June 30, 2012

The Buddy System - It's Not Just for Swimming Anymore!

Today we had the pleasure to visit with friends, a lovely Catholic homeschooling family whose children are wonderful role models for ours.  Respectful, polite, generous, and kind, their older teenage children (all boys) exemplified one of the virtues I frequently see among homeschooling families -- the older children not only tolerate the younger ones, but they genuinely welcome them warmly and are happy to be helpful (even with urchins like mine!).

Since this family's children are significantly older than ours, the family already has established usage rules for their kids' time on the computer, particularly on the internet.

Like us, their family computer is centrally located by the kitchen, making the wide screen within easy sight of anyone passing through the house.  (Not once did I see any of their five children in the all-too-common isolated posture of a teenager with head bent, shoulders slouched, and thumbs flying over a personal, hand-held, on-line device.)  Access to the internet is available only via a password, which is known only to the parents.

When a child wishes to use the computer, s/he not only must gain permission from a parent to do so, but also must have a "buddy" in tow.  This buddy becomes rather like a sibling Jiminy Cricket, a quiet shared conscience, whose mere presence gently reminds the internet user not to view nor contemplate anything their parents would not approve.

To some, this might sound excessive.  To us, it sounded brilliant!  And to their children, it was simple, easy, took two seconds, and was no big deal.

You know why?  I'll tell you why.

Because this lovely family had imbued in their children from birth what Catholics know is everyone's #1 Purpose In Life: to know, love, and serve God in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.  (Remember our quote from St. Dominic Savio about life -- "What has this to do with eternity?")

Their children didn't just know or understand this concept.  They didn't just live it when they were having a good day.  They breathed it.  They were as peaceful and confident about Who made them and why as they were about their own names or the fact that today is Saturday.

And that's why their buddy system worked.

No one minded.  Because they all knew that God didn't want just me to join Him in heaven.  Or only you to join Him in heaven.  He wants every child He created (which would be, um, everyone) to join Him in heaven.

Part of our salvation is the ultimate buddy system in action!

Hey -- it's not just for swimming anymore!

June 29, 2012

A Place for Everything and Everything in Place

I am compulsive.  There.  See?  I said it.  Yes, I readily admit that my life is almost completely ruled by habits which include, but are not limited to, lists and the insistence on the proverbial, "a place for everything, and everything in its place."  Without a list, my poor wee brain is lost.  And it drives me positively nuts to waste precious time hunting for something that should be right there.

Earlier this year, I literally and figuratively swept my arm across my teacher-desk and our computer-desk and cleared them off.  The resulting mountain of paperwork then was spread across my kitchen table, where it took me the better part of a day to arrange and organize it into Piles To Conquer.

(Thankfully, the kids thought it was great fun to have a picnic on the floor for lunch that day.)

Each pile had a name, such as "Phone Calls" or "Mail" or "Reading" or "Ave Momma" (my rosary making mission), each of which I designated with a bright pink post-it note.  I even had a pile called, "Scarlett O'Hara" (because after all, tomorrow is another day) and "Rhett Butler" (because, frankly my dear, I don't give a.....well, you get the idea).  Once the piles were complete and the mountain of paperwork had been reduced to a molehill, I stacked it all up in a box and placed it next to my desk.  (Although I was not happy to discover that I hadn't thought ahead to write the titles on the post notes upside down, so they would stick up from the box legibly.  Note to self for next time!) 

Over the next several weeks, I plowed through each section of the box in order of priority.  And let me tell you, it was one of the most wonderful feelings of accomplishment I've ever had!

Sometimes, however, in homeschooling, child-rearing, or just plain life, we don't get such a tidy checklist or To Do pile, from which we proudly can mark off our achievements.  In fact, more often than not, life in general is so much more fluid and amorphous than that.

Wouldn't it be lovely if, at our birth, the Lord would hand us a checklist of all the things He means for us to accomplish in life, so we could have a clear path to know, love, and serve Him in this world, and thus be happy with Him forever in the next!?

But, that doesn't happen.

Instead, we're left to muddle along and, through both nature and nurture, figure it out for ourselves.  You know why?  Because every single one of us is equipped with a marvelously irritating quality called Free Will.  And it is because of free will that each of us not only ultimately is responsible for our own actions, but also for the effect our actions have on others.

Although the Lord already knows the outcome, He wants us to learn from our past and to live "in the moment", and thus make our decisions for ourselves, not follow a pre-written Guidebook For Your Predestination.

