Saturday, December 29, 2012

Did You Lay Your Life Down for Christ this Christmas?

I am admitting right here and now that if Christmas were only about Santa Claus and toys under a decorated fir tree (that should really still be standing in a forest somewhere as a home to woodland creatures), then I would have surely received a grade of A+ for my effort this past week.  However, Christmas really means that we are remembering God coming to his people tangibly as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem and how He came to this world to save us.  If I were to receive a grade for how well I did to keep that as the forefront of my family's minds,  then I probably would receive a grade of D - maybe F - this year.  Let's face it, it is tough to keep things in perspective all the time with society moving farther and farther away from the knowledge that we were created by The One who called himself "I am who I am."  He is existence.  He created us.  We exist because of Him.  We are supposed to give Him glory in all we do - all the time - 24/7.  The one time of year that we celebrate His earthly existence and His gift to us to come and save us, we spin it as the time of year to put pretty lights up, put reindeer antlers on our cars, wear red and green as much as possible (so much so that you don't want to see another red or green article of clothing until next Christmas), and as I heard so often this year...a time to be nice and to "give".

I am no theological genius, but I think we're supposed to be nice all the time - not just this time of year.  And I think we're supposed to be giving all the time.  And how much giving really takes place at Christmastime?  I do know there are many people who give of their time to help feed and clothe the hungry and poor, but "many" people isn't "most" people...and it certainly isn't "all" people.  We also bake like the end of the world is coming for people who usually say, "I'm trying to watch my calories".  We have even perverted this sense of giving to mean giving lots and lots and lots of toys to children who already have lots and lots and lots of toys.  We have perverted it to mean giving more stuff - that we don't need and probably wouldn't buy for ourselves - to people who already have lots of stuff.  How much stuff do we really need?  My house is so loaded with stuff from twenty three years of marriage and four children, that I am constantly in a frenzied state of "can we give this away? well, how about this?  and why do we still have this???"

Before Christmas this year, I had wanted so badly to really focus on the meaning of Christmas and teach my children how to as well.  I began our Advent season with the best of intentions.  I decided I would buy presents for the kids early and online, thus freeing me up for quality time with my children, snuggling, reading to them, baking with them, taking walks with them, etc.  My online order from "Name Withheld" was royally messed up and was given a shipdate of February.  February!!!  And I didn't even notice that until the week before Christmas when nothing had arrived yet.  Needless to say, I canceled my order.  So, amidst planning and preparing for my seven year old's beach-themed birthday party (two days before Christmas), I had to now find time to figure out how to get the bottom of our tree loaded up on Christmas morning.  This all meant my mind was not on Christ.  My eyes were not fixed on our Lord.  My heart was not pounding for joy at the impending birth of our Savior.  My heart was pounding at the thought of pulling off a birthday party at our home, as well as entertaining and cooking for our extended family Christmas Eve, and then making sure I had bought and wrapped enough presents for our children to open Christmas morning so that there would be no long faces.

To exacerbate my guilt over not celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, the Newtown massacre happened.  That is a day I will NEVER forget, nor will I get past it.  Like the parents of those beautiful children, I too have a first grader whom I love more than my own life.  The Christmas frenzy stopped that day.  I spent the day with my children - hugging them, kissing them, and trying to imagine my life if I were one of those Newtown parents.  How would I cope?  How would I continue on?  How would I ever forgive?  (A topic I recently wrote about and you can read here:  How Do I Forgive? )  I have done a lot of crying for the Newtown families and their tremendous losses and pain.  I grieve for the parents and families.  I grieve for the teachers and their families.  The ones who survived have scars that will remain on their hearts for the rest of their lives.  As a former teacher, I went through all the emotions and thoughts of "what if that had been me?"  What if that had happened when I was teaching?  Would I have lunged at the gunman?  Would I have frozen in fear? I want to say I would have gallantly tried to save my children's lives before my own - I think I would have - but I don't know.

It's impossible to try to imagine what one would do in the same horrific and unforeseen situation.  I do remember teaching when 9/11 happened and how I went into "lioness mode".  Muhammed Atta lived in our city for heaven's sake.  There was fear in our city that day - a lot of rumors and speculation... and fear.  I remember going through my mind in a split second how I could get my kids out of our classroom to safety while trying to get my own son from his kindergarten room at the same time.  My heart was split that day - between my "kids", as I called them, and my own son downstairs in a different room.  I remember thinking that as long as he was safe, that's all that would matter.  I would give my life for my students and my son - their lives were greater than mine.  The teachers, administrators, and staff who perished in Newtown are national heroines.  Their names should be learned by all.  Their stories should be told.  They gave their lives defending the lives of innocent children.  Of course, that kind of giving is the ultimate giving - the ultimate sacrifice - that we would lay our lives down for another.

God asks us to lay our lives down for Him everyday.  We haven't been doing a good job of it.  If we were, we wouldn't have the high numbers of mentally ill people unable to get adequate medical care. We wouldn't have guns so readily available to just anybody at any time - a piece of machinery that can take another's precious life with one movement.  We wouldn't be mass producing extremely violent  video games for our boys and evil monstrous dolls for our girls and then wrapping them in Frosty the Snowman paper to be tucked gently under bejeweled fir trees.  We wouldn't be forgetting our human brothers and sisters who need our love and support the whole rest of the year.  We wouldn't advocating and protecting (under the guise of choice) the violent death of millions of babies in the womb every year.  We wouldn't be focusing our daily lives on emulating Hollywood or Housewives of Wherever or Jersey Shore or ANYONE other than Christ.  As Christians, we have a duty to live our lives the way God has commanded us to live it.  Did everyone forget about the Ten Commandments?  Yeah, they weren't gentle reminders...they were COMMANDMENTS.  And as I have said before, God's kingdom is not a democracy, it is a kingdom.

Ugggggghhhhh.  Next year will be better.  I am vowing that next Christmas, our family's eyes will be set on waiting to see that tiny baby placed in the manger on Christmas Eve.  I am vowing that the focus of our year will be Christ's life, passion, death, and resurrection.  It is the ONLY thing that is important in this life.  He placed Himself inside - what is supposed to be - the safest place on the planet; a mother's womb.  He came to His people as a baby to a family of humble means so that we may understand Him more - we may relate to Him completely as one of us.  He wants us to know He understands our pains, our sufferings, our joys, our loves, and our responsibilities.  He did all that for us - the ones He created to enjoy in His creations.  What are we doing for Him?  How are we serving Him daily?  Reach out to others.  Spread His love.  Spread His joy.  Be a Christian witness to others.  If you have God at the center of your heart, how can you be anything but joyous?  Others will see your joy and will want it.  Teach others Christ's teachings.  Instruct others in the ways of the Church He set into motion with the sacraments and Peter as its first Pope.  If you don't know the ways of His Church, then begin this new year in educating yourself.  For as St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of the Scriptures, is ignorance of Christ."  Our world needs the witness of Christians - specifically Catholics.  We are a broken, Godless, misguided, and hurting world.  Only Christ and His Church have the ability to heal.  Wear your Christianity on the outside for all to see.  Witness for Christ and be willing to lay your life down for Him.  He layed His life down for us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Music: Inspirational or Secularized?

I was listening to our local Christian radio station and a woman called in.  She was lamenting that the station was playing Christmas music. Her argument went like this: I listen to your station as my time to get away from the world, my time to worship, my time to just get away from it all and focus on the Lord.  She said she could listen to Christmas music on any other station and wished the Christian station remained faithful to inspirational Christian tunes.  To which the disc jockey (if they're even called that anymore) replied, what better Christian music than Christmas music? It's kind of the ultimate - is it not? Also, if people are scanning the dial for Christmas music and find this station, they might stay for a while and like "the other stuff" - thus being evangelized.

