Catholic Exchange: St. Monica Teaches Us to Persevere in Hope

Today is the feast of Saint Monica followed by the feast of Saint Augustine, her son, tomorrow. Her life is a tremendous example of perseverance, faith, and hope. She was born in Tagaste in 331 A.D., which is known today as Souk Ahras, Algeria and is believed to be of Berber origin. At a very young age she entered into an arranged marriage to Patricius who was a Roman pagan and official in Tagaste. Monica lived with Patricius and his mother in their home. He was known to have a violent temper and to engage in self-indulgent behavior, as did his mother. It was deeply difficult for Monica to live out her Catholic faith because her husband was greatly aggravated by her prayers, deeds, and alms. Monica persisted regardless of these difficulties in her home.

Monica and Patricius had three children who survived passed infancy and they were Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. She was unable to baptize them at the time and was very distressed when Augustine became severely ill at one point. Her husband agreed to allow the Baptism because of the illness, but then Augustine recovered, and he would no longer allow it. Monica’s concern would not subside for long because Augustine grew up to become a man who lived a misspent youth. He became a Manichean at Carthage and his mother told him to leave her table for sharing such heresy with her.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

Protesting at Planned Parenthood is Different from March for Life

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This coming Saturday, August 22, is the day many will gather at Planned Parenthood to protest the grisly infanticide going on behind it’s closed doors. Seven undercover videos have now been released revealing the appalling and barbaric practices that go on in this country with legal protection. The most recent video, which I could not stomach to watch, shows a Planned Parenthood worker cutting the face off of a born alive infant (yes many babies are born alive, especially in later term) and then harvesting the child’s brain. Every time I think about it I want to vomit. I have always known these horrors go on, but seeing and hearing it with my own eyes causes a visceral reaction in me that I cannot control, nor should I.

These protests are absolutely necessary and must continue until abortion is illegal in this country and the unborn share in equal protection under the law. What I do want to remind people is that protesting at Planned Parenthood is not the same thing as attending the March for Life. It is important to realize this distinction so that people who attend this coming Saturday’s protest do so in a spirit of charity and a desire to serve.

In the local abortion clinic here, Saturday is the day that surgical abortions are done. The rest of the week a woman can walk into the clinic and get the abortion pill to do an abortion at home alone and in agony. That is truly heart-rending. We unfortunately cannot be there to minister to them in their home. When we are there on a day surgical abortions are performed, that is another matter. I have watched many women stumble out of the clinic after an abortion. They are groggy, dazed, and usually need help. One woman stayed in her car for over an hour with her mother. There was clearly something wrong, but all of the Planned Parenthood workers and the abortionist walked right past her at closing time without even checking to make sure she was well enough to go home.

The women who are walking into the clinic on the day of their abortion are not going to be moved or come seek our help if all we do is show them grisly pictures of aborted babies and signs that vilify them and call abortion workers the Devil. Make no mistake, we are battling the Devil when we pray at Planned Parenthood. But, a woman who is already dealing with immense spiritual agony, whether she knows it or not, is going to be less likely to approach one of us for help if all we do is scream in her face.

Not everyone I pray with at Planned Parenthood is Catholic, but I am. I take a very Catholic approach to my pro-life service to others. I have not been as involved as of late because my daughter is at a difficult age for me to take her to stand on a very busy highway. My weapons of choice while I am there are the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and St. Michael the Archangel prayer. My signs are adorned with religious art and I have an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I also have a sign that very clearly shows the phone number of the Crisis Pregnancy Center in town. The other sign says, “You and Your Baby are loved beyond measure.”

At its very root abortion is a failure to love or receive love. It will take an act of love and grace to change the hearts and minds of those who seek abortion and those who work in the abortion industry. We cannot fight malice with malice. It will fail every single time. Human beings are weak and sinful. We are capable of immense depravity, but we are not irredeemable. Christ came to save us and show us the path away from sin. He came to show us that those difficult situations, even an unplanned baby, are moments of grace and sanctification. These are people who cannot see a child as a loving gift because they are blinded by fear, pressure, despair, or a dead conscience. The only way to bring the dead to life is through Christ. If we want to be an agent of change then we must be willing to bring Christ to these dying souls. This is not a political issue, it is an issue of morality and it is a great spiritual issue. It is an issue of what it is to be a human being and it is a decision as to what kind of life we want for our neighbor. Yes, a change in law will bring an end to the mass killing, but what is needed is a spiritual re-birth and that can only happen if we present ourselves as Light rather than heat and anger.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.     John 3:5

