Friday, January 23, 2015

Rabbits, Exorcist, Romance...What a Mix!

1.  I’m on a blogging streak.  I apologize if that means too much reading for you.  I assure you I will disappear soon enough the closer Lent and my due date come.  Meanwhile, here’s even more reading that I culled.  Some are highly recommended, others with caution. Oh, and joining 7QT at This Aint the Lyceum today.  Thanks, Kelly for hosting.

2.  If you haven’t had enough of the rabbit reading, I’m going to link up to my article on Catholic Stand How to Handle those Mixed Feelings about Pope Francis’ Remarks. 

An excerpt:
             It pains me to read rabid criticism from Catholics towards a real human being, who happens to be our Supreme Pontiff.  At the same time, I feel sorry for the sting that large families (who selflessly welcome children and witness to our faith in their vocation) felt from that now infamous rabbit interview. 

              My feelings are mixed, without rhyme or reason, and they are what they are. However, no one in the throes of passionate emotion, firing slingshots of disparagement at anyone has my sympathy.  Vitriol is unpleasant, risks a permanent breakdown in relationship, and becomes counterproductive to getting a point across to the intended audience.  There is more productive way of expressing oneself clearly without going overboard and retaliating in backlash.

            From a licensed family therapist, I’ve learned a perfectly reasonable method for communication.  It’s this:  I must own my feelings instead of blaming my emotions on the other and attacking him for causing it.  It sounds pretty simple, and I thought I was the last adult to mature into this realization, but maybe its time to preach it loud as a reminder to some pockets of the Catholic comment boxes and the blogosphere…

3.  Have you read this interview with an exorcist about the top  twenty things the devils loves and hates?  Oh my goodness, I give you permission to skip my article above but you cannot NOT read this.  It is excellent.   The Likes and Dislikes of the Devil

Of course, I have Christian romance fiction to recommend.  How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck.    An American heiress and a mysterious prince, with a secret history.  You’re right, I was intrigued.   I have only praises for this novel with its whimsy and the right touch of faith and miracles. Out of the royal wedding series by Rachel Hauck, this one was the winner. 

5.   Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot.  This is my first book written by Camille Elliot and already I love the author.  She writes poetically, knows how not to turn romance into mush, and definitely can keep you glued to the mystery.  Lady Alethea and Lord Dommick are drawn together by a common love for violin music and  team up to solve a mystery and escape danger (really the romance is almost an afterthought).  The best thing is that both characters learn about God’s love and trusting in God. I am quickly in search of her other novels, which I’m assuming are about the other engaging cast of characters.

6.  The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter.   Denise Hunter is the master of modern Christian romance, and the premise of this one was promising: Hero and heroine competing to turn a historical home for each of their ambitions.  However, the brooding hero was a bit too brooding for me.  I wanted to learn more insight about his character but wished Ms. Hunter didn’t show an unnecessarily disturbing scene from his past with such detail.  It made me squirm, like watching an awkward TV scene with your parents or children. I also wished there wasn’t so much kissing going on in full view of Christian readers.  TMI, if you ask me. The book is okay, but I wouldn’t recommend this to a younger reader at all.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen.  The little bit of mystery of a manor that Ms. Klassen wove into the story page turning.  The romance angle was tight and the heroine was appealing.  The hero however, being a Christian preacher,  had ideas that were insufficient to Catholic teaching.  (I wrote about relationship with Christ versus rules of religion previously and will link to Leila Miller’s article on Catholic Stand why we Catholics believe that we, the Church have a role in reparation and uniting our offerings with Christ’s sacrifice.)  The story is good as Ms. Klassen is a talented writer, but if you are a Catholic, read cautiously with a steady grip on our doctrine.   

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Pope Said What about Rabbits? And I said Ee-I-ee-I-oh!

