Friday, March 29, 2013

Snooty McSnooterson at Easter Sunday Mass

You know how there are way more people in attendance at Mass on Christmas and Easter?  Apparently people who attend Mass exclusively on Christmas and Easter have a lot of nicknames:  the C&E (Christmas & Easter) crowd, Chreasters, the Poinsettia/Lily Crowd, etc.  Us awesome regular Sunday Mass attendees have the temptation to feel all high and mighty when encountering the C&E crowd this Sunday.  What are they doing?!  I mean, really.  Just look at them.   

If you're feeling the temptation to get all high and mighty this Sunday at Mass, one of my favorite bloggers on the National Catholic Register, Simcha Fisher, has an article for you:  "The C&E Crowd: How to Deal."  You have to read the entire thing.  Really!  Read it!  Read it now!  Not only is it hilarious, but it cuts to the hard truth of what anyone tempted to look down on the C&E crowd needs to hear.  Are you ready for it?  Here's the hard truth:
"...we need Easter because we're crappy people who get mad at other people even during Mass."
Yikes.  I.  Am.  A.  Crappy.  Person.  

In typical Simcha fashion, she made me laugh my way through the article.  Then, I came to that line, and I wanted to cry.  What is wrong with us?!  What kind of a crappy person gets mad at people even during Mass?  

Me, that's who!  I know I've grumbled to myself (and, after Mass, to whoever is in the car with me on our way out of the parking lot) about the irreverence and general lackadaisical attitude of the C&E crowd.  How dare they take my well-deserved spot in a seat?!  Where have they been every other Sunday?

Well...they've probably been avoiding me and every other Snooty McSnooterson parishoner that grumbles about the crowd.  You know what's a terrifying thought?  Regardless of why the C&E individual seated next to me is there, I need to consider:  Might mine be the only hand they shake during the Sign of Peace?  Will they remember my face as their reason for not returning to Mass?

You know what I should be thinking?  I should be keeping my focus on the Mass.  I should be asking God to forgive me for all of the times that I've messed up big-time and He could and should have looked at me with the same stink-eye I'm giving my neighbor for saying, "And also with you."  Instead of asking myself, "Where's that family been the other 50 Sundays of the year?!"  I should be asking myself, "Is it possible that I've been the one keeping them away?"  It's really a shame if those of us that look like Judas to the C&E crowd are the reason they are staying away from Jesus.  There's no need for them to leave Christ because of Judas!  Nonetheless, it happens.

We will likely encounter all kinds of distractions that will do their best to keep our focus from where it should be.  That's the time for us to do some serious prayer and contemplation on how we can keep the C&E crowd coming each week and what kind of a message our lives outside the walls of church send the world.  Scary, huh? 

If that's not powerful enough, just look at Him.  On the cross.  Look at what we did to Him, and He is God.  Was He talking about the C&E crowd or me when he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"?  And even though I'm being a crappy person, He still died on that cross for me.  Shape up, Snooty McSnooterson.  God loves me in spite of myself, and He loves the C&E crowd, too.  

The joke's on all of us Snooty McSnootersons and not the C&E crowd.  Just like a mother disciplining her tween in front of her toddler, God will tell me, "You should know better."  And I should--precisely because I'm not in the C&E crowd.  I've been there the other 50 Sundays of the year, and I'm the one who still doesn't get it.    

Thursday, March 28, 2013

God is Good!

I had my 20-week ultrasound this morning, and we got to see the precious baby that has already brought us so much joy.  The same ultrasound tech has performed all of our ultrasounds.  We told her we didn't want to find out Baby's sex, so she did a great job of telling us when to avert our eyes.

Baby's Leg and Foot
Precious Baby's Silhouette
Our first 3D ultrasound!  I think Baby looks a lot like Philip.
Baby looks all snuggled up for a snooze.
Aw, look at those little tootsies!
This is one of my favorite images of the day.  New ultrasound technology allows the tech to select an area of the spine, and the software turns the image vertically to show the spinal anatomy.  (This helps doctors to detect spinal defects.)  Isn't the human body incredible?!
Thank you for your continued prayers during this pregnancy.  Baby is doing wonderfully, has a strong heartbeat, and everything looked great on the ultrasound.  God is SO GOOD!  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Craft/Activity: Paschal Mystery Eggs

Happy Holy Week!

