Thursday, January 29, 2015

For Foster /Adoptive Parents of Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

I am 100% pro-life and pro-adoption, and yet I have learned so much from our own foster / adoptive experiences. It is not something to be entered into without a lot of information, information that I was incredibly ignorant of going into this process. The journey has been harder than anything I could have imagined at the beginning.

Out of respect for the child, I don't think I'll ever be able to publicly share the full story of how we lost a foster-child a year ago after nearly three years of prayer, the best intentions and efforts. I belong to a Catholic Foster/Adoptive group on Facebook now that wasn't even in existence yet at the time that we were going through such hardship and heartache. They have been such a blessing to me and hearing their stories has helped the healing process. I am also thankful to those family and friends who stood by us as our world was falling apart and of course, I am thankful for the grace of God, without which we never would have made it.

One of the members of that FB group shared this article: http://outofshemind.com/2015/01/dear-adoptive-parents-hard-lonely-road/ If you are parenting a child who has experienced trauma (and that pretty much includes ALL foster children, although not all act out in the same way) or if you are thinking about foster parenting, I encourage you to read it, not to scare you away from the road if that is what God is calling you to do, but so that you can better prepare yourself for the difficulty if it comes, and perhaps more importantly, know that you are not alone and that you are not a bad parent. And if you have a friend or family member who is struggling with a foster/adoptive child, I encourage you to read it as well. Please believe their stories and try to understand their pain. Their stories may seem out of the realm of possibility, but they aren't making it up.

Monday, January 26, 2015

On Patience and Trust

This is an excerpt from the reflection from Living Faith by Steve Givens for January 27, 2015.

Time and faith have shown me over and over that our job is to be patient, to get up every day and pay attention, watching for directional signs and fellow travelers that God puts into our lives. Inherent in this idea of patience is the idea of trust. We have to trust that God is present in our lives, caring and moving and working in us and through us. God is there, pointing the way and whispering suggestions, if we are quiet and still enough to notice.

Lord, help me be patient with you as you form my life.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Review: The Artful Parent




Do you want to incorporate more art into your family’s life? If the answer is yes, then “The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Full Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity” by Jean Van’t Hul is definitely a book you will want to pick up. Van’t Hul is a graduate of Wellesley College with a major in art history and studio art.  A mother of two, she has been writing about children’s art and creativity since 2008 on her blog The Artful Parent

It is so important as parents and educators to nurture children’s creativity. As Mary Ann F. Kohl writes in the foreward, “An artful life trains the brain to work at finding alternatives and choices, solving problems and testing answers, and bypassing the known and accepted way of doing things to find new ways.” Please rest assured, art does not only mean the traditional tasks of drawing, painting, sculpture, etc., it also includes creating science experiments, nature walks, cooking and baking, and pretend play. In nurturing creativity we help children “hold on to the creative spark they were born with.”

“The Artful Parent” focuses on process-oriented art, which is the “open-ended exploration of materials and techniques.” What you end up with in terms of a finished product is much more important than how you got there. Van’t Hul believes that “crafts with directions to follow and planned projects are fine in moderation, but open-ended art should comprise most of a child’s art experience.”

Van’t Hul includes sections on how to make time for art in a busy life, store art supplies, contain the mess, encourage children who aren’t interested in art, and ideas for storing and displaying finished projects. In addition, over sixty art projects for children are included and depicted in full-color photographs with easy-to-follow directions. I’ve already tried some of these projects with my own children and they have enjoyed them immensely. Also, while the book states it is for children ages 1-8, older children, teens, and even adults will definitely enjoy many of these projects as well.  Because they are about process, rather than product, each individual can use his or her own particular skill level in working on the artistic endeavor. 

“The Artful Parent” is a creative treasure, perfect for any parent or educator who wants to bring more art into children’s lives. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Novena to Three American Saints for Life

January 22nd is the day for the Annual March for Life in Washington, Please support their efforts in prayer. Here is a Novena to Three American Saints for Life from the USCCB.

Saints Elizabeth Seton, Frances Cabrini and John Neumann are powerful witnesses to the Gospel of life, each in their own time. This novena suggests three days of prayer to each of the Saints for the promotion of Life in our country and our Church today.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, a prominent New York aristocrat, had five children with her husband, William, a shipping merchant. Before she turned 30, the Setons went bankrupt and William died. Within five years of his death, Elizabeth had converted to Catholicism, formed New York city’s first charity (the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children), established the first Catholic school and the founded the first religious community of women in the United States of America.

