Friday, September 30, 2011

Want FUN? Watch the CNMC!

I'm at the Catholic New Media Conference today in Kansas City today and tomorrow. Check it out on SQPN, and look for the live streaming of portions of the event.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Among Women #111 - Women: Bearers of the Good News

Among Women 111 completes the two-part series with Scripture scholar and author, Dr Mary Healy, of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit.  Come hear an amazing talk that will raise your dignity as a woman as Dr. Healy unpacks the riches of Scripture and re-introduces to the qualities we know reside in our deepest selves.

Oh, and while Dr. Healy tackles some of the greats of the bible,  I'll do a brief survey of the life of Joanna, one of the "little women" of the bible.  Check it out here.

And may I ask for your prayers this week? This week I'll be off speaking and participating in the Catholic New Media Conference. Better yet, pray for the whole team and all the participants, too!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Catholic Bishops standing up for Christian Beliefs regarding Marriage, Physician-Assisted Suicide

Just in case you have missed a few news items this week, let me recap them.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, President of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, wrote a letter to President Barack H. Obama regarding the Administration's seemingly poor regard for the sanctity of Marriage. Read the Archbishop's blog here. That post will eventually lead you to a .pdf of the entire letter here.

Elsewhere, here in Massachusetts, there is an initiative petition ballot drive underway to allow physician-assisted suicide to become legal in the Commonwealth. Cardinal Sean O'Malley recently spoke on this matter, and you can read his homily remarks in the context of a news article from The Pilot, the Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, here.

This makes me think... about what I say & hear...

All communication has a moral dimension. As the Lord himself has said, it is from the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (cf Mt. 12: 34-35). People grow or diminish in moral stature by the words which they speak and the messages which they choose to hear...

In view of their great power to shape ideas and influence behavior, professional communicators should recognize that they have a moral responsibility... to exercise wisdom, good judgement, and fairness...

The Second Vatican Council reminded us, 'If the media is to correctly employed, it is essential that all who use them know the principles of moral order and apply them faithfully (Inter Mirifica, par. 4)'.

-- Blessed John Paul II, Message for the 38th World Communications Day, 2004.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Conscience Protections Threatened in the Health Care Field, Please Respond by Sept. 30

Here's an issue that has direct impact on the lives of women (and men!). I know so many people who are nurses, nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, and physicians; you probably do too. Let's stand with them in securing the conscience protections needed for Christian medical personnel to continue their good work in health care without having to compromise their beliefs. 

Conscience protections are being threatened in the health care field. Your immediate action is requested by our Catholic Bishops, and it will take about 10 minutes of your time.

The US Catholic Conference of Bishops write:
On August 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an "interim final rule" that will require virtually all private health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and related "patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity." These are listed among "preventive services for women" that all health plans will have to include without co-pays or other cost-sharing -- regardless of whether the insurer, the employer or other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage.
The Bishops recommend you go to this link, where there is a 5 minute podcast and a simple form from the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment - here -  that you can fill in to send your objection to HHS. But time is running out. You must do this before Sept. 30th. 

You can also send an letter to your Senators and Representative in Congress, asking them to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. There is an easy fill-in-the-blank letter generator here.

I've sent my thought and comments to HHS and to Congress, and hope you will too. It took much longer to compose this blog post than it will take you to read this and act on it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Among Women ReadHER 9.24.11... Facebook, basketball, defenses of marriage and pregnancies

Among Women ReadHer

--Courtney Crisp, at Busted Halo
Commentary on the ups and downs of "relationships" on Facebook.

Facebook Monitoring Solutions for Parents
--From Your Sphere, HT Lisa Hendey of

--Lisa Mladinich, from her weekly column at Patheos
An inspiring tribute to her Dad, and military personnel everywhere.

Jelly Beans and Other Things
--Maria Johnson, from Another Cup of Coffee
A most excellent missive on the positive effects of a woman's sports life. What Maria Johnson fails to say, is that she went on to break basketball records at her highschool, where she is a member of the Hall of Fame. So I'm telling you. She'll never know I told ya, she never reads this blog.

--Fr. Scot Hurd, at the Archdiocese of Washington's blog
A little saint history...

Rev. Pat Robertson: Trade in Your Alzheimer's Wife for a New Model
--Gerard Nadal, PhD, from his blog Coming Home
I've written on this subject earlier this week, and I like Gerry's well reasoned piece very much.

I Survived a Failed Abortion, Now My Second Baby is Coming
--Melissa Ohden, on
The author tells her "life" story. 

A Return to Repugnance
--Matt Emerson from his weekly column at Patheos
More pro-life reading... difficult subject matter on selective reduction.

St Francis de Sales on Pregnancy
--Melanie Bettinelli at The Wine Dark Sea
Thanks to Melanie for an excellent quote that I've never read before.  Pay attention to the last two paragraphs-- inspired! You might recall Melanie was a recent guest on AW 104, and 105, talking about raising the littlest ones in the domestic church!

How to Tell You are in the Third Trimester
--Simcha Fisher, from her blog at National Catholic Register
Read this for comic relief. Note to pregnant women reading this: Pee first before reading. You've been warned!

