Prayer + Fasting

Tomorrow (March 30) many bishops across the country are calling for a day of prayer and fasting.  The Bishops asked for united prayer and penance for religious liberty in their March 14 letter (which, if you haven’t read it, is fantastic; I like when I read statements from the bishops that make me beam with Christian pride), and many bishops across the country have chosen tomorrow.

After being steeped in the issue last weekend while up at Franciscan University, I came home with a mixture of hope and despair.  It seems that many people — even good Catholics — aren’t aware just how serious the threat is.  Our downfall will be our apathy.

The battle that lies ahead isn’t going to be easy.  The HHS Mandate is not the enemy – it’s simply one manifestation of the enemy at work.  If we win this fight, it won’t be the last.  At the same time, we know the Church will ultimately be victorious.

But victory doesn’t always look like this:

Sometimes it looks like this:

I don’t mean to be histrionic or hyperbolic.  I think we’ve been facing a crisis in our culture that has now come to the surface and can no longer be ignored.  I was discussing religious liberty with a well-respected female acquaintance (a woman who has addressed parliaments, covers the work of the U.N., and who knows her history and political science), and she made the astute observation that “this ground, if lost, can only be won back by blood.”

It’s happened throughout history.  Will our apathy let it happen here and now?


Okay, so maybe I’m a big dork to come here and post this… but I was one of the winners on Pioneer Woman’s blog today!  I actually haven’t entered one of her giveaways in a long time — usually there are several thousand comments, and I guess I just gave up.  But the other day I saw that she was doing a little “March Madness”-like contest with Tom Hanks movies, so on a whim I filled out my choices and then commented.  I was the second comment, which was cool enough for me.

But then my sister called me (at work) today to tell me I had actually won!  PW picked three random winners to get $50 gift certificates to Amazon.  So granted, I didn’t win a Kitchen Aid mixer or a Nikon camera… but still, $50 to Amazon?  I’m not complaining.

Happy day!

If you’d like to vote in round 2 of the Tom Hanks movie madness, head over there now!

a reminder

I thought it was about time to update the blog, but I’m too tired tonight to put words together.

So until I can write, I leave you with this — a memory from my beautiful weekend and a reminder to all of us that we have two weeks left of Lent.  It’s not too late to get crackin’.  And with everything that’s facing our country right now, it’s about time we all get on our knees.

Zenit interview on HHS Mandate

This is one of the best explanations of why we must oppose the mandate, so please take the time to read it.  I didn’t want to copy the whole thing here — do blogging rules allow that? — but there’s a link to read the rest.  Please do!


Christendom College Theology Professor Explains Moral Implications for Catholics

By Ann Schneible

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 16, 2012 ( Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities throughout the United States are facing the possibility of being forced, by law, to violate Church teaching under the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Mandate.

Under the HHS Mandate, most Catholic institutions will be required to pay for abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilization in their employees’ health insurance plans.

William H. Marshner is professor of theology at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. He recently spoke with ZENIT about the moral implications that the mandate could impose upon American Catholics.

ZENIT: To start off with, why is contraception morally prohibited by the Catholic Church, and why is it immoral for us to pay for others who wish to use it?

Marshner: We can’t justly be forced to pay for it because that means that we’re cooperating with it. So the question is, why is the act immoral? I mean, if it weren’t immoral, we’d be okay to cooperate with it formally or otherwise.  Why is it an immoral act? Because it is a willful violation of a key part of a woman’s health, and a man’s health. Fertility is part of health. Pregnancy’s a healthy development. You cannot call contraceptive practice a medical service; it’s not aimed at a medical problem.

There’s a fundamental dishonesty about performing acts per se act for the procreation of children, and then covertly doing something to undermine those acts so that they can’t have that effect. It’s as though I said, let’s go off and play golf. I bet I can beat you. And unbeknownst to you, I have gone around and filled up the little holes so your ball can’t go in. This is a dishonest golf-game.  It’s also similar to saying, well, I’m going to play poker but I’m not going to lose any money.  How am I going to ensure that? Ace up the sleeve. A contraceptive is like an ace up the sleeve.  I’m going to play, but pregnancy’s not going to happen.  Why?  I’ve got an ace up my sleeve. It’s an internal chemical thing, or it’s an IUD, or whatever it is.  But contraception is a falsification of an act which ought to be a marital act.

read the rest here:

Can you leave if you’re not here?

