Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Facebook Deception #3 - Blocking Pro-Life Accounts

This week I have posted twice (here and here) about Facebook tactics that appear to target conservative users. First, my pro-life friend had a pro-life meme removed from her wall. Next, they removed another, older pro-life meme and then she was blocked from using her account for a 24 hour period. Being the pro-life advocate I am, I promptly created a meme that called Facebook out for their censorship. I posted it on my personal wall as well as on the Designs by Birgit fan page. I can't say that I was unprepared for what happened next, but that doesn't quell the sense of injustice I feel - my images were removed and I was blocked for 24 hours as well.

Now, here's the thing - I realize that a public, for profit entity can create (and enforce) any rules that they see fit but a sense of fairness begs that it should be done across the board. Instead, pages for pro-life groups, conservatives (like Chicks on the Right), and others are targeted while pages calling Catholics unsavory names and pages with sexually explicit content remain. Even pages engaged in dog fighting are alive and well. Double standard much?

Another thing that comes to mind is that users should be provided a means to see what these rules are. Neither is the case. You can read their rules here (note that none of these points really addresses our particular issue). My friend has been in contact with Facebook in an attempt to garner some solid parameters  for this policy yet any useful information seems to be quite see, they also have 'internal policies"  that they use when assessing these situation on a case by case basis (read, we make up the rules on the fly).

Here's How I See it

While I agree that Facebook is a public for profit site, I'd have to disagree with them getting away with this inequitable treatment unchallenged.
  • It's news when YouTube takes down my friend's professional Catholic videos. 
  • It's news when a child can't wear a pro-life or Christian tee shirt to public school. 
  • It's news when a Girl Scout volunteer is censored for her tee shirt. 
  • Remember the stories about Google weighting their search results in favor of liberal sites? That was news too. 
  • And it should be news when this happens - especially since their public policy (which they referred me to) doesn't state exactly what they object to.
So are you willing to help spread the word? It would help to have people gather support for our freedom to profess that ABORTION is simply WRONG! What's so offensive about that???

Bottom Line?

I will have been locked out of my account for 2 days by the time this is (hopefully) over. What do ya think about that?

Feel free to share this and any of my other memes with your friends and fans! You find them all on the Designs by Birgit Facebook page.

I'm baaaaack!

Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Pope Benedict’s Resignation - Some Fun Q & A

The final Angelus - 24 February 2013. 

So, we've had 16 days to accustom ourselves to the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, our 266th pope in the line of succession beginning with the Rock, St. Peter. By now most of us have shaken off the fog of shock and have taken a more resolute pose. As the leader of the world’s 1.2 Billion Catholics, however, Benedict’s unusual step has left us as quite the Papa-ratzi. News reports by the dozens appear hourly to feed our need to know. What will we call him, where is he going, and what about that all important Twitter account with its 1,582,730 followers? For that matter, what about those indulgences that we obtain for praying for the intentions of the Holy Father when we have no sitting Pope? In an effort to answer some of the questions that have caught my fancy, I will share some answers and their sources.

Q: Since this is an unprecedented occurrence in modern times, what in the world shall we call him when he leaves?

A: His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome will be his new title according to both Patheos and Zenit.

Q: What changes has he made to the rituals for new pope's inauguration?
A: "One of the most visual changes, he said, would be the restoration of the public "act of obedience" in which each cardinal present at the pope's inaugural Mass comes forward and offers his allegiance."

Q: So what will he be doing after 8:00 p.m. (Rome time), February 28, when he steps away from the Seat of Saint Peter?

A: According to his own words, "I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious." After a brief stay at Castel Gandolfo, the Papal summer home, he will dedicate himself to a life of prayer and study in a Vatican-based monastery.

Q: But isn’t he abandoning the Church at a very tumultuous time?

A: No, Benedict is not abandoning the Church. Perhaps in anticipation of this question he clarified, “…this does not mean abandoning the Church,” he qualified. “Indeed, if God asks me this it is just so that I can continue to serve with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done so far, but in a way more suited to my age and for me.”

Q: What about the indulgences that are obtained by those who pray for the Intentions of the Holy Father when we have no sitting Pope?

A: Surprisingly, the answer is yes! According to a post by Fr. Zuhlsdorf, "The faithful are able to obtain plenary indulgences during the “Sede Vacante” time, where there is no Pope.As a matter of fact, the Church holds matters of internal forum and of indulgences to be so important for the faithful that the office of the Major Penitentiary (who oversees these matters for the Apostolic Penitentiary) is one of the few that does not cease when the Pope dies or resigns".  Actually, this question was addressed after the death of Pope John Paul II after his death in 2005.

Q: Doesn’t this move us closer to the Prophecy of St. Malachy and his list, where he predicts that Benedict XVI’s successor will be the last pope? Are we to conclude that we are nearing the end?

