Thursday, December 28

God's Beauty in my own Backyard

Just before the phone rang, Big Girl exclaimed, "Mommy! You have GOT to see the sunset! Where's your camera?"

I pointed it out to her as the phone rang. "Hello?"

"Honey, you have GOT to see the sunset!" It was Hubby on the phone.

These are pictures of what we saw from our own yard. First two pictures are taken by Big Girl, the others are by me.

Hubby tells me that it was even more stunning when you could see the red, purple, and orange going all the way to the horizon, which we miss from the yard. But through the trees...


My new niece is here!

At exactly 9:00 a.m., my sister's baby was born. She weighs 8 pounds, 11 ounces and is 20 1/2 inches long.

Welcome, little one!

(Oh, yeah, she does have a name, but being that I tend not to reveal those, let's call her Sister's #3 Girl. To keep her separate from Sister's # 1 Girl and Sister's #2 Girl. And Hubby's brother's kids, Big Niece and The Nephew.)

My sister is doing well enough to have called me herself, so the C-section went okay. Sister's #3 Girl is also doing well, though they are keeping an eye on her because she was breathing a bit fast. (Probably excited that Mommy and Daddy decided on a name, which they finally did last night.) My mother will soon be headed down to the hospital with Sister's #1 & #2 Girls, then I'll get email pictures later today.

Isn't technology wonderful?

Thank You, God, for a safe delivery!

Wednesday, December 27

Prayer Request

Hi, all. Just a request to please pray for my sister, Denise, and her to-be-born tomorrow daughter. She is undergoing a C-section tomorrow morning (her last daughter was born via C-section, too). Her last couple of months has been completely miserable, including terrible heartburn, bronchitis, and then (oh, joy, oh, rapture) a cracked rib due to the extreme nature of the coughing. Oh, and the baby liked pushing up against the bottom of Denise's rib cage for the last week. Fun, eh?

Anyway, it will all be over tomorrow, but please pray for them both. She's at one of the best women's hospitals in the world, but the prayers can only help.


Tagged for the Devotions Meme

Wow. Tagged by Mary Vitamin for the Devotions Meme, I will now embarrass myself by revealing that I'm not as great as I make myself look sometimes. ;)

1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus?

Jesus, give me a heart like Your Mother's! I find that when I'm frustrated (especially at Mass), this prayer helps me to refocus on Him.

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer?

I love the Rosary, though I often don't finish an entire one during the day. Any time I'm stressed, frightened, or even if I just am having trouble falling asleep, I start a Rosary. When I had a toothache and was terrified that I'd be losing a tooth (I'm not going to), I said my Rosary in the dentist's chair. Even had the beads out! (Sometimes, I use my fingers, and I am convinced that's why we have ten.) The dentist looked at my hands and said, "Oh, you're saying the Rosary. Where are you?" Then, "I don't think I could remember how to say one." I smiled and repeated what I remember some saint say about one good Hail Mary being worth a hundred so-so Rosaries. Made him smile, too.

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?

Yes! When I got my first Scapular for First Communion, I had NO idea what it was for, and my father really couldn't explain it, either. When Big Girl was in first grade, I learned about sacramentals (God bless Seton!) and had myself and my two daughters imposed with the Scapular within a month. We all wear them, and we all wear a child-sized one that has a St. Benedict medal and a crucifix attached. Also, I got the most beautiful Celtic crucifix for Christmas from Hubby and the girls. I wear that whenever I can, too.

4. Do you have holy water in your home?

Yes, but I often forget to use it more. I have to get back into the habit of blessing the girls with it before bed.

5. Do you offer up your sufferings?

YES! I never knew I could do this until very recently. Imagine the souls I could have released from Purgatory if I'd known while I was pregnant! I had trouble remembering to do this for a while after I learned about it, so I asked my guardian angel to help me remember, which he does for me often. As a matter of fact, I had a headache last week and a nap and Excedrine did nothing. Suddenly, I remembered I should offer it up. Ten minutes later, no headache. I was actually grateful that I had the opportunity to offer it up. Funny, how that act changes your view of sufferings.

6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?

First Saturdays, no. But I was doing very well with First Fridays. I couldn't tell you if I actually completed nine, though. I'd like to work this coming year on going to Mass more frequently, though, especially First Fridays. (Our co-op gets together those days.)

7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How frequently?

I do not go often. Sometimes, when I am at our parish on Wednesdays, when Adoration is going on from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., I stop in for a few minutes. I do feel a desire to go more often, but it's hard to sign up when I have two little ones who don't want to sit for an hour. But when our parish does the 40 Hour Devotion after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I do get in there for about an hour. This year, Hubby and I went between Masses and brought Little Girl with us. That 40 minutes was VERY long for her, and she has trouble understanding it, even though she can tell you that Jesus is REALLY THERE in the Eucharist.

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or Sunday morning Mass person?

