Saturday, April 19, 2014

#Fast4Life Holy Saturday - final day of our fast!

Today, in our #Fast4Life, we think about and pray for all people, but especially those who have given their lives to God in a particularly definitive way. Through sending His Son to the world, God has shown His great love for each one of us. It is His great Love that has given us our dignity and worth. Jesus suffered, died and was buried before his Resurrection. He told his disciples that they would drink of the same cup that he had to drink. He warned them of difficult times, but promised to always be near them.

Prayer: Lord, let us always celebrate life! Teach us to see Your face in every person we meet. Give us Your eyes and Your love to help those we encounter see You through us. Help us always to defend the dignity of every single life. Lord, we also beg your protection on priests, bishops, Pope Francis, pastors, religious, missionaries, and all those in work in Your service. Please protect them from attack and guide them with wisdom and love. Please bless us all today and always. We ask this in Your holy name, Amen.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Friday, April 18, 2014

#Fast4Life Good Friday

Today, in our #Fast4Life, we think about and pray for those who are sick or suffering. On the cross, Jesus took on all our suffering, all our sin. He gave redemption even to suffering. He conquered even death.

Prayer: Lord, we ask You to be near those who are suffering, physically, emotionally or spiritually. Physical pain, abusive relationships, being marginalized by those around us ... suffering in any capacity can isolate a person, make them feel unwanted or unloved. Lord, let them know how You hold them up, how You love them! Let us be conduits of Your mercy and love to all sick and all suffering, giving of our time to pray and help those in need, especially those who simply need to be loved. Let us be Your hands, Your heart to those who need so desperately to feel Your love and be given - through love - a gift of hope. We ask this in Your holy name, Amen.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

#Fast4Life Holy Thursday

Today, in our #Fast4Life, we think about and pray for the elderly, especially those abandoned by family and friends. One of the things Jesus taught us at the Last Supper, was how to lead. Through washing the apostles' feet, Jesus showed us that to lead is to serve, to serve is to love.

Prayer: Lord, teach us humility. Show us where we need to be more loving and more willing to serve. In our fast-pace society, we are often so concerned about efficiency, being effective with all our tasks. Help us, Lord, to take time to be affective - to allow others' lives to affect us. Teach us to slow down and learn, once more, to listen to the elderly in our life, just appreciate and love who they are. We ask this in Your holy name, Amen.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#Fast4Life Wednesday of Holy Week

Today, in our #Fast4Life, we think about and pray for those who are bitter. Jesus could see into people's hearts; He often surprised those around him by understanding not just what you could see, but who a person was on the inside. When he raised the widow's son, forgave Mary her sins, or called Peter the fisherman to be his disciple, He broke beyond the surface and saw the person.

Prayer: Lord, we beg you for patience and kindness. We know that often we are kind to those with physical handicaps but short-tempered or judgmental to those with spiritual handicaps. Remind us, Lord, that everyone has a background that we don't know. Help us see past angry words, mean actions and condescending looks. Help us see the wounded soul within so that we might not react, but simply respond in love. We ask this in Your holy name, Amen.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#Fast4Life Tuesday of Holy Week

Today, in our #Fast4Life, we think about and pray for those with special needs and those who are physically handicapped. Jesus went out of His way to reach out to the blind, the crippled, the physically suffering. Not only did He speak to them, but He cured them. He loved them and testified to their pure faith.

Prayer: Lord, help us to see those with special needs through Your eyes. So often we are tempted to value someone's life by what they can do and accomplish. Please help us to see that every person is valuable not because of what they can do but because of who they are. Your love for them gave them profound dignity. Show us also, Lord, their pure hearts. Hearts that could possibly enter heaven before us. Forgive us, sweet Jesus, and teach us to love as You love. We ask this in Your holy name, Amen.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Monday, April 14, 2014

#Fast4Life Monday of Holy Week

Yes! I will be posting daily this week! (I can tell you are thrilled. ;-)

Short, quick posts - with just a thought for the day.

Today, in our #Fast4Life, we think about and pray for children. Jesus said "let the children come to me". He also said in order to enter the kingdom of heaven we must be "like a child".

