Monday, September 22, 2014

Marriage: God First, Spouse Second, Children Third

The world is filled with talk of marriage lately. Around this time next year the Church will take on the topic during the World Meeting of Families, the definition of marriage is being challenged all around us, and the nuclear family is being attacked by the secularized world. The topic of marriage is important enough to warrant participation by Pope Francis himself.

In a recent post, 12 Thoughts On Marriage As We Approach Our 40th Marriage Anniversary, I ponder the things my husband and I have learned about the Sacrament of Matrimony. Yet, to my surprise, I met a bit of conflict concerning my order of priorities.

One of my twelve points reads:

2: Children come third, after God (#1) and spouse (#2).

God’s nature definitely created an unbreakable bond when it came to offspring. The instinct of protection and nurture is a formidable force. This ensures the safety of the little ones and the furthering of the human race. As strong as these impulses are, a worthy spouse will never let children displace the primary earthly spot given to spouse.
According to the instructions my husband and I received before our wedding and Catholic sources to which I've referred, this should be a no-brainer. Imagine my surprise when I receivd quite a bit of push-back on this order of priorities.  After a few spirited exchanges, I further deepened my reasoning. To read the comments of others go to the combox here.

In this post I will share my response to those who advocate for children coming before spouse. After you've read these thoughts, you may want to kindly weigh in as well in the combox. I'd love to know your thoughts. The following are mine:

Children come third, after God (#1) and spouse (#2)

Although the Bible doesn’t specifically lay out an order of relationship priorities, there do appear to be some general principles that might be helpful in understanding what I’m attempting to share. Obviously, there is no disagreement with the fact that God comes first.

In direct relationship to this, however, comes the instruction for a married man to love his wife as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25). Similarly, the wife is to submit to her husband ‘as to the Lord’. (Ephesians 5:22). This appears to support the perspective that spouses are second only to God. Since they are ‘one flesh’, this should be a two-way street.

Further, under the heading “The marriage bond” the CCC states:

1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself.[141] From their covenant arises "an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society."[142] The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God's covenant with man: "Authentic married love is caught up into divine love."[143]

As a logical conclusion, this places the fruits of this divine love (the children) as the next natural priority. In this context we find the institution of the Domestic Church.

1666 The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called "the domestic church," a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.

marriage, matrimonyWhat makes for well adjusted children is that their parents take the covenant to which they have sworn seriously and place it high on their priority list. Without a stable marriage, children suffer from maladjusted lives or even divorce. Further, while Holy Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments, having children is not - it is gift of that sacramental covenant. Marriage is the institution that brings godly children, children aren't the institution that bring a godly marriage.

I must admit that some may be thinking of this in different terms. Naturally, the physical needs of children (whether infant or disabled) must be dealt with on a practical, earthly priority scale. A grown man or woman can certainly deal with their own physical needs – food, shelter, etc. That really isn’t the point I was attempting to make. But even in this instance, care must be taken as to the soundness of the marriage. After all, the natural product of a good marriage is healthy, happy children who are given all they need whether it be spiritual, mental, or physical. Further, when the children mature and go their own way, the covenant that was first established between husband and wife remains.

God bless all marriages and families. As the family goes, so goes society. May we ever preserve our godly relationships!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Mito Family - Stuck Between Obamacare and a Hard Place

I first met Pattie through the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rallies. She was an inspiration and tireless font of knowledge for us, as Owensboro citizens planned their event - all the way from North Carolina. Since then, I've gotten to know her as a fervent Catholic who advocates for LIFE and as a staunch believer in justice. The superhuman effort necessary to maintain some semblance of a 'normal' life for her family is daunting. A lesser woman might be found, in fetal position, wailing 'why me?!' Instead, Patti's two sons, who suffer from not one, but two, 'orphan' conditions play baseball, soccer, and gather with their many friends to enjoy life as teens. Her life can only be described as inspirational - even though, it makes me tired to just read about everything she manages to squeeze into the same 24 hour days so many of us squander.

In the video, 'A Mito Mother's Plight', we are made privy to some heartbreaking facts - both about what her family is facing, health-wise, but also the terrible scourge that implementation of Obamacare is on families like hers. Life-saving medication, vital to their survival, is being denied this family because of Obamacare. She makes perfectly clear that she isn't seeking pity, she just needs for the citizens of this once great nation to be aware and to "stand up and push back against a government that is overreaching".