Absolutely, without a doubt, Sunday Morning. We went to Saturday evening last week because of going to Midnight Mass on Sunday night, and might do it again this weekend, but it's a rarity to go Saturday for us. Besides, Big Girl has CCD on Sundays between Masses.

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?

Yes, we do mostly say the old grace before dinner (at least). ("Bless us, O, Lord...") But I didn't grow up with it, and I tend to forget a lot.

10. Favorite Saint(s)?

Saint Peter, Saint Joseph, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (patron saint, Confirmation name), Saint Therese

11. Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart?

Yes. I, too, learned it late in life. When I said the Rosary, for a long time I said the Nicene Creed instead because it was all I knew.

12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?

Yes, sometimes I just cross myself or think a prayer - sometimes without words - about something I see or hear.

13. Where is your favorite place to pray?

Anywhere. I pray any time I think of it. But Mass might be my favorite. A nice, quiet Mass, just after Communion.

14. Bonus Question: When you pass by a automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?

Yup. We all cross ourselves any time we see an accident or see emergency workers or police with sirens on, headed somewhere.

15. Mary's bonus question: If you could visit any of Our Lady’s apparition sites, which one would you choose?

Lourdes. First place I ever knew that Mary appeared, and I've always wanted to go there.


Wow. This has been going round a bit. If you haven't been tagged, feel free to tag yourself and leave a link in the comboxes, please.

Sunday, December 24

Christmas Thoughts

I am headed back upstairs to do more laundry and clean up the TERRIFIC mess in the kitchen (burned fingers are good enough to catch up on the dishes and pots and pans now), but before I do, I thought this was really nice. I saw it at Faith and Country, who saw it at Conservababes. Hopefully, no one will mind that I pinched it.

God bless you all and have a beautiful, blessed, and happy Christmas.

A Fitting Christmas Tribute
by Alexa P. Keaton

It's fitting that
The Lamb of God
Was introduced by angels
To shepherds in a field.

It's fitting that
The bread of life
Was born in Bethlehem
Which mean God's house of bread.

It's fitting that
The Creator of the World
Was born into an earthly family
Of carpenters and builders.

It's fitting that
Rich and wise men
Came seeking the
Richest and Wisest of all.

It's fitting that
Jesus was born during
A world-wide census count
Since He came to save all.

Friday, December 22

Cooking Advice for the Inexperienced

When you make fish sticks for your children in an oven set for 475, remember that it's important not to move the cookie sheet just taken from said oven with the hand that does NOT have the oven mitt on.

It tends to hurt, and it also tends to be hard to keep bad words from leaving your mouth as you do it.

Just, you know, a tip from someone who is a real experienced cook.

Thursday, December 21

"Yes, Virginia..."

I am going to print this off for Big Girl and read it with her. I think it will be a decent follow-up to our discussion last night. *sigh* My father is not at all surprised, and he said that my niece in Florida actually figured it out last year. But she decided she WOULD believe. Because she likes to. :)

History on this famous exchange can be found here. If you've never read about how this piece came about, or if it's been a while, I recommend it.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

By Francis P. Church, first published in The New York Sun in 1897. [See The People’s Almanac, pp. 1358–9.]

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

A Post for Grown-Ups Only

Well, it happened. And, yes, I cried, but not as much as I thought I would.

Part of Big Girl's Childhood is gone forever.

Before I go on, let me back up to the recent Easter. There we were, getting things ready for the Easter Bunny to come and hide the eggs, when Big Girl noticed that Little Girl had gone somewhere else.

"Mommy, Daddy," she whispered, "I think you are the Easter Bunny."

WHAM! Where did THAT come from?

After some discussion, we let her in on it with the strictest instructions not to discuss this with her sister, anyone younger than her, or ANYONE at our homeschool co-op. (There are a lot of believers there, even older than Big Girl.)

I told Hubby that it wasn't long. This was probably the last year, I said, that Big Girl believed in Santa. I'd tear up every time I said it, every time I thought of it.

Yesterday, Big Girl told Little Girl that she wanted to discuss the present she was giving her for Christmas. "Stay upstairs!" she commanded as she trotted down to talk to me.

"Mommy," she started, "I think you and Daddy are the Tooth Fairy."

Crap. I thought. Here we go. She's softening me up. I can tell it won't be long.

"Oh? What on earth would I want your teeth for?"

Apparently, one of the Older Girls at the Co Op told Big Girl that she found a box with her baby teeth in it, thus proving to her that her parents are really taking the teeth and giving her money.

I brushed her off for a while and asked Hubby what to do. "If I tell her there is no Tooth Fairy, she is going to deduce that there's no Santa!" I whined.

"Honey, I think she's already figured it out. Just sit down and talk to her." Hubby is so smart. We made a plan. After dinner, he'd help Little Girl wrap her present for Big Girl, and I'd help Big Girl wrap her present for Little Girl. While wrapping, we'd also figure out where the Tooth Fairy business was going.

