Monday, December 29, 2014

My Mother-in-Law Carol's Conversion Story, Part One

I have wanted to write of my mother-in-law’s conversion for over a year now, but I knew that her story would not be complete until she went to the Father. Finally, it’s time. Carol, I hope and pray that I get it right and do justice to your life and beliefs. You deserve nothing less.

Carol Sue Goldstein Miller at age 20, already a wife and the mother of my husband.
A real beauty.

For the first 25 years that I knew Carol, we were polite but not close (that’s another story), and we did not speak of religion. She was adopted as an infant, raised Jewish and became an agnostic as an adult. She was secular. If she did have any spirituality, it was found in the crystals she owned, or the New Agey angels she liked, or perhaps even the mystical nature of the vampires, phantoms, ghosts, and ghouls that delighted her. I never knew for sure if she believed in God, as it was just not a topic to be discussed in the superficial, if loving, relationship that we had with her. Dean had converted from Jewish agnosticism to Catholicism in 1997 at the age of 31; Carol was not thrilled at the time, but she accepted it as she saw its effect on her son, and as she watched our family grow.

Carol’s life was a difficult one from the beginning. She had an abusive childhood, and as a pregnant teen she entered into a troubled marriage. She had two sons, my husband being the elder, and found herself divorced in her mid-forties, after 28 years of marriage. Life continued to be a struggle for her, and until her death at 67, she was often overlooked or condescended to, as if she were a silly little girl. To my shame, I was one of the guilty ones. I was so smugly sure that I knew what she was about.

Carol lived in Atlanta and we in Phoenix, so we saw her probably twice a year. She would stay with us when she visited, and while Dean and I sort of “tolerated” her idiosyncrasies and (what we considered) her childish ways, she and the kids had a great time, and she loved them dearly. One thing I notice only in retrospect is how bright was her smile, and how delightful, frequent, and genuine her laugh.

Carol found joy in the little things, and now I see that she was very childlike (not childish!) in her joy of things like her cat, her collection of bunny figurines, her shell collection, and her gleeful love of Halloween and Christmas. She enjoyed big, sparkly jewelry and would often change the color of her eyes with colored contact lenses. She loved wigs and make-up and colorful clothes, and she gave the most lovely gifts when finances allowed.

In 2010, Carol, a lifelong smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Frankly, it was something we expected to happen, but it was still hard to process. Dean was terribly upset. My husband cries only rarely, but that day on the phone, when he told me the news, he couldn’t stop crying. I was surprised when, between sobs, he was very specific: “I want her to be baptized!” Looking back, it’s an absolute miracle how God answered his tearful prayer.

Honestly, we thought she was the last person in the world who would find true faith in God, much less that she would actually be baptized before she left this earth. In our minds, it was simply not possible, and that is why Dean was weeping. In an attempt to console Dean, I suggested we send Carol some holy or religious things, anything that might resonate with her as she faced a difficult diagnosis and her own mortality. We actually bought a copy of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life to give her, since she didn’t seem to have or identify with any real purpose (it’s not a Catholic book, and we wouldn't normally recommend it, but we thought it was light enough to introduce some ideas). We discussed sending vintage holy cards since she liked pretty images, specifically a guardian angel card, since she was drawn to angels and all things "otherworldly". And we thought of sending an image of the Blessed Mother, since Carol hadn't had a loving earthly mother.

Ultimately, though, we sent nothing.

After trying and suspending chemo and radiation treatments that she could not tolerate, Carol became more and more frail, visually aging decades in just a couple of years. Strangely and happily, the tumors seemed to stop growing at one point (I believe God gave her the time she needed for what was to come), although she still suffered from COPD and other ailments that kept sucking the life out of her body. However, although she looked like a different woman, her spirits and good humor remained the same! I still did not fully grasp the stuff of which this woman was made.

Carol came to visit us for Thanksgiving in 2012, and one evening she and I found ourselves alone as I cleaned up the kitchen. We usually talked about superficial things, but this time we went deeper and I was glad. Lovingly, she told me that Dean and I had done a good job raising the children. In return, I told her something that I never really had believed all these years (in fact, I had believed the opposite): “You were a good mother, too, Carol.” And when I spoke those words, I was being sincere. She responded with a chuckle, “No, I was not a good mom.” I countered with the truth: “Carol, you raised two amazing men, family men, who love their wives and their children and are good citizens and human beings. You were a good mom. You taught them right from wrong, and when Dean was little and stole from the neighbors, you made him suffer the consequences, and he learned. Many parents won't do that today.”

We went on to talk about how kids are raised these days, how parents are afraid to parent, and the problems with pervasive disrespect. It was an interesting conversation, two moms in solidarity, which transitioned into a discussion of the broader culture. As with religion, we had always avoided talking about the culture and politics; Carol was politically on the left, and had "progressive" ideas about the social issues. There was very little that we agreed on. But in our newfound solidarity, we talked about the permissiveness of the culture, and I felt bold enough to discuss with her the ugly things that even small children and young teens are taught by the likes of Planned Parenthood, much of which shocked her -- like the "embrace your inner slut" video. She looked at me, horrified, and said, “I’m a liberal, but I don’t believe in that!” I told her I understood, and that most Americans are unaware of what goes on here politically, legally, and in our schools and universities, and that they would be shocked if they knew.

The entire discussion was interesting, edifying, and pleasant, and I felt like Carol and I had bonded as never before. I felt good at this step towards a better friendship and a deeper mutual understanding, and I was satisfied, feeling that this talk could tide us over for a lifetime. Now that that was done, it was time to move along, to relax and enjoy the rest of the night with mindless activities.

I was not expecting what happened next. It was a like a bomb: The question that changed everything.

To be continued....

Read Part Two here.

Monday, December 15, 2014


That is what one dear friend said about a book that a few of us in my little Phoenix Bubble have been reading. Another way I've heard it described (multiple times, before and after I got my grubby hands on it) is "life-changing".

I finished it recently. Yes, I, Leila Miller, finished a book! And I cannot stop thinking about it and applying it, again and again.

It is life-changing and mind-blowing.

And it's short!

Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us, by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen

Do yourself a favor: Read this book. Get out your pen, highlighter, whatever, and start notating the parts that jump out at you. It will pretty much put life and suffering into a context you can understand and actually do something with. If the truths that lie within these pages are taken in and digested, anxiety would cease. We could rest easy, whatever our lot. Yes, I mean that.

When my local girlfriends started recommending it to me a few months back, I didn't even remember that I had a copy already on my bookshelf from several years ago when another friend had told me that it was life-changing, and I had bought it on her recommendation. I must not have been ready for it at the time, because I read through some pages, it didn't wow me, and I put it back on my shelf to collect dust.

But when I had a second copy put in my hands recently, I was ready. God had made me ready in the years since, and I am eternally grateful, because it all makes perfect sense now.

In the past days, I have loaned one of my copies to a friend and mailed the other copy to someone who was spiritually moved by the excerpts I kept posting on Facebook. I recently ordered a third copy so that I'll have one on hand to give away when someone crosses my path who needs it (and that would be everybody).

Did I mention, dear harried, tired, overwhelmed-with-life readers, that it's short?

And for those thinking ahead to Lenten reading, you're welcome. :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Little Teaching: The Immaculate Conception

The beautiful thing about the Catholic Church is that we are very much a family. We have our Father in Heaven, our Brother Jesus, and all of our brothers and sisters in the Communion of Saints. And no family is complete without the presence and love of a Mother.

Mary, the Mother of Christ Jesus, is our Mother, too. She is your Mother.

Today, we celebrate one of the most beautiful Marian Feast days, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which is also a holy day of obligation, by the way, so get yourself to mass!).

Many people are confused about the Immaculate Conception, believing that it refers to the the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb (it does not; that is the Annunciation, or the Incarnation), or that it refers to the Virgin Birth (it does not; that is the Nativity, or Christmas).

The Immaculate Conception refers to and celebrates the conception of Mary in her own mother's womb. She was conceived in the usual way, by her two married parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim, so that was not the extraordinary part. What is extraordinary is the fact that from the moment of Mary's conception, she was without the stain of Original Sin. She was immaculate, and she stayed that way her whole life. 

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX infallibly defined this ancient Christian teaching in this way:

"We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."

Some Catholics fully embrace this doctrine of Mary's sinlessness, yet still misunderstand why Mary was conceived without sin. Some people (even some priests) erroneously believe that Mary had to be sinless in order to carry a sinless Jesus in her own womb, so as not to pass along Original Sin to her Divine Son through her flesh. They believe that the Immaculate Conception was necessary

But that is not true. Because if it were necessary for a woman to be without sin in order to bear a child without sin, then St. Anne would have had to be sinless to bear a sinless Mary, and the same would have to be true for St. Anne's mother, and on and on all the way back through the generations. Clearly, that is not the case. 

Rather than "necessary", the words of the Church are that it was "wholly fitting" that God would preserve the Blessed Mother from any taint or impurity. She is the Holy Vessel who would house the Word Incarnate in her own body. Just as the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant was made of the purest gold to house the Word of God, the Ark of the New Covenant (Mary) would be made of purest flesh to house the Word of God made Flesh (Jesus). She was, literally, the Holy of Holies. 

And so it is fitting that we honor Mary, the Immaculate Conception, on this beautiful feast day dedicated to her singular privilege as the Fairest Daughter of the Father. Praise God Who gave us, literally, the perfect Mother. 

The Immaculate Conception, by Tiepolo

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Rest in peace, Carol

My husband's mother, Carol, died yesterday morning, on the Feast of St. Nicholas, four days before her 68th birthday. She died peacefully, after having received the Last Rites of the Church. She was a new Catholic, baptized and received into the Catholic Church less than a year and a half ago. 

She spent one Christmas on earth as a Christian, and will spend this Christmas with the King of Kings. As a daughter of Israel and a daughter of the Church, she is doubly blessed. 

The story of her conversion is as beautiful as it was unexpected, and I want to take some time to gather my thoughts and tell her story well. 

In the meantime, please pray for the repose of the soul of this beautiful woman, and pray for the comfort of the family she leaves behind, especially her two sons who will miss her dearly. 

Carol Sue Goldstein Miller
December 10, 1946 - December 6, 2014

May the Angels lead you into paradise; 
may the martyrs greet you at your arrival 
and lead you into the holy city, Jerusalem. 

Eternal rest grant unto Carol, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon her. 
May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fr. Jean Buridan and the Birth of Modern Science

You all know that I am not the go-to person on the intersection of science and theology, but Dr. Stacy Trasancos is.

Her work is illuminating and important in an amnesiac culture that accuses the Catholic Church of being anti-science. When I saw Stacy's recent post on "Fr. Jean Burdian and the Birth of Modern Science", I asked her permission to reproduce it here. She kindly agreed, and added the following information and offers for Bubble readers:

1.  I [Stacy] will send a free copy of my book, Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki,  to anyone who is an educator. Email me. 

2.  The Kindle book is on sale for $2.99 until the end of the month. 

3.  If you buy the hard copy, I will give you a free copy of the ebook. Email me to let me know.

4.  If you are interested in scheduling a speaking engagement where I explain the book's main points, email me. I have limited availability.

5.  The proceeds go to a single mother in need, a U.S. military veteran, always have, always will. Whatever sells by December 20, I will forward to her in time for Christmas.

My email:

Thank you, Stacy! Now, to the meat...

Fr. Jean Buridan and the Birth of Modern Science

The reaction to Pierre Duhem’s 1913 volume Le système du monde: histoire des doctrines cosmologiques de Platon à Copernic (The System of World: A History of Cosmological Doctrines from Plato to Copernicus) was both strong and spectacular. His work provided undeniable evidence that in the Middle Ages faith in the predictability of nature was rooted in the theology of God as the Creator of Heaven and Earth. It was not just a single belief, but a climate of shared belief nurtured by an educational system comprised of universities, cathedral schools, and monasteries that consistently taught Christian theology. Circumnavigate the conclusion however one may, the theological beliefs that united the consistent learning centers teaching those beliefs did not exist in any of the ancient cultures nor did the Scientific Revolution occur in them. The people in ancient cultures had the skills to produce a viable science of physical laws and systems of laws, but they held some form of a pantheistic or animistic worldview. The worldview instilled by the Old Testament cultures was founded on the theology of a personal and merciful God who created a universe of order and routine.

