Friday, March 27, 2009

Wish I'd Said That

Editorial in the Wall Street Journal exposes Notre Dame's invitation of Obama for what it really is.

This morning I eagerly listened to The Catholics Next Door program on Sirius/XM radio's Catholic Channel. (Let me just say that this program alone is worth the price of the subscription to satellite!) Greg and Jennifer Willits, the hosts, had an extended interview with Professor Appleby from Notre Dame. On Monday, that interview will be available as a podcast. It was rather disappointing that the University did not allow Prof. Appleby to "speak on behalf of the administration" but I believe that the interview confirmed the Wall Street Journal article's theories.

Pray, pray for old Notre Dame...

Hat tip to Lee for the cartoon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Possessive Much?

Apple Puffs are a popular treat around here. So this morning when Middle Sister found out that the last one in the box had been saved for her, she decided not to take any chances.

I think she's given up the use of apostrophes for Lent, however.

Call Your US Senators!

The National Service Act (also known as the GIVE Act) is on the Senate calendar today. It's known as HR 1388 and S277.

It's not getting a lot of time in the national media spotlight. But this act would require volunteer service of our young people, while at the same time placing severe limits on the type of service that can be done and participation in religious/political activities during the service period.

Volunteering is good. I encourage my children to volunteer as they are able; Big Brother has worked with Habitat for Humanity in Philadelphia, PA and spent a week in Mississippi doing Habitat work, and he looks forward to participating in this in the future. Middle Sister has begun volunteering at church events. I am proud of my children's work in the service of others, and do not want their volunteer work restricted to what is "politically correct." Rather, I want them to learn to, as a line in the movie Robots says, "See a need, fill a need."

Call your Senator and let them know that a bill that requires volunteer activity flies in the face of what volunteering is all about, and a bill that further restricts volunteer activity to exclude religious and political service restricts our freedom of religion. In short, it's unconstitutional.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From the Gospel Today: do we really want to change?

Today at Mass we heard this Gospel passage:

Gospel: Jn 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
"Do you want to be well?"
The sick man answered him,
"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me."
Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
"It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat."
He answered them, "The man who made me well told me,
'Take up your mat and walk.'"
They asked him,
"Who is the man who told you, 'Take it up and walk'?"
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
"Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you."
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.

Father's homily today centered not on the fact that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, but on the fact that He healed someone who didn't necessarily consider himself ready to be healed.
Do we want to be changed? Certainly it is easier to keep things the same--even if things aren't great, at least they are familiar. That man in the Gospel who was ill for 38 years and then healed would now have to find a way to earn a living and find himself food and shelter. In some ways, it might have been easier for him to stay the way he was.
Lent is a time of healing. In my college chapel each Lent, banners were hung with the words: "Be reconciled to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving." (I'm not much of a "banner" person but that reminder has stuck with me even after 22 years.)
Our Lenten actions of sacrifice and prayer are meant to heal us, to bring us closer to God, to change us.
So is giving up Milky Ways and designer coffee really going to help me to change? Will it bring me closer to God? Only if I let it. Only if I let those very small sacrifices remind me that it's not all about me. It's about letting go of something in favor of a greater good. It's about turning that sacrifice into an opportunity for almsgiving (that's what those little cardboard "rice bowls" are all about). It's about remembering that giving up a candy bar is really small in comparison to what Christ was willing to give up, and allowing that realization to lead me to a greater generosity of spirit.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My email to Father Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame

Father Jenkins,
I wish to express my disappointment that the University has invited President Barack Obama to speak at Commencement this May.
In the two months that he has been president, Obama has done much to undermine the prolife cause, and promises more along that line. He has appointed pro-abortion Cabinet members, some of whom profess to be Catholic; in fact, his vice president is a pro-abortion Catholic.
As a Catholic university, Notre Dame has a serious responsibility to avoid scandal. And it is indeed a scandal that President Obama has been invited to speak at Commencement and will be honored with a degree from the University. There is no need for Notre Dame to invite and honor anyone who does not live by the ideals of the Church that founded the University. Any Catholic university should bend over backward to find interesting commencement speakers who can truly be an example for the graduating students--speakers who live by the principles of their Faith.
While it has been customary for the University to host a sitting president as a commencement speaker, it certainly is not compulsory. Hosting a political figure and honoring that person with a University degree implies that the University condones that politician's beliefs and considers that person worthy of honor.
I believe that Notre Dame can do much better than this. Reserve these honors for those who truly live by the ideals upon which the University was founded.