I wish I could say that I came up with this fun (and easy!) Easter craft/activity all by myself, but I stole it from a few different sources.  My go-to faith-related craft site is Catholic Icing.  If you've never visited before, do yourself a favor, and check it out!  It has all kinds of fun ways to celebrate the liturgical calendar with your family.  

Catholic Icing had a great link on how to make "Resurrection Eggs" with various other links to other bloggers that have done the same craft.  Between Catholic Icing and a really straightforward explanation from Our Sunday Visitor with corresponding verses, I came up with my own version.

Instead of calling them "Resurrection Eggs," I decided to call our set "Paschal Mystery Eggs" because they help us to remember the Last Supper, Christ's death, and His resurrection.  (Again, I wish I could say I came up with that all by myself, I but I stole that from blogger Gae.)  Maybe next year I'll get around to decorating our egg carton like the other fancy bloggers, but I'm trying to remember that the goal is to enhance our liturgical celebrations rather than detract from family time.  So, here's our plain carton with the eggs inside. 

To make your own "Paschal Mystery Eggs," you will need:
1.  Empty egg carton
2.  12 plastic eggs
3.  The following 11 items to place inside of your eggs:
  • Palm (cut-up fake leaf from old centerpiece for Christ's entrance into Jersualem)
  • Coin (3 dimes to represent Judas' betrayal with 30 pieces of silver)
  • Feather (representing the rooster and Peter's denial of Christ)
  • Towel (small piece of terrycloth from a rag from Jesus washing the disciples' feet)
  • Bread (mini saltine cracker to represent the Last Supper)
  • Crown With Thorns (small twig with thistles to represent the Passion)
  • Cross (I had a small wooden cross from an old retreat.  Others recommend using a crucifix from broken rosaries.  Most of us have one if we have small children!  Of course, this represents Christ's crucifixion.)
  • Sword (I used a cocktail toothpick sword, but a regular toothpick will work perfectly to represent the Centurion piercing Christ's side with his sword.)
  • Dice (Representing throwing lots for Jesus' clothing.)
  • Spices (I placed dried spices in a sandwich bag, wrapped a rubber band around them, and cut off the excess.  This represents the burial of Jesus.)
  • Stone (Any small pebble from outside will do.  This also represents Jesus' burial.)
These are just the 11 objects I chose.  Other sites and bloggers have a plenitude of other ideas to choose from!  If you're wondering why I only used 11 objects to fill the eggs, the last egg remains empty to signify that Christ left the tomb empty upon His Resurrection.

If you like the objects I chose, please feel free to use the document I created with the corresponding verses to explain how each item fits into the Paschal Mystery.

After you have assembled your eggs, the idea is that you will open one a day, discuss how the object inside relates to the Paschal Mystery, and read a corresponding verse from Sacred Scripture.  

If your children are like mine, they will want to open, reopen, and move around all of the items.  To save yourself a little sanity when you go to reassemble them, I recommend writing the number, item, and corresponding verse on the outside of the eggs in permanent marker.  I only wrote on the tops so that I don't have to find the exact bottom for each.  For example, I wrote:

John 12:12-13

Hopefully next year we will open one egg each day (starting the Wednesday before Holy Week), but we got a late start this year since I made the Paschal Mystery Eggs this morning.  So, we're just enjoying opening them whenever we get a chance, discussing what the kids find inside, and reading the Scripture verses that go along with them.  I stored the printed off Paschal Mystery Eggs doc in our ever-growing family prayer binder that stays on top of the fridge.

NOTE:  The eggs contain small items that are choking hazards for small children.  Please do not leave your children unattended with the eggs! 

Have a blessed rest of your Holy Week!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Philip's Proposal

March 26, 2005 - The day Philip and I met

March 26, 2007 - The day Philip proposed to me

Today, March 26, 2013 - 8 years since Philip and I met, 6 years since Philip proposed

Wow!  It's so cliche to say that "time flies," but, wow, time flies.  Each year seems to go by faster than the last, and the day that Philip and I met seems like a lifetime ago.  

