Thursday, February 26, 2009

40 Days for Life

40 Days for Life is back again for Lent!

After Mass on Ash Wednesday, we went to pray at the Portland site where Planned Parenthood is constructing a massive new building in a predominantly black neighborhood of the city. In spite of rain threatening, there was a good turnout, and the weather was clear for our vigil.

I was pleasantly surprised that -- even in Portland -- the supportive honks, thumbs-up signs, and waves far outnumbered the negative.

At the kickoff meeting, we also were encouraged to hear that there have now been over 1,000 lives saved because of 40 Days for Life. Praise God! More great stories and video clips here.

Please consider joining a 40 Days for Life vigil if there is one near you. (Check here for the complete list of 130+ locations.) If you are unable to do so, perhaps you could join your prayers and Lenten fasting to the campaign.

Stations of the Cross ideas for Kids

These are both Montessori-inspired ideas from Catholic bloggers:

Lillian writes that she has filled boxes for each of her children with items representing each Station of the Cross. "I can't begin to say what a difference this hands-on way of praying the Stations of the Cross has transformed our Fidays during Lent. My little ones now pray along eagerly and listen intently for the station so they can rummage throught their boxes and find the appropriate symbol," she says. I'm going to make a set for my little one, too!

Meanwhile, UK Bookworm has put together a PDF file that you can use to make Montessori-style "three-part" cards of the Stations. Great for learning which Station is which. She has a similar download for the Mysteries of the Rosary as well.

H/ts: Katie and Meg

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Simple Lenten practices for children

Lent begins today, or, in the case of the Eastern Catholic churches, it has already begun on Monday. Here are a couple of simple practices that have in past years helped our children get into the spirit of Lent and prepare for the joy and new life of Easter.

The "crown of thorns" has been a big hit at our house. I've seen directions for making salt-dough crowns, but ours is simpler. I simply purchased at the craft store an 8" wreath made of woven twigs. On Ash Wednesday, we stick toothpicks into it to represent thorns, and place the wreath in the center of our dining table. The children get to remove one thorn for each sacrifice or act of kindness (you can make it as specific or general as you like) and their goal is to remove them all before Easter. Some years, we have cleared them all in plenty of time. In this case, we add little flowers to the wreath instead of removing thorns. The flowery wreath makes a good Easter centerpiece.

Lenten Cross: click to enlargeWe also have done a "lenten cross" for the last several years; concpetually it resembles a Jesse Tree or Advent calendar. The original idea for this came from this article by Catherine Fournier on the Domestic Church website. I cut out two strips of brown paper and lay the short one across the long one to form a cross on the wall. Then, using the information in Fournier's article, you can do this project a couple of different ways. If your children are older, you may wish to have them take turns making an illustration for each day in Lent, while another child reads aloud the Scripture reading for the day. If you have younger children, you may prefer to draw or trace a set of illustrations ahead of time. The children then color one each day and add it to the brown-paper cross, while you read the Scripture. Save the master to use again next year. We were blessed to be given a set of illustrations by a friend when our children were young. (Thank you, Paula!)

A simple set of Stations of the Cross can go up the side of your main stairway (consider how many children will need to fit, though!), or down a hall. We made ours using 3x5 index cards with pictures cut from an illustrated book of the stations, with plastic crosses added.

I'll try to find pictures of these.

For myself, I am pondering a Personal Program for Lent.

A blessed Lenten season to you all!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quick Review: Unveiled Hope

by Michael Card
CD, Sony, 1997

I heard a single song from this CD several times on our local Catholic radio station and was hooked. I loved the joy and hope, and the promise of God's ultimate victory. It has been particularly helpful and uplifting to me during difficult times.

Based on the book of Revelation, this CD is suprisingly "Catholic" in its content. The "Holy, Holy, Holy" track reminded me of the connection between the Mass and the heavenly liturgy. Each member of my family has a different favorite among these songs, which feature a variety of musical styles.

This is my favorite Michael Card CD.

Brilliant design!

Give those Honda engineers a gold star! We just had to replace the bulb in the high-mount brake light of our 1999 Odyssey minivan. Here's what we found.

First, we had to pry off a little, tightly-wedged window at the right edge of the brake light's cover. Not as easy as it sounds. Eventually, we did get it off, but it broke neatly in two, along the central narrowest part.

Next, we unscrewed the hidden screw and pulled out the housing. An amazing amount of dirt had collected in there. Still, we thought we were home free at this point.

Not so! The worst was yet to come.
We unscrewed the bulb housing to discover that the bulb was simply too large to be removed in one piece though the opening. Apparently, they had inserted the bulb from the other side of the opening and then glued the red cover into place. We had to shatter the bulb (with pliers) and shake out the broken pieces before inserting the aftermarket replacement bulb.

