Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rolling Stone? Eh, Not So Much

Gonna see my picture on the cover
Gonna buy five copies for my mother
Gonna see my shining face
On the cover of the Rolling Stone!

By now most people have heard that Pope Francis is on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.  I loved the cover photo of him smiling and waving, but the picture printed with the article, sitting sideways in the shadows - very cool, very hip.  That's awesome, I thought, even Rolling Stone recognizes this man as a fresh face in the Catholic Church.  I couldn't wait to read the article.  I found an online version of the article and dove right in.

Now, I expected the typical misquotes/misinterpretations that the secular media love to attribute to Pope Francis with the suggestion that he's going to turn Catholic teaching on its head.  That's fine, I thought, that wouldn't be the first time, and hey, if it gets people to take a second look (or come home) to the Church, that's OK.

Much of Mark Binelli's piece was pretty good.  He describes a general audience and the passionate reaction of the throngs to Pope Francis.  He gives a detailed and interesting view into Pope Francis' life as a young priest in Argentina and his ascension to cardinal.  He also gave a lot of print to how Pope Francis is reforming the Curia, the body that works with the pope on the operations of the Church.

But there was a good deal of nastiness and Church bashing.  Binelli focuses most of his vitriol on Pope Emeritus Benedict, making it personal:  "After the disastrous papacy of Benedict, a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares . . ."  (Why didn't he just come out and say Freddy Kruger?)  I guess Mr. Binelli has an axe to grind. (Sorry, I couldn't help it.)

Alright, I thought, this is a "liberal" secular publication, I shouldn't be surprised to read a negative criticism of Pope Benedict compared to Pope Francis.  Then I reached page 2.  Wow.  I was met with a spew of anti-Catholic bashing.  I guess the good news is that Pope Francis isn't mentioned on page 2 until the end of the last paragraph.  The bad news?  After spending a paragraph on a detailed tour of the "truly terrible popes" in history, Binelli uses several paragraphs to offer a scathing evaluation of the papacy of Pope Benedict, followed by accusations that tie him to American GOP politicians, who are then accused of being members of Opus Dei.  (No, not that!)

Binelli gives a lot of attention to Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation on spreading the Good News in today's world.  He predictably focuses on the alleged indictment of capitalism (which is neither the theme or the substance of the document) and smears it in the faces of American conservatives.  Sigh.  I expected that too.

I think the part of the article that left me cold was Binelli's insinuation that Pope Francis is a wolf in sheep's clothing, even if it a wolf he admires.  According to Binelli, he can tell that Pope Francis really does support Liberation Theology ("liberation theology has clearly influenced his own papacy, most markedly in the language of Evangelii Gaudium").  He also spends a lot of time stressing that Pope Francis doesn't really care about Church teaching on social issues relating to homosexuality, marriage, divorce, contraception and abortion.  I did have to giggle though, when he implied that a questionnaire distributed in Catholic parishes about these family issues constituted a "nod to democracy."  He also suggests that Pope Francis plays in political intrigue, describing his "dexterity - and, if the situation demands, ruthlessness - as an operator."  (Of course, this is Rolling Stone!).

I will admit that after my first read of the article I was much more critical, mostly because Binelli heaped so much contempt on Pope Benedict ("it's hard to imagine a worse choice to meet the particular challenges facing the Catholic Church than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger"), Church teaching and the Eucharist (calling a Vatican document on it "wonky"and saying that "desecration of Communion wafers" is an "esoteric" sin).  However, on further read, the theme that "The Times They Are A-Changn'" is probably true.  Pope Francis has certainly attracted a lot of attention from the secular media and he is changing the focus.  However, Binelli's suggestion that Pope Francis is a wolf in sheep's clothing may turn out to be true - just not in the way he thinks.


Monday, January 27, 2014

9 Days to Life - Day 9 The End?

Hey, if you've managed to make it through all of this novena (and a lot of you have), congratulations. If you're reading one of these posts for the first time its never too late to pray.  You can find the last day of the novena HERE.

