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

Sunday, June 15, 2014

When Fathers Day Isn’t Happy

Sometimes the ideal set forth by a day of celebration doesn't reflect your personal reality. The picture perfect vision of a Dad who has stood by you from the moment of your birth may not be a part of your experience. In this situation, a day set aside for celebrating fond memories might evoke pain and sadness instead. While those of us who suffer from a particular lack in our lives might find ourselves pondering the what if’s of the ideal, we don’t begrudge those whose experience reflects that which has not been gifted to us.

Fathers Day is one such day for me. I've had two fathers in my life. The first, was a painful reminder that not all marriages are made in heaven. His actions toward my mother, his taking of my little brother, and leaving me behind – all of this shaped my life but (thank God) didn't stunt my ability to love and feel loved. The second father came into my life when I was the daughter of a divorced mother who had been deprived of raising her first son – his father had spirited him away and he was not to be found.

Dad came along and adopted me and all seemed right with the world. My childhood, my five siblings, our family life, and adulthood – they all reflected a seamless adaptation to this family, brought together by mutual love and caring.

All that changed when our mother died at the young age of 58. Although we were all adults (the youngest was 21), we had grown up in a vibrant home filled with love and togetherness. We were the family all other families strove to be – lively, loving, and always actively living life to the fullest. What we didn't realize was that Mom had been the sole catalyst. As my youngest brother describes it, May 4, 1994 was the day Mom and Dad died. It changed our lives forever.

Even as adults we seek the comfort of the familiar. If we’re lucky, our family never loses this quality. For those of us who aren't so fortunate, the pain suffered can be almost debilitating. That’s where I stand on a day like today – Fathers Day 2014. While I relish the father my dearest husband has been to our children and am proud of the fathers our sons have become, the little girl in me longs to recover that which has been lost. 

A father, who walks away from his adult children (and their children and grandchildren) to another family may not produce the same type of damage as if had he acted thus at an earlier time, yet his rejection is still felt painfully and fully by his adult children. To have the same man who gave warm hugs, piggy back rides, and solace in times of tragedy walk away, severing all ties, is to have a hole in your heart – a longing of all of those days gone by. Unlike the holding close to fond memories of a parent who has died, this pain is different. Knowing he exists, however out of reach he may be, is to be tormented by the reality of rejection every day.

Scary face from happier times. <3
Happy Fathers Day, Dad. I’m missing you today and pray you are well. Perhaps someday…

Saturday, June 14, 2014

5 Catholic Gifts for Dad

Tomorrow is Fathers Day and dads all over the country will receive cliche gifts - ties, beer, barbecue tongs, or shirts - just to name a few. Please don't be offended, I've been there too. Of course there will also be the handmade coupons and heartwarming drawings from their adoring little fans. But what if we encouraged our offspring to gift Dad with a more Catholic gift? Wouldn't that benefit both Dad and the kids? Faith in the family is so very important and Fathers Day is a perfect opportunity to remind all of its members of the importance of the spiritual head of the household. In keeping with this theme, I have listed five suggestions below. Of course, the possibilities are as vast as the unique nature of each family.

1. Have a Mass said for Dad - perhaps for his birthday or the feast day of his patron saint. This often neglected gift of the most perfect prayer can fit into most any occasion. What better way to tell Dad how much you love him and desire his eternal happiness?

2. Give him a spiritual bouquet. How about having the children make a card or coupons, listing the special prayers to be offered up for his eternal soul? Older children could offer a Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet, while 'littles' could recite the prayers they know best. This gift could be presented with however much creativity (cards and pictures) or simplicity (just tell him your intention) as is characteristic for your family.

3. Does Dad have a favorite saint? Or perhaps a patron for whom he was named? Give him a holy card or a small statue of this saint. Be sure to have it blessed for him. He can display this on his desk or an area of the house he frequents. Not only will he be reminded to pray for the intercession of his saint, his heart will also be warmed each time he sees this reminder of how much he is loved - that his eternal soul is important to his family.

4. Make a date with Dad - go to a weekday Mass or Adoration. Create an atmosphere of devotion to Jesus while also sharing a special spiritual time with him. This could be coupled with lunch or a picnic in the park. Make it a joyful event, sharing what's most important in life - family and eternity.

5. Create a list or scrapbook outlining how Dad is the spiritual head of your household. Have each family member describe how he helps them grow - spiritually. This could be a simple video (iPhone anyone?) of each child speaking in his own words or a written note, gathered into a little booklet. Let Dad know how important he is to the family as you travel the road to Heaven - together, as a family.

I hope this little list will inspire you to share your thoughts with the Dad, Granddad, godfather, or any other male who is an inspiration to you. Don't forget that many of these ideas would also be appropriate for your priest - lest the part they play in our spiritual lives be forgotten.
"...For [priests], it is pastoral paternity, spiritual fatherhood, but this is still giving life, this is still becoming fathers."  ~ Pope Francis
God bless and Happy Fathers Day!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A New Priest, Nigerian Praise Songs, and Pentecost

Today, Pentecost, was an amazing faith experience for our parish. Newly ordained Father Emmanuel Cyril Udoh celebrated his Mass of thanksgiving with us. Fr. Emmanuel is from Nigeria and we have shared in his vocation as he came to us as a seminarian, then became a deacon, and finally a fully ordained priest. It's been a blessing to watch him grow in confidence as he was able to more fully minister to us as he strode confidently toward priesthood. His homilies were so inspiring and he always shared a beautiful smile - looking directly into one's eyes as those who are pure in spirit are prone to do.

Fr. Emmanuel's family - mother, father, sister - as well as a close friend joined us today. It was my husband's turn to lector, wearing his read tie, and our daughter sang joyfully about the Holy Spirit in the choir. I felt fully immersed, in a tangible way, in this beautiful day. How fitting that it was Pentecost! Father spoke of language barriers and shared that his homeland boasts a total of 250 native languages. Neatly, he tied in the multi-lingual miracle of Pentecost with the universality of the language of love. Genuine love honors no barriers - language or otherwise. It is something everyone understands.

As the Mass came to an end, we had the opportunity to speak with the Udoh family and then later share a brunch celebration with them. After the meal, our parish presented Fr. Emmanuel with a sick call set - engraved with his name and date of ordination. To our amazement, his family spontaneously broke into a song of thanksgiving! Later when the cards and notes from parishioners were presented, we were again treated to an outburst of song. The pure joy and unapologetic praise was something I will never forget. What a pleasure it has been to get to know this young man. He has all the markings of making a holy priest and a gift to those who are privileged to know him. We, the people of the parish of St. Elizabeth, are blessed to be among them.


(L) Father posed with his father, mother, youngest sister, and good friend. (R) Erika and I put him to work right away by having him bless our handmade veils and bracelets.

Since I noticed that Mrs. Udoh covers during Mass and I make veils, I gave her a very special chapel veil that I made for Easter. Upon receiving the gift, she insisted on having our photo taken together. As you can tell from the result, some others were eager to be included in the moment as well.

Be sure to check out their wonderful praise songs in the videos below.


Father Emmanuel receives his sick call set from one of the parish council members.

His parents react to cards and notes from parishioners from St. Elizabeth.