Monday, December 28, 2015

Can a Non-Catholic Find Comfort In Mary?

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Recently I received a question from someone who is not Catholic. Although she thought it might be a silly question (it wasn't) she wanted to know if a Protestant owning an object with the image of the Blessed Mother, Mary, on it was objectionable to Catholics (it isn't). Apparently, this dear sister in Christ has a great affinity for our Mother and finds comfort from her. What a gift! Many Catholics could take a lesson from this question - I know I did.

So What is the Answer?

Finding comfort in the Mother of God is natural when we remember that Jesus is our Brother. Many Scripture verses confirm that we a children of God and that Jesus is our brother. If He is our Brother and Mary is His Mother then she is our mother as well. Through the Fatherhood of God, the Fraternity with Christ, and the Motherhood of Mary we truly become one family.

We may well ponder the words in John 19:26. There Jesus speaks from the cross and says, "Woman, behold, your son!" and to John, "Behold, your mother!" Through these words of Jesus, our Brother, Mary becomes our mother, too. She exemplifies everything a mother is: comfort, support, unconditional love, and someone who pleads our case for us (intercession). This makes Mary a natural refuge in times of trouble - for all Christians.

Mary's Intercession for Us

Sometimes we find that those unfamiliar with Marian devotion are uncomfortable with the idea of asking for Mary's intercession. "We can pray directly to Jesus", they say.
While it is accurate that He is "the Way, the Truth, and the Light", there are many ways to approach Jesus. One of those ways is through the intercessory power of Our Lady. We see an example of this at the Wedding Feast of Cana. The news that the hosts have run out of wine doesn't come directly to Jesus, it comes through Mary. When she petitions Jesus on their behalf He answers, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come." Yet His insistent mother comes to the rescue, saying to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

Thus Jesus complies, showing His deep regard for His mother and her requests. She is the singularly sinless creature in the history of the world (besides the God-Man, Jesus). As the Queen of Heaven and earth, she plays an important role in the Kingdom of God. She is the Mother of Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Her entreaties, then, are held in high regard.

The importance of Jesus' first miracle cannot be downplayed. It begins His public ministry and foreshadows the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, His mother's prominent role cannot be denied.

The Difference Between Honor and Worship

Fellow Catholics, how many times have you sought to explain that we don't worship Mary?
While we Catholics understand the difference between the honor given to Mary and the worship (adoration) reserved for God alone, many non-Catholics mistakenly believe they are the same. As the mother of Jesus, Mary has a very special place in salvation history. Her "yes" delivered a Redeemer to the world. As the vessel who carried Him in her womb, her participation in the Divine Plan is unmistakable and undeniable.

This unique role, as well as Jesus' own obedience to the fourth commandment - honor your mother and your father - dictates that we, His brethren, honor her as well. As we emulate His honor of Mary, we are doing as He has shown us by His own actions.

In Catholicism, there is even a verbal distinction between the honor given to Mary (hyperdulia) and the worship given to God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (latria).
As the prayers for the intercession of Mary indicate, we are asking her assistance while remaining firmly in worshiping Him alone. Just as you and I may ask for prayers from other Christians, so too we ask our Heavenly Mother to remember us. She, along with all other saints, is not dead. Fully alive and in the Divine Presence, she glories in her Eternal Home and ever worships God.

O Mary Immaculate
O Mary Immaculate, Virgin so fair
Mother of Our Savior, please hear my prayer
Intercede, dearest Mother
to your heavenly son.
Tell Him I am truly sorry for all the wrongs I have done.
Ask Him to guide me by the Gifts of The Holy Spirit
in all of my deeds and way.
So that I may give Him glory, honour and praise at the end of my days.
Amen.

The Hail Mary Is Scriptural

Arguably the most famous Marian prayer is the Hail Mary. While it may seem confusing, without proper discernment, the lines from this prayer can be found in Sacred Scripture.
Luke 1:28 - "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you." These words, delivered by the angel, Gabriel, come from God. Catholics, when reciting this verse while praying the Rosary, are quoting the Scriptural words of God.

The Greek translation of the phrase "full of grace" is the word "kecharitomene." Mary alone is given this unique title, which suggests a perfection of grace from a past event. Mary has been perfected in grace by God. The only other person described as "full of grace" is  Jesus Christ. John 1:14

In Luke 1:42 Elizabeth utters the words, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed the fruit of your womb. (Jesus)" Just as Elizabeth blessed Mary first and then Jesus (the Fruit of her womb), so too can we go through Mary to praise Him. This hyperdulia honors Mary but is not the latria which is the worship belonging to God alone.

"And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Luke 1:43 The equivalent of "Holy Mary, Mother of God" contained in the Hail Mary, this title makes an important distinction. Jesus is divine and is God. Mary is His mother. Therefore, Mary is the mother of God.

Can a Non-Catholic Find Comfort In Mary?

In summing up the divinely revealed, Biblical truth about Mary we come to the conclusion that Mary is the mother of all Christians - those who believe in Jesus the God-Man.
  • We are God's children by adoption.
  • Jesus, the Son of God, is our Brother.
  • Mary, His mother, is our mother too - given to us from the cross.
  • She played a special role in the Divine Plan for our Salvation.
  • Jesus honored and obeyed her, as a good son is charged to do.
  • Mary, was able to petition Jesus to perform His first miracle.
  • As the role model of motherhood, Mary brings comfort to anyone who seeks it.