I was in the third grade when the Roe v. Wade was issued.  I will never forget sitting in church hearing for the first time that it was no longer illegal for mothers to kill the babies inside of them.  I remember how offended I was and shocked that this could be happening.  At the time no one believed it would last.  I remember thinking that if abortion was still going on when I grew up I would work to make it stop.  I don't know if the last 9 days qualifies as a heroic effort, but prayer is a powerful thing and I remind myself daily that we need to keep storming heaven's door for divine intervention in this tragic horror.

In 1973, the Supreme Court decided that a person has an inherent right to privacy, a right which had never been recognized before.  The Court argued that whether a woman bore a child was a private decision.  I agree.  A woman has the right to choose whether she engages in intercourse that might result in pregnancy.  For a victim of rape or incest that right to choose has been violated at the time she was not allowed to choose to have intercourse.  Once the private choice (or violation of choice) has been made and a human life comes into being, that human also has inherent rights.  Namely, the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  There are no other rights if a person does not have the right to life and frankly, the right to life surpasses all other rights.

Since the time of Roe v. Wade, science has definitively established that life begins at conception.  We have seen photographs of a baby developing over nine months in the womb.  We have advanced instrumentation that allows us to see and hear a baby's heartbeat at 6-8 weeks.  We have advanced far enough in medicine to save babies born prematurely who live a full life.  Yet we have an archaic decision from 1973 that assumed a fetus had no rights because it was not a life in being.  Because a fetus is not a life in being, the argument goes, it has no rights, much less rights which can trump a mother's right to privacy.  Today, we know better but we can still legally take away a child's right to continue living from the moment of conception up to the point it is born.

This is simply not right or morally acceptable for a "civilized" country.  We are better than that.  It degrades us as Americans; more fundamentally it degrades us as a species.  For anyone with a conscience to know that abortion ends a human life, there is simply no "right" which justifies it.  This isn't a Catholic issue or even a Christian issue.  It's a matter of human decency.

Thanks for reading.  I promise to return to a less militant tone.  This blog is not just about being pro-life; it's about being comfortably Catholic.  To me, being Catholic means being pro-life so this won't be the last time I write on the topic.  However, in order to regain a better sense of peace, I must step back from being the "defender of the faith" so I can rest in the arms of the Lord.



Sunday, January 26, 2014

9 Days to Life - Day Eight

Now that the March for Life in Washington DC and Walk for Life West Coast are over, it's time to think about the practicalities of what can be done to address the needs of the women who find themselves in the difficult position of an unwanted pregnancy.  Faced with the seemingly simple choice of abortion on demand versus the unknown answers to the long term social and economic difficulties of continuing a pregnancy and making hard choices for the baby after birth, is it no wonder millions of women choose abortion?

We need to support those who offer specific and reliable services to these women so the unknown future has a light at the end of the tunnel.  Gimme Shelter is a movie that opened Friday about the journey of a pregnant teen - from a drug addicted mother and foster homes to the dramatically different affluent lifestyle of her father.  Surprisingly, neither is suitable for the teen's choice to have her baby.

While some reviewers have panned the movie as unrealistic and heavy-handed, it is trying to convey a lot of messages simultaneously:  Kids are abused by parents and a foster care system that keeps shuffling them; wealthy families see teen pregnancy as a matter to be "taken care of"; the Church has guidance available with real answers about the morality of abortion; and there are places where women can find shelter.  These are all messages that need to be heard and to get a movie made about any of these topics is difficult at best.

I can't give a laundry list of services that are available, but there are crisis pregnancy centers throughout the United States that can give referrals to the many independent privately run shelters that offer a place to stay and education and job counseling.  In Phoenix, the best known is an organization called Maggie's Place.  It offers all of the above in a family atmosphere supported by private donations - no government support.  Shouldn't every city have at least one Maggie's Place?  If we call ourselves pro-life shouldn't be support these places where mothers and children get a start at a new life?