Barbara Szyszkiewicz, M.A. 1988

AND I would like to call attention to this comment by my good friend and sister-in-Francis, "SFO Girl":
Consider this then as an opportunity for him to be UNDER THE DOME of Mary. If everyone exchanges the outrage to prayer(after letting ND what they think), perhaps his transformation will begin. Even if only one committed Pro Life Catholic is present and dedicated to his conversion of heart...a difference will be made. Pres. Obama is not surrounded by people of life. Under the Dome ...Mary is in his face and He is under her feet. He will be transformed. Jesus listens to His Mother.Let the prayers begin!

What a great reminder! Exchange the outrage for prayer.

A Strange Phone Call. What country are we in, again?

A little while ago I answered a phone call. The caller ID said "Ottawa ON." As I have a Canadian friend who lives in Ontario and calls me occasionally, I took the call expecting to hear her voice.

Was I surprised to instead get a taped-telemarketer call informing me that President Obama was encouraging mortgage lenders to work with mortgage that point I hung up. I'm fine with my mortgage the way it is. (Property taxes are another story.)

So why is it that these mortgage lenders need to go outside the country to hire telemarketers to play taped messages to American mortgage holders? Do we have a shortage of telemarketing companies in the USA that could do such a job? Judging by the number of calls I receive despite being on the Do Not Call list, I'm guessing that this job could have been taken on by Americans, thus employing Americans and ultimately stimulating our economy. I doubt we handle such calls for Canadian banks, urged by their government.

It just bugs me--something about this just doesn't sit right.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Alma Mater Gets It Wrong

The University of Notre Dame has invited President Barack Obama to speak at commencement this year, and will give him an honorary degree to boot.

This announcement was made Friday, the very same day I received an appeal for donations to the Annual Fund.

I kept the postpaid envelope that came with that appeal, but when I return it, there won't be a check inside. Instead, there will be a letter explaining my opposition to my alma mater's invitation of the most pro-abortion president in history--an invitation that implies that the University agrees with his policies and proposals.

I'll also be writing and emailing Father John Jenkins, CSC, president of the University. (Yes, he'll hear from me twice. At least.)

I believe that the University of Notre Dame needs to do a lot more to reinforce its Catholic character, especially in terms of its faculty and administration. In my opinion (as an alum, so I've seen and experienced student life there) the student life itself is evidence of Catholic life in spite of the faculty and administration. Frankly, that's a shame. At a Catholic university, the religious lives of the students should not be clearly opposite to what is often taught and to the example set by the administration.

There is no need for Notre Dame to invite and honor anyone who does not live by the ideals of the Church that founded the University. A Catholic university should bend over backward to find interesting commencement speakers who can truly be an example for the graduating students, who live by the principles of their Faith. Notre Dame never has trouble attracting applicants, so this cannot be a publicity stunt set up by the admissions office. And this may very well turn out to be counterproductive in terms of the Annual Fund.

At a University where Our Lady's Grotto is one of the most popular spots for students, employees and visitors alike, the selection of a pro-abortion president as a graduation speaker and honorary-degree recipient is both disappointing and shameful.

Bloggers all over are discussing this topic. I am particularly impressed with this post.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My local weather forecast for RIGHT NOW

"At 620 am...snow was falling in a narrow band mainly from Mercer County into Somerset and western Middlesex counties. We had a report of the snow laying on grassy surfaces with mainly wet conditions on roadways in the vicinity of 287 and I-78. The gutsy wind to 25 mph at times is making the snow seem much heavier. The band was moving through at 15 mph and will last for under an hours time. Slow down if you expect the visibility is lowering ahead. By the way, Spring arrives at 744 this morning."

Yes, it's snowing, on the first day of Spring!

Place Your Bets

I didn't enter one of those NCAA pools, even though I filled out my bracket. Figured I'd follow this, just for fun.

But now I'm thinking I should have placed a bet!

