Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Pope John Paul II is a Saint

This book is available at The Catholic CompanyAfter Pope John Paul II’s death on the Feast of Divine Mercy in 2005, an estimated two billion people around the world watched the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II. Tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square chanted “Santo Subito” or “Sainthood Now!”

Six years later, Catholics across the globe will be watching as Pope Benedict XVI proceeds with the Beautification of John Paul II. Websites praise and remember the good works and challenges met by the Polish Pope whose papacy spanned 26 years, during which time he inspired youth and laity for the Church.

The process of becoming declared a saint in the church is not undertaken lightly. Although Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting requirement, before John Paul II could be honored this May 1, his life required meticulous investigation by an ecclesiastical tribunal. The tribunal demands concrete evidence and incontrovertible proof of statements toward his cause. A postulator leads the investigation, and must be able to certify the authenticity of any events brought forward.

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, one of the first Polish priests ordained after the collapse of Communism in 1989, served as Postulator for John Paul II’s case for canonization. Together with Saverio Gaeta, editor-in-chief of Famiglia Chrstiana, he has released the book Why He Is A Saint: The Life and Faith of Pope John Paul II and the Case for Canonization, highlighting John Paul II’s extraordinary faith and spiritual essence, as seen through the investigation for the case for sainthood.

The authors divided the book into three sections: The Man, The Pope, The Mystic. Each offers a detailed look at who was John Paul II and why he should be honored and revered with the title of Blessed—and eventually—Saint.

While the book is not an attempt at a detailed biography of his life and faith, it does provide insight and investigation to some of the more profound moments of his life and papacy. Each section offers a detailed look inside his life, with never-before heard anecdotes, unpublished documents, and witness to John Paul II’s life, spirituality, and influence.

From the miraculous guidance he provided the people of Poland as a priest during communist occupation to the way he met his suffering and death, the book as a whole authenticates his empathy, prayer, and the ability to establish human relationships as well his astounding personal faith in surrender to God.

No matter what you have or haven’t read previously about Pope John Paul II’s life, this book is a must-read toward understanding how the Church views his life as a Servant of God. When finished, you will also be humbled by this quiet man of charisma who changed the way the world views the Church.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Why He is a Saint - The Life and Faith of Pope John Paul II and the Case for Canonization. They carry a variety of resources about Pope John Paul II, including additional books, art, papal rosaries and prayer cards. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Monday, April 25, 2011

God's Love Conquers Death

Glory to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

He has saved us.

Like a Father, He does all he can for his children. He instructs us, tells us what to do, sets boundaries, wants us to be in communion with him. Yet like petulant children we stray, we rebel. Eventually, many of us come back in humility, seeking love and forgiveness like the story of the prodigal son. And when we do, He accepts our confession and forgives us. He never abandons us.

I remember clearly the first time I attended Easter Mass and truly understood that because of Christ’s surrender we would all be redeemed and welcomed into heaven free of our earthly sins. It was the first Easter Mass after my grandfather died the previous June. The idea that my grandfather now lived an eternal life in heaven, without any of his earthly sufferings, filled me with overwhelming emotion.

The anniversary of my Godson’s death is only two weeks away. After Nick died, I found it extremely difficult to attend Mass, especially during last year’s Easter season, without breaking down and sobbing.

I had some hesitation Easter morning, but surprisingly I felt no sadness, only peace, knowing that despite what happened, Nick is with God. Jesus freed Him from all sin and welcomed Him to the Glory of heaven.

But the death of a child is traumatic and we cry out as Jesus did on the cross, “Oh God, why have you forsaken me?” Nick’s mother is struggling this season, with Easter, with the anniversary approaching, with the idea that God took Nick from her.

I know that God does not cause these terrible things to happen to us, His children, or to our own children. God does not allow these terrible things anymore than we allow our own children to rush headlong into a dangerous situation. We know they will stumble and fall along their path. We know we cannot protect them from every accident. When bad things happen to our own children, we rush to their side, we ease their pain, we try to make it better.

God did not take Nick. God welcomed Nick. He embraced him. He forgave him. He eased his earthly pain. He comforted him. And He will comfort us, if we allow him. If we can abandon ourselves to Him.

We are hurting now. We cry and fight and rage against God. We expect Him to guide us, guard us, protect us. But until we crumble into His arms, surrendering ourselves to His Love, acknowledging his healing presence, we will not find peace. The message this Easter season is powerful, if we are strong enough to hear it: His Love conquers death.