As noted in today's reflection: "There is absolutely nothing and no one outside of the power of God's loving embrace.  Today we remember the children, the mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and all those who have been involved in or affected by abortion.  We entrust them to the unfathomable healing mercy of God, recalling the words of Jesus to St. Faustina: 'The greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy.' (Diary, 1182).  Go HERE to see today's novena prayers and complete reflection.

Thanks for your continued prayers.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

9 Days to Life - Day 7

Today the focus and voice of the pro-life movement shifts to the West Coast.  Who would think that you could gather so may pro-lifers in San Francisco?  Today is the day!  Walk for Life West Coast!

As I write this, the activities are ongoing.  Most years, my son's school attends the Walk, but unfortunately not this year.  It's too bad - I would have loved to go.  A couple of weekend ago my husband and I were in San Francisco.  We were surprised - pleasantly so - to see banners advertising the Walk - officially - on lamp posts.  In a city that has a reputation for being "liberal" it's exciting to know 50,000 or more are expected to march for life.  We are moving ahead.

We still need prayer, probably more than anything else.  Let's keep praying.  Find today' novena prayers/reflections HERE


Friday, January 24, 2014

9 Days to Life - Day 6

I hope you're still praying out there.  If you didn't catch much of the coverage from the March for Life in Washington DC, here is something new you can pray for - an increase in adoption.  I'm not talking about people who are willing to adopt - there are 500,000 waiting.  I'm talking about an increase in the number of birthmothers - heros actually - who will make the choice to give their child a chance at life.  Not all birthmothers can be good or willing parents.  There is no sin in knowing that you can't parent a child.  Adoption could again be the best option to abortion for parents who cannot or will not raise a child.  Here is Ryan Bomberger of The Radiance Foundation and speaker at the March for Life:

I know exactly what it feels like to be "in line" to adopt a baby.  Some people would say there is only a "line" for people waiting to adopt healthy white infants.  That's not true.  Even people who have expressed interest in adopting a child with handicaps, exposed to prenatal drug use and of a different race will wait in that line, usually about 2-3 years.  Is that surprising given that for every adoption in this country there are 64 abortions?  That statistic includes adoptions of children who are not infants.

I have a dear friend who is in the process of adopting a beautiful toddler who is almost 3.  His birthmother is not married, is addicted to drugs and is currently awaiting trial on serious criminal charges.  The child's father is not in the picture.  Despite these issues, the birthmother made a choice to let her son live.  The birthmother's family tried very hard to help raise the baby, but it just wasn't possible.  They contacted friends who contacted friends and a miracle happened - a boy found his parents.  It is an open adoption so the birthmother's family will still be in this boy's life.  It's not surprising that they want to have him in their lives - he is a ray of sunshine to everyone who sees him with his carrot top and stunning blue eyes.  His birthmother may have problems but she is a hero.  If you want to see more about Riley's story, visit Songs Kate Sang.

To continue your novena for life, visit the USCCB website.

Tomorrow - we're just getting started out here on the West Coast!


p.s.  If you are following me on Facebook, sorry if it seems like I'm bombarding you with multiple posts in a day.  I'm still getting used to the timing and with a post each day during this novena, I'm a little inconsistent about timing.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

9 Days for Life - Day Five

Today is Day Five for me, but there is a bit of a disconnect because if you're following along on the USCCB website you know that Day Five was actually yesterday, January 22.  The reflections and reparations are geared toward the actual anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the March for Life.  That's not going to stop me from moving forward; everyday is a great day to pray and make reparations to end abortion.  If you are interested in seeing Day Five prayers, go HERE

As part of the March for Life events, a Vigil Mass held on Tuesday night included a homily from Cardinal Sean O'Malley.  It was very moving and maybe not in the way you might think:

"The Pro-Life Movement needs to be the merciful face of God to women facing a difficult pregnancy.  Being judgmental or condemnatory is not part of the Gospel of Life."

