealing to a child (and frankly, I loved it, too). Soon there was an excellent illustrator on board, and I was privileged to watch the whole project grow from an seed of an idea into the fully blossomed book, The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, from Peanut Butter & Grace.

Available in soft- or hardcover, the book is visually captivating and perfect for a Catholic (or even non-Catholic) child.

You will find an entire pdf preview copy here, to see for yourself.

Isn't it awesome??

Okay, so the first book is for the kiddos, but this second book is for you (and your priest or deacon)! I cannot say enough about it, I reference it constantly now, and I incorporated it into my talk to college students at Young America's Foundation. It's an important book because it explains Catholic social teaching clearly, teachings which are horribly, badly mangled today by the left. And aside from being important, it's written so beautifully that I have taken to calling Anthony Esolen the "new Chesterton". I thought I was being clever, until I realized that many others have compared Esolen to Chesterton as well!

Here it is, Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching:

It comes from one of my favorite publishers of all time, Sophia Institute Press, whose gorgeous, illuminating books were inspirational to me in the months and years after my reversion to the Faith.

Now, I don't generally mark up my books, but occasionally one comes along that just screams to be notated. When I picked up this book, I expected to read it casually. Until I hit the first paragraph. And the next. And the next. Then I picked up a pen, and this is pretty much how most of the pages look:

Then, of course, there is a page from the book that I posted back in June, which may be the best insight into human sexuality that I've ever seen (yes, go read it).

Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching should be on the shelf of every serious Catholic, and not just to sit there looking sharp, but to be read and re-read.

Now, to the...


Okay, so here is the fun part! I am going to give away one copy of each of these books to two lucky readers! United States and Canada only, please. To enter the giveaway, simply send me an email at, and put one of the following in the subject line:




If you want to enter the drawing for both books, then send me two emails, one for each (only one email for each book, please).

And, if you want to double your chances to win, then leave a comment on this blog, telling me why you would like to win the book(s). Make sure to remind me in your email(s) that you commented here. I will then assign you two numbers per email entry, thus doubling your chances to win.

A week from today, I will use to pick the winners!

**Congratulations to our winners! Tracy Smith and Nancy A., your books will be mailed out to you shortly! 

Happy Black Friday everyone!!

Note: I have no financial stake in any of the books I promote. I just love being able to spread the word about good books in a crazy world. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sorry, ABC: even the devil works at the service of God

St. Augustine said of evil:

God is so good that in His hand, even evil brings about good. He would never have permitted evil to occur if He had not, thanks to His perfect goodness, been able to use it.

I thought of that when I saw the description of ABC's recent episode of Scandal, which, after aggressively pushing Planned Parenthood's talking points, included this bit of depravity:
Kerry Washington's character, Olivia, who is the President's girlfriend, gets an abortion. We see the surgical instruments; we see the abortionist begin the horrific act of killing an unborn child; and, in the background, we hear “Silent Night” playing. Silent. Night.

ABC's Scandal

And apparently, later, after her womb has been violently emptied of her child, she sits by her Christmas tree while Ave Maria plays in the background.

Predictably, the accolades from the pro-abort crowd have been copious. Not only was abortion promoted, but Christianity was mocked. A two-fer!

Now. You all can imagine what I might say about the myriad ironies that abound in this episode. I could write all night long about them.

But I'm not going to even go there. What I want to do is back up and look at the big picture, which is always about salvation history and the supernatural battle.

We know that when Satan first undertakes to woo us, he comes as an angel of light. He is initially attractive. Sin is pleasurable, fun, tantalizing. Sin is seen as freedom, as liberation, as a beautiful unshackling from the burdensome, painful, heavy chains of virtue. Satan is so careful, so nuanced during the courtship; he whispers, he entices gently. He has to be subtle, or else we would never let this liar and murderer in.

Later, when we are addicted to our sin, the devil does not attempt to disguise himself any longer. He doesn't have to. He can expose evil openly, show its ugliness to our face, and we still accept it. We will even embrace it and call it good.

