Friday, November 29, 2013

He's my baby

No one has four babies five babies six babies seven babies eight babies anymore.

But I am thankful for my baby. Number eight. The youngest of the five boys whom my husband and I call our "Catholic babies" -- the five who wouldn't exist if God had not changed our hearts.

My baby, born when I was weeks shy of 43.

Some cynics say, "I'd rather be 40 than pregnant!"
I say, "I'd rather be 40 (or 42!) and pregnant, if it means I get a treasure like my baby."

Weeks after I had him, I started writing a blog. Yup, my baby and my blog are the same age.

My baby is cuter than my blog.

Yes, he ate a fudge-sicle. Or three.

My baby's innocence and goodness (he is the sweetest, kindest, most helpful baby in the world) make my heart ache.

Okay, he's not technically a baby anymore. But darn it all, he's my baby.

And he's got a couple of other "mommies" who fawn all over him.

And now he has a brother-in-law who is more like another big brother -- in addition to the five other big brothers who cannot stop vying for his affection.

Oh, the poor neglected child! So lost in the shuffle! How he suffers!

But he's always got another Mommy looking over his shoulder:

He's her baby, too.

So I think he'll be okay.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation: 150 years ago

As we take a day to thank the Almighty for our blessings, a bit of history to marvel over...


By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

President Abraham Lincoln, 1863

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Obama slaps Catholics again

The man is shameless. He is the most anti-Catholic president we have ever had. From The Washington Times:

The Obama administration, in what’s been called an egregious slap in the face to the Vatican, has moved to shut down the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See — a free-standing facility — and relocate offices onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy in Italy.

The new offices will be in a separate building on the property, Breitbart reported.

And while U.S. officials are touting the relocation as a security measure that’s a cautionary reaction to last year’s attacks on America's facility in Benghazi, several former American envoys are raising the red flag.

It’s a “massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties,” said former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson in the National Catholic Reporter. “It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and … [it’s] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”

Mr. Nicholson — whose views were echoed by former envoys Francis Rooney, Mary Ann Glendon, Raymond Flynn and Thomas Melady — also called the justification for closing the existing facility a “smokescreen,” Breitbart reported.

“That’s like saying people get killed on highways because they drive cars on them,” he said in the report. “We’re not a pauper nation … if we want to secure an embassy, we certainly can.”

Moreover, the existing facility has “state of the art” security, he said.

Mr. Flynn, meanwhile, said the administration’s announcement reflects a hostility toward the Catholic Church.

“It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See,” he said in the National Catholic Reporter. “[There’s no] diplomatic or political benefit to the United States” from the relocation at all, he added.

Catholic Vote, a publication for the Church community, called the move “an unmistakable slap in the face” that clearly communicates that the United States cares little for the diplomatic facility.

And Mr. Nicholson went on, as Breitbart reported: “It’s another manifestation of the antipathy of this administration both to Catholics and to the Vatican — and to Christians in the Middle East. This is a key post for intermediation in so many sovereignties but particularly in the Middle East. This is anything but a good time to diminish the stature of this post. To diminish the stature of this post is to diminish its influence.”

I have nothing nice to say about this man. My confessor has heard my thoughts on him more than once.

Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Quick Takes: Facebook withdrawal edition!

Yep, so it's been a few days now since I've been off facebook, and it's an adjustment to my daily routine for sure. So, I will work off my detox here on my Quick Takes by posting some of the stuff here that I would have posted there!

1) I would definitely have posted several really cool quotes, such as this one from the Venerable Fulton Sheen:
Our humor and disposition are not so much the reflection of the weather or the wrong side of the bed, as they are the reflections of the state our soul. What is outside of us is beyond our control; but what is within us can be mastered and woven to any desired pattern.
(Wait, I did post that one before I left!)

2) I was much more political on facebook than I have been on the Bubble (well, at least since the election). I'd post things like this:

And I'd post a teacher's devastating assessment of Common Core and its consequences, here.

You all know I'd be flipping out about Obamacare and the fully-predicted disaster in the form of (supposedly) unintended consequences that are flowing from such a boneheaded (or evil) scheme, by posting numerous articles telling the tales, including:

People who weren't on Medicaid before and don't want to be now but were given no other options by our Benevolent Betters. Like the guy in the five million dollar house, or the senior citizen who wanted to keep her dignity and pay her own way as she'd always done.