Don't miss this upcoming series, from Fr. Robert Barron, (a fav of mine). It. Is. FANTASTIC.  Washington DC & Maryland get a first peek tonight. But full schedule details are here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The F.U.N. Quotient

Hubby is a fisherman. Me? Not so much. But I do like paddling the canoe out there. This little kid brought back some fond memories of our numerous fishing expeditions with our own kids. How 'bout you?

I'm partial to these silly critters that occupy the tank in my kitchen...someone once told me I dig aquariums because I am a Pieces. But I don't buy into the zodiac. But I do buy into appreciating all God's creatures great and small. And I spent years growing up on LI's beaches, and swimming with schools of the little critters. This is my tank of ciclids and oscars...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Exquisite and Excruciating Life of Married Love -- a peek inside our marriage

When you stand at the altar and you make your vows, exchanging consent and exchanging rings, you do so with faith, hope, and love... for there is no crystal ball that allows you to see into the future. When I look back on my life thus far, my husband's constant love has been one of the more tangible evidences of God's love for me. And I truly believe that God had a plan for our marriage that far exceeded my own expectations. And I've learned that it's depth comes from the graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony.

It's a hard and beautiful call, this one, to love someone until death. But we are not without resources that come from the Master of Divine Love. That's why Catholics are taught that "it takes three" to make a marriage work: You, your spouse, and Jesus Christ.

This week's column at Patheos was spurred on my heartfelt sadness at certain legislative battles coming to Massachusetts (and you can be sure, to a state near you) and my rejection of some ideas suggested by a news item that seemingly gives married couples an out, an easier path to end their marriage when the going gets tough...especially when it comes to breaking the vow " sickness and in health."

I am a breast cancer survivor. A cancer was found early, increasing my chances of overcoming it. In 15 years of survivorship, I've known quite a few cancer survivors, and a number of marriages that fell apart in the trauma. Sometimes marriages, undergoing the stress of illness, have very high divorce rates.

I can only speak for me and Bob: If heaven is our goal, then, we pray and we stay. Love is elastic. It stretches, it grows. And it's worth everything we can give to it in the end. We're not saints. But we know some. And we know Jesus. And He has never left us.

So here's the opening of this week's offering from A Word in Season...

Like many survivors of breast cancer, I have some serious battle scars. My un-bandaged body after breast cancer certainly made for some interesting pillow talk between my husband and myself.
 Going into the crisis long ago, we barely considered what it would mean for our love when all you are trying to do is fight something that has the potential to kill you or your spouse. But when I was done with all the treatment… the question lingered unspoken in the air…What would our marriage look like -- or, stranger still --what would it feel like?
 I knew he loved me before all the surgeries. Fourteen happy years and three children assured me of that. But before that, we had never really, really been tested by heartache and loss like a cancer diagnosis brings.
 In the aftermath, I could not begin to fathom what our intimate moments might be like now that I had been surgically taken apart and permanently altered.
 He just smiled and kissed the boo-boos. And he never stopped.
 The miraculous healing power of lips to scars transformed the broken hearts and the marriage that cancer had tried to lay to waste, better than life-saving surgery could do.
 He later told me that it was graces of inviting Christ into our marriage on our wedding day -- the power of the vow permeating every aspect of our lives -- as well as the blessing of chastity that had come back to bless us in those first post-cancer episodes. We had stood at that altar and vowed to love one another -- sight unseen in terms of what would yet to be consummated -- pledging to accept the all of the other. 

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Among Women 110 - Bearers of the Good News, Pt. 1 - a great presentation for women!

AW 110 features an amazing teaching on women in the bible from Scripture scholar, Dr. Mary Healy, from the faculty of Sacred Heart Seminary. Dr. Healy unpacks the stories of women who exemplified the feminine genius in part one of this two-part presentation from the National Catholic Bible Conference, July 2011. 

Pat also looks at one of the little known saints that is favored by Pope Benedict, St. Juliana from Belgium. She was at 12th century saint, devoted to Christ in the Eucharist, and whose prayerful influence in the Church gave us Corpus Christi Sunday.

Also, this is the last week to send in your contributions for the Among Women Special Edition: "What I love about the rosary," scheduled for early October.

I am also taking audio feedback and written feedback for an upcoming AW Special Edition: What I Love About the Rosary.  To participate, just share what you love about the Rosary, by calling our feedback line at 206-203-2024, or message via Facebook at the Among Women Podcast page. Or email me at Audio files that you record on your mobile phone or via iTunes are good too! 

Entries must be received by 6pm EST, Monday, Sept. 26. All participants will have their names placed in a free drawing for a handcrafted rosary from Rustic Rosaries by Margaret Rose.

Monday, September 19, 2011

This makes me think... about the gap between faith and life

In speaking of conversion, the New Testament uses the word metanoia, which means a change of mentality. It is not simply a matter of thinking differently in an intellectual sense, but of revising the reasons behind one's actions in the light of the Gospel. In this regard, Saint Paul speaks of “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). This means that true conversion needs to be prepared and nurtured though the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture and the practice of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Conversion leads to fraternal communion, because it enables us to understand that Christ is the head of the Church, his Mystical Body; it urges solidarity, because it makes us aware that whatever we do for others, especially for the poorest, we do for Christ himself. Conversion, therefore, fosters a new life, in which there is no separation between faith and works in our daily response to the universal call to holiness. In order to speak of conversion, the gap between faith and life must be bridged. Where this gap exists, Christians are such only in name. To be true disciples of the Lord, believers must bear witness to their faith, and witnesses testify not only with words, but also with their lives.

