25 Great Catholic Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Father’s Day is coming soon and you want gift ideas for the Catholic father(s) in your life. I thought I would help. Let’s cut to the chase and jump right in. Here are some gift ideas that might please you both.
First up is books. I moonlight as Catholic Book Lady, so I’m immersed in books. I decided to poll some trusted, faithful Catholic men as to what books they think are good for men. I’ve got some new books, some popular, and some classic for your perusal.
New Books:
No matter what you get for your man, you should also first include Journey to Heaven by Randy Hain, co-founder of Integrated Catholic Life, one of my favorite Catholic websites. I know Randy, and he is the epitome of the great, faithful, Catholic dad. I’ve been reading it myself, and I really like it. He takes the wisdom of many wise, real contemporary Catholic men (not some lofty theologian, or a 500 year old dead monk) and distills it into an easy-to-understand, quick-to-read format. My favorite parts are “Integrating Faith and Work,” “What is Really Important,” and how to be a Catholic Rebel. We women love a rebel, right?
How can you go wrong with any book by Scott Hahn? Angels & Saints is his new one. Can you guess what’s it about? I’ll wait….Yep, angels and saints. Don’t like that topic, Dr. Hahn has tons of other books, including the now classic Rome Sweet Home, he and his wife’s conversion story.
Now some Ever-Popular Books that came highly recommended from my men’s poll:
  • The Catholic Briefcase:  Tools for Integrating Faith and Work by Randy Hain. This one won 2012’s About.com Reader’s Choice Award. 
  • Navigating the Interior Life by Dan Burke, Executive Director of the National Catholic Register and founder of SpiritualDirection.com. I saved this one for last in this list because I think every Catholic, especially every Catholic man, should own a copy. It is an excellent book on how to figure out your main faults so you can begin to work on rooting them out, and how to find spiritual direction so you can progress in your path to God. I know Dan Burke personally and he is the real deal. Get his book for your guy because you won’t be disappointed.

Now for some Classic Books:
  • Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo, the very first conversion story, Augustine was a brilliant man with a concubine and illegitimate child who suffered from pride, ambition, pain and regret to become a convert, a bishop, a doctor of the Church, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived.
  • The Sinner’s Guide by Venerable Louis de Grenada, the 16th century classic on resisting temptation and overcoming sin.
  • Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. Amazing logical arguments for the Christian faith.
  • In Conversation with God by Fr. Francis Fernandez, absolutely excellent set of books with meditations for every day according to the Mass readings. You can buy each book individually to try it out.
  • Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, for beginners in the spiritual life.
If you want more ideas for books, here is Scott Hahn’s list of recommended books for men. And some great new novels from Ignatius Press.

Now, maybe your guy isn’t into books (gasp!) so here are a few alternatives so we cover all our bases.
If the father in your life is not just Catholic, but extra-Catholic (you know, he bought you a new veil to wear to the Latin Mass, maybe prays the Divine Office every day, perhaps keeps a pebble in his shoe on Friday or Wednesday, etc.) He might like Fr. John Zulsdorf’s (Fr. Z!) über-Catholic gifts from his store: such as the “To Be Deep in History is to Cease to be Protestant” mug or stein – sure to be a hit at the office! It is apparently a favorite of Fr. George Rutler.
Or maybe Dad loves coffee or tea. Don’t hesitate to buy Mystic Monk Coffee and help the Carmelite Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel build their monastery in Wyoming to last the ages. This is quality stuff Dad will love. Lots of flavors. Check out the Monk Shots.
Perhaps the kids want to make Dad a gift. Here is something I love to do. Make him a knotted rosary. Easy to do, easy to keep in the pocket, and silent in use. Something I certainly value. Check out Greg & Jennifer Willet’s apostolate the Rosary Army for details.
Finally, I asked my 11 year old son what he thought a dad would want on Father’s Day. Here is his list: grill cleaner, power tools, iPad, a camera, utility belt, pet snake. “Pet snake?” “Yes, all fathers like snakes.” 
So there you have it, 25 great ideas for the father in your life. Don’t forget the snake!

P.S.  There are more than 25 ideas now because I keep remembering more great stuff. If you have an idea please comment and let me know. I may add it to the list.

Update: My former neighbor, a protestant missionary, and wonderful friend Glenda, who is one of the best Christian women I know, had a suggestion for the list. She says “I have an alternative idea to C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. We just listened to C. S. Lewis at War done by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. It is the story behind Mere Christianity plus the audio book. Jeff really enjoyed this. It definitely appealed to his logical engineering mind! We listen on long car trips… the audio book is a great alternative for those who rarely sit down to read a book, and the dramatization of this one holds your attention.

