Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quick Takes: See ya later, 2012, and don't let the door hit ya on the way out.

**Catholics and non-Catholics, find your saint for the year, here!**
And, I'd love to know who you got got you! 

Well, I have to say, I will not miss 2012. I can only hope that 2013 shapes up a little better, although if you read all the way to #6, there's at least one big bright spot that I will cherish in this otherwise dreary year!

After the New Year, I will resume regular blog posts, but for now, here's a final December Quick Takes.

1) This one struck my funny bone, from Mary Katharine Ham:
One of my favorite things about reading the New York Times and other liberal publications is how they frequently present age-old ideas we’ve all known about for centuries as new trends. For instance, sustainable eating? That’s what the rest of us call a garden. Co-parenting? That’s what the rest of us know as a two-parent family. Localvore charcuterie? Where I come from, that’s always been called bacon. 
Now, the NYT presents the brave new world of…teaching your children table manners. I can’t decide if it’s encouraging that parents actually want to do this or depressing that they’ve just discovered it might be a good idea and are now outsourcing it because they’re too wimpy to do it on their own. 

Read the rest at: Modern parents have discovered table manners & the NYT is on it!

2) To this one, I give a hearty "Hell yeah!"

We need more heroes, and civil disobedience against unjust laws should always be on the table. Go and patronize Hobby Lobby! You can be sure that the sexual left is hard at work trying to vilify this good company.


4) Is anyone else just a tad bit frustrated with the crybabies in Washington fighting about taxes (and the left and the media whining about needing more, more, more "revenue") and yet no one wants to address the massive, out-of-control, sickening and irresponsible SPENDING that has gotten us to this disgusting point??? I'll ask again: Where are the grown-ups? Live within your means, you idiots, before you demand that even a single taxpaying citizen pony up another red cent to cover your irresponsible spending sprees!

And let's make sure the already ignorant citizenry pays no attention to Obama's new executive order GIVING RAISES TO JOE BIDEN AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS!!!!!

Yes, we are that messed up, folks.

5) Okay, so the sweet irony of this was too good not to share:

A sampling of the amusement you'll find there:

When NRA President Wayne LaPierre called for armed guards to be placed in schools late last week, an irate David Gregory derided the idea during his interrogation of LaPierre on Meet the Press. Yet Gregory’s children attend the same school in Washington, D.C. as President Obama’s daughters. And yes, Sidwell Friends, a Quaker school, employs armed guards.

But seriously, can anyone help me make sense of this? I truly don't want to believe that people are this disingenuous, this hypocritical, or this arrogant and elitist.

6) My happy news! A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about the kind of man you'd want your daughter to bring home (a "values" man or a man of virtue). That was right about the same time that my own daughter struck up a friendship with this young man:

Since you are all wondering, she's 5' and he's 6'.

And this very morning, the gentleman proposed marriage and the lady accepted! My firstborn found her "Athanasius"!

Be hopeful, parents, as this is proof that daughters can and do bring home men of virtue, despite how many things the parents have done wrong along the way!

Dean and I and the whole family wish them God's blessings and a holy, happy life together!

(Someday, if you ask really nicely, I will tell you the story of how they "met". It's probably one of my favorite stories ever, heh, heh, heh.)

7) Karen and Chrystyna are sisters. Karen has no special needs, but is simply a 16-year-old girl who is doing well but is in need of a family. She is legally too old to be adopted alone, and can only be adopted with her sister, Chrystyna, who is ten years old and does have some special needs.

Click for more information on beautiful Karen!
Click photo for much more information on Chrystyna!

Please consider these sisters for your daughters, and if you cannot be their family, then please pray for them, and share their information.

Many good wishes for the New Year, friends!

And thanks to Jen for hosting!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

The Nativity of our Lord


And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
-- John 1:14


And at the risk of becoming too technical on my simple little blog, I reprint the following Catechism section, as it behooves us to know why the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (GOD!) became man, as it strikes at the core of who we are:





Paragraph 1. The Son of God Became Man


456 With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man."

457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who "loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins": "the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world", and "he was revealed to take away sins":

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?

458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: "Listen to him!" Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you." This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.

460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature": "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."


461 Taking up St. John's expression, "The Word became flesh", the Church calls "Incarnation" the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. In a hymn cited by St. Paul, the Church sings the mystery of the Incarnation:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

462 The Letter to the Hebrews refers to the same mystery:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Lo, I have come to do your will, O God."

463 Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God." Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginning whenever she sings "the mystery of our religion": "He was manifested in the flesh."

Read the rest of this section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, fully footnoted and with brief summary, here.

Merry Christmas from the Miller house to yours!

Oh, and uh… just one more little thing. Check this out!


Friday, December 21, 2012

Quick Takes: Newtown tragedy

"The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But, they are in peace." 
--Wisdom 3:1-3

It's been a rough week. I am pretty sure we are all still reeling from the evil that took place last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. And those of us with six- and seven-year-olds cannot stop imagining, "What if…" and holding our little ones tight.

1) In First Century Palestine, the evil King Herod ordered the slaughter of all the male children two years and under, hoping to kill the Christ Child. Horror and grief filled the land, and their mothers could not be consoled. We ask the Holy Innocents for intercession in our own day.

A Prayer To The Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.

Holy Innocents, you were killed because one man was filled with hatred, pray for those who hate that God may touch their hearts and fill them with love.

Holy Innocents, you experienced a violent death, pray for all who are affected by violence that they may find peace and love.

Holy Innocents, your parents grieved for you with deep and lasting sorrow, pray for all parents who have lost young children that God may wrap a warm blanket of comfort around them.

Holy Innocents, those around you certainly felt helpless to prevent your deaths, pray for all who feel helpless in their circumstances that they may cling to God for courage and hope.

Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God's love forever.


The Feast of the Holy Innocents is December 28, and I know this Feast will take on special significance for many of us this year.

2) Fr. Barron addresses the tragedy:

3) Too many articles I've read over the past week deal only superficially in policy and politics and do not touch upon the reality of evil and the darkness of the human heart.

A few commentators, however, have gone deeper in exploring our primal sicknesses. Dr. Gerard Nadal at Coming Home wrote a notable piece:
Causes and Remedies. 
That’s what we want. A nation addicted to fast food and fast answers, where the police solve the crime in one hour on TV (less if we factor in the commercials). The difficulty with real life is that the answers are often elusive. That’s frustrating when calamities on the scale of Sandy Hook are visited on us, because humans cannot bear the chaos of random evil. 
Read the rest, here:

4) Ben Stein, a Jew, can see the darkness as well, and includes comments "that will enrage the beautiful people" -- and no doubt he is right on that score, as you will see:

No need to sugar coat the truth of it.

