Friday, September 11, 2015

Marriage: Its Strength Lies in Grace

I posted a funny little meme on my Facebook wall today. It said,

"I don't believe in Divorce...
once we're Married, you're mine to annoy Forever!"

Since marriage is being mercilessly maligned by secular society, this was a cute way of stating the obvious - marriage isn't perfect, but with grace, love, and humor it will survive.

Case in point: we were 17 and 18 when we married. Forty plus years later, we're still together - despite some rough spots. This is due partly to the inspirational example I observed from my mother during her struggles - including many years of anticipating an annulment. We also understand the order of priority in our marriage - God First, Spouse Second, Children Third.

Of course, copious amounts of grace played the most important role.

So it came as a total shock to see the comments elicited by the humorous and innocuous sentiment the meme in question inspired. Hurtful, ugly, shameful comment after comment was made - and liked by dozens of admirers.

On the other side of the coin is fellow blogger Annie. In honor of her own anniversary, she has compiled blog posts from our Catholic Bloggers Facebook group. Her aim is to show marriage for what it truly is. A sacramental union of a man and a woman - bound together by their common love and God's grace.

In times such as these - with the upheaval concerning same sex 'marriage', rampant cohabitation, high divorce rates, and general disdain for the nuclear family - it's refreshing to see a young bride's efforts to show the world how to do it right.

Dozens of our fellow bloggers have shared their links with Annie. She will need to share them in several installments throughout the next day or so. Reading through these memories might be just the uplifting message you (or someone you know) need at this time. Be sure to check out Catholic Wife, Catholic Life to be inspired.

As the Synod on the Family quickly approaches, may we gain strength from our mutual goal of living a grace-filled married life. God bless the family - the foundation of society.

As the family goes, so goes the world. May we strive to be a part of the solution!

NOTE (Sept. 11, 2015): Go check out our mention in Annie's anniversary blog post at Catholic Wife, Catholic Life. It's in the final installment, published today.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

5 Reasons Why Abortion is Still Legal and What We Should Do About It

Forty-two years later the ill-conceived legal right to abortion still targets the most innocent members of our society. Despite fervent prayer, educational efforts, transformative heart-softening pleas, and untold numbers of legal attempts, the beast of abortion lives on.

To be noted in our quest for human dignity for all, is the heavy price paid by society. The cancer that is the Culture of Death, hides in the cavernous, dank recesses of the netherworld. Its tentacles reaching ever further into the very fiber of a guileless society, so empowered by selfish greed, it no longer has an identifiable conscience.

Instead of repeating the abortion advocate's mantra of ‘it’s not really a life’, we now hear them say, ‘it’s a life and I don’t care’.

So what brought us here, to the edge of the precipice? Was it simply the natural progression of a world doomed to fall into the abyss of cataclysm or is there an identifiable culprit? A look at the historical fall into the Culture of Death might help us delve into the unvarnished truth.

Ignoring Humanae Vitae

When Pope Paul VI admonished the faithful in his historic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, he made some dire predictions. The faithful, already in the throes of upheaval due to abuses of the Second Vatican Council, largely chose to ignore his ominous warnings. Unlike the internet resources we enjoy today, the faithful of that era depended almost solely on word of mouth – some of which came from those who wished to project their own, personal desires for reform onto the true meaning of the council.

Due in part to poor catechesis or selectively abridged reporting, the family in the pew soon found themselves disobeying Church teaching – either by naivetĂ© or willful dissent. An entire generation largely missed the enormous impact this would later have on society as a whole – until it was too late.

Allowing Contraception

In ignoring both Church teachings in general and Humanae Vitae in particular, a path of destruction for marriage and family was chosen. It might even be said that contraception was fatal to the Church in that respect. Although the full impact took years, even decades to show, the die was cast. In weakening the nuclear family – the foundation of a healthy society – culture had nowhere to go but down. The moral fiber of individual citizens was soon to follow.

Instead of maintaining the core belief that contraception was immoral, many clerics advanced the notion that sometimes contraception was acceptable. It was a matter of envisioning an end game without acknowledging the illicit path taken.

Up until the Lambeth Conference of 1930 all of the faithful, Catholic and Protestant alike, adhered to the dogma that contraception was sinful – always. As the Protestant churches began following an easier, albeit sinful path, the Catholic Church became the sole follower of this aspect of natural law. Unfortunately, many in the Church began to follow the path to disobedience.