Can a Non-Catholic Find Comfort In Mary? was first published by Catholic Stand


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Walking Through the Door of Mercy

Our pilgrim family at the Holy Door at Saint Stephen Cathedral

On December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis opened the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. After ceremoniously opening Holy Doors of bronze at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, he instructed all cathedrals around the world to open their doors as well. Some dioceses followed suit on December 8th while others waited for Sunday, December 13.

The Year of Mercy invites us all to acknowledge and accept the mercy offered by God in a more spiritually aware way. Not only are we to accept His mercy, we are tasked with opening our hearts in granting mercy to others as well.

As Pope Francis, at his weekly General Audience on the previous Wednesday, focused his catechetical reflections on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.


“If the door of God’s mercy is always open, even so must be the doors of our churches, the love of our communities, our parishes, our institutions, our dioceses, for when they are, we can all go out to bring this mercy of God [to those who most need it]. The Jubilee Year recalls the great door of God’s mercy, but also the small doors of our churches – open to let the Lord in – or to let the Lord out, who is often the prisoner of our structures, our selfishness, and of so many things.”


To read the text of the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, follow the link to Misericordiae Vultus.


Fruits of the Year of Mercy


The Year of Mercy has already begun to bear fruit. As one priest friend from Facebook shared, faithful who have been away from the Church for a time are answering the call. Many who have felt out of touch with the mercy of God are returning to the sacraments and practicing mercy themselves.

Our diocesan cathedral, Saint Stephen Cathedral, held a mini- pilgrimage (procession) from the local soup kitchen to the front of the designated Holy Door. After the much anticipated opening by Bishop Medley, the parishioners and others eagerly entered through the door to celebrate Mass. My family was among them and felt the call to better seek the will of God, His mercy, and to be more merciful to others.

Our 'pilgrimage' to the Holy Door at Saint Stephen Cathedral.

After the procession to the designated door, we gathered as Bishop Medley opened the doors. As we entered the choir sang and the Holy Sacrifice of Mass was offered.


Upon opening the Holy Door Bishop Medley enters
Bishop Medley approaches the Holy Door




















Holy Year Overview


Traditionally a Holy Year centers on the forgiveness of sins and the merited punishment they bring. It seeks an opportunity for reconciliation between enemies, the conversion of souls, and reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession).

May our hearts be changed and softened toward those around us. May we give mercy in the same measure that we seek it. Happy Jubilee Year of Mercy!

NOTE: 
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy runs from Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and culminates on Nov. 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.


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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Blessed to be Back!

November has been a trying month for yours truly. What was, for most unwilling victims, a simple 24-hour stomach virus turned out to be a life-threatening illness. What made this particular episode so dangerous remains a mystery - I don't have a compromised immune system, nor is it unusual for my grandchildren to come visit, bearing the type of germs common to most younger school-age children.

Apparently Potassium is Necessary for Life


Things I learned: dangerously low potassium levels will wreak havoc on heart and liver. Without going into details, I'll just share that I spent a harrowing weekend, 5 days in the hospital, and 3+ weeks of recuperating before getting back to my (almost) normal self.

Pondering the preciousness of life and how quickly it can elude us, was a welcome, much needed lesson. There was plentiful time for prayer, meditation, and prolonged analysis of the priorities of life. As always, my family and friends were a great moral and spiritual support - I give heartfelt thanks for them.

Murphy's Law


As Murphy's Law would have it. We also sold our house and moved during this period. There's nothing like having a lawyer, real estate agent, and nurses present in your hospital room, while you sign legal documents. Being of little use while others pack up and move your household is also a humbling experience. Thanks to a faithful husband, dedicated daughter, powerfully strong son, and amazing sister it was all completed within our allotted two week timeframe.

The Holy Spirit Steps In


At the time of my illness, another son and his wife were in New York City because he was a participant in the New York Marathon. Not wanting to worry them, they had not been told I was ill right away. Imagine the awe of the moment we discovered that his wife had lit a candle in front of Saint Brigid (Birgit) for me! When they returned from the cathedral, they learned I was in the hospital. What a moment of grace!


Saint Brigid, pray for us!

As I slowly get back to day to day life and obligations, the importance of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe is not lost on me. He sustains us and He alone is the Author of Life. He gives us what we need - when we need it. He is all we need. To Him be the glory!






8 Things to Share with Members of the Cancer Club


A friend was just given the news that her mother most likely has cancer. As a ten-year cancer survivor, I can certainly commiserate. Being the great-granddaughter, granddaughter, daughter, and mother of others with this diagnosis makes me all too aware of what lies ahead. But aside from the natural fear, a likely bout of pity, and physical/mental struggles it’s important to share the faith, hope, and love of a cancer diagnosis.

While much has been written about the experiences of the five affected generations of women in my family, my collection of posts was found lacking. It seems that only the surface has been scratched. The widespread pandering, betrayal, and exploitation of cancer victims have come across clearly. Yet, there seems to be a great need for comforting, informational words to fellow members of the Cancer Club.

Hopefully the following will help fill that gap.

Cancer Isn’t a Death Sentence


As frightening as it is to hear the words, “you have cancer”, it isn’t a death sentence. The amazing advances in the medical field have made me a ten year survivor while all those sharing the BRCA1 cancer gene before me survived no longer than 5 years.