My response? Is this really where we are? Christians can't even recognize inspiration in Christmas music?  Christmas has become so secularized that even Christians can't recognize the meaning behind the music and use it as a time to worship the birth of our Saviour???  Granted, if we're talking about Jingle Bells, it may be more difficult. Aaaaaand, this Christian station does tend to play many Christmas songs that sound like they belong at a rock concert.  Perhaps the radio station would do better to play more Christmas songs that are reverent to Christ's birth and help those of us out there driving around in our cars to experience inspiration in the "ultimate" Christian music.  But even in those songs that are more kitschy, can we not find the meaning behind the words too? Music is such an amazing route to recall a memory, sight, sound, smell, or emotion.  Shouldn't Christmas music recall a memory of Christmases past, a special family memory, attending mass, visiting a live nativity, and celebrating the birth of God's son born to a Virgin who said YES to God?

This Advent season, let all of the secular decorations you see and music you hear remind you of that. You will catch yourself going throughout your day with a smile on your face because in the end, all we need is our Lord. This is a joyous time - a time to celebrate - just keep the true meaning behind it all on the forefront of your mind and in your heart.  Of course, make sure your children do too.  If you are a parent, it is your job to hand your faith on to your children. They will not learn it through osmosis. Talk to your children about this joyous time, and I bet even they will begin to think about the toys a little less and want to pray and worship our Lord a little more.  Don't let yourself or anyone in your family be like the woman caller who has trouble seeing the true meaning of Christmas and the beauty in all of the ways we celebrate.

May you have a wonderful start to your Advent season.  Don't forget it begins this weekend and don't forget to teach that to your children.  Point out to them the new decorations that will be adorning your church as you attend mass this weekend....and play some Christmas music!  Here's a of my favorite songs...and it is reverent...and it recalls the TRUE meaning of Christmas:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Is Infant Baptism Biblical?

Why do Catholics baptize infants when so many other Christians baptize later in life - when there is an "understanding"?  That was one of the questions that arose after one of my Scripture study courses.  Several people in the class complained that friends or relatives of theirs attend various protestant churches and question this Catholic practice.  One person even challenged our notion of infant baptism by stating he wanted biblical proof of "one baby being baptized".  Here was my response:

The Church teaches that baptism is a sacrament that removes sin - both original and actual.  In the case of an infant or young child it only removes original sin.  If it is an older person, it would remove both original and actual sin.  

It is also written in Scripture.
For example, in Acts 2:38, Peter states "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  If you notice,  Peter does not restrict this teaching to adults.  He added in v39, "For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him."

In Acts 16:14-15, Scripture tells us that, "One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.  After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,' and she prevailed on us."  The "household" was baptized.  It doesn't say only the adults and older children were baptized.

In Acts 16:33, it goes on to state, "He took them in that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once."

None of the above verses excludes infants, nor does it state that specifically only adults are to be baptized.

In Luke 18:15-16, Luke states, "Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him, saying, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God'."   Many fundamentalists will say that this does  not apply to infants as infants would not be able to approach him on their own.  However, the passage states they were bringing "even infants to him".  And notice what Jesus says, "to such (referring to infants and children that were brought to him) belongs the kingdom of God".  So, if Jesus himself said, "let them come to me", who are we to say, "no" and withhold baptism from them?

There is also MUCH writing about the topic by the early Church Fathers.  I will only quote two here:
St. Irenaeus of Lyons:  "For he came to save all through himself - all, I say, who through him are born again to God - infants, and children, and boys, and youth, and old men."   AD 189

St. Hippolytus of Rome:  "The children shall be baptized first.  All the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer.  If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from their family."   AD 215

I hope this brings some clarity for anyone reading who always wondered about infant baptism.  God bless!

Monday, November 5, 2012

How Do I Forgive?

How many times in your life have you felt wronged?  What did that person or persons do to you?  Was it as simple as someone cutting in front of you in line, or was it someone stole an idea of yours and then received the credit?  Has anyone ever lied about something you did or said and convinced others to believe their version of the story?  Were you abandoned by a parent or both parents?  Have you ever been mistreated by a boyfriend or spouse, and it seems they walk away unscathed while you are the one left alone on the battlefield with the wounds?  Have you ever been abused - emotionally or physically or both?  Has someone close to you been killed at the hands of another?  Anyone who has experienced any of these scenarios knows that the pain involved is very real, very scarring, and very lasting.  Even though as Christians we know we are supposed to forgive, it's the getting to that point - I mean truly getting to a point of freeing yourself from feelings of hurt, anger, or revenge - that is the toughest part.

How do we forgive to the point where we don't have any ill feelings towards the assailant?  I am not ashamed to say that I personally find this very difficult.  I can say the words, "I forgive," but to actually feel it to the depths of my soul is difficult to attain.  I do know it takes time, and I know the amount of time is different for everyone and every scenario.  The first and most important thing one must do is to take time praying for your heart to open up and hear what Jesus is telling you.  We all know God's time is not our time, so praying will become a habit if it's not already.  It will take time sitting before our Lord in adoration.  Perhaps it will take a trip (or two or three or more) to a confessional - ahhhhh horrors a confessional...but sometimes we think someone wronged us and we have no part in the blame.  That is where sitting and examining your conscience while meditating on all aspects of each Commandment will help us to see more clearly.  Yes, forgiving takes time, prayer, meditation, and confession...which I think means it will take WORK.  Darnit!  It's not easy to forgive.  It will take more than a simple passing thought of forgiveness when you have a scar on your soul.  I think it might be human nature to want to retaliate - even if it's a short-lived thought.  Don't kid yourself.  You've wanted to get back at someone for something at sometime.  How did the thought of retaliation make you feel?  Glorious?  Exalted? A winner?  Like a gladiator who just conquered the lion???  After you realized you wouldn't be retaliating, how did you really feel?  Worse than you did before your grandiose battle plan?  You felt worse because you felt defeated.  You realized the perpetrator was going to most likely get to go on with his/her life seemingly unscathed.  You realized you were right back at square one.  You would have to do some WORK.  You would have to work on yourself and your ability to forgive.

Anger can be the tie that binds a person to a non-forgiving heart.  There is such a thing as "just anger", but we would do well to look to the saints for their wisdom on this topic.  In Saint Alphonsus Liguori's "On the Vice of Anger", he points to Saint Bonaventure who states that an angry man is incapable of distinguishing between what is just and unjust ("Iratus non potest videre quod justum est, vel injustum").  He also quotes Saint Jerome saying that anger is the door by which all vices enter the soul ("Omnium vitiorum janua est iracundia").  Saint Alphonsus himself says that "to be angry against sin is not angerbut zeal; and therefore it is not only lawful, but it is sometimes a duty. But our anger must be accompanied with prudence, and must appear to be directed against sinbut not against the sinner; for if the person whom we correct, perceive that we speak through passion and hatred towards him, the correction will be unprofitable and even mischievous. To be angry, then, against a brother's sin, is certainly lawful."

So when is it just or unjust?  Do we have a right to feel anger for sinful actions of another?  We can lawfully feel anger towards the sin, but never the sinner.   It is then, as David said, we may be angry without sin. "Be ye angry, and sin not" - Psalm 4:5.  But to be angry against another on account of the sin which he has committed is not lawful.   In Psalm 140 and 141, David has so much beautiful wisdom for us.  Psalm 140 says, "Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, from those who devise evil in their hearts, and stir up wars every day.  They make their tongues sharp as those of serpents; the venom of asps is under their lips."  Psalm 141 goes on to say, "O Lord, set a watch before my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips.  Let not my heart incline to the evil of engaging in deeds of wickedness with men who are evildoers; and let me not partake of their dainties.  Let the just man strike me; that is kindness; let him reprove me; it is oil for the head, which my head shall not refuse, but I will still pray under these afflictions...For toward you, O God, my Lord, my eyes are turned; in you I take refuge; strip me not of life.  Keep me from the trap they have set for me, and from the snares of evildoers.  Let all the wicked fall, each into his own net, while I escape."  So it seems David is calling out for help when feeling the trappings of sin when one sins against him.  He emphatically states he will continue to do one important thing..."pray under these afflictions".  He gives us that as the key to escaping sin while "the wicked fall".

