October 18, 2018

A Response to President Emmanuel Macron

I don't speak French so maybe I missed some nuanced reasoning in French President Emmanuel Macron's comment, "Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children." I'll tell you what though, my first response to that comment was a great big, "Forget you, Macron." 

Once I stopped calling him names in my head I read a bit more and saw that he was trying to advocate for education for girls and an end to child brides.  I appreciate that. I am 100% on board with that. 

But this is not the first time that Macron has talked about Africa as one large place where women unfortunately keep popping out babies. (I found this NPR article written by a Ugandan woman very helpful.) How condescending and sad that he - like most of the western world - does not see fertility as a gift and children as  blessings. And I feel a little furious about this man implying / stating that African women are only having big families because they are not better educated. 

I love that women from around the world (yes, not just white, middle class Americans) have shared pictures of their large families as a way of presenting themselves to Macron.  Look at us: we are educated - some of us impressively so - and we did choose this. Look at us, Macron: there are women all around the world who have not only educated  our minds but have formed our hearts and consciences so that we understand that life is beautiful, our bodies are amazing, babies are gifts, and love is the greatest resource we have.  We want you to know this, too, Macron, because it is beautiful and joyful and powerful. 

I know some of you will want to do more than post a picture of your large family on social media, or like someone else's picture of their large family, so I invite you to do what President Macron was talking about and support education in Africa. We can put our money where our values are. 

My former pastor is Fr. Julius Turyatoranwa. He served at my parish while finishing his doctorate in education. Last December he returned to his home diocese in Uganda and has been overseeing the fruit of several years of fundraising done in the States: he is building a school that will educate boys and girls who live in poverty.

When St. Patrick Boarding Primary School first opens in February 2019 it will serve as a day school for local children but once the dormitories are complete children will be educated and will receive three meals a day and clean water.  This kind of education and nutrition is usually only for the wealthy but Fr. Julius is changing that. 

Fr. Julius purchased the land the school is being built on. He has worked for years to raise money for his people. This is not a white man from an outside country telling the people of southwest Uganda what they need - this is a man born and raised there, with dozens of nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews still in the area, who is using all the resources and gifts God has given him to positively impact generations of Ugandan children. 

Fr. Julius would always say to us, "Fifty cents buys a brick. You give me fifty cents and I can buy a brick to build the school." If you can give $20 to the Building Hope in Kids - Uganda foundation you will buy 40 bricks. For $50 a month you can sponsor a child's education. Give them $500 so they can buy desks and books and posters. Give them anything you can and know that it is going to a school that believes in the value of all human life and exists to give children in poverty - girls included! - a chance to succeed. 

I personally vouch for this organization and I am grateful for any help you can give. You can learn more about Building Hope in Kids - Uganda and give to their efforts by clicking here

PS - Fr. Julius would be disappointed in my calling President Macron names in my head and would want us all to pray for Macron to have a conversion of heart and to go to confession. So let's do that, too. 

October 17, 2018

There's a pattern

Baby #1 - lost early in pregnancy
Baby #2 - Girl
Baby #3 - Boy
Baby #4 - Boy
Baby #5 - Girl
Baby #6 - Boy
Baby #7 - Boy
Baby #8 - Girl
Baby #9 - ???

Due in mid May 2019!
We are so happy!

October 12, 2018

Book Review, Autumn Playlist, Costumes, & GF - a Potluck Post

It's been awhile since I've chatted with you, unless you follow along on Instagram, so I thought I'd give a quick run down on all the little things I've been doing. I call these my Potluck Posts because it's just a little of this and a little of that and lighthearted chitchat.

First up:
I'm pretty happy to report that I am part of my diocesan paper's new book review team. For my first review I wrote about Haley Stewart's new book The Grace of Enough. You can read my thoughts on page 9. If you're a bookish Instagram user you may want to give @catholicpostbookpage a follow.  My friend Katie and I are co-running the account and have some fun things planned.

If you're looking for a fun podcast with some of my favorite people may I humbly suggest this week's episode of The Gathering Place podcast which features Kendra Tierney. It was such a fun conversation to eavesdrop on and so neat to hear Kendra talk about all the neat ways we can incorporate liturgical living in our lives.

I don't know about you but...
When the leaves start to change and it's chilly outside I crave a certain type of music. I put together this Autumn Playlist on Spotify. It's a pretty varied collection of songs but I hope you like it!

Blessed Is She Advent Devotional is still available for pre-sale. If you haven't snagged yours yet you can grab yours here. That's my affiliate link and if you use it - thank you! 

Funny fact, not every affiliate program allows us to thank the people who use our links but Blessed Is She does and so let me just make it super clear right now that our family always appreciates it when you buy through my link. I know some people use a different link each time you buy something and I love that! God bless you for your thoughtfulness!