5) I am not a gun owner, nor am I a member of the NRA. I support the Second Amendment, but it's not my passion, and I understand on an emotional level why ordinary folks want to blame guns for the atrocity of Sandy Hook. But I think Charles Hurt is on to something with his piece in the Washington Times:

An excerpt:

A 20-year-old man grows up in America with every luxury imaginable. He is incapable, we are told, of feeling any pain. He is excruciatingly shy and utterly isolated. He is not able to fathom that other people around him have emotions and feelings. Computers and modern technology are his most treasured haven. He plays, we are told, vividly lifelike and violent video games that coach perfect muscle memory for quickly killing large numbers of people without a hint of remorse. Then someone — reportedly, his mother — teaches this unstable sociopath how to shoot guns and then leaves the guns so they somehow become available to him. And then, emerging from his isolation, he lashes out and kills at random 20 small children in retaliation for his own miserable life. 
And these people around here want to talk about America’s “gun culture?” How about this culture of irresponsibility? How about this culture of isolation, this culture of technology and vivid violent role-playing over and over and over again? What about the culture of loneliness and divorce and despair? This culture of painless living? 
No, they only talk about the “gun culture” because it sounds like a pat and easy answer to score some political points and raise a little campaign cash. Never mind that it is a craven insult to millions of good, responsible, God-fearing gun-owners across this country who would have gladly laid down their lives to save just one of those children. The line for that, literally, would be miles and miles long.

6) Finally, an appeal from the sister of the young priest from St. Rose of Lima parish who is tirelessly ministering to the families and community in grief, with no end in sight, even as we move through the busy Advent Season. Please consider acting on her heartfelt plea for her brother, Fr. Luke Suarez, ordained less than two years:

My friends,

All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.

Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now…. Monsignor … is personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large…. The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.

My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.

I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family’s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:

Father Luke Suarez
46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470

My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.

But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?

On a hopeful note, Father Luke did say that no media coverage has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. Their tiny church, where my children have received sacraments and where Luke was ordained, has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.

Please feel free to share the address with your family, friends, and community. An outpouring of love will sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry–impossible on their own, but possible with God.

I am so grateful to live in this community. We are all so blessed with one another. Every day, I see you all loving one another as Christ loved. Thank you for letting me reach out to you now.

With humble appreciation.

7) In memory of the children lost in CT, I have chosen to show you a seven-year-old child who still can be saved. Please consider rescuing a child such as Parker, whom I have profiled before. His delays are reportedly mild, and he so desperately needs a family:

Click my photo for more information!
(My previous Orphan Report on Parker, here.)

Please also pray for Carla, who is missing her sweet Henry so dearly during this Advent Season.

Yes, this is a downer of a post, but this world, as we Catholics repeat in our prayers, is a vale of tears. The only Light in the darkness is Jesus Christ, and so now we take the final days of Advent to prayerfully await His coming. And we have hope.

Thanks to Jen, for hosting!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quick Takes, including the Benedict prophecy

This Quick Takes was published before the horrific Connecticut shootings. JoAnna's post speaks to the evil that we cannot fathom: The Question of Evil. Lord, have mercy.

1) All eight kids are home tonight (the oldest two back from college), and that means all ten of us are together under the same roof! I know it will start to feel crowded soon, but for now, it is heavenly, and I am so very grateful.

2) Here's something that never crossed my mind for the first 27 years of my Catholic life: Christmas literally means "Christ's Mass"! It's a feast of the Catholic Church, a holy day on her liturgical calendar.

It's also one of the only feasts of the Church that has been retained by Protestants (the other being Easter). I hope one day Christians will be reunited again, and that we will all celebrate the Christ's Mass at holy altars around the world, as the Lord intended.

3) Did you know that the Twelve Days of Christmas are not the twelve days prior to December 25? In fact, the Christmas season does not end on Christmas Day, that's when it begins! Catholic families should live out the true Christmas season (as opposed to confusing it with Advent), and here is a beautiful way to do just that. My dear friend, Rebecca Even, has worked lovingly for years to put together something special to celebrate those twelve days and reclaim the season:

A new take on a familiar song, and so much more for the family to enjoy!

4) I am so, so, so excited. Remember when I told you about the book that changed my life, because it introduced me to the three traditional stages of holiness? Well, I went forth on that path way back then, and made progress. However, it's been a full ten years since I briefly hit a height of prayer that allowed me to glimpse what the prayer masters (Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross) were talking about -- and through my own slothfulness I have failed to get back to that point on the path. Spiritually, I have been treading water for a decade.

But today I took concrete steps to forge ahead again, in a disciplined program of prayer ("Plan of Life", through the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity) that bore great fruit for me all those years ago. I will be sure to share my insights as I go along this time.

God is so good, as it took the profound sorrow of Obama's reelection to hammer home the fact that the only answer to the darkness of our times is growth in holiness. We are all (yes, all) called to be saints. Whether we like it or not, we were made for this age. It's time for us to get crackin'!

5) This breathtaking prediction needs no commentary from me:

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.

She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes ... she will lose many of her social privileges…. As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members….

It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek…. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain…. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

-- Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), from his book Faith and the Future

(Pope Benedict has started to tweet! Follow him, here!)

6) God speaks to us through Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. An ode to Beauty:

San Chapelle Cathedral, Paris
Ahhhh……balm for the soul!

7)  Sweet, beautiful Lilly!

She has been waiting for so long, and yet she doesn't have time to wait. This precious five-year-old has a heart defect that needs surgical correction. The sooner Mama is found, the sooner she will get the medical attention she so desperately needs.

Click my photo for more info! Single moms and Canadian families welcome!

The good news is, Lilly has over $10,000 in her adoption grant just waiting to be used to bring her home. More good news? She is sweet and calm, and full of affection.

Is she your daughter? And if she is not your daughter, will you share her face and name with your family and friends? You may very well be the instrument that connects her to her family!


Also, many thanks to everyone who has done their online Christmas shopping through the Amazon link on this blog! I have earned over $140 in commission this month so far, and 100% of what I earn goes to the RR orphans and families. You guys are amazing! Group hug!! Keep those orders coming!

Thanks to Jen for hosting, and although I missed the streaming of the first episode of her reality show, it can now be seen for a short time on YouTube, and right here!

I'll be back next Friday, as I'm doing only Quick Takes during Advent.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Quick Takes: Advent, and my crazy new blog!!

As we are in Advent, and in prayerful preparation to receive the Christ Child, I am winding down a bit and will be posting only Quick Takes till after Christmas.

1) If you are confused about the difference between Advent and Christmas, this fun, two-minute video is just what you need to see (and will keep you humming!):

Although folks tend to think we are currently in the Christmas season, we are not. The Christmas season begins on December 25, continuing for several days thereafter. Right now, we are in the Advent season.

2) By the way, it honestly makes me laugh when I see atheists trying to strip public squares of Nativity scenes or when politicians contort themselves calling Christmas trees "holiday trees" -- because last I checked, Christmas is a federal, government holiday! And the "Christmas" that is being commemorated by the government is that time in the manger, lo those many years ago, when Christ was born! And so the Nativity is the basis for the federal holiday that is on the government calendar, but we are apparently not allowed to mention or show that Nativity on public ground, or use the name of Christmas (tree), which is actually the name of the government holiday that we are commemorating! We can't speak or display the things of Christmas in relation to the government holiday commemorating… Christmas! The irony is rich! It is actually hilarious if you think about it. Why can't atheists see it?