St. Thomas points out that "anger, when fully voluntary, is  accompanied with a desire of revenge. (Ira est appetitus vindictoe)".   Anger is like trying to tame a bucking bronco and revenge may end up like you flailing wildly to the ground.  For, St. Alphonsus asks, "Who, I ask, has told you, that you have just grounds for seeking revenge? It is you, whose understanding is clouded by passions, that say so. I have already said, that anger obscures the mind, and takes away our reason and understanding."  It is the anger one must move past in order to forgive as so many saints point out that anger clouds and "obscures" our reasoning.  And as David wisely instructs us, we must pray through our injustices and completely trust in God.  You cannot walk through your anger, resentment, feelings of revenge, and pride without the unending aid and comfort of our Lord.  How would you or could you do this alone?  It may feel like you are alone and abandoned in your time of despair, but you are not.

Ultimately, all we need to do is to look to the cross.  Think how alone Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion.  Did he feel abandoned?  By his apostles?  His followers?  His own Father in Heaven???  He knew what his sentence was, but He also knew the truth - God's truth - which so many refused to believe at the time.  Jesus is the ultimate example of abandoning your will to God's will.  We do not always know why we are in the situations we are in, or why we experience the pain we sometimes feel, but God has an ultimate plan for us all.  As believers we turn our sights to God and His will at ALL times - not just when it's convenient for us.  Forgiving is just that - it is turning our sights to God, not to the evil or wrongdoers in our lives.  Surely if we do not turn our sights to God, evil will take a stranglehold on our hearts and minds as we pursue an avenue of anger, hatred, and revenge.   Look to Jesus crucified and our injustices will pale in comparison.

"Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamor, and blasphemy, be put away from you, with all malice." - Ephesians 4:31

p.s.  On a lighter note, my delay in writing can be directly attributed to two rounds of sicknesses going through the house, teaching a Bible study course on the Virgin Mary, preparing for a storm that never really hit us, and ALL of the Halloween festivities (costume buying, candy buying and buying and buying, parades, classroom volunteering, baking cupcakes and cookies, trunk or treating, and neighborhood trick or treating).  Lord have mercy, let me get through Thanksgiving and Christmas in a calm and patient manner and let me easily forgive anyone who cuts me off on the road (presumably on their way to some awesome sale) or cuts in front of me in long holiday lines!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Respect Life Sunday

Every year on Respect Life Sunday, I always think back to two things that I will never forget.  The first is a photo I saw a couple of years ago of a tiny baby  - only 8weeks gestation still in its sac  - taken from its mother's womb because she had cancer and her entire uterus had to be removed.  The image is so vivid in my mind today as the first time I saw it because it is just that powerful.  So many women abort their babies at that gestational age not knowing it is a "baby".  Women are told by their doctors, myself included, that it is just a clump of cells at that stage.  Here is the image:

Can you really say that is just a clump of cells?  That is LIFE!  It is a miraculous photo in and of itself, but it also serves to prove the baby at such a young gestational age is just that... a very tiny baby.  That is a beautiful baby given to its mother and father as a beautiful gift of love from God.  Women are aborting out of ignorance and fear.  Either they are ignorant of the fact it is truly a baby, or they are ignorant of the way in which it will meet its death at the hands of a so-called surgeon, or they know both but don't care because their fear is gripping.  They fear losing their boyfriends or husbands or extended family.  They fear not being able to provide.  They fear not being able to be the "perfect mother".  They fear they might lose out on their "single life".  What ever the reasons are, they are wrong and absolutely misguided.  The saddest part is that deep down, women know the cells growing exponentially inside their wombs are babies from the moment of conception.  My first miscarriage was difficult at just six weeks because I knew it was a baby and I was already in love. When my fourth baby's heart stopped beating at nine weeks, mine did too - for a looooong moment.  A piece of me died each time I lost a baby.  We know the truth.  Somehow, we don't even need an ultrasound to tell us the image above is what our babies look like in the first trimester.  We just know.

The other thing I think of every Respect Life Sunday is a homily I heard on this day several years ago.  The priest gave such a powerful homily about every topic pertaining to respecting the sanctity of marriage and families.  He spoke about chastity and the issues that arise when you aren't chaste.  It was powerful and charged.  Most of the church wanted to stand up and cheer when he was finished.  I know some wanted to and did walk out.  That is okay.  Perhaps they were in the wrong church.  The Catholic Church has always been and always will be pro-life.  I know there are many many many very brave priests across our nation who are speaking out about pro-life issues.  They are not shy when it comes to teaching the catechism, and they don't apologize for our teachings.  I do know it is a difficult topic because at any given mass there are multitudes of women sitting in the pews who have had abortions, but this day's homily could be used in a number of ways ~ perhaps reaching out to those who are suffering; offering forgiveness, help, and healing.  Today, my parish priests chose to say nothing about Respect Life Sunday.  That is a difficult pill to swallow when you are the Respect Life Rep.  Difficult pill.  Perhaps God is trying to teach me to be more patient in my life.  He is hitting me where it hurts.  So, today I thought back to that awesome homily I heard a few years back and prayed more parishes across the country today were hearing homilies similar to that one.  LIFE emanates from God.  If we don't do everything we can to protect it, what are we saying in the face of God?  What are we doing as Christians ~ followers of Christ ~ to protect the lives that were so worth saving that Jesus died on a cross for them?  Are we doing everything we can?

Monday, September 17, 2012

One Bread, One Body

Last year, one of the priests at my parish asked me if I would be willing to put together a healing mass for "women only".  It would be a mass in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose feast day is September 15th.  It would be a mass for women to come and lay any and all of their burdens at the foot of the cross - whether it ranged from abuse and abortion to the everyday trials and responsibilities of caring for a house and family.  I of course said "yes"!  God bless this priest for hearing God's call to heal His daughters.

Tonight was the 2nd Annual Women's Healing Mass.  There were about 65 ladies in attendance, which is pretty good on a Monday evening.  I didn't care if only one showed up.  I knew it would be what God wanted it to be.  After the homily, we had a candlelighting ceremony.  Each person got a small votive, lit it from one of the altar candles, and left it in a candelabra next to the altar or on a small table in front of the altar.  The Holy Spirit's presence was powerful - overwhelming, in fact.  I felt completely swept up in joy as the burden of carrying my crosses had just been lifted.  We prayed, we cried, we leaned on one another, we opened our hearts to Jesus, we listened, we walked to the altar, and we left our burdens in the form of a beautiful light burning bright for Jesus.  Once all the candles had been placed, the lights glowed together as one.  We were united as women of God in our sufferings.  During communion, once again, the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully through the Church - through each of us.  I could feel it.  I felt every one of the ladies' pains...and then I felt an overwhelming joy to the depths of my soul.  I knew something very special was happening tonight.

The week prior, our musician had asked me for some suggested songs.  The first one that popped into my head was "One Bread, One Body", and I could not get it out of my head.  I've been singing it all week!  I can't even remember the last time we sang that song at my parish. I was hoping she would play it during communion, yet she played two other songs first.  I sat there thinking, "Darn, she's not going to play it."  Well, she began playing it just as the last few women were receiving communion, and so we sat there - in complete grace - singing that song.  These sixty or so women were singing that song louder than at a Sunday service.  It was absolutely the right song choice!  In those moments, we were all connected by the Eucharist - by our Lord flowing through our blood.  We truly were one bread and one body...and we were praying for our own intentions whilst lifting each other up in turn.

p.s.  Think about starting one of these masses at your own parish.  We women have a very important role in the salvation of God's people.  We must do all we can to lift each other up!

