Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mama Needs Coffee has moved

... so come on over to Catholic News Agency and keep following along!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

He moved me

10 years ago on a cold spring evening in early April an old man died in his bed a half a world away, and a selfish, frequently drunken 22-year old college student fell to her knees in her dingy living room.

Eyes glued to the tv screen, I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing on the television screen and the corresponding ache in my chest for a man I’d never met and for a religion I barely practiced.
I was never the same again.
I spent most of April 2nd in a daze, missing all my classes and breaking into real tears periodically. Eventually the news coverage coming out of Rome lost its pull on me and I ventured from the couch to the front door, destination unknown.
Within a half a dozen blocks I found myself in front of the Catholic church I sometimes attended on weekends, still drawn to participation in the Mass even when the vigil had been spent blacked out drunk with 20,000 of my closest friends on Pearl Street.
I pushed on the heavy bronzed door and was surprised when it yielded to me. It was around noon, and the church was unlocked and completely empty save for an elderly woman sitting near the altar and a younger guy with camera equipment standing off to one side of the sanctuary.
At the end of the aisle someone had erected a makeshift shrine; a single votive candle burned beneath an easel holding the papal portrait of John Paul II. There were a few potted flowers, leftover Easter decor still dotted the stairway surrounding the altar.
Propelled almost unconsciously, I found myself at the front of the church and dropping to my knees in front of his picture. I noticed the red light burning in a lantern hung in my periphery, and I looked past the image in front of me to the tabernacle behind the altar. I knew He was there, too.
I dropped my head into my hand and wept. I had absolutely no explanation for the intensity of my reaction, given the attention I’d given to my Catholic faith for the past 4 years. College had effectively paganized me, at least in practice, and I was Catholic in name only. I knew this, of course, but that morning for the first time it caused me both deep, reflective sorrow and inspired the hope that maybe I could turn things around.
I looked up at the sound of a camera clicking away and the young guy with the equipment shrugged his shoulders and asked sheepishly if I’d consent to having the images used in the paper. The next morning I saw myself under the fold on the front page of the Denver Post. Not many people have a picture of themselves on the day their conversion began in earnest, and even though it’s grainy, black and white, and not terribly flattering, it’s something I treasure. It’s proof that I was there, and now I’m here.
More than that, it captures the essence of my relationship with JPII: penitent prodigal meets spiritual father. Fireworks ensue. Lifelong friendship is cemented.
Later that same month I withdrew from all my college courses and stopped going out to bars every night. As my phone stopped ringing and my friends drifted away, I spent long weekend nights listening to CDs of famous Catholic speakers (Scott Hahn, anyone?) and gradually began to come alive to the mysteries and depth of the Faith.
By early May I had an acceptance letter in my hands from Franciscan University of Steubenville. I would transfer there at the summer’s end and spend the next 3 years in a kind of spiritual, emotional and physical rehab, piecing back together the real Jenny.
Through it all, St. John Paul II (who I never doubted was directly interceding for little old me) became one of my closest friends.
I couldn’t have dreamt it on April 2nd, 2005, but on Divine Mercy Sunday in the year 2011, I stood in St. Peter’s Square with a million other pilgrims, my 7-month-old son pressed uncomfortably close to my chest in a baby carrier, squeezed by Italians on every side, and listened as Pope Benedict gave him to the Universal Church as a “Blessed.”
If that wasn’t sufficiently awesome, three years later I returned to that same square, this time with two more sweet babies in tow and my husband by my side, and we distractedly wrestled toddlers through the long ceremony and misting Roman rain while Pope St. John Paul II was elevated to the altar and proclaimed “Sanctus.”
I smiled because I’d known for years that this day would come, and I cried because I never dreamt I would be there to witness it.
St. John Paul II, I love you. And I owe, quite simply, everything to your intercession. Please never stop praying for me.
“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.” Pope St. John Paul II

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It was never about the cake

From an email blast sent to Helen Alvare's "Women Speak for Themselves" network of supporters yesterday afternoon: 
"Indiana has passed a law which balances religious freedom for citizens, groups and businesses, with the state’s “compelling interests” in requiring everybody to obey this or that particular law which might burden religion.  It is not a remarkable law. The same language was passed federally by a bipartisan Congress in 1993 and signed by President Clinton. About 31 states have such a law either by statute or state constitutional interpretation."
Probably you've heard once or fifteen times in the past 48 hours how the state of Indiana is trying to time travel back into the Middle Ages and start hunting down practicing homosexuals and publicly flogging them in the town square for their sins of the flesh.

