Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Catholics and Cultures

Most of us experience Catholicism through a very narrow lens. In my case, it is as a New Englander, raised in a French suburban parish; currently in an ethnically diverse urban one. We may not even realize the many ways the Catholic faith is practiced throughout the world. From the time of the Roman Empire, Catholicism has always interacted with and borrowed from the culture of the places it traveled to. The result is a vibrant faith with many different traditions.

http://www.catholicsandcultures.org/ is a new site created by Holy Cross College to educate and expose Catholics to these various traditions. Catholics & Cultures is a growing, changing chronicle of the role of Catholicism among the people and within the cultures where it is lived.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Xavier Society for the Blind

Since 1900, the Xavier Society for the Blind has been working to provide the best in Catholic literature, devotion, information and liturgical aids available to the blind, print-impaired and visually impaired in formats they can use. Their clients receive all materials free of charge because of the generosity of many.

To find out more or to donate, please visit: http://xaviersocietyfortheblind.org

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Angels Take Flight - providing comfort to children in transition

Angels Take Flight is a Western Massachusetts organization dedicated to providing luggage and comfort items to children forced to leave their homes in a tragic situation such as due to domestic violence, a fire, a foreclosed home, etc. "Receiving the gift of a piece of luggage, clothing and other transitional items can help the children recover a basic necessity of life that can get lost in the transfer to a homeless shelter, safe house, or foster home: human dignity."

To find out more, please visit AngelsTakeFlight.org

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Encounter the Saints Series

The Encounter the Saints Series from Pauline Books and Media features biographical chapter books about some wonderful saints such as St. Gianna Molla, St. Pope John Paul II, St. Kateri Tekawitha, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine Laboure and many more. Aimed at ages 9 - 12, they are great for reading alone or reading aloud as a family.

On the Pauline Media Website: http://store.pauline.org/english/kids/categoryid/747/level/a.aspx

On Amazon: Encounter the Saints

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why Schools (and Society) are Failing Our Boys

Jennifer Fink wrote an insightful article about her eight year old son and his school experience: Why Our Schools are Failing Our Boys

She writes,
Re-entry after winter break has not been easy for him. The rules and restrictions of school – Sit Still. Be Quiet. Do What You Are Told, Nothing More, Nothing Less. – have been grating on him, and it shows. His teacher recently emailed me; she’d noticed a change in his behavior (more belligerent, less likely to cooperate) and wanted to know if there was anything going on at home.
My guess, I said, was that he was upset about having to be back in school after break. I was right.
The lack of movement and rigid restrictions associated with modern schooling are killing my son’s soul.

Does that sound dramatic to you? Perhaps. After all, most of us go through school and somehow survive more or less intact. But if you really think about it, you might remember what you hated about school. You might remember that it took you years after school to rediscover your own soul and passions, and the courage to pursue them.

The stress of school, of trying to fit into an environment that asks him to suppress the best parts of himself, recently had my son in tears. Again.

Truly, this is a woman who would make a wonderful homeschooler, and perhaps she will eventually consider that option. But, sometimes I reflect on our life today and realize that it isn't just school, but our society at large that has made growing up as a young man so difficult.

A fellow mom and I were chatting at my daughter's gymnastics class this other day. She, like I, has both older and younger children and we were commiserating over raising teenage boys. I shared with her how a parenting book I read recently referred to them as "developmental lumps," a phrase which all too often describes the state of my children. Not particularly athletic, they spend a lot of time sitting, sometimes reading, often engaging with technology of some sort. They have friends over and they'll play games or engage in technology side by side.  This lifestyle is not entirely their fault.

At their age, throughout history, at 12 and 13 they would have been doing something productive with their lives - working on a farm, working in a factory, being apprenticed to learn a trade. Even my father back in 1950 started working at age 9. and continued to work until age 71 when he was laid off. That was only two generations ago. Working and contributing to society gives a person a sense of purpose and usefulness. But today, young people generally don't have that opportunity.

Some homeschoolers live on farms and their children work very hard and contribute to the family's livelihood. That isn't really an option for those of us who live in urban areas. There aren't that many chores to do around the house (and my children do help with them), which after lessons, leaves them with little productive to do. They are very involved with acting and enjoy their time attending classes, practicing, and putting on productions. But that is something I pay for them to be able to do.

While I certainly am not advocating a return to the 12 hour days that children worked in the factories, it would be wonderful if our society provided more opportunities for young people to have responsible, meaningful work. Is it any wonder that adolescence lasts to the late 20s today when we rob our teenagers of the opportunity to be truly productive members of society? Instead we plunk them in a classroom all day, without any concern of whether they are actually geared for academic learning (when they might actually be very geared to some sort of on-the-job vocational training), tell them to study for some future day when their life will begin, and blame the teachers when they fail. Nobody is winning in that equation.

Schools and society are failing our boys (and our girls, but that's a topic for a different day).  What are we as a society going to do about it?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Review: Erin's Ring

Erin's Ring

by Laura H. Pearl
Waterford, MI: Bezalel Books, 2014

Erin's Ring by Laura H. Pearl is a delightful Catholic young adult novel. Molly McCormick is the new girl in Dover, New Hampshire. An 8th grader, she is the oldest of six children with one more on the way. Her father is a pilot based at Logan airport while her mother cares for their bustling brood. Theresa Grant's parents are separated, torn apart after the death of their younger child. She lives a lonely pain-filled life. Yet, she and Molly soon become friends, bonding in a library one day.

Molly found an Claddagh ring in the dirt outside her parish Church and is eager to find out who it belonged to. She shares her quest with Theresa and with the help of a friendly librarian, begin delving into the Irish history of Dover.

Interwoven is the tale of Ann O'Brien who came to Dover from Ireland in 1827 to work at the Cocheco Mill.

This tale is great for middle-school or older girls. Even as an adult, I eagerly read it. Perfect for anyone who enjoys history and light romance. Teaches much about life in the mills for Irish immigrants and the struggle to have Catholic places of worship. A great treat!

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Power and Gift of Prayer

There are times in life when we feel like we can't contribute much to the world whether it be due to our family circumstances or our health or what have you, or perhaps a friend is hurting but we have nothing to say or do that can make it better. But there is one thing we can always do and that is to pray. Whether it be saying formal prayers or speaking to God in our own words or offering up our sufferings, we can always be of help to someone. Admittedly, we often do not get to see the fruits of our efforts, but we trust that in a way we can't fully understand, God uses our prayers for good.

The Spring 2015 issue of Marian Helper features a story about a ninety-three year old woman named Blanche who works as a volunteer for their intercessory prayer line. Twice a week she volunteers her time to pray individually for the hundreds of intentions. "One by one - for hours - she reads them to herself before the Blessed Sacrament while praying for the the outpouring of the Holy Spirit." What an incredible gift she is offering to those in need. What a wonderful inspiration for all of us to follow!