I encourage all of you to participate in the protest of Planned Parenthood. It is impossible to turn a blind eye to such barbarity and we need to reach out to those who can ignore it. More than anything we need to reach out to these women, families, and abortion workers as witnesses to the Living Christ. Think about that before you make your signs. How are you serving the mission? Will your signs invite these women and couples to seek your guidance and help? The March for Life is the time when political stances and responses to rabid pro-abortion supporters are appropriate. It is not appropriate when women are literally stumbling out of these clinics into an abyss they cannot even fathom at that moment. Share the Good News that is how we will win this battle.

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Catholic Exchange: The Maternal Love of Our Lady and the Church

The Church celebrates two Marian feast days in August: Assumption and The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is an inextricable link between the Church and Our Heavenly Mother, Mary. In fact, much of what has been said about the Church can also be applied to Our Lady. One of the closest connections between Our Lady and the Church is in the sanctifying maternity of both.

Mary carried Christ for the salvation of the world, just as the Church carries Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Mary has always been an example to the Church that is only superseded by Christ Himself. Lumen Gentium 53 states:

The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is “the mother of the members of Christ . . . having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head.” Wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

Honesty About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

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There are a lot of mommy blogs out there and I read various authors to get ideas for my daughter and my home. I am not crafty or creative in the same sense as many of these mothers, so I appreciate their help. Sometimes, though, I wish stay-at-home moms would be a bit more honest. In our rush to fight the stigma that has been manufactured against mothers who choose not to work outside of the home, we can put on airs that isolate other women.

Here is my honesty. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. There are days I am bored out of my mind. Days I am not sure how to keep my insanely active daughter entertained. How to get through the drudgery of singing Old McDonald for the twentieth time in a row. How to establish the ideal schedule for us. I struggle to find the organizational system that we need. I am starved for adult interaction because, let’s face it, being the mother of a young child means isolation. I battle my call and desire to serve my daughter with my desire to write or engage in intellectual pursuits. There are days those two are at war within me.

To put it in perspective you have to understand my life before I was a stay-at-home mom. It is similar to many other women. I worked for over a decade before I got married and had my daughter. I had a job that college graduates only dream about at the age of 20, thanks to the Navy. I lived in Europe and traveled all over. It’s always amusing when someone finds out about my past, which I don’t discuss often these days, and says “Oh, you did something before your daughter?!” It’s as if it is impossible for people to realize that I worked before I was stay-at-home mom. It is funny, but also strange.

My biggest struggle is the very active intellect God gave me. I want to be engaged in profound and deep study and writing. It’s a drive he gave me, but one that has to take a backseat to my daughter. That is the great struggle for me; doing what I am supposed to do versus what I want to do. That is the meaning of vocation.

In the end a vocation is our slow dying to self. It is where we learn to serve God and to allow things to happen in His time rather than our own. It isn’t that God does not want me to engage in these pursuits, I am in grad school, it just means that I must learn a proper ordering. While prayer is a priority, reading for leisure is not. I have to choose between the book I want to read and playing soccer with my daughter. The latter is more important in most instances.

I think that there are some women who naturally enter into motherhood. I have met women like this and I am amazed. I am not one of them. Motherhood has been a major struggle and change for me. I love my daughter with a type of love I did not know I was capable of before her. I know that staying home is the right thing for her, but that does not mean that it is not hard for me some days. There is nothing wrong with being honest about the hardships. It makes it more real. It also doesn’t mean that I would or will change things. I am firmly set on being home and schooling my daughter for the foreseeable future. It does mean that God is doing some serious pruning within me in the process.

Let’s remember that when we have tough days, it is good to be honest. It does not change our choices or question our decisions to be open. Yes, others will take it as proof that all women should be working, but other women who are isolated during this period of time will know that they are not alone. They will also be reminded that this is only a season. My daughter will start co-op this fall and soccer, so the isolation will not be quite as intense.