In early Christianity, from the first millennium and into the second, and even now, this worldview was maintained. It was maintained when the Greek works were introduced and translated to the Christian West in the Middle Ages. It was the Christian scholars who dared to reject certain long-held ideas from the ancient Greeks because those ideas contradicted the tenets of Divine Revelation. The significance of the difference in the Christian worldview and the pantheistic worldview is critical to the birth of modern science. Fr. Stanley L. Jaki named the “classical and most influential case” that represents the birth of modern science from Christianity, and this is the case of Fr. Jean Buridan (1300–1358), the French priest who developed the concept of the impetus which led to the modern concept of inertia and paved the way for Isaac Newton’s first law of motion.

Jean Buridan’s Impetus Theory

In his work Quaestiones super quattuor libris de Cælo et Mundo, Buridan showed that a radical departure from Aristotelian cosmology and physics was absolutely necessary for explaining the movement of bodies. Buridan not only departed from untenable ideas, he affirmed his faith in the Creator and derived from those “articles of faith” what could only be known by revelation and not by scientific demonstration. Buridan stated that “in many an instance one should not believe Aristotle who made many propositions contrary to the Catholic faith because he wanted to state nothing except what could be derived from considerations based on what is seen and experienced.” (Quaestiones, p. 152) Stated more concisely—and this should be considered carefully—it was faith, not observation, experimentation, or investigation that gave the first breaths to modern science. Buridan’s theory of impetus is found in Book VIII, Question 12 of Super octo libros physicorum Aristotelis subtilissimae quaestiones. He was thinking about what moves a projectile after it leaves the hand of the projector. It is first necessary to understand what Aristotle asserted, which was the accepted explanation in Buridan’s day, so first a brief review.

Aristotle’s Theory of Motion

Aristotelian theory of motion held that terrestrial bodies had a natural motion towards the center of the universe, which meant, at that time, the center of earth. Motion in any other direction was “violent” motion because it contradicted natural motion and thus, required a mover to move it. Bodies were thought to naturally desire rest, so whenever something moved in any other way than naturally, there had to be a mover in contact with it. If the mover ceased to move it, the body fell straight to the earth and became suddenly at rest.

Aristotle also argued that if the resistance of a medium through which an object passed remained constant, the body would move at a constant speed if the force exerted by the mover were also constant. [This is false. A constant force results in a proportionally constant acceleration (F=ma) according to Newton’s second law.] Aristotle also held that if the resistance of the medium varied, the speed the object moved under constant force varied proportionally, and if the movement took place in a vacuum, bodies would move instantaneously with infinite speed. This is one of the reasons why Aristotle thought a complete void was impossible.

Aristotle’s system included an explanation in Book VII and VIII of Physics, and Book III of De cælo that objects move farther when thrown due to a concept he coined as antiperistasis, which means a surrounding (peri) resistance (anti) caused by an action that induces an unchanging equilibrium (stasis). This concept applied to projectiles (thrown objects). Once the mover (the hand, for instance) throws the object and the object is no longer in contact with the mover, the air that resists the object (anti) is divided by the object and surrounds it (peri). By doing so, the air fills in the vacuum in the wake thereby impelling it along (stasis). When bodies fall to the ground, Aristotle attributed this natural motion to the soul of the object (animism) searching for what is best for it. Thus a ball thrown on earth will be impelled by antiperistasis, but will also be acted upon by the ball’s nature which searches for the ground, thus projectile motion.

 According to Aristotle, the mass of an object is directly proportional to the nature of the object’s desire for its natural place. Therefore, Aristotle thought that two otherwise identical objects would fall to the ground with proportionally different speeds if one was twice the mass of the other, the heavier one falling twice as fast as the lighter one. The heavier mass’s larger nature held a larger desire to be on the ground, a conclusion that defies plain common sense and observation. It is easily observed that two balls of different mass fall at the same rate of acceleration, but this was not noticed or not admitted by the ancient Greeks or by the Muslims who followed Aristotle. Note, he was not referring to two dissimilar objects such as a feather and a ball which would fall at rates also affected by surface area and air resistance. Aristotle was referring to objects identical except for mass, i.e. two balls of the same size but different masses.

 According to Aristotle, there were two kinds of bodies: terrestrial (natural) and celestial (divine). The terrestrial bodies moved toward their desired place of rest. The celestial bodies were the bodies from the Moon upward, and they moved in a circle in a sort of divine substance called the ether. This explained why the heavenly realm moved in continuous circles. They were in a perpetual contact with the Prime Mover itself, which is the basis of the doctrine of eternal cycles (the Great Year) of an eternal cosmos emanating from the Prime Mover. Thus, motion was explained in the heaven and on earth by the object dividing the substance (air or water on earth, the ether in the heavens) and the substance in turn filling in behind the object to push it along. On earth, objects also fell to the ground in search of their rest unless a mover kept them in their motion. In the heavens, bodies were in their most desired place as long as they were in contact with the Prime Mover.

Reconciling with the Christian Creed

Buridan, along with the other Christian scholars reconciling Aristotelian texts with the Creed, rejected the doctrine of the Great Year and eternal cycles of the universe. Because he viewed the universe as the creation of a rational Creator and thus viewed the universe as having an absolute beginning in time, Buridan, in thinking scientifically, necessarily had to ponder the cause of motion for heavenly bodies, which in turn meant he had to ponder the cause of motion for terrestrial bodies, and he did so in the same atmosphere in which the Condemnations of 1277 were made. So, in Book VIII, Question 12 of the above mentioned work, Buridan appealed to common experience and judged Aristotle’s position to be unsatisfactorily solved. (The question can be found here at Professor Gyula Klim’s site.) Buridan gave the example of a child’s toy, the top. When a top spins, it spins in place so there is no vacuum left behind and thus no antiperistatic effect to impel the top to keep spinning.