---Bl. John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, par. 26, (1999.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Among Women ReadHER 9.17.11 ... babies, beauty, burnout, single life, romance -- not necessarily in that order!

Among Women ReadHer
Is It OK to Be Single?
--Beth Knobbe, at Catholic Chicago Blog
The ever-pressing question. I like how Beth handles this. You may recall Beth as a guest on AW 68.

Fighting Burnout
--Arwen Mosher over at Faith and Family Live
After having twins, Arwen shares about dealing with stressors. Lotsa comments on this one too.

13 Things I've Learned in 17 Years of Marriage
--Karen Edmisten at Faith and Family Live
Thoughtful, practical, and always hopeful, Karen is one wise woman. Karen has been on AW twice before, hear her life story from atheism to faith to Marian devotion on AW 20 , and more about Mary on AW 82.

Good Girls Beware
--Elizabeth Foss at the Arlington Catholic
Sound daughter-raising tips!

Pulchritude in Women
--Kevin Lowry at The Grateful Convert

NOTE: pul·chri·tude 

[puhl-kri-tood, -tyood], noun. Defined: physical beauty; comeliness.
God Needs You
--Julie Robinson, at Virtuous Planet
I thought this little post about prayer was a good companion piece to this week's AW 109 - Metanoia. Looking forward to Julie being a future guest on AW!

Lovely Lady
--Lisa Schmidt of Practicing Catholic
A wonderful (and short!) re-posting from Radiant Magazine -- remember we profiled that magazine on AW 73?

The Triumph of the Cross - 2011
--Sr. Catherine, the Digital Nun
Even though the feast is passed (9/14) I thought this missive was simple yet deep.

Mary Sees Us
--Simcha Fisher in the National Catholic Register
Simcha, nice one!

I Was Going to Ridicule This
--Maria Johnson, from Another Cup of Coffee, and the Catholic Weekend podcast.
A good take on being an encourager of others. Plus Maria follows it up with this short 16-minute film... that packs its own good-for-you punch...

Friday, September 16, 2011

The F.U.N. Quotient: Smiles

Okay, had to add this one cuz it's a Boston Terrier...

Me and our Boston Terrier "Brady"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

About the everyday sacrifices... my column this week at Patheos

The gift of doing a weekly column like this is that provides me a place to revisit themes that have grown stronger in my own life over time and take them to a deeper place. For example, this week's column....

Sacrifice -- the kind that serves another -- binds us intangibly to the wonderful wounded Christ whose own power transforms our humble service in all our relationships -- work, families, marriages -- and helps to perfect it, so it look like His. And we find this most truly when we lay it all down every week as an offering in the Holy Sacrifice of Mass...  before the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. 

Here's a bit: 
Sacrifice for another, it might be said, is perhaps the ultimate “yes” that one can offer another person, and unto God. 
Sacrifice acts on behalf of another, putting them first, not furthering one’s own cause. It entails interrupting or delaying our own plans, desires, trajectories, goals and even giving something we may be afraid to lose… our time, money, comfort, power or prestige… for the sake of another who may or may not be worthy of it. 
True sacrifice is a profound offering… a mix of generosity, magnanimity, humility, love, and selflessness.
We sure do appreciate it when someone else shoulders our burden in the muddiness of life, or has our back when the fight is on, or stands in the gap between what we can and cannot do for ourselves. 
In the midst of being on the receiving end of another’s loving service, we often have no idea to what depth they chose to intervene on our behalf. And it’s often not until long afterwards that we have an opportunity to respond in gratitude to what’s been received.  
There's more, here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stooping to subliminal messages here...

To offer this invitation....

I've just heard there are still some tickets left for the Catholic New Media Conference Sept 30- Oct 1 in Kansas.  So we want you to come!  And we want you to pass the word to your priests, catechists, and ministry leaders in your parish and diocese.... this is great for church staff who want to learn how new media can expand their ministry reach! 

Get all the details here.  Hope to see ya there! Help post this and spread the word!

Parents: Here's Help in Preparing Your Child to Receive the Sacraments. (You can DO this!)

I love Lisa Mladinich's energy and verve when it comes to sharing the faith with children. I've endorsed her work here and elsewhere. Today, I'm asking her to share, in her own words, her latest booklet, and how it can help us prepare children for their sacraments. --Pat

Sacraments: Bridging the Gap between Heaven and Earth

“The Sacraments of Christian Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist – lay the foundation of every Christian life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1212)

It is very humbling to be in this particular space. I’d like to profusely thank Pat Gohn, catechist par excellence (for whom my admiration is just huge), for inviting me to offer a guest blog in celebration of my new booklet, “Be an Amazing Catechist: Sacramental Preparation” (Our Sunday Visitor, 30 pgs). Written with both parents and catechists in mind, it is a guide for teaching the sacraments of Penance, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation accurately and vibrantly, so that both you and the children will come to a more complete appreciation for their purpose, beauty and power to transform lives.