We also need to be honest with God. We need to ask him for the grace and strength to persevere. He is the only one who can truly help us in our moments of frustration and loneliness. He gave us this vocation and He will provide what we need to endure. We have an amazing task in staying home with our children and denying a part of ourselves in the process. This is the sanctification process and it has very painful moments. In the end, the goal is holiness and we can only get there by the slow process of dying to self and putting others first. Just remember, this too shall pass, and the reward is truly great. God bless.

Book Review: John Michael Talbot’s The Ancient Path

I received a copy of The Ancient Path by John Michael Talbot through Blogging for Books. The book is an introduction to the writings of the Early Church Fathers that follows Talbot’s own spiritual journey. Those who have read other books by Talbot will recognize his personal style coupled with the richness of Catholicism. He is a convert to the faith after years as a professional musician. This book is interspersed with pieces from the Early Church Fathers and how it has helped him in his own conversion.

What constitutes a Father? There are differences between the Eastern and Western traditions of the Church, but Talbot points to the works of a 5th century monk from Gaul in saying that to be a Father they had to be orthodox, holy or possessing sanctity, have approval from the Church, and survived since antiquity. In other words, the Church views a Father as someone who lived a life of holiness, has been approved by Holy Mother Church, submitted to orthodoxy, and whose works have survived the test of time. These are the men who Talbot is referencing throughout the book.

One of the main focuses for Talbot is on the center for early Christians who was Christ. He points out: “If Christians were willing to die as martyrs, it was because they wished to imitate Christ and reach Christ.” The very center of their lives and works was the Word of God Incarnate. These Fathers were dedicated to the authentic and true doctrine of the Faith and spent much of their time combating heresies aimed at Christ Himself. The Early Church Fathers spent much time engaged in Christological debate and councils. What is certain is that every aspect of the lives of early Christians was Christ centered. They desired to be like Him. That is the same desire each one of us should have today.

The book is not meant to be an exhaustive historical or theological explanation of the prolific writings of the Fathers. Rather, it is Talbot’s own story and journey with them. He shares much of his personal life, including the difficult periods while he was a professional musician before his full conversion. He uses various Fathers as examples of how he was experiencing struggles in his own life. The book is a window into Talbot’s spiritual journey through the Fathers, his spiritual director, study, and the Sacraments.

Talbot spends pages giving a much needed explanation of the Mass. This is an area where many Catholics are lacking in understanding and who do not grasp the sacrifice of the High Priest, Jesus Christ that goes on in the Liturgy of the Church.

“What follows is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the portion of the right that is properly sacrificial. And, really, this is why we’ve come to church. Catholics don’t go to Mass for singing, preaching, or entertainment. Sometimes the music’s good, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the preaching is good; sometimes it’s not. It’s good when it’s all good. God deserves our best—and the liturgy is, after all, our “public work” for him! But, primarily, it’s his public work for us. It’s opus Dei, God’s work. And that sacrificial work of Christ our High Priest is what God is up to in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.”

The book is a reminder to us that God is the center of all things, not us. Talbot spends time explaining the ancient roots of the liturgy in light of the Fathers. He reminds us that the Mass isn’t so much about us, but about God. He spends time explaining the necessity of patrimony, charity, and holiness. The book covers a lot of material that is pertinent to the Catholic Christian life.

The Ancient Path, is an excellent read for those who want to grow in a deeper understanding of the Church Fathers while also reading about another man’s spiritual journey. The book provides a wonderful introduction to the Fathers, the early Church, and how the long tradition of the Church is meant to be lived today. If you have not delved into the Fathers, this is a good place to start.

Catholic Exchange: St Maximilian Kolbe, Heroic Witness to Our Lady

I have not blogged a whole lot this summer. I have August off from graduate school, so I am only writing pieces for Catholic Exchange, Epic Pew, and Catholic Link until September. I will return to blogging then. For now I am having fun with my daughter and catching up on deep cleaning projects around the house. Here is my article for Catholic Exchange today.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was born on January 8, 1894 in Zdunska Wola, Poland. His entire life was centered on his great love and devotion to Our Lady through her Immaculate Conception. At the age of six he had a vision of her:

That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.

—Regis Armstrong and Ingrid Peterson, The Franciscan Tradition, 50

Kolbe and his older brother entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1910 and he made his final vows to the evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience, and chastity in 1914. He was then sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University where he pursued a doctorate in Philosophy. He then continued on to receive a doctorate in Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure in 1922.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…