Saturday, March 31, 2012

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood...

A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part I

Humans are created in the image and likeness of God and are called to love as God loves.  Of all the relationships that human beings participate in, the most profound impact they can make with their love in this world starts right in their own homes.  At the 1994 Prayer Breakfast at the White House, Mother Teresa said: “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do.”  How do mothers grow in the virtues, especially when they feel like a little bird drowning in a monsoon, struggling through the daily continuous and seemingly unexpected crosses of motherhood?  For one, they need to heed the spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux, pick up their heads and spread their wings after a shower so that God can dry them with His brilliant rays.  St. Gregory of Nyssa stated that “the goal of a virtuous life is to become like God,” to love like God.[1]  If mothers are worthy and willing to receive the theological virtues, these virtues are given to them as a gift from God, while the cardinal virtues are mainly acquired by human efforts which strive to follow the example of Christ.[2]  Now, more than ever, embracing the cardinal virtues is imperative for successful mothering and the sanctification of the domestic church.  Whereas, contemporary society is externally focused and places much emphasis on actions and relationships outside the home, an analysis of the cardinal virtues in terms of mothering shows that more focus needs to be put on relationships and actions inside the home. "

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 1803.
[2] Ibid, 1804.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Earthen Vessels Filled With the New Wine

“We are earthen vessels to be filled with God’s grace. The effects of this Grace is then to be shared with one another and the whole community.”

Grace is necessary for our sanctification and for bringing us into full union with Christ-- making us one with Him. We receive graces through the sacraments given to us by Jesus. In fact, is God himself that we receive, as a sacrament is a visible, an efficacious sign of God’s presence. In Baptism, the nuptial bath, visible water signifies the cleansing of sin and the reception of the Holy Spirit. At Holy Communion we receive the visible Eucharist the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our flesh becomes one with His. St. Paul said that marriage, the two in one flesh union, is a great mystery in reference to Christ and the Church. Hence the wonderful contemplation of the Second Luminous Mystery ‘The Wedding Feast at Cana.’

Mary was/is full of Grace and the Lord was and is with her. Mary, wanting the same for the couple at the Wedding Feast of Cana, intercedes for them and says to Jesus, “They have no wine.” But what she was really saying to Jesus was, “They have no Grace.”

This was worrisome to Mary, being wife and mother herself, she knew how difficult it would be for families to gain heaven without it. Marriage, being deeply wounded due to the fall, made graces necessary for couples to obtain sanctification through this vocation.

And so Mary asks Jesus to start his public life here, which is no small matter, as indicated by His words, “Woman what is this to you and to Me? My hour has not yet come.” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen says it was no accident that Jesus started his public life by performing his first miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana. And he said that Jesus assisting at the wedding typified His relationship to His Church. In other words, it showed what type of relationship Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, has with His Church the bride--a spousal  relationship.

Mary must have realized the seriousness of what she was asking before she asked it, and surly she would not ask Jesus to start his public life over the couple having no wine at their wedding. Mary, being the mediatrix of grace, was asking grace from Jesus for this couple and for all married couples to come. And he would not deny his Mother and so grants her request, and raises marriage to
the level, the dignity, of a sacrament.

He turned the water into wine. But wait, not until they did as they were told to do. Mary’s next words were, “Do whatever he tells you.” Obedience, obedience was necessary in order for those earthen vessels to be filled with the New Wine. And so it is with us. When we live our marriages out according to God’s plan—not our plan. When we do whatever he tells us to do, well then, we too will be earthen vessels filled with the New Wine--the wine of the Holy Spirit—and it is when we share the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit in our families and our community that--- God’s kingdom comes--- which is righteousness, peace, love, and joy.

By, Anonymous (a humble and holy friend)


Indulgences, by Leah Cathey, Guest Blogger


The definition: The remission of temporal punishment due to sin, granted to the faithful who recite specified prayers, visit a specified place of pilgrimage, or engage in a specified act of charity. (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, 2006.)

What that means: When we sin, we must make amends with punishment either in this life or after death. This punishment is temporal meaning it lasts for a time. An indulgence is a pardon of the punishment due for sins confessed.

What they are: Prayers and devotional, penitential, and charitable works chosen to urge the faithful on to a more fervent charity. (Handbook of Indulgences Norms and Grants, 1991.)

How: Punishment is remitted through the power of the Church and in the mutual exchange of goods, particularly the merits of Christ and the saints. (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, 2006.)

“Indulgences come from the Church’s treasury. The treasury contains all the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God.”

Who: The Pope is given power to grant indulgences.

In the Gospel Matthew chapter 16, Jesus says to Simon Peter, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” ( New American Bible 1991).

Why: The purpose intended in granting indulgences is not only to help the faithful to pay the penalties due to sin, but also to cause them to perform works of devotion, repentance, and charity. (Handbook of Indulgences Norms and Grants, 1991.)

Two types of indulgences: Plenary and Partial
- frees a person from all temporal punishment due to sins.
* may be gained only once a day
- frees a person from some of temporal punishment due to sins.
* may be granted several times a day

An indulgence can be applied to yourself or to the dead. You may NOT apply your indulgences to other living persons.