The proposal story won't make much sense if you haven't read about the day we met, so start there.  

Fast forward two years later.  We were both in our senior years of undergrad.  Philip was preparing for graduation in May and the start of medical school in the fall.  I was chomping at the bit to get more of my seemingly endless credits out of the way so that I could start my practicum and student teaching in secondary (high school) Spanish.  (Yes, it took me the full five years to finish undergrad!)

Philip and I spent our senior year spring break visiting my parents who were living in Florida at the time.  One morning while we were there, I slept in while sneaky Philip asked my parents to breakfast.  While out to eat, he asked their permission to propose marriage.  

At some point that month, Philip went with one of his best friends to pick out the ring, and he worked out the proposal in his head.  Philip and I talked a lot about marriage, and I knew a proposal was probably coming soon, but I had no idea when or how.  

The night before Philip proposed, we had gone out with some friends and came back to the dorms where I was an RA.  Philip left my room after I fell asleep.  I woke up the next day to my alarm blaring.  I was confused because it was a Saturday and I didn't remember setting the alarm the night before.  On top of the alarm clock was a stack of beautiful stationery.  

The top page had the very first message that I had sent Philip on Facebook to say that our mutual friends told me that we would be working at the same summer camp and that we should meet.  The following page had his responding message, the one under that had my response back, and so on, until the last message before the day we met.  The last page invited me to an outdoor picnic celebrating the day we met over a game of Scrabble, coffee, and bagels.  

Despite the rain clouds I saw forming outdoors, I followed instructions to get ready for the day and to be ready for our picnic in an hour.  Per usual, Philip arrived at my door right on time, and I was still getting ready.  I opened the door, gave him a hug and a kiss, and told him I'd be ready in a few minutes.  In my RA room, I had a separate closet/vanity area where I finished putting on my makeup and drying my hair while Philip waited on my futon.  He said he'd set up our little picnic indoors since the weather rained out his original plan.  We talked as I got ready, but I wasn't looking or paying attention to what he was doing in the living area.  

When I came out, two bagels and coffees were sitting on the coffee table next to Philip's travel Scrabble game and two dozen roses.  Philip is very much a romantic, so I of course appreciated the sentimentality, but I didn't think, "Oh, wow, this is it!  He is proposing!" 

Philip told me that he had picked up the exact orders we placed the morning we met--wheat bagel with berry cream cheese for me, asiago with veggie cream cheese for him, white chocolate mocha with peppermint for me, and a large coffee with room for cream for him.  (As you might have guessed, that date was my first real cup of coffee, and I had no idea what I was doing!)  Philip explained that the two dozen roses (one red, one white) were for the two years since we met.

We reminisced about those two years over our coffee and bagels.  Then, Philip asked me if I wanted to play a game of Scrabble "just like the day we met."  I think I said something like, "Only if you want to lose like the day we met."  The travel Scrabble board was still folded over, and Philip, being a gentleman, handed me the bag of tiles to draw my letters first.

When I reached into the bag, I felt a small, velvet box.  Philip smiled, took the box from me, and opened it to show me a beautiful ring.  I wish he had placed a hidden camera somewhere so that I could remember exactly what he said.  I know he told me how much he loved me, how much he loved our relationship, and how much he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.  Then, he opened up the travel Scrabble board.  He had super glued the tiles in place:

Of course, I cried, said yes, we had a big smooch, and we started making all of the happy phone calls to our family and friends to share the news.  

I had no idea that Philip was proposing until I felt that box with the ring in it and watched him get down on one knee.  I love that he planned out every last detail but kept it understated and private enough that I wouldn't catch on.  I also love that I knew nothing about the ring and that he picked it out all by himself.  He had asked me once what I generally liked in ring styles, but, looking back, I was pretty vague, and he did a great job of picking out a ring that suited me perfectly.

I can't find a picture of the engagement ring from the day, so here's a picture of our rings on our wedding day on top of my bridal bouquet:

Here are a few of our favorite engagement photos:

Happy anniversary of the day we met and the day you proposed, honey!  I love you!         