Facilitating Promiscuity

As the natural result and purpose of physical intimacy was overridden, great temptation set in. No longer accountable for the natural repercussions of sexuality, promiscuity became an easy trap. When the consequence of pregnancy could easily be circumvented, marriages and well as single relationships began to devolve and suffer. The nuclear family continued to pay the price – as did society as a whole. Increased divorce, rampant cohabitation, weakening of respect for women, rudderless children, same sex 'marriage' and a focus on selfish sexuality all came to pass.

Science Gone Mad

With rampant promiscuity now a norm for a large portion of society, the masses sought even less accountability. Should contraception fail, a failsafe was called for. Abortion came into play, first in the form of doctors doing the unimaginable in dank clinics or rooms under the cover of night, then legalized as a phantom right to privacy after the inception of Roe vs. Wade.

IVF, cloning, surrogacy, and embryonic research soon followed. If the preborn child was an inconvenience to so many, why not use the body that had been cast aside for some imaginary good? That the end never justifies an immoral means was not considered.

As the value of the human species became more and more debatable, their use as a commodity became the next logical step. Soon inhuman experiments were advocated – vaccines using aborted fetal cell lines, rats implanted with human organs, and finally the sale of unborn baby parts to the highest bidder by abortion giant Planned Parenthood.

Accepting Abortion Exceptions

The commercialization of the human being soon created varying classes of persons – some worth more than others. If a wanted child was worthy of limitless cost, the unwanted child was not – simply on the merit of desire or lack thereof. That the only difference between the two was the ambiguous opinion of someone, with no right to make the distinction, fell to the wayside. Value was determined by the desire of the beholder – not by the Author of Life.

Still, the prolife movement didn’t stand idly by. Marches, prayer vigils, and educational efforts abounded. Yet, there was a chink in the armor of the prolife warriors – exceptions. In their fervor to advance prolife legislation, a system of classes for the unborn was accepted. “If we can’t save them all, at least we can save most of them”, became the rationale. The majority didn’t anticipate the unforeseen consequence of this line of thought. By casting some unborn children as expendable, the security of the whole of their number became endangered.

In the eyes of Almighty God, the Author of Life, each person is immeasurably valuable. There are no favorites. There is no one human who is more beloved than another. Opening the gate to that type of distinction has held us back for all of these years. For, in admitting by our openness to exceptions, we weakened the whole of our argument. If one life is worth saving while due to the circumstances of conception, another is not, we are on shaky ground.

What Can We Learn From Our Mistakes?

Inasmuch as human history has tragically proven that deviating from the narrow path brings chaos, it would be wise to adhere to the hard truths. Abortion is wrong, period. Each and every individual has a birthright, granted by an Almighty God. No mere human has the right to proclaim otherwise. Shortcuts or partially adhered to commands from our God stem from a lukewarm faith. It is ours to bring respect for all life back into the forefront. Fervent prayer, unshakable proclamation of the Gospel, the holy witness of the domestic Church (family), and adherence to the natural law will be our weapons. In order to maintain the respect for every life, we must put on the armor of God and follow the entire Truth – no matter the price!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bacon Wrapped Green Beans

Bacon wrapped green beans

Honestly, my husband and I can't be trusted to attend any type of function - especially a wedding. These occasions are just rife with opportunities to take home great ideas. So it was only natural that we came away with the need to duplicate a recipe after attending the nuptials of the daughter of a friend.

Kelly, I'm totally blaming you for this one!

These little bundles of goodness were so darned good and easily duplicated. Bonus: if you're eating low carb, they're totally 'legit'!

Bacon Wrapped Green Beans

Fresh or frozen, whole green beans
Onion - peeled and sliced into 'petals'
Bacon slices - cut in half
Seasoning to taste - we used Lime Pepper from Tones

Take 6-8 green beans and form a stack
Add one onion petal to top
Wrap a half bacon strip around beans and onion. Secure with toothpick, making sure to spear onion.
Sprinkle with seasoning, to taste

We baked ours in our trusty convection/toaster oven - quickly becoming a favorite kitchen appliance - and baked at convection 350 until the bacon was crisp.

