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)


Friday, November 23, 2012

One Quick Take!

Remember Malcolm, the shy orphan with special needs from Eastern Europe who so desperately needed a family?

You all helped to find him a family, for which I am eternally grateful, and I am thrilled to note that Jen Fulwiler has included him in her Quick Takes today! She was instrumental in getting him the start-up funds and exposure he needed to be saved.

The Smiths have taken the first of their three trips across the ocean to his country, and they hope to have him safely home by February -- almost one year after starting the process, and before his sixth birthday. They needed around $45,000 to ransom this boy to freedom and a future, and they have raised all but about $8,000 of that total, which has felt like a small miracle.

All the blood, sweat, tears, fears and anxiety have been worth it, as you can see:

(All pictures have been removed for privacy.)

I am honored to have been asked to be Malcolm's godmother, and I am so excited to announce that Malcolm has a $1500 matching grant available to help bring him home. What this means is that every dollar donated to his adoption fund will be doubled!

For example, $5 will instantly become $10, or $25 will instantly become $50! Please go here to donate if you feel moved to help in that way (it's tax deductible), and please note that our starting point as we kick off the matching grant is $7342.22 (they are not starting at zero, and I don't want anyone to be confused about the numbers).

Whether you donate or not, the family will gratefully accept your prayers for the safety and peace of Malcolm during these last months in the institution.

Also, you'll want to check out the Smiths' blog for all the details of their journey!

I hope each of you had joyful Thanksgiving celebrations with family and friends this year -- there truly is so much goodness and so many blessings that the Lord has poured out upon us!

Thanks again to Jen for including Malcolm and the Smiths in her QT! It's amazing what the blogging community has done in the life of this one little lost boy! He's soon to learn how much he was loved by so many, long before he had a family of his own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Remembering who we are

May we never forget our foundations! Enjoy George Washington's "General Thanksgiving" to God Almighty, and have a most blessed, grace-filled day!

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation 

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

G. Washington

The Original

Monday, November 19, 2012

True feminist heroes, just when I need them.


Talk about strong women. Talk about authentic feminists.

I wish every one of you could have joined us at this year's Bioethics Defense Fund event, where the "2012 Witnesses for Life" awards went to two professional women who are heroes in our midst: Maricela Moffitt, M.D. and Maureen Condic, Ph.D.

These two courageous women told their separate, disturbing stories of coming up against militant pro-abortion establishments within their medical and scientific communities, each having to pay a steep professional price for speaking the truth and defending human life.

The audience was riveted, shocked, and profoundly inspired by their "profiles in courage", and I was honored simply to occupy the same room with them.

The BDF even came just days after I'd learned of another group of heroic women who were willing to put everything on the line in the service of God, truth, and life: The twelve nurses who risked their careers by saying "NO" when their hospital supervisors attempted to force them to assist with abortions.

Listen to their unbelievable story:

Talk about a "war on women"! Where are all the feminist groups when women like these are bullied and threatened with termination? God bless Alliance Defending Freedom for pro bono representation of the twelve as they faced serious intimidation.

Click their picture below to get even more details of their case:

I don't know about you, but as coercion of conscience becomes more common, I need to hear the stories of those who have faced down the Culture of Death in our own time, who exemplify Jesus' words:

For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? -- Mark 8:36

The left can have Sandra Fluke and Lena Dunham, and we'll take Dr. Moffitt, Dr. Condic, and these twelve nurses any day of the week.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quick Takes: Moving on. (Well, sort of.)

Yaaawwwwn! I am so tired, and I want to get to bed, so forgive me if this Quick Takes is incoherent.

(Note: How tired was I? I actually thought it was Thursday night when I wrote this, but turns out it was only Wednesday. I hit "publish" and then pulled it back, but not before it went out to all the email subscribers, ha ha! I did add a couple more links since then, on #2 and #3.)

1) This pretty much sums it up, no?

"The whole course of Christianity from the first ... is but one series of troubles and disorders. Every century is like every other, and to those who live in it seems worse than all times before it. The Church is ever ailing …. Religion seems ever expiring, schisms dominant, the light of truth dim, its adherents scattered. The cause of Christ is ever in its last agony."
-- Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

2) Mmm-hmmm. Yep. Some things must be defied. Some things actually do transcend government.

Bishop James Conley of Nebraska

My own wonderful shepherd, Bishop Thomas Olmsted, has said the same thing. Everyone ready for some civil disobedience if it comes to that?

Oh, and here is a sobering overview of what Catholic face, from Msgr. Pope:

3) We've had this discussion on the blog:

An unborn baby is always exactly where he is supposed to be (at least up until the point where he is ripped out of exactly where he is supposed to be, then he is no longer where he is supposed to be).

And on the unspeakably sad subject of Savita Halappanavar's death in Ireland, I offer Elizabeth Scalia's take:

The comment from a critical care physician, "MRD", is also of note.

4)  JoAnna had a great blog post the other day:

The logic makes me giddy, but the most illuminating part was the comment by Rebecca at the end. Don't miss it!

5) Oh, boy, I can't wait for Obamacare to become a reality! We'll be just like Quebec! No "war on women" there! Wait…what?

Surgery wait times for deadly ovarian, cervical and breast cancers in Quebec are three times longer than government benchmarks, leading some desperate patients to shop around for an operating room. 
But that’s a waste of time, doctors say, since the problem is spread across Quebec hospitals. And doctors are refusing to accept new patients quickly because they can’t treat them, health advocates say. 
A leading Montreal gynecologist said that these days, she cannot look her patients in the eye because the wait times are so shocking. Lack of resources, including nursing staff and budget compressions, are driving a backlog of surgeries while operating rooms stand empty. The latest figures from the provincial government show that over a span of nearly 11 months, 7,780 patients in the Montreal area waited six months or longer for day surgeries, while another 2,957 waited for six months or longer for operations that required hospitalization. 
The worst cases are gynecological cancers, experts say, because usually such a cancer has already spread by the time it is detected. 