What does this mean for our relationship with Him?

It means that at every opportunity, every day, we have the option to turn toward Him or away from Him.  As children of God, we are loved by our Father -- by God Almighty! -- and He wants us to love Him in return.  But it is optional.  Our option.  A matter of choice in our free will.


What kind of a crazy parent is He!?  Wouldn't it be easier if He didn't just leave an idiot like me to my own devices, and instead pre-programed me for total obedience and brilliance?

Yes, it might be easier for Him...okay, a lot easier.  But it would be beneficial neither to my soul nor to our relationship.  It would not give me the opportunity to learn from my triumphs and mistakes, as well as the triumphs and mistakes of others, and make the free choice to turn toward the Lord, seek to discern His will for me, and love him FREELY in return.  How generous that is!  God risks being spurned by us mere mortals in the hope that, instead, we will love Him freely in return.

I mean, c'mon, would you really feel as well-loved if your parent, spouse, child, or friend was compelled to "love him/her or else!"?  It is precisely because of our freedom of choice that we are able to pursue the love of God wholly, completely, and fiercely -- or, you might say, with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Oh wait -- He already told us that!  (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37)

So, the next time you are lamenting that everything is not in place, and that you certainly don't feel you are in a place that is close to God, do this:

Stop complaining.  Get up off your duff.  Dust off your free will.  Organize your life, even if you begin with just one simple aspect of it.  And listen to your Father's advice.  Beat a path to the tabernacle.  Turn to the God of love and ask His Son to embrace you and guide you in all that you do.

Because I guarantee you -- He will!

His arms already are outstretched -- for you!

June 28, 2012

Pray the Rosary During Fortnight for Freedom!

My dear friend, Kathy, sent me this eminently wise request to PRAY THE ROSARY during the Fortnight for Freedom, which I humbly and gladly share here with you:

"During this Fortnight for Freedom, let us ask the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, Patroness of the Americas, to help us in our quest to preserve religious freedom in the USA.  The Catholic population of the USA is estimated at 70 million.  Maybe by each of us passing this on to our friends, we could get 10% of the Catholic population, or 7 million people, to pray the rosary for religious freedom.

"At the end of World War II, Soviet troops had moved in to Austria from the east.  The people of Vienna got 10% of the population to pray the rosary.  Austria is the only country that the Soviets left voluntarily.

"Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!"

Please join me in PRAYING THE ROSARY FOR FREEDOM during the Fortnight for Freedom!  God already has blessed America.  Let us appeal to His holy mother to remain humbly grateful for His immense blessing of freedom!

June 26, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My!

I popped in an old VHS video tape for our son this evening, when what to my wondering eyes should appear?  Some vulgar words and gestures!  I exclaimed, "Oh, dear!"

The preview deemed fit for "general audiences" (read: Rated G) wasn't blatantly blasphemous per se.  But it was disturbing.  Within the first five seconds (a mere FIVE seconds!) of this advertisement for a children's cartoon movie, there was darkly ominous, threatening background music, a roaring Godzilla monster throwing a temper tantrum, a dog lifting it's leg to pee on a wall, and a child aiming his posterior end toward the camera, scratching his hind parts vigorously while exclaiming, "I gots a wedgie!"


And people wonder why I preview and pre-approve (or not) my children's screen-based entertainment?

I don't deny that each of these images might be "art reflecting life" but, in reverse, is that kind of "life" a surprise if that is the "art" you supply for your children's consumption?  Ever heard the phrase, "garbage in, garbage out"?

Well, it's true.

If you feed your child nothing but candy, then (*surprise!*) s/he is going to get rotten teeth.  Therefore, if you feed your child visual and intellectual stimuli that are bereft of moral or cerebral edification, then don't be too shocked if your child's contributions to the world are limited to snickering, sophomoric behavior and, later in life, personal and professional decisions that reflect a crass inner depravity.

I'm not suggesting that filtering your child's screen-based entertainment will make him or her the perfect person.  But I am suggesting that careful monitoring (or perhaps even the same admirable, almost slavish devotion some parents give to the natural or organic quality of their child's food diet) will ensure that your child's heart, mind, and soul will receive nourishing material, inspiring him or her to lead a healthy life and achieve the greatest of heights in fulfilling their unique call to be the best person that God has envisioned him or her to be!

Someone I know recently praised the fact that her child frequently had his nose deep in comic books.  "Hey," she shrugged.  "At least he's reading!"