Wow.  But there's more

"We are all here because we want to save the thousands of innocent children who are being executed by the very people whose mission should be to heal and protect life.  The truth is that we can save those babies only by saving the mothers.  When they experience God's loving mercy then they will become capable of showing mercy to their children.  The Pro Life Movement has to be about saving mothers.  We need to focus on the women to try to understand what they are suffering."

The entire homily is well worth your time to watch or read.  You can do both at Salt and Light.

Mother and Child by Pablo Picasso

Personally, I would love to see more adoption to take the place of abortion.  I'm really not sure why, but adoption has become a dirty word in American society.  The idea that a mother could give up her baby to strangers seems cruel to many.  Is that worse than if she had never given that child an opportunity to be born?

Mothers who carry their babies to term despite the obstacles - poverty, shame, rejection or lost opportunities - they are the heroes.  We need to celebrate them.  We need to find ways to help them, whether their choice is to raise the child or their choice is to give the child an opportunity to be loved by another family.  Those are the real choices.

Tomorrow I want to tell a few stories about adoption.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

9 Days for Life - Day 4

We've made it to Day 4 of the novena for life.  Events are beginning in Washington DC in anticipation for the March for Life.  Keep the folks shivering in the snow in your prayers - it's going to be a cold one.

I saw a quote from the Governor of New York who said that pro-life people are not welcome in New York.  That angers me.  There.  I said it.  For you who know me, I can be somewhat militant.  One of my friends calls me a "defender of the faith."  I don't know about that, but I do consider it a compliment.  However, my goal is to keep "Comfortably Catholic" non-militant.  I may not always be successful, but I will try my best.

Today I want to focus on prayer for those who disagree with the pro-life prospective.  I know many of them are as ardent in their beliefs as I am in mine.  I really want to dislike them.  Ugly rhetoric and shouting matches will not bend hearts and change minds.  Only God can do that.  So today I'm praying for those who don't agree with me.  Maybe God will change my heart too.

You can find the prayers/reflections for today HERE.

Father of life,
As you have given me the gift of life,
So may I give it away each day to you,
And to my brothers and sisters,
That through penitence, prayer, and charity
My days on earth may lead me home to you.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

9 Days to Life - Day Three

It's Day Three of the 9 Days to Life, a novena to end the horrors of abortion.  You can see the prayers and reparations for today HERE.

While the primary victim of abortion is the unborn baby, there are other victims - mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings.  Rachel's Vineyard offers healing for the other victims of abortion and conducts retreats all over the country.  Silent No More offers the victims of abortion an opportunity to tell their story.

It's not enough to pray for an end.  It's important that we pray for the other victims.

God of all creation,
May men and women of every time and place
Proclaim the Gospel of Life:
A Gospel of God's love for us,
A Gospel of human dignity.

Thanks for praying today.


Monday, January 20, 2014

9 Days to Life - Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of the 9 Days to Life, a novena to end abortion.  If you are seeing this for the first time, a novena is a 9 day prayer commitment for a specific intention.  If you would like to start today, you can see Day 1 and start anytime.

Being pro-life can be complicated.  There are so many ways to protect the sanctity of life.  The bottom line is this - life begins at conception and ends at natural death.  If you would like to continue the novena on Day 2, you can find it HERE.

Did you know there are several ways to join the 9 Days to Life?  You can get an app for your Android device, send a text message or join by email.  Find out more HERE.

"For the Christian, [the commandment 'You shall not kill'] involves an absolute imperative to respect, love and promote the life of every brother and sister, in accordance with the requirements of God's bountiful love in Jesus Christ. . . It is therefore a service of love which we are all committed to ensure to our neighbor, that his or her life may be always defended and promoted, especially when it is weak or threatened."
Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae

Please join me in praying for life.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

9 Days to Life - Day One

This week marks the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  I don't know about you, but this video made me cry.  The March for Life and the March for Life West Coast are taking place, but many of us cannot attend.  However, you can do something!  Participate with me in the 9 Days for Life, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Everyday for the next 9 days, I will provide the link to the prayers/activities for each day of the novena.  (For those who might not be familiar with the prayer form, a novena is 9 consecutive days of focused prayer, usually for a specific intention.)  It's OK if you start after I do.  (I'm already a day late getting started, so add one day to the dates on the USCCB website.)  A novena can be started at any time.

