Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Am Legend and Humanae Vitae

By Christopher West

A friend of mine recently turned me on to last year’s blockbuster I Am Legend with Will Smith. I’ve watched it four times in two weeks. I’m mesmerized by it.

In this apocalyptic tale, based on the 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson, Dr. Alice Kripin’s “once hailed miracle cure for cancer” turns out to be a virus that very quickly wipes out 90% of mankind. Only 1% was immune. The other 9% morphed into the so-called “dark seekers” – rabid, violent, hungry human animals who emerge at night (light kills them) to hunt down and eat the remaining, healthy 1%.

Will Smith’s character, Dr. Robert Neville, is part of that 1%. He’s also a virologist devoted to finding a cure and saving the human race from extinction.

With all the recent talk about the 40th anniversary of Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, I can’t help but draw some connections. I know I just devoted a whole series of columns to this topic, but allow me one more indulgence.

I believe that sometime in the not too distant future, the evening news will be speaking openly about the “once hailed miracle pill” that promised liberation and happiness, but has led unwittingly (but not un-forewarned) to today’s “culture of death.”

The haunting picture of our future painted by I Am Legend is obviously science fiction. But, allegorically speaking, it offers much food for thought. The idea of “dark seekers” feeding on the flesh of other human beings is not that far off from the many horrid forms of sexual abuse that are sweeping through our pornified culture like a virus. Just a cursory knowledge of what’s happening today with internet porn leads a person to conclude, as Dr. Neville does in the movie, that “social de-evolution appears complete; typical human behavior is now entirely absent.”

It’s time to take an honest look at how “the once hailed” technology of contraception has played a major role in this “de-evolution.” Social re-engineers do not to like this fact, but when we let the data speak, it’s clear: civilization rests on the family – that is, on the committed union of a man and a woman and their naturally resulting offspring. What would happen to the human family if a majority of us bought into the idea that sterilized sex is “better” than the natural family-building kind? Where would society veer?

Insert contraception into the sexual-societal equation and the basic goal of sex becomes pleasure rather than the establishment of those relationships that bind families and civilization together. Sexual pleasure is a great blessing of God – in its proper context. When pleasure becomes the main goal of sex, however, society becomes utilitarian. You are valued if you are useful. And, in this case, you are “useful” if you are sexually stimulating. If you are not, or if you get in the way of my pleasure, you will be ignored, discarded, maybe even exterminated.

When pleasure is the main goal of sex, people (mostly women) become the means and babies become the obstacle. So we take our pleasure and we kill our offspring. This is not some dire prediction of the future. This is the world we live in now.

As a culture, we are desperately in need of recovering what should be an obvious and celebrated truth: sex leads to babies. Who, then, should be having sex? Wise men and women throughout history – not just Christians – have concluded that only those who have committed themselves to embracing and raising the most natural fruit of the sexual act should be having sex. That commitment is called ... marriage.

But there’s more. Not only does sex lead to babies. When we allow the data to speak, we also recognize what, once again, should be an obvious and celebrated truth: women are the ones who carry them. When we forget this truth or reject it, the abortion industry capitalizes on it, the state taxes us to provide what delinquent men won’t (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) and the basic infrastructure of civilization eventually collapses.

In I Am Legend, it seemed that science had discovered the cure for cancer. Imagine the scorn and derision that would have been aimed at anyone who tried to warn the world that this “cure” was actually a deadly poison. That’s what Pope Paul VI endured forty years ago.

Few even bothered to read Humanae Vitae. But it has proved prophetic. Google Humanae Vitae and give it a read. Then (if you have the stomach) watch I Am Legend ... and “light up the darkness.”

I watched this movie with a priest and a seminarian (whom had recently watched the movie with Christopher West) and I was impressed that the movie even talked about God. That's rare in a big budget Hollywood film now days. It's a good movie and I recommend watching it but, beware, it has some scary, suspenseful parts... which the priest really didn't appreciate. ;)

Do not conform yourselves to this age...

Excerpt from Bishop Soto Crashes National Homosexual Ministries Conference with the Truth: Homosexuality "is Sinful"

Bishop Soto emphasized Paul's injunction "do not conform yourselves to this age," observing that it may be particularly tempting to deviate from one's faith in the area of sexuality, due to the fact that "the nature of love has been distorted" in modern times.

"If you cannot have sex then you cannot love. This is the message. Even more destructive is the prevailing notion that sex is not an expression of love. Sex is love." This view, says the bishop, "robs the human person of the possibility of ever knowing real love.

"Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman in the covenant of Marriage is one expression of love to which the human person can aspire, but we are all called to love. ... The human desire to love must lead us to the divine." The path to the highest love, said the bishop, "is the path of chastity."

The bishop said, "Love leads us to ecstasy, not as a moment of intoxication but rather as a journey" to God and oneself through self-gift. "Desire tempered and tested by 'renunciation, purification, and healing' can lead us to God's design."

"This is true for all of us. It is also true for men and women who are homosexual. We are called to live and love in a manner that brings us into respectful, chaste relationships with one another and an intimate relationship with God. We should be an instrument of God's love for one another.

"Let me be clear here," said the bishop. "Sexual intercourse, outside of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, can be alluring and intoxicating but it will not lead to that liberating journey of true self-discovery and an authentic discovery of God. For that reason, it is sinful.

"Sexual relations between people of the same sex can be alluring for homosexuals but it deviates from the true meaning of the act and distracts them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all. For this reason, it is sinful." (To read Bishop Soto's speech in its entirety, visit: here)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vocation—It's not what you do, it's whom you serve

From Jennifer F.
Conversion Diary

One day this summer one of the girls stopped by during the kids' naptime to talk with me about something that was on her mind, and caught me at a particularly busy time. As we sat there, drinking lemonade over ice at my kitchen table, me listening to her discuss the details of a problem she had with one of her friends (instead of doing what I had planned for that hour), it occurred to me that this is the sort of situation that would have led me to feel deeply conflicted in my old life.

Sure, helping these girls is nice, the thinking would have gone, but what about me? I'm trying to work on that article I'd like to get published, and that is an important goal for my personal fulfillment. I like to help the girls, but...do I really have the time if I'm going to be serious about developing a writing career? Is it worth it to spend so much time with them if it means stymieing important personal accomplishments?

Over and over again, the same scenario kept playing out: I'd follow my heart and get myself in situations that required selfless giving (say, getting married or having kids); but then logic would kick in and I'd realize that too much selfless giving was going to get in the way of meeting my personal goals, the pursuit of which I "knew" to be the meaning of life from the values I'd learned from our culture. I'd end up stressed out about how I was going to balance it all.

The main problem was that the prioritization was not clear at all. If I set aside some of my duties as wife and mother to focus on pursuing my own projects, that would be good, because the meaning of life is to do stuff that's fulfilling to you personally...right? Yet my heart kept pulling me in the direction of focusing more on motherhood and family, which was odd since obviously I'd lose my whole identity and have nothing to show for my life if I wasn't accumulating bullet points for my resume. I was confused. There was a constant tug-of-war between my brain and my heart, and I didn't know how to get out of it.