If they had integrity and critical thinking skills, what these atheists should be lobbying for is an end to the government holiday of Christmas. Or do they like the day off work too much to attack the real problem?

3) Catholics who are still in the dumps about our nation's fast decline (evidenced by the last election), you must read about this incredible priest in, of all places, France:

Fr. Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine

There, now doesn't that make you feel better?

4) An interesting follow-up to the "War on Men" articles of my last Quick Takes, by the author of the first article:

Yes, let's!!

5) And that leads to my latest endeavor, which comes (several years later) on the heels of my Catholic Moms Matchmaking email group (long dormant). It's my new, private blog dedicated to Catholic matchmaking!

If you are a devoutly Catholic mom (including spiritual moms), faithful to the Magisterium, and you would like to help your child find a great Catholic spouse, then you should become a follower of my new blog. Or, if you are a young single who would like to profile yourself on my blog, or just read it and see who is out there looking, then you, also, should become a follower of my blog. The blog is by invite only, and it's unsearchable. I already have a good list of readers, and the first post (a profile of a lovely young Catholic lady) is ready to publish in the next couple of days.

If you are a practicing, Church-loving Catholic and would like an invite to the blog, please send email me at, and make your case. :)

Isn't this fun??? And yes, I know I'm a little weird.

6) Please keep praying for Baby Dominic, our own Becky's nephew, as he struggles after major surgery. He is so very loved

Dominic before surgery, with big sister Bernadette,
one of his many adoring siblings.

…and his family wants to watch him grow up.

Recovery after surgery has been very difficult;
 he has coded twice, and he still is not out of the woods.

Please pray hard for this little boy and his family.

St. Padre Pio, pray for your little namesake.

7) One of my addictions is this blog:

I dare you to start a few months back and begin reading the story of how they brought two Russian special needs orphans, a ten-year-old girl (Maria) and a baby boy (Elijah), home to America.

Blessed to be orphans no more.

And when you read, you will learn about Maria's very best friend from the orphange, Kate, whom she left behind. Kate still waits for a family, and Maria misses her so, and prays that Kate will be saved by an American family, just as she was. I pray that, too.

Please click Kate's photo for more information.

Blessings for a peaceful Advent, and a beautiful Feast of the Immaculate Conception!*

And thanks to Jen, for hosting!

*The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary in her mother Anne's womb; it does not refer to Jesus' conception in Mary's womb (which we refer to as the Annunciation). Catholics, please remember that December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, is a holy day of obligation! It is a mortal sin to willfully miss mass on a holy day, although our gratitude and the joy we have at knowing that Our Lady was conceived without sin should be enough motivation for us to get there to celebrate. What a gift we have been given in a sinless mother!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Purgatory is...

  • Purgatory is a doctrine of our Faith. 

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned." (1030-1031)

There are only two ultimate destinations for a human being: Heaven or hell. Purgatory is the "wash-room" of Heaven.

  • Purgatory is necessary.

The Bible, in Revelation 21:27, says, "Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven" -- and God was not joking. Are you utterly pure? Perfect? Sinless? Completely without fault or blemish? I'm not either. To get from here to there requires an actual change from imperfect to perfect. The purification of Purgatory is that transitional bridge. If you die in the friendship of God, and unless you are the rare soul perfected in love before that moment of death (think of a Mother Teresa or a newly baptized infant), you are going to be cleansed before you enter Heaven. You simply cannot enter otherwise.

  • Purgatory is logical.

If I repent of a sin, I not only ask forgiveness, but I make recompense. We instinctively form our own children this way, as we teach them to make amends when they have committed a wrong. Not only do we require a child to make his apology ("I'm sorry I recklessly ran over your flowerbed, Mrs. Jones"), we require that he make things right as well ("I will purchase new flowers and replant them for you"). Purgatory is the final "making things right" -- both in our own souls and in the Mystical Body of Christ, i.e., the Church, which is harmed by its members' sin.

That "making things right" after we are forgiven is called the temporal punishment for sin, and it can and should happen while a person is still on this earth. However, if temporal punishment (or "expiation") for our forgiven sins has not occurred fully by the time of death, the expiation is still logically required after death.

  • Purgatory is merciful.

C.S. Lewis, a non-Catholic Christian, understood the mercy of Purgatory, and how the soul cries out for it:
Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' -- 'Even so, sir.'  (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer)
Amen, and thank God for the mercy of Purgatory.

  • Purgatory is just.

Benevolent Grandma was a baptized Christian who stayed close to Jesus and lived a good life of caring and love, but she was a mild gossip. Serial Killer was a baptized Christian who lived a life of evil, destroying people and goodness everywhere he went, but he sincerely repented on his deathbed.

Both souls are Heaven-bound, but the soul-cleansing required of Mr. Killer is going to be a lot more severe, prolonged, and painful than the mild purification required of Grandma.

And that's as it should be. That is how justice works.

We are not all the same. We are all individuals who come from different circumstances and who make different choices. God alone can read our hearts, and His justice for each of His children is very personal, not a rubber stamp.

As Jesus said, "You will not get out until you have paid the last penny." For some of us, the payment exacted will take longer, as the sum required to "make it right" is larger.

  • Purgatory is Biblical.

The clearest manifestation (and my favorite) is 1 Corinthians 3.

We read that by our life choices and works, we build on the foundation that is Jesus Christ:

If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work. 

"The Day" refers to the Day of Judgement. The first Day of Judgement for most of us will be the Particular Judgement, the day of our death, when we face God. So, keep in mind that all that follows happens after a person's death. There are three possibilities for a soul:

First possibility: If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. This is the soul who goes directly to Heaven.

Second possibility: But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. This is the soul who goes to Purgatory, who is cleansed by the fire of God's love before entering Heaven.

Third possibility: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. This is the soul who goes to hell.

Glance back at the second one: "suffering" "loss" "saved, but only as through fire". We call that Purgatory.

  • Purgatory is historical.

The doctrine of purgatory, or the final purification, has been part of the true faith since before the time of Christ. The Jews already believed it before the coming of the Messiah, as revealed in the Old Testament (2 Macc. 12:41–45) as well as in other pre-Christian Jewish works, such as one which records that Adam will be in mourning "until the day of dispensing punishment in the last years, when I will turn his sorrow into joy" (The Life of Adam and Eve 46–7). Orthodox Jews to this day believe in the final purification, and for eleven months after the death of a loved one, they pray a prayer called the Mourner’s Kaddish for their loved one’s purification. 
Jews, Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox have always historically proclaimed the reality of the final purification. It was not until the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century that anyone denied this doctrine.  (Catholic Answers)
The witness of the Roman Catacombs (products of the early, pre-Nicene, persecuted Church) attests to a belief in Purgatory by their etchings and inscriptions. In fact,
so overwhelming is the witness of the early Christian monuments in favour of prayer for the dead that no historian any longer denies that the practice and the belief which the practice implies were universal in the primitive Church. There was no break of continuity in this respect between Judaism and Christianity. (New Advent)

  • Purgatory is painful.

Every cleansing of an open wound is painful. Every turning toward the purifying fire of God's love is an uncomfortable shock to the system, and every honest move to perfection (even in this life) is accompanied by a suffering.