The complete novena prayers for the first day of the novena can be found HERE

It seems so hopeless that we can end this holocaust of our most vulnerable.  Job was a man who knew despair and hopelessness.  When all seemed lost and it looked like God was not there for him, Job refused to succumb to despair:

Job 19:1, 23-27a

Then Job answered and said: Oh, would that my words were written down!
Would that they were inscribed in a record:
That with an iron chisel and with lead they were cut in the rock forever!
But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust
Whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another's shall behold him
And from my flesh I shall see God
My inmost being is consumed with longing.

Please join me on the 9 Days for Life and let's pray to end the destruction of more generations.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Linking Catholics Together

 One of the reasons I started writing "Comfortably Catholic" was to pass on the huge number of great resources that are now available for education, prayer and reflection.  While many are traditional resources (books, DVDs, etc), the more exciting ones are websites, podcasts and applications for smart phones.  Isn't this an awesome way to promote the "New Evangelization"?

Every week or so, I'll post some great resources I have found that will help us on our journey as Catholic Christians.  I'm still finding new stuff all the time, so if you know of additional resources, leave a comment here or on Facebook.  I'll be getting links to my own social media accounts soon so you will be able to contact me with a single click on an icon for Facebook, Twitter, email or Pony Express.  (That's just a joke; Pony Express is not some new social media site you just aren't hip enough to know about.)  Once I collect enough resources, I'll add a page to this blog so you can see them in one place.  In the meantime, I can keep the web resources here on the right side of the page ---->

This week I'm going to offer a few apps for your Android or IPhone device:


This one is soooo cool and it will take you WEEKS to drill down to all the information it puts right at your fingertips.  It is touted as the #1 Catholic app and is available in 12 languages.  Get this - it has nearly all the essential resources you need to be a great Catholic, and some you didn't even know you need.  Here's what it includes: the New American and Douay-Rheims Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet (and about 5 other chaplets I haven't even heard of), Daily readings, Stations of the Cross, Liturgy of the Hours, Saint of the Day, Vatican documents and lots of prayers.  For prayers, including the Rosary and Stations of the Cross, it offers podcasts so you can pray along.  Best of all, it's FREE!  You can find it at the Google Play store for Android devices or the App Store for IPhones, IPads etc. 

Scriptural Rosary from Franciscan University

Sorry, I can only find this for Android devices at Google Play and it's listed as "Free Rosary - Scriptural Ed."  This is my favorite rosary, especially when I'm in the car and need an audio version.  This Rosary features students from Franciscan University at Steubenville and between each Hail Mary, they read very short portions of the scripture that goes with the respective mystery of the Rosary, whether it is Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious or Luminous.  I find it really helpful to meditate on the specific event in Jesus' life.  For those of you who are less than comfortable with the Rosary because you think the prayer centers too much on Mary, this is a great audio Rosary for you.  Again, this one is FREE.

The Daily Office from Mission St. Clare

This is a simple, free app that gives you the morning and evening prayers of the Daily Office.  If you're like me and didn't really understand the Daily Office until recently, this is basically a self contained prayer service for morning and evening.  It has different prayers and Scripture readings for each day, as well as intercessions and penitential prayers.  I honestly can't say I use it everyday because it takes a while to get through each one, but it is a neat resource you can find at Google Play or the App Store.

Here are two more apps I found, one for Android and the other for IPhone.  I can't vouch much for either because I haven't yet used them, but they do look interesting:

Mea Culpa
This app for IPhone is the one you may have heard about.  It is a detailed examination of conscience to prepare for Confession.  It doesn't just list the commandments, but goes into detail at the nuances of sins.  You can pick the sins you have committed and add them to your list for easy reference when you go to Confession.  This app is not for children under the age of 17 as it includes more explicit sexual or drug related sins.  It is free at the App Store or ITunes.

