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Only 262 to go!

A photograph of my desk at work turned into a Catholic-themed I Spy...

WHAT TO FIND IN THIS PHOTOGRAPH:
4 popes
1 Our Lady of Sorrows
1 physician/mother-turned-saint
1 angel
1 patron saint of lost causes
1 green scapular
1 rosary
1 movie mini-poster based on Tolkien novel heavily influenced by Catholicism

*BONUS: The upper right hand corner of "The Annunciation" by John William Waterhouse*
**SUPER BONUS: What do I mean by "Only 262 to go!"**

PS. Maudy Thursday mass was AWESOME.

Pax  Vobiscum as we enter the Triduum!

Catholics Come Home...A Geeky Review

Tom Peterson, founder and president of Catholics Come Home will certainly be (if he is not already) a legend among those taking part in the New Evangelization. When I first the very beautiful and extremely moving Catholic Come Home commercials, I was filled with a sense of awe for the religion that I already loved. I was hoping for more of that when I had the opportunity to read “Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life.” Well, I may have set the bar too high with regards to expectations because I expected more than what this book’s 158 pages contained. Don’t get me wrong, the book is still worth a read. I will warn you, however, that most of the meat is found in the second half of the book (at least for readers who want to learn how to help catalyze the conversion of another individual).

The first portion of the book is dedicated to some of Peterson’s history and conversion from a business-minded casual Catholic to the evangelizing genius he is today. He also explains some of the history to Catholics Come Home and the series of events that started it all. I was hoping for a conversion like that of Saint Paul or, at least, a chance meeting with someone as awesome as Mother Theresa that ultimately led to a conversion of someone as cool as huge as Peterson. What I got, however, was something far more ordinary. The series of events that led to his conversion simply sounded too simple and ordinary to be true…and yet I found that my own road toward an authentic Catholic life had a lot in common with Peterson’s road. Even more spectacular is the fact that this kind of conversion is at our fingertips if we know where to start and where to turn to whenever we hit a road block.


With that said, the second portion of this book is a survival guide for Catholics who feel the call to evangelize their faith and welcome sheep back into the fold. Peterson lays out various tactics in a manner that will help anyone, from any background to not only help others swim the Tiber but also defend Catholicism as well. Using various stories from his own experiences, Peterson demonstrates how even the smallest action can ultimately expand God’s kingdom here on earth. This can be as simple as saying, “I’m blessed” instead of “fine” whenever someone asks you how you are doing. It can be as simple as praying for others. Peterson lays out a variety of strategies we can employ to help straying sheep come home, and one (or more) of these strategies will certainly appeal to you.

Overall, this book is a pretty good manual for individuals who need some inspiration before attempting to help others come home. It also contains plenty of easy -to-follow pointers for people wishing to strengthen their faith, pointers that can be implemented into even the busiest of lives. I would recommend this book to Catholics whose faith has grown lukewarm and to anyone out there who not only wishes to strengthen their faith, but the faith of others as well.

I was offered a free copy of Peterson’s “Catholics Come Home: God’s Extraordinary Plan for Your Life” for review. The opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are my own.

Obama to Pope Francis...*facepalm*



A quick analysis on Obama's greeting to Pope Francis (from USAToday):

"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy.

"As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years -- that in each other we see the face of God.

"As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.

"Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith.

"We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world."
Image courtesy of www.guardian.co.uk
...."Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI"....



..............................


ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!


Umm...a few problems with Obama's use of words here...How in the world do you work with any Pope when you spearhead the following moves:

2. Attempting to force Catholic employers to violate their consciences in order to provide birth control and abortifacients
3. Dividing the nation and refusing to even listen to our religious leaders for the sake of abortion, self-interests, and what you think is best for the country

It must take a lot of gall or delusion to come out with a statement like this Mr. President. For this, I award you with my last Catholic Facepalm featuring Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI...which reminds me, now I have to find an image of a Pope Francis Facepalm. If you can find me an image to use, I will certainly appreciate it.

Pax Vobiscum

Something to Consider About the Name Francis

Habemus Papam!

So excited about everything I am learning thus far about Pope Francis. I loved watching his humility in the beginning, the words he shared, the prayers he allowed us to partake in, and his sense of humor (yes, I did see a bit of humor in the beginning of his address regarding the conclave finding him at the ends of the world). He seems like such a sweet man and I know we have a lot of good things to come. I felt the Holy Spirit moving the world of believers as our new vicar spoke and I cannot help but think that he is the perfect fit for the present times. On one hand, he appears to be as orthodox as they come...and on the other hand, in 2001, he washed and kissed the feet of AIDS patients. The world needs this kind of dichotomy. This immense love for brother and sister along with the maintenance of God's laws. He is also pretty big when it comes to respecting the life of all, especially the unborn.

