Monday, December 22, 2008

Quotable Monday

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars"

- Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright, author, poet (1854-1900)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quotable Monday

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

-Psalm 19: 7-8

Friday, December 12, 2008

Entirely Domestic

About a month ago I had a realization that I really, really needed to start treating cleaning the house like I would at a job. My first job out of college was at a spotlessly clean Montessori school where mopping the floors and cleaning toilets were just part of the day there, and I never really minded. I decided I need to adopt a similar mindset about cleaning my house by making a cleaning schedule, but I only got as far as scheduling Monday's tasks, which were cleaning the bathroom and vacuuming half the house. So every Monday for the past month I've had a clean bathroom and vacuumed first floor, but that's about it. This post is probably more for my own personal benefit than anyone else's, but here I go, here is my brand new Get It Done! cleaning schedule:

Monday: Clean upstairs bathroom, Vacuum living and dining room, sweep kitchen and foyer.
--1st Monday of every month: scrub tub

Tuesday: Vacuum stairs and hallway, Dust downstairs, wipe down coffee tables, etc.
--2nd Tuesday: vacuum furniture

Wednesday: The kitchen wipe down: Sink, counters, dish drainer, stove, fridge, microwave (inside and out)
--3rd Wednesday: clean out inside of fridge

Thursday: Sweep and mop kitchen, foyer, and bathroom. Empty bathroom and laundry trash.
--4th Thursday: dust blinds and baseboards

Friday: Pick up bedrooms, change sheets
--1st Friday: organize closet clutter, sort kids clothes

Saturday: File papers,bills, bag recycling, clean kitchen trash can

That's it. (Not including daily tasks like washing dishes and my favorite cleaning method derived from a magazine somewhere, picking up with a laundry basket--one or two rooms at a time, put everything that's out of place and walk through the house putting them back where they belong)

Next up: figuring out how to schedule some structure in my spiritual life, because with two kids, waiting for some free time to pop up just doesn't cut in anymore. Actually, it probably never did.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Going to Latin Mass

I got to smell some incense on Sunday- we went to our first Latin Mass. I'd have to go several more times to begin to feel like I'm picking it up and to unpack my impressions, but here's what I noticed was different. I'd also like to know why these things are not done anymore...
  • The prayers were stunning in their portrayal of God's holiness and the egregiousness of our sin (an English translation was provided) - definitely not of the 'Jesus is my best buddy' variety
  • There was a line for confession during Mass. I think the priest stopped hearing confessions right before the Eucharist
  • We received the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling
  • Almost all the women wore chapel veils
  • No 'passing of the peace'
  • Choir was men only
  • Less music
  • Less scripture read
Throughout the Mass, I couldn't help but think about how God is a mystery and the ways of heaven are mysterious. Maybe that was just me drawing a parallel between not being able to understand what the priest was saying, but it's still the dominant impression I have of the Latin Mass as I think back on it now. After going to this Mass, I'd like to know more about why the liturgy was changed. I can understand why making the switch from Latin to English seemed important, but the other changes? It felt appropriate to kneel for the Eucharist and the prayers were beautiful and true. It seems odd that people decided these things were no longer useful for Catholics. I know very little about liturgy, but I think I can see why people would cringe over some of the changes.

Quotable Monday

"I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what's best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred."

-Fred Rogers, 1928-2003, beloved star of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving thoughts

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have kind of a thing about this holiday - I need it to be a holiday that I spend with a lot of people. I experience a level of depression inversely tied to the number of people I'm planning on spending Thanksgiving with; just a handful of people = Elissa mood funk, large group of people = oh, happiness. It just feels all wrong to me to not have a crowd of people around, be it family or friends or both. However, this Thanksgiving it will be just my husband and I and our two boys, so I was really surprised yesterday when I realized that I don't feel bad that it will be just the four of us--I'm actually looking forward to our mini-holiday at home.

I think it's due to the fact that I'm starting to feel like my little family of four really counts. We can have conversations with booga bear and he is growing into his role as the big brother. I'm feeling fully invested in raising a family; with one kid I had moments when I felt I was only playing house, but with two kids that is no longer the case. (Now I feel like I'm only playing at having a life outside of raising a family).

This Thanksgiving will be our first holiday in our first house. We're planning on going to Mass, I think I'll take booga bear to the park no matter the weather, make some videos of our four month old, we'll probably use skype to talk with family.The meal is going to be simple and I'm not sure if the turkey will be thawed enough to cook, but I have a lot to look forward to. All in all, four is feeling like a pretty sweet number for the day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quotable Monday

"People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent."

-Bob Dylan, musician, poet, painter

Saturday, October 25, 2008


The subject of abortion and the election has been on my mind heavily the last few weeks, so much so that it is shaking me out of my three month absence from blogging. I am a bit amazed by something: Christians who proclaim abortion to be evil but still happily and eagerly vote for a pro-abortion candidate, and in this election, one of the most pro-abortion candidates America has ever seen.

Obama is an ardent abortion rights activist, having a sterling 100% rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice America. He has promised to remove ALL restrictions that interfere with a woman's access to abortion, saying "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do." The usual argument I hear justifying voting for Obama despite his vigorous pro-abortion stance goes something like "Obama, overall, will work for a more just society than McCain, so I feel morally obligated to vote for him"

To this I say "What?" Basically, the premise behind this stance is simple: the murder of over one million innocent human beings in the US annually is not enough of an issue to vote against. I wonder--if infanticide were legal in this country and Obama was promising that the first act of his presidency would be to promote infanticide by removing all bothersome restrictions on it and by providing federal funding for parents to kill their children, would people have trouble deciding if they should vote for him or not? To the folks who would answer no, of course not, then the question that begs to be asked is: Do you really think abortion is evil?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

This blogging hiatus

Oh my poor, neglected blog! Life has just been too full lately for me to post anything -- we had a baby and moved to Pennsylvania a few weeks later, and we're still unpacking and working on the house. I'm sitting on the floor typing this with the monitor on top of an upside down we have a ways to go, but I hope to be back to posting in a few weeks!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Biggest accomplishments

I was laying in bed at the hospital the evening of the day my newest son was born thinking about-what else-motherhood. I find staying in the mother/baby unit of the hospital to be a unique time because although I'm tired from labor, I feel kind of pampered. With both of my kids, my experience has been that the only expectation upon me is just to be a mom; the nurses have encouraged me to sleep, eat, and kick out the visitors if I'm tired, recognizing that all any mom needs at this time is to take care of herself and her baby. I love how everything comes right to you- clean laundry, meals with desert, painkillers-even ice water and a straw are delivered into your hand.

And then you go home and things aren't so simple anymore. The rest of the world often seems to have the opposite expectation of mothers, telling them that just being a mom is a vacant way of life. (Frequently, the ones who disagree are mothers themselves.)

I feel like it's entirely appropriate to say that my children are my biggest accomplishments in life, and that's not because there's an absence of other things, it's because there's nothing else I could do that is so far-reaching as bringing another human being into the world. When I think of the things I could have chosen instead of having kids, the scope of potential accomplishments is so limited. Maybe I could have been wealthier and more accomplished, but would anyone else's life been impacted? By having my kids, my husband has become a father, my parents and his parents have become grandparents, my brother has become an uncle, my friends have become special in the eyes of a certain small person. There's a sweet little boy in existence (and now a newborn red head) whose attention is coveted by them--I can physically see how happy they make them, and I know how happy I am. I'm pretty sure that the lives of quite a few people are richer simply because they know my first son, and I know it will be the same as our new baby grows and ventures into the world.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thanking God for...

Join me in thanking God for blessing our family with another sweet and beautiful baby boy, born Friday July 11th, 7 lbs 3 oz!

We seem to have already nicknamed him 'cuddle cub' (it matches with big brother 'booga bear'), and everything is going better than I expected.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quotable Monday

"I believe in an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out."

-Arthur Hays Sulzberger (1891-1968), editor of the New York Times 1935-1961

Monday, July 7, 2008

Quotable Monday

"He became what we are that He might make us what He is."

-Saint Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Confessor, Doctor of the Church, 296-373

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I recently watched 'Reluctant Saint' on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, and predictably, it's got me probing the value of material comforts. (I know Saint Francis is one of the best-known saints, but I didn't realize what a hard life he committed himself to; utter poverty, disease, caring for lepers, eventually contracting leprosy himself.)