It went right where I feared. Carefully, I danced around it, trying to figure out what she already knew and what she didn't know. Why give her more information than she wants or needs? I figured.

"Mommy, I won't be mad if there is no Tooth Fairy," Big Girl told me seriously. "I'll be glad if you aren't treating me like a baby."

Wow. Flashbacks of Missy Sprague! Babies believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa and the Easter Bunny? Ouch.

So, after much discussion, the Tooth Fairy was gone. Then came the next part, just when I thought we were done.

"Wow. I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy ... I don't think I even believe in SANTA CLAUS!"

I think she did it to see what I'd do, and I think all the blood drained from my face. Then it all rushed back, and I could feel the heat rising all over my cheeks.

"Whaaaaa...?" Yes, that was me: college-educated, well-read, well-spoken, graduate of the Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Class. I did something I rarely do. I actually stammered.

"Well?" Big Girl stared at me with a huge grin on her face. I think she was incredibly nervous, but excited at the possibility that she'd figured something out. She started to giggle. "IS there?"

I fought to regain my composure. Finally, I said, "Well, what makes you think that there isn't?"

"I don't know. I just think so."

I answered, still trying to be cautious, "What, do you think it's like you said about the Tooth Fairy? Only babies believe in Santa? 'Cuz plenty of kids, even older than you, believe in Santa."

"Do you?"

"Why wouldn't I?!?" I was quickly losing it. I could feel my face get redder.

More discussion. Finally, I said, "So you don't believe in Santa any more?"

"Well, I don't think so."

"That makes me a little bit sad," I admitted, while my eyes teared up a bit. Big Girl climbed into my lap and hugged me.

"It's okay. I'm only kidding. I really believe in Santa. Just kidding. Boy, did I get you!" Insert false and hysterical laughter here. Poor kid is going to pretend to make Mommy feel better!

Gradually, we worked through that, and she admitted that, no, she doesn't really think there's a Santa. I even asked her about when she saw Rudolph's nose. "Probably just a plane," she calmly answered.

I told her that there were two things I required of her now. First, she must NOT try searching for presents. That will only ruin things on Christmas morning. Second, she must NEVER tell any other children.

"The younger ones, right?"

"No. Your Cousin in Florida believes." She is nearly ten.


"Yes, way! And the Family at the Co Op Expecting Number Seven? They ALL believe in Santa. DO NOT DISCUSS THIS WITH ANYONE." I even told her about Missy Sprague, and how I waited until I got home to cry.

"Okay. But why do they believe? Didn't they figure it out?"

"Well, some kids kind of suspect it, but they want to believe, so they just do."

"Well, I guess I'm just not that kind of kid, am I?"

Very true, sweet heart. Very true.

Big Girl is very sincere and caring, and I know she won't tell. I really did know this day was coming. I'd expected this to be the very last year she believed, but I did not expect her to stop believing five days before Christmas. Four days before Santa came.

A part of her childhood died yesterday. And it made me a little bit sad.

Wednesday, December 20

Early Wishes

Well, there are only five days until Christmas. (Just ask my five year old. She's been keeping careful track!)

And, because the last five days before Christmas involve quite a bit of extra activities, especially baking cookies and making fudge, I'll be pretty busy.

So, in case I forget to do so later, I want to wish everyone a very happy and blessed Christmas!

Adeste Fideles
Laeti triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem
Natum videte
Regem angelorum
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum

Cantet nunc io
Chorus angelorum
Cantet nunc aula caelestium
Gloria, gloria
In excelsis Deo
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum

Ergo qui natus
Die hodierna
Jesu, tibi sit gloria
Patris aeterni
Verbum caro factus
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum

Catholic Carnival - in the Pink!

It's time for the Carnival again! Check out the fantastic spread over at Theological Calculus!

Monday, December 18


Mark Shea had a link up to this today.

Thanks, Jennifer!

I saw the link for this at Et tu, Jen?, and I think it's great! Your randomly assembled, completely by-chance brain will appreciate it! Just be sure to have the sound up. And gather the kids around. :)

The Watchmaker

And, hey, you really ought to add Jen to your Bloglines list and check her out. Super-excellent stuff.


I was driving along today when I saw a bumper sticker that read:

Thou Shalt Not Kill

I hate when vegetarians can't come up with a rational argument for their eating choices. (Not that I'd buy it, anyway, being that I love to eat meat so very much...) But to quote the Bible as some kind of "See? God doesn't want you to kill animals" ploy is just stupid. I mean, just before the Israelites escaped Egypt, God told them to kill and eat lambs. And to do so every year in rememberance of their deliverance from slavery.


God does not require us to be vegetarians. As a matter of fact, I believe that Saint John was even told to eat a whole bunch of different kinds of animals by Jesus Himself!

I hate when animal rights activists tell me an animal is just the same as me. Just. Not. True.