And things like the hilarious (and brilliant) Mark Steyn:

(And I'd likely include an excerpt)
The most telling line, the one that encapsulates the gulf between the boundless fantasies of the faculty-lounge utopian and the messiness of reality, was this: “What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Gee, thanks for sharing, genius. Maybe you should have thought of that before you governmentalized one-sixth of the economy. By “we,” the president means “I.” Out here in the ruder provinces of his decrepit realm, we “folks” are well aware of how complicated insurance is. What isn’t complicated in the Sultanate of Sclerosis? But, as with so many other things, Obama always gives the vague impression that routine features of humdrum human existence are entirely alien to him.

I'd let my facebook friends know that wacky Seattle voters elected an avowed socialist to the city council and that even before she took office, she did not disappoint her comrades:

I'd direct them to the end of the article for a hearty (if slightly alarmed) laugh about her idea for workers to "re-tool" the machines at Boeing to make mass transit buses instead of "war machines", i.e., commercial airplanes.

I would also link to excellent articles on Public Discourse (an online journal from the Witherspoon Institute), like this one from Doug Mainwaring (a man with same-sex attraction) addressing Jonathan Rauch (a gay activist) which is summarized:

Jonathan Rauch, in his memoir Denial, argues that only access to the institution of marriage can make gays and lesbians whole. In doing so, he purposefully suppresses the truth that there are many other options available to those who are attracted to persons of the same sex.

Oh, so much politics, so much cultural upheaval to discuss. One of the big reasons I had to exit the scene. I'm tooooo addddiiiiicccttted to that stuff!!!!!!!

3) I'd have talked about my daughter's ER trips for IVs and meds to deal with her severe pregnancy sickness. I would also make sure that everyone knew about the HER Foundation ( website, which advocates for those who suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). As the site explains:

"HG is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease marked by rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and/or vomiting with potential adverse consequences for the mom-to-be and the newborn(s)."

I'm not sure if that is my daughter's diagnosis (as she's been doing a bit better), but honestly I had no idea about HG, even though I have watched two friends go through it. One member of our community almost died from it. Where have I been? The information on the site is copious, including help and advice for family and friends of women with HG. 

On a happy note, I also would have posted about getting to see my daughter's baby and his/her strong heartbeat on ultrasound during one of the ER visits! What sweet peanut! So loved already. 

4) I'm sure I'd put up a status report that offered profound ponderings such as this:
I've pretty much realized that I can no longer genuflect and make the sign of the cross simultaneously or else I will fall over. So I now genuflect first, while grasping the side of the pew, then as I ascend and regain full balance, I make the sign of the cross. Have I lost some of my Catholic cred? 
Of course, then there would have followed a whole slew of comments by Catholics responding with their own stories or thoughts! Ah, the fun of it all!

5) I'd certainly re-post a meme like this one, quoting St. Augustine:

Amen, brother Augustine! There surely are not 1,600 years separating us, are there? Our Faith is just the same, our love of the Church is just the same. I love being Catholic. Did I ever mention that?

6) As I go through my withdrawals (I admit to sneaking on my husband's nearly-dormant facebook page every once in a while to see what our mutual facebook friends are up to), there is one thing that is left of me back the site, and that is a Little Catholic Bubble page that Margo (Bubble supporter extraordinaire!) set up for me. If you are on facebook and want to "like" the page, you can find it here. Margo will be linking my latest posts there so that folks won't miss anything here.

7) Finally, I would have posted a plea for an orphan across the world, who is going to "age out" of the system in March of 2014. Eliah has a cleft palate and needs a couple to nurture him as their son, before it's too late for him to ever have a family.

Click his image for more information, and pray for him!


Thanks to Jen (who's never been sucked into facebook) for hosting!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Pill: Masking vs. Healing

On the night of my last full day on Facebook (yep, I quit it!), I jumped into (and immediately out of) a contentious debate on Abby Johnson's page. I only left one comment and then scurried away forever, but I had to get in that word.

Abby, former Planned Parenthood director and author of Unplanned, had reminded her (mostly pro-life) readers that not only can the Pill act as an abortifacient, but its routine use for treating menstrual disorders and other pathologies is ill-advised and even dangerous to a woman's health (the Pill can cause life-threatening conditions and is a Group 1 carcinogen according to the World Health Organization). Abby went on to say that there are always better means of addressing women's health issues, including treatments offered through NaPro Technology*.

