Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year


I got an idea from author Holly Michael. She posted her strange terms people searched for to find her blog. Check out Holly's post here.

My list isn't as entertaining as Holly's, but here are the top ten most used search terms people have used to find my blog:

10) baby at 10 weeks gestation

 9) 12 weeks gestation

 8) baby 10 weeks

7) first communion gift ideas

6) 10 weeks gestation

5) graduation cap

4) baby at 10 weeks

3) catholic saints

2) 10 weeks

And (drum roll please) number one is...

1) rosary

What does that say about my blog posts? I suppose that I often write about unborn babies. Though I love discussing babies, that wasn't the original intent of this blog. I hope to go back to focusing on coming home to the Catholic Church, her teachings, and how to cope when you're Catholic but you have family members who either aren't or are not practicing the faith.

And music. I love blogging about music. Which reminds me, if you haven't checked out CatholicMetal.com I hope you will. There, you can hear Praising Him Loudly I, a Catholic Metal compilation. They're working on Praising Him Loudly II. I look forward to hearing that.

I'll continue writing about unborn baby issues and politics at Inglorious Ranterz where I've been invited to be a blogging team member. (Yay, I feel so wanted.) I hope you'll check out that blog.

Have a super blessed New Year!

 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Holy Family and Your Family


Today, December 30th, is the Feast of the Holy Family. On this day, let us think about making our own families more holy.
 
The Holy Family
 
 
Do you pray together? If not, I give you a challenge for the new year. Begin with just a prayer before dinner each night. Then, expand to blessing your children before bed and before they go to school (or elsewhere). When this becomes your new routine, pray as a family before bed. I hope that eventually you will pray the Rosary together, do faimly Bible reading and other devotional reading.
 
Pope John Paul II wrote On the Christian Family in the Modern World. I love this bit:

Christians also have the mission of proclaiming with joy and conviction the good news about the family, for the family absolutely needs to hear ever anew and to understand ever more deeply the authentic words that reveal its identity, its inner resources and the importance of its mission in the city of God and in that of man.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Little Jewel Boxes Full of Fun Facts


Two little jewel boxes of interesting facts for this fourth Sunday of Advent.

The Madonna of Port Lligat by Salvador Dali
 
Salvador Dalí was raised atheist and embraced atheism much of his life. However, he finally realized, intellectually at least, that God must exist. “I believe in God but I have no faith. Mathematics and Science tell me that God must exist but I don’t believe it.” In 1949 he painted "The Madonna of Port Lligat" and asked Pope Pius XII for his approval. It was granted.

Jewel Box 1- Read more interesting tidbits here: "5 People It'sEasy to Forget Are Catholic"
 
12 Days of Christmas
 
We've all heard the carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (as well as various parodies), which leads one (such as I) to believe there really are twelve days of Christmas. In reality, the length of Christmas varies. It runs from the first evening prayer (Vespers) on Christmas Eve through the first Sunday after the Epiphany (on January 6th). Here I was thinking it only ran until Epiphany, and I didn't even bother to actually count the days. Doh!

Jewel Box 2- Learn more juicy facts at Jimmy Akin's blog here: "9Things You Need to Know About Christmas."

*Note: Links to image sources embedded in image captions.


 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saint Ambrose's Letter


An advent letter from Saint Ambrose (born around 340 AD) was printed in my church bulletin. It is as pertinent in our day as it was in Ambrose's time.

Scores of people (including many Christians) don't appreciate the gift of Christ. I know many who celebrate Christmas and Easter, yet do not believe in Christ's divinity. They either think He never existed or that He was merely a nice wise man who taught everyone to be kind. (These latter don't explain why a nice wise man would stir up trouble and claim to be divine, but that's a post for another day.)

Ambrose points out that we should treat everyone with love. This means, even people who don't believe in Christ, family members whom we find annoying, and strangers who cut us off on the road.

Ambrose holds up the Virgin Mary as a person to imitate. Sadly, many Christians today brush the mother of our Lord aside. They think that because she's human, she isn't important. But she embraced God's call and threw herself completely into trusting His plan. She really was the first Christian. Of course we should look to her as a role model!

We'd be wise to behave like Mary and trust God. The Lord sees beyond the surface while we see mere appearances filtered through our own egos. He can use what we think of as unlikely situations and people to achieve His plan. The teenaged atheist sitting across the Christmas table from you this year may in fact be the next great theologian. Just remember, even now, they are a beloved child of God.

Now, here's Saint Ambrose's letter:

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

How beautiful, how awesome it is that our God sent His own Son to dwell among us, as one of us, to heal the breach between human and divine! And how tragic it is when frail humankind fails to appreciate the gift.

In my day, the followers of a man named Arius did not believe in Christ's divinity. They demanded that we hand over two churches for their use, but I refused to do so. In these difficult times, it was even more important for the followers of Christ to stand united. The mystery and gift of the Incarnation is that Christ came for us all. In every age, the language, customs and liturgical practices that separate the faithful are less important than the faith that unites us. While we cannot condone heresy, we must approach all those we meet with the heart of Our Lord, Who treated even sinners and tax collectors as beloved children of God.