One Catholic friend, Nicole, put it this way, when discussing the twisted Scandal episode:
Here's how we know that the devil is behind it: the evil is getting more brazen, more egregious, more bold. And yet, more than in my lifetime, people are defending abortion, pornography, perversion, and all manner of evil. 
And another friend, Laura, responded to Nicole:
Not just defending it, they are now demanding more of it.
Who can deny it?

For undeniable confirmation of embraced evil in our midst, how about a peak into a recent conference of abortionists. You are a fly on the wall, and you get to hear how abortionists and abortion workers talk amongst themselves. The video below is half an hour out of many hours of video that a judge blocked at the behest of the abortion industry, but which was later released by a third party. Satan is not hiding here; the people who profit in abortions are very clear about what they do.

If you can't bear to watch all those horrifying hours from the conference (you can see them here), just note the frequent uproarious laughter that permeates this particular segment. And if you can't watch even this one video, go at least to the 9:27 point and you'll know all you need to know about the brazenness of the devil. No more subtlety. No nuance.

Here is the transcript of that small part:
An eyeball just fell down into my lap and that’s gross [laughter], and I say to myself, ‘This abortion is going well; it’s going safely.' [laughter, cackles, and applause]

If you watch it all, you will be left with no doubt that these people know exactly what they are doing -- forget all the euphemisms and catchy slogans. They know without a doubt that they are brutally, violently killing babies. They say it outright! And listen to the one abortionist warn about pesky hospital nurses who get upset when they see babies being killed; also how it's important to make sure that babies at the "extreme" of gestational age are not ever in a position to be "resuscitated" (translation: "sometimes the babies we're aborting have the gall to be born alive, and we can't have that"). Again, there are hours and hours of this candid, sickening talk, and this is only one conference.

All this evil is so obvious, so clear, so undeniable that anyone of goodwill will see it. Only those who have completely closed their hearts and minds, only those who are spiritually blind, will not see the ugliness and darkness here and will continue to defend it. The evil is in-your-face!

Satan is not hiding when Silent Night plays as the background to an abortion; he's openly mocking.

Satan is not hiding when abortion workers laugh and applaud the gruesome details of their trade; he is proudly showing his work.

So, let's bring it back to the opening statement by St. Augustine, and the truth that God only allows evil in order to bring about a greater good. What could God be doing here? Well, I could not begin to fathom all the good that the Lord can bring out of evil (if so, I'd be able to fully grasp the mystery of the Cross, whereby the greatest sin of all led to the greatest good of all), but I can say one thing for certain: By allowing the devil to be this brazen, this bold, this in-your-face -- in other words, by unmasking Satan -- God is making it easier and easier for us to see the difference between good and evil.

God is making things very clear.  

Praise God for the clarity! We have to choose good over evil and we need Light to see. The devil at his bloody, mocking worst -- whether manifested in slick TV shows or conferences of "medical professionals" -- does nothing more than shine a brighter spotlight on all that is Good.

What a Great and Almighty God have we, that even Satan unwittingly works at the service of His plans!


And... how cool that as I finish up this post, I just realized it's The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe! More commonly known as the Feast of Christ the King, and the culminating Sunday of the liturgical year! What a glorious Feast! What a worthy, benevolent, all-powerful King!

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Script" font post! (This post will self-destruct in about two days)

This is a temporary post, but I have been meaning to write it for a while!

Several readers have emailed me over the years, asking me to please change the script font, because it's so hard to read.

I felt helpless, because I don't (and would never) use a script font for this blog! 

Script would drive me batty, too!!!

Finally, JoAnna, my wingman in all things bloggy and technical, told me that perhaps the fault lay in people's browsers.

Indeed, that was it!

So, if you are seeing this in script (heaven forbid!), please consider changing your browser, and the problem should be solved!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to draw your child back to the Church!

This is the coolest thing. I've been waiting for this.

My friend Brandon Vogt, who works for Bishop Robert Barron and Word on Fire, has done something extraordinary and so very needed in our Church today. He has put together a game plan for how to help our lost children come home to the Church.

Brandon is a social media expert and a holy, brilliant evangelist (as well as a longtime friend of the Bubble!), and he has spoken at numerous Catholic conferences over the past years. The most common question he hears at these gatherings, numbering hundreds of times, is some version of, “My son/daughter has left the faith and I’m devastated. What should I do?” His other Catholic speaker friends confirm the same thing, and I can confirm it, too; it’s a huge problem, weighing heavily on Catholic parents and grandparents everywhere.