The next two weeks will be unbearably difficult for Nick's family. Please pray for them during this Easter season and on the anniversary of Nick's death. Pray for God's loving comfort to reach his mother's heart and bring her peace.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stay Awake to the Presence of God

Image from this week, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the 13,000+ people gathered for a general audience in St. Peter's Square. He cautioned that there is "a certain callousness of the soul towards the power of evil, an insensitivity to all the evil in the world: we do not want to be disturbed by these things, we want to forget, perhaps, we think, it is not important. It is not only insensitivity to evil, but also insensitivity to God.”

When Christ asked his disciples to stay and keep watch with him at Gethsemane, He also calls all of us to remain alert and aware of the presence of God and guard against the ability of evil to infiltrate our lives. Pope Benedict drew a comparison for the world today, that just as the apostles grew drowsy and fell asleep, It 's our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil”

On this solemn day of our Lord’s crucifixion, we invite all to pray the Rosary between noon and 3 p.m. asking for all Christians to remain alert, live and trust in God’s will guided by His presence, and be strong in the face of pervasive evil threatening our moral values.

Then Jesus came with them to a small estate called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And sadness came over him, and great distress. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and keep awake with me.’ And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed. ‘My Father,’ he said ‘if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.’ He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour? You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ --Matthew 26:21-26

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Texas Sonogram Bill will provide valuable information

In late February, I announced my startling realization of an unplanned pregnancy. Since sharing the news, I’ve received an overwhelming amount of supportive comments, prayers, and well wishes, which sustained me through the initial shock. As my family begins planning for the big changes coming in early fall, I’m finally easing into acceptance over this turn of events.

I’ve noticed quite a few changes in the nine years between my pregnancies. Prenatal vitamins now include a DHA supplement and maternity clothes show off your belly, instead of covering it like a tent. But by far, the biggest change is the increased access to sonograms.

With my first pregnancy, we listened for the heartbeat after 12 weeks with a Doppler, but only received one ultrasound at 22 weeks to check the baby’s growth and organ development. With my second pregnancy, we received the growth and organ development ultrasound at 18 weeks, plus an additional ultrasound after complications developed at 28 weeks. With this pregnancy, at 15 weeks I’ve already had three ultrasounds, as many as both of my previous pregnancies combined.

Six weeks
Despite being only six weeks pregnant at my “confirmation of pregnancy” appointment, the physician’s assistant performed an ultrasound right there in the office. I’d never had an ultrasound this early before and didn’t know what to expect, so I was fascinated to see a peanut-shaped body growing around an already beating heart.

Six weeks. According to the Planned Parenthood website, an abortion at six weeks is allegedly as simple as taking a combination of pills to force your body to expel the “tissue” or fetus. At six weeks it could have been so easy. I didn’t even feel pregnant. I’d only known about the pregnancy for barely two weeks.

But I saw a tiny heart beating and that made it very real, very quickly.

Ten weeks
Four weeks later, the physician’s assistant again pulled in the portable ultrasound machine and said, “It’s still a little early to hear the heartbeat, so let’s just take another look.” Nothing prepared me to see what appeared to be a perfectly formed baby with identifiable arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, head, mouth, nose, and that heart thumping away. When showing the picture to my daughters, they couldn’t comprehend that the baby was actually only an inch long.

Ten weeks. Somewhere in this time frame an abortion escalates from taking pills to an invasive vacuum aspiration; however, in 2006 statistics show that at least 17.1% of abortions were performed between 9-10 weeks.

Twelve weeks
Because of my “advanced maternal age” the OB referred me to a high risk specialist for a series of blood work and ultrasound checking for possible chromosomal defects. The appointment had to take place before my 14th week. The genetic counselor asked whether this was a natural pregnancy or IVF, because they strongly discourage women who have undergone IVF from having the blood work performed – specifically because of the high return of false-positive, which lead many women to terminate their pregnancies.

For an hour, my husband and I watched in awe as our 12-week baby bounced, flipped, touched his/her face, and made movements that I immediately recognized as movements made by both my daughters when they were infants. The sonogram provider measured a good strong heartbeat and pronounced all developing along beautifully.

And yet it’s still legal for me to have an abortion. In fact, 88% of all abortions take place in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. I wonder how many of these mothers have ever seen their baby at this stage of development.

Sonogram Bill
There’s been a lot of news in Texas this Spring about an informed consent before abortion bill going through the Texas legislature also referred to as the Sonogram Bill. The Texas House and Senate each passed two slightly different bills, about 90% similar. Today, the Texas Senate will be voting to approve an amended House Bill. It requires a bi-partisan vote in the Senate and if passed, it is expected to be signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

According to the Planned Parenthood website, ultrasounds are routinely provided as part of their abortion services; however, according to testimony, women are not permitted or to view the ultrasound. When passed, this bill will require abortion providers to perform a sonogram 24 hours before the scheduled abortion. The provider is required to show the image to the woman, allow her to hear the fetal heartbeat, and provide a detailed description of the fetus. (Women in rural counties with a population of under 60,000 will have a two-hour delay instead of two days, although 93.5% of all Texas abortions take place in counties with a population greater than 60,000.) The new draft exempts women who are victims of sexual assault or incest or in cases where the developing baby is fatally deformed. This bill is supported by the Catholic Conference, Texas Alliance for Life, Texas Right to Life, and Eagle Forum.

