Monday, November 30, 2015

Why God came in human flesh

As we begin the Advent Season in preparation for Christmas, it's a good time to remember and meditate on why Christ came to us in the flesh in the first place! 

I'm not convinced we think or know enough about this topic, which is foundational to our Catholic Faith and key to the mystery of our lives and our eternal salvation. 

So a repeat/refresher/review is in order:

In my "What I Never Learned in CCD" series on the basics of salvation history, we talked about how painful it is for a soul to be separated from God, and that all of life is really a search for union with the Trinity (even though many souls are not consciously aware of what they are longing for).

From the beginning, humanity has tried to “make things right”, attempting to heal the rift that has existed between God and man since that first sin in the Garden of Eden. The primary means to that end has been offering sacrifice.

Sacrifice is, by definition, a giving up or offering of something precious.

We've talked earlier about the nature of love, about how love is an act of the will and must be freely given and freely received (or it is not love), how love must have an object, and how love is always fruitful. And, true love is always sacrificial. Think of our own relationships with our family members and loved ones: We sacrifice for them, i.e., offer ourselves and our lives for them, out of love.

In Old Testament days, before Jesus came to earth, the people offered sacrifices to God in order to show them that they loved Him, to thank Him for His many gifts, and in order to make up for their sins. Then, just as today, the sacrifice most acceptable and pleasing to God was one offered with a pure heart, out of true love.

The thing being offered or sacrificed was always burned or destroyed, to show that it was being given back to God completely. It was also the best that the person had to offer; for example, farmers would offer God the “first fruits” of their harvests, and a shepherd would give his best lamb.

After a while, in Moses’ time, priests were appointed to offer the sacrifices on behalf of all God’s people.

Interesting to note that, while God’s chosen people (the Hebrew people, also known as the Israelites) were offering all those sacrifices to God, the pagans were busy offering sacrifices to their false gods as well. This is natural, not surprising. God has left His “thumbprint” on each person’s soul, a distant echo of Himself. Everyone, on some level, knows that we are separated from God, and that sacrifice is needed in order to make up for our sins. Unfortunately, there were occasions when the pagans sacrificed human beings to their gods, something that the true God never requires!

But getting back to the Hebrew people, the purpose of all these elaborate, bloody, ritualistic sacrifices was a deep longing to make up for Adam’s sin and to “build a bridge” back to God. In reality, all those millions of sacrifices were pointing to, or foreshadowing, the only Sacrifice which actually could build a bridge back to God, namely Jesus’ own offering of Himself on the Cross.

Think about it, and try to follow my logic here: To make up perfectly for the sin of Adam (i.e., to reconcile God and man perfectly), man’s sacrifice would have to be perfect. Yet, how could sinful man offer a perfect sacrifice when he himself is imperfect, and when the gift, no matter how good, is imperfect as well?

The answer is that he couldn’t; it is simply impossible.

So we humans really had a problem. Those millions of animal and other sacrifices just couldn’t reconcile us completely, perfectly, to God. We were still lost.

Only God, Who is perfect, could provide a perfect sacrifice. 

And that's exactly what God had planned for our reconciliation all along. “In the fullness of time,” the Second Person of the Holy Trinity -- the Beloved Son -- came down from Heaven and became man. He became one of us, fully human, while remaining fully divine (i.e., sinless).

Jesus Christ alone, the God-Man, could represent both sides!

Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Cross was the perfect offering, the likes of which no other man could present to the Father. As true man, Jesus is able to act on behalf of all mankind. As true God, the Sacrifice is utterly perfect, therefore completely acceptable to the Father. Jesus, as both Priest and Victim, offered Himself, out of pure love, in atonement for all of our sins.

If God had never come to earth by taking on human flesh, if the Second Person of the Holy Trinity did not become Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin's womb, we would still be in our sin. There would be no bridge between us and God. Heaven would be closed to us.

But instead, perfect Love reconciled Heaven and earth, God and man.

Christ's Sacrifice of love was so powerful, so beautiful, so complete, that it unleashed a torrent of grace upon the earth, which washed away the sin of Adam and redeemed the whole human race, reopening the gates of Heaven.

Think on this glorious mystery during this holy season of Advent, as we await the coming of our Savior.


Aaaaand as if to prove how imperfect we really are, here is a view of the Millers' Advent wreath today! Yes, last night we found ourselves still without Advent candles, so we improvised, and badly. Note that the purple (my son's chess tournament participation ribbon) and the rose (speaks for itself) are present! One child held up a tea light during prayers, in the general vicinity of the wreath, ha! We will do better next week, that's for sure.

Blessed Advent to all!

And don't forget that you have four more days to enter the book giveaway from last Friday! Good luck!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas gift ideas and a DOUBLE book giveaway!!

I am so excited!!!

I love, love, love being able to give you guys free stuff! And, I love books so much!

Two books should be on your Christmas gift radar, one for your kids, and the other for you.

First, I want to tell you about the book written by our very own Bubble reader, commenter, and friend, Becky Arganbright. A while back, Becky emailed me about an idea she had for a simple and beautiful children's book about St. Thérèse, the Little Flower. It was such a lovely idea, and I knew that the story would be so appealing to a child (and frankly, I loved it, too). Soon there was an excellent illustrator on board, and I was privileged to watch the whole project grow from an seed of an idea into the fully blossomed book, The Little Flower: A Parable of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, from Peanut Butter & Grace.

Available in soft- or hardcover, the book is visually captivating and perfect for a Catholic (or even non-Catholic) child.

You will find an entire pdf preview copy here, to see for yourself.

Isn't it awesome??