Monday, March 18, 2013

My New Outlook On Breastfeeding

I attempted breastfeeding with Janie and Walt with limited success.  I think I lasted 8 weeks with Jane and 5 weeks with Walt.  I wrote about the experience in a previous post.  

Passed out with Walt in the nursery our first day home from the hospital
I was able to start feeling Baby kick a few weeks ago, and he or she gives me regular reminders throughout the day (and night!) that they are there.  18 weeks into this pregnancy, I'm allowing myself to daydream about life with Baby.  A lot of that daydreaming centers around trying to breastfeed again.  I had such a difficult experience with it the last two times, but plenty has happened since my last attempt.  

Losing baby Thérèse in November changed me in a lot of ways, and I think one of those ways is my outlook on breastfeeding.  While I still think that breastfeeding is sacrificial and a lot of hard work (breastfeeding mamas are my heroes!), I find myself thinking about it more as a gift than a burden that I'm dreading.  

I view my body in a completely different way than I did during previous pregnancies.  I was never terribly preoccupied with the weight gain during previous pregnancies, but I did dread the post-pregnancy body.  This time, it's not even on my radar.  I just ache to have this precious baby in my arms!  I want to see this precious little miracle face to face and tell him or her that everything we went through since November was well worth the gift of their life.  

As I get further along, I am viewing the physical discomforts from my burgeoning belly differently.  I developed some sciatica in the last few weeks.  The first time I felt the lower pain in my back, I actually smiled because it was a reminder that Baby is growing big and strong and that my belly is getting big enough to cause that pain like it did with Walt.  I never had that pain with Thérèse.  By no means am I prayerfully saying "thank you, God!" for every moment of discomfort, but I am trying to offer it up whenever possible in exchange for the supreme gift of this baby.

Realizing what a gift each baby is is helping me to rethink breastfeeding.  I will place it higher as a priority--especially those first few weeks.  I will be a better advocate for myself this time around.  
  • I'll kick out visitors if necessary.  
  • I won't put the pressure on myself to get my supply up to where I think it should be right away.  Instead, I'll supplement with formula if necessary to take that pressure off.  
  • I'll be less afraid to pull out my nursing covers when I'm out and about or have people over.  This will mean making those around me that aren't familiar with nursing uncomfortable.  The old me would have worried about that, but I'm not going to be a recluse every time Baby needs to eat.  I have no interest in flashing my breasts to strangers, but I do have an interest in being comfortable feeding Baby regardless of the time or place.  
  • At the suggestion of a friend, I will take the time to go to a specialty boutique at the hospital where I am delivering to get professionally sized once my milk comes in so that I have the right nursing bras.  Ladies, we all know what a difference the right bra makes for us--especially if we are larger in that department!  
  • I won't be afraid to admit when it isn't going well and ask my dear friends that have nursed where I'm going wrong rather than giving up on the endeavor altogether.  
Unlike previous pregnancies, I am actually taking this to prayer.  I am asking God to bless me with (1) the ability to breastfeed this baby successfully and (2) the wisdom to know what my limits as a wife and mother are.  If I hit a major roadblock with breastfeeding (like low supply or exhaustion), I pray that God will help me to discern what I can do to fix the problem, and discern if I need to let something go.  For example, perhaps low supply will allow me to continue nursing only if I supplement with formula, and I will ask God to help me to accept that.   

In anticipating and daydreaming about the day that Baby arrives, the planner in me thinks about what day-to-day life will be like.  Baby is due on August 17th.  Jane will be starting preschool a week or two later, and by then, Walt will seem more like a little boy than an oversized baby.  

I know adjusting to having a newborn again will have its fair share of challenges.  I haven't forgotten about the lack of sleep, the frequent diaper (and wardrobe!) changes for Baby (and sometimes me!), or how limiting a newborn's schedule can be.  Fortunately, I'm realizing that being a stay-at-home mom allows me to take on these challenges on my own timeline and one day at a time.  Nonetheless, I daydream about the nighttime feedings in the nursery, the lotion massages after bathtime, and cuddling on the couch as a family...  

Baby, we can't wait to meet you!             

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekend Update

What a fun whirlwind of a weekend!