Day One

Saint Elizabeth Seton,
you knew the beauty of all human life
when you carried a child in your womb
and when, as a young widow,
a teacher, and founder of the Sisters of Charity,
you sought to live the Gospel of Life.
Inspire us, intercede for us, and be with us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
You know the sacrament of Holy Matrimony;
Teach us to support all families with faith and truth.
You know the love of a good spouse;
Intercede for all newly married couples.
You know the stirring of the child in your womb;
Intercede for every unborn child.
You know the miracle of giving birth;
Pray for mothers tempted by abortion.
Our Father …
Hail Mary …
Glory to the Father …

Day Two

Saint Elizabeth Seton,
you knew the beauty of all human life
when you carried a child in your womb
and when, as a young widow,
a teacher, and founder of the Sisters of Charity,
you sought to live the Gospel of Life.
Inspire us, intercede for us, and be with us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
You know the cry of a little child;
Inspire us to protect the littlest and most vulnerable.
You known the searching of the adolescent;
Open our eyes to the wonder of their lives.
You know the journey of the dying;
Be with us as we journey toward death with those whom we love.
You know the pain of the widow;
Inspire to us to seek out those who are most in need.
Our Father …
Hail Mary …
Glory to the Father …

Day Three

Saint Elizabeth Seton,
you knew the beauty of all human life
when you carried a child in your womb
and when, as a young widow,
a teacher, and founder of the Sisters of Charity,
you sought to live the Gospel of Life.
Inspire us, intercede for us, and be with us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
You know the loneliness of the orphan;
Consecrate us to the protection of children.
You know of the vocation of the teacher;
Inspire us to teach the Gospel of Life.
You know the vows of religious life;
Pray that we might be faithful to the Gospel of Life.
Our Father …
Hail Mary …
Glory to the Father …

Saint John Neumann

Saint John Nepimucene Neumann came to the United States as one of 36 priests to serve the 200,000 Catholics of New York and New Jersey in 1836. As a priest in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, and as Bishop of Philadelphia, he was tireless in his love for the people of the United States. He died in 1860, while on his way to mail a chalice to a missionary priest.

Day Four

Saint John Neumann,
as a loyal son, a faithful priest, and a tireless Bishop,
you worked to support and defend life in all its wonder.
Intercede for the Church you loved with all your heart
that we may be faithful witnesses to the Gospel of Life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Faithful son of faithful parents;
Teach us to honor our parents when they grow old.
Immigrant and stranger;
Inspire us to welcome the rejected of the world.
Protector of the young;
Inspire us to work for the safety of all children.
Our Father …
Hail Mary …
Glory to the Father …

Day Five

Saint John Neumann,
as a loyal son, a faithful priest, and a tireless Bishop,
you worked to support and defend life in all its wonder.
Intercede for the Church you loved with all your heart
that we may be faithful witnesses to the Gospel of Life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Missionary to America;
Pray for the leaders of our country.
Tireless servant of the cross;
Make our hearts to love Christ suffering in those who have grown very old.
Model of self sacrifice;
Help us not to count the cost in proclaiming the Gospel of Life.
Faithful unto death;
Guide unwed fathers, that they may be true to the Faith.
Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory to the Father…

Day Six

Saint John Neumann,
as a loyal son, a faithful priest, and a tireless Bishop,
you worked to support and defend life in all its wonder.
Intercede for the Church you loved with all your heart
that we may be faithful witnesses to the Gospel of Life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Preacher of the truth;
Teach our nation to protect the lives of all its citizens.
Friend of the sick;
Inspire doctors to cherish the lives of all.
Our Father …
Hail Mary …
Glory to the Father …

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

Frances Cabrini was born in a little village in Lombardy in 1850, so fragile at birth that she was brought immediately to Church to be baptized. While from her youth she dreamed only of being a missionary, she was three times rejected when applying to a convent. Yet in her years of religious life she founded an order, 70 orphanages, schools and hospitals, scattered over eight countries in Europe North, South, and Central America.

Day Seven

Saint Frances Cabrini,
In every corner of hemisphere
you sought out those whom everyone had forgotten.
Mother of immigrants, friend of orphans, protector of the poor,
intercede for us who seek to follow your example.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mother of immigrants;
Give us a love for the lives of all who are rejected or forgotten.
Mother of the oppressed;
Inspire us to work for justice and the protection of all life.
Mother of the lost;
Inspire us to seek out all whose lives are forgotten.
Our Father …
Hail Mary …
Glory to the Father …

Day Eight

Saint Frances Cabrini,
In every corner of hemisphere
you sought out those whom everyone had forgotten.
Mother of immigrants, friend of orphans, protector of the poor,
intercede for us who seek to follow your example.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mother of the aged;
Be with those who are forgotten and alone.
Mother of the oppressed;
Pray for all who are condemned to die.
Mother of the sick;
Pray for those tempted to forget the infinite value of life.
Our Father …
Hail Mary …
Glory to the Father …