Hymns As Poetry

For quite some time I have been using the iBreviary app for my iPad and iPhone to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. While I do miss having my leather bound book in my hand, some of the things I like about it over using the standard book Christian Prayer is that I don’t have to flip around to find where I’m supposed to be, or think about whether it is a feast day. I also don’t have to fiddle with trying to figure out a hymn.

Now I’m pretty musically deficient because I have, unfortunately, very little musical education. I very rarely see the name of the tune when praying and think, “Oh, I know that one.” So I wind up reading the hymn as poetry. But wow, what poetry. Several times recently I have read the hymn and have been so impressed by how these hymns, several hundred years old, encapsulate the faith and give Christian encouragement.

I have no idea how they decide which hymn to use for the day. I also have no idea if these are a proscribed hymns to use for the day or if the iBreviary people choose them, but they are fantastic.  Here is a sample from yesterday’s daytime prayer:

HYMN

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.

Take up your cross, let not its weight
Fill your weak spirit with alarm;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
Shall brace your heart and nerve your arm.

Take up your cross then in his strength,
And ev’ry danger calmly brave,
To guide you to a better home,
And vict’ry over death and grave.

Take up your cross and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only he who bears the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.

To you, great Lord, the One in three,
All praise for evermore ascend;
O grant us here below to see
The heav’nly life that knows no end.

Tune: Breslau or Winchester New L.M.
Music: (Breslau) As Hymnodus Sacer, 1625, or (Winchester New) Musikalisches Handbuch, Hamburg, 1690
Text: Charles William Everest, 1814-1877, adapted by Anthony G. Petti

Or from yesterday’s evening prayer:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the cross of Christ my God,
The vain delights that charm me most:
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet
What grief and love flow mingling down;
Did e’er such Love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were all the realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Tune: Rockingham L.M.
Music: Adapted by Edward Miller, 1731-1807, from A. William’s A Second Supplement to Psalmody in Miniature, Oxford 1780
Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748, slightly adapted

And these are just from one day.  What a rich heritage of music we have!  I could complain about the pablum we get at Mass today, but I will refrain. I think what I will start doing is looking these up online and on YouTube to see if I can listen to them. It would be great to hear these wonderful pieces performed by a real serious choir.  Of course, I love them as poetry too.

Picture: The Convent Choir – Jehan Georges Vibert, 1865

Contemplative Prayer – I Want to Do That!

“Contemplative prayer…I want to learn how to do that…..do any of you do contemplative prayer…what helps you focus? My mind seems to just wander off on this tangent or that and I can never seem to stay on track with my prayer.”

A woman asked this in a Facebook group I belong to. I started to answer and realized it should really be a blog post. So here you go.
OK, first there are a couple of definitions of “Contemplative Prayer.” There is the Ignatian Method. In that method you pick, for instance, a scene in the bible, like the Crucifixion and picture yourself as one of the characters in the scene. See what they see, what would you feel or do, etc. then let it lead to speaking with the Lord. It could only be a few minutes, that’s ok. It is an active type of prayer. The best known of these is the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Go to the Ignatian Contemplation webpage for more info.
The other type of Contemplation is “Infused Contemplation” and it is a gift from God to someone who has already an active prayer life in meditation. It is NOT something you achieve, it is a gift. You are basking in the Lord and only lasts a very short time. Do not allow people to tell you so called “Centering Prayer” is contemplation, or is ok. It is not. The problem, and I have researched this quite a bit, is there are many websites online that promote a faulty understanding of contemplation. If a website says to “empty your mind” or uses the term “mantra” or “recite a prayer word” that is not authentic Christian prayer. It has invaded parishes and retreats, and online, but the Vatican says this Eastern type of prayer is not kosher, as it were.  You are trying to build a relationship with God, not empty your mind. St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church, and a master of Contemplative Prayer thought this ridiculous.
So, the lesson here is to start praying and don’t let distractions get in the way. If you are distracted just let it fade away and continue praying. A picture of a scene from the bible or other good Christian book may help you focus. The rosary is an aid to prayer too.
Now, here are some resources to help you. First, read this, St. Teresa of Avila: Why You Can’t Seem to Progress in the Spiritual Life. This is exactly what you need to read.
Next, become acquainted with a man who should become your favorite, Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. Fr. Dubay died in 2010. He was a retreat master for religious and laity for decades. He taught authentic prayer in an imminently practical and down-to-earth way. His books are treasures. Start with his Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within. It is easy to understand and follow.
Then, buy Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer. This book is a classic and you should own it and read it in small doses. Reading books by St. Teresa of Avila will be good too, but read this to get ready for that. If they seem a bit over the head for you, then slow down. You will be ready at some point.
Now, a Spiritual Director is very helpful. It is hard to find one. You can ask a very trusted priest, but it takes time to find a director that works for you. Next best is reading Fr. Dubay’s Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within. Now, I found this book to be droll for the first half, because he explains what a spiritual director should be etc. and you wind up wondering where you might find such a rare, amazing person. The second half though is amazing because he uses this section to counsel you in your prayer life, like a spiritual director would. It is a treasure trove of questions you never even thought of and it is very helpful. It explains the steps one progresses in prayer, the downfalls and confusions; it is great.
Fr. Dubay did several series on EWTN (The Global Catholic Network) and one of them was about Contemplative Prayer. You can download the audio to your computer and listen to it on your iPod or listen at your computer. Go to EWTN, at the top choose Faith, then Libraries, then Audio Library. Where it says Series Search type in “Dubay.” What will pop up is his six different TV series. Choose the one that says “Contemplation.” Listen to them carefully. I like to listen to them in the car so I’m not distracted or interrupted. Read his other books too.
For something newer, you might be interested in two resources online and a great book. First, take a visit to the lovely Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart in Los Angeles website. Read their blog and about their spirituality. I feel calm and peaceful just going there.
Also, make it a habit to visit the RC Spiritual Direction Website. Sign up for their newsletter and read their stuff. It was founded by Dan Burke, a convert from Judaism and the Executive Director of the National Catholic Register. I know him personally and he is excellent. He wrote the wonderful book you should read, Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. It talks about spiritual direction, but also about making a “Plan of Life,” to further you along in prayer and your life with God. This book is a classic and was sorely needed. I’m so glad he wrote it.
Consider also reading St. Francis de Sales’ classic book Introduction to the Devout Life.  You might want to learn about Lectio Divina too, which is an ancient simple prayer method of using the Scriptures. Read Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Tim Gray. It’s very good and an easy read.
So, there you have it, just what you need to get started. Don’t be overwhelmed, just start talking to God and let Him lead. And keep asking questions!
Update: Also check out this blog that came out today about the 3 Conversions of the Purgative Way.
 