After watching the film, the question I feel convicted to ask myself is-- where do I derive satisfaction in life? I've decided to start evaluating my days by asking myself, where did I find ____(happiness/peace/joy) today? Reality is that things and experiences (like a vacation) bring pleasure, but not joy. I maintain only relationship with God and others can bring true joy. So if I rely on a trip to the mall, or a great meal with friends to bring me happiness, I'm selling myself short of the deeper joy that life with God offers, as well as ignoring God. These things are not bad in and of themselves-- after all, God created things like eating to be pleasurable, but there has to be balance. I need to be grounded in God on a daily basis, not just floating on the events that make up any given day. I think that largely, the American ideal of life has become to lead a pleasant one, and it takes some deliberate thought to recognize that this ideal pervades our lives. It's all too easy to run around satisfied with how well we are achieving our personal goals, or to look forward to the future because of a fun activity planned, but these things are not the life God offers us, nor do they allow us to offer life to others. How diminished the impact of people like St. Francis, or Mother Teresa would be if they had simply decided to live a pleasant, comfortable life.

I'll close with a quote from the late Fulton J. Sheen, Archbishop;

Joy is not the same as pleasure or happiness. A wicked and evil man may have pleasure, while any ordinary mortal is capable of being happy. Pleasure generally comes from things, and always through the senses; happiness comes from humans through fellowship. Joy comes from loving God and neighbor. Pleasure is quick and violent, like a flash of lightning. Joy is steady and abiding, like a fixed star. Pleasure depends on external circumstances, such as money, food, travel, etc. Joy is independent of them, for it comes from a good conscience and love of God.

-Fulton J. Sheen, "Guide to Contentment"

Monday, June 30, 2008

Quotable Monday

"The church that marries the spirit of an age becomes a widow in the next generation."

-Dean William Inge, English author, academic 1860-1954

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Note to self

My husband and I have been butting heads over disciplining big bear lately, and I've been trying to remind myself of something I've learned since we got married: I am right far less than I think I am.

There have been so many times since my husband and I have been married that I have been convinced the way he wanted to go about accomplishing a specific task or goal was wrong and would turn out disastrously. But then I've "let" him have his way, and what do you know, everything works out just fine. It's actually a bit reassuring to know that I don't have to have the world figured out, that it' s not solely up to me to master the art of getting things done well.

It's hard to be gracious in those situations when I'm sure I know what is best, especially when my husband's method entails doing something I really, really don't want to do. It helps to remind myself that when I said 'I do', I let go of much of my independence. A good thing, too, because being independent just doesn't work very well in marriage. Two people cannot go about building a common life independently-- there has to be give and take, there has to be compromise, and hopefully understanding. I think my idea of 'compromise' before marriage was finding middle ground. But often, there is no middle ground to be found, things have to get done one way or the other way with no mixing of the two. But, like I said: I am right far less than I think I am. Choosing to do things his way is not a watering down of my rightness with his wrongness, because, I repeat: I am right far less than I think I am.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Quotable Monday

GG: Do you believe in sin?


GG:What is sin?

OBAMA:Being out of alignment with my values.

-Barack Obama, from 2004 interview by Cathleen Falsani "God Girl" (GG), then-religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times

(via Food Fight in the Cafeteria (or is it the Cafeteria is Closed?)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Slathering on the carcinogens

My neighbor mentioned today that she's started to buy soaps and lotions that don't have any potentially toxic or carcinogenic ingredients. This prompted me to read an article I had set aside on the same subject, and let's just say we did NOT use our normal baby wash in tonight's bath. I found a great website with a mega data base of all sorts of personal care products and their ingredients, Skin Deep, (from the Environmental Working Group) that informed me the baby wash I use every day on big bear has ingredients linked to:
  • Cancer
  • Developmental/reproductive toxicity
  • Violations, Restrictions & Warnings
  • Allergies/Immunotoxicity
  • Contamination concerns
Great. I also found out from the FDA's website that"Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives." and that "Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing." Well of course. Everyone knows that the best policing of industry is done by industry itself. (No one else regulates cosmetics, either.)

After reading the ingredients list of my 'hair & body baby wash' I happened to notice the manufacturer's own safety tip: Keep this product out of the reach of children.

I think I might actually follow through with that one.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Quotable Monday

"I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

-William Blake, "A Poison Tree", 1757-1827, English poet, printmaker, artist

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sticky Afternoon

Is it possible to permanently engrave a picture of a moment on the brain? I know I've tried to do it before, and always the image fades. But if I could fix a moment in time forever of how I want to remember my big bear as a newly two-year old boy, I'd choose yesterday afternoon. It was one of the first hot and sticky days of the year and I decided we should cool off by eating Popsicles outside in the shade. I dragged two chairs together and we sat down, barefoot, with a full watering can to pour on our feet. I took off big bear's t-shirt and he happily attempted to eat his very first Popsicle. Afterwards, his chest was a sticky red mess, so I poured the rest of the watering can over him, which of course he found immensely funny. He stood there on the walkway, laughing with his perfect teeth so white against his red-smeared mouth, slapping his wet skin, and then he started to pull on the baby belly fat peeking over his soaked shorts and the blue band of his Thomas Train underwear . He stood there looking at me, grabbing and pulling, grabbing and pulling, laughing, laughing, laughing at this new-found body part. I laughed too. Leaned back in my chair and laughed towards the sky, happy that this napless afternoon hadn't turned out so bad after all, happy that this boy and this moment we were sharing were mine, just mine.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Budding Eucharistic adorer

A few months ago I started getting into the habit of spending time in Eucharistic adoration. Meaning, I was going to the church once a week outside of Mass specifically to spend time with Jesus, present under the appearance of a blessed communion wafer displayed throughout the day at our parish. But I haven't gone the last few weeks, and I miss it. I've come to notice that since I became Catholic, I've mostly dropped an old habit of seeking time to pray outside in a quiet, natural place in favor of praying before the blessed sacrament. Now, I'd really rather spend time in prayer inside a church for adoration rather than outside in God's creation. This is a little shocking to me, just because a natural setting (or as close as possible to natural) has always been a place where I most connected with God and could pray unhindered. I love beautiful scenery; I love mountains, the smell of the woods, the way sunlight and cloud change a landscape, or set to glowing even just a tree outside my door. Even as a child, being outside set something loose in me that made me better able to marvel at God.

I don't believe this aspect of my 'hard wiring' has completely changed since I became Catholic, but rather it has been superseded by something greater. Now, I am much more overwhelmed by God's presence when I'm sitting in front of him in the blessed sacrament than when I'm sitting outside enjoying a sunset. I think this is as it should be for any Catholic; Jesus didn't leave earth saying 'here, I give you this mountain range to look upon and ponder me', instead he left us his actual presence by giving us the Eucharist. How lost the disciples must have felt when Jesus ascended into heaven, but how comforting those first Eucharistic meals must have been. What a gift to physically be with Christ in the event of the Eucharist. And for me today, though I'm still working on learning the doctrinal development of adoration, I've experienced this truth: what a gift it is to sit with Christ in Eucharistic adoration.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Quotable Monday

"Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to."

-J.R.R. Tolkien, English writer, professor 1892-1973

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Soliciting baby advice

It seems that lately we've hit a really sweet spot in going to Mass; booga bear, whom I'm transitioning into calling big bear, is consistently well-behaved. He stands on the kneelers and smiles at people. He's recently started sticking out his hand to people when we pass the peace, and he occasionally 'joins in' the singing, although often after the song is over. I've caught him making the sign of the cross several times when the priest says 'let us pray', and there's always graham crackers and his little hot-wheels trucks to keep him happy.

So I've really been enjoying Mass because I'm able to focus. Then I realized yesterday that soon I'm going to have a newborn to take to Mass, and things probably won't be so peaceful anymore. I'm thinking I might try a different approach to parenting though. With big bear, we really trained him to sleep in the bassinet and then his crib. By the time he was 8 weeks old, he was falling asleep on his own very easily in his crib. But, this meant that he didn't like to sleep outside of his crib. We were always trying to figure out which Mass would work best for him by scheduling around his naps and feeding, but it seemed like Mass was always during nap time, and I couldn't just hold him and let him fall asleep, because he wouldn't fall asleep. This juggling, of course, applied to all outings; trips to grandma's house, going out to eat, etc.

I'm thinking of doing more attachment parenting this time around-carrying new little brother around in a sling more often for naps and letting him nurse to sleep. With big bear, we followed the Baby Whisperer's advice and woke him when he fell asleep nursing, supposedly forcing him to learn to fall asleep on his own at a young age. It actually worked, BUT it meant that for the first two months or so of big bear's life, I often found myself patting his back for 25 minutes or so while he screamed in his bassinet, eventually quieting down and falling asleep. I don't even know if I could do that now that I have a toddler to keep tabs on as well! I probably won't be able to, but I'm a little apprehensive to deviate from what we did before, because, as my husband is always pointing out, for the most part big bear has always been a great sleeper after his initial 'induction phase' of Baby Whisperer parenting. As long as he was at home, in his crib, that is. I just think I might want some more flexibility this time around.