This is one of the biggest areas where the Christian worldview changed my life.

A couple of years ago some Catholic readers responding to this post introduced me to the concept of "vocation," that every single person is called to one of the vocations that God has given us -- the most common being married life, the priesthood or consecrated religious life -- and that each of us is to discern to which vocation we are called. What I found most interesting about this whole concept (and, frankly, shocking and slightly disconcerting at the time), is that your life's vocation isn't as much what you do as much as it is whom you serve. This worldview basically said that each of us is put on this earth to serve others, and your vocation is simply a matter of discerning whom you'll serve and how you'll serve them. In other words, there is no living for yourself. There's no optimizing your entire life around what you feel like doing.

"WHAT?!" I thought. "But I like optimizing my life around what I feel like doing!" This was a major, cataclysmic change in thinking for me. And I wasn't sure I was on board with it.

I thought that what was being pitched here was a life of drudgery that would quickly send spoiled, lazy people like me to the mental hospital. I took it to mean that you literally can't have a moment to yourself, that you must turn all your hopes and dreams over to the dustbin and work yourself to exhaustion to do whatever other people want you to do.

What I realize now is that I completely misunderstood the concept. I came to see that this worldview is not an expression of absolutes, but of prioritization. To live a life of service does not mean that you never take time for yourself; it means that taking time for yourself isn't the entire meaning of life. It does not mean that you turn your hopes and dreams over to the dustbin; it means you turn them over to God.

It was only very hesitantly that I put this concept into practice in my life. Slowly I began to embrace the fact that the defining purpose of my life is to be a wife and mother, that to serve my husband and my children and my parents and the world around me was what God wanted me to do...that it was even what he wanted me to do far more than write great articles or books or blog posts (even if those articles and books and blog posts were in an effort to bring glory to him). It was one of my first big exercises in trusting God to accept this premise that selfless service of others is objectively a higher life priority than seeking personal gain.

I tested the waters hesitantly. Ever so slowly, I deprioritized the activities that were all about me -- not cutting them out entirely, just recognizing their proper place in my life. When I found myself in a situation where I had a choice between doing something for someone else and doing something for me, unless there was a good reason not to (e.g. if I were feeling run down and genuinely needed a break), I began to choose service. All the while I worried about was that this would be the end of my hopes and dreams, that all the little hobbies and projects I'd so enjoyed would fall by the wayside as I gave and gave and gave with nothing left for me. Once again, I couldn't have been more wrong.

What I found was that God always, always gave me what I needed to feel personally fulfilled. Sometimes it was just barely enough, but it was enough. I found that when I was finally willing to admit that my personal goals like writing or getting published were a lower priority than my call to marriage and motherhood (not unimportant, just a lower priority), that's actually when God really began to bless my efforts in those departments. Though I had less time for it, the time I did spend on it bore fruit like never before.

So as I would spend those days this summer listening to the girls talk to me about whatever was on their minds, for the first time I really felt the peaceful order the Christian worldview has brought to my life. The conflict was gone. I didn't have to wonder if my time would be better spent trying to get something published as opposed to listening to a little ten-year-old tell me about her worries about the fifth grade. Though sometimes it was a painful exercise in trust, I knew that God would help me make up time "lost" talking to the girls if that's what I needed. Finally, I had a clear prioritization that put an end to that tug-of-war between my head and my heart, and I realized that my heart had been right all along.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Church attendance

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the preacher decided to visit him.

It was a chilly evening. The preacher found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his preachers visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.

The preacher made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the preacher took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone then he sat back in his chair, still silent.

The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember's flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The preacher glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow,once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the preacher reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."

We live in a world today, which tries to say too much with too little.
Consequently, few listen. Sometimes the best sermons are the ones left unspoken.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Theology of the Female Body

By Fr. Thomas Loya

Put before the eyes of our nation, and in fact the eyes of the world, are two images of womanhood. Let me correct that: Put before our nation and the world is an image of womanhood that is consistent with the theology of the female body, and on the other hand, an image that disregards the theology of the female body. The image that is consistent with the theology of the female body has set a nation on fire. It has left no heart unmoved whether toward inspiration or even to character assassination.

It has in one fell swoop, out of nowhere, accomplished the very thing that the other image of womanhood fought, scrapped, clawed and connived to achieve for decades and yet failed to achieve. These two images are symbolized in the persons of Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton. Now stay calm! I am not talking politics, Democrat versus Republican, conservative versus liberal. Those are pigeonholing artificial dualisms that I have no use for. Nor am I talking so much about the persons themselves but rather the images, the worldviews that these two women represent. An incredible teaching moment has been put before our eyes and I believe it is by God’s Providence.

We have spoken before in this column about the “genius of womanhood” which is stamped in the very language of the female body. This genius of womanhood holds the key to the most powerful force in the created order-femininity. The power of femininity lies in the one thing that distinguishes womanhood itself-the womb. When we get things right in the womb we get everything else right. The image presented by Sarah Palin affirms this most distinctive factor of womanhood. In front of the world on national television Sarah points to her husband and says that “he is the man I most admire on this earth.” Translated: My husband is not dispensable, a useless add on or a convenient conduit for another personal agenda or ambition. A husband is the only person actually authorized to have access to the woman’s womb and he must do so only with the greatest of reverence and regard. Sarah dared to have more than 1.5 children and then did the totally “unacceptable:” She and her husband dared to bring a child into the world knowing it would be ‘defective merchandise;’ the child would have Downs Syndrome!!

Furthermore, she openly defends against matters that are in their own way threats to the theology of the female body: abortion, contraception and same-sex “marriage.” With her competence in the civil, recreational, and social sphere, Sarah says that yes, it is possible for womanhood to make a contribution beyond the home yet do so without making the dispensing of her femininity an essential requirement. This is true womanhood. It makes a contribution without sacrificing the distinctive riches of true femininity. That is true “power” and it should not surprise us because it is outlined in Proverbs 31 of the Bible.

The other image, the one symbolized for our purposes here, is that of Hilary Clinton. The delusion about secular feminism is that it commits the very thing it purports to be against. It self-debunks by promoting the worldview that if a woman wants to “kick butt” in places traditionally dominated by males, she must first and foremost disregard the one thing that distinguishes her womanhood. She must act like a man, be where a man is, etc. Translated: In the name of furthering womanhood this worldview negates womanhood. It says that there is something intrinsically deficient about womanhood and it must be “corrected” to get more in line with masculinity if it wants to get anywhere.

