Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fr, James's Sunday Homily

"Without a doubt, Christianity challenges us every day. Our entrance into Heaven is not a guaranteed reality.

Self-reflection is necessary in order to find out if there are any particular sins or attachments that might prove to be obstacles to our achieving eternal salvation.

Many people in our present day have experienced profound conversions. The personal testimonies of life changing experiences bear continual witness to the ever-present action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all those who are searching for happiness and peace.

However, conversion is a daily enterprise. Every day we are faced with choices and challenges that affect our relationship with the Lord. It is not easy to be faithful. But God's grace makes discipleship not only possible; it also makes it an amazing adventure.

We must not be surprised that Christianity essentially implies a daily, personal struggle. Commitment and battle go hand in hand. We have to take very seriously the fact that our human nature is wounded by original sin.

Every day presents a new opportunity to begin again. God's loving mercy is always available to us through the sacrament of Confession. It is precisely God's loving willingness to forgive our sins that fills us with the hope of eternal life.

Constancy in the spiritual life, especially under difficult circumstances, characterizes the existence of the true disciple of Christ.

This Sunday’s Gospel passage is very demanding.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9: 47-49)

Most people in our country are well educated. It is common that people not only have a high school diploma, they also have a college degree. Many people continue their education and get a masters degree and some even get a doctorate.
Most people in our country have good jobs. They are successful and..." ( Continued here)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another update on A. J. whom we've been praying for...

"A.J. is still in the hospital as the heart began to enlarge again a few days ago. Things are slowly getting under control. She is in good spirits, though heartbroken that she was not able to begin high school with all of her friends. Even if she comes home, she will need to be home schooled until the H1N1 vaccine is available, which is likely mid to late October.

Thank you for all of your continued prayers. Today's update is below,

Despite all the testing going on, there really are only tiny bits of good news filtering out. Kind of like ISATs that way--weeks of testing, hardly any results. Anyway, one of the recent ones: based on one of the more sophisticated tests to measure the presence of inflammation in the body, there is very little inflammation in AJ's system right now. That's good because inflammation is a hallmark that the Wegener's is active, and so this is another small indication that the Wegener's is not attacking AJ's immune system as much these days. Also, the kidney docs feel like they're beginning to get a better handle on exactly how much fluid they're supposed to be taking each time AJ gets dialyzed. We're thankful for these small bits of good news and hope that the docs will keep whittling down that long list of "things we don't understand about AJ's insides." In the meantime, we hope Anna Jean is getting some more tacos and milkshakes.

Keep posting those pics and messages and youtube links, everyone--they're really funny!"

This was the message I receivd. Please continue to pray for this sweet 14 year old girl, A.J.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Among Women Podcast about "Mother Teresa and Me"

If you'd care to listen to the "Among Women" podcast by the very talented and gracious, Pat Gohn, please click here. Pat recently interviewed me about my friendship with Blessed Mother Teresa and about my new book about to be released: Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship. You'll also hear Mother Teresa's beutiful inspiring voice!

Visit Pat at her blog here.

Feast of St. Padre Pio

"In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity."
Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease.

Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income.

At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic.

On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side.

Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924.

Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned.

Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds.

A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters.

One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999."

(From Saint of the Day, American

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Another update on A.J.

This just in on A. J., the girl wehave been praying for...

A.J. update....

"Yes, folks, AJ has moved upstairs! Her new room lets her look out at the sky and clouds, not to mention the neighborhood treetops and rooftops. A private bathroom and space for the dialysis machine-- what more could anyone want? Anna Jean celebrated by taking TWO trips to the hospital's courtyard garden and eating dinner (Yes, tacos again, from a yummy nearby restaurant) in the cafeteria! With other people around her it almost felt like normal. And, like any normal 14-year old, five minutes after she'd eaten two tacos and some corn chips, she was hungry again. Life is good!

Update on the vitals: AJ's heart output has really improved, so that it's almost back up to the level most of us have. That is totally AWESOME. Her respiratory system is working well--AJ's oxygen levels have been very good throughout this round of hospitalization. The doctors still don't know what's keeping that small hole in her lung open, but they've decided to just monitor it because it doesn't seem to be causing any big problems. Her kidneys have not yet gotten back in the game the way the doctors would like, but they've made progress, and they're likely to make some more in the next month or so. And yesterday AJ was wearing ETHS colors (Fridays ARE spirit days at ETHS), so obviously her sense of style is fully operational. All the important things, right?"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pope Benedict words to us...

