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Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Prayer

Prayer of a Soldier in France

by Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1918)

My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).
I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).

Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.

(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?)

My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.

So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

Please remember in your prayers those who died for our country.

Eternal rest grant them, Oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.

May the souls of the Faithful Departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Homeschool Conference Report

We attended the IHM North Texas Conference in Arlington this past weekend. We, or at least one of us, have attended a home schooling conference just about every year since 1993. That was around the time when we decided that home schooling was what we were going to do with whatever children God sent us.

Even after so many years, we still find these conferences worth attending. First of all, it is good to get a boost of encouragement and enlightenment from some of the speakers. Sometimes a casual comment made at the podium will inspire us to renew our commitment to be better parents and educators. Usually these bits of wisdom are related to discipline issues. Our children have noticed this phenomenon as well. They told us that they dread our return from these conferences, as it usually means the loss of some of their so-called freedoms is imminent.

The conferences are also a place to learn about new trends, products, controversies, and challenges in Catholic homeschooling. Some of the speakers brought up some things which will affect all of us in the future; I shall speak about this in a moment.

In brief,

We, uh, missed the first conference given by (Mrs. Terry Arnold) because I had to run some errands on the way to the convention center. It was on making the change from school to homeschooling. It was really helpful for some people we met after that talk, as they were just at the conference to consider making the jump into homeschooling.

The second talk was by Dr. Dominic Aquila, the VP for Academic Affairs at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. This school is getting a reputation for orthodoxy here in Texas. He discussed several papal documents, in particular Familiaris Consortio and Ex Corde Ecclesiae, especially how the former spells out how the parents are responsible for the education of their children, and the latter spells out what a Catholic university has to do to be faithful to the Magesterium. The zinger of his talk was when he discussed the future of 'home school' college, and how the person who can 'synthesize' various disciplines (such as science, ethics, philosophy) together will be highly sought after in the future. His talk gave us much to think about.

Mrs. Virginia Seuffert gave the next talk - after a dinner break - on 'Reaping the Rewards of Homeschooling.' It was a good talk for those who were considering switching to home schooling as well as for those of us who have been doing it for a while. We always enjoy listening to Mrs. Seuffert. Her talk gave us hope that one day our children will be happy, holy, and productive souls.

Speaking of hope, Father Philip Wolfe gave an excellent talk about the virtue of Hope. I recommend folks listen to some of his recorded sermons at this website.

The following day - Saturday - brought with it another event in the neighboring hall. It was some sort of Pokemon video game contest. For the most part, our conference had minimal contact with that group, with one glaring exception: the bathroom. Needless to say, the restroom which was spotless on Friday night looked as if a herd of incontinent animals had run through it on Saturday. Also, there was a large inflatable thing suspended from the ceiling in the room. One might say they had elevated their inflatable god to worship:

First up was Mrs. Seuffert, who spoke about managing housework and schoolwork. Once again, a good talk, but in the middle of it I turned to Carolyn and said, "She can't be serious." At that moment, Mrs. Seuffert was explaining to the audience how easy it was to make homemade spaghetti sauce. Carolyn whispered back that a lot of parents don't know the basics of cooking, and so this was worth including in this lecture. All I could think is I don't know how good I have it, and I was thankful that our children all have or are learning to cook. One day, Carolyn will teach me, too.

Dr. Ray Guarendi gave two lectures; the first was on maintaining a sense of humor in the family and dispelling some of the myths of experts and the media regarding parenting. The second was on discipline. We always enjoy Dr. Ray's talks because they combine humor and lots of good, sound advice.

The second to last talk was by Mrs. Terry Arnold, who gave a lot of practical advice for the new and old homeschoolers alike.