So parents, I realize this question of baby-on-a-schedule or not is probably pretty talked out, but what do you think? Does it matter in the long run whether or not you 'train' a newborn to fall asleep on their own? Did I completely waste my time?

Friday, May 23, 2008

moody housecleaning fool

I think I've hit the point of my pregnancy officially taking over my life. These days, I'm always aware that someone else is with me. I plan my walks around the possibility that I might have to pee somewhere along the way. Throughout the day, when I change positions (especially when I get up from our smooshy couch), I feel like someone should shout 'heave-ho!'. And besides my mood swings, my brain is working, well...differently. I've become extremely forgetful. Last week, I forgot to go to a doctor's appointment, and I almost never forget a date and a time-I carry a mental calendar with me at all times. I went to the store specifically to get cumin, but the cumin never made it to the check out; I left the little bag sitting on the counter in the bulk spice section. In desperate need of caffeine, I went to buy a soda at the gas station and realized after the clerk rang me up that I had left all my cash in the pocket of the pants I wore earlier in the day. This was after I drove past the gas station I had originally intended to stop at, but forgot.

Mostly, I just don't feel right unless I'm doing something practical. Yesterday I went to the bookstore to hang out and read, but I couldn't concentrate on anything. Everything I picked up seemed like gibberish, and I wondered, is this what it feels like to be stupid? Right there in the middle of Barnes & Noble, I started to feel genuinely sorry for people who don't read well. Even magazines couldn't hold my interest; I flipped through an interior design magazine but became immensely annoyed with the enlarged quotes, "James and Evelyn tore down their 60's tract house and replaced it with this bold, modern structure" Lovely for you, J & E, but tell me, what is the point of your superficial life? I found washing the dishes tonight to be very satisfying, and I'm actually kind of looking forward to vacuuming out my car this week. I remember wanting to tackle all sorts of household chores towards the end of my pregnancy with booga-bear, but this feels more extreme, this is me ready for motherhood on steroids. Or something like that.

I started to look up pregnancy hormone levels out of curiosity, and then thought, what a waste of time-I don't need any graphs to show me that I'm off-the-charts hormonal right now, I'm already fully aware of the fact. Plus, numbers and I have never been the best of friends and certainly are not now. So, little man hitching a ride inside, I'm fully looking forward to the tapering off of whatever wild cocktail you have caused to circulate in my blood and would appreciate your timely arrival. I miss myself.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quotable Monday

"All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why."

-James Thurber, 1894-1961, US author, cartoonist, satirist

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

He knows more than I think

Booga bear has started doing something really sweet. The other evening my husband, the boisterous one, decided that we should sing the Gloria together... this actually happens on a semi-regular basis. And you have to admit, it's kind of catchy and conducive to singing loudly. So we sat around singing, and booga bear kind of joined in. The funny part is that now, whenever he notices a cross or an icon he takes to be Jesus, he starts 'singing' loudly in his own toddler language. This morning he picked up a prayer card that has an image of Jesus on the front, and he carried it around the house singing. This afternoon, we passed an Episcopal church on our walk and he pointed and said 'Jesus' and started in on his singing.

I'm not sure how he has made these connections- the Gloria has the word Jesus in it, but it doesn't seem it would be entirely obvious to a toddler that the song is about Jesus. I think the cross on the roof caught his attention at the church, and since he has exposure to crucifixes, that makes a little more sense to me, but still...I'm impressed. I've often wondered when the spiritual training of a child really starts, but I guess it already has. Apparently the concept of Jesus is already beginning to soak in, which is a blessing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quotable Monday

"If the thing we fear most is sin, then we will not fear death much, for after death we will no longer be able to sin."

-Peter Kreeft, philosopher,"Perfect Fear Casts Out All "LUV"

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I'm Guilty

I've been trying to figure out sin lately; specifically, how guilty I should allow myself to feel over the sins I commit. I've been wondering what the proper attitude is toward my sin. I don't want to treat the acts I do in opposition to the will of God lightly, at the same time I don't want to wallow in self-absorption, disregarding that Christ has freed me from the bondage of sin.

There have been several times over the last year or so that I have wanted to go to confession multiple times in a row, but I've had a niggling feeling that I shouldn't. That if I go, I'll be wasting the priest's time by confessing just one or two major sins of the week, or that it's proof I'm too hung up on guilt. Moreover, it's embarrassing to show up two weekends in a row! Or even worse, to call and make an appointment for confession -I've not worked up the nerve to do this yet. I've found that after I go to confession, during the following week I will commit a sin serious enough to make me want to go running back to the confessional the next weekend, but I hang back because I just went. I don't want to admit to myself or anyone that I might need to go to confession every week. Now that I'm a person who is required to go to confession, it's Really, Really Annoying to not be able to grow up spiritually as I desire and stop sinning. Popping into the confessional and saying "guilty!" is no fun.

Sorrow over my sin, at least regular sorrow, feels like a new element in my life, but I don't know exactly what to do with it. Forgive yourself! Move on! seems to be a popular attitude, but the problem is that I sin again, and am back to where I started almost instantly. There are so many virtues I'd love to have, and have constantly, but they always seem to be slipping through my fingers whenever I manage to get a hold of one for an instant. Unfortunately, as a human I am destined to forever sin, and thus it also seems a realistic expectation to constantly be in a state of anguish over my sinfulness. I'm not sure I'm okay with this.

I've been trying to read more about the saints lately, and some of their acts of penance are quite disturbing; many inflicted much hardship on their bodies. My husband mentioned the other day that St. Birgitta of Sweden was known to have dropped hot wax from candles onto herself so that she always bore scars on her body. I cringed and said "why would someone do something like that? It seems so pointless!" He responded that Peter Kreeft says we shouldn't be appalled at the sorrow of saints over their sin, but rather we should be appalled at how lightly we take God's forgiveness (wish I had a citation for this). And I'm still a bit disturbed, but that statement shed a lot of light for me. If I don't disdain my sin, the very acts that separate me from God, then how can I claim to love him with all my heart? I may have confidence that the eternal consequence of my sin, hell, has been lifted from me, but I still have to suffer the immediate consequence; a damaged relationship with God. More and more, I do not want a damaged relationship with God.

So I guess it's okay to mourn the losses in my relationship with God by 'wallowing' a bit in anguish over my sin, because really, what I want most in life, or what I aspire to want most in life, is fellowship with God. If the saints felt the need to self-impose suffering on themselves with the same idea, okay then. I think I'm starting to understand--separation from God is a sorrowful thing. And really, I shouldn't be ashamed to admit this by being a regular at confession. Or by doing the dreaded deed, calling and making an appointment. Not fun, but appropriate.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Quotable Monday

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

- from "Everlasting Man", G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936 English writer, eventual Catholic convert

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Abortion & Indian sex-selection

Excerpts from a recent NY Times article, Indian Prime Minister Denounces Abortion of Females, my own thoughts follow;

"In his first speech on the subject, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted an “alarming” decline in the number of girls for every 1,000 boys in India, slipping to 927 in 2001 from 962 in 1981, according to the latest census figures. “This indicates that growing economic prosperity and education levels have not led to a corresponding mitigation in this acute problem,” he said.

“No nation, no society, no community can hold its head high and claim to be part of the civilized world if it condones the practice of discriminating against one half of humanity represented by women,” Mr. Singh said, giving an inaugural speech at a national conference dedicating to “saving the girl child,” which brought together politicians, doctors and advocates."

"Over past three decades, the increasing availability of ultrasound equipment has assisted India’s cultural preference for sons and distorted the sex ratio across the nation. As the equipment has become more affordable, special ultrasound clinics have opened even in the most impoverished parts of the country."

I found this article thought-provoking. Without knowing Singh's views on abortion as a whole, I found his denunciation of the practice of aborting females interesting because there is no claim that abortion itself is wrong, only that it is wrong to discriminate between the sexes. Abortion really isn't the main issue, it's discrimination against females. The article goes on to explain that girls are often seen as a liability because when they are married, the groom is entitled to a large dowry. Also, men tend to be the ones who take care of their parents in old age.

I can see how an issue like this could put a pro-choicer in a moral quandary, especially if they have strong feminist ideology. I'm sure if I were of the feminist pro-choice mindset I would see sex-selection by parents as reprehensible, a case of patriarchal society at its worst. But if I truly believed that abortion is always a personal decision every woman should be allowed to make on a case by case basis, then why shouldn't every woman be able to decide whether or not she can afford to raise a daughter? What if she really wants a child, but knows that she will never be able to scrape together a dowry? How is this really any different from any woman deciding she can't undertake the 'burden' of raising a child, regardless of gender, because of the financial stress it would entail. Certainly countries should not pass laws banning abortions done to avoid economic distress, to do so would be an invasion of privacy. (75% of women who obtain abortions cite financial inability to care for the child as one reason).