As a second example, he described the “smith’s wheel” and how it also moves in a circular motion but does not leave a vacuum. As a third example, he pointed out that if an arrow were sharp at both ends, it would still move in the same way as it would move if the back end were blunt. If the motion were caused by the impulsion of the air moving in behind the arrow as it pierced the air, the arrow with a sharp posterior should not fly as far, but this is not observed. As a fourth example, he described the scenario of a ship moving through water. If the ship is going against the flow and the rowing is stopped, the ship continues on for a while and does not stop immediately. A sailor on deck, however, does not feel the air behind him pushing (impelling) him. He instead feels only the air in front of him resisting him. And if the man were standing at the back of the ship, the strong force from the air rushing in behind the ship and pushing it along ought to knock the man violently into the cargo.

Experience shows in all of these scenarios that antiperistasis is false. Buridan then argued that if, fundamentally, motion is maintained by continuous contact with a mover, then there is no explanation for how the top or the smith’s wheel can continue to move after the hand is removed, for even if a cloth surrounds the top or the wheel on all sides blocking any movement of air, it still spins after the hand is removed. Further, he argued, common experience shows that when a person pushes his hand through the air, he does not feel the air behind his hand pushing it along whether he has a stone in it or not. Buridan concluded that since, in those cases, there is no air to impel motion, no hand to sustain it, no rowing to move it, there must be another explanation. This is how he arrived at his impetus theory (see paragraph 6):
Thus we can and ought to say that in the stone or other projectile there is impressed something which is the motive force (virtus motiva) of that projectile. And this is evidently better than falling back on the statement that the air continues to move that projectile. For the air appears rather to resist. Therefore, it seems to me that it ought to be said that the motor in moving a moving body impresses (imprimit) in it a certain impetus or a certain motive force (vis motiva) of the moving body, [which impetus acts] in the direction toward which the mover was moving the moving body, either up or down, or laterally, or circularly. And by the amount the motor moves that moving body more swiftly, by the same amount it will impress in it a stronger impetus.
The impetus continues to move a stone after the hand throws it, and the impetus is continually decreased by the resisting air and by the gravity of the stone. He also related impetus to mass:
Hence by the amount more there is of matter, by that amount can the body receive more of thatimpetus and more intensely (intensius). Now in a dense and heavy body, other things being equal, there is more of prime matter than in a rare and light one. Hence a dense and heavy body receives more of that impetus and more intensely, just as iron can receive more calidity than wood or water of the same quantity. Moreover, a feather receives such an impetus so weakly (remisse) that such an impetus is immediately destroyed by the resisting air. And so also if light wood and heavy iron of the same volume and of the same shape are moved equally fast by a projector, the iron will be moved farther because there is impressed in it a more intense impetus, which is not so quickly corrupted as the lesser impetuswould be corrupted. This also is the reason why it is more difficult to bring to rest a large smith’s mill which is moving swiftly than a small one, evidently because in the large one, other things being equal, there is more impetus.
Tying this reasoning to common experience, Buridan also explained that this is why one who wishes to jump a longer distance takes a few steps back to run faster and drive himself farther, and why the jumper does not feel the air propelling him but rather the air in front of him resisting him against the force of his jump.

Guided by Faith

Finally, Buridan turned this path of reasoning toward the heavens and noted that the Bible does not claim that God had to keep his hand on the celestial bodies to maintain their motion. Buridan suggested that the motion of celestial bodies could be answered another way.
God, when He created the world, moved each of the celestial bodies as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them impetuses which moved them without His having to move them any more except by the method of general influence whereby He concurs as a co-agent in all things which take place; “for thus on the seventh day He rested from all work which He had executed by committing to others the actions and the passions in turn.” And these impetuses which He impressed in the celestial bodies were not decreased nor corrupted afterwards, because there was no inclination of the celestial bodies for other movements. Nor was there resistance which would be corruptive or repressive of that impetus.
In other words, Buridan introduced the concepts that would lead to Newton’s first law of motion, that a body at rest would stay at rest and a body in motion would stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by another force. The pantheistic worldview never would have led to such an idea because it was fundamentally and institutionally opposed to it. Buridan’s insight derived from his faith in the Christian Creed, Divine Revelation applied to reason and observation, which led to exact science as a self-sustaining enterprise of physical laws and systems of laws. “I might seek from the theological masters what they might teach me in these matters as to how these things take place.”

 Following the Condemnations of 1277 by Tempier against a set of tenets upheld by Aristotle and his followers, a large movement appeared that liberated Christian thought from the ancient Greek thought and produced modern science. Duhem is considered to have identified the 1277 articles as the most significant event in the birth of modern science, while Jaki highlighted the spark ignited by Buridan a generation later. For Jaki, however, it is not a certain man, event, or date that marks the birth of science though; it is a breakthrough in a naturalistic worldview that rejected the pantheistic doctrine of eternal cycles and approached the investigation of nature guided by the light of Christian faith in a merciful, faithful God who created the world out of nothing with an absolute beginning and end in time, that is ordered, predictable, and stable, but also not a god itself.

This breakthrough, just described, was based not on observation or experiment but on divine revelation and faith, and it is thus the birth of modern science, a fundamental departure from the worldviews in which modern science was stillborn.

Sources and Recommended Reading

  • Stanley Jaki, Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1986, see pp. 230-231.
  • Stanley Jaki, A Late Awakening and Other Essays. Port Huron, MI: Real View Books, 2004.
  • Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science (New York: The Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster Inc., 1957).
  • Marshall Clagett, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages (Madison,WI, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1959).
  • Pierre Duhem, Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science, Translated and Edited by Roger Ariew and Peter Barker (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1996).
Adapted from my book, Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Available on Amazon.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

For these things I am thankful

Putting aside all my griping and complaining and lamenting (I'm working on it!), I want to do what we all are supposed to do this week: Count my blessings and be thankful.

First, we must acknowledge that being thankful has to have an object. We are giving thanks, but to Whom? To God Almighty, from Whom all blessings flow. After all, there is no Thanksgiving without God. As George Washington said to the nation on October 3, 1789:
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 favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled 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 on that note, I am thankful, 225 years later, to be a citizen of America, which is still the greatest nation on earth. My immigrant father taught me early on that this nation really is different, and despite my concerns with the direction we are going, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I'm deeply, deeply grateful for the privilege of living in America.