Okay, so the first book is for the kiddos, but this second book is for you (and your priest or deacon)! I cannot say enough about it, I reference it constantly now, and I incorporated it into my talk to college students at Young America's Foundation. It's an important book because it explains Catholic social teaching clearly, teachings which are horribly, badly mangled today by the left. And aside from being important, it's written so beautifully that I have taken to calling Anthony Esolen the "new Chesterton". I thought I was being clever, until I realized that many others have compared Esolen to Chesterton as well!

Here it is, Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching:

It comes from one of my favorite publishers of all time, Sophia Institute Press, whose gorgeous, illuminating books were inspirational to me in the months and years after my reversion to the Faith.

Now, I don't generally mark up my books, but occasionally one comes along that just screams to be notated. When I picked up this book, I expected to read it casually. Until I hit the first paragraph. And the next. And the next. Then I picked up a pen, and this is pretty much how most of the pages look:

Then, of course, there is a page from the book that I posted back in June, which may be the best insight into human sexuality that I've ever seen (yes, go read it).

Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching should be on the shelf of every serious Catholic, and not just to sit there looking sharp, but to be read and re-read.

Now, to the...


Okay, so here is the fun part! I am going to give away one copy of each of these books to two lucky readers! United States and Canada only, please. To enter the giveaway, simply send me an email at, and put one of the following in the subject line:




If you want to enter the drawing for both books, then send me two emails, one for each (only one email for each book, please).

And, if you want to double your chances to win, then leave a comment on this blog, telling me why you would like to win the book(s). Make sure to remind me in your email(s) that you commented here. I will then assign you two numbers per email entry, thus doubling your chances to win.

A week from today, I will use to pick the winners!

**Congratulations to our winners! Tracy Smith and Nancy A., your books will be mailed out to you shortly! 

Happy Black Friday everyone!!

Note: I have no financial stake in any of the books I promote. I just love being able to spread the word about good books in a crazy world. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sorry, ABC: even the devil works at the service of God

St. Augustine said of evil:

God is so good that in His hand, even evil brings about good. He would never have permitted evil to occur if He had not, thanks to His perfect goodness, been able to use it.

I thought of that when I saw the description of ABC's recent episode of Scandal, which, after aggressively pushing Planned Parenthood's talking points, included this bit of depravity:
Kerry Washington's character, Olivia, who is the President's girlfriend, gets an abortion. We see the surgical instruments; we see the abortionist begin the horrific act of killing an unborn child; and, in the background, we hear “Silent Night” playing. Silent. Night.

ABC's Scandal

And apparently, later, after her womb has been violently emptied of her child, she sits by her Christmas tree while Ave Maria plays in the background.

Predictably, the accolades from the pro-abort crowd have been copious. Not only was abortion promoted, but Christianity was mocked. A two-fer!

Now. You all can imagine what I might say about the myriad ironies that abound in this episode. I could write all night long about them.

But I'm not going to even go there. What I want to do is back up and look at the big picture, which is always about salvation history and the supernatural battle.

We know that when Satan first undertakes to woo us, he comes as an angel of light. He is initially attractive. Sin is pleasurable, fun, tantalizing. Sin is seen as freedom, as liberation, as a beautiful unshackling from the burdensome, painful, heavy chains of virtue. Satan is so careful, so nuanced during the courtship; he whispers, he entices gently. He has to be subtle, or else we would never let this liar and murderer in.

Later, when we are addicted to our sin, the devil does not attempt to disguise himself any longer. He doesn't have to. He can expose evil openly, show its ugliness to our face, and we still accept it. We will even embrace it and call it good.

One Catholic friend, Nicole, put it this way, when discussing the twisted Scandal episode:
Here's how we know that the devil is behind it: the evil is getting more brazen, more egregious, more bold. And yet, more than in my lifetime, people are defending abortion, pornography, perversion, and all manner of evil. 
And another friend, Laura, responded to Nicole:
Not just defending it, they are now demanding more of it.
Who can deny it?

For undeniable confirmation of embraced evil in our midst, how about a peak into a recent conference of abortionists. You are a fly on the wall, and you get to hear how abortionists and abortion workers talk amongst themselves. The video below is half an hour out of many hours of video that a judge blocked at the behest of the abortion industry, but which was later released by a third party. Satan is not hiding here; the people who profit in abortions are very clear about what they do.

If you can't bear to watch all those horrifying hours from the conference (you can see them here), just note the frequent uproarious laughter that permeates this particular segment. And if you can't watch even this one video, go at least to the 9:27 point and you'll know all you need to know about the brazenness of the devil. No more subtlety. No nuance.

Here is the transcript of that small part:
An eyeball just fell down into my lap and that’s gross [laughter], and I say to myself, ‘This abortion is going well; it’s going safely.' [laughter, cackles, and applause]

If you watch it all, you will be left with no doubt that these people know exactly what they are doing -- forget all the euphemisms and catchy slogans. They know without a doubt that they are brutally, violently killing babies. They say it outright! And listen to the one abortionist warn about pesky hospital nurses who get upset when they see babies being killed; also how it's important to make sure that babies at the "extreme" of gestational age are not ever in a position to be "resuscitated" (translation: "sometimes the babies we're aborting have the gall to be born alive, and we can't have that"). Again, there are hours and hours of this candid, sickening talk, and this is only one conference.

All this evil is so obvious, so clear, so undeniable that anyone of goodwill will see it. Only those who have completely closed their hearts and minds, only those who are spiritually blind, will not see the ugliness and darkness here and will continue to defend it. The evil is in-your-face!

Satan is not hiding when Silent Night plays as the background to an abortion; he's openly mocking.

Satan is not hiding when abortion workers laugh and applaud the gruesome details of their trade; he is proudly showing his work.