Prayer: Lord, you have given all of us the gift of children in our lives (whether they are our children or just pass through our daily life) to bring us joy and remind us of the childlike wonder You want us to have for You. Please help us to see all children, born and unborn, with Your eyes. Help us Lord to love them as selflessly and purely as You love them. Give us the courage to always protect them and love them unconditionally. We ask this in Your holy name, Amen.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Loves like a hurricane ... rushing towards you

On Wednesday, we had quite the scare. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, our three year old disappeared. Here's the story:

Since then I kept calming myself down, 'he's safe; he's okay.' Yet the sheer dread that began to settle as 20 minutes of searching went by and a desperate longing for him, stays with me. And as I dwell on it, I couldn't help but think of God. 
We mostly speak of God as Father, but many times in scripture he's described in very feminine and mothering ways, which even Blessed John Paul II noted. (Read my book for details!) So as women, as mothers, that deep connected-ness that we have for our children is beyond words. 
Just think, God loves us like that - and so much more! Here we are at the end of Lent, rounding the last week before the celebration of His Resurrection. Maybe we still haven't gone to Confession yet; maybe we think God is so far away. And I get that! The physical reality of standing in a confessional line does not feel like the Father running to embrace you... but we must close our eyes and see beyond the physical.
Look to the spiritual - we are all in need of healing. We are all sinners. Yet, with what frantic searching has God been seeking us! longing for us, desperate for us. Never giving up His searching, never ceasing His love for us and His desire to see us close to Him once more.
Running, panting, exhausted, giving up all comfort to find us again! Even sending His Son to take our blame, just so we might be with Him once more! And then He sees us, coming down the road towards home, dirt on our face, tears staining our cheeks. We don't want to be where we've been so we sheepishly come home to God ... and oh! How He loves us!!! 
He runs, rushing towards us - breathless - overwhelmed to find us again - almost knocks us over with His magnificent embrace - His tears of joy cleanse all our dirt away as He presses us to Himself...
Oh! How He loves us! With what celebration the angels and Saints rejoice as the priest says 'I absolve you...'!! Cymbals clash! Your Father tosses you in the air and swings you around! Bringing you back in to His chest and holding you close ... how He loves you!

Here are my delightful boys reenacting "the event" - enjoy ...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Responding to the blindness of Susan Reimer's column "Society has benefited from birth control" - Tambien les dejo la versión en español

Susan Reimer's column appeared in the Winona Daily News, and I have submitted this letter to the editor as a reply. Knowing that it might be severely edited despite my sources (or not run at all), I'm posting it here as well. (Also, I had to respond in 350 words or less - not much room! So this is what I chose as most important.)
Susan Reimer is a columnist for the Baltimore Sun

Dear editor,
The column by Susan Reimer: Society has benefited from birth control once again exposes society’s blindness. Let’s open a few eyes with facts. Hormonal contraceptives are listed by the World Health Organization as Class 1 carcinogen for breast, liver, and cervical cancers.[1] It is listed right alongside arsenic, asbestos, silica dust, and tobacco. Another chemical in Depo Provera (the shot) is depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) which has been linked with a 2.2 increase in breast cancer.[2]

It also causes weight gain, deep vein thromboses (blood clots), hepatocellular adenomas (liver tumors), and strokes. It can quite literally kill you by just taking the prescribed dose. All while lowering woman’s libido![3]

The pill ages the cervix. This is one reason why pill use can lead to infertility (and why the contraceptive industry fuels the multi-billion dollar infertility industry).[4] The pill also changes her chemistry& cellular function as to make a woman more susceptible to getting HIV/AIDS and other STDs.[5]

Divorce is down and family life is elevated when a woman uses a natural method (Natural Family Planning (NFP), 99.5% effective) rather than hormonal contraception. This is not the rhythm method, but scientifically designed to naturally understand woman’s fertility.[6]

How can we say woman is equal when we first force her to rid herself of her fertility (medicinally and surgically) before she is allowed to participate in society? Women have “come so far”, but at what cost? It is not woman, but a genderless creature, femininity and fertility subdued. Is it feminism to say women ought to be like men? Taking hormonal contraceptives can actually make women’s brains like men’s – more compartmentalized, less relational.[7] That’s not elevating woman; that is turning her into a man.

In short, enough is enough. Women don’t want to have to become men to play the game in society. We want a society that truly elevates woman in all her glorious femininity. We don’t want to play the game, we want to change the rules. We need a NEW FEMINISM.

(My sincere thanks to Rosa Maria (from Peru!) for the following Spanish translation!)

En respuesta a la columna de Susan Reimer "La sociedad se ha beneficiado de control de la natalidad"
La Columna de Susan Reimer apareció en la Winona Daily News, y he presentado esta carta al editor en respuesta. Sabiendo que podría ser severamente editado a pesar de mis fuentes (o no publicada en absoluto), se las dejo aquí también. (Tenía que responder en 350 palabras o menos - no hay mucho espacio así que esto es lo que elegí como los puntos más importantes.)