We need to be aware, we need to be proactive. Pray, yes! But also stand up and do something!


Please take the time to watch the video below. In an accompanying description we read...

by Nicole Revels - Journalist
This is the story of a North Carolina mother of three sons, two of whom have a rare bone marrow failure syndrome called Shwachman-Diamond syndrome combined with a secondary mitochondrial disease. Pattie says that she has witnessed her family's insurance coverage slip away as premiums, deductibles, and medication co-pays have drastically increased with the implementation of mandates contained within the Affordable Care Act. Pattie has now been notified that her sons' life-saving compounded medications will be dropped from coverage all together as of September 15, though her family's medications and treatments were covered with no denials for years prior to 2011. Pattie fears that her family may soon lose their employer-provided health insurance completely, forcing them onto Obamacare exchanges under which they would be denied access to their current specialists. Having read the Affordable Care Act legislation prior to its passage, Pattie says that it was evident that the mandates would generate exactly the detrimental impacts that she is now experiencing. She asserts that the ultimate goal of the legislators who adopted the Affordable Care Act was the extinction of private health insurance companies, giving rise to a single-payer system of substandard healthcare.
Read the full article, , "Obamacare Has Destroyed My Family" - A Mito Mother's Story,  here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Homosexual Madness - Is It Affecting the Church?

Campaigns supporting the homosexual lifestyle and 'rights' seem to be all the rage these days. In a world gone mad, this biologically and morally repugnant type of 'relationship' is being touted as just another type of loving union. Yet we, of the Catholic faith, have always had an unbroken line of teachings that prompt us to love the sinner but hate the sin. We are encouraged to make judgments, every day, about actions - all the while not judging the souls of others. So what's going on with some prominent figures in the Catholic landscape?

It has just been announced that the LGBT crowd will be allowed to march under a banner, for the first time in the 250 year history of the St. Patrick's Day parade in NYC. Although these groups have never been prevented from marching, the fact that they are now able to further, and ever more obviously, flaunt their deviant lifestyle is abhorrent. It's small comfort that pro-life groups will also be allowed to march under a banner as well. Yet Catholic League's Bill Donohue seems blasé.

"Never in the history of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade have homosexuals been barred from marching, anymore than pro-life Catholics have, but in both cases they were not permitted to have their own unit. I have been assured that the rules have been formally changed to allow both of these groups, as well as others, to march under their own banner. That being the case, there should be no controversy. One would hope that all the new entries will conduct themselves in a manner that honors St. Patrick, lest another round of controversy emerges."
Since when are the LGBT advocates and pro-life champions of equal moral heft?

Timothy Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York appears to be unconcerned as well. He will carry out his plans to act as Grand Marshall of the parade.

I found encouragement, however, from the reaction of Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington. He penned quite the post on the diocesan website, concerning both the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Al Smith Dinner. Sadly, and rather discouraging, his piece was promptly taken down. It was fortunate that he had given LifeSiteNews permission to share his piece as well. Along with a screenshot of the original entry, BuzzFeed also shared his words. And faithful words they were!

Concerning the Al Smith Dinner he lamented, “...we are being asked to raise toasts and to enjoy a night of frivolity with those who think it is acceptable to abort children by the millions each year, with those who think anal sex is to be celebrated as an expression of love …”

He added, ‘...the St. Patrick’s Parade is becoming of parade of disorder, chaos, and fake unity. Let’s be honest: St. Patrick’s Day nationally has become a disgraceful display of drunkenness and foolishness in the middle of Lent that more often embarrasses the memory of Patrick than honors it.’

His admonition to 'cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Al Smith Dinner and all the other “Catholic” traditions that have been hijacked by the world’ is sound on the face of what they have become.

Catholics, faithful to the teachings of Holy Mother Church gain sound advice as he added, "Enough now, back to Church! Wear the purple of Lent and if there is going to be a procession, let it be Eucharistic and penitential for the sins of this age."

What we appear to have here, is a failure to communicate Christ's true teachings, on the part of some, and the silencing of those who seek to uphold it. Perhaps I'll wear purple this Lent - especially on Saint Patrick's day. It's only right to offer reparation for the sins of this mad, hypersexualized world.

As Msgr. Pope ended his thoughts, "For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!"

UPDATE: Msgr. Charles Pope addresses the question,  What happened to the St. Patricks Parade Post?