Really?  With that rationale, why not put Mein Kampf in front of him and let 'er rip!

Again.  This is not rocket science.  Garbage in.  Garbage out.

Instead, why not take out the garbage from your children's purview and provide them with activities, entertainment, and education that are enlightening to the soul and invigorating to the mind?  When making a decision about what you will or won't allow your child to visually or intellectually consume, always have before you these two quotes, from people far wiser than I ever will be:

1).  St. Dominic Savio was famous for asking at every turn, in every situation, "What has this to do with eternity?"  How will this benefit my eternal soul and the souls of those around me?  It's that simple.

2).  A local Catholic boys' school principal often is heard telling the fine young men who are his students, "Don't do anything that would break your mother's heart!"

Because remember Who made you?  God made you.  And why did God make you?  God made you to know, love, and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in heaven in the next.

So the next time your child begs to be allowed to have, watch, or participate in something that is less than edifying to his or her soul, remember to pause a moment and consider the potential long-term effect on his or her future residency in heaven, even if it is a seemingly miniscule effect.  Neither you nor your child have to be perfect.  But you do have to be vigilant, especially in the cesspool that is today's world of instant communication and screen-based entertainment.

Oh and remember -- don't do anything that would break His mother's heart, either!

Toys, Son? Or Poison?

My husband and I recently were lamenting that our one year old, while thankfully the possessor of a placid and cheery personality, unfortunately also has turned out to be the child most likely to try to plug a fork into the nearest electrical outlet.  (Why do they have to make those things look like smiley faces, anyway?)


Instead of rifling through the mountains of toy bins in our house, he instead insists on methodically tearing through each and every kitchen cabinet, systematically dismantling my carefully constructed storage.  And it isn't limited to the tupperware drawer.  He's into EVERYthing!

I foiled him on one attempt by swapping my clean rags and cleaning solutions -- I put the cleaning solutions in an upper cabinet near the ceiling, and then stocked the underside of my sink with harmless rags, rubber gloves, and the dish drainer.

(Yeah.  He was NOT real happy about that.)

Searching for more ways to avert his potentially life threatening adventures, my husband came up with another plan.  "I know!" he exclaimed.  "Let's put the poisons in the toy chest and the toys under the sink!"

Wow!  Brilliant!  I'll let you know if it works.

June 25, 2012

....And They Lived Happily Ever After!

Many moons ago, I attended a Visitation academy that subsequently was kept alive by the enormous sacrifices of a lay Board of Trustees, and now has been renewed, both in faith and formation, by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia of Nashville, Tennessee.

But that's a story for another time.

It is relevant to this post, however, because in my senior year, those Dominican Sisters saw to it that daily Mass was offered in the academy's chapel.  Every day.  Every day at 7:30 a.m. (school started at 8:00 a.m.), daily Mass was offered in a chapel built by Visitation nuns and dating from pre-Civil War, a chapel located both physically and spiritually at the heart of the school.

And every day, I was there.

Oh, don't be too impressed.  I'm not naturally an early riser, but I had ulterior motives, that's for sure.  Big ones.  Every day, I silently offered up my Mass with these words, "Please send me a good husband and good children."  That's all.  Just send me Prince Charming and his charming kids, and *voila!* we'd be happy.  I figured that if I had the primary players in my life dedicated to Him, the rest would be gravy.

And you know what?  It worked!

Today, I've been happily married to My Hero for over 20 years.  And, after being told I was infertile and adopting our first child, we now have six children, the rest of whom arrived in our house in the usual way.  (We're Irish Catholics with fiery temperaments.  What can I say?)

But, that's not the only success story formed out of devotions in that chapel.  Many religious vocations were born there, and I was delighted to discover this weekend that my niece also has been deeply inspired to add her own prayer to the millions that have arisen there.

Every day, on behalf of whomever her future spouse might be and for their life together, my niece asks God to, "make me into the woman he needs, make him into the man I need, and make both of us into the parents our children need."

Wow.  Neat!

So if there are any young ladies out there reading this blog, this isn't plagiarism -- feel free to make that prayer your own!