There are so many parallels that can be drawn from this issue of discriminating against a certain type of human. 90% of the unborn diagnosed with down-syndrome are aborted in the US. This must be a sickening fact to those living with down-syndrome and to the families and friends of those with down-syndrome. I don't think it would be incredible to demand that laws be passed against discrimination towards the unborn diagnosed with genetic abnormalities or other disabilities. But to a pro-choice person, it all comes down to a personal decision that no one else has the right to intrude upon. Lovely.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The example of saints

I worked with someone awhile ago who was agnostic, or at least that's what I labeled him as. He once related a story to me about his son asking him if there was a god, and how he had to tell him that no one could know. Something along the lines of "out of all the religious traditions of the world, who am I to decide which one is right?"He attended church sometimes and liked the tradition of it, but that was all he was willing to commit to. I wonder if that wasn't an excuse to do what was easiest--just not decide on God. And I can understand that, a little, as a person who dislikes making big decisions. Life can be easier when one chooses to not decide on God, at least in the immediate sense. If we can't know if there is a God, then there's a lot of gray area in terms of right and wrong. A little more moral scootch room to move around in, a nice place where private, personal conviction is the only moral code to follow.

I told my coworker, basically, that his position was flawed, trying to point out the ways we can think objectively about any religion. This was hard to do, I didn't feel prepared to stump for my religion on the spot. I wonder if I had known more about the lives of saints back then if my comments to him would have been different. As a Protestant, I knew nothing about the saints, except the ones who were in the Bible, and we certainly didn't call them saints. I think if you know something of the lives of the saints, it becomes harder to write off God as undefinable, because the saints are another powerful, often recent (or current, in the case of those whose bodies have not decomposed) witness to the reality of Christ. These people certainly did not worship an undefinable God; they weren't enduring suffering, performing miracles, receiving visions, or devoting their lives to an unnameable God or a vague cause they felt peace pursuing. Many died painful deaths precisely because they knew this God so exactly they were willing to give up human life in order to be with Him, unfettered by sinful nature.

I think it's safe to say that the witness of Christian saints is unparalleled among other religions. They have saints as well and certainly people who do not know Christ have done saintly things with their lives, but not quite on the same scale. Because the saints' lives are so unique, they present questions to non-believers and believers alike. How could someone live such a life joyfully? By what power did miracles happen? Why would they choose the life they did? Either they were liars, merely deluded, grossly misrepresented by history, or they were on to something real. The saints are one more layer of evidence that confronts the world. Because faith doesn't exist in a vacuum, belief is really only belief when it results in action, and that's what the saints represent: follow-through. They illustrate what can result out of loving Christ. Ideally, every Christian has this element of visible faith, but c'mon, we're not all going to be canonized.

And, just for fun, some of the stories I've come across and would like to remember:

Saint Lawrence
: A deacon in Rome, who, when required to turn over the wealth of the Church to Rome within three days, quickly gave away as much as possible, and then rounded up the poor, weak, and suffering and presented them to the prefect as the true treasure of the Church. Grilled to death in 258, reportedly crying out "I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other."

Saint Jean Vianney: Priest, lived a life of charity and mortification; allowing himself 2-4 hours of sleep a night and very little food, for the last 10 years of his life he spent up to 18 hours a day hearing confessions. Died in 1859, exhumed in 1905 and body found to be incorrupt, still on display in the Basilica at Ars (France).

Saint Catherine Anne Emmerich: Augustinian nun, often lived in the supernatural realm, experiencing ecstasies and visions throughout her life. Received the stigmata from 1813-1818.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Quotable Monday

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends"

-Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968, pastor, civil rights activist, 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Does voting pro-life matter?

I used to wonder if it really mattered if I voted pro-life or not. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and doesn't appear to be slated for overture anytime soon, so abortions will continue regardless of who is in office. I questioned whether or not legislators could really make much of a dent because abortion is held as an inalienable right for women in this country. But honestly, these were vague questions that I never really took the time to seek serious answers to and until fairly recently, I wasn't persuaded to vote for or against anyone based on their position on abortion. Recently, I finally started compiling a list of pro-life legislation enacted under President Bush, partly because I wasn't paying all that much attention to it while it was happening, and partly because I wanted to prove to myself that it does matter how I vote. This is, after all, the position my church takes and I said I agree with everything she teaches when I became Catholic. I was surprised at how extensive President Bush's record is. It would take me days to wade through, and my list would be pages and pages long were I to include every pro-life appointment, policy position and actual piece of legislation.

I think this list helps to illustrate that it does matter whether you or I vote pro-life. Other opinions aside, you have to hand it to President Bush for repeatedly staking out a strong moral position for the sanctity of life and against abortion throughout his presidency. Perhaps this type of legislation is under rated because often the people who benefit the most are too small to be interviewed, but I am grateful for the impacts of actively respecting the sanctity of all human life because I believe this has to be a good thing for all of society.

Since taking office in January 2001, President George W. Bush:

January 2001, Reinstated Mexico City Policy, limiting funding to international NGO's that support or perform abortions

April 2001, Applied Hyde funding restriction to RU-486 (abortion pill), limiting federal funding of medical abortions

May 2001, Appointed pro-life diplomat John Klink to State Department

August 2001, Limited federal funding of stem cell research to existing lines (about 60)

November, 2001 Opposed human cloning

November 2003, Signed Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, ending gruesome practice of partially delivering fetus, crushing its skull and vacuuming out brain. Ban was upheld by Supreme Court in April 2007

April 2004, Signed Unborn Victims of Violence into law (rules that when a pregnant woman is attacked and her unborn child is injured, perpetrator may be charged as harming 2 victims)

March 2005, Endorsed UN vote to urge the end of human cloning

September 2005, Appointed John G. Roberts (conservative) as Chief Justice US Supreme Court, replacing conservative William Rehnquist

January 2006, Appointed Samuel Alito as US Supreme Court Justice, filling position vacated by leftist Sandra Day O'Connor and tipping the courts' balance to conservative

September 2006, Vetoed embryonic stem cell bill, limiting federal funding on research with stem cells

May 2007, Vowed to veto any legislation that weakens federal policy abortion restrictions

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What are you doing May 3rd?

There's an organization looking for one million people to pray the Rosary with the intention of an end to abortion on May 3rd, 2008. You can pray the rosary individually wherever you are from 9-10 am Eastern time, and registering only requires one click of the mouse at: Saint Michael the Archangel Organization, One Million Rosaries For Unborn Babies.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quotable Monday

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

-Mother Teresa, 1910-1997

Saturday, April 19, 2008

He's my Pope

I've been hanging out at You Tube watching videos of the Pope's visit, and I especially like to watch the ones of the excited crowds waiting for the Pope to appear. They sing, they chant, they play drums, they cheer, some run after the 'Popemobile'. I don't think I had any strong opinions on the Pope when I was Protestant, but I didn't understand how Catholics could get so excited over one man. He seemed akin to the British Royalty; in high stature but no one really knows for what purpose . But now I get it. There's something about watching the videos and reading news coverage that makes me feel ownership in the Catholic faith. It's made me realize that I understand the sentiment of the people trying to run after the Pope's car. The Pope may be an ordinary man; his office is anything but. He's the successor to Saint Peter, which is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it--Jesus appointed Peter head of his Church on earth, and here in front of us today is the 265th person to hold that very same office. The Pope is a living, breathing link to Christ himself.

I went to pray in the chapel at church yesterday, and there was a wedding rehearsal going on in the sanctuary. The musicians were belting out Mendelssohn's Wedding March, complete with trumpets and organ (that's the one they always use on TV for the recessional). It all seemed very grand and stately and made me think that when Christ returns, there will be some loud music, there just has to be. How could he come back quietly? How could he be received quietly? The Pope is but a shadow of Christ, but I get the noise of the crowds, the willingness of people to travel long distances just to see the Pope. He's a connection to Christ that can be visibly seen, and it's natural to want to make some noise, have a celebration over this link to heaven. As people would cheer for Jesus--although I'm not sure that's the right word--they cheer for the Pope.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Benedict XVI's words to America

Links to what the Pope has been saying during his current visit:

Homily, Holy Mass (Washington Nationals Stadium, 4-17-2008)

Address, Celebration of Vespers (National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 4-16-2008)

Address, Welcoming Ceremony (South Lawn of the White House, 4-16-2008)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Unwrapping Liturgical Time

I've been pondering why living in Liturgical Time feels like such a blessed addition to my life, and I think it's partly because, in order to appreciate the way things are, we have to understand the way they have been. Following the Liturgical calendar unfolds the story of salvation throughout the year, so there are times when we 'live' an event that has came and gone long ago--the annunciation, the birth of Christ, his passion, his resurrection. All Christians celebrate the resurrection, since it is central to being Christian and is the reality we live, but I haven't seen a universal value as strong as the Catholic one on celebrating the events leading up to the resurrection. One could ask, why would I drag myself through the muck, so to speak, of focusing on the agony of Jesus' death, when he has triumphed over death (his, and ours) once and for all? Some are offended at the re-creation of Christ's paschal sacrifice during the Mass. It may seem morbid, distasteful, or just altogether too solemn for Christians to celebrate every week, who are supposed to be, overall, joyful people.