A: There are strong indications that the List of St. Malachy is a fraud. According to Catholic Answers, “(t)he consensus among modern scholars is that it is a 16th-century forgery created for partisan political reasons”. We must remember that predictions of the end times were warned against in the Bible..."but of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father".

Q: Will the conclave begin earlier, shortening the expected month long wait, and how many Cardinals will participate?

A: In his motu proprio Normas nonnullas (22 feb 2012), Pope Benedict has given authorization for the conclave to begin earlier. Sources at the National Catholic Register report that “the conclave to choose the next pope will likely begin between March 9 and 11”. We may have a new pope by Easter! This decision, however, now “falls squarely within the pontifical provisions for a conclave, and one may leave the choice of a start-date to the competent authority without further concern for the legality of the assembly” according to canonist Ed Peters.
There will be 118 Cardinals in the conclave.

Q: Will the virally popular Papal Twitter account, @pontifex, be shut down when the Holy Father steps down?

A: In a word, no. It will go dormant while we await the election of our new pope, however, as soon as he steps into his role as Vicar of Christ he will be free to take up what his predecessor started. It appears that Benedict chose the name "Pontifex"  wisely, in anticipation of a seamless transition from pope to pope. The name means "bridge builder" or "pope" .

This is but a small sampling of the questions that have arisen since Pope Benedict XVI made his announcement. Catholic Sistas (CS) is also involved in a Q & A endeavor over at Electing the Pope. Here you will find many more questions and answers, with sources, some of which are being provided by Ink Slingers. You will also able to post questions of your own.

40 Days of Prayer for the Pope
Don’t forget that CS also has their 40 Days of Prayer for the Seat of Saint Peter posted on our Facebook fan page. There we post a brief prayer every day – from February 22 (Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter) through April 1. Won’t you join us in praying for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor? 

You might also be interested in reading our Open Letter to Our Beloved Papa, where the Ink Slingers share their thoughts, prayers, and admiration of this wonderful pope who has given us so much in his eight years as our Pontiff.

May we never forget the good done by this gentle German Shepherd of ours!

The post Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Pope Benedict's Retirement appeared first on Catholic Sistas.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Facebook Deception - Day #2

Yesterday I posted about the censorship that Facebook practices when it comes to pro-life content. A pro-life friend of mine had her pro-life memes removed by Facebook and then was locked out of her account for 24 hours for defying them by reposting her graphics. In solidarity with her, I posted the banned memes both on my personal wall and on my Designs by Birgit fan page. I also created a meme, illustrating their unfair censorship.

At the end of the day I received this message when I attempted to log into my own Facebook account:

It seems that Big Brother has a long arm! In any case, Facebook wins: 1) if I repost I, too, will be blocked and in danger of losing my account or 2) if I don't repost they will have successfully prevented the truth from being presented. 

I pray for those who feel the need to utilize unfair practices to hide the truth. They simply have no other method of battling the truth - they lack facts to shore up their flawed thinking. Please join me and other pro-life advocates as we struggle to be the voice of the voiceless. Visit Designs by Birgit and become a fan. One by one, we CAN make a difference.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Facebook Deception – Pro-life Images Targeted, Smut is NOT!

Electronic media is here to stay and whether or not we use it for good or evil is up to us – or is it? Although we use the right possessive words – ‘my’ wall, my ‘likes’, my ‘friends’, etc. – it’s not quite as personal as you might think (or hope). You see, there are trolls out there who, like the Nazi informers of another era will covertly insinuate themselves into groups of people with whom they share nothing in common. This self appointed ‘content police force’ lives to find opinions with which they disagree and then works diligently to remove aforementioned opinions from public view. They don’t pursue their own hobbies or interests, but instead, monitor others and try to bring them down.

Examples of this can be found on many Facebook fan pages ‘belonging’ to pro-life and Catholic groups or individuals. Here, fans with common interests gather to share ideas, memes, links and words of solidarity. Sounds quite cozy doesn't it? Well, not so fast! In the shadows, there are others who lurk around in an effort to start trouble. They don’t have facts and sources in their favor, so instead, they seek to do harm to those with whom they disagree. Just as in real life, if someone wants to cause an 'enemy' trouble, all they have to do is be a part of the reporting system. Hate your neighbor? Report him to the local police for child endangerment or to the IRS for tax evasion. Whether or not there is truth to your allegation, the harm comes when they are forced to prove innocence.

This is the way it works with Facebook as well. Don’t like that someone is calling out abortion giant, Planned Parenthood, for killing of hundreds of babies Just report them to Facebook as a threat, abuse or inappropriate. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the recent blocking of a friend’s Facebook account. She has been posting pro-life memes for as long as I can remember. Her personal wall lists her as having over 5,000 tried and true friends who share her content daily. In addition to the pro-life and Catholic memes I create over on my Designs by Birgit fan page, I share her creations too.

Yesterday, she posted this:

After a short time, she was informed that this meme had been removed by Facebook. Of course, everyone who had shared it saw it disappear from their walls as well. When she reposted it later in the day, it was removed again. In addition another older meme, shown below, was also removed.