Which reminds me:
At the beginning of the month I told the kids that in a few weeks we'd be making our annual visit to a local park for their Halloween activities and a week or so after that we'd be trick-or-treating so they needed to go downstairs to the dress up bins and find their costumes. This is what they came back with:
L is going as Hermione Granger and we've purchased a wand and tie (affiliate link) but need to find a robe.
Ben says he's going as a skeleton investigator, which really just means he's wearing his Doctor Who coat from last year with Jofis' skull mask. We'll see if this sticks.
JF is using Ben's old Batman costume. (affiliate link)
Resa will be wearing a Cinderella dress and slippers. (affiliate link)
Tee will wear Jofis' old spoooooky ghost costume and
MJ will be wearing a super cute lady bug costume sent to us from Kathryn  at Team Whitaker.

And did I tell you:
Recently JF had some blood work done and it came back with two of the three markers for celiac disease. We have to have it confirmed with a scope but we've taken him off gluten and he's already commented about how much better he feels. It makes me feel so sad that he was living with a constant stomach ache and didn't even know that he was supposed to feel better! Poor buddy. We're already dairy, egg, nut, sesame seed, and pea free so adding gluten to the list is a bit demoralizing (I confess I cried a bit) but we can do it. Wish me luck as I try to make a dairy-egg-nut-sesame-pea-gluten free dough that will work for our King Cake, St. Lucy buns, cinnamon rolls, crusty bread, and so forth. My current recipe is free of all those things but the gluten and it tastes so good - I'm just not sure how it will work once it's gf.

So that is what's new here! ♡

August 27, 2018

The Pelican and the Phoenix

St. Maximilian Kolbe loved Mary and her Immaculate Heart. He loved her passionately and spent much of his life leading people to love Mary so that she could lead them to her Son with a more perfect love.

On his feast day, August 14th, 2018 a the Penn grand jury report was released and since then more and more filth has come out. Around the country many people have learned that the men who married them, heard their confessions, gave them their first communions, and baptized their babies also molested and abused children and teenagers. The Bishop who confirmed me has been named as complicit in covering up McCarrick's scandal.

Over the weekend I learned that a former nuncio released a statement on the Feast of  the Queenship of Mary. This statement explains how Pope Benedict knew about McCarrick and took away many of his privileges but then Pope Francis knew and lifted the sanctions. Pope Francis has said he would not say a word about it and we need to draw our own conclusions. This is not acceptable to me. If the pope wants to have a relationship with me as my Holy Father then he needs to speak.

Friends, I am tempted to give up, to despair. Who do I trust and how do I trust them? I have written letters. I will write more, using Nell and Jenny's as inspiration, but will they do any good? I don't know. Men I thought were good were weak. I am hoping for transparency and confessions of sins; I am hoping that even the innocent will share all they can and a total purging will happen. Because how else will I ever trust again?

When I picture this situation in prayer I always have the image of a massive building burning down and that's what I want to do: burn it all down. Rip them all out. Stick them in prison with only sackcloth to wear and stones to sleep on. Give them bread and water and fill their days with hard labor and prayer.

And what is this thing that seems to be both collapsing around me and forever firm in its lies and perversion and evil? I have lived out the Church's teachings in ways that are sometimes very hard and I have spent much of my last ten years encouraging other women to live out their Catholic faith with joy and trust. And now I find myself wondering, "What for?"

A Reading from the Gospel according to John:

Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

(The Gospel from August 19th, 2018; the Sunday after the Grand Jury report was published.)

I know that same sex attraction is not the cause for this and at the same time I know that gay men have used the priesthood to groom and prey on young men and that an active homosexual culture has flourished in seminaries and rectories. A lack of chastity combined with seminary directors + vocation directors + bishops lacking the intelligence + courage + personal holiness to kick out bad men is the problem.

I also know that celibacy is not the problem. If it were then anyone living a life of celibacy would be susceptible to this timeline that ends in perversion: nuns, consecrated virgins, single people waiting for the vocation of marriage, and married couples having to abstain for months or years in their practice of NFP. But from what I have read I don't think that is what's going on. Besides, I know of plenty of priests who fell in love with women and they rather simply left the priesthood and married.

In the end, I believe these priests when they say that chastity and priestly community are what is needed. It makes sense to me.

But still. There is so much that needs to change and I have no idea if I can do anything to change it.

A Reading from the Prophet Ezekiel:

The word of the Lord came to me:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts. ... Thus says the Lord GOD: I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep, that they may no longer be food for their mouths. For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

(The First Reading on August 22nd, 2018 the Feast of the Queenship of Mary and the first day of #sackclothandashes.)

When I think on it all long enough the rage comes out and because I cannot yell at the people I am furious with I yell at my kids or am short with a friend. I am so angry about the horrible things people did to children and then I turn around and take it out on my kids.

Lord, have mercy on me.

