Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Proud Gramma Post

Her name is Trinity. She is three weeks old today. I look at her and all words seem insufficient. So I will just sit here and gaze upon her pictures and look forward to holding her in my arms in another week.

Friday, December 10, 2010

End of an era

My husband is within a year of retiring from the Air Force after a 30 year career. I can tell the career is coming to an end because today I used the last of my scavenged packing tape.

Especially early in his career, we moved every one to two years. You know the move is real when the packers arrive. They turn your house into a cardboard box jungle and the symphony of packing tape fills the air. Then they leave. In their wake, the floor is littered with partially used rolls of packing tape. I always gathered these and took them to our next assignment. The packing tape sealed the packages that kept us connected to our family and friends that lived so far away.

Today as I wrapped up Christmas packages for distant relatives, my tape dispenser gave me the last of my military move packing tape. I guess this is a first baby step into the civilian world.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Worth a Thousand Words

Joy, Awe, Love, Gratitude..... these words and so much more.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Learning to savor Advent

I made two runs to the local thrift shop this week. The back of my Prius was filled with all sorts of stuff. My youngest has outgrown a lot of clothing and there is no one left to accept "hand-me-downs". I had a supply of clothing that I call my "wishful thinking" clothes. My youngest is 16. My oldest is 24. Should my body ever return to its pre-kids shape I will treat myself to a new wardrobe rather than hang on to these reminders of skinnier days. I have also been purging my closets, cupboards, and drawers of an assortment of bric-a-brac that I was keeping "just in case". Just in case of what I am not sure. If I haven't found a use for it in a couple of years, I am not going to so it is time to let it go. I am also getting better at admitting that some things are not even worthy of a thrift shop donations. No one wants that old tattered blanket or those very lumpy throw pillows. It is time to put them in the trash.

It is an interesting dichotomy to be in both a purging mode as I free myself from unnecessary material things and in an acquisition mode as I shop for Christmas. It makes me think before I buy. Am I just adding bulk to the pile of Christmas presents, or will this gift really be appreciated and used? My gift-giving seems a bit down-sized this year, but perhaps it is because this year's experiences emphasized how life's treasures are the intangibles like faith, family, love, and health. No diamond has ever brought as much joy as the sparkle of my son and his wife as newlyweds. Nothing warms my home like the presence of my children. No technological wonder brings me to my knees in awe the way holding my first grandchild did. No spa treatment can make me feel as rejuvenated as I did when learning that my husband's cancer responded to treatment. Nothing guides me through darkness like faith and prayer.

My Advent reading yesterday followed this theme. From G.K. Chesterton:

The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more 0f them if you have less appreciation of them.

From St. Paul:

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meet Trinity!!!!

Praise God! My granddaughter (doesn't that sound cool?!) was born today at 5:44 CST. We were saying a family Rosary at that time so she entered this world surrounded by prayer. She weighed in at 6lb and 6oz. My daughter-in-law is recovering well. It has been a long couple of days. My son is exhausted but says he cannot sleep because he cannot take his eyes off this little miracle. And what did they name this precious child? Trinity! She is just perfect. This Gramma thing is really fun.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The meaning of life by the numbers

Man has always sought the meaning of life. Douglas Adams (Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe) says the answer to the meaning of life is found in the number "42". I think he was off by a factor of seven. The meaning of life is found in the number "6" as in Baltimore Catechism question #6:

Question: Why did God make you?
Answer: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

In Sunday's Gospel (Lk 21: 5-19) Jesus steers us towards what is truly important in life:

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, "All that you see here--
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down."

Jesus reminds us that there will come a time when all the trapping of this earthly life will be meaningless. The question then will be, "Did you live your life in a way that knows God, loves God, and serves God? If you did, then you will be truly happy with God for all eternity.

"Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives."

Eternity is a very long time. Is rejection of God in the pursuit of momentary worldly fame, fortune, or simply comfort really worth an eternity without God? The intuitive answer is "Of course not!" Yet our fallen human nature makes the wrong choices over and over again. So as we approach the upcoming Advent season, let us clothe our hearts in the purple of repentance. Let us recommit to know, love, and serve God in every thought, word, and deed. Let us persevere in faith.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Rest of the Story...

Those of you who stop by my Facebook page may have noticed this story about a newborn infant, only a few hours old, who was left in a duffel bag in the parking lot of St. Raymond's Catholic Church yesterday morning. I went to Mass at St. Raymond's this morning and heard the rest of the story.

The parishioner who found the child had initially driven by the bag as had many others. There was nothing about this bag that necessarily attracted attention. He drove to the entrance of the church and dropped off his wife and children. He then parked the car. For some reason he felt compelled to walk from his car to the bag and look inside. Imagine his astonishment at seeing a newborn infant. There was no rational reason for him to go investigate the duffel bag. His compulsion must be attributed to the intercession of angels and saints and the prodding of the Holy Spirit. God is truly good.

Sometimes when you are profoundly aware of the presence of God, the only response is tears. When the pastor of St. Raymond's related this story today he became very emotional. Of course that prompted tears from the rest of us as well. Just as in today's Gospel when Jesus revealed his Divinity by healing the blind man, God revealed himself to us by the discovery of this child. She is now in a local hospital in good health.

Please pray for this child's mother. She is a good woman as evidenced by her willingness to bear this child and in her own way, seek what it is best for her child. She may be in need of medical care. Please pray that she receives it. Pray also that she knows and has peace with the well-being of her child.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Microwave Coffee Mug Cake

Yesterday I went to the craft fair at St. Raymond's parish. There were so many clever and cute ornaments, sewing projects, and baby gifts. I picked up a couple of items for my soon-to-be born granddaughter, Trinity. (Don't you just love that name?!) Her due date is November 30.

I also found a cute little kitchen craft that would make a good gift for teachers or neighbors. It is also a project suitable for children to make and give. (Click on the pictures for larger views)

The finished product is a microwaveable coffee mug, wrapped up in pretty cellophane with the cute instruction tag attached. A coffee mug that comfortably holds twelve ounces seems to be the best size.

Unwrap it and you have the coffee mug and a zip-top bag with the dry ingredients for the cake: 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 TBSP cocoa, and 3 TBSP chocolate chips

Mix the dry ingredients, 3 TBSP milk, 3 TBSP oil, 1 egg, and a splash of vanilla in the coffee mug. Mix it well making sure you scrape the sides.

Microwave on high for four minutes

Let it cool for just a minute or two then flip it onto a plate. This is not a fine or fancy cake but it is a fun and tasty cake. It definitely is best to eat this when it is fresh and warm. It does seem to dry out rather quickly. It provides generous servings for two, or dainty servings for four.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Teacher, love your students

Rosemary at A Catholic Mother's Thoughts offers a beautiful reflection:

"To teach John Latin, it is not enough to know Latin-- one must also know and love John."

I ponder this because I have moved from a career of practicing medicine to a career of teaching with a little writing on the side. A couple of times a week I face two dozen community college students and work to impart the intricacies of anatomy and physiology.

I really thought I was called to teach in a Catholic school--and maybe I will eventually. I just want to blurt out all these beautiful truths that flow from the principle of the sanctity of human life. In a secular school setting there is no blurting. So I stand before my students and witness indirectly.

I have an innate tendency to stridently march forward with a hammer in my hand ready to pound my opposition into conversion. I think God is teaching me a gentler and more effective method. He places me before these students ostensibly to teach them a college course in biology. Yet, there are so many opportunities to teach about Him.