The Virgin Mother provides us an example to emulate. She who bore the Savior understands the weight of an uncertain future. She, the humblest of women, found herself called to serve her Lords in a way that seemed impossible. Yet she embraced the call, both the gift of birth and the sacrifice of the Cross. She trusted the sure and certain hope of salvation promised of old. We trust in the equally certain promise of Our Lord's return. For God can use all situations and all people to effect His plan, even those who seem the least likely candidates. Witness myself, a Roman governor nominated as bishop of Milan even before I was baptized!

In times filled with conflict, then, endeavor to embrace the same patience and hope demonstrated by the Virgin in the days before the Nativity. May the peace of Christ dwell always in your hearts.

Your brother in Christ,

Ambrose

 
 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Immaculate Conception of Mary


Saturday (December 8th) is the Solemnity of the ImmaculateConception. For Catholics, it's a Holy Day of Obligation. That's just a fancy way of saying "Get your tail to Mass."

This is probably the most misunderstood feast on the Catholic Church's calendar. The Immaculate Conception refers to this fact: Though Mary was conceived in the normal way, biologically speaking [need I explain? ;-)], God preserved her from the stain of original sin.

What's the stain of original sin? Original sin is the sin of Adam when he disobeyed God in the Garden. We're all born with the stain of that sin. We inherited it from our first parents. This means we lack sanctifyinggrace and, as a result, have a corrupt nature.

God gave Mary sanctifying grace before original sin and its stain could take hold. Hence, she was immaculately (cleanly) conceived. Simple?

It makes sense. If God the Father is sending His Son to earth via a human woman, He'd want her to be a pure vessel for Him--a pure Arkfor the new covenent.

And to make perfectly clear, we Catholics don't worship Mary. She, like us, is a creature made by God. But we honor her, just as the angel Gabriel did (Luke 1:28), because she is the mother of Jesus and because she's our mother too (John 19:26)
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Wreaths and Home Altars


Tomorrow (Dec. 2nd) is the first Sunday of Advent; never mind that you've already opened the first door to your chocolate Advent calendar. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday from Christmas. It's a time to prepare for Christ's birthday.

Many people already have their Christmas trees decorated and lights on their houses. It's exciting to see, but I've been trying to keep our family focused on time of preparation--preparing not just our home, but our hearts.

Like Lent (the preparatory time before Easter), we focus on repentance, anticipated joy, and especially prayer. Some years we succeed better than others.

Our outer work reflects our inner world and also help us focus on what our inner focus should be. The Advent wreath is a super way to do this. It's traditionally an evergreen wreath with four  candles. Three are violet and one is rose colored. On each Sunday of Advent, we light one more. First Sunday- one violet. Second Sunday- two violet. Third Sunday (Rejoice Sunday)-two violet and one rose. Fourth Sunday-three violet and one rose.

The gradual progression helps us to anticipate Christ's birth. Evergreen branches symbolize continuous life. The circle of the wreath is for the eternity of God. Violet is for repentance. The rose candle is for hope and rejoicing that Christ will soon come.

At our home, we have the wreath on the table and light it each night before dinner, saying a special prayer. American Catholic has nice prayer ideas for Advent.

Additionally, decorating your home altar or fireplace mantel with purple and evergreen is a lovely reminder of the season.

 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

St. Andrew Prayer



Somebody on a Catholic group I belong to posted this prayer I had never heard of it. I guess I've been busy since 1897 when the Archbishop gave it the Imprimatur. :)