My son wants to be a priest. He talks about celebrating Mass and practices with his Mass kit. I have prayed to God that He would give one of my sons a vocation to the priesthood. But now I just don't know if I want that for him, for any of them.

A Reading from the Book of Joshua:

When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people:
"If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

(The First Reading from August 26th, 2018.)

As much as I want to despair, I am also challenged by the words of Fr. Mike Schmitz to evaluate my own life and the ways that I am lax about sin and let things slide. At times this scandal is all crushing and every day since I have learned of it I have had to pick myself up and remind myself that crumbling into useless despair does not serve the Kingdom of God. In the end I want to be a saint so perhaps this is my time.

Perhaps for such a time as this I was put in a happy, supportive marriage so that I may raise up good and holy children who will love and serve the Lord. Perhaps for such a time as this I was given a silly platform to encourage men and women to fast and pray. Perhaps for such a time as this I was given the sometimes annoying ability to passionately brainstorm.

And perhaps it is satan, prowling about, who is whispering in my ears, "You cannot do this. You cannot work with this. There is no answer but acceptance and apathy." Because I think it is God whispering in my heart, "Now!"

I will be honest, it scares me and I have tried to hide from it.

A Reading from the Gospel according to John:

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

(The Gospel Reading from August 26th, 2018.)

I have come to believe and am convinced that Jesus is the Holy One of God. I am convinced that He established one Church. But, Lord, help me! because this is hard.

But I think that God is speaking to me, to us. Look at these readings. Look at the way that Mary has been with us from the beginning and plans to walk with us through it all. God is asking me, "Who will you serve and will you go?" and He's using the Mass, the feast days of the Church, the saints, and Scripture to very clearly communicate to us. He is using this broken Church to communicate with us which only seems to confirm that it is His and He is guiding it.

The #sackclothandashes period of prayer and fasting continues through the end of September, the month dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.  Mother Mary, help me to pray and love and not give up. Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, sustain me through this. Holy Spirit, guide me.

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary triumph in the end! And perhaps future altars will feature the Pelican and the Phoenix.

August 24, 2018

Back to School + a Giveaway

The kids went back to school and I have been humming "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" for over a week. 

Each year I snap pictures of the kids, all shiny and ready to go. JF's picture looks a bit funny because he was struggling to smile through the misery of seasonal allergies but oh well. He's a cute booger butt, as are all the kiddos. 

Resa's First Day of 1st Grade
I'm most excited about recess, Math, *everything*! (she sang the word "everything")
I want to be a Mom and a teacher like Mrs. D when I grow up because she has kids but then goes goes to school every day, too!
I like my teacher, Sofia the First, French toast sticks, my Minnie Mouse doll, and my friends.

JF's First Day of 2nd Grade
I'm excited about recess, Math, playing at inside recess, and my First Communion.
I want to be a pumpkin farmer when I grow up.
I like trains, whatever Bennet likes, and safe French toast sticks.

Ben's first day of 3rd Grade!
I'm most excited about seeing my friends and learning about Math some more.
I want to be a priest when I grow up.
I like pizza, JFL, playing ball tag, and chess.

L's first day of 5th Grade!
I'm most excited about getting a *Locker!!" and meeting new teachers.
I want to be a bakery owner when I grow up.
I like school, pizza, cube steak, basketball, cross country, friends, and (my favorite) NOT getting bug bites!!

This Back to School season has brought the addition of L running Cross Country and Ben being in JFL. The kids love these activities and I can see how it's been good for them but it adds a layer of craziness to our schedule to which I'm having a hard time adjusting. We've mostly taken to dinner at 4 because I want to eat as a family as often as possible. Moms who have done this longer than me - HELP! Any tips or suggestions welcome!

Also new this year: we have adopted a patron saint for the school year, an idea I got from my friend Beth. Travis and I chose John Paul the Great, a saint we want our kids to learn more about and love. I brought a picture of him to display in the house and we've already started talking about him more and yelling out, "JPII: Pray for us!" And seriously, JPII, pray for me!

It's not until the second week of September that I really feel like I can say, "We are Back to School, folks!" By that time the school's heat schedule is over and Jofis will be settling into Pre-K4. The rhythm of the school days is such a gift to me and I love it. The structure-free summers are hard for me but the schedule of each school day gives me such a balance of productivity and rest - have I mentioned that I love it? Because I loooooove it.

In honor of my love for Back to School time I reached out to some of my favorite vendors to do a Giveaway. This is perfect for a woman going off to college for the first time or starting her degree after many years out of the classroom. It's perfect for a mom or grandma who is putting her kids or grandkids on the bus, or braving the drop off line, or homeschooling for the first or twelfth year. Heck, this is a great giveaway for any woman who just likes a good chance at winning some amazing, quality, Catholic goods!