To gain an indulgence a person must:
-be baptized - not be excommunicated
- be in the state of grace at the time the works are completed
- have the intention of gaining the indulgence
- perform the acts in the manner required

* Beside the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin, the requirements for gaining a plenary indulgence are the performance of the indulgenced work and the fulfillment of three conditions:
1) sacramental confession
2) Eucharistic communion
3) prayer for the pope’s intentions

Prayers for the pope’s intentions: pope’s intentions.
* If the three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will only be partial.
The Our Father and Hail Mary are recommended, however, you have the option of choosing one suited to your own devotion.

The three conditions may be carried out several days preceding or following performance of the prescribed work. However, it is more fitting that the communion and the prayer for the pope’s intentions take place on the day the work is performed.

*Several plenary indulgences may be gained on the basis of a single sacramental confession, however, each one requires a Eucharistic communion and prayer for the

Prayers for partial indulgences can be used several times a day, unless otherwise stated.
+ Prayer for All Occasions
  • Act of Faith, Hope and Love + Act of Contrition 
  • Hidden Here before me, Lord 
  • Prayer for Meetings
  • Prayer to Saint Joseph
  • Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • + Prayer to Guardian Angel
  • The Angelus and the Regina Caeli
  • (Recited at dawn, noon, and evening)
  • Soul of Christ
  • Act of Spiritual Communion
  • Apostle’s Creed
  • Nicene Creed
  • Office of the Dead (morning prayer or evening prayer)
  • Psalm 130 + Glory Be
  • + Prayer at the Beginning of the Day
  • Prayer before a Crucifix
  • + Prayer for the Household
  • Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart
  • Act of Dedication to Christ the King 
  • Prayer for the Dead
  •  Prayer for Benefactors
  •  Rosary
  •  Hail Holy Queen
  • + Mary, Help of Those in Need
  •  Invocation to Saints Peter and Paul
  •  Ancient Prayer to the Virgin
  •  Secret Past Imagination
  •  You are God: We Praise You
  •  Come, Creator Spirit
  •  Come, Holy Spirit
  •  A Night Prayer
  •  Canticle of Mary/ Magnificat                      
  • + A Child’s Prayer to Mary
  • + Some of Leah’s favorites written out.  
  • All prayers are listed in the Handbook of Indulgences
More prayers for partial indulgences
  • Litanies
  • Litany of the Sacred Heart
  • Litany of the Precious Blood
  • Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Litany of Saint Joseph
  • Litany of the Saints
A partial indulgence for taking part in a publicly celebrated novena before the solemnity of:
  • Christmas
  • Pentecost
  • Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Little Offices
  • Little Office of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Little Office of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Little Office of the Immaculate Conception
  • Little Office of Saint Joseph

Prayers for plenary indulgences
Prayer before a Crucifix -
On any Friday during Lent a plenary indulgence is granted the faithful who, after communion, devoutly recite the prayer before an image of Christ crucified. (The Handbook of Indulgences , Norms and Grants, 1991.)

Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart
A plenary indulgence if recited publicly on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Act of Dedication to Christ the King
A plenary indulgence if recited publicly on the solemnity of Christ the King.

A plenary indulgence is granted when the rosary is recited in a church or oratory or when it is recited in a family, a religious community, or a pious association. A partial indulgence is granted in all other circumstances.
* The recitation of a third of the rosary (five decades) is sufficient for obtaining a plenary indulgence, but the five decades must be recited without interruption.
* Devout meditation on the mysteries is to be added to the vocal prayer.
* (In groups) To gain indulgences it suffices to recite the prayer alternating with another person or to follow it mentally as another recites it. (The Handbook of Indulgences , Norms and Grants, 1991.)

Secret Past Imagination
A plenary indulgence given on Holy Thursday after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and on the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

You are God: We Praise You
Plenary if publicly recited on the last day of the year.

Come, Creator Spirit
Plenary if recited publicly on January 1 and the solemnity of Pentecost.

Prayer for All Occasions
Lord, may everything we do begin with your inspiration and continue with your help, so that all our prayers and works may begin in you and by you be happily ended. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer to the Guardian Angel *
Angel sent by God to guide me, be my light and walk beside me, be my guardian and protect me,
on the paths of life direct me.
Prayer at the Beginning of the Day
Almighty God, you have given us this day, strengthen us with your power and keep us from falling into sin, so that whatever we say or think or do may be in your service and for the sake of  your kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Leah’s favorite prayers for partial indulgences

Prayer for the Household
Hear us, Lord, and send your angel from heaven to visit and protect, to comfort and defend
all who live in this house.  Amen.

A Child’s Prayer to Mary *
Mary, mother whom we bless, full of grace and tenderness, defend me from the devil’s power and greet me in my dying hour. Mary, Help of Those in Need Holy Mary, help those in need, give strength to the weak, comfort the sorrowful, pray for God’s people, assist the clergy, intercede for religious. May all who seek your help experience your unfailing protection. Amen.