Saturday, December 16

My Favorite Movie

I've discussed my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life, at my Soccer Mom site. There I said this about it:

It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie. I love to watch it, even if it's not near Christmas, because it teaches a really important lesson to us. Clarence puts it well at the end: No man is a failure who has friends. But more than that, I have started to see it as teaching a great truth that the Catholic Church teaches: each of us has a vocation and living out that vocation makes life wonderful. And it's not just wonderful for the person who has been living out the vocation, but for those around him, as well.

...George suddenly realizes that he must seek out Mary, his wife, to see what happened to her. Because it was God's plan that George marry her, she never does marry. She has no children. She is an "old maid" and is terrified to be chased down the street by a stranger claiming to be her husband and the father of her four non-existent children.

It is at this point that George breaks, understanding that his vocation - husband to Mary Hatch, father to Pete, Janie, Tommy, and Zu Zu, chairman of the Bailey Building & Loan - is an important one. He understands that God's plan is perfect, even if it's never said that way.

When he returns, he doesn't care what happens to him, as long as his loved ones are safe, which they were not without him. His life is wonderful, after all, because he has been living God's plan for his life - living his vocation.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that a vocation means religious life, but that's not true. God has a special vocation for each of us, and we each build something big and important when we live that vocation - God's Kingdom. For me, my vocation is wife and mother. For someone else, it might be to be a doctor or nurse. For yet another person, it might be the single life. When we find that vocation in our lives, and we strive to live it, we have a wonderful life.

The Anchoress brought up similarities between it and the new Will Smith movie, Pursuit of Happyness. Then she links to a wonderful review written by Ed Morrissey, in which he compares It's a Wonderful Life to an Easter story. I loved it.

Now I have yet another way to view my favorite movie of all time. And, as usual, I don't have to wait for Christmas time to watch it.

If you don't have time to watch the whole thing today, may I suggest you watch this 30-second version? I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 13

Praise God in Heaven!

Charlotte's Web is rated G!!!

Stop Looking at the Planters and Let God Drive!

Our parish has "Coffee with Jesus" once a month, which is when we get together at a local restaurant early on a Wednesday morning to discuss Scripture, but they amp it up during Advent and Lent and we get to go every Wednesday, if we so choose.

We so chose this morning, and today we discussed the Gospel wherein Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We talked about how we try buck off His yoke, believing how much better things would be if we just got to do what we wanted.

Hubby said that it reminded him of when we were in Washington, DC, with the girls.

I thought to myself, "Huh?"

He continued, and his brilliance, once again, astounded me.

As we hustled the girls through the city, we had a goal in mind. We were heading to this or that museum in the Smithsonian, and what was there was going to be GREAT for them, but they didn't really know what we'd see when we got there. (Really, discussing it and letting them choose and browse the Smithsonian site would not have helped much; it would only serve to overwhelm them!) Because they had no idea what was in store for them, they kept stopping to look at things that were certainly interesting to five and eight year olds everywhere, but not as good as the stuff that lay ahead! So, when they stopped to look at the huge potted plants (Hubby mentioned that they are probably baracades erected since 9-11), we hurriedly said, "Yeah, that's nice. Let's GO already!" The girls whined along the way, to be sure, and they complained that we went too fast sometimes, but when we got into the Museums...BOY, did they like what was waiting for them!

When they wrote stories about our trips into DC, not once did they mention that they saw large potted plants. But they did mention that we saw real dinosaur bones, stuffed animal bodies, planetarium shows, and IMAX movies.

We are exactly like that with God. We are reluctant to hand over control of our lives - all of our lives, not just what we WANT to give Him - because we are so fascinated with the potted plants that are right here in front of us. Meanwhile, He has bigger and better plans for us. God's got the tickets for the 3-D IMAX movie, He's waiting to take us to see the dinosaur bones, and He knows that, as fascinating as those big plants on the sidewalk are, we have no idea how really COOL the stuff is that we're going to see!

Father Levis, when I saw him speak at the IHM Conference, said that we need to stop trying to drive our own little red truck and just let Jesus drive. He's got the right directions, you know.

And the plants are not as good as the real museums.

[planter image credit]

Tuesday, December 12

Larry's Christmas Countdown

Well, I probably should have pointed this out earlier, but Larry the Cucumber has a wonderful countdown to Christmas. Each day brings a new message, and if they do it the same as years past, you should be able to listen to all of the messages after Christmas.

Check it out!

Why is the New Movie for Christians Flopping?

Phil Vischer has some interesting comments about The Nativity movie, much of which I agree with. Still not sure we'll get to see it, especially since this is a tough time to get a sit and we already have about two family movies we want to see, includine Charlotte's Web. (By the way, these are the reasons we might choose not to see it in theaters, not because it doesn't portray the Blessed Virgin in a Catholic way.)

