Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fun at Shea

“Meet the Mets,
Meet the Mets,
Step right up and greet the Mets;
Bring the kiddies,
Bring your wife,
Guaranteed to have the time of your life!”

It was a gorgeous day, and a fabulous day for Mets fans. In a crucial game, the Mets beat out the Marlins 13-0, scoring in every inning but the fourth, with an almost-no-hitter spoiled for John Maines by Hoover in the 8th inning. Other unusual events included an all-out-brawl on the field in the fifth inning, and Jose Reyes refusing to run on his hit in the third. (We just watched the game again on the Mets Network, to get a better understanding of what happened with the fight, which was precipitated by Garcia’s aggressive pitching.)

The scene was full of excitement for all the children, especially the baby. In order to get to our seats in the top row of the upper mezzanine, we had to go up several escalators. The height was dizzying, and we all felt a little giddy from our partial fright. Looking through the metal grid behind us, we could see the skyline of New York and the busy streets below.

Above us were perched pigeons, which kept the baby quite entertained. (“They get to see all the games without buying a ticket,” commented my eight-year-old.) At eye level in front of us, my son counted thirty-four planes landing. Also in the background was the site of the new Mets Stadium, which you can see being constructed in my picture above.

All the clapping, “w-a-v-ing”, chanting, and standing ovations were a thrill to participate in. The kids are excited about sharing their experience with their friends. And I knew my husband would be in a good mood, at least as long as their current success keeps up through the play-offs.

Today is Day Four in the 40 Days for Life Campaign.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Child is Born

In print for four decades, A Child is Born, by Lennart Nilsson, is a work of science, art, and beauty. Using pioneering techniques in microphotography, Nilsson was able to show the world what life looked like from conception to birth.

His images have since been widely used by anti-abortion activists.
The 4th edition, coauthored by Lars Hamberger, includes additional photographs with new-and-improved ability to see inside the womb . I used this edition to show my daughters how their little sister was developing. The extremely detailed text allowed me to go into as much or as little detail as they desired.

Also from Nilsson is the 1983 documentary Miracle of Life, which WGBH calls the "most popular NOVA of all time." You could, of course, watch the sequel, 2001 Life's Greatest Miracle, online for free. You can also read a NOVA interview with Nilsson on his techniques and other projects.

Today is Day Three of the Forty Days for Life Campaign.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fathers’ Rights, Then and Now

In 1854, Elizabeth Cady Stanton addressed the New York State Legislature.
“. . . .4th. Look at the position of woman as mother. . . . The father may apprentice his child, bind him out to a trade, without the mother’s consent – yea, in direct opposition to her most earnest entreaties, prayers and tears. . . . Moreover, the father, about to die, may bind out all his children wherever and to whomsoever he may see fit, and thus, in fact, will away the guardianship of all his children from the mother. . . . Thus, by your laws, the child is the absolute property of the father, wholly at his disposal in life or at death. . . .”

The 1854 women’s property measure was defeated, and again Stanton addressed the New York State Legislature in 1860, on the very eve of the Civil War. She compared the plight of women to that of the slaves in the South.
“. . . .Cuffy has no right to his children; they can be sold from him at any time. Mrs. Roe has no right to her children; they may be bound out to cancel a father’s debts of honor. The unborn child, even, by the last will of the father, may be placed under the guardianship of a stranger and a foreigner. . . .”

Finally, the New York State Married Women’s Property Act of 1860 became law. The above wrongs were set aright with the following clause:
“. . . .9. Every married woman is hereby constituted and declared to be the joint guardian of her children, with her husband, with equal powers, rights, and duties in regard to them, with the husband.”

[These documents appear in History of Woman Suffrage, Volume I., by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage (Rochester, NY, 1881). The six volume were reissued (Arno Press, NY, 1969).]

That was then; this is now. As the saying goes, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

I offer the poem below as a reminder to pray for all the voiceless fathers who have lost their children to abortion.

