Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Presently Occupied :)

I will be taking a break from blogging for the next week as I try to finish sewing a dress for my graduation. Adieu till then...


Our mock-orange bush, which has barely shown more than a dozen blossoms at once in the 17 years we have lived in our home, surprised us by bursting into glorious bloom last week! My sisters and I had so much fun making use of the perfectly lovely setting! It's not often that photographers have a backdrop this perfect available to them. ;)

(Mom says to add that this is because she finally convinced my dad to keep the clippers away from the bush the last few years!)

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Day for Gratitude

"...highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg
November 19, 1863
Let us remember with grateful hearts those brave men who have followed Christ's calling with true completeness:
No greater love hath a man than this; than to lay down his life for His friends.
Lord, may we never take for granted the freedom we enjoy, nor every breath that we are given.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Advantages of Dressing Like a Lady

Guest Blog by Sarah Halbur, Written 05/04/06

This past weekend, my family and I attended an event in Chicago. It was a “dressy” occasion, as it included a Sunday Mass and reception to follow. So my family and I all dressed up – for the girls, nice dresses and hair-dos; for the boys, matching blue pants, shirts, and ties.

For our family, this is normal Sunday wear. We always dress up for Sunday Mass – so we didn’t think anything special of this Sunday’s attire.

But apparently, other people did – in a nice way. Some made a point of telling our family how nice we looked. One lady even went on to tell my mom, my sisters, and myself how refreshed she was that “none of our bellies were showing.”

Then I looked around. Other people were dressed nice…I guess. But everyone looked the same – black slacks held the floor. The few ladies who wore a skirt or a dress looked so refreshing, so pretty. I appreciated their attire. Now I could better understand why others appreciated our attire. It was unique.

That evening, our family visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. In the olden days, people would dress up to go to town, or just to go out. Not any more. Here I didn’t even pay attention to what people were wearing…the lizard exhibit was too intriguing…or…um…the clothes just weren’t.

Closing time drew near and we made our way to the door. The lizard exhibit was intriguing, and we had had a nice time. I noticed a group of young adults by the exit and could tell by their laughter that they, too, had had a fun time.

As my mom, my sisters and I approached the doors; two young men turned and acknowledged us. But it was here that I got my real surprise. The young men held the doors for us. Yes…let me repeat…they held the doors for us. And no, they weren’t even workers…just ordinary men simply doing an act of kindness for a few ladies, whom they did not know. Chivalry is not dead!

You see, I have made a discovery. In the olden days, it was customary for a gentleman to hold a door for a lady because this was one way a man would show his respect for the Dignity of Womanhood.

Why don’t most men hold doors anymore? Because ladies don’t want them too, or at least it appears that way, for two reasons:

1. Because of the “do it myself” attitude that so many women exude.
2. Because when women stopped dressing and acting with dignity, man stopped treating her with dignity.

I am truly honored whenever a gentleman holds a door for me. It is an act of chivalry I won’t forget.

So ladies…let’s step up to the call, shall we? Let’s become real ladies and they’ll become real gentlemen. It’s an honor!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quote for the Day

"He who has faith has... an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness, and assuring trust that all will come out well - even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly."
- B. C. Forbes, American Journalist and Founder of Forbes Magazine

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My Heart is Full

My family just came off of organizing the 2006 Illinois Catholic Homeschool Conference and Vendor Fair. All I can say is...God is good. I could say so much, but it would be so little. The experiences of planning, preparing, working with others, learning, coordinating, and even the tiredness of it all have left me with so much meaning, so much richness. The mix of emotions can be such a strange thing sometimes...I am filled with such a sense of gratitude for God's goodness and for the sucess of this event, and yet deep down is mixed in a bit of sadness that this experience (at least for this year!) is over.

Lord, I come before You with a heart full of feeling...take me into Your hands and steady it. May I be graced to look back with awe at Your power manifested in the past, and at the same time be ready to face with sincereity, tranquility, and trust whatever tasks tomorrow will bring. Amen.

