Family Night

Sunday Dinner for Thirty

by Mandy Green

“I remember wondering why your sister got upset if we couldn’t make it to family night. Now, if we miss one Sunday dinner, I think, ‘WHY? What am I supposed to DO? I’m so lost!’ Before family night, I had a life. But now if you aren’t at family night you just aren’t in.”

This is what my brother-in-law said a few months ago. This is the same guy who today makes up epic adventures at every Sunday dinner about kings who eat too much spaghetti and cousins who fight bad guys and ride off into sunsets. The same guy who is father to five of my blondest and silliest nieces and nephews.

This is the same guy who today makes up epic adventures at every Sunday dinner about kings who eat too much spaghetti and cousins who fight bad guys and ride off into sunsets.

How It Began

I am not sure what year the Sunday dinners at my parents’ house began, but it was around eight years ago. During this time I was a young mother, busy with a husband, a business, and a baby every year. We would go when we could, often staying overnight to make the most out of the drive. (Anyone who has spent three hours in a car with a screaming two year old and a hungry infant knows why we weren’t eager for round two on the way home.)

At that point, I wasn’t able to make family night every week, and I wondered how long it would last. How many times can the same 20-30 people have dinner together without getting tired of each other?

Turns out, the answer is lots of times. Eight years later, it’s still going strong. What started as a way to get together and reconnect as the various birdies left the nest has turned into a meaningful custom spanning three generations. Today, our Sunday dinner nights have expanded to include great-grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors.

Just yesterday, my kids were discussing how it might look to strangers driving past my parents’ home on Sunday evenings. Some weeks there are eight-passenger vehicles surrounding the smaller (and cooler) cars that my parents and single brothers drive. Other weeks the road is lined with pickup trucks with big tires, American flags and Red Dirt Trucks stickers on the back. (This is because my brothers’ friends showed up to sit around the fire.) Still other weeks, you’ll see ten mini-vans out front because it just so happens that family nights are a great time to host birthday parties.

I wondered how long it would last. How many times can the same 20-30 people have dinner together without getting tired of each other?

Sunday Nights in Flu Season

And some weeks, especially during flu season, only one or two vehicles sit outside. On those weeks, the lucky families with no sick children have a smaller and quieter dinner. This has its pros and cons.

On the plus side, there’s quiet time visiting with Mima and Grandawg (as our children call my parents), but it doesn’t feel right if someone is missing. The first week we’re all together after an extended flu season is full of exclamations about how much nieces and nephews managed to grow. Once last year, various family members passed around an illness so long that we had two separate dinners — one for the well people and one for those who still had a fever.

The Generations Expand

Since this tradition began, all four of my sisters married and started their own families. One brother is engaged to a lovely young woman I will be happy to have as a sister-in-law. Our other brother is busy planning a life beside the ocean.

My parents now have twenty-one grandchildren, ranging in age from thirteen years to three months. More babies are on the way and are as anxiously awaited as the first. Being an aunt is one of the best aspects of my life;  I treasure this time to get to know each one of those precious little ones.

My parents now have twenty-one grandchildren, ranging in age from thirteen years to three months. More babies are on the way and are as anxiously awaited as the first.

Blessing for a Single Mama

For me and my children, Sundays are a haven of peace and fun at the end of chaotic weeks of school and work. We look forward to spending the morning at Mass and the time afterward to visit with friends. Come late afternoon, I put the finishing touches on my contribution to our Sunday meal while the kids get more anxious to leave. We drive the two miles to my parents’ house. If you’re between the ages of four and ten, it’s very important to be the first group of cousins to arrive.

Today, I am a single mama of six, and family night is more important to me that it ever has been. My children get to spend time with their six uncles. Whether it’s driveway basketball, races on the TV in the garage, or wrestling on the living room floor, I am so thankful for these six brothers who make such a strong impression on my kids. Four of them are my brothers by marriage, but that’s another benefit of Sunday dinner; the term “in-law” doesn’t matter anymore when they’ve had so many hours to spend proving they can be just as adorably annoying as real little brothers. (I had to say “adorably” to be nice, but eldest sisters everywhere will know what I mean.)

The time with my sisters and my mom in the kitchen is such a blessing for me. Those couple hours of idle chatter make up the majority of my adult interaction for most weeks, and I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Today, I am a single mama of six, and family night is more important to me that it ever has been. My children get to spend time with their six uncles. Whether it’s driveway basketball, races on the TV in the garage, or wrestling on the living room floor, I am so thankful for these six brothers who make such a strong impression on my kids.

Granddawg the Party Animal

My dad is the king of party setups. If it’s hot, he will have a massive fan set up outside the garage, or a small air conditioner in the bed of a pickup truck. If it’s cold, he’ll have a fire going in the pit outside. Four-wheelers with trailers full of grandchildren, lawn mower rides, bounce houses, and sprinklers are some of the fun our legendary Grandawg has rigged up for the grandkids. They love him, and if there’s not a three year old clinging to him, it’s an odd day.

Four-wheelers with trailers full of grandchildren, lawn mower rides, bounce houses, and sprinklers are some of the fun our legendary Grandawg has rigged up for the grandkids. They love him, and if there’s not a three year old clinging to him, it’s an odd day.

Why Sunday Dinner is Crucial

Sunday dinner at Mima and Grandawg’s house is an integral part of our day of reconnecting. Our own family has time at home to be unscheduled; we have time at Mass to immerse ourselves in Our Lord, our parish family, and our Communion of Saints family.