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 13, 2009 / 10:16 am (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI told the 4,000 people gathered for the recitation of the Angelus prayer in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo they must be inspired by Sunday’s Gospel and learn from the Blessed Virgin Mary to witness to their Christian faith.

The Word of God, Pope Benedict said, challenges Christians with two crucial questions: Who is Jesus of Nazareth? And is the Christian faith reflected in all that a Christian does or not?

“Jesus did not come to teach a philosophy, but to show the way, indeed, the path that leads to life,” the Holy Father commented.

“This path is love, which is the expression of true faith. If you love your neighbor with a pure and generous heart, it means you really know God. But if you say you have faith but do not love your brother, then you are not a true believer. God does not dwell in you.”

The Holy Father recalled St. James’ words in the second reading of Sunday Mass: “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

St. John Chrysostom commented on this very passage, writing: “One can also have a true faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, but if one does not have a good life, this faith will not serve his salvation. So when one reads in the Gospel: 'This is life eternal, that they know thee the only true God,' do not think that this verse is enough to save us: a pure life and behavior are necessary.”

The pontiff noted that on Tuesday Christians celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

"The Virgin Mary,” he concluded, “who believed the Word of God, did not lose faith in God when she saw her son rejected, insulted and crucified. Rather she remained close to Jesus, suffering and praying, until the end, and she saw the radiant dawn of his resurrection.”

After the Angelus, Pope Benedict addressed English-speaking visitors:

“Throughout history, it has been the task of Peter’s successors to continue to make that proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ. And all of us are called to join Peter as we resolve to place the Lord at the center of our lives. I pray that all of you may grow in your faith and love for the Lord and I invoke his blessings upon you and upon your loved ones at home.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A bit of inspiration from St. Alphonsis Liguori


"Chastity is a virtue which we do not have strength to practice unless God gives it to us, and God does not give this strength except to someone who asks for it. But whoever prays for it will certainly obtain it."
St. Alphonsus Liguori

(Thanks to Women of Grace "Grace Lines")

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New update on A.J.

"A.J. Update........

AJ is amazing. Her heart is doing the Timex thing -- takes a licking but keeps on ticking. Her most recent EKG showed enough small-but-steady improvement that her docs decided they could cut back on one of her heart medications. AND she was cleared for exercises to build muscle tone! (No, she's not going out for Ms. Body Builder. But better muscle tone will help prevent her from catching every infection that happens along.) So she celebrated:
--she spent 2 hours today with her tutor!
--she stayed out of bed ALL DAY (resting in a chair so that she can keep the bed for actual sleeping)!
--and she took a 7-minute walk around the ICU!

If these don't seem like major achievements, you may not realize just how wiped out she's been. This stuff is AWESOME. Go, AJ!

AJ had spent some of Monday in a sad mood, so her family rallied around to make her feel better. She got some spa treatment from her mom -- a bath, lotion, and a foot massage -- and some good "sister time" with Allie in the evening before Al arrived to do his version of Late Night with Al. She even got tacos for dinner! (Okay, they were low-potassium, low-phosphate, low sodium tacos, but they were still tacos!)

I'm thinking that all that family love definitely helped AJ get to the good place she's at today. The love that the rest of us send is just as powerful. So keep sending it -- it's just great. Don't ever underestimate how powerful we all are. I'll keep you posted, and we'll keep wishing and praying for more slow and steady progress."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!

A bit of inspiration today...

Saint Teresa-Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] (1891-1942), Carmelite, martyr, co-patron of Europe

Love of the Cross, 24/11/1934 (©Institute of Carmelite Studies)

"Let him take up his cross, and follow me"

Being one with Christ is our sanctity, and progressively becoming one with him our happiness on earth, the love of the cross in no way contradicts being a joyful child of God. Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy, and those who may and can do so, the builders of God's kingdom, are the most authentic children of God. And so those who have a predilection for the way of the cross by no means deny that Good Friday is past and that the work of salvation has been accomplished. Only those who are saved, only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ's cross. Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take an expiatory power.

To suffer and to be happy although suffering, to have one's feet on the earth, to walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet to be enthroned with Christ at the Father's right hand, to laugh and cry with the children of this world and ceaselessly sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels - this is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The "Messianic secret"

Someone asked me today why Jesus told His Apostles not to tell others about Him. I sent her this short article from Zenit from Feb of this year...

Christ knew that to fulfill his mission he had to suffer and die on the cross. For this reason, he took great strides to keep his identity hidden, says Pope Benedict XVI.

Reflecting on Sunday's Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square on 1 February, the Pope spoke about the "so-called 'Messianic secret.'"