The Would-Be Father
By Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller

He knocked
at the door
of her parents’ home
and asked to see his beloved.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea” –
her father refused.
“But she’s carrying my baby” –
the young man protested.
“Not if I can help it” –
the older man replied.
“But I love her –
I want to marry her –
We can make this work!”
cried the lad.
“You’re poor
and uneducated
with no prospects –
you’re a loser,”
said the father,
and slammed the door.
And he was that,
but not by choice.
For there was nothing he could do
to save his unborn child.
They tore it from him
before he could ever know
the child that was his.
His soul filled with sorrow
and left a hole
that could never be filled.
He looked at fathers
playing football with sons
or walking with their daughters
Decades later,
married with children,
and grandchildren even,
he would still wonder
what could have been.
“Precious baby,
he prayed,
Angel in Heaven,
I never meant it to be so.
One day,
we will be united.
Until then,
you pray for me,
and help me to forgive.”

Today is Day One of the 40 Days For Life campaign.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

40 Days for Life

89 cities in 33 states across the nation will unite in a fast called 40 Days for Life from September 26 - November 4. Check with your diocese to see its recommendations for upholding the fast.

In the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop Murphy asks that during those days we not eat between meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He also asks that we abstain from entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights and use that time to read scripture and pray for the restoration of respect for life.

There is also a beautiful prayer by Pope John Paul II that the Bishop asks us to recite during these 40 days after Holy Communion on Sundays and at all other Masses you attend during Respect Life Month:

O Mary,
bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living,
to you do we entrust the cause of life
Look Down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers
of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women
who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed
by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son
may proclaim the Gospel of life
with honesty and love
to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace
to accept that Gospel
as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude
throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it
resolutely, in order to build,
together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love,
to the praise and glory of God,
the Creator and lover of life.


I will be following a modified fast because I am a nursing mother. Please read on for the Catholic rules of fasting. (Emphasis added by me.)

"Fasting The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem to be contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. A person could, for example, multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives). Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat. Similarly, one could multiply the number of days that one fasted. The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church's law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys - candy, soft drinks, smoking, that cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the individual.

One final consideration. Before all else we are obliged to perform the duties of our state in life. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to the will of God."

---- Colin B. Donovan, STL

Monday, September 24, 2007

How Pro-Life are you?

Elitism and hypocrisy are alive and well in America.

There is a topic I have avoided since the start of writing this blog, although it is quite close to my heart. Indeed, the novel I have been slaving over has to do with this very subject. I wanted my blog to be uplifting to all mothers and focus on the positives.

I pray daily for the victims of abortion: the children, the mothers, the fathers, the grandparents, and society in general. With a conservative estimate of one-third of today’s women having at least one abortion, whether you like it or not, the reality is that out of your three best friends, one of them probably has had one. These women will have a life-long need of healing from the consequences of this choice.

I heard something today that truly incensed me. That is the ugly truth that young girls in our Catholic High Schools are being taken by their parents to commit abortions. In my head echoed a homily spoken a few years ago in my parish. The deacon challenged his listeners: How pro-Life are you, really? What would you do if you found out your teenage daughter was pregnant? Would you put your money where your mouth is?

Do these parents know that they are putting on their daughters a life sentence of guilt, as well as the physical consequences to their still-developing reproductive systems? If they think the child is too young to take care of a child, what about the emotional and spiritual weight of the act of voiding an innocent life?

This completely relates to the elitism that has long bothered me: first in the homeschooling world, then in the circle of Catholic School parents. It is the us-them mentality. The idea that our precious children would be corrupted by interacting with public schooled children.

I have known homeschooling parents who refused to allow their children to socialize with non-homeschoolers; now I have heard many Catholic School parents say that the public school children in their neighborhood would have a bad influence on their children. No wonder the public school parents seem to think of both homeschooling and private school parents, “What, the public school isn’t good enough for their children?” They think we think that way, because many of us do.

The primary reason I homeschooled first, and now send my children to Catholic school, has to do with the Culture in the classroom. I want my children to be in an atmosphere in which God permeates every subject. When not spoken of explicitly, there is the implicit assumption that God is present. In Science, He comes in as the Creator of the beautiful laws of the universe. In History, He is the one who has always been and always will be; who guides men’s hearts and actions. In Mathematics, He is the Ultimate Rule of Logic. In English, He is The Word.

There is a danger in assuming that our children will be shielded from bad behavior because the parents of the other children are willing to shell out $x to send them to the same school. I wonder now, what is worse: a high school in which pregnant teens proudly waddle down the halls, or one in which we pretend at innocence while hiding ugly truths?