 
 

4 Websites to Deepen Your Spiritual Life

John William Waterhouse

In my numerous travels online I have found some really great websites that are excellent in helping to further your spiritual life. I could not keep them to myself.

  1. Ascending Mount Carmel. This is a great site by writer and assistant editor of MonkRock, Jason Liske. He comes from the perspective of Eastern Christianity and I love all his profiles of different saints, many I have not heard of, or have forgotten about. His writings about the spiritual life is top notch.
  2. The Cloistered Heart. This is a gorgeous site. I could stare at the art for ages. The posts are simple and short, but deeply meaningful. It is geared toward finding Christ in the monastery of your heart. Author Nancy Shulman does an excellent job of displaying the quiet and solitude that brings us closer to the Lord. I look forward to her email with her latest post every day.
  3. The Catholic Young Woman.  Here is another beautiful site. Geared toward young women obviously, I find it so interesting to read. It shows quite well that there are young, intelligent women who seek Christ deeply and are in the world. Not all the young women in our society are looking for hook-ups or screaming for the right to kill their babies. Here are serious (yet fun) women who are taking to heart Christ’s call to love others and respect themselves. They are searching for the best way to fulfill God’s plan in their lives and explore how to live the virtues. I wish I had known some of them when I was in college and starting out. One seems so alone when you are trying to live for Christ, or at the very least not live by the standards of the times. It is a great site to pass along to the young ladies in your life.
  4. The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles have a lovely site that showcases their mission and a great blog answering people’s questions. It could be a great help to you in your walk with Christ. I always want to stay and linger a little longer.

Update: Here is a bonus. I knew there was another one!  Check out Contemplative Homeschool. Yes, it IS about homeschooling, but also about so much more. Connie Rossini writes from a Carmelite perspective about your spiritual life and how to foster the spiritual life of your children. It’s fantastic.

    Join the Pope in Prayer & Make Church History!

    For the first time in the Catholic Church’s 2000 year history the pope has asked all parishes and their members around the world to join him in Eucharistic Adoration at the same day and time. As part of the Year of Faith, this Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 5pm Rome time (11am Eastern Time) – the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – all Catholics are called to join Pope Francis in prayer for one hour before the Blessed Sacrament. The cathedrals of the world will be synchronized in prayer with the Pope. Your parish may have organized a specific event for it, but may have had to move it to another time because of Mass schedules. Check your diocesan website.

    I am excited as our Archbishop has planned a Eucharist procession, then a Mass to celebrate Corpus Christi and then the hour of Adoration at 11am. What an extremely powerful prayer to Christ. And what a wonderful Pope we have been blessed with. It was so impressive that directly after his election as Pope, Francis spent a great deal of time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament before coming out to be presented to the crowds outside St. Peter’s Square. He really values this form of prayer and so should we.