It begins tomorrow (St. Andrew's feast day Nov. 30), so I need to do some prayerful thinking about my intention.

~~~~Saint Andrew Christmas Prayer~~~~~~~~~~~

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God!
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and of His Blessed Mother.

Amen.

(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day
from the feast of St. Andrew, on November 30th, until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

[Imprimatur: +MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York, New York, February 6, 1897.]

At Divine Mercy Gift Shop you can read about Saint Andrew and perhaps buy a booklet about him.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Talking to Family and Friends Who Have Left the Faith


I had an out of this world, awesome Friday night. No, I didn't go to a concert, or a bar (ick!), or even a movie. I went to a local parish to see Catholic apologetics speaker, Patrick Coffin. If you listen to Catholic Answers on the radio or the podcasts of the show on Catholic.com, you know who he is.

He discussed how to evangelize to friends and family who have left the church, a topic that I dearly need to study. I took notes, which I'm attempting to decipher. I'll give you some tidbits that he brought up and my thoughts on them:


Joan of Arc is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

"About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter." (That's pretty cool. Even while I was away from the Church, I loved this saint very much.)

Acts 15 shows how the early Church discussed the question of whether or not Gentile converts need to be circumcised. They couldn't go to the written word, because the Old Testament was the old covenant and Jesus brought in the new covenant. They couldn't go to the New Testament. Not only was it not compiled yet, there wasn't anything written down that addressed this question. What did they do?  They held a council in around 50A.D. to figure out the will of God. "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." (You can look up the whole quote. Probably good to read all of Acts 15.)

Today, the Church Magisterium still meets to figure out the will of God. For the Church is the Body of Christ. (See 1 Corinthians12:27).

Christ didn't address many issues that our salvation hinges on. For instance, he didn't discuss human cloning or in vitro fertilization. Fortunately, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to help the Church with such questions. He will be with us until the end of time.

The Greek word paradosis (tradition) pops up a lot in the Bible. For Jesus didn't write out the books of the Bible and hand them to Peter before ascending into Heaven. He taught word of mouth and by example. His followers did too. The Bible, the inspired Word of God, flowed out from this sacred tradition. We shouldn't separate The Bible from the Church, or the Church from Christ.

We are God's coworkers. (Wow, that's a big responsibility and makes me want to work hard at the job.)

Thomas Aquinas said "Whatever is received is received according to the mode of the receiver." (Now I want to jump back into my Aquinas, which I'd sadly abandoned.)

Patrick Coffin seems to admire Archbishop Fulton Sheen very much. One quote he mentioned stands out for me. "You can win the argument but lose the soul." (I might be slightly paraphrasing. Some of my notes are sketchy.)

Much of what Patrick Coffin said addressed discussing issues with Christians outside of the Catholic Church. Many of my friends and family are atheist or leaning toward neo-paganism. However the "You can win the argument but lose the soul" quote is something I should burn into my wee little mind.
 
I can get emotional discussing this stuff, which makes my brain freeze up. Patrick reminded us that, while discussing Jesus is very important, sometimes you must hold back a little in order to win over a soul. Let's circle back to Aquinas's quote about the mode of the receiver. It's probably not helpful go to into details about Transubstantiation with an atheist. They won't even acknowledge God's existence, let alone that God would offer Himself to us. You must meet her where she is with regards to discussion about God.

I hope you get a chance to attend a talk from one of the speakers from Catholic.com.

 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Brief Halloween Post

Happy All Hallows Eve (aka Halloween).

It's also the feast day of Saint Wolfgang of Regensburg. A Facebook friend of mine pointed that out. Does he not have a cool name and so right for October 31st?  Read about St. Wolfgang on Wikipedia.
St. Wolfgang
On Catholic Answers today (10/31/2012) Scott Richert talked about Halloween and how it's a Catholic holiday.  http://www.catholic.com/radio  If you didn't hear it, I suggest you listen to the podcast. It should be up tomorrow.

Briefly--

He mentioned that Pope Gregory III instituted All Saints Day (the day Halloween is the eve of) four hundred years after the Celts became Christian. So, it is not, as is popularly thought, a rewriting of the pagan festival of Samhain. In fact Samhain was a lunar festival and not celebrated on October 31st. They didn't even have a concept of October 31st because they didn't use that sort of calendar. 

Anyhoo, dig up the podcast and give it a listen.

BTW, for all you Catholics, All Saints Day (Nov. 1st) is a Holy Day of Obligation. So get your candy-filled selves to Mass tomorrow. :)

 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October Baby


October Baby is a movie about a teenage girl, Hannah, who learns she's adopted, and that all of her health problems can be attributed to her birth. She was born alive after a failed abortion.

Feeling betrayed by her parents and utterly unwanted, Hannah goes on a trip with her best friend to discover why her birth mom would abort her. She learns many things about the circumstances of her birth, how much her parents really love her, and so much more. There's even one major reveal that I'll leave for you to discover as you watch this film.

I don't know when I've cried so much during a movie. So bittersweet! My twin eleven-year-old daughters watched it with me and they loved it as much as I did.

October Baby was inspired by a real-life abortion survivor, Gianna Jessen. You can hear Gianna's thoughts on the film in this interview.

The movie conveys a strong pro-life message, and at the same time, it evokes compassion for the bio mom who aborted. In the after-the-film interview, actress Shari Rigby, who played the mom, talked about how her own abortion affected her. Playing the part had a healing effect on her.

I highly recommend this film. In fact, I think it should be required viewing for middle schoolers on up to age 142.