I found this youtube clip of this song with the words.  Enjoy!  We are so blessed to be Catholics!!!

Blog Update + Mass With Kids? Sure!!!

Hello everybody, I just wanted you to know that I am shutting down the 2nd blog "Agnes Day".  I was beginning to feel a little schizo having to think of two blogs at one time.  Sooo, I will transfer some of the old posts over here.  Sorry for any confusion.  I will be much happier with my one blog - which means better writing :)  Have a blessed day!

Here is a posting I wrote September 4th:

Mass With Kids?  Sure!  Give it a Try!

This past Sunday, I was sitting in mass and I realized that all my children were quiet and happy sitting with us there in the back row.  Yay!  We were successful!  And by successful, I mean no one was randomly talking VERY LOUDLY, no one was whining "I'm bored", no sippy cups were falling during those quiet times in mass, no one needed to go potty, no one was fighting, no one needed to be cleaned head to toe from a mere "snack", and I wasn't on the floor cleaning up that "snack"!

I know just how challenging it can be to bring children of any age to mass - much less bringing many of them all at once - but it can be done.  I want to encourage anyone reading who might be forgoing mass during those baby/toddler years because it's just too much work.  Sometimes, some children might need to stay home during a few months of their lives (this was the case with all of my boys around the year and a half mark), but keep at it.  Be persistent.

The more you go, the more the kids see it as routine.  It will just be the thing the family does all together on Sunday.  I do have some helpful tips I'd like to share:

1.  If you have a newborn and he/she cries, you can feed (nurse) right there or walk in the back of the church or cry room.
2.  Pack a "mass bag" for toddlers and older children.  Let them pick their goodies which could include sticker books, short books, coloring books, blank paper, pencils, washable crayons, small dolls, favorite blankie, etc.
3.  Bring a simple snack that won't make a mess if spilled - goldfish are the worst offender.  I can't tell you how many times I've stepped on goldfish dust on the floor in the back of our church.  Try dried apples, bananas, raisins, cranberries, cheerios, fruit leather, and crackers/cereal (if you manage it). Remember to clean up after yourselves!
4.  Try to sit strategically so younger children are placed between mom and dad and older children.
5.  Let your younger children pick out their clothes (give them some appropriate choices) - if you fight with them to wear something they don't like, it's just one more thing they won't like about mass.
6.  Try not to rush the morning, but if you're rushed, don't yell!  Yelling hasn't really gotten me anywhere.  Trust me, I've tried it!  It's not a great way to start your Sunday.
7.  Praise your teenagers and older children in front of the younger children.  It's important for the older ones to know how much you appreciate their good behavior and how great it is they're "showing up for God".  It's also great for the younger ones to see them as role models.
8.  You can make a family outing, such as lunch, after mass a part of your routine if you're able.  It makes for a wonderful family day and kids will look forward to it.  It's worth not going out all week and saving the money just for Sunday.
9.  Sit near an escape route!  I can't tell you how crucial this is.  As much as you think your kids are perfect, every now and then they will need to leave for various reasons.  It's difficult for those around you to see, hear, and focus on the mass if the kids are squirmy and loud.  The back of the church is kind of like a given that it's for the families with little ones - that is if you don't have a "cry room".  If there are adults back there who are annoyed by your family, I say, "too bad - you knew what you were in for when you sat there"!
10.  Finally and most importantly, set a good example for your children before, during, and after.  Children watch and listen like hawks and they are the ultimate imitators.  Be positive, be patient, and be persistent.

I hope these tips help.  Persistence is really the key.  There have been times when one of our boys was just too much and too loud to handle, so we would go to mass in shifts - my husband at one time and me at another.  Sometimes a little one just needs a little walk around the back of the church or even outside for five minutes.  Don't deny yourself the graces that come from spending time with our Lord.  He knows you're there.  It's not crucial that you don't hear the homily.  Remember, we're Catholic - the homily is not the point of mass.  You're there for receiving the Eucharist.  I encourage anyone reading who has been avoiding mass to give it a try and leave me a note to let me know how it's going.  If anyone else has any other tips, please feel free to share!  You won't regret going to mass - Jesus is there and he wants you there too.  God bless and may you have many happy Sundays together as a family!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Respect Life and The Road to Emmaus

This past Saturday, my parish hosted the Archdiocese of Miami Respect Life Ministry's Annual Luncheon.  It was an all day affair complete with speakers, video presentations, mass, a catered lunch, and awards presentations.  Since I am the Respect Life representative for my parish, that meant I was in charge...even though I know full well God is always in charge!  It was a beautiful day even though we were in the beginning stages of a tropical storm named Isaac - currently about to hit New Orleans as a hurricane. The rain and wind only kept about 25 people away - which isn't bad considering our diocese is so large; including Dade (Miami) and Broward (Ft.Lauderdale) counties.

It went off without a hitch.  I had a team of volunteers comprised of adults and teenagers (my son and his friends) come in and serve lunch to each table, pour water and iced tea, clear it all away, and then break it all down at the end of the event and reset the hall for mass, as our church is also the parish hall. To see the willing adults and teens give up their Saturday for an opportunity to serve the Lord in this way was truly awesome to witness.

During mass, my pastor asked me to come up to the pulpit after communion and say a few words of thanks.  I knew I'd be a little nervous, but when I got up there and looked at the multitudes of beautiful pro-life faces, I became overwhelmed.  Here I was on the altar getting ready to speak to some of Christ's soldiers, and who was I to address them?  I surely felt Christ's presence on the altar.  We had all just consumed him in the Eucharist.  He was now flowing through our blood and we were as one body.    I got choked up, but thanked everyone for fighting for the truth and for fighting for Him - not just in their parishes, but everyday in every aspect of their lives.   I saw truth and beauty staring back at me in the faces of young and old, male and female all fighting for LIFE.  

For months, I had been concerned about our event coinciding with another event at our parish on the same day - one that would need the kitchen as well.  It was a bit of a scheduling snafu and I was a little upset at first, but then I gave it over to the Lord and trusted in His ways.  The day would be the way He wanted it to be.  The other event I'm speaking of is one called Emmaus.  It is a Catholic weekend retreat, based on the "Road to Emmaus" story in the Bible, meant to deepen your relationship with or begin your relationship with Christ. I had actually gone through Emmaus two years ago, and as a result I became the Respect Life Ministry head for our parish where we had not really had a ministry there before.  So, as the morning preparations were underway, people were filing into the Church, and volunteers were diligently working in the kitchen, it struck me that the scheduling snafu would not even be occurring if it hadn't been for me going through Emmaus.  Wow!  This Archdiocesan Respect Life luncheon would not even be occurring at our parish this year had I not gone through the Emmaus retreat two years earlier.  How awesome our God is! Someone told me that the Emmaus retreat is like an onion - you keep peeling away layers as time goes on.  True in my case; very true.

How wonderful our Lord is that He would wait on a lowly servant such as myself, put me to work at this life-saving ministry, only to put these two programs (Respect Life and Emmaus) head-to-head.  I almost wonder how sad it would be had I not realized the connection.  What if I had just been upset about the two events coinciding on the same day - even though I had scheduled my event before the Emmaus weekend.  What if my pride had stood in the way of recognizing what God had used me for and how He continues to use me?  What if I had been selfish and demanded Emmaus move their weekend?  I trusted in the Lord.  I knew it was happening for a reason, and that reason became evident to me Saturday morning.  It's difficult to put our pride aside and stop trying to rule the roost, but I can tell you it never ends well if you don't.  God is clearly in charge and He has a mission for each one of us if we listen!  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bratzillaz...MORE Dolls from Hell

"What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs."
2Corinthians 2:10-11

I have been wanting to write about these dolls since they came out, so here goes!