The final speaker was Fr. Joseph Fessio, who spoke on the new translation of the Missal which is coming this Advent. He discussed how the new translation will be more faithful to the original Latin prayers of the Mass. One great benefit of this change is that the original Latin prayers are far more beautiful than the translations which originated in the late 1960's and early 1970's. We experience this whenever we attend Fr. Paul Weinberger's Novus Ordo Latin Mass at St. William the Confessor Catholic Church in Greenville, Texas. In the weekly flyer, Fr. Paul will print out several of the prayers of the Mass, such as the Collect, so that one can compare the current prayer with the Latin translation. The Latin is always more beautiful, sounding like the words one would use to address God. Fr. Fessio pointed out that the new translations will also be more theologically sound than the 1970's translations.

This was an excellent conference. We learned from all the speakers, and all the speakers were interesting and inspiring. Well done, IHM!

In conclusion,

Love after 21+ years.

I took Carolyn to dinner that night after the conference; we got a seat in an Italian restaurant. We were located near the center of the restaurant, along one of the busiest aisles right between the bar and the kitchen. That was okay with us; we were too busy talking and looking into each other's eyes.

I did notice a young couple at the next table over. They were also looking deep into each other's eyes and holding hands and kissing. Meanwhile, at our table, we were engaged in a lively discussion of the family budget. I was trying to explain how, with absolutely no knowledge of accounting, money was going to be available to pay certain bills.

It occurred to me that twenty plus years ago we would have been holding hands and kissing in public like that younger couple. That doesn't mean that the love is gone from our marriage; rather, it just means that we don't choose to display our affection as publicly as we used to. In fact, our love has grown deeper and stronger through the years, and in less than a month we shall celebrate our 22nd anniversary - the most wonderful years of my life.

Besides, any time we do kiss in public we hear from our children about how gross and disgusting it is.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Book Review:


Anthony Esolen
Intercollegiate Studies Institute

I purchased this book after attending a dinner where the author, Anthony Esolen, was the guest speaker. We were late for the dinner, and so Carolyn and I - and the oldest five children living at home - polished off the remaining spaghetti right before Dr. Esolen started. The speech was far better than the spaghetti.

TEN WAYS TO DESTROY THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILD is another in a series of books which proposes to do just the opposite of its stated goal. The most famous example of this genre would have to be C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, where a senior devil is writing letters of encouragement and advice to a junior devil who is working on ruining the soul of his 'patient.' The book also reminded me of a product which was sold during the Prohibition era - grape juice - which came complete with instructions on how to NOT ferment their product to produce wine. One can benefit from doing the opposite of what is suggested in all of these pieces of literature.

In his introduction, Dr. Esolen states that "a judicious application of even three or four of these methods will suffice to kill the imagination of an Einstein, a Beethoven, a Dante, or a Michelangelo." Of course this is not what he wants, so every chapter looks at the various things which are being squeezed out of the life of a child; things which will stimulate the mind of a boy or a girl to grow into independent, thinking man and women whose minds are free to think on their own.

I found the book inspiring, with every chapter full of references to great works of literature to recommend to my children. There is even a bibliography at the end of the book for those of us who are trying to construct a home library. Dr. Esolen has a writing style which is enjoyable to read, even when the subject is serious. For example, this paragraph made my wife and I chuckle when I read it to her as we both were drifting off to sleep:

Chastity is absurdly easy to laugh at. For of all, no one is chaste. Second, it is stupid to be chaste to begin with. What's all the bother about, anyway? Elizabeth Bennett believes, in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, that her family will be disgraced when it becomes known that her silly sister Lydia has run off, unmarried, with a soldier. Weren't they quaint and unenlightened in Jane Austen's day? Better that Elizabeth Bennett should follow her sister's lead, ignoring that prig Mr. Darcy, and make the carriage springs squeak with Colonel Denny or someone - anyone will do.