The most obvious is to teach about this wondrous creation of the human body. How can anyone marvel at the complexities of anatomy that mesh perfectly to support our physiology. If you appreciate the choreography of electrical, chemical, and mechanical events that must occur with precision for every heartbeat, our very life seems miraculous. It is folly to attribute this to random chance.

Loving my students also means listening and being alert to the times they need a little extra encouragement. The young mother with a sick infant needs to know that this phase of sleep deprivation will pass. The older mothers need to know that their choice to put their own education on hold while they attended to their family needs was a reasonable and even admirable choice. They are not too old to learn. God, in his wisdom, puts each of us in a given place for a reason. One of my students had a beloved grandmother who decided to forgo further medical treatments for her chronic disease. My student was struggling to accept this decision. I knew this student was Catholic so I offered her a book by Archbishop Gomez on end of life decisions. She was very grateful and shared it with her family.

What I try to convey to my students is that wherever they are in their time of life, they have an individual calling. Their life is a gift and the way to show their gratitude for this gift is by living every minute of life for God's glory.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not with my tax dollars

Plenty has been written about NPR firing Juan Williams because he admitted that he gets nervous when he sees Muslims on airplanes. There is a lot that Juan Williams says that I disagree with. However, he is entitled to his opinion. If NPR was even handed and fired those who denigrated Christians, Republicans, and members of the Tea Party, this incident would not have caused a ripple. However, looking at the history of NPR and its continuous descent into a biased mouthpiece for the liberal Left, this incident is news. In an internal memo sent on behalf of NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller, NPR policy is stated to be:

“In appearing on TV or other media . . . NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows . . . that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.”
More fundamentally, “In appearing on TV or other media including electronic
Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

Unfortunately, Juan’s comments on Fox violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.

Of course the many offended consist primarily of Council for American-Islamic Relations--and George Soros who just gave NPR $1.8 million dollars to pay for shills reporters. Can anyone think of a time when NPR fired someone because Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was offended?

NPR claims Juan Williams was fired because he portrayed Muslims in a negative light. This essay calls into question whether Juan Williams is really the problem:

Those defending NPR’s reactions say that Williams “smeared” Muslims and portrayed them in a bad light.

Does not a group of men hijacking planes and flying them into the World Trade Center killing over three thousand people in the name of Islam portray Islam in a bad light?

Does not men hijacking a plane to fly into the Pentagon in the name of Islam portray Islam in a bad light?

When individuals strap bombs onto their bodies and detonate in public thoroughfares, killing men, women, and precious innocent children, all in the name of Islam, does not that paint Islam in a bad light?

When men bomb the USS Cole in the name of Islam, does that not portray Islam in a bad light?

When a Chechen group terrorizes school children in Beslan in the name of Islam, does that not portray Islam in a bad light?

When men blow up discotheques in Malaysia in the name of Islam, does not that show Islam in a bad light?

When members of the CIA are murdered, in the greatest massacre in the organization’s history, by individuals in the name of Islam, does that not show Islam in a bad light?

When a man shoots up Ft. Hood in the name of Islam, does that not paint Islam in a bad light?

When men hijack a plane, the control of which is barely wrested away from them by brave American passengers before the plane crashes into a Pennsylvania field, leaving behind a scorch mark upon the earth for families to mourn – all in the name of Islam – does not that paint Islam in a negative light?

When the United Arab Emirates passes a law stating that it’s not domestic abuse to beat your wife just so long as she bears no bruises, that doesn’t paint Islam in a bad light?

When men are allowed to kill and abuse their wives, sisters, and young daughters for refusing marriage to much-older men chosen for them, that doesn’t paint Islam in a bad light?

The truth is that NPR did not fire Juan Williams because he compromised his credentials as an objective journalist. NPR fired Juan Williams because he compromised his credentials as a liberally biased journalist. Such bias is the right and privilege of both CNN and Fox News. It is not the right and privilege of a tax-payer funded entity like NPR.

Apparently the timing of this brouhaha is not good for public radio fund raising. The NPR internal memo closes with these words:

We’re profoundly sorry that this happened during fundraising week. Juan’s comments were made Monday night and we did not feel it would be responsible to delay this action.

This was a tough decision and we appreciate your support.

In reading articles and commentary about this issue I ran across this quote:

Give a bum a dollar and he will beg again tomorrow. Teach him to write a grant proposal and he will beg two weeks every year with the promise of free tote bags.

It is time to tighten our government fiscal belts. If NPR insists on being a mouthpiece for only one point of view, it does not deserve our taxpayer dollars.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Epitome of Joy

This is just too beautiful not to share. Watch it all and enjoy! (H/T Anchoress)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My husband and I are approaching a new phase in our life. Our youngest will be graduating from high school in less than two years. My husband will soon complete thirty years of service as an Air Force officer and will have to make a change. I am still trying to figure out what I do next. The good news is that the years have brought a little more than strands of gray hair and a few extra lines on my forehead. When I was in my twenties, I was busy figuring out what I wanted to do. Now I am more focused on trying to figure out what God wants me to do.

There are so many ideas that I wish I had grasped sooner. The concept of a vocation is one of them. Marriage is a calling from God. It requires generous acquiescence to His will. We can think about what we want, what we hope for, and what we think should happen. In the end, however, the only desires that matter are God's. That doesn't mean I am supposed to sit by passively and let life happen because it is God's will. I am called to cooperate with him.

The Church teachings on marriage and sexuality leave some Catholics grumbling. "How dare the Church stick its nose into my bedroom!" Yet Church teachings are not an obstacle to our happiness. Rather they are a path to authentic joy. A focus on earthly pleasure is short sighted. St. Paul exhorts us to keep our eyes on the prize and that prize is eternal union with God.

If we really believe that our marriage is a vocation, a calling from God, then doesn't it make sense to open ourselves to his gift of life? Recently I read a blogging mother who wrote about being told that she could not be the mother she wanted to be with so many children. Her response was, "That is true, but I can be the mother God wants me to be." (I apologize for not being able to give credit to the source of this wisdom. If anyone knows who said it, please let me know.) There are definitely times when it seems better not to conceive a child. However, these should be the exceptional times in a marriage, not the rule. The decision to take into a account a woman's fertility cycles to space children should be a prayerful decision. I have written about this in much more detail here.

An even more delicate subject comes with the issue of infertility. A couple wants to generously give themselves to the vocation of parenthood. They truly believe they would make great parents and they may be right. However, the ends cannot justify immoral means. It is a defiance of God's will to engage in an immoral act to satisfy our own personal desires. In vitro fertilization (IVF) creates human persons outside the marital act. From an ethical perspective, it turns human persons into commodities. Thousands upon thousands of embryos are manufactured for the fertility industry. They are sorted, catalogued, frozen, and distributed for a fee. If they are found to be "defective", they are destroyed. IVF replaces rather than assists the marital act in the conception of a child making it an immoral act. This is not meant to minimize the suffering of those who experience infertility. It truly is a cross to bear. Sickness, suffering and death have been part of the human experience since the time of Original Sin. The challenge is to carry our crosses joined with Christ's suffering. NaPro technology offers a morally licit evaluation and treatment of infertility. Biological parenthood is not the only option to be a parent. There are many children who need the generous gift of adoption. The specific vocational path for any given individual requires prayer and discernment. It should be clear, however, that God's path will not include an option that demeans the dignity of any human person created in His image.