I am thankful that my father is doing well, after a harrowing year, medically speaking. Multiple heart issues/procedures and a second recurrence of his cancer gave us many touch-and-go moments. But my parents were able to go on their 50th anniversary cruise last month and they will be hosting the family for Thanksgiving at their home, as usual. A real blessing that we are not taking for granted.

I am thankful that my cousin and dear friend Michelle, who was diagnosed nearly a year ago with stage IV non-smoker's lung cancer, is doing well and continuing the good fight. She is a beautiful and holy woman, a single mom to three teen girls, and our entire family is so grateful that she is in a better place this year than she was last Thanksgiving, right before her diagnosis. May God continue to pour his grace and healing down upon her.

I am thankful that my daughters are with their wonderful husbands for Thanksgiving this year, and although it's the first year we will feast without them, they are never far from our hearts and only a plane ride away. I am thankful for my dear sons-in-law (faithful, honorable men), and for my beautiful granddaughter Felicity and my grandson who is still in the womb.

I am thankful that this year, thanks to some special suffering I endured, has been incredibly fruitful spiritually. In moments of real torment, I clung tighter to Him, realizing that ultimately, He is everything and He is all. What a profound, unmoving consolation in times of trial and disorientation. And Mother Mary was right there by my side at every moment, just as she has been since I was a small child, even when I didn't recognize it.

I am thankful for my husband, whom I do not deserve. He puts up with me and loves me no matter what. We have built a life together. Yes, it only hit me a few weeks ago, we have built a life together. And he feeds me! The man feeds me! Oh, how I love him for that. I am thankful for the nine children he gave me, eight of them still here on this earth. Those precious, irreplaceable, unrepeatable children are the only earthly treasures we get to take with us into eternity, and if I went into how thankful I am for each one of them, this blog post would never end.

I am thankful for the best girlfriends I could ever ask for, and you know who you are. You ladies keep me laughing and sane, and you keep me steady on the path to sanctity. We're in this journey together, and you are strength for the journey. And one of those best friends is my sister, Pauline, whose friendship and support are invaluable in my life, every single day. God truly blessed me with the best big sis in the world!

I am thankful for all of you, my Bubble family, because you teach me so much every time you comment and every time you email, even when you blast me. I need it! I need to be challenged and humbled and I have always needed to learn how to love better. You have helped me greatly in this regard, and I thank God for you.

There is so, so, so much more I am thankful for, including the soft bed I am about to fall into.

I pray that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and/or friends, and I would love to hear what you are thankful for this day!

...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 trangressions; 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 third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

On my mom's side, I am a direct descendent of two Mayflower Pilgrims, 
John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, who married a few years after they landed in Plymouth. 
It's amazing to think of them feasting at the first Thanksgiving. 
I'm glad they both survived when so many others didn't,
because otherwise I wouldn't be here!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jonathan Gruber and abuse of power

I'm getting political because this is about morality. This touches on sins that, according to Catholic tradition and Scripture, "cry out to heaven for vengeance": oppression of the poor and defrauding the worker of his just wages. Not to mention a violation of the Eighth Commandment against bearing false witness. 

This man, this Professor Jonathan Gruber of MIT, this elite, arrogant academic who called the American people stupid time and again (watch the video), happily pocketed a cool six million of those taxpayers' dollars (suckers!) while admitting to deceiving and manipulating the public in order to force through Obamacare (watch the video), a scheme that has cost many working folks their health care plans and has raised premiums and deductibles through the roof. 

I repeat: For the privilege of perpetuating a massive fraud about which he openly brags, Gruber was paid $6 million dollars. Take a look:

The question isn't Why does Jonathan Gruber still have a job at MIT? (though it's a good question), but why is he still walking around free?

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Government has unlimited power and resources, which is why it is infinitely more dangerous than any corporation. Gruber is untouched because this was government work, and the most powerful people in the nation were totally on board with what he did (even if they now conveniently deny knowing the chap, which is laughable in this age of video proof). 

Corrupt government, unlike corrupt business, is almost never accountable. If one or more executives in the private sector had been caught committing such massive and systematic fraud while raking in millions, we know what would happen and how the press would be all over it. Think Enron and Bernie Madoff for starters. 

I guess my question is for those who have supported Obama and Obamacare. What do you think of this? What do you believe about the morality here? Do you believe, as Gruber stated, that the ends justify the means? That lying and scheming and obfuscating are necessary to get to the "good outcome" that will bring about wonderful things?

One of the reasons I write this blog is that I want a record for my children and grandchildren. When the world has gone haywire (and when hasn't it, really?), I want a written account of what I believed and why. This scandal is an injustice and I will use my very small voice to speak against it. I am on the record.

I am very much interested in the reactions of my readers, and especially those on the left. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Quick Takes: Late Again!

How lame is this? I sit down to begin a Friday Quick Takes on a Saturday night. Oh, my.

Eh, it's par for the course...

1) As if it were not enough that I met the incredible Abby Johnson a few weeks ago, last night I met the incredible Walter Hoye at the Bioethics Defense Fund's annual "Passion For Life" event, where he was this year's honoree and speaker. You all know that I'm a shamelessly obnoxious name-dropper (because I still can't believe I somehow get to hang out with these outstanding people), but in the case of Nik Nikas and Dorinda Bordlee (the two attorneys who founded and run BDF), I am honored to say that they are long-time personal family friends. I am blown away by the work they do: "Law in the Service of Life". Heck, Chief Justice John Roberts cited their research in a recent Supreme Court decision, and it's literally just Nik and Dorinda running all over the country and the globe. Heroes they are, and I don't say that lightly.

The mission of BDF: Bioethics Defense Fund (BDF) is a public-interest law firm whose mission is to advocate for the human right to life via litigation, legislation and public education.

The issues they address: BDF provides legal expertise and public education on the issues of healthcare rights of conscience, abortion and its impact on women, human cloning/destructive human embryo research, and end of life issues including physician-assisted suicide, healthcare rationing and denial of care.

Not to mention the new horizon of human reproductive trafficking, which I hope to address soon on this blog. Really horrific stuff going on and the public needs to be informed. As the Culture of Death expands its dark tentacles, BDF will be there to fight for life on every front. God bless them, and let's always have their back! 

