Friday, May 31, 2013

What is detachment in the Catholic spiritual life?

File:John of the Cross crucifixion sketch.jpg

Among Carmelite saints, John of the Cross, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites with Teresa of Avila, is not the most popular. Why not? He insisted that detachment was necessary for holiness. Many Catholics, misunderstanding his teaching, think it too hard and too dull. On first reading his Ascent of Mt. Carmel, they might be tempted to settle for luke-warmness.

On the other hand, nearly everyone loves St. Therese of Lisieux. The irony is that Therese was a true daughter of John, embracing all that he taught. If we reject John, we implicitly reject Therese as well.

Misconceptions about attachment


Let’s examine some of the misconceptions about detachment.

First of all, the detachment John of the Cross speaks of is not aloofness. We should have proper affection for our family and friends.  It’s nonsensical to be cold towards your spouse due to a supposed love for God.

Detachment doesn’t mean denying the good that is in the material world. Rather, it means viewing temporal goods as temporal, gifts from God meant to lead us to Him. Unlike some religions, where the physical world is seen as evil, Christianity does not teach asceticism for its own sake. We give up our desires for things in order to make room in our hearts for God.  Detachment is a means, not an end.

Continue reading about detachment.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

An Interview with Elizabeth Scalia

One of the awesome things about being a book reviewer is being able to touch base with the authors of the books I review. Yesterday I posted my review of Strange Gods : Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. You can find that review here. I was really excited when Elizabeth Scalia, The Anchoress, agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions. So without further ado….here is my latest author interview at the Catholic Book Blogger. Continue reading........

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Is love or fear the better motivator?

Last week’s post on the Final Judgment (and Mr. Darcy and St. Therese) reminded me of two opposing views I’ve read in books about homeschooling. Some authors say that loving your students is the best way to motivate them to learn. Others say a healthy fear of the teacher is more effective. Here’s my take on the love versus fear debate.

The Machiavellian argument


Niccolo Machiavelli famously wrote in The Prince:

“Here a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.”

Focus on a child’s fear of his parent(s)–whether it is called fear, respect, or discipline–seems to me to be particularly Protestant. I mean no disrespect to my non-Catholic fellow homeschoolers, but many conservative Protestants have a somber view of humanity. Calvin taught that man was totally depraved. Fundamentalist Christians generally believe that man’s nature is bad since the Fall. Thus a child has a naturally rebellious spirit that must be tamed.

Ruth Beechick was one of the early homeschooling experts among “Bible Christians.” I gleaned much from her book Heart & Mind:What the Bible Says About Learning.  However, her works have the typical Fundamentalist shortcomings, most based on an overly literal interpretation of Scripture.  Since “[t]he fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 3:12), she believes that education must start with discipline.  Without a healthy fear (she says), children won’t be motivated to learn anything.

Read more at Contemplative Homeschool.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Catholic Book Blogger Giveaway

This weeks giveaway at Catholic Book Blogger is sponsored by Ave Maria Press. They are offering a copy of the book Strange Gods : Umasking the Idols in Everyday Life by Elizabeth Scalia (otherwise known as the Anchoress in the blogosphere). See the complete details by visiting my blog here.

God, Mr. Darcy, and St. Therese


Are you afraid of standing before God on Judgment Day? Does the thought of facing Him make you fear death? Even if you’ve committed mortal sin in your lifetime, you only have to fear God in one circumstance–if you die unrepentant, or with no intention of confessing your sin as soon as possible. Here’s how my husband, St. Therese, and Mr. Darcy taught me to think of the Final Judgment with peace.

My husband and I met through Single Catholics Online (now Ave Maria Singles). After emailing and talking on the phone for several weeks, we decided to meet in person. As I was preparing for our first date, my hands shook from nervousness. I told myself, “There’s nothing to worry about. It’s just Dan.” We had gotten along great in our conversations. We already knew a lot about each other. We were friends. We were old enough to have been completely genuine with each other, rather than acting a part. What did I have to fear? If it wasn’t God’s will for our relationship to deepen, it wouldn’t happen, but I knew Dan would not reject me as a person. Most (I’ll admit–not all) of my nervousness disappeared at these thoughts.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Catholic Book Blogger Giveaway!

It's time for another Catholic Book Blogger Giveaway! This time Anselm Academic is offering a copy of their Anselm Academic Study Bible. See the complete details by visiting my blog here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: Anselm Academic Study Bible

In my 17 years as a converted Catholic, I have used a number of Catholic Bibles. I can honestly say that the newly published Anselm Academic Study Bible has become my go to Bible for research and study. I have already used it often to look up scripture referenced in the books I review.

This Bible comes in at a hefty 2143 pages plus an additional 16 pages of study aids. The scripture itself is the New American Bible Revised Edition. Before even getting to the scripture itself you get 97 pages of essays/articles. The Formation of the Bible; Geography, Archaeology and the Scriptures; and Sacred Scripture in the Catholic Tradition are just a few of the titles you will find in this section.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

If God is willing...

" Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain'; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that'" (James 4:13-15).

This passage from James the Apostle can almost seem silly. Should we really preface every statement of intent with "God willing?" I used to ask myself this question. That changed in the summer of 2002.

 I was a new mom, struggling to adjust to sleepless nights and no time to myself, when it became clear that I would have to return to work. Never in my life had I considered being a working mother. In fact, I'd had many discussions in which I had said, "There is absolutely no way I would work when I had small kids." But circumstances were against me. I had no other choice, if my family were not to starve or otherwise fall apart.

 Eating my words 

Going back to work was perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever done. What would people think? Would they call me a hypocrite? Would they think I was a closet feminist?

As I read Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, I had to face the fact that God’s will–at least His permissive will–could be different from mine on such a major issue. I had to let go of my will. When I did, I found a measure of peace.

Continue reading.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jacob and Esau contemplative homeschool unit

File:Matthias Stom - Esau and Jacob - WGA21805.jpg

I have been blogging lately about my method of contemplative homeschooling. Here is an example of a unit I did a few years ago with my boys on Jacob and Esau.

The best way to start these units is for you (the parent) to meditate on the Scripture passage you will study with your kids. In this case, prayerfully read Genesis 25:29-24, 27:1-40. Since this passage is long, you could spread your meditation over 2-3 days or choose a smaller portion of the text to meditate on.  Identify the main elements or themes of the story that speak to you and use them as part of your studies.

The themes I chose for this unit were twins, telling the truth, and comparing and contrasting. (I created this before I began starting each unit with my prayer time.)

Narration: Read "Esau and Jacob" from The Golden Children's Bible aloud. If you have a different Bible, use only the parts of the story that correspond to the sections of Genesis noted above. Have your kids narrate it back and you write their narrations. Children 10 and up can write their own.

Copywork/memorization: "The Truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Understanding the Ascension Through Art

Ascension Thursday is the close of the forty day celebration of Easter.  Some dioceses have moved marking this Solemnity of this feast to Sunday.   To better celebrate the wonder and mystery of this event of salvific history, we can turn to art.

The Seventeenth Century poet John Donne tended to take an intellectual approach to spirituality in La Coruna. (1618).  The section dedicated to the Ascension offers conceits which prepares the person for acting in faith:

Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son,
Ye whose true tears, or tribulation
Have purely wash’d, or burnt your drossy clay.
Behold, the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon;
Nor doth he by ascending show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which hast batter’d heaven for me!
Mild lamb, which with Thy Blood hast mark’d the path!
Bright Torch, which shinest, that I the way may see!
O, with Thy own Blood quench Thy own just wrath;
And if Thy Holy Spirit my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.
While Donne was raised as a Catholic, he converted to Anglicanism in his adulthood.  The verses reflect this sentiment as it uses quitessential Catholic symbols,such as light and dark, as well as the sacrifice of the innocent lamb.  But the final verse emphasizes the personal rather than communal aspect of faith.

Another distinctive feature of Donne's literary style are his metaphysical conceits. which uses imagery in an extended metaphor to combine vastly different ideas into a single notion.  Hence, the ascension is likened to both a strong Ram to break down the door of faith to heaven and as a mild lamb in a blood sacrifice to show the path.

Three hundred and fifty years later, Salvador Dali painted "The Ascension of Christ" (1958) as Jesus is rising toward an energized and electrified heaven.

Dali's surreal style of juxtaposing images one would not ordinarily associate in order to create a deeper meaning requires going beyond a rational exposition of faith.  But Dali's depiction is not devoid of reality, as the prominent feet would have been the last thing that the Apostles who witness the Ascension would have seen.

Dali attributes the inspiration for "The Ascension of Christ" to a cosmic dream that he had in 1950 full of vivid color where he saw the nucleus of an atom.  Dali was an ardent atheist but he later re-embraced his Catholic faith (perhaps after an exorcism) but Dali often fused his conceptions of Christianity  with science. Dali realized that the nucleus was the true representation of the unifying spirit of Christ.  This nuclear mysticism is meant to connect everyone.

Dali's "Ascension of Christ" does have some incongruities.  Dali was inspired by the atom but it looks like a sunflower or perhaps a stylized depictions of the sun.  Dali was often intrigued with continuous circular patterns like a sunflower floret as it followed the law of logarithmic spiral, which Dali explained to  Mike Wallace in 1958 was associated with the force of spirit in chastity.