Facing the judgement of our Father will not be a clean, comfortable adjustment. The man who looks through a dark veil his whole life and is then, in an instant, exposed full-on to the dazzling white light of the Son can expect to cry out in some initial pain.

But the pain of Purgatory is most rightly described, I believe, as the pain of loss. We are made for union with God, and we are not complete and satisfied until that union is achieved. When the soul knows without doubt that she is at long last on her way to be united with her Beloved, but also knows that she cannot yet get to Him, and when she knows that it was her own actions and choices that are keeping her from that final, perfect and eternal union with her Beloved, she experiences a great and melancholic longing, an aching sense of loss.

There is a reason that God speaks to His people through marital imagery: The Bride and the Bridegroom, The Wedding Feast, The Consummation, the final achievement of perfect, eternal union with the Beloved. Earthly marriage and physical consummation is the closest we can get to another human being on earth, but it is a pale reflection of true Marital Union with God. The knowledge that one could have rushed to His embrace sooner, but now must wait and long and pine, is a nearly unbearable suffering for the soul in Purgatory, as it would be (on a much lesser scale) for any bride who cannot yet, through her own fault, reach her lover.

  • Purgatory is joyful.

Although the suffering in Purgatory is intense, the joy of Purgatory great, even greater than any earthly joy. After all, total, ecstatic union with God is palpable now, as the beatific vision is nearing one's view. No jubilation on earth could ever compare to the clear knowledge that Pure Love is drawing the lovesick soul to Himself for completion.

Fr. Alvin Kimel summarizes Peter Kreeft:
Purgatory is joyful, not gloomy. Whatever pain may attend the process of purification, it does not diminish the profound joy and triumph of Purgatory. The holy souls have passed through death into life and know that their ultimate destiny is now secure. The sufferings of Purgatory are more desirable than the most ecstatic pleasures on earth.

  • After Jesus' Second Coming and the Final Judgement, Purgatory will cease to be.

When Jesus returns in glory and the end of the world comes, and when the Final Judgement separates the sheep from the goats for all eternity, and when the new heaven and new earth are established in perfection, there will be no more purification of souls necessary. Purgatory will cease to be, and all souls will be fixed in their final states forever.

“God is the Last Thing of the creature. Gained, He is its paradise; lost, He is its hell; as demanding, He is its judgment; as cleansing, He is its purgatory” --Hans Urs von Balthasar

Related post: Indulgences: No need to freak out!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Quick Takes, including a new attempt at matchmaking!

‎It's hard to move on as normal as we deeply mourn for Henry and pray for Carla and the whole family. But we've still got work to do here below, so that we may also attain that sublime and glorious end that Henry has already achieved. And so, here we go…

1)  "God is love, But love can be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic 'good feeling'... it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary, it is a liberation from self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross" -- Pope Benedict XVI

2) So, I saw this article and said, "YES!"

And then a few days later I saw this article which sorta kinda contradicted or challenged that article, and then I said, "YES!"

So, I think I liked them both. Good food for thought in this crazy, confused, mixed-up culture.

3) Speaking of women and men and dating, I am pulling a matchmaker here again! This time, for a beautiful, brilliant Catholic woman who is having a heck of a time finding a good Catholic man. Seriously, this woman has got it all….

In her own words: 

"I'm a 26 year old single catholic graduate student at [prestigious university] (PhD in mechanical engineering, research in surgical robotics) who can't seem to find a good catholic man. I'm adventurous, fairly outdoorsy - I love rock climbing, hiking, do long distance motorcycle rides with my Dad, and recently tried surfing and took up gardening! I also love dancing - especially country line dancing, although I'm not very good at it yet! I go to church every week, try to go to adoration a couple times a week, and I'm committed to purity, but I still like to go out and party with my gang on weekends. I'm looking for a smart, fun-loving, outgoing, adventurous, playful catholic man."

There simply must be a man out there who fits this description and who is ready to sweep this woman off her Catholic feet! If you are the man, or if you know someone who is, please email me at, and please include a photo and pertinent info!

4) Christmas is the perfect time to make sure that every Catholic family has this DVD series in the home. I cannot stress enough my reaction to this set: WOW. WOW. WOW. WOW!!!!!!

Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism DVD Box Set

Did I say? WOW!!!!!!!!!

After owning it for a year, I finally watched the entire series when my Jewish (agnostic) mother-in-law came for a weeklong visit, spied the beautiful box sitting atop the cabinet, and asked if we could view it together. We watched it in its entirety over the course of several days, and my mother-in-law was engrossed, enamored, pretty much blown away. We had never even talked religion in the 24 years I've known her. By the time we finished up the "Last Things" section (and thus the set), the appeal of the Catholic Faith was clear to her, and she had a better understanding of why her son converted. This presentation is a powerful witness to truth, goodness, and beauty.

I believe that every Catholic family should own it, and every non-Catholic should view it. Heck, when even PBS decides to run it, you know it's extraordinary, as the left is not so friendly to the Church. (And, if you order the set through this blog, every penny of commission goes to the orphans. Win-win!)

I hear tell that Fr. Barron is in process of making another documentary, this time about the New Evangelization, and when it comes out, you can bet I will be first in line. 

5)  Speaking of Catholicism (and needing more knowledge of it in this age of distortion and confusion!), if you have not read my shortened and photo-illustrated reversion story, please do, and please write your own experiences in the comment box. I want to know what you encountered growing up as a cradle Catholic, and if it was similar to what I wrote.

6) So, it turns out that one of the winning PowerBall lottery tickets was bought just a few miles down the road from my parents, in Fountain Hills, AZ. My dad even knows the store in which it was purchased! From what I can tell, winning that kind of money can actually be a curse, unless the vast majority of it is given away to those who truly need it.

Didn't we all dream about what we could have done with so many millions? I know I dreamed of funding all the orphans, which leads us to...

7) …a story that is so very urgent. She doesn't know I am doing this, but I will let the adoptive mother tell the tale of Adalyn.

Click my photo to help!

We are adopting a little baby [from Eastern Europe] she will turn 2 in Dec. she has bilateral cleft lip,gum and palate. She only weighs 10lbs. This is because she has not had surgery which is started here [in America] when the baby is two weeks old and by her first birthday her lip and roof if her mouth would be totally closed and tubes in her ears for hearing. I know this because 3 of our eight children had this. Then there are numerous surgeries that follow along with dental procedures. I sent lambs bottles in June 2 weeks after we committed but they did not use them instead they feed her with a large serving spoon most of which flows right back into the bowl. She is only getting a quarter of her food. We know this from a mom whose baby is also there and we have a video of them feeding her. They are putting us through quickly as they have said she is a medical emergency . We leave Dec 15 and have been told we will return quickly in Jan. due to her condition. We are very short of the funds that we need to travel.Her country requires up front fees.We need 1,000.00 to complete funds for dossier 16,500.00 for foreign program fees, and 2,000.00 for travel fees. It's a total if $19,500.00.We have our plane tickets and visas. We have done everything we can here to raise the moneywe went to our church,sent out 200 letters,made pottery,sold eggs,jams, jelly have a give away for 2 days in condo near Disney World, babysat and milked goats. Moved in with a family adopting children from Ukraine for 5 weeks ,tried to access my husbands retirement they won't allow us and to top it off we had a foundation leak and our kitchen is gutted and being put back together now and almost completed. If you can help in anyway we would be so grateful.

