Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Exercising Your Prayer Life

Every time I workout, I try to add a little extra oomph to my routine. Maybe I tread a little longer, run a little harder or do a few more reps with my stretchy band.

It is really a psychological battle, as well as a physical one, as I tell myself I can push myself a little more.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that some of us see our prayer life as a psychological battle, or a challenge of our will to try to empty ourselves mentally. But, this spiritual battle that we have with ourselves over prayer shouldn't really be either of those.

Perhaps, as you are striving for a more peaceful Advent, you have tried to incorporate prayer into your life, only to find you are always distracted by the things you have on your "to do" list. The Catechism reminds us that rather than trying to hunt down those distractions to do away with them, we should use them.

How do we use them?

Well, for starters, we need to realize that "our distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified." (CCC 2729)

In plain English . . .

When we realize that we are distracted by things, it should draw us closer to God as we realize that we have not fully given our heart over to him. This should inspire us to resolutely turn more faithfully toward him.

So the next time your thoughts are rambling terribly during prayer, consider what you are focused on and ask yourself, "Should this be distracting me from God?"

Happy Advent!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Are You a Modern Day Martyr?

The first line in the Psalm-prayer I was reading, went like this:

"Father in heaven, when your strength takes possession of us we no longer say: Why are you cast down, my soul?"

It was very timely for me as it seemed that on this particular morning, I was a bit saddened by the lack of understanding many people hold for Advent and Christmas.

I was sort of "downcast" by the term "holiday" that is tightening its grip on our nation. I was frustrated by how Christmas is dangerously close to becoming a secular shopping season, and I was pained by someone laughing at the practices of my good and faithful friends.

And then it occurred to me. This is a sort of martyrdom. I've come to believe that martyrdom comes in spiritual, as well as physical forms.

The emotional dying, for instance, that Mother Teresa must have gone through was surely a marytrdom of sorts. How would it be, do you suppose, to have no other living person on this planet (except maybe one, JPII), understand through their own personal experience, the depth of your relationship with Jesus, your suffering and your longing?

When you re-read the line from the above prayer, it is so uplifting!

If you find you are "downcast" in your modern-day martyrdom, take note: If you are "possessed" by God's strength, there is simply no reason to be saddened, for we can always count on the power of God to overcome whatever is troubling us today!

Thursday, December 6, 2007


I hate to admit it, but honestly, I am a fan of The Biggest Loser, the television show about significantly overweight people who live at a camp and workout--endlessly--to lose huge amounts of weight.

Personally, I can't stand it when reality shows get into scheming and all that, and I also don't think its healthy or reasonable to lose that much weight that fast, but, I absolutely adore the transformation stories and pictures.

As unreal as any of those types of shows are, the life-altering changes that you see on this show truly inspire me. Confidently, I tread just a little bit harder, pull my resistance cords just a little bit tighter, and definitively, continuously, recommit myself to fitness.

I love to see the new people that emerge, so dramatically re-gaining their vigor for life.

I've noticed that this love of transformation carries over into the spiritual life as well. I am inspired by people, like Mother Teresa, who were notably transformed by a simple Yes! to God. I, too, want to say Yes! to anything God asks of me and she makes me believe I can. That is incredibly powerful.

Spiritual transformations in people are just as remarkable as physical transformations. When you say Yes! to God--and mean it--it changes the way you think, the way you act, the way you feel and the way you relate to God and just about everyone you know.

This is a good thing, but it can be dangerous if you are not under the guidance of a wise director. Your Yes! to God doesn't require you to walk away from a healthy, vibrant life--as many people believe.

A Yes! to God may cause you to refocus your priorities and such, it's true, but mostly He prompts us through interior conversion. That interior conversion eventually may bring about external changes in your life, but that doesn't mean you have to quit your job or sell your house!

We think dramatically, but God often moves less so.

Are you experiencing the hand of God transforming you? Let God create in you a beautiful picture.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Priests, Bishops and personal conversion

I read an interview in the National Catholic Register with Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. In his response to a question about a Synod on the Bible, he gave what I consider to be one of the most straightforward, true commentaries on the priesthood. He said:

"We priests and bishops need to recognize that many of us are products of notional Christianity. Quite a sizable number entered seminary, received formation and got ordained, but might not have experience any personal conversion. When that is the case, we are missing something that is very basic for the life of a Christian."

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Although it wasn't clear to me if he was speaking primarily about the African priests and bishops, it is clear to me that his comments are universal.

If we are to evangelize--which is an incredible responsibility--our ordained leaders of the Church must, must, must speak to us from their personal relationship with Christ, their personal conversion experience, and, their struggles as well.

It is simply not enough to have the information and live it without an underlying conversion. For those who have had this personal conversion experience, they would do well, in humility, to offer it as testimony to strengthen their flock.