Last year I wrote a blog posting about the very popular Monster High Dolls.  You can read that posting here:
"As If Sexualization of Tweens Wasn't Enough, Here Come the Dolls From Hell"
Now we have a whole new crop of evil dolls to deal with - the Bratzillaz dolls.  I know parents in the general population not only don't see these as harmful, but encourage their daughters to collect and play with them.  These dolls ARE harmful, and I am NOT afraid to say it.  Parents need to stay as far away from these dolls and other toys like them as possible.  Why would anyone invite danger into their households?  Most wouldn't...which shows that people don't realize the danger that is inherent in these toys.  When anyone dabbles in anything that is tied to the occult, you are opening a door that can be very difficult to close.  I personally have spent much of my adulthood trying to close all the doors that were opened by family when I was a child.  The blessing of our house a few months ago finally did the trick I think.  There is a war going on out there for our souls.  Don't hand yours or your kids' over to people you don't know who are running large companies for large profits.  Right now, our young girls are obsessed with anything that is remotely like "Twilight".  Vampires are selling like hotcakes.

Our culture is currently obsessed with young girls looking as provocative as possible.  We are so obsessed, in fact, that there is jealousy among mothers to look as young and sexy as their daughters, nieces, next door neighbor's daughters, etc.  Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the LARGE amount of moms out there dressing and acting inappropriately - for the attention of....whom?  This is, of course, a part of the dark side's master plan to ultimately completely tear apart the family unit.  Why not encourage women to look trampy - they will literally be wearing a billboard that says, "Hello, I've sold myself."  Why not encourage their daughters to sell themselves - or give themselves away also - at a very very young age?  Have you taken a good look at what these dolls are wearing?  They are wearing clothes that fifteen years ago you would have said looked like something a street walker would be wearing.  These Bratzillaz dolls even have tattoos.  Great!  Trampy clothes aren't enough - let's brainwash the little buggers into stamping trashy things all over their bodies...permanently!  The body was made by God as a sacred vessel to bring forth life - not something to be disrespected and mutilated.

Before birth control, it seems Satan was finding great success at working on man's sexual desires by encouraging promiscuity, alcoholism, abuse, pornography, etc.  After the advent and widespread acceptance and use of the pill, Satan had an inroad into ripping apart the women in our society.  The pill was wrapped up and labeled innocuously as a savior, really...something that would save the family by giving the husband and wife (really just the wife) complete control over when to conceive and how many babies to conceive.  It was freedom - finally!  Not innocuous.  The pill has torn apart the family unit by taking away the reason married couples make love.  We are made to bring forth babies - God's children.  The devil stopped the "bringing forth" through the pill and then the legalization of abortion.  Actually, abortions not only have stopped the "bringing forth", but have convinced mothers worldwide that murdering their babies is okay if the timing isn't right, or if there might be a birth defect, etc.  Women have and continue to aid in the destruction of their own precious homes - their nests.  We cry out for stable homes, loving husbands, and beautiful children, but the dark side tells us that we should avoid our husbands because of a horrible thing called pregnancy and a new addition to the family.  The dark side tells us to use our sexuality in the bedroom with our husbands, but use the pill religiously, and then stuff down that little feeling each month of "what if".  We grow up as little girls dreaming of the large house, the white picket fence, and a yard filled with children playing in it, but the dark side convinces us that the yard should be filled with an adult-like swimming pool, or fancy gardens, and children might mess those things up.  Satan is the great deceiver and his demons are constantly working hard on us.  They want us to suffer as much as they are.  They want us going down with the ship with them.

So, let's take a really close look at these dolls.  They are attractive, sexy, wear fashionable clothes, and have multiple "powers".  They look like demons or vampires or witches - whatever you would like to call them.  Why on earth are mothers and fathers allowing their precious daughters, the future nurturers of our society, to have fantasy play with dolls from hell???  Parents, you had better wake up and begin seeing the war that is going on.  There is a war for your daughters' souls - our daughters' souls - our future mothers' souls.  You had better fight for those souls and tell your daughters, "NO, you cannot have those dolls because who would want to play with such ugly horrible evil looking things?"  That is what our daughters must hear about toys like these.  You cannot cave in on this one.  You must stand your ground or else another demon wins another battle.  The dark side is working on the family from all sides.  Why let it creep into your house through something that is so easy to say no to?

Please watch the latest Bratzillaz video and see what our young girls are being exposed to.  Young girls all over the world are clamoring for the Monster High and Bratzillaz dolls.  Don't let any of your daughters be any of those young girls.  While watching this video, pay special attention to the marketing (hot clothes, great song, pretty girls, power to bring forth a hot guy, large mansion) as well as the imagery i.e. very dark background.  Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is that every one of the girls is shown "walking on water".  Again, it may seem innocuous, but an adult producer or director or writer came up with that idea.  Why would an adult come up with that particular idea and make it such a prominent part of the video?  Could it be that the dark side's ultimate goal is to make sure that humans don't believe in Christ as our Savior?  Christ didn't walk on water any more than these silly women in this silly video, right?  It's all poking fun at such a ridiculous notion anyway.  Open your eyes...Christianity is being attacked and souls are at stake.
Watch here:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Humanae Vitae and Advancing Forward

Does it seem that our country is more divided today than ever before?  I wonder what it was really like during the Civil War because it is feeling more and more that the level of anger out there right now rivals the mid 1800's.  We are a divided country on the most basic of human issues: marriage... and having babies.  We probably all agree that the economy stinks, unemployment is still high, we are tired of politicians, we could do a better job of taking care of our environment, our healthcare system needs revamping (not a government run system shoved down our throats), our public educational system is broken, and we appreciate the sacrifices our military make for our freedoms everyday.  It's the hows and whys of these issues that rile everybody up and cause politicians to point fingers.  And then there are those first two issues where we are clearly divided:  should the definition of marriage change or should it remain the same? and is it really a woman's right to her body when a baby is involved?  and what about that pesky contraception issue?  Conservatives say that liberals are destroying America's Christian foundation, eroding our freedoms by asking government to take a more active role, and giving women a pass on murder for aborting their babies. Liberals would say that conservatives are stuck in the past, Christianity is passé, the government can do a lot of good in terms of helping the poor, and abortion is legal and it is a woman's right to have the baby or not (end of story).

When I was "pro-choice", I thought it was exactly that.  I thought we as women had gained freedoms and I was simply exercising that freedom by making sure I protected the right to "choose".  When I learned of the true horrors that abortions can bring about for women (not to mention the baby), from depression to serious health issues to even death, I knew abortion was not the path to true freedom but a stranglehold on women.  How could women not have seen this back in 1973?  How could the nurturers of our society allow and encourage the passage of Roe v. Wade?  Any woman who has held a baby in her womb for even a day, knows it is LIFE.  It is a miraculous life that God gave as a gift.  It is not a mistake.  When contraception first began, it was supposed to be used in extreme circumstances.  It grew to such a popular idea that women went from the nurturers of our society to murderers of their own babies.  But we covered the blood with a picket sign that read "Pro-Choice", and fooled much of the world into believing it.  We were being modern and forward-thinking.  We shouldn't be stuck in the past if the technology was there, right?

In 1968, Pope Paul VI prophetically wrote a document called "Humanae Vitae".  It came under extreme fire from all sides, including some of his own.  In it, he discusses contraception, marriage, and having babies.  The very first line pretty much sums it up.  Ready for this? "God has entrusted spouses with the extremely important mission of transmitting human life."  This is our role in life as a married person.  When we entered into the sacrament of marriage, we were "entrusted" with the care of this special and vitally important role.  It is through married couples that God's people will continue to flourish and humanity will be saved.  When else does God's hand come down and literally touch a human being?  He works in union with the couple to bring forth life and then works together with the woman to grow a child of God in the image of Himself.

Pope Paul VI goes on to say that,
"God the Creator wisely and providently established marriage with the intent that He might achieve His own design of love through human beings.  Therefore, through mutual self-giving, which is unique and exclusive to them, spouses seek a communion of persons.  Through this communion, the spouses perfect each other so that they might share with God the task of procreating and educating new living beings."