Several commenters went into attack mode then, defending the use of the Pill for treating all kinds of female problems. They simply could not live without the Pill, they said, to get relief from their endometriosis, menstrual dysfunction, debilitating pain from ovarian cysts, etc. These pro-life women were angry, and they were standing by their Pill.

The quick comment I added to the thread simply reiterated Abby's point. The Pill only masks symptoms, it doesn't address or cure the underlying pathology. It doesn't restore a woman's health. Women who have disorders of the reproductive organs and cycle, I wrote, should look to NaPro or other medical interventions to identify and actually fix their disorders.

I want to be clear: There is nothing inherently immoral about taking the Pill to ease the symptoms of a disorder. But while swallowing a pill to cover up symptoms is easy, women are left living with the same pathology in the end. By contrast, curing the disease or addressing the disorder at its root is much more difficult: It requires more personal care, more thought, more individual strategy, and often tedious, time-consuming work -- lab work, months of hormone panels, even surgery. But the end result is restored health and wholeness.

The choice seems obvious, but sadly most women don't get this choice, as these days the Pill seems to be the only tool in most doctors' toolboxes.

I used to talk a lot about this sort of thing when my audience and interest was largely the Catholic infertility bloggers (man, do they know a lot about true reproductive health, women's issues, fertility, and NaPro!), but up until now I never thought about how this concept of masking vs. healing the disorders of the body applies to how the Church deals with the whole human person, body and soul.

We've talked about the physical, but it's true of the emotional and spiritual planes, too, isn't it? We love the quick fix to mask our existential pain, pleasure-seeking to make us forget our despair and loneliness, the avoidance of suffering at all costs. Masking the pain seems so much easier than working to fix the underlying problems in our fallen, sinful selves, and for a while it is easier. But as with the Pill, we are ultimately left with the same pathology in the end, only this time it's our soul that remains sick.

The Church's approach is so different from the world's! The Church wants to heal, not mask, and to restore integrity of body and soul. To walk the way of Christ is to take the long view and the narrow road (with a cross on one's back). It's tedious to set things right, it's laborious to make things work according to their nature, and it's painful to bring order out of disorder. It takes heroic virtue and sacrificial love fueled by the grace of the Sacraments, and it is the work of a lifetime.

Christ, the Divine Physician, warns that the process will hurt, but that in the end, we will be completely healed, whole and holy.

Body and soul, I'll take the real cure over a mask any day.

Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician


*Aesthetically speaking, NaPro has the worst website, painful to the eyes, and I keep praying that someone will make it attractive and appealing. Even the best product or service in the world needs to be presented beautifully in order to be well-received! Sigh. That said, please don't let the schlockiness of the website fool or deter you. NaPro is legitimate and effective modern medicine. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Quick Takes: The delightful, surprising edition!

1) Okay, the coolest story. My husband Dean's very first friend when we moved to Phoenix 22 years ago (knowing no one) was a man named Leighton Drake. We had just moved from Atlanta with our newborn baby girl, and Dean had a master's degree but could not find a job during the recession. Desperate to bring in money, he eventually took a job as a room service attendant at a local resort. Leighton was one of his co-workers, a young husband and father like Dean, and the only other room service attendant there who spoke English. Neither Dean nor Leighton was Catholic then, nor was Catholicism even on their radar screens. Dean was an agnostic Jew, and Leighton was an agnostic from a Protestant background. Our two little families became friends.

A few years later, long after Dean and Leighton had left the resort, they both became fervent, devout Catholics. Neither one's conversion influenced or coincided with the other's (we had all lost touch for a while), so it was incredibly bizarre that they both found their way to Holy Mother Church, completely on fire!

Leighton was recently featured on The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi, where he told his inspiring conversion story. When I watched it, I learned details of which even Dean and I were not aware! That this faithful man is connected to Dean's and my own history reminds me, as Pope Francis has said, that God loves to surprise us! I never would have imagined this outcome in a million years. Leighton's beautiful wife Kim also converted and is also a devout and inspiring Catholic today.

You will truly enjoy this:

Oh, and I can't forget: Leighton is an artist who uses his gifts and talents in service to the Lord, via his Drawn to Life Ministries. You can tell from the video what a gifted speaker he is, and his artwork is fantastic, too.

