Saturday, March 29, 2014

Quick Takes: Obama, Francis, Noah. Oh, and Leila "spreading the hate"

1) So Barack Obama goes to the Vatican and meets with Pope Francis for the first time. The Vatican then reports one thing and Obama reports a very different thing about what was actually discussed and emphasized. I wonder who can be trusted to be telling the truth here?
Looks a little bit like someone's at the principal's office.

I liked this insightful observation by Fr. Steve Grunow (h/t Brandon Vogt):
Today the Holy Father met with the President of the United States, one of many meetings with heads of state that happens in the course of the year at the Vatican. The strangeness of this should strike us given that the Holy Father is the successor of a Galilean fisherman, put to death by the powers of the world, a fisherman who was himself appointed to a mission by Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the power of Caesar. And now the successors of Caesar make their way to the successor of Peter. It's odd. It is strange and in its own peculiar way, it is a sign that the world has actually been upended by the revelation of Christ.
It reminds me of this:

Anyway, let us pray for the softening of Caesar's Obama's heart.

2) Don't be afraid to go see the movie Noah! My daughter looked into and dismissed the largely contrived controversies (fueled by non-Catholic Christian groups), and then she and her husband took my teenaged son to see it last night on IMAX. They are all faithful, knowledgable Catholics, and they all enjoyed it. It was not offensive or stupid… well, except for the "rock people", ha ha.

Disclaimer: I will not refund your money if you see it and hate it. (But do accept my apologies in advance!)

3) Cute!

4) This was fascinating to me!

Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob was diagnosed with autism when he was 2, and doctors said he would never speak. She tried special education programs and therapies aimed at addressing his limitations. When teachers told her there was no hope, she rebelled and took her own path. 
“A lot of people thought that I had lost my mind,” she recalls. 
Instead of focusing on Jacob’s limitations, Kristine nurtured his interests. Now her 15-year-old son is on track to win a Nobel Prize for his work in theoretical physics.

Jacob and his mother Kristine are interviewed here:

5) Kind of a fun badge of honor, as I am on someone's list of "annoying Catholics":

Well, gosh, I can't blame this person entirely, as I am a Catholic and I certainly can be annoying.

I showed this to my adult, engaged, college-student daughter who laughed out loud and then said, "Wow, that is completely insulting to me." Yes, honey, it sure is. Hey, "pearls_clutched", why not join the discussion instead of being passive aggressive on another site? You're always welcome here. Come state your case, and let's reason it through.

6) If you have a child who is about to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), you really need to get this amazing book: A Little Book about Confession for Children:

My son came home from school with it (thank you, Mary Jo!), and I am so impressed. Trust me, it's fantastic, and it's not only good for children (my son is reading it out loud to me), but for anyone who wants a thorough and easy understanding of every facet of Confession.

7) Look at Julie! Just two years old, and ready to have a family of her own.

Click my picture for another photo and more information! 

Here is a description of this lovely little princess:
Julie has a big smile with huge dimples! She plays well alone and is known by her caregivers as being smart, lovely and pleasant. She is a strong little girl who can stand with help. She likes to play hide and seek and giggles when teased. Her favorite toys are those that make noise when shaken. Julie has also been diagnosed with a heart condition.
Let's pray her home, guys. Her adoptive parents are out there somewhere.

And while we're at it, thanks to Nubby for directing me to this wonderful video about an NHL coach who has a son with Down syndrome. Truly heartwarming:

Many blessings for a wonderful weekend!

Thanks to Jen, as always, for hosting!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Humans never become angels

With apologies to Clarence of It's a Wonderful Life (and all those good-hearted, well-meaning folks who comfort the grieving by saying that "Heaven just gained another angel"), our pop theology is all wrong. We humans will never become angels, and angels have never been human beings.

Angels and humans are completely different creatures. Both are made in the image and likeness of God in that each possesses an intellect and a will, but we cannot "turn into" one another.

Angels are pure spirits without bodies. Because they have no bodies, they are neither male nor female, though they can appear in bodily form for God's purposes. 

Humans are body and soul. We humans are only truly integrated when body and soul are united. We are not complete without our bodies, which is the reason that death is so unnatural for us, so hard to accept, so excruciating, so wrong. Death is a wrenching apart of what should be together, an unnatural, violent division of our essence. We were not created to be disembodied spirits as angels are.