Catholic Droid
This app for Android devices appears to be a lot like Laudate, but also includes an examination of conscience, numerous versions of Catholic Bibles and the Pope's Twitter feed!  Everything you need for free!

So, that's my first attempt at getting some resources out there.  If you have never checked out some of these (or other) handy apps for your phone, now is the time!  You probably have apps for all kinds of other goofy things on your phone, why not have something useful for your spiritual life?

Keep watching for more Catholic links.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sisters in Christ

I was very lucky to have 12 years of Catholic school - elementary and high school.  A mainstay of my education was the presence of sisters who taught us so much more than reading, arithmetic or even theology.  I've heard all of the stereotypes about how nuns were so strict and harsh in their discipline.  Some of that is true.  In first grade, I remember Sister Mary Christopher pulled my hair to keep me in line for the lavatory (we didn't use the word "bathroom") because I was distracted by the second grade.  While their methods would sometimes be a little over the top by today's standards, I guarantee people remember the lessons they learned about discipline.

These holy women were so much more than physical discipline.  I can safely say I learned so many more life lessons than I even recognized at the time.  In the third grade, Sister Mary taught us how peer pressure could be a positive force in school (and society).  When you lose your recess because one kid was being a jerk, you learn quickly two lessons: (1) In society we are our brother's keepers; and (2) Life is not always fair and the actions of one person can negatively affect the lives of others.  When I meditate on those truisms, I again recognize how dangerous relativism is in our culture today.

As I grew older, the dear sisters were role models for me.  I think some of them thought I would make a good nun because I noticed they were "cultivating" me in the 7th and 8th grade.  While my vocation was ultimately not toward the vowed religious life, I acutely feel the loss in the fact that my children will not get a first hand view of various alternatives in life vocations.  It's so sad that even though one of my children attends Catholic school, there are no sisters there to teach.  I miss them.

Of course the sisters did teach practical theology.  My first experience in liturgical ministry began in 4th grade with the guidance of Sister Helen who taught us how to be good lectors.  That also translated well to public speaking and my profession as an attorney.  I also specifically remember Sister Frances Xavier, an older, very traditional sister in full (long) habit who taught us in the 7th grade.  She was very imposing, but you can bet we never showed her the slightest disrespect.  She taught us all the details of the mass, including the names of all the liturgical garments and vessels.  While I can't profess to remember the names of everything, I do understand the significance of each one.  I also will never forget Sister Frances Xavier sternly warning us in a loud voice that using the term "Goddamn" was asking God to damn the person or circumstance to everlasting hell.  You can bet I don't ever say that word and it's not just because it's the second of the Ten Commandments.

As I entered high school, the influence of the sisters was even greater.  My elementary school sisters were School Sisters of Notre Dame but most of the sisters in high school were Adorers of the Precious Blood.  They wore these cool heart pendants with small relics of their foundress.  Sister Catherine Burke was a pistol.  She taught discipline for life.  She used to say she would never teach sophomores because they were "jackasses" and she also had the most pithy sayings that I frequently repeat to young ladies:  "A gum chewing girl and a cud chewing cow; there is a difference I avow; there's a wiser look on the face of the cow."  

Some of the things they said at the time seemed so unfair and contrary, but they come back to me often, even as I approach 50 years old.  Sister Catherine used to say she wished some of her more successful students could fail a course or test in high school so we would know the feeling of failure.  She recognized that we could not escape failure at some point in life.  After I experienced the shock and bitter disappointment of not receiving a job offer from a law firm after my second year of law school, I remembered her words and wished I had failed in high school too.