* Children’s prayers
New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Psalms, 1991.
Taken from The Word Among Us July/August 2011 p. M152.
United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, 2006, Washington D.C.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, pp. 244, 516.
indulgences.pdf  A ministry of Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio.
The Handbook of Indulgences Norms and Grants, 1991, New York, Catholic Book Publishing Corp.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rally for Religious Freedom

We met at St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Cloud, MN.  There were about 350 people in attendance.  
The Rally Program started at 12 pm at the steps of the Cathedral of St Mary.  We were lead in prayer and then my friend Anne Fitch lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.  My son William was blessed enough to be able to hold the flag throughout the rally on the Cathedral steps.    

After the Pledge, there was the Keynote Speech followed by the prayer to St Michael.  It was so powerful to hear all the voices lifted up in prayer.

We all turned to face our Flag and together, we sang  America the Beautiful and Star Spangled banner.  It was awe inspiring, each of the voices was so beautiful, and filled with passion.  It was very powerful, and I was grateful to have been a part of it.

We then walked fron St. Mary's Cathedral past Senator Franken’s office and then returned to steps of St Mary’s for the closing prayer and then the Rosary.  

I am grateful for this day, for our great Nation, and God who sustains and loves us all so much!  I pray we served Him well today.

Prayer and Self Control

In addition to renewing my consecration, a part of my morning devotion has been committed to working on a virtue. Currently, I am asking God to give me the grace to grow in the virtue of temperance (self control).  My spiritual director gave me a long list of Bible verses to read, and with them, pray the daily cycle of Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.  My prayer is to allow God's Divine providence to control my life as I practice self control.  
This morning's verse was Proverbs 25:28. 
“Like an open city with no defenses is the man with no check on his feelings.”  
When meditating in this one, I saw an ancient city with walls, but the walls were too low… the enemy came in, with force, in great numbers and pillaged the city.  There was dust, dirt, and fighting everywhere.  The inhabitants were so smothered I could not even see them.  The enemy was fully armored, yet the inhabitants were wearing simple peasant clothes…  If that is the picture of us without checking our emotions, I want none of it.  I can see where wrath, jealousy, and even despair, can all welcome evil in, which will come in with such force.  Our “check” for these emotions, must be prayer.  When we feel angry, jealous, overwhelmed, impatient, frustrated, etc.… with such a strong enemy lurking at the gate, we must quickly entreat the army of the almighty God to defend us!  We must keep our walls high, and therefore our city secure!

Servile Work on The Lord's Day...

On the Sabbath, Nate and I often ask ourselves, can we do this sort of work today?  We have tried to minimize our work on Sundays.  Our meals are simple; we try to eat off paper plates.  Breakfast is typically sweet bread such as banana or pumpkin bread, lunch is cheese, crackers and some veggies, and dinner is typically on the grill.  If I touch laundry, I only start a load and dry it.  I don’t fold nor have the children put it away until Monday.  But, what about leisure work, together on the Sabbath?  As a family, we love to work together and find this work enjoyable, relaxing, and prayerful.  When we pray in the morning, we tell our Lord that we will work, play, and pray for the love of Him; our whole day is a loving prayer.  
So today we googled it.   Is yard work ok?  Can we clean out our car?  Can we work in the garden?  We found that the answers were across the board.  Some stated that (assuming Mass was already covered) the only acceptable thing to do is to grab a spiritual book and read and that anything requiring “work”, i.e. garden, yard work, folding laundry is sinful.  So what is truth?
As Catholics we chose to consult the Precepts of the Church and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.    “The Precepts of the Church are a sort of ‘self-assessment’ by which their compliance with the minimum criteria for active Church membership can be measured. “ [1]
The Precepts of the Catholic Church, state “Servile labor, which may be thought of as work primarily oriented to sustaining our earthly existence or occupation, is today probably better understood not so much in terms of the physical exertion required, but rather in terms of the orientation of the work. An accountant, for example, might find digging in the garden or cutting the grass (traditionally reckoned servile) to be recreational, whereas doing tax returns on Sunday could be servile work for such a person, and should be avoided. For a cashier, playing the guitar is likely recreational, while for a professional musician, practicing on Sunday is probably a work to be avoided. “  [1]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “God's action is the model for human action. If God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh day, man too ought to "rest" and should let others, especially the poor, "be refreshed." The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money” (CCC 2172).  “The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day. He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing….  ‘The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’” (CCC 2173).  [2]
“On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.” (CCC 2185) [2]
So this is not a “one size fits all” answer.  Nate works inside all week, at a computer, and whenever possible, he finds such joy in working with his hands, building, repairing, and loves being outside. I love to play in the dirt (landscaping, flowers, and vegetable gardening, pruning, mowing, anything outside that makes our home a more beautiful and pleasant place to live.) For our family, we can find God in everything we do on the Sabbath and all other days; going for a walk, cleaning out the car, raking leaves, boating, watching a video, reading a book, etc.  We all love to work together outside or inside, for love of God, and for quality family time.  It is rejuvenating, relaxing and, in our vocation of Mother and Father, we create a spirit of family, focused on love of God, keeping “Holy the Lord’s Day.”