Estimado editor,
La columna de Susan Reimer: “La sociedad se ha beneficiado de control de la natalidad”, una vez más expone la ceguera de la sociedad. Vamos a abrir algunos ojos con hechos. Los anticonceptivos hormonales son listados por la Organización Mundial de la Salud como agente cancerígeno de clase 1 para la mama, el hígado y el cáncer de cuello uterino. [1] Se enumera justo al lado del arsénico, asbestos, polvo de sílice, y el tabaco.

Otro producto químico que forma parte del Depo Provera (la inyección) es acetato de depo-medroxiprogesterona (DMPA) que es relacionado con un aumento del 2,2 en el cáncer de mama. [2]
También causa aumento de peso, la trombosis venosa profunda (coágulos de sangre), adenomas hepatocelulares (tumores hepáticos) y derrames cerebrales. Literalmente, puede matar con sólo tomar una dosis prescrita. Todo al mismo tiempo que reduce el libido de la mujer! [3]

La píldora envejece el cuello uterino. Esta es una razón por la cual el uso de la píldora puede causar infertilidad (y el por qué la industria anticonceptiva alimenta la multi billonaria industria de la infertilidad). [4] La píldora también cambia su función química y celular haciendo que la mujer sea más susceptible a contraer el VIH / SIDA y otras enfermedades de transmisión sexual. [5]

Los rangos de divorcio bajan y la vida familiar es elevada cuando una mujer usa un método natural (Planificación Familiar Natural (PFN), que tiene un 99,5% de efectividad) en lugar de la anticoncepción hormonal. Este no es el método del ritmo, más bien es un método científicamente diseñado para comprender de forma natural la fertilidad de la mujer. [6]

¿Cómo podemos hablar de la igualdad de la mujer cuando primero la obligamos a librarse de su fertilidad (medicinalmente y quirúrgicamente) antes de que se le permitiera participar en la sociedad? Las mujeres “han llegado tan lejos", pero ¿a qué costo? Ya no es mujer, sino una criatura sin género, con una feminidad y fertilidad sometida. ¿Es feminista decir que las mujeres deberían ser como los hombres?. Tomar anticonceptivos hormonales puede realmente hacer que los cerebros de las mujeres sean como la de los hombres - más compartimentada, menos relacional [7] Esta no es la manera de elevar a una mujer; por el contrario esto es convertirla en un hombre.

Resumiendo, ya es suficiente!, Las mujeres no quieren convertirse en hombres para jugar un papel en la sociedad. Nosotras queremos una sociedad que realmente eleve a la mujer en toda su gloriosa femineidad. No queremos participar en ese juego, queremos cambiar las reglas. NECESITAMOS UN NUEVO FEMINISMO.

9 Years Ago ... Remembering the death of Pope John Paul II, first to use the term "New Feminism"

Nine years ago, I felt a little like I do now. Frustrated that illness has confined me, wanting to do more than I can.
We lived in a studio apartment on the Aventine Hill in Rome. It was basically a converted one car garage. I was on bed rest because I was having complications with Gregory's pregnancy and we were planning to fly home as soon as I could tolerate the flight.
As I lay on our bed, (which was a pull-out sofa-bed, ikea style) I read, I prayed, I watched endless hours of Lord of the Rings extras on the extended edition. I longed to be hiking to St.Peter's Square with my friends and pray for the Holy Father who was so sick, but I wasn't allowed.
The Aventine Hill is a very peaceful neighborhood. There are no stores on the hill, just residences, Churches, and monasteries. Nine years ago, as I was staring up at the ceiling and trying to drift to sleep, just before ten o'clock p.m. all the Church bells around us started ringing. The sudden break of the silence startled us, and the clangs continued. What on earth could be going on? Then all at once we both thought: the Holy Father died!
Pete reached for the radio, because we didn't have tv, and the first station we tuned into we heard a male voice crying "e' morto! il papa e' morto!" We cried; we prayed; we cried some more. The first time I ever saw Pope John Paul II in person was in 1999 on a semester abroad, he road right by me on his pope mobile. I cried then too. He carried with him such a profound presence. When Peter and I returned to study in Rome in 2001, we had our marriage blessed by him. I was caught in his gaze. He stared deep into my eyes and I into his. I didn't cry that time, but I couldn't speak- I was so blessed by him! So much so that I couldn't move. The guardian monsignor had to yank Pete's arm to move us on "Let's go, America!" he shouted. That one moment could have been an eternity - what profound love in his eyes.
Our studies center around his teachings, and our lives, especially the health of our sick boys, center around his intercession. His life, his challenge, his call to all of us speaks to our family in a particularly strong way. My book began as an answer to his plea and challenge that women would continue to take up the discussion of women's role in the Church and society; he said he has begun the conversation but it is up to us to continue it. It was he, in fact, who first coined the phrase "new feminism" when he said: "In transforming culture so it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a "new feminism" which rejects the temptation of imitating models of "male domination", in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation." Evangelium Vitae, 99