Then dinner is for mom and dad, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins – with music in the driveway,  garage-band jamming, husbands and wives taking turns changing diapers, skinned knees, “circuses” put on by the smaller kids, shooing people out of the kitchen before dinner is ready, and sitting in lawn chairs around a fire after dark.

This is the day we reconnect. After Sunday dinner, we are replenished, ready for another week.

Sunday dinner is for mom and dad, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins – with music in the driveway,  garage-band jamming, husbands and wives taking turns changing diapers, skinned knees, “circuses” put on by the smaller kids, shooing people out of the kitchen before dinner is ready, and sitting in lawn chairs around a fire after dark.

Living In Lincoln

A Beautiful Catholic Culture

By Georgeanne Rashilla

Lincolnprocession1
Some of the 46 seminarians in the diocesan seminary lead a massive procession of thousands of Catholics in Lincoln, Nebraska in 2013.

My husband Rick and I have lived in the Lincoln Diocese for 19 years. We were not aware that the Diocese was very traditional until we moved here.  In fact, it was not really until we returned to Ohio for my father-in-law’s funeral in 2000 when we spoke with the priest who had married us and baptized our children that we knew there was a stigma about our Diocese.  Even that priest raised his eyebrows when we told him we were living in Lincoln.  But we also told him that we never felt closer to God or more committed to our Catholic faith.

I do know of people who have actually moved from across the world just to live in this Diocese.  It’s amazing and we feel so very blessed to live here.

WELCOMING BISHOP CONLEY: Seminarians in cassocks applaud their new Bishop.

From the very start, the authenticity of the Catholic teaching here – speaking from the pulpit about our history, emphasizing sacraments (especially Confession and the Eucharist), pro-life (including being faithful to not taking artificial contraception) – has truly challenged us to examine how we live our lives, what is Truth, and how to raise our children to be authentic Catholic Christians.

We have opportunities to participate in Bible studies and Pro-Life Conferences, and to serve the poor in Catholic Social Services or the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  And of course, the encouragement to step outside yourself and volunteer is always present.

I do know of people who have actually moved from across the world just to live in this Diocese. 

Amazing, Affordable, Faithful Catholic Schools

Photos by Cathy Blankenau Bender. Sister Mary Helen, C.K., with students at St. Teresa School in Lincoln, Neb.
The Lincoln diocesan schools feature Sisters in habits who live in community, teaching in the schools.

Both our children have been raised in Lincoln.  Their Catholic schools were much like what my husband and I experienced in our youth – Sisters in habits, who live community, teaching in the schools, and priests teaching at the high school level and visiting the grade schools.

In fact, about 11 years ago, my husband and I were forced to make a decision due to employment changes as to whether or not we would leave the Diocese.  The major factor in our staying in Lincoln was to keep our children in these Catholic Schools, where we felt a real foundation was being laid.

In Lincoln, Catholic schools thrive and are kept very affordable through the support of the parishes.  It helps also to have thriving Religious Sister communities here that help to keep the cost of Catholic education lower.  I think that means Catholic Education is not just for the elite, but for anyone who wants their child to have a good faith foundation.

LincolnPhoto by Cathy Blankenau Bender. Sister Mary Helen, C.K.,
Thriving Religious Sister communities in Lincoln ‘help to keep the cost of Catholic education lower. I think that means Catholic Education is not just for the elite, but for anyone who wants their child to have a good faith foundation.’
In the Lincoln diocese, Catholic education is not just for the elite, but for anyone who wants their child to have a good faith foundation.

The Catechetical program for the public school students is also well done.  And there is no shortage of priests either!  The influence of the priests teaching my children in the grade and high schools, leading Quest and TEC retreats, providing a summer Leadership Camp for young boys who serve on the altar along with the seminarians is an opportunity for them to consider their own vocations.

Our Newman Center

new fraternityhouse
CATHOLIC FRATERNITY BROTHERS: Outside their brand new home on the University of Nebraska campus.

Although we encouraged both our children to go away for college, neither has.  I believe their decisions were made in part because of the campus ministry at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.  The Catholic Newman Center, with its 10 FOCUS missionaries, is thriving.  In fact, the daily Mass attendance every night is so large, and the Sunday Mass attendance so great that they are currently building a larger church. They’ve just completed the new Catholic fraternity, and will also build a Catholic sorority.   Bible studies abound both in the dorms and in the Greek houses.  The Newman Center is such a draw, that even the University advertises it in their materials to draw new students.

Why We Stayed

From the beginning we have been involved in both parish and school life.  I have served as President of one of the altar societies at my parish, President of the Parish Council of Catholic Women, currently Treasurer of that same organization.  I taught CCD for about 4 yrs.  My husband is a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus.

Together we have served as Presidents of the School Family Association at our parish grade school and later on the fundraising board for the high school.  We have both participated/led Bible studies or Leadership Conferences.  My husband also served on the fundraising board for our parish when we were building an addition to the church/school.

I can assure anyone who asks that the Catholic Diocese here is the main reason we have stayed all these years.  It is a beautiful Catholic culture.

Rick and I grew up in different parts of the country, moved as single people to various states, and only as a married couple did we move here in 1994.  We never would have thought that Lincoln, NE would be a place we’d be in for long.  I can assure anyone who asks that the Catholic Diocese here is the main reason we have stayed all these years.  It is a beautiful Catholic culture.

Something Old, Something Borrowed

A New Life for Your Old Wedding Dress

by Sylvana Budesheim

With the popularity of shows like “Say Yes to the Dress,” it is clear that a major focal point of today’s wedding is the gown. Brides spend copious amounts of time, effort and money finding the ‘perfect’ gown,  appropriate for the time of day and year, the location, and the bride herself.

It is almost amusing to see how so much can go into an article of clothing which will only be used once.