Seeking God's will in all we do, from the smallest decisions to the most life-changing decisions, should be the rule for each of us. I suppose it is the gift of being "of a certain age" that allows me the perspective to see that when I am faithful to this practice, there is true peace with my choice. When I ignore God's will I find myself mired in chaos. Regardless of the mistakes and bad choices I have made in the past, I can go forward in concert with my true vocation in the future. I really like this quote from Santiago Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel: “There is no saint without a past, nor sinner without a future”.

Thanks be to God for His enduring mercy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."--Mother Teresa

The current election cycle is reaching its frenetic finish and the invectives are spewing. I have some pretty strong political opinions that I am not afraid to share. However, I am not going to persuade with hate and venom. When speaking and writing to those who agree with me, it is very easy to slip into a mode that demeans and dehumanizes the opposition. This may rally the troops but it does nothing to bring reconciliation between opposing sides. Speaking to the opposition with such disdain only increases the alienation. Conversion requires a change of heart and when speaking to the heart, one must speak with love.

That is why I loved this article in the Arlington Catholic Herald. Two parishes organized an entry in the annual community fall parade. The walkers were marching in support of a local crisis pregnancy center. There were no signs with bloody aborted fetuses. There were signs that offered love and support to pregnant women. A young girl who had been adopted carried a sign that said "Thank you, Birth Mother". I am sure every walker opposed abortion. However, their message was that they embraced life.

I am not advocating that we sanitize or whitewash the horror of abortion. We must speak plainly about the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death. However, if our goal is to bring others to this conviction, we must show this by respecting the dignity of our opposition. I fully agree with Fr. Frank Pavone when in yesterday's Washington Times he says there can be no truce on abortion:

This tactic is akin to the pro-life and pro-abortion movements agreeing to disagree, an option often considered a reasonable one. It does not require that either side change its views, but simply agrees to allow the different views, and the practices that flow from them.
Sorry, but this is a proposal we in the pro-life movement can't accept. There can be no truce.

First of all, to ask us to "agree to disagree" about abortion is to ask us to change our position on it. Why do we disagree in the first place? When we oppose abortion, we disagree with the notion that it is even negotiable. We do not only claim that we cannot practice abortion, but that nobody can practice it, precisely because it violates the most fundamental human right, the right to life. To "agree to disagree" means that we no longer see abortion for what it is - a violation of a right so fundamental that disagreement cannot be allowed to tamper with it.
To "agree to disagree" is to foster the notion that the baby is a baby only if the mother thinks it is, that the child has value only if the mother says it does and that we have responsibility only for those we choose to have responsibility for.

Fr. Pavone is exactly right. We can never abandon or sacrifice the most vulnerable among us out of political expediency. We need to hold a firm line when seeking legislative protection of the unborn. However, when we are speaking to young women who are scared and who have been promised an easy road to happiness by those who advocate for sexual activity without limits or consequences because of the easy access to contraception and abortion, we must offer kindness and compassion with the truth. There is no question that Planned Parenthood and its minions have willfully lied to generations of women about the fruits of unfettered sexual activity and the "easy solution" of abortion. We are justified in our anger at such institutionalized evil. However, that anger must not extend to the individuals who have been victimized by these lies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The next step in the journey

As I wrote back in June, my husband has lymphoma. No one ever calls this disease cured, but today we got the best news possible. After six cycles of chemotherapy, he is pronounced in complete remission. The roller coaster has paused if not ended. We have completed phase I. We could not have done this without the Grace of God and the countless prayers offered on my husband's behalf. So many of you have generously offered prayers. Know that all of you, whether I know your name or not, have been in my daily prayers. I learned early on in this challenge that we pray our way through situations, not out of them. This is no time for spiritual complacency. My husband and I will continue to pray for you. We are eternally in your debt.

This past weekend we had a first step in our return towards normalcy. Before, just as my husband began to recover from the effects of one chemotherapy cycle he would get zapped with the next cycle. This time there was no next cycle. While he is still feeling some of the residual side effects, he is closer to feeling like his old self than he has been in months. On Monday we took advantage of the beautiful fall weather and the federal holiday to drive to Maryland and walk the battlefield of Antietam. It is somewhat ironic that we would celebrate life by visiting the site of so much death, but it was a wonderful outing. I have never been much of a scholar of military history but found myself fascinated by the battle details when I could actually walk the ground and see the perspectives of the soldiers. I also found myself offering quite a few Hail Mary's for the repose of the souls of all who fell there. As a former military member and a current military wife and military mother, I know there are times when deadly military force must be brought to bear. It is evidence of our fallen human nature. It is always a sorrowful state. Military victory should not engender national triumphalism.

Now we go forward with our new reality. There will be periodic checks for the possible recurrence of cancer. But for now, my husband is a cancer survivor, not a cancer patient.

Blessed Father Seelos, thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us.

St. Therese of Lisieux, thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A little bit of catechetical ranting

Religious education classes have started all over the country. I know because this post with a catechist letter to parents has suddenly become my post popular post. It happens every fall. Once again, I too have started teaching a seventh grade class. This year looks like it will be a pretty good year. How do I know? I surveyed the class and all but two students said they go to Mass most Sundays. This is a change from last year when I only had two students in the entire class who said they attend Mass most Sundays. The young ladies are all fully clothed. Last year I was constantly having to ask the girls to put on their sweatshirts or jackets because they were revealing way too much skin. Also, unlike last year, none of my students declared themselves atheists on the first day of class--a declaration made to the priest who visited the classroom. Yes, this is definitely going to be a better year.

Teaching religious education can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. How on earth am I supposed to teach the faith in one hour per week over the course of the school year when the lessons are not reinforced at home? What I have realized, is that I am not supposed to do that. I am supposed to do what I can to supplement what the parents do and what the Grace of God provides. I do what I can to teach the basics, make the Faith relevant, and offer it all with love. Offering it with love does not mean watering down the Church teachings or seeking warm fuzzies. It does mean offering the Truth. I cannot judge the fate of anyone's soul, but I can faithfully pass on what has been revealed as the path to salvation.

Another perennial catechist's lament is that the CCD program is treated as the unwanted stepchild of the parish if the program shares facilities with a parish school. The school may hold its fund raisers but the bulk of the operating budget, facility maintenance, and tuition subsidies comes from the general parish funds. All of the parishioners support the school. Therefore, when I walk into the school and the Smart Boards are covered with drapes to keep those unwashed CCD students from benefitting from their use, the remotes for the televisions and DVD players are locked in the teacher's desks to keep the CCD classes from using them, and the chalk boards are covered with writing with big "DO NOT ERASE" messages leaving me little options for visual aids while teaching, I have to wonder if the parish school understands its purpose. The parish school educates only a small fraction of the students of the parish. Its purpose is to provide a wholly Catholic environment for education. While the school is expected to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic its raison d'être is to foster Catholicism. This is the same mission of the CCD program and the CCD program reaches many more children than the parish school. So why should a sliver of the parish youth population receive the bulk of parish resources while the primary education program of the parish youth receives the dregs? Truthfully, I am not sure that is how the resources of my current parish are divided, but if you speak to those affiliated with the school, that is how they feel it should be divided.

The parish school building should be a parish resource. School teachers should prepare their rooms to accommodate CCD on the nights religious education classes are held. CCD teachers should ensure the classroom is left ready for the school children arriving the next morning. We should be on the same team, not competitors. The children who attend CCD are no less part of the parish family than those who attend the parish school. We should not treat them and their families as "second class Catholics".