The caveat: The film is rated PG-13. There's no violence nor sex. However, the main character, Hannah, defends herself to her best friend (who is a guy) because she's worried she comes off as a prude because she doesn't want to share a hotel room, even though there's no romance between them at this point.

She makes a comment about sounding like one of those "Christian homeschoolers." I smiled at that comment, while at the same time cringing because my homeschooled, Christian daughters are sitting right there. But Hannah sort of comes off as babbling nervously and her friend is nothing but kind and respectful. This didn't sour me on the movie nor my decision to show it to my girls. And there's a beautiful scene when Hannah, though Baptist, enters a Catholic church and tells her story to the priest and he gives her words of wisdom.
 
Read more at the Parental Guide.

 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Blessed JPII Added to the Liturgical Calendar

Blessed John Paul II Added to U.S. Liturgical Calendar;
Feast Day Set For October 22

WASHINGTON—The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship has approved insertion of the optional memorial of Blessed John Paul II in the proper calendar of the dioceses of the United States. It also has provided the proper liturgical texts for observance of the Memorial in the Mass and Divine Office.  Read more here http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/holy-see/pope-john-paul-ii/memorial-of-blessed-john-paul-ii.cfm

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Abortion Issue.

Is abortion an important issue to consider when voting?

Because we in the U.S. are supposedly entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I'd say that it is. If we kill innocent citizens, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mean nothing.

If you're asking the question, "Are unborn fetuses and embryos living human?" then I invite you to listen to Jimmy Akin's podcast show, "Science Proves the Unborn are Human Beings."  Or you can simply read a human development book.

If you are aware that the unborn are indeed living humans, why is it okay to kill them and not other innocent humans? If it's a matter of "choice" why can't a mother choose to kill her two-day old, five-year-old, or twelve-year-old? What's magical about emerging through the birth canal that the organism is suddenly considered a human being, and what sort of being was it the moment prior to birth?

Priests for Life has information about abortion, including videos of abortion, pictures of the instruments used in abortion, and other useful information.

Many will say, "Wait, what if the mother's life is in danger? Isn't abortion okay then?"

There was a study conducted by The International Symposium on Maternal Health, held in Dublin, Ireland. It found that no, it's never necessary to deliberately kill an unborn baby to save a mother's life. There are times when a medical procedure that saves a mother will result in the death of the unborn child (such as removing a fallopian tube that has become pathological because of an ectopic pregnancy), but deliberately killing is never necessary.

As an aside, I'd like to appeal to your humanity as you consider the question, "Can unborn fetuses feel pain?" We know for certain that they can feel pain as early as 20 weeks gestation, but there's a possibility that they can feel pain even earlier. Here are two links that can tell you more details about what is known: http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/Fetal_Pain/AnandPainReport.pdf and http://www.mccl.org/unborn-babies-can-feel-pain.html .

Me, I'd err on the side of assuming they feel pain earlier than 20 weeks.

But the pain issue isn't why I'm pro-life. An unborn child is a living human being (according to science, as well as my religion), deserving the right to life.

If you're grieving because of your abortion (or, to the guys--for your wife/girlfriend's abortion), there is healing. Visit Rachel's Vineyard.

My twins, as newborns

 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Catholic Voting Guide App

This just in....

A new app is available for iPhones and other such devices. It's a Catholic voting guide. This link will take you to the article by Fr. John Trigilio where he talks about it: http://www.catholicclergy.net/news/voting-guide-mobile-app-for-catholics/

Link to iphone pic source


 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vaccines Created from Fetal Cell Lines

lifesize- 8 weeks

Whenever I've told people that vaccines are often derived from aborted fetus cell lines, a look of shock appears on their faces. Even my pediatrician had no idea what I was talking about when I asked if some particular vaccines ware derived from fetal cells. Together we looked at the package inserts and read that one was indeed fetal derived while another was from chicken embryo.

Who were these fetuses were deliberately aborted and then used as lab rats?

Well one was a baby girl who was aborted because her family though they had too many children. She has no proper name. Her cell line is called WI-38.

Another cell line came from a baby boy, aborted at 14 weeks by his 27 year-old mother. His cell line is called MRC-5. Keep these two innocents in mind while you look at the chart at theChildren of God for Life (COG for Life) website. This chart tells you which vaccines used human fetal cell lines and which did not. Sometimes there's a moral alternative vaccine and other times there isn't.

Can a pro-life person morally chose to use vaccines derived from aborted children? To help decide, take a look at the Vatican's statement on aborted fetal vaccines.

It addresses issues about doing abortions, manufacturing the vaccines, etc. But my main concern today is this; as a parent, can I have my children vaccinated with such vaccines? Am I cooperating with evil if I do so?

The Vatican document says this would be "very remote mediate material cooperation." It goes on to say, basically that it's a matter of weighing the alternatives. Is there an alternative vaccine available? If I don't use the vaccine am I putting my child or society at risk? Also, we have a moral obligation to voice our objections to the fetal derived vaccines.

Links



Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Feast Day of Saint Therese of Lisieux! Here is a book for you!


St. Therese is also known as "The Little Flower" and "Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus".

I'd intended to write about a special children's book after my girls and I finished reading it, but because it's St. Therese's feast day, I'll do that today.