So, let's bring it back to the opening statement by St. Augustine, and the truth that God only allows evil in order to bring about a greater good. What could God be doing here? Well, I could not begin to fathom all the good that the Lord can bring out of evil (if so, I'd be able to fully grasp the mystery of the Cross, whereby the greatest sin of all led to the greatest good of all), but I can say one thing for certain: By allowing the devil to be this brazen, this bold, this in-your-face -- in other words, by unmasking Satan -- God is making it easier and easier for us to see the difference between good and evil.

God is making things very clear.  

Praise God for the clarity! We have to choose good over evil and we need Light to see. The devil at his bloody, mocking worst -- whether manifested in slick TV shows or conferences of "medical professionals" -- does nothing more than shine a brighter spotlight on all that is Good.

What a Great and Almighty God have we, that even Satan unwittingly works at the service of His plans!


And... how cool that as I finish up this post, I just realized it's The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe! More commonly known as the Feast of Christ the King, and the culminating Sunday of the liturgical year! What a glorious Feast! What a worthy, benevolent, all-powerful King!

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Script" font post! (This post will self-destruct in about two days)

This is a temporary post, but I have been meaning to write it for a while!

Several readers have emailed me over the years, asking me to please change the script font, because it's so hard to read.

I felt helpless, because I don't (and would never) use a script font for this blog! 

Script would drive me batty, too!!!

Finally, JoAnna, my wingman in all things bloggy and technical, told me that perhaps the fault lay in people's browsers.

Indeed, that was it!

So, if you are seeing this in script (heaven forbid!), please consider changing your browser, and the problem should be solved!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to draw your child back to the Church!

This is the coolest thing. I've been waiting for this.

My friend Brandon Vogt, who works for Bishop Robert Barron and Word on Fire, has done something extraordinary and so very needed in our Church today. He has put together a game plan for how to help our lost children come home to the Church.

Brandon is a social media expert and a holy, brilliant evangelist (as well as a longtime friend of the Bubble!), and he has spoken at numerous Catholic conferences over the past years. The most common question he hears at these gatherings, numbering hundreds of times, is some version of, “My son/daughter has left the faith and I’m devastated. What should I do?” His other Catholic speaker friends confirm the same thing, and I can confirm it, too; it’s a huge problem, weighing heavily on Catholic parents and grandparents everywhere.

This is so near and dear to my own heart, because as you know from my own story, I was one of those lost Catholics who drifted far from the practice of the Faith, starting in high school, but really kicking in at my (Catholic) university. My drifting led me to all but leave Catholicism by the time I was a wife and mother. Brandon knows well that it's a "drifting", and not some dramatic break, that is the mode of separation for most of us who stop practicing.

God used my mother -- and her strategic, powerful, and yet deceptively simple words -- to set me on the path back to the Church and into a life of grace and a zeal for evangelism. It's crazy when I think about it, and I shudder to think where I would be if my mom had never said those simple words or followed up with one easy resource to set me on my course back to Christ and His Church. (And if you haven't read how that happened, the full story is here.)

So when Brandon told me a couple of months ago that he had designed a whole program to help parents draw their children back to the Church, I was so thrilled! I was able to read the Return book (simple, clear, systematic, tactical), and I knew he had something special.

For free resources, go to

Even more special to me and to my husband personally, Brandon had (unknown to us!) included my mother-in-law's conversion story in the book! We are coming upon the one-year anniversary of her holy death, and I can't think of a more fitting tribute than to have her story told as a help in bringing others to the Church. Carol would have been blown away, and so pleased.

Cutting to the chase: If you have a child or grandchild who has left the Church, please consider what Brandon has to offer. There is so much wisdom in this program, and a lineup of amazing Catholics -- including Dr. Ralph Martin, Dr. Scott Hahn, Trent Horn, Jennifer Fulwiler, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Matthew Kelly, Msgr. Charles Pope, Leah Darrow, Mark Shea, Bishop Barron (of course!) and many more who are in the trenches -- have wholeheartedly endorsed and contributed to RETURN.

You may be someone who can relate to the heartache of the woman and her son in this one-minute video:

(C'mon, you weren't expecting that twist, were you? I wasn't!)

For more information on Brandon's great work to bring your fallen-away children home, click here:

You'll have the opportunity to access oodles of resources, speakers, strategies, a FAQs page, and Brandon's direct email for any questions you have. One thing I love about Brandon is that he understands the power of clarity and practicality when trying to reach the lost sheep. Clarity, truth, love, and simple steps -- practical steps, not just theory or generalizing -- are the key.

I can't wait to see the fruits of this project, in the gathering of many souls back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church.

Brandon, I can't thank you enough, my friend! My mom was instrumental in bringing me back home, and now it's time for other moms and dads to learn how to do what my mom did for me.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Paris attacks: Why it's not racist to point out the obvious.

In the aftermath of the horrific ISIS terrorist attacks on Paris, I wrote the following on my Facebook page:

Everyone wants to know, "What can we do? What can we do?" That's a tough one, but there are some basic facts that we have to face: 
Europe is post-Christian. As Pope Benedict urged, it needs to get back to its Christian roots and live out those virtues and truths, unapologetically. If that doesn't happen, Europe will lose, because ultimately it's a numbers game -- Europeans really don't have babies any more. They've given that up. Muslims (radical or not) have oodles of babies. Demographics, people. There was blood this time, but in the end it will be a bloodless coup.

A friend of mine gently responded with: "Leila. This is racist."

But is it?

First, I myself am an Arab. My father is a full-blooded Arab man, a Palestinian born and raised in the Middle East. He is also a devout Catholic (yes, Catholic/Christian Arabs existed for centuries before Islam entered the scene). If I am a racist, then am I a self-hating Arab? I don't think so. I love my family, I love my heritage, I love the Arab people.