No matter what schools our children attend, the responsibility for teaching the Theology of the Body lies with us, the parents. From the moment of birth, they learn that you value the bond of motherhood as God’s Divine Gift. It starts there, and “The Conversation” is not just one talk about “the birds and the bees”, but many, as you gently respond to their questions, letting them know they are encouraged to ask, begging them to come back for more. Movies, books, television, events in the life of their friends all can act as prompts for a continuation of this dialogue.

Please click on the advertisement of “Bella”, a pro-life movie that promises to be one you can take your daughter to and explore this topic together.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, is not a difficult read. It is filled with humour and tongue-in-cheek commentaries on the art of writing novels.

Catherine Morland, undistinguished in any talents but raised with goodness and integrity, in a family of ten children, accompanies the childless Mr. and Mrs. Allen to Bath in the hopes of finding a suitable mate. She meets the witty and good Henry Tilney, and it is love at first sight. Unfortunately, she falls in with the Thorpes; she becomes best friends with the guileful Isabella and is courted by the odious John, “her friend’s brother and her brother’s friend. Isabella attaches herself to Catherine’s brother, only to break his heart with flirting with Henry’s older brother, Captain Tilney.

Eleonor Tilney, on the other hand, is a true friend, and Catherine enjoys a long vacation getting to know her better at the Tilney’s home at Northanger Abbey. Here she expects to find mystery and romance typical of her favorite horror novels; but her hopes are dashed as she finds the furnishings and peoples of the Abbey are quite modern and normal. She comes away with a better understanding of friendship, and learns to appreciate the beauty of a simple, uncomplicated life. There are few surprises in this story: the typical difficulties of obtaining parental consent to an engagement ensue, with a happy marriage at the end of the novel.

Although published posthumously, Northanger Abbey was actually written in 1797-8 under the title of Susan (not to be confused with Lady Susan, written in 1793-4), revised and sold in 1803 to a publisher who failed to publish it, reconsidered in 1816, and finally published a year later (but dated 1818) together with her true last novel, Persuasion.

In my reading of the text, there seemed to be subtle indications that Austen knew she was in the midst of writing her last novel. I was surprised to find how early in her career she actually began its writing. This leads me to believe that further revisions were made in her final year. (Modern physicians believe she may have suffered from Addison’s disease, the symptoms of which started in 1816.)

The contemporary view of writing, perhaps brought on by the simplicity of Hemingway, seems to be that short and simple is best. I love Austen’s long, complex sentences, in which one phrase builds upon another to make her point. Perhaps she could convey her meaning in fewer words; but if there be beauty in those words, I say we should keep them. To pare down into the fewest words certainly makes things easier for the reader. But some of us who are in love with the English language enjoy the work of getting through a half-page sentence. If we have to re-read it to understand its meaning, the fault lies not in the writer. We come away with an appreciation of her ability to describe most fully a landscape, an emotion, or the cause of someone’s behavior.

In Chapter 5, Austen inserts her strong opinion for a full page-and-a-half, explaining why she allows her heroine to enjoy the reading of novels. “For I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom, so common with novel-writers, of degrading, by their contemptuous censure, the very performances to the number of which they are themselves adding, joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust.”

Austen obviously held her own profession in the highest esteem. According to her, the well-written novel is a “work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” Novelists must support one another, she says. Nevertheless, there are several uncomplimentary references to the works of Ann Radcliffe and Fanny Burney, some of the popular writers of that period. Perhaps she felt that novels would be seen in a better light if more of them were written in her own style.

See my post on Austen's Times.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Rock

“And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:18-19

John Constable landscape masterpiece, English Romantic Painter, 1776-1837
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds.
1823. Oil on canvas.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Painting the Rosary

My current project is not a very exciting one. I am staining the rails of the deck that comes off my kitchen. It is a job that needs to be done about every five years. With six sides to every spindle, working during the baby’s nap time, it typically takes me a few weeks to complete.

Putting on a new color is always very exciting. Even white-on-white can be a thrill, if the old white has gotten quite dingy. Brown-on-brown is quite dull. No one but me will ever notice the job has been done. However, once I get started, it is a job that I thoroughly enjoy.

