Archive for April, 2015

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When we assess our lives, it’s often from a superficial point of view.

We look at how popular we are, how successful we are, how much money we make, how big our house is, what clubs we belong to, and then we ask ourselves, “Who is noticing my successes? How do I look in their eyes?” Many times, our very self worth is contained in the dubious answers to those questions.

But if we spend our whole lives chasing after people who might notice us, and ‘stuff’ that makes us feel important, then we have seriously missed the boat.

There is only one question we need to ask ourselves–and it is crucially important to us in the ‘here and now’ because the answer to it will determine our eternity. The question is: What does God, in all His magnificence, want from Me?

God does not care if you are pretty, handsome, or just plain. He does not care if you have a fan club of thousands reading your Facebook page and clicking “like.” He does not care if you live in a big house, a trailer, or a shack. And He certainly does not care about your bankroll.

It’s really very simple. What He cares about is how much you love and the way you love.

Attempting to understand and be patient with a trying person or child is a way to love. Loyalty to a spouse despite the difficulties in marriage is a way to love. Self-sacrifice for a greater purpose is a way to love. Toning down anger toward someone who’s hurt you is a way to love. And I’m sure you could list numerous other ways.

The point is, what God wants from us has nothing to do with making ourselves large in life, but in making ourselves small enough to consider the needs of others.

We may think we’re so smart, and maybe we have more educational degrees than anybody we know, but we’ll still be only ‘educated fools’ —unless we realize that right here, right now, we’re creating our own eternity, based only on how much we’ve loved others and respected ourselves as children of God.

In a nutshell, that’s all that is truly important.

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Oh, I would love to be perfect! I’d love to make a commitment and stick to it–all the way to the end–for once! I hate that I slip and slide when I say I’m going to stand firm and climb. What makes me do this? What makes you do this? Is it because we’re Only Human?

Well, it’s true: you and I are human. But we are more than that. We are humans with ‘privileges.’ Spiritual privileges. We believe that we can do better. We have faith that we can do better.

And where does our belief come from?

Grace. And Grace comes from God.

Catholics call it Actual grace, those everyday pushes from God to keep going. We may ignore them. We may say, “Not now. Maybe tomorrow.” Well, God will there tomorrow, too; still pushing us. Because He never leaves us. He is there to lift us, help us up after we fall.

So, I will continue to make commitments. I will be relentless in my attempts to stick to them. And so will you, because we are blessed by our Faith, that invisible strength that God gives us. And we need it most when we’re failing, or stumbling, or falling into despair. We need it when we find it so hard to let go of what we know in our hearts we need to release.

We need it to love as we should. We need it to come to the aid of others. We need it to become aware of what is true in this world, and what is not true. And ultimately, we need it to stay on track in working out our own salvation.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Phil. 2:12–16).

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For those of us who are Americans: Do you know where you’ve been? Do you know American History?

If you’re anything like today’s students, you don’t know much at all. So think about this quote from Cicero: “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it be woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

Here are 25 American History Facts Most Students Don’t Know: From College

1.Abraham Lincoln’s significance as the 16th President of the United States:
Education Overtime visited the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C., and asked students why President Lincoln was important to America. One student answered that his beard made him important; another said he was killed at a puppet show. Few were able to explain his leadership and role in the American Civil War.

2.George Washington’s significance:
If kids can’t identify why Lincoln was important, you’d at least think they can understand why our very first president was an important leader. Nope. In the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 23% of fourth graders were able to point out his status as the first U.S. President, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, participation in the Constitutional Convention, or his role in the French and Indian War. Twenty-four percent entered inappropriate responses, 45% got partial credit, and 7% didn’t even try to answer at all.

3.The best presidents in history:
Surely, a selection of the best U.S. presidents is a subjective one, but a 2008 Harris poll revealed that the public’s perception is totally off base. It turns out that students and the general public are much more likely to list those with which they’re familiar from their own lifetime, rather than true “greatness.” When measured against the lists that most historians provide, they are completely different.

4.When the American Civil War Occurred:
In a 2007 telephone sample, students were asked if the American Civil War occurred in the half-century between 1850-1900. Only 43% identified this period as the correct one. This is, however, an improvement upon 1986 numbers: during a survey in that year, only 32% answered the question correctly.

5.What happened at the Constitutional Convention:
In a Newsweek quiz, an incredible number of Americans were not able to pass the basic citizenship quiz. Perhaps the most alarming of these questions was, “What happened at the Constitutional Convention?” This one is so baffling because the answer is right in the question!

6.Who our World War II Allies were:
In a multiple choice question, many students were unable to pick out the Soviet Union as an ally of the U.S. in WWII. This was in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam that fewer than 20% of American fourth and eighth graders showed more than a basic knowledge on.