    For more information, and for all the Pope’s requested intentions, please read:
    Pope To Lead Millions in Global Hour of Adoration
    Vatican Organizes Worldwide Simultaneous Eucharistic Adoration 
    Pope Francis to Lead Global Holy Hour
    Adoration With Pope Energizing Catholics Worldwide

    Update: A friend of mine (Thanks, Kim!) reminded me that for those who cannot attend Adoration at their parish or cathedral, you can, if you really have to, participate online with an online Adoration chapel like these:

    Savior.Org Webcam
    Chapel Webcam, St. Martin of Tours Church, Louisville, KY (just lovely!)

    Update 2: Some parishes also post their Adoration times at: MassTimes.org

    Also: Video – What is the Point of Eucharistic Adoration?

    Led Through the Dark Valley – A Cancer Journey With Jesus

    My online friend of many years, Susan Baker Swehla, has had an astounding life in Christ. An amazing woman with a deep faith in God, she has been accompanied throughout her life with His grace and help. From her birth in Japan to a Japanese mother and U.S. Marine father, to coming America, the death of her mother when she was eight years old, chronic illness, and her later conversion, her faith in the Lord has been great and is an amazing witness to what Christ can do in your life if you let Him. She has allowed me to reproduce the story of her cancer journey here and I’m honored. Susan’s faith is an inspiration to me and I hope to you as well.
    In September of 2011 I was diagnosed with Stage Four Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Yes, breast cancer. It was also found in some lymph nodes underneath my armpit. When I found out, I wasn’t shocked or mad. I didn’t cry or yell. My words to God were, “Really? I already have one disease to deal with,” rheumatoid arthritis.
    I did the breast check in the shower every once in awhile, but seriously I did not see this one coming. My paternal grandparents lived until their 90’s, but it was my mother’s side that I did not know anything about. My mom died of aggressive lupus, but I did not know what my maternal grandparents died of. And they were both deceased by the time I was born. So the journey began in this unknown territory.
    I received all kinds of advice from well-meaning people. Go to the Cancer Center of America in Chicago, or the Burzynski Institute. Don’t get chemo, radiation or have surgery, eat organic food, and the list goes on. I yelled in my head, “Stop!” I didn’t want to spend hours doing research, I just wanted to go forward and get done with it. So I prayed, “Abba, you are God and the Lord of all. You are going to have to be bigger than all of this. I need to be able to use the doctors at Mercy Hospital. I trust that you gave them their gift of wanting to help heal people. I want to be able to go to Fareway where my all three of my sons worked, buy groceries come home, and cook supper and be with my family here in Des Moines. Amen.”
    Mark 5:34 – And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
    I had a port put in my chest wall for the IV. I had an MRI and Pet Scans. The results showed a tumor in my breast as well as a large mass in my ovaries. The aggressive chemo treatment began. It knocked me on my butt and made me stay home for several months. I starting losing my hair, so I had my oldest son shave the rest of it off, and I was okay with it when I looked in the mirror.
    I took a sabbatical from my bible studies and book clubs. I had been very active, and now I didn’t feel well and wanted to stay home. In December, I came down with shingles, a very painful illness and to this day I still have neuropathy because it was treated too late. I take medication to keep it at bay.
    Many wonderful people were praying for me. I felt covered in prayer. My sisters-in-Christ came to the rescue and brought meals over. The nights were long, and I prayed and prayed, however, I felt a darkness surrounding me. Where was God? “Are you there? I can’t hear you, feel you or see you. Have you abandoned me?”
    I continued to trust and not give in to my emotions. At the end of March in 2012 I had my last chemo treatment and was now getting ready to move towards my surgery date. I met with the gynecological oncologist. He was so kind and very knowledgeable. He took the time to explain everything. He said that we were hoping that it was ovarian cancer and not breast cancer that had metastasized. I said, “Why can’t it just be a cyst?” He looked at me and said as gently as he could, “I know what I see, and I am good at what I do. I’m sorry Susan.”
    I decided to have a double mastectomy and a full hysterectomy, and to have both surgeries at the same time. I would be in surgery for six hours with both doctors. I opted not to get the reconstructive surgery. My womanhood was in my children and family, my breasts and uterus were no longer needed for my physical body.
    On Holy Saturday, ten days before my surgery, I went to my St. Monica’s Mothers Prayer Group. I went to the home of Rosemarie where she also had the traveling image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that day. We prayed for our children for a half hour, and then Rosemarie told us to take our time to pray to Our Lady. I needed to get home, so I went up to Our Lady and placed one hand on her breasts, and the other on her uterus, and began to pray. The other ladies came up from behind and laid hands on me. We prayed for about five minutes and then took our leave.
    I later found out after my surgery that Rosemarie had opened her eyes and looked at the image of Our Lady and saw a tear coming down from it. She wiped it and it was an oily substance as has been reported with other weeping statues. She told me that it was for me, but I told her she was the one that saw it, so it was a gift for her to see, and perhaps for me; that our Lady has such compassion and love for her children.
    The night before the surgery my sisters-in-Christ had a prayer service for me. I know they were a strong and mighty army of prayer warriors. The day of my surgery I began to get a little anxious and said to myself, “What have I gotten myself into having two surgeries in one day. I will be laid up in bed for weeks.” The surgery went well, so well in fact that the gynecological oncologist came skipping into the waiting area where my family was and happily proclaimed that there was no cancer in my ovaries. It was a cyst.
    I believe that God heard my prayers, and Our Lady’s intercession, and changed the cancer into a cyst. My surgery was on a Tuesday. I got up and started walking and moving the best I could. My sons walked down the hall of the hospital with me and I got stronger. I was released on Friday, and never spent one day in bed. My recovery was speedy and complete. My husband said I was having way too much fun when I was supposed to be in bed on medical leave. All those prayers were answered. God is so faithful and merciful. Praise His Holy Name!