Further, she was locked out of her personal Facebook account and sent the following message via email:

You are temporarily blocked

This is your second warning for violating Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. You are now blocked from posting content on Facebook for 24 hours.

If you continue to abuse Facebook's features, your account could be permanently disabled

Now I know that there are those who will say, ‘it’s their (Facebook) right to remove anything they’d like, after all, this is a for profit, ad-based business’. OK, fair enough (I guess), but then why isn't there an equally firm effort aimed at true hate sites that spew misinformation about the Catholic faith, for example (Whore of Babylon anyone)? Or for the aforementioned pages with graphic, gratuitous sexual content?

What we are seeing here is yet another effort of the thought police, discriminating against the sharing of the ugly truth about abortion. There is nothing fabricated or exaggerated about these pro-life graphics. They are simply showing the horrible truth about child killing – with pictures. If it’s too ugly to acknowledge maybe we should all be working harder to abolish it! JUST SAYIN’

Check out my Facebook page, Designs by Birgit, to see the excellent commentary this issue is receiving. I feel blessed to have received strong support for my friend,  from a pro-choice individual who says, "I do however feel that everyone has the right to their own opinion, and although I may not be sharing it and may not agree with the message the pic claims, I do NOT agree with her being banned and not able to stand behind her opinion!!"

You can also take a gander at the pro-life images that I create on my Pro-Life Designs by Birgit album.

NOTE: As a 'social network', Facebook affords us the opportunity to 'gather' with like-minded friends/acquaintances to share common interests. I have created a friend list that is custom tailored just for me. My wall feed reads like a who’s who of Catholic, pro-life, photography, and garden list. I don’t need the Drudge Report because all of my news comes via friends with like interests. I find it an invaluable tool for evangelization, fact finding, and support. Hopefully the day won't come when that is no longer possible!

Read UPDATE post

What Happened to the Photo Challenge?

OK, I'm going to start this brief little post with an admission - I HATE Instagram! There! I said it! Now before you tell me how behind the times I am, let me assure you that I love many things technical: electronic gadgets, Roku, iPhone, Facebook, blogging, and so on. What I don't like is having to use a handheld device to follow something or someone. The same feelings are relevant concerning Twitter - HATE it! I just don't like the burden of the #hash tags and endless clicking and following links to see what all the hubbub is about. The need to center in on one location to look for photos (Instagram) and another for news, updates, and a few photos (Twitter) just doesn't inspire me.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a Facebook addict, however. There's nothing about it I don't like (except their liberal bias and censorship). It has it all: I can organize my 'likes' and friends into groups and see pro-life news, for example, all in one handy dandy spot and for a myriad of sources. It's also terrific to be able to use aforementioned iPhone to navigate both my wall and my Designs by Birgit fan page when I'm on the go. My favorite interaction, though, comes from using my laptop or PC to access my account. There, I have photos, a large screen, and the comfort of not having to wear my 'cheaters' just to see. Yes, I'm 50 something and blessed with declining eyesight.

 I also love photography. I love the creative aspect, the sharing aspect, and the million words aspect. The larger I can see a photo, the happier I am. If my photos are to make the impact for which I create them, a computer monitor is much more flattering for my vision of what I'm trying to convey. And I'm not tied to teeny tiny little letters on a touch screen to share a caption.

This leads me to the confession that, after two days of participation, I am abandoning the Lenten Photo Challenge of which I wrote previously. I don't feel badly about this because I have many spiritual pursuits to which I will adhere. I'll leave you then, with a few of my Instagram efforts. Now back to that iPhone for quick snapshots and the Nikon D5100 I received for Christmas! Say cheeeeeeze!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Stay Calm and Mother On!

Our daughter was recently thrust into being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama overnight. It was a dream that she had had ever since she married and instantly become pregnant. Since her unemployment happened rather suddenly, however, she didn’t have time to prepare herself for the changes this new lifestyle would entail. Like me, she tends to be rather pedantic and structured (aka OCD). The feelings she is having now, of being overloaded and overburdened, are new to her in this particular context. Although she is a model employee, wonderful mother (kids ages 5 and 3), and structured working woman the turned tables have her rather flustered.

A recent conversation she had with me, brought to mind other instances when we women and mothers tend to be too hard on ourselves and perhaps set ourselves up for an untenable agenda.