Saint Francis holding up our Church
With a name like Francis, perhaps more of this to come?
There is something else about him too...the name of Francis. Yes, there is already speculation regarding the name he has chosen for himself and the implications of each source. However, another thing I thought about regarding the name Francis is a dream that Pope Innocent III had regarding Saint Francis of Assisi when St. Francis approached him about starting an order. 

In this dream, Pope Innocent saw Saint Francis holding up the cathedral of Rome, preventing its collapse. Though unimpressed with St. Francis at first, Pope Innocent quickly realized the importance that St. Francis would be to the future of the Church. Considering how often history repeats itself and how often God's plans seem to come around full circle (just look at how many parallels you see in the Old and New Testaments), something tells me that this is the beginning of a new era for our Church. We may see some walls crumbling from time to time, but our Church has continued as it has for the past 2000 years...upheld by God and His faithful.

Perhaps this new Francis will help hold up the Church in the present time as it enters a new era. Perhaps this is the beginning of the spring Bl. JPII foresaw? Perhaps this man will make a significant impact on the New Evangelization?

Ultimately, only God knows what is in store. However, I can honestly say that I am excited for the future...and excited about our new Pope!

Pax Vobiscum

Pope Francis's Speech in English

Pope Francis' first address from NEWS.VA:

Brothers and sisters good evening. 

You all know that the duty of the Conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother Cardinals have come almost to the ends of the earth to get him… but here we are. I thank you for the welcome that has come from the diocesan community of Rome.

First of all I would say a prayer pray for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI.. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord bless him and Our Lady protect him.

Our Father…

Hail Mary…

Glory to the Father…

And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood . My hope is that this journey of the Church that we begin today, together with help of my Cardinal Vicar, be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city.

And now I would like to give the blessing, but first I want to ask you a favour. Before the bishop blesses the people I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me – the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer – your prayer for me – in silence. 

[The Protodeacon announced that all those who received the blessing, either in person or by radio, television or by the new means of communication receive the plenary indulgence in the form established by the Church. He prayed that Almighty God protect and guard the Pope so that he may lead the Church for many years to come, and that he would grant peace to the Church throughout the world.]

[Immediately afterwards Pope Francis gave his first blessing Urbi et Orbi – To the City and to the World.]

I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.

Brothers and sisters, I am leaving you. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and I will be with you again soon.

We will see one another soon. 

Tomorrow I want to go to pray the Madonna, that she may protect Rome.

Good night and sleep well!


^I LOVE HIM ALREADY

Did I predict Pope Francis?!?!

I think I may have.....

A lot of Firsts



Pope Francis! An Argentinian cardinal, now Pope! First pope from Latin America! HUZZAH!




First Latin American Pope! 

First Jesuit Pope! 

First Argentinian Pope! 

First Pope Francis! 

Credit to Brandon Vogt for this image



Very exciting time! 

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Pope Francis!

Fran-ces-co! Fran-ces-co!

The crowd shouting FRANCESCO! HABEMUS PAPAM!


It's a good day to be Catholic

WHITE SMOKE!!! 
HABEMUS PAPAM!
WE HAVE A POPE!

HUZZAH!!!

The Kind of Atheism Catholics Can Appreciate

God does not waste talent, whether you are Bl. Mother Teresa or even the most skeptic atheist. Even if you do not will it, your work has the potential to further God’s kingdom. A talent can only be wasted if it is not used. If you want to see some talent in action, take a look at this pretty cool video featuring Piers Morgan and Penn Jillette.


Penn Jillette, like some atheists in my friends circle, seems to have a pretty good understanding of Catholicism and what some of her teachings entail. He also happens to be a pretty decent speaker, thinker, and performer who did more for Catholicism in the few minutes above than self-professed Catholic Piers Morgan. God certainly has not allowed his talents to go to waste.

To be honest, I have no idea what Piers Morgan is like in real life and how devout he may be in his private life. I can, however, hope that he experiences the same conversion I did a few years ago...since I speak as one who once held a lot of the views expressed in the video above. I still thank God for helping me to not only see the errors of my understanding, but helping me correct them. I may address Morgan's criticism of the Church point-by-point in the future because he brings up a lot of the arguments that I used to have regarding the Church's stance on quite a few things ranging from condom use to marriage following divorce. However, I want to focus on Penn Jillette here.

