Saturday, July 26, 2014

Novena to Saint Afra - Martyr for Conversion

As the wife of a convert, I have an affinity for the saints tasked with converting souls for the Church Jesus brought to us in His human role. During our lives, we are all in need of conversion from our sinful ways, as well. Two obvious favorites, Saint Monica and Saint Augustine, quickly come to mind. However, there are other, less commonly known saints to petition as well. One example is Saint Afra whose feast day is August 5th. How fitting, then to pray for the intercession of this former pagan for the next nine days.

This former barmaid and prostitute's character was so nefarious that she was instrumental in the corruption of many youths in her city of Augsburg, in Bavaria. Yet Divine Grace triumphed when this most wretched creature was brought, from the very lowest abyss of disrepute, to the glory of martyrdom.

Tradition holds that Saint Afra and her entire family, as well as her three servants, were converted by the holy bishop, Saint Narcissus. It appears that, for the rest of her life, she recollected and was tortured by her past crimes against God. This lead her to liberally give to the poor, who sometimes refused her charity because they considered it the wages of sin. She would then fervently pray to God for remission of her offenses and beseech them to accept her gifts.

Saint Afra was arrested during the persecution of Diocletian, and brought before a judge, named Gaius, who said to her: “Come now, sacrifice to the gods; it is better to live than to die amid torments.”

Saint Afra replied: “The sins which I have committed before I knew the true God are sufficient; wherefore I cannot now do that which thou commandest. I never will do so: it would be adding a new insult to my God.”

When the judge ordered her to repair the temple, she answered, “My temple is Jesus Christ, whom I have continually before mine eyes, and to whom I every day confess my sins. Since I am unworthy to offer him any other sacrifice, I am anxious to sacrifice myself, in order that this body, with which I have offended him, may be purified by torments; this reflection shall make me suffer most willingly.”

Some accounts relate that Saint Afra was martyred by being burned alive, while others say she was beheaded. Her feast day is August 5th. Read more of her story at Catholic Saints and Catholic Answers.  

Feel free to leave your intentions in the combox. Start on Sunday, July 27. Will you join us in praying this prayer as well as an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the next 9 days?

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          Prayer to Saint Afra for Conversion - Daily for 9 Days beginning Sunday, July 27

Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful Savior of the World, we humbly beseech you, by your most Sacred Heart, that all the sheep who stray out of your fold may one day be converted to You, Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, Who lives and reigns with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
Saint Afra, pray for the conversion of souls. Saint Afra, we beseech you to intercede on behalf of [mention your intention]. Saint Afra, pray for us! 
Say the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

9 Intentions as We Pray the Saint Anne Novena

Glorious St. Ann, filled with compassion for those who invoke you and with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present affair which I recommend to you under your special protection.

St. Ann, please, recommend to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue.
St. Ann cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. (Mention petition now.)

Above all, obtain for me the grace of one day beholding my God face to face, and with You and Mary and all the saints, praising and blessing Him through all eternity. Amen.

Good St. Anne, mother of her who is our life, sweetness, and hope, pray for me. 

Click this link to follow the St. Anne Novena online.  

St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, was not called by name in the canonical gospels. Instead we find our information about her from apocryphal literature. Anne, derived from Hebrew, is a name meaning 'grace' and is befitting of she who brought forth she who bore our Savior. In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, her name is given in its Arabic form, Hannah. In the capacity of Forbear of God, she is celebrated during two of the Twelve Great Feasts - the Birth of Mary and the Dedication of Mary to the Temple.

Since the feast of St. Anne is celebrated on July 26th in the western calendar and July 25th on the eastern calendar, many of us are now observing the devotion of praying a Novena for her intercession on our behalf. Although we usually personalize our intentions when praying a Novena, St. Anne in known for being the patroness of several causes. Therefore I present the following nine petitions:

1. St. Anne patroness of unmarried women - intercede for those who are seeking a spouse, contemplating marriage, or discerning the religious life as a sister or nun. May their discernment be made with grace and true love, we pray to the Lord.

2. St. Anne, patroness of housewives - intercede on behalf of women who tend to their households, whether they be single, married, mothers, or caretakers. May they pursue this calling with a selfless love of God and others, we pray to the Lord.
3. St. Anne, patroness of women in labor - intercede on behalf of mothers who are currently pregnant, trying to conceive, suffering from health issues related to their feminine role, those in the process of birth, and all mothers who lovingly tend to their children. May they find comfort and peace in the loving bosom of your daughter, Mary, we pray to the Lord.