It's hard to imagine that there exists the possibility that one might be able to live the life of an ordained priest without such experience, but I think the good Cardinal alludes to the fact that this situation does indeed exist.

His other responses in the interview reflect his thoughts on what non-Catholic churches are doing that is working. He identifies "the need to celebrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit more . . . ." and says that he tells the students in the diaconate that they have to "develop a personal prayer life and deepen their spirtuality," and that "Christianity goes beyond the theology and terms that we have learned to something more relational."

Amen. Amen. Amen.

The time is now. We MUST get this right.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Beware of the latest dance craze

Children today are latching onto a popular rap song and making the associated dance tremendously popular. Although the dance doesn't appear to be particularly offensive, the lyrics attached to "Soldier ("Soulja")Boy" are devastatingly so.

If your children are getting into this, go to YouTube and type in the title to see the video, but don't stop there. Go to Google and search for the lyrics, and then, you must go one step further and check out the popular slang definitions for the major phrases in the song at

We have a responsibility to our children and it begins at home. Be knowledgeable about what they are participating in. It often isn't as innocent as it would appear and sometimes the children themselves do not have a clue.

God bless,

Sunday, November 4, 2007

On the Right Path

Sometimes when I am driving on an unfamiliar road, I depend on the lines on the road to help me determine if I am going the right way. Is this a one-way road? I look to see if the lines are white. Is this a two-way road? Yellow lines will help me there.

It occurred to me that life is like this.

If we follow the markings that God has set before us, we can be assured of taking the right road. What are these markings? I suppose they could be tangible things like the Ten Commandments, but also, I think, they are the messages that come from His parables and the teachings of the Church.

I have observed that whenever we step away on our own and take one small act toward sinfulness, it leads to more. If we can just stay focused and strong, committed and faithful, we simply cannot go down a path that endangers our journey to eternal life.

May God bless you with a clear mind and heart so that you can know which way you are to go.

God bless,

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Sad Day in Maine

I suppose like many of you, I was extremely appalled at the news that King Middle School in Portland, Maine has agreed to allow the distribution of birth control pills to middle schoolers who request it.

Particularly disheartening is that, although the children must get parental permission to be treated at the school's health center, they do not have to disclose to their parents why they want treatment. Any parent who is not paying attention, or whose child misrepresents their reason for seeking treatment, could inadvertently support their child's quest for contraception.

I am outraged--not only because of the push for birth control in general--but also because of the fact that parents are being removed from making this decision with their child.

It is a terrible pattern that is developing today, where children are allowed to make series life decisions independent of their parents. I was listening to a radio discussion about abortion in California, for instance, and the speaker said that in California, a pregnant minor can discuss their situation with their friends or anyone they wish, but, if they do not want their parents to know they are pregnant, they can get an abortion without their parent knowing about it!

It is disgusting to think that our culture is drifting to a position where children--minor children--can make life-altering decisions independent of their parents. Particularly disturbing is the implication that a parent's voice is uninimportant or irrelevant to events in their child's life.

When will we learn that throwing birth control at a population of children--such as this middle school--who are troubled by pregnancy, is not the solution?

To listen to part of the debate at the middle school, click on the following link:

God bless,

Monday, October 8, 2007

Respect Life isn't just for Sunday!

Clearly, we need more than one Sunday to stress Respect for Life, if the following is any indication of the mindset today . . .

A woman in Italy discovered that she was carrying twins and decided to abort the one twin that had Down Syndrome. The twins shifted position and the "healthy" twin was aborted instead. To make matters worse, the woman and her husband returned to the hospital to have the twin with Down Syndrome aborted.

Everyone's devastated; their lives are ruined; the hospital says it was a "misfortune" and a terrible fatality. Why? Because the "wrong" twin was aborted?

Each and every time a child is aborted, it is a terrible fatality!

Then, I read in the National Catholic Register that the UK has "approved in principle" creating a human/animal hybrid embryo. Yes, that's right. They want to clean out an unfertilized cow egg (or other animals as well) and insert human skin cells. Then, after electrically stimulating it to grow, they can use the stem cells and then kill the embryo. The embryo, mind you, contains human, genetic material.

I encourage you to pay attention to what is going on. Now is not the time to remain silent.

God bless,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jeans & Shorts at Mass?

The teenagers did all the music, ushering and so forth at the late evening Mass.

By the time Mass was over, I realized I had been gripped by a familiar debate that rises within me from time to time . . .

Is it okay to wear shorts and jeans to Mass? What about when you are serving on the altar? Is it okay during the week but not on Sundays? Should we just be happy people attend? Is it being judgmental to be concerned about what people wear?

The song I was singing—a familiar one—had this line: “Give me the mind of Jesus.”