If any lotto winner wants to help get this child home ASAP (or any regular folks, too), please consider dropping some dollars in their tax deductible account. I feel very helpless most days, but then I remember that together, we are not helpless. There is strength in numbers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Next, are you or your child a Lady and The Tramp fan?

Click here to bid!

Or are you looking for discontinued Spanish Lladro for cheap?

Click here to bid!

There is all that and lots more at Ivan's online facebook auction. Ivan is also facing a medical crisis and his parents need to get to him soon. This auction runs through December 7, so check it out and do a little Christmas shopping!

Now, Adalyn and Ivan have families committed to saving them and trying to get there on time, but so many others still need mothers and fathers to find them.

Please meet three older children with HIV, who are fully functioning, normal kids, and who are only in orphanages because of their HIV status. Ironically, these kids are living perfectly healthy lives with a normal lifespan ahead:

Beautiful Estelle, age 14

Dashing Gerard, age 14

Handsome Brian, age 11

Please click any of their pictures for more information, and please look here for quick FAQs about HIV. Although HIV is not spread by casual contact, hugging, kissing, being on the playground, or playing sports (the virus is not found in sweat, tears, urine, saliva, or snot), these children have no future in their home country once they age out of the system at age 16. I can't even bear to tell you what they face.

Please consider adopting an older child with HIV, as it really is their only chance. And please, help spread the word about these precious ones, who are just like the rest of us, in need of families and love and a future.

Have a blessed weekend, and thanks to Jen for hosting!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rest in peace, sweet Henry

Oh, baby boy…. How our hearts ache tonight. How we miss you and weep for your family.

Henry, precious one, your life was all about redemption, from beginning to end.

We watched as Carla, your mommy, found you in a picture and fell in love, and as she took that leap of faith and flew across the ocean to claim you from a cold and lonely orphanage without hope, bringing you to a home overflowing with warmth and life and love.

Such a strong boy, a fighter! For over a year, through facebook, blogs, and email, we followed your surgeries, we rejoiced at your recoveries, we celebrated when you turned two with your family, and we couldn't wait to watch you grow bigger and stronger, turning into a young man one day, the whole world at your feet!

And you got through the "big" (but necessary) surgery we'd all been praying about, besting Hurricane Sandy herself, and finally coming home after three long weeks away, but never away from your beloved mother, who never left your side.

We worried last week when you had an unexpected setback, a massive infection in your tiny body, a complication of the surgery. More surgery and lots of hope followed. There were pain-free moments yesterday, and deep, connected gazes of affection between mother and child. Then today, your mommy announced that you crashed, nearly died, and then came back to her and to us. But you crashed a second time and then we heard no word for long, torturous minutes, which turned to an hour, and more. Silence from your mommy was ominous. We all prayed and hoped against hope, but then saw this, from your mommy's friend, posted on her facebook wall:
Friends. At Carla's request I'm telling you all that our friend and brother Henry has gone to be with Jesus, where there is no more pain, where every tear will be wiped away, where he will walk tall and straight forever! Pray for his suffering family.
The grief. Unspeakable sorrow at having lost you, and anguish at the thought of your mommy, and the crucible she must be enduring. Like Mary our heavenly Mother, bearing the crushing weight of the loss of a precious, innocent son. Silent prayers that Mary would carry Carla through….

So many communities praying, crying, comforting each other, worrying about your mommy and your whole family. The Catholic bloggers, the Reece's Rainbow community, facebook friends, your in-real-life community. Helpless and in shock. So many prayers ascending.

As I said at the start, your whole life, little Henry, was about redemption. You had been redeemed from the orphanage by your mother, and in turn you redeemed so many other children who didn't have a chance before Carla introduced us to you and to Reece's Rainbow. You and Carla laid the foundation. You and Carla are the primary reason I am an advocate for orphans today. You and Carla are the reason that Malcolm has found a family and will be leaving the dreary, gray walls of an institution. You and Carla are the reason that Nicholas has a family coming for him, and little Nico as well, and the reason that Paul is home and the reason that Sabrina will be home soon. And so many others. Your mommy, through her love for you, started a domino effect of love and redemption, which is growing exponentially.

Sweet Henry, you have been used by our Lord to be the instrument of redemption for many, and for countless children to come. Yours was a life well lived. And through your baptism and incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ, you yourself have been redeemed for all eternity.


Carla had big dreams for her Henry -- that he would be free of pain, and that he would walk and dance and run! That he would be a faithful disciple of Christ Jesus, becoming a pure reflection of our Lord to all who encountered him, and that he would become a great saint, enter into Heaven, and dwell in the House of the Lord forever!

All these dreams of his loving mother have been realized tonight.

Carla, my friend, your work as Henry's mother is now complete -- a perfect success. He is now exactly who he was made to be. Although your work as his mother is done, his work as a powerful and glorious intercessor before the Throne of God has only just begun.


Rest peacefully, powerfully, blissfully in the glory of the Heart of the Holy Trinity, dear Henry. You are free now, and perfected in the Love that you first learned in the arms of your mother.

Little Saint Henry, now and always, pray for us!

And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? … But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. -- 1 Corinthians 15


These now-priceless photos, taken just weeks ago, courtesy of 5 Boys + 1 Girl = 6 Photography

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This is my story. It might be your story, too.

Special note: If you have time to read only one story today, please choose to read my mother-in-law's conversion story over mine. It's much more important:


Finally, after much procrastination, I have updated and shortened my old reversion story. Cradle Catholics born in or after the 1960s: What follows may sound quite familiar to you.

I was robbed.

I am a "Generation X" Catholic, raised and catechized in the tumultuous aftermath of Vatican II. My peers and I were victims of "renewal" and experimentation gone awry, and the results have been catastrophic for my generation. Today, the overwhelming majority of adult Catholics don't have even an elemental understanding of their Faith, and as a direct result of that ignorance, millions have left the Church.

As for me, I never actually left the Catholic Church (though I considered it), but for most of my young adulthood, I was not in the Catholic Church, even as I considered myself "devout".

I was born in the late 1960s into a practicing Catholic family, the daughter of an Arab immigrant and a small-town Ohio girl. My older sister and I were taught by our parents to love our Faith.

My family, 1967.
In my first year of life, I was clearly already contemplating higher truths. 

We always attended Sunday Mass and holy days (including my mom, who did not officially become a Catholic until I was three), and though my sister and I attended public schools, we were enrolled in weekly CCD classes (i.e., religious education) at our parish every year. By the time I began CCD in the 1970s, the Baltimore Catechism was out, and “experiencing Christ” was in. My parents trusted that our classes would teach us the Faith, but sadly, that never happened.