Olivia and the Little Way  by Nancy Carabio Belanger is the story of a fifth grade girl who has moved to a new school. She wants to make friends and also practice Saint Therese's "Little Way" of doing service to God.

My girls are in 6th grade and homeschool, but that was no hindrance to them falling madly in love with this book. Olivia, the main character, is realistic. She has flaws. She's impulsive and though she wants to be good, she sometimes is very naughty. We follow her struggles carefully, rooting for her to overcome urges to do the wrong thing--applauding when she succeeds and sighing sadly when she messes up. Though the book deals with a battle within the main character herself, the book is more intense than many adventure novels.

Lovely realistic drawings, by Sandra Casali LewAllen, appear throughout the novel.  Each chapter closes with a little hint that makes the reader crave to read on. Each chapter opens with a quote from St. Therese. My girls are even more wrapped up in this book than the fantasy adventure we're also currently reading. When we finish a chapter, it's always, "One more, please!!!"


 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Voting Catholic


 
As we prepare to go to the polls, it's important to research the issues and candidates. Some issues are more important than others. The Voter's Guide forSerious Catholics can help you in your decision. It's a little 40¢ booklet that discusses the non-negotiables, that is, the issues that have strong moral implications: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, and so called homosexual marriage.

This article, at EWTN on voting, answers some questions you may have, for instance, do you ever wonder if it is permissible to vote for a pro-choice candidate?

The Catholic Church, its priests, bishops, etc, will never tell whom to vote for, but the guidelines in these two resources can help you figure that out for yourself.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Short story with a pro-life angle


My short story, "Graffitied Door" is up at The Wordsmith Journal Magazine. Here's the link.

"Graffitied Door" is about a pregnant teen. It's a bit gritty, but also kind of sweet, and very pro-life.

 

The Wordsmith Journal is an awesome site. In addition to short stories, they have columns/blogs, author interviews, and book reviews. Their thing is to feature books with a Christian moral message.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock and The Seal of the Confessional


Want to be captivated by an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, with all of that uniquely Hitchcockian (is that a word?) cinematography and suspense, but you also want to spend time on spiritual contemplation? Have I got a movie for you!


I Confess is a 1953 Hitchcock film about a priest who hears the confession of a murderer and winds up the leading suspect of that same murder. He must choose between keeping the seal of the confessional or exposing what he knows to save himself from prosecution. Hint: You'll be proud of his choice.

Montgomery Cliff stars as Father Michael Logan. Many of you won't recognize his name unless your parents or grandparents familiarized you with old movies. But let's just say he's young and quite handsome in this. It's no surprise that the good priest's old sweetheart (from before he even thought about the priesthood) turns up to complicate matters. Fortunately his stalwart morality shines, at least to us the viewers. The opinions of the police and general public within the story are a different matter.

It's beautiful to see a priest depicted with such wonderful Catholic devotion to what is right, given this modern world we live in where it's popular to demonize every priest and the Church in general.

You can get IConfess on Amazon or do what I did and get it from Netflix.

Read more about the seal of the confessional at CatholicAnswers and at Catholic Encyclopedia. Also, you can listen about the subject in this Catholic Answers podcast.

BTW in case you didn't know, a priest cannot reveal to others what you say in Reconciliation no matter what. He can't even bring it up to you outside of the confessional unless you bring it up first.

You can also read about I Confess at Decent Films.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How Can I Know if a Sin is Mortal or Venial?

Reconciliation Coloring Page. Click here for source.


I was thinking about the sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Confession) and wondered if I had a good handle on what a mortal sin is.

You don't need to confess venial sins, though it's a good idea and the Church encourages it. I blogged about confessing venial sins last year.

Often the difference between mortal and venial sins is very clear, but sometimes not.

After poking around, I found a blog post at Aggie Catholics. I subscribe to the blog, but somehow missed this valuable post: Grave Matter: What Makes Mortal Sin "Mortal"?

It discusses how the Ten Commandments are a great place to start, but to keep in mind Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7) where He tells us such things as not only is it wrong to commit adultery, but you shouldn't even look at somebody lustily.

The blog post even gives a handy list of sins. That phrase looks funny to me "handy list of sins." But it really is. And it makes a good examination of conscience.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Interviewing Author, Declan Finn

I had the pleasure of interviewing Declan Finn, author of It Was Only On Stun! Here's the blurb for his novel:

When Sean A.P. Ryan is hired to protect an actress for a three-day science fiction convention, he figures he's in for a quiet time. But he didn't count on factions from her home country to sent hired killers. This doesn't even count "Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven Assassin;" he thinks that the actress is really an Elven princess, and will do anything to prove it to her, including murder.



Q:  It Was Only On Stun! is an incredibly fun read. The backdrop is a science fiction convention, so you have all of these dressed-up people from every sci-fi/fantasy fandom, from Star Trek to Harry Potter. The head of security (and main character) is a former stuntman. Then you have Galadren, "Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven assassin," who takes himself very seriously (and who happens to be my favorite character). So, my question is, did you set out to write parody, poking gentle fun at the genre, or did the novel simply take off and you went with it, enjoying the ride?