Brides spend copious amounts of time, effort and money finding the ‘perfect’ gown.

The Problem of the Traditional Option

What to do with that ornate—and expensive—wedding gown once the ceremony and reception have passed? Dry cleaners suggest that brides have dresses cleaned and preserved, so the silk, organza, and tulle don’t yellow and any cake frosting or stray makeup is carefully removed.

There is also the chance that the properly preserved dress will make another appearance in due time, on a bride’s female relative in the next generation; a daughter, a niece, or perhaps a god-daughter.

Unfortunately, since there is no guarantee that size or style are hereditary, many a preserved wedding dress is left to languish in the box.

Unfortunately, since there is no guarantee that size or style are hereditary, many a preserved wedding dress is left to languish in the box.

Trashing — Or Looking to the Future?

Popular society has embraced the nihilistic trend of wedding gown trashing, with photographers documenting the gown’s burning or shredding.

Thankfully, there is a kinder option, especially for those brides who look forward to motherhood with joy and longing. Today, there are seamstresses who specialize in cutting wedding gowns into beautiful and ornate baptismal gowns, thereby extending the Sacraments of the Church into the next generation.

Popular society has embraced the nihilistic trend of wedding gown trashing, with photographers documenting the gown’s burning or shredding.

Other brides will carry a handkerchief as their “something old,” a reference to the old anonymous poem about what will bring good luck to a bride. The handkerchief is something of the bygone era for the most part, but some are especially made with a dual purpose. With a few stitches, the handkerchief becomes a bonnet for the new baby to wear with their baptismal gown.

Your wedding gown is more than a pretty dress. Understood properly, and in the right hands, it can become a window to the past, or a treasured gift for the future.

This bride, confident that her daughters would be much too tall to have inherited her dress, made the decision to turn it into a baptismal gown.

A former teacher, Sylvana Budesheim uses her Education degrees to ensure her four children are always grammatically correct and help the occasional student file a better college application essay. Her blog can be found at www.incidentproneSAHM.wordpress.com.

 

Back from the ‘Promised Land’

Our Move to Nebraska from California

You moved to be in the Lincoln diocese; was it a difficult move? Are you happy?

EileenWe were very concerned about the dramatic rise in crime, drugs and poverty that the city in which we lived was experiencing.  We were very concerned that, although our children attended our parish school, the catechesis they were receiving, particularly in terms of sacramental preparation, was poor at best.

We also started homeschooling in January 2011, before we moved to Lincoln.  The decision to homeschool really helped us make the decision that we needed to relocate to Lincoln.  We knew we wanted to raise our family in an environment which was safe, nurturing, and we could live our faith daily without having to apologize for being “too Catholic”.

We are very happy in Lincoln, NE, and hope to stay here permanently.

What are your new parishioners and neighborhood like, in contrast to California?

Photo by Cathy Blankenau Bender.St. Teresa School in Lincoln, Neb. pray before entering the school.
PRAYING AFTER RECESS helps students focus at St Theresa’s School in Lincoln, Nebraska. PHOTO CREDIT: Cathy Blankenau Bender

The Diocese of Lincoln is known for its orthodox bishop and priests.  Because of this, the community at St. Francis has not grown significantly over the years.  The people who attend St. Francis do so because they are dedicated to the TLM.

However, coming from our previous diocese, this is a huge improvement!  Our previous TLM experience consisted of priests coming in from out of town from as far away as five hours, to say the TLM.  The feeling that many TLMers had was one of the “ugly stepchild.”

The neighborhood in which we live now is in southwest Lincoln.  It is a very safe and friendly neighborhood.  My kids have introduced themselves to all of our neighbors and they have all been very friendly towards our kids, inviting them to play on their swing sets and use their basketball hoops without having to ask first.

I have no qualms about letting the kids play outside during the day without direct supervision.  In California, we lived in a gated community on a cul-de-sac.  Despite this, we did not know any of our neighbors, and I did not like sending the kids outside alone because I just did not feel that they were safe.

Do you have children? Are you homeschooling? Would you call it a healthy environment for kids?

We have three children, ages 12, 11 and 9.  We adopted the kids as a sibling group out of foster care in October 2006.  I have homeschooled all three children since January 2011.  Lincoln is a wonderful environment in which to raise a family.  There are many parks, hiking and biking trails throughout the city.  There is a terrific library system, and a number of kid-friendly museums.

The Catholic homeschooling community is strong, and it continues to get bigger and better every year.  Whenever we go somewhere in town and the kids tell people that they are homeschooled, the response is often, “You are so lucky!” or “What a blessing!”  We rarely received these responses in California about homeschooling, even from family and friends.

What have been your general impressions of the lay Catholics in Lincoln? The clergy?

lincolnsisters
EIGHTEEN ORDERS OF CATHOLIC SISTERS are present in the Diocese of Lincoln.

Even though we prefer attending the Traditional Latin Mass, it is such a relief to know that we can take our children to Mass anywhere in Lincoln and feel certain that they will not see the liturgical abuses that we witnessed in our previous diocese.  The Novus Ordo priests in the Diocese of Lincoln have been properly catechized, and I know that I will not hear anything from the pulpit that is contrary to the Church’s teachings.  I feel comfortable wearing my veil at any Mass, and do not get stared or glared at by others as we stay and pray after Mass.

All of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Lincoln go to daily Mass.  What a blessing!  The parish school my children attended in California offered Mass only once a week.  Sadly, Mass was frequently canceled for reasons that were never made clear to us.