Second, Islam is (obviously) not a race, it's a religion. More accurately, radical Islam is an ideology, and an overtly political one. There is no arguing that, is there? Now it is true that we cannot paint all Muslims with the brush of "radical". However, we also cannot find and identify "true" Islam, because Islam has a "sola scriptura" problem: They have no pope, so to speak. Each branch of Islam is one particular interpretation of the Quran, but there is no final authority. So, the sects with the most power and influence are the ones who sort of "define" what we see as Islam, even if those beliefs are not held by all, or even most, Muslims.

But ultimately, can we really argue with the demographics? After all, the demographics are just facts, numbers, statistics, projections. There's nothing racist about noting the facts, noting where Europe is headed if nothing changes.

Europe was a Christian continent, to its very roots, to its deepest identity. Demographically, we know that Europe will one day be a Muslim continent unless it reestablishes its Christian roots. The French (and Germans, and Italians, and Spanish, etc.) do not have babies anymore. Muslims, and I can't knock them for it, have broods of children. This is a fact. If Europeans do not return to the practice of Christianity, if their abysmal rates of reproduction stay deathly low, you can extrapolate and predict the outcome. It's not rocket science.

Inexplicably, some people don't appreciate differences between Judeo-Christian values and Islam (including a radicalized form of Islam that appears to have more power than peaceful Islam), but the differences are vast, and the ascendency of Islam on a once-Christian continent will change the face of our world. Is it bigoted to point this out?

If we want to pretend that this is an issue of racism or bigotry rather than a clash of truth against error and, yes, a spiritual battle, perhaps we should take the terrorists at their own words. They proudly took responsibility for last night's heinous attacks, calling France "...the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe" and referring to Europeans as "Crusaders" no less than five times. The deceased victims themselves are referred to as "Crusaders".

It is not racist to assert that Europe's only hope is to return to its Christian roots.

Echoing Pope Benedict before him, Pope Francis recently said as much, including urging Europeans to have more children:
When there is an empty space, people try to fill it. If a country has no children, immigrants come in and take their place. I think of the birth-rate in Italy, Portugal and Spain. I believe it is close to 0%. So, if there are no children, there are empty spaces. And this not wanting to have children is, partly...due to a culture of comfort, isn’t it? In my own family I heard, a few years ago, my Italian cousins saying: “Children? No. We prefer to travel on our vacations, or buy a villa, or this and that”… And the elderly are more and more alone. I believe Europe’s greatest challenge is to go back to being a mother Europe….

Francis laments the mistake of Europe in discarding its Christian identity:

Europe made a mistake when it chose to speak of its identity without wanting to recognize the deepest level of its identity, its Christians roots. That was a mistake. But, well, we all make mistakes in life. It's time to recover its faith.

Pope Francis is not a racist for speaking these truths.

Let us pray for the souls of the dead, the consolation of their families, the healing of the wounded, and the restoration of Christ's Kingship in Europe.

Let us specifically ask the saints of France to pray for their homeland, which is often referred to as the "Eldest Daughter of the Church".

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Irenaeus, St. Jean Vianney, St. Joan of Arc, St. Bernadette, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, St. Catherine Labouré, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for your countrymen, and for our world!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dear Yale victims, er, students: You have offended me

How unfortunate that I'm going from describing the pure joy of walking the US Naval Academy grounds to recounting the pathetic display seen on the Yale campus of late.

I cannot even believe what I'm hearing or seeing in these videos. And yet, I can, because this is where politically correct, "progressive" ideology leads. It's so predictable, but still surreal.

Okay, for the backstory on the Yale... thing (I cannot for the life of me think of a word to describe it), you can go here. But essentially, there's a big controversy about Halloween in liberal America (of which I was blissfully unaware, since I live in regular America), and costumes must conform to politically correct standards.

At Yale this year, that dictate took the form of an email from the "Intercultural Affairs Council", which includes many culturally sensitive "centers" and "offices" (including the Office of LGBTQ Resources and the Office of Gender and Campus Culture, which makes me wonder, why does Yale need two offices to cover sex-and-gender needs? But I digress...). This email stressed the "growing national concern on campuses everywhere" [!!!!] about "culturally unaware or insensitive choices" of Halloween costumes by "some" college students.

Apparently, a few students who still possess the actual ability to access their human reason expressed frustration about the email to Erika Christakis, associate master of Yale’s Silliman College, and she wrote a response email that was about as inoffensive and innocuous as a fluffy kitty, agreeing with the calls for "cultural sensitivity" in Halloween costumes, but also gently suggesting that it's an issue for the (presumably mature and capable) students to work out amongst themselves, and that perhaps it was not the place of university officials to tell the students what they should wear for Halloween.

And then, after this reasonable, polite, friendly, and non-threatening email came through, all hell broke loose, apparently (and this is just a guess) because the cultural elites of the left (including these privileged Ivy League kids) have lost their ever-loving minds.

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad email from an obviously very bad lady (who is married to Nicholas Christakis, the very nasty, mean, and unsafe man in the videos you are about to see) is linked at the end of this paragraph. I wanted to give you fair warning so that you can be prepared and get your smelling salts, or perhaps your best friend (or your mommy) and lay down. The evil email led to the man practically emasculating himself trying to appease the distraught offendees, although the very bad man refuses ultimately to apologize for his wife's evil, hateful words, which have decimated the students' "safe space". The violent wrenching away of the students' "safe space" prompted the very Dean of Yale to come out to where the students had "chalked" (yes, chalked!) their "affirmations", and he listened lovingly "for almost two hours" to their "profound pain", watching "every tear that was shed". Yes, the offending email was that bad. Are you ready for it? Are you sure? Okay, but I warned you, it shocks the conscience!! Read the evil in its fullness, here.

