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!

Friday, October 17, 2014

You want true peace? Three steps.

This is not groundbreaking to anyone else, but a couple of weeks ago, I had my own little epiphany.

To experience true peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding, one must do three things:

1) Forgive.  And I mean truly forgive, and I mean everyone.

2) Detach.  Detach from all earthly, creaturely things so as to attach to God.

3) Accept.  Accept all joys and sufferings as if they came to you from the Hand of God.

No, it is not easy, but yep, it is just that simple.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Quick Takes: Guess who I met?! (Take #6)

Late have I posted thee, Quick Takes...

1)   I have read a lot about discerning God's will over the years, and I've even written about it myself. But this piece by Peter Kreeft is the best I've seen yet:

Kreeft gives us five principles and six clues to discern the correct path when we are in doubt. Check this out:

Here is a sixth clue. If God has one right choice in everything you do, then you can't draw any line. That means that God wants you to know which room to clean first, the kitchen or the bedroom, and which dish to pick up first, the plate or the saucer. You see, if you carry out this principle's logical implications, it shows itself to be ridiculous, unlivable, and certainly not the kind of life God wants for us—the kind described in the Bible and the lives of the saints. 
Clue number six is the principle that many diverse things are good; that good is plural. Even for the same person, there are often two or more choices that are both good. Good is kaleidoscopic. Many roads are right. The road to the beach is right and the road to the mountains is right, for God awaits us in both places. Goodness is multicolored. Only pure evil lacks color and variety. In hell there is no color, no individuality. Souls are melted down like lead, or chewed up together in Satan's mouth. The two most uniform places on earth are prisons and armies, not the church. 
Take a specific instance where different choices are both equally good. Take married sex. As long as you stay within God's law—no adultery, no cruelty, no egotism, no unnatural acts, as, for example, contraception—anything goes. Use your imagination. Is there one and only one way God wants you to make love to your spouse? What a silly question! Yet making love to your spouse is a great good, and God's will. He wants you to decide to be tender or wild, moving or still, loud or quiet, so that your spouse knows it's you, not anyone else, not some book who's deciding.

Read it all here, and stop fretting about what to do!

2)   The press and social media have been abuzz with the tragic story of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who is suffering from a devastating cancer and is set to commit physician-assisted suicide in just a few days. This poignant response to Brittany comes from another young woman who is also dying of cancer:

Please pray for all involved, and please remember that the "right to die" eventually becomes the "duty to die". Lord, have mercy.

3)  A while back, I began to press my friend Jenni (mother of nine, longtime blogger) to write her husband's vasectomy reversal story. She was gracious enough to give in to my pestering, and the result is here:

Jenni and her husband are not the only couple I know to have undergone a reversal of either a vasectomy or a tubal ligation. Although the Church does not require reversal for those who repent of the sin of sterilization, it's an incredibly healing and beautiful act for those who can take that step. And God willing, it often ends in the gift of more children.

Get Jenni's blog, Circling Jericho, on your blog roll or reading list; her writing is beautiful and she keeps it real, all the time

4)  "When did female empowerment become female infantilization?"

Yeah, that's what I'd like to know!

"Women once were encouraged to be strong and independent, to brush aside insensitive words and actions and to emerge stronger. But now, politicians, pundits, even celebrities are feeding an outrage machine by telling women they should be offended by anything and everything."
And as a woman, that offends me! This is dead on:

If I were a feminist... well, I am a classical feminist, but if I were a feminist as manifested today, I would feel weak and frightened and threatened by every word spoken or act taken that did not agree with my very narrow worldview. I would feel like a victim at every turn, to the point of not being able to hear someone say "bossy" without starting a national movement to eradicate the word, and the seemingly innocuous acronym "TMI" would assault my delicate ears as a personal affront (read the article; this is for real). Goodness, I would be so helpless that I'd be reduced to forcing others buy my contraception for me (if I used it, which I don't), because it's too tough to walk to the Walgreens on the corner and use my own money to buy it, and it's unthinkable to even suggest that my lazy boyfriend/partner/husband get off the couch and pay for the contraception himself.

I'm glad I'm not a modern-day feminist because I prefer to be strong, competent, and independent. And all grown up.

5)  I'm pretty sure I'm a crack cocaine Words With Friends addict. (Sorry, I get those two things confused.)

6) So, I just got home from the most amazing evening! Five hundred of us gathered to support 1st Way Pregnancy Center and to hear this wise and beautiful woman speak:

Shameless picture-dropping

Abby Johnson, when I read your book and even posted about it, never did I imagine I would one day call you a friend. You are a gifted speaker, and honestly, you could be a stand-up comedienne with your perfectly timed comic relief in the midst of an incredibly delicate subject. You had us rolling in laughter -- and shedding a few tears as well. Someone on Facebook said tonight that she could have listened to you all night. I concur. Yes, I'm all fan-girly right now. But honestly folks, there is a reason that the abortion industry is very, very afraid of this woman. Abby, keep kicking the devil's butt. You were made for this.

7)  And maybe someone out there was made for little Jesse.... He needs parents, and perhaps they are reading this right now:

Click my picture for more info!