4. St. Anne, patroness of grandmothers - intercede for those whose motherhood has reached its second generation. May these mothers of mothers and fathers be inspired to gently present a virtuous example for all in their extended families, we pray to the Lord.

5. St. Anne, patroness of horseback riders - intercede for those whose livelihood or recreation involve our equine friends. May they remain gentle and safe in their pursuits as good stewards of Gods creatures, we pray to the Lord.

6. St. Anne, patroness of cabinet-makers - in as much as your son-in-law was a carpenter, may you intercede for others who pursue this noble craft. Protect them from harm and guide their hands in virtuous creation, we pray to the Lord.

7. St. Anne, patroness of the Mi'kmaq people - intercede on behalf of these first inhabitants of Canada, that justice and peace may fill their lives in their indigenous land, we pray to the Lord. 

8. St. Anne, protector from storms - intercede on behalf of those who suffer from natural disasters, such as storms, floods, earthquakes. May they find shelter, comfort, and aid when needed, we pray to the Lord.

9. St. Anne, patroness of miners - inasmuch as Christ is compared to gold and Mary to silver, remember all those whose livelihood depends on the depths of the earth. May miners be protected from danger and harm, while those who employ them take gentle care of their safety, we pray to the Lord.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pro-Life, Pro-Gun Rant - Misrepresentations That Drive Me Crazy

We all have inequities that send us over the edge. Those pesky slants, people put on happenings, that completely distort reality. I have many such peeves but wanted to share one such misrepresentation and the meme it drove me to create.

Misrepresentation - Guns kill people, they kill more people, more of the time and they should be outlawed. Actually, gun violence is significantly lower than in past years. You wouldn't know that if you listen to the media or read what those who want to stomp on the 2nd Amendment have to say. These same people will often say nary a word about the senseless killing of millions of unborn babies - killing that happens because of convenience or fear or misinformation. Here's my meme using a stat that might catch your attention:

According to the article,  Gun violence in US has fallen dramatically over past 20 years, Justice Dept. report finds, in US News/NBC, "the highest number (of gun offenders), 40 percent, said the guns came from a family member or a friend. About 37 percent said the weapons were stolen or obtained from an illegal source". That's almost 80% of guns acquired by gun offenders. So why the push to ban gun ownership for law-abiding citizens?

In case you suspect that I'm cherry-picking my stats, let me share two more links from the main-stream media:

On the other hand, no matter how many times President Obama and other democrats, liberals, and feminists say they care about protecting the lives of innocent children, they never make the transition to respecting the lives of unborn children. Instead, these littlest brothers and sisters of ours are called a 'mistake' and a punishment - even while they are sacrificed at the altar of convenience and fear. Yet a quick look at the comparison of the numbers begs the question, "why the inequity"?

In case you're wondering how many reported abortions there are in the United States, I'll share this link from the Guttmacher Institute (reporting arm of Planned Parenthood). According to their numbers "30% of women will have an abortion by age 45". That's no small number! This doesn't take into account the multitude of other abortions that go unreported - prenatal lives lost due to the abortifacient aspect of the Pill, Plan B (morning after pill), and D & C surgeries performed on women whose babies who still have beating hearts. This last is a moral crime against both the mother and the child, and was offered to a young woman I know, when it appeared she would have a miscarriage. Check out the other stats available from the Guttmacher Institute, by following the link below. Knowing their sentiments, I'd judge their numbers to be as low as possible. The reality is most likely much grimmer. I've also added a pro-life site with their sourced facts.

If this post makes you go 'hmmm', why not share it and let the rest of the world catch up to what we, the people of the pro-life movement already know. ABORTION kills an innocent victim - every time! If you want to stop violence against the innocent, against children - work to stop abortion!

Monday, July 7, 2014

5 Ways Facebook Can Bless Your Life

Facebook - some love it, some hate it - but it's all really a matter of how it's used.