The volunteer CCD teachers probably tried their best with the vacuous new materials they were given, and I can see that a couple of them must have been alarmed at the “new and improved” methods and wanted to sneak in the fundamentals. For example, one year a teacher made us memorize the Ten Commandments; another year (high school?) I heard the word transubstantiation for the first and last time. Aside from these rare moments, I assure you that little substantive information was imparted to us youngsters. The countless, tedious hours I spent in religious education were missed opportunities.

We colored, we cut and pasted, and we were shown a lot of cartoon slide shows depicting Jesus and His parables. I don’t remember anything particularly Catholic about the presentations, aside from a brief foray into the sacraments when it was time for First Communion or Confirmation. (But if you’d have asked me to explain what a sacrament was, I couldn’t have done it.)

My First Holy Communion, 1975.
The girl next to me was in a blue dress,
as tradition had already started to decline.

We weren’t taught any Catholic prayers, although we all knew the Our Father from Mass attendance, and in my case from nightly prayers. I learned the Hail Mary along the way somehow, but for many years I knew only the first half. We never discussed the lives of the saints, nor were their names ever mentioned. I remember sitting at Mass wondering who this “Paul” fellow was who wrote all those letters!

I can tell you in three phrases the content of a decade of catechesis: God is good, Jesus loves you, and love your neighbor. Now this is good and true, don’t get me wrong, but it’s only half the gospel. And sometimes half the truth is more treacherous than an outright lie.

Thankfully, I was raised before the last vestiges of Catholic tradition could be stamped out, and some of the more pious and beautiful hymns were still often included in the Mass. Songs like The Church’s One Foundation, Immaculate Mary, and At That First Eucharist were powerful to a child, and they have stuck with me to this day. The dramatic, colorful Bible storybooks I read at home also presented a lasting image of a mighty God and his glorious Son. These sublime melodies and bold images, combined with my parents’ faith and the common themes of my religious education, did instill some important truths in my heart: I never wavered in my belief in God Almighty and in the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of His Son. Now, just who or what the Holy Spirit was or did was anybody’s guess, although I did recognize that the Holy Spirit was one of the Persons of the Trinity – whatever that meant. (I believe this particular bit of knowledge came from the repetition of another traditional hymn, which spoke of “God in three Persons, Blessed Trinity.”)

To give you an idea what all of those years of religious formation amounted to, here’s a short list of terms that, for my first 28 years, had no meaning to me because I had never heard of them:

Sacred Tradition; Magisterium; Sanctifying Grace; Scapular; Benediction; Act of Contrition; Sacramentals; The “Glory Be”; Apostolic Succession; Four Last Things; Indulgences; Eucharistic Adoration; Four Marks of the Church; Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy; Joyful/Sorrowful/Glorious Mysteries

I’d bet that the average American Catholic would not be able to identify or explain most of the above. And to follow are some terms that may sound familiar to those born after Vatican II, but that are not understood correctly and/or believed:

Purgatory; Communion of Saints; Infallibility; Transubstantiation; Mortal/Venial Sin; Immaculate Conception; Incarnation

In addition to the doctrinal ignorance, the moral attitudes of Catholics I knew in my teens and twenties reflected the fact that my generation was unfamiliar with the Catholic call to personal holiness: Confession? Ha, ha, I’ll get there one of these years (wink, wink). No premarital sex? Are you kidding? (One Catholic friend did go so far as to find a “compassionate” priest who consented to give her absolution before she moved in with a man!) Active homosexuality? A lifestyle choice. Contraception? It’s the responsible thing. Abortion? Sad, and we don’t like it, but it’s a woman’s private decision – too bad her partner didn’t use a condom. Anyway, who are Catholics to say we have the truth? There are many paths to God and a mature spirituality admits that everyone can be right!
The culture we live in is merciless when it comes into contact with a poorly catechized Catholic. American society today is designed to destroy one's faith, as objective truth and moral absolutes are rejected concepts. When modern, "enlightened" catechesis echoes the messages of the culture, and when those charged with informing the Catholic conscience take an "experiential" rather than informative approach, what can you expect? You can expect the outcome we have: Catholics who believe "conscience" means "opinion" and who place subjective feelings and personal experience above objective Truth. In fact, the prevailing philosophy today is that there is no one "truth", because truth is whatever anyone says it is: “You have your truth, I have mine.” (Kind of puts the lie to Christ's definitive statement, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life", doesn't it? What were those silly martyrs dying for?)

Like every other Catholic I knew, morally I pulled away from adherence to the Faith during high school, and after enrolling in a Catholic university across the country (Boston College), I started skipping Mass regularly as well. Thousands of Catholics partied hard during those four years that I was on that Jesuit campus, but I don’t remember anyone ever going to confession or even mentioning it. I myself had not gone to confession since grade school.

Fall 1985. I wasn't the biggest partier on campus,
but since I went to one of the biggest party
schools in New England, that's not saying much!

So how is it that a Catholic who went to Mass every Sunday growing up and went through all the proper catechism programs at her church could continue on mostly unconcerned while carrying several serious sins on her soul? I do not offer the following as an excuse, but only to give context. My generation of Catholics grew up with a keen understanding of God’s infinite love for us. We knew that His mercy could not be exhausted, not matter how badly we behaved, but at the same time, we heard almost nothing about God’s justice. I guess no one wanted to hurt our feelings with Church teaching -- for example, that by willfully persisting in serious sin, we could separate ourselves permanently from God, condemning ourselves to an eternity in hell.

The God presented to us was a God who hardly needs to be worshipped, since He’s our pal, our equal. No need to fear Him or stand in awe, no difficult obligations on our part – we need only feel the warm fuzzies He showers upon us, until we die and He takes us instantly to Heaven. I myself was guilty of presuming on God’s mercy, and I thought that because of my “deep faith” I could continue in one or another serious sin. I knew I was doing wrong, but I was too lazy and comfortable to change, and I just knew that God, my buddy, would look the other way.

But what would we say of any other father who asks no obedience and forgives every transgression automatically with no requirement for an apology or recompense? We would call him a wimp, a pushover, a sap, a fool. After all, good and loving parents don't ignore or reward bad behavior and disobedience. Rather, they set down boundaries that a child, for his own good, must not cross. Should that child choose to persist in disobedience and wrong-doing, good parents don't expand the boundaries to encompass his bad behavior, they hold firm and hope for his repentance precisely because they desire his happiness and success. They do not cease to love him, even as they let him experience the consequences of his poor choices. Such it is with God and sinful man. He loves us infinitely, but He cannot force us to love and obey Him against our free will. None of this was explained to post-Vatican II Catholics.

Shortly after I graduated college, I became engaged to Dean Miller, a nice agnostic Jewish boy. My identity as a Catholic was strong enough that I had come to the relationship with certain non-negotiables: I would never get married outside the Church, and any children of mine would be baptized and raised Catholic. Dean respectfully agreed to my conditions, and we were married a year later by my childhood priest.

The happy (if religiously confused) couple, July 1990.