While the dove ready to descend from the clouds seems like an allusion to the Pentecost liturgically celebrated in 10 days.  But why is Gala (Dali's wife and artistic muse) peering out from the clouds?  In other Dalian religiously inspired paintings, Gala represented the Virgin Mary. Historically, the dormition of the Theotokis happened long after Christ's ascension into heaven.  However,  Mary is often considered the Queen Mother of Heaven and as the resurrection transcended time and space, it could show the Mother of God weeping at her son's departure from the Earth from her prospective place in heaven.

Other  aspects to appreciate in Dali's depiction of Christ's glorified body ascending to heaven is his hands and feet.  Aside from the positioning of the foot, notice how the soles of his foot were soiled, as reminders that our Messiah walked among us.  Also the Jesus' fingers are curled, which lends some visual drama to the painting but combined with with electrified heavens hints at power.

Whether we are spoken to by Donne's metaphysical conceits or dazzled by Dali's depictions of nuclear mysticism, the Ascension of Christ into heaven is a foretaste of what the faithful may expect in our eventual heavenly home.

h/t:  Salvador Dali Society

Book Review: Totally Catholic!

Totally Catholic!: A Catechism for Kids and Their Parents and TeachersAre you looking for a comprehensive resource for teaching the Catholic Faith to your children or students?  Or a quick reference guide to help explain Catholic doctrine?  Or have a tenet of the faith broken down to better understand yourself?  Then this soft cover book titled Totally Catholic! a Catechism for Kids and Their Parents and Teachers by Sister Mary Kathleen Glavich is ideal!  It parallels the Catechism yet does so in a kid friendly way.  Each chapter starts with a question such as "What is Faith?" or "What is God like?" All the chapters are chock full of information that is broken down into sections so as not to overwhelm the reader or be a monotonous read.  Kind of like a text book format yet interesting.

Here is the basic set up:
Question that gives the reader a clue as to it's topic,
References the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Answers the question which is relatable to children, a
Brainstorm section that challenges the reader to think how this question affects their lives, a
BTW (by the way) section that gives a concise definition of the theme of the chapter, a
Catholic VIP that is a short biography of a saint, a
Scripture Link that connects the chapter to where it's found in the bible, a
Did You Know? box that offers an interesting fact, a
From My Heart connection that offers either a prayer to recite or a prayer intention, a
Now Act! section that gives the reader an assignment and ends with a
Recap that highlights the main points of the chapter.

This format is perfect for intermediate readers!  Or for any lay person who would like additional information to why Catholics believe what they do and where the belief originated.   My only critique would be the black and white illustrations they used throughout the book.  They're done well yet I wished they had some color illustrations too.  Either it wasn't well thought out or was purposely done due to budget constraints, either way, I think it lacks a bit of a visual impact.  Especially for children who are visual learners.

Overall, I enjoyed it and will have it available for my son to use and also plan to use it when preparing my lesson plans.  (In fact I already have with my lesson plans for the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost.) My first graders are too young to be able to read it but the child friendly content will be helpful.   It's relevant to teach the faith and won't be used just once and placed on your bookshelf.  It will be perused over and over again when working with children.  I would highly recommend it to any parent or teacher who is looking for a faith formation resource.

This review was written as part of the Catholic Company Book Reviewer Program. Visit the Catholic Company for more information on Totally Catholic! A Catechism for Kids and Their Parents and Teachers.  The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion Gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.  A complimentary copy of this book was given for my honest review.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Catholic Mom's Cafe!

Prayer life getting a bit dry?  Maybe you would like something new to read and get ideas to ponder about faith.  I know that there have times when I've searched for a new resource to help me along a dry and just plain boring time in my prayer life.

 Five years ago, I was invited to participate in my first blog Book tour and it was one of  Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle's books, a few years later I got to meet her in person at a Catholic Media Network/Catholic Writer's Guild conference in Philly, what a very genuine and kind spirit she is!  Reading her other books were a joy, so this time when Donna-Marie asked me to participate for her newest book, how could I refuse!

Each book Mrs. O'Boyle writes is a true spiritual journey into a mother's heart.  She, as a mother, knows just what we go through and need to sustain us through thick and thin times in the raising and nurturing of a family.  In her new book, Catholic Mom's Cafe, Donna-Marie provides moms with a daily 5-minute retreat, and in just 5 minutes she packs in words of wisdom, a prayer, and something to think about.

When I received "Catholic Mom's Cafe" I began my preliminary scan; the table of contents, acknowledgements, and I usually flip through the contents of the book to get the feel and guesstimate how long it should take me to read the book for my review.  What I discovered at the first scan is that this book is one I will take with me during the day and read it during violin lessons and piano lessons, during a 15 minute break at work and possibly during a boring school meeting, shhhh!!

The book is a retreat book for the entire year with each month a concentration of one of the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love.  Each day is divided up into four sections: Ponder is a scripture verse or a quote, Offer is Donna-Marie's thoughts on the Ponder, then we Pray prayers that are provided in the front of the book, such as: Act of Faith, or Act of Love, and other prayers that she lists for easy reference and then a final thought to Savor throughout the day.