We’ve all read stories of mothers neglecting their children to play some inane game. Dinners burn or go uncooked and families fall apart because a virtual ‘relationship’ got in the way. Other, smaller, proofs of the downside of extreme usage are most likely evident on a daily basis, somewhere in the world. There’s another, more worthy side to the Facebook coin, however. As with all pleasures, moderation is key. We are in control of how many hours we spend on Facebook or any activity, for that matter. Also within our power is the amount of food, alcohol, and leisure activity in which we indulge. To everything available to us here on earth, there is a need for temperance. There can definitely be too much of a good thing – but that’s more a reflection of our choices than it is on the activity itself. Although, I’d be remiss to claim Facebook usage perfection, I can share the boundaries I have set in place in an attempt to make my own virtual social interaction healthily balanced.

Facebook Pen Pals

With Facebook, the number of virtual pen pals available is limited only by our keystrokes – and time allotted. The examples are plentiful. Emily understands about your daughter’s neuropathy – because she’s living it too. Erika can give terrific tips about homeschooling because she’s a certified teacher who now teaches her own children. A side bonus is that her husband is a computer whiz. As a Canon Lawyer, Fr. V gives church-sanctioned advice on how to handle a relative’s upcoming illicit wedding. Other friends share recipes, organic weed killing concoctions, and child rearing tips. I’ve traded flowers with other avid gardeners and set up First Friday gatherings with other homeschool families – all courtesy of Facebook. All this is available at the tips of your fingers – spend as much, or as little, time as you desire.

Increase the Reach of Prayer Through Facebook

Who can’t use more prayers? I know I need all I can get – and some days we are thrust into an emergency situation when the quick response of friends is a huge blessing. Facebook is the perfect place to garner the assistance of some fierce prayer warriors. It’s also much more efficient than trying to make individual calls. Once you’ve honed your list of friends to a fine demographic, you’re golden when it comes to prayers – both for your benefit and for the benefit of others. What better way to demonstrate the spiritual power of the Body of Christ? I know my family has benefitted greatly from these connections.

Gathering Information Via Facebook

Don’t know the difference between Discipline and Dogma? Join a good, faithful Catholic group and the official definitions will become readily available. Want to know more about the Latin Mass? When you make good Catholic friends from all over the world, you are gifted with photos, videos, and information on an almost daily basis. If you’ve been wondering what difference there is between the Second Vatican Council and the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II, the official Church documents can be shared by someone who just happens to have links to all of them and is more than willing to share.

The goings on in this complex world of ours can be overwhelming. Even more overwhelming, are the many self serving slants by which we are accosted by today’s media. How to dig through all of the fabrications and distortions? I’ve found that a finely tuned Facebook account can be just the ticket. Much like a personalized Drudge Report, with snippets of news and links to the rest of the story, Facebook provides a way to filter sources of information. At this point almost anyone who is anyone, as far as information goes, has a Facebook page. All we have to do is ‘follow’ the ones whose information we trust. National Catholic Register, Church Militant TV, and EWTN gather Catholic information for me – while I rely on like-minded friends to fill my feed (and message box) with articles about news – both secular and spiritual – from all sorts of other reliable sources.

Facebook Evangelization

There are few more effective ways for individuals to reach a large group of like-minded others – all over the world – than through electronic media. Whether through blogging, email, or Facebook, the number of lives we can touch is astounding. Of these options, Facebook provides a platform like no other. I relish learning about my faith and sharing what I\’ve learned via the various aspects of Facebook, whether through my wall, fan page, or through the myriad of groups to which I belong. Are you discerning the devotion of veiling? There\’s a group for that. Is pro-life advocacy your passion? There are so many pro-life pages it\’s difficult to keep up. I\’ve personally shared my 200+ pro-life memes with other pro-life advocates from all over the world. How about praying a Novena? Look no further than the posts from your friends; someone is always praying a Novena. Not only will they remind you every day, they’ll add your intention to theirs as well. I’ve had friends go to Mass, Adoration, and even Lourdes – and remember my intentions while there. Our five little grandchildren, who are saints in Heaven, have had prayers said for them at national shrines. So, you see, the benefit is a two-way street. The faithful generosity of my Facebook friends is awe-inspiring!

Laughter: the Best Medicine

Have you ever been home alone and had a really bad day? There you are, about to embark on a pity-party of astronomical proportions. Then you see a random posting from someone who’s having a similar day. ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ – an old Polish proverb. Inexplicably, you laugh out loud. The mood is lightened and you feel better equipped to just let go of your sour mood. Then there are the ‘kid quotes’ that are the daily fare of mothers on Facebook. Who can remain annoyed when Junior just saw a commercial and asked if his turtle could be affected by ‘reptile dysfunction’?