“Sacraments are ‘powers that come forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant.” (Luke 5:17, 6:19, 8:46)(CCC 1116)

Teaching the sacraments can be unbelievably exciting. Consider this: The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that everything Jesus did during His public ministry announced and prepared the way for everything He would accomplish in us afterwards (CCC 1115). By coming to earth in all His divinity and taking on human form, He bridged the gap between heaven and earth. Before He ascended to heaven, He created a spiritual bridge for us by establishing the sacraments, each a vehicle for its own unique grace, to be administered by the Church.

It is well worth the effort to prepare ourselves to teach these thrilling truths to our children with sensitivity, enthusiasm and wisdom. As we pray, study, and cling to the sacraments, our lives become flooded with God’s grace.

Culled from my own experiences, research, and interviews with dedicated parents and catechists, this little guide on sacramental preparation is packed with practical, creative, and inspirational help on topics such as:
  • The call to teach the Faith, and the call to conversion
  • Submission to the Church’s authority and the graces that follow
  • Heroes of the Faith
  • Teaching reverence to children
  • Lesson planning basics
  • The purpose of confession
  • Helping kids overcome their fear of the confessional
  • Explaining the Eucharist
  • Options for receiving Communion
  • Confirmation preparation
  • Breaking through to teens
  • Nine things that confirmands should memorize
  • Helping teens develop a Catholic identity
  • Assessments
  • The importance of reaching out to other parents 
All my booklets run $2.95 for a single copy and $17.90 for bundles of ten.

The original booklet, “Be an Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children,” a guide to creative teaching methodologies that can be used with any religious ed curriculum, is also available in Spanish!

--Lisa Mladinich

Lisa is also the founder of Amazing Catechists. Read Lisa's weekly column at Patheos. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Among Women Podcast #109 - Metanoia*

Among Women 109 welcomes AW listener and current third-order Carmelite aspirant, Erin Aldrich Miller, as she recalls the many steps of her reversion and her quest to learn to pray. From her challenges in her college days to being a young wife with a baby on the way, Erin shares the ups and downs of life... from grief, mistakes, and emptiness, to being "recruited" by St. Teresa of Avila and learning the ways of Carmelite spirituality.

I also profile the wisdom and exemplary life of St. Teresa of Avila, with a reading from the saint, and commentary by Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI on her exemplary life. Listen to the podcast here.

And time's a wastin'!  Remember, I am also taking audio feedback and written feedback for an upcoming AW Special Edition: What I Love About the Rosary.  To participate, just share what you love about the Rosary, by calling our feedback line at 206-203-2024, or message via Facebook at the Among Women Podcast page. Or email me at Audio files that you record on your mobile phone or via iTunes are good too! 

Entries must be received by 6pm EST, Monday, Sept. 26. All participants will have their names placed in a free drawing for a handcrafted rosary from Rustic Rosaries by Margaret Rose (made of beautiful blue pearls!) You can see it here...

*Metanoia - A Greek word that means "change of mind". The biblical term for that repentance or complete change of heart which turns one away from sin to serve the living God.

Monday, September 12, 2011

This makes me think...

I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me.
If thou wilt that I leap joyfully
Then must thou thyself first dance and sing!
Then I will leap for love
From love to knowledge,
From knowledge to fruition,
From fruition to beyond all human sense.
There I will remain
And circle evermore.

---Mechthilde of Magnaburg (1210-1297), A Little Book of Women Mystics, Carole Lee Flinders.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never, Never Forget || 9/11 & the Ever-Present Christ

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.
We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.
We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.
God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.
God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.


This is my article running over at Patheos today. It is reprinted here in its entirety.

9/11 and the Ever-Present Christ 
By Pat Gohn

For those who observed it, it was unlike any other day in recorded history. It was seared into the memories of those who lived it. It changed lives forever. In the retelling, its horror still scandalizes people. And writers will continue, and well they should, to use the strongest language possible to describe it…

Total annihilation.

Immolation of all things holy.

Innocent human life crushed.

Grisly death.

Indeed, the blackest day.

Meanwhile, she stood by watching it, buffeted by the morbid cataclysm set in motion… eyes riveted, unable to help, and unable to walk away. 

Then, all of a sudden, the earth quaked. And an excruciating sword of suffering sliced once-recognizable lives into two distinct halves -- before and after that hour.

Hell was having a proverbial field day. Heaven cried.

As Jesus died upon the cross, Mary, his mother, deeply pained and grieving, stood by.

The death of the Savior, God’s Only Begotten Son, bore the sins of every single evil action in history  -- before, during, and since the Crucifixion. In no uncertain terms, despite the wickedness, vice, depravity, sadness, and bad news that unhinges the strongest souls, death and sin have been permanently vanquished through the shedding of the blood of Jesus.

The body of Jesus was raised to perfection after death. Even in its glorified state, it still bears the scars from the wounds of his suffering. Not to remind him of the victory over death and sin, but to remind us. There is the hope of heaven -- or restoration and reunion -- through the Divine Mercy of Jesus who was crucified, died, and was raised. He lives to come again.