We Are an Easter People

Have you remembered that we are still celebrating the Easter Season? Of course, we celebrate the amazing event of our Lord's triumph over death all year round, but in a particular and joyous way during the Easter Season, which lasts for...50 days! That means for a full week and a half yet! Don't let the "Alleluia" slip from your lips, or the Easter song from your heart just because the Easter bunnies and eggs have disappeared entirely from store displays. Continue to celebrate! Each beautiful day of Spring should be a bright reminder that our King reigns, death has been conquered, life is abundant, and we are an Easter people.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Power of Motherhood

They say that man is mighty,
He governs land and sea,
He wields a mighty scepter
O'er lesser powers that be;
But a mightier power and stronger
Man from his throne has hurled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

- William Ross Wallace

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dress for Mass

I posted the following as a comment in the discussion going on at Catholic Mother Danielle Bean's blog about dress for Mass:

How many of us remember what “Church” really means? As Catholics, we are not simply entering a gathering space, a meeting hall, or a worship space – we are entering the House of God. If we truly believe in the absolutely real presence of the Creator of the Universe within the Eucharist, then a visit there is infinitely more monumental than a visit to the White House. We would never dream of “casually” presenting ourselves before an earthly ruler or king – so why should have any different attitude about presenting ourselves before the Kings of Kings? Sometimes it’s the little reminders that help us put things in perspective. How would we want to dress for an audience with the Holy Father? Each time we are at Mass, we are having an audience with not just the Vicar of Christ, but with Christ Himself! Is God able to see past our outward appearance and know the state of our hearts? Of course. Is a well-dressed Mass-goer with a “Pharisee” heart very pleasing to Him? Probably not. But at the same time, does he “care” what we wear? I would say definitely. Our outward appearance is often a very tangible reflection of our inner attitude. Our inner reverence should be conveyed by our dress and deportment. Also take into consideration that while God looks on the heart, we human creatures can only see the outside. We are physical beings, and we are affected by those around us. The Language of the Body is incredibly powerful. What kind of an attitude are you communicating to those around you when you go to Mass? Would they be able to look at you and know the sacredness of the sacrifice you are participating in?

Perhaps part of the difficulty here is that current American culture thinks there are only two modes of dressing: casual (usually meaning sloppy), or formal. The category “comfortable dressy” is probably foreign to most. It’s assumed that to wear a skirt, you’ll have to endure the nylons and high heels as well, when in fact there is a delightful “middle mode”. Believe it or not, it is possible to be comfortable, semi-dressy, and modest all at the same time. For a ladies’ example, a comfortable button-down blouse, floral cotton skirt, and closed-toe leather sandals in summer. Or a corduroy skirt, nice sweater, and comfortable leather slip-ons or buckle shoes with knee socks in winter. (Spandex or cotton leggings can also be a great addition for warmth and rarely show under a long, pretty skirt!).

My highest praise goes out to those priests and pastors courageous enough to challenge their parishioners on this subject, particularly by enforcing dress codes. Part of the problem in many parishes today is that we are not being challenged. It’s primarily the “thanks so much for you all being here”, without any reminder for us to take spiritual steps forward. Padre Pio comes emphatically to mind…this great spiritual warrior was known to turn away women from the confessional who came inappropriately dressed. And very few know that in 1930, Pope Pius XI’s Prefect of the Congregation of the Council, Donato Cardinal Sbaretti, released the following statement in the document Acta Apostolicae Sedis: “Maidens and women dressed immodestly are to be debarred from Holy Communion and from acting as sponsors at the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; further, if the offense be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the church.”

Cardinal Sbaretti is also the one who gave us the following guidelines: “A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper.” (A note has since been added that quarter-length sleeves have ecclesiastical approval). Unfortunately for Catholic women, these guidelines have been a too-well-kept secret, leading many to believe that the Church has no standards for dress.

Conservative vs. Liberal

Conserve on pride;
Be liberal with humility.

Conserve on anger;
Be liberal with gentleness.

Conserve on selfishness;
Be liberal with generosity.

Conserve on thoughtlessness;
Be liberal with graciousness.

Conserve on gossip;
Be liberal with charity.

Conserve on slander;
Be liberal with genuine praise.

Conserve on complaining;
Be liberal with gratitude.

Conserve on resentment;
Be liberal with forgiveness.

Conserve on self-gratification;
Be liberal with sacrifice.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


When I meditated on the word Guidance,
I kept seeing "dance" at the end of the word.
I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing.
When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.
The movement doesn't flow with the music,

and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.
When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead,

both bodies begin to flow with the music.
One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back

or by pressing lightly in one direction or another.
It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully.
The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness

from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other.
My eyes drew back to the word Guidance.
When I saw "G: I thought of God, followed by "u" and "i".
"God, "u" and "i" dance."
God, you, and I dance.
As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust

that I would get guidance about my life.
Once again, I became willing to let God lead.