Friday's weather was unseasonably warm and BEE-YOU-TI-FUL!  After Philip got home from work, we went for a family walk around the neighborhood.  Sweet little pup Monty loved all of the sights and smells.  Jane insisted on walking Monty and "walking like a big girl."  She finally hopped in the stroller on our last hill on our way home.

In a "Who cares?!" mom moment, I let Walt play with all of the pots, pans, and their lids.  To practice his stirring and drumming skills, I gave him some whisks and spoons.  Ever since Friday afternoon, he's been asking to play with all of the "hats" (translation: pots).  We've left three out and told him that the rest "are sleeping.  Shhhhh!"  For now, he's buying it and is content with three pots and lids.  

Friday night, I celebrated a good friend's birthday.  She also happens to be a former coworker from my teaching days.  Before I went out, Philip said, "You look so cute!  We have to do a belly shot.  Aren't I a great husband for remembering that crap?"  Oh, honey.  Such a romantic.  :)  I'm officially 18 weeks, and the nausea is subsiding.  I'm down to only 1 Zofran (anti-nausea) pill a day, and today I didn't take any!  Yay!  Unfortunately, I've developed a little sciatica (lower back nerve pain), but I'll take that any day over the nausea.  We're looking forward to the 20-week ultrasound in two weeks.  As always, we aren't finding out Baby's sex.  

One of my high school girlfriends got married on Saturday.  To prepare for the fun evening, I gave myself and Janie some manicures and pedicures.  Philip, being the brilliant daddy that he is, suggested tracing some hands on a paper towel to place on the table to encourage Jane to keep her hands still.  It worked like a charm.  Jane's favorite part was blowing on her fingers to help them dry.  We finally had to tell her to stop because we thought she was going to pass out!

A few pictures from the beautiful wedding:

High school gal pals.  We're celebrating our 10-year reunion this summer! 

Me and my hot date
Sunday was a pretty lazy day with our little family.  We took it easy this morning, went to Mass, came home for lunch, and brainstormed a fun family activity.  We decided to make a little drive to a nearby Cabela's store.  They have a large aquarium and display of taxidermied (stuffed) animals in the middle of the store.  Jane and Walt might as well have thought we were at the zoo.  They LOVED exploring and seeing all of the fun animals!  Talk about fun and free entertainment!

They had some enormous fish pillows that Walt loved pulling around with him through the aquarium.


After Cabela's, we: had family naptime, ate a delicious dinner, Philip gave the kiddos baths while I tidied up, I played the piano in the front living room while Philip read the kids bedtime stories, we tucked the babies in after prayers, and now we're relaxing on the couch and working a little on our blogs.  After a little hiatus, Philip is getting ready to re-launch his blog about parenting and pediatrics.  I'll link up to it once it's live.  Stay tuned!

Hope you had a great weekend! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope Francis Made Me An Ignatian-Franciscan Hybrid Wannabe

Since there's a Jesuit university in town, I've always heard about the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus.  Reading and learning about the Spiritual Exercises has long been on my list of faith-related to-dos.  Now that we have a Jesuit pope, I decided now is a perfect time to delve into Ignatian spirituality. 

I probably won't be reading too much of the Spiritual Exercises until I finish Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth: Part Two: Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (a must-read, especially during Lent!).  In the meantime, I'd like to make an itty bitty Ignatian baby step and adopt the practice of a Daily Examen.

According to,
The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.  The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.
To get a jump-start on adopting this practice, read this fantastic primer on the Daily Examen with FAQ by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff of  Deacon Bickerstaff provides a succinct explanation on the spiritual benefits of making a Daily Examen:
A necessary part of advancing in the spiritual life and forming a deeper relationship with God is to examine ourselves, praying that God will reveal to us our soul as He sees it. This act of self-examination is referred to as an examination of conscience or an examen.
We should make the examen a part of our daily prayer. When we do not – when we leave too much time between our examens – we are not able to remember the failings and the successes we have had. Without this clarity, it is difficult to either make a good confession or to take corrective action in our lives.
If you are not in the practice of making a daily examen, Lent (that is now) would be a good time to incorporate the practice into your daily prayer.
At the bottom of his article, Deacon Bickerstaff offers a possible format for your Daily Examen that sounds perfect for a little Ignatian baby like myself.  Perhaps Philip and I can adopt this practice of inserting it into the Night Prayer of the Church's Liturgy of the Hours.  