Vischer discusses a lot of reasons why Mel Gibson was able to pull off what New Line Cinema can't seem to, but the big "oh, yeah!" comment is this one:

I would suggest this particular film never had much of a chance due to two factors: First, it had no well-liked artist behind it whose involvement would create high expectations or intrigue, and, second, it told a story that we've seen told a million times in the corniest of animated specials and low-budget Christmas dramas. No intrigue about the artistic vision, combined with no intrigue about the subject matter, leaves a movie with very little to stand on except, "Hey Christians! Please come see our movie about your savior! We made it just for you!" And that pitch, as Hollywood is about to learn, will only get you so far.

Christian filmmakers need to have legitimate artistic visions for their work, and need to choose or create material with inherent intrigue for a sizeable audience. If you have great ideas and great vision for bringing them to life, you will, over time, earn an audience for your work. But the "Hey Christians, we made another movie just for you guys!" pitch isn't going to work. Sure, a few Christians will show up out of a sense of obligation, but the bulk of that now coveted Passion of the Christ audience will be in the next theater over, watching Pirates of the Carribean 2. Why? Because it's fun. And that, at the end of the day, is why America goes to the movies. Even the Christians.

The whole post is worth reading, and it's not even that long. Head on over and check it out.

Catholic Carnival: Egg Nog Edition

just another day of Catholic pondering... is hosting this week's Carnival. I apologize for not posting the last two!

Check out this week's offering of down-home Catholic writing!

I Have Something in Common with the Pope Now

My mom works the phones for iPod, and she just IM-ed me this morning to alert me of a special on refurbished iPods. 30 GB Video iPod for $179. 1 GB iPod Nano for $89.

Guess what Hubby and I will have in about 5 to ten business days?

Not what we had planned right now, but honestly, we were thinking of checking out prices just after Christmas. I have no way of listening to my podcasts that I keep downloading from EWTN. (Did you know there are free podcasts from them? Specials every month, like the time they had a twelve-part lecture on the Ten Commandments by Father Groeschell!)

So now, I can be just like our Holy Father, except I think my iPod list will not include as much Mozart as his.

(click here if that didn't work for you)

Friday, December 8

What is the Immmaculate Conception?

Well, contrary to what you might think, it has nothing to do with Jesus' birth. We celebrate His conception on March 25 when we celebrate the Annuciation. (I think it might have even been called the Feast of the Incarnation at one point. Side note on this date: it is one of the very few actual calendar dates that Tolkien mentions in The Lord of the Rings, and it is the date that the One Ring was destroyed.)

Anyway, back to today.

In nine months, Catholics will celebrate the Nativity (or birthday) of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And so this means that today we celebrate her conception. The Immaculate Conception. This is the name she gave to Saint Bernadette when asked repeatedly what her name was.

What is the Immaculate Conception? What do Catholics believe about the Blessed Virgin?

The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us, in part, this:

In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

Well, that's nice. What on God's green earth does that mean?

Thankfully, there is a nice detailed explanation.

"The Blessed Virgin Mary..."

The subject of this immunity from
original sin is the person of Mary at the moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into her body.

" the first instance of her conception..."

The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her
parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body. Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.

"...was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin..."

The formal active
essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul. Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin. The state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.

" a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race."

The immunity from
original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptism. Mary needed the redeeming Saviour to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was
the very masterpiece of
Christ's redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.

Such is the meaning of the term "Immaculate Conception."
Wow. Okay, then. Um...why do Catholics believe this? What in Scripture points to it?

I won't post all of the Catholic Encyclopedia's answer here, but you are welcome to click on over to finish reading it. Seriously. If you think Catholics are crazy to think such things, if you won't believe it unless it's in the Bible, then please click over. Because there you will find a section that discusses the Scriptural support for this dogma.

For a slightly more reader-friendly answer to the Immaculate Conception (with the Assumption thrown in for good measure), we can turn to Catholic Answers. This site has been really important in my own catechesis in recent years. I remember stumbling upon them when I had been visited multiple times by Jehovah's Witnesses, and I wanted to be better able to defend my Faith. What's really good about Catholic Answers' page is that it look specifically at various objections sola Scriptura Christians have and explains the beliefs in a way that helps answer each objection. Many people who work for Catholic Answers used to be Protestants, so they know very well the objections.

Here's a bit of Catholic Answers' discussion on the Immaculate Conception:

Fundamentalists’ chief reason for objecting to the Immaculate Conception
and Mary’s consequent sinlessness is that we are told that "all have sinned"
(Rom. 3:23). Besides, they say, Mary said her "spirit rejoices in God my Savior"
(Luke 1:47), and only a sinner needs a Savior.

Let’s take the second citation first. Mary, too, required a Savior. Like all other descendants of Adam, she was subject to the necessity of contracting original sin. But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and its consequences. She was therefore redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way—by anticipation.