My all time favorite nun, Sister Olivia Forester, was my latin teacher for four years.  She was elderly and had seen so much as a former principal of an all-girl Catholic high school and as a guidance counselor.  We spent more time "daisy picking" (as she called it) during latin that we wondered how much of the language we were actually learning.  Oh, but she taught us so many important life lessons.  She made us recognize the respective values of  a woman's vocation: "I have touched the lives of so many more of 'my children' than you will ever do as a mother," and "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."  She also warned us of the challenges of surrounding ourselves with people who did not share our values.  She strongly encouraged us to attend Catholic universities and not to marry non-Catholics.  At the time we thought these were such provincial attitudes; now I realize she was trying to shield us from the undue complexities of life in a secular world.  

These women were jewels for Christ and I pray for them everyday.  Many of them have passed on to their eternal reward and I'm confident they are praying for us too.  As vocations to the religious life have dwindled so dramatically, I also try to remember their orders financially as they have fewer and fewer younger sisters to support them in their later years.  If you have the time or inclination, please try to pray and support these women who gave us their lives.  I wish I could remember all of their surnames, but I do remember each one by their religious name:

Sister Mary Christopher (1st Grade)
Sister JoEllen (2nd Grade)
Sister Mary (3rd Grade)
Sister Helen (4th Grade)
Sister Susan (6th and 7th Grades)
Sister Frances Cabrini (7th Grade)
Sister Francis Xavier (7th Grade)
Sister Paulette (8th Grade)
Sister Gail (principal)
Sister Loretta (high school choir)
Sister Surman (religion)
Sister Nancy Becker
Sister Catherine Burke (literature)
Sister Olivia Forester (latin)
Sister Pancratia Schmitt (German dancing)

God graciously bless them all!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

When Does Christmas End?

I know many (most?) people have packed the Christmas decorations away, some as early as Christmas night.  I'm still sitting here looking at our Christmas tree and all the assorted decorations around the house.  I would like to say I have some liturgical or traditional reason for that, but the truth is we just haven't had the time.  Unfortunately, it looks like the decorations will stay up until next weekend.

In order to hang my liturgical or traditional hat on something to justify this lack of Christmas closure, I looked into when the Church officially "ends" Christmas.  This may sound strange to many - doesn't Christmas end on December 25?  To that I can emphatically say no.  Like other liturgical holidays (Easter and Pentecost), the celebration doesn't end on the day, but at a minimum extends through the octave (a week after the holy day).  O.K., that should take us to January 1, right?  Well, not exactly.

Most Catholics and many Protestants extend Christmas through Epiphany.  After all, if the wise men show up to bring baby Jesus gifts, how will they find Him if the nativity scene is packed away?  That is why many Catholics wait until Epiphany to pack the Christmas stuff away for another year.

That still doesn't give my family a leg to stand on with regard to why our tree is still in the living room (other than the obvious laziness).  I'm going with Candlemas as my next Christmas season ending date. Celebrated on February 2, Candlemas is also called Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It celebrates the first introduction to Jesus in the Temple.  According to Mosaic law, a woman only could enter the temple for ritual purification 40 days after her male child was born.  This was also the same time the child would be "presented" in the Temple.  For Jesus, this presentation was met by old Simeon and the prophetess Anna.  Luke 2:29.  Simeon had long waited for the coming of the Messiah and recognized Jesus as that person.  Holding the baby, he praised God saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel"  Luke 2:29-32.  We call this the Nunc Dimittis.

One liturgical tradition for February 2 is the blessing of the candles.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the priest would bless the candles (always beeswax) and then hand them out to the congregation who would process through the church (or outside) to represent the light of Christ entering the temple.  This would be accompanied by the choir singing "Nunc Dimittis" and other hymns praising the Virgin Mary.  

So, this is all an elaborate lesson to justify the fact that our Christmas decorations are still up.  I doubt we will leave them up until February 2 (but hey, that is an option!), but I think I have bought us another week or two.

Merry Christmas, Epiphany and Candlemas.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Not Getting Anything Out of It?