    Psalm 91 – You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty, Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust. He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague, He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon. Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come. You need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see. Because you have the LORD for your refuge and have made the Most High your stronghold, No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You can tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon. Because he clings to me I will deliver him; because he knows my name I will set him on high. He will call upon me and I will answer; I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and give him honor. With length of days I will satisfy him, and fill him with my saving power.
    Conclusion
    Life’s journey continues on with all its joy, challenges and trials. God has given me a rich life, not materially but with treasures that are priceless; my husband of 31 years and my children with three daughters, three sons, three son-in-laws and six grandchildren, and God willing many more in the future.
    I go to a weekly bible study, two Catholic book clubs, adoration, and any classes that will further my spirituality. When I go to adoration I’ve told my kids, I am going Son bathing! Basking in the light of His love. I try to go to daily Mass a few times a week. I pray for moral courage and the Spirit of Truth in my life and purity of mind, body and soul.

    There have been many God-incidences in my life. I no longer believe in coincidence. I can look back now and know God has always been there throughout my life, leading me to Him. I thank Him for his unconditional love, His mercy and the peace He alone gives me. I think of Him all the time. I would love to tell you that I pray the Rosary and read scripture every day, but in my human weakness I fail.

    Every day is a new opportunity to start over fresh and try again in my faith walk. And remember, I am a spiritual being more so than a human being, for He has made us for Himself to live with Him for all eternity. I look back and see my mother with her Buddhist prayer beads, I have my rosary beads. She had her Buddhist shrine at home. I have a Catholic family shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I pray for my Japanese ancestors and I pray for my birth mother’s intercession. I know I have a family here on earth and I have a huge family in heaven, with Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Communion of Saints.
    We are blessed with a wonderful faith. Rich in scripture, oral tradition, the Saints, the papacy, the sacraments – especially the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith – and all the smells and bells. It is my strong desire to be faithful to the Holy Father and the Magisterium.
    1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
    Abba Father loves us from all eternity. He deeply desires a personal relationship with us. We are the adopted sons and daughters of Him who is King. Therefore, that makes us princes and princesses. And what girl doesn’t want to be a princess? Our family album, the Bible, promises the story does have a wonderful ending, and we will feast forever at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, and we will live happily ever after with the King.
    Rev 19:9 – Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”
    Susan only has four weeks left of preventative chemo treatment and she says. “I pray that the cancer never comes back. Though I know it is His will done and not my own. I go forward joyfully, living, loving and liberated. This journey had many rough roads, but God always brings good from it. Along the way I have met many wonderful people and experiences. I am blessed.”

    Six Reasons Why Pope Francis Should Not Scare Traditionalists

    Cardinal Bergoglio on the subway.

    For many years I have belonged to a Catholic mother’s group online. One of our members was distressed over an article in her local paper saying that Traditionalists in the Catholic Church will be put down by the new Pope Francis because he is more concerned with the poor than with liturgical reform, and that he will undo all the corrections made by the last two popes. Here is my reply that I have extended for the blog. This is actually the second time I’m trying to post this since Blogger lost my post with all my numerous links and additions. I sprinkled the computer with Holy Water so we will give it go.

    1st – Don’t believe what is in the secular press. They have agendas and one of those is to smack down traditionalists/conservatives and make them feel powerless. Many secular outlets just print what they want to have happen, thinking if they say it enough it will. Stick to outlets you know are reputable like the National Catholic Register, EWTN, most Catholic Radio like Ave Maria Radio, etc.  There are lots of good blogs out there too. Like The Anchoress (my favorite commenter on secular goings on) and many others. Look at my blog list for more great blogs.