Aside from morally bankrupt embryonic stem cell research, a vast array of ethical cancer treatments are now common. Even medications for symptoms, as well as surgical techniques have seen amazing advancement. There really is much hope for a full recovery and a long, healthy life.
Fear is a Natural Initial Reaction

Who isn’t afraid of the unknown? Only a handful can claim that type of reaction. Most of us like the security of our comfortable, familiar lives. When an element of the unknown is introduced, the natural reaction is fear. Until we inform ourselves with what’s going on, this feeling may well persist.

Fear can also be a great catalyst to action. When we fear for our physical body, we’re more likely to decidedly seek safety and good will. Use this natural inclination to your advantage by pursuing the best course of action for you.

Feeling Hopeless Can Be Normal


Fear may be followed by hopelessness or a feeling of pity. Perhaps both. When given such a stark reminder of mortality, it’s natural to go through a full range of emotions. Even our animal friends have the instinct to run from danger. As creatures of God with an immortal soul, however, we can bring ourselves back to our gift of reasoning.

A helpful response might be to count your blessings. Do you have a loving family, caring doctors, and experienced medical staff? Is your relationship with God what it should be? If you have the advantage of any or all of these blessings, be sure to bring your focus back to them. If not, pursue others who will help. Encourage friends and family in their efforts to help. Consult a priest or spiritual advisor in an effort to bring your immortal soul back to full health. Grace is a mighty, strong medicine for an ailing body and soul.

Share Your Feelings


Those who love you need to know how you feel in order to be there for you. It’s okay to reserve a bit of panic for only ourselves, but allowing others in will empower them to console you. Lay your fears on the table for yourself as well. Face them, head-on, and become familiar with the details of your fears. Can you rationalize some of the fears by identifying and then diminishing them? Give it a try. Put a name or face on what it is you’re feeling. An unidentified feeling of foreboding may be conquered by bringing your fears to the light of day.
Acknowledge the Fear Others Feel

Acknowledge that your loved ones are frightened too. A cancer diagnosis is shared with everyone with whom you have a relationship. You may be the sole physically affected person but your family and friends are afraid on your behalf – because they love you. Don’t deny them their feelings or the opportunity to offer the balm of comfort.

As you join with others in facing your diagnosis, teamwork can help alleviate some of the negative feelings you may be experiencing. Your common bond of love can make facing the next few months of treatment much more tolerable.

Fiercely Face the Reality of a Cancer Diagnosis


Don’t live in denial. While it’s advisable to refrain from doing your own research on the internet (big no-no), do ask questions from your healthcare professionals. They know your unique case and can offer information based on you as an individual. No cancer patient is the same as another. No cancer diagnosis is either. Let your specialists employ their vast education and rely on them for answers. Who knows, the cancer of diagnosis you’re imagining, might be much more formidable than the reality.

Facing your diagnosis head-on might also diminish the fear of the unknown. There will be power in knowledge, once the details, treatment, and prognosis are known. Facing a known entity removes many doubts and replaces them with firm resolution to do battle.

Be Aggressive


Settling for local, generalized care with a cancer diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. When dealing with the subtleties of various forms of cancer, relying on aspecialist, especially trained and focused, is the proactive choice. You may even share the experience of hurt feelings from local doctors who have been replaced with out-of-town specialists but remember, you are the patient and when it comes to aggressive treatment, you are in the driver’s seat. Don’t let personalities get in the way of foolish pride or fear of conflict. This is your life!

Rely on God


The most important action is reliance on God. He, Who made you, knows you and what you need. Find peace in knowing He wants what’s best for you. Put yourself at His mercy and allow Him to work through you, to find your best path. When you’re feeling the strain, go to Him for comfort. In need of answers? Petition Him to guide your way to finding them. He will never let you down, even when others (or you, yourself) are less than helpful. No one knows your heart like He does. Pray unceasingly and ask others to do the same. Know that the Communion of Saints is there, kneeling beside you, and interceding on your behalf.

Many faithful, from many corners of the world prayed for me during my cancer journey. Their prayers were felt and heard. As a ten year survivor, I owe my life to Him. The same is true for our daughter. Six years later, she is cancer free and her healthy little girl will turn 6 on Thanksgiving. The prayers of the Passionist nuns in our county even brought a miracle. We three – daughter, granddaughter, and I – are living proof that prayer is the most powerful medicine for the healing of body and mind.



3 generations of survivors at Horses and Hope


Let us pray for one another!



Are you a member of the Cancer Club? It would be great to hear from you – whether these ponderings inspired, found you nodding your head, or fell short. What was your most important survival technique? If you would like to share your experiences or to ask for prayer, please leave a comment. God bless!


* Things to Share with Members of the Cancer Club was first published at Catholic Mom

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dr. Ben Carson: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly


UPDATE 10-25-15: Since this article was first published, Dr. Ben Carson has apparently progressed in his rhetoric. Although still open to abortion in case of health of the mother issues, he has walked back on his statements accepting abortion for instances of rape and incest. Let's pray this is sincere progress and not pandering.

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With the crowded Republican field, one would assume that someone will surely stand out as the pro-life candidate. After all, most if not all of them have spoken out against abortion. Yet, what appears to be pro-life on the surface doesn't necessarily make the cut once the details come to light.

Dr. Ben Carson: The Good

One example of such a candidate is Dr. Ben Carson. I've had the deepest respect for Dr. Carson for many years. His life story, in movie form, was outstanding. Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story showed him to be a hardworking, virtuous man who was a pioneer in neurosurgery after overcoming enormous obstacles.