Which all led me to wonder whether the folks at Honda had actually tried out their own instructions to replace the bulb.

I'm just thankful the (aftermarket) replacement bulb was actually small enough to fit.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Green Comet Approaches Earth

Comet Lulin is now approaching earth. This beautiful comet is unusual in a couple of different respects. For one thing, its color is greenish due to the cyanogen (CN) and diatomic carbon (C2) it contains. And for another, it is approaching the sun "backwards" and is expected to leave the solar system once it swings around the sun. The comet has never yet been close to the sun, so that it retains many of its original gases.

There's also a neat story behind its discovery by a Chinese teen. See here for more.

Cross-posted with Unity of Truth.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's a shame!

Perfectly good old books are being destroyed by many resale stores in fear of the new CSPIA regulations purportedly designed to prevent lead poisoning in children. Do books even contain lead? It's a crying shame! Read more here, and see here for endangered books.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Ruth Andreas offers a thoughtful reflection on the roots of St. Valentine's Day:
The corrupt ruler Claudius II (of Valentine's day) sought to divorce all people, thus breaking the sacred and affectionate bond between spouses and family members.

He hoped thereby to make people more malleable, more open to the suggested ends he sought for society.

In opposition to this, St. Valentine the priest was martyred for performing the marriage ceremony "illegally".

Today, whether in the area of "re-defining marriage" or in dictating how many children husbands and wives are allowed to have, we see a return to tactics that have been tried before. This intrusion of the state into the "sacred" arena of marriage and family is wrong.

We perceive with our "feminine genius" that family life has its many challenges and yet, within the great Household of God people can find their answers.

h/t: Erin

Friday, February 13, 2009

Review: How To Win the Culture War

A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis
by Peter Kreeft
Inter-Varsity Press, 2002, softcover, 120 pages

We are at war. No, not Iraq or Afghanistan. I'm talking about a much longer, more profoundly dangerous war. One whose victims number not in the thousands but in the millions. It is the war between the culture of Life and the culture of Death, also known as the Culture War.

That is the war this book is about.

I first read this book when it came out several uears ago; I re-read it a few weeks ago, and realized that I have matured as a Christian in the intervening period. The answers that struck me as not practical back then, I now realize to be eminently so. Grounded as they are in ultimate realities, they are far more real -- and practical -- than any tome chock-full of "TO DO" lists.

As Dr. Kreeft says in the Introduction,
"To win any war, ... the nine most necessary things to know are the following:
  1. that you are at war
  2. who your enemy is
  3. what kind of war you are in
  4. what the basic principle of this kind of war is
  5. what the enemy's strategy is
  6. where the main battlefield is
  7. what weapon will defeat the enemy
  8. how to acquire this weapon
  9. why you will win
This book is Kreeft's attempt to provide us with at least this information. In writing it, he does not pull any punches. He readily admits that some will be offended. Yet, if this is so, it is because some are not willing to accept the truth. It may not warm our hearts to hear that our culture is dying, but knowing the truth is a vital first step to overcoming the culture of death.

We live in a time of confusion, in which basics realities are disregard and many seem to have simply given up exercising their power of reason and handing their minds over to whoever entertains them best. For example, consider who are the real enemies in the culture war. No, it's not liberals, or secularists, or Moslems, or indeed any group of human beings. Stumped? The book reminds us that, as the catechisms say, the real enemies are sin and the devil.

Again, what of the enemy's strategy? It is brilliant in its simplicity: attack the foundations of society -- the family, life, and reason. In two impressive chapters, we see the connection between all the attacks, and learn the methods, thereby also learning how to counter them. Specifically, he shows how the sexual revolution was the primary route to our cultural demise and remains the primary battlefield. Indeed, he argues that "we cannot win the culture war unless we win the sex war, because sex has become the effective religion of our culture." Pope John Paul II's theology of the body can help us mount the counter-revolution.

I enjoyed Kreeft's use of satirical wit to skewer many a foolish notion, and indeed to show us just how ridiculous are some of the ideas we take for granted. This little book should go a long way to clearing away the accumulated errors and replacing them with good, healthy dose of Truth.

If you are interested in defeating the culture of death and building a culture of life, I highly recommend this book.

A shorter, earlier version of this essay with only 3 main points may be found in the EWTN library.

Time 1234567890

Attention all geeks!

It is now Unix time 1234567890

Check it yourself:
% perl -e 'print scalar localtime(1234567890),"\n";'
Fri Feb 13 15:31:30 2009

h/t: the other resident geek

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ghastly born-alive story

Today's News and Views was only one of many to report on the horrible story of the death of a baby born alive after an attempted abortion.