DF: The novel took off and left me behind somewhere around page 100 of the original draft (which happens to be about 100 pages longer than the final version).  I didn’t set out to poke fun; much of it happened because I was throwing a non-science fiction fan into the deep end of the pool, and to him, it feels like he’s been thrown through the looking glass. As for the costumes, easily half the people at any convention are dressed to the nines in some heavy-duty outfits.  If you check out my “Sean Ryan” trailer, those are pics from DragonCon, and there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people dressed in professional-level costuming.  How could I not have my background characters in the same outfits?

Two characters who were the biggest, obvious parodies, just happened.  One was “Morrie, The Jewish Vampire,” who was a little strange, but useful.  Galadren was a later addition– I had been writing a later Sean Ryan novel, and my father casually added a few lines to Sean’s resume about facing “Earth’s Most Wanted Elven Assassin.”  At that moment, I had to rewrite It Was Only On Stun!  Strangely, I’ve been complimented by psychologists on my ability to write for schizoid personalities, and where did I get the training?  When I tell people that I haven’t had any such training, the people asking the questions back away slowly.


Q: You have Catholic characters, as well of characters of other religions. How does your own Catholicism influence your writing?

DF:  It influences my writing in two major ways. It tells me of the existence of evil and the power of redemption. However, unlike “modern” thought, that tells us we have to forgive people automatically with the excuse of the day (either with being “misunderstood” or “s/he’s a victim, too”), redemption requires some level of repentance.  This is why the bad guys are evil, though Galadren is not so quickly condemned. The former are evil, the latter is pure and truly crazy.

There are also other ways Catholicism informs my work, but those are the big ones.

Q: Your main character, Sean Ryan, is Catholic. He's also a very violent guy. He makes a remark about his Rosary doubling as brass knuckles. Would Sean Ryan describe himself as a good man?

DF: If asked, Sean would first say, “Oh, I’m very good.” If you pushed for an honest answer, Sean would say, “Maybe.” On one hand, Sean is often in situations where he needs to survive by any means necessary, if only because he has people to protect. If he could be certain that giving his life would end a threat to someone he’s protecting, he would.  The violence wouldn’t bother him, because much of it he deems “necessary force.”

The “maybe” comes in for those moments when Sean wants to kill someone. There is a darkness in him, as there is in all of us, it’s called original sin (see, there’s that Catholicism again).  For a man who deals in day-to-day violence, Sean’s darkness has more opportunity to act, and go beyond what necessary. As much as he jokes about going to the dark side, he hasn’t yet, and he knows it.

Next to that, the brass knuckle rosary is something he would have no problem with. Sean would actually rationalize it as “God gave His life to save us. I don’t think he’d have a problem helping me save other people.” Though, later, Sean would probably say, “Sorry about that God,” and wash the rosary thoroughly later on. It would be his way of being respectful, while keeping others alive … I never said he wasn’t strange.

(Read the rest of the interview at my other blog, "A Fortnight of Mustard")

It Was Only On Stun! will be available for free for Kindle at Amazon for five days of Labor Day Week (Sunday to Thursday). You can also buy it at Create Space.

AUTHOR BIO:  Declan Finn lives in a part of New York City unreachable by bus or subway.  Who's Who has no record of him, his family, or his education.  He has been trained in hand to hand combat and weapons at the most elite schools in Long Island, and figured out nine ways to kill with a pen when he was only fifteen.  He escaped a free man from Fordham University's PhD program, and has been on the run ever since.  There was a brief incident where he was branded a terrorist, but only a court order can unseal those records, and realloy, why would you want to know? It Was Only On Stun! is his first novel. You can visit him at his website: declanfinn.webs.com



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Assumption of Mary

Happy Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

I'm blogging late in the day, but lucky for us that Mark Hart over at Life Teen wrote a brilliant article about it. He talks about how we know Mary was assumed into Heaven.
Check out his article, "Missing, Jesus' Mom: The Assumption Explained."

You may also want to take a listen to The Thirsting's rendition of "Hail Holy Queen."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

Our Lady of La Leche
Why is a Catholic blog talking about World Breastfeeding Week?

Breastfeeding is the healthiest and safest way to feed your baby. It's natural. Human breast milk holds the perfect nutrition for a human baby. It aids the bonding between mommy and baby. It's free! It's portable. You don't need any supplies but your own body. It's the method of baby feeding that God designed.

Sure, there are certain instances where breastfeeding must be interrupted or stopped altogether. As a former La Leche League Leader, I know this. But most of the time--when there are problems--with a little advice from a breastfeeding councilor, lactation consultant, or even an experienced friend, those problems can be solved and breastfeeding can continue.

When is World Breastfeeding Week?


So, what am I supposed to do about World Breastfeeding Week anyway?

If you're planning to have children, you can educate yourself about breastfeeding. Maybe pick up a copy of my favorite breastfeeding book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

If you have no children, or they're all grown up, you can still educate yourself about the benefits of human milk for human babies. That way you'll feel confident when you see your daughters or daughters-in-law breastfeeding your grandchildren. You'll also smile with appreciation when random women nurse their infants in public.

Breastfeeding sort of fell out of favor for a while, at least in the U.S. My mother didn't nurse us kids. It never even came up at her prenatal visits. She didn't know how healthy it was. But then, after hearing about its benefits, she appreciated when my sister and I nursed our children.

Does the Bible mention breastfeeding?

Yep. Go to Mothering from the Heart to read which scripture passages mention breastfeeding.

How about breastfeeding in church?

Of course! What better way to keep baby calm and happy, not to mention quiet!

One of my daughters recently mused over the idea that pregnant moms taking the Eucharist might also be imparting the benefits to their babies. That blew me away, but in a good way! :)