So while some folks out there might think that social media of any type is a big waste of time, some of us garner some rather tangible blessings. It’s another example of the wonderful multiplicity God’s children display. What works for me, might not work for you; but don’t discount the very real benefits I’ve reaped. I’ve contacted a group of cloistered nuns, who helped pray for a miracle that was realized. There have been many blessings from people who are undergoing similar trials – both spiritually and physically. Sometimes groups of Facebook friends even meet IRL (in real life), as was the case when our daughter traveled to Houston for cancer treatment. All in all, Facebook can help us to realize that we are not in this world alone. We really are little frogs in a big pond. The priest from Nigeria, my Catholic friend from the Philippines, and a couple gals in Alaska all help me learn a bit about other ways of life. And the ‘other’ Birgit in Germany helps me retrieve childhood memories of nursery rhymes, prayers, and festivals.

As with all things in this world, one man’s garbage can be another man’s treasure and we are wise to limit our Facebook interactions to a reasonable consumption. Temperance in all things, our mother used to warn. ‘Don’t be too extreme in any of your emotions or actions or activities, because any good thing can be overdone.’ What can be a helpful resource is also very capable of becoming sinful, if we are excessive. As for me, I include Facebook usage in my daily examination of conscience. It can be a powerful tool or a deadly distraction. The side of the Facebook coin on which you land is up to your own discretion and conscience. There are so many more examples to share. What are yours?

NOTE: This post first appeared on Catholic Stand

Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Thoughts on the Hobby Lobby Win - A Victory for All Religions

In a historic 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States sided with the contention that the HHS Mandate is unconstitutional. Although it's disappointing that the decision was so close, we are again reminded that when man stands for what is right, God is honored - no matter the outcome. Hobby Lobby spent countless dollars and months, in a fight from which they could have walked away. Strength in a time of duress is a sure sign of conviction. May God bless all those who stand strong in the face of adversity.

Here are some thoughts, from varying sources, to keep in mind as we continue to travel the road of defending Religious Liberty. May this be a turning of the tide.

1. "If you are discussing the Hobby Lobby case with friends, remind them that the administration was trying to force religious employers not only to buy contraceptives for their employees, but also abortifacient drugs... drugs which kill unborn human beings in the womb. Thank God it was overturned by one vote today."
~Fr-Andrew R. Moore (Facebook friend)

2. The justices' 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. Justices: Can't Make Employers Cover Contraception

3. Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Steven Breyer joined Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the dissent saying, "Reading the Act expansively, as the court does, raises a host of “Me, too” questions. Can an employer in business for profit opt out of coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations, antidepressants, or medications derived from pigs, based on the employer’s sincerely held religious beliefs opposing those medical practices.”

As we can surmise from this verbiage, those who oppose this decision will have more to say and will try to win others over to their 'side'. There are more cases pending, including the one being brought by EWTN. We must remain vigilant in prayer, action, and discernment.

4. The 'tolerance' crowd is frightening when they lose! Only moments after the decision was announced, there were stories of threats to Hobby Lobby. Liberals call for burning Hobby Lobby after Supreme Court decision.  Pray for all involved - that love,  justice and cooler heads prevail.

5. While this decision is certainly a victory for Religious Liberty, there's much more work to be done. Although Hobby Lobby sought relief from ObamaCare, its owners/lawsuit only opposed four of 20 forms of contraception the mandate required employers to offer to employees at not cost.  The Catholic side of the HHS Mandate opposition coin maintains its objection to being required to provide all contraceptives, sterilization, and abortive 'services' because they are all recognized to be an intrinsic evil.

As we can surmise from this brief list, there remains much work to be done in God's vineyard. Let's band together, as the people of God, in a unified effort to promote the prevailing of justice.

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NOTE: I'll be adding more to this list as information becomes available. Feel free to share relevant stories and facts via the combox.

6. EWTN Wins Big Pro-Life Victory Against HHS Mandate on Heels of Hobby Lobby Decision

7. And the faulty analogies begin. From my combox: "You want the religious liberty of employers forcing their religious views on employees. If a Saudi Prince buys up WalMart can he force the staff to bow to Mecca five times a day? That's what this Hobby Lobby decision is about."