 2) Another thing that delighted me this week was this post concerning the bones of St. Peter, the first pope. When my daughter and her new husband went to Rome on their honeymoon, one of the highlights was the Scavi, i.e., the tour of the Vatican Necropolis, an ancient excavation site directly underneath the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica. Few people even know about this excavation, and tour reservations are required up to six months in advance. It's a rare and grace-filled opportunity to explore that ancient site, and now comes word that the Vatican is going to make St. Peter's bones available for public veneration for the very first time, to close out the Year of Faith!

Which begs the question:

Read the short article and find out. The answer will fascinate you, I promise! God is so good, and as mentioned, He delights in surprising us! Lord, I love being Catholic!

3) Speaking of my daughter and her new husband…

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage!

Yep, just call me Grams! Whoooooot!!!

I am so ready to welcome this little one, and my youngest son (age 3) is already calling himself "Uncle Matthew". (He is also calling me "Uncle Mommy", but that is something we'll straighten out later….)

Right now, my grandbaby looks like this:

My three-year-old was looking at this image earlier and said, unprompted: "A baby!" Yep, a human baby is recognizable and undeniable, even to a pre-schooler! :)

4) For those of you who are still interested (and I can't blame you if you are not), there are some more wedding photos to see. Not the entire group of 609 gorgeous pictures we got back from the photographer, Lexi Moody, but a few select ones that Lexi put on her blog. Check them out, here.

And here is one of my favorites that is not on that link:

Um, yeah, you'll never convince me that fatherhood doesn't matter.

Are you all sick of the wedding pictures yet? If not, I could do another post with all my favorites of the professional photos that are not on the photographer's website.

5) My last post was a bit of a departure for me. It was well-received, prompting several readers to say that it was their favorite Bubble post ever. Beneath that blog post came perhaps my favorite comment ever, from M. Albinoni. I think you will see why:
I love Pope Francis and I also love this post, Leila! Thank you for this. 
I must admit that, as a more progressive Catholic, I had fallen into the "trap" that had been set by much of the media when they portrayed Pope (Emeritus) Benedict as an unforgiving, stern man. You have changed my mind about him, Leila. When I took the time to learn more about him (spurred by your love for him), I found out much to love about him as well! I may not be completely at ease with all of his decisions, but I do love and admire him deeply now. 
I also want to particularly thank you for your last paragraph. I have been following your blog for over a year now, and I only recently decided to be a more active "participant". I was reluctant to post because I had seen some very hurtful comments said to others who expressed ideas similar to mine. That said, I truly believe that I have also evolved and changed a bit in my views and that you have been a big part of that. I used to be in a lot of turmoil about the Church, but I have truly come to a place of peace about it all now. I feel like if my starting point is that I love this Church and that I know I can never be anything other than a Catholic, all my other issues are secondary. They will work themselves out, partly with your help! 

Made.My.Day. It's all worth it, and each and every contributor has helped make this blog feel more like an extended family than just a bunch of disconnected strangers offering opinions. Thanks to every one of you.

6) I'm keenly aware that I used to post several times a week, and now I am down to about once a week. Sigh. I know who/what the culprit is: Facebook, the evil time suck of my life. I have to excise it. I am not sure how. But it takes up the bulk of my screen time and keeps me from blogging. I talk about this dilemma a lot, but will I have the strength to finally kill the beast? I just don't know….

7) Oh, the orphans! Please, everyone, take a look at my latest Orphan Report, featuring Tatiana. She has a matching grant going till November 16 if you have some dollars to spare. Each dollar you donate will be doubled. Tatiana needs out.

And please remember that if you do your Christmas shopping on Amazon through the link on my blog, every penny of commission is donated to the orphans and the families who are working to bring them home.


God bless, and thanks to Jen for hosting!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

When Truth doesn't cut it

For almost twenty years, I have operated under the assumption that souls generally come to God through a hearing of the Truth. After all, that's how my own faith was awakened -- by an exercise of the intellect. I read and I studied and I compared and I examined, and everything Catholicism claimed made beautiful sense to me. It was reasonable, logical, cohesive, coherent, and consistent. On the basis of that coherence, I changed my actions, my beliefs, my heart, and my soul, and I have never looked back. The Truth of the Church was, to me, the essence of her appeal. One of my favorite sayings when it comes to evangelization is "Truth comes with graces attached" -- and yes, it does.