It took a bit of trial and error. Frankly, it took longer than we thought (close to an hour, after incrementally baking some more until we were satisfied with the result). This may have been because our beans were the frozen, whole green beans you can buy at Sam's Club and were still frozen when we assembled.

Can you believe that's all there is to it?

The flavor can be varied according to which type of bacon and seasoning you use. I would prefer maple cured (a little bit of sweetness never hurt anything), but the savory, smoky bacon we used was fabulous as well.

Next time you have friends over for some finger foods or are invited to provide a snacky dish, try this and impress everyone with your creativity.

We won't tell them how simple these are! LOL

Bacon wrapped green beans - oh so easy, oh so tasty!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How Clean Are Your Windows?

A recurring tale shared on social media goes something like this:

In a neighborhood, the woman of the household habitually comments to her husband about their neighbors’ state of affairs. As time goes by, she makes derogatory comments about the dirty windows of one neighbor and the less than clean laundry on the clothes line of another. Her critiques of the housekeeping skills of others are consistent fare to her long-suffering mate. One day after washing her own windows she finds out that the dirt she was seeing was her own, not that of her neighbors.

How often does rash judgment concerning others jump into our own minds? Do we clearly see our need to clean up our own lives? Or is the lens through which we see others, covered in grime? Unfortunately, we are often in need of a thorough housecleaning of our own. The reflection of our own shortcomings becomes a shadow on our neighbors.

Clean the Inside as Well as the Outside

In Matthew 23:23-26 we are admonished:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
   but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
   so that the outside also may be clean.”

What we present to others is often not a true reflection of our inner selves. Like the Pharisees, we make certain that our outer image is pristine. The public face we put on is the best of who we hope to be. Contrast this to the inner secrets and grime that is hidden from view. Perhaps we aren’t so squeaky clean after all.

While it isn’t necessary to completely bare our souls for public view, a virtuous habit to form would be to remain aware of our own weaknesses. As Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. In other words, our own judgment will be measured by the same stick with which we judge others.

Present a Purely Clean View to Others

If, as it has been said, our eyes are the windows of the soul, let our lens be transparent and pure. When someone looks into our faces, let the reflection of Christ’s love be there for them to see. As He has loved us, so let us love one another. 

If we all make an effort to honestly present ourselves, the scales will fall off of our eyes and we will be able to clearly see ourselves, as well as others, like God sees us: His creatures, loved by Him – faults and all – yet always trying to do His will. 

clean windows
Meagan's Eyes - purity exemplified!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Developmental Milestones: 10 Amazing Facts About the Unborn

In light of the horrific videos exposing the nefarious deeds of Planned Parenthood and their subsequent denials, I wanted to take you on a brief journey into the amazing world of the unborn.

The meme below, showing the developmental milestones of the unborn, was created earlier this year. But the wonder at God's creation can never be shared too often - especially in relation to His human works of creation.

Genesis 1:26-27 tells us, 

"Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
As creations in His image, endowed with an immortal soul, we are indeed 'wonderfully made'.

So what would we see if we had a window into the womb and understood the magnificence of God's creation of His people?

Feel free to share this infographic on Facebook by following the link to the Designs by Birgit fan page.

Developmental Milestones by the Numbers

  1.) Unique Individual: On the first day after fertilization, the human embryo is identifiable as a specific individual human being on a molecular level. This flies directly in the face of the 'my body, my choice argument. There are two separate bodies with unique DNA - even at this early stage!

  2.) Brain: At 2 to 3 weeks, a baby’s brain is the first organ to appear. Brain waves don't usually happen in something that isn't alive, do they?

  3.) Heart: At 18 - 21 days a baby’s heart begins to beat. So if death is signalled by a heart that stops beating, how does that square with claiming a beating heart isn't life?

  4.) Kidneys and Other Organs: At only 5 weeks a baby’s kidneys are present and by 8 weeks, all of her organs are in place. From that time on they only need time to become fully developed.

  5.) Pain: As early as her 5th week, baby may be able to feel physical pain. Numerous studies have been done and cited about this. See number 6 and then wonder how it could not be so.

  6.) Sense of Touch: At 6 weeks old, baby will move away if her mouth is touched. If baby moves away, she must be able to feel, right?

  7.) Brain waves: At 6 weeks old a baby’s brain waves can be measured. Another sure fire sign of life, wouldn't you agree?

  8.) Ears: At around 6 weeks  a Baby’s Ear can begin to be seen. So a face is beginning to form and Mom may not even know that baby is in there yet!