I didn't fully return to the Church until all of my children were weaned, but what a marvelous thing it would have been to take the Eucharist while pregnant or even nursing.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Symbolism and Typology and the Ancient Art of Storytelling

As a high school senior and later a college literature major, I loved writing about symbolism in stories. My first symbolism essay was on The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. In it, I discussed the character Simon as a Christ figure. I still have the essay, of which I was extremely proud, though now I see it was poorly written. It earned an A, so it must have been decent for a high school senior. This was when discussing Christianity in school was allowed. I believe the teacher suggested the topic.

As an adult, returning to the Catholic faith, I grew excited to learn about Biblical typology. A "type" is an element of the Old Testament: a person, thing, or event, which foreshadows something in the New Testament. The Fisheaters website has a nice article on it.

The element can be seen as having literally existed but also be symbolic. It's not either/or.

I think of God as the supreme author of the universe. After all, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Jn1:1)*

For instance, circumcision foreshadows Christian baptism. The Passover lamb signifies the sacrifice of Jesus. The Ark of the Covenant symbolize foreshadows Mary who carried Jesus in her womb. (More on these and others at this article at Catholic Answers.



Today I listened to Grammar Girl's podcast. (No, I'm not veering off course). She talked about Lisa Cron's book Wired for Story. Ms. Cron says our brains are wired to respond to story. She's right.  People have always told stories--first orally, then written. God, being the first storyteller, creating the material universe with the Word, of course we respond to story. It's built in the very fiber of our being.

Ms. Cron outlines what she sees as the seven rules of story. Check out Grammar Girl's site to listen or read about them. I'm not sure I agree with every point. For instance, many of the oldest examples of written stories are not emotion based nor are they concerned with the protagonists inner journey. However, her list is thought provoking and useful for the writer (or reader) of fiction. It would make for a fun springboard when writing college essays. I'm eager to read Cron's book, Wired for Story. It sounds like a valuable and interesting book.

*"New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rainbow Lily a Beautiful Symbol

What does a rainbow symbolize? When I was growing up, it symbolized God's promise to never flood the world again. Remember Genesis? The world was so full of sin, God wanted to wash away everyone. He spared Noah and his family and taught him how to build a huge ark, so they'd be safe until the floods went down, and also so that little children would one day have toy boats with pairs of animals to play with.

Noah's Ark

Where was I? Oh yes, the rainbow. It symbolizes a promise. I've no idea why it became a symbol of homosexual pride. Anyway, Nissa Annakindt (writer, blogger, expert on Korean soap operas) has created a new symbol. It celebrates people with same sex attraction (aka, gay people) who commit to living a chaste, pure, celibate life. It's a beautiful rainbow lily! Rainbow for the same sex attraction thing and a God's promise thing and a lily for purity. Brilliant!

Check out Nissa's blog The Lina Lamont Fan Club. She blogs about Doctor Who, the Catholic Church, same sex attraction, writing, and werewolves, among other things.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sacramental Wine During Prohibition

Did you ever wonder where priests got wine for Mass during prohibition?

Mission San Antonio in California


Prohibition in the United States was in place from 1920 to 1933. Basically, prohibition made the manufacture, sale, import or export of intoxicating liquors illegal.  Wikipedia has a page that gives more details.

Dumping illegal booze during prohibition

What did the Catholic Church do about Communion wine during prohibition? What happened to the wineries that had been flourishing in California? Both of these stories are intertwined.
Sadly, during prohibition, many wineries went out of business. However, the lucky ones who got contracts with the Catholic Church to make sacramental wines survived or even flourished. You see, alcoholic beverages for medicinal and sacramental use were exempt from the ban.

Wine press

That's the story in a nutshell. To learn more go to this article in the American Catholic and this one at the Straight Dope.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Coyote Fires" by Karina Fabian: donate to a good cause while enjoying a fantasy story

Enjoy some fantasy and help victims of the Colorado fires. Author Karina Fabian is putting up a story called "Coyote Fires" chapter by chapter. Here's the link to the site.  On the side bar you'll find a donation button. All of the money goes to the Colorado Springs chapter of the American Red Cross.

Why not go over and donate. It's simple and painless. In fact, it's fun because you get to read a fantasy story! :) You get to feel good about helping people while sitting back, sipping a cup of tea, and reading.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

C.S. Lewis, Kids' Book Clubs, and Christ


I run a children's homeschooling book club and have recently had the honor or leading the discussion of C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew. Some members of our club are not Christian, so I felt I must keep away from Christian themes and symbolism. Easier said than done.

The more I struggled to see past the Christian themes, the more they stood out for me. You have the struggle of good vs. evil, a man seeking power for power's sake who can't recognize God when he's standing in front of him, a Genesis creation story, temptation in the garden, a forbidden apple, and the promise of a savior. I'll tell you how I skirted these topics in a moment.

I know neo-pagans, new agers, atheists, and even anti-Christian atheists who love the Narnia books. Why would they be drawn to them when the books so obviously deal with Christian themes? Sure, they are good stories. But they're only great stories if you see the deeper meaning that is hidden (or at times, not so well hidden) within them. A child unaware of the Christian elements might enjoy them, but a grownup who's not only non-Christian, but anti-Christian?