This image stands on a platform promoting the very things that threaten the theology of the female body, the womb — abortion and contraception. This image basically sees the distinctive quality which forms the genius of womanhood as something that is “in the way.” The man is in the way, or at best tolerated. Fertility and menstrual cycles are in the way. Do something about all of this — mitigate, deny or get rid of them. Only then will you as woman come of age. Yet after decades of fighting for it the Hilary’s of this world did not get the one thing that they thought this worldview would bring them and they are totally mystified. But the answer all along was in the one thing they were told to deny-the theology of the female body.

Another Friday funny

Ole and Sven die in a snowmobiling accident, drunker than skunks and go to Hell.

The devil observes that they are really enjoying themselves.

He says to them "doesn't the heat and smoke bother you?"

Ole replies, "vell, ya know, ve're from nordern Minnesooota, da land of snow and ice, an ve're yust happy fer a chance ta varm up a little bit, ya know".

The devil decides that these two aren't miserable enough and turns up the heat even more.

When he returns to the room of the two guys from Minnesota , the devil finds them in light jackets and hats, grilling Walleye and drinking beer.

The devil is astonished and exclaims, "everyone down here is in misery and you two seem to be enjoying yourselves?"

Sven replies, "vell, ya know, ve don't git too much varm veather up dere at da Falls, so ve've yust got ta haff a fish fry vhen da veather's dis nice."

The devil is absoulutely furious. He can hardly see straight. Finally, he comes up with the answer. The two guys love the heat because they have been cold all their lives. The devil decides to turn all the heat off in Hell.

The next morning, the temperature is 60' below zero, icicles are hanging everywhere, and people are shivering so bad that they are unable to wail, moan or gnash their teeth. The devil smiles and heads for the room with Ole and Sven.

He gets there and finds them back in their parkas, bomber hats and mittens. They are jumping up and down, cheering yelling and screaming like mad men.

The devil is dumbfounded, "I don't understand, when I turn up the heat you're happy. Now it's freezing cold and you're still happy. What is wrong with you two?"

They both look at the devil in surprise and say, "vell, don't ya know, if Hell iss froze over, dat must mean da Vikings von da Super Bowl!"

Friday funny (and truth)

The theme song of all the souls in hell...

I did it MY way!

and the counter, of course:

The theme song of all the souls in heaven...

I did it GOD'S way!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

God gave us different gifts and different circumstances

From God Calls Us to Different Paths to Perfection

Our task is to pray and discern where our gifts can best be put to use to help build the kingdom.

What is God asking of me today? How can I best show love? These are the simple questions with the not-so-simple answers that each of us must consider on a daily basis if only because the answers change as our lives change. What God is asking today is different from what God asked five years ago or what God will ask five years from now. All we can do is humbly offer our lives to God and attempt to do His will wherever we find ourselves today.

I find this thought very consoling. Lately, I have been feeling very inadequate, comparing my own life to others and seemingly coming up short. This isn’t hard to do when surrounded by amazing people. I’m blessed to have such wonderful people in my life and I struggle to keep up. It always seems like there is more that I could be doing. I know I am far from perfect and that I have far to go on my own road to sanctity, but I’m trying. In reflecting on this desire I have to be like others, I have come to realize that God is not calling me to be them. He is calling me to be the best me that I can be in the circumstances I find myself, no more and no less. I wasn’t called to serve in the Peace Corps, or to travel the country giving lectures, or to be the mother of ten children. At least for the moment, I have been called to serve my local parish community, write articles, be the best wife I can be to my husband and the best mother I can be to my two boys.

I was reminded of St. Therese’s image of the different flowers in the garden. What good does it do for a daisy to want to be a rose or vice versa? We each have our own beauty to bring to the world. God calls each of us to our own path to perfection. It is our job to walk the path, one step and one day at a time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

God is with You NOW!

By Mark Shea
Words of Encouragement

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua lived in a period of major transition for Israel. For years upon years, Israel had wandered in the desert under the guidance of Moses. They were a people who had spent centuries in chains under the Egyptians and, when they were rescued from bondage by God, had been forced to learn the hard lesson that you could get Israel out of Egypt bodily much more easily than you could get Egypt out of Israel spiritually. Joshua had watched all of Moses’ struggles to win Israel’s hearts. He had watched the many answers to prayer, the miracles, the deliverances. And he had watched as, again and again, Israel didn’t get it. They rebelled, they tested God, they resisted his will. They failed. Even Moses failed and so was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, but only to see it from afar. So when it came time to enter the Promised Land, Joshua had good reason to feel inadequate to the task and to feel as though there were was no one among the people who would be equal to the task either. Yet God said, “Go!” and promised he would be with Israel and Joshua. If you are feeling like you are standing on a heap of failures from the past, remember Joshua (and especially the one who was with Joshua) today. The point is not the past. The point is that God is with you in this now and all the future nows there will ever be.

This is very appropriate with all of the turmoil going on in the world. It's always good to be reminded that God is always with us and we should "be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Wow! Our brains are cool!

Brain Stuff . . . From Cambridge University.

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.

Cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The
phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy; it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.

Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

If you can raed tihs psas it on!

Isn't that amazing?! I read right through it from the start and was blown away by that. God sure made us capable of things that are very unexpected.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

...an undeniably painful transformation

Here is a great blog post from Bill Donaghy about Christian suffering ... a blessed pain.

I love our Pope, too!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Staring Death in the Eye

By Fr. Frank Pavone

A few of my colleagues in the pro-life movement have at times made the blanket generalization that showing pictures of aborted babies “doesn’t work” or is “counterproductive.” They say people already know abortion is evil, and seeing the photos will only turn them away from our movement. Nor, they say, will the photos persuade someone not to have an abortion.

May I present some evidence to the contrary. These are three of hundreds of emails I receive from people who see these photos at www.priestsforlife.org/images.

1. “Up until I visited this site I had been prochoice. I thought that I would do an Internet search to see exactly what an abortion entails. After seeing the images on your site, there was no decision to be made. I figured that whatever hardships having a baby at this time would bring me would be far easier than living with the guilt I knew I would never rid myself of if I was to get an abortion. The pictures had such a powerful effect on me. They helped me to be strong and realize that this pregnancy was made possible by God and if it wasn’t meant to be, that was His choice, not mine.”

2. “Hello, I am a sixteen-year-old female and I just finished looking at the pictures on your site and reading what actually happens during an abortion. Up until five minutes ago I was extremely pro-choice. Because of your site, I realize that abortion is not a choice about a woman’s body…it is the LIFE of a BABY. Never before did I realize how truly horrible and careless abortion really is. Maybe it’s because I’d never seen the pictures, or read the actual descriptions of abortion. Maybe I was too afraid to know the truth. But within 3 minutes of viewing your website, my face was covered in tears. Those pictures just really hurt to look at. I cannot express how grateful I am that you have shown me the truth about abortion. God bless you.”