But there is something about participating weekly in Christ's sacrifice that keeps the central act Christ has done for us close to the heart, and I think living Liturgical Time has the same effect. We are reminded of all Christ has done..."the kingdom of God enters into our time." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1168). I have found that as a Catholic, I feel more joyful on Easter Sunday because I have spent Lent in mourning. There has been physical solemness in my life as I have tried to be more spiritually disciplined, penitential, and focused on imitating Christ's total surrender long ago. Reliving the way things were facilitates a true celebration of the way things are when Easter finally comes. Furthermore, I am enabled to celebrate an entire Easter season rather than one single day because I find I enjoy the fruits of my Lenten penance especially during Easter season since they are so fresh. I have grown closer to God, and have more reason to actually be able to think of myself as living an Easter season.

In addition, Liturgical time mirrors reality, anticipating the future as well as looking to the past. By living a well-rounded year of spiritual seasons, we are reminded that the nature of life is always thus--full of ups and downs. For each individual, the final chapters of our own salvation stories have not been written. Who knows what the future holds for each of us--while we can have confidence that we will be with Christ and his Church victorious in heaven when we die, we have no way of knowing what pain and trials we will have to endure in order to get there. We are told to be imitators of Christ, granted on a mini-scale since we are not offering life to others from within us. But we are all called to take up our cross, the die to ourselves, and ultimately to physically die and rise again in Christ. There is no comfort zone we can relax in as Christians, expecting to have an easy life of happy blessings continuously raining down from heaven --our life is simply not our own. Liturgical time helps keep the tendency to believe this isn't so at bay, just because each month is not our own. We are following the Church calendar, and when it says to fast, we fast, despite any inconvenience that may come from conflicts with our personal life (within reason).

I was reading about the Liturgy of the Hours in the Catechism, and came across this passage describing its purpose, which I think also applies to the Liturgical Calendar, "This celebration, faithful to the apostolic exhortations to "pray constantly," is "so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God." (CCC 1174). We have a Catholic calendar on the wall next to the computer, and I am often struck by how different it feels to have a calendar full of religious dates, and to pencil in Holy Days of obligation on our other calendar. It's still very novel to me, religious time overlapping with dentist appointments and play dates. It's a really good thing, this mingling of holy time with the everyday. I'm glad I discovered it.

Quotable Monday

"If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much."

-Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, 1929-1994

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's pronounced An-yoos?

Ever since I started attending Mass, I've been wondering what exactly the words are to the Agnus Dei, and how to pronounce them. I finally looked it up today, and found my attempted singing had been way off:

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,
(Ahn-yoos Deh-ee, kw-ee tolis pec-cah-ta mun-dee)
miserere nobis. (2x)
(mis-eh-ray-reh naw-biss*rhymes w/hiss)

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,
(Ahn-yoos Deh-ee, kw-ee tolis pec-cah-ta mun-dee)
dona nobis pacem.
(dough-na naw-biss paa-kem)

(Lamb of God, who take away sins of world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who take away sins of world,
grant us peace.)

(From my reading of the pronunciation guide in A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin, John F. Collins, 1988 The Catholic University of America Press)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


It's hard to stand outside the abortion clinic praying each car that pulls in will not go through with procuring an abortion, only to repeatedly be ignored. Most people going in will not even look at the sidewalk counselors. At times I find it hard to believe that there's much purpose in the my prayers and in my presence. It feels like it should be easier to defeat evil than it is if God has given us what he says he has...his spirit and power. It's frustrating when it seems that God allows evil to happen all too often.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm praying wrong, akin to my son's feeble attempts to master sweeping. Of course, he can't handle the big, adult sized broom, and only manages to aimlessly swipe the floor every so often. That's how I feel sometimes, that I haven't figured out how to use the tool of prayer very well. It's made for a purpose and can bring about miracles, but something seems wrong when what I'm praying against happens over and over and over.

Last week I was standing outside the clinic feeling rather powerless, my anger over the situation coming to a head. I asked God why it is so difficult and rare for his kingdom to triumph on earth, at least in front of my eyes, and I started to think how limited my vision is. It struck me that I may never physically see the result of my prayers for others, but that doesn't render them ineffective. I can't know what sort of spiritual dynamic may be changing in the lives of the men and women who enter the clinic because people like myself are standing in prayer for them. They may go through with the abortion, but their hearts may be changed in some small or large way because we have asked it to be so. I felt encouraged to pray that God would raise up people from the staff and clients to speak out against abortion, if not today, then someday.

Hope is something no Christian should be in short supply of. Hope and the lack of hope is one of the main differences between the lives of believers and non-believers. Jesus is hope, the message of the gospel writers is one of hope, of pressing on towards the end goal of eternity with the creator. Without God, the best advice on life goes something with it, and always look out for number one. But oh how things change with faith in a merciful God. I have a friend facing a difficult situation who wrote in an email, "How tragic if I, an ambassador of the King of Life, a vessel of His hope, were to give up and let go of my hope so easily." She's right. I'm outside the clinic once a week asking people to take a chance on hope, to do something they have deemed much too difficult, to bear a child. It is tragic if I give in to the same despair and lack of hope--I know that God is GOD. He's always doing something, even if I am blind to it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The art of being

If people are usually defined by what they do, then motherhood has taught me the art of being. In this context, I refer to 'being' in opposition to achieving. I thought I could dash out this post, but I've had to stop writing twice because booga bear is wide awake and complaining about it. He's currently sitting on his dad's lap having a snack, an hour and a half past his bedtime, so my thwarted attempts to finish this post fit nicely with what I'm trying to write about: slowing down my expectations.

It seems that people assign value to others by quantifying that individuals' level of output. Doctor? Saves lives=valuable. Plumber? Fixes pipes=average. Elderly lady next door? Watches a lot of QVC and goes for a walk twice a week=insignificant. I've been reading quite a bit about the loss of recess time in US schools because a lot of parents (and administrators) seem obsessed with giving their kids as much structured academic time as possible in order to ensure their child's future success. 90% of fetuses diagnosed with down syndrome are aborted- I would presume largely because people are afraid of the things these children would not be able to do.

Full time motherhood certainly slows down output, unless we're talking the number of lunches made, clothes washed, and books read. So many times throughout the day, my son interrupts my plans. He points out his stuffy nose that needs to be wiped yet again, he brings me his shoe that has fallen off, it's time for him to sit on the potty just as I'm sitting down to dinner. It goes on all day. And it's not miserable, but it is an adjustment of expectations. I'm happy to do a lot of it, but it's not remarkable what I do with my time. Beyond the health of my child and I and the bond we share, there's not a lot of "achievement" going on in my house.

I've written before about how I've spend a lot of time worrying that my life didn't have enough purpose. I always equated purpose with meaningful activity, and maybe for others what matters is their bank account's accrual from each month's paycheck, or how many days off they have to travel. But motherhood has taught me that it's okay to slow down, or at least to slow down my expectations of what I should be accomplishing with my life. (Because as any parent knows, kids do not bring about the life of leisure). I can just live and be myself and take care of my family, and God is not any less happy with me than if I were deeply involved in some grandiose cause. Although it can be hard to separate the two, my value does not come from what I do or achieve in life. If God had set up things that way, then people disabled in any way would be worth so much less than the ones who have nothing to overcome. So for now, I'm just going to keep working on being. There's a lot to learn.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Quotable Monday

"If ever I love again, I will not wait to love as best as I can. We thought we were young and that there would be time to love well sometime in the future. This is a terrible way to think. It is no way to live, to wait to love."