  • Marriage – when we first marry, we have expectations but no real experience. Of course, we have whatever example has been given to us by our parents and other couples with whom we interact. We also have the fairy tale and Hollywood brand of ideas. While it’s easy to expect ourselves to fall perfectly into marital bliss, the reality can be quite – ahem – challenging instead.
  • Cooking – we base much of our enjoyment of life around food: eating out, cookouts, parties, receptions, and such. It’s quite satisfying to share good food, good company and some leisure time. Eating takes no large effort – in fact, it usually takes effort not to eat too much! When the time comes to prepare these meals for ourselves or others, however, it’s not quite that simple. Unless you’re a culinary genius, it takes some experience, burned dishes, and frustrated tears to make a worthy chef.
  • Parenting – when we observe others, we see a limited portion of their day. That mother, with her 6 darlings following her like baby ducks in formation, may have gone through quite the struggle to get them into shipshape – or she might just be gifted with children of even temperament (at least at that moment). Try not to compare and just mother on. You never know who is looking at your brood admiringly as well – and if not, maybe they just don’t know how to have fun like your bunch does!
  • Homeschooling - unlike formal schooling, educating your children at home is not comprised of a curriculum forged together by a school board, teachers, text books, and government induced schedule. Your time, effort, and experience will be as individual as your family is. First time teaching mothers tend to compare themselves and their children to others. Is my child learning at the right pace. Am I being too structured - too lax? Will my children have a good life considering this decision? Slow down, read your children to find their tolerance/learning pace. Enjoy what you're doing and so will they. Remember, you are the teacher and the mother - you set out the rules and agenda.
  • House and Home – my parents built their dream house shortly after I married. I never had the chance to call it home, but instead remembered the rambling Victorian with the wraparound porch of my childhood. My tastes leaned more toward the Swiss Chalet style of their new home, however, and I pined to have a house like that instead of the little farm house my new husband and I called home. I didn't give one thought to the years of overtime my dad worked or the frugality my German mother practiced, I was in the there and now. Looking back, from the balcony of my own Swiss Chalet style home, I can see with perfect 20-20 hindsight that this too, takes time and effort.
  • Faith Life -our most important pursuit, faith life is prone to comparisons as well. What we often fail to realize is that we are all at different points of the journey. Our life experiences, motivation, and effort tend to make our faith life an extremely personal and unique experience. Also to be considered is how well we are tuned in to the call from God. Let Him help you decide where to go and when in your faith journey.
In our fast paced times, Facebook and other social media tends to give us a voyeur’s glimpse into the lives of many others – yet what we see is still only what they choose to share. Conversely, if you only show that perfect snapshot of that perfect moment, when you and your children are frozen in time doing exactly what you had envisioned – well, that’s what they’ll see and expect of themselves. Never mind that it took three days, umpteen tries, tears, shrieks and a dozen retakes. Much like the school years gone by, we all tend to think that we are the only ones experiencing angst. Later, when it’s of little use, is usually when we find the revelation of a secret crush or the admiration of those perfect seeming peers.

So what to take from these thoughts? The bottom line from where I stand - as a fifty something woman, wife, mother, homeschool teacher and Catholic - is that we are often too hard on ourselves because of the notions we have about others. Instead of making comparisons with only a tiny fragment of pure data, why not go for ‘personal best’. Relish the learning curve, the journey, the experiences…that way you’re only worrying about your own reality. Simply challenge yourself to be the best you, you can be! Love your husband into growing old together. Feast on each meal in the company of those you love, however it comes out of the oven. Make your house a home – no matter how humble. And most of all, love those little blessings from God – tears, tantrums, sloppy kisses and all. Stay calm, Mama, and mother on!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lenten Photo Challenge - Day #9 Family

The awesome Catholic Sistas (CS) blog has an innovative new project for Lent. We are challenged to come up with an Instagram photo each day, using a list of topics of their choosing. Then we are invited to post them on their Facebook fan page. It's up to us to find inspiration for the photo in our own lives.

Today, February 21, 2013, the topic is 'FAMILY'

When I think of family I experience the warm feeling of belonging I get from the large, extended family to which I belong. Our parents, both only children, gave us the gift of family by growing us into a close knit family of 6 siblings. Now that the siblings are grown, we have oodles of cousins to socialize with. My grandchildren are fortunate that their parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are always ready for yet another family get together. Here, is a small group of of cousins at a birthday party we recently celebrated.

For your ease of participation, I have posted the CS list of topics below (click to enlarge):

Happy Instagram posting!

The Bells and Smells of Mass – Why Our Senses Matter When We Worship

Our senses enhance our livesWe are "fearfully and wonderfully" made by God and His crafting of us is undeniably intricate. Our five senses give us a plethora of experiences with which to enjoy all of His creation. Our immediate surroundings provide much in the way of sensory pleasure – to the point that we often take them for granted. Similarly, our senses can also propel us back in time, where we are able experience past pleasures anew. Take a favorite song, for instance. A few musical notes and we are transported back in time – to our first love, senior prom, or a delightful vacation. We also relate to the memories evoked by the smell of a freshly baked apple pie or a favorite recipe – like Mom used to make. Even realtors have been known to employ this tendency to lure prospective buyers into a feeling of having ‘come home’.