Out of yesterday's 16 games, I picked 15 winners. The only one I got wrong was Texas A&M (I picked BYU).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Magically Delicious

Earlier this winter, Ellen and I took a trip out to Lancaster to meet Michele for some conversation and breakfast and conversation. We had a great time.

Before heading back to New Jersey, Ellen asked if I was up for a visit to a fabulous grocery store. How could I say no? I wound up buying all sorts of bulk food items at amazing prices: powdered buttermilk, shamrock sprinkles, dried basil, gummy penguins and a bag of those little marshmallows that you get in Lucky Charms cereal. You know, the kind where the kids eat all the "lucky" and you're left with nothing but a box of charms.

I've been thinking about what I can do with those little marshmallows, which I did successfully hide from the kids for this whole time.

Today I decided to make Rice Krispie treats with them. I put about a cup of them on the bottom of the wax-paper pan and then put all the Krispie "batter" on top, so when I cut them up, there will be cute little marshmallows on each one. Sort of like a marshmallow-upside-down cake.

I hid them in a different place this time, so hopefully I'll have enough left for another few batches.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Question: How do I look into the SFO?

I found a question in my combox today: "How do I look into the Franciscan Third Order?"

As the commenter didn't leave a contact email, I am only able to answer through the blog. But that's OK, because this information might be useful to someone else.

The Secular Franciscan Order (formerly known as the Third Order) is an international order of lay adults who promise to live a life according to the Gospel-based Rule developed by Francis of Assisi. Secular Franciscans are not bound to give up their families, spouses, homes or jobs; they are to live the Gospel to their best ability in their unique situations within the world. We're not hermits, monks or nuns. We're parents, grandparents, great-grandparents; spouses, widows, and single folks; homemakers, bus drivers, secretaries, teachers, accountants, and more. We meet regularly in local groups called "fraternities" to pray, learn, and encourage each other.

In the USA, the best place to locate a Secular Franciscan fraternity in your area is through NAFRA: the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order. You can use their website and check out a regional listing of fraternities, call 1-800-FRANCIS or read a little more in-depth on the Franciscan vocation.

Becoming a Secular Franciscan is a lifelong commitment and includes several years of formation. So take your time; explore fraternity life in your area; learn about St. Francis and the Franciscan way of life (I like to recommend St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton and any Franciscan book by Murray Bodo, OFM to people inquiring about the SFO.)

May God bless you as you discern your Franciscan vocation.

St. Patrick's: The Day After

Yesterday it was the school principal's birthday. So the PTA decided to have a "surprise" dress-down day in her honor. All the kids could wear green IF they brought in $1.00, which was donated to the mission fund. So that was all good. I spent the entire morning in the school and saw maybe 3 kids who hadn't participated.

I have to say, green is a very nice and very peaceful color. Maybe they should change the school color to green! It was a lot of fun to see all the kids in their green. Some of them had funny sayings on their shirts; others had hats or pins or buttons along with their green t-shirts or sweatshirts. Normally on a dress-down day, the kids are a little extra rowdy. Yes, they behave better when wearing their uniforms--they really do. But yesterday I thought everyone was very good--maybe because they were all wearing the same color, which was "uniform" enough.

I had my fill of scones and Shamrock tea yesterday. (Note to Dad: I'm all out of Shamrock! Where did you get it?) But tonight we will eat the corned beef and cabbage. Granma always said that it's not Irish food, so in my own private rebellion, I refused to serve it yesterday. (We had pot roast. Not Irish either, but it never claimed to be.) My kids like corned beef, and it was on sale, so I wasn't going to pass up the chance for this meal.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What's for Breakfast?

Granma's Irish Scones and a big travel mug of Irish tea. (I'd drink it in a proper cup but I have to go over to the kids' school and help at the Book Fair today.)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

No Longer Thin?

This afternoon we opened up the box of Thin Mints that we bought from my niece over the weekend.

After dinner, Big Brother found two foil wrappers downstairs where Little Brother had been playing all afternoon.

Empty foil wrappers.

Upon interrogation, we found that Little Brother had eaten nearly an entire box of Thin Mints all by himself.

I explained to TheDad why Little Brother had said he wasn't hungry at dinnertime: "He ate almost the whole box of Thin Mints this afternoon!"