Later, I began to read his syndicated columns and was usually impressed by his ability to clearly express his morally sound principles. This soft-spoken man was both a genius and a spokesman of moral convictions.

Enter the 2016 Republican campaign. I was overjoyed to see Dr. Carson listed as a candidate. After all, what better protector of human dignity could there be - if not for the presidency, then certainly as vice-president. His respect for life and lack of racial prejudices made him an admirable prospect. Other views he holds, such as the support of marriage, as defined by God, also make him appealing to Christians.

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

Dr. Ben Carson: The Bad

Unfortunately, there have been some troubling disclosures since the time that I was fully enamored with Dr. Carson. The good thing for those of us who thoroughly research our candidates before giving them support, can be a really bad thing for them. As heartened as I was by his performance in the first Republican debate, these weren't his first words on some of the major topics.

The first glimmer of doubt came about when a research group found that Dr. Carson's name had appeared on a medical research paper that used fetal tissue from aborted babies. There was a prompt reply on Dr. Carson's Facebook page that quelled some of my unease:

I wanted to use our time tonight to directly deal with an attack launched on me today by the left and the media. A couple questions came in on this subject, so I want to address it head on.

Today I was accused by the press as having done research on fetal tissue. It simply is not true. The study they distributed by an anonymous source was done in 1992. The study was about tumors. I won’t bore you with the science. There were four doctors' names on the study. One was mine. I spent my life studying brain tumors and removing them. My only involvement in this study was supplying tumors that I had removed from my patients. Those tissue samples were compared to other tissue samples under a microscope. Pathologists do this work to gain clues about tumors.
I, nor any of the doctors involved with this study, had anything to do with abortion or what Planned Parenthood has been doing. Research hospitals across the country have microscope slides of all kinds of tissue to compare and contrast. The fetal tissue that was viewed in this study by others was not collected for this study.
I am sickened by the attack that I, after having spent my entire life caring for children, had something to do with aborting a child and harvesting organs. My medical specialty is the human brain and even I am amazed at what it is capable of doing. Please know these attacks are pathetic attempts to blunt our progress.

This explanation eased my troubled mind - until the next shoe fell. There's nothing like your own words to convict you.

In his defense of the use of aborted fetal tissue, Dr. Carson had this to say:
"To not use the tissue that is in a tissue bank, regardless of where it comes from, would be foolish. Why would anybody not do that?"

and then this . . .

"If it were the only way to do something and there was no other way, there might be an argument. But under these circumstances, there isn't a legitimate argument."

Dr. Carson also shows a lack of regard for parental rights. His support of mandatory vaccines demonstrates this fact. The fact that many standard vaccines contain aborted baby cell lines, making them morally repugnant, also doesn’t appear to concern him. Below you have the opportunity to hear him discuss his views, beginning at around the 1:57 mark.


Dr. Ben Carson: The Ugly

As troubling as I find mandatory vaccines to be (perhaps a topic for another day) because they usurp the God-given authority parents have over their children, this last bit of information eliminated Dr. Carson from my list of fitting presidential candidates. In addition, many standard vaccines are derived from aborted fetal stem lines, making them all the more troubling.

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



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

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  A recent news story brought to light that Dr. Carson has referred women for abortion. Furthermore, his pro-life stance is shown to be a bit muddled when it goes beyond his personal stance.


Dr. Ben Carson: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly was first published at Catholic Stand.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Synod on the Family: Primacy of Conscience and Willful Ignorance