            My FB newsfeed imploded with Pope Francis’ recent remarks on rabbits.  Supposedly (if the secular media were to be believed), he counseled Catholics in general not to breed like rabbits.  In reality, the translation was inaccurate and he addressed that as an exception to one woman who's had 8 C-sections. (To find out what he said, why and to whom read the amazing Its not about rabbits and maybe its not about you post.There’s some dismay, hurt, and outrage over this, but there are also rational Catholics who calmly forayed into the blogosphere to explain that he wasn’t saying contrary to Catholic doctrine.

            My reaction?  Ee-I-ee-I-oh! (which translated from rabbit language means...)

 This is copyrighted photo. Please don't feel free to take it without permission. 
            Look.  When Pope Francis was in Sri Lanka, he was welcomed by forty elephants in fancy sequined Bollywood attire.  When he visited the Philippines (my country of birth), he met with 40 chosen Jesuits, and there was one-upmanship ribbing going on from the Filipino Jesuits that if Sri Lanka had elephants to offer, the Philippines had its prize Jesuits.  The Pope cracked his own joke saying that the 40 elephants were better dressed than his audience. 

            The Pope has a sense of humor, and I like to think I do.  Sometimes, as a writer, my similes and metaphors can unintentionally offend my readers, but I can take what I can dish (mostly), and this time, I’m glad that my procreating gifts and size were not alluded to a circus elephant.  (I happen to think bunnies are cute, no offense to garden and elephant lovers.)

            Seriously, though, the recent discussions on family planning have me thinking about what the Church has taught us about procreation and contraception through the ages.  To me, the Pope didn’t say anything new.  If anything, he reaffirmed the importance of discernment (yay for Ignatian spirituality!) of family size.  Not all of us are called to mother large families. I know this from 3 children, 1 in utero and 3 miscarriages.

            If you want to read more profound explanations, Dr. Gregory Popcack, Leila Miller and Simcha Fisher’s articles clarify why the Pope really just reiterated what the Church teaches.  Children are a treasure to marriage. We have the gift to discern family size, instead of procreating randomly. And we are to use the natural means of family spacing (self-control) and maintain openness to life, because God can always override our own plans.   Same old Catechism, same old.

           The Pope knows his Catechism, trust me and his heart is with families and for families. Let me show you a portion of the most moving speech Pope Francis made in the Philippines, addressed to families:

         “The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life. 

         “I think of Blessed Paul VI in the moment of that challenge of population growth, he had the strength to defend openness to life. He knew the difficulties families experience and that’s why in his encyclical (Humanae Vitae) he expressed compassion for specific cases and he taught professors to be particularly compassionate for particular cases. And he went further, he looked at the people on the earth and he saw that lack (of children) and the problem it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching. And from the heavens he blesses us today.

            “Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats! The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). So protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them! Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death. What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation!

     “So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you… When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world.”

            I hope what the Pope’s headline-grabbing colorful comments do for Catholics everywhere is make them scramble to read the Church documents on natural family planning, raising families and arrange their priorities.   And I hope that those who’ve been hurt by unintended consequences will offer up their crosses in reparation for the sins against purity and for conversions everywhere or seize this opportunity to evangelize, instead of taking to the streets with pitchforks and aiming for the Vicar of Christ.   

            I believe Pope Francis was chosen by the Holy Spirit for such a time as this.  When the supertyphoon blasted the Philippines, no one could foresee it would be the invitation Pope Francis would need to schedule a visit. Or that his visit would reignite the faith of the hearts of a struggling Catholic nation.  But sooner or later, we discover that in Christ, our heaviest cross becomes our greatest blessing. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Saying Yes to Mother Teresa

Joining 7quick takes at This Aint the Lyceum thank you for hosting Kelly.

I’ve heard that it was hard for anyone to refuse Mother Teresa. Once, a French gift shop-owner had gratuitously offered her anything she wanted, i.e a token from the gift shop. Mother Teresa unblinkingly requested tens of thousands of miraculous medals for her to give away. The shop-owner, after recovering from shock at her insistence, let her get away with two truckloads of the medals.