"That'll pack on the pounds," observed Middle Sister.

Friday, March 13, 2009


TheDad left for a short business trip after dinner last night. Little Brother had gone to play with Cutie Pie and her sister, so he didn't get to say goodbye to TheDad and give him an extra hug and kiss.

I tried to call TheDad on the cell phone but it was turned off. Little Brother was a sad little boy when he went off to bed last night.

This morning I found an email from TheDad telling me that the cell phone was turned on now. So I dialed the phone for Little Brother.

It rang and rang, and then went to voicemail.

I told Little Brother that TheDad is probably in the shower.

"No he's not! I didn't hear any shower noises when I talked to the message!"

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's in a Name?

Cutie Pie, my neighbor who is about to turn 5, is visiting me for a little while. She likes to help me make spaghetti and meatballs. I call her the Spice Girl. I hand her a spice container and tell her to give it a good shake over the roaster full of sauce. (We do this before I turn the roaster on, so I don't have to worry about her near any hot pans).

Spice Girl has done her job and removed her apron, returning to her alter ego, Cutie Pie. She has nicknamed Middle Sister "Bobbi." It's nothing like her real name, so we have no idea where that came from. Right now Cutie Pie is drawing a picture for Middle Sister. She wanted to label it with Middle Sister's name.

"I know," she told me. "I'll get Middle Sister's basketball and then I'll know how to spell her name." (I'm impressed that she remembered that Middle Sister's name is on the basketball.)

"But I thought her name was Bobbi," I reminded Cutie Pie.

"It IS! How do you write 'Bobbi'?"

I told her how, but she decided, being almost 5 and therefore an expert on her letters of the alphabet, that "E" would be a better ending letter than "I." I guess that's all right, since Cutie Pie is the one who named "Bobbi/Bobbe" anyway.

Words to live by

I am enjoying Father H's homilies at daily Mass this Lent. He begins each one by reminding us that in Lent it is more important to pay attention to what our Lord Jesus Christ is telling us in the Gospel of the day than it is to worry about "giving up this or giving up that or not doin' this or not doin' that." Father H tells us daily that sacrifice is a good thing, but it is only a first step--there's not a lot of point to it if we are not putting the Word of the Lord into practice.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NO ONE is expendable

Yesterday President Obama signed a measure that would grant $10 billion for embryonic stem-cell research.

Here's what some of my fellow Catholic bloggers have to say:
Michelle at Rosetta Stone

Jean at Catholic Fire

Rebecca Teti at Faith and Family Live

Paul at Thoughts of a Regular Guy

Rock Wren at Lofted Nest

RobK at Kyrie Eleison

Jeff Miller at The Curt Jester

There is a little book called The Way of the Wolf by Martin Bell. It came out in the early 1970s. One of the short pieces in this book, "Wood and Nails and Colored Eggs" was always used in our parish in place of the homily on Good Friday. If you are looking for a way to explain the "seamless garment" concept, use this story. (Scroll down a bit on this page and you'll see the whole essay.) When you click over to that page, bring tissues. You might need the whole box.

That essay always had a big impact on me, and I never forgot the sentence that closes the first two sections. "No one, absolutely no one, is expendable."

That is how we need to live our lives. We need to make sure that we think and act and pray and work so that it becomes clear to everyone around us that, indeed, no one is expendable.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Devil is Dissing Me

Because it's Lent, after all. A holy season.

That means it's time for me, once again, to get all insulted because apparently the choir with which I sing is not qualified to participate in the parish's "big events." Like tonight's volunteer-appreciation concert. And last spring's merger Mass with the Bishop. And like next month's Easter Triduum.

Hey. We're not fabulous, but we're dedicated. I'm singing the same tune again and again. Because we are being told, again and again, that because of the instruments we play, we don't belong--we have not earned the privilege--we are somehow "less than" those who sing along to the noble organ.

I am SO well aware that there's pride involved. I am aware that I need to take this to Confession. Maybe that would help--a lot.

But I'd have to go outside the parish for that Confession, because the music director has told our choir in no uncertain terms that our best bet right now is just to shut up and go along with it rather than complain to the pastor. He's not fond of our music, and probably would like to pull the plug on us. So we are trying very hard to hang in there and learn an appalling amount of new music (3 new pieces per week, not including new Mass parts, is not unusual) and do all of this with a smile on our faces.