I immediately recognized the irony. Would Jesus care? Probably not, but still, there I sat in my humanity, frustrated by the river of jeans and shorts on teens and adults alike, ministers of the Eucharist and attendees.

We have lots of excuses for not dressing up for Mass. We’re running behind. It’s a weekday. We want to be prepared for our after-Mass activities. We want to be comfortable. We don’t want to argue with the kids. It’s not important. The list goes on and on. I know. I’ve used some of these excuses myself.

But still, isn’t it disrespectful? Mass isn’t like anything else we do, shouldn’t our clothes reflect that? Shouldn’t we bother just a little more?

We teach our children to dress appropriately for other events, why do we negotiate when it comes to Mass? Is it that we are just glad they are going and don’t want to fight about it? If we have to bribe them by allowing them to wear jeans and/or shorts, what does that say about their understanding? How well have we taught our children about the Mass if the only reason they are agreeing to go is because they don’t have to make any effort? Is that good enough? Is it acceptable?

Where else do your children get away with that kind of attitude?

If your children are young, teach them to dress for Mass. You won’t have an argument about it when they get older because the habit will be formed. Of course, you have to believe in the relevance of it yourself.

If they are older, why not explain to them your “new” understanding about the importance of dressing up for church and, as a family, make that change together?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nutrition and Hydration

For an excellent report from Catholic News Service on the issue of nutrition and hydration for "vegetative" patients, go to:

This is well-written and gives a very clear explanation of the Church's teaching on this very sensitive subject. I suggest you take the time to review it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Football Felons Update

The high school football players who confessed to committing larceny of a house and were legally released from jail for school and school related activities—including playing in a Friday night football game—have now been suspended for the remainder of the season and their coach was suspended indefinitely. The athletic director was also suspended for a couple of weeks.

Apparently, the injustice to the other players and the preposterous idea that playing football is a reasonable excuse for leniency in a larceny home invasion—just took a little longer for those directly involved, to process.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Forget what you learned in kindergarten!

I was watching a report on one of the morning shows about kids and their first day of kindergarten. It showed the separation of parent/child. Some kids handled it fine. There was one little boy, however, that was having a hard time. He was crying and sort of screaming. The teacher and the aid did a very good job of redirecting him throughout the day, giving him important jobs to do and he calmed down tremendously. But there was one thing that struck me.

At the end of the day, it looked like the boy got some sort of reward or little acknowledgement because of his change in behavior. The teacher (or maybe it was the aid) said to him, “This is because you did really good. You didn’t cry the rest of the day.”

I know they were just being kind, and it was good that he calmed himself down, but the language bothered me. Wouldn’t it have been better just to acknowledge that it is hard to separate from Mom and Dad and that crying is a natural way to express that sadness? Why did they have to associate crying with badness? Couldn’t they have simply rewarded him at the end of the day because he cooperated when they asked him to lead a line or some other task?

Too often, we, in the adult world, want to fix everything right away. We want to make everything all smiles and happiness, because that says to us that everything is okay. But, in truth, outer expressions of joy do not necessarily reflect one’s interior reality, which may be one of utter turmoil.

Read any study on depression and you’ll quickly discover that the happiest looking people can be masking feelings of isolation and despair.

I wonder if we might all be a little healthier if we let go of that first lesson of kindergarten, and, rather than pretending that sadness dries as quickly as tears, offer a healing comfort that allows tears and sadness to be shed, rather than stuffed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Football playing felons--does this make sense?

Two high schools students, aged 17 and 18, plead guilty to felony home invasion. Under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, if they qualify, they are allowed to leave jail to go to school. They can do their time at nights and on the weekend. Their high school coach was allowed to decide if they could play in the Friday night football game. He let them play.

For all players who have not been allowed to play because of poor grades or conduct, and for all parents who have ever had to painfully enforce a simple grounding, does this make any sense? Even if there is great remorse, even if it is an important game, even if it is allowed under this Act, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to the two young men to be denied participation in the game?

Is this in their best interest?

Healthy discipline doesn’t usually take the easy route. It can be uncomfortable and difficult. No one is doing these young men any favor by allowing them to play in the game. The adults in their life, that could have made a positive difference, have let them down by allowing them to play.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Life as we know it

I recently read an article about scientists who are working to create life in the lab. (The Flint Journal, August 26, 2007, Scientists edge ever closer to creating life from the lab)

According to Jack Szostak, a leader in the field from Harvard, they must overcome three obstacles--creating a container for the cell, establishing a genetic system to control its functions, and developing a metabolism that can extract food and change it into energy.

Szostak goes on to admit that "We aren't smart enough to design things, we just let evolution do the hard work, and then we figure out what happened."

I know scientists can do amazing things, but creating life from scratch? Why would they even want to try?