Disquieting words are dripping out of the leaky sieve that surrounds the Synod on the Family. We're hearing things like papal delegate Archbishop Blase Cupich's statement that people need to 'come to a decision in good conscience' when it comes to giving Holy Communion to those who are divorced and civilly remarried. He further adds that the Church has the job to 'help them move forward and to respect that'. Past comments by German Cardinal Kasper, are also making the rounds. To the dismay of many, he has advocated for hot button topics ranging from homosexual lifestyles and communion for those civilly remarried, to acceptance of contraception.
Ignorance and Presumption
When hearing these statements attributed to various participants and observers of the synod one has to wonder what happened to the admonition for continued spiritual formation throughout one's life. Continuing catechesis is the only way to fully seek holiness and to become the saints God wants us to be. Willful ignorance is no excuse, since we have the ability and means to finely hone our consciences.
All care should be taken to refrain from the sin of Presumption, either relying on our own capacities or presuming God's almighty power and His mercy. Hoping to obtain His forgiveness, without allowing for the conversion of our souls or seeking glory without merit, will be of no benefit when it comes to the destiny of our immortal souls. CCC 2092
Is the Devil in the Details?
Sowing confusion among the faithful is further evidence that the devil must surely be in some of the details surrounding the Synod on the Family. Whether the source is those making the statements or those reporting (misreporting) what was said, we may never know. Therein lies the rub. Do we take these reported sentiments at face value and fear for the demise of the Church or is this where an unflinching faith in the Church, founded by Jesus Himself, comes to the rescue? Jesus has given us the answer.
And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
Hope, Faith, Love
Lest we allow our faith in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church to succumb to hopelessness, let's give credence to the good also being shared.
Former head of Congregation for Divine Worship, Francis Cardinal Arinze said in a recent interview, "Marriage comes from God, not from human beings so human beings cannot reinvent or redefine it." Speaking of the indissolubility of marriage he continued, "Not even the authority of the Church can break it," he noted. Affirming that “the Eucharist is not something we possess”, Cardinal Arinze further said that “We must look for a way to help the divorced who are remarried, [but] we don’t help them by saying, “Come and receive Holy Communion.”
In his speech to the synod, Robert Cardinal Sarah, spoke of the need to Proclaim and serve the beauty of Monogamy and the Family. In order to accomplish this he said that we must “first promote all that represents a true Christian Initiation of adults, for the marriage crisis is essentially a crisis of God, but also a crisis of faith, and this is an infantile Christian initiation”. Lack of catechesis continues to be problematic for many baptized Catholics. Then discernment of “those realities that the Holy Spirit is already raising up to reveal” will show “the Truth of the Family as an intimate communion in diversity (man and woman) that is generous in the gift of life” – Robert Cardinal Sarah
While acknowledging the nefarious activities of some, it's comforting to know that many of the faithful are still staunchly defending Truth! We must also show love for those who may be straying from the righteous path. In all charity there must be fervent and sincere prayer for all involved.
Truth Will Win
A statement by Father Athanasius Schneider, one of the authors of Preferential Option for THE FAMILY: 100 Questions and Answers relating to the Synod, offers a call to action for those who fear the outcome.
“… Cardinals, bishops, priests, Catholic families, Catholic young people have to say to themselves: I refuse to conform to the neo-pagan spirit of this world, even when this spirit is spread by some bishops and cardinals; I will not accept their fallacious and perverse use of holy Divine mercy and the “new Pentecost”; I refuse to throw grains of incense before the statue of the idol of the gender ideology, before the idol of second marriages, of the concubinage, even if my bishop would do so, I will not do so; with the grace of God I will choose to suffer rather than betray the whole truth of Christ on human sexuality and on marriage."
What Will the Synod Bring?
In conclusion one thing stands out for us to remember about the Synod on the Family. The Catholic Church is not a democracy, nor is she subject to change through the whims of those who purport to speak for her. Jesus founded her; He alone gives the structure of her beliefs.
As Saint Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae, “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.”
In a presentation to thirty-five American Archbishops (Rome, in March, 1989), Pope John Paul II firmly stated, "We are the guardians of something given, and given to the Church universal; something which is not the result of reflection, however competent, on cultural and social questions of the day, and is not merely the best path among many, but the one and only path to salvation." How pertinent to the issues at hand today!
Keep the Faith
Above all keep the Faith. As Australia’s Cardinal Pell responded to recent questions of apprehension, “One of my concerns is for doctrine, and the Pope has said the doctrine will not be touched.”
Sister Lucia of Fatima offers hope as well. “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid…because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue…however, Our Lady has already crushed its head. Sister Lucia dos Santos, of Fatima – in an interview with Cardinal Caffara of Bologna.
Our faith and trust lies in Jesus, through His Church, alone. No mere mortal can upend what we know through His Truth. Pray for those participating in the Synod on the Family, those reporting, and those who live in irregular life circumstances. The narrow path of Jesus' followers isn't always easy, it isn't always straight, but it does always lead to the reward of Heaven.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

8 Things to Share with Cancer Club Members


October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year I'm also celebrating ten years as a survivor. I'd like to share some of the things I've learned during the past decade. My hope is to be helpful to those with a new diagnosis. This post was first published at CatholicMom.com

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A friend was just given the news that her mother most likely has cancer. As a ten-year cancer survivor, I can certainly commiserate. Being the great-granddaughter, granddaughter, daughter, and mother of others with this diagnosis makes me all too aware of what lies ahead. But aside from the natural fear, a likely bout of pity, and physical/mental struggles it’s important to share the faith, hope, and love of a cancer diagnosis.

While much has been written about the experiences of the five affected generations of women in my family, my collection of posts was found lacking. It seems that only the surface has been scratched. The widespread pandering, betrayal, and exploitation of cancer victims have come across clearly. Yet, there seems to be a great need for comforting, informational words to fellow members of the Cancer Club.

Hopefully the following will help fill that gap.

Cancer Isn’t a Death Sentence


As frightening as it is to hear the words, “you have cancer”, it isn’t a death sentence. The amazing advances in the medical field have made me a ten year survivor while all those sharing the BRCA1 cancer gene before me survived no longer than 5 years.

Aside from morally bankrupt embryonic stem cell research, a vast array of ethical cancer treatments are now common. Even medications for symptoms, as well as surgical techniques have seen amazing advancement. There really is much hope for a full recovery and a long, healthy life.

Fear is a Natural Initial Reaction


Who isn’t afraid of the unknown? Only a handful can claim that type of reaction. Most of us like the security of our comfortable, familiar lives. When an element of the unknown is introduced, the natural reaction is fear. Until we inform ourselves with what’s going on, this feeling may well persist.

Fear can also be a great catalyst to action. When we fear for our physical body, we’re more likely to decidedly seek safety and good will. Use this natural inclination to your advantage by pursuing the best course of action for you.

Feeling Hopeless Can Be Normal


Fear may be followed by hopelessness or a feeling of pity. Perhaps both. When given such a stark reminder of mortality, it’s natural to go through a full range of emotions. Even our animal friends have the instinct to run from danger. As creatures of God with an immortal soul, however, we can bring ourselves back to our gift of reasoning.