Penn Jillette is famous because he put the talents he was born with to use...and he was born with quite a few talents. He is a dynamic performer, a critic who is unafraid to speak his mind, and a pretty decent sleuth. You can see the fruits of his talents in the short video above. Penn may be atheist, but his hunger for truth and his ability to dig for truth has allowed him to spend more time reading up on the Pope, Church doctrine, etc than quite a few self-professed Catholics. It has also allowed him to explore the topic from a well-informed and rational standpoint. As a result, he approaches the heated debate with a far more reasonable and understanding stance than self-professed Catholic Piers Morgan. While the world may think it strange that an atheist would defend the Pope and Church teachings, I completely understand where Penn is coming from. We may be on different sides of the theism/atheism fence, but I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that kind of atheism as opposed to the brand of militant "let's hijack science" atheism that raises more biased fools than it does rational thinkers....please reference meme below for a good example of the sort of atheists I am talking about.

Right on target Catholic Memes
I get Penn Jillette's brand of skeptic atheism and find it refreshing in an anti-religious world that would sooner see an eradication of all religion rather than a harmonious co-existence between religious folk and atheists. You see, I am one of those Catholics that actually APPRECIATE the efforts of Jehovah's Witnesses and the  public transportation preachers that seem to get on other peoples' nerves. You see, according to their beliefs, these people are doing everything in their power to HELP someone else. I may not need the life preserver they are throwing me (because I already have my own), but still appreciate their offer. This is why I can can usually leave a debate with the same blood pressure I had when I first entered it. Whether you are a nutty WBC member or the most vitriolic atheist, I understand that deep down on the inside, you only want what's best for me (or at least, I would like to believe as such).

Penn gets this. I get this. However, I can assure you that Penn will have an easier time making it on television and reaching millions of people than I ever will.  His stint on Piers Morgan's show probably reached more Americans than any of my blog posts ever will, Catholic or otherwise. Like I said before, God doesn't waste talent. As a result of his appearance, and in spite of the interruptions by Morgan, I am sure that Penn introduced a new facet of Catholicism to viewers that would not have given people like me the time of day.

Even though I would use similar arguments as Penn to defend the Pope and Church teachings, the fact that I am Catholic makes me lose some level of credibility in a world that tends to judge books by their covers. Let's face it, the world doesn't look too kindly on people like me. Regardless of how much I've read or learned about Catholicism, my science degrees tend to speak louder than my theological understanding when it comes to talking about things like transubstantiation. Likewise, the fact that I am a woman gives me more credibility on the subject of women as priests than my theological understandings. For the record, I completely agree with JPII on the matter of women clergy, know it's never going to happen, understand why it's never going to happen, and just hope the "progressive catholics" can either just get over it...or join the protestant church of their choosing. Let's face it, we live in the world where certain militant atheists are deemed more credible for (mis)quoting the bible to prove a point than a Christian who does the same thing to prove a point. As a result, we need more skeptics like Penn even if we don't always agree with their beliefs. His talents have gotten him to a place in his career where his words can reach many. Sure, he may not necessarily be the next Saint Paul. However, he can certainly end up planting seeds that ultimately lead to a few more Saint Augustines.

From my understanding, Penn was disillusioned (no pun intended) by illusionist acts that treated magic as a supernatural force. He sought and found a style of illusionism that embraced the idea of advertising deception rather than paranormal powers. Though Penn and I are on different spectrums as far as religious beliefs (or lack thereof) go, I cannot help but appreciate the hunger he has shown for pursuing truth and his acceptance of the religious beliefs of others (apparently he carries around a pocket bible that a Christian fan once sent him...out of appreciation for the fan's concern regarding his salvation). While I know that he has done some pretty controversial things before, I wish we had more atheists like him. Why? Well, at the very most, it may actually get more people thinking and willing to explore more about the religion they may hate but know little about. At the very least, future discussions will be a lot more intellectually stimulating. Seriously, God help me if I have to participate in another "discussion" with another atheist/cafeteria catholic/etc that resorts to slogans such as "sell the Vatican feed the world" when confronted with a reasonable argument.

Pax Vobiscum

The Charismatic Catholic Science Geek

I have finally been catching up on my health, among other things. I've been taking all kinds of pills recently, getting blood work done, scheduling appointments with specialists, going to the chiropractor...you name it. It is in times like these that I am reminded why science is so awesome. Science has certainly done a lot for our health and I really hope it continues to help save more lives and heal more ailments in the future. As scientific as my background may be, however, I think there's a huge flaw in the manner in which we tend to treat our health issues. I know there's plenty of people out there that will take issue with this...but I think we often forget that God heals as well. I know I am certainly guilty of overlooking His role in my health. Don't get me wrong. I am all for taking advantage of just about everything science has to offer when it comes to treating illnesses (as long as it is ethical and doesn't involve the destruction of human life). I don't think anyone should ever stop their chemo treatments and I don't think anyone should ever stop taking their medication without their doctor's approval. 