Ultrasounds Provide Valuable Information
As someone who struggled with acceptance over a pregnancy, one of the best things that happened to me was that ten week ultrasound. Four weeks earlier I had seen a relatively shapeless figure with a strong, though tiny, heartbeat, yet at the ten week appointment I saw and recognized a growing baby acting like a newborn stroking his/her face as though searching for a thumb to suck. Even though abortion never once entered my mind, I think it’s important for women considering abortion as a choice to have the same opportunity of witnessing the miracle of life growing inside them. Terminating a pregnancy should not ever be “common” and “effective,” but the serious, life-changing event it is where all available information is provided in advance so the woman has time to think about it. Ultrasounds should play a vital role in that information.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Video Explains Holy Week

As we enter the holiest week in our Christian faith, maybe a few of you are quietly wondering what is Holy Week all about? Triduum? The talented crew over at Busted Halo have once again put together an informative video to enlighten people.

As Lent comes to an end, Holy Week marks the pinnacle of our preparations in making ourselves ready to begin a new life at Easter. The video gives you a glimpse into the most reverent, meaningful moments of our faith as we honor the Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ and his ultimate sacrifice in God's covenant for our redemption.

If you've never been to Mass on Holy Thursday to witness the foot washing, or venerated the cross on Good Friday, or prayed during Saturday night's Easter Vigil, check your local parish listings and make plans to attend one or all this year.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Family TV time

Truth Be Told poster from Moms4Family TVHow often do you sit down to watch tv with your children, only to grab for the remote during commercials or suddenly realize the content isn't quite appropriate for all viewers in the room? Too often in my house - especially when it comes to the commercials. Make plans this Saturday (tomorrow night) to gather the family for a special Family Movie Night with Truth Be Told.

When leading marriage counselor Annie Morgan (Candace Cameron Bure) is offered an opportunity to host a relationship talk show, she jumps at the chance. But fearful that being single might ruin her big break, she conspires with an old college friend and recent widower, Mark Crane (David James Elliott), to pose as a married couple with kids. Their story starts to unravel when Annie and Mark join her eccentric soon-to-be boss (Ronny Cox) for a weekend at his ranch in New Mexico. Comical misunderstandings mark the event as Annie struggles to keep up the ruse, finding herself emotionally invested and conflicted by her own conscience. Will she confess the truth about her marital status and her feelings for Mark... and will the truth set them free?

Truth Be Told :30 Trailer from on Vimeo.

One of my favorite things about Family Movie Night is that it's sponsored by Walmart and P&G and the commercials they provide are just as wholesome and family friendly as the show they're supporting. It's refreshing to be able to watch something with my husband and daughters without worrying about inappropriate movie content or offensive commercials.

Join us in watching Saturday night. The more families who watch will help shows like this post good ratings, which in turn will make networks more receptive to this style of programming and encourage sponsorship of other true family shows.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Federal Government Shutdown Appears Imminent

You can’t turn on the news without hearing the countdown towards a possible government shutdown expected tomorrow evening.

How did we get to this?

It is the responsibility of the House, Senate, and President to pass and sign a budget resolution before the government fiscal year begins. The Congressional Budget Act set the deadline to complete action on the FY11 budget as April 15, 2010 ; however, the House and Senate, led by Democratic majorities, failed to offer a proposal.

In June 2010, then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House would not consider the budget until after the November 2 election. A series of short term funding resolutions were offered and passed to keep the government running in the absence of a formal budget. In late January 2011, while the new House of Representatives worked towards developing the FY11 budget, Democrats (who did not propose or pass a budget prior to the election) begin talking in the media about a government shutdown.

However, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the proposed FY11 budget, on February 19. Representing a compromise between both parties, it cut the expanded federal spending by a mere 2%. John B. Taylor, one of America’s top economists, writes that the House FY11 budget “will increase economic growth and employment as the federal government begins to put its fiscal house in order and encourage job-producing private sector investment.”

If the House passed a budget, what’s the problem?