A helpful response might be to count your blessings. Do you have a loving family, caring doctors, and experienced medical staff? Is your relationship with God what it should be? If you have the advantage of any or all of these blessings, be sure to bring your focus back to them. If not, pursue others who will help. Encourage friends and family in their efforts to help. Consult a priest or spiritual advisor in an effort to bring your immortal soul back to full health. Grace is a mighty, strong medicine for an ailing body and soul.

Share Your Feelings


Those who love you need to know how you feel in order to be there for you. It’s okay to reserve a bit of panic for only ourselves, but allowing others in will empower them to console you. Lay your fears on the table for yourself as well. Face them, head-on, and become familiar with the details of your fears. Can you rationalize some of the fears by identifying and then diminishing them? Give it a try. Put a name or face on what it is you’re feeling. An unidentified feeling of foreboding may be conquered by bringing your fears to the light of day.

Acknowledge the Fear Others Feel


Acknowledge that your loved ones are frightened too. A cancer diagnosis is shared with everyone with whom you have a relationship. You may be the sole physically affected person but your family and friends are afraid on your behalf – because they love you. Don’t deny them their feelings or the opportunity to offer the balm of comfort.

As you join with others in facing your diagnosis, teamwork can help alleviate some of the negative feelings you may be experiencing. Your common bond of love can make facing the next few months of treatment much more tolerable.

Fiercely Face the Reality of a Cancer Diagnosis


Don’t live in denial. While it’s advisable to refrain from doing your own research on the internet (big no-no), do ask questions from your healthcare professionals. They know your unique case and can offer information based on you as an individual. No cancer patient is the same as another. No cancer diagnosis is either. Let your specialists employ their vast education and rely on them for answers. Who knows, the cancer of diagnosis you’re imagining, might be much more formidable than the reality.

Facing your diagnosis head-on might also diminish the fear of the unknown. There will be power in knowledge, once the details, treatment, and prognosis are known. Facing a known entity removes many doubts and replaces them with firm resolution to do battle.

Be Aggressive


Settling for local, generalized care with a cancer diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. When dealing with the subtleties of various forms of cancer, relying on a specialist, especially trained and focused, is the proactive choice. You may even share the experience of hurt feelings from local doctors who have been replaced with out-of-town specialists but remember, you are the patient and when it comes to aggressive treatment, you are in the driver’s seat. Don’t let personalities get in the way of foolish pride or fear of conflict. This is your life!

Rely on God


The most important action is reliance on God. He, Who made you, knows you and what you need. Find peace in knowing He wants what’s best for you. Put yourself at His mercy and allow Him to work through you, to find your best path. When you’re feeling the strain, go to Him for comfort. In need of answers? Petition Him to guide your way to finding them. He will never let you down, even when others (or you, yourself) are less than helpful. No one knows your heart like He does. Pray unceasingly and ask others to do the same. Know that the Communion of Saints is there, kneeling beside you, and interceding on your behalf.

Many faithful, from many corners of the world prayed for me during my cancer journey. Their prayers were felt and heard. As a ten year survivor, I owe my life to Him. The same is true for our daughter. Six years later, she is cancer free and her healthy little girl will turn 6 on Thanksgiving. The prayers of the Passionist nuns in our county even brought a miracle. We three – daughter, granddaughter, and I – are living proof that prayer is the most powerful medicine for the healing of body and mind.

Let us pray for one another!

Are you a member of the Cancer Club? It would be great to hear from you – whether these ponderings inspired, found you nodding your head, or fell short. What was your most important survival technique? If you would like to share your experiences or to ask for prayer, please leave a comment. God bless!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

10 Years a Breast Cancer Survivor - I Don't PINK


Ten years a breast cancer survivor - yay me! Yet I don't succumb to the need to PINK my life. The reason may surprise you!

Cancer, A Devastating Diagnosis


Cancer is always a devastating diagnosis; a genetic makeup showing a propensity for the BRCA 1 defect brings an outlook even more overwhelming. Ten years ago my cancer diagnosis featured this arguably most dreaded form. BRCA 1, triple negative breast cancer grows and spreads quickly, all the while being statistically high in recurrence. Seeing my oncologist shake his head when perusing my chart unmistakably brings home the reality of mortality at each visit.

My diagnosis wasn’t the first for a forty-something woman on my maternal side, but my survival for a full decade is a first. At least three generations before me – mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother – shared this gene. They died at 58, 42, and 40-something – one of them just two weeks after diagnosis, while my mother survived for almost five years. Our 28 year old daughter didn’t escape either, even though she was 20 weeks pregnant at the time of her diagnosis.

As they say, life marches on. This October marks my tenth cancer-versary, a term coined by those counted among the unwilling souls who are in the Cancer Club. Had my younger sister not berated me for my unwillingness to resume an annual mammogram, my outcome would most likely have been as poor as those who came before me. Although not my first checkup, it was the first in a few years. Fear of what seemed like the inevitable kept me from scheduling.

All of the prerequisite trials, pain, and fears are not the story though. Along the way a fuller faith, less dependence on this world, and unreserved love from my husband have been found. That our daughter was also subject to the same experiences – chemo, surgeries, the inevitable testing, and a guarded hope for long life – has brought us even closer than we were before. And the one shining jewel of our shared experience is faith. Until you’ve stared death in the face and acknowledged the reality of the mortality of the human body, you aren’t as keenly aware of the little things that wind up being the big things in your life.