7.The authors of the Federalist Papers:
In Newsweek‘s U.S. citizenship test, few were able to identify the authors of The Federalist Papers. In fact 88% of respondents got the question wrong, failing to share the names of even one of the authors–Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay.

8.The American Revolutionary War allowed the U.S. to gain independence:
The Lunch Scholars video from a Washington State high school reveals just how bad things really are in the history department: not one student on the video was able to identify the American Revolutionary War as the war in which American gained independence. Not without a hint, anyway.

9.The role of women as shopkeepers and farmers during the American Revolution:
When asked what role many colonial women played during the American Revolution, many students weren’t able to correctly answer that women kept farms and shops running during the war: 54% of fourth graders answered incorrectly.

10.What the Bill of Rights guarantees:
The Bill of Rights gives Americans a set of unalienable rights, if only we could remember what they are. A third of students don’t know that the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of speech and religion.

11.Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas, Jamestown was founded before the Constitution was written, and Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation:
When asked to assign these major historic events to a timeline, only 19% of fourth graders were able to correctly assign all four of them. Four percent didn’t even try.

12.North Korea’s ally in the Korean War:
In the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, nearly 80% of 12th graders selected the wrong answer when asked which country was North Korea’s ally in fighting the U.S. during the Korean War. Even worse, it was a multiple choice question, allowing students to choose between the Soviet Union, Japan, China, and Vietnam.

13.The purpose of the Lewis and Clark expedition:
In 2010, fourth graders were given a map of U.S. expansion and asked to identify why Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition. Fifty percent of students were unable to correctly identify that they were sent to gather information about lands for settlement.

14.The rights that are protected by the First Amendment:
In a question that shared a passage from the First Amendment, students were asked which right it protects. Fifty-five percent of students failed to identify the correct answer as the right to hold public meetings, instead choosing answers including the right to a prompt trial, to a jury of one’s peers, and to vote regardless of race or color.

15.How Native Americans were affected by European settlers:
It seems that students have a hard time understanding the impact that settlers had on Native Americans: only 8% of fourth grade students answered this question correctly on the 2010 NAEP. Thirty-nine percent of students shared inappropriate responses, and 32% only received partial credit.

16.African-American slaves gained their freedom after the Civil War:
In the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, fourth graders were asked what changed for African-Americans in the South after the Civil War. Thirty-five percent of students were unable to correctly identify freedom for slaves, instead answering that they returned to Africa, started their own plantations, or became governors. Three percent of students didn’t answer at all.

17.What JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you” speech meant:
Although 50% of fourth graders were able to identify that JFK’s “Ask not” speech was intended to encourage citizens to put their skills to work for the U.S., another 50% did not. Forty-eight percent of students got the answer incorrect, and 2% omitted the question.

18.Why the Pilgrims wanted to leave England:
When asked why the Pilgrims wanted to leave England in the 2010 NAEP, only 43% of fourth graders answered the question correctly, identifying religious persecution. Most of the responses were wrong, with 55% incorrect, and 2% who failed to enter a response.

19.How machines and factories changed American work:
Students were asked to identify how work changed for Americans due to machines and factories, and correct responses included: people worked faster, machines did work people used to do, people worked more outside of the home, and people made parts instead of whole products. Only 11% of fourth graders filled in complete, correct answers. A whopping 10% of students omitted the question entirely.

20.When Columbus sailed:
Elementary school kids often learn that in 1492, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” but it seems they’re not remembering. More than a quarter of students think that Columbus sailed after 1750.

21.The purpose of the Declaration of Independence:
Fourth graders were given a multiple choice question to identify the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Choices included the right to vote, organization of one religion, and how the new government of the U.S. would work. Few chose the correct answer: the Declaration of Independence explains why the colonies would no longer let England control them. Only 35% of fourth graders got this question correct; 64% answered incorrectly.

22.Which war the U.S. fought against Hitler and Germany:
A whopping 72% of students failed to identify that the U.S. fought Hitler and Germany in World War II. Twenty-seven percent got this question correct, choosing the Second World War over choices including the Civil War, First World War, and the Vietnam War.

23.Who Hitler was at all:
Forget which war Hitler was a part of — many students have no idea who he was at all. Nearly a quarter of students can’t identify Adolf Hitler. Ten percent of students think he was a “mutinous manufacturer.”

24.The Soviet Union was the leading Cold War communist nation:
When asked to identify the leading communist nation in the Cold War, 79% of fourth graders got the answer wrong. Instead, they chose France, North Korea, or Germany.

25.The importance of harbors for colonial growth:
When shown a map of the colonial economy identifying harbors, production, and key cities, most students were unable to identify that the location of harbors was important for cities that grew during colonial times. Sixty percent of students got this question incorrect.