[1]  Code of Canon Law, Precepts of the Catholic Church,
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) -

Genghis Khan's Rule of 10 and Anger

Today's scripture passage, as I continue to pray for the grace to grow in the virtue of temperance, is Proverbs 29:11.
Proverbs 29:11
“The fool gives vent to all his anger; but by biding his time, the wise man calms it.”
As I read this, I was reminded of the story of Genghis Khan and the rule of 10.  My confessor, when I told him that I had lost my patience with my children’s behavior, shared with me the story of Genghis Khan and the rule of 10.  He explained how Genghis Khan, when angry, before acting, would count to 10 and if really angry, to 100.  He recommended I do the same.  I then found the story of Genghis Khan in The Children's Book of Virtues, I was reading to my children.  The story is of Genghis Khan traveling with his favorite hawk; he was thirsty from his travels and unsuccessful day of sport. He hoped to find a spring of clear water. He did happen upon some water trickling down over the edge of a rock.  Taking his silver cup, he patiently waited while the drops filled the cup; so thirsty he could hardly wait.   As he was about to drink, the hawk knocked it out of his hands.  He tried several more times to fill the cup and the hawk did the same.   The last time, Genghis was so angry that he filled his cup, one last time, and as his faithful hawk came in to knock it again from his hands, Genghis struck it with his sword, and killed it.  Genghis then proceeded up the rock, where he had found the water, and found the pool that was its source. “In it was a huge, dead snake of the most poisonous kind.”  As it turns out, his faithful friend was trying to save his life, and in his anger, he killed him.  “He said to himself, ‘I have learned a sad lesson today, and that is, never do anything in anger.’”
So, my takeaway?  When angry, before doing anything, count to 10; if very angry, count to 100.   I love the story of Genghis Khan and have read it to my children several times from The Children's Book of Virtues and tried to impress upon them the importance of counting to 10 or even 100.  Words and actions done in anger, cannot be taken back and can be most hurtful to all parties involved. So, Proverbs rings very true indeed.  “The fool gives vent to all his anger; but by biding his time, the wise man calms it.”  
I know my children understood the lesson, because after we discussed it, and I was becoming frustrated, my William said, "Now Mom, remember to count to 10."!  :)

Letter to the Editor - Women's Rights????

I am writing this in response to the article entitled “Why are we arguing about women’s rights?” written by Maria Stoltz,  published in the Monday, March 12th, 2012 edition of the Herald Journal.
Maria asks the question, “Why are we arguing about women’s rights” and I presume she is asking this in regards to the US Department of Health and Human Services Mandate and the onslaught of criticism it is receiving from the Catholic Bishops and other communities of faith in the US.  Maria does a wonderful job of highlighting all of the achievements our Nation has made for women’s rights, some more noble than others.  This, however, is not a woman’s rights issue.  This is a civil rights issue, a direct infringement of our rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.  
"The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances."[11] .
The Catholic Bishops have been very clear on what this debate is—and is not—about. “This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church's hand and with the Church's funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops' somehow "banning contraception," when the US Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops' Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.” [12]
The debate is about:
1. “ An unwarranted government definition of religion. The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a "religious employer" deserving exemption--employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith…  Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry…  And if this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity. All—not just some—of our religious institutions share equally in the very same God-given, legally-recognized right not "to be forced to act in a manner contrary to [their] own beliefs. [12]

2.  A mandate to act against our teachings.  Those deemed by HHS not to be "religious employers" will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. [12]