I know, right? Like, <<shudder>>. Who can bear it?

And if you can't believe how offensive and monstrous was that letter, please turn now to the actual videos of the victims themselves, who were so callously trodden upon by those big, bad, mean words, and watch how the bad lady's husband was summarily castrated chastised. And yes, that is SNAPPING you hear instead of applause at some points, because apparently, in the Land of Sensitivity, snapping is less jarring and less anxiety-producing than clapping. (No, I'm not kidding, but I wish I were.)

Video #1, wherein the professor, who had already talked with the students for over an hour, defends himself against charges of racism for failing to remember one of his 500 students' names:

As we continue on our cringeworthy adventure at Yale, a seemingly intelligent student is mourning the loss of her "safe space" as others snap-snap-snap their approval, supporting one another with caresses and hugs. Many seem on the verge of despair. This very bad man is not "hearing their pain", after all:

This one is super painful to watch, since I'm guessing that this liberal professor is actually a bit freaked out by how completely unreasonable these students are, how they are unable to grasp his very basic and logical points. Oh the irony, as these kids were raised up on leftist ideology, and somehow the professors never saw this coming?   [UPDATE: Looks like this video has been removed and is no longer available. Sorry!]

Aaaaand we get to the climax, where this young woman (pray for her), loses it completely:

At this point, I think it's the Yale student-victims who have violated my safe space! My brain will never be the same.

Even The Atlantic got it right:
In “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt argued that too many college students engage in “catastrophizing,” which is to say, turning common events into nightmarish trials or claiming that easily bearable events are too awful to bear. After citing examples, they concluded, “smart people do, in fact, overreact to innocuous speech, make mountains out of molehills, and seek punishment for anyone whose words make anyone else feel uncomfortable.” 
What Yale students did next vividly illustrates that phenomenon. 
According to The Washington Post, “several students in Silliman said they cannot bear to live in the college anymore.” These are young people who live in safe, heated buildings with two Steinway grand pianos, an indoor basketball court, a courtyard with hammocks and picnic tables, a computer lab, a dance studio, a gym, a movie theater, a film-editing lab, billiard tables, an art gallery, and four music practice rooms. But they can’t bear this setting that millions of people would risk their lives to inhabit because one woman wrote an email that hurt their feelings?
Read the rest of the brilliant piece, here.

While it may be hard to distinguish the Yale videos from an SNL skit, here is an actual parody that someone showed me just hours before I'd even heard of the Yale incidents. I think you will appreciate the similarities:

If you liked that parody (even if it did terrify you at the same time it amused you), then you will like the one that came before it:

Folks, we either have to laugh or we will cry.

My advice to those of you who are as disgusted and horrified as I am: Be courageous. Speak up. Never stop exposing nonsense, because in the end, your voice of reason will help to rescue the nonsense-makers themselves, who will almost surely spiral down to a pit of despair if they keep on the road they're going.

Pray for them all to regain their spines and their guts and their sense, and then for your own sanity, go back and read about Annapolis, or read the heroic life of a saint, and feel better.

God's got this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Back from an amaaaaaazing trip to DC and Annapolis!

I recently returned from a wonderful 4-day adventure back east! 

The incredible powerhouse known as Kimberly Begg, a Bubble reader, wife, and mother of five littles -- oh, and Vice President & General Counsel of Young America's Foundation (YAF) -- asked me to be a speaker at a weekend conference for Catholic university students that began last Friday. The conference was held at their beautiful new headquarters in Reston, VA, just outside of Washington.

So, for the first time in 27 years, I was back in DC, one of my favorite places on earth, and where I met my husband. In fact, the last time I was there, Dean and I were students on our Washington Semester Program at American University, and we had just begun to date. He was a Jewish agnostic, pro-"choice" Democrat (and working for Democrats) at the time. But that's another story for another day. ;)

The night that my sister and I arrived, we were able to meet my daughter and her husband and baby son for dinner! They just happened to be in DC at the same time, and it was beyond amazing to see them! My grandson is huge and beautiful and perfect. What a joy to be with them, even for just a few hours!

The morning of my talk on Friday, I had the absolute thrill and privilege of meeting some of the awesome Catholic bloggers and Bubble readers in the area (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia). Two of them, Karey and Annie, I had met previously when they visited Arizona, but I was meeting the others -- Abigail, Sarah, Stephanie, and Corrie, for the first time! What a fun morning!! Made all the more fun by the fact that several of them brought their children along! That restaurant was teeming with life and laughter and spiritual friendship. We are sisters in Christ, which forges an instant and eternal bond.

Stephanie, Sarah, Corrie, Leila, Abigail, Karey, and Annie (with her darling little Joseph!)

I know I missed some of you in the area, but next time we'll work it out so we can have an even bigger party!

Just a few hours later it was off to meet Kimberly and give my talk. It was so amazing! I just love YAF, and I am blown away by the work they do, especially on the cultural wasteland that is most American campuses today. 

Here I am fielding questions after my talk, which was entitled, "Staying conservative on a Catholic campus". Unfortunately, most Catholic universities in America today send out the message (or I could say, the lie) that to be a good Catholic one must embrace the ideals of secular leftism. I was there to disabuse them of this notion, and to make sure they were armed with and encouraged by the truth of our popes, the Magisterium, and the Catechism

Here's to strong, faithful leaders on our Catholic campuses!

Thankfully, while I was way across the country, Matthew was having fun with Granny, eating at Arby's! Doesn't seem to be missing me too much here.... Hmmm....