The diocesan clergy that I have met personally here in Lincoln have been wonderful.  Faith-filled men, dedicated to the Church, but not thrown off by the fact that we attend the TLM.  Some of the more recently ordained diocesan priests have learned how to say the Low Mass, and have offered a Low Mass for an end to abortion once a month.

LincolnprocessionbenderphotoAnother blessing has been discovering the women religious!  There are 18 orders in the Diocese of Lincoln!  And they all wear habits!  Before moving to Lincoln my children had never seen a sister in a habit.  Now, my children see these women in the community on a regular basis, and are able to say, “Hi Sister!” without staring or asking, “Who is that? Why is she dressed like that?”

The ministries these women offer are so valuable to the Lincoln community.  The Diocese of Lincoln was so blessed to have Bishop Bruskewicz at the helm for so many years, and the diocese continues to be blessed with Bishop Conley.  Clearly the faith-filled priests and women religious of Lincoln are a reflection of the orthodoxy of the Bishops of Lincoln.  The longer we live in Lincoln the more we discover what a blessing it is to live here.

Why You Shouldn’t Sleep With Your Boyfriend

First, do NOT read this article if you can’t handle the cold, hard truth. Go back to your Vampire Diaries.

Second, Catholics love sex. If you don’t believe me, read a little European history. Oh, and look at your own family. (Nuff said? Okay.)

Third, why on earth is sex such a big deal? It would be far easier for Catholics to just relax, already, and do what everyone else is doing – guilt free! Right?

Wrong. Read on, if you dare…

Not About Your Self-Esteem

You can relax, because I am not going to deliver a lecture on your self-esteem. Actually, I couldn’t care less about your self -esteem.

What I care about is you spending your youth bouncing from one guy to the next. It’s called ‘serial monogamy’ – and it’s all the rage with people in the 20-40 age group.

After that, the men settle down and marry a younger woman, if they are successful enough. Women get fat, bitter and depressed. (Or, they spend jillions on cosmetic treatments, marry a guy who is years younger and settle down to life as a successful cougar. NOT. Does the name ‘Demi Moore’ ring a bell?)

I am not going to deliver a lecture on your self-esteem. Actually, I couldn’t care less about your self -esteem.

So, how do you avoid this fate worse than death?

Excellent question!

Step One: Be honest. Admit that you want to get married and have a family. You don’t have to tell anyone this. Just admit it to yourself. (There, now doesn’t that feel better?)

Step Two: Look at your boyfriend. Is he sacramental marriage material?

Step Three: Learn what sacramental marriage material looks like. (See: “What a Catholic Husband Knows” below.)

Step Four: Repeat Step Two.

If your answer is ‘yes,’ then you need to exercise some self-control for the sake of your future marriage. (See: “Re-Virginization”)

If your answer is ‘no,’ then what are you doing wasting your time like this? (See: “How To Get On the Right Track For a Happy Future”)

Step Five: You and your boyfriend need to decide about marriage. Go to church, and pray for strength. A good first step is to sit down with your parish priest and ask his advice, together. He will probably tell you to enroll in Pre-Cana classes, which are designed to help you discern and prepare for the sacrament. Take it one day at a time, but move forward steadily towards your goal of a true Catholic marriage.

If you are playing the serial monogamy game, you should know that after a certain age, men settle down and marry a younger woman — if they are successful enough. Many women get fat, bitter and depressed. (Or, they spend jillions on cosmetic treatments, marry a guy who is years younger and settle down to life as a successful cougar. NOT. Does the name ‘Demi Moore’ ring a bell?)
why youshould
 

What a Catholic Husband Knows

Is your boyfriend sacramental marriage material?

What’s a ‘sacramental marriage,’ you ask?

For 2000 years, the Church has regarded marriage as a sacrament, an outward sign of God’s grace. This is in contrast to most religions, where marriage is a contract, which can be terminated when one or the other partner is unhappy.

Marriage was instituted – like all other sacraments – as a way to help you get to heaven. A Catholic husband knows what his job is: to help his wife and children get to heaven.

That’s his Prime Directive: He needs to do whatever needs to be done to help his wife and children be holy.

Why? Because he loves them, and he wants eternal life for them and himself.

This is why he works hard to earn a living. Not so he can have all the latest toys. That is called selfishness – just the same as you blowing all your money shopping.

This is why he insists on practicing your Faith. Not because he’s weird. Because he knows that is the way to grow closer and stay in the state of grace.

This is why he helps you whenever he can. Not because he’s a fair-minded feminist. Because he knows you need help, and he wants to make your life better. Why? Because that will help you be holier—and get you to heaven.

This is why he avoids pornography, excessive drinking, gambling, drugs and womanizing. Not because he’s boring. Because he knows all of that is ‘sin’ — the road to deep unhappiness for you, for him and for your future children.

So, does your boyfriend know all this? Do you think he is capable of committing himself to this goal, for the rest of his life?

If your answer is ‘yes,’ then you need to exercise some self-control for the sake of your future marriage. (See: “Re-Virginization” below.)

If your answer is ‘no,’ then what are you doing wasting your time like this? (See: “How To Get On the Right Track For a Happy Future” below.)

 A Catholic husband avoids pornography, excessive drinking, gambling, drugs and womanizing. Not because he’s boring.
whyyoushouldn't

 

Re-Virginization

It looks like you have a great future husband! So, let’s say you do marry this great guy.  How are you going to keep your love affair going? Through the jealousies, the stress, the diapers and babies crying at 4 am? Through losing your figure? Losing his job? Bad medical diagnoses? Sick children? Aged parents needing care? Money problems?

Seems impossible, and I have no doubt you have seen all kinds of relationships and marriages train wreck.  So what’s the difference between those and the old couples you see who have been happily married for 50 years?