Day Nine

Saint Frances Cabrini,
In every corner of hemisphere
you sought out those whom everyone had forgotten.
Mother of immigrants, friend of orphans, protector of the poor,
intercede for us who seek to follow your example.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mother of those who care for the sick;
Inspire doctors to be apostles for life.
Mother of the homeless;
Teach us that all life comes from God and rests only in him.
Mother of little children;
Be with the child who is alone or afraid.
Our Father …
Hail Mary …
Glory to the Father …  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: Drawing Autism

Drawing Autism

by Jill Mullin
New York: Akashic Books, 2014

Jill Mullin has a clinical background in Applied Behavior Analysis and many years of experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum. What she would like people to understand, especially those who don't have any first-hand experience of autism, is just how broad that spectrum is. In "Drawing Autism" she endeavors to display art from individuals at all different levels of that spectrum who enjoy expressing themselves via art. She asked each selected artist to complete a questionnaire about his or her art, including why the person began making art, what is exciting about art, how subjects are chosen, and whether art helps others understand one's view of the world. Some were able to answer independently, others needed help with reading or writing; others were completely nonverbal and unable to reply.

Both the art and the responses offer an interesting glimpse into the autistic brain, and illustrate that art can often be an expressive medium for those who lack the ability to communicate in other ways. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Kitchen Madonna

My parents got me a statue of The Kitchen Madonna for Christmas, which now has a place of honor in my kitchen. The little card that came with it explains the imagery:

Mary was not only the mother of Jesus. She was also a housewife. The utensils she holds are earthy and heavenly symbols.

The Keys: to keep house and home safe. They are also keys to open the door to heaven.

The Kettle: to nourish your body and soul.

The Broom: cleanliness in your home, also your thoughts and deeds.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: A Preachable Message


A Preachable Message: The Dynamics of Preaching Natural Family Planning
by BOMA (Billings Ovulation Method Association), 2014

When was the last time you heard a priest give a homily that mentioned Natural Family Planning? If you are like me, the answer is never. Admittedly, it isn’t necessarily a topic that I would want discussed at a Mass where younger children are present, but there are many times when it would be appropriate, such as at Masses on college campuses or on retreats or in marriage preparation programs. Yet all too often, priests fear bringing the topic up. They know it is a difficult subject for many and so they avoid it with a ten-foot pole. 

A Preachable Message, compiled by the Billings Ovulation Method Association, is working to change that. In the foreward, Cardinal Timothy Dolan writes, “This book . . . is written by clergy, for clergy, to use for the good of marriages, families, and our promiscuous culture. A small band of faithful Catholics are on the front lines doing their best to promote and defend NFP, and every priest or deacon who preaches about the gift of NFP joins in solidarity with these faithful Catholic witnesses.” 

The simple truth is that many priests are scared to preach about NFP for various reasons. Some feel that because they are celibate men, they don’t really have the perspective to speak about marriage issues. Others feel that due to the sex abuse crisis, Catholic clergy have lost the right to talk about sexual morality at all. Others feel that the message won’t be received well so it isn’t worth discussing. The first part of this book contains interviews with priests who do preach on NFP and who want to reassure their fellow clergy that these fears are unfounded. In general, the message of NFP is well-received and bears fruit in happier marriages. As Archbishop Charles Chaput shares, “They will find that the Lord gives them the strength to communicate this teaching in the right way, to speak it clearly. And I believe they will be astonished at the response that such preaching generates in the lives of the faithful.” Priests shouldn’t worry that if they preach this message that they will lose people. Instead they should worry that “if priests don’t preach the Church’s message about contraception, heaven loses people. . . . Should we stop teaching the truth because it is difficult? Of course not.”


Cardinal Francis George also offers an interesting perspective. “People who talk about the Church as, in some sense, the enemy of women haven’t thought things through. If the social and sexual teaching of the Catholic Church defined out behavior in this society, there would be no rape. There would be no abandoned wives or children. There would be no spousal abuse. There would be no abortion, no adultery, no fornication.”
The book also includes homilies that various priests have given which include a discussion of NFP, and Prayers of the Faithful that include mention of contraception as well as cover the full range of sexual issues and sins. The last section features Scriptural texts in the liturgical year that can be used as a jumping off point to discuss NFP. There is also a prayer for the conversion of those who have practiced contraception. This book should be in the personal library of every Catholic priest and deacon. The updated edition of this book can be purchased at http://www.boma-usa.org/preachable.php.

Anyone searching for a teacher of NFP can visit http://www.boma-usa.org/teachers.php to find one near them. If you happen to live in the Greater Springfield, MA area, my friend Jennifer McManus is a certified teacher. She can be reached at mcmanus57 at comcast.net.