My response: "Your analogy is faulty. Refusing to PAY for others' contraception is not the same and depriving them from using it by buying it for themselves. I love to garden - should you be forced to buy my flowers? No, of course you shouldn't. But I can garden to my heart's content by buying my own supplies!"

The comment above inspired this meme.

8. Remember those 'Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries' posters. I felt compelled to respond: 

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You can also find both the posters and a Facebook profile picture on the Designs by Birgit fan page.

Feel free to share this poster on Facebook.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mom's Mistakes Strengthened Our Faith

The Catechism of the Catholic Church upholds the biblical directive that parents are the first (and most important) teachers of their children. What we often fail to realize is that what we do can have much more effect on our children than what we say or how we instruct. Who hasn’t seen one of their less than desirable actions or words mimicked by a child and felt a sudden blush of guilt? Sometimes, though, a child learns an important lesson from the mistakes in a parent’s life, and how they rise to the occasion. That was the case for me.

Mom, little brother and I - before he was taken.
Born in Germany, to a Lutheran father and Catholic mother, my earliest memories revolve around spirited fights between my parents. Although Mom was devout, he approached atheism, but she somehow managed to have my younger brother and I baptized as infants. It became painfully evident that my father was not a nice man. He cheated even before marriage and was abusive as well. Too young to fully understand the implications then, as I matured and later became an adult, the woeful tale became clearer. Long before I could fully comprehend it all, he left, covertly spiriting my younger brother away and leaving my mother as a divorcee with a young daughter. Through all of this turmoil, my mother maintained her faith.

By the time I was five, someone new had entered the picture. This American Airman was kind and gentle. I fondly remember playing circus, with him carrying me on his back, while my mother warmheartedly looked on. Things don’t always work out neatly, however. Red tape and language barriers between the Air Force, the United States government, and Germany greatly hindered attempted annulment proceedings. As a result, a civil marriage was performed and then a little sister was born into the family. I can still remember hearing that my baby sister had been denied baptism because she was born into an illicit marriage. My mother, however, tenaciously persisted and found a kindly old priest to confer the sacrament. To complete the family unit, I was also adopted and became the daughter of an American. By this time, any efforts to reunite us with my little brother had been exhausted. Our family of four moved to the U.S. without him; he could not be found.

Fast forward a few years, after assignments to several states and retirement from the Air Force, we settled in Dad’s native Kentucky. We had become a family of seven—Mom, Dad, and a collection of five children. There was still no annulment, but we had never lacked catechesis. We were all baptized, received First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and were frequently taken to Confession. The poignant vision of our mother, tears of joy (for us) and pain (for her situation) was impossible to ignore at each of these special occasions. As each of us matured in the faith life as Catholic citizens, she was our teacher, our champion, and immovable anchor. We never missed Mass, attended Catholic schools when available, and had priest friends who frequently visited our home. For all practical purposes, we appeared to be the optimal Catholic family, with one exception —our parents were unable to join us in an actively Catholic life.

All of that changed one beautiful October afternoon, when after a long, tedious, multi-linguistic annulment process, Mom and Dad were married in the Church. Our small church community and five children were present. The long awaited celebration of love and faith had finally become reality! After the reception, we decorated our family station wagon with cans and ribbons. The sign on the back read, ‘Congratulations, Mom and Dad—Just Married!’

A few years later, we were reunited with my missing brother, now an adult. He had been raised to think his father’s wife was his mother. It wasn’t until her death that he was told the truth: “She wasn’t your real mother. Your mother lives somewhere in Kentucky.” What a reunion that was! At last, all eight of us were united! It was a true lesson in faith, love, and hope. Our mother had surely illustrated a strong faith in the face of adversity. Mom died of breast cancer a few years later, at the young age of 58. Yet, she had been an incredible witness to us. She lived through many trials but never lost her faith. She even met her estranged husband at one point and offered her forgiveness. His comment to her? “There was one thing I could never break—your Catholic faith. I always respected that.” Her years of persistent love and hope had culminated in a family strengthened by adversity. She had illustrated, with her very life, what it means to live your Catholic faith.

All of us are adults now, with children and even grandchildren of our own. The Catholic faith persists as the most important thing in our lives. We have learned, from loving example, what it means to stay faithful—no matter where your choices lead you. Mistakes will be made but how you face the resulting strife, determines who you are. If nurtured and fed, Faith will always win out!

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Note: How My Mother's Mistakes Strengthened My Faith was first published at