In the same vein courting, celebrating special occasions or getting married, finds us taking great pains to entertain our senses . And what potential boss would we impress if we appeared for an interview in tattered jeans and a stained tee shirt? Would a suitor give us a second glance if we had unkempt hair and bad breath? Meanwhile we powder, lotion, and dress our babies in adorable outfits in an effort to enhance the velvet touch of their skin,  intoxicating scent, and cherub's form.

In the same vein courting, celebrating special occasions or getting married, finds us taking great pains to entertain our senses . And what potential boss would we impress if we appeared for an interview in tattered jeans and a stained tee shirt? Would a suitor give us a second glance if we had unkempt hair and bad breath? Meanwhile we powder, lotion, and dress our babies in adorable outfits in an effort to enhance the velvet touch of their skin,  intoxicating scent, and cherub's form.
As sensory creatures, the gift of our senses helps us experience the fullness of God’s creation. Therefore, our senses also come into play in our worship of God. We have at our disposal, many ways that we can both compliment our understanding of our ancient Liturgy and to show honor to God.

  • The architectural beauty of our churches illustrates that we have entered a sacred place. The formality of the edifice and the orderly ranks of pews speak to a certain structure and discipline.
  • Ornate statuary and the Stations of the Cross call to mind the faithful lives of saints, the virtues of the Blessed Mother, and the God Man, Jesus - who came to take away the sins of the world. And we see the crucifix as a poignant reminder of the ultimate price paid for our sins – both past and future.
  • The various colors of the priestly vestments give us a clue as to the season and the tone of our worship. White, red, green, violet, black, rose and gold all denote differing liturgical seasons, purposes or intents.
  • The Rubrics or General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) are a written manual that thoroughly choreographs postures, words, and actions during Holy Mass. In addition,  the Roman Missal itself provides the details of the words and actions of the celebrant (priest) during Mass by allowing him to simply ‘say the black, do the red’, as Fr. Zuhlsdorf of blogdom fame is fond of asserting.
  • The hymns, composed and chosen, illustrate what we believe, that we should do our best to raise our voices in His glory, and that we are there to sing His praises - not our own. If it becomes a concert or a prideful show of talent, we diminish this God-given gift that we are offering back to Him in song. It becomes about us and not about true worship. Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI has written some enlightening words concerning the Liturgy and Sacred Music in his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy.Our senses matter at Mass as well
  • Although they are an option (according to the priest’s preference), when they are used the bells at Mass gloriously appeal to our ears as a signal that something very special is happening. They announce that we should be still and turn our rapt attention to the greatest sacrifice ever made – Jesus giving His life for our sins and Himself to us as food. That we are once again at the foot of the cross – with Him!
  • Used frequently in the Latin Mass or during special times in the Novus Ordo, incense tickles our noses and captures our attention, both through smell and sight. As the smoke rises, our minds are drawn to the prayers ascending to Heaven in praise, petition, penitence and worship.
  • The clothing with which we choose to cover ourselves speaks to our recognition of appearing before our King, the Lord of Lords. As in the parable about the wedding garment, dressing for the occasion speaks to the reverence we feel, the homage we pay, and the respect that is demanded by merely existing in His presence. Veiling is also an optional, special acknowledgement of a woman's humility and the gift of femininity. These efforts are not about finery but about putting our best foot forward to the best of our ability.

These and other manifestations of our senses are of greater importance in our worship than we sometimes acknowledge. Yet we have been given a perfect example, both in scripture and Tradition. Reverence for the House of His Father, certainly mattered to Jesus. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that,
“Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God” because “for him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer”.  When he saw the lack of decorum shown by the sellers and money changers, “he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce”. As He drove the merchants out He said, "You shall not make my Father's house a house of trade”. We are further told that his apostles retained their reverence for the Temple even after the Resurrection.

Of all of our actions in life, prayer and pleasing God our Creator should stand above any other pursuit. How much more important than any other quest is our approach to the sacrificial altar? What are our actions saying when we take the glory and worship of our God in vain? Do we present ourselves grudgingly or carelessly for that brief hour each week? Or are our efforts fitting and pure? Perhaps we could become more aware and make some improvements during Lent. How will we show our respect and honor for Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Will we inspire a new outward sign of reverence that will carry over past Easter? Do you see any actions in particular that speak to you in relation to the dignity given to our Sacrificial Lord? Share your thoughts and experiences with us so that we may learn from one another.

Of course, good example, also gives a ripple effect to those around us. Once the ripple covers our own little pond, it moves on to other ponds, rivers, and lakes. Good behavior, as well as bad, has been known to be contagious! Why, you might ask, are all of these things so darned important? The answer? Obedience, humility and most importantly R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For more insight, it might be helpful to read this most informative post, Save the Liturgy, Save the World, by Fr. Zuhlsdorf for an explanation much better than my own. God bless and Catholic on!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lenten Photo Challenge - Day #8 Gift

The awesome Catholic Sistas (CS) blog has an innovative new project for Lent. We are challenged to come up with an Instagram photo each day, using a list of topics of their choosing. Then we are invited to post them on their Facebook fan page. It's up to us to find inspiration for the photo in our own lives.