3.  A violation of personal civil rights.  The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing "services" contrary to those values... This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so." [12]
The Obama administration did announce a change in the HHS mandate, resulting from the strong opposition.  “The new policy will still mandate that women who work for such religiously affiliated institutions get their birth-control products with no out-of-pocket costs. The insurance companies instead of the institutions will pay.” [17]    As it stands, it still requires contraceptive coverage, but allows women to obtain it directly from their insurance companies — which still wouldn’t be allowed to charge for it. The change essentially added a degree of separation between faith-based organizations and birth control. [12]   Bishop Burbidge, in discussing this change points out his concerns.  “Catholic hospitals and universities will not be required to provide contraceptives free of charge, now insurance companies will.  The Catholic hospitals and universities, etc. do not need to directly provide the contraceptives, but must show you how and where to get these items.   Ultimately, someone has to pay for it; our concern is that the cost for these free services will be put back onto these faith-based organizations (premiums).[17]    These questions need to be answered and clarified.” 
I recently listened to a very powerful homily by Father Maletta given on February 5, 2012 at St. John the Evangelist Parish, St. John, Indiana, USA.  It addresses how the HHS Mandate has taken abortion and sterilization (coined women’s health) and included it in legislation that “compromises our Catholic Conscience.”  [13] Not everybody believes what we Catholics believe, and we are not asking anybody to believe as we do.  We are simply asking that we not be forced to compromise on what we believe, “forcing us to go against our faith.” [13]   Because of our faith we cannot and will not follow this law.   The Catholic Church is the largest non-government agency providing health and social services as well as education; these services, because we cannot go against what we believe is true, would be closed because we cannot support a culture of death.  As Father Maletta says, “let us provide these vital services to that segment of our Nation that needs us most." [13]   
Now, back to women rights, yes, thank you God.  I have enjoyed the right to vote, a college degree, and a large income in an industry that was predominately male dominated.  Women fought for me and women like me.  Those victories are true, good, and just.   The bible and the Constitution agree as well.  
However, I do not see how contraception and abortion have helped women’s rights? How is preventing life, a gift, given from God, or worse yet, killing this precious life after God’s loving hand granted it, a right?  Even Norma McCorvey (A.K.A Jane Roe) states that the court case in 1973 (Roe V. Wade), in which she pursued the right to abort her second child, (the case “that ultimately legalized abortion on demand), was the biggest mistake of my life.”  She, in fact, has three daughters and has never had an abortion.  [16]  
Contraceptives and abortion do not empower women to do what is true, good, and right and we are not better for them. They allow both men and women a right to share in a gift that was intended to create and promote life, out of love and mutual respect for one another. One of the fruits of that gift is a child.   Because of contraception and abortion, both men and women endeavor into this act without having to consider the beauty, gravity, and commitment such a decision requires.    
Furthermore,  as Sheila Liaugminas writes “Providing free hormonal birth control to women under the guise of ‘preventative services’ and ‘women’s health’ is a lie and women of all faiths deserve to know the truth. [10]” An article by Jenn Giroux states that “for years pro-life organizations refused to discuss or take on this topic despite the fact that free access to birth control increases the number of surgical abortions[1][2]. Most people repeat over and over that birth control decreases the number of abortions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, today for every child born in the US, there are an estimated 2 children killed in the womb from both surgical and chemical, abortifacient drug abortions [3]. What isn’t being talked about is that the new mandate also pre-disposes women to serious long term and permanent health problems. In conjunction with the defense of both religious liberty and the spiritual well-being of women, we must also refute the absurd and deceptive statement that “women are healthier on birth control.”
Here are some very shocking but true statistics related to “women’s health”: 
1. 55%-60% of women having abortions are on contraception. [14]

2. Alfred Kinsey, 1955: “At the risk of being repetitious, I would remind the group that we have found the highest frequency of induced abortions in the groups which, in general, most frequently uses contraception.” [14]

3. The pill can prevent pregnancy, true, but it can also cause abortions; causing (the lining of your uterus) to reject your child after conception. This means if you conceive while on the pill, your tiny baby will starve to death and his or her remains will be passed along in your next bleeding cycle. (The "Study of Abortion Deaths Commission" estimates that this happens in women in America who use the Pill approximately 1 to 4 million times each year.)  The chemicals that cause these early abortions are called abortifacients which is the medical term for any chemical agent that causes an abortion. [15]

4. Since 1975 there has been a 400% increase in “in situ” breast cancer among pre-menopausal women under 50 years old. This mirrors the increased use of birth control over these same years. (“In situ” is a medical term which means “at the location” [4]  [18]

5. A Mayo Clinic study confirms that any young girl or woman who is on hormonal birth control for 4 years prior to their first full term pregnancy increases their breast cancer risk by 52%. [5] [18]

6. "Women who use hormonal birth control for more than 5 years are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer. [6] [18]

7. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, classifies all forms of hormonal contraception as a Group 1 carcinogen. This group of cancer causing agents also includes cigarettes and asbestos. [7] Why is it that the FDA can require cigarette manufacturers to place warning labels and real life photos of corpses on cigarette packages to warn consumers of the health dangers yet they, in turn, take an equally harmful substance (hormonal birth control) and force companies to give it away free to young girls without parental consent and woman of all ages? [18]

8. For high school boys and men to take steroid drugs, it is a crime. Whereas girls and women taking steroid drugs (i.e. hormonal birth control) are now treated as if they are taking a sacred, life preserving vitamin that women cannot live without. [8] [18]

9. In October 2010 the NY Times carried an article about Hormone Replacement Therapy drugs. It quoted the America Medical Association (AMA) as warning women that these post-menopausal drugs which were originally marketed as keeping a women “young and sexy” were discovered instead to be more likely to cause advanced and deadly breast cancer.[9] It stopped short of making one other startling revelation: The only difference between hormone replacement therapy drugs which cause deadly breast cancer and the hormonal birth control drugs (now mandated by the Obama administration) is that the birth control drugs are six times the dosage — and are the very same drug! [18]

10. They found that women with HPV, an STD, who take the pill for less than five years do not significantly increase their risk of developing cervical cancer. However, those who are on the pill for longer than five years are nearly three times as likely to develop the disease.  Those who take it for more than 10 years quadruple their risk. Moreover, the increased danger persisted for more than 15 years, even if a woman stopped taking the pill. [14] [18]...  So let me get this straight...  If a woman catches HPV, an STD proven to cause cervical cancer, and if you have HPV and take the pill, the risk of developing cervical cancer is even greater?  So taking a contraceptive (for free no less), which encourages sexual activity by decreasing the risk of conceiving a baby, exposing women to STD's thereby increasing their risk of cervical cancer is good for women how? [20]