    2nd – I think the Pope is authentically Catholic and a good example to everyone. While the “social justice” Catholics are thrilled, I’m sure they are not thrilled at his teachings which are solidly Catholic. He has mentioned evil in the world, he says we should not be afraid to die for our protection of the unborn, he is against the redefinition of marriage, and against “Catholic” pro-abortion  politicians taking Communion, etc.

    3rd – He is primarily a pastor, not an academic. We have had two popes now that have been working on curing the abuses in the liturgy, etc. Now it is time to stress compassion and love because that is what the world needs now. (Cue the music!) With so much economic strife abound, which WILL get worse especially
    with so many quasi-socialist (and not so quasi socialist) leaders in the West, we all may be needing charity soon.

    4th – We on the traditional side need to realize that the Church needs to “breathe with two lungs” and I’m not talking about getting the Orthodox to get back on board the train. I mean the “Traditional” and the “Social
    Justice” wings of the Church need to get together and start talking to each other again and working together again. I think there are many on the traditional side who are like Pharisees, we have been fighting against so
    many abuses since Vatican II that any little quirk must be smacked down immediately to prevent “liberal” intrusion. Well, all that does is make traditionalists look uncaring about people’s needs and pushes people away. (Why do you think the Dems won this last election? – because Romney looked uncaring toward the 47% or whatever.) Yes, we don’t want x, y or z to happen, BUT we can uphold Catholic teaching and not scream about something minor like whether the Pope washed the feet of a woman. Yes, I know, to some that is not minor, but to 99.9% of the people it is. As someone who had their feet washed by the priest on Holy Thursday several years ago, I found it extraordinarily profound and deeply moving. Now, if the Church says that the symbolism is important and only men should get their feet washed to promote the priestly vocation, that is fine with me, but it seems that the Pope has his reasons for what he did.

    5th – And we can start talking about the poor, the unwashed, the hungry. Yes, I know we traditionalists care about those groups – but online at least we certainly don’t show it. In my travels online I don’t see anything about feeding the hungry.  If you go to the “social justice” side’s media, like the heretical National “Catholic” Reporter and liberal blogs, they do cover that (along with promoting women priests, bad nuns, and liturgical dance.)  They talk about their soup kitchens, their fixing up people’s houses, etc. Their nuns in sweatsuits and pantsuits are out there showing compassion along with their daily dose of promoting women priests and “gay marriage.”

    The Traditional side though does not show their compassion that much. Just the other day I was reading a blog post on a blog I had not seen before. The blogger was taking Abby Johnson to task because he thought she was being pro redefinition of marriage. Abby Johnson ran a Planned Parenthood clinic and one day was called to assist an abortion. She was profoundly changed and converted to Catholicism and wrote a book,
    Unplanned, about the abortion business. She also started an apostolate to help clinic workers break free from the industry, called “And Then There Were None.”

    The blogger I spoke about was commenting on a Facebook post Abby Johnson made on March 27th. She was “talking” to those people who are supporting “gay marriage rights” but who are ignoring the unborn, the ones really with rights. The supposed “conservative” blogger lambasted her for a “pro-gay marriage” stance (which I don’t think she took) and mentioned that she should stop coddling the abortion clinic workers, who probably make less than those at Walmart. How shameful.  The clinic workers need compassion and love too, even if they are unlovable – especially if they are unlovable – because they are in the pits of hell and need help to break free.  They need LOTS of help. They don’t need people yelling at them telling them they are unworthy. Would you really want to go to God if his followers hate you?

    Well, that is the impression some traditionalists give in the Church. They take political conservatism and apply it to Christianity and it does not work. “Let ’em pull themselves up by the boot straps,” or “those illegals are going to ruin our country,” only goes so far.  Yes, “illegals” are here illegally and something needs to be done, but throwing the lives of their children away solves nothing. It shows to me a hardness of heart.

    In my diocese we are blessed with a wonderful bishop. Our diocese has a great deal of illegal immigrants from many countries, who came here very desperate for a variety of reasons. He takes great flak for being
    compassionate with them and lobbying the politicians trying to help them. He promotes the true teachings of the church AND tries to help those in most need. I’d call that Catholic.  And that is what the Pope is. He did
    not succumb to liberation theology in his country and was pretty much banished to the hinterlands for not doing so. He soldiered on. Doing what was right and not what was popular.  He was not afraid to live a poor life, even though he was a bishop. He took the bus.

    What we traditionalists need to do is to start getting out there and showing publicly what many of us are doing in private – feeding the hungry, buying diapers and food for the unwed mother, taking communion to the invalids and sitting there talking with them, singing and playing piano to the nursing home residents (I actually have seen that online, praise God,) holding the hands of the AIDS victims, giving legal aid to immigrants. Not to toot our own horns, but to show people what Christianity is and that we ARE helping and doing things for the needy. Our Church has a deep solid foundation of service but we don’t talk about it, so we look uncompassionate and that effects how our teachings are received. The “left” calls us uncompassionate to pregnant women – and the public, including other nominal Catholics, believe them.