Dr. Esolen focuses on several institutions which have seriously hampered the imagination of the child: television, schools, and lack of free or unscheduled time in the life of the child. In his lecture, he talked about a game he used to play, where one would try to guess if a collection of buildings one would see on trips was either a prison, a school, or a factory. He pointed out that all three are built in the same manner and perform the same function. Once again, in his introduction he describes the phenomenon known as Take Your Daughter to Work Day:

"See, Jill, this is the office where Mommy works. Here is where I sit for nine hours and talk to people I don't love, about things that don't genuinely interest me, so that I can make enough money to put you in day care."

I enjoyed reading the book. Like any other good book, TEN WAYS TO DESTROY THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILD inspired me to want to read more classic literature which Dr. Esolen mentioned in this excellent addition to my library.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

St. Albert and the Worm Dissection



Yesterday, we dissected worms as part of our St. Albert Science Class.

After starting with prayer, we sat down and discussed the various functions which animals have to carry out in order to live and thrive in this world. In brief, we talked about how most animals have to:

Move about
Make baby animals

Along with this short and incomplete list, I added:

Excretion or elimination of waste products
A nervous system to control all of these functions

All of these functions can be seen rather easily in the lowly earthworm, Lumbricus terrestris. Here is a picture of an earthworm in happier times:

This discussion superficially covered these functions mentioned above. The children were not as interested in 'functions of an animal' as they were keen on asking other questions, such as:

Is the worm still alive?
Could it come alive if we put it into the ground?
Do scientists and doctors dissect people?

Cadaver dissections is something I can talk about, and that started a HUGE side discussion. I told them a little about what it was like to dissect a human body in medical school. I explained where the bodies came from, how they were donated by people before death, and this was a tremendous gift they had done for the field of medicine. I mentioned that my cadaver in anatomy lab was a man with a tattoo of the name 'Ann' on one of his arms. I also mentioned that I pray for the repose of that man's soul whenever I think of him.

They wanted to know what it smelled like. I forgot to tell them that we wore clothes designated for anatomy lab and nothing else so they could be thrown out at the end of the semester. As I write this, I recall how it took a while to get the odor of formaldehyde out of my system after lab. Thankfully, our worms came in a different type of preservative which smelled bad, but not as awful as formaldehyde.

As an aside, I skipped over the fact that earthworms are hermaphrodites, where they have both male and female parts for making little worms. For the sake of this class, we considered this worm to contain 'reproductive organs' for producing eggs. Our children can learn the details of reproduction later.

Originally we were going to do the dissection out in the open air, but the wind was too strong, so we did it in the school room.

We prepared for the class by getting some thick cardboard to use as the dissection boards. We got out a container of surgical instruments and dissecting implements we had set aside for classes like this. Our older children had used them in the local home school co-op; Nathaniel assisted me and his siblings by showing them how to dissect the worm. I reminded them that scalpels and knives are used very little in dissection. This is why we could use one scalpel to dissect five worms; this made the class safer than if every child were waving around a #15 blade.

I had obtained the used surgical instruments not by theft but by getting broken instruments from the sterile supply department of one of the hospitals I worked at in San Antonio. At that time (1998), we were dissecting frogs, and I wanted some tools for the job. The head of sterile supply, once he realized why I wanted the instruments, let me look through a barrel full of hemostats, forceps, scissors, needle drivers and probes which were too damaged to be repaired or reused for surgery. They still could be used for frog dissection, though. We held onto those instruments for other dissection classes. The only thing I bought recently for dissection were some disposable scalpel blades.

We used non-sterile gloves bought at Costco. Max brought along his own device to limit the smell:

After pinning the worm to the cardboard and identifying external markings on it, we all made a small incision on the dorsum, or back, of the worm, and then used scissors to open it up for inspection. Here is where the pins really came into play:

Looks kinda gross, eh? The anterior, or front, part of the worm is where all the business takes place. After the first two or three inches, the body of the worm consists of repeating segments which only contain the digestive, excretory, nervous, and respiratory system. Muscles in the wall of the body help move it. For this reason, we did not fillet the whole worm.