3. “Thank you so much for your website. I am 14 weeks pregnant and my partner wants me to have an abortion. … so I thought about it. I got on the internet trying to see how much it cost and I was led to your site. I wanted to see what happens and what they look like at 14 weeks. Thanks to your site. I am not going to do it. I am unable to commit murder. That is like killing my own children at their age. This is a remarkable website. Everyone should see this site before they consider having an abortion. Everyone needs to see this to determine if they are able to live with themselves after doing this”.

Many other messages like these are posted at www.priestsforlife.org/images.

Now if someone prefers not to use the photos, that’s fine. Many others will, and there are many other kinds of pro-life work to go around. But please don’t say the photos don’t work. They certainly do.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How the "New Age gurus" are leading us astray

Catholic Answers Live had Sharon Lee Giganti on the show on Monday. She gave a very informative and personal account of how the so-called New Age gurus that so many people (such as Oprah) are following are leading people to harm and destruction instead of healing and love. Some of this information was very eye-opening for me.

Catholic Answers Live posts these shows as podcasts. Please go listen to: Does Oprah Have the Last Word and Tackling the New Age: The Third Jesus.

I post this because I want people to learn to open themselves to "the Way, the Truth and the Life" of Jesus to find everything that they want and need. Don't let yourself or the people you love be led down the path of destruction instead. Be aware and beware!

Angie and Christopher teach us to count...

My friend Angie sent this to me and it is so cute I had to share.

Everbody ready now, 1...

North Dakota is where the nicest people live

New Yorkers are neurotic and unfriendly, says Cambridge University 'personality map'

New York is home to the most neurotic and unfriendly people in American while North Dakota is where the nicest people live, according to a Cambridge University "personality map" of the USA.

from: telegraph.co.uk
Thanks to Clint from the Bismarck-Mandan Blog for pointing me to this.

Researchers created the first ever map of its kind is based on the results of a six year online survey of 620,000 people.

They claim it reveals how certain types of people are more likely to live and flourish in different parts of the country and showed links between personality traits and social phenomenon, like crime rates.

American-born Dr Jason Rentfrow, lecturer in social and political sciences at the University of Cambridge, led the study.

He is from Louisiana where, according to his work, people are friendly but have high stress levels.

He said: "Although these are preliminary findings and require more evaluation, they did throw up some striking geographical trends.

"We did find pretty clear signs that there are meaningful differences in the personalities of people living in different areas of the United States.

"What is particularly impressive is that the results show the effects of personality on people's social habits, values and lifestyles are so pronounced that they have an impact on much bigger social forces."

The findings show that people living in eastern states such as New York are likely to be anxious, stressed, impulsive and prone to heart disease and cancer.

Religious fervour is most prevalent in states such as Kansas, Florida, Arizona, Missouri and Utah, where residents mostly exhibit the conscientious personality trait.

Rates of robbery and murder are highest in states populated by people with the openness personality trait such as Columbia, New York, Oregon, and California.

However, the openness trait also encourages curiosity, creativeness and people living in these states have the most liberal, tolerant values on marijuana, abortion and gay marriage.

The nicest Americans, who share the agreeableness personality trait and are said to be warm, co-operative and friendly, are from States such as North Dakota, North Carolina and Georgia.

The survey asked people from the US to read 44 short statements such as "I see myself as someone who is very religious" and mark their level of agreement on a scale of one to five.

The impact of personality traits was then matched with social trends such as religiosity, health, crime, employment and tolerance.

The results revealed clear patterns of personalities - neuroticism is highest in the east along a line stretching from Maine to Louisiana - the "stress belt".

The report, "The Geography Of Personality; A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence and Expression of Geographic Variation in Basic Traits" is published in the journal, Perspectives On Psychological Science.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Love Makes It Possible

click on the picture to enlarge it and read the Stabat Mater

By Monsignor Dennis Clark, Ph.D.

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

1 Cor 11:17-26, 33 / Jn 19:25-27 or Lk 2:33-35

One of the most astonishing things one can ever witness is the exchange of vows between a bride and groom. Before God and the church they speak an absolute “yes” to each other, for better or worse, for the rest of their lives, without knowing what the mix of better or worse will be as the decades pass one after another. Yet they speak their “yes” with glad hearts. Is it sheer ignorance or inexperience that lets them do that? In part, it is. But in most cases there’s something more, and that is a conviction that the one thing that makes life human and worth living is committed love that doesn’t count the cost. They’re saying, “we’ll take the risk and pay the price because we want a real life and not just a shadow.”

Nowhere are the consequences of a simple “yes” spoken long ago more visible than in today’s gospel: Mary who said “yes” to God while still a teenager now stands in silence at the foot of her son’s cross. And her answer to God is still “yes”.

Almost all of us have spoken our key “yeses” to God at the time of marriage, or ordination, or at the birth of children, and at many other times besides. And now most of us stand somewhere in the middle of living out our “yeses”. Doing so can at times be painful, distressing, or just simply boring, and our “yes” can grow faint. That’s when we need to remember why we spoke our “yes” in the first place: because we loved and we knew that love alone can bring us life.

Love for Jesus and confidence in God’s love for her kept Mary from despair and carried her to Easter morning. Easter will come for every one of us if we let God love us through the darkness.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Sunday Fun'ay

Finkelstein and Jesus

Jesus was wandering around Jerusalem when He decided that He really needed a new robe.

After looking around for a while, He saw a sign for Finkelstein, the Tailor. So, He went in and made the necessary arrangements to have Finkelstein prepare a new robe for Him. A few days later, when the robe was finished, Jesus tried it on -- and it was a perfect fit!

He asked how much He owed. Finkelstein brushed him off: No, no, no, for the Son of God? There's no charge! However, may I ask for a small favor? Whenever you give a sermon, perhaps you could just mention that your nice new robe was made by Finkelstein, the Tailor?

Jesus readily agreed and as promised, extolled the virtues of his Finkelstein robe whenever He spoke to the masses.

A few months later, while Jesus was again walking through Jerusalem , He happened to walk past Finkelstein's shop and noted a huge line of people waiting for Finkelstein's robes.

He pushed his way through the crowd to speak to him and as soon as Finkelstein spotted him he said: "Jesus, Jesus, look what you've done for my business! Would you consider a partnership?"

'Certainly,' replied Jesus. 'Jesus & Finkelstein it is.'

'Oh, no, no,' said Finkelstein. 'Finkelstein & Jesus. After all, I am the craftsman.' The two of them debated this for some time.

Their discussion was long and spirited, but ultimately fruitful -- and they finally came up with a mutually acceptable compromise. A few days later, the new sign went up over Finkelstein's shop:

Oh, come on, it's kinda funny. ;)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

True intimacy

From Vunerable Enough to Praise: Part 4 of 5
By Sr. Mary Paul Friemel

True intimacy cannot exist without vulnerability. Intimacy is defined simply as “...very close association, contact, or familiarity...” and is “marked by a warm friendship developing through long association” (Webster-Miriam Online).