Recently I heard an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and he was asked about the crowds who come to mass on Christmas but disappear by Epiphany.  He said that although it was disappointing not to see all those people every week, it was good that they came once a year so they could be open to the graces of the mass.  When asked why they didn't attend regularly, Cardinal Dolan said that many people complain they "don't get anything out of it."

I know for so many years as a teenager I felt exactly the same.  Truthfully, sometimes I still walk out of Sunday mass feeling I didn't get anything out of it.  I have to remind myself that I'm not there to be entertained, but to give God the worship and praise He deserves. I get "entertained" everyday looking at the beauty of God's creation. Shouldn't that be enough for me?  Why do I think I should be entertained at mass?

I remember the years when I wasn't quite so faithful about attending mass every Sunday.  Before my husband converted we attended a congregational church where he worked as an organist.  The people there were wonderful, the pastor was a great friend and their services were very nice.  No matter how nice, friendly and wonderful the church was, I was missing something.  It took me a while to recognize it, but it was the Eucharist.  No matter how reverent they were, the bread and grape juice the congregational church passed around every month or so could not replace Jesus in the Eucharist.  I needed the grace I received from the True Presence (body, blood, soul and divinity) of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  I longed for Him even if I didn't "feel" it every Sunday.

So on Sunday when I might not "feel" it as I approach the altar to receive Communion, I will tell myself I'm getting the most precious "something" out of mass.  I'm getting an encounter with Jesus Christ in the most intimate way possible.

What more could I want?


Saturday, January 4, 2014


This Sunday is Epiphany, a celebration of the coming of the Magi, the three kings, to worship the baby Jesus.  I think, well of course they came to worship Him!  After all, He was predicted by prophesies, astrological signs and born of a virgin.

Well isn't that a nice Monday morning quarterback version?  The Magi were wealthy, royal men from the far East, not Jews, who studied the signs FOR YEARS in an effort to find a personage of epic proportions.  They brought gifts of great value fit for a king.  They studied the stars and followed one a great distance.  What did they find?

They found a baby in a little backwater town born in a dirty cave to a young poor couple.  Did that deter them?  Nope, they laid down these expensive gifts on the dirty cave floor and worshiped a baby lying I'm an animal feed bin.  Talk about counter-cultural!

Why are we surprised when Pope Francis serves juvenile delinquents in prison on Holy Thursday or kisses a horribly deformed man in a crowd of "normal" people?  He gets it.  Jesus can be found in the most unlikely places, even though I expect Him in the actions of the powerful.

My expectations are unrealistic.  I need to pay closer attention to all people, not just the rich, powerful or important.  I think I also to keep my eye on that guy who, like the Magi, "gets it". 

Epiphany isn't about the rich guys who showed up in Bethlehem, it's about the poor newborn baby they found.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014



Today, January 1, 2014 is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and also World Day of Peace.  What a great day to begin "Comfortably Catholic"!  I already write a lifestyle blog "Straddling the Gap" but have long wanted a forum to express my faith.  Comfortably Catholic describes where I want to be in my faith journey; not "comfortable" in the sense of complacent, but more relaxed, assured, peaceful in my faith.


In a world where peace is at a premium, my goal for 2014 is to be at peace.  As difficult as world peace seems, I think maintaining personal peace can be harder.  I love my faith and I love Christ's Church, but sometimes I feel militant and protective in defending it.  There are times when that approach is necessary, but, following the example of Pope Francis, this is a time for proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ with kindness, respect and peace.


Mary is the ultimate guide to inner peace.  Despite the turmoil all around her, the fear, the poverty, the responsibility, she modeled a peaceful faith in God.  In return, God gave her the graces she needed to be Theotokos - Mother of God.  She constantly points us to the only source of peace which is found in a relationship with her Son, Jesus Christ.  He's the source of her peace and He can be the source of ours too.

Today I pray for peace.  Peace for the world.  Peace for myself.  Peace through Jesus Christ.

Be still and know that I am God  Psalm 46:10.