2)  Fear is the enemy of love and hope, and in abortion decisions particularly, fear is the motivating factor. Imagine if we could shake off fear and replace it with love and hope every time a woman conceives a child! This very brief video that was shown at the BDF event pretty much says it all:

Fear is useless. Amen.

3)  Okay, people! How is it possible that we are approaching Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas yet again? How is this happening so fast? Well, just your luck, I have a brilliant way for you and the family to prepare your hearts and minds. The lovely Leila Lawler (I am so blessed to share her name!) and David Clayton have published The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the Home, something I've needed and wanted for a very long time.

You know how it is, right? We moms are trying to get a prayer life going for the family, or have a little "prayer station" or sacred space where members of the family, collectively or individually, can recollect and pray. I never really knew what that was called, but now I know it's an oratory!
"Consisting of a modest table and icons, the little oratory is a visible sign of spiritual awareness and devotion.... Building your own little oratory is simple, and in these pages you'll discover just how easy it is. In fact, you likely have most of the pieces in your home already -- except perhaps the sacred art." 
So guess what? The book includes eight full-color icons ready for framing! Boom, you are setting up your oratory and will be ready for the holy seasons. I love practical help on the road to sanctity.

4)  One crucial reminder from an amazing little book I'm reading on the recommendation of many, Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us, by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen:

Rest easy. God is still in control. And He loves you.

5)  I saw this on Princeton Professor Robert P. George's Facebook page today, and I had no idea this was happening at the Vatican, did you? It looks great!

Today I leave for Rome for the Vatican colloquium entitled "The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage: The Witness of the World's Religions." It will begin on Monday morning with an address by Pope Francis. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks will also speak that morning, as will representatives of the Protestant, Muslim, and Jain traditions. Later we will hear from leaders and scholars drawn from Eastern Orthodoxy, the LDS Church (President Henry Eyring), and the Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist traditions. I'm especially looking forward to speeches by Dr. Jacqueline Cook-Rivers, Pastor Rick Warren, Sister Prudence Allen, and Pastor Christoph Arnold, and Dr. Russell Moore. I will participate in one of the "scholars panels," as will Mary Ann Glendon, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, and several others. Praying folk, please ask for God's blessing for this event. I am hopeful that great good will come of it. We must unite across borders and traditions to uphold marriage and build or rebuild vibrant marriage cultures in our societies. I'm glad that Pope Francis sees that and was willing to have the Vatican convene this gathering of religious leaders and scholars. This is true leadership. I will, as I am able to do so, post reports from the colloquium.

6)  Speaking of marriage, congratulations to my mother and father, who just celebrated their 50th anniversary! I pretty much owe my life to their decision, ha ha. Weren't they adorable? I wore my mom's dress for my own wedding, and my daughter used their cake topper for her wedding.

I love you Mom and Dad!

And since we are doing some family stuff here, I just really wanted to post my son's charcoal drawing. I know you are terrified and backing away from your computer right now, but don't worry, it's not real and it won't actually eat you. Paul is a 16-year-old junior, and the kids at his charter school are required to take art as part of their core curriculum. It is absolutely astounding what all the kids learn and are able to accomplish.

7) Last but not least, I want you to meet Emil. Oh, this boy is already a teenager and he's been waiting too, too long! He has a large grant ready to be used by any family who will adopt him, and he is apparently a real sweetheart.

Click my photo for more info!
From a missionary who visited with him in August 2014:  Emil is a little rascal that loves attention. He likes to climb up on your lap and blow raspberries. After I kissed him on the cheek he kept squishing his face against mine so that I would kiss him again! He is one smart cookie. He can verbalize lots of different sounds, so he would learn to speak in no time. He can stand and take a few steps with assistance when he wants to! He is lots of fun and needs a Mama and Papa!
God bless Emil, and please spread the word. And pray for this boy to find a home.

And just a reminder that if you do your amazon Christmas shopping through this blog (simply by clicking on the Amazon link on the right side of the blog, then shopping as usual), every penny of the commission I get goes to help families bring these orphans home. It's an expensive, grueling journey for the families who step up, and this is one way we can assist them.

Have a fantastic Sunday and thanks to Jen for hosting!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

For moms-of-many who have no support

I've always contended that it's not easy to have and raise eight children, and that is absolutely true, but I want to confess right now that it is easier for me than for many of you out there.

Why? Because I have a city-wide community of friends and acquaintances who have oodles of children, too.

I'm talking dozens of women that I know -- dozens upon dozens -- who have broods. I see them everywhere, I go to events with them, I party with them, our husbands are friends and business colleagues, and we are all in the same boat, child-wise. Ladies with four, five, six... all the way up to eleven kids. One of my closest friends is about to give birth to her ninth child. Our children are friends, too. This reality is not freakish at all in my "bubble" -- it's normal, and it's celebrated. I've never known a time in the past 20 years when multiple friends were not pregnant (we jokingly refer to the "next crop" of babies to come), and I know more women having children into their forties than I can count.

It's Catholic Mecca here in Phoenix. It is a beautiful, wonderful thing.

But I know it's not like that everywhere, and I know that some of you feel isolated and lonely and even ostracized because of your big families. Some dioceses are wastelands as far as following or even understanding the teachings of the Church on marriage and sexuality, and I often hear the frustration from those of you who don't live in a Catholic Mecca, and who are frazzled, weary, and discouraged. It breaks my heart, and I am sorry.

I don't mean to imply that we mothers-of-many here in Phoenix do not get frazzled, weary, and discouraged (because oh boy, we do!), but I want to acknowledge that we have a consolation here that many of you do not have: We have each other -- a built-in support group of friends who are on call at all times. There is no shortage of women with whom to hang out, complain, cry, compare notes, and laugh about the chaos of it all. We see each other's messy houses, our children's shoeless feet and dirty faces, and we don't feel alone with our big-family problems. We feel supported, loved, cared for, understood, even on the days when we are clinging to the very end of our mommy ropes and our sanity. Even those of our friends who do not have large families stand ready to aid and support those who do.