The internal anatomy shows what the highest priorities are for a worm. The major system is the digestive system, which is the dark tube running the length of the body. At the front of the worm, the digestive system consists of a mouth, pharynx, esophagus, crop, and gizzard. I explained how the worm, like the chicken, has no teeth, and must find another way to grind up food. This led to a side discussion of the Thanksgiving turkey, and all the little bits of turkey which come in a little bag inside of it. I reminded them of the gizzard which the turkey uses to grind up seeds and grain, and how this is similar to the one the worm uses.

Some of the children looked uneasy. Perhaps we won't be having turkey this Fall....

The next biggest organ system are those for making little worms. In comparison, the brain is barely recognizable. It shows that worms spend very little time writing sonnets to their loved one or blogging about books they have read. Most of the white things in the picture below are for reproduction.

After cleaning up, we reviewed some of the functions of an animal, and how they are accomplished by the lowly earthworm. I also talked about how important worms are to our soil. Recently, I tilled the garden, and I only saw one worm in the soil. In the future we may be raising worms to help our North Texas soil grow more than just grass.

I don't think any of the children walked away from this wanting to go to medical school, but there is still time....

St. Albert, pray for us!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith

Book Review:

Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith

Sarah Piccini
Ivana Pavelka

Tribute Books

Disclaimer: Tribute Books invited me to review this book, and supplied me with an electronic copy of it. No other goods were received by me, and the opinions expressed here are my own. I thank Tribute Books for the opportunity to review this book.

Framing Faith: A Pictorial History of Communities of Faith is a tribute in pictures to the various Catholic ethnic groups which settled for a time in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. From the mid-1800’s until the early 1900’s, immigrants from Europe moved into Northeast Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines and iron works which were the main industry of the region. Along with their distinct languages, the settlers brought their unique traditions and culture with them, especially those related to their Faith. This book showcases ten Catholic churches which were founded by different communities, and is a testimony to the devotion of the men and women who sought to retain their culture and faith in their new homeland.

This book originally started as a project to preserve some record of the many churches which were closing in Lackawanna County, which is part of the diocese of Scranton. Over time, the endeavor grew, with photographs provided for the book by art students as well as Ms. Pavelka. Ms. Piccini complimented the photo essay with a brief but relevant history of the founding, growth, and decline of each parish. Funding was provided by the ARTS Engage! Program, Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit (NEIU 19), and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority. The artists and writer who contributed to this book have succeeded in achieving their stated goal: to preserve the history of these now empty churches in an informative and entertaining manner.

Briefly, the book consists of an introduction and ten chapters. The introduction gives important background information to the reader. In the next ten chapters, ten churches are presented, from their humble beginnings in the hearts and minds of the people, to their construction, growth, maturation, and sad but inevitable closure. Most of the churches were started either to provide for the needs of a new wave of immigrants arriving from a different country, or because travel to the closest existing church was too far or difficult to face every Sunday. Construction for most of these churches was funded by the parishioners, and much of the labor was done by the men after a long day in the mines or foundries. The author reports that the people contributed to make each of the churches a thing of beauty, with an emphasis on devotions which were specific to each particular ethnic group. Key events in the history of the churches - and the pastors who led the parish through them - were mentioned as well. The closure of each church, but not really any explanation for it, ends each chapter.

Every chapter includes photographs taken by Ms. Pavelka and her students. The pictures vary in each chapter, from external shots, close-ups of statues, to scenes in the sanctuary. These are an excellent collection of photographs of the churches at the time of closure. It is unfortunate that there are no pictures from the 1800’s or early 1900’s.

One thing which troubled me about this book was that there was no reason given for the closure of so many churches in one diocese. The most likely answer is that the coal and iron resources were depleted, and the jobs went away. As a result, the workers moved on. Another explanation is that the children of immigrants work hard to have a better life; usually this is done by pursuing an education and a professional career. Perhaps there is another explanation which I shall put forward: the closure of the churches is connected with the changes in the church which are reflected in the architecture.