Relationship without intimacy is sterile. Intimacy without vulnerability is not possible. Vulnerability is to intimacy as water is to fish. You can’t have one without the other.

Vulnerability equals risk. Risk is scary because there is no guarantee that relationships will last or turn out to be what we imagine. Matters of the heart are highly emotional and can produce quite a bit of pain and discomfort. Risk is what is necessary to push through the fear rather than letting it paralyze your designs for a successful life. Therefore, one must push oneself to be vulnerable (risk) in order to gain ever-increasing levels of intimacy. Vulnerability is what feeds relationships so they continue to grow rather than wither and die (Kniffin).

Who are you going to vote for? How are you making that decision?

My friend Shaun just sent me the link to this video. Please share it with others!


(Edited 9/20/08 to add this great rebuttal from cosmos-liturgy-sex.com to the comment left by "Kathy" on many blogs.)

We received the most bizarre comment from “Kathy” to an earlier post showing a Grassroots produced clip on Catholic Voting. Let me share it with you:

The video and website, Catholicvote.com were produced by Fidelis. They have very strong ties to the Republican Party and to the McCain campaign. In February of this year they issued a press release endorsing John McCain for president and their website includes articles from Deal Hudson who is an advisor to the McCain campaign as a member of the “Catholic Outreach Committee”. They have given campaign contributions only to republicans and even supported republican Senator Rick Santorum over Bob Casey, a pro-life Catholic democrat, during the 2006 election cycle.

If you forward this video or link to the website in your official capacity you may be in violation of IRS regulations and Church policy. You will also be distributing materials that contradict Church teaching.

Among other things, the video glorifies US economic and military power. This runs contrary to Catholic Social Teaching which emphasizes a preferential option for the poor and solidarity. It also runs contrary to the Cathecism which teaches us that “Respect for and development of human life require peace.”

There is more than one intrinsic evil at issue this year. They include genocide, racism, torture, targeting non-combatants and engaging in unjust wars. They are all life issues and they all require our attention as Catholics.

Whether we vote Republican or Democrat this year what defines us is that we are Catholic.

Don’t let the political parties redefine what it means to be CATHOLIC.

Vote the Common Good!

I hardly know where to start.

Bob Casey as a pro-life Democrat, really? With a 65% positive rating from NARAL, I suppose that from the MM and the Democrat party perspective, he is pro-life but he is not pro-life in any meaningful sense of the term.

The Grassroots video clip contradicts Catholic Social teaching because it “glorifies” US military and economic power? Only the most partisan of minds could find this to be the case. In fact, it says quite the opposite. It says America’s strength comes from a commitment to moral values rather than just military or economic strength. It’s real offense, I suspect, is that its depiction of a Catholic’s obligation of a commitment to protecting the dignity of life from conception to natural death goes against the Democrat party platform.

Implying that McCain and Palin embrace policies that embrace “genocide, racism, torture, targeting non-combatants and engaging in unjust wars” is simply ludicrous. McCain was one Republican who stood up very early against what he believed to be interrogation techniques that fell into the category of torture. The other claims are quite outside the pale of reasonable discourse. One can only envision that these claims are coming from partisans who are desperate to find reasons to be able to justify voting for the most egregious “culture of death” ticket ever presented to the American electorate. There is absolutely no question here. While both parties present morally problematic positions (Obama/Biden hardly needs to be explained, McCain/Palin is problematic in the area of embryonic stem cell research and abortion in the cases of rape and incest), the McCain ticket still possesses a 100% prolife voting record. When this is compared to the voting record of the Obama ticket and the promises Obama has made about his “culture of death” priorities starting with the “Freedom of Choice Act” the thin veneer suggesting that there is room for prudential judgment in this matter quickly melts away. In order to follow Catholic moral teaching in this case, one must vote under the rubric of the principle of double effect. The evidence clearly points to the fact that the overwhelmingly smaller proportion of evil will come from a McCain presidency. Thus, given this choice, a faithful Catholic cannot materially cooperate in the evil that would come from supporting an Obama presidency.

Discussing all of this, apparently, is putting the Catholic Church’s tax exempt status in jeopardy. If that is true, then I suppose we need to abandon dependence upon that status because what we are doing is nothing more than applying the principles of the Catholic faith to the concrete circumstances of this years options. Of course, Kathy’s claim is ridiculous. I cannot figure out if Kathy actually thinks that we are that ignorant or if the fault lies with her understanding.

Since this video does nothing other than present what the Church teaches and never mentions any candidate, what Kathy really intends to say is that anyone who understands Church teaching and applies it to the choice of candidates this election season has only one choice of the two major parties; and it is not her candidate. Thus, she calculates, professing Church teaching is tantamount to advocating McCain. In other words, in condemning the video she tacitly admits that one cannot both be a faithful Catholic and vote for Obama.

There is one thing on which I am in agreement with Kathy. It is that we cannot allow either political party to redefine what it means to be Catholic. However, neither can we allow confused Catholics like Kathy to do so either. Catholics must vote for the common good, but the common good is not served by the thinly veiled dressing up of the Democrat platform to appear as Catholic social doctrine. Unfortunately, this is what Kathy and her “vote the common good” partisan group

John McCain Repeats Stance: Roe Abortion Case a "Bad Decision," Overturn It

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 10, 2008

With all the hoopla of the Democratic and Republican conventions and the selection of pro-life running mate Sarah Palin, a McCain statement on abortion appears to have gone unnoticed. Glamour magazine indicates John McCain repeated his position that Roe v. Wade should be reversed.

The women's magazine conducted an interview with the presidential hopeful on July 30 and included the abortion-related clip on its web site on August 30.

Asked whether he would "actively seek the demise of Roe v. Wade," McCain confirmed that and said he will not change from that stance.

"So let me make my point clear again. I thought that Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, and I continue to believe that," he told the magazine. "That's my position."

The magazine attempted to ask a follow-up, but McCain interrupted and restated his position again.

"No, no. That's my position. And that will remain my position," he confirmed.

McCain's campaign web site has indicated for many months that the Arizona senator wants to overturn Roe and allow states a chance at legally protecting women and unborn children.

"John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench," it says.

"Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat," the McCain campaign site continues.

McCain has stated his support for reversing Roe as far back as November 2006.

McCain appeared on the ABC News program "This Week" and responded to a question from host George Stephanopoulos, saying, "I do believe that it's very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should -- could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support."

In February 2007, McCain restated his position, telling 800 voters at a campaign stop in South Carolina, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."

McCain also said he would only appoint judges for key federal posts and the high court who would “strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States and do not legislate from the bench.”

Washington Post full page ad from '04

Washington Post Ad

This ad was placed in the Washington Post by a businessman named George J. Esseff, Sr. He spent (a lot of) his own hard-earned money to make a point. Take a few minutes to read through the statements on this ad. Some of them are really great. The one that made me think the most is:

WHAT I AM is disgusted with the Courts who, on one hand, call the murder of a pregnant woman a ‘double homicide,’ but then refer to the abortion of her baby as ‘pro-choice.’