Anyway, when I was originally asked to speak at YAF, my sister and I decided to make it a "sister trip", so that we could also go and see her son Grant (my nephew) at the US Naval Academy. I was thrilled, as I had never been there before. We left for Annapolis on Saturday morning, and I snapped this photo of a highway sign on the way, because I was born in Bethesda and my husband was born in Baltimore. Isn't that cool? Even though neither of us lived in Maryland for very long, I just think it's really neat that we both were born in "the land of Mary", a state with distinctly Catholic origins. 

Don't worry, my sister was driving as I snapped the pic!

And then we arrived in the charming, historic, beautiful town of Annapolis, and made our way to the US Naval Academy!

With my nephew Grant and sister Pauline

I don't even know what to say about the Naval Academy except that I am obsessed. I just loved it beyond anything I could have imagined, and I want to go back as soon as possible. These incredible young men and women really make me so proud to be an American and a patriot, and I was completely blown away by the history, strength, and dignity of this august institution -- the sense of connectedness, tradition, and transcendence was palpable. 

My nephew led us around the Yard (as the campus is called), and one of the first places we stopped was a small Catholic chapel tucked away in the Rotunda in Bancroft Hall. This chapel is home to daily Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the rosary, and a relic of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose son was a midshipman before the actual Academy was built. A young man whom I have  known since he was a boy, Simon Whitfield, joined us there. Our families are dear friends in the Catholic community here in Phoenix, and I was happy to make sure his mom and dad (himself a Naval Academy grad) got some pictures of their boy!

Midshipman Simon Whitfield and Midshipman Grant Zaro

I could not be prouder of these two young Catholic midshipmen who are so dedicated and accomplished, now serving their country. We are in good hands, folks! Please pray for these future leaders!

That was a tiny chapel, but the main chapel (i.e., huge church!) on the Yard, shared by Protestants and Catholics, is the centerpiece of the Naval Academy grounds, as it should be. The Academy was founded in 1845, when faith was understood to be essential in keeping our servicemen strong and virtuous, building men of true character. Despite those today who would love to deny the nation's religious roots and patrimony, I have found that love of God still exists at Annapolis, and I am grateful for the chaplains who take such good care of the souls in their charge. 

Sunday mass in the chapel was stunning, reverent, sublime. We met and sat with my cousin's son, Brian (another strong, faithful Catholic midshipman), and my nephew served the altar that day. 

My nephew and godson. So proud of him!

The midshipmen in the Catholic choir sung behind us in the gorgeous choir loft and sounded like angels. The accompanying organ was at one time the biggest church organ in the nation, and it was powerful! The incredible priest who celebrated the mass is a Franciscan University graduate who gave a rock-solid homily. There is something so admirable about a man who dedicates his whole life and being to both God and his country.

My most treasured moment on the Yard was when I was walking alone on the brick pathways at dusk, in the misty haze after a rain, crunching on the fall leaves in the surrounding silence. I was coming back from the museum at the other end of the grounds, feeling like I was in a fairy tale of ethereal beauty, looking at the colorful trees, watching the occasional crisp, uniformed midshipman walk by in the semi-darkness as I moved past the main chapel, past the gazebo, and toward Bancroft Hall. 

Suddenly, I realized that I had stumbled upon colors (when the midshipmen take down the flags at sunset). The timing could not have been more perfect! With only about four others nearby, I watched quietly as the colors came down -- and I took a brief video before my camera space ran out. I watched the rest, blessedly, with no camera in the way. 

Note that the bugle is playing and then is joined in by the church bells pealing across the Yard. Seriously a divine moment for me. Stunning, stunning. The video cannot begin to do it justice, but here you go:

Like I said, I am obsessed. I just love it all. I can't wait to be back someday. God bless our military men and women. 

And now for your day-brightener, watch this video made just a week or two ago -- for $0 -- by midshipmen at the Academy. It's gone viral, and for good reason! So much fun! Enjoy!

And for a moving Veterans Day tribute made by the same young midshipman filmmaker, go here

God bless all our Veterans! God bless America!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The two teachings that prove the Church is of God

To my mind, the best evidence of the Catholic Church's divine origins are these two facts:

1) The Church has never changed her teaching on masturbation


2) The Church has never definitively declared what happens to the souls of babies who die without baptism

Knowing what we know about human nature, there is simply no way at all that these two teachings would stand for twenty centuries, for two thousand years, if human beings were the ones making the rules and calling the shots.

Put on your thinking caps, and let's examine the facts.


The Church has always taught that masturbation is intrinsically immoral. Sex is not meant to be a solitary act. Our sexual faculties and reproductive systems are, by design, all about complementary, total union with another. To use sex selfishly, to "have sex with oneself", so to speak, is beneath the dignity of a human being.

Yet, in a fallen world, masturbation is an incredibly common sin.

So here we have a Church headed by unmarried men for century after century after century after century after century. We have had a succession of 266 popes. Not one single male in the long stretch of 266 has changed the teaching of the Church on masturbation. Not one of those men has said, "You know what? Let's loosen up on that one! Let's make life a little easier for all of us. Heck, it would even make us popular, especially among the young! We'd bring 'em in by droves if we said that masturbating was good and holy!"

Knowing what we know about human nature, and thinking of probabilities, how on earth is the teaching about masturbation's sinfulness still in place?

The skeptic might chide me by saying, "But you said that the Church can't change the teachings, that's why!"

And I'd answer with, "Yes, that's true, she can't; the Church can't change her doctrinal teachings precisely because she's of God. However, dear skeptic, that's not what you believe. Your belief, your conviction, is that the Church is a merely human institution. And you firmly believe, as do most skeptics, dissenters, and non-believers, that the Church can and should change her teaching on a number of issues (and you believe she will -- you are just waiting for that 'someday'). So, from your perspective, how on earth is the teaching about masturbation still in place?"