We as spouses perfect each other by creating the possibility for new life.  It is a perfect union and one that is exactly like the Holy Family.  God chose to come to this world as a small helpless newborn baby - born into a family of a mother and father.  We mirror God's image in our families.  With God's help, we bring forth life.  When we are contracepting ourselves and aborting our babies, we are living in complete discord with the One who gave us life.  He gave us our lives, yet we continue to destroy them and our children's.

After all was said and done, Pope Paul VI was right.  His writing was prophetic.  We are currently living through a time that is overrun with evil and an inordinate amount of attention to what is in fashion.  As Christians, we know that we must abide by God's laws for that is truly the only way to complete freedom and happiness.  God's commands are there to keep his children safe, not to restrict them.  It is in safety that we are truly free.  We have a difficult time with this notion because as Americans we have grown too comfortable in our "democracy".  We were of course built on freedom and certain inalienable rights, and we are used to fighting for those rights if need be.  God is calling His people to abide by His rules, not society's - even in tough times such as these.  So, should we continue to advance forward or remain "stuck" in the past, as some would suggest?  We would do well to heed Pope Paul's warnings.  He was guided by the Holy Spirit in writing "Humanae Vitae".  God was warning us in 1968.  Society will keep pushing in all directions because it is made up of a bunch of talking heads and their followers.  It is our duty as Christians to keep pushing in one direction - God's direction - even when it seems old-fashioned or outdated.  God protects, guides, loves, and prods us to utilize the gifts we were given in this life.  We haven't been given freedoms to abuse them and do whatever we want.  We were entrusted with freedoms so that we could go about the business of building up God's kingdom.  We must remember that God's kingdom is exactly that.  It is a kingdom - it is not a democracy.

This is LIFE at 12 weeks

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Are Babies Really Close to Heaven?

It is said that babies are close to heaven because they have recently joined us here... from there.  I believe this to be true because I have found it to be true.   When my oldest son was just about one and a half, I heard him up from a nap babbling in his crib.  I stealthily creeped down the hallway just so I could sneak a peek of him through the crack in the door.  What I saw was him sitting up in his crib, looking up as if to someone, and speaking very clearly. I heard him say, "Okay God, I will."  I have to admit, it kind of freaked me out - especially since I had never heard him speak so clearly before.  I went into his room, he turned to look at me, and his face changed.  He was happy to see me, but it was if he "snapped out of it."  I asked him who he was talking to and he said he didn't know.

Several years ago, I was walking my second son to sleep as I always did at every nap and every bedtime.  I have a mirror on the wall with an engraved image of Mary in it.  I had passed that mirror with him countless times already, but at that moment, he lifted his head from my shoulder.  He looked at the mirror and said, "Oh, hi Miriam."  I had never pointed out that mirror to him, nor had I ever said it was a picture of Mary.

When my third son was about two, he saw a picture of Jesus and said, "Look Mom, it's God."  My baby girl is now about a year and a half, and last week she saw a picture of a girl angel.  She pointed at it and said, "Mary".  She said it with the sweetest voice and cocked her head to the side.  She kept saying it over and over - like she was pointing to a picture of an old dear friend.  I swear I couldn't make these stories up.  They happened.

Our babies are closer to heaven than we know.  I have often held my babies close while they sleep and stared at them.  I think, "What exactly do you know?  How little credit we must give you." Our babies know who their true Father and Mother are.  They know about Jesus and the angels.  I wonder what each of my babies has come here to teach me and our family.  It is important that we watch our babies and listen.  We would do well to mirror their innocence.   If you wonder what heaven is like, you might just get a little closer to a little one.  The answers might be as close as looking into the eyes of a baby and listening.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hail Mary, Full of Grace

I am feeling the need to share this song with you all.  Hail Mary Full of Grace...

May God continue to bless you, your families, and your endeavors.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mary Calls Again

About three months ago, I was asked to present a lesson on Mary as the "Ark of the New Covenant" to a parish in Miami as part of an all day Scripture study on Mary.  I assure you that it was not something I considered lightly.  Even though I flippantly accepted the offer, I fretted about it several nights until my husband wisely suggested I had better decline in a hurry if I was even thinking of chickening out.  After all, people were counting on me to teach the lesson, and if I wasn't going to do it, someone else would be needed.  Soooo, I gave myself two weeks to skim the material and figure out if not only I had the brain power to understand, retain, and then teach the material, but the confidence to speak before a room of possibly 100 adults (some of whom might me very proficient in the Bible).

I then did as I always do - I cut a deal with God.  I promised that if in my whirlwind life of homework assignments, sippy cups, diapers, spills, falls, fights, twitter, facebook, phone calls, sicknesses, meal planning and preparation, laundry, and sleepless nights God would provide windows of opportunity for me to study in peace, I would take them.  I promised I would not squander the time He provided me to study.  It was like a miracle.  During those two weeks, I began pushing my two little ones around the neighborhood around noontime in the double wide stroller resulting in two conked out kiddos.  Here is what they looked like:

It was really too perfect.  As soon as I saw them pass out  I would say, "Thank you Jesus"(in my best Southern drawl of course), and then I would run them home, wheel them inside, and sit my fanny down to do some reading and studying.  I actually could not wait until they fell asleep so I could selfishly sit in my house in silence with our Lord - just sit and read the Bible.  I became addicted!

Honestly, it was a beautiful time, and I truly miss it now that all the kids are home for the summer and getting that kind of time would probably be impossible.  It was a quiet time in the middle of the day when my mind was actually clear.  I learned so much about Our Lady.  I have always said that it was Mary who drew me into the Church - always drawing me nearer to her Son.  Apparently, she is still working on me.  I almost laughed out loud when I found out the topic.  I thought to myself, "Of course it's on Mary - who else?"  I actually had to accept the offer of presenting the lesson just based on the content.  How could I turn the Mother of God down???  I fell in love with Mary as my mother when I taught among the Carmelite Sisters at a school in Miami, it was Her roses I smelled on my very first Mother's Day, it was She whom I thanked first when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, it was She who saved me and my son from injury during a horrible car accident, it was She whom I saw in my dream as Our Lady of Guadalupe (before I knew Our Lady of Guadalupe), and it is She whom I run to in my time of need.  She is the great intercessor for us to her Son.  She loves me, and she loves you, and She wants us to love her Son with all our heart and soul - every fiber of our being.

If you are interested in the Scripture Study Program, it is Dr. Scott Hahn's program through the St. Paul Institute in Steubenville, OH. Here is a link to the program.  I HIGHLY suggest it.
Journey Through Scripture

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Feeling Persecuted? Witness!

As Christians, we are called to witness on a daily basis, as there are opportunities on a daily basis.  But do we take those opportunities to stop and give a thoughtful, respectful, and Christian response to our pessimistic brothers and sisters who question or attack our ways?  I could probably write pages and pages on the times and ways in which I have been persecuted, and I can tell you I did not always react in a Christian or thoughtful way.  I am learning.  I have actually had three such instances occur in just the last two days, and I tried very hard to witness.