At least that's the narrative our progressive mainstream media is broadcasting via every available channel, be they legitimate news sources or floundering, illogical op-eds by the very openly homosexual CEO's of very wealthy corporations who are therefore allowed to have  bigger and more important opinions than the average citizen.

And this, y'all? This is crazy.

This is the best example of how public opinion - cultivated public opinion carefully crafted and executed by liberal think tanks, billion dollar corporations, and academicians, is becoming the highest power in the land.

In short: laws need not be based in reason or reality, but must instead conform to popular public displays of outrage and emotion. 

But there's a catch.

Some people - let's call them Christians to simplify the discussion, believe that sex is sacred and, as God revealed in Scripture, is reserved for the exclusive marital relationship between one man and one woman.

Now, Christians believe this to be true because it is true, speaking from a natural law perspective.

God doesn't make arbitrary thou shalt nots: if He says not to do it, it's because it's objectively wrong. So murder. Lying. Stealing. Adultery (translation: sexual involvement with someone other than your spouse).

Do some Christians (and lots of other people) do these things anyway? Of course. Because human nature and original sin and lots and lots of falling down and repenting and getting back up.

But now we have this prevailing cultural trend of not only tolerating a formerly forbidden and immoral behavior - homosexuality - but of openly embracing and celebrating it. 

And I'm not speaking here of the person struggling with (or openly celebrating, as is more and more often the case) the disordered behavior and deviant attractions, but the very act of engaging in homosexual behavior. That's what we're being compelled to clap and cheer for.

And this bill in Indiana? All it is is the reiteration of an existing 20 year old federal law that 31 other states have some identical version of on the books that pledges protection for those individuals and businesses who don't choose to jump up and down and cheer. 

Does it say that you can discriminate against someone because you disagree with their lifestyle? No. Foolishness.

All it offers is the chance for businesses and individuals who are being compelled by prevailing public opinion and an increasingly invasive federal government to protect themselves from directly violating their own consciences by participating in immoral acts.

Because unless the gay couple coming to ask for a wedding cake is planning on entering into some kind of lifelong platonic union of mutual celibacy, that's exactly what forcing someone to cater a gay "wedding" is doing: coercing their participation in the public celebration of immoral behavior: homosexuality.

That's all this law is: an explicit protection for religious citizens who fear (and rightly so) the creeping encroachment of coercive government policies that directly contradict both reality and their deeply held moral beliefs.

But you won't hear that in the media. Because the gay agenda is powerful, purposeful, and intent upon winning hearts and minds, by force if necessary.

It was never about the wedding cake in the first place. It was always about - and will continue to be about - the systematic redefinition of our collective moral code.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Temperamental Parenting

My second born, my sweet little John Paul Francis, he just has the most wonderful cheeks. Top and bottom (too much? Probably. But it was 77 degrees here today and, as they say, sun's out, bun's out.)

He's my snuggler, the child ever in search of comforting arms and soothing words and a soft lap to land on. He also lets me kiss those soft cheeks over and over again, never once pushing me away or fighting the snuggle. He's never done hugging; he never pulls away first.

Not coincidentally, he was also my only "overdue" baby, preferring to hang out for an entire
month longer than his 37 week big brother and a good 3 weeks past his 38 week old little sis.

I'm telling you, this kid is devoted to me.

It's taken me a few years to come to appreciate how deep his little soul is. He thinks about crazy things, and hours later he's still thinking about them, reflecting on joys and ruminating on perceived injustices alike. I can't parent him the same way I parent the other two, which shouldn't be surprising but somehow is, anyway. I have a word for him now though: melancholic. I'll explain later.

It's surprising that each kid requires an entirely unique set of parenting parameters within which to operate, to some extent.

It's surprising to me that my kids don't think and act like I do. Never more so than, say, when I'm frantically herding sleep drunken cats out the door for preschool pickup (late! again!) and somebody is distraught because he didn't get to select his preferred pair of superhero briefs and oh the injustice of somebody else selecting and then helping you into your underwear.

(Honestly, when I write it out like that, it does seem rather troubling.)

And if I were the thinking type, I'd plan ahead to cut my nap time tap tapping short a good 10 minutes early each afternoon rather than burning it down to the wire, choleric style, and then expecting everyone else to jump when I bark "go!"