I thought that this would be a great way for me to find some much needed structure for this blog of mine. As a contributor to CS, I seem to be able to adhere to a schedule, yet here on my own blog, I tend to procrastinate. One of the obstacles I come up against is the need to pen a post that has lots of substance and weight. Perhaps if I commit to a more brief style, I'll overcome both my wordy inclinations and the length of time between posts. So here's my thought. I'll briefly blog about their topic and share the Instagram that I have been inspired to submit each day.

Today, February 20, 2013, the topic is 'GIFT'

When I think of the word gift, my attention is immediately drawn to children. The Bible frequently tells us that children are a treasure, a gift, and a reward.

For your ease of participation, I have posted the CS list of topics below (click to enlarge):

Happy Instagram posting!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Spiritual Dryness Brings New Life - Father Knows Best

In a perfect world (we think), we would have all of our heart's truest wishes. This would make our lives complete and fulfilled. The groanings of our earthly vessels hold out for such secularly minded hopes and dreams even as God our Father reminds us that it is not so. With perfect wisdom and love, Our Heavenly Father knows best. Just as a mother eagle must push her nestlings out of the comfort she has built for them - in order for them to fly - so too, does God give us constant nudging into spiritual maturity. Were we to live in the worldly perfection we so wrongly desire, we would not find our need for God. This is His spiritual gift of love for us - for without sacrifice there is not love. 

As the Bible tells us, "unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, there will not be life'. 

The dark night of the soul was experienced by many who are saints today. Saint John of the Cross comes to mind. Because in the dryness of spiritual darkness, lies God. When our earthly vessels are emptiest, we reach out to Him for love the most. For without sacrifice there is no love. If our lives were always perfect we would not find our need for God. Only with imperfection are we driven to the perfection of God. In His perfect plan, God did intend us to live in difficulty. He said, "take up your cross and follow Me". 

However, even as we are willing to suffer some mortification, of our own choosing, when God chooses it we are often not quite so willing. Yet the bitter gifts of God develop our spiritual gifts. We are admonished to die to self. He does not rob a soul of peace – he gives the opportunity for purification.  In order to gain true happiness and our own perfection, we must intensify our love of God. We must accept the sacrifices he lays on our hearts. Our sufferings and trials must be looked upon as a gift of God – only then will we truly love. And when we truly love, we will become more perfect children of God.

This Lent, let me allow God to work within me - through His perfect Will. Let me accept my trials and sufferings with Grace so that I might find a more perfect love of God! 

*This post was inspired by thoughts by Venerable Fulton Sheen.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Soul-Searching Valentine’s Day – Mourning Motherhood

I am in mourning. No, no one close to me has died, there has been no divorce – no loss of home or means of income. My loss relates to my vocation as a mother. The fervor – no need – for children resonates differently with the individual woman. Some seem not to feel the call at all while others experience an almost physical pull for nurturing little minds and souls and bodies. I am one of the later.

Motherhood came young for me. After having experienced a tragically unplanned pregnancy at almost 15 years of age, I found myself the oldest of a household of younger children. My child was adopted by my parents and he grew up as my brother. My early years revolved around pretending to teach and the reality of diapers and mashed bananas. When I married my high school sweetheart at age 17, we still periodically hijacked a sibling or two to feed this hunger. Our first child was born when I was a twenty year old senior in college. Three years later we were blessed with a daughter. I joke about how our next child was on ‘backorder’ because it took us eight years to conceive our youngest.

During all of this time, however, the need for babies in my life was fed in one way or another – whether by siblings or children of my own. The craziness of living far from the nearest Catholic school (commuting for athletic and gifted children is not for the faint of heart), gave me a distraction as my little brood grew up. When I was 30, my mother’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer, crept into my own reality when genetic counselors urgently suggested an oophorectomy for me. The resulting lack of hope for the large family I had dreamed of made for some tearful nights (and days). But I had my three children and the hope of nieces and nephews to console me.

As our children grew, we were blessed to be gifted with quite a few grandchildren (seven under the age of 9 to date). At one point, five of them lived on either side of us and were here to be nurtured, taught and loved each and every weekday. Nana’s Day School was vibrant with laughter, sloppy kisses, and tight squeezes! At another point, two of them moved in, along with their father, during a particularly contentious divorce. When they moved to their own home again, we simply moved back into regular visits. During that period this ‘empty nest’ (ha, ha) resonated with laughter, tumbling play fights, and loving.

As time went on the day to day activity settled into a more ‘normal’ routine. One family moved an hour away. Yet they continued to travel the two, 2-hour round trips – at least once per week, just to keep the connection alive. Happily fulfilled, this ‘stay-at-home’ Nana had at least two little ones four days per week, with visits and sleepovers to balance out the routine. Then came a drastic change. One of the mommies became a stay at home mom rather suddenly. This was the brood that came to Nana’s Day School three days per week (I was actually homeschooling them by then). Poof! The stay-at-home Nana had lost her bearings. Relegated down to a once per week house filled with little feet, demands for hugs, lap time and snuggles was a drastic step. For 48 years she had had her hands on children most every day. Now, as quickly as a death, that time was over.