I like this format because it would give Philip and I some structure to our evening prayer, readings from Sacred Scripture, time for individual reflection, and an opportunity to commend our spirits to the Holy Trinity.  Sounds pretty solid to me!  In addition to what Deacon Bickerstaff recommends, I found a detailed Examination of Conscience to read through as I make my Daily Examen.

I'm already blown away by Pope Francis' seemingly singular focus on finding God's will and being His instrument in his daily life.  May we all strive to emulate this holy man's docility, obedience, and service for love of God.  I pray that I'll become a little Ignatian-Franciscan hybrid like Pope Francis.  By adopting the Daily Examen into my prayer life and pondering the words of the Prayer of St. Francis, I hope to emulate the Holy Father's example.  
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong,
I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to
comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.
Pope Francis in Prayer
Do you make a Daily Examen?  What format do you use?  Can you share any tips or advice for this Ignatian-Franciscan hybrid wannabe?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Do You "Offer It Up"?

As you all know, the Catholic Church has a new Holy Father, Pope Francis I!  Hooray!  May God bless him and his office abundantly.  I don't think I have anything especially profound to add to what the other writers in the Catholic blogosphere are saying, so I'll leave that to them for now.

In between changing/folding loads of laundry and playing family room referee, I was listening to my favorite podcast, Catholic Answers Live.  (Really, if you have never heard the show, do yourself a favor, and download it or listen to the live radio show today!)  

One of my favorite guests, Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, has the special gift of imparting her spiritual wisdom in a way that only the best spiritual mothers can.  She is living proof that the world needs the gift of motherhood from all women--regardless of our vocation or whether or not we ever have biological children of our own.

Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God (Photo from Catholic Answers)
Anyway, a caller on the second hour of the March 6th episode asked what it means to "offer it up."  He "had always heard the nuns" talking about this concept while he was in school, but he wasn't exactly sure why or how to do this or if he was offering things up in the right context.  

As usual, Mother Miriam's answer blew me away, and I have to share it with you.  (I'll type her response below, but if you'd like to listen to the episode or download it for yourself, click on the link here.)
"In fact, Pope John Paul II, our beloved Holy Father in his time, when one priest came to him because he had enormous pain in his knee and needed surgery, he came to him and said, 'Holy Father, please pray for my knee,'  John Paul smacked the priest across the face!  He said to him, 'Don't waste your suffering!'  You see, because we can put our suffering to work for salvation--our own, others, for the Kingdom.  

But what is it that we offer up?  We offer our pain up in union with Jesus on the cross.  You're Catholic, Dave (the caller), right?  Yes?  Blessed be God!  And you believe when Jesus died his sacrifice was sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole word.  But, He brings us in.  He allows us to have a share in His suffering and in his mission for the world. 
For example, when we're at Mass, and the priest invites the parishoners in the language of the Mass to offer our sufferings 'through Him, with Him, and in Him,' it is that we join our sufferings to the cross, which, at the Mass, as you believe is Calvary made present--not the re-sacrifice of Christ, but the re-presentation of the once for all sacrifice of Christ that happened 2000 years ago in time, brought through time, and made present on the altar. 
And, it's the biggest thing, dear David, that led me into the Church.  To know that He died for my sins.  I put Him on the cross.  I, in effect, yelled 'crucify Him!' with that crowd.  He died for sin, and He died for my sins.  And, to learn that I put Him to death by my sin and that, though I caused His death, He would now receive me in the very sacrifice that He paid in order for me to have life.  It was just overwhelming for me.  So, He enables us to join with Him.  And, in a sense, though His sacrifice is sufficient, we add to it.      
I was sharing with a group of women today a story that I have shared many times, maybe [with] some of our listeners, that would help me--of thinking of a mother in the kitchen baking a chocolate cake.  She has all of the ingredients.  She is sufficient for the task.  She needs nothing and she needs no one, but into the kitchen comes her little three-year-old daughter.