For the Christian, suffering, atrocities, and death, are not the ultimate end.

But, events like “9/11” still shock us.

And rile us.

Intuitively, deep down, we know there is more to life. Humanity knows this about itself. The will to survive and live beyond the grave is innate to the species. It is a holy desire designed in us by God himself, as he crafted man and woman in his image! God our Creator knows us best and longs to see us live in union with him and one another. He built that same longing into us. We know it in the deepest recesses of our hearts, but our experience of it is often dulled by sin and miseries.

The death of innocents, especially when it is perpetrated by our inhumanity toward one another, pummels and bruises our convictions about what is good and true and beautiful about life, and about a God who loves us. Suffering and evil taints our reality to the point that we actually become accustomed to tragedy. Each time we play a different part. We might be a victim, a survivor, or an onlooker.

But the truth is that no matter where we are on the tragic continuum, God is deliberately near to each soul he has made. The Lover of our souls is intimately aware of our circumstances and profoundly in tune with our sufferings.

We know this because God, in Jesus, became a man, a human person like us in all things except sin. He lived, as the prophet Isaiah says, as “a suffering Servant,” acquainted with our grief. Entering in the deepest suffering on Calvary, and combating the darkest evil, Jesus gave us a way through the sufferings, sin, and evil we face. It would not be easy, and it would require grace from him.

Jesus knows every victim, survivor, and onlooker even if they cannot fathom God’s nearness to them amidst carnage.

How does one go on? How does one begin to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of tragedy? 

One piece at a time.

I found it comforting that, in the careful sifting of the fresh rubble of the World Trade Center twin towers, crews performing search and recovery duties unearthed an iron cross. Made of fused I-beams from WTC Tower One, it was erected at Ground Zero as a symbol of hope to the onlookers on site and around the world. The blessing of the cross makes it something more than a symbol. It becomes a sacramental. A sacramental points to something much larger than itself. It reminds us of the sacred in our ordinary lives.

On a day like “9/11”, the cross should remind us of the presence of Jesus in the midst of all suffering. Thanks to Christ’s victory Calvary’s Cross, it bears particular witness to Christ’s presence that day -- inside the doomed, scorched wreckage.  For, God is everywhere, and Christ is especially present to every person at the moment of death.

"Am I a God at hand, says the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23: 23-24.)

Christ, the crucified-now-Risen Lord, was found in the infernos that day. Christ was in the fiery heat, and the blackness of the smoke. His saving power alone could operate amid the heinous, diabolical treachery that took those lives that day.

On “9/11” Jesus stood as the threshold through death to eternity for every departed soul in Manhattan, Washington DC, and Shanksville PA.  Christ the Victim met every victim, those who suffered immediate death, and those who died lingering deaths from their wounds.

Who knows what instantaneous conversions may have taken place in those final moments of life for the victims of “9/11”?

But Jesus has a way of being present to those who suffer both in the short as victims and long term as survivors and onlookers.

Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace...
Suffering is, in itself, an experience of evil. But Christ has made suffering the firmest basis of the definitive good, namely the good of eternal salvation. By his suffering on the Cross, Christ reached the very roots of evil, of sin and death. He conquered the author of evil, Satan...
For suffering cannot be transformed and changed by a grace from outside, but from within. And Christ through his own salvific suffering is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the powers of his Spirit of truth, his consoling Spirit.  (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 1984, par. 26)
Jesus Christ is present in every human suffering.

In ten years since “9/11”, Jesus still promises to be present to the survivors and onlookers: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Mt. 5:4.) Moreover, Jesus sends his mother, Mary, who once suffered grievously at the Cross, to supernaturally aid us in sorrow.

This is not all: the Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of his holy Mother.... As though by a continuation of that motherhood which by the power of the Holy Spirit had given him life, the dying Christ conferred upon the ever Virgin Mary a new kind of motherhood—spiritual and universal—towards all human beings, so that every individual, during the pilgrimage of faith, might remain, together with her, closely united to him unto the Cross, and so that every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this Cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God.  (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 1984, par. 26.)
The woman who stood by the bleeding, dying Christ has an important role to play for us. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the Catholic Church has long recognized September as dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.)

Mary’s ways teach us how to sift things. She models faith-filled suffering and a holy patience for the playing out of difficulties of one’s life. Mary knows how to grieve enormous losses. Despite sorrows piercing her heart, she chose to believe in the more of God’s economy: sharing in the cross with Christ lessens the burden for someone else.

 [Mary lives] this… Gospel of suffering. In her, the many and intense sufferings were… not only a proof of her unshakeable faith but also a contribution to the redemption of all. In reality, from the time of her secret conversation with the angel, she began to see in her mission as a mother her "destiny" to share, in a singular and unrepeatable way, in the very mission of her Son. And she very soon received a confirmation of this… in the solemn words of the aged Simeon, when he spoke of a sharp sword that would pierce her heart. Yet a further confirmation was in the anxieties and privations of the hurried flight into Egypt, caused by the cruel decision of Herod.
And… it was on Calvary that Mary's suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysterious and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the Cross together with the Beloved Disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 1984, par. 25.)
Mary was the first person to join her sufferings to that of Christ, the crucified One, the Victim whose blood saves us. When we follow her lead, our meager offerings of suffering somehow become redemptive… they have the power to help someone else in need, thereby allowing good to come of our pain.