America is an incredible, amazing land. It's the greatest nation on earth. But it's also become a land of comfort and materialism, which is facilitated by contraception and sterilization. In the past, before the sexual revolution and Margaret Sanger's Birth Control League (now Planned Parenthood), mothers everywhere could celebrate new life and commiserate about the difficulties of raising so many little ones along with most everyone else on the block. It wasn't odd or freakish back then. The community of support was natural and the struggles were normal. Clearly, it's not like that today.

I wish every harried Catholic mom could experience the joy of a truly Catholic community, where talking about the trials of a big family is safe among friends; where the women understand that, although it's insanity in our houses and we are often stretched past imagining, we simultaneously love our vocation; and where we have many others picking us up when we get down and reminding us of the beauty and goodness of the life that surrounds us. I cannot remember a time here when a new pregnancy was not celebrated, even when the mother was initially scared out of her mind to see the two pink lines on that dollar store pregnancy test. The support and love for each other and for life is much more overwhelming than any struggles we encounter. This is as it should be!

It is never easy to raise a big family under any circumstances, but with the encouragement of an entire community, it can be oh, so sweet. On our worst days, I know that my friends and I would not have it otherwise.

Which brings me back to my heartache for those of you who do not have a supportive community. I hear you, I weep for you, and I am so sorry. You are truly heroic. You are the light and the witness in a world that needs it, but it's a heavy burden without a circle of friends who know what your life is like. If I had to go it alone, I shudder to think how I'd do.

This post is simply to acknowledge you, and to assure you that God sees what you are doing, and He loves and supports you, even when it feels like no one else does. You have my gratitude and my love, and I admire you more than you will ever know.

And if all else fails, move to Phoenix.

Or Omaha.


Related posts:   How to Raise Eight Children Without Even Trying

                         Is Having Eight Kids Sketchy? 

                         Why I Never Should Have Had Eight Children

                         Parenting: What I've Done Right

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide, and Brittany Maynard

So many thoughts, so much sadness over the last few days. Many in the nation encouraged Brittany Maynard as she approached her planned death by suicide, and many prayed for her to change her mind. I'm just going to throw out some basic points and ponderings, in no particular order, and then we can discuss any or all of it in the comments.

  • First, a quick distinction between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS), in my own non-academic words:
Euthanasia is when a doctor or other health care professional actively and directly kills a patient, usually by a lethal dose. The killing may occur with or without the consent of the patient, and the patient may or may not be terminally ill.  
Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) gives the doctor a more passive role, as he only prescribes the lethal dose but does not administer it. The patient has the pills in his possession and uses them to commit suicide (or not) at his own discretion. 

  • I want to make it clear from the outset: I don't know anything at all about the state of Brittany Maynard's eternal soul. No one can say where she is now, or what will be her eternal destiny. Only God can judge her soul. I can tell you that my heart breaks for her, for her family, and for the medical situation they faced. I am praying for her soul, and I trust in a merciful God. Having said that, we can certainly judge actions as right or wrong, and suicide (the murder of oneself) is always objectively a grave sin. The Catholic Church steadfastly opposes euthanasia, PAS, and suicide, because she stands for the dignity and inviolability of human life, always.

  • This issue has been carefully presented as one of "compassion", and yet this should not be a competition about who who cares more vs. who is mean and heartless; after all, if we measure compassion simply by how much suffering can be avoided at any cost, then the most compassionate thing we could do would be to quickly and painlessly kill infants as they are born, no? Because no one gets out of this life without excruciating suffering of some type or another. Suffering is not meaningless, and it is in the mystery of great suffering that we are often most human, and closest to the Divine. Killing human beings is never, ever "compassion". 

  • This national debate that Brittany actively and intentionally brought to the fore is not about whether or not she would be able to choose death. People who have severe suffering (physical, mental, and/or emotional) kill themselves every day and no one can stop them. No one could have stopped Brittany from committing suicide, especially as she had the support of her family in doing so. Brittany's firmly stated cause was to push for policy changes in all states, for implementation of legal physician-assisted suicide. The result of such laws is a corruption of the practice of medicine, making our health care professionals complicit in killing human beings (similar to what happened with legal abortion), and it is not a road we want to go down as a society. If you are unconvinced, take a look at where the Netherlands and Belgium are with euthanasia now -- The Dutch are euthanizing the clinically depressed, and Belgium recently voted to euthanize children. It used to be axiomatic: Doctors should be healers, not killers. 

  • The news of Brittany's death was not released by her family, but by "Compassion and Choices" (formerly known as the Hemlock Society). That fact alone is bizarre, and it appears that she was used as a poster child for a political cause. She will continue to be used from here on in, and she will be used because she's young and beautiful. The many old and unattractive people who kill themselves, or whom doctors help to kill, do not make for good fundraising, advertising, or advocacy. They are not as useful and appealing when promoting death and suicide. For a day, it looked as if Brittany would let the November 1 suicide date pass by. She hinted in a video that she might want to live a little longer, that life was still good. Then, the next day, "Compassion and Choices" announces that she had "died with dignity". Some have wondered... was there great pressure to keep the date? To show how right was the cause? To make the much-anticipated and widely-cheered event go off as planned? I can't imagine the pressure. The euthanasia advocates finally had their perfect spokesperson ("She is the most natural spokesperson I have ever heard in my life.... she's teaching the world"), and they had the global spotlight. They needed everything to play out as promised. The worst thing that could happen for the "cause" would be a change of heart by Brittany. Anyone else have a weird feeling about this?