    While humility is good, we should be humble in public at this point. It used to be that communities were tight knit and smaller. Everyone knew everyone. When your neighbor took a casserole to the new mother others knew about it. Not anymore. And unfortunately, many Catholics are not charitable.  One woman I know online whose husband has cancer needed help. She was overwhelmed and unfortunately she probably would have gotten more help from the Baptist neighbor than the Catholic one. Most of us know that is true. Catholics have a bad reputation of thinking “the Church” will do it, not us personally. Many of us, of course, are not like that – but many are. We need to show our fellow Catholics that they need to be out there in the trenches too, that is why we need to do things more publicly. And help other Catholics realize even small helps go a long way.

    6th – By the pope’s example he will lead more people into the Church and bring fallen away Catholics back where we can properly catechize them. While there is still much to be done to fix the catechizing part in the
    Church, we have come a LONG way from just a few years ago and things are really better to teach people what we believe and why. And there are, of course, blogs and online resources that people now turn to first. Will they see compassion and love, or more people worrying about whether the Pope will give abolish communion on the tongue or the Tridentine Mass?

    You might find papal biographer George Weigel’s article Meeting Pope Francis to be very helpful in seeing that our new Pope is what we really need right now. The cardinals spent a great deal of time discussing what the Church and our world need at the moment. They know Cardinal Bergoglio. They know he was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II. They know what he stands for and they elected him quickly. We need to stop being worried, and take his election to be a sign from God that we need to stop arguing and start evangelizing, and taking care of the poor, which are growing by leaps and bounds.  Look at the amazing strides Pope Francis did just in the first few days of his election with the Orthodox.

    This is my humble opinion, for what it is worth. Happy Easter!

    The Winnowing

    I was at the blog Little Catholic Bubble today and read this.  You should read it too.  It is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI from his book Faith and the Future which the Anchoress comments on, as well:


    “The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.

    She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes … she will lose many of her social privileges…. As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members….

    It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek…. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain…. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

    And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

    While I was reading this my thoughts ping-ponged back and forth.  The coming trials ahead will be challenging for the faithful to say the least, but the winnowing process will test our faith and those who cannot stomach Catholicism any longer will leave.  Souls will be lost.  This will be a deep tragedy.  But upon this rock is built Christ’s Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  We may die in the process, literally or figuratively, but the Church will stand.  Christ will win.  We are soldiers in his battle and we have to prepare ourselves for it, which we are already engaged in.

    So, prepare yourself with prayer, fasting, charity and deep kindness toward others.  Cut out what is not necessary. Focus on your family, especially the children who someday will be deep in the battle. We have to prepare them, and ourselves, for the coming trial.  The Enemy does not rest, and we cannot either.

    How to Come Back to the Faith

    In my travels online I came across a blog from a woman who is chronically ill, has not been practicing her faith, yet is interested in enrolling her son in CCD.  Her son is not all that interested. Because of her illness she has a hard time getting to Mass. I decided to comment about how she should be fostering her faith too. I thought I would share it with you. If you know someone who is just starting to come back to the faith this may be a post that you can share with them.

    Hi, I found your blog by accident and thought I would comment. I noticed this line “I guess I am just going to have to drag Tyler to church, and soon.” Please don’t think of it as “dragging to church.” Church is an outward sign of God’s love, it is what Christ left behind to help us get the guidance and worship we need to love and get to Him. Sometimes it seems dull, but really it is sublime. The people in the church are not perfect and make mistakes, but God normally uses people as His hands and it leads to making both the person being helped, and the helper, more holy.

    Now, in regards to your son: In normal circumstances, most children do not desire to go to church. Just like they don’t want to do their math homework or clean their room, they don’t want to sit in a pew for an hour. This is normal. It is our job to train them that there are some things that we have to do even though we may not understand why. Someday they will understand. For some people that takes longer than we think it will. Your son needs to learn there is a God that is madly in love with him and he needs to foster that relationship. Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) is all about fostering that love relationship. Many times we Christians don’t come across the right way, but that is truly what it is all about. Remember “God is Love” and He wants to shower us with His love and blessings. Taking your kid to church is guiding him in the right direction, not “Forcing it on him.” It is bringing him in contact with the Lord, so He can bestow His blessings.

    As a Christian, and Catholic to boot, we are not just called to love, but called to worship the Lord. Actually we are not just called, but commanded to do this: “Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy.” God gives us tons of hours a week, we can give Him back one hour of worship in Thanksgiving, which is what “Eucharist” means.