June 16, 2012

Our First, Most Cherished Liberty

On April 12, 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, chaired by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, MD, published a statement on religious liberty.  The complete statement is available on-line and in .pdf format at the following web address:


In the statement, the bishops made the following exhortation:

June 14, 2012

Recipe: French Bread


2 packages active dry yeast (or 2 tsp. regular yeast)
2 1/2 c. warm water
1 tbl. salt
1 tbl. butter melted
7 cups flour (all-purpose or bread)
2 tbl. cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tbl. cold water

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in mixer bowl.  Add salt, butter, and flour.  Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer.  Knead on Speed 2 for about two minutes (N.B. - speeds vary by mixer; this was for the Kitchen Aid Professional Six Quart, but I use a 20-year-old Sunbeam Mixmaster with the dough corkscrews on Speed 2 Stir-Knead and it works just fine) until it forms into a ball.
  2. Place dough ball in greased bowl, turning to grease top.  Cover.  Let rise in warm place about one hour or until doubled.
  3. Punch dough down and divide in half.  Roll each half into12x15 rectangle.  Roll dough tightly from longest side into two loaves.  Place on greased baking sheets dusted with the cornmeal.  Cover.  Let rise in warm place about one hour or until doubled.
  4. With sharp knife, make four diagonal cuts on top of each loaf.  Beat egg white and water together and brush each loaf with mixture.  Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown (N.B. - we only bake ours 15 minutes, which is more than plenty).
  5. Remove from oven, let cool, slice and serve.  Enjoy!
(source:  Kitchen Aid mixer cookbook)

Punctuation Saves Lives!

See?  Proper punctuation really CAN save lives!

June 10, 2012

The Greatest Sin: Ingratitude

I think the greatest sin, the mother of all sins -- not in so much as its apparent severity, but rather the sin from which so many other sins are born -- is ingratitude.

Are you familiar with The Seven Cardinal Sins?  Colloquially, many people call them The Seven Deadly Sins.  And with good reason.

Can you name them?


I believe each of these sins stems in some way from just one:  ingratitude.

ENVY:   If you are ungrateful for what you have, then you envy what someone else has, because surely his or hers is better.

GLUTTONY:  If you are ungrateful for what you have, then the taste of it is insufficient to satisfy your cravings, which increase in direct proportion to the amount you stuff into your gaping maw.

GREED:   If you are ungrateful for what you have, then it's never enough and you yearn avariciously for more.

LUST:   If you are ungrateful for what you have, then your eyes and your thoughts wander over to what your libido tells you are greener pastures.

PRIDE:   If you are ungrateful for what you have, then what you have not only is too little, but beneath you, because clearly you deserve not only more, but better.

SLOTH:   If you are ungrateful for what you have, then you are unwilling to lift even a finger to improve it, because even though it's so awful, it's lulled you into a level of comfort which would be uncomfortably disturbed should you rouse yourself to effort.

WRATH:   If you are ungrateful for what you have, then you are stirred to wrath by the insufficiency, ineptitude, or injurious nature of those around you whose disruptions, demands, or delays apparently thwart your brilliantly laid out plan for your life.

See what I mean?  Deadly, aren't they?  And yet, not so far away for each of us.

But, fear not!  For behold, I have a solution.  Thankfully, the Catholic Church has gifted us with Seven Cardinal Virtues, which inversely correspond to these horrible vices.  Cultivate these and you'll be out of the woods in no time!

Are you ready?

Envy - Kindness
Gluttony - Temperance
Greed - Charity
Lust - Chastity
Pride - Humility
Sloth - Diligence
Wrath - Patience

Cultivate these virtues with due care, and you'll quickly be on the proverbial yellow brick road to sainthood!

June 7, 2012

Wisdom from Flannery O'Connor

“I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the Body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.”  (Flannery O'Connor)

I was inspired to share this quote after speaking with someone who, unfortunately, was treated harshly by a consecrated religious person.  Remember, the Church is made up of fallible human beings, which does not negate the fact that it is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church -- our Faith -- begun by Jesus Christ Himself.  It will withstand the gates of hell (remember? He promised in Matthew 16:18) and it contains the fullness of the Magisterium, not to mention the Real Presence of Jesus Christ!

Please don't let Old Scratch plant one bad seed in your life and thus spoil all the fruits of your spiritual well-being and nourishment from the Church.  Even if the person who has injured you is a consecrated cleric or religious, don't let someone else's human failings keep you from your heavenly Father or from the guidance of your spiritual father on earth, the Holy Father, Il Papa, the Pope.

Don't let someone else's flaws define or determine your spiritual future.

Remember the goal?  To know, love, and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next.  With HIM!  And He *IS* there in tabernacles throughout the world.  Don't let anyone drive you away from the Church and thus keep you from being in His presence and adoring Him.