This is just a bizarre story. I keep wondering whether the mom would have noticed or cared had her baby (the same baby, same age) been killed in the womb instead of after her unexpected birth. Would she have had a problem with that? Or would she have been just fine with it, at least at the time?

Or would she have been one of the many women who grieve in silence over their lost children because society tells them the abortion was "no big deal."

We know for a fact that the Medical Board and the Department of Health would have been completely unconcerned. And the general public would never have heard about it.

Where's the logic in that?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How about 'free' online schooling?

The latest CHC e-newsletter has some very thoughful commentary on the relatively new phenomenon of free online schooling, based on the "why" of homeschooling.
We homeschool because our heart's desire is to provide a loving, intimate setting that simply cannot be duplicated outside the home. If we weren't seeking an education with a more 'personal touch,' to improve upon standard classroom offerings, we wouldn't be homeschooling!

'Free' online schooling is not only impersonal, it is secular. When our Holy Faith is 'added on,' it is just that: an add-on, rather than the core of our very existence. That, too, is why we homeschool, to provide an education steeped in the Reason behind all knowledge, and the Goal of all knowledge. Through online programs, the secular indoctrination that we had sought to avoid is right within our walls.

Sitting stiffly in front of a computer monitor also runs counter to the nature of all young things. Why is it that we delight in the gamboling of lambs and kittens, but insist on anchoring young children to chairs for the better part of the day? While table work has its place, homeschooled children may be educated on a rag rug in a cozy corner, at the edge of mama’s bed, or even in the tub!

Finally, a mother's touch, so necessary for emotional health in infancy, shouldn’t stop when school begins. There is a permanent, psychological benefit to parent-child interaction as we ‘sound out’ words together, snuggled in grandma’s quilt, or ‘high-five’ a beaming young scholar as he triumphantly waves his perfect spelling test. These experiences cannot be duplicated by staring fixedly at a glaring monitor. A lifeless electronic device is an abominable substitute for an enthusiastic parent.

Do we know the temptation, on days when we are weary, to let someone else educate our children? You bet. Are we biased? Yes, because we have experienced the deep, abiding satisfaction of witnessing positive results after years of Catholic homeschooling. We pray the same for you.

Review: St. Patrick's Summer

A Children's Adventure Catechism
by Marigold Hunt, illustrated by Theodore Schluenderfritz
Softcover, Sophia Institute Press, 2005, 288 pages
ISBN: 192883292

I recently read St. Patrick's Summer aloud to my children. They absolutely loved it! Frequently, they begged for "just a little more," and I enjoyed it so much that I often obliged.

The set-up: Michael and Cecelia need help preparing for their First Holy Communions, but Mrs. Murphy, their teacher, is at her wits' end. She says their questions would stump a bishop. So she asks St. Patrick to help and he does so in a most unusual way: by appearing to the children, showing them events from the past, and answering their questions.

As we read, I was delighted to discover:

  • explanations that really make sense to kids -- and adults
  • Michael and Cecelia are hilariously true-to-life
  • the saints are wonderful characters, full of gentle humor and fun -- people I would love to have for my friends.


Because this book was originally written more than a half-century ago, the Catholic Church's view on a couple of items has developed since its writing. These points are:

  1. The fate of babies who die unbaptized (ch. 5, pp. 81-2) is presented as definitely lower than that of baptized infants. However, the CCC says (m. 1261):
    As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"63 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
  2. In the story (also in ch. 5) St Patrick tells the children that the "Supernatural Life" that men from Adam to Jesus had access to was the same as the sanctifying grace of Baptism that we have access to in and through Christ. Whether faith in a future Messiah by those who lived before Christ's passion and death resulted in the same sort of grace as that which results from Baptism now is not clear, and a very difficult matter to understand. To treat it as if it were answered in such a simple fashion is to distort the truth. Such an assertion does not belong in a children's book; it's at best a source of great confusion and could well be false. Thanks to Maria Rioux for helping me clarify my concerns on this point.

I'd recommend this book as a highly enjoyable religion supplement for children in approximately grades 3-7, although all ages will enjoy it as a read-aloud.