However, I have recently come to understand that I and those like me are not the norm. I have learned that most people do not come to Christ and the Church through an exacting and exhilarating exercise of the intellect. For most people, Truth is not what initially propels them toward Christ.

Well, knock me over with a feather.

But don't get me wrong: Somewhere in my brain, I knew that already. Every human being is unique by design, and I'd read that different folks are drawn to God in different ways: Some are drawn by the fact that God is Truth, for sure, but others by His Oneness (unity), or by His Goodness, or by His Beauty, etc. I've referred to these different "voices of God" when discussing the call to conversion, but I don't think it truly sank in until recently.

First came the election of Pope Francis. For those of us who live mostly in our heads, adoring Truth, embracing intellectual order, craving clarity, and swooning at doctrinal precision, Pope Benedict XVI was our dream pontiff, following on the heels of another beloved papa, the philosopher Blessed John Paul the Great. We Truth-groupies had two popes in a row who nourished our souls by feeding our minds as well. Then suddenly, Pope Francis burst into our comfortable neatness and encouraged us to "make a mess" -- by leaving our books and debates and pristine doctrines for a time and going out into the streets and byways to meet our fellow human beings exactly where they are. Francis had impromptu, non-authoritative exchanges with journalists, secularists, and atheists, chats that were off-the-cuff, even sloppy -- not at all the polished and carefully weighed words of his predecessors.

And the world went nuts. And folks like me readjusted, mentally.

The world "likes" this pope, not for the doctrine and morality he teaches and preaches (which is no different from what came before), not because of ordered thought and careful words, but because he seems to care and listen and love. He seems relatable and real, and more like a loving grandpa in the neighborhood than a Supreme Pontiff on a throne.

But let me stop right here, lest anyone misunderstand: It's not that his predecessors did not love and care for and ache for every soul on the planet! Oh, how it boils my blood when people misunderstand the mystical, saintly JPII who embraced all mankind, or when they malign the shy and kindly Benedict, a quiet and gentle introvert. It's simply that Francis moves the world in a different way, and I think it's that he makes people feel something first, before he makes them think something.

For so many reasons, the soul of modern man is desperate to feel, and feel profoundly.

Francis instinctively operates on an understanding that I needed to learn: Most people do not come to Christ through Truth first. Most people come to Christ prompted by an encounter with Beauty or an experience of Goodness. Love and Truth cannot be separated, of course, but in this era of disconnection, isolation, and despair, Love must precede Truth or Truth won't get a hearing, much less an understanding. They will not hear our Truth if they do not first feel (and believe) our Love.

The next step in my broadened understanding came when I started pondering what I do on this blog. My whole shtick is debating and dissecting and raking over ideas for Truth and clarity. I know from the combox and from my email inbox that this approach is helpful to many, especially those Catholics who, due to poor catechetical formation, need to understand the tenets of the Faith better. I have something to offer in that area, it's been the main goal of the Bubble all along, and I've absolutely no intention of changing what I do on this blog (so don't worry, truthoholics!).

But I have noticed something other than the intellectual debates (and the insistence on Truth) quietly at work here.

You cannot imagine (heck, I would never have imagined!) what goes on behind the scenes of a blog like this. I don't want to reveal anything personal or betray confidences, but trust me when I say that many of the most challenging and even exasperating commenters are the nicest folks off-screen. I love them, truly, and I think they know it. I've been quiet friends with some of them for years, and a few have asked my advice or poured out their hearts, sensing that for all my doctrinal rigidity, I really do care. I've even had one hit-and-run Church-hater email me later to apologize and tell me the heartbreaking story behind the rage in her comment. I was able to pray for her and her family, and both our hearts were changed.

It's in the relationships forged, not so much the technical debates, that real human connections are made, and the fruit I've seen is that an opponent finds some respect for the Church and gives consideration to Christ where before there had been no such thing. I've even witnessed small miracles that have come through the heart-to-hearts and not through the doctrinal debates.

At some point, l will be able to tell you specific stories. Today, I will just remind you that behind every comment, query, challenge, and curse is a person who has a story -- and wounds that we cannot see. Be gentle and kind with everyone you meet and everyone you debate, because for most people, if they can't sense your authentic love for them, they will not want anything to do with your Truth.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. -- 1 Corinthians 13

Thank you, Pope Francis, for reminding us that Truth is not
always the first way to introduce Christ to the human heart.