I have a theory.  Though society tells us to love self, in our hearts, we want to love God and imitate Him by loving our fellow human beings in a selfless manner. We are made to love and know God. This is why Narnia is popular. It's why we admire self-sacrificing heroes in books and films. It's why we grow disgusted at villains using power to step on others as they strive to rule the world.  It may be why my non-Christian friends and family celebrate Christmas. I'd thought it was a cultural tradition thing; now I'm not so sure.

Still, the loving self thing pops up in a couple of ways in our society. One has a bad reputation--the over consumption of goods, such as expensive cars, jewelry, and other luxury items. The one that is gaining in popularity (at least in my sphere) is the more new-agey idea that you are your own god or goddess. An atheist relative of mine posted on Facebook, "Be your own savior."

Of course we should love and respect ourselves. God created each of us as unique human beings. We have an inherent dignity as his children. But when self-centeredness gets in the way of loving God and others, there's a problem.

But back to the topic. What did we discuss at book club? Good and evil (because everybody understand that dichotomy), the similarities between Uncle Andrew and the witch and what makes them villains, the nature of the Cabby (aka King Frank), the children, the horse, and we also touched on Aslan. We discussed the similarities between the Wood Between the World and the attic tunnel (both being in-between places, not really places where things happen), and the similarities of Charn and how the characters feel about London. Both were described as hard, cold places.

So, I thank the Lord for the works of C.S. Lewis. Their popularity fills me with hope for our society.

Plaque on the Unicorn Inn

BTW IMDb says the film The Magician's Nephew is in production and might not be out until 2014.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like the post I wrote on self-sacrificing mothers in books and film.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

When Does Human Life Begin?

When does human life begin? The Catholic Church says it begins at conception/fertilization, the moment the sperm and egg join. Does science agree?


Embryo at 6 weeks gestation

A sperm and an ovum have only 23 chromosomes each. When they join, they combine their chromosomes to make 46. Ta-da! She's now a one cell embryo. She's a human with her own unique DNA. She's alive (not dead- ie. she develops and grows), and she's human, not a kitten or a camel, because she has human DNA.

She's called a zygote at this point in her embryonic stage and doesn't look like she will when she's older, but she's growing and developing. (She'll continue to do so up until sometime in her teen years, when she will reach her full height.)

But back to our zygote-- About 40 hours after she's formed, her one cell begins to divide. It will go on dividing and when she has 32 cells, she's in her morula stage (on day 4). The next day (day 5) she's already in her blastocyst stage. She now has specialized cells that will become her placenta, umbilical chord, and amniotic sack. Plus she has her stem cells, which will eventually grow into all of her tissues and organs. (In embryonic stem cell research, this is the stage she'd be destroyed to get at her stem cells.) If she lives, she'll reach the uterus by day 7 and she'll snuggle down into the lining (implant).

By day 22 her heart beats.

At 8 weeks she's called a fetus.
At 16 weeks her eyes blink.
At 20 weeks she can suck her thumb and yawn.
At 40 weeks, she's "term" and ready for birth. However, she can survive outside of the womb as early as 24 weeks.

Actually there have have been preemies who survived as as early as 21 weeks. Preemie survival rates vary depending on factors such as gestational age, health, and the medical care available. Because of that last item, medical care available, I think using viability outside of the womb to determine personhood (vs. abortion target) cruel and unfair to children outside of developed countries. A 22 week fetus in the U.S. has a better chance of surviving outside of the womb than one in a poor country, but both children are equal in their worth. Okay, that's my opinion, and I know I said I was just going to look at science. Sorry.

I found this fetal development slide show at medicinenet.com where you can see pictures of babies in the embryonic and fetal stages developing in utero.

So, if you have another idea about when human life begins, other than at fertilization, please tell me about it. Explain your thinking. :) 


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Feed the Poor, Not the Lazy

As Christians, are we required to support freeloaders?

I've been having a discussion with two friends about food stamps and the welfare system in the U.S. They say everybody who wants food stamps should get them, regardless of lifestyle. May they be on drugs, deal drugs, get four different women pregnant without supporting any of the kids, and refuse to even enter a job center, my friends believe they should get food stamps, because, well, it's food.

I don't wish to see anybody starve, but there is a difference between using the safety net of welfare and food stamps, and considering them a career choice.

Money is limited. Yes, food stamps are money. I think the money should go to people who need it, not merely want it: folks out of work but actively job hunting, single parents struggling to raise kids on a low income, the sick or injured, and those struggling to make ends meet because of a special needs child, to name a few.

Am I heartless? Am I going against Christian value by putting people in separate categories, the needy and the greedy? Are we commanded "to feed the lazy, for they don't wish to work"?

Let's read about how the early Christian communities dealt with it.

In Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians he addresses the issue of freeloaders.

...follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat [k]anyone’s bread [l]without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would [m]follow our example. 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all...

 (2Thes. 3 NASB) *emphasis added

Elsewhere in the Bible, we are commanded to care for the poor, widows, orphans, and sick people. But this letter clarifies the fact that we need not feed the lazy--that is, those choosing not to work. Paul sees a difference and so do I. What do you think?

Do you distinguish between helping these people--





And these people---

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Unicorns in The Bible

How can there be unicorns in the Bible? Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin will tell you all about that. You see, I sent him a question about the various mythical creatures mentioned in the Bible, and he has answered the part about unicorns for me. Check out Jimmy Akin's answer here.