In the introduction, a church is described as processing from the entrance - or narthex - where secular business takes place, to the baptismal font, or stoup of Holy Water. This is followed by a central aisle which leads the faithful up to the high altar. Upon this altar, we Catholics believe that the priest changes the bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is where Heaven comes down to Earth, and the fine metals, cloth, and silk used on the altar should convey to the faithful a sense that something Holy is taking place on the altar. Before the 1960’s, the priest faced away from the congregation, toward the Tabernacle, which was the center of the altar and held the consecrated Hosts. For a Catholic, the Tabernacle is the most important part of the altar. A good example of this is a quote about Fr. George Schmidt, who was pastor of St. Mary’s starting in 1928:

Father Schmidt was a devout and pious man, for whom “everything accomplished started at the Tabernacle....they have noticed his daily visits to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament....” (p. 27)

Contrast this with what happened to every one of these churches. For six of the churches, Ms. Piccini specifically mentions that renovations were made in order to conform with changes made after Vatican II in the 1960’s. Some of the most common changes were the placement of the altar so the priest faces the congregation, and elimination of the Communion rail; I have no idea what was changed in any of these churches because there are no old pictures. But what I can see is that in at least half of the churches, the Tabernacle is no longer front and center on the altar; instead, a stately chair, more like a throne, is positioned in the place of honor.

One altar - the one where Fr. Schmidt spent so much time before the Blessed Sacrament - looks like something off the set of Star Trek - The Original Series:

(Photo: Ivana Pavelka - notes added by me)

I would argue that the changes in the church architecture represent an emphasis on Man over God. God has been relegated to the sidelines by placing the Tabernacle on a side altar, and Man is the center of one’s attention at the summit of the altar. The priest now faces the congregation, so that the people concentrate upon him rather than the devotions and intercessions he would offer to God for his people if he were facing the altar. It would follow that putting Man before God will result in a loss of the faithful, loss of vocations, loss of churches. I don’t mean to single out the Diocese of Scranton; this has happened all over the world.

This book was a good read; I recommend it to all history buffs. I found the historical vignette of each parish fascinating, and the pictures were an excellent representation of each church. I also enjoy any book which makes me think; in this case, thinking of a possible connection between architecture and our Faith.

Stephen M. Donahue
May 22, 2011


Here are various links for the book which I neglected to publish last night:

Book web site:

Book Facebook:

Sarah Piccini Facebook:

Ivana Pavelka Facebook:

Tribute Books website:

Tribute Books Facebook:

Tribute Books Twitter:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Advice from St. Stephen of Hungary to his son St. Emeric

My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and Apostolic faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God, and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession.

Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church. Indeed, in the royal palace, after the faith itself, the Church holds second place, first constituted and spread through the whole world by His members, the apostles and holy fathers, And though she always produced fresh offspring, nevertheless in certain places she is regarded as ancient.

However, dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted; and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians less a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect.

My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at very time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.

Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness that so resembles the pangs of death.

All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the heavenly Kingdom..

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Monday, May 09, 2011

Catholic Urban Legends, Part II: Evil Nuns

This is the second installment of this occasionally repeating topic.

I am sure we have all heard about how evil nuns are. But has anyone ever met someone who was actually beaten or struck by a nun?

I have asked a lot of people if they know of any specific incidents involving a nun meting out corporal punishment. Usually, the person making the allegation has to back off from their statement. In fact, I have not had anyone ever own up to witnessing such an act. I have seen a teacher strike a student, but that was in Switzerland, in 1972 or 1973, IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL. So I open up this question to the three of you who religiously follow this blog (those from Banco, Virginia, Mountain View, California, and 'United States') to please report if you have evidence to support the belief that nuns are evil. Let us see if we can resolve this Catholic Urban Legend once and for all.