Now go give Jesus a great big hug!  He's already outstretched His arms....for YOU!

Summertime Modesty in Church - Second Amendment

Wedding - St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church - Bensalem, PA
And you thought I was kidding about the staggering inappropriateness of some women's choice of garb at Mass?  Did I miss this one in the parish dresscode handbook!?

This snapshot was taken at a wedding at St. Charles Borrowmeo Catholic Church in Bensalem, PA.  The direct link is here: http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/2012/02/21/strapless/

Be sure to scroll down and read the comments to at least reassure yourself that, while some Catholics might have lost all sense of propriety in their choice of garments at church, at least several have salvaged a sense of humor from it.

P.S. - My husband is among them.  He took one look at this photo and my blog post title and quipped, "What?  The right to bare arms!?"

June 6, 2012

Summertime Modesty in Church - First Amendment

In response to my original post, "Summertime Modesty in Church", someone asked me, "Well, what about if you're at the beach?"

You know what, folks?  It's still church.  It ain't Beach Blanket Bingo.  It's still church.  Even at the beach.  There's an old saw that people in poorer parishes look like they're going to the beach and people in affluent parishes look like they're coming from the beach.  Either way, clean up your act and dress appropriately.

Do I really have to explain this?


If someone important were coming to your house, or you were going to visit an amazing celebrity, wouldn't you want to look your best?  Tidy up?  Comb your hair?  Brush your teeth?  Put on your makeup?  Dress your best?

Of course!

So are you telling me that a mere mortal with momentary celebrity status deserves more effort and shine on your part than The Creator Of The Universe?  Really?

Just checking.

"But, it's summer time.  It's hoooooooot out!" is a common comeback.

Okay.  Yes.  I know.  I'm in tune with the weather.  I'm aware that it's hot out.  Does your car not have air conditioning?  Does your church not have air conditioning?  Do you live in a gutter in sub-Saharan Africa?  Is it really going to kill you to dress appropriately and, perhaps, be slightly uncomfortable for one measly hour a week?

Offer it up and get a grateful soul out of purgatory!

"But.....God loves me the way I am!" is another favorite defensive comeback.  Does He?  Of course He does!  You love your own children just the way they are, don't you?  Of course you do!


(There's always a "but," isn't there?)

However, do you expect your children to STAY just the way they are?  I mean, honestly, show me a parent who hasn't corrected his or her child at least once today in an effort to help that child grow into a better person.  As a parent, I constantly am telling my children to sit up straight, say please and thank you, clean up your own mess, and don't eat the dog's food (...well, fortunately that last one really only applies to the toddler).

You get the idea.

It is BECAUSE I love my children so much that I correct them and strive every day to shape them, not only into a better person, but into the fullness of the lovely person whom God has created them to be!  When my children arrive at The Pearly Gates -- please, God! -- I want St. Peter to smile, but a big gold check mark next to their name, and wave them on to Jesus, Who's first words will be, "Well done, My good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:23).

Because isn't that what it's all about?  (No, not the Hokey-Pokey.)  To know, love, and serve Him in this world in order to be happy with Him forever in the next!

So, the next time you're headed off to church, ask yourself this: For whom are you dressing?  The boy in the next pew?  Your own self-comfort?  The beach party you're headed to afterward?

Or have you really taken a moment to prepare yourself (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) not only to meet but to worship Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, the Maker of your soul, and the joy of your heart!?

June 2, 2012

Summertime Modesty in Church

It's summertime, ladies, and we women and girls have the luxury of choosing from a plethora of fashion options to enhance and highlight our natural beauty!

However, let's be mindful that all things bright and beautiful come from God, and that true beauty comes from within -- in Rome and Vatican City, tourists are turned away from some churches because of sleeveless, short, or revealing clothing.  But, here in the 'States, there seems to be a lesser regard for the sanctity of holy space and the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

I mean, seriously -- do my husband and sons really need to see a girl's bare shoulders, her bra straps, and bare thighs in the pew right in front of them, when they're trying to look up and focus toward the Eucharist on the altar?

Ladies, if we women want our men -- your husband, your sons, your brothers -- to be chaste according to their station in life, we need to not lead them into temptation.  If you're clever and have good taste, you can look ravishing without being revealing.

(Plus, honestly girls, half that stuff actually only looks good on Heidi Klum anyway.)

Highlight your feminine mystique without giving it away!

Happy Summer!