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morguefile free photo

Because we are human, there is in each of us the desire to acquire. Often we are after ‘things;’ bigger houses, cars, vacations, and lots of ‘stuff.’ Other times, we are after ‘power;’ some authority over others whether it be through our job or relationships.

What is this common personality trait–our desire to acquire–really all about? I think it’s because we are searching for meaning–in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. No one wants to be thought as passing insignificantly through this world, and so we strive to be relevant in some way.

But the desire to acquire can get out of hand. We must use self-discipline, or the very things that we work so hard to get will not give us relevance, but enslavement.

Aesop’s fable of The Boy and the Filberts: “A boy put his hand into a jar of filberts and grasped as many as his fist could possibly hold. But when he tried to pull it out again, he found he couldn’t do so, for the neck of the jar was too small to allow of the passage of so large a handful. Unwilling to lose his nuts but unable to withdraw his hand, he burst into tears. A bystander, who saw where the trouble lay, said to him, “Come, my boy, don’t be so greedy. Be content with half the amount, and you’ll be able to get your hand out without difficulty.”

I wonder if the boy made the decision to curtail his desire to acquire?
Some people just can’t let go. Their possessions and power command them. And always, they want more. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our own misguided government.

“How can men control the growing monstrousness of power when they cannot even control their own appetites? How can they shape political or cultural decisions affecting countless others, when they are continually failing themselves?”

That question was asked by Romano Guardini, a Catholic priest, author, academic, and one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in the 20th century. Guardini advocated that command over the world presupposed a command of self. In other words—clean up your own backyard first, if you’re going to lead or influence others.

Guardini’s question is even more relevant today. When we look around—-maybe even under our own noses—we see people grasping for more.

What we need today, in those who run our government, is self-discipline. We need men and women who acquire a certain distance from things, who refuse to capitulate to the promise of more and more personal power at the expense of those they pretend to serve.

And what we need from ourselves is the same: a curtailment of our desire to acquire. Just as we ask of our leaders, we must recognize the excesses within ourselves and set about to right them.

How about emptying ourselves of all that selfishness and pride we’ve acquired? Only then can we expect it of others, even our leaders.

elephant foot Forgiveness is a spiritual work of mercy, but some people won’t do it. You can apologize to them for a wrong you may have done, you can bake them a cake, take them a meal, pay their bills, or keep their children. Oh yes, they’ll let you do all that. But they won’t forgive you. They don’t seem able to let go of the past.


Why is the past– especially one that’s not so rosy– important to them? What attracts them to the role of forever playing a victim? Like the elephant who never forgot an injury, they are tied to past grievances.

A man I once knew had come through many problems in his life. Finally, he had the opportunity to move forward. He didn’t though. Needless to say, he was very hard to be around. In fact, being around him was like walking on egg shells, I had to be very cautious of every word I spoke for fear he might take it in the wrong way. He was a ‘hard case,’ but occasionally, don’t we all resort to this kind of mind control over someone who’s hurt us?

I believe some people see their victimization as a way to manipulate others. They play the “poor me” role. They portray themselves as targets of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity or sympathy. In this way, they get something they want from another. And since, most human beings are caring and conscientious, they don’t like to see anyone suffering. A manipulator plays on this. He plays the victim by finding something in his past to hold over another’s head. And he finds it rewarding because in this way he gets cooperation.

Children are great manipulators. As mothers, we see some of it in their whining. “Johnny needs to go to time out. He took my toy and he won’t give it back!” Fortunately, most children grow out of this behavior. But some don’t. All their lives, they carry a vendetta.

A man and his wife are sitting at the breakfast table. He’s reading the paper and paying no attention to her. Suddenly, she lifts her glass of orange juice and throws its content across the table.
“What was that for,” her surprised husband asks.
“What do you mean, what was that for! Have you already forgotten what you did to me twenty years ago?

There’s humor in that story, but great sadness, too. So much of life is lost by holding onto the past!

mouthA human characteristic is the ability to speak, to converse, to give instruction, to make our opinions known. We talk. We use our tongues–sometimes without thinking, and sometimes very intentionally.

Our speech is directed to another, a listener. The listener may be a child, a friend, a family member, or a stranger in the grocery store. Regardless of who or where, what we say to each other matters. Speech is a gift to be used with care. I would suggest loving care, though I’m often guilty of overlooking that.

Matthew 12:36 says, But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Wow! That’s a lot of personal responsibility.

Yet what we say to each other is not always done with words. Often it’s what we D0 that speaks loudest. How do our actions speak to our vulnerable children, or the friends and family who learn from us? Are we responsible in our actions as parents and teachers, leaders and co-workers? Do we practice what we preach? Again, many of us often fall far short of that. It’s a good thing we have personal control over what we do, and if needed, the ability to correct ourselves.