11.   If the health risks are not enough to make a woman think twice about contraceptives; there is also a direct link to dramatic increase in the divorce rate from 1965 (the year the one law remaining, prohibiting the use of contraceptives in married couples was struck down) to 1975, rising from 25% to 50% of marriages ending in divorce (same as today). The research of social scientist Robert Michael, "attributed 45 percent of this increase [in divorce] to increased use of contraceptives." [19]

What can we conclude?  Real-world studies show that contraception has not reduced, but has instead increased unintended births and does not promote women’s health. Women are not being warned that birth control methods are causing breast, liver, and cervical cancer. They are not being told about the “silent killer” effect which is causing them to unknowingly abort their babies. They are instead being told that they are healthier on birth control because it decreases ovarian and uterine cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, out of 100 women with cancer, 31 have breast cancer, 6 have uterine cancer, and 3 have ovarian cancer. This is not a healthy tradeoff of risks that is worth taking. [12]

Clearly, birth control does not help women at risk; it has proven itself to put women at risk, as well as their marriages.

Again, yes, praise God for woman’s rights and the wonderful advancements our leading women and men have made for us in this great Nation.  Nevertheless, women’s health issues, related to the HHS Mandate are not for the good of women.  The HHS Mandate is not a woman’s rights issue.  It is a civil rights issue, a direct infringement of our rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.  

As Maria points out, "every American has a mother, sister, niece, aunt or grandmother who relies on these rights"; they also have a right to the truth.  

Personally, I do my best to live by faith and God’s laws.   The bible teaches clearly, God’s opinion of contraceptives in the story of Genesis 1:28 as well as how He handles Onan in Genesis 38:9-10.  
We humans can make mistakes, and often do.  Just because it is law, does not make it right.  Please pray for wisdom and truth.  
Humbly, In the peace of Christ & His Blessed Mother,
Kristen M. Soley

[1] ;
[2]  Jones RK, Darroch JE and Henshaw SK, Contraceptive use among U.S. women having abortions in 2000–2001, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2002, 34(6):294–303.
[3]  International Pharmacists for Life 2003;
[5]  Kahlenborn et al., "Oral Contraceptive Use — as a risk factor for pre-menopausal breast cancer: a meta analysis," Mayo Clinic proceedings 2006 pp. 1290-1320, 2006
[6]  Bosch, et al, "Effect of oral contraceptives on risk of cervical cancer..." International Agency of Research on Cancer, 2002
[7]  International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research arm of the World Health Organization, 2010
[9]  New York Times, Oct. 19, 2010
[10]  Sheila Reports, Sheila Liaugminas , March 13, 2012
[11] Wikipedia
[12] Source Catholic, US bishops decry ‘illegal and unjust’ HHS mandate, call for prayer and penance, March 15, 2012
[13] Father Maletta given on February 5, 2012 at St. John the Evangelist Parish, St. John, Indiana, USA.
[15] "Birth Control" Pills cause early Abortions, By J.T. Finn (updated April 23, 2005),
[16] Youtube video of Norma McCorvy (AKA, Jane Roe)
[17] Feb 13, 2012 – “Response to HHS birth control mandate change” -
[18] Deadly health risks for women: The unspoken side of the Obama birth control mandate -  By Jenn Giroux, Feb 14, 2012
[19]  Rush Limbaugh, Divorce and Contraception, 6/18/2004, By Matt Abbott
[20] WebMd, Birth Control, HPV and Cervical Cancer, Oral Contraceptives Raise Risk of Cervical Cancer in Women With HPV, By Salynn Boyles, April 3, 2003

The Power of Prayer

True, God answers our prayers daily,  but each of us has at least one moment in which God really showed up for us; where His faithfulness to us moved our soul in a powerful way, where we felt His Divine Hand move in our lives.  To enter to win the books, I am asking that you share one answered prayer on this post. 
God has been faithful to me in so many ways and He brings tears of joy to my eyes when I think of all the prayers of mine he has heard, and answered.   Here is my most powerful one:  
I had a personal struggle before our 4th child was born…  I had worked outside the home up till that point.  After this child was to be born (Charlie), Nate and I agreed that I would no longer work outside the home and be a stay-at-home Mom.  I was afraid that I would not do a good job…  I stopped in at the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, on my way to my contract, and wept.  Entreating Jesus… I told Him, “I can’t do this, I am scared I will not do a good job with these precious gifts you have given me.”
Jesus approached me and He laid his hands on my head and gently spoke.  He said “You are right, you cannot do it alone, but with Me you can.”  He continues to prove His His faithfulness to me, daily. I can do nothing without Him and any good I do, comes from Him.