This is so near and dear to my own heart, because as you know from my own story, I was one of those lost Catholics who drifted far from the practice of the Faith, starting in high school, but really kicking in at my (Catholic) university. My drifting led me to all but leave Catholicism by the time I was a wife and mother. Brandon knows well that it's a "drifting", and not some dramatic break, that is the mode of separation for most of us who stop practicing.

God used my mother -- and her strategic, powerful, and yet deceptively simple words -- to set me on the path back to the Church and into a life of grace and a zeal for evangelism. It's crazy when I think about it, and I shudder to think where I would be if my mom had never said those simple words or followed up with one easy resource to set me on my course back to Christ and His Church. (And if you haven't read how that happened, the full story is here.)

So when Brandon told me a couple of months ago that he had designed a whole program to help parents draw their children back to the Church, I was so thrilled! I was able to read the Return book (simple, clear, systematic, tactical), and I knew he had something special.

For free resources, go to

Even more special to me and to my husband personally, Brandon had (unknown to us!) included my mother-in-law's conversion story in the book! We are coming upon the one-year anniversary of her holy death, and I can't think of a more fitting tribute than to have her story told as a help in bringing others to the Church. Carol would have been blown away, and so pleased.

Cutting to the chase: If you have a child or grandchild who has left the Church, please consider what Brandon has to offer. There is so much wisdom in this program, and a lineup of amazing Catholics -- including Dr. Ralph Martin, Dr. Scott Hahn, Trent Horn, Jennifer Fulwiler, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Matthew Kelly, Msgr. Charles Pope, Leah Darrow, Mark Shea, Bishop Barron (of course!) and many more who are in the trenches -- have wholeheartedly endorsed and contributed to RETURN.

You may be someone who can relate to the heartache of the woman and her son in this one-minute video:

(C'mon, you weren't expecting that twist, were you? I wasn't!)

For more information on Brandon's great work to bring your fallen-away children home, click here:

You'll have the opportunity to access oodles of resources, speakers, strategies, a FAQs page, and Brandon's direct email for any questions you have. One thing I love about Brandon is that he understands the power of clarity and practicality when trying to reach the lost sheep. Clarity, truth, love, and simple steps -- practical steps, not just theory or generalizing -- are the key.

I can't wait to see the fruits of this project, in the gathering of many souls back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church.

Brandon, I can't thank you enough, my friend! My mom was instrumental in bringing me back home, and now it's time for other moms and dads to learn how to do what my mom did for me.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Paris attacks: Why it's not racist to point out the obvious.

In the aftermath of the horrific ISIS terrorist attacks on Paris, I wrote the following on my Facebook page:

Everyone wants to know, "What can we do? What can we do?" That's a tough one, but there are some basic facts that we have to face: 
Europe is post-Christian. As Pope Benedict urged, it needs to get back to its Christian roots and live out those virtues and truths, unapologetically. If that doesn't happen, Europe will lose, because ultimately it's a numbers game -- Europeans really don't have babies any more. They've given that up. Muslims (radical or not) have oodles of babies. Demographics, people. There was blood this time, but in the end it will be a bloodless coup.

A friend of mine gently responded with: "Leila. This is racist."

But is it?

First, I myself am an Arab. My father is a full-blooded Arab man, a Palestinian born and raised in the Middle East. He is also a devout Catholic (yes, Catholic/Christian Arabs existed for centuries before Islam entered the scene). If I am a racist, then am I a self-hating Arab? I don't think so. I love my family, I love my heritage, I love the Arab people.

Second, Islam is (obviously) not a race, it's a religion. More accurately, radical Islam is an ideology, and an overtly political one. There is no arguing that, is there? Now it is true that we cannot paint all Muslims with the brush of "radical". However, we also cannot find and identify "true" Islam, because Islam has a "sola scriptura" problem: They have no pope, so to speak. Each branch of Islam is one particular interpretation of the Quran, but there is no final authority. So, the sects with the most power and influence are the ones who sort of "define" what we see as Islam, even if those beliefs are not held by all, or even most, Muslims.