Cancer, Family and Others


Until you’ve been humbled by being bald, nauseas, and physically weak you can’t fully experience the unconditional love of family. A husband, and daughter, who are willing to give assistance with the most personal of hygiene aspects of the human condition speak louder than mere words ever could. Family members who do mundane household chores, send inspirational books, and become chauffeur to chemo – these are the champions of which you might never have been aware. It’s easy to say, “I love you”, and heartwarming to hear. Yet the sacrifice of time and the effort family during the endless months of living the life of an invalid are like glittering jewels in memory.

Those outside the family bring their own gifts of love during the trials of cancer. Recovery from a sixteen hour surgery is not for the faint of heart. Neither is care for the patient. Yet the countless doctors and nurses helped make this past decade of my life possible. M D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX will be forever held in high regard. Modern medicine is, indeed, a miracle and God’s fingerprints can be seen in the great strides that have been gained. It’s difficult not to wonder if my mother would have survived had she had the same care.

Cancer Brings Faith and Hope


A priest I barely knew played an important role as well. The fear that prevented me from getting an annual mammogram for all those years, had me convinced that I had been handed a sure death sentence. Convinced of my certain demise, treatment seemed fruitless. With the sureness of his faith, Father Baker swiftly convinced me to abandon hopelessness and to live up to my responsibility to family. That day, in the Presence of Jesus in the monstrance, my faith was awakened. No longer satisfied to wring my hands in despair, the trip home found a more resolute and enlightened me.

Plodding along, first with recovery from lengthy surgeries and then six months of chemotherapy, hope was restored. Life began to take on a new sweetness. Love was more pure. Things formerly taken for granted became miraculous. The love of family was made more complete and felt more deeply. This new beginning was the culmination of a cycle that began with hopelessness and ended in unfettered hope. Death no longer felt like a thing to fear. It became a friend. For if life was lived faithfully, walking in step with God, Eternal Life was something to which one should look forward. As odd as it may sound, the thought of death can at times bring a lift of joyful anticipation to the heart. In human weakness, however, suffering is still a dreaded foe.

Human Capital: Don’t Kill So I Can Live


As much as we seek to live when we are faced with an uncertain future. As much as we will do everything possible to survive and flourish, we must always keep in mind that no promised treatment is worth the life of another. Modern science can seem truly miraculous at times, yet even as they seek to lengthen and improve life, some aspects of research are morally bankrupt. We need look no further than the recent exposure of Planned Parenthood. As if killing unborn children isn’t heinous enough, it’s been proven that their organs are being harvested and sold for profit. Embryonic stem cell research, though unproven, continues to be used in scientific experiments for cancer cures. Even if these studies produced hope for cancer and other deadly diseases, their use would be morally objectionable. No one should die so that others can live.

In this month of October, the pink month, a moral duty presents itself. Aware that Susan G Komen and the American Cancer Society cooperate with Planned Parenthood, we are bound to share their unholy alliances with those around us. Both of these organizations also cooperate with embryonic stem cell research. The color pink has become associated with groups that prey on unborn victims while portraying themselves champions for cancer victims. Don’t fall for the sentimentality that partners with evil. Think Before You Pink.

Ethical Cancer Support


Cancer victims need our support. While we make ourselves aware of emotional traps set by unethical organizations our moral duty begs that we inform others. Let them know of morally sound ways to help those suffering from cancer. Drive, clean, cook, visit, and console. Show love and offer prayer. Then make those around you aware of groups such as Polycarp Research Institute, Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, and National Breast Cancer Foundation® who do research in tangible, moral ways. Donate to an individual patient or to these groups.

Caring for the sick is a Corporal Work of Mercy. Making sure this is done in a virtuous way is the responsibility of each individual. This October, let’s make it a point to show our love of one another by extending the love of Christ to everyone – the cancer victims and the voiceless unborn.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Connecting the Sodomy Dots - Disney and Campbell's

Screenshot from Campbell's Star Wars/gay parent ad


Well, it didn't take long to get here - we can now connect the sodomy dots. Disney has bought the rights to Star Wars and a new Campbell's soup ad features Johnny and his 2 fathers - both of them saying, "I am your father". This, of course, is an almost universally known line from Star Wars.

Time to Chuck Out the Campbell's Soup and Star Wars?


My husband and I first saw the commercial two or three nights ago. We looked at each other and he said, "it's time to throw out the soup". That might seem like a knee-jerk reaction but let's take a closer look.

  • We've already established that the minority of sodomite rights activists are in our schools, through Planned Parenthood, which is largely in charge of sex education. 
  • Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have both acquiesced to active homosexuality as well. 
  • Let's not forget that the Supreme Court of the United States of America has made sodomite 'marriage' a right - against the will of the vast majority of the people and state laws. 
  • Books encouraging same sex experimentation at worst and acceptance of homosexual behavior at best, are commonly sponsored by libraries and schools. This is true from kindergarten on.
  • Characters in long-standing comics, children's shows, and animations are 'coming out'.
  • Sadly, even a homosexual faction of deviant shepherds of the Church are making their perverted preferences known, in the wake of the Synod on the Family.

Little by little, the carefully crafted parental barriers protecting the morality and immortal souls of our children are being destroyed. Connecting the dots is becoming more and more simple. With a government that insinuates its morally bankrupt views into even how parents raise their children, we are quickly reaching the edge of the moral cliff. 

How Is This Happening?