People ask me why I don’t just spray-on or use a painting mitt. My answers are: (1) a brush always gives the best coverage on wood; (2) a brush offers more control; and (3) I enjoy using a brush. There is a fourth reason, as well. It brings back childhood memories.

When I was around ten years old, my father let me help him to build a deck. We bought the wood and a new router. He showed me how to route the edges of each slat to give it a sharper look. We designed the way the slats would go around the deck, and the way we wanted the tops to look. I believe we used cedar, but we went for a semi-transparent redwood stain. Every two years I would help him to stain the deck again.

The house was stained a brown cedar color – I would choose a similar shade in staining my own cedar shakes many years later. Dad explained why stain was better for wood than paint. The oils seep into the wood, preserving its moisture; paint sits on top of the wood and allows it to dry out.

Whether I am using stain or paint, the act of brushing either on offers me an opportunity for contemplation and prayer. I can use each thin slat of wood as a rosary bead, focusing on one intent per rail, until I come to a main rail, which I use as an Our Father bead.

I hope that all my family and friends felt blessed today, as you were each interceded for.

“Pray without ceasing.” I Thessalonians 5:17

Piero della Francesca (1420-92)
Adoration of the Holy Wood and the Meeting of Solomon and Queen of Sheba
c.1452; Fresco, San Francesco, Arezzo

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Last Minute’s Notice

The phone rang at 8:20 on Monday morning.

I looked at the caller ID and my heart jumped a beat. When the children’s school is calling, the text might as well read, “EMERGENCY: YOUR CHILD”. I don’t know if this happens to other mothers. Being used to having my children ever in my care during my homeschooling years, I am still not completely at ease with entrusting them to others for an entire school day.

I picked up the phone. It was my daughter. “I have cross-country practice after school today,” she informed me. “The teacher said there was an email.”

“Okay honey,” I said, “I’ll be there after school. Have a nice day.”

I hung up the phone and sighed. I had looked for a notice from the team on Friday afternoon and, there being none, assumed I had another week before the season started.

Sundays during track season are very busy, and I often take a day off from the computer. We wake up early for a big pancake breakfast, go to church, drop Baby and Daddy home, and then head to the track for a four-hour meet. We end the afternoon with a backyard barbecue and the usual bedtime routine.

Nothing drives me crazier than last-minute schedule changes. I try not to schedule too much in one day, and then I work my way backwards from the day’s big event to sort out the rest of the day. Now my day’s plans had to be completely rearranged.

In order to be at the school at dismissal, I would have to put the baby down for a nap an hour earlier. That meant she would have to get some outdoor activity and a good breakfast in order to be tired-out enough to sleep. We also would have to fit in a morning trip to the drug store to pick up shock-absorbing athletic inserts for my long-distance runner’s sneakers.

For me, naptime would be taken up by getting together things needed for the other children: a change of clothes, snacks, and pencils to complete their homework. I also had to fetch the cross-country email from my computer, download the attached athletic permission form, and fax it to the school.

I always used to think that things like this only happened to mothers who failed to plan ahead. Mothers had to be on top of things. Those school notices buried on the bottom of the child’s school bag would never happen to me; or so I thought. No sooner than they walk in the door than I am looking in their folders. I even messed that up once this year.

Two Fridays ago, I neglected to look in my son’s folder when he walked in the door. I was on the telephone, and he had a headache. I hung up to tend to his headache, and completely forgot to check for homework. I would discover it at exactly 8:00 Sunday evening, as he kissed me goodnight and I looked in his backpack for his lunch bag. There were some other unpleasantries awaiting me there, including an apple core and empty juice box.

Most of our days our filled with little mundane details such as these. Whenever a wrench is thrown in the works, I have to offer it up to God. Although it is important to plan ahead, the unforeseeables still have to be dealt with. Every time this happens, I have to remember that He is in control.

“The sum of a man’s days is great
If it reaches a hundred years:
Like a drop of sea water,
Like a grain of sand,
So are these few years
Among the days of eternity.
That is why the Lord is patient with men
And showers upon them his mercy.”