  • Advocates for legalized PAS have repeatedly stated that no one knows the suffering Brittany endured because they don't have terminal brain cancer. And yet, there are those with advanced brain cancer who have responded. Maggie Karner, who has the very same brain cancer as Brittany, deserves a chance to be heard. In this short video, she speaks directly to Brittany, beautifully and lovingly, with a message of hope rather than fear or death:

  • And others who have witnessed the very suffering that Brittany killed herself to avoid include my friend Lisa, who wrote to me: 
My husband died from the same brain cancer and never gave up; he told me he wanted to fight to his last breath, and that is exactly what he did; THAT is heroism. To all those still know who you are...don't let anyone steal your hope!! I have been beside myself as I watch the Culture of Death creep into our society.  It's absolutely devastating.  I imagine a day that doesn't seem so far off when people kill themselves because they had a bad day, all in the name of 'choice'. 
It feels like a celebration of death!  It makes me feel like everyone who is fighting, or who has fought for their lives are somehow less heroic than this misguided young lady.  I have a good friend fighting brain cancer as I type and she posted on my wall about how bad she's feeling.*  People like her need encouragement, not to be robbed of hope!
I keep looking at all the brain tumor warrior pages and wonder why they aren't lauded as being heroic. It really hurts. My husband didn't die in vain and will be more of a hero to me than anyone who is used as a pawn in a political issue.  All this news coverage in the name of 'choice' just. hurts.
*Here is the note from Lisa's friend fighting brain cancer: 'I'm glad you're speaking up. I don't think a lot of people realize how much they're hurting others when they call this woman a hero. I had one lady tell me that "[Brittany's] a hero for not making her family take care of her anymore" and it cut me so deeply- was I so selfish to make my family care for me after surgery? What if it'd gone badly? Should I have opted for death rather than inconvenience them?'

  • Remember after Robin Williams' suicide? Everyone was so devastated, and it hurt so much more than if he had died in any other way. But why were we devastated? He was simply ending his excruciating suffering, wasn't he? One could even argue that he was in a greater state of suffering at his death than Brittany was at hers. "It's not the same," you say, "because Robin Williams was not dying!" And yet, the argument Brittany made for her suicide was not about the fact that she was dying, but that she was going to face great suffering ahead.  It was the suffering that was to be avoided at all costs, even the cost of an early, planned death. So, how is that different from Williams? He was in agony, clearly. He saw greater suffering ahead. He felt there would be no help for his pain. He ended his agony. Why was he wrong and Brittany right? Help me understand.

  • Here's where it gets intensely personal for me: I have two very close family members who are currently fighting advanced cancers. Neither cancer is medically curable. I will not launch into the amount of suffering that they have and will endure, but I can tell you that my loved ones have been fighting the scourge of cancer like heroes. There is no moral mandate that they keep fighting indefinitely (please understand that!), but they have fought their diseases with courage and dignity, and they will continue to do so. Life is precious, and it is not our own. There are millions around the nation fighting advanced cancer. When and if their cancer gets too advanced, and if they do die from it, they will have their dignity to their very last breaths. They will have died with dignity. To say that "Brittany Maynard died with dignity" by committing suicide, and to say that suicide is "courageous", implies that it is not dignified and not courageous to die otherwise. It is a slap in the face to my loved ones and to millions of others. Remember when we as a nation cheered Michael Landon as he refused to allow advanced pancreatic cancer to steal even one more day of his life that it had to?  We were so moved, we were proud, we knew him to be a man of courage, a hero. Oh, how our culture has changed. "Death with dignity" is a euphemism for suicide, in the same way that "choice" is a euphemism for abortion. Suicide is not a good, and it is not in keeping with human dignity. For all those patients fighting the good fight, calling suicide "courageous" is a kick in the gut. 

  • And one last thing. Miracles, even on a massive scale, do still occur:

Okay, I'm ready to discuss if you are.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Just Curious: Siblings!

I am in the middle of back-to-back visits from my out-of-town daughters, with a two-day overlap. It's been wonderfully joyful to have them in the house again! My younger daughter (who is expecting a baby boy!) flew in to surprise her little brothers, especially the youngest, who has missed her so much, and my elder daughter came with my adorable granddaughter! My adult son came home from college over the weekend to see his sisters and niece (we were only missing our two fabulous sons-in-law), and all this excitement has left no time for blogging.

But it did make me think of how beautiful is the sibling bond, and it has me wondering:

How many siblings do you have? Are they boys or girls? And where do you fall in the lineup? 

I am the younger of two sisters. We are 19 months apart, and while we did not exactly get along when we were growing up, we are now best of friends! I always wanted a brother, but that was not to be.

One thing that strikes me as so funny now that I am surrounded by not only my own children and grandchildren, but also by my friends' children (soooooo many children!!) is that I never, ever, ever had any babies in my life until I had my own. I didn't have younger siblings, I didn't babysit, my friends didn't have babies in their homes, and I am not even sure I held actual babies more than a handful of times before my first daughter was born. My husband's situation was very similar, as he only had one sibling as well (a younger brother).

I have learned that big families come with unique blessings, such as...

Big sisters who are like second mommies:

Uncles who are just a few years older than nieces, so they can grow up as friends [please note that my granddaughter blows excellent raspberries; she is clearly a genius]:

The number of family members who fawn over the newest baby's sonograms keeps growing. Here are the latest pictures of our beautiful grandson:

Already praying? A future pope, perhaps? 

And a million other reasons, which boil down to love and more love -- oh, and more chances to sacrifice, suffer, and get holy!

Okay, now it's your turn. Whether you are an only child or one of a huge brood, tell me about your siblings (or lack thereof). I'm truly curious and look forward to your comments!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Like a Virgin -- like you've never seen it

When I was young and stupid in 1984, I positively reveled in Madonna's blockbuster hit, Like a Virgin, and my 17-year-old self was blown away by the pop phenomenon's live stage performance during which she writhed around on the floor in a white wedding gown -- a scene still seared in my memory. I never could have imagined that 30 years later I would hear a new incarnation of the song and get chills. And want to cry. And be absolutely transfixed. And be so incredibly grateful to know what this sister knows. 


From my obsession with Madonna in the '80s to my obsession with my Faith today, I just can't believe how far the Lord has taken me. The lyrics, which once seemed to me deliciously scandalous, provocative, titillating, now reflect for me exactly how it is and how it feels to be transformed by Christ. I really don't even have words for the beauty of what Sister Cristina has done here. She gets it. I get it. Together we get it -- no less than the secret of the universe. And my friend Leticia Adams gets it, as one who was redeemed and transformed by the Bridegroom after her "life living in slutsville". Read what she has to say.

I sit here tonight so grateful for the pure gift of grace that is our Catholic Faith. 

Thank you, Jesus. And thank you, Sister, for redeeming my experience of the song, three decades later. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pope Francis' closing statement to the Synod. Worth the read!

Originally posted by Rodrigo Guerra López. Thank you!

Pope Francis at the conclusion of the 
Extraordinary Synod on the Family
October 18, 2014

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!