There are times though, when we’re not the ‘speakers’ or the ‘doers,’ but the receivers, the targets of speech and action. Over this, we have little control, and no doubt the voices and actions are loud–the media, movies, TV, newspapers, books, and even our own government.

Except each of these segments are made up of individuals like us. Are these individuals any less responsible than us for what is said and done in today’s world? Don’t they, too, have the ability to correct themselves–or have greed and power simply struck them dumb and immobile.

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morguefile photo

I have two close friends with whom I meet regularly for lunch. One is a fellow Catholic, and not a native Southerner. I’ll call her Beth. The other is a Protestant I’ve known most of my life. I’ll call her Bonnie. I love and trust them both. We have a lot in common; a love of books and art, children and grandchildren. We talk about all these, but sometimes our conversations center around a subject that so-called experts caution not to talk about in order to avoid disagreement: religion.

In this, we are open with each other. We dialogue, as they say. Beth, with her academic mind very apparent, and Bonnie, her blue eyes flashing all the wonderful traditions of the South. I think of myself as somewhat of a mediator in our conversations, a balance. (more…)

dove (2)This is Easter Monday. We have the risen Christ.

So, does he live in our hearts and minds? And if He doesn’t, what does?

Maybe Lent did nothing for us. Maybe we didn’t find ourselves acting any differently.

Maybe our hearts are hoarding the same old and tiresome sins.

We are not to worry. We can still change. We have the risen Christ. We have God within us. And sometimes we only need to shut up and listen to Him. Second chances? Or third, or fourth? We can believe it!

A Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill my heart with Your holy gifts.

Let my weakness be penetrated with Your strength this very day
that I may fulfill all the duties of my state conscientiously,
that I may do what is right and just.

Let my charity be such as to offend no one,
and hurt no one’s feelings;
so generous as to pardon sincerely any wrong done to me.

Assist me, O Holy Spirit,
in all my trials of life,
enlighten me in my ignorance,
advise me in my doubts,
strengthen me in my weakness,
help me in all my needs,
protect me in temptations
and console me in afflictions.

Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit,
and pour Your light into my heart,
my soul, and my mind.

Assist me to live a holy life
and to grow in goodness and grace.


About Good Friday

Posted: April 3, 2015 in World On The Edge

mary-at-the-cross (2)“From the earliest days of Christianity, no Mass has been celebrated on Good Friday; instead, the Church celebrates a special liturgy in which the account of the Passion according to the Gospel of John is read, a series of intercessory prayers (prayers for special intentions) are offered, and the faithful venerate the Cross by coming forward and kissing it. The Good Friday liturgy concludes with the distribution of Holy Communion. Since there was no Mass, Hosts that were reserved from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday are distributed instead.

The service is particularly solemn; the organ is not played, and all vestments are red or (in the Traditional Latin Mass) black.

Since the date of Good Friday is dependent on the date of Easter, it changes from year to year.

Fasting and Abstinence:

Good Friday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence. Catholics over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between. Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Good Friday.” –Catholicism,

About Holy Thursday

Posted: April 2, 2015 in World On The Edge

file1081253168589“For Catholics, HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates both the institution by Christ himself of the Eucharist and of the institution of the sacerdotal priesthood (as distinct from the ‘priesthood of all believers’) for in this, His last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover, He is the self-offered Passover Victim, and every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice, by Christ’s authority and command, in exactly the same way. The Last Supper was also Christ’s farewell to His assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny Him before the sun rose again.

On Holy Thursday there is a special Mass in Cathedral Churches, attended by as many priests of the diocese as can attend, because it is a solemn observance of Christ’s institution of the priesthood. At this ‘Chrism Mass’ the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism and Confirmation. The bishop may wash the feet of twelve of the priests, to symbolize Christ’s washing the feet of his Apostles, the first priests.

The Holy Thursday liturgy, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown, also shows both the worth God ascribes to the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water (a symbol of baptism) in the Mandatum, or washing in Jesus’ washing the feet of His disciples, and in the priest’s stripping and washing of the altar. Cleansing, in fact, gave this day of Holy Week the name Maundy Thursday.

The action of the Church on this night also witnesses to the Church’s esteem for Christ’s Body present in the consecrated Host in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, carried in solemn procession to the flower-bedecked Altar of Repose, where it will remain ‘entombed’ until the communion service on Good Friday. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.

And finally, there is the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the people during the night, just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal by Judas.

There is such an abundance of symbolism in the solemn celebration of the events of Holy Thursday layer upon layer, in fact that we can no more than hint at it in these few words. For many centuries, the Last Supper of Our Lord has inspired great works of art and literature, such as the glorious stained glass window in Chartres cathedral and Leonardo’s ever popular (and much imitated) Last Supper in the 16th century.” Catholic Online