Emphasis mine. Read the rest, here.

(Though I'm going to bet that obtaining an abortion in Quebec is quick and easy.)

6) How come no one talks about the grave immorality of folks who spend other people's money to the extent that they put everyone else into massive (literally unfathomable) debt, and then expect that all those other people (the ones who didn't do the wasteful spending) are the ones who are mean and greedy leeches because they actually resist having to pay the price for the other guys' insane, immoral spending? It just seems so twisted to me. Am I the only one?

It's like a foolhardy teenager who takes his father's credit card and charges a Ferrari to it and then gets super ticked when the dad says, "Hey kid, that was totally irresponsible, and I am not paying for that!" Then the teen spits in the dad's eye and says, "You cheap jerk! You owe this to me! We're all in this together!" and then goes and picks the dad's wallet for good measure, while feeling completely righteous and utterly justified, especially as the other juveniles in the neighborhood cheer him on for making his stingy, nasty, selfish father pay his fair share.

By the way, I am alluding to Congress (both parties) as well as the Teenager-in-chief. I have a huge pet peeve with people spending beyond their means and then expecting others to bail them out. It's immoral.

7)  I have an Orphan Report FULL of cool stuff today, so please go and check it out! You will find many good things and great updates there, including new photos, new auctions, and old, vintage aprons from the 1950s (my grandma's!):

Potpourri of orphan info!! So much going on!

Yep, that is a car there for sale thanks to Life Choice's Women's Clinics, and if it sells, the thousands of dollars will go, 100%, to the families trying to bring these orphans home!

In the meantime, I am sorry to say that gentle and shy Nanette has been transferred from her baby house. :(

Click my photo for more information!
This is very sad news, and you can read more about it, here

Nanette can still be saved, but the need for her to find a family is much more urgent. Please consider her for your own daughter, or consider sharing her photo and info with others. 

God bless, and have a great weekend! Thanks to Jen for hosting!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Just Curious: Your hobbies

Sooooo, to get our minds off heaviness and distress, let's lighten things up a bit (I know I need it!).

What are your hobbies?

I guess I have two hobbies. One is writing (duh) and the other is puzzles. One of my sons and I have been assembling 1,000-piece puzzles together since he was around seven or eight, and now he is 14. I take a picture of him with every new puzzle completed, and it's not only fun to remember the puzzle, but it's fun to watch him grow up in the photos.

Anytime a new Miller baby begins to crawl and climb, my son and I have to put puzzles on hold for a year or two. We are in that stage now (Benevolent Destruction is two years old), and I miss our massive puzzle projects.

Soon enough, we will be back at it!

One of our 2008 puzzles. He was so little then, sigh!!

How about you? What are your hobbies?


Friday, November 9, 2012

Reminders about suffering

Everyone I know is hurting. I've never seen or felt anything like this. There is a death pall over half of America and we are mourning as if someone has truly died. I can't count how many mothers (and some fathers!) I know have literally wept for their children and future grandchildren in the past three days, believing that we've hit that dreaded tipping point of dependency and secularism, and that America is through. I don't know if it's true that the America we love is toast, but that's what it feels like right now.

So, we suffer. It's hard. I hate it. But Catholics: We know that it's necessary to suffer for sanctification. Suffering is promised to us, gifted to us, and modeled by our Savior.

As we all sort through the implications and aftermath of the elections, I thought I'd re-offer the posts I've written about suffering, since I'm not ready to dive into any new stuff quite yet….

In my quest to understand modern liberalism, I have discovered that for the secular left, the worst thing in life is suffering or potential suffering. Not sin, not evil, not even death. It is suffering that must be avoided at all costs…. (read on)

The late, great John Cardinal O'Connor of New York once told a suffering woman, "Christ could have saved the world by His miracles, but He chose to save the world by His suffering."  (read on)

Yes, I loved him, and yes I had the power to end his suffering, but I wasn't going to do it. I knew something that he couldn't have known then: I was allowing this suffering for his healing and restoration, not for his harm. I could be trusted. (read on)


I will also offer one of many good political analyses I've seen, this one from Jonah Goldberg, who at least touches on something we've discussed here before: The human soul must fill the "God void" in the soul, and for those who have no god, the state will almost certainly fill that role. In fact, progressivism wants the state to fill that role, and the family stands as its main obstacle….

According to the founders' vision, the people are sovereign and the government belongs to us. Under the European notion of the state, the people are creatures of the state, significant only as parts of the whole …. 
If only married people voted, Romney would have won in a landslide. If only married religious people voted, you'd need a word that means something much bigger than landslide. (read on)

Goldberg references the creepy, soulless "Life of Julia" to illustrate the paternalistic (godlike) role of the Hand of State to carry a single woman from cradle to grave. Shiver. The fact that the Obama administration (or anyone!) would see this eerie "life journey" appealing and a selling point makes me realize again how lost we have become as a nation.

"As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live." -- Blessed John Paul II


Even though this is not a Quick Takes, I want to put out some orphan news, because at this point, we can use all the good news that we can get!

Check out what's happened to my sweet Oliver, here!

And I'll leave you with an image of sweet Marina, who is a four-year-old doll baby with Down Syndrome, just waiting for a family of her very own:

Click my picture for more information!

Quick note for the Phoenix folks: Come join me and all of our "friends for life" at the BDF event next Friday! Sign up, here. Cannot wait to see you all. We always have a blast together!