I also know a priest from India who had been denied a visa to go on a mission trip to the United States.  But Mother sent him back to the American Embassy, along with a letter that “whatever you do for Fr. D, you do it to me.”  Father D got a visa.

Now, I’ve not had the privilege of crossing Mother’s path myself (the closest I came to her sari was when I did volunteer to work in one of the orphanages run by the Missionaries of Charity.) Also, we’ve already established I’m no Mother Teresa.  But when I asked the Holy Spirit to pick a patron saint for the year for me, Mother Teresa volunteered!  And since I know I can’t very well refuse her assistance, (not that I want to), I immediately re-read “Come Be My Light” (which contain her own writings and letters) and asked St. Teresa of Calcutta to inspire me with motherly wisdom for the upcoming year. 

Here are seven quick quotes from Mother Teresa’s book that jumped out at me and which are my seven guideposts for the year:

1.  “I want to become a real slave of Our Lady…I know what I want is above my strength –but He who has given me the desire will also give me strength to do the impossible.”

2. “Only one prayer I made –to give me grace to give saints to the Church.”

3. “My dear children—without suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption… Suffering, pain –failure – is but a kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the Cross that He can kiss you.  Do not be discouraged.”

4. “Cling to the rosary as the creeper clings to the tree –for without Our Lady we cannot stand.”

5. “It is only when we realize our nothingness, our emptiness, that God can fill us with Himself.  When we become full of God then we can give God to others, for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

6.  “Accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”

Thanks, Mother!  I'm sailing into 2015 with your advice: become a slave to Our Lady and sit at her knees for teachings, guidance, and direction; to pray and promote the rosary more; be conscious about the mission of giving saints to the Church (building on each of my children’s strengths and helping them overcome weaknesses); to treat little sufferings as a kiss from the cross and empty myself from worldly distractions.  All this with a smile. (Houston, we might have a problem with that when labor pains come)

Its been amazing to read (again) that Mother Teresa made a vow never to refuse Jesus anything He asked under pain of mortal sin.  I can’t imagine the rewards she must be reaping for fulfilling that vow. Surely, if I invoke her intercession, Jesus won’t be able to refuse her either.  She did assure her sisters when they were sorry to see her failing health:

7. “Mother is here to help you, guide you, lead you to Jesus.  Time is coming closer when Mother also has to go to God. Then Mother will be able to help you more, guide you more and obtain more graces for you… Don’t worry.  Mother can do so much more for you in heaven.”

Should I test by asking her two truckloads of special intentions?


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Was your marriage "meant to be"?

            This post is featured in Catholic Stand.

         That Matt Walsh is one of the best voices for Catholic values in my generation.  He presents truth to the world unabashedly and eloquently.  I have often wanted to high-five him for his most controversial posts, and if there was a chance to win an interview and free coffee with him, I would jump at the opportunity (as high as a third trimester mama can).  But there is in this one piece, a teeny point where I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Walsh.  It’s the one where he claims that his marriage was “not meant to be” because I’m of the position that it could be.  Here’s why:

            St. Ignatius’ spirituality teaches us that there is such a thing as God’s will for our individual lives, our so-called destiny.   Fr. David Lonsdale S.J. in his book “Listening to the Music of the Spirit: the Art of Discernment” writes that destiny is not a rigid, unyielding path that God sets for us from birth.  Given our free will, destiny is rather “God’s hopes and dreams for our lives” when He created us, and if we set on a course of discernment, of trying to find and follow God’s will, we could very well be cruising on the flow of our proper destinies.

            I used to be a member of a nationwide Catholic singles group.  Its members were encouraged to undergo a formal state of life discernment for three months to determine if we were called to a priestly, religious or marital vocation.  When that period was over, we were free to enter into courtship, mutually discerning if a certain person had all the characteristics of a potential godly husband or wife and if marriage was what God was inviting us to do.  From this, I have witnessed strong, enviable marriages, sanctified through the Sacraments.  I have also seen a handful of failed marriages for one reason or another. 