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"I already did"

This parenting thing is quite the adventure. Sometimes, you know with absolute certainty you are doing the right thing. Much of the time you are flying by the seat of your pants and praying that the Grace of God will fill in where you have been deficient. So it is cause for great rejoicing when there is some feedback to say you are doing a good job. A couple of days ago my sixteen-year-old son received a text message from a friend to say that he might not make it to the Scout meeting. His brother was in the emergency room. When my son told me of this development, I told him to text back that we would be praying for his friend's brother. "I already did," my son replied.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Due to my husband's lymphoma, I just haven't made it out to my garden the way I normally do. However, in spite of my benign neglect, my garden has given me some lovely gifts to cheer my kitchen. I picked some leggy mums, some blossoms from the butterfly bush, and some resilient roses. God is good.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Tale of a Tail

This fellow is known as a Five Lined Skink. One of these is running around my back yard without his bright blue tail. He was sunning himself on my back patio when I stepped outside with Athena, my black labradinger. She was off like a shot chasing the poor fellow through the shrubs and under the drain spout. Unfortunately for him, his tail did not get under the drain spout fast enough and Athena bit it off. The amputated tail continued to wiggle and squirm and kept Athena occupied while Mr. Skink escaped to a safer haven. He looks very awkward right now, but his tail should grow back, though maybe not as colorful as the one he lost.

Cheerleading Update

Not to belabor this issue since there are many more important issues to address, but listen to this radio interview with the cheerleading coach (Click on the "cheer vs mom" tab) of the little girl kicked off the cheerleading team. If you notice, her attitude is the team can do anything it likes because they win awards. As long as the trophies keep coming, nothing is inappropriate.

Actually, I saw this same attitude when my second son was in the high school band. There was no concern for teaching kids a love a music. It was all about filling the school trophy case with marching band awards. At the high school, if students do not participate in the extracurricular activity of marching band, they are not allowed to participate in any of the concert bands. So my son quit the band but wanted to continue to take private trumpet lessons. The band director called my son's private teacher and told him not to continue teaching my son. I learned from my daughter's flute teacher that it was common for local band directors to blacklist private music teachers who continue to teach students who drop out of band.

The purpose of music, sports, chess club, etc is supposed to be for the benefit of the students. When it starts being about the coach, the band director, the athletic organization, etc, the children will suffer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I know that some of you may have daughters who are cheerleaders. I also know that today's cheerleading can be a very physically demanding activity requiring dedication, practice, and skill so is rightfully called a sport. However, the sexualization of young girls by some of the routines is appalling. Consider this story out of Michigan:

A Michigan couple is crying unsportsmanlike conduct after their 6-year-old daughter was removed from a flag football cheerleading team because they complained that one of the team's chants was too risqué.

Jennifer and Duane Tesch, of Madison Heights, say their daughter, Kennedy, was unanimously voted off of the Madison Heights Wolverines flag football cheerleading team during a team meeting Tuesday night. The meeting was held to discuss concerns the Tesches voiced last month regarding one of the team's cheers:

"Our backs ache, our skirts are too tight, we shake our booties from left to right."

But instead of seeing their concerns with the cheer resolved, the Tesches saw their little girl booted from the team.

Tell me what parent of a daughter of any age wants to see their child shaking her back side and cheering about her "booty". The idea of a bunch of six-year-olds doing this is repulsive. And don't get me started about the "dance teams". I have seen high school dance teams in extremely skimpy outfits gyrating and shaking as if they were auditioning for a strip club. I am amazed that their parents are not mortified. Instead of being embarrassed, their parents are often very proud that their daughters have such hot stuff to strut.

Soccer parents have a lot of flaws but I am very happy that my daughter liked soccer instead of cheerleading. Girls need to know that there is more to being a woman than "booty and boobs". If this is what it means to be a cheerleader at age six, imagine what it will be like at age sixteen.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf would gain a lot more respect and support for his Islamic Cultural Center if he would speak out and unequivocally condemn this.

Leading the charge against the Batak Christians has been the Islamic Defenders Front, which is pushing for the implementation of Islamic-based laws in Bekasi and other parts of the nation.

They are known for smashing bars, attacking transvestites and going after those considered blasphemous with bamboo clubs and stones. Perpetrators are rarely punished or even questioned by police.

The front also pressured local authorities early this year to shutter the Batak church, located in a densely populated Mulsim area, saying the permit was granted without the required approval of residents.

The Christian worshipers have refused to back down. Every week, about 20 or so return to the field to pray, defying threats and intimidation.

Before he levies charges of bigotry at Americans who find it disconcerting that a mosque is being built on the land leveled by terrorists who killed nearly three thousand people in the name of Islam, he should address the bigotry and hatred expressed by those who, in the name of Islam, leap from a motorcycle and ram a knife into the gut of a man, simply because that man is Christian.

Saturday, September 11, 2010



O Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy on us

Our Lady of the Rosary, Pray for us

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ordinary Things

I know that a few of my blog posts have traveled far and wide and have resonated with literally hundreds of readers. I also know that other blog posts have touched the hearts of a mere handful of readers. Some blog posts seem rather innocuous and unnoticed yet I will be surprised because a single reader lets me know that she was deeply moved by something I wrote. Especially lately, my words may never reach the pages of this blog. My presence is needed in front of a class of college students learning the fundamentals of anatomy and physiology or in the kitchen providing the physical nutrition and spiritual bonding of family meals. Maybe there is someone who needs me to sit at his bedside and hold his hand. Sometimes my work is very anonymous as I wash and fold yet another load of laundry. And sometimes my calling is not to give, but to receive. I need to receive the wisdom of Scripture and the spiritual renewal of prayer. Sometimes I need the physical renewal of a nap.

Each of these activities can be equally holy and pleasing to God. Certainly, if I were directing the world I would issue great utterances that would change the world. But most of the time, God does not want me to change the whole world. He just wants me to do what needs to be done in my little small corner of the world. As Mother Teresa said, "do ordinary things with extraordinary love." I will trust God to make great use of my ordinary things.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Obama's HHS suppresses study that shows parents matter

Back in 2007, there was a great to-do about the alleged failure of abstinence only education. I wrote about it here. [make sure you read the comments for the linked post. They offer even more insight into what this study showed and did not show.] Safe-sex advocates could not put this message out loudly enough. The truth is that the 2007 study showed that in extremely socially impoverished populations, no school based, faith based, or community based intervention impacted the rate of sexual activity among teens. It was not a repudiation of just abstinence only education. It was a repudiation of all sex education programs operating independently from parents.

Now another study confirms this. However, instead of shouting from the rooftops, the HHS is refusing to release the full results of this study:
In a short article about her efforts to obtain a copy of the "National Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents" (conducted by Abt Associates), Dr. Rue says that having been denied access twice by the Obama administration "leaves me to reflect on the role of cultural values with regard to prevention science."

The University of Northern Colorado assistant professor continues: "If we are truly interested in learning how to prevent two critical epidemics currently devastating our country (out-of-wedlock child bearing and sexually transmitted infections), then the nationally representative findings provide momentum and support for accessing cultural values of parents and children which promote optimal health choices for adolescents."

Echoing Huber's concern, Rue concludes with this statement: "...At this point in time, we must ask ourselves: Is this valuable process being suppressed by those who wish to repress American values in an effort to exert control over sex education offered in the United States?"

As I read this, I am not convinced this conflict is about abstinence education vs. safe-sex education. The primary conclusion that is known about this study is that it shows that 70% of American parents want their children to avoid pre-marital sex. Teens who have been given this message at home are less likely to be sexually active. The influence of parents is so great that the impact of state-run sex education programs is negligible.