"For the moment, Jesus does not want anyone outside the restricted group of his disciples to know that he is the Christ, the Son of God," the Pontiff explained. "This is why he often admonishes the apostles and the sick people whom he heals to not reveal his identity to anyone."

"Not only does Jesus chase demons out of people, freeing them from the worst slavery, but he prohibits the demons themselves from revealing his identity," he added.

The Holy Father said Christ insisted on this secret "because the fulfillment of his mission is at stake, on which our salvation depends."

"He knows in fact that to liberate humanity from the dominion of sin he must be sacrificed on the cross as the true paschal lamb," Benedict XVI explained. "The devil, for his part, tries to divert his attention and direct it instead toward a human logic of a powerful and successful messiah."

The Pope continued: "The cross of Christ will be the demon’s ruin, and this is why Jesus does not cease to teach his disciples that in order to enter into his glory he must suffer much, be rejected, condemned and crucified. Suffering is an integral part of his mission."

"Jesus suffers and dies on the cross for love," he added. "When we consider this, we see that it is in this way that he gave meaning to our suffering, a meaning that many men and women of every age understood and made their own, experiencing profound serenity even in the bitterness of difficult physical and moral trials."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Update on A. J.

This is the update for the fourteen year old girl that we've been praying for:

"The theme today was "limited good news." AJ's heart is continuing to work at an acceptable level, with the help of her medication. Her potassium levels have stabilized and may even be decreasing, which is good news -- that will make life easier for her heart. The biopsy of her lung came back negative for fungus, which means that the doctors can proceed with the experimental treatment for the Wegener's disease. On the down side, the small hole in her lung let a little more air into her belly, which tends to give AJ sharp pains in her middle. The doctors are still saying that they don't need to operate on that, however, which is good since AJ's still pretty weak.

So, we'll keep watching developments and hoping for continued good news, even if it's a little at a time. And we'll hope that AJ gets some more good rest tonight -- sleep tight, sweetie. "

Please pray for Anna Jean!

This just came in from a Catholic friend and fellow writer. Please pray for this amazing girl who desparately needs prayers. I am leaving a couple of names out for privacy reasons...

"To my prayerful friends all over the world,

I need prayers, desperately, for a 14-year-old who lives down the street. Her name is A.J. (Anna Jean) xxxxxxxxxx. A month ago, she fainted while away at camp, her face then began to fill with fluid, her kidneys later began to fail. She was in Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago for a couple of weeks, was diagnosed with Wegener's Disease (Google it), and then was to begin Cytoxan (a heavy chemo drug) to try and stop the disease promptly. As a precaution, she had an MRI to be sure that her heart would be strong enough for the drugs, They found a mass. She had open heart surgery... on top of dialysis regularly, heavy drugs, another surgery to build up her nose with tissue from her hip because the Wegener's had deformed the nose, and so on.

A.J. has never complained. Not once. I cannot tell you how beautiful, kind, compassionate, amazing this girl is. We are so close with her and her family that they are the people with whom we celebrated my "10 years cancer-free" ... in Italy. A.J. has also been my mother's helper and then babysitter for the last three years. I love this girl as if she were my own.

She came home from the hospital last Thursday and all looked good. She went out to dinner with family, requested that I make her spaghetti carbonara on Friday, and then she started to feel sick again. She knew she would need dialysis three times a week for a couple of months until they regulated medications, but now she couldn't breath. Turns out her lungs were filling up with fluid. Back in CMH. Then, they found air in her abdomen, leaking from one lung. Now her heart is enlarged and is not working well at all. She is fighting for her life. Those were the words used last night... fighting for her life.

I need all of my prayer partners, all over the world, to storm heaven for A.J. Her mom is Sue, dad is Al, younger sister in Amy and older sister in Allie. They all need your prayers. They've personally asked me for prayers and I promised that I would contact all of you. Thank you for getting on your knees. The world needs this girl, and more girls like her, safe and healthy and inspiring the masses.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Go get your copy of this movie!

My review should be out very soon and I'll post it here. Go get your DVD which debuts September 15th. I had a lovely interview with Ellen Bry the lead actress (which you'll read about in my review very soon). The movie is wholesome. inspiring and heart-tugging! Get it for your family!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Update from Washington Times on Obama's video


"President Obama's plan to inspire the nation's schoolchildren with a video address next week erupted into controversy Wednesday, forcing the White House to pull out its eraser and rewrite a government recommendation that teachers nationwide assign students a paper on how to "help the president."

Presidential aides acknowledged the White House helped the U.S. Education Department craft the proposal, which immediately was met by fierce criticism from Republicans and conservative organizations who accused Mr. Obama of trying to politicize the education system.