This is something that I hadn't ever thought of before, but how true! And crazy!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sex and the City (of God)

By Jenny Senour

What’s a single gal to do in times like these, when the only available men seem to be somewhat -ahem - overly available, and the competition amongst females has reached a level of ferocity rivalling finals week on American Idol?

My girlfriends and I were pondering this idly at happy hour one evening, wondering aloud over the curious phenomenon of man-hunting, immortalized on the small screen by NYC’s “fab four.” We came to the conclusion that although the culture might be insistent that we “stake our claims” early and often, the truly feminine (read: more challenging) response to romantic pursuit is to allow oneself to be pursued.

So the idea then is that we don’t participate in the thrill of the chase, at least not as the pursuer. Seems totally counter-intuitive to a woman of my generation. We’ve been carefully groomed to aggressively pursue excellence in every field, from academics to athletics, from motherhood to Master’s degrees. Quite naturally, we expect to enter into the arena of opposite sex relations with similar gusto. We have been instructed in the ways of excellence, taught from toddler hood that we can do anything we put our minds to.

And it’s true. By God’s grace and His perfect design, all things are possible for those who love Him. But do our ways always look like His?

Hear me out, girls. It’s not a matter of passivity or powerlessness, or simply allowing men to “call the shots” and “run the show;” it is a matter of receptivity, or the ability to patiently and peacefully allow oneself to receive. This is no easy task; just ask Eve.

Receptivity speaks to the very soul of a woman, revealing and engaging her innate nature both physically and spiritually. Our Lady was able to “conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit” because of her active receptivity, not by some means of passive surrender. She gave God permission. Think of that, giving the Creator of the Universe liberty to “do unto me according to thy word.” Now that’s hot.

It is in our nature as women to bring forth new life, receiving the sincere and total self-gift of the masculine person and from that donation, creating something new. This is cooperation and complementarity. It is not competition.

And isn’t that comforting, knowing that rather than having to compete for and secure the attention of a potential date, we can surrender our desire to control this area of our lives to the Author of life, confident in His plan and His timing? It’s easier said than done, and believe me when I say I speak from experience. But it’s also our means to sanctification, this learning how to trust and receive God’s best rather than submitting to the desire to hunt and grasp. And growing in holiness is anything but easy.

And it’s not just about us as women. The men in our lives, by fault of Adam’s sin, are inclined to passivity just as we are tempted to take control. We do them no favors by our participation in the culture’s version of the dating game, and in fact do our brother’s a grave disservice by making it so ridiculously easy for them to remain in passivity. There are boys who’ve yet to become men, largely thanks to the influence of the women in their lives who refuse to call them to greatness.

This isn’t always played out in some profound, Herculean moment, but rather in the seemingly insignificant details of daily life, everything from letting him get the door to allowing him to make the first move by picking up the phone.

This careful balance, this age old dance between the sexes is actually a part of God’s plan. You might even say it is the plan, and it’s illustrated on every page of JPII’s Theology of the Body. Man initiates and donates, woman accepts and receives, each doing their part to imitate the Trinitarian model of love. It’s beautiful, but it’s not easy.

So I leave you with this challenge, asking both sexes to consider what comes naturally and what comes with just a bit of sweat and tears, and to perhaps pursue the latter in matters of the heart. Hard work, in the boardroom and on the gridiron, generally pays off at game time, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this might just as easily hold true on any given Saturday night.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

“But, I’m not called to be a prophet.” Oh yes you are!

Admonish Sinners
By Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

I used to think that God’s law was like those dumb rules we had to put up with in grammar school, like “Thou shalt not chew gum in class.” They are arbitrary laws that bureaucrats came up with to keep them happy and the rest of us miserable. The goal of the student is to break such rules whenever they can get away with it. The only bad consequence would be to get caught.

But God is not a bureaucrat. He’s a loving Father. If He says “thou shalt not,” it is because the particular activity in question wounds and, in some cases, destroys the child of God who engages in it. But does not sin offend God? Of course. We are made in his image and likeness, and sin defaces that likeness in us. It also wounds others made in his image and likeness. There is no such thing as private sin — we are so interconnected that every decision to step away from God has incalculable impact on not only the sinner but on the whole family of God.

Some people correct others because they are busybodies. Others, like the Pharisees, do so in order to exalt themselves as they put others down. The disciple, however, intervenes out of love. Love for God, for all His children, but especially for the sinner who is damaged the most by his own sin.

Many people think about God’s law as if it were just arbitrary bureaucratic regulations. They are unaware that their actions are gouging wounds in their hearts and in the hearts of others. But if we know, and we care, we must find a way to tell them. Others don’t know about God and His will — but their actions are still wreaking havoc in their lives and the lives of others. We need to share with them the Good News about the mercy of Christ and the power of the Spirit who makes it possible to follow the will of the Father.

“But,” you may say, “they won’t listen, so why bother?” Simple. Because God says so. Ezekiel the prophet was called to be a watchman for Israel, as noted by this Sunday’s first reading (Ezek 33:7-9). It was his responsibility to let people know whenever their actions were leading to disaster. If he told them and they did not listen, Ezekiel was off the hook. He fulfilled his responsibility, and the consequences were on the heads of those who failed to heed the warning. But if he neglected to warn them out of fear of their disapproval and they ended in disaster, God would hold Ezekiel responsible.

“But,” you may say, “I’m not called to be a prophet.” Oh yes you are! In baptism and confirmation you were anointed priest, prophet, and king. And, if you haven’t noticed, prophets don’t usually win popularity contests.

Of course, if you are prudent and humble and sensitive as you go about this prophetic task, your chances of success will be greater. The Lord Jesus gives us direction about this in this Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 18:15ff): first, go privately to the person and treat him or her like a brother or sister, not like your inferior. If you get nowhere, get another to help you. If you still run into a stone wall, refer the matter to the Church, which in most cases would mean someone in authority such as a pastor or bishop or apostolic delegate.

The bottom line is that we owe a debt of love to our brothers and sisters (Romans 13:8-10). And love does its best to dissuade a person from walking over a cliff.

Satan at work

Excerpt from Overcoming Pornography in Marriage

What many men fail to understand is that once they have fallen into the vice of pornography, it leads to the erosion and eventually to the destruction of their marriage. This is the result because pornography strikes at the very act that allows the two to become one and, quite simply, if we cannot become one, in its true sense, then we become a mockery of the authentic sign that signifies marriage.

God created man and woman, as husband and wife, to join together physically to become “one flesh.” This oneness was given to husband and wife not only to procreate but to celebrate a unity in their relationship, an opportunity to engage in an act that would bring about a closeness that nothing else can offer. In other words, the marital embrace was intended to allow the couple to experience a pleasure much like that in which the book of Proverbs states, “… and have joy of the wife of your youth, your lovely hind, your graceful doe. Her love will invigorate you always; through her love you will flourish continually” (Proverbs 5 18-19).