Consider an analogy: Suppose a man falls into a deep pit, and someone reaches down to pull him out. The man has been "saved" from the pit. Now imagine
a woman walking along, and she too is about to topple into the pit, but at the
very moment that she is to fall in, someone holds her back and prevents her. She
too has been saved from the pit, but in an even better way: She was not simply
taken out of the pit, she was prevented from getting stained by the mud in the
first place. This is the illustration Christians have used for a thousand years
to explain how Mary was saved by Christ. By receiving Christ’s grace at her
conception, she had his grace applied to her before she was able to become mired
in original sin and its stain.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that she was "redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son" (CCC 492). She has more reason to call God her Savior than we do, because he saved her in an even more glorious manner!

But what about Romans 3:23, "all have sinned"? Have all people committed
actual sins? Consider a child below the age of reason. By definition he can’t
sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to
sin. This is indicated by Paul later in the letter to the Romans when he speaks
of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they "had done nothing either good or bad" (Rom. 9:11).

We also know of another very prominent exception to the rule: Jesus (Heb.
4:15). So if Paul’s statement in Romans 3 includes an exception for the New Adam
(Jesus), one may argue that an exception for the New Eve (Mary) can also be

Paul’s comment seems to have one of two meanings. It might be that it refers not to absolutely everyone, but just to the mass of mankind (which means young children and other special cases, like Jesus and Mary, would be excluded without having to be singled out). If not that, then it would mean that everyone, without exception, is subject to original sin, which is true for a young child, for the unborn, even for Mary—but she, though due to be subject to it, was preserved by God from it and its stain.

The objection is also raised that if Mary were without sin, she would be equal
to God. In the beginning, God created Adam, Eve, and the angels without sin,
but none were equal to God. Most of the angels never sinned, and all souls in heaven are without sin. This does not detract from the glory of God, but manifests it by the work he has done in sanctifying his creation. Sinning does not make one human. On the contrary, it is when man is without sin that he is most fully what God intends him to be.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was officially defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. When Fundamentalists claim that the doctrine was "invented" at this time, they misunderstand both the history of dogmas and what prompts the Church to
issue, from time to time, definitive pronouncements regarding faith or morals. They are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it.

Actually, doctrines are defined formally only when there is a
controversy that needs to be cleared up or when the magisterium (the
Church in its office as teacher; cf. Matt. 28:18–20; 1 Tim. 3:15, 4:11)
thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being drawn to some already-existing belief. The definition of the Immaculate Conception was prompted by the latter motive; it did not come about because there were widespread doubts about the doctrine. In fact, the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine to be officially proclaimed. Pope Pius IX, who was highly devoted to the Blessed Virgin, hoped the definition would inspire others in their devotion to her.
[emphasis mine -ed.]
For today's readings and some ideas on how to celebrate this important day with your family, you can go here. If you go to this site, there are even some recipes to try along with the activities (and more explanation of the Solemnity).

And, don't forget that today is a Holy Day of Obligation. That means you need to get thee to Mass!

Thursday, December 7

First Flurries

The girls are outside playing in the first flurries of the year. Surprisingly, some of it is sticking a little bit. I'm sure it won't last, though. I'm surprised it's gone on as long as it has!
Oh, that didn't show up well in the picture below, but really, there was some sticking. It will probably melt shortly.

Guess it's time to do another load of sweaters!

The Nativity Movie

Many in St. Blog's have been all over this movie like white on rice. And much of the hoo-ha is surrounding Mary and whether or not she experienced labor pains and whether or not this movie is good enough for Catholics.

Esther had a post up about a good review of the movie. I'd like to point you to another, at First Things (scroll down to the second movie review in the article). I would really like to see this movie, but I'm not sure we'll make it out without the kids. We'll have to see.

Finally, I decided to post here my own answer to Esther's comments, because I just want to vent a bit.

I am so tired of some of the people in St. Blog's being so danged sensitive that they cannot give credit to anyone for making a movie about the Nativity that isn't perfectly Catholic. They honor Mary, make her obviously different than anyone else, and that isn't enough.

I wonder if they also boycott "Jesus of Nazareth" because Mary obviously goes through labor pains in that, too.

Sheesh, people...Protestants are Christians, too. And a lot of them love the Lord very much and want to give glory and honor to Him however they can. Is your carping on tiny theological points like this going to help bring unity to the Church, or are you just chiseling away on your side of the big wall?

This kind of attitude is forcing me to delete some otherwise good blogs from my blogroll. I'm tired of the "Protestants aren't really Christians" attitude that mirrors some of the more rabid Evangelicals I've known.

Culture of Life Movie

Well, actually, it's a Warning-About-the-Culture-of-Death Movie.

If you haven't watched it yet, go out and rent The Island, which stars Ewen McGregor and Charlotte Johansson. Hubby wasn't sure at first, but figured two hours and sixteen minutes of Charlotte Johansson couldn't be too bad. When we were done, he said, "That was the best movie you've picked out in a while!"