I had been wondering at my stormy moods as of late and then, this morning – Eureka – I finally saw the cause with painful clarity!

I have raised these little ones from the beginning of their little lives – even to the point of having been present at two of their births. Foolishly, even as I fervently dreamed of the joy of being a stay-at-home mother for our daughter, I failed to realize what that would mean for me. I certainly can’t begrudge her the happiness that is in her future, yet the humanly frail side of me mourns my own loss just the same. Hopefully some equilibrium will eventually be found but, as of now, I have been set free against my will. I find myself once again yearning for a multitude of children even while a relish in the wonder of having raised so many more than the three gifted to us by God through our marriage. These little people, 7 little souls for which I am honored to be godmother, will always remain in our lives – the how of it has been changed but the reality has not. As I go through the mourning of my newfound position of an empty-nester, I must turn my heart toward the gift that they were and will continue to be. I have found a personal, deep respect for those who find themselves unwillingly childless. My pain cannot compare with theirs in intensity but yet I will pray more deeply for their loss. I also see the story of Moses in an entirely new light – I have relinquished the day to day care of these children and will have to seek out my new role. Lord help me to look to this new beginning of my life with a joy filled with You and a heart for giving what I can, when it is needed.

*One of our little treasures turns 5 today – Valentine’s Day! Much love to you, Simon, from Nana and Papa.

The post, Soul-Searching Valentine's Day - Mourning Motherhood, was first published by the Catholic Sistas blog.

EGG-straordinary Lenten Rosary Project for your Family

The post, EGG-straordinary Lenten Rosary Project for your Family, was first published on the Catholic Sistas blog in 2012. It came to my attention today, that the link was broken so I am reprinting it here for Lent 2013. Enjoy!

I've been reflecting on Lent for the past week and how I am going to observe this time of penance, alms giving, and prayer. My thoughts then brought to mind the little souls with whom we are entrusted as parents, grandparents, and God-parents. Since my babies are all so young (2 - 6) I thought it would be best to help them in the 'doing' and 'praying' categories. The resulting project reinforces/teaches all of the prayers of the Rosary (most know the Sign of the Cross, Our Father and Hail Mary). This can be a transitional addition to their customary nighttime prayers - reciting a decade of the Rosary, while concentrating on a particular mystery each night.
This simple, inexpensive and effective craft combines reciting a nightly decade of the Rosary with some good actions and creativity thrown in for good measure:

Lenten Rosary Project Materials List:

  • Plastic Easter Eggs (1 larger egg for the Our Father and 10 smaller eggs for the Hail Mary)
  • Colorful curling ribbon or pipe cleaners 
  • Paper and markers/crayons
  • Tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks
  • Glitter glue, puff paint, stickers or other embellishments
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Lenten Rosary Project construction:

  • Thread pre-cut sections of pipe cleaner or small strips of ribbon through the holes on both ends of the small plastic Easter eggs, until you have a chain of 10.
  • Tie a knot in the ribbon or bend a 'knot' into the pipe cleaner and hot glue inside each egg to secure.
  • Add one larger Easter egg to your chain for the Our Father to complete the decade.
  • For the cross, shorten one of the tongue depressors and then form into a cross shape. Secure with hot glue and embellish with a sticker, if desired.

Lenten Rosary Project instructions:

Say one decade of the Rosary each evening using your Easter Egg Rosary and add your offerings (good deeds, petitions, or coins) for that day. This is a good time to discuss behavior, sharing and giving.

  • Chose a petition, good dead, or prayer for each member of the family and write/draw on a piece of paper.
  • You could also have your little ones earn pennies to share with the poor.
  • Place these papers or coins inside a plastic Easter egg.
  • On the weekend you may choose to draw or color pictures depicting the mysteries you have prayed during the week and make a booklet to go along with your newly completed Rosary.
At the end of a 5 day week you will have said all five of the respective mysteries and by the end of 4 full weeks you will have said all 4 sets of mysteries...and the COMPLETE Rosary. You should now have corresponding booklets with pictures of the all  20 mysteries.

You may now move on to coloring pages of the Stations of the Cross as your activity. Continue to use the Rosary you have made for praying a decade every evening as a family, as is now your practice. Last year, 3-year old Simon and 1-year old Rachel  learned all of their rosary prayers this way. The family developed a nightly rosary 'habit'.

On the evening before Easter Sunday, parents may wish to fill each egg with a treat or surprise and then hide the eggs for the traditional Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday. Or you could keep them intact and still fill with treats. Your kids will have had a chance to count down the 40 days and reap a reward for their patience and efforts, seeing a tangible result! Hopefully you will also have enhanced your family prayer habits. God bless you...and may we all have a fruitful Lent.