Well, science has now proven what we all knew: It turns out that sex is key to happy marriages. A slew of recent studies confirm that married couples who practice their religion have the best sex.

More to the point, all kinds of studies show that delaying sex makes for happier marriages. Here’s just one:

A 2010 Journal of Family Psychology study involved 2,035 married participants in an online assessment of marriage called “RELATE.” According to the study, people who waited until marriage:

  • rated sexual quality 15% higher than people who had premarital sex
  • rated relationship stability as 22% higher
  • rated satisfaction with their relationships 20% higher

The benefits were about half as strong for couples who became sexually active later in their relationships but before marriage.[i]

A slew of recent studies confirm that married couples who practice their religion have the best sex.

Seems reasonable? But impossible? Because there is no such thing as ‘re-virginization’?

Take a deep breath. I know that you are already sleeping with him. And that stopping this seems like something you cannot do.

Actually, there is a chemical reason for this. It’s because your oxytocin level is very high. Oxytocin is called the ‘bonding’ hormone; women secrete oxytocin in lovemaking and breastfeeding. It’s the reason why your girlfriend can’t leave her bum of a boyfriend. It’s also the reason why battered women go back to the slimebags who beat them and cheat on them.

It’s not because women are stupid. It’s because of oxytocin.

It’s the reason why your girlfriend can’t leave her bum of a boyfriend. It’s also the reason why battered women go back to the slimebags who beat them and cheat on them. It’s not because women are stupid. It’s because of oxytocin.

So, how do you fight the chemical in your bloodstream?

Don’t trigger it.

Oxytocin levels rise when women come into contact with men they have slept with. The closer he gets, the more your oxytocin levels rise. The higher your oxytocin levels, the less able you are to think objectively about your loved one. You are bonded to him.

Hmmm, could this be why traditional cultures insisted that courting couples never be left alone?

So, now what?

Now you need to talk to your man.  Tell him that you love him, and that you want a future with him. Assure him that there is nobody else in your life. Explain that you want to keep seeing him, but that your sexual relationship needs to stop unless and until you are married.

You will have a LOT of ‘splaining to do, but his reaction will tell you A LOT about whether he is, indeed, sacramental marriage material.

If he is surprised, chagrined but ultimately respectful, go to Step Five.

If he gets angry, sulks or tries to over-ride your wishes, see: “How to Get On the Right Track For a Happy Future.”

Explain that you want to keep seeing him, but that your sexual relationship needs to stop unless and until you are married.
How to Get On the Right Track for a Happy Future

First, if your boyfriend has agreed to abstain from sex, stop right here and go to Step Five above.

However, if you have decided that this guy isn’t for you, you need to end this bad relationship and free yourself for a good relationship that will lead to a happy, Catholic marriage. This isn’t easy, but you have to face facts: you have already wasted enough time as it is.

Step One: No contact. Not even once. Do not try to be friends. Do not waste your time trying to make him happy. Soon enough, he will find some else and will have moved on – probably before you are over him. (You can pray for him of course.)

Step Two: Go to confession. Get this off your chest. Ask the priest for his guidance on how to get yourself on the right road. Establish a regular prayer routine whereby you focus your requests for help in finding a good, Catholic spouse. Pray for strength and perseverance.

Step Three: Focus your efforts on finding a good, Catholic man. Here’s a few ideas: Polish up a profile on Catholic Match or Ave Maria Singles. Research Catholic events or conferences you would like to attend. Find yourself a vital parish. (Hint: Latin Mass parishes are teeming with young adults.) Get involved with your parish doing all sorts of great religious and social events.

You need to end this bad relationship and free yourself for a good relationship that will lead to a happy, Catholic marriage. This isn’t easy, but you have to face facts: you have already wasted enough time as it is.

And pray that God sends you a good, Catholic spouse.

 

[i] http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/news/20101227/theres-benefits-in-delaying-sex-until-marriage

 

Clues to Britain’s Catholic Past

What’s in a ‘Christian’ Name?

The English school application form stopped me dead in my tracks. What was my son’s ‘Christian’ name?

It was long ago in the U.S. that we abandoned this terminology, ostensibly for fear of offending non-Christians. (As a result, many Americans now invent their children’s first names out of whole cloth, with lamentable results. Or name them after celebrities. Actually, sometimes it’s hard to decide which is worse.)

Digressions aside, what exactly, is a Christian name? My Anglican friends think this a very strange question, until I point out that Christian names are actually saints’ names, or biblical names.

Names are manifestations of a culture. For centuries, Catholics, orthodox Christians and many Protestants have given their children the names of saints. This was done as a religious talisman and also as a life-long reminder of the careers of these successful Christians. In some countries people celebrated the feast days of their name saints in lieu of their ‘birth’ days.

Despite reformation and secularism, it is a sign of the ongoing English respect for Christian tradition that the country’s most popular baby names in 2012 still derive from these Catholic sources. It may be a sign that most of us don’t know history that ‘Oliver’ — the third most popular name for boys — is the name of the last Catholic martyr in England (see chart).

Interestingly, the other five of the six top baby names in England are foreign – French, Spanish, Belgian, German and Jewish – saints.  Perhaps this is another cultural clue, harkening back to a time when England was part of an international Catholic civilization?