So while I was out of town and busy at meetings, I guess the big news among the Catholic blogs was the ad that ran in the New York Times urging “liberal and nominal Catholics” to leave the Catholic Church.

The ad was out of line, made ridiculous claims about us, and would never fly if it was speaking of any other religious group, of course.  (A caricature of Cardinal Dolan, really?  Burning bibles, caricatures of our leaders… you should be glad we Catholics are Christ-like.  Other religions wouldn’t be so tolerant.)

But it made me think– if “liberal and nominal Catholics” really did leave the Catholic Church … well, first, what does “leave” mean?  If you’re a “nominal” Catholic, you’re probably not going to Sunday Mass or obeying half of the precepts of the Church.

So haven’t you already left?

But let’s assume they decide to “leave.”   What does that do to our statistic keeping?

When you have surveys that say things like “98% of Catholics do this” and “the majority of Catholics do that” … and then you see that most of the people they survey don’t even attend Mass on a weekly basis, it leaves me wondering.  Why do those people get to screw up our statistics?

They don’t want to listen to the Pope, they don’t know what the Church actually teaches, and they don’t come to Mass.  … But when it comes time to fill out a survey, they mark the “Catholic” box.  Why?

Not to mention the fact that they give scandal to the world.  Yes, I’m talking about you, Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Sebelius and Mr. Biden.

It got me thinking… what other group could you claim to belong to when you don’t really do the things they do or believe the things they believe?

What about “liberal and nominal vegetarians”?

Confused person: Why are you eating that hamburger?  I thought you were a vegetarian.

Nominal Vegetarian:  Well, I’m a vegetarian, but I’m very open-minded.  No one is going to impose their beliefs on my stomach.

Confused person:  So you’re not a vegetarian.

Nominal Vegetarian:  I was raised in a vegetarian household, and I thought it was important to have vegetarian options at our wedding reception… but I’m not really a practicing vegetarian.

Prepping for St. Patrick’s

I went on a bit of a trip down memory lane a little over a month ago.  You might remember my first trip to McNamara’s, and how the live Irish music reminded me of my college years (I make them sound so long ago).  During that trip to McNamara’s, I told my friend Lori how much she would like the band Gaelic Storm.

We looked up tour dates, although I didn’t have high hopes.  Much to my surprise, we saw they were coming in February to the little city of Tullahoma, which is about an hour and a half from here. Sadly, it was the Thursday night preceding our large annual conference, meaning that I was not free to travel about the countryside in search of Irish music.

Luckily for us, they soon posted another date — the Tuesday before that Thursday — right here in town!  I hadn’t seen Gaelic Storm in four or five years, so I was really looking forward to seeing the old gang (minus the fiddler, Ellery, who has been replaced since I saw them last; she left to have a baby).

The venue had expanded since I last saw a show there, so it was good to be back.  Lori and I got there a little early, found a hightop near the stage, and ordered our Guinness.

The opening act was awful.  (and required a second Guinness)

But Gaelic Storm soon made us forget the opening act even existed.

I hadn’t realized how much I missed them.

For those of you who didn’t know me during my college years, it’s hard to convey what Gaelic Storm was to me then.  I think my mom thought I was going to run away with them someday.  I freely admit I was a groupie — in three years I think I went to 10 concerts.   Each has a story — whether it’s getting stranded in Baltimore all night after a concert, having Patrick Murphy raise a glass to my friend Trena on her birthday (and buy her a shot afterwards), or getting into a theological argument with Patrick after a show (the day after my 21st birthday).

There was a time when I knew almost every word to every song they sang.  And I still do know those words… it’s just they’ve added more songs to their repertoire.

See, little Joannie was a wee bit obssessed:

That was in Alexandria, VA, the second time I saw them in concert.  They were sitting at a table signing autographs after the show, and when I asked to take a picture with them, Patrick patted for me to sit on his lap and I obliged.
Ah, the innocence of a 19 year old.