Sirach 18:7-9

Pictured above: Haystacks at Giverny, Claude Monet, 1891
This painting is supposedly an impressionistic view of Time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Joyfully Run Your Course

Our family has been involved in track-and-field and cross-country for a few years now. The season, which started last week, is marked by a feeling of exuberance in mind, spirit, and body. Everyone comes home feeling tired and sore, but happy.

I can see several parallels between running and the Christian walk. In running, if you finish the race you are always a winner. If you did your “personal best”, you have won first place in your own way. The sport is one in which a win for the individual is a win for the entire team.

Everything you do – on each and every day, not just race day - influences how you do in the race. The runner must watch everything he puts into his mouth. She must be early to bed and early to rise. It is a life of temperance. What is good for the mind, spirit, and body, is good for running. So too, the discipline and strength that is built by running will help a person not only in other sports but in many other spiritual, intellectual, and social aspects of life.

Christianity, too, is a way of life. It is marked not just by walking into the Church on Holy Days. Everything we say, think, see, hear, and feel feeds the soul and affects our relationships with God and others. God has given us a Book to let us know what is good for us. If we read this Book and absorb it into our hearts, it becomes a way of life that can only yield good.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;;
The sky proclaims its builder’s craft.
One day to the next conveys that message;
One night to the next imparts that knowledge.
There is no word or sound;
No voice is heard;
Yet their report goes forth through all the earth,
Their message, to the ends of the world.
God has pitched there a tent for the sun;
It comes forth like a bridegroom from his chamber,
And like an athlete joyfully runs its course.
From one end of the heavens it comes forth;
Its course runs through to the other;
Nothing escapes its heat.”

Psalms 19:1-7

Pictured above: "Runner and Spring Lupines", by Phil Dynan

Friday, September 14, 2007

School’s No Vacation for this Mom!

The last two nights were spent at open school nights: one for the middle school, and one for the elementary grades. Getting to these mandatory meetings is quite an ordeal for our family. The teachers still give out homework, which must be done earlier than usual; dinner finished and cleaned up; the children all set for bed. My self-employed husband must brave the “rush hour” to get home “early” at 7:00. I kiss the children goodbye and, as soon as his car pulls in the driveway, I am out the door.

The first night I was fifteen minutes late. The baby was fussing and giving me trouble about going to bed at 6:55. I finally had her asleep and was able to leave at 7:15. It takes a half hour to get to the school, park the car, and walk to the auditorium.

When I opened the door, it was clear I was the latest one, and they were in the middle of the opening prayer. Mortified, I closed the door behind me as quietly as I could. I imagined several people giving me dirty looks. (Imagined or not, given a choice between several hundred parents staring at me and leaving the house with the baby crying, I’ll choose the former every time.)

The second night I left just five minutes earlier, but the traffic lights worked with me and, if I had not gotten stuck waiting for a long train, I would have made it on time. Still, at 7:35, people had not yet sat themselves down, so I was okay. I made polite chit-cat with a school board member. “This must be like a vacation for you,” she commented, referring to my days with the kids in school.

“Believe it or not,” I told her, “I had more free time when all the kids were home for the summer!”

How quickly we all forget how much attention a baby needs the first few years of life. The active ones cannot be left alone for a second! I myself am guilty of forgetting this, as I have sometimes wondered why friends neglected to call for long periods of time after having a baby.

I go through my day logistically mapping every step in front of me. In the morning, I ask myself what chores I can accomplish with the baby with me. Today we ate breakfast together and went food shopping.

Because I cannot fit all our family’s food in one cart, I go through the store once, load up the car with the non-perishables; then go to the dairy and meats for a second run. The cashiers who are unfamiliar with me always make a funny comment when seeing me on their line for the second time. “Forget a few things?” When the baby fusses on the cashier line, I give her my cell phone and she happily pretends to talk to her daddy.

When we got back, I had to repeatedly place her in the farthest part of the living room away from the front door, then run to my car to get a few bags before she could get to the front door. A few times, she beat me to it, and I had to coax her away from the screen door so I could open it. After repeating this several times, I finally had the groceries loaded onto the kitchen table. I put her in the high chair with a banana while I quickly put the groceries away. Several times I had to stop what I was doing to rinse off the banana, which she kept throwing on the floor. Then I sat with her for my own lunch.