Heaven is a place where the holy ones dwell, where both angels and humans share in the Beatific Vision. Angels don't need to die to get to Heaven of course (because without bodies, they cannot die), and humans who die in friendship with God will be perfected saints in Heaven (usually after undergoing a purgation/cleansing).  

So, it is correct to say that human beings in Heaven are saints, but never angels.

At the Final or General Judgement (as opposed to our own Particular Judgement), our souls will be reunited with their resurrected bodies -- bodies that will be glorified and transfigured, and not subject to the constraints, defects, and illnesses they had on earth. We will be as we should be: body and soul, integrated and whole.

Unfortunately, some Christians see the body as "less than" the soul, almost as a necessary evil that houses us until the day that the soul is freed from the shackles of the body. But how wrong this is! As Catholics, we know that God created us out of matter and called it "good". Our Savior then took on our nature by taking on a real body, as a real man. When He redeemed the fallen world by offering His human flesh on the Cross, He redeemed all bodies and all material creation. The Incarnation (God becoming Man) has implications in all we do as Catholics, from our theology to our liturgy and sacraments. Matter matters, as Jesus taught us. It is integral to Christianity, and to understanding Truth.

Another interesting fact is that angels are actually a higher order of creation than humans, with intellects that far surpass our own. Did you ever wonder why Lucifer and a third of the other angels rebelled against God before the creation of the material world? Well, it's traditionally held that God had revealed to the angels the future plan for His Son's Incarnation, and that Lucifer and his minions could not stand the thought of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity becoming a lowly human instead of an angel. Such a humiliating plan, God taking on human flesh, was too much for them to accept. They rebelled with Lucifer, whose rallying cry remains, non serviam or "I will not serve."

The angels who stayed faithful and obedient to God are those who share Heaven with the saints, i.e., the humans who are perfectly holy, as the angels are holy.

Now, all of this does not mean you can't still enjoy It's a Wonderful Life! It's one of the best movies out there, but it's not a theological work. Just keep in mind that movies are make-believe, humans don't become angels, and angels don't actually even have wings. 

I still love you, Clarence!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sheen: Meditation on PRUDENCE

Background and Part I, here.
Part II, here.

Continuing with Lenten meditations on the Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

The Third Word:
"Woman, behold thy son…. (Son) behold thy mother."

The Corresponding Virtue:

Excerpts from Sheen's February 25, 1940 address:

[T]hough men failed in this crisis [the Lord's Passion], there is no instance of a single woman failing. In the four trials the voice heard in His defense was that of a woman, Claudia Procul the wife of Pontius Pilate, warning her husband not to do anything unjust to that just man…. On the way to Calvary, it is the woman who offers consolation, first Veronica wiping away the blood and sweat from His Sacred Face … then the holy women to whom the Prisoner turned suggesting that only such multiplied mercies and charities as their own could avert catastrophe for their children…. Again on Calvary it is woman who is fearless, for there are several of them at the foot of the Cross. Magdalene, among them as usual, is prostrate. But there is one whose courage and devotion was so remarkable that the Evangelist who was there indicated that she was "standing." That woman was the Mother of the Man on the Central Cross.

Since He was the second Adam undoing the sin of the first, Mary would be the new Eve proclaiming the glory of womanhood in the new race of the redeemed. The woman Eve would not be so cursed that her most glorious daughter could not undo her evil. As a woman had shared in the fall of man, so woman should share in his redemption. 

Mary is a creature, human, not Divine. We Catholics do not adore Mary. That would be idolatry. But we do reverence her. And to those Christians who have forgotten Mary, may I ask if it is proper for you to forget her whom He remembered on the Cross? Will you bear no love for that woman through the portals of whose flesh, as the Gate of Heaven, He came to earth?

The gift of Mary was extremely prudent because it took cognizance of the difference between two faculties: The intellect, which knows, and the will, which loves. The intellect always whittles down the object to suit itself. That is why the intellect always insists on examples, explanations, and analogies. Every teacher must accommodate himself to the mentality of his class, and if the problem which he is presenting is abstract and complicated, he must break it up into the concrete, as Our Lord described the mysteries of the Kingdom of God in parables. 