I think the real tension here is between nanny state advocates who want to usurp parental roles and the truth that parents really do matter. It is a battle between Hillary Clinton and her village of bureaucrats against us, the parents, for the minds and souls of our children. As I wrote here, I am not the enemy. I am the parent.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Cancer Roller Coaster

John chemotherapy @ Wed Aug 11 This Google calendar reminder popped up in my gmail inbox. It is not like I needed the reminder. Cancer is not something you forget. Cancer and chemotherapy have prompted several metaphors. Chemotherapy is aptly likened to a roller coaster. Every cycle is like another hill on the roller coaster. You never know what is on the other side. There are all kinds of twists and turns between the hills. No two hills are exactly the same. I've never been too fond of roller coasters.

Living with cancer is very much like having a constant ringing in your ears--tinnitus is the medical condition. Much of the time you can push it to the background and carry on as if it isn't there. There are times when you are totally unaware of it. But then something happens and it marches to the forefront crowding out all your other senses. It interrupts your physical, emotional, and spiritual life.

There is a temptation to try and read the tea leaves. "Oh, (fill in the blank) must be a sign of (fill in the blank with a positive or negative prognosis)!" The conclusion drawn has no real basis in fact but it is an attempt to know the unknowable. The better yet more difficult way to cope is to trust. There has never been an occasion when God has not been present. I know that. He will give us the grace to face whatever lies on the other side of the roller coaster hill or around the next hairpin curve. So we pray. Prayer is not an attempt to change God's mind. Prayer centers us on the One who is control. Many of our prayers are petitions. And many of those petitions will be answered exactly as submitted. But submitting prayers of petitions to God is not like ordering breakfast at McDonald's. I submit my humble prayer and know that God, who loves me more than anyone on earth has ever loved me, will offer me so much more than what I can even think to request. In the short term, I may not understand His answer. The challenge is to trust that sometime in the upcoming eternity, I will understand.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

This is really handy!

Our kids have preferred taking a lap top to college but there are times when a bigger screen is helpful. So we now have the best of both worlds. We get a lap top and a 24-inch monitor. Hook them together and they have the option of using the monitor as a mirror of the laptop screen or as an extension of it. I prefer the extension mode. I look at my email on the laptop and use the monitor screen for web surfing and writing. We got this set up for my daughter a little over a year ago but since she is away at school I didn't get to try it out. Since my son is living at home this semester I get to share his monitor. I drag things from one screen to the other as if they were just one screen. I am really enjoying the flexibility of more screen space without giving up the portability of a laptop. This is so cool! For those of you who are so much more tech savvy than I, this is old news. Forgive my excitement.

Does the Church welcome "liberal" Catholics?

If you do not already read Mirror of Justice, I highly recommend you add it to your blog reading regimen. This is a group blog by a collection of Catholic lawyers. There are diverse viewpoints. Some I agree with. Some I don't. However, for the most part, the discussion is thoughtful, well stated, and respectful. There is a distinct lack of snark that is prevalent on so many sites. I know that I myself have an instinctive urge to issue "zingers" and seek the nods and applause of those who agree with me. Perhaps that is necessary when you seek to rally the troops. However, the real Spiritual Works of Mercy are to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, and admonish sinners. That cannot be done if you are gleefully rubbing their noses in their errors.

Currently there is a discussion about whether or not self-labeled liberal Catholics are welcomed in the Church. It is an interesting discussion. I have offered a few comments on this post but you can get the complete discussion by also reading here, here, here, and here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another example of agenda driven school reading assignments

A recurring theme on this blog is the need for parents to be vigilant in monitoring the ideas and principles put forth as truth by school teachers. While there are many very good teachers, there seems to be a culture of indoctrination rather than education pervading many schools. When my daughter was in high school, her AP literature course consisted of politically correct ethnically diverse books with absolutely no discussion as to how these books met the criteria of classic literature. Now my youngest is in high school and he is faced with an agenda driven AP English curriculum.

Most AP courses in our school district require a summer project that is due on the first day of school. For eleventh grade AP English, students must read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. The purpose of this assignment is to evaluate a work of nonfiction. In the analysis of nonfiction, it is important to first judge the credibility of the author. The good news is that the AP assignment addresses this. The bad news is the AP assignment does not allow for the opinion that the the authority of the author on this topic is questionable. The first question is:

Describe at least three ways in which she [the author] shows herself to be a credible person--someone the reader can trust to present the material in a fair and honest manner.

A less biased and more relevant question would have been:

Describe at least three ways in which she [the author] attempts to show herself to be a credible person--someone the reader can trust to present the material in a fair and honest manner. Was she successful?

The book Nickel and Dimed is an ideologically driven narrative. Barbara Ehrenreich travels to three different locations during the late 1990's and attempts to survive on a minimum wage job. Her goal is to illuminate the plight of the working poor. That is a noble purpose. However, she goes in with the established bias that corporations are evil and the government is not doing enough. Her husband is an organizer for the Teamsters union. She is very quick to paint management/labor relations in strongly adversarial terms. She proposes greater unionization of workers and more government intervention as the solution. She proudly proclaims her atheism and speaks derisively and crudely of religion, especially Christianity. She claims to be a scientist (she has a PhD in biology) but her "study design" for this experiment is very flawed. She sets conditions that make her very likely to fail and thus "prove" her predetermined conclusions.

For example, she plops herself down in a strange town with no friends or family to support her. She complains that she cannot take advantage of the financial advantage of home cooking because she cannot afford thirty dollars worth of new cookware. In the real world, most people can acquire hand-me-down kitchen supplies from family and friends. Local thrift shops can offer kitchen essentials for far less than thirty dollars. And those religious entities that she sneers at are great resources for those in a financial crisis. Ehrenreich also only gives herself a month to establish the financial viability of her life in a new location. There are always start-up costs to setting up a new household. It is not surprising that she is in the red after one month. It will take more than one month to recoup this investment.

When she works for a maid service she is appalled that the company charges clients twenty-five dollars per man-hour but only pays the cleaners $6.50 per hour. How dare they make such a profit! Of course she never openly considers that out of that remaining $18.50 must come the money for income taxes, social security taxes, insurance premiums, cleaning supplies, company fleet vehicles, the company office building, office supplies, phone service, marketing costs, and the wages for administrative personnel. It is surprising that a PhD level scientist would ignore such data.

Her final position is at a Minneapolis area Wal-Mart. Here she continually rants about the oppression of the workers by management. Her account focuses on the lack of a union for Wal-Mart employees. To further emphasize the need for a union she highlights the fact that that Wal-Mart has been sued in four states for not paying overtime wages. She makes no mention of the many union scandals that have occurred across the United States. The first few years I lived here in Northern Virginia the news was full of the ever growing corruption scandal in the Washington D.C. teachers union. Ehrenreich's beloved Teamsters union is hardly a paragon of virtue. To be fair, her final analysis in the final chapter does admit that unionization is not a panacea. She advocates for government support to subsidize what collective bargaining cannot provide.

Finally, the grossest deficiency in her analysis is that she makes no evaluation of the minimum wage workers themselves. I have been in the position of living paycheck to paycheck on a minimum wage job. I lived in a two bedroom apartment with four roommates. I didn't have a car. I took the bus all over Houston. I was an economic vegetarian--I had no qualms about eating meat but I couldn't afford it. However, this was always done with an eye towards continuing my education and making choices that would enable me to eventually achieve financial security. What choices or life circumstances put Ehrenreich's fellow minimum wage workers in their situations? Do they see this as a transient position? How many are using these positions to supplement the family income rather than being the sole support of the family? Her position is that those who are working at minimum wage jobs will always be in minimum wage jobs so there must be some way to sustain them in these positions. The question she does not ask is what must be done to support these workers in a move out of such dire financial straits. Do they need education? Do they need housing support? Do they need training in money management? It is interesting that she makes no comment on the fact that so many of her coworkers struggle with food and housing expenses but by her own account have no trouble affording cigarettes and alcohol. Shouldn't some choices have consequences? I personally see no moral obligation to subsidize the food expenses of a smoker so that he can continue to smoke.