But ultimately, can we really argue with the demographics? After all, the demographics are just facts, numbers, statistics, projections. There's nothing racist about noting the facts, noting where Europe is headed if nothing changes.

Europe was a Christian continent, to its very roots, to its deepest identity. Demographically, we know that Europe will one day be a Muslim continent unless it reestablishes its Christian roots. The French (and Germans, and Italians, and Spanish, etc.) do not have babies anymore. Muslims, and I can't knock them for it, have broods of children. This is a fact. If Europeans do not return to the practice of Christianity, if their abysmal rates of reproduction stay deathly low, you can extrapolate and predict the outcome. It's not rocket science.

Inexplicably, some people don't appreciate differences between Judeo-Christian values and Islam (including a radicalized form of Islam that appears to have more power than peaceful Islam), but the differences are vast, and the ascendency of Islam on a once-Christian continent will change the face of our world. Is it bigoted to point this out?

If we want to pretend that this is an issue of racism or bigotry rather than a clash of truth against error and, yes, a spiritual battle, perhaps we should take the terrorists at their own words. They proudly took responsibility for last night's heinous attacks, calling France "...the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe" and referring to Europeans as "Crusaders" no less than five times. The deceased victims themselves are referred to as "Crusaders".

It is not racist to assert that Europe's only hope is to return to its Christian roots.

Echoing Pope Benedict before him, Pope Francis recently said as much, including urging Europeans to have more children:
When there is an empty space, people try to fill it. If a country has no children, immigrants come in and take their place. I think of the birth-rate in Italy, Portugal and Spain. I believe it is close to 0%. So, if there are no children, there are empty spaces. And this not wanting to have children is, partly...due to a culture of comfort, isn’t it? In my own family I heard, a few years ago, my Italian cousins saying: “Children? No. We prefer to travel on our vacations, or buy a villa, or this and that”… And the elderly are more and more alone. I believe Europe’s greatest challenge is to go back to being a mother Europe….

Francis laments the mistake of Europe in discarding its Christian identity:

Europe made a mistake when it chose to speak of its identity without wanting to recognize the deepest level of its identity, its Christians roots. That was a mistake. But, well, we all make mistakes in life. It's time to recover its faith.

Pope Francis is not a racist for speaking these truths.

Let us pray for the souls of the dead, the consolation of their families, the healing of the wounded, and the restoration of Christ's Kingship in Europe.

Let us specifically ask the saints of France to pray for their homeland, which is often referred to as the "Eldest Daughter of the Church".

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Irenaeus, St. Jean Vianney, St. Joan of Arc, St. Bernadette, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, St. Catherine Labouré, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for your countrymen, and for our world!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dear Yale victims, er, students: You have offended me

How unfortunate that I'm going from describing the pure joy of walking the US Naval Academy grounds to recounting the pathetic display seen on the Yale campus of late.

I cannot even believe what I'm hearing or seeing in these videos. And yet, I can, because this is where politically correct, "progressive" ideology leads. It's so predictable, but still surreal.

Okay, for the backstory on the Yale... thing (I cannot for the life of me think of a word to describe it), you can go here. But essentially, there's a big controversy about Halloween in liberal America (of which I was blissfully unaware, since I live in regular America), and costumes must conform to politically correct standards.

At Yale this year, that dictate took the form of an email from the "Intercultural Affairs Council", which includes many culturally sensitive "centers" and "offices" (including the Office of LGBTQ Resources and the Office of Gender and Campus Culture, which makes me wonder, why does Yale need two offices to cover sex-and-gender needs? But I digress...). This email stressed the "growing national concern on campuses everywhere" [!!!!] about "culturally unaware or insensitive choices" of Halloween costumes by "some" college students.

Apparently, a few students who still possess the actual ability to access their human reason expressed frustration about the email to Erika Christakis, associate master of Yale’s Silliman College, and she wrote a response email that was about as inoffensive and innocuous as a fluffy kitty, agreeing with the calls for "cultural sensitivity" in Halloween costumes, but also gently suggesting that it's an issue for the (presumably mature and capable) students to work out amongst themselves, and that perhaps it was not the place of university officials to tell the students what they should wear for Halloween.