Last week, I received a phone call from our Church's preschool office telling me that a mom would like to donate her child's crib to Respect Life.  I said sure and took her number.  When I called her, she seemed very happy to be giving it to me...that is, until she said she was unfamiliar with Respect Life and wanted to know what it was.  I told her that her crib would be going to the North Broward branch of the Archdiocese of Miami's Respect Life Ministry.  She still had no clue what I was talking about.  So, I told her that the ministry helps women in crisis pregnancies with counseling, ultrasound, parenting classes, food, diapers, clothing, and occasional furniture like hers.  Still...blank on the other end of the phone.  So I told her we were a ministry that respected life from conception to natural death - that we were anti-abortion.   THUD  That's when I finally got a response and it was a curt, "oh".  Well, I told her I needed to locate someone with a minivan or truck to go to her house to pick it up for her and I would call her back.  Memorial day weekend came and went and I heard on Wednesday that the ultrasound technician (who works for the ministry for free) had a truck and would be willing to drive to this woman's house and pick up the crib.  I called the woman and told her that we had a truck and could come by her house that day.  She was very cold and said since she didn't hear from me, she decided to do something else with it.  Sure!  Okay!  Well, as disappointing as it was to me that someone with needs on our end could not benefit from another's discard, and as disappointing as it was for me to hear that woman's cold heart reverberate through her voice, I was a witness to life for her. I thanked her very much for her consideration and wished her well.  Perhaps a seed was planted?  Now she knows what Respect Life is, and it was my duty to inform her.

Yesterday, I posted on facebook the video of Live Action's sting operation uncovering Planned Parenthood's evil ways in which they are encouraging women to have later term abortions for sex selection.  This is gendercide and it is happening in this country! As a matter-of-fact, pro-abortion groups have even admitted that not only is it happening, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed.  When I posted it, an old friend (who is probably the most liberal person I've ever known) posted, "You are too smart to believe this."  Of course my disbelief in her comment sent me into my own head for a few minutes.  I actually understand a person's pro-abortion attitude out of ignorance of the facts, but thinking a video and news accounts are fabricated was just over the top.  I re-posted, "You are smarter than to turn a blind eye."  She commented that we would just never see eye to eye on some things.  I then posted an article showing the pro-abortion groups that admit it is a problem in this country.  No comment on that one.  The truth hurts - it is more painful to live in the truth with our eyes wide open because it forces us to see the truth in ourselves.  I was called to witness and so I did.  I know I planted a seed with her.  It is a seed of doubt surrounding all she thought she knew about abortion.  That's a very good thing.

You can view the video here:  The War on Baby Girls: Part 1

Lastly, this morning in the grocery store, an older woman smiled at my children and proceeded to tell me, "They're so good at that age.  Just wait until they reach 12 or 13.  You'll regret you ever had them."  It was such a shocking statement to me because it was so harsh.  I can understand someone saying that those years can be tough, but to say I would regret ever having them?  Wow!  I responded, "You know, I have a sixteen year old and he is really an awesome kid.  I've been very lucky."  Her eyes widened and she had no comeback.  To which I let out one more - "I also have a six year old and he too is really awesome.  I've been blessed with my children and I love them.  I know those years are tough but I really love being around my kids."  She just smiled in disbelief.  I was not about to be dragged down to her level of misery or be dragged into our current society's very selfish and negative attitude toward children.  I was there to witness to this woman that children are a beautiful gift from God and that families can work.  Perhaps a seed was planted in turning around her attitude toward children.  Perhaps she will think twice about spewing such garbage at the next mom she sees, thus perpetuating a society hostile towards chidren, families, large families, and Christian families.

Right now, we are living through a time period in history when Christian families are looked down upon.  It is much better to be single, young, beautiful, materially wealthy, free from burdensome relationships, and in control of our sexuality via life-threatening contraceptives and life-taking abortions.  However, this is not the truth...and I choose to live in the truth.  It is the same truth that led me to Christ's Church.  It is the truth I bask in every time I am in our Lord's presence in the Eucharist.  It is the truth that directs me to defend life whenever and wherever.  It is the truth that keeps me from the dark.  It is the truth that draws me nearer to Christ with every mass and every sacrament.  This truth never fails.  It never waivers.  It is the light.  It is the way.  Christ warned us that following him would not be easy.  We are sure to lose relationships over it.  That's okay with me.  He directed his apostles to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth.  Most of his apostles died a martyr's death for him.  No one would go through what they went through if they were not certain it was the truth.  Live your life defending it.  Live your life spreading the Good News.  Witness as if your life depended on it!  It does!

John 15:18-19  "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you." 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Come Holy Spirit!

I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life at times more than others, but always whispering, always guiding, and sometimes boldly proclaiming.  Tomorrow as Catholics around the world, we will celebrate Pentecost at mass.  Many Catholics do not even know what that is - what it means.  It is the birthday of our Church.  Come Holy Spirit and fill your faithful with inspiration to do your works and live in our Lord's presence always!

Here is a fantastic fun and short video explaining Pentecost.  Have a wonderfully blessed day and may you feel the Holy Spirit around you whispering and guiding.  God bless!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool?

So, I'm barely hanging on until the end of the school year.  I just don't know how many more homework assignments, projects, and tests I can help with...or how many more lunches I can make the day before.  The grind of the school year feels, well, like exactly that...a grind.  I tease my fifteen year old all the time that I'll still be having babies and still at the same school when HE starts having babies.  We just laugh.  Anyway, I'm thrilled that the end of the school year is around the corner.  I am dreaming of not setting an alarm - even though I know the odds are that my little ones will continue to wake up early as if there were an alarm clock in their heads.  It'll just be nice to think I might actually get to sleep in from time to time.

I don't have big plans for the summer - summer school for the teenager not because he's in trouble (as it would have been for us back in the day), but because he wants to get ahead, basketball for the six year old, and swim for the three year old.  That should keep me busy enough, but I'm going to try my hand at homeschooling.  Yes, I'm finally going to make the leap, buy a curriculum, and see if I can actually teach my six year old something without the household going to pot.  If the house is a disaster, my kids are always starving, and I'm a wreck, then back to Catholic school he'll go.

I keep trying to put my finger on exactly why I want to homeschool.  I just have always felt a calling to it.  We had thought about homeschooling our oldest back a million years ago, but he was an only child back then, and we didn't want to risk him becoming a hermit.  Thankfully, school has helped him not be so hermit-y, and high school finally forced him out of his shell.  We are lucky to have excellent Catholic schools close by, so really why in the world would I want to do this?  The only thing that keeps reverberating in my head is that I want to spend more time with my children, and I want to be in control of the information that is available to them.

My time with my oldest is becoming more and more fleeting.  The time it takes to raise children seems to happen overnight.  These children are my children for all eternity, but I get a limited time with them here on earth.  I want to live life to the fullest with them.  I'm not really interested in drinking wine or playing tennis with the ladies while my kids are in school with strangers' kids for seven hours a day picking up God knows what bad habits, bad language, bad thoughts, or just bad germs!

I have so many concerns about it all, but I keep telling myself that the answer to homeschool or not will become very evident.  Either it will work or it won't.  I guess I'm just nervous to even think about making that step.  I certainly don't want to make my other three all hermit-y.  I hope I would be able to find other Catholic homeschoolers here in South Florida.  I don't have huge expectations for that though.  It seems most homeschoolers here are evangelicals, and our Catholic schools are numerous and overall, very good.

So, I will keep you posted.  If any of you reading this homeschool, please post suggestions for me.  I would love to hear what any of you are doing or what you have learned from your experiences.  Heck, I just love hearing from readers!  I will try to be better about blogging more frequently - school has just been kicking me in the rear.  'Til next time...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

God Came As a Child to Save Us...Our Children Save Us Everyday

My forty third birthday is approaching...the end of this summer...and I am already feeling angst over growing older and one day not being able to have any more babies.  How awesome it is to know a God-given life is forming within your womb.  It truly is the greatest gift God has given women, and there is a deep desire born within us to nurture life from our earliest days.  I can remember being very small and carrying around my life-size baby with me on my hip everywhere I went.  Women are formed in their mother's wombs by God and sent forth into this world to bring forth more life.  God has richly blessed my husband and I with four beautiful children.  When my oldest was an only child for those first nine and a half years, I felt truly blessed to even know pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood that one time, but I now have four children to nurture and love, and the love continues to grow exponentially.  As tough as some days are - and believe me I have stories that would make most people want to run - the gifts we receive as a family from these children are beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

We as humans have so much love to give to our offspring, in fact, that when we don't have children, we seek to give that love to someone else.  Have you noticed the multitudes of empty-nesters going to the malls with their dogs in strollers?  Maybe it's just here in South Florida - a fact that's quite possible actually - but nonetheless it is happening a lot here.  I see so many people treating their pets as if they are children.  People will even say that they prefer having pets to children because they are less work...yes, and much less reward.  Pets come and go, but our children are our children for all eternity.  The work you put into them does not go unnoticed - by them...or by God.  "You reap what you sow" is definitely true when it comes to raising children.  I am watching my teenage son grow into an intelligent, sensitive, artistic, loving, handsome, Christian young man.  He is steeped in his faith and he knows right from wrong.  I can see before my eyes tangible rewards for all the so-called work it takes to raise a child.  It is awe-inspiring and an experience like no other.  No one can ever take all our memories together away.  I love him so much my heart hurts at the thought of him leaving for college.  I feel this way about all my children though, which is hard for even me to comprehend.  How are our hearts so big that we can just keep loving, and actually desire to love more with each child.