Let us all pray for one another!

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Here are some links to coloring pages for use with your Easter Egg Rosary Project:

Stations of the Cross coloring pages for all of the stations.

Stations of the Cross carousel - a great way to display the colored pages.

Lamb of God Lenten Calendar uses cotton balls on a cute lamb print-out.

Walk the Lenten Path  to countdown the days, put a sticker on each square every day.

Almsgiving Activity for Children During Lent fill this cross-shaped craft with coins.

Catholic Rosary coloring pages to print. Includes Luminous Mysteries and much more!

Catholic Rosary Diagram page to color.

Sign of the Cross diagram and coloring page.

Our Father - prayer coloring sheet.

Hail Mary - prayer coloring page.

*Note: you could also do the above project using a paper chain much like those that are made during Advent to adorn your Christmas tree. Each 'link' in the chain could be a Hail Mary and a larger 'link' could be added for the Our Father. You could write on the slips of paper before creating the links.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI to Step Down - The Signs Were There

The historic news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came as a surprise to laity and Church leaders alike; he will be only the 5th pope to do so, in the history of the Church founded by Jesus Himself. Faithful Catholics had reveled in the firm yet gentle reign of our German Shepherd as he worked diligently to reform the reform of the Church. The reversion back to a more accurate translation of Mass responses, prayers, and form was met with a tepid response by modernists but those of us who take pride in our ancient practices were heartened to have more solemnity and reverence reintroduced into the living sacrifice that is the Holy Mass. As a German myself, I felt a kinship with Papa Benedict and found myself smiling and nodding whenever he spoke or wrote about all things Catholic.

He was also a staunch protector of the unborn and reiterated time and again the supreme importance of the sanctity of life. As a pro-life advocate, I found myself frequently quoting a never ending supply of his pronouncements on the subject. The poor and forgotten were also consistently championed by him as were all people, regardless of religious affiliation. He worked tirelessly and traveled extensively with no regard for his personal safety or comfort but was greeted with joyful welcome wherever he went. I prayed, on a regular basis, that he would be with us for many years to come, as I saw the Church begin flourishing in renewal under his reign.

What we are seeing in retrospect, however, is that there had been clues to be found, pointing toward this unusual step he has taken. On April 29, 2009, few pundits or faithful took particular notice when Pope Benedict visited the tomb of Pope St. Celestine V in Aquila, Italy. Celestine was a rather obscure medieval Pope, whose reign began in 1294. As was the case with Josef Cardinal Ratizinger (aged 78 at the time of election), Fr. Pietro Angelerio was a devout and holy priest who was also reluctant to become Pope at an advanced age (he was 80). In fact, just a brief five months after his election, Pope Celestine V issued a formal decree that allowed popes to resign. Shortly afterward, he exercised that right.

We can now look back and remember that Pope Benedict XVI prayed and then left his palluim on top of Celestine’s tomb. The leaving of the symbol of his episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome appears to have had significance that was lost on the world at the time. Additionally, he went out of his way to visit and pray in the Cathedral of Sulmona fifteen months later. There reside the relics of the same St. Celestine V. It would be a stretch to attribute these actions as mere coincidence, given today’s news, since they point toward a spiritual journey leading to his decision to step aside. Considering Pope Benedict’s analytical style of thought and his thorough attention to detail gives these actions new meaning in light of the announcement made today. Although the obvious symbolism is not lost to us, we now see a deeper more profound intent come to light. Pope Benedict XVI was signalling his intention to resign and the minor rumors that had arisen a few months prior, bear more weight now that his decision has been announced.

On a very human level I feel bereft, as if some indispensable member of my family is moving far away.This pope, with his gentle yet firm hand, has been one to whom I could relate so well. Our German Shepherd’s words and writings resonated with me as if he were my own Opa (grandfather). I love him with a depth that surprises me and pray that the twilight of his years will be spent in the peace that comes from a job well done. He has served us well and his toil for the people of God will stand the test of time. Well done, good and faithful servant. You have given me the gift of a deeper faith and a stronger determination for serving the Church founded by Christ Himself. ‘And the gates of hell will not prevail against her!’. Vielen Dank und möge Gott Sie segnen*.

‎”After the three days of darkness, St. Peter and St. Paul, having come down from Heaven, will preach in the whole world and designate a new Pope. A great light will flash from their bodies and will settle upon the cardinal who is to become Pope. Christianity, then, will spread throughout the world. He is the Holy Pontiff, chosen by God to withstand the storm. At the end, he will have the gift of miracles, and his name shall be praised over the whole earth. Whole nations will come back to the Church and the face of the earth will be renewed. Russia, England, and China will come into the Church.” (Prophecy of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837 A.D.) who was Beatified by Pope Bendedict XV in 1920.)

*Many thanks and may God greatly bless you!

This post first appeared on the Catholic Sistas blog.