-Dave Eggers, What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2007 Vintage Books, p.353)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Not so simple

I've been reading The Hand of God by Bernard Nathanson, M.D. and came across a passage I want to pass on. Nathanson was a one of the founders of NARAL Pro-Choice America and at the time ran the world's largest abortion clinic. He has since become a national advocate of the pro-life movement, although I'm not sure how active he is currently. In the book, he deals with the ethics of using aborted fetal tissue for treating medical conditions. I'm sure we've all heard the, "well, they're already dead, so some good might as well come out of their lives" argument supporting the medical use of fetal tissue from aborted babies, but Nathanson provides an alternative perspective: (here he is talking about the hope of reducing the symptoms of Parkinson's disease by transplanting healthy fetal nerve cells into those with Parkinson's)

"...consider that the placement of fetal brain tissue into the brain of a sufferer from Parkinson's disease is not simply a matter of sticking a needle into the skull of the patient and injecting the cells. First patients suitable for the technique must be screened (the doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians necessary for this phase of the operation are all well paid). The abortions must then be performed (five for each patient awaiting the transplant), and of course the abortion doctors, and clinic and hospital personnel are compensated for their services. The tissue must then be immediately iced by a technician standing right at the abortion table (also paid), and then the tissue must be transported to a suitable laboratory where another technician will examine all the fetal tissue under a microscope and winnow out the fetal neurons (nerve cells) appropriate for transplant (that technician is especially well paid since this is critical tedious work). The tissue is then processed and prepared for the actual transplant (another costly operation). Meanwhile the patient is also being prepared for the transplant by the doctors, nurses, nurse's aides, housekeeping personnel, social workers, and counselors to the patient and the family"...and on and on it goes.

Bottom line: there is a lot of money to be made by using fetal cells for research and treatment. New industries would spring up to accommodate demand, and certainly not out of pure altruism. Just food for thought.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I've been feeling lately that I am very rich in children. There's something that feels almost decadent in anticipating the birth of our second child in a few months. Something feels special about having not just one cute child to call our own, but two. It's like eating reeses peanut butter cups-- one is satisfying and delicious, but two feels positively indulgent. It seems pretty clear to me that if you think of children as gifts, they are the most valuable possession one could possibly have. I'm not advocating selfish parenting, just acknowledging that children are something we have in life. I think most parents would agree that their children are what is most important to them. Short of forsaking God, I can't think of anything that would be more painful than losing your own child. There's just nothing in the earthly realm that I care about more than my child. I'm much more concerned over him than I ever could be with an expensive car or a treasured collection.

To illustrate my point, my husband and I got out of town for a short overnight trip recently, and as soon as I woke up in the hotel the next day, I was ready to get home to my baby (who is not so much of a baby anymore). I was irked that my husband wanted to sleep in and watch tv until check-out, which I thought was a complete waste of time when we could be reducing the number of hours standing between being reunited with our son. There's no one else and no thing that I am so attached to. I always miss my husband when one of us travels, but I can't say I'm absolutely dying to see him after a mere 24 hour absence (sorry, honey). But with my son, I just can't stop mothering him when someone else takes over caring for him.

I don't know why, but every time Spring rolls around, I always get the urge to go shopping. Every Spring, I look in my closet and see nothing but shabby clothes--it's rather remarkable how this can happen every year. (I like to tell my husband that I really don't have much to wear because I'm just not much of a shopper, and that it's high time I actually go shopping, but he never, ever believes me.) This spring is proving to be a particularly lean shopping season because of finances, and...I've been feeling sort of, well, cheated. Out of the fulfillment of my feminine desire to know I look pretty, or something like that. So, it's been good to count my blessings elsewhere, and to count them where they really count. After all, I may not have trendy earrings, but I do have a cherub of a child sleeping in the other room, and I get to spend all day with him tomorrow.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Quotable Monday

"Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."

-Saint Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226, founder of the Franciscans, patron saint of animals, the environment and Italy

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How could a human individual not be a human person?

It's tempting, it really is, to think that contraceptives such as the pill and IUDs that sometimes and sometimes often, depending on the type, cause early abortions aren't really all that bad. Does it really matter if a few cells that are in the very early stages of human development might get flushed out of a woman's body every so often? But when examined, this view is not in keeping with the biology of the beginning of human life. At conception a new human being comes into existence-- 23 chromosomes from the female and 23 chromosomes from the male are united into what is a brand new human person, 46 chromosomes, with a unique DNA sequence entirely different from the mother and father. Amazing, just like that; in a moment, a new human being is alive. At conception the complete blueprint of this tiny human is already determined. The texture his or her hair will take on, the shape of his foot, the length of his eyelashes, his future tendency towards observing or exploring, screaming or smiling, it's all there. All it needs is time.

It takes about 5-10 days for a future embryo to implant in the uterus (it's not called an embryo until it implants), and I've always pictured this phase as a lone cell floating down the fallopian tube, just vegetating waiting to implant, so I was surprised to find out that as soon as conception happens, a zygote's cells begin dividing and arranging appropriately. All the while the zygote is traveling towards the uterus, this new human is growing. Once a new human is put into motion, it's all about the business of growing--there is no hanging around idly waiting to find out whether or not it can really get the show on the road, so to speak, depending on its ability to burrow into the womb for nourishment. Growth is already happening.

It's always hard for people to understand others who are not like themselves; people of different religion, race, even gender, are puzzling, and understanding the significance of a zygote or an embryo is no exception. It's especially hard to accept something that doesn't look like us as one of us. But as Pope Paul IV said, "how could a human individual not be a human person?".* From conception, a zygote is human, there is no other species it can be assigned to. Some would argue that while it is human, it is not a person and therefore is expendable, but there is no wisdom in this. There is no biological benchmark for a tiny human that clearly proclaims 'okay, NOW I'm fully a person and have rights'. All the benchmarks people have tried to come to consensus over as to when a human being constitutes a human person that should not be killed--end of the first trimester, viability, etc.--are arbitrary. It's like trying to tack up our own blueprint of development over the one God created in the beginning. We can't figure out the mind of God. We can't. But we can know that from the beginning, God has a plan for every life, and to intentionally disregard the sacredness of his plan is a grave moral error.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

*Cf. POPE PAUL VI, Discourse to participants in the Twenty-third National Congress of Italian Catholic Jurists, 9 December 1972: AAS 64 ( 1972) 777. As found in Donum Vitae

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Is the Birth Control Pill an Abortifacient?

I was going to try to not write anything and just post this video, but there are a few things that should be said. Women do get pregnant on the pill with reported perfect use. Therefore, when a woman experiences breakthrough ovulation (best estimates seem to be from 5-10% of the time), an abortion is not guaranteed--but it is possible. ALL combination birth control pills (the most widely prescribed kind) work in the same way,"Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins. Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus) and the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation)." (Taken from the prescribing information of ortho tri-cyclen, but all combo low dose pills say the same thing under 'clinical pharmacology' in the prescribing info). It is the last mechanism that we are concerned with here.

The video was made by referring to Randy Alcorn's extensive research, "Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?" found at (use the search button, I can't link to the article itself)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Quotable Monday

“On the question of relating to our fellowman - our neighbor's spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love.”

-Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) 1891-1942, Scholar, teacher, Jewish convert, Carmelite nun, victim of the Holocaust

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Had trouble praying for an hour?

I have. I usually ended up with 25 minutes of solid praying and 35 minutes of mind wandering interspersed with little flits of prayer. That's why I'm glad I came across this nice little book last year at a Bible study I went to. I'm usually skeptical of Christian devotion type books, but this book (actually more of a pamphlet) won me over quickly. It breaks down an hour of prayer into twelve 5-minute segments and makes praying for an hour a refreshing plausibility. Most segments contain a prayer the author has written, but it's easy to come up with your own once you are familiar with the 12 topics. It's a nice balance of structured prayer and prayer that gets at what is going on in your heart any given day, and it's geared towards both Protestants and Catholics. The best part? When I posted this, the low man on amazon was selling for $.94. C'mon, ninety four cents!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Essential Lent

This Lent, I've been reflecting on Jesus' answer to the Pharisee who asked what the greatest commandment is. Jesus answered, " the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22). Observing Lent has a tendency to boil life down to what is spiritually essential, and I love the simplicity of Jesus' teaching here; the main goal of life is to accomplish two things, loving God and loving man. But the simplicity can be deceitful. It's a really, really difficult commandment to follow, and to do well requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice. If that doesn't register with you, go ahead, try to give over one entire day to loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to treating everyone around you exactly as you wish to be treated. It's possible it might be easy for a day or two. You might hit one of those days where you get such a good night's sleep that you wake up early to pray, the kids are at grandma's, there are no homeless men standing outside your window at long red lights, and your husband volunteers to clean the kitchen after dinner. But those days are flukes. It won't be easy the next day, or the day after that when you spend your whole day exhausted and positively certain the universe is set up to demand you satisfy the wants and needs of others as long as they directly contradict with your own wants and needs.

It's a given that we can't follow Jesus' command to the letter, otherwise we wouldn't need him--we would already be perfect. So I can't help but wonder, how much loving God counts as loving God with all my heart? Can I love him just a little in the morning, not at all in the afternoon, but make it up in the evening? I'm not really prepared to answer that question, but as I've been thinking about the answer over Lent, it has occurred to me that this is why we need to observe Lent--because we are really bad at loving God and our neighbor completely with every deed and word when it requires personal sacrifice. We need times of penance such as Lent to train ourselves to love and obey God all the time.