We, as God's people, have a desire to love.  That is because we spring from God...and God is love.  We desire to be with Him all our lives so oftentimes we seek that love through others not knowing it is really Him we are seeking.  Through loving, we get a glimpse of God's love for us.  He loved us so much that he died for us on a cross.  We, as parents, would die for our children.  We know the love.  We know what it feels like to create a little being from our own flesh and blood, raise him, watch him fall, feel his pains, watch his successes, and feel his happiness.  When we have more than one child we see how our children interact with each other and learn from each other.  It is a beautiful thing to watch how large Christian families work together in their love for each other and for God.  It is so unique nowadays to actually see, but God wants us to be fruitful and multiply - it is how we are made.  In our fast-paced glossy modern lives, that message seems too simplistic.  But it is the TRUTH.  God made us to make beautiful God-loving families.  Just remember the way God chose to come to this earth.  He chose to be born as a tiny helpless baby formed in the womb of a young woman and born into a humble family.  He came here as a baby.  His greatest love for us was to send a child to us to save us.  In a sense, our children save us everyday.  We are forced to grow ever closer to God through choices we make as parents every moment of every day.  Our children are our greatest gifts from God!
Say YES to LIFE!

Friday, April 6, 2012

He Came So That We May Have LIFE!

He came so that we may have LIFE!  Have a very blessed Easter and know that you are here for God's work and that He loves you!!!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thank God Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus

Two decades ago, a book was published entitled, "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus".  I never read the book, but my understanding of it is that men and women are so intrinsically different, it is as if we come from two totally different planets.  I never bought the book when it came out because I was newly married, and I never wanted to pigeon-hole my husband into a stereotype.  I already knew we were very different - he, a first generation American hispanic and cradle Catholic who grew up in New York City and me, a descendant of Irish and English settlers dating back to the 1600's who grew up in suburbs of various large cities across this vast nation.  I did feel, however, that no matter our differences our intense love for each other could see us through whatever storm came our way.

We have had our ups and downs - many more ups, but the downs have been there too.  Our marriage has been tested in times of stress... a new job, a move, extended family problems, or a new baby.  Men and women do react to stressful events differently.  I know that not all men fall into one category and not all women fall into another, but I also know we just are hardwired differently from conception.

Do not let this fact stress you out.  Do you believe that God is all powerful and all knowing and the creator of the universe?  If you do, do you think he looks at man and woman and thinks, "Hmmm, maybe I should have made man more emotional and maybe I should have made woman more analytical."  Nope, I don't think so. God doesn't have "oops" moments.  His design was perfect.  Men and women are different - I would say opposites - for a reason.  We were made differently to perfectly complement the other.

I look at my own marriage of now almost twenty three years and I can see my shortcomings are made up for through my husband.  I can have a short fuse as he can go the distance steadily.  I can multitask at home with the four children better than my husband can (and I don't think he would disagree with that as he tells me all the time "I can't do what you do"), and good thing as he is the bread winner and I am the stay at home mom.  We complement each other.  He fills my cup with what I'm missing, and hopefully I do the same for him.  When I was younger, I used to think, "Why can't he do such and such the way I do it?"  It has taken me years to realize he just can't. He wasn't MADE  that way.  He, I'm sure, looks at me the same way - only his "such and such" is different than mine.  If I ever feel the urge to get uptight because he isn't doing something the way I would do it, I look at what he is doing and the ways in which he is doing it...and rejoicing in that.  We are different - he gives me what I am lacking and he gives my children what I can't.  He is not their mother - he is their father.  I rejoice in his fatherhood and being my complement.

I used to teach pre-algebra and algebra and I used to love the section on geometry because it was a bit of a break.  In geometry one learns about complementary and supplementary angles.  Complementary angles are two angles whose sum of their measurements equals ninety degrees.  Supplementary angles are two angles whose sum of their measurements equals one hundred eighty degrees.  The complementary angles form a right angle.  If you look at a protractor, ninety degrees is perfectly straight - standing upright.  Two complementary angles come together to form one that stands perfectly upright.  A man and woman complement each other and form the perfect union - standing upright as one.  We are different but we come together in the sacrament of marriage and form a perfect union complementing each other's strengths and weaknesses.  Rejoice in your differences. Rejoice in knowing God created you this way for a reason.  Rejoice in knowing you don't have to be everything in the marriage.  Your spouse makes up the other half.  Let your husband be completely male and let your wife be completely female.

p.s.  If you are finding yourselves in a stressful situation right now and feeling distanced from one another, find a slice of time together away from the kids and other distractions.  You don't even have to go away from the home.  Just ask your spouse for a "date" after the kids go to bed.  Watch a movie together, sit close, talk, laugh, cry...whatever.  Just find a bit of time together to feel the closeness again.  Tell your spouse in very clear words what you are feeling and why.  The two of you can find solutions to getting through the stressful times together - as a united front.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Get Gardening and Encounter Christ!

I was sitting out on my back patio today holding my sleeping baby girl in my arms and bathing in the warm breeze, the sun, the sound of the palm trees rustling in the wind, the ting ting ting of my wind chime, and suddenly noticed a weed in my back garden.  It was so noticeable because it was so large.  "Well, hello ten foot oak tree.  I thought you were a two inch sprout yesterday!"  I have clearly neglected my garden and have allowed weeds to not only take root, but flourish!

The weeds in our gardens are like the weeds in our souls.  They crop up seemingly out of nowhere and grow exponentially if not uprooted and cast out.  A weed, like any other plant, needs water, sun, and nutrients to grow.  The weeds of our souls do too - and we feed them with our pride and our egos.  We (sometimes) unwittingly allow the weeds to take root and squeeze out Jesus from our lives.  It happens so quickly - as in the case of my now ten foot oak tree looming in my back garden.  Lent is the perfect time to uproot these weeds.  They deplete the good nutrients of our souls.  When we do a little gardening and remove the weeds, we allow beautiful things to flourish in their place.  Such is the case with our hearts.

There are so many ways to encounter Christ, you just need to invite Him in and listen. You can spend time with Him before the Eucharist, you can encounter Him in a confessional, you can see Him in the eyes of your children, but most importantly, you must pray and then listen.  Recently, my family had our house blessed, and it really was a beautiful evening with our parish priest.  We sat and prayed as a family, we moved room to room praying in each room and sprinkling holy water, and we ended out back on our patio, holding hands, and praying.  Our priest said Jesus was there and he had put down roots in our home - no room for anything else.  If you haven't already had your house blessed, I highly recommend it.  It brought me tremendous peace.  This is yet another way of encountering Christ and literally inviting HIm into your home.  This Lent, make Jesus the center of your life, and he will enter your home and take root.  Get rid of the weeds that are drawing on the rich nutrients needed to feed your soul.  Encounter Jesus and there won't be room for any more weeds.  Happy Gardening!!!