Yes, God gave us sex as a means of to foster new life and experience a sense of pleasure, and it is precisely why this is the key area that Satan wants to corrupt and eventually destroy marriage. More than 90% of the couples that my wife and I see in our marriage coaching are experiencing problems that stem from a sexual nature, which includes contraception, sterilization, sexual infidelity, and pornography. But again, my focus here is on pornography.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Obama and His Mama

By Gina Loehr

Regardless of our opinions about Barack Obama as a politician, or even as a man, we all share a profound similarity with this eloquent senator from Illinois: he, like us, had a mother.

Of course, not all of us are so fortunate, nor so grateful, as Senator Obama has revealed himself to be. Not everyone harbors such deep and sincere admiration for the character, the sacrifices, and the love of their mother. But, I daresay, most of us do. Motherhood by its very nature is so generous, so selfless, and so essential that only a lack of gratitude on our part, or a perversion of behavior on the part of one’s mother, could prevent us from appreciating her and wholeheartedly rejoicing with Obama as he shares the triumphant stories of his own mother’s momentous influence on his life.

Who among us doesn’t feel a warmth stirring in our hearts when we see the pictures of young Barack wrapped securely in the sturdy arms of his mom? Who doesn’t smile at the now familiar tales of her confident encouragement and her unabashed promotion of her children’s many gifts and talents? And who does not feel a pang of sorrow when we hear of the all-too-common fate of this indomitable woman who, at last, could not overpower the creeping cancer that finally claimed her body as its own?

Yet, for all this, we must ask why Obama has failed to notice, or perhaps simply failed to acknowledge, the most fundamental gift his mother ever gave him: the gift of life. Here stands a glaring and obvious irony. It is only because she gave the fetus in her womb a chance to live that Barack Obama can aspire to become the next President of the United States of America. It is only because this single mom, pregnant before her brief marriage to Obama’s father, chose life that her son is now free to oppose it. Had Barack Obama been aborted — a fate so many in his precarious position have since suffered — he could not stand before us today so boldly professing a woman’s “right” to end the life of her child.

Alas. Herein lays the definition of political discrimination: a group of people that is not at risk condemn a group of people that is. Obama survived. He made it. Thanks to his mother’s choice to nurture him for nine months in her own body and finally introduce him to the world through her maternal labor, he’s safe. He’s no longer at risk of being aborted. His support of the laws and decrees against the right to life will never affect him.

No. It will be the unborn, powerless, innocent sons and daughters of so many frightened single mothers in need of our support who will suffer at the hands of this man. Only those who can neither speak for themselves nor offer anything in the way of self-defense will be (and have already been) jeopardized by his pro-abortion voting record. It will be the future Barney Smith’s and Monica Early’s of the world, the future presidents and pet-store owners, whose stories may never have the chance to be proclaimed on big screens in a Denver football stadium if Barack Obama has his way.

As we continue to witness the effective campaign tactic of appealing to the universal soft-spot we have for our moms, let us bear in mind that this man’s appreciation for his amazing mother disregards the greatest contribution she ever made to his welfare and his existence. She gave him life.


I think this article is very appropriate today since we are celebrating the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Happy birthday Mother Mary!

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Romans 13:9)

Meditation of the Day from
The Word Among Us
Sept. 7, 2008

Have you ever noticed how the commandments that we hear most often are the ones we have the hardest time fulfilling? Take today’s second reading as an example. We all have to deal with people who try our patience or rub us the wrong way. And then there’s the pull of the world, urging us toward a self-centered approach to life. And all the time, we hear in the back of our minds Jesus telling us to love one another, even to prefer one another to ourselves.

This is a demanding call! Like Jesus, we should seek to serve instead of being served (Matthew 20:28). He asks us to take the “lowest place” at the banquet (Luke 14:9). He even warns us that if we strive to be first, we will be last, but if we strive to be last, we will be first (Matthew 20:16).

In today’s readings, God is inviting us to do a little self-examination. How have you done lately in loving your neighbor as yourself? Have you said hurtful things about another person? Have you failed to defend a friend because you were afraid of criticism from others? Have you judged someone unfairly? Have you used someone for selfish purposes? Or have you neglected to help a friend who needed you because it was inconvenient?

These are uncomfortable questions to ask, to be sure. But don’t forget that God knows your heart. He knows how much you want to do good, even though you fail at times. He also knows that he has placed his Spirit in you to give you divine strength and to make changes that seem impossible. So don’t be afraid to open up to him and ask him to help you. Remember: God is love. And that love is generous and overflowing. Let him love you, and you’ll find yourself loving other people more and more. (emphasis mine)

Duped by God

By Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed — Jeremiah 20:7.

While reflecting on this passage from Jeremiah, I looked up the meaning of the word “duped.” According to Dictionary.com, it means “to be tricked or deceived.” That doesn’t sound very good, does it? None of us likes to be tricked, and the idea that God “tricks” us is certainly an unpleasant one. Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. Like many before and after him, when God called, he tried to politely say “No, thank you.” God persisted and Jeremiah relented. His job was to preach of the captivity of Jerusalem. He was a prophet of doom and gloom and no one wanted to hear about it. As a result, he was rejected by everyone and ultimately branded a traitor. As a result, here in Chapter 20 we find him lamenting. His laments actually lead him to curse the very day he was born (Jer. 20:14). Obviously, this was not the life he would have chosen.

Are there times in your own life when you feel God has duped you? Perhaps God has asked you to do something you just don’t want to do. It need not be a big thing. It could be befriending the person everyone else has rejected. It could be teaching religious education or volunteering in your child’s school. Maybe God is asking you to change careers or be more generous or reach out to that neighbor who you have never really gotten along with. Perhaps, like Jeremiah, you have tried to politely decline the invitation. Maybe you have even looked around to see if there was someone else more suitable to the task. “Surely, God, you aren’t talking to me? You must be looking for Amy three houses down!” Never-the-less, God persisted and you ended up doing what He wanted.

It would be wonderful if we did God’s will and life turned out great for us. Sometimes it does. Responding to a call can bring greater personal fulfillment, an important new friendship, or open doors that we never even knew existed. Sometimes, however, it can leave us feeling like Jeremiah. We may become outcasts for standing up for what we know is right. The person to whom we extended our hand in friendship may reject us. The career change may leave us underpaid and unappreciated. Like the prophet, we may feel that God tricked us, and that even worse, we allowed it to happen. We may be kicking ourselves for following the call, for not being strong enough to resist the power of God. We may even come to rue our very existence.