White House aides said the language was an honest misunderstanding in what was supposed to be a inspirational, pro-education message to America's youths.

Among the activities the government initially suggested for prekindergarten to sixth-grade students: that they "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president." Another task recommended for students immediately after listening to the speech: to engage in a discussion about what "the president wants us to do."

The novel curriculum plan brought sharp criticism from conservatives, including some who complained that classrooms were being used to spread political propaganda. In response, the White House last night confirmed they were revising the lesson plan that was distributed last week by the U.S. Department of Education.

"We're clarifying that language," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

By Wednesday evening, the sentence asking children to think about how they can "help the president" had been replaced. The rewritten line said students should "write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals."

Mr. Vietor said the reaction to the lesson plan may not have been so strong had the curriculum been circulated after people heard the speech, which he said does not mention any political issues and does not stray from a clear message encouraging children to excel and stay in school.

The speech is "about the value of education and the importance of staying in school as part of his effort to dramatically cut the dropout rate. It's not a policy speech," Mr. Vietor said."
(From the Washington Times)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

President Obama's video to be shown at to our kids

I just received an email from an alarmed friend who said,

"Someone I don't even know forwarded this to me. I don't usually read the comments underneath the videos, but I did this time. Boy, there is a lot of outrage. The schools are going to show this to children across the country on Tues. Imagine if George Bush or ANY president attempted to do something like this.

The president is supposed to serve the people but Obama wants everyone to make a pledge to serve him.

It doesn't start off so bad, but get to the last minute. You will understand why I'm alarmed. Read some of the comments."

So, see for yourself... Click here to view the video that will be shown in our schools.

I know parents who are opting to have their kids sit this one out. Please watch and pass this on.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Woman almost died from blood clots due to the birth control pill

Washington, DC (02 September 2009) – A woman in Austin, Texas, is the latest victim of the deadly side effects of the birth control pill.

Patti Kelly, 28, was diagnosed in August with multiple blood clots in both lungs. Her doctor told her that if she hadn’t come into the emergency room when she did, she “could have died instantly.”

Kelly’s doctor named birth control as the driving factor in onslaught of the blood clots that could have caused Kelly’s death.

Marie Hahnenberg, project director for American Life League’ s “The Pill Kills” outreach, is not surprised.

“We are constantly hearing about problems that stem from the dangerous chemicals used in hormonal contraception,” Hahnenberg said. “Women have been told for years that the birth control pill is the answer to their medical complications, when it is only causing more problems – even death.”

In 2008, Johnson and Johnson spent at least $68.7 million to settle hundreds of lawsuits filed by women who suffered blood clots, heart attacks or strokes after using the company’s Ortho Evra birth-control patch. This summer, lawsuits have been filed against Bayer’s dangerous and life-threatening Yasmin and Yaz birth control pills.

“Not only do the pill, patch, intrauterine device and similar birth control products cause great harm to the woman herself, but these products also can cause early abortions,” Hahnenberg said. “The physical and emotional perils associated with birth control are one of the most closely guarded secrets in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s time women knew the truth.”

For more information on the birth control pill and other hormonal contraception as well as victims of the pill check out

American Life League was cofounded in 1979 by Judie Brown. It is the largest grassroots Catholic pro-life organization in the United States and is committed to the protection of all innocent human beings from the moment of creation to natural death. For more information or press inquiries, please contact Katie Walker at 540.659.4942.


American Life League: The Pill Killls
KVUE: Austin Woman Claims Birth Control Nearly Killed Her (29 August 2009)
Bloomberg: J&J Paid $68 Million to Settle Birth-Control Cases (10 October 2008) Yasmin and Yaz Birth Control Lawsuits Mount Against Bayer (24 July 2009)

From American Life League

The best kept secret about the birth control pill

"Perhaps the best-kept secret of modern medicine is the link between oral contraceptives and increased breast cancer risk.

While combined oral contraceptives, better known as The Pill, rank as Group I carcinogens according to a 2005 report released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, doctors continue to routinely prescribe the pill for a variety of conditions, ranging from acne to birth control (American Cancer Society, 2008)....

Combined oral contraceptives are composed of estrogen and progesterone or progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are female sex hormones; estrogen thickens the lining of the uterus, and progesterone/progestin prepares the endometrium for implantation of the egg. (National Cancer Institute, 2006).

The reasoning behind a combination of estrogen and progesterone/progestin is that estrogen given on its own increases the risk of uterine cancer. Taking a combination of the 2 confers protection from uterine cancer but increases breast cancer risk..." (Continued here)