Jesse is four years old and is blind. He had a difficult start in life, but is doing well now. From his profile page:
He was abandoned at the gates of his orphanage when he was 9 months old. His blindness was caused by an untreated eye infection, and he was so ill he was sent to a palliative care home to die. He arrived a very sick and frightened little boy but was nursed back to health and given the opportunity to gain confidence and trust others around him. He is currently healthy with no further medical problems but is delayed in some areas of his development such as walking and feeding himself.
Read more about Jesse here, and please pray for this precious child to find a family of his own.


Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks to Jen for hosting!

Friday, October 3, 2014

It was not moral for the U.S. to drop the atomic bomb

This may be a first for the Bubble: A discussion about the morality of dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to bring about the end of World War II. Many faithful Catholics in America are confused on this issue, so let's try to get clarity. 

First, please understand that confronting this issue did not come easy for me. When I finally came into my Faith twenty years ago after realizing that the Church is what she claims to be, I had to bend my will on a number of major issues. One of those issues was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. I had always been a supporter of that action, but I had to reverse my position. Once I decided that following Christ and His Church was more important to me than even my strong American sensibilities, there was no other option.*

Now, you all know how much I love and admire Dennis Prager. He is a Jewish scholar and commentator who is brilliant and logical and good, and it is his motto that undergirds my blog: "I prefer clarity to agreement." Recently, as part of the ongoing Prager University videos (which I normally adore), a priest gave a talk about why it was not wrong to drop the atom bomb on Japan. I cringed. I have no idea how the priest was able to argue that error in light of Church teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear:
Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons—especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons—to commit such crimes. (CCC 2314)
There is no wiggle room here.

Now, I understand that many people of good will argue that The Bomb was simply the only course of action to preserve our nation, our freedom, our way of life, the lives of millions of innocents that may have perished if we didn't act, etc. They say that our action reduced net suffering and prevented the deaths of many more innocents than it caused, and that we mitigated a greater evil by performing these military strikes. That is the justification I used myself, and it's what I hear most often from supporters of the bombings.

But Catholics know from moral theology and Moral Reasoning 101 that we have no permission to sin, even if we mean to bring about a greater good. We've discussed before that the ends do not justify the means, ever.

Think about it logically: If we are permitted to commit evil in order to bring about good, then what on earth can't be justified? If we may target and kill a few hundred thousand non-combatants to win an important war, then why may others not kill a few million in gas chambers or gulags to save a nation and a way of life? Hypothetically, if I could save the whole world and all her treasures by torturing and murdering just one child (maybe your child?), I should do it, right?


Evil is evil and we may take no part in it, even to bring about a greater good. Heck, there is not a genocidal dictator who has ever lived who did not justify his crimes against humanity by appealing to what he believed to be a greater good.

Psychologically speaking, there is something else about the nature of the atomic bomb that lulls even good Catholics and good Americans into perceiving it as morally licit: When great distance lies between a killer and a victim, the conscience tends to deaden. Catholic Answers' writer Christopher Check ("Dropping the Atomic Bomb was Wrong. Period.") refers to retired Army Ranger Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's findings on the topic:

...while psychological trauma is not uncommon among infantrymen who have been in close combat, Col. Grossman did not find “a single instance of psychiatric trauma” associated with long-range killing. That includes the pilot and crew of the Enola Gay, the B-29 Super Fortress that dropped “Little Boy” on the people of Hiroshima. Indeed, Enola Gay’s pilot, Col. Paul Tibbets, went to his death claiming that he never felt guilt or lost sleep over having dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Indeed, he flew reenactments of the event at air shows. 
Grossman provides eerily antiseptic testimony given by Allied bomber pilots and crews who firebombed Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo. These campaigns together claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 noncombatants, mostly women, children, and elderly (because men of fighting age were off fighting). The bombers reported feeling “fascination” and “satisfaction” but not guilt or regret. 
Grossman’s argument should provoke us to ask if many people’s comfort with the bomb does not derive, at least in part, from a condition of distance from the event. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 180,000 civilians. Would supporters of the bombings be as sanguine if a battalion of Marines had been sent into the same cities to bayonet an equal number of women, children, and elderly?

I am an American patriot and I love my country more than anything other than my Faith and my family. Accepting the fact that the U.S. was dead wrong in dropping The Bomb was one of the hardest things I had to do when I embraced the fullness of the Catholic Faith. But it was not hard for me to understand the moral principle: We don't target and kill innocent people, no matter what the cause, no matter the potentially disastrous outcome if we don't. We are to serve the good, not bring about the good. We act virtuously in our every action, and we leave the outcomes to God.

It is better, as Christ said, to lose our life to save it, than to save our life and lose it. What does it profit any of us to gain the whole world but lose our soul?

This world and this life are not the end. Winning a war or preserving a nation or even preserving the entire earth is not worth going to hell for. The priest in the Prager University video may be right on every other issue of the Faith, but he is dead wrong on this one.

We must think with the mind of the Church, act as Christ would act, and leave the outcomes to God.


*Bending one's will to think with the mind of the Church is not a case of "blindly following". For perspective on this, read here.