Our upcoming Penance Service is being held on the same night our choir practices, in a couple of weeks. Coincidence?

Stuff That Happens When They Think You're Not Looking

You know how kids try to sneak stuff by you when you're not looking? Like, for example, eating a handful of chocolate chips from the pantry, or meeting some (ahem) extra friends at the mall who "just happened" to be there....

Well, the government isn't immune to tactics such as these. The fanfare happens when it's all done and too late to change.

Tomorrow the President will enable innocent unborn lives to be ended so that their stem cells can be used for scientific experiments. EVEN THOUGH adult stem cells are proven to be more useful and more effective treatments. And oh yeah, they're morally LICIT. Because nobody is KILLED to get them.

And in Connecticut, there's a measure on the table that would allow the state government to put Catholic pastors out of their jobs. (H/T to Paul Kravitz on facebook)

We wouldn't let our kids get away with sneaking things by us. We shouldn't let the government do it either.

The Groundhog was Wrong

I knew all along that it would be an early spring. How can that groundhog avoid seeing his shadow with all those lights for the TV cameras?

It certainly feels like spring this weekend. Monday's igloo that was built by Middle Sister, Boy Next Door, and Big Brother collapsed on Friday and there's not a trace of it left, save for the sand-diggers and small shovels strewn around the front yard.

We've got the windows open and I am listening to the birds sing. I spent 20 minutes already today on, trying to figure out what bird woke me up this morning. I never saw the bird, but his call goes "whistle whistle, twit twit twit twit twit." He whistles twice and twits at least 3 times, and each time, he adds a few. Then he gets quiet and starts all over again. Yes, I am compelled to count how many twits each time. So if you have a clue about this bird, I'd be so grateful.

We saw two robins in the yard this morning, and the kids wore shorts yesterday.

AND we've already had our "spring ahead" on the clock. So it must be spring. So there, groundhog!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Now Hear This

Whoever kidnapped the pancake syrup, you are on notice.

Little Brother had to have his birthday pancakes without syrup today.

So cough it up, please!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How to know you're getting old

Part of my morning shopping list included a number "7" candle for Little Brother's birthday on Friday.

My afternoon errands will include taking Big Brother to the DMV for his learner's permit. He has to bring all sorts of documents that prove he is a teenager, not a terrorist: school ID, report card, birth certificate, Varsity letter and a note from the principal.

OK, I am making a couple of those up. But it sure does feel like we're gathering up a whole lot of nonsense here.

Or maybe I'm just getting old, now that my "baby" is turning 7 and my first baby is going to learn to drive.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

From my Inbox--a prayer request

One of my fellow Franciscans is keeping me updated on the 40 Days for Life project in our area. I do want to make it a point to get there during this Lent. But please keep the following in your prayers. This was forwarded from the local leader of the 40 Days for Life.

A pregnant lady just called me to schedule an abortion. She thought my website was the abortion clinic. She doesn't know how far along she is but hasn't had a menstration since Nov. I told her she can go get a free ultrasound at options. She said, well I already know I'm pregnant, I just want an abortion. I told her that her baby's heart is beating and that her baby feels pain immense pain during an abortion. She said, I know all that, I just want an abortion. So, I had to tell her we are not an abortion clinic. She asked what are you? I told her we can offer free pregnancy help or adoption. She slammed the phone down. Maybe God wanted her to call me to ask everyone to pray for her. The clinic will be closed until Tuesday. Please include her in your Rosary or Divine Mercy.

What does a good Franciscan do before a snowstorm?

Yesterday after everyone in the Philly area was warned to expect snow tonight, they all headed out to the supermarkets to stock up on bread, milk and eggs.

There will be plenty of French toast consumed tomorrow, I think.

I did not go to the supermarket. Instead, I went to Petsmart to stock up on wild bird seed.

Burning Question of the Day

As we sat in the auditorium of Big Brother's school, waiting for the Junior Ring Mass to start, Little Brother noticed some of the teachers getting things ready.

"What do they call a Mister," he wanted to know, "before he gets married?"