    Let’s start with you and YOUR spiritual life. The first thing you need to work on is your own relationship with God. I know, you only want to get your kid in CCD, why should you work on your spiritual life? Because you need to. God is calling you. He can be sneaky and you wanting your kid to go to Church is probably a call for you too.

    I was away from the Church for years because it wasn’t cool to go to Church. Then we had our son and I realized that I should be a good mom and get him baptized and raise him with God. It was also my way of answering the small voice inside me that was calling me to come back, but I had been too worried of people’s opinions of me to come back before. I started taking my baby to church and started building on my own relationship with God. This is not a onetime “Are You Saved?” kind of deal that the Protestants like to push. This is a lifelong relationship, similar to a marriage. There are days when it feels great and others it feels like a burden, but you work on it and over time it grows. God is the perfect one and we are the ones that fall – over and over – but God picks us up, and if we trust in Him he will help us.

    The first thing you need to do is start praying. You can use formal prayers if you wish (Our Father, Hail Mary, there are lots and lots of printed prayers around) but better are the prayers from your heart. Talk to God like you talk to a friend – because that is what He is. Tell him your complaints, your frustrations, your problems understanding Him and your relationship with Him. Ask Him for help. Ask Him to show you what to do. Do this in the line at the supermarket, driving around town, when you are cooking dinner, etc. It does not have to be formal.

    Next, try to get to Confession. This is a starting thing – get rid of all the baggage you have collected probably most of your adult life and start fresh. Sin weighs us down and makes it harder to move on. Most Confessions happen on Saturday afternoon, but for you, especially since you have not been for probably years and years, call and make an appointment with the priest and go see him. Ask for an hour appointment if possible. If for some reason you get a difficult receptionist (Church office ladies are notorious for being difficult for some reason) or you are uncomfortable in some way, then call another parish. Then you can not only go to Confession without the constraints of time, but you can discuss with the priest your spiritual life in general and how you want to bring your son up in the faith. Here is a Guide to Confession.

    After you go to Confession then, IF you can, start going to Mass. You don’t have to dress up in makeup and heels (really I would be shocked if I saw someone really dressed up to go to Mass). Dress as decently (aka, it’s best to be clean) as you can and take it slow. Don’t put strong pressure on yourself and wind up collapsing in the aisle, ok? Perhaps a weekday Mass or an evening “healing Mass” would work for you better. Check out websites of churches in your area for times. MassTimes.org is good too. If you can’t swing that, then call the church and ask for Communion to be brought to you. This happens all the time for chronically ill people. A person from the parish comes and brings Communion to you.

    If you can’t leave your house, then don’t hesitate – please call the parish and ask for the priest to come see you. Tell them you want Confession and the Eucharist. If for some reason the priest can’t come out, call another parish. Really, priests visit people all the time.

    The next thing to do is buy a Bible. Get one you will read, preferably Catholic so it has all the books of the Bible. I really like the New Catholic Answer Bible because it is inexpensive and has a LOT of good information in it. Start in the Gospels (that is Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in the New Testament). Mark is good to start with because it is short and riveting. Read just a little every day and maybe take a couple of minutes to think about what you read and talk to God about it. Make it pleasurable: get comfortable, light a candle, be in a quiet place. But, no pressure, you can read it anywhere.

    You may also consider praying the Rosary. Any parish and serious Catholic has probably tons of Rosaries floating around if you don’t own one. You can get one at many places. Here is How to Pray the Rosary if you don’t remember: Ask Our Lady to pray for you. You don’t have to pray the whole thing at once; you can pray a decade at a time if you want.

    These are all starting things, baby steps. When you talk to the priest then start asking about help. Help to get your child to CCD and church. Perhaps a mother’s group would be a good starting point. Perhaps he could car-pool with a family. Or maybe call the Director of Religious Education and explain the situation and what would be best to do. ASK, don’t be worried about putting people out. People WANT to help others, but many times don’t know how.

    Take it how it best feels for you and foster your relationship with the Lord, and at the same time talk to your son and tell him how important it is for all of you to welcome God into your life. Good books were important in my coming back to the faith. Surprised by Truth is a great book you may like. Catholicism for Dummies is another. I just finished reading a book called Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women that you might like. It is easy to read and one of the authors is chronically ill and talks about how that affects her relationship with God. And you might be interested in my blog, LiveCatholic,net that has lots of resources for Catholics. I don’t get the chance to write very often, but you may find the info there helpful. In fact, I may just post this comment on my blog, so people actually know I’m alive!

    Sorry, I didn’t set out to start writing a book, but I hope you will find this helpful and give you ideas on what to do. I’ll be praying for you and you can contact me through my blog if you need help. God Bless!

    So, do you have any ideas on welcoming people back into the Church?  What helped you if you are a revert or convert? Do you have any advice for a chronically ill person who wants to come back, or wants to introduce the faith to their children?