Finally, nap time. I am religious with our 12 to 2 nap time. I nurse her, put her down, and she is out. I think God made babies need naps because he knew mommies needed them to. This is the only time I have to myself until midnight.

Now I think to myself: what chores need to be done that I absolutely cannot accomplish with her with me? Sweeping or mopping the kitchen floor is always first on the list. Then bringing down the laundry. Today, for my major task I decided to clip the hedges in the front yard. I also chopped up the broccoli for dinner. I had a few moments to check my email and put up a post that I had already prepared ahead of time. I try to have most of the housework and errands completed before the kids get home from school. This way I can give them my full attention for the duration of the day.

The baby wakes up, we have a snack, and go out in the yard. At 3:20, we go out front and wait for the school bus. Although slightly fearful of the large yellow vehicle, her face lights up because she knows her siblings are home to play with her.

No homework this weekend – yay! We weeded and planted some bulbs together. We took the bunny for a walk around the yard. The kids played wiffle ball, until all the balls had landed in the pool. The baby played in the dirt, happy to get dirty and happier still to have a bath afterwards. It was another happy, productive, day in the life of this mom. I will sleep well tonight!

Pictured above: "The Menagerie" by Franz Sonderland

Our Lady of America

“Our Lady again appeared to me while I was at prayer. She held the world in her hands. From her eyes tears were flowing upon it, as though she longed to cleanse it from its guilt. It was then that I heard these words filled with sorrow and longing: "Behold, O my children, the tears of your Mother! Shall I weep in vain? Assuage the sorrow of my Heart over the ingratitude of sinful men by the love and chasteness of your lives. Will you do this for me, beloved children, or will you allow your Mother to weep in vain? I come to you, O children of America, as a last resort. I plead with you to listen to my voice. Cleanse your souls in the Precious Blood of My Son. Live in His Heart, and take me in that I may teach you to live in great purity of heart which is so pleasing to God. Be my army of chaste soldiers, ready to fight to the death to preserve the purity of your souls. I am the Immaculate One, Patroness of your land. Be my faithful children as I have been your faithful Mother. These are my words, O my daughter. Make them known to my children. I desire to make the whole of America my shrine by making every heart accessible to the love of my Son." "

Learn more about Our Lady of America.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Old People No Good"

I was at St. Charles Hospital today for a blood lead test, now required in New York State for all infants. I was told to go to the waiting room. Seeing an elderly woman there, I guessed that she would enjoy looking at the baby. I situated myself in her line of vision. She asked me how old the baby was. She told me she was 83 and had three great-grandsons ages 9 months, 5 years, and 7 years. She had three daughters, and her husband had wanted a son. Now he had them in his progeny.

She then went on to tell me how her grandchildren, now in their thirties, had often been in touch in their childhood and teenage years. “When I was young and healthy, I would go to Macy’s and Sears and buy things for them. I was useful and they would call me all the time. Then I had a bypass operation a few years ago and I can’t get around so well. So they don’t call me anymore.”

In her thick Polish accent, she groaned, “Old people no good. . .You understand?. . .Old people no good.”

I hardly knew what to say, but I listened. Within a few minutes, I was called. I told her, “God bless you,” and she was gone from my life. But I wished I could tell her grandchildren, “Don’t you know what you are missing?”

I can’t reach them but I can tell whoever else may be listening.

“Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.”
Psalm 71:9

The Voyage of Life: Old Age
Thomas Cole, 1801-1848
Oil on Canvas

Monday, September 10, 2007

Steel the Moment

“Steel the Moment”: a phrase, coined by me, to describe:
1. The act of capturing a serene moment for later use;
2. The act of calling upon said memory when strength is needed.

As I came out of the pool today, I heard a rustling in the woods. I watched as the white tails of two deer disappeared further into the trees. One remained, staring at me without flinching. I kept still, maintaining eye contact, until he lost interest and turned to join his family.

Last week was a real challenge. With half-days of school, it seemed the children had just left when all-of-a-sudden they were back again. We did lots of talking about the kids and teachers. We made decisions about what extra-curricular activities we would participate in. We packed in as much fun as we could in the latter half of the day. It was exhausting.

Today was the first full day back to school, and my to-do list was long. Yet I was able to steal a few minutes to do a few laps in the pool, and feel all the better for it. As I walked back to the house after my interaction with the deer, I thought to myself, “Steel this moment.”