In human terms, of course, the teaching on masturbation should have and would have been changed almost right out of the gate. Or at least later, by one of the depraved, lusty, sinful popes, or the power-hungry popes, or the popes who could be bought, or maybe the popes who were weak and wanted to please.

All it would have taken is one bad apple who jumped at the chance to allow masturbation for himself and everyone else, guilt- and consequence-free!

And yet it's never happened.

If we are honest, we know that there's not any earthly, human reason for this teaching to be standing. Human beings are too weak, fickle, and sinful for this to be anything other than divine protection of Church teaching.

     Babies who die without baptism

The second "proof" that the Church is not merely a human institution is the unanswered question of what happens to the souls of babies who die without baptism.

There are few things more heart wrenching than a mother who has lost her child. The agony of a mother or father after a child's death cannot be overstated. Throughout Christendom, from the first century until today, millions upon millions of anguished parents have appealed to the Church, asking the question, desperate for the assurance that their child is in Heaven. What human being with breath in his body and a beating heart in his chest would not want to do everything in his power to calm the mind and comfort the soul of a grieving parent?

If the Catholic Church operated on human desires alone, there would have been a rush to declare that all unbaptized children go straight to Heaven when they die. Imagine two thousand years' worth of popes witnessing countless instances of profound grief! Most, if not all, would be moved to make a definitive statement about the fate of the littlest souls. In a merely human institution, there would be nothing to stop them from making such a happy, welcome declaration.

And yet, the Church says today what she has said from the beginning: We just don't know definitively what happens to the souls of unbaptized babies. Theologians have debated the issue for centuries, have come up with constructs and theories such as "Limbo" (a place of perfect natural happiness, but minus the beatific vision), and have met and discussed this issue even recently at an international theological commission. But still, the teaching authority of the Church has not pronounced on it. Why? Because Jesus did not reveal it. The Deposit of Faith contains only that which has been revealed by Christ, and the Church has no power to go further than what she has received from God.

The very Church that loves providing answers to the world is being honest when she says that we just don't know. It is exactly because the popes have no power to change what Christ revealed that you will see nothing more definitive on this issue than what we read in the Catechism:
1261: As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,' allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
We humans want answers, and God doesn't always provide them. Many things are to remain a mystery to us this side of Heaven.

If you are frustrated by this, then imagine how frustrated a human pope is when he, as the head of the  Church on earth, is unable to provide an answer to his beloved and often greatly suffering flock!

What merely earthly, human reason would stand in the way of 266 popes giving the answer we all want to hear? I can't think of one.

From what we know of human nature, if these two teachings don't provide enough reason for us to believe that the Church is of divine origin, then dare I say that even a man rising from the dead would not convince us.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (Caravaggio)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Primer on Purgatory

This is a re-run from about three years ago. A friend of the Bubble, Becky, suggested I run it on All Souls Day, and that makes perfect sense! So, as we pray for those in Purgatory, let's find out a little more about what Purgatory is...

  • Purgatory is a doctrine of our Faith. 

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned." (1030-1031)

There are only two ultimate destinations for a human being: Heaven or hell. Purgatory is the "wash-room" of Heaven.

  • Purgatory is necessary.

The Bible, in Revelation 21:27, says, "Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven" -- and God was not joking. Are you utterly pure? Perfect? Sinless? Completely without fault or blemish? I'm not either. To get from here to there requires an actual change from imperfect to perfect. The purification of Purgatory is that transitional bridge. If you die in the friendship of God, and unless you are the rare soul perfected in love before that moment of death (think of a Mother Teresa or a newly baptized infant), you are going to be cleansed before you enter Heaven. You simply cannot enter otherwise.

  • Purgatory is logical.

If I repent of a sin, I not only ask forgiveness, but I make recompense. We instinctively form our own children this way, as we teach them to make amends when they have committed a wrong. Not only do we require a child to make his apology ("I'm sorry I recklessly ran over your flowerbed, Mrs. Jones"), we require that he make things right as well ("I will purchase new flowers and replant them for you"). Purgatory is the final "making things right" -- both in our own souls and in the Mystical Body of Christ, i.e., the Church, which is harmed by its members' sin.

That "making things right" after we are forgiven is called the temporal punishment for sin, and it can and should happen while a person is still on this earth. However, if temporal punishment (or "expiation") for our forgiven sins has not occurred fully by the time of death, the expiation is still logically required after death.

  • Purgatory is merciful.

C.S. Lewis, a non-Catholic Christian, understood the mercy of Purgatory, and how the soul cries out for it:
Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' -- 'Even so, sir.'  (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer)
Amen, and thank God for the mercy of Purgatory.

  • Purgatory is just.

Benevolent Grandma was a baptized Christian who stayed close to Jesus and lived a good life of caring and love, but she was a mild gossip. Serial Killer was a baptized Christian who lived a life of evil, destroying people and goodness everywhere he went, but he sincerely repented on his deathbed.

Both souls are Heaven-bound, but the soul-cleansing required of Mr. Killer is going to be a lot more severe, prolonged, and painful than the mild purification required of Grandma.

And that's as it should be. That is how justice works.

We are not all the same. We are all individuals who come from different circumstances and who make different choices. God alone can read our hearts, and His justice for each of His children is very personal, not a rubber stamp.

As Jesus said, "You will not get out until you have paid the last penny." For some of us, the payment exacted will take longer, as the sum required to "make it right" is larger.

  • Purgatory is Biblical.

The clearest manifestation (and my favorite) is 1 Corinthians 3.