Wringing our hands and crying, 'the sky is falling' will not net appreciable results. It's well past time to get up and do something. Put on the Armor of God. Beseech Saint Michael the Archangel for protection, and take command of the moral direction your family will take.

It's no longer an option to stand idly by and think that your kids won't notice. Marketing doesn't work that way. The immoral minority knows that too. They know that the way to drastically change societal thinking is to attract the children. The ease with which this can be done should be evident to any parent who has ever heard even their youngest children request toys, meals, or clothing by brand name. It's easy for our children to connect the dots - we must make it our duty to connect them first.

Ever popular movies, like Star Wars, have had lasting appeal for generations - with fans both young and old. Once a child is conditioned to desire collections of memorabilia and other Star Wars products, they are owned by the brand. When they see their beloved characters associated with sodomy or any other form of immoral behavior, they will begin to tolerate the deviant message. Before long, tolerance is followed by acceptance, and eventually the deviant behavior will become normal.

What to Do?


This is where proactive parenting comes in. Be ever vigilant. As parents, we all know that the little souls in our charge are like thirsty sponges. They absorb whatever they are exposed to. Think about the many ways they mimic our worst moments of speech or action. Do you really want to take a chance on something so much worse being absorbed by them as well?

Let's do something! Don't buy into the consumerism that distorts our wants into needs. That happy meal or soup or cereal or clothing you buy for your children speaks to them - and to everyone they encounter. Our actions and appearance are sometimes the only evangelization someone receives. We should be a part of the solution instead of joining the conspiracy to normalize the sinful. Refrain from collaborating with those who spell death for the souls which have been entrusted to us.

Let's pray for each other; let's pray for the children.


Author's Note: I was asked a great question in one of my Facebook blogging groups. It's shared below, with my answer. Feel free to chime in - we're in this together!


  • Question: I saw this commercial and I quickly told my husband to shut it off because my children were in the room. We can boycott Campbells and Star Wars. We can get rid of TV. What can we do to stop this?
    LikeReply2 mins
    • Birgit Atherton Jones The answer is for all parents to do what you are doing - be aware. The answer lies within each domestic church - the family. In addition share the information, write to the offending companies to express your concern, and pray mightily. This has gone too far for us to stop this on our own. With God, however, all things are possible.



Thursday, October 8, 2015

Octobers Past: Infant Loss, Breast Cancer, and Halloween



infant loss, breast cancer, halloween, designs by birgit
Octobers Past: Breast Cancer, Pregnancy Loss, and Halloween


By now it's painfully clear that I've been slacking. No posts for an entire month! As I warm up to write my annual Think Before You Pink post, I'll take you down memory lane and share some posts from Octobers past.

















Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day   


Our daughter, Erika, wrote a poem and created the accompanying graphics in commemoration of the four children she lost through miscarriage. These little saints in heaven, known only by God, are waiting for us! [...]

















Taking Back the PINK - Breast Cancer and Pregnant 


When we see that flurry of pink in the stores, and even on the football field, our overly commercialized brains have no trouble recognizing that it's October - National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Beginning with Susan G Komen - an innocuous enough sounding cause - that pink ribbon has become a beacon of hope for the victims of this deadly disease - and those who love them.

              But hold on! Is that really all there is to it? 

You might be shocked to know that sometimes all things pink are not created equally. What would you say if I told you that there is a sordid bond between Susan G Komen and one of the causes of breast cancer? [...]



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St. Michael the Archangel Costume for Catholic Boys 


Our two boys are always outnumbered by the girls and their flurry of 'princessy' dress-up clothes and accessories. Preparation for a faith-filled celebration of All Hallows Eve was the perfect opportunity to make this right. Five year old Simon decided to dress as St. Michael the Archangel. He has a real affinity for the warrior angel and often asks to say the prayer throughout the day. I looked around the house and found odds and ends - and the rest was trial and error along the way. [...]





Don't Be Spooked by Hallowe'en 


Once we realize the origins of Hallowe'en, we will find that this is a day to celebrate, not to frighten. In that vein, we Catholic Christians choose to dress as saints or other characters we admire, as well as poking a bit of fun at the devil. After all, his battle has already been lost; Jesus Christ the Savior won that victory when he became man and dwelt among us. He even allowed the devil to tempt him, as an illustration of the power of light over darkness. [...]



PINK Betrayal - Think Before You PINK! 


I’m a cancer survivor. It’s a point of pride for me – and a badge of honor. All of the scars I bear, both physical and mental, were earned in hand to hand combat with an evil monster of a disease. This monster took my grandmother at 42, my mother at 58 and tried to take both my 28 year old daughter and her unborn child in 2009! I’ve been to the bowels of hell and back. I have fought the good fight and, for the time being, I have won! My enemy surrounds me, though, and he is never far from me. He lurks in the corners of my subconscious and seeks to destroy me – if not by eating away at my body, then by eating away at my life of calm control over who I am. He honors no boundaries and his hunger for victims is unquenchable. This formidable foe never sleeps. [...]




Don't Kill Babies to Save My Life! 


What a relief! The PINK month is almost over. Amid all of the superficiality - pink football teams, toilet paper, blenders, and every other imaginable product of commerce - lies an undeniable fact. The PINK lulls the masses into misguided, yet enthusiastic support for death. Yes, death. What they don't tell you, these opportunistic marketeers, is that it's all about the money - even if it's blood money. As an eight year survivor (happy Cancerversary to me!) I have earned the right to make these distinctions and comments. [...]