Even watching this video, I weep all over again. How can one man make such a difference in our world? That is the Communion of Saints, to be personally connected to someone you knew only in passing.
Blessed John Paul II, please pray for us!  (I can't wait to say "Saint John Paul the Great, please pray for us"!!!)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don't Give Up in the Darkness

originally published in The Courier.

There are many stories of Saints fighting demons – sometimes even physically wrestling them! All too often, we see such stories as a piece of history, the “way it was then” and we don’t see the connection to our current world.
Do demons still exist? Are they picking fights with us? I would venture to answer yes to both questions; however, it is masked and covert. When we mentally wrestle with an addiction, when we fight off evil thoughts, when we are tempted to give to despair – there is a spiritual influence.
We are always responsible for the choices we make, but what might surprise us is that the temptation is not a sin. Whether we are tempted by impure thoughts, or feelings of hopelessness or self hatred, the temptation is just that – a temptation. Satan would like you to believe that he has already won just because you are tempted. He wants you to believe that you are defeated, dejected, and he welcomes despair.
Yet, hold on! Remember that when we walk with our Lord, when we serve Him and work to bring Christ's peace, healing and love to others, Satan is going to be furious. He will do everything he can to bring you down. 
In the swirl of temptation, sometimes the clouds of confusion and temptation and whisperings of lies in our heads are so noisy and the clouds so thick, we can no longer see the light.
What do you do when you can no longer see the light? When you can no longer feel God’s presence in your heart? When you only see emptiness in all spiritual directions? Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta answered us with her life. She went through years of spiritual darkness at the end of her life and do you know what she did? Exactly what she had done every other day. She served the poor; she loved them; she smiled at them; brought joy to her sisters. She wrote letters to silly teenage girls who wrote her with all their drama. She kept putting one foot in front of the other until she saw our Savior again.
A letter I received from Mother Teresa in response to one I had sent to her when I was 16. Only later did I realize that based on the date of the letter, she wrote this during her time of spiritual darkness.

Living out our faith is a challenge every day, but it is especially difficult when you are under spiritual attack and Satan is going for your jugular. By the time you read this, our March 29 retreat will be completed and I am certain it will have been wonderful for all – because Satan is working so hard to upset it. 
The first reaction you might have when you start thinking mean thoughts or having feelings of low self worth is “what is wrong with me?! Why am I so horrible today?!” And right there it could send you into another spiral of negative thoughts about yourself. What we need to do is set that emotion aside (and this is not easy), but set it aside and realize what is happening. “I’m not a horrible person; I’m being tempted; God, give me strength.” 
But you still feel awful! And you are in spiritual darkness! You are praying to get through the day and you might even refrain from answering the phone because you know you are going to sound short-tempered. Your friends' voices of compassion and encouragement echo like far-off murmurs in your heart; yet, it doesn’t break the darkness. But whatever you do, just don’t give in!
The darkness will pass and you will see the light again. With each new day, comes new light and a new vision and you see the silly temptations for what they were – empty nothings. 
Satan wants to keep you in that darkness; he wants to stop you from doing God’s work. Just – keep going. Keep doing whatever you were doing even if you don’t feel God’s love there. This is the surest test of faith – to believe, though you do not see or feel Him. 
Dawn is coming! The light of Christ breaks forth like the rising sun! It might be gradual or it might be all at once. God might use that one voice to break the darkness where all others were muffled. That one friend who speaks words you can hear and it is like lightening flashing through the night sky. You see a glimmer of hope. 
You may feel spiritually dry or just plain “blah” in prayer. This may not be a reflection of your sinfulness, but of your holiness – and to what lengths Satan is working to bring you down. Yet, if you can just hold on – what a glorious new day will dawn in your soul! A new level of unity with God and depth of love – just, don’t give up in the darkness … Hope and light are waiting for you just around the next corner! You are almost there! Just don’t give up! Christ is rising in your heart! He has already won the victory! Believe and rejoice! (Just, promise me, you won’t give up!)