Last spring, when we were in the midst of baseball/softball season, my Nanna wrote me, asking if I could please telephone her when I could “steel a moment”. That typo was the serendipitous event that led to my coining of the phrase with a different meaning. I thought to myself, “Next time I feel frazzled I need to STEEL the moment.”

The coming weeks will be packed full of activity: meetings, sports, homework, and adjustment to new classes. It is imperative not only that we steal a few moments for ourselves, but that as we discover a moment of serenity we need to capture, freeze-frame, or “steel” that scene into our memory. In the near future when I am caught up in the non-stop running-around of autumn, I can call upon my reserve of serene moments and claim them for the strengthening I need at that point in time.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

“Fall – Whitetail Deer”, by Michael Sieve

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fifty-Seven Happy Years Together

Happy 57th Wedding Anniversary to my “Nanna and Poppop”, Mr. And Mrs. John S. Nagy! Dale is a registered nurse and John is a retired detective of the New York City Police Department. Nanna and Poppop enjoy golfing, dancing, bicycling, and spending time with their grandchildren.

“Set me as a seal on your heart,
As a seal on your arm;
For stern as death is love,
Relentless as the nether world is devotion;
Its flames are a blazing fire.
Deep waters cannot quench love,
Nor floods sweep it away.
Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love,
He would be roundly mocked.”
Song of Songs 8:6-7

Picture of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Nagy at picnic, October 2006

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Legacy of Conversation

“NEVER did I ever imagine that the genes in our bodies would take you into my brain and that of Pop's. As I get older, I see the specific genes at work in my children...and as my children age they are becoming aware that the forwardness of our genes are determined to "show-up" as they are called upon. This is true in not only thoughts and physicality but in the issues we defend or deplore. It is a wonder if we allow our minds to be open to the truth of how we feel, think, and look at the human spirit within us it shines through.”

These were the thoughts recently written by Dale Nagy, my grandmother (belovedly called “Nanna”), in reaction to my blog.

I was not surprised that my Nanna would see her own thoughts reflected in my writings. Ours was a family that never ceased talking. The television – there was only one in the house, down in the basement – was rarely on. We were busy doing things together, reading, and/or talking. Family stories were repeated over and over again until they felt like they were part of our own experiences. “Tell me again about the time when you and my aunt ran into the bee’s nest,” I would ask. I can really see that scene play out in my head, although it happened long before I was born.

Although I was not homeschooled and my parents were not involved in the school parent-teacher association, they truly were a part of my education. When I got home from school, they would ask me questions about my day. Not just general questions like “How was your day?”, but specific ones. “What did you learn new today? Tell me about your teacher. What are your friends’ names? What about the other kids?” When a problem arose, they would role-play with me so I could be better prepared with dealing with that situation on my own.

“Don’t they give you a summer reading list?” my father complained, “When I was in school I was learning Latin and reading great books like The Old Man and the Sea and Moby Dick…” He made those classics seem so important to a child’s development that I made sure to read them. Many years later we would compile a list of must-read-books for the good of my teenage brother. And I am still trying to learn a bit of Latin and Greek roots, along with the kids.

During the summer I would often spend a week or two with my Nanna and Poppop. I would take long walk with Poppop and his little hotdog-dog, Penny. “You’re funny,” I would tell him, and he would say, “No, you are.” Nanna would bake with me and play games with me. The whole time was spent sharing stories.

When parents and older relatives share their experiences with young ones, they might sometimes wonder if the kids are listening. Even if they tune out some of them, you can be sure most of it is getting through. Through a repetition of themes and values, the stories become a lesson on how things are in the world, how one can deal with problems that arise, the constancy of morals and how following them ultimately works out for the good.

The good of talking can also make possible that your values are infiltrating their thinking and actions, even when you are not there. Even if you must work long hours, do not volunteer at the school, or are only able to visit the grandchildren once a year, you can have a long-lasting influence on those who truly need it.

"Raise up a child in the way he should go;
And when is old, he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

Picture of me with Nanna at my first daughter's First Communion in May 2005.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Ocean

The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Shallow and the Deep, the Transparent and the Opaque. One thousand aspects of God, apparent paradoxes yet co-existing in scientific beauty, can be seen reflected in the Sea. One day it is calm and soothing; another day gentle yet playful; and yet another wild, turbulent, frightening. Unpredictable and untamed, He shows himself in the way he knows He is needed at the moment.