So, here’s the full Catholic treatment for the top six baby names in England in 2012:

 

2012   Popular Baby Name* The   Saint’s Story The   Saint in Art
BOYS    
  1.   Harry
From St. Henry, Holy Roman Emperor from   1014-1024, the only German monarch ever to be canonized.                                                                    St Henry     
  1.   Jack
From St. John. There are more than 70 saints by   this name, derived from John the Baptist (Jesus’s cousin, depicted right, by   El Greco) or John the Evangelist, one of the four Gospel writers.     Jack
  1.   Oliver
St.   Oliver Plunkett, archbishop of Ireland. On   1 July 1681 (aged 51), Plunkett became the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England when   he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.     Oliver
GIRLS    
  1.   Amelia
From   Saint Amalberga   of Maubeuge, a Belgian who was the mother of five saints; she died in 773.   There have been several other saints with this name since.     amelia
  1.   Lily
From   Saint Liliosa, a lay woman in Moorish- controlled 9th   century Cordoba, Spain. Lily was cruelly martyred for   appearing in public with her face exposed during the persecutions of Caliph Abderraham II.     Lily
  1.   Emily
St. Emily de Vialar, Foundress of the   Sisters of St. Joseph “of the   Apparition” in France. She is the patron saint of single women and neglected   children.  She died in 1856.       Emily
    SOURCE: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/

When You Are in Crisis

You are in crisis.

Your marriage is over. Or you are losing your house. Or someone close has died.

Whatever the cause, the anxiety is killing you.

Suddenly, you understand why people commit suicide. Your life has devolved down to the gnawing fear in the pit of your stomach. You are unable to concentrate. 

At best, your life has become an unending series of painful tasks.

Joy has deserted you.

This is when you need God – and the Church.

What you need now is a plan.

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“Twelve years ago, I learned that my ex-husband had been systematically raiding our bank account,” says Betty, now remarried and in her fifties. “He spent nearly $100,000 on courses to become ‘enlightened’ in a cult. I didn’t notice because I was too busy working night and day to support the family. He was a free-lancer who consistently lost clients – and as I came to understand, a sociopath.”

Betty was left to raise their two children on her own, as her ex paid no child support. She turned to an 80 year old Monsignor, who gave her hard-headed advice. “He told me three things: ‘Get your finances in order. Keep a close eye on your kids. And stay close to the Church.’”

Betty did all these things. Within months, her finances were under control, and her  children recovered.  Four years later, she met and married a good Catholic man – at the ripe old age of 47! Today, her almost-grown children are happy, healthy and successful.

Betty’s story is exceptional. Not everyone has a wise Monsignor to turn to. This was Elena’s situation. “I knew for many years that my husband would probably die before me,” she says. “But when he did, it was still a shock. I spent two years watching TV, not wanting to leave my house.”

Sarah’s ex did everything to demoralize her before he finally left her for another woman. “He told me I was fat. He said that I disgusted him. That he deserved a super-model.” To her utter shock, he took every dime in their bank account, too.

coping2Michelle’s ex-husband grew increasingly aloof from her, and their lovemaking became less and less frequent. Finally, it stopped altogether. Then, her 14 year old daughter stumbled upon his child pornography websites. The damage to both mother and daughter’s psyches has been incalculable.

“I’ve come to believe that internet porn is really something diabolical,” says this slender woman with tired eyes. “It utterly destroyed our marriage, and today he is a shell of the man I fell in love with.”

coping3There is social decay, and families seem incredibly vulnerable. And women bear the brunt of much if not all of this.

These all-too-common tragedies are the stuff of our daily lives, it seems.  And for many women, trauma like this start a downward spiral which compounds the damage as they attempt to cope using food, alcohol, drugs, or sex. Worse, the damage overwhelms their children, who become easy prey for the dark forces in our society.

“Some of these things are a normal part of life – birth, sickness and death. But the plain fact of the matter is that Catholics – like everyone today – are fearful,” says one American priest. “There is social decay, and families seem incredibly vulnerable. And women bear the brunt of much of this.”

How to cope when you are in crisis? The key is to recognize that you are Catholic, and to understand the Church’s wisdom in teaching that we are complex creatures of body, emotions and spirit.

When you are in crisis, each of these aspects of YOU have been attacked — and traumatized. Trauma requires treatment. Therefore, you must put a recovery plan into effect for yourself. Unfortunately, nobody else can do this for you. It’s your life, your health and your children who are at stake. Ready? Let’s roll.

STEP ONE: REALIZE AND RECOGNIZE

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First, you must realize that it is your solemn responsibility to get your life in order.

Then, recognize that you are only human. Your recovery will take time.

How long? Only God knows. This leads us to Step Two:

STEP TWO: SPIRITUAL SUSTENANCE

coping5Your soul has been traumatized. So you need to turn to the Church. Everything you need is there for you: Confession, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion. These are all nourishment that your damaged spirit needs now to start healing.

Spiritual care is crucial to your recovery. You must do one good thing for your SPIRIT every single day. In the beginning, this may be something as simple as sitting in church and silently praying over and over: “Help me. Help me.”

This is fine. In fact, it’s a big step. The best way to do this is to be in front of the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, it’s worth traveling for, if it is not done in your parish. For sure you can find it at a traditional parish here:  

http://web2.iadfw.net/carlsch/MaterDei/churches.html

Later, you may be able to progress to reading the Bible, praying the rosary or reading about the saints.  But remember: ONE GOOD THING FOR YOUR SPIRIT every single day.

STEP THREE: PHYSICAL NURTURING

coping6Your body has been traumatized. Maybe you can’t sleep or eat properly. Or you have mysterious aches and pains – or worse, real stress-induced illness. It’s time to heal by doing one good thing for your BODY every single day. Remember that exercise needn’t be violent. Experts recommend that you get 30 minutes of moderate exercise, three times a week. As your recovery progresses, don’t slack off:  ALWAYS DO ONE GOOD THING FOR YOUR BODY every single day.