Quick synopsis:
We meet people who have been rescued from a catastrophic event that rendered the entire world pretty much uninhabitable. They are brought to this place where they cannot go outside because of the contamination, and they all work and live in a very controlled environment. But there is a place, called The Island, where people can live uncontaminated. It's a safe haven, and lotteries are held regularly to see who can go and live there, working to repopulate the world again. The lucky winners are chosen and interviewed just before they leave. Such a great honor!
Turns out, though, that there is no Island, and being chosen is not the great honor that people think it is. If you want more, I'll issue a spoiler alert, and you can scroll to the bottom of this post for a little bit more about the movie.
Culture of Death Watch:
The lines used by those who run this center are earily like the things that scientists say today. See above spoiler alert and scroll down for more.
Go check out the Rotten Tomatoes reviews (it only has a 40% rating) for some of the views critics took with it. I didn't think it would resonate well with the liberals who are pro-cloning and pro-abortion. Oh, and I havne't seen Coma. I wasn't allowed to watch scary movies when I was a kid. Maybe I'll rent it now.
Okay, so the people there are clones. They are grown as "product" and "insurance policies" for the very rich. They are grown in adult form, so no one in the project area has ever even seen a baby before. One woman, who is clearly pregnant, gets an automatic ticket to The Island when she goes into labor. What happens after that is absolutely in the skin-jumps-off-my-body-and-crawls-around category. Lincoln (Ewen McGregor's character) discovers the outside world and what really awaits the Lottery winners, and spends the rest of the movie trying to save Johannson's character from her fate just after she is chosen to go next.
And the things that are said about the clones (agnates, they are called) are things that we have been reading in the news lately. Cloning proponents call the clones they wish to create "tools" and promise to "cure child lukemia in two years" (see Mary Meets Dolly for perfect examples). The clones "are not human" or "are not really human" or "are not really people."
The public in the movie is told that the clones never gain consciousness, and they are kept in a vegetative state. They don't feel a thing when they are killed to provide you with organs so you can live another 60 to 70 years. But they clones are conscious, and while some people balk and change their minds about the idea of using the agnates in this manner, some people want to live at any cost and do not care a whit that they are killing a fully sentient, complete human being. Someone with a life, with feelings, with a desire to live.
I'm telling you, it was downright creepy. But it was also excellent.
Higly recommended, in short.

Wednesday, December 6

Guardian Angel Stories

I love to read about encounters with our angels. Owen has a great story up today that I really enjoyed a lot. Plus, I love the thought of an Onion Boy. I get the cutest picture in my mind's eye whenever I read that title. :)

Tuesday, December 5

Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History

We spent an entire day at the Museum of Natural History, though we could have spent even more time there. It was really cool! The girls really liked the stuffed animals and the dinosaur bones. We saw an IMAX movie called "Wild Safari 3-D," which the girls also loved.

Look! It's Sponge Gar!

This was like something out of Narnia! The girls (and Hubby) loved it!

Next trip, there will be more time spent there, since I think the girls liked this the best out of the indoor museums.

Christmas Meme (updated)

I was tagged by Esther for this meme, which I was really hoping I'd be tagged for! Hubby tells people that I'm like the Michael Jordan of wives, but that during Advent/Christmas, I'm like MJ during the Playoffs - just that much better. I absolutely love this season, and just as soon as I'm unpacked from vacation, I'll be baking up a storm!!!

UPDATE: I left off two questions somehow, so I added them. Scroll down to the bottom for them.

UPDATE #2: Hubby did his meme, too.

Anyway, here's the meme:

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate, unless there is Kahluah in the egg nog. (mmmm...)

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa always wraps them.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? We have two trees right now. Upstairs is prelit, all white, downstairs is strung by me each year, all colored.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Sort of. We have a fake cluster of it with a bell. It hangs on the back of the front door, and the girls love to stand under it demanding kisses from Mommy and Daddy.

5. When do you put your decorations up? We, too, used to do it Thanksgiving weekend, but have decided to be a bit more somber during Advent. We'll do it all (except for the wreath on the front door) the third weekend of Advent. I'm not sure we'll wait until Sunday because that is the day we'll go to see The Nutcracker with the girls. We might do it Saturday instead.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? No doubt: Dad's stuffing, which I have learned to make just as well as he does. In fact, my penance on the Friday after Thanksgiving (because we ate leftover turkey that day) was to skip the stuffing. And it was HARD to do!