Related to this, please Complain to Barnes and Noble about this issue:

What got me onto this subject of nuns was a series of toys I saw displayed at our local Barnes and Noble store. Here they are. I looked for toys which mocked our Jewish or Muslim brethren, but they were not around. I wonder what would happen if any of these toys made fun of Islam. I suspect the inventor or manufacturer would find himself carted off to sensitivity training - or worse:

Similar the 'Roman Sacristan' game of olden days. I actually thought these were funny at first, but then I read the outside packaging, talking about this was a way to make up for those 'wasted hours' on Sunday.

Then there is this game, which sounds like one to replace those little 'footballs' people used to make out of notebook paper:

Nun-Chuks. Another reference to corporal punishment, I guess.

Please contact Barnes and Noble to complain about this Anti-Catholic garbage.

Sonnet XVIII

This is today's Shakespeare Sonnet a Day.  A nice one to read to my sweetheart Carolyn on the day after Mother's Day. Enjoy:

Sonnet #18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, May 08, 2011

To The Mothers At Mass

Last Tuesday, we took the children to morning Mass at Mater Dei Catholic Church in Irving, Texas. During Mass, I noticed that there were a lot of little children present; it was hard to ignore the sounds of crying, kicking the pews, and playing with books which all but drowned out the words of the priest and the responses of the sacristan. Rather than finding it irritating, I thought it was refreshing to hear so many children. Their contributions to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, while officially unapproved, are the greatest indicator that a church is growing –literally – with parishioners who are open to life and are bringing their little ones to Mass.

It occurred to me that others may not welcome the noise of little children as much as I do, and that they may have criticized the mothers afterwards. It is usually the mothers who bring their children to Mass. I have a special place in my heart for mothers who bring their children to Mass, because that is what Carolyn has done for so many years. She has been scolded, even run out of some churches, because of the noise of our far-from-perfect children. The occasional words of encouragement she received were a tremendous consolation to her.

Since I did not have a chance to thank the mothers and encourage them to keep bringing their children to Mass, I sat down and wrote this letter to them instead.

To the Mothers Who Brought the Noisy Children to Mass on Tuesday:

Thank you for taking the time to bring your children to weekday Mass. I am not being sarcastic when I say this. You are doing the greatest service to yourself, your children, your husband, other parishioners, and priests. In short, you are strengthening the Body of Christ when you bring your little toddlers and infants - and older children as well - in to the presence of Our Lord.

For some of us, your presence is a reminder of how it used to be when our children were the ones making the noise in the back of church. I still can remember the times each of my children has charged the altar in the middle of the Consecration, trying to reach the priest before being captured by Mom or Dad. Now, most of my toddlers are taller than me, but we still have a few young children who like to add to the general disorder of weekday Mass.

But back to you and your children at Mass. For yourself, you are receiving the greatest support and consolation when you come to Mass. Your role as wife and mother is a constant challenge to 'die to self' for the benefit of children who show little or no appreciation for your work. Sadly, the world also looks down upon the vocation you have chosen. It is here, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, that you can receive what is most important for the work that God has called you.

Your children are seeing the best example that a parent can give of what is most important: living a life of Faith; in particular, one which is centered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Every day that you set aside time from your hectic schedule to come to church is another lesson for the children that Mass should be a focus of their life rather than a one-hour Sunday obligation which has to be fulfilled in order to get on to other things in life. On the practical side, consider that weekday Mass teaches the children how to behave on Sunday, when Mass is usually longer. It also really helps if your husband can make it to weekday Mass with the whole family as well. Children need to see that this is important to Dad as well as Mom.

For husbands, if they cannot make it to daily Mass with the family, they can still reap the benefits of your attendance. First, they benefit from your prayers offered up, including prayers you have for your husband in particular. Second, by strengthening your faith, you strengthen the whole family. It is the woman who is the heart and soul of the family, and the rest of the family will gravitate toward whatever level of devotion and piety she sets. Your husband has entrusted you with the children which are the fruit of your love, and it is a tremendous joy for him to know that you are bringing them to Our Lord in the course of your daily activities.