Vatican II taught: “Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow grow meaningful.”

The way of suffering truly is the way of saints-in-the-making, be they victims, survivors or onlookers. It is the way we work, pray, and live through the worries and anxieties and difficulties of a post-“9/11” world.

This day, and every day, may we join our sufferings to Jesus, like Mary did.

Let there also gather beneath the Cross all people of good will, for on this Cross is the "Redeemer of man", the Man of Sorrows, who has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all of their questions.
Together with Mary, Mother of Christ, who stood beneath the Cross, we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man.
We invoke all the Saints, who down the centuries in a special way shared in the suffering of Christ. We ask them to support us.
And we ask all you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil, revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your suffering in union with the Cross of Christ be victorious! (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 1984, par. 31.)


I thought this was interesting... 

More 9/11-related posts in yesterday's Among Women ReadHer. Including links to this new Smithsonian documentary: 9/11, the Day That Changed the World.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Among Women ReadHer 9.10.11

Among Women ReadHer
Forgive Everyone for Everything
--Fr. Stephen Freeman, an Eastern Orthodox priest, from his blog, Glory to God for All Things
Thoughtful reading, also references Dostoeveski's The Brothers Karamosov.

A Deliberate Life
--Karen Edmisten, from the blog of the same name
Some times the best lessons are the most basic. Nice one!

--Kathryn Jean Lopez, the NRO Editor shows up at the Catholic News Agency.
Another brilliant piece from Lopez - this time about Dorothy Day's abortion and whether it impacts her cause for canonization.

 -- Lisa Hendey, at Faith and Family Live
Some excellent advice and things to ponder for our parishes, and don't miss this earlier post as well: 
Rachel Balducci's Cry Room Conundrum 

Living an Awesome Story
--Jennifer Fulwiler, from Conversion Diary
Be. Not. Afraid. Most of us can never hear this too much.

The Curious Case of the Cursing Coach
--Joel Schmidt, from Practicing Catholic
If it is football season in your house, this is conversation-worthy.

Spiritual Warfare and the Screwtape Letters
-- From the team at the Catholic Spiritual Direction blog
You must check out this well-acted video about the making of a great audio book version of CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. And if you've never read the book, get it! I highly recommend it.

OK, I'm loving this video! 

HT: The Deacon's Bench - with a shout out to the Boston University Catholic Center young adults at about 2:24 in -- out in the snowy sidewalk on Comm Ave in front of Marsh Chapel.

Oh, and this one too...
HT: The Anchoress

In honor of 9/11:

Documentary: "9/11: The Day that Changed the World" - on the Smithsonian Channel (you can watch it online.)

The Church's Noblest at Ground Zero
-- Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, from Patheos

No Clergy at Ground Zero
-- Elizabeth Scalia, from her blog, The Anchoress, at Patheos

My own piece on the subject will run here tomorrow, and at Patheos.

image credit

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mary! My column today for Mary... Embracing Christ and the Cross: Our Lady of Charity

Our Lady of Charity

Today my column at Patheos, A Word in Season, honors the Blessed Virgin Mary on her birthday, with a look at her patronage as Our Lady of Charity. Today she is honored in Cuba as that country's Patroness, and today opens a Jubilee Year acknowledging her 400-year influence there. In the Archdiocese of Miami today, where her national shrine is found, a similar celebration takes place.

(I've already profiled Our Lady of Charity on this week's Among Women podcast, and you can see more pictures related to her image and the National Shrine on that blog post.)

Here's a peek at the column.... (a Spanish translation follows.)

Today, the Roman Catholic Church honors Mary -- who mothers us all -- on her birthday, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  
Meanwhile, important anniversary celebrations in Florida, Cuba, and perhaps elsewhere, honor her today as the Patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity. Her full title in Spanish is La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. 
I have long held a devotion to Mary. Thanks to my friendship with a few Cuban-American families, I have recently adopted this title, Our Lady of Charity, into my prayer. Even though I come from a different ethnic background, I have been moved by my getting re-acquainted with the Mary I know and love, and venerating her anew under this title. 
I have been duly struck -- but not surprised -- by Mary’s effectiveness in uniting the people of Cuba under her patronage. Our Lady of Charity also unites the many Cuban exiles of a 50-plus-year diaspora that followed the stormy rise of the Castro regime in that island nation. 
But then again, Our Lady of Charity seems to specialize in making appearances to people experiencing storms. 
In 1612, three young men in a tiny boat in the Bay of Nipe, off the coast Cuba, attributed their safety in a violent storm to Mary. Nicknamed “the three Juans”, they were two brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and a slave, Juan Morena. While they were offshore collecting sea salt, a storm blew up causing them to pray for safety. Their prayers were answered, not only with a calming sea, but also with a gift found floating on the water… a statue of Mary holding the Child Jesus. An inscription read: “I am the Virgin of Charity.” 
The unique image displays the Virgin holding the Child Jesus close to her heart with her left arm, as he holds a small globe in one hand and extends a hand of blessing with the other. Mary’s right hand extends a small gold cross. 
Mary’s holding of a cross is unique to this image, as far as I know, and two things impress me about it. 
In the first place, when I see Mary’s action in holding out this cross, I see a mother gently schooling her young Child in the ways of charity. At the same time, she prophetically points to the future reality of Good Friday in the life of Jesus, the cross he would bear to win our redemption. For Mary, it is also a sign of a coming pain to be borne, the very “sword” that would “pierce through her own soul” (Luke 2: 35) as her maternal love would suffer with Jesus at the Crucifixion. 
Secondly, Mary embraces both the Christ and the cross. She, the perfect disciple, demonstrates the posture for the good Christian life. We are to entrust ourselves to Christ, holding him close, while living lives of unrelenting charity, as emphasized by cross -- the ultimate symbol for the depths of charity. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 13 RSV-CE.)
 Read the rest, in English, here.