Screenshot and quotes from Msgr. Pope's article.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Cold, Hard Facts About the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

It seems many people still don't realize that the ALS Association (ALSA) condones and uses Embryonic Stem Cell research - and thus negates the ALSA as potential recipients of our charitable efforts.

Last week I authored a piece, Throwing Cold Water on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, over on Catholic Stand. As it was shared in Facebook-land and other social media, it spurred quite the reaction. Some comments were expected, others came as a surprise. All in all the responses have been good.

There are a couple of things that I hope readers will take away from my presentation of the facts surrounding the charitable assistance owed to all of those who suffer from ALS or any other debilitating, life threatening disease - an ethical cure should never come at the expense of the life of another.

Here are the Cold, Hard Facts about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in a nutshell: 

  • The ALS Association (ALSA), which initiated the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, supports Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
  • Embryonic Stem Cell Research kills tiny human beings, who were created for experimentation. 
  • This is considered to be one of the intrinsic evils by the Catholic Church.
  • ALS victims deserve our compassion and research to end this horrible disease is a worthy cause.
  • There are ethical alternatives to the ALSA, such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.
  • The John Paul II Medical Research Institute does NOT support or use Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
  • If you choose to accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, please designate your donation to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute or another moral/ethical organizations.
  • American Life League has a vast list devoted to informing readers about the morality of most large charities. You might be surprised at which ones (and how many) are unethical.
  • Catholic bishops, from dioceses such as the archdiocese of Cincinnati, are accepting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and publicly spotlighting their support for the ethical research being done by the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. They are alerting their flocks to the moral repugnance of Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
As Catholic Christians, we are morally bound to practice morally discerned charity. It's our duty to know the moral stance of those to whom we donate. A little bit of research or asking a pro-life organization, such as American Life League, will easily give you the answers you need. Whether you choose to give privately or via a public event, always remember to care enough to make sure your giving is morally sound.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cancer While Pregnant? Both Mother and Baby Can (and Should) Live!

Taking a cue from Pope Francis, our family is known to evangelize. His oft repeated message calls us to share the word of God where we are, saying, “The Church must be in the streets”. As a passionate pro-life advocate, my participation in this call often centers on the sanctity of life. As His creatures, God’s first gift to us is our very being. In as much as He is the author of life, we owe Him our utmost effort in preserving it.

Sharing a Personal Story

Our family has had its share of opportunities for ‘walking the talk’ when it comes to the pro-life message. One such story – finding myself to be a pregnant 14-year-old – has been a past topic. Another is the experience our daughter, Erika, lived when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 20 weeks pregnant. Sharing her story has been a valuable tool for reaching out to those in similar circumstances – a surprisingly significant segment of society. That she was given only two options – abortion followed by treatment or waiting until after birth for treatment – is typical of advice most frequently given across the country. Often we see stories of a virtuous, heroic mother who forgoes treatments in deference to the life of the child she is carrying. What isn’t as commonplace is the medically advanced, morally sound option of treatment while pregnant. This is the alternative I feel a spiritual pull to share. After all, both mother and child deserve the best chance of survival!

Knowledge - a Powerful Ally

Unfortunately there’s much misinformation out there. For this reason, our daughter, a molecular biologist, Howard Hughes research scholar, and former forensic biologist did her share of research when presented with two unacceptable options by local doctors. What she found was that chemotherapy during pregnancy does not raise the risk of miscarriage or other problems. In fact, the oncologists who treated her at M.D. Anderson in Houston had been successfully using this method for over 20 years. Although these children continue to be closely monitored, there have been no incidents of detrimental effects to date. This option is as safe for the unborn child as that of no treatment. Even though our daughter was high risk for miscarriage (4 occurrences prior to her second live birth), her doctor assured her the option of chemotherapy treatment would not increase her risk.

According to Erika, “The maternal-fetal doctor I saw in Houston told me that the biggest ‘risk’ of chemo treatments while pregnant was the increased likelihood of early contractions. However, she again assured me that a) any time a pregnant woman is stressed, she’s likely to have contractions and b) those contractions are rarely productive”.

So what causes all of the misconceptions and why isn’t this scientifically proven method more commonly shared? Perhaps doctors poorly explain or fail to acknowledge the truth. It’s also possible that doctors aren’t as familiar with chemotherapy during pregnancy as they could be. Every woman presented with a cancer diagnosis while pregnant is free to choose what she feels is best, but being armed with the facts – all of them – should be a vital part of that decision-making process.