Yet, what is the alternative? If we reject God’s call, where does that leave us? We do have choices. God will respect our free wills, although He definitely will keep pushing us in the ways we are meant to go. We might look at the road not taken and feel that it is better, easier, smoother. For us, however, that was not the road we were meant to take. It may be smoother, but it is not the road that leads to our salvation. It is not the road that allows us to live as God intended us to live. Yes, it may seem that God has triumphed and in the process caused us to fail, but only God knows the final outcome which may be greater than we could ever imagine.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Best Places in the Midwest to Buy an Old House

This Old House magazine ran an article about the best neighborhood to buy an old home in each of the 50 United States. For North Dakota they picked the Cathedral District here in Bismarck. I have to agree that the homes in this neighborhood are great, especially the ones that have been given a lot of TLC and fixed up like new again. I recommend walking through this neighborhood at a slow, leisurely pace and enjoying the sights and atmosphere. Here is the Bismarck section of the article:

Cathedral District, Bismarck, North Dakota

The Neighborhood
The Cathedral Area Historic District is named for the Art Deco Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, whose chimes serenade the neighborhood. Comprising some 20 blocks near downtown Bismarck, it has bragging rights to about 150 homes on the National Register. According to resident Erik Sakariassen, "the Leave It To Beaver theme runs through your head" when you walk the Cathedral District’s streets, and newcomers have singled it out as a family place, thanks in part to a solid public school system with a 97 percent graduation rate. Jobs in the energy sector are a draw, with both a working oil reserve and an electrical plant nearby.

The Houses
Homes date from 1900 to 1945 and their "Eclectic Era" architectural styles include Shingle, Prairie, Tudor Revival, Craftsman, Cape Cod, and American Foursquare.

The Prices
A two-bedroom bungalow in need of upgrades can be grabbed for $125,000, while a large two-story Craftsman-style house may sell for as much as $300,000. Grant money is occasionally available from North Dakota’s State Historic Preservation Office to assist preservation and restoration projects.

Why Buy Now?

Entry-level homes for less than $150,000 to start, plus plenty of opportunities to trade up in the years to come.

Find the best neighborhood to buy an old home in your state here.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Prayer and priority

Another great post from Jennifer on the Conversion Diary blog. This one is about prayer and the effort we need to make to put prayer FIRST in our day, not last (which is all to easy to do).

One great excerpt from the blog:

Especially during these days of spiritual dryness, there's been something powerful about putting prayer first even when I get nothing out of it in terms of feelings or emotions, even when I'm so immersed in worldly concerns that I feel like anything and everything is more important than sitting in front of a book and reading Psalms and other prayers. Something about giving God one of my most precious assets -- my time -- has kept me close to him in a different, deeper way.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Who is Sarah Palin?

Here is a good article that introduces more about our Republican VP candidate. From what I know of her so far, I like her ... flaws (as we ALL have) and all.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

4 Reasons I'm a Better Person Now that I'm a Christian

Here is another great post from Jennifer at the Conversion Diary blog that I can definitely relate to.

Carpenter's Glasses

An email forward to share.

My mother's father worked as a carpenter. On this particular
day, he was building some crates for the clothes his church was
sending to orphanages in China. On his way home, he reached
into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone.
When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what
had happened; the glasses had slipped out of his pocket
unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed
shut. His brand new glasses were heading for China!

The Great Depression was at its height and Grandpa had six
children. He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning.
He was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair. It's
not fair, he told God as he drove home in frustration. I've been
very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and
now this.

Months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in
the United States. He wanted to visit all the churches that
supported him in China, so he came to speak one Sunday at my
grandfather's small church in Chicago. The missionary began by
thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting him.

But most of all, he said, I must thank you for the glasses you
sent last. You see, the Communists had just swept through the
orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses.

I was desperate. Even if I had the money, there was simply no
way of replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to
see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and
I were much in prayer about this. Then your crates arrived.
When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses
lying on top.

The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in.
Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued:
Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had
been custom made just for me! I want to thank you for being a
part of that.

The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the
missionary surely must have confused their church with another,
they thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to
be sent overseas. But sitting quietly in the back, with tears
streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the
Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary way.

There are times we want to blame God instead of thanking him!
Perhaps we ought to try to thank Him more often. May GOD bless
your week. Look for the perfect mistakes. People are like tea
bags-you have to put them in hot water before you know how
strong they are.

~Author Unknown~

Thought of the day

From Peter as Satan
by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Salvation is a free gift of grace, but it will cost you everything. When faithfulness to Jesus brings ridicule rather than applause, don’t complain like Jeremiah. Jesus makes clear the cost of discipleship up front. But he also reminds us that the pearl of great price is worth anything we have to pay for it.

Oregon bishop warns against ignoring the activity of Satan

Ignatius Insight Scoop blog
Thanks to Fr. Ryan for pointing me to this.

From the August 22nd column of Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, for The Sentinel:

The devil is insanely jealous of us. He is jealous because God, bypassing the angelic spirits, chose to link His Divine nature with our human nature in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The singular purpose of Satan then, with a fervor which is fed by jealousy, is to sabotage as many of the individual relationships with God as possible. We are assured that those who maintain a strong relationship with the Lord in prayer and sacraments are extremely unlikely to fall prey to possession but we are all victims of ongoing temptation. It is this role of tempter which C.S. Lewis explores in The Screwtape Letters. A sensitivity in the spiritual life needs to include an awareness of the tactics of the devil and a firm resolve to avoid and resist the wickedness and snares of the devil. This is precisely the purpose of the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. In that prayer, we acknowledge that we are involved in a battle with the forces of evil, “Saint Michael, Archangel, defend us in battle” and we ask his specific intervention, “be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.” We then go one step further invoking God’s own direct assistance, “May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,” and then back to Saint Michael and all the angels, “and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits.” Then at the end of the prayer we take note of the reason why we have sought the intercession of the great Saint Michael in the first place. This is because those evil spirits are the ones “who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” These souls whom Satan and his evil minions prowl about the world seeking to destroy are not anonymous other souls but rather our own souls and those of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

It is certainly important that we not become excessively consumed or obsessed by the presence and activity of the evil one but it is also most important that we not be oblivious to his presence or activity, for it is real. All one needs to do is look at the state of moral confusion which reigns in our present society. The killing of the sick or elderly because they want it is being promoted as some kind of right or good but this can be so only in the topsy-turvy world of Screwtape and Wormwood. When taking the life of an innocent pre-born child is seen as right and a right and when the preservation of precisely that right becomes the object of a political campaign, I suspect the letter from Screwtape to the demon master of that campaign would be filled with praise. When a whole society begins to question whether marriage really requires one man and one woman, faithfully committed to each other in an exclusive and child-centered relationship, Satan must be very pleased indeed. Screwtape’s letters to the untiring tempters who pulled off that coup would have to be filled with devilish pride. For that kind of confusion and moral inversion to have made this kind of progress in our society, it was and is necessary for Satan to have been very active and at the same time to remain very hidden. When he is so subtly hidden, there is no limit to the wickedness and snares of the devil.