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, invoked a procedural motion called cloture, which requires 60% approval to bring a measure up for a vote. The Democrat Majority will not allow the House budget to come for a full vote. Instead, they’ve continued issuing and passing the short term funding resolutions while going before the media talking about a government shutdown. For more than six weeks the Senate has not voted on a budget bill that includes all government funding for all federal programs, agencies, and employees, including our military. More than halfway into the current fiscal year, we still do not have a formal, official, budget.

All Talk, No Action

With the last short term funding measure about to expire Friday evening, we’re exposed to government grandstanding and posturing at its best. After Tuesday’s meeting at the White House, President Obama called out the Republicans to compromise. For all of the Democratic posturing in the media about how Republicans can’t have it all, they are brushing aside the fact that H.R. 1 represents compromise. In fact, at Tuesday’s meeting, Boehner actually offered another concession to reach middle ground with Sen. Reid, only to be rejected.

What does the Republican party get for their willingness to compromise? Unending media and Democratic demagoguery – crude appeals to people's emotions and prejudices - by those like Nancy Pelosi, who recently claimed this tiny 2% cut will force millions of seniors into starvation.

Ideology trumps Fiscal Responsibility

Meanwhile, President Obama is on record saying he won’t sign any budget agreement that cuts funding for Planned Parenthood or National Public Radio, two organizations whose missions have outgrown their need for federal support. By saying this, the President places his own ideology ahead of the good of the country, ahead of government employees, and even ahead of our military – who are currently fighting in not two, but three countries. Instead of working on the budget, yesterday the President left Washington to begin is 2012 reelection campaign.

The Democrats had a year to craft the budget and pass it. They held the majority in both the House and Senate as well as the Executive office, yet they avoided the issue. If it now takes a government shutdown to get the Democrats to take seriously the fiscal health of our nation, then maybe that's what needs to happen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Are You Ready for the New Translation

Guide to the New Translation of the Mass from Ascension PressBeginning November 27, 2011, the words we are so familiar with reciting during Mass will change when the new English Translation of the Mass goes into practice. While the greatest number of changes affect what the Priest says, many of our familiar responses will be altered also. Catholic parishes are already designing parish wide training sessions to introduce these changes to their members.

Guide to the New Translation

To help familiarize parishioners with the new changes, Ascension Press released a small Q&A booklet titled A Guide to the New Translation of the Mass by Edward Sri. One of the changes brought about by Vatican II was the allowance for the Mass to be said in the vernacular, or common, language of the people. However, the English translations varied from one English-speaking country to another. (If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone from Australia or England, you’re aware how our vocabulary differs.) In the first English missal, published in 1973, the Latin to English translation focused on the overall general meaning, rather than the literal, and as a result certain images or meanings were dropped and lost. This more precise translation, developed and modified over the past ten years, is now ready for implementation at the beginning of the new liturgical year on November 27, 2011.

The booklet offers answers to questions such as Why do we need new translation, How significant will the changes be? And What are those changes? The guide also provides brief discussion on the meaning behind some of the changes and includes a tear-out reference card printed with the new responses. The new translation changes are available for viewing online at the USCCB website, and the guide includes a more in depth look at the reasoning behind some of the slightly major word changes. Once fully revealed, the new changes make sense and are easier to embrace. Personally, I love noting how the new translation returns to the nobler tone of the Latin, encouraging a reverence and humility into the Mass.

Opportunity for renewed faith formation

It’s an exciting time for parish faith formation teams, because it’s an opportunity for all of us, as a whole, to really focus and consider what we say and do at the Mass instead of simple rote participation. Implementation teams in dioceses and parishes across the nation will be teaching the changes as a return to the foundational aspects of our faith, focusing on the meaning of the liturgy and the real presence of Christ.

And with your Spirit

One of the most visible examples is our new response to the priest’s greeting, “The Lord be with you.” Most of us without even thinking automatically raise our hands and reply, “And also with you.” However, the Latin is et cum spiritu tuo - which actually means “And with your Spirit.” We’re not just casually saying “You too, Father,” we’re acknowledging that the Holy Spirit is present, working through the priest as he prepares to consecrate the Eucharist. Knowing this has already changed how I think about our responses in Mass. As a cradle Catholic who has only known the post-Vatican II vernacular Mass, the more I learn about how the Mass developed and the biblical roots behind our responses, the more I feel myself ready to embrace the new translation. Instead of dwelling on the loss of the comfortable cadence I grew up with, I’m excited to prayerfully consider the real meaning of what we are saying and doing.

Get Ready!

Watch for implementation training sessions to begin in your own Parish and plan to attend with open heart and mind. Purchase a copy of Edward Sri’s Guide to the New Translation of the Mass and recommend it to your Faith Formation Leader. Pray for spiritual understanding of the true meaning behind the Liturgy and Eucharist to be revealed as you begin to learn more about the upcoming translation changes.

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