The fact is, loving God and humanity is so often a discipline, and not something that just comes naturally from an inner ever-flowing spring of affection. You have to make yourself do it, and what is Lent but practicing making yourself do (or not do) something? Jesus likes to compare his relationship with his church to a marriage, and in marriage, you don't constantly feel enamored with your spouse; you often have to choose to love them with actions that are a personal sacrifice. It can seem pointless to deny ourselves whatever small pleasure in life we've decided to give up during Lent. It's so tempting to negate the value of giving up sugar, or movies, or whatever, and think 'oh, but what Jesus wants is my heart, not this arbitrary sacrifice, and he has my heart I'll just skip the penance thing'. But sacrifice is an essential discipline in following Jesus, and I think Lent trains us towards a sacrificial lifestyle. So much of loving God and fellow human beings really goes against our nature- we tend to love when it's convenient. Lent is inconvenient, and I think if we give up some of our personal vices and pleasures with the idea that we will be molded into a closer likeness of Jesus, God will honor our choices and give us what we desire.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Quotable Monday

"Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger."

-CS Lewis, 'The Problem of Pain', 1898-1963 Irish scholar and author

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The world is not my home

Over the last few years I've increasingly felt that as a follower of Christ, the world really is not my home. There's just so much ugliness to deal with when we choose, in ways big or small, to live apart from God. I love my little family and my life, but sometimes the darkness of the world is overwhelming and I wish I were done with the mess down here already. I wish I could shazam! myself away from sin and suffering, but I know the only complete way to do that is to die and spend eternity in heaven.

I read in CS Lewis' The Problem of Pain, "Christ takes it for granted that men are bad. Until we really feel this assumption of His to be true, though we are part of the world He came to save, we are not part of the audience to whom His words are addressed." At this point, God will have no trouble convincing me that humanity is inherently sinful. I do read the newspaper, I do live in the world, I do sin more than I wish. Oh sure, I can play my little game of impressing myself with how short my current list of sins is, but it never lasts--I always go out and do something really stupid and wrong, or I don't do anything when I should do something holy and good. And my oh-so charitable attitude to the perpetrators of the world's ills is often to want to slap people upside the head with the Bible and yell something like "you blind idiot! Can't you see the havoc your sin is causing?!"

The problem for me is finding peace in this life in the midst of so much darkness. But I've realized that there is good in recognizing 'that men are bad': the good is that it distills ones love for God. The despair of sin is only found apart from God, and joy in life is only found in God. When we find God, we find joy, and when we experience joy in God, we want more of it. Our lives ideally become trained around the pursuit of God. We are awakened to what he and only he offers, and nothing else can satisfy. CS Lewis also famously writes, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

Friday, March 7, 2008

I'm still here

I'm sorry it's been almost 2 weeks since I posted anything original, I'm not quitting this blog! I've been quite sick twice and have had a hard time getting over my tiredness, and my brain feels a bit scrambled because we are deciding between two out of state moves for the summer. So basically I've been sleeping and researching potential homes A and B instead of blogging, but I'll have a real post up tonight or tomorrow...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Quotable Monday

"If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."

-Saint Augustine, 354-430, theologian, bishop of Hippo

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dream House

I keep reading things in the media that emphasize how great it is for kids to have their own bedrooms. A home-improvement magazine will have an article on how 'the Webers remodeled their house and were able to squeeze in 4 bedrooms upstairs so each child could have his or her own room', or the newspaper will have an article on how a low-income family got their first home and 'little Alex is overjoyed at having his own room for the first time'.

Okay now, I never shared a room as a child, but I do remember becoming giddy over the prospect of Friday-night sleepovers, in part because there would be someone else sleeping in my room. Really--is it so bad for kids to share a room? What exactly are parents thinking their children will gain by having their own room? Better social skills? A willingness to share and compromise? Or maybe it's just that parents have something to gain by giving each child their own room. I googled some statistics and found that the average new house size in 1950 was 980 square feet. In 1970, 1,500 square feet, in 2004, 2,349. I also found an interesting quote in the same article "I always wanted a house big enough that my kids could be in their room screaming, and my wife could be in a room screaming, and I could be somewhere else and not hear any of them," he says. "And I think I have accomplished this with this house, because this house is so big that everyone has their own space."

Wow. So this guy is happy that his family is unhappy and he doesn't have to deal with it because everyone is shut away in their own space. I don't exactly know what to say to that. Sounds like a great sad life to me. So, people who shared rooms as a child or currently have kids sharing rooms, spill it. Am I missing something?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Good things come in pairs

In case you're interested, I had an ultrasound today and we are having a boy! I think it's pretty cool that booga bear and the new baby will each have a just seems good for boys to have brothers. My husband pointed out that it should be interesting to watch them interact since neither of us grew up with a same-sex sibling, and I think he's right. So, now we get to decide if we still like any of the leftover names that we didn't end up naming booga bear with...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chasing a cat in the rain

I took booga bear outside to play in the rain on Sunday. I was sick and hadn't taken him outside much over the last few days, so I thought he deserved it. We put on our coats and I found our biggest umbrella and we headed out into the rain and fading daylight.

He stayed under the umbrella for awhile, and we walked very slowly around our apt. building as I tried to keep the umbrella over us without stepping on him. Eventually he ventured out a little and got his coat dripping wet, and then he saw our neighbor's cat and he took off like a shot at a speed that surprised me--this is a kid who very rarely runs. He ran down a steep embankment that he usually navigates very cautiously in pursuit of the cat. I ran after his little splashing feet, not wanting him to get completely soaked, and noticed that his too-long pant legs had wicked the rain nearly to his knees. The cat of course was too smart to wait around for us, but we had to look for her in all the likely places booga bear could think of.

All this was surprisingly enjoyable; it's fun to watch my son get so excited over something as simple as a cat in the rain. I've noticed since I became a parent that the little things in life take on an added luster when you get to watch your child navigate parts of the world that are new to them. Things like going to the zoo, or sharing a free cookie from the grocery store bakery, or reading Dr. Suess . It's hard to find another adult who will stand around and admire the rain with me, but booga bear always will, and it's nice to spend time with someone who genuinely looks forward to the small pleasure of life like rain and cats.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Quotable Monday

"Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth."

-James 5:17 (RSV)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm not surprised

A few days ago I felt the baby move, really move, for the first time. I feel definite shifts and turns inside me a bloop-woop-doop below my belly button. What's ironic is that even though I can feel a baby growing inside me, I really can't imagine a baby growing inside me. Are there really fingers and toes and tiny ears, actual legs kicking, and, and...? It doesn't quite seem possible, although of course I know it's happening. It seems we humans have so little imagination when it comes to things we can't see with our eyes, so really, I'm not surprised so many women and men find it very easy to put their child to death with an abortion. Sure we've explored outer space, invented the internet, and I hear scientists are hard at work trying to create sperm from female bone marrow, but because of our lack of vision, when it comes to debating facts largely outside the realm of the physically tangible, anything can pass muster as a moral choice.

You see this repeatedly in society, from people who decide the world would be better off without the hope of God and religion, to people who would prefer the universal embrace of homosexuality, to people who trust there is no pain in abortion so great it could negate its usefulness. Lack of vision, lack of imagination--human beings can be terrible at understanding consequences when they are not completely obvious. If we don't experience a smiting by God, we all have the capability to believe that an evil act isn't really very evil, or is even good. I believe that were many people to just take a few small steps towards what I will term 'the mystical', or the realm of things that go unseen with physical sight, the world would be startled at the reality of God.

I'd like to hope this burden of not knowing what is right in the face of the unknown falls mostly on the shoulders of secular, and particularly non-Christian, persons rather than Christians. Christians have a perfect moral law passed on to us by God through the Jews and Christ himself, and it was exemplified without a flaw in the person of Jesus. No other religion in the world can claim that its founder was a perfect leader, because no other religion in the world has God as its founder. And that's why we need him so, because only God has ordered the universe. Only his laws work. We can't evade him by coming up with our own individual moral codes-- they fail since they are not based on reality, which would be what God set up when he created the earth. Without Christ, we are all so lost in the quagmire of figuring out morality, and we are bound to call evil good.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Quotable Monday

"It is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterward"

-Baltasar Gracian 1601-1658, writer, Jesuit priest

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reverence misunderstood

I've heard people describe Catholic Mass as extremely boring, as in 'how can you sit through all that recitation every week? Wouldn't you rather go to a service that is 'alive'? Now that I am Catholic I realize that God is mightily present at every Mass, and that is enough for me, but I can understand the sentiment because it used to be mine. Not when it came to considering Mass, but more traditional Protestant services were not appealing to me for the same reasons. I think the reason for this was that I misunderstood the place of reverence in a worship service.