- Anonymous

May you abide in God as God abides in you.
Dance together with God, trusting Him to lead and

to guide you through each season of your life.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Free Gifts

So many of the best things in life truly are free. Like a walk in the country...with a sea of blue sky and rolling fields all around you, gentle sunshine caressing your cheek, and a tranquil, soft breeze stirring the green grasses. To hear nothing but the call and song of birds and the whisper of the wind, to pluck a stem of pearly lilacs and drink in their rich perfume. As I walked along on Sunday, I was struck anew with the truth of the the phrase, "the best things in life are free".

And what about the gift which makes me who I am? Is not Faith a free gift also? I was given a renewal of this gift in a most poignant way as on Monday I celebrated 18 years of being a child of God. That's right...18 years ago May 8th, a tiny soul was made bright, a tiny heart filled with grace as the waters of Baptism were poured over the head of a little baby. That little baby was me. And just six years later, on the very same day, that little girl was privileged to receive her Lord - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - into her heart and soul as she made her First Holy Communion. Quite a Sacramental Day, May 8th (incidentally, the same day as Saint Therese the Little Flower received her First Holy Communion!). A day of gifts. Free gifts. Gifts I don't deserve. But gifts I am truly thankful for, nonetheless.

Now stop for just a moment. Push aside the complaints, the worries, the dissatisfactions. They occupy far too much of our attention, anyway. We're so quick to run to God when we "need" something, and forget about Him when all is well. Yet He continues to shower us with gifts, even when we're so wrapped up in our problems that we fail to notice them. When was the last time you noticed and thanked God for one of His gifts? That's the least we can do. After all, they're free.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."
Everlasting Man, 1925

"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions."
ILN, 4/19/30

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Today's Feast: Finding of the Holy Cross

The finding of the Cross was first celebrated in Jerusalem to celebrate both the finding of the Cross by Saint Helena in the 4th century, and the dedication of two churches built by her son Emperor Constantine on Mount Calvary. The commemoration of these events was annually solemnized not only in Jerusalem, but also in Constantinople and Rome. Since a similar feast was kept on the 3rd of May in parts of the Western Church, this date was chosen at the beginning of the 9th Century for its celebration in the Western Church, although the real date of the discovery was most probably the 14th of September (Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross).

Source: Patron Saints Index.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I am Clay...

...in the hands of the Father. Oh, what He will do with you when just let Him!

For the last nine months, it was my privilege to teach the Faith to a class of 5th and 6th graders in Religious Education. My prayer was to be but a tool in the hand of the Divine Teacher. So in reality it was the Holy Spirit that taught this class...not me. He simply used my voice, lips, my hands to send His message. What a gift!

Tonight was the last class of the school year, and very bittersweet. How I will miss my "spiritual children". It was so touching and beautiful to read their thoughts on my year-end questionnaire:

What was your favorite thing about this class?

"The beautiful, nice, excellent teacher."
"The play." (The Christmas Performance we put on, which I wrote).

What will you remember most from this class?

"Everything I've learned this year."
"I will remember the miracles that we read about."

What was the best thing you learned in CCD this year?

"That God will always love you and is offended and sad when you sin against him."
"When we learned about abortion."
"A lot of prayers."

Why were you made?

"So I could serve God in heaven."
"To carry out all of GOD's wills."
"I was made to help the world learn about God and Jesus."
"God made us to show faith, his goodness, and to share with him everlasting happiness in heaven."

What is sin?

"Act of moral disintegration."
"To offend God by disobeying a commandment."
"A breaking of the law of God."
"Betraying God's will."

And finally, from a very sweet note that one student gave me in variations of handwriting on pink construction paper:

"You are such an inspirational teacher. You taught me so much this year and I am interested to learn more. Thanks for making this a creative and marvelous experience. I've learned much from you and memorized new prayers, stories, and ideas. Thank you, Austin."

Keep working me, dear Lord. Your clay is ready.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Quote of the Day: Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker

What emanates from the figure of Saint Joseph is faith. Joseph of Nazareth is a "just man" because he totally "lives by faith." He is holy because his faith is truly heroic.

Sacred Scripture says little of him. It does not record even one word spoken by Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth. And yet, even without words, he shows the depth of his faith, his greatness.

Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God.

We see how the word of the Living God penetrates deeply into the soul of that man, that just man. And we, do we know how to listen to the word of God? Do we know how to absorb it into the depths of our human personalities? Do we open our conscience in the presence of this word?

Pope John Paul II from "Daily Meditations"

Prayer Requests

- For the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I prepare to speak at the 2006 Illinois Catholic Homeschool Conference on May 20th.

- For an unnamed young woman whom I was specially requested to pray for by someone who saw her in very revealing attire at the special Vatican Exhibit in Milwaukee.

- For all priests, Our Lady's beloved sons, particularly those struggling in their vocations.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us
Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for Us