Attend an exercise class

Work out at home

Garden or other outdoor tasks

Swim or hike

Walk or run

Ride a bike

Do breathing and stretching exercises

Take a hot bath

Give yourself a home manicure/pedicure

Get your hair done

Get your nails done

Get a massage or a facial – or both!

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You can’t heal on junk food. Cook – and cook often. Invite friends and neighbors to your table on a regular basis for fresh, healthy food. (Need ideas? See ‘Sunday Dinner with the Romans’ in this issue.)

STEP FOUR: EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Your emotions have been traumatized. Perhaps you feel numb. Maybe you can’t stop worrying. It’s possible that you have sudden crying spells. Or you have thoughts that you cannot control. Maybe you are even thinking about suicide.

Do not be afraid. Bad feelings are normal when you have been traumatized. It is imperative that you recognize this and do one good thing for your emotional state every single day.

Get yourself a good, Catholic therapist. How? Ask a good, Catholic priest or nun – or friend or relative. You need someone who is skilled at working with trauma – and who is not trained to be ‘value neutral.’ A practicing Catholic therapist will understand and support your moral values and your need for prayer.

Remember, you are carrying a poison around inside of you. Get it out of your system. Be persistent. Talk it out.

Next, you need some talking buddies. That is, more than one person who will listen to you. Why? Because you need to talk this out. So, be sensible and spread the wealth. Don’t overburden any one friend with your pain – respect their need to live their lives, too. Finally, get yourself a fat notebook or two. You are going to use this to journal everything. Here’s some ideas to help you get started:

  • How Could This Happen?
  • Why I Hate My Life Now
  • My Prayer for Today
  • Help Me, Lord
  • What I Want for My Kids
  • What I Must Fix This Week
  • What I Accomplished Today
  • What I Need To Do Tomorrow
  • How I Want to be Living In a Year

Then, begin.

EVERY SINGLE DAY: Talk about your pain. Write down what you are thinking. Your agony. Your prayers. Your hopes. Your plans. Remember, you are carrying a poison around inside of you. Get it out of your system. Over time, your need to talk and to write about this will wane, as you begin to heal.

Grief experts say it takes about a year, at minimum, to recover from a devastating loss. But everyone is different. Your recovery is a completely individual process.

You, however, are not helpless in all of this. Once you understand that you must work to take care of your whole self – body and soul – you will have taken the first, crucial steps out of the dark place where you are now.

Crowning the May Queen

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In May, Catholics hold a ceremony wherein a statue of the Blessed Mother is crowned by children, accompanied by solemn hymns, joyfully sung. Mary’s crown is made of woven May flowers.

The Catholic practice of assigning a special devotion to each month goes back to the early 16th century. In the late 18th century the May devotion to Mary arose among Jesuits in Rome.  In the early years of the 19th century, it quickly spread throughout the Western Church, and, by the time of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, it had become universal.

May crownings in honor of Mary stem from this time and many parishes are reviving them to honor the role that the Blessed Virgin played in our salvation through her fiat–her joyous “Yes” to the will of God. This Irish hymn dates back as far as the 13th Century, though in 1883, Mary E. Walsh adapted it.

 

 

 

Queen of the May  (Bring Flowers of the Rarest)

Bring flowers of the rarest
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale
Our full hearts are swelling
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale

Our voices ascending,
In harmony blending
Oh! Thus may our hearts turn
Dear Mother, to thee
Oh! Thus shall we prove thee
How truly we love thee
How dark without Mary
Life’s journey would be

O Virgin most tender
Our homage we render
Thy love and protection
Sweet Mother, to win
In danger defend us
In sorrow befriend us
And shield our hearts
From contagion and sin

Of Mothers the dearest
Oh, wilt thou be nearest
When life with temptation
Is darkly replete
Forsake us, O never
Our hearts be they ever
As Pure as the lilies
We lay at thy feet

 

REFRAIN: O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!

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Many parishes are reviving the Crowning of the May Queen to honor the role that the Blessed Virgin played in our salvation through her fiat–her joyous “Yes” to the will of God.

Letter to a Young Mother

letter1Some say that it is now ‘open season’ on Catholics in America. That anyone who is faithful to the Church’s teachings – indeed even her hospitals, colleges and schools – will now be persecuted by our federal government, and that many of our great institutions will have to close.

Remember that the Church has survived ferocious persecution in the past. Recently, I visited a ‘priest’s hole’ in a still-functioning roadside tavern in England. The owners thought of it as a quaint artifact, with no clue about  the terror and torture that Catholics faced in the England of “Good Queen Bess.” Such is the power of cultural amnesia.

On a practical level, you will have similar challenges in raising your family that I had/have.  It is time to FOCUS. Your job is to protect your family:

NEVER take the easy way. You will regret it later. This goes for food, education, socializing, TV – everything.

REMEMBER that kids are like sponges. They absorb all influences around them, so you MUST BE VIGILANT about what these are.

REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE IN CHARGE. This goes especially for teachers, social workers and shrinks – they will NOT have to live with the consequences of their decisions as far as your kids are concerned – YOU WILL.

FIND A GOOD PRIEST. The Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) is a good place to start, or any Latin Mass community. You need other faithful families around you so your daughters will have friends. This is CRITICAL so they do not feel ISOLATED growing up.

YOUR NUMBER ONE EDUCATIONAL PRIORITY is to make sure your daughters can read with ease and for pleasure.   Reading is still the best way for them to reach out beyond their immediate environment to worthwhile thoughts and places, to reach the Truth. DO NOT rely on the schools to teach them this, or you may be disappointed. The best way to do this is to read to them when they are young. (HINT: When they are 6, 7 or 8, try reading exciting adventure stories like Nancy Drew, but very slowly. Soon they will become impatient and grab the book out of your hand. Presto!)