  9.) Fingerprints: At 9-10 weeks a baby has fingerprints.  Hmmm, would someone who isn't someone have unique fingerprints?

10.) Sucking and Yawning: At 9 1/2 weeks old an unborn baby can suck her thumb and yawn. Sounds like a human baby to me!

As much as the Culture of Death has tried to hide the humanity of the unborn, modern medicine has trumped their denials with the scientific facts. These developmental milestones of the unborn speak for themselves. 

As the ugly beast that is Planned Parenthood continues to prey on these little ones, may we become their champions and shine the light of truth for all to see. Please be mindful of the fact that it's up to us to share these facts with others. Don't hide the light under a bushel!

Cursed be he that taketh gifts, to slay an innocent person: and all the people shall say: Amen. ~Deut 27:25
 God will rain down judgement in His own time and in His own way. While we aren't privy to His greater plan, we can surely be workers in His vineyard. Let's concentrate of being witnesses of His Word. Let's become one with the children we strive to defend, coming to the Lord for His embrace.

Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such. ~Matthew 19:4

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dr. Ben Carson: Pro-life or Confused?

I've had the deepest respect for Dr. Ben Carson for many years. The movie about his life was outstanding. Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story showed him to be a hard working, virtuous man who was a pioneer in pediatric neurosurgery after overcoming enormous obstacles.

Dr. Carson's syndicated columns clearly expressed his morally sound principles as well. This soft-spoken man was both a genius and a spokesman of moral convictions.

Based on this, I was overjoyed to see Dr. Carson listed as a candidate for the Republican presidential nominee for 2016. His respect for life and lack of racial prejudices made him an admirable prospect.

When asked by an NPR reporter why he doesn't talk about race that often, Dr. Carson responded, "Because I'm a neurosurgeon. I operate on the thing that make them who they are - the skin doesn't make them who they are, the hair doesn't make them who they are. And it's time that we move beyond that because our strength lies in unity. We're not the divided States of America, we're the United States of America."

Many of his other views, such as a support for natural marriage, also made him appealing to me and many other Christians.

Dr. Ben Carson - Troubling Disclosures

Unfortunately, some troubling disclosures have come to light in the meantime. Sometimes thorough research of our candidates, can be very enlightening to us and yet be a really bad for them. As heartened as I was by his performance in the first republican debate, I was disturbed by his prior comments on some of the major topics.

The first glimmer of doubt came about when a research group found that Dr. Carson's name had appeared on a medical research paper that used fetal tissue from aborted babies. There was a prompt reply on Dr. Carson's Facebook page that quelled some of my unease but, as I dug deeper, his own words (elsewhere) convicted him.

In his defence of the use of aborted fetal tissue, Dr. Carson had this to say:

"To not use the tissue that is in a tissue bank, regardless of where it comes from, would be foolish. Why would anybody not do that?"
"If it were the only way to do something and there was no other way, there might be an argument. But under these circumstances, there isn't a legitimate argument."

Dr. Carson has also shown a lack of regard for parental rights. His support of mandatory vaccines demonstrates this fact. Below you have the opportunity to hear him discuss his views, beginning at around the 1:57 mark.

As troubling as I find mandatory vaccines to be (perhaps a topic for another day) because they usurp the God-given authority parents have over their children, this last bit of information eliminated Dr. Carson from my list a fitting presidential candidates.

In the video below, Dr. Carson can be heard/seen giving his support for the abortion pill, RU486, as well as admitting rape and incest exceptions to his purported prolife position. He further goes on to say something that sounds as if he's okay with killing an unborn child 'as long as their heart isn't beating' - which would make that child between 18 and 20 days old.

After my article on Catholic Stand, Dr. Ben Carson: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, published, I found an article at Politico with even more incriminating video and quotes from Dr. Carson. He has referred women for abortion and he, as well as his staff, stand by this decision.

Can We Support Dr. Ben Carson?

As I lay out my priorities, when it comes to putting support behind a candidate for any political office, abortion and aborted fetal tissue use rises to the top. Other major issues would certainly include parental rights - especially at a time when they are being threatened from many directions. That Dr. Carson agrees with other important, albeit lesser moral issues, falls to the wayside in light of these revelations. My conscience simply doesn't allow such tradeoffs.