Yes, that's exactly what I'd do. I'd note my melancholic son's tendency to wake up slow and snuggly and in need of some time to ponder and recalibrate to the waking world, and I'd gently rouse him and rub his little back, waiting patiently for his conscious brain to come back online while not at all thinking about the load of laundry I could be finishing or the dishwasher I could be loading or the emails I could be sending. Then we'd calmly collect his sister from her nursery, process to the minivan in an orderly fashion, and drive at or near the speed limit all the way across town to collect our 4th musketeer.

Maybe tomorrow. Maybe after a good night's sleep and some careful reflection on the children I've actually been entrusted with and not the tiny clones of me that I was expecting to receive...maybe then I can manage a more humane afternoon routine.

I'm really glad they're all so different, even if it is at times completely confounding. And I'm dying to see what the latest addition's makeup will have to offer. So far we have, as near as I can tell, a choleric sanguine who is an impossible 100% extroverted, a mild mannered melancholic introvert, and a phlegmatic sanguine who seems fairly ambidextrous in terms of social preference. Happy in her room alone, happy in a crowd.

I love figuring out what each of my kids "are," temperamentally, and trying to learn ways to better engage them through understanding their unique set of strengths and weaknesses. My choleric sanguine eldest son is my biggest challenge by a long shot, and mostly because his need for human interaction is very literally limitless.

I explained to him the concept of introversion versus extroversion a couple months ago in language a 4 year old could appreciate, and he actually started to cry when I expounded on the traits of an introvert. Tears. I guess of disappointment? Disbelief that anyone could or would need downtime? (mommy raises hand to the ceiling)

Whatever the case, that moment crystalized for me the stark contrast between us, and the lifelong struggle I'll be engaged with (at least while he's under our roof) trying to balance my sanity, which is tenuous in the best of times, with his constant craving for companionship. God was so smart to put us together; I can't think of another relationship that has required more from me in terms of giving of self. Truly. And the days I won't give? Our worst. Hands down.

So all this long winded soliloquizing to say: read this book. I'm not much for parenting books because they all tend to contradict each other, know what I mean? But this isn't really a parenting book. It's more like a code cracking manual, or an instruction booklet (but the good kind, not the IKEA kind).

And if you happen to look up in disbelief at your polar opposite offspring sitting across from you at the breakfast table in a sudden rush of understanding when you're finished...well, you're welcome.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

And the Word became a clump of cells

And dwelt among us.

As I sit here halfway cooked with this latest addition to our little family, feeling the effects of pregnancy with every fiber of my being, I'm also thinking about Mary.

I'm thinking about how her life changed radically with a message from an angel, a shocking invitation  into something so far beyond her own plans that all she could manage was calm and reasonable "Yes, but how can this be?" - going straight for the logical inquiry over the more obvious "why is there a terrifying angel appearing in my room," or the more nuanced "God wants to have a baby with me?!" route.

One thing that didn't seem to have occurred to her?

To question whether or not there was, in fact, a baby involved.

God's proposal to humanity, sealed in the flesh through Mary's fiat, was - and is - a Person.

Not a potential person. Not an eventual person.

A real person. From the moment of His conception, miraculous (note: NOT immaculate. Wrong feast day) thought it was, He was both fully divine and fully human, and Mary became fully a mother that day when she gave her consent and conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Which is why the argument against the personhood of the unborn has always struck me as so profoundly stupid in light of the Incarnation.

He was there, from the beginning. His little cousin John the Baptist knew as much, and he leapt in recognition at 12-week-old embryonic Jesus from his own uterine perspective.

Any woman who has ever been pregnant can attest to the incredible other-ness of being with child. From the very earliest days following conception, that baby is there, growing and changing and developing as humans continue to do over their entire lifespan, but undeniably and irreversibly there. You can kill the baby at any point, of course, but you can't undo what has already been done: the creation of an entirely new human person.

And that's what makes today so special. That's why if you count forward in time 9 months from today in the Church calendar you land on the embodiment of the Incarnation: Christmas. He arrives today in a  real sense, tucked safely in the womb of His Mother and ours, and while He remains hidden for another 9 months of growth and development, history is forever altered because He now exists in human flesh.

So happy feast day, Mama Mary, from one gestating mother to another. Thanks for changing the course of salvation history and loosing the bonds of Eve's disobedience by your generous and unreserved "yes."

We owe you - quite simply - everything.