Cross-posted with

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Mass Response

Catholic Exchange offers an update on something we blogged about earlier: the grassroots campaign to offer Masses for President Obama's conversion.
456 Masses were officially recorded as being offered for our new president. It is likely that many more went unrecorded due to website and radio announcements that spread far and wide. A final tally showed Masses were said in 50 States, Washington, DC, Vatican City, Rome, Italy, Fatima, Portugal, the Dominican Republic, Australia, Haiti, India, United Kingdom, Kenya, Djibouti, Israel, Brazil, Ireland, and Canada. Not bad when you consider it was an idea that began as a single email. During Mass in Dickinson, ND, on inauguration day, a myriad of thoughts crossed Barb’s mind: “During the consecration, I could sense Christ’s broken heart, blood outpoured for our new president. I was so aware of how much Our Lord loves President Obama. He would have died solely for him. He did die solely for him, just as He did for me. His love is that immense.” She prayed: ”Lord, may I love our new president with your love. May he sense You reaching out to him and may he respond to Your love.”
Once upon a time, slavery was the spiritual scourge of our land. Yet, today, we have a black president. Nothing is impossible. Today, things look so bleak for the rights of the unborn. But just as the rights of Black Americans were won, so too can the rights of the unborn be won.

Read the full article here: The Mass Response

H/t: Dorothy

Friday, February 6, 2009

Review: Desperation Dinners

This is my favorite cookbook! Most cookbooks are too involved for me, but not this one.

The sub-head reads: "Home-cooked meals for frantic families in 20 minutes flat." Well, there are very few times I can actually manage it in 20 minutes. It seems that someone (usually someone small) always needs a little assistance just when Mom is getting dinner together. Or perhaps I am just slow. Nevertheless, most nights I can have the entree prepared in around 30 minutes. Not bad, considering that my "pre-Desperation" meals, with the exception of pasta with red sauce from a jar, usually ran 45 minutes to an hour. Or more.

The basic concept is simple: the authors have taken a variety of recipes and pared them down to simplify and speed up preparation. For example, they use products such as bottled minced garlic or bottled ginger rather than fresh. However, they do stick to products that still convey a decent flavor. The other key is the word "meanwhile": the recipes nearly universally call for the chef to be doing something while a part of the meal is cooking and does not need direct attention.

I do tweak the recipes a little to fit our family, for example upping the spice or seasoning level on some dishes, using brown rice cooked in my rice cooker rather than the "instant" type they call for, and using canned tomato sauce rather than stewed tomatoes to suit the "chunk-free" preferences of certain family members. One adjustment I have had to make on most recipes is increasing the quantities. Maybe we are just hearty eaters, but I find that their recipes that "serve 6 generously" are too small for our family of 5.

With a variety of recipes from soups and stews to meatloaf, pasta, and pizza, most of us will be able to find a good selection of foods our families like. Sections at the end cover sides, salad dressings, and desserts. I haven't made many of these, but our standard salad dressing has become the balsamic vinaigrette from this cookbook.

Meals made from Desperation Dinners recipes appear regularly at our table, as do other recipes that I have adjusted to suit the "Desperate" style of cooking.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Novena for Michael, Amy, and their family (Feb 4-12)

Guest blog by Maria R:

Most of you probably know by now that Michael Dubriel died suddenly on Feb. 3rd. [Much more information here, including how to help the family financially.] Both he and his wife Amy have been a huge blessing to many. I thought we might give back a little and work together to comfort the family through prayer. Please join me in a novena to the Holy Family.

We'll start today: One Memorare, A Prayer to St. Joseph, an Our Father and Hail Mary. St. Joseph is also the patron of departing souls, so I thought this prayer was especially appropriate.

In case you're not familiar with these prayers, I'm posting them below:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with with confidence, I fly to you, O virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

Novena to Saint Joseph
Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interest and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath.

A leopard really is just a big cat

While traveling last summer, we visited many child-friendly locations including the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, MN. Last week, while looking through the photos we took, I ran across this one:

It cracks me up that this leopard scratches at his log in exactly the same way as our housecat uses her scratcher.

Google Goes to Mars

Electroblogster posted recently at Unity of Truth about additions to Google Earth, and now there's also Google Mars. Fun and educational, the images are composites made from NASA data. The tool works similarly to the more familiar Google Earth, with three available views: Elevation (shaded relief), Visible, and Infrared.

Links at the top enable navigation to different regions or types of formations; you can also view landing sites for the spacecraft that have surveyed Mars -- or crashed in the attempt. Finally, a "stories" link brings up a list of locations with associated articles at the joint NASA/JPL/ASU THEMIS website. The picture above is a thumbnail of one of the posters available for download at the THEMIS site.

Cross-posted with Unity of Truth.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lapbooks with Catholic Themes

I just spent a little time browsing the Faith Folders for Catholics site, and she has some very nice, fun, and easy-to-use lapbooks designed around dozens of Faith-related themes. A couple that jumped out at me as especially appropriate right now are:

Faith Folder Cover

St. Paul the Great Evangelizer Faith Folder

... for the Year of St. Paul

Faith Folder Cover

Respect Life Faith Folder

... to help kids love the Culture of Life

We've never done an official "lapbook" before, but this looks too good to pass up!

H/t: Sarah