What I am saying is that we should, on top of taking our medications and following up on our doctor appointments, also make sure to pray for healing. On top of hospital visits, we should also invite the Holy Spirit into our temples to cleanse us of our illnesses. Instead of allowing ourselves to be weighed down by stress and negative attitudes associated with medical forms, cranky nurses, etc., we should allow ourselves to be lifted up by Christ and allow him to fill us with his healing love. 

I went to a healing mass today at a local monastery. As small as the monastery is, it was packed with people who sought healing. Judging by the prayers I heard and the introduction given to us by the priest, I got the impression that this group of people needed all kinds of healing. Some suffered from alcohol addiction, others suffered from cancer, mental disease, stress, heartache, and the list goes on. Until I actually took part in the healing mass, I thought I knew what it was all about. This, however, did not turn out to be the case. 

After mass, the priest brought a monstrance to the altar and unveiled the Eucharist. With censer in hand, he filled the church with the wonderful aroma of incense as he allowed the congregation to prepare itself for what was to come. Essentially, he asked us to leave all our concerns, distractions, etc. aside as we sought Christ for healing. He also asked us to extend our right hand towards him and pray for the Holy Spirit. I focused on the reasons I had come to the mass. Mainly, I was there for my own healing and that of a cousin who was diagnosed with cancer this last December.

At one point, the priest transformed into a charismatic leader. I didn't hear him completely, but he called for "catchers" and "(maybe) healers" to come up. I didn't really know what was what, but I was compelled to go up. My whole body ached to go up to the front of the church and so I went...or at least started to go. As I was about to get out of the pew, my inner insecurities told me to sit back down. I didn't listen and ended up going up. I didn't know what I was doing up there, but ended up placing myself in front of someone there. As I stood, waiting for what was next, I remembered simply praying to God that I would remain open to whatever He had in store for me. I've had enough religious experiences in my life to know just when I should simply be open to His plan for me. Yes, I was skeptical about everything that was going on. However, I went with it. When the priest came up to me, I heard him pray to Christ, asking him to send the Holy Spirit. 

He didn't lay so much as a finger on me, but I found myself falling. I fell three times. Each time I steadied myself up with the help of my catcher, I found myself falling again as the priest prayed over me. It was incredible. As self-conscious as I am, I simply allowed everything to happen even though I did not know what was going on or what I was supposed to be doing. I simply received the Holy Spirit and went with it. It felt great. I was one of the first people to fall, and so I was back in the pew in a matter of minutes. Next thing I know, the whole congregation is in line, waiting for their own healing. 

Pentecost
Oil on canvas by Istvan Dorffmaister
Once I sat down, I felt myself get caught up in the whole process. Though I didn't speak in tongues like some of the people around me (priest included), I found myself envisioning my soul simply crying out to God. This cry came out as more of a hum every once in a while. I found some sort of power or feeling flood over me once in a while when he prayed over a particular person. I found myself in a bit of a trance, standing up and praying, sitting down and praying, or suddenly gasping out loud when the priest began to pray over some of the individuals. It was as if I was more than just a collection of atoms following the standard laws that govern physiology, brain function, etc. During those 2 hours or so...there was something different about me and everyone around me. There was something transcendent about the whole experience and it was WONDERFUL. It was like all of the religious experiences, miracles, etc. I've ever had were all wrapped up into one moment in my life. I could feel the presence of God there and it was incredible. Watching other people experiencing the same thing was just amazing. My sister did not fall when she went up...but she came back completely moved by the experience. It was so awesome watching my sister and others get involved in the same incredible moment that I was experiencing.

By the time we left that church earlier tonight, we were both speechless. I was still trying to make sense of everything that had just happened. I did know, however, that I was feeling WONDERFUL. I had a good feeling about everything. I had a firmer hope that my cousin would recover (and still have that hope). I had a good feeling of my own healing. There are so many things going on in my life right now that I simply prayed for peace and my cousin's healing. I certainly left with peace and intend to come again. Let us hope that God is willing to help my cousin out with His cancer...just as He was willing to help me attain peace tonight. 

With that said, I am still internalizing the whole incredible experience and really hope that you consider adding a bit of charismatic mass time to your schedule if you are currently dealing with your own personal demons. Just be sure to bring an open mind and an open heart. 

Pax Vobiscum