Over the next four years, Dean and I welcomed three beautiful babies, and even though my conscience often gnawed at me, I continued to skip Mass. When I did go, I “church hopped”, trying to find a parish that didn’t annoy me with endlessly lame attempts to make the Mass hip and entertaining. All of the hand-holding, applauding, trite songs, and political correctness were a monumental turn-off for me. There was no reverence, no awe, no transcendence  -- nothing in these Masses to snap me to attention and focus my mind and heart heavenward. I wasn’t “getting anything out of it.”  (Of course, I did not fully comprehend that one doesn’t go to Mass to “get something out of it”, but to worship God in and through the Holy Sacrifice on the altar.)

The only moral challenges I heard from the pulpit were calls to help the poor, or admonitions against racism and sexism. But it was obvious to me that every good atheist/secularist out there was saying the same thing. So why bother being a Christian? Why get out of bed on Sunday morning and go to Mass when I could turn on any news program or TV show and get the same message? Americans generally are sensitive to those types of social justice issues, since we're immersed in a culture that never ceases to speak out on such things. What is rarely heard, what we need to hear, is the need for personal morality -- for repentance, for conversion, for holiness! We also need to know doctrinal truths: Why are we Catholic? What do we believe? Why does it matter anyway?

Spiritually confused and doctrinally unmoored, I continued to try to find meaning in the Mass, but found myself too often driven to distraction as I read the words of Sacred Scripture in a missalette while the lector read a distorted (and illicit) "inclusive language" version of the same readings. My intelligence was insulted as words like "brothers" and "men" were purged from both liturgy and song (apparently the “enlightened” liturgy committees decided that I as a woman was either too stupid or too fragile to understand that such words include me, too). I once sat through an Easter Mass where the priest donned a bunny suit for a homily/skit, and balloons were tied to the pews. And I sat with my mouth hanging open as I heard one priest use that morning's gospel reading to condone homosexual acts.

I never did disagree with the universal Church's stand on controversial issues such as homosexuality or abortion, and I had even heard, almost by accident, some of the Church's arguments against artificial contraception -- arguments that made sense to me. Of course, I excused myself from actually having to go along with this teaching. I did plan to learn Natural Family Planning one day, sure, but certainly not now, in my young married years. After all, “God understands”.

Despite my personal moral laxity, I knew intellectually that being a Christian is exactly the opposite of what the “feel good” culture was selling. I knew that following Christ is all about the Cross -- about sacrificial love and putting God’s will ahead of our own. As I saw it, the Catholic Church in America seemed too eager to fit right in with the culture, and instead of the Church influencing and changing the world, the world was influencing the Church. I knew enough about Christ’s message to recognize that a serious gulf existed between what the Pope and the Bible were saying and what American Catholics were hearing. At some point, the American Church and the world became almost indistinguishable in my eyes.

Meanwhile, I had begun to have religious discussions with a fellow young mother and friend, Kim Manning, with whom I also co-wrote a regular editorial column for our local paper. Kim had been a lapsed Episcopalian turned New Age feminist, and we’d never seriously talked religion until her dramatic conversion back to Christianity (read her story here). Because of my core belief in an objective right and wrong, I was attracted to what she was telling me about her experiences at a nearby Bible church. These evangelicals stood firm on moral issues and were not afraid of offending anyone by proclaiming Christian morality. Her church seemed a refreshing possibility, as I was raising children in an increasingly relativistic society, and I yearned for community support. I was not surprised to hear that a good portion of her church’s congregation consisted of young ex-Catholics who, like me, were raising families.

This is a good place to debunk a popular myth. One of the classic lines from dissenting Catholics is this: "Young people are leaving the Church because it refuses to get with the times and approve birth control, abortion, masturbation, gay marriage, women priests [and so on].” I tell you, this is rubbish. I do not dispute that there are many Catholics who have left the Church with these reasons on their lips, but these reasons mask the real problem: They either lost their faith or they never really had it. The need here is not for accommodation, but for conversion.

And for all of the young Catholics who leave the Church because it is not politically correct enough for them, there are others who are leaving for opposite reasons; namely, they feel the Church has become too liberal, too morally lax, too reflective of the secular culture. These Catholics are filling the pews of fundamentalist and evangelical churches seeking solid ground amidst the quicksand. They are searching for Jesus Christ and a high standard of Christian morality, and they don't believe they can find either in the Catholic Church. (Ironically, by leaving the Catholic Church, they are actually walking away from the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and leaving the faith that holds the highest and most difficult moral code of them all.)

My first three babies, December 1994, right before my life (and theirs) changed forever.

By February 1995, I just wanted out. I was ready to send out a trial balloon to my mom, to see how she would react to my inclination to leave Catholicism. Because my mother had been raised a Protestant, I thought she would be easier to talk to than my father. I nervously asked: "How would you feel if I left the Catholic Church for a Bible church?" She answered with the words that would not only change my life, but countless other lives as well: "Find out what you're leaving before you leave it."

Mom then proceeded to give me some of the reasons she had left Protestantism. For instance, she said it never made sense to her that Protestants place all their belief in the Bible alone. The question for her became, which Bible? There were so many different translations, and everyone had a different view on which version was authoritative. She was also wary of non-denominational churches in general, and she talked about "the cult of the personality," or the tendency for the congregation to rally around a well-liked, dynamic pastor who usually had a new and brilliant interpretation of Scripture. He would be the reason that they came, and if he left, the congregation would leave with him.

Everything she said made sense to me, and that evening my thoughts of leaving Catholicism were at least neutralized. The final blow came a couple of weeks later when my mom handed me a book. It was the kind of book I had never seen before. The kind of book I never knew existed. It was a book of Catholic apologetics. It was Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians".

Some people may roll their eyes in disbelief when I say that I never knew such a book existed. I don't blame them -- even I cannot believe that it never occurred to me that someone out there might find it necessary, useful, even noble to defend the Catholic Faith! It seems so silly to me now. How could I have been ready to jump the Barque of Peter into a Bible church without even investigating the doctrinal issues involved? Why did it never even cross my mind that a Church of 2,000 years might be able to present an argument on her behalf? Maybe it's because in my lifetime as a Catholic, I had never heard anyone defend the Faith.

But once that book was placed in my hands, it was all over. I was excited, amazed, impressed that someone had taken the time to spell out the differences between Protestants and Catholics not only with precision and clarity, but also with a profound love for the Church. It only took reading a few pages of this wonderful book to keep me Catholic and set me on a path of knowledge that has led my soul to burn for the Faith. It is a passion that has not waned in almost 20 years now, and I still pinch myself, knowing that I have only dipped my little toe into the vast and glorious ocean that is Catholicism.

I was home for good, but over the next several months, Kim and I engaged in a series of friendly but extremely intense debates, basically replaying the Reformation. We went head to head on issues such as papal authority, the priesthood, the Real Presence, Mary, infused vs. imputed righteousness, eternal security, and even the implications of the Inquisition. We gave special attention to the two doctrines that separate Protestants and Catholics: sola scriptura (the Reformers’ belief that the Bible is a Christian’s only authority) and sola fide (the Reformers’ belief that we are saved by our faith alone). At times it was like the blind leading the blind, but we each used the best apologetics we could find from our respective sides.

Kim Manning and I in the mid-1990s,
when we were "Generation X" editorial writers for The Arizona Republic.