We read that by our life choices and works, we build on the foundation that is Jesus Christ:

If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work. 

"The Day" refers to the Day of Judgement. The first Day of Judgement for most of us will be the Particular Judgement, the day of our death, when we face God. So, keep in mind that all that follows happens after a person's death. There are three possibilities for a soul:

First possibility: If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. This is the soul who goes directly to Heaven.

Second possibility: But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. This is the soul who goes to Purgatory, who is cleansed by the fire of God's love before entering Heaven.

Third possibility: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. This is the soul who goes to hell.

Glance back at the second one: "suffering" "loss" "saved, but only as through fire". We call that Purgatory.

  • Purgatory is historical.

The doctrine of purgatory, or the final purification, has been part of the true faith since before the time of Christ. The Jews already believed it before the coming of the Messiah, as revealed in the Old Testament (2 Macc. 12:41–45) as well as in other pre-Christian Jewish works, such as one which records that Adam will be in mourning "until the day of dispensing punishment in the last years, when I will turn his sorrow into joy" (The Life of Adam and Eve 46–7). Orthodox Jews to this day believe in the final purification, and for eleven months after the death of a loved one, they pray a prayer called the Mourner’s Kaddish for their loved one’s purification. 
Jews, Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox have always historically proclaimed the reality of the final purification. It was not until the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century that anyone denied this doctrine.  (Catholic Answers)
The witness of the Roman Catacombs (products of the early, pre-Nicene, persecuted Church) attests to a belief in Purgatory by their etchings and inscriptions. In fact,
so overwhelming is the witness of the early Christian monuments in favour of prayer for the dead that no historian any longer denies that the practice and the belief which the practice implies were universal in the primitive Church. There was no break of continuity in this respect between Judaism and Christianity. (New Advent)

  • Purgatory is painful.

Every cleansing of an open wound is painful. Every turning toward the purifying fire of God's love is an uncomfortable shock to the system, and every honest move to perfection (even in this life) is accompanied by a suffering.

Facing the judgement of our Father will not be a clean, comfortable adjustment. The man who looks through a dark veil his whole life and is then, in an instant, exposed full-on to the dazzling white light of the Son can expect to cry out in some initial pain.

But the pain of Purgatory is most rightly described, I believe, as the pain of loss. We are made for union with God, and we are not complete and satisfied until that union is achieved. When the soul knows without doubt that she is at long last on her way to be united with her Beloved, but also knows that she cannot yet get to Him, and when she knows that it was her own actions and choices that are keeping her from that final, perfect and eternal union with her Beloved, she experiences a great and melancholic longing, an aching sense of loss.

There is a reason that God speaks to His people through marital imagery: The Bride and the Bridegroom, The Wedding Feast, The Consummation, the final achievement of perfect, eternal union with the Beloved. Earthly marriage and physical consummation is the closest we can get to another human being on earth, but it is a pale reflection of true Marital Union with God. The knowledge that one could have rushed to His embrace sooner, but now must wait and long and pine, is a nearly unbearable suffering for the soul in Purgatory, as it would be (on a much lesser scale) for any bride who cannot yet, through her own fault, reach her lover.

  • Purgatory is joyful.

Although the suffering in Purgatory is intense, the joy of Purgatory great, even greater than any earthly joy. After all, total, ecstatic union with God is palpable now, as the beatific vision is nearing one's view. No jubilation on earth could ever compare to the clear knowledge that Pure Love is drawing the lovesick soul to Himself for completion.

Fr. Alvin Kimel summarizes Peter Kreeft:
Purgatory is joyful, not gloomy. Whatever pain may attend the process of purification, it does not diminish the profound joy and triumph of Purgatory. The holy souls have passed through death into life and know that their ultimate destiny is now secure. The sufferings of Purgatory are more desirable than the most ecstatic pleasures on earth.

  • After Jesus' Second Coming and the Final Judgement, Purgatory will cease to be.

When Jesus returns in glory and the end of the world comes, and when the Final Judgement separates the sheep from the goats for all eternity, and when the new heaven and new earth are established in perfection, there will be no more purification of souls necessary. Purgatory will cease to be, and all souls will be fixed in their final states forever.

“God is the Last Thing of the creature. Gained, He is its paradise; lost, He is its hell; as demanding, He is its judgment; as cleansing, He is its purgatory” --Hans Urs von Balthasar

Related post: Indulgences: No need to freak out!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Little Teaching: All Saints Day! (And All Souls Day...oh, and Halloween)

A little primer about this amazing three-day stretch!

Halloween (or Hallowe'en), October 31: 

The word derives from "All Hallows' Eve", which denotes the evening before All Hallows' Day (All Saints' Day), a Christian feast day.

All Saints' Day, November 1:

Also known as the Feast of All Saints. It's the day we Catholics honor all the saints in Heaven, not only the canonized, recognized saints who have their own particular feast days on the Church calendar. There are many millions of other saints in Heaven who are not canonized, most of whom are obviously unknown to us, and this is the day we celebrate those myriad holy men and women.

All Saints' Day is a holy day of obligation, and so to willfully miss mass on this day is a grave sin for Catholics. Find a mass, and praise God and His saints!

All Souls' Day, November 2:

This is the day we remember and pray for all the souls in Purgatory. These souls are not forgotten by the universal Church, and they benefit from the prayers of the faithful as they steadily approach perfection and the Beatific Vision. Often, Catholic parishes invite parishioners to write the names of their deceased loved ones in a "Book of Remembrance", to have prayers and masses offered for these souls during the month of November.

All Souls' Day is not a holy day of obligation.

And, I guess this very little teaching qualifies as a Little Teaching, so it gets the icon!