Because I love to sip on my coffee or tea each morning from a real mug, the winner will receive a Mug of her choice from Rose Harrington Art.

Because I love having a little pouch in my diaper bag to hold my lipstick, hairband, business cards, and whatnot, the winner will receive a Pencil Bag of her choice from Someday Saints Design.

Because I like to dress to remind myself of why I'm doing what I'm doing, the winner will receive a T-Shirt of her choice from Brick House in the City

 Because I love to leave a mark on cards, my planner, and notes to my kids' teachers, the winner will receive a Stamp of her choice from Look to Him and Be Radiant.

Because I purchased a print of JPII with a quote to keep us inspired this school year, the winner will receive a Print of her choice from Santa Clara Design.

Because I think it's fun and powerful, and I love that it's not painful or permanent, the winner will receive a Temporary Tattoo Set of your choice from Just Love Prints.

The total value of this giveaway is over $100. The winner will receive store credit in each online shop for the type of good listed. This giveaway is for anyone 18 or older in the continental US (Sorry, everyone else!)To enter just head over to my Instagram account and follow the rules there!

Congrats to the winner, Karissa!

August 20, 2018

Sackcloth, Ashes, and Acts of Reparation for Our Lord

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

The first stanza from W.H. Auden's poem "Funeral Blues" has been running through my head. It's how I feel in the face of all the horrendous news from the past weeks surrounding former-Cardinal McCarrick and the Grand Jury's Report on the rampant sexual abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups and mishandlings by bishops throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

Naively I did not see this coming. But here it is.

At times I am furious and I want it to burn it all down. At times I can't hold the sobs in. The victims, their families, and all of us who feel betrayed - it's too much. The anger comes and goes in waves but the sadness has been constant.

I didn't see this coming but here it is and more than anything I feel like mourning. This - the violence and lies - feels like death.

Last week I shared how I have written letters but even then, behind the scenes, I was working with Kendra Tierney and other writers, artists, and social media friends to create a mass of people fasting and praying in reparation for what has been done.

As Wikipedia tells us, "Man is restored to grace through the merits of Christ's death, which grace enables him to add his prayers, works, and trials to those of Our Lord "and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24). Man can thus make some sort of reparation to the justice of God for his own offences against Him, and by virtue of the Communion of the Saints, the oneness and solidarity of the mystical Body of Christ, he can also make satisfaction and reparation for the sins of others."

I seek to console the Sacred Heart of Jesus and will help to bring healing to the Church. I hope you will join me and the many, many others.

Because Mary loves her Son with all her heart I know that she sees His pain and wants to walk with us, her children, as we pray and sacrifice. For that reason, we will be praying and fasting for forty days beginning on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, this Wednesday, August 22nd, and going throughout the entire month of September, which is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.

Today and tomorrow take the time to consider what you will do: Fast from breakfast, snacks, or creamer in your morning coffee. Give up sweets, podcasts, or Netflix. Pray a daily Rosary or Chaplet of Reparation or attend daily Mass. If possible, talk to your confessor or spiritual director about it and then join us. Pope Francis has even asked us to do this!

 Kendra created these images to be used throughout the forty days. Please feel free to save, print, and share them. Encourage your small groups, parochial schools, co-ops, and parishes to join us. You can commit by commenting here or anywhere you see one of the #sackclothandashes graphics. A tremendous evil has been prowling about our Church, the Body of Christ. Let us come together in love for our Lord to soothe His wounds.

August 17, 2018

Letter Writing and Prayer

What a horrible, hard week it has been.

I read through much of the grand jury's report on the sex abuse scandal in the Pennsylvania, which really just showed us all how deep and dark and disgusting things have been. Over 300 priests abused over one thousand children and that is gross and heart breaking and horrible.

I have taken to prayer and letter writing and more prayer. I alternate between incredible sorrow and fury. And in the middle I have to keep living life and send the kids back to school and read library books and make dinner. It's such an odd place, this both / and life.

In the coming days and weeks I have things planned for my life online and off and I ask you to walk with me in the tension between living life with joy and love and working through the immense pain, disgust, and horror caused by the scandal in our Church.

In the meantime, I want to share a few articles that I have found helpful to me in this time, along with the Grand Jury's Report itself. Maybe you have seen these already but maybe not and maybe they will be helpful to you, too.

The Grand Jury's Report on the sex abuse in dioceses in Pennsylvania

What's a Faithful Catholic to Do by Jenny Uebbing

A Letter to My Bishop and A Letter to My Parish Priest by Molly Walter

New Allegations Surface Surrounding Archbishop McCarrick and Newark Priests by Ed Condon at the National Catholic Register

Truth Is Needed to Free the Church from Sacrilege of Clergy Scandal by Fr. Roger Landry at the National Catholic Register

What Can WE Do About the Abuse Crisis? by Haley Stewart

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.