The bottom line is I have no problem with my son reading this book as an example of non-fiction. I do have a problem with it being presented as an unquestioningly fair and credible account of a social economic issue.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I felt the earth move....

We spent several years living in the northern desert of Los Angeles County and we felt our share of earthquakes including the Northridge Earthquake. However, we left California in 1995 so I haven't really thought much about earthquakes since then. That is until this morning. Here in our Northern Virginia Washington D.C. suburb we were awakened just after 5:00 AM by that familiar trembling. It only lasted about ten seconds. It was a fine vibration as if a train was passing near the house. All the little knick knacks and bottles on my vanity created a high pitched hum as they rattled against the glass top. Soon after my husband and I exclaimed, "Earthquake!" in unison, the shaking stopped. The kids slept through it.

The US Geological Survey says it was a 3.6 earthquake. Nothing really damaged except for a few nerves. Still, I hate earthquakes. During our nearly thirty years of traveling about the country with the Air Force, we have experienced hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, wildfires, and earthquakes. Earthquakes are definitely my least favorite natural disaster. They strike without warning and there is something very surreal about feeling what you thought was terra firma move like an ocean wave. There is no time to brace, run, or hide.

But then again, maybe an earthquake is a good metaphor for life. We plod along day to day until some event shakes us from our complacency. In any case, I am grateful this quake was just a small ripple with no major consequences. I might include St. Agatha in my litany of saints today. And I have a feeling this song will be stuck in my head for a while:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pass this on for life

Of the twenty mysteries of the Rosary, my favorite is the Annunciation. There are so many facets to this mystery. God calls Mary out of her comfort zone to do something that by human analysis seems impossible. Not only does it seem impossible, but it involves suffering. Mary is betrothed to a good man, Joseph. Who is going to believe that she was visited by an angel? Who is going to believe that her child was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit? Why should she risk this stable, happy life for the uncertainties of God's outlandish proposal? Because she was blessed with abundant grace, Mary responded "Fiat! Let it be done according to thy word."

When God puts a path before me that is outside my comfort zone, involves suffering, and seems contrary to my expectations, it is very challenging to embrace this path and say "Fiat! I will do it your way, God." That is why the mystery of the Annunciation is so important to me. Mary models perfect trust and perfect obedience to God. When I tremble thinking about the road ahead, I remember the reassurances the Archangel Gabriel gave to Mary: "Be not afraid!"

Wisconsin Right to Life is offering uplifting contemporary examples of living according to God's plan for life through a series of videos. Their hope is that the positive pro-life messages conveyed by these videos will inspire viewers to pass them on and spread the Gospel of Life. Perhaps the most poignant is the following video:

Watch this video and pass it on. It may be exactly what someone needs to see and hear in order to say, "Fiat! Let it be done according to thy word."

Thursday, July 08, 2010

More words of wisdom

It seems the Good Lord is providing just the right words when I need them. This morning I ran across this quote when I was checking the diocesan young adult ministry page:

"Persevere in the exact fulfillment of the obligations of the moment. That work - humble, monotonous, small - is prayer..."--St. Josemaria Escriva

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Unexpected words of wisdom

Sometimes words of wisdom are found in unexpected places. Today's mail brought a new Signals catalog. This framed print was a good reminder that faith does not remove our crosses. Faith enables us to successfully carry our crosses.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

18 Weeks and It's a Girl!!!!

My oldest son and his wife are expecting their first child. She is 18 weeks along and had an ultrasound this week. Baby looks healthy and now we know it's a girl! I have always called my own daughter my island of civilization amidst her three brothers. I am sure Baby Girl Hunnell will be a joy and blessing for her own parents. (and grandparents too!) I am so excited there are just not enough exclamation points to express it!!!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

God Must Have Wanted Me to Hear This Today

I have not been able to attend daily Mass as often as I like since the onset of my husband's illness. There have been doctor's appointments that conflicted or his condition was poor enough that I did not feel comfortable leaving him home alone. Some nights he was fraught with pain or chemotherapy side effects that neither of us slept much so it seemed more prudent to grab a bit of sleep and miss Mass. This morning, however, everything worked out that I could go to Mass. My husband is still confined to the house due to concerns over his compromised immune system, but he is feeling pretty good. We both slept last night. There are no doctor's appointments until his next round of chemo on Wednesday. So I went to Mass.

I did not have a missal with me so I could not follow along during the readings. Sometimes, that is better, since it forces me to listen more intently. The first reading was from Paul's letter to Timothy. It struck a chord with me as it spoke about being a patient teacher and correcting with gentleness. I resolved to reread it when I got home. When I tried to review it at home, I was surprised to find it was not the assigned first reading at all. Today is the Feast of St. Irenaeus and the prescribed first reading comes from the book of Amos. I have no idea why we heard from the Paul's letter to Timothy. However, it was a very good reading for me to hear.

Turn away from the passions of youth, concentrate on uprightness, faith, love, and peace, in union with all those who call on the Lord with a pure heart. Avoid these foolish and undisciplined speculations, understanding that they only give rise to quarrels; and a servant of the Lord must not engage in quarrels, but must be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and patient. He must be gentle when he corrects people who oppose him, in the hope that god may give them a change of mind so that they recognize the truth and come to their senses, escaping the trap of the devil who made them his captives and subjected them to his will. (2Timothy 2:22-26)

I struggle with this. My first inclination is defensive. I want to expel those in error rather than enable their conversion. Yet I trust in Christ's mercy, so I must also be merciful. That does not mean I tolerate or condone that which is opposed to Truth. It does mean that I have to trust that with God, all things are possible, and conversion is always the goal no matter how unlikely it seems. Therefore, I must not do anything that poses an obstacle to that conversion. My demeanor should always be one of love and all correction must be motivated by love and not by the pride of being right.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prayers are working

Just a quick note to say my husband is home from the hospital and seems to be improving. Not fully recovered from the marrow suppression of chemo and now with some other puzzling lab abnormalities, but trending in the right direction. Thanks so much for your continued prayerful support. The prayers are being heard and answered.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

a bump on the journey

I know I said I did not want this blog to become just a chronicle of my husband's lymphoma, but truthfully, I find my days focused on him from sun up to sun down. Right now I need prayers. My husband is hospitalized with a dangerously low white blood cell count due to his chemotherapy and also a fever of unknown origin. This is serious since his low white blood cell count means he has no infection fighting capacity. I would be greatly appreciative of your prayers.

The chemotherapy had actually been going relatively well. He didn't feel great, but it was not unmanageable. However, yesterday evening he had the sudden onset of shaking chills. At the time, his temperature was low. We did what any Catholic couple would do--we prayed a Rosary together. By the end of the Rosary his temperature had risen, but not to the level of hospitalization concern. However, over the next hour we watched it rise to a fever so we headed to the hospital.

Feel free to ask for the intercession of your favorite saint. If you need a suggestion, I like asking for the intercession of Blessed Father Francis Xavier Seelos.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Getting me through the day

Three phrases that get me through the day:

Jesus, I trust in your mercy.