But the will never works that way. While the intellect pulls down the object of knowledge to its level, the will always goes out to meet the object. If you love something, you lift yourself up to its level; if you love music you subject yourself to its demands, and if you love exploring you meet its conditions. We tend to become like that which we love…. It follows that the higher our loves and ideals, the nobler will be our character.

Our Divine Lord gave us His Mother as our mother. Too beautiful a treasure to keep only for Himself, He willed to share her with us. She was to become our Mother in the supernatural life of the Kingdom of God as really as a woman is our earthly mother in the human order. In giving her to us, He was equivalently saying: "Never do anything of which your Heavenly Mother would be ashamed." The nobler the love, the nobler the character; and what nobler love could be given to men than the woman whom the Saviour of the world chose as His own Mother?


Why is it that the world has confessed its inability to inculcate virtue in the young? Very simply because it has not co-related morality to any love nobler than self-love. Things keep their proportion and fulfill their proper role only when integrated into a larger whole. Most lives are like doors without hinges or sleeves without coats, or bows without violins; that is, unrelated to wholes or purposes which give them meaning…. The modern emphasis on sex is a result of tearing a function away from a purpose, a part away from a whole.


The level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. What they are, men will be, for, to repeat, love always goes out to meet the demands of the object loved. Given a woman like the Mother of Our Lord as our supernatural Mother, you have one of the greatest inspirations for nobler living this world has ever known.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Mother


Monday, March 10, 2014

Sheen: Meditation on HOPE

Background and Part I of this series can be found here.

Continuing with Lenten meditations on the Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

The Second Word:
"This Day Thou Shalt Be With Me In Paradise."

The Corresponding Virtue:

Excerpts from Sheen's February 18, 1940 address:

[W]e speak of the virtue of Hope to differentiate it from the emotion of Hope. The emotion centers in the body and is a kind of dreamy desire that we can be saved without much effort. The virtue of Hope, however, is centered in the will and may be defined as a divinely infused disposition of the will by which with sure confidence, thanks to the powerful help of Almighty God, we expect to pursue eternal happiness, using all the means necessary for attaining it. The virtue of Hope lies not in the future of time, but beyond the tomb in eternity; its object is not the abundant life of earth, but the eternal love of God.

[Jesus was crucified between two thieves.]

As one gazes on that spectacle of three crosses silhouetted against a black and frightened sky, one sees in prospect the future judgment of the world; the Judge in the center and the two division of humanity on either side: The Sheep and the goats; the blessed and the lost; those who love and those who hate; for the end shall be as the beginning, except that Christ shall appear for the final judgment not on the cross of ignominy but in glory in the clouds of heaven.

In a single moment a soul with a genuine fear of God can come to a greater understanding of the purpose of life than in a life-time spent in the study of the ephemeral philosophies of men. That is why death-bed conversions may be sincere conversions. The hardened soul disbelieves in God until that awful moment when he has no one to deceive but himself. Once the spark of salutary fear of God had jumped into the soul of the thief from the flaming furnace of that central Cross, fear gave way to faith.

Two thieves there were: One who loved and one who hated. Each was on a cross. Neither the good nor the bad can ever escape the cross. One thief was saved; therefore let no one despair. One thief was lost; therefore let no one presume. The two extremes to be avoided then are presumption and despair. Presumption is an excess of hope and despair is a defect of hope.

What we all have to realize is that when we sin we turn our back on God. He does not turn His back on us. If we are ever to see His face again we must turn around, that is, turn from sin. That is what is meant by conversion…. God cannot save us without that conversion; if we die in our unrepentant sin we are forever turned away from God. Where the tree falleth, there it lies. There is no reversal of values after death. We cannot love sin during life and begin to love virtue at death. The joys of heaven are the continuance of the Christ-like joys of earth. We do not develop a new set of loves with our last breath.

If He forgave the thief and Magdalene and Peter, why not you? What makes many in old age sad is not that their joys are gone, but that their hopes are gone. Your earthly hopes may decrease with the years, but not heavenly hope. Regardless of the sinful burden of the years, God's mercy is greater than your faults. Only when God ceases to be infinitely merciful and only when you begin to be infinitely evil, will there be reason for despair; and that will be never.