'Mommy, can I help you?'
Jane and her chocolate "Happy Birthday, Jesus" Christmas cake
And, love receives.  Love doesn't say, 'No, goodbye.  I have enough.'  Love receives.  

And, so, the mother says, 'Sure, honey.'  

And the little girl comes and throws some egg, or flour, or stuff in the cake.  The mother didn't need her help, but the mother receives her addition.  And, it's a true addition. 
Our Lord on the cross died for the world.  He's God.  He needs nothing and no one.  And, yet, He's given us a share in redemption with Him.  He takes our sufferings--whether it's your incredibly painful feet or even the smallest annoying cold that somebody has.  If we take that pain and we say, 'Lord Jesus, in a sense, I have a gift to give You.  I want to give You this suffering.  And, I want You to take it, and I want You to unite it with your suffering on the cross.  And, I'm asking, dear Lord Jesus, that You would use it for ________ (and then you fill in that space).  For me, for my growth in holiness, for someone I love who needs to come back to the Church, for someone in the third world that hasn't heard the Gospel.'  Or, just leave it with the Blessed Mother where she knows it's needed best.  And we give it to Him.  We are offering it up.  We are offering our suffering up to the cross with our Savior.  And, He takes it, and He receives it, and He puts it to work. 
And, so, we're not wasting our suffering.  And, what I've found, dear Dave, concerning when I do that myself, regardless of what the suffering is--it could be physical, emotional, whatever it is--I find that it no longer controls me.  The pain may be there or the scars from woundedness may be there.  But it no longer controls me because I feel that I can say to the devil 'take that!' because I put it to work and defeated, so to speak, that aspect of the fall that caused that pain. 
Now, I still have the pain, or I still have the scars, but the sting is gone because, even though it's painful, as Jesus' death was on the cross, it's being put to work now for salvation and for the Kingdom. 
So, to me, it's an incredible privilege that our Lord would allow us to offer up to Him, up to his cross, to unite our sufferings with Him for the salvation of the world."  
After the caller said that he appreciated Mother Miriam's explanation and that it made so much sense, she said, 
"Blessed be God!  Nothing touches us that our blessed Lord doesn't allow, so He must be on his way to making you a saint, Dave."
Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  I needed to hear those words, and I know I'll need to re-read this transcript of her response again and again.  So many great reminders.  After listening to Mother Miriam's response, I've been reflecting on her words.  I'm realizing several things and asking myself a few questions:
  1. I need Blessed John Paul II to show up on my door step--especially on those days when I'm tempted to give in to pity parties.  I need him to slap me in the face, and say, "Don't waste your suffering!" 
  2. How much suffering have I wasted (a stubbed toe, a sinus infection, the loss of a loved one, etc.)?  How can I cultivate the habit of "offering it up" so as not to let that suffering go to waste?
  3. Am I fully laying my sufferings down on the altar when I go to Mass and allowing my sufferings to be offered up "through Him, with Him, and in Him"?  
  4. Am I allowing my suffering to control me?  Do I allow even the smallest sufferings to control my day, my interactions with others, or my prayer life?
  5. Do I receive my spouse, my children, and others in love like the mother baking the chocolate cake?  Do I receive them and their real additions in love?  Or, do I say that I am enough and need nothing and no one?  
  6. Do I remember that God is God and has no need of me but that even He allows me to unite my sufferings with Him for the salvation of the world?
  7. Do I believe in the universal call to holiness?  Do I truly believe that I could become a saint?  If not, why?
If you're like me, you'll be contemplating these questions and Mother Miriam's words well beyond the season of Lent and for the rest of your life.

How do you "offer it up"?  Do you have any practical tips or advice to share?    

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


We managed to pull off a little surprise party for Mom and Dad's 40th anniversary.  I thought I'd share some of the pictures from the fun night celebrating Mom and Dad.

I was in charge of centerpieces.  Mom's bouquet from her wedding had white and yellow flowers.  Here's the finished product on my dining room table before the party.

I made small arrangements with white and yellow blooms with a little green mixed in.  I filled mason jars with sliced lemon to add a little more color.  To finish the centerpieces, I tied a yellow & white gingham ribbon around the rim into a bow. 