BE CLEAR-EYED ABOUT CONSUMERISM. You do not need the latest styles, or the approval of your Facebook friends. I wore old clothes for years, and dressed my kids in consignment clothes until they were 12. I refused to buy videogames or pay for cable TV and insisted that my kids work menial jobs when they were/are teenagers. But my kids saw Europe, and got serious scholarships.

SHOW YOUR KIDS THAT THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE TRULY ARE FREE. I took mine to Church where they were exposed to great music and liturgy, every Sunday no matter what. All homemade food, served with style. When I had no money, I could still put a sheet on the table with a candle. I could still read them to sleep. I could still pray with them.

LEAD, do not FOLLOW. Do not worry about lecturing too much. Do not try to be ‘friends’ with your kids.

“You will have challenges in raising your family: No guaranteed income. Bad influences on TV and the internet. Bad-to-mediocre schools. Bad-to-mediocre clergy. Weird neighbors. Friends and family who go off the rails. A culture that derides your basic beliefs.”

Finally, PRAY for the grace you need to be a good wife and mother.

My grandmother Concetta came to America as a young woman with nothing but the good family and strong faith of her village in Italy. She married, had 6 kids and buried her second son at age 2, while she was pregnant with my father. When my dad was born 3 months afterwards, she named him “Vittorio Angelo” – “Victorious Angel.”

Grandma Concetta had a hard life. My grandfather drank. She had to send two sons off to WWII, and she died from the stress when she was the same age I am now – an old woman, worn out. But she taught the Faith to her sons and daughters, which endures now to her great-great grandsons, recently baptized. I never met my grandmother, but her Faith and goodness profoundly influenced my life nonetheless. In fact, I would say that it was the SINGLE GUIDING LIGHT of my entire life.

THIS is what we pass on. THIS is our legacy. The Faith is, in the end, all that matters. And truly, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

 

Porn: The Growing Epidemic

There is a growing epidemic rushing through our country unlike anything we have ever seen in history. Even though it has invaded our homes, our marriages, and even reached our children, leaving havoc in its wake, the media will not mention it. Today, pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and it does not seem to be slowing down. Through the internet and our iPhones, pornography is overwhelming huge numbers of, particularly as I see it, Catholic men, and it is hard to underestimate the terrible effect it is having on husbands and their families today.

Porn addiction is like any other addictive drug. It is a form of slavery, leaving one feeling empty and guilty, yet searching for more. In his heart man knows that with pornography he has lost his God-given dignity, his freedom, and become a slave to his passions. Thankfully, many regularly come to the Sacraments to receive healing and strength. Trusting in Divine Mercy is always the answer.

Pornography is destructive for various reasons but perhaps most importantly because it strikes at the heart of our interior life and numbs our spiritual senses to the invisible realities that necessarily guide our life. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Purity is the necessary condition to seeing the invisible world. One has only to think of the purity of innocent children and their amazing capacity to see God’s presence all around them.

Yet the first effect of impurity is blindness of understanding: one can no longer see spiritual realities and the thought of eternity disappears. As St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes, “When a raven finds a dead body, its first act is to pluck out the eyes; and the first injury that incontinence inflicts on the soul is to take away the light of the things of God.”

Man’s fallen nature is so weak that he must recognize the need for God’s grace to live purity. St. Alphonsus writes, “Man cannot of himself acquire the virtue of chastity: God alone can give it.” Prudence therefore dictates that we must avoid the near occasion of sin and beg the Lord in prayer to receive the grace of chastity. Some of the saints have recommended three Hail in the morning and at night in honor of Our Lady’s purity as a proven practice to obtain this grace.

Some suffer from unchastity precisely because they are too self-reliant and proud and the Lord therefore does not immediately bestow the gift. St. Alphonsus states that humility is as necessary as self-control in the fight for chastity: “It happens, not infrequently, that God chastises the proud by permitting them to fall into some sin against purity.”

The great promise given to us by the Lord is that for those who humbly acknowledge their weakness, prudently avoid near occasions of sin, and ask the Lord for help, the grace is always there to overcome the temptation. “God is faithful, and he will not let you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

In this technological age we live in, I also see a grave mistake being made by far too many parents and I wish I could warn them before it is too late. Parents who allow their children, particularly their teenage boys, to have unsupervised access to the internet are inviting impurity and destruction into their families. I wish more parents understood that boys are learning from the internet that girls are to be the plaything of men, mere objects of pleasure.

Absolutely no teenager should have a computer with internet access in his or her bedroom. A house computer should be in a public space, have internet filters installed, used only when the parents are supervising, and regularly checked for the history of the web searches. Once again, parents are making a grave error when they give their children unhindered access to the internet, in particular with their sons. It is not that they do not trust their boys, but that parents need to have a clear understanding of the effect of Original Sin, traditionally called concupiscence; parents who are not attentive to this weakness in their sons will learn to regret it later.

Two good websites today to help men with addiction to pornography are www.integrityrestored.com and www.pornharms.com. There are also two very good pamphlets available: Breaking Free by Stephen Wood and The Pornography Pandemic by Patrick Trueman.

I hope this will help create awareness of this epidemic and help for those who have hope of restoring their dignity after having lost their way through impurity. May Our Lady inspire and protect our families from this onslaught in our culture today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Father Greg Markey is the Pastor of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Norwalk, Connecticut. The parish, located in a suburb of New York City, is a vibrant, growing one, with a strong tradition of celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.