Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review:" Miles from the Sideline" by Maura Weis

Ave Maria Press 176 pages
Parenting a child with special needs is one of the biggest challenges a marriage can face. Coach Charlie Weis and, his wife, Maura had the heart and the head to deal with the crisis of their daughter Hannah’s mysterious disability, and turned what seemed like a tragedy into a triumph.
Charlie and Maura Weis were living on Long Island, NY while he worked as offensive coordinator for the New York Jets. Their life seemed ideal, it was springtime in the lovely community they called home, and they were blessed with two children, Charlie Jr. age 4 and a vivacious, blue-eyed daughter Hannah age 2. Hannah’s serious kidney problems at birth seemed a distant memory, and the road ahead looked smooth and uneventful. Then, one symptom at a time, it became obvious to Maura and Charlie that something was not right with her beautiful daughter. Not only, she wasn’t developing at the rate of other children her age, was losing interest in her surroundings, and was upset easily. She was not the same child she had been only five months ago. Her preschool teacher said, “It’s as if she’s in a world of her own”. (p19) At two and a half years of age, the dreaded diagnosis “autism” hit the Weis family like a Mack truck. Nothing in their lives would ever be the same.
In this emotionally honest and expressive book, Maura Weis describes her personal struggle to get a complete diagnosis for and learn to live with Hannah’s autism. Maura describes some of her daughter’s challenges, “To this day, Hannah, now twelve, can’t dress herself or make her own breakfast. She has a limited vocabulary and feels frustrated when she can’t communicate with those around her “. Through the difficulties in raising Hannah, Maura has learned what truly matters in life, and she credits Hannah’s special sensitivity to the emotional needs of other for helping her grow spiritually. This is something which all special needs children do for their parents, according to Maura. “God entrusted Hannah to our care and called her to fill our special needs.” (p156)

If you are parenting a special needs child, this book will bring you to tears many times, as Maura’s vivid descriptions of her struggles to accept the dramatic lifestyle changes associated with raising an autistic child bring back your own painful memories. If you have family or friends with a child with unusual behavior you just can’t understand, “Miles from the Sideline” will help you grow in sensitivity to the pain the child and her family often endure when they face rejection and judgment from others. This is exactly what Maura hopes to accomplish by sharing her private struggles in this book, to make the world a better place for children with special needs to find acceptance, inclusion and purpose.

This book shares Maura’s spiritual growth while mothering Hannah has some profound spiritual insights, yet there are some areas which cause concern for Catholics. The first is the fact that the Weis family had two Baptisms performed for Hannah, an emergency baptism performed in the hospital and another performed by their parish priest (p 138). This is against Catholic teaching, since individuals with a valid baptism may not repeat this sacrament. Perhaps her parish priest was unaware that Hannah had been given an emergency baptism in the hospital.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1272
Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.83 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.

The Christian’s incorporation into Christ at Baptism empowers her to overcome all evil forces and live beyond superstitionwhich brings up another area of concern, Hannah’s participation in Reiki with Sr. Claudia (on page 92). Although this is practiced by some Catholics, it is against the teaching of the Church as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
"2117. All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others -- even if this were for the sake of restoring their health -- are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion . . . Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity."
Maura sought the guidance of the Church in both of these situations, so who is responsible for it?
Maura Weis is a devoted mother to her two children, and is to be commended for refusing an abortion when it was offered as a solution to Hannah’s medical problems when they were pre-natally diagnosed. Her determination to find adequate medical treatment and education to optimize Hannah’s development is inspirational. Her humility is touching as she shares her darkest times, her spiritual growth, and her uncertainty about Hannah’s future. “Miles from the Sideline” is valuable as a sources of insight into the trials and triumphs of the special needs mother, and as a means of coming to appreciate what people like Hannah have to offer the world which too often rejects them.
Maura and Charlie have also founded “Hannah & Friends” in 2003. This non for profit foundation focuses on providing a better quality of life for children and adults with special needs. The proceeds from the sale of “Miles from the Sideline” will go towards building a residential facility, set on 30 acres near South Bend, IN, complete with jobs for the residents, a petting zoo, and a riding program. But the larger purpose of the foundation is, “to promote awareness of and compassion for people with disabilities” (p12)
Profits from the sale of “Miles from the Sideline” will benefit “Hannah and Friends”.

Cause for Joy!!! Kennedy Brownback bill passes out of Committee in Senate

The wonderful Pre-natally and Post-natally Diagnosed Conditions Act, known as the Kennedy-Brownback bill passed out of Senate HELP Committee today!
It will ensure that doctors provide parents with complete information about their unborn or newborn with disabilities, including referrals to advocacy groups. There is $25 million in funding to help provide information about the promising therapies, and fulfilling lives lived by individuals with Down syndrome and other genetic anomalies. So many of my friends expecting a child with Down syndrome were pressured by their doctors to abort, and weren't given any information about Down syndrome.
Senator Sam Brownback said he hopes it will reduce the percentage of abortions in such cases -- with some studies showing as many as 90 percent of parents with an unborn baby diagnosed as having Down syndrome having an abortion.