 I was glad that Lori loved them just as much as I did.  Nashville can be a difficult crowd to please — live music just doesn’t wow the residents of Music City.  So half the crowd was dead and the other half was drunk.  Lori and I were neither — but I was too shy to dance around since we were sitting on the dead half of the room.  But by the end we were at least standing and I even danced a bit.

They did an awesome percussion number where each member played a beat with something — Ryan, the drummer, went to town on the side of a wooden box he was sitting on.  It was awesome.

They sang a lot of my favorites and some new ones I had never heard.  And they even sang Courtin’ in the Kitchen for their finale.

As I mentioned, Lori loved them as much as I did.  It’s always sort of a relief when you take someone to a concert and they actually enjoy themselves.

She enjoyed herself so much… she wanted to go back on Thursday night.

All day Thursday was spent getting ready for our conference.  The conference officially started Friday at noon, but I had a wakeup call at 5:00 and had to be at the Motherhouse soon after.  As Lori and I walked to our cars on Thursday evening (she helped set up for the conference during the day), I was vacillating between prudence & maturity, which dictated me staying home and going to bed, or adventure & love of GS, which meant three hours in the car and a very late night.

Lori followed me to my apartment, so I could continue to weigh my options.

You can only imagine what won out.

This was my reasoning.  I could go to bed at 9 or 10 and wake up early, and if I was cranky or stressed during the next day, I would be even more cranky knowing I passed up Gaelic Storm the night before.  Or… I could be completely ridiculous, drive to Tullahoma for the concert and get very little sleep, and if I was cranky or stressed during the next day, I would force myself to be happy and perky because I had made a crazy decision the night before and had a wonderful time at the concert.  I couldn’t let anyone know I had been so dumb the night before — so I had to be extra fantastic the next day.

See? It made perfect sense to me.

We had called the venue in Tullahoma to make sure that they still had tickets, and we found out that the 7pm start time was GS’ real start time, not an opening act.  Since they had only played for about an hour and a half on Tuesday, we figured we’d be back in the car by 8:30 and home by 10!

Lori drove and I curled up in the back seat and slept.  (isn’t she a great friend?!)  I woke up when we were pulling into the metropolis.  It was 7:10 — we dashed inside and bought tickets from the nice Tullahoma native sitting outside the auditorium.  Then we headed in (the door was in the front of the auditorium and our seats were in the back, but it was dark and no one seemed to notice) and took up our spots in the back.  She had given us two aisle seats, but it still didn’t change the fact that it was an auditorium — and we were surrounded by people over the age of 70. It appeared that it was going to be another dead crowd.

But Lori didn’t let that stop her!  We were going to have fun and be crazy, whether the people around us were or not. We danced in our seats and sang along and jumped up every time they made everyone stand.

At one point, Patrick sort of made the sound that he makes when he’s about to sing Johnny Tarr, and Lori let out a huge “YESSSS!”  that echoed through the theatre.  I thought Patrick was going to fall over.  Then, between songs when it was particularly quiet, Lori screamed at the top of her lungs, “Kiss me I’m Irish!”  (which happens to be the name of a song)  As Patrick looked out (pretended to be bewildered), someone echoed the request, and Patrick squinted into the darkness and replied, “Really? You look Italian.”

And then they proceeded to play a completely different song.  I told Lori not to take it personally — I had never heard them do that song in concert, so they might not be prepared to take random requests.  Lori pointed out that you never deny requests in Music City.  But hey, this was Tullahoma, after all.

The audience eventually got energetic, although they never stayed standing for long. I’ve seen GS in a lot of different venues, but never in an auditorium like this.  It was hard — you wanted to dance, but you were sitting in a movie theatre seat.  (at least the seats were kind of bouncy) The older man sitting across the aisle from us told Lori and I afterwards that our craziness made his night.

They ended up taking an intermission … and played several extra songs they hadn’t played Tuesday —  so the concert wasn’t over until almost 10.  Oops! They told the same jokes and sang many of the same songs… but it was still wonderful.

And when they came out for intermission, guess what they played?

Kiss Me I’m Irish. : )