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Archives for December 2013

A White Christmas in New England…

A White Christmas in New England…

Snowfall came last week...

Snowfall came last week…



St Francis



“Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!”



Merry Christmas, from our home to yours!


Taking a little blogging break! See you in the New Year!

This makes me think…. about the magnitude of Christ’s gift to us

“O Deity eternal, O high eternal Deity, O sovereign, eternal Father, O ever-burning fire!… What do Your bounty and Your grandeur show? The gift You have given to man. And what gift have You given? Your whole self, O eternal Trinity. And where did You give Yourself? In the stable of our humanity, which had become a shelter for animals, that is, mortal sins.” 

-St Catherine of Siena-
as found in Divine Intimacy
by Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD

St Peter Canisius… a great Jesuit & Doctor of the Church… gave us the first Catechism in print!


Peter Canisius
Public Domain art

Today is the feast of St Peter Canisius, a Jesuit, who was a writer/publisher and catechist of the highest order. I like him because he was the first to ever publish a catechism — and there were like 200 editions of it in his lifetime and it was translated into 12 languages! Peter was one of those big time Counter Reformation saints, addressing the Council of Trent, and a zealous educator. You got the goods when you were catechised by Peter. He is also credited with opening 18 colleges and seminaries.  You can find many short biographies of his life online, but I like this one. 

I also want to heartily recommend that you read the commentary on the 12 features of Peter’s spiritual life and work habits from the late great Fr Hardon. It will be 10 minutes or so well spent!

A few gems that you’ll find… (bold emphasis is mine.)


 …if there is one aspect of sanctity that Peter Canisius teaches us, it is in God’s name, use your will power.


…to convert people from error to the truth, it is not enough to preach to them, you must first practice charity towards them. In other words, you will win over those who have been mislead by error only if you practice charity. Charity first and then, proclaim the truth.


 …he had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart. … Peter Canisius, though he had a first class mind, realized that you approach the Son of God with your heart and giving Him even your mind.

He had… a great devotion to Our Lady or of his recitation of the Rosary – made sure that her feast days were solemnly observed. Some of his prayers to Our Lady have remained over the centuries. In other words, a devotee of Our Lady talks to her. You claim that somebody is your friend and you practically never talk to the person, the friendship is, needless to say, suspect. Peter talked with Mary.


There is such a thing as being methodical in the spiritual life; there is such a thing as working hard in the spiritual life; there is such a thing as not looking for consolation in the spiritual life; there is such a thing as doing one’s duty….  Get up a certain time; there is a certain amount of work during the day; going to bed and getting up; doing your work, going to bed; getting up year after year. And no complaints…


Prudence, Peter Canisius would define, is the practice of charity in winning souls from sin back to God. It’s the kind of prudence we don’t hear much about these days.

Now go on and read the rest… we need this kind of encouragement!

Among Women 171: The Joy of the Incarnation

Among Women 171: The Joy of the Incarnation

This week on Among Women we think about the coming of Christmas through the eyes of Mary, as told by St Ephrem the Syrian, a 4th century Doctor of the Church. We examine some of his Nativity Hymns, in a departure from our usual saint segment that typically profiles women saints — after all, he is talking about Mary and he’s a Church Doctor!

Our guest today is a cloistered contemplative nun — Sr Grace Remington OCSO, a Cistercian Sister of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, Iowa. Together we discuss the life of a Trappist nun and Sr Grace’s portrait of Mary and Eve (below)… as well as the abbey’s candy-making endeavors!

Listen to the whole podcast here — or on iTunes, episode 171. This is the final episode until 2014!

Mary & Eve, Sr Grace Remington OCSO

Mary & Eve
Pencil and Ink
copyright 2005 Sr Grace Remington OCSO

The F.U.N. Quotient… the joy of the angels revving up for His Majesty’s arrival

The words of this portion of the The Messiah from Handel gives me chills. I can totally imagine this soprano appearing to me as an angel — announcing to me –personally — what she announced to the shepherds on that hillside two millennia ago.

And I am not afraid. I am filled with peace.

For the Love of Francis…

Lovely book of photos and quotes for the Pope’s birthday yesterday at the Vatican website.


<–no, not this one… this one’s from Catholic Memes.