Meanwhile, my husband Dean was being sucked into all this “God talk” whether he liked it or not (I was so excited about what I was learning that I discussed it with him when he let me). Kim and I had “discovered” the Old Testament prophesies which so clearly vindicate Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and I excitedly pointed out these passages to my dear Jewish husband, who was shocked. I’ll never forget the night when he reluctantly admitted that it appeared Jesus might actually be the Son of God.

Both Dean and Kim had opened their hearts and had one overriding principle: They were searching for objective Truth. They didn’t come to conclusions based on what was comfortable or what “felt” right. Seeking and then submitting to Truth is never easy, but it is what God asks of us, even at the cost of our comfort, our security, sometimes our very lives.

In Kim’s quest for Truth at any price, she kept praying and studying, even after we agreed to suspend our debate. She gave Catholics one last chance to prove themselves by reading Patrick Madrid’s now legendary book, Surprised by Truth, in which eleven converts, many of them Protestant ministers, give their reasons for becoming Catholic. In three nights that she called the darkest of her life (she did not want to leave Protestant Christianity), she was shown the biblical and historical truth of Catholicism. Six months later, at great personal cost but with great joy, Kim did what was previously inconceivable to her: She received the sacraments of the Church. Within a year, her husband announced his own intention to become Catholic, and with great joy and all gratitude to God, I can report my own husband’s profound conversion as well. I watched Dean receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass 1997, on my 30th birthday -- as both his wife and his RCIA teacher!

Dean at the moment of his Baptism
With my newly Christian husband!
(His soul was as bright and illuminated as my blouse!)

Some other fruits of my reversion? I returned to regular confession after more than fifteen years away (what a grace!), and Mass, which I once avoided, is now as essential to me as breathing. Contraception? Gone, with great benefit to our marriage. Our hearts were opened to new life, and we have welcomed five more precious children into our family (and one intercessor in Heaven!). I’ve dedicated myself to teaching the Faith to others even as I continue to uncover the treasures of Christ's Church. In Catholicism I've found the secret of the universe, the key to life, and indescribable interior peace.

Some of the more tangible fruits of our conversions of heart!

Yet how easily I could have lost it all! How easily my friends and contemporaries have lost or could lose a Faith they’ve never really understood. Feel-good, inoffensive, nebulous catechesis doesn't provide an even minimal foundation of faith, and a faith so unfortified cannot withstand even the smallest challenge.

So, just what did I learn on my own that I never learned in religious ed? Almost everything, but here are some of the biggies that shocked me: I learned that after Christ’s ascension into Heaven, He did not leave us floating out here alone on Earth with just a Book to try to interpret individually until He comes again (and since the vast majority of humanity was illiterate, why would He?). I learned that the Catholic Church is the one Church explicitly founded by Jesus Christ on the rock of Peter, the first pope, and that the New Testament was written, copied, protected, canonized and handed down by Catholic Church, and she alone has the authority to interpret it. I learned that as Christ promised, the Holy Spirit has been protecting and guiding the successors of Peter and the Apostles for all these 20+ centuries. I learned that, because of this supernatural protection, the teaching authority (Magisterium) of the Church cannot err when speaking on matters of faith and morals -- the Church does not, has not, and will not change doctrinal teachings because she cannot. The Deposit of Faith has remained pure and intact since public revelation ended with the death of St. John, the last Apostle. I learned that the Church has always rightly claimed to be the protector of Christ’s Truth, with the authority to proclaim, explain and apply that revealed Truth to the world. I learned that since the inception of Christianity, submission to the Church has meant submission to Christ.

I learned that the crown jewel of Christianity, the Eucharist, is clearly evident in the New Testament, and was brilliantly prefigured in the Old Testament millennia prior. It’s no wonder, then, that the earliest Christians and all of the Church Fathers were staunch believers in the Real Presence (and were thoroughly Catholic in the rest of their doctrine as well). I learned that the sacraments of the Church were instituted by Christ and are direct channels of God’s grace into our souls, the surest links between Heaven and Earth. I learned that God did not make it difficult for man to find the Truth, provided that he honestly seek the Truth.

The thing that shocked me most of all? Everything I mentioned above can be known biblically, historically, and through an exercise of reason. Catholicism is not a religion of “blind faith”. Yet I and my Catholic contemporaries were never told any of this.

As I said at the beginning: I was robbed and my peers were robbed. The loss is incalculable, as how do you count the cost of even a single lost soul? As for blame, well, there’s enough blame to go around, and I am fully aware of my own culpability in all of this. I could have asked more questions, and I could have sought to do God’s will as best I understood it, but in too many instances I did not. I have had long discussions with my parents, and they have willingly accepted their share of the blame as well. But the biggest subverters of the Faith are those dissenting Catholics in positions of power within the Church, be they individual bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, theologians, professors, university presidents, catechetical directors, liturgists, or reporters. They have witnessed two generations of Catholics raised up in complete ignorance of the Faith, they see wide-scale rebellion and disdain for authentic Church teaching and authority, and yet they continue to water down, ignore, or defy those teachings and that authority themselves, often openly encouraging more dissent.

I am not so na├»ve or despairing to believe that even wide-scale apostasy or ignorance among American Catholics at every level will destroy the universal Church, which is the Bride of Christ. We know from Jesus Himself that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against her. So even though we needn’t be concerned with the Church’s survival, we should all concern ourselves with the Church’s primary mission on earth: the salvation of souls. Too many souls have been allowed to slip out of the Church due to catechetical neglect or sabotage, and it’s time to turn things around.

The first step is to throw ourselves at the mercy of God, begging forgiveness for the mess we’ve made in His Church and His world. Second, we must pray for the conversion of those within our Church who seek to undermine the very Faith they claim to profess. Third, each Catholic must take it upon himself to learn the Faith and then commit to a life of proclaiming the Truth to others – this is the “new evangelization” by the laity advocated by Blessed John Paul II (and I am pleased to see so many of today’s Catholic youth heeding that call).

Finally, how about a Catholics’ Bill of Rights, to be handed out to every new Christian along with his baptismal candle? Maybe it could go something like this:

  • You have a right to your Catholic heritage.  
  • You have the right to hear the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth, by having the Faith of the Apostles transmitted to you unfiltered and undefiled.  
  • You have a right to be catechized by an instructor who must first be required to profess his loyalty and obedience to Rome, and who humbly submits to all the teachings of Christ through His Church. Anything less is not only nonsensical but scandalous, and might lead you away from the Church.  
  • You have the right to expect Catholic orthodoxy in all Catholic classrooms and institutions, and you have the right never to hear radical feminism, pantheism, or secular humanism taught as if it had anything remotely to do with Catholicism. 
  • You have the right to remain Catholic. If you give up that right, it will be your free will choice and not the result of poor or scandalous catechesis. In other words, you have the right to know what you’re leaving before you leave it. 

While I lament that I never knew my own Faith until I was 28 years old, I know that I cherish it so dearly precisely because I almost lost it. I know that God’s ways are not man’s ways, and I am forever grateful that He chose this way to lead me back home. I pray that He might lead all other lost Catholics home as well.

(AFP/ Getty Images)