Parishioners will benefit from your children being at Mass because your children are our future. Specifically, most of the priests and religious who will be ordained in twenty to thirty years from now are presently screaming in church, being carried out of the sanctuary yelling "No! No! NO!" or loading their diapers while pretending to sleep in their mother's or father's arms. It would be good for the folks who are distracted by children to consider that these little people will one day be the priests, doctors, nurses and lawyers who will be taking care of them in their old age. I think they would want those folks to be good, faithful Catholics.

Last of all, priests can grow in the virtue of patience while dealing with your noisy children. I don't know who said it originally, but there are times when a religious has to set aside his prayers and perform some act of corporal mercy for someone else. One might equate ignoring a fidgeting toddler with the porter of a monastery having to leave vespers to answer the doorbell. That is just part of being a parish priests, whether one is a diocesan priest or in an order.

So please keep bringing your children to Mass during the week. You need it, even though every ounce of your fallen nature is telling you otherwise. The rest of us need it as well, whether we admit it or not.



P.S., that drawing at the top of this letter was us in 1998!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Doing a Body Good

"The meeting between ignorance and knowledge, between brutality and culture - it begins in the dignity with which we treat our dead"

- Frank Herbert

A lot has been said about what happened to Osama bin Laden, and how he was interred at sea according to Muslim observances. Actually, he was not interred, since that word means to be buried 'in terra,' or in the ground. Anyways, some folks seem to think that the U.S. forces should have done more things, perhaps been a little disrespectful with his corpse. At a minimum, some folks are objecting to our respectful observance of Islamic customs in disposing of his remains.

I would disagree with this idea, and it took me a while to come up with a good explanation for why we should have treated this terrorist's body with respect.

I recalled some instances in the past where the bodies of Americans were desecrated and shown on TV and the internet. The most memorable - and disturbing - example I could think of were the images of our dead servicemen being dragged through the streets of Somalia after their failed mission back in October, 1993. The picture above is of the crew of Super 6-4, the second Black Hawk helicopter shot down in that fight. The only survivor in that picture is the man on the right, Mike Durant. Chances are the photographs of American servicemen being mangled and mistreated were those of the others standing in front of the helicopter.

In Mark Bowden's book, Black Hawk Down, he relates how some Somalians came across the mobs abusing the bodies of our servicemen; one of the witnesses of this, Bashir Haji Yusuf, relates how he wanted to stop the crowd, but couldn't:

"They had a dead American soldier draped over a wheelbarrow....the man's face looked peaceful, distant....[p]eople spat and kicked at the body.

"Bashir followed, appalled. This is terrible. Islam called for reverential treatment and immediate burial of the dead, not this grotesque display. Bashir wanted to stop them, but the crowd was wild."

Some Saudi Arabian soldiers, attached to the UN forces, also confronted a mob which was abusing the body of a dead soldier. They asked them,

"If he is dead, why are you doing this? Aren't you a human being?"

They were warned that if they did not move on, they would also be shot.

Of course, our own Faith demands respect for the body, as mentioned in St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians:

"Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own?
For you are bought with a great priced. Glorify and bear God in your body."

- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

So I think our military was right to bury the body of Osama bin Laden in accordance with his religion, in the proper manner. Unlike the mobs in Somalia, and other places where our troops have fallen and have been desecrated, there will be no pictures around to incite outrage because we did not show this man, even this man, the respect due to any human body.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Divine Mercy Sunday

This is Theodore's picture of Divine Mercy.

Today I found one of the holy cards from Theodore's funeral in a book which Carolyn was reading. And so once again today, for the umpteenth time, I asked God why it pleased Him to take our son away from us.

The only thing which came to me were the words from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, where it says that God's Will is 'Love and Mercy Itself.' All I could think was that Theodore's death was permitted for the good of the souls of his family.

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation
Now restored with the help of some cement!

Prayer to Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

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