In the Sculptor's Hands

Inspired to pick up one of my favorite books,Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness, last night, I read the following:
“Do not let ourselves be troubled when we are sometimes beset by adversity, for we know that it is meant for our spiritual welfare and carefully proportioned to our needs, and that a limit has been set to it by the wisdom of the same God who has set a bound to the ocean.  Sometimes it might seem as if the sea in its fury would overflow and flood the land, but it respects the limits of its shore and its waves break upon the yielding sand.  There is no tribulation or temptation whose limits God has not appointed so as to serve not for our destruction be for our salvation.  God is faithful, says the Apostle, and will not permit you to be tempted (or afflicted) beyond your strength, but it is necessary for you to be so, since through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God in the steps of the redeemer, who said of Himself, Did not the Christ have to suffer all these things before entering into His Glory.”  If you refused to accept these tribulations you would be acting against your best interest.  You are like a block of marble in the hands of the sculptor.  The sculptor musts chip, hew and smooth it to make it into a statue that is a work of art.  God wishes to make us the living image of Himself.  All we need to think of is to keep still in His hands while He works on us, and we can rest assured that the chisel will never strike the slightest blow that is not needed for His purposes and our sanctification; for, as St. Paul says, the will of God is your sanctification.”
God has been so faithful in sending me trials... Yesterday I hit the knees of my heart!  My disposition was terrible and my behavior was FAR from Marion.  I pray to endure the trials He sends me by relying on Him and not myself.  When I try to do it myself, I am never met with success.  
When God speaks to me through 2 or more channels, I pay attention.  He, over the course of the most trying days (the last 3) spoke to me through my husband, my parish priest, and spiritual / devotional reading (Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence)...  I came to understand, through His grace, that trials are just that...  they are trials, they are not supposed to be easy; we suffer through them.  They have done their job, if at the end, we are better for it and see God’s hand during them and praise Him after for His faithfulness to us.  We are to grow from them and be better off in the end.
God be praised for His faithfulness to us!  I also read, this morning of His faithfulness, in times of trials in Micah 7:20, “You will show your faithfulness and constant love to your people.”

Mary, Mother of Jesus

I have been asked why I (Catholics) pray to Mary, and why this is not breaking one of the 10 commandments.  I believe there is such a large misunderstanding of Mary's role in Christianity and I hope my response, to an acquaintance of mine's question, will help clarify what my faith teaches and, therefore, what I believe.    
...I have so much to share about Mary, and am grateful for your question about reference to her in Sacred Scripture.  I’ll try not to be too wordy, but this subject is one of my favorites!  I’ll start by referencing Sacred Scripture and then explain to you how my Catholic faith, and walk with Christ has drawn me closer to His Mother (and mine).

- All good mothers pray for their children.  Mary, especially prays for us because Jesus made her the mother of us all when he said “Woman, behold your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27

- Jesus honored His mother, as we are commanded to do in the 10 commandments, particularly at the Wedding at Cana… Mary mentions to Jesus ‘they have no wine’ to which Jesus replies ‘how does your concern affect me, my hour has not come.’  Mary responds to the servants, saying ‘do whatever he tells you.’  He then proceeds to turn the water into wine (John 2: 1 -12).  Jesus does honor His mother’s wishes even though; He does appear to initially disagree.   If Jesus honored His mother, and then at the cross, gave her to us as our Mother; my faith teaches that we too should honor her.

- Mary is given to us as the Queen of heaven.  King Solomon in the Old Testament honored the Queen Mother, Bathsheba.  Jesus, the King, reveals His mother Mary as queen Mother in the book o f revelation.  St. John had a vision of the woman in heaven “… and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”  Revelation 12:1

- I believe Mary was conceived without sin.  She was called “full of grace” which means to be without sin.  “Hail, full of grace.  The Lord is with you.”  Luke 1:28 .  We believe she is the Ark of the New Covenant as contrasted to the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament, it was created perfectly, to hold the Word of God – the Ten Commandments.  Mary was created without sin to hold the Word of God – Jesus.  God could have sent Jesus to us any way He chose. (descend as He ascends after His resurrection, just arrived one day, came out of the water, etc.)  God, chose to send Him to us through Mary.  He could have chosen anybody, if He wanted, but He didn’t, He chose her.  How could He place the Word incarnate in any tabernacle flawed?  She would have to have been perfect, to be worthy of carrying our Lord and Savior.  Catholics also look at that relationship as a perfect example of how to pray to Jesus.   God sent us the Word incarnate THROUGH Mary, and therefore the best (not only) means of reaching Him, then would be praying through Mary, to Him.  (deep, probably, but it is what we believe.)

- In the Gospel according to Luke, Mary says “… all generations shall call me blessed”.  Mary knew that she would be called blessed because she carried Jesus, the Savior, in her womb.

- I also love how Mary is foretold in Genesis 3:15 – the fall of man when God speaks to the serpent “I will put enmity between you and the woman (Mary), and between your offspring and hers (Jesus); he (Jesus) will strike at your head while you strike at his heel.”  We, as Catholics, believe this foretells the victory of Jesus over satan with His passion, death and resurrection.  This is depicted sooooo beautifully in the movie the Passion of the Christ (the agony in the garden).