And then, after this reasonable, polite, friendly, and non-threatening email came through, all hell broke loose, apparently (and this is just a guess) because the cultural elites of the left (including these privileged Ivy League kids) have lost their ever-loving minds.

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad email from an obviously very bad lady (who is married to Nicholas Christakis, the very nasty, mean, and unsafe man in the videos you are about to see) is linked at the end of this paragraph. I wanted to give you fair warning so that you can be prepared and get your smelling salts, or perhaps your best friend (or your mommy) and lay down. The evil email led to the man practically emasculating himself trying to appease the distraught offendees, although the very bad man refuses ultimately to apologize for his wife's evil, hateful words, which have decimated the students' "safe space". The violent wrenching away of the students' "safe space" prompted the very Dean of Yale to come out to where the students had "chalked" (yes, chalked!) their "affirmations", and he listened lovingly "for almost two hours" to their "profound pain", watching "every tear that was shed". Yes, the offending email was that bad. Are you ready for it? Are you sure? Okay, but I warned you, it shocks the conscience!! Read the evil in its fullness, here.

I know, right? Like, <<shudder>>. Who can bear it?

And if you can't believe how offensive and monstrous was that letter, please turn now to the actual videos of the victims themselves, who were so callously trodden upon by those big, bad, mean words, and watch how the bad lady's husband was summarily castrated chastised. And yes, that is SNAPPING you hear instead of applause at some points, because apparently, in the Land of Sensitivity, snapping is less jarring and less anxiety-producing than clapping. (No, I'm not kidding, but I wish I were.)

Video #1, wherein the professor, who had already talked with the students for over an hour, defends himself against charges of racism for failing to remember one of his 500 students' names:

As we continue on our cringeworthy adventure at Yale, a seemingly intelligent student is mourning the loss of her "safe space" as others snap-snap-snap their approval, supporting one another with caresses and hugs. Many seem on the verge of despair. This very bad man is not "hearing their pain", after all:

This one is super painful to watch, since I'm guessing that this liberal professor is actually a bit freaked out by how completely unreasonable these students are, how they are unable to grasp his very basic and logical points. Oh the irony, as these kids were raised up on leftist ideology, and somehow the professors never saw this coming?   [UPDATE: Looks like this video has been removed and is no longer available. Sorry!]

Aaaaand we get to the climax, where this young woman (pray for her), loses it completely:

At this point, I think it's the Yale student-victims who have violated my safe space! My brain will never be the same.

Even The Atlantic got it right:
In “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt argued that too many college students engage in “catastrophizing,” which is to say, turning common events into nightmarish trials or claiming that easily bearable events are too awful to bear. After citing examples, they concluded, “smart people do, in fact, overreact to innocuous speech, make mountains out of molehills, and seek punishment for anyone whose words make anyone else feel uncomfortable.” 
What Yale students did next vividly illustrates that phenomenon. 
According to The Washington Post, “several students in Silliman said they cannot bear to live in the college anymore.” These are young people who live in safe, heated buildings with two Steinway grand pianos, an indoor basketball court, a courtyard with hammocks and picnic tables, a computer lab, a dance studio, a gym, a movie theater, a film-editing lab, billiard tables, an art gallery, and four music practice rooms. But they can’t bear this setting that millions of people would risk their lives to inhabit because one woman wrote an email that hurt their feelings?
Read the rest of the brilliant piece, here.

While it may be hard to distinguish the Yale videos from an SNL skit, here is an actual parody that someone showed me just hours before I'd even heard of the Yale incidents. I think you will appreciate the similarities:

If you liked that parody (even if it did terrify you at the same time it amused you), then you will like the one that came before it:

Folks, we either have to laugh or we will cry.

My advice to those of you who are as disgusted and horrified as I am: Be courageous. Speak up. Never stop exposing nonsense, because in the end, your voice of reason will help to rescue the nonsense-makers themselves, who will almost surely spiral down to a pit of despair if they keep on the road they're going.

Pray for them all to regain their spines and their guts and their sense, and then for your own sanity, go back and read about Annapolis, or read the heroic life of a saint, and feel better.

God's got this.