Autumn is the perfect time to visit the ocean. The crowds have long gone home, the sand is clean, and shells sit pristinely ready for the picking. If you have the opportunity to visit the sea, take it, and see what God has to tell you about His Nature.

“The waters of the sea were gathered as in a bowl;
in cellars the deep was confined.”
Psalm 33:7

Photograph taken by me at Smith Point Beach, Long Island, New York, yesterday.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Back to School Shopping

Yesterday morning the newspaper had an article about all the last minute shoppers. Good thing I had thought ahead, I thought smugly! I had all my supplies early – really I did. Yet I am drafting this blog in my trustee memo pad with a felt pen, whilst standing on a line after 9 PM the night before school starts.

Just this weekend I had told the cashier at the food store that I was thankful my kids wore uniforms and I was spared a big clothes shopping trip. “Just new shoes I guess?” she assumed. Uh oh. I hadn’t thought of that. I pushed it to the back of my mind.

After a day at the beach, I asked the kids to try on their uniforms. My eldest found her shoes under the bed and started coloring in the scuff marks with a black permanent marker. I had a flashback to a scene from the movie “Bridge to Terabithia”. She needed new shoes, and it was too late to take them all out. I waited until my husband got home, saw that they were tucked in bed at 8 PM, and took off for the store.

So here I am, just like everyone else. While in the store I realized that my son required a belt for first grade. I see young children in the store, rubbing their eyes. Shouldn’t they be home in bed? But I shouldn’t judge. Who knows why, like me, they were called out at the last minute, and had no one to leave the kids with. The loudspeaker is announcing the time is 9:15 and the store closes in 45 minutes. Hopefully I’ll be checked out by then (sigh).

Sunday, September 2, 2007


“My son, conduct your affairs with humility,
And you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
And you will find favor with God.
For great is the power of God;
By the humble he is glorified.”
Sirach 3:17-19

Today’s readings touched me on several levels. (The Gospel spoke of giving up the head-of-the-table seat to someone more important.)

I. The Humility of Motherhood

On this Earth, there is no job more humbling and more elevating than that of Mother. I think of the ten days last April when my older three children took turns with a four-day stomach virus. I was up day and night cleaning up vomit, consoling them, and giving the baby extra breastmilk to boost her immunity. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there was the day my firstborn read me her first book – and I knew I had taught it to her. Or, more recently, the day she confided in me her hopes and fears for the future. Tonight we finished reading aloud a wonderful book to all the children, and I knew I had planted fascinating seeds for thought. (As I write, I just got handed a tooth. Looks like I'll be playing the tooth fairy tonight.)

We honour Mary not for one specific thing she did, but for who she is – the Mother of the Son of God. She humbled herself to receive the gift of motherhood, and for that she is elevated. Everyday we can look to Mary as the ultimate model for who we should be as mothers. We can remember that it is not the great earthly things we do that matter, but that we just be spiritually present to our children.

II. The Humility of Writing

Writers are of an interesting breed, full of subtle ironies. Most of us tend toward introspection. Yet we seek publication, to set our mark on the world. The Christian writer may earnestly work toward getting an important message out to the world. Yet he must ultimately self-promote in order to further that end.

In the movie, “The Singing Nun”, a sister with a guitar, the only vestige left of her family, becomes famous for her beautiful hymns. In the end, realizing that vanity has caught hold of her and kept her from her true ministry, she gives up her guitar completely.

For us, the battle with humility will likely be a lifelong one. We are called upon to use our gifts to help others, yet must be sure the glory goes to our Maker, not ourselves.

III. The Humility of Volunteerism

I have taken a hiatus from volunteering in both church and school, while caring for an infant. I remember those who said, “Volunteering is a thankless job,” and seemed to be put-out by all their efforts. We are called to “do all that we do with a cheerful countenance”. While recognizing that our job is important, we must not feel self-important.

Heavenly Father,
Help me to give of my gifts
And in a manner that will always glorify you.

Pictured above: “Vanity”, by John George Brown