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child. Probably Midnight Mass. I loved when we got there early and listened to the choir beforehand, and then we'd drive around after Mass and look at everyone's lights. I think that was Dad's way of calming us down after all that excitement. But it remains one of the best things about Christmas as a child. I wonder if Dad knows just how much I loved to drive and look at the lights that night.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? What? I don't understand. Did something happen to Santa?
Okay, seriously, it was Missy Sprague in the second grade. First day back to school, we are sitting at lunch. I looked across the table at my best friend and asked her what Santa brought her for Christmas. I was SO excited about whatever it was he brought me, and she looked at me and said, "What are you, a baby? There is no Santa." She proceeded to tell me, much to my dismay and utter disbelief, that our parents bought all the presents. Her parents, she said, never treated her like a baby and never told her there was such a thing as Santa. I managed to hold it in until I got home and asked my mother (without Baby Sister around) the Big Question About Santa. I was in tears over it. So Missy Sprague, if you are reading this, it was you. But don't feel badly, because you didn't know better. Your parents should have told you not to ruin it for other kids (just like friends of mine have done with their kids - they don't do Santa, but are careful about it). So I forgive you, Missy.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Nope. We wait until Christmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? With ornaments from Hubby's and my childhood, as well as "special" ornaments we've collected and given to the children over our years as a married couple. Every year, the children each get one ornament that is special for them, and we get one more for ourselves. Plus, we have ornaments that we've made, too.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it!!! Of course, I don't really have to drive in it, which I hear makes a difference, but, come on! It's so beautiful when it falls! Christmas always seemed wrong when I was living in Florida. Warm weather does not go with Christmas, you know.

12. Can you ice skate? I can if by "ice skating" you mean holding on to a wall as you cautiously shuffle your way around a rink, fearing every moment that you'll fall down and someone will skate over your hand and cut off your fingers. If that isn't what you mean, then the answer is,, not really.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Not really. So many wonderful gifts over the year. This year is up there, though. I got mine early - a crucifix (mine broke). It's a corpus on a Celtic cross. I'd never seen anything like it! So pretty! (Thank you, Hubby!)

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Celebrating Baby Jesus' birth, naturally!

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Chocolate chip cookies. Nestle's recipe: doubled up with triple the chips. Keep in the fridge and eat ice cold with a BIG glass of milk. mmmmm.....

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Driving around with our girls to look at Christmas lights. (We do it often, though, not just on Christmas Eve.)

17. What tops your tree? Upstairs: nothing. The ceiling is too low. Downstairs: a tiny angel that a friend gave to me while I was her teaching assistant.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving - the old adage is true, you know.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Silent Night, followed very closely by O, Holy Night

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Well, I like the ones that taste like chocolate mint, and I like to melt the traditional ones in a cup of hot chocolate. I'm not big on mint by itself.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? It's a Wonderful Life, which is also my favorite movie of all time. Followed very closely by Miracle on 34th Street - original only, black and white only.

22. What do you leave for Santa? Hot chocolate, milk, and a few of each kind of cookie we make, especially those Toll House cookies. Santa says he really loves the extra chips.

Who should I tag??? Let's see...

How about Baby Sister, Hubby, and SFO Mom (if she hasn't already done it). If you feel inspired and no one has tagged you, consider yourself tagged by me. Leave a link in the combox when you are done.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Yes, more pictures. Trust me, with 456 of them, I'm trying to be choosy about which ones to put up here. Easy ones to eliminate are the pictures with Big Girl and Little Girl, obviously, but there is SO much to see there. We had planned on one day for the Air and Space Museum AND the Natural History Museum (yes, both in one day), but we quickly realized what foolishness it was to try to cram those both in together. Mount Vernon and Arlington got dropped off the list, and we made an extra trip into DC for the Archives on Sunday, as well as adding the Zoo to our list of things to see. (Baby Panda pictures are forthcoming.)

Anyway, here are some shots of the Air and Space Museum. If you get the chance, I recommend the IMAX movies (we saw Magnificent Desolation, as well as Cosmic Collisions and the traditional planetarium shows).

Did I mention that the Museum of American History is closed for renovations (due to reopen in July), but that they moved some of their things into the Air and Space Museum? This was the girls' favorite part of it. That is the world's first computer in the background. It took up 1500 square feet of space, roughly the size of our home in Florida. Amazing. iPods are more powerful than these old monsters. (And, yes, those are the actual C3PO and R2D2. The kids were MOST impressed by that!)

And how about a picture of my girls? That's Big Girl on the left, Little Girl on the right.

Oh, did I mention the exhibit on Bibles from before the year 1000? I'd like to grab some of those Fundamentalists who insist that the Catholic Church tried to keep the Bible from people and show them this exhibit. Seriously. This was my favorite part of our trip. I saw the actual handwriting of Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Athanasius, St. Ephram, Eusubius, and a host of monks who are surely praying for us all at this moment. It was awe-inspiring to look at these ancient Bibles and notations on Scripture from so early in the Church's history. I was near tears, and it took a lot to tear me away. I couldn't take pictures inside (for obvious reasons), but you can go here and read about the display at the Smithsonian site. If you are anywhere near DC, be sure to check this exhibit out while you can. It is amazing. Do it right after you're done at the monastery and the Basilica! ;) This was actually our first stop after visiting the Castle to map out our plan of attack.

Who are your heros?


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