And I'm happy to reprint a Spanish translation, courtesy of Maria Morera Johnson, of the entire piece here:

Ella tiene miles de títulos…algunos son majestuosos, otros finos o teológicos, y otros regionales y tiernamente familiares.

La llamamos Nuestra Señora de Fátima, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de Czestochowa y Nuestra Señora de reconocemos como Nuestra Señora de Perpetuo Socorro, Madre de la Divina Gracia, Estrella del Mar… Madre de Misericordia, Trono de la Sabiduría, Puerta del Cielo, y Causa de Nuestra Alegría….

Tal vez la conozcas con otros nombres, dependiendo de donde vives o haz viajado – tal vez engendra una devoción particular. Cada versión de su nombre no solo la bendice, sino bendice al pueblo que, con piedad, pide su intercesión maternal y su protección. La Virgen Santísima nos conoce y nos responde a todos!

Hoy, la Iglesia Católica honra a María – nuestra madre - en su cumpleaños, la Natividad de la Santísima Virgen María.

A la vez, están celebrando un aniversario importante en partes de la Florida en EU, Cuba, y en otras partes del mundo donde se encuentran cubanos. Hoy es la fiesta de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, patrona de Cuba.

Mi devoción a la Virgen María viene de hace muchos años. A través de mi amistad con unas familias cubana-americanas, conoci a la Virgen de la Caridad y la he adoptado como una de mis devociones. Aunque no pertenezco a este grupo étnico, siento una conneción con la Virgen que quiero mucho, y puedo venerar bajo este título nuevo.

Me llama la atención – pero realmente no me toma de sorpresa – lo bien que la Virgen ha unido el pueblo cubano bajo su manto. Es más, la misma virgencita ha unido a los cubanos exiliados, quienes viven en una diáspora de más de 50 años a consecuencia de una tormenta política que vio ascender al poder el régimen de Castro en esa isla-nación.

Parece que la Virgen de la Caridad extiende su manto a todos los que experimentan tormentas de todos tipos.

En Cuba en el año 1612, tres jóvenes salieron en un barco pequeño para buscar sal y se encontraron en una tormenta violenta en la bahia de Nipe. Los “tres Juanes”, hermanos Rodrigo y Juan de Hoyos, y un esclavo, Juan Morena, rezaron y atribuyeron su salvación a la Virgen María. El mar se calmó, y encontraron flotando en el agua una imagen de la Virgen con el Niño Jesús en sus brazos. Una inscripción decía: "Yo Soy La Virgen de La Caridad".

La imagen muestra a la Virgen que sostiene al Niño Jesús cerca de su corazón en su brazo izquierdo, mientras él sostiene un pequeño globo en una mano y con la otra nos da una bendición. La mano derecha de la Virgen aguanta una pequeña cruz de oro.

Que yo sepa, la posesión de una cruz en las manos de la Virgen es única a esta imagen. Dos cosas me impresionan sobre este detalle.

Primero, cuando veo a la Virgen María en posesión de esta cruz, veo a una madre delicadamente educando a su Hijo en la obra de caridad. Al mismo tiempo, ella proféticamente señala a la futura realidad del Viernes Santo en la vida de Jesús, la cruz que él aceptará para obtener nuestra redención. Para María, esto es también un signo de un dolor próximo, la misma "espada" que “perforaría por su propia alma” (Lucas 2: 35), cuando su amor maternal sufriría con Jesús en la Crucifixión.

Segundo, María abraza tanto a Cristo como a la cruz. Ella, el discípulo perfecto, modela la postura para la vida cristiana. Debemos confiarnos a Cristo, sosteniéndolo  cerca, viviendo vidas de caridad implacable, como enfatizado por la cruz - símbolo de las profundidades de la caridad. Jesús nos dice, “No hay amor más grande que dar la vida por sus amigos (Juan 15:13).

Han pasado casi 400 años desde aquel día en que los “tres Juanes” sacaron una imagen de la Virgen del agua de la bahia y regresaron a su pueblo. Esa pequeña imagen y su historia ha inspirado devoción a la Virgen María en todas partes de la isla durante los 4 siglos pasados.