Jesus, I trust in your goodness.

Jesus, I trust in your love

Saturday, June 05, 2010

In Sickness and in Health

This is probably the hardest blog post I have ever written. As several recent posts have hinted, there have been some challenges in the Hunnell household. Nearly 26 years ago, I promised to love, honor, and cherish my husband in sickness and in health. I can tell you that today I love, honor, and cherish him far more than I did 26 years ago. And the immediate future looks like there will be more sickness than health. My husband has just been diagnosed with lymphoma. His first chemotherapy session is this coming Wednesday. This came out of the blue. There was no prodrome--no night sweats, weight loss, fevers. In a matter of 15 minutes he went from perfectly okay to in excruciating back pain that looked for all the world like a kidney stone. A trip to the ER revealed no kidney stone, but big lymph nodes in the abdomen. For the last three weeks we have been going through the diagnostic process. After scans and biopsies of every stripe we have a diagnosis and a treatment plan. We have also been praying.

I have pondered how much to share here. This is my blog and I don't want to violate my husband's privacy. I don't want this to be a reality show of our experience with cancer. However, there is much about being a Catholic family dealing with this situation that I do need to share. As a physician, I have taken care of many patients with cancer. I always shuddered at the thought of cancer striking my household, anticipating I would just collapse into a non-functioning heap of tears. What I can say, is that there have been a few tears, but there has been an even greater outpouring of grace and love. There has been strength in unexpected quarters.

My rosary has gotten quite a workout. The saints have been petitioned. Blessed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos is a regular prayer partner. And rather than feeling abandoned by God, we feel buoyed by Him. My husband received the Anointing of the Sick two days ago. The priest emphasized that this cross is not a punishment from God. Rather it is an opportunity for God to bring forth much goodness if we cooperate with Him. The meaning of the words, "Thy will be done" has never felt more poignant. There is a temptation to try and pray our way out of this difficulty. We are learning to focus on praying our way through this difficulty. Certainly, I will never stop asking for healing for my husband. However, I also know that the healing will be on God's terms and in God's time, not mine.

So, if you feel so inclined, please join me in prayer. And remember, that life is good. Life is precious. Every day is a gift. Live each day with a grateful heart.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A new friend

One of the great things about being Catholic is that we Catholics know how to interact with the Saints. Blessed Mother, St. Monica, St. Joseph, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Anthony, among others, all find their way into my prayer life on a regular basis. The lives of the saints are models of holiness. But these holy men and women are not mere historical figures. They continue to live as part of the Church Triumphant. Therefore, it is as natural to chat with them and ask for their prayers as it is for me to ask for your prayers.

Some may say that asking for the intercession of saints is unnecessary. They go straight to Jesus. They are right. It is unnecessary. This is a both/and proposition, not an either/or option. We go straight to God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He hears and answers our direct prayers. But in all honesty, I know there are folks who are much better at praying than I am. Souls who spend their days in the direct presence of God in Heaven are definitely a step above my humble attempts to communicate with The Almighty. So there are times when it is best to call in the experts for some assistance. I keep on praying, but I invite members of the Church Triumphant to join me.

It is has been a difficult week in the Hunnell household. Perhaps in another week or so I can go into more details. For now, let's just say that I have spent a great deal of time on my knees lately and my Rosary has gotten quite a workout. In the process, I have made a new friend among the holy men and women of the Church. Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos has become a favorite. He left Germany to be a missionary to the German speaking immigrants in the United States. He was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Church of St. James in Baltimore, Maryland. From his biographical profile:

His availability and innate kindness in understanding and responding to the needs of the faithful, quickly made him well known as an expert confessor and spiritual director, so much so that people came to him even from neighboring towns. Faithful to the Redemptorist charism, he practiced a simple lifestyle and a simple manner of expressing himself. The themes of his preaching, rich in biblical content, were always heard and understood even by everyone, regardless of education, culture, or background. A constant endeavor in this pastoral activity was instructing the little children in the faith. He not only favored this ministry, he held it as fundamental for the growth of the Christian community in the parish. In 1854, he was transferred from Pittsburgh, to Baltimore, then Cumberland in 1857, and to Annapolis (1862), all the while engaged in parish ministry and serving in the formation of future Redemptorists as Prefect of Students. Even in this post, he was true to his character remaining always the kind and happy pastor, prudently attentive to the needs of his students and conscientious of their doctrinal formation. Above all, he strove to instill in these future Redemptorist missionaries the enthusiasm, the spirit of sacrifice and apostolic zeal for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people.

His final assignment was to the Redemptorist community in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was known for his joyful disposition and his tireless care of the victims of yellow fever. He eventually contracted yellow fever himself and died on October 4, 1867.

He was proclaimed Father Seelos Blessed on April 9th, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

I can tell you that Fr. Seelos has been listening to me quite a bit for the last week. He is a truly kind and a powerful intercessor.

Blessed Father Francis Xavier Seelos, pray for us.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Baby Hunnell

Perhaps a few astute readers noted the slight change in my blog subtitle a month or so ago. In case you didn't, here is the big announcement. My son and daughter-in-law who were married this past December are now expecting a baby! The due date is the end of November. An ultrasound today shows a growing beautiful baby, but no details as to gender. That is okay. Boy or girl this baby is loved.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Memorized Prayers

There have been times when my non-Catholic friends shook their heads at repetitive and rote prayers. The "Hail Mary" is a lovely prayer, but after you have said one, why on earth would you need to say fifty? I on the other hand have often wondered how mothers can raise children without a ready "Hail Mary" on their lips or a Rosary in their pocket.

These last few days have taught me a few things about rote prayer. Most of the time I have no problem carrying on a conversation with God. Unfortunately, I am sure that I also am apt to do more talking than listening. I happily chat with Blessed Mother, St. Monica, and many other holy men and women as I ask for their intercessory prayers. But sometimes, as in the last few days, the need is so great and the pleading so intense that mere intellect cannot formulate the words. That is when my words return to the familiar. A "Hail Mary", an "Our Father", the "Anima Christi", or the "St. Michael's Prayer" fill the void. With my memorized words I turn my voice to Him and allow Him to sort out what I am really asking for. I trust that God knows what I need before I even ask. There is no need for me to explain all the details.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Warming up for the World Cup 2010

In our household, there are few sporting events that command more attention than World Cup Soccer. Enjoy the following video to get yourself in the mood for the beautiful game.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A little Soul

My husband and I were driving around town this afternoon when I noticed a vanity license plate that said "I GOT". Then I noticed the vehicle was a KIA Soul. Hence the license plate verbiage. The driver's message was "I Got Soul". How cute.

I don't think I had ever taken note of this model of automobile before. It is a small boxy thing. Not really my cup of tea. And this vehicle was black. Does that mean the driver has a black soul? When your Kia Soul needs a bath, does that mean you have a dirty Soul? When it goes to the shop are you Soul-less? When you trade it in do you sell your Soul?

As I said, this style of car is not my first choice, no matter what the name. However, after contemplating the possible implications of the name, I am thinking the marketing folks missed the mark on this one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Calling all Nurses!!

Please read this to learn about the proposed American Nurses Association position statement on the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration from patients. The National Catholic Bioethics Center has responded with its grave concerns about this proposal and asks all nurses to do the same.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 05, 2010


The highlight of the Washington Post's journalistic endeavors is its annual Easter Peep Show. These are so fun! This rendition from Goodnight Moon stole my heart. I have so many happy memories of reading this book to my children.