You know, I am embarrassed to admit, that even as a Catholic, I spent much of my life not having a real grasp of why Mary is to be honored as she is, and why she is so important in my walk with Christ.  I too, did find myself turning to the commandments for clarity, as they are solid, and divine.

Where I gained understanding is where God commands us to honor our Father and Mother.  Well, if Mary is Jesus’ Mother, He must have honored her.  We are encouraged to live as Jesus lived.  I believe then, that I am to honor her as well.  However, I cannot worship her, as you correctly point out, to worship her would be a grave sin.  Worship is reserved for God alone (“You shall have no other gods before me” Exodus 20:3).   As a Catholic, and child of God, however, I honor her.  Even at the wedding at Cana, Jesus honored her, when, by her request, he changed the water into wine.
As a busy Mom with many small children, I am able to find comfort in Mary, as my Mother.  As much joy as I find in my vocation as wife and mother, there too, is suffering (worthwhile, but suffering nonetheless)…  Mary suffered greatly watching her son suffer and die, unjustly.  She surrendered her will, for the fulfillment of the kingdom.  I was able to receive her as my Mother as well, when I read in the Gospel according to John (19: 26-27), during his crucifixion, Jesus addresses his Mother “Woman, behold your son.”  Then he said to the disciple “behold your Mother.”  I believe and my faith has taught me that in that statement from the cross, Jesus gave Mary to us, as our Mother and gave us to her as her children (to care for us, guide us and love us as our Mother and for her to care for our souls as her children).

I pray daily to be the Mother that Mary was… patient, humble, obedient, and disciplined.  Her yes to the Angel Gabriel, was divine, humble, a complete surrender of her will to God’s… out of love.  An example I truly desire to follow in my walk with Christ.  To have the faith to say yes no matter what the circumstances.  She said yes knowing that to be pregnant, “betrothed to Joseph, but not living with him yet”, often times resulted in stoning; she could have been killed.  Out of obedience, after learning of her delicate condition and a ”… visit from an angel in a dream, Joseph did not quietly divorce her…” (Matthew 1: 18 – 25)  and was a perfect husband to her; but she said yes anyway.  If I could be that obedient and surrender my will to God’s as she did, imagine the Mother and wife I could be and the beautiful service to my extended family and community, all to glorify God and His Kingdom.  For me, she is a perfect model of what I pray to be (which is why I like the prayer I sent so much, she just inspires me). My faith has taught me, and I do always close my prayers “in Jesus name”, as Jesus tells us again and again in scripture all things are possible when asked in the Holy Name of Jesus.

The Hail Mary, that we pray, is a prayer to honor her as Jesus’ mother.  The Hail Mary comes from scripture “Hail full of Grace, the Lord is with you” Luke 1:28 “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb”  Luke 1:42  The prayer then calls on the most Holy Name of Jesus and ends with a request for Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our death.  The prayer does not worship her; it honors her as she is honored in sacred scripture.

In summary, I guess my biggest struggle with my walk with Christ is my inability to totally surrender my will to His Divine Will.  Mary could… her Yes brought us our Savior.  I find her to be the model that I hold dear in my heart and I aspire to.  I want to be like her; a perfect model of complete, humble and beautiful abandonment to the Will of God.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Daily Fiat...

We must neither doubt nor hesitate with respect to the words of the Lord; rather we must be fully persuaded that every word of God is true and possible, even if our nature should rebel against the idea for in this lies the test of faith. St. Basil the Great

I was reading to the children yesterday from the Family Formation program we are enrolled at Church and something really resonated with me.  We are all called to ask God to help us discern His will for us in our lives.  The lesson taught us to follow a logical sequence of steps:
1.  Pray
2.  Ask
3.  Listen
4.  Obey

Logical enough...  As I explained to the children... I have (1) been praying, lately (2) asking for the grace to grow in the virtue of patience and (3) yesterday, in listening, I heard Him ask me to make a sacrifice for Him... that is all fine and well...  where it fell apart was step 4...  I did not obey... It was inconvenient...  I simply didn't want to...  That little "no" caused such a snowball effect on the rest of the day.  I find when I say yes, to His will, the day is just better.  I feel the grace and I have true joy.  He is able to work through me, when I keep those channels open, with obedience to His will... but when I say "no", I slam the door on his face...  it hurts Him... and me...

I pray today (and every day), for if my nature rebels against His ideas, His will, as St. Basil puts it, that I step aside, trust in He who guides and molds me, and let God work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Trial by Fire - Sirach

“My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity.
Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great.
Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him.
You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him, and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.”
Sirach 2:1-9
Love this and pray to find the grace to live this.  Halfway through week 2 of flu symptoms here.  Losing patience, and looking to be grateful for trials... but a toddler, who is toilet training, suffering Montezuma's revenge is not pretty... I keep hearing words from dear Mr. Toad from the Wind in the Willows - poop, poop!