            Precisely because of this background, plus a thorough reading of the book of Tobit in the Bible, and fully understanding the perpetuity of marriage, I embarked on a pilgrimage to Banneaux, Beglium to seek Our Lady’s intercession for a Marian devotee husband (with blue eyes).  I prayed that we would both meet at the right time and know this was God’s will, without a hair of doubt.  When I first met my husband at a bar in Las Vegas (gasp, full story here), I never in my wildest west dreams thought he was a possible candidate. But after getting to know him in the context of a group of Catholic singles, I discerned for months if this was the man I had prayed for.  From Ignatian discernment taught by my experienced spiritual director, the answer was an absolute positive.

            In twelve years, my husband and I have gone through the tragedy of three miscarriages, submitted ourselves for counseling due to monster-size adversities, and still struggle through the regular cycles of petty disagreements (he says his eyes are green; I insist they are blue-green but the application at DMV doesn’t give that option).  However, the Sacrament of Marriage, as our priest-friend homilized on the day we married, supplies us endlessly with grace to sanctify us. And our family relies heavily on weekday Masses, daily rosary, monthly Confession, and Adoration for extra heavenly help.  We are not perfect and our marriage requires back-breaking carpentry work and a Calvary of sacrifice, but I believe that in and through Christ and His Church, with the constant intercession of Our Lady and constant discernment with the Holy Spirit, we are mainly and currently swimming (sometimes floundering) in our God-given destinies.

            I have also seen my fair share of married couples who didn’t discern their marital vocations or their choice of a spouse, couples who jumped on the Cinderella coach, tumbling into pumpkin-orange feelings of falling in love, or who were thrown together by some mighty big-bang coincidence, and who eventually, half-heartedly decided to enter into the covenant of marriage.  These marriages were romantic, but didn’t seem particularly holy in the beginning, and I would never have rated them a high score for a chance of survival.  Yet, these couples have sanctified each other, sometimes converting each other or together, served the Church and each other through old age, and --step-mother of all surprises! -- their children become the Church’s biggest blessings. 

            How? Because maybe, even though they weren’t discerning formally or knowingly at the time they met, events of their lives were orchestrated by God’s hidden grace so that they would meet at that College Homecoming Ball, possibly fall in love and consent to the Sacrament of Marriage.  Then at some point, when their hearts were open and ready, more grace gushed in, their course to heaven was set and from that moment on, their marriage was steered by love, by God himself. I can believe that when their lives are over, and such couples will stand face to face before God, they’ll learn that the points at which their lives intersected was in heaven’s plan “meant to be” and that because they said yes to God’s invitation (even unconsciously), fully participated in the Church and cooperated with the graces of the Sacraments, they made possible and real God’s hopes and dreams (indeed, their destiny) that their marriage would be a visible sign of Christ’s love for the Church.  

            I once chanced upon a video of a young woman whose parents had separately but simultaneously visited Padre Pio in Italy.  Her father happened to sit next to her mother at Mass, and as he looked up from his song missal, he noticed her.  Soon, he introduced himself and got to know her.  One day, while the good padre with his mystical gifts was walking out of Church, the man asked the future saint if it was God’s will for them to marry.  St. Pio said, “Yes,” it was. 
            Mr. Walsh’s article explained the solemnity of choosing a spouse, the glory of the marital sacrament, the value of saying “I do” before God, the miracle of real marriages, the pitfalls of believing in LaLaland endings, the evil of adultery, heartbreak of divorce and why I’m not a Nicholas Sparks fan.  To all these, I say “Amen and Preach it, brother!” But romantics like me who know that God can and does write love stories in his notebooks (whether we are aware of it at the time or not), will have to argue that there is a happily ever after in eternity, when we can be rewarded for our faithfulness to God’s will and our God-given destinies. Who knows? What if in the afterlife, Mr. and Mrs. Matt Walsh could find out that their meeting and their marriage was, as a gift to their souls, “meant to be”. 

            (P.S. Anytime you’re up for an interview on how you met, Mr. and Mrs. Wash, please consider giving me a chance.)