I grew up in a Protestant denomination that tended to emphasize reverence. As a child and teenager, this all too often translated to me as old-fashioned and dull. When I left home for college, I eventually chose to attend contemporary services that had a non-denominational feel. I wanted my church to encourage energy in my relationship to God, and I wanted it to feel relevant to my life. But there was one contemporary service I went to that became too much for me. A few weeks ago, Aimee Milburn posted an interesting piece on visiting a friend's evangelical church service, and I left a comment describing the service I went to. "I sometimes attended a young adult Baptist service in college that was all about jumping up and down praising God as loud as possible, and I HATED it. It hadn't started out like that, which is why I kept going, but the whole tempo of the service felt like GO!GO!GO! I remember telling people that I didn't like it anymore because there was no room in the service to pray and be humble before God, it was so incredibly unbalanced, but yet it was a very popular service."

Although I was glad to stop attending this service, I still preferred casual, contemporary worship services for the next couple years. It wasn't until I began considering Catholicism that traditional style was once again forced on me, and it was much more traditional than anything I had experienced before. But from the beginning of going to Mass, I knew there was something there that was not dispensed in the same dosage at my own Protestant church. That something? I quickly figured out that it was reverence. Shortly after I started attending, a friend asked me how I liked Mass and I responded that I felt I couldn't walk into Mass and slouch in the pews like I did at my church because there was a sense of God's holiness there. I noticed that the sanctuary was quiet beforehand and people prayed upon entering the sanctuary, unlike my church where everyone socialized in the sanctuary beforehand, often pushing up the start time of the service by 15 minutes or so. Frankly, I preferred the quiet.

When I found how reverent Mass was, I was fascinated with my immediate attraction to it. It had an air of the sacred about it, and even though I wasn't partaking of the Eucharist I loved listening to the priest walk us through the last supper and Christ's death and resurrection, and I loved watching everyone go forward to receive the Eucharist. I realize now that I was unsatisfied with the traditional 'reverent' style I grew up with not because reverence itself is boring, but because there wasn't much to be truly reverent about at church. God was there, but we received him by osmosis through the whole package of the service and not directly in the Eucharist like in Mass. Jesus in the flesh inspires reverence, but when the focus of a service is the sermon, it's hard for me to walk away feeling like I met with God. I think this is why today's emerging Protestant churches really try to ramp up the spiritual impact of a service by providing a worshipful, uplifting time of singing, which is the segment of the service usually labeled as worship...people are wanting something more out of church than a good sermon. As a Catholic now, I don't miss these types of services either because they are ultimately lacking in the substance I'm looking for every week, Jesus in the Eucharist.

I had been thinking these things over last weekend and when I went to Mass on Sunday, I thought God is here. Not very profound, but that one little thought deeply impacted how I experienced Mass. I always think of Mass as a time to meet with God, but this time the Lord's presence really hit me. I thought about how being in the presence of God should affect me, and it seemed obvious that it should order all my actions in Mass. Now was not the time to let my mind wander and mentally make the weeks' grocery list. I looked over at the tabernacle and saw the red candle burning and thought wow. The LORD is HERE. I couldn't help but close my eyes and soak in this knowledge and when I did, I felt a change come over me. Suddenly I felt heavier on the pew, confident I would have no trouble sitting there forever. I was aware of a sweet sensation surrounding me that's hard to explain, but it felt sort of like breathing in honey...without the wild coughing and suffocation that would entail in real life. I was overwhelmed with how good it was to be there sitting with Jesus.

Amy left a beautiful comment to her post (the one I linked to above) describing her experience of going from evangelical style worship to Mass that I can identify with, and I thought I would end this post with it:

For me, moving from Evangelical to Catholic worship (and I've been blessed with good-quality Catholic liturgy), it is like going from a big, fun swimming pool with slides and floats and everything to the beautiful, deep blue sea. I did scuba diving years ago, and when diving, one learns to relax, breathe and move slowly and deeply, to conserve oxygen, and ascend slowly, to prevent nitrogen build up and the bends. Nothing is ever hurried and rushed, and one feels almost as if one is moving in slow motion.

Good liturgy is like that for me, moving slowly, diving deeply, ascending gradually, breathing fully and deeply all the while. And what beauties of deeps and reefs and life you see along the way.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Losing Libby

Today was my due date for our baby that we lost in miscarriage last summer. I didn't expect to be sad today, but I am sad today. Yesterday I didn't feel gloomy in anticipation of today, and I'm pregnant again and looking forward to another baby's birth, but today I am feeling the loss anew. We were able to bury our baby, whom we felt was a daughter, in a Catholic cemetery and the same flood of emotion has happened to me when we have visited the grave. I am fine, I am good, but when I kneel down over the spot that holds our tiny baby's body, I become undone. I didn't want to get a plot and bury our baby but my husband insisted, and he was right. It's good to have a place to go and mourn, to remember. It makes what has happened not feel like a bad dream. Her life was short but it mattered, and it has changed me. I've read that many women carry cells for years from each baby they have been pregnant with, so literally, pieces of her are etched into my being. Even if I don't have her cells in my body, I will always carry the memories of what it felt like to see the positive pregnancy test, to say the name Libby out loud for the first time and know it would be our daughter's name, and what it felt like to find out she had gone from this life. And I will always carry the hope that someday, baby girl, someday we'll meet in heaven.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Jen's story

Jen at Et Tu? has a fabulous post How I became pro-life, that I couldn't help but posting two excerpts from, but in my humble opinion, you really should read the whole thing...

"Because it was an inherent part of my worldview that everyone except people with "hang-ups" eventually has sex and sex is, under normal circumstances, only about the relationship between the two people involved, I got lured into one of the oldest, biggest, most tempting lies in human history: to dehumanize the enemy. Babies had become the enemy because of their tendencies to pop up and ruin everything; and just as societies are tempted to dehumanize the fellow human beings who are on the other side of the lines in wartime, so had I, and we as a society, dehumanized the enemy of sex."

"The way I'd always seen it, the standard position was that babies were a horrible burden, except for a couple times in life when everything is perfect enough that a couple might temporarily see new life as a good thing; the Catholic view is that the standard position is that babies are a blessing and a good thing, and while it's fine to attempt to avoid pregnancy for serious reasons, if we go so far as to adopt a "contraceptive mentality," feeling entitled to the pleasure of sex while loathing (and perhaps trying to forget all about) its life-giving properties, we not only disrespect this most sacred of acts, but we begin to see new life as the enemy."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Figuring out Vocation

I don't think I've had one day since booga bear was born that I've thought to myself 'man, I got absolutely nothing worthwhile done today'. It's a good feeling. There are always things to do when you have kids, and all those little ordinary tasks add up to security and well-being for another little human, making any day very worth-while. I've always wanted my life to have purpose, and in fact I think I've spent years worrying that it didn't have enough purpose. I feel that my life should be a worthy response to this awesome thing God has done for me, dying on the cross and calling me to Him. If Jesus sacrificed his life for me, then surely I should be sacrificing in return as my little offering of thanks.

But how, in a way that really counts? Before I became Catholic, I considered being a missionary and made some steps towards that end goal. Then I married my husband and he decided to become Catholic, and I followed suit, which changed that picture a bit. There aren't endless opportunities for married laity to be missionaries, and we have said 'absolutely not' to using contraception, so now we are in a phase of accepting children instead of limiting them in order to do 'God's work' as we probably would have had we gone overseas.

Catholics refer to one's life calling as your "vocation", and what I have come up with as my vocation is entirely unglamorous. I would never, ever have come up with it 3 or 4 years ago, which I know is a trite thing to say about vocation, but it's true. What I'm mentally calling my vocation is a 'life advocate'. There are three main areas I see to this right now. First, I want to be an advocate for life with my own body by being open to more children, and to being an at-home mom to those children. Second, I want to become more involved in the pro-life movement. Third, I want to spread the message of Natural Family Planning in marriage.

I am only at the beginning of understanding my vocation, so other layers might be added on over time, changing the components of my vocation picture. But for this phase of life I'm in now, which, using a conservative estimate will probably last 10 -15 years, I think my vocation will include these three components, or include things that closely resemble them. I've heard people say that you spend your 20's figuring out what you want to do with your life, and your 30's actually starting to do it. I'll be turning 30 this year, so I guess my narrowing of focus is partly biological (well, a lot of it is biological, considering having a child is what got me started on this path). I guess what has happened is that I don't feel overwhelmed by all the choices available to me; I don't need to throw myself at whatever good cause comes my way because I know what I want to be about...and now maybe I can get something done.

I don't want to become a task-master in this, I just want to be deliberate about trying to bring about some good in the world. I think of it as a way of praying with my feet, praying with my actions. I'm asking God to bring change through my little contributions, and I hope my contributions will work towards building his kingdom.