I tell our story via the pro-life memes I create and share.

Life for Both

As is typical, the outcome proved to be win-win when our healthy, full term granddaughter was born on Thanksgiving Day 2009. She joined all of the other ‘chemo babies’ of the past 25+ years, whose mothers had an increased chance of surviving a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy. Today, Rachel is a precocious 4-year-old who ranks in the 90th percentile in height and weight for her age group. She’s a beginning reader who aspires to out run her rambunctious 6-year-old brother. Whenever we are out and about, her disarming smile is sure to garner comments and begin conversations. In true evangelizing style, we never miss an opportunity to express our gratitude to God for this living miracle of ours. Many a stranger has walked away from a checkout line or gathering, knowing that a cancer diagnosis while pregnant doesn’t have to be a death sentence – for the child or the mother.

Celebrating another year of life at the Horses and Hope Event in KY
Visit the Designs by Birgit fan page on Facebook for hundreds of pro-life and faith memes to share!

NOTE: A similar version of this piece first appeared at Catholic Stand.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ridiculously Easy Tomato Paste - Plus 2 Recipes Using It

If you're like me, you either have a flood of ripe tomatoes right now - or your neighbors do. So what to do with this onslaught of 'love apples'? Make tomato paste, of course! My husband and I love making our own pizza, spaghetti sauce, and barbecue sauce - so why not make them using free tomatoes from the garden? This is a recipe I developed about four years ago and, I confess, was created out of pure laziness. I'd gone the route of blanching and peeling the tomatoes, but decided there had to be a simpler way. Boy was I right!

Ridiculously Easy Tomato Paste




Soup Pot and/or Crock Pot
Cutting Board


  • Cut tomatoes into halves or quarters - don't peel or core, just remove stems.
  • Place into soup pot or crock pot and simmer until they fall apart. I cook 12 quarts at a time and it takes 24 hours.
  • Use the soup pot lid until liquid begins to form, then uncover to enhance evaporation.
  • Run stewed tomatoes through a colander or strainer, making sure to leave only the skins behind.
  • Pour tomato meat and juice into crock pot and simmer, uncovered, on 'low' setting until desired consistency. This might take longer than you'd expect - don't hurry the process.
  • Allow to cool.
  • If you want a smoother paste, run through a food processor or Ninja at 'high' speed.
  • Place into containers for freezing. I use 4 oz. plastic baby food containers (for pizza) and Zip-Lock sandwich baggies, containing 2 cups of paste (for barbecue or spaghetti sauce).

While this process may take some time, it couldn't be easier to carry out. I occasionally stir, as I'm walking through the kitchen from time to time. No need to babysit the paste, it will continue to simmer, unattended, quite nicely!

I've been using this process for four years now and am amazed at how fresh the paste remains - even after an entire year in the freezer.

NOTE: to prevent discoloration (which doesn't affect flavor), add a few drops of lemon juice.

RJ's Tangy Barbecue Sauce

2 cups tomato paste
3/4 cups brown sugar or Splenda (for low carb version)
1/4 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoons hickory-flavored liquid smoke
1 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Pour tomato paste into a non-reactive sauce pan (I use stainless), on low/medium heat. Add butter and begin to simmer. 
  • Add all other ingredients and simmer until desired consistency is obtained, stirring frequently. 
Serve immediately or allow to cool and store. I use an old, squeeze ketchup bottle. I'm a MasterPiece Barbecue Sauce lover, and this is just as good. If you use Splenda, this recipe is good for low carb diets. 

Will be good to use for several weeks - but probably won't last that long!

RJ's Artisan Pizza

Your favorite white bread recipe (will make two pizzas)

For each pizza:
1/2 recipe of bread dough, ready to bake
6 oz. tomato paste
Toppings as desired
Seasonings as desired
Mozzarella cheese (we make our own)

Roll out dough and place on pizza stone. Add paste and spread evenly. If you use raw vegetables add them as well. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven. Add other ingredients and layer as desired. Make sure fresh herbs and seasonings are beneath other ingredients, including cheese. Bake for an additional 6-7 minutes and then kick up to high heat broil, until golden brown. Allow to rest, then cut and serve.

This pizza dough is light, tender and thin. If you have a favorite recipe for pizza dough or prefer a thicker dough, use your own recipe. We sometimes bake it in a large cast iron skillet as well.

What type of homemade foods do you make? Ketchup? Cheese? Breads? Share your recipes in the combox!