Mom and the girls
Dad and the boys
Mom, Dad, all of the kids, and our spouses
It was such a fun evening!  We decided to keep it an adults-only celebration.  That way, we got to stay out past our bedtime and spend more time visiting with one another than chasing after the grandbabies like we usually do.  

My favorite part was listening to Mom and Dad share stories about how it all began and their fondest memories of dating, marriage, and raising children over the years.  Mom and Dad have set the bar high for all of us when it comes to their high regard for marriage and family life.  

Cheers to Mom and Dad!  May you be blessed with many more years of marriage together!  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Prayers, Please!

Today, I am speaking to young women at an area high school about how to embrace and live out the virtue of chastity.  

Please pray that:
  1. The Holy Spirit gives me the words that these young women need to hear. 
  2. The Holy Spirit opens the ears of these young women to hear that the Church's message about their sexuality is true, good, and beautiful. 
  3. The Holy Spirit impels these young women to find hope, healing, and strength in the life of the Church as they learn about God's design for the marital embrace.
Thank you for your prayers!  Come, Holy Spirit!  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Adopt a Cardinal

Are you looking for a unique way to support the cardinals as they come together to elect the next pope?  Look no further than!  At,  

You now have the opportunity to actively be part of this providential endeavour by having a Cardinal assigned to you, who you will support through your prayer and intercession during the coming weeks before and during the conclave and for three days following the election.
To register on the site, you simply enter: your name, your e-mail address, and a code to prove that you are not a robot abusing the site.  Then, you are assigned a cardinal to "adopt" throughout and beyond the papal conclave.  

After entering my information, I received information and a photo of my adopted cardinal, Timothy Cardinal Dolan.  

Photo from
In addition to a photo, those adopting cardinals learn basic information such as: the cardinal's birth date, the date of their entrance into the college of cardinals, where the cardinal is from, and his "function" (in Timothy Cardinal Dolan's case, he is the Archbishop of New York, United States).

Consider adopting a cardinal as a family.  I am printing off Timothy Cardinal Dolan's photo and placing it on the fridge to give us a visual reminder to pray for him.  Perhaps placing his photo on the fridge will encourage us to fast when we otherwise would have indulged!  We are trying to learn as much as we can about this man entrusted with this special office--reading about the Archdiocese of New York, subscribing to his personal blog, etc.  

Perhaps this is the former teacher in me talking, but I think it would be a fun opportunity for you and your family to do a little "interdisciplinary study" on your adopted cardinal.  Here are a few ideas:
  • Print off a national or world map to pinpoint your cardinal's geographical location.  
  • If possible, learn about your cardinal's childhood.  Little ones love learning what important historical figures were like at their age.
  • Find and read any of his publications to learn a little more about the things of most importance to him.
  • Discover his country's particular challenges/concerns.
  • Learn some basic phrases in his native tongue.
  • Find out what role his country plays in world and Church history.
  • Dedicate a dinner to celebrating and exploring the country's or region's cuisine.
  • Print off and pray "Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest" together during your family prayer time:
    • Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
      and in our souls take up Thy rest;
      come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
      to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
      O comforter, to Thee we cry,
      O heavenly gift of God Most High,
      O fount of life and fire of love,
      and sweet anointing from above.

      Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
      Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
      Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
      Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

      Kindle our sense from above,
      and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
      with patience firm and virtue high
      the weakness of our flesh supply.

      Far from us drive the foe we dread,
      and grant us Thy peace instead;
      so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
      turn from the path of life aside.

      Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
      the Father and the Son to know;
      and Thee, through endless times confessed,
      of both the eternal Spirit blest.

      Now to the Father and the Son,
      Who rose from death, be glory given,
      with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
      henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen. 
Have you and your family adopted a cardinal?  What special things are you doing to bring this practice to life for your family?  Do you have any ideas to add to my list?  Please share them!  

If you haven't adopted a cardinal yet, consider adopting one today at

In addition to adopting a cardinal, please read Lisa Hendey's article, "6 Cool Tools to Teach Your Children About the Conclave" to find more fun ways to learn about the conclave as a family.