Well, the purpose, as outlined in the article, said "several scientists believe man-made life forms will one day offer the potential for solving a variety of problems, from fighting diseases to locking up greenhouse gases to eating toxic waste."

Whatever scientists happen to create, man is not God and we simply cannot create with the perfection that God does. Missing from the clinical aspects of creation is God's hand. The creation of "that first cell from synthetic life" is purely man's design, not God's.

There are people who argue that we should do whatever we can because God is the one who gives us the wisdom, but that is ridiculous when you consider that God also gives us discernment between good and evil, and if we are not humble, we can easily be led astray. Wisdom in discernment hasn't proven to be one of our strong points so far. We must try to walk the delicate balance between science and the dignity and protection of human life.

Science alone is not an evil, of course, but it could be our fall, once again!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Charges dismissed, apologies given???

The description of the acts which brought charges against two thirteen year old Oregon boys six months ago is appalling.

The charges were dismissed recently, with the boys being required to apologize, pay cash to their female classmates, and attend an educational class to learn about "boundaries." Apparently they poked, slapped, imitated intercourse, and basically mauled the girls after watching the R-rated movie Jack***.

Nobody, including the victims, wanted to see the boys go to prison or labeled as sex offenders so the charges were dismissed. I'm not arguing for or against that, but I was struck by their so-called apologies.

It is widely reported that the boys said:

"I never intended to hurt you in any way."
"I hope we can still be friends."

Are these remorseful words that reflect an understanding of the depth of the cruelty of such immoral actions? Do these words reflect acceptance of responsibility?

These are the words of emptiness. Perhaps the boys did feel remorse, but these words do not express it. These perfunctory words are the lowest expression of sorrow and guilt.

The hard work towards forgiveness and healing will hopefully be guided by the adults in their lives, whom, we can only hope, do not feed the emptiness, but fill it.

God bless,

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America/homosexuality

August 12, 2007

It has just been reported that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has passed a resolution to restrain from punishing gay and lesbian ministers who are in a committed, same-gender relationship. Gay and lesbian ministers are encouraged to refrain from sexual relationships, but now there is an exception for those in committed partnerships.

The ELCA has been working on this for some time now, trying to reconcile the Biblical perspective of "accepting all people" with Biblical claims of homosexuality as sinful.

What they missed in passing this resolution, is that one must continue to be accepting of all people while instructing them in truth---such as that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that unmarried persons should practice celibacy.

This has surely been a very long, painful process for the ELCA. We should pray for the strife this will undoubtedly cause.

God bless,

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Catholic Evangelization/Latin America

August 4, 2007

I have a friend whose (non-denominational) church is relocating in order to minister to a nearby neighborhood. As I was thinking about their ministry, I said to my husband, "Why don't Catholics do that? It seems like we wait for people to come to us after they've had a conversion experience. Maybe we should go out to neighborhoods like that."

Of course, Catholics do a great deal of on-the-street ministry work with the poor, but for me, personally, my first inclination when I feel motivated is to set up a center, maybe a clearinghouse of information, rather than walk the streets.

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I read an article recently in The National Catholic Register summarizing my exact concerns (Volume 83, No. XX, The Brazil Brief.) The article was reporting on a document which came from the Latin American Bishops' meeting in Cuba. The reference is to a "Great Mission" that is being created to get Catholics there, moving.

According to The Register, the document, which comes out of Aparecida, Brazil, says, in part, that the Church should not depend "so much on great programs and structures, but in men and women who have incarnated the values of the Gospel in their hearts."

So perfect a call is this to men and women throughout the worldwide church to be converted to the Gospel and work in evangelization and religious education! Our "great programs and structures" will indeed be empty shells if they are not built on hearts of love. From Religious Education teachers to missionaries, if we don't evoke the name of God by our witness or our work, we're like a "resounding gong or a clashing cymbal." (1Cor 13:1)

Secondly, The Register article says:

In regards to the root problems identified by the Latin American bishops, "We do not experience an open confrontation against the Church, but there is a sustained effort to erode the Christian culture and replace our core values with a strange list of 'rights' that attacks life, family and community under the mantle of a false 'freedom of choice.'" (Cuban Cardinal Ortega)

Isn't this what is happening all over the world? Isn't this why Christians everywhere should speak up when their values are dismissed or challenged? Not to put too sharp a point on it, but it is true that the Christian culture which we know is eroding into a secularized pool of relativism.

Of course, we are not without hope. It is time, especially for laypeople to take responsibility for spreading the Gospel and we can do that, but it begins with our own conversion. Through prayer and consistently turning our hearts and minds to God, so that he is at the forefront of our thoughts, daily--perhaps hourly--we can be leaven in the world.

God bless,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007



Welcome to my new blog. Here you will find my commentary on a wide variety of topics to complement my website

Thanks for stopping by.

God bless,