Dance Me to the End of Love

Last week I found I had a major cultural blind spot. I had never heard of Leonard Cohen. He is a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist. The lawyers over at Mirror of Justice were finding that in spite of their political and ideological differences, they could all enjoy the music of Leonard Cohen. It began when Robert George posted this video. Perhaps because my parents and my husband's parents both celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2008, my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2009, and our oldest son got married this past December, this video had me in tears by the end. It is hauntingly beautiful.

In a bit of Lenoard Cohen trivia, he is the composer of Hallelujah, that song made famous by Shrek and by American Idol:

Cantemus Domino: gloriose enim magnificatus est

Pope Benedict XVI offered his Urbi et Orbi message yesterday. Please read the whole message, but if your time is short today, perhaps you can reflect on this excerpt:

Yes, my brothers and sisters, Easter is the true salvation of humanity! If Christ – the Lamb of God – had not poured out his blood for us, we would be without hope, our destiny and the destiny of the whole world would inevitably be death. But Easter has reversed that trend: Christ’s resurrection is a new creation, like a graft that can regenerate the whole plant. It is an event that has profoundly changed the course of history, tipping the scales once and for all on the side of good, of life, of pardon. We are free, we are saved! Hence from deep within our hearts we cry out: “Let us sing to the Lord: glorious his triumph!”

The Christian people, having emerged from the waters of baptism, is sent out to the whole world to bear witness to this salvation, to bring to all people the fruit of Easter, which consists in a new life, freed from sin and restored to its original beauty, to its goodness and truth. Continually, in the course of two thousand years, Christians – especially saints – have made history fruitful with their lived experience of Easter. The Church is the people of the Exodus, because she constantly lives the Paschal Mystery and disseminates its renewing power in every time and place. In our days too, humanity needs an “exodus”, not just superficial adjustment, but a spiritual and moral conversion. It needs the salvation of the Gospel, so as to emerge from a profound crisis, one which requires deep change, beginning with consciences.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Have you heard of Spokeo?

My daughter-in-law sent me information about the web site It is so frightening. This web site is a personal information aggregator. All you do is type in someone's name, email, or phone number and you are treated to this person's age, address, phone number, email, picture of their home, financial worth, and who lives in their home. You can remove your profile from the public search (which I did), but folks can still pay $35 and get all of this information and more.

I know all of this information is gained from the public domain. However, it takes some effort to dig it all up. Compiling it and selling it as a product is akin to someone taking my picture then selling it. It is illegal to sell my image without my permission. It should also be illegal to sell an "image" of my personal data. I sent the following letter to my legislators encouraging them to address this issue. It would be nice to see them do something that actually contributes to the common good.
Dear ________________

I am very concerned about internet sites like All I have to do is type in a name and I am given the person's address, phone number, email, how many people live in the house, ages of the house's occupants, etc. This site then offers to sell an even more detailed aggregate of personal information for a fee.

I have not released any of this information for commercial use. It is a misuse of my personal information to sell it. It seems to me that this is comparable to selling an unauthorized photograph. If someone takes my picture, he is not allowed to sell my image without my permission. I would like to see legislation that requires my permission before a commercial entity can sell an aggregate of my personal information.

Spokeo and similar personal data aggregators pose several dangers to the community. When I checked my parents' profiles, Spokeo revealed that two affluent, elderly adults lived alone. This sets them up as a target for con artists and thieves.

Also, it could have a chilling effect on free speech. We saw with the Prop 8 vote in California that those who disagreed with Prop 8 supporters launched personal attacks that included harassment and threats of violence. It is very intimidating to know that if I sign my name to a political, social, or religious position, at the click of a mouse, opponents will have my address complete with a map to my house and a photo of my house. Even if I remove my name from the free search, for a mere $35.00 anyone who wants a summary of my personal information can get it. If this company wants to profit from selling my personal information, it should have to get my permission as well as compensate me for using my information as a commodity.

I would appreciate your attention to this matter.
By the way, blogging buddies, I checked several of your names. You are listed in their data base!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A new word in the Washington lexicon

Stupaking: read more here.

Still Faithful

With the passage of the health care bill Sunday night and the expected signing today, some may ask if I am sad, angry, discouraged, frustrated, etc. My answer is that I am faithful. As Mother Teresa says, we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful. What I believe and what I do has not changed.

Yes, we have suffered a legislative defeat. But the battle rages on. There are always more legislative byways and alleys to pursue. Even more importantly, there are hearts and minds to be won. This is not about abortion. This is about understanding that every human being is created in the image of God. Every human being has a purpose in God's great plan of salvation. If more people understood this, the legislative issues would resolve themselves.

Last Wednesday evening our parish RCIA program invited me to give a talk on the "Sanctity of Life". Consider it a ninety-minute whirlwind tour of Catholic bioethics. I took the phrase "life is sacred from conception to natural death" and outlined the Church teachings on issues from conception to death. The ninety minutes included plenty of time for questions and discussion. I think the evening went very well.

My goal is to bring this teaching to cradle Catholics as well as converts. I do this through my blog, through my columns, and through live presentations. On my column I have a frequent commenter who constantly attacks me for being too politically partisan. He writes under various pseudonyms but it is clear that is is one person. He tries to make similar ad hominem attacks on this blog, but I have more control over the comments here and can screen his venomous screeds more effectively. The principle of the sanctity of life is not a partisan issue. I will not shy away from writing on politics when politics and legislative issues bring these fundamental moral principles to the forefront.

That said, the focus can never be purely political. Am I disappointed in many politicians? Absolutely. But my trust is not in either Bart Stupak or Chris Smith. Mere mortals will always disappoint. My trust is in Christ and His Church. He will never disappoint me.

Several politicians defined themselves with their vote on Sunday. Several religious sisters defined themselves as faithful to the Magisterium or faithful to the Democratic party with their statements regarding health care. (also see this post) The bishops did very well at keeping the moral issues in the forefront for the last year, but their decades of allowing these moral issues to be equivocated by Catholic politicians is coming home to roost. So what now?

As I said at the beginning, what Catholics believe has not changed. What Catholics are called to do has not changed. We are called to defend and support the principle of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. We must not despair that this legislation which has the capacity to be a second Roe v. Wade will receive the President's signature today. Look at all the machinations that were required to get it passed in spite of the President having a huge majority in both houses of Congress. Look at the fact that even though Roe v. Wade is the "settled law of the land" more and more people are becoming pro-life. Look at the fact that the youth of our country are more pro-life than their parents.

We must keep fighting the legislative battles whenever and wherever they occur. But we must also redouble our efforts to offer mercy to women who think abortion is their only answer. We must be the voice, the hands , and the feet, for all those who are vulnerable and marginalized--the unborn, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled. We must charitably teach everyone we encounter that life is sacred. As St. Francis said, we should use words when necessary.

To that end, I encourage each of you to consider what forums you have available to teach about the sanctity of human life. It is great when we hear this from the pulpit, and I know many priests and deacons do offer this teaching. But it is the duty of the laity to take this message out of the sanctuary and into the world. Does your Catholic school PTO offer a pro-life presentation to its members? What about your parish men's club, women's club, mom's club, youth group, RCIA etc? Is it part of preparation for Confirmation? After all, these students who are about to complete their initiation into the Catholic Church need to know what it means to be Catholic.

For those who live near the D.C. Metro area, I am happy to offer my presentation to your group. You can contact me at the email on the sidebar.

Finally, none of our efforts, however well intentioned, can be properly focused if they are not supported by prayer. We accomplish nothing alone, but with God, everything is possible.