Cuba siempre ha sido un país de diversas razas. El pueblo tira hacia esta imagen que aparenta ser de raza mezclada. Muchos acreditan la eliminación de la esclavitud en Cuba al comienzo de los años 1700 a la devoción a la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. Poco después de establecer la imagen en una capilla cercana a las minas, cerraron las minas de cobre. Más reciente, en el siglo 20, veteranos de la guerra de independencia de España pidieron por petición al Papa Benedicto XV para declarar a Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre como patrona de Cuba, y lo concedió en 1916.

Hoy, la imagen se encuentra en una basílica dedicada a la Virgen, la Basílica Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, en la ciudad de Santiago de Cuba.

El Papa Juan Pablo II hizo una visita apostólica en enero del 1998, bendiciendo la imagen y el pueblo cubano, también pidiendo la intercesión de María.

En esta celebración vamos a coronar la imagen de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. Desde su santuario, no lejos de aquí, la Reina y Madre de todos los cubanos —sin distinción de razas, opciones políticas o ideologías—, guía y sostiene, como en el pasado, los pasos de sus hijos hacia la Patria celeste y los alienta a vivir de tal modo que en la sociedad reinen siempre los auténticos valores morales, que constituyen el rico patrimonio espiritual heredado de los mayores.
El ejemplo de disponibilidad de María nos señala el camino a recorrer. Con Ella la Iglesia lleva a cabo su vocación y su misión, anunciando a Jesucristo… y construyendo también la fraternidad universal….

Las obras de evangelización que van teniendo lugar en diversos ambientes, como por ejemplo las misiones en barrios y pueblos sin iglesias, deben ser cuidadas y fomentadas para que puedan desarrollarse y servir no sólo a los católicos, sino a todo el pueblo cubano para que conozca a Jesucristo y lo ame. La historia enseña que sin fe desaparece la virtud, los valores morales se oscurecen, no resplandece la verdad, la vida pierde su sentido trascendente y aun el servicio a la nación puede dejar de ser alentado por las motivaciones más profundas….

La Iglesia llama a todos a encarnar la fe en la propia vida, como el mejor camino para el desarrollo integral del ser humano, creado a imagen y semejanza de Dios, y para alcanzar la verdadera libertad, que incluye el reconocimiento de los derechos humanos y la justicia social. A este respecto, los laicos católicos, salvaguardando su propia identidad para poder ser «sal y fermento» en medio de la sociedad de la que forman parte, tienen el deber y el derecho de participar en el debate público en igualdad de oportunidades y en actitud de diálogo y reconciliación. Asimismo, el bien de una nación debe ser fomentado y procurado por los propios ciudadanos a través de medios pacíficos y graduales. (homilia, Juan Pablo II, 24 enero, 1998, Santiago de Cuba.)

La celebración de este día de fiesta en Cuba y los Estados Unidos es la inauguración del Año Jubilar 2011-2012, los 400 años del hallazgo de la imagen de la Virgen de la Caridad en el mar.

En preparación para este ano jubilar, los obispos de Cuba adoptaron el tema, “La caridad nos une” .  Poco a poco, estamos viendo desplegar el siguiente capítulo de la historia cubana, donde la esperanza de puertos seguros está en las mentes de todos los cubanos.

Recientemente, la imagen de la patrona de Cuba ha estado paseando fuera del Santuario por las diferentes diócesis de toda Cuba . Donde quiera que se lleva la imagen, los feligreses responden espontáneamente con procesiones que llenan las calles, casas, iglesias – donde sea – dándole la bienvenida. Esto está ocurriendo aunque Cuba mantiene la posición oficial de estado ateo.

En los Estados Unidos, tenemos el Santuario Nacional, la Ermita de la Caridad, junto al mar en la bahia de Biscayne. Esta ermita dramática, diseñada en la forma del manto de la Virgen, fue construida con donaciones de los cubanos exiliados, sus hijos, y otros en la comunidad. La Misa sera celebrada en la Universidad de Miami, ya que la Ermita, bella pero pequeña, no puede acomodar a los miles de feligreses que asistirán.

Este año es conmovedor no sólo por las fiestas en Cuba, sino también porque hoy marca el 50 aniversario "de la llegada" de la Caridad a las orillas de los Estados Unidos -- en la forma de una estatua de réplica de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre. Esta imagen fue diseñada en Cuba y entregada a la Arquidiócesis de Miami en esta fecha en 1961, gracias a maniobras políticas complicadas y la cooperación de las embajadas italianas y panameñas.

En aquel día, hace medio siglo, el Arzobispo Coleman F. Carroll rezo con 30,000 cubanos exiliados, celebrando la fiesta de la virgencita.

Aquella gran manifestación Mariana demostró la caridad de la Iglesia de Norteamérica, que durante su historia se había distinguido siempre por recibir al inmigrante. Al mismo tiempo, demostraba la gran devoción a la Madre de Cristo, bajo la advocación de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, en un pueblo que, buscando libertad, abandonaba su patria dejándolo todo menos el amor a la Madre Celestial. (Historia del Santuario, Ermita de la Caridad.)

Durante estos 50 años en Miami, la imagen de la Virgen ha sido una fuente de estímulo y esperanza para los cubanos exiliados y las generaciones que los siguieron.

Y para muchas otras personas, como yo -- en busca de un puerto seguro en una tormenta, ella nos cubre con su manto con el mismo cariño.

Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, ¡Ruega por Nosotros!

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