 This book is a real treat and I know that I am going to enjoy taking a daily break and be inspired, pray, and ponder my motherhood and my life in light of Holy Scripture and our Holy Mother....and I know you will too!

Please look for autographed copies of the book are to  purchase at Donna Marie's website: Also, you can purchase Mom's Cafe through the publisher: Our Sunday Visitor, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and their local Catholic bookstore.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Jericho March

Today is an interdenominational Jericho March at a local abortion clinic in our city.
This "medical facility" has been closed for about a month now for remodeling.

Photo Credit

Please join us in prayer that the doctors, nurses and staff have a change of heart.
That the scales are removed from their eyes.
That they have a conviction of what they're doing brings death
 to an innocent unborn baby and great harm to the mother.

"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."   Romans 8:28


Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Giveaway

Hey folks. I'm giving away a book and I want you guys to have a chance to win! Visit the link below for your chance to win a copy of The Catholic Children's Bible. The publisher, Saint Mary's Press, is sponsoring this contest that I am running via Rafflecopter at the Catholic Book Blogger. Find out more here

Diary of a Country Mother: a review

Diary of a Country Mother

Cindy Montanaro is a Secular Carmelite and former homeschooler. She is also the mother of Tim, a boy she and her husband adopted as an infant. Tim had Tourette Syndrome, phobias, and other mental health issues. In 2005 he died tragically. Their story was published recently by Roman Catholic Books. Dairy of a Country Mother--so named by Tim when no one dreamed he was soon to pass away--is a gem to share with any mother this May.

"Five years ago today I picked up my pen and started a year-long journey of prayer, meditation, and writing. I envisioned an extended period of time in which to record, before memory failed me, all the little humorous and profound incidents that made up my son Tim's short life. " So begins this beautiful memoir of a boy who loved people. It is a story of the joy he brought to everyone he met. It is a record of his mother's faith and acceptance. It is an exploration of the meaning of Tim's life, which Cindy generously shares with us. She would probably say her generosity is one lesson she learned from Tim.

A tale of joy, not grief

Diary of a Country Mother: a Year Remembering Tim is not A Grief Observed. It is not a book about how Cindy and her husband and remaining sons struggled to accept Tim's death. Instead, it is the celebration of his life.

Continue reading.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

National Day of Prayer -- Praying for Amrerica

For the last 62 years, the first Thursday in May has marked the National Day of Prayer Observance designated by Congress when people are asked to turn to God in prayer and Meditation. With the help of 30,000 volunteers, there are tens of thousands of events held across the country to turn our attention to the eternal.

 The theme for the 2013 National Day of Prayer is “Praying for America”. The organizers for the National Day of Prayer have suggested several techniques to raise our prayers to heaven. Keeping with the Praying for America theme, it is suggested that prayerful people follow a 7x7 prayer for Americas seven centers of power seven times a week. Namely, Americans are encouraged to pray for: 1) the government; 2) the military; 3) the media; 4) business; 5) education; 6) church and 7) the family.

Father, we come to You to pray for our nation, the United States of America.      
How You have blessed us through the years, Lord! We rightly sing, “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.” Yet we see trouble in our culture today. We see the breakdown of the family, crippling addictions, and random acts of horrific violence.

Lord, we need Your help in America. In recent days, we have done our best to remove Your Word and Your counsel from our courtrooms, classrooms and culture. It seems, as President Lincoln once said, that we have “forgotten God.” But Lord, You have not forgotten us! You can bless and help and revive our country again.
Scripture tells us that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs14:34). Lord, in Your mercy, we ask that You would exalt our country again. We have had a number of great awakenings in America. We have experienced times of refreshing, and revivals that changed not only the spiritual but also the moral landscape. As the psalmist said, “Will You not revive us again, so that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6)

That is our prayer for America today, Lord. Send a mighty spiritual awakening that will turn the hearts of men and women, boys and girls back to you. You have told us if we will humble ourselves and pray, and seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, that You will forgive our sins and heal our land. (2 Chronicles7:14)

Forgive us today, Lord, and heal this troubled land that we love so much.

We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ.

But May 2nd is only the beginning of the ministry to Pray for America. During Memorial Day weekend, the organizers will launch the first Pray for America Rally Tour, with a specially decked out bus to promote fervent prayer in the communities where they will visit.

As an outreach to social media, the organizers of the National Day of Prayer are highlighting a video by Santus Real "Pray".

In trying times like this, we need all the prayer that we can get.

h/t:  National Day of Prayer
      Pray for America

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran have written a book that at first glance would seem to be the answer to every parishes prayers. They have successfully taken their parish, the Church of Nativity in Timonium, MD and turned it from a struggling parish to a booming one. During that process and in this book are some good points and some bad points. In this review I will give some highlights of each.

Continue reading here