(But you’ll like them, trust me!)

Give Books as Christmas Gifts this year…

Give Books as Christmas Gifts this year…

I love my publisher, Ave Maria Press… and yes, this is a little commercial for the joy of giving books as Christmas gifts.

You just might want to do some Christmas shopping over there, or wherever you buy your favorite books.

350_28683453709_2229_nSome of my best pals have books at Ave Maria Press…. and many of them have been my guests on Among Women chatting about what they’ve written…

Lisa Hendey,  Elizabeth Scalia,  Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss,  Dawn Eden,  Sarah Reinhard,  Tim & Sue Muldoon,  Patrice Fagnant MacArthur,  Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle,  Marge Fenelon… and me, too.

OR, if there’s a Mom in your life who’s not much of a reader, she may enjoy the audio book from Lisa Hendey, complete with chapter sidebar voice-over efforts from me on the audio book version of The Handbook for Catholic Moms.

Ave Maria also carries some of my longtime favorite authors like Henri Nouwen,  Caryll Houselander, and  Eugene Boylan.  



banner photo credit

other photos: Ave Maria Press

Newsworthy: Federal District Court Exempts 4 Catholic Orgs from HHS Mandate

This is a victory for religious liberty and especially the rights of conscience for Catholics and Christians and others.

News has just come out of a Brooklyn federal district court with a ruling that says Catholic organizations named in the case do not have to provide insurance that covers contraception as previously mandated by the so-called HHS Mandate. This is just one of 75 similar cases filed around the USA. You can catch up on this on-going story via the USCCB’s page (and see all the links at the bottom of that page).

This just came in my email this morning from Helen Alvare of WomenSpeakForThemselves.com and the Chiaroscuro Institute:

A federal district court in New York has handed victory to religious plaintiffs in another mandate case against Kathleen Sebelius and HHS.
In legalese, the federal government/defendant is “enjoined and restrained from enforcing or implementing the challenged regulations, which require the prevailing plaintiffs and their respective health plans to provide, or execute a self-certification to enable a third party administrator to provide, health insurance coverage for all FDA approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling concerning these subjects…against the prevailing plaintiffs.”
A few highlights?
1-The court was very sensitive to the harm caused by the feds’ exerting “compulsion [on religious plaintiffs] to engage in affirmative acts forbidden by [their] religion

2-The government’s argument that “it’s just a form” — i.e. that religious parties who self-insure have only to fill out a form in order to get their insurance company to do the paying for contraceptives — got a similarly chilly response from the court which answered:
 “The non exempt plaintiffs are required to complete and submit this self-certification, which authorizes a third party to provide the contraceptive coverage to which they object. They consider this to ‘compel affirmation of a repugnant belief’…. It is not for this court to say otherwise.” 
3-The government’s argument —  that plaintiff employers themselves don’t have to use contraception, so where’s the burden? — was also rejected. The Court replied, “Religious plaintiffs are being required to actively participate in a scheme to provide such services. This is compulsion to do an affirmative act in violation of their religious beliefs.” And Courts are not permitted to tell religious actors that their religious beliefs are theologically wrong. That is not a court’s place.

4-The government’s having exempted a large number of people and groups from the Mandate already (grandfathered health plans, small businesses and some religious employers) shows that they don’t really have a compelling interest in getting free contraceptives to every woman. Even if they could show such an interest, there are many less restrictive means by which the government could pursue it — like tax incentives, or government-provided services or insurance.
Also, fyi, did you see Vanity Fair’s exposé of NuvaRing??? The Mandate includes this contraceptive device. Wow, Vanity Fair… that’s important.
Note among the comments, a doctor writing:
“There are numerous clinical trials which show that all hormonal contraception increases the risk of clot, and that the Nuva Ring is no better or worse than oral contraceptives…” 
And this one from parents who lost a child using this device: 
Thank you for publishing this article about the dangers of NuvaRing.  My own 29 year old daughter died in March of this year from blood clots in her lungs.  She was on NuvaRing.  This is a heartbreak that no parent wants for their daughter.
Our work on this Mandate is important on so many levels.
Here’s to even more and even better in the coming year.
My best to you,
Helen Alvare