If you insist that you are disgusted with yourself, may I say that you can come to God even by a succession of disgusts? What does your disgust mean except that everything earthly has failed you? That is one of the ways God makes you feel hunger for the Divine. Do you not crave food most when you are hungry? Do you not want water most when you are thirsty? Your own disgust, if you knew it, is the distant call of Divine Mercy. If then the poverty of your merits makes you shrink from the Divine Presence, then let your needs draw you to it. And that, incidentally, is why we Catholics find comfort and solace in the Sacrament of Penance. When we are disgusted with our sins we can go into a little booth called a confessional box, unload our misery, have our sins washed away, and start life all over again. I know a thousand psycho-analysts who will explain sins away, but that is not what we want. We want them forgiven.

The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sheen: Meditation on FORTITUDE

I am repeating the Lenten series I ran last year on the Bubble. You won't be sorry if you dive in, either again or for the first time. Gems. Pure spiritual gems.


Eighteen years ago as I was coming back into the Church, my mother gave me an out-of-print book that my late grandfather had owned, written by Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen, later archbishop.

The book, The Seven Last Words and the Seven Virtues, was transcribed from Sheen's radio talks in 1940 and is a meditation on the seven last statements ("words") that Jesus spoke from the Cross, corresponded with the seven virtues of fortitude, hope, prudence, faith, temperance, justice, and charity. After 27 years of banal homilies and fluffy catechesis, I was blown away by Sheen's simple, profound way of exploring and explaining the Faith.

It made sense when I later learned that Archbishop Sheen had been a household name in America for decades, hosting his own national radio and television shows, and even winning an Emmy. Non-Catholics admired and loved the man as much as Catholics, and my own wonderful aunt (a Protestant) still talks of him so fondly and watches his videos when she comes across them.

Archbishop Sheen died in 1979, and recently his cause for canonization was opened.

Anyway, in cleaning out my dusty bookshelves for Lent, I stumbled again upon the book, and I knew that I had found my Lenten reading. Eighteen years later, the material is as rich and stirring as I remember.

I would like to share the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen with you over the next weeks, by posting brief excerpts from each chapter, for meditation, though the excerpts surely do not do justice to the whole.*

The First Word: 
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

The Corresponding Virtue: 

Fortitude is that virtue which enables us to face undismayed and fearlessly the difficulties and dangers which stand in the way of duty and goodness. It stands midway between foolhardiness, which rushes into danger heedlessly, and cowardice, which flees from it recreantly. Because Fortitude is related to bravery, it must not be thought that bravery is devoid of fear; rather it is control of fear …. It is in the presence of the fear of death that Fortitude reaches its peak; that is why the highest peak of supernatural Fortitude is martyrdom.

[Jesus'] first word from the Cross is not in self defense, not a protestation of His own innocence, not a fear of death nor a plea for deliverance, nor even a fear of enemies. Fear of death makes most men turn away from doing good. It makes even innocent men thoughtful of themselves as they proclaim their innocence to their executioners. Not so with Him. Fortitude reaches the peak of self-forgetfulness. On the Cross He thinks only of others and their salvation. For his first word is not about death, but about the good it will accomplish; it is directed not to His friends, His Apostles, or His believers who will proclaim His gospel, but to those who hate Him and His Apostles and His Church …. Often during his life He preached: "Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you" (Matt 5:44). Now that He is strong enough to ignore death, He the Conqueror bestows on His momentary conquerors the very thing they had forfeited by their sins -- forgiveness.

Of all the nonsense our modern world has invented nothing surpasses the catch-words or claptrap we give the unfortunate or the sick: "Keep your chin up" or "Forget it." This is not solace, but a drug. Consolation is in explaining suffering, not forgetting it; in relating it to Love, not ignoring it; in making it an expiation for sin, not another sin. But who shall understand this unless he looks at a Cross and loves the Crucified?

There is no challenging the fact that Catholics could get on better with the world if they were less Catholic. Not a single sentence can be found in the words of our Divine Lord promising you the love of the world because of your faith. But you can find a golden string of texts warning you that the world will hate you because you are His….

[I]f Catholics will not be strong in their love of Christ because of Christ, then let them be strong out of fear of the scandal of their weakness. The example of a bad Catholic is most often appealed to as a justification for evil. Why is it that the world is more scandalized at a bad Catholic than a bad anything else, if it be not because his fall is rightfully measured by the heights from which he has fallen? 

[E]ntering into the Church lifts us into another world -- the supernatural world. It gives us a new set of values, a new objective, new ways of thinking, new standards of judgment, all of which are in opposition to the spirit of the world. The world with its hatred of discipline, its courtesy to the flesh, and its indifference to truth, cannot tolerate a life based upon the primacy of Christ and the salvation of souls.

Peace, we are just discovering, is in the identity of our will with God who wills our perfection. When we disobey His will we are not asserting our independence; we are mutilating our personality as we might mutilate a razor by using it to cut a tree. Being made for God, we can be happy only with Him. All our misery is traceable to that rebellion. All our peace is traceable to training the lower part of ourselves in service to Him. Hence the Cross, the symbol of that sacrifice inspired by love.


*Note: The whole of the chapter discusses three types of souls who need the virtue of fortitude in order to have peace: "Those who suffer and mourn, saying 'What have I done to deserve this?'; those who possess faith, but who through a love of the world deny their faith or hide it; and those who do not possess the faith, but are convince of its truth and yet refuse to pay the price."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Quick Takes: a heart-breaker, a brain-imploder, and a desktop meme clean-up

Note: If you are seeing my posts in script, I am sorry! It's not the font I'm using; it may be related to the computer or program you are on. Script is hard to read, and I would never choose it for the blog. 

Welcome to my latest Quick Takes, even as the never-say-die post has passed the 1,000-comment mark! I am just flabbergasted. But I'm trying to move on just a bit….

1) The next time someone tells me that mothers and fathers are interchangeable in a child's life and that fathers do not matter, I will simply link to this:

In our hearts, we all understand this. We know. 

2) Speaking of things we know in our hearts (and the absuuuurrrd lengths we will go in order to fool our own consciences), get a load of Cecile Richard's latest doozy: 
The president of the country’s largest abortion provider said she didn’t think the matter of when life begins is pertinent to the issue [of abortion]. 
I know. I had to read that twice, too. My brain twisted, strained, and then...
“It is not something that I feel is really part of this conversation,” Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Thursday. “I don’t know if it’s really relevant to the conversation.” 
Yes, that happened. She just said that. 
When pressed, Richards said that in her view life began for her three children when she delivered them. 
Yes, that just happened, too. 
She explained that the purpose of her organization is not to answer a question that “will be debated through the centuries,” but to provide options for pregnant women.
Then, my brain imploded. 

And this, my friends, is one of our nation's most respected elites, who has the ear of Barack Obama, free and easy access to the White House, and millions upon millions of your tax dollars. 

Lord, have mercy.

3) So I tend to save a lot of facebook memes to my desktop if they grab my attention. Unfortunately, they then have a habit of sitting there for months until I use them or trash them. I have decided to clear up my computer screen by posting some here. 

This one pretty much sums up the culture war in general, ha ha:

And this meme takes on the biggest current battle in the culture war and says a whole lot in a little bitty space:

4) Memes are sort of like bumper stickers, it's true, but that doesn't mean they are all trite. Here are three that will bear some serious fruit when meditated upon:

5) This one just made me chuckle, even though I believe my family members could turn it around on me. Hmmmmm….

6) I have begun taking screenshots of delicious recipes/dishes I see on facebook, and then I send the screenshot to my husband with a "Wow, this looks so good, can we* make this??"

He has made the first two, with great results! I think I should probably be able to handle the third one. Maybe tomorrow I'll try it, because after all… tomorrow is another day! [Scarlett O'Hara being one of my role models.]

*"we" of course means "you"

7) Oh, be still my heart!! Look at Andy! A seven-year-old cutie with Down syndrome, in need of a family to call his own:

Click my photo for more info! I have a large grant!

From a 2013 update:

Andy is in his 3rd year of Kindergarten (which is the equivalent to USA preschool) and the hope is that he will attend the special education school for the next school year. He enjoys going to the community center on most nights so that he can dance to the music. He is waiting for his forever family to find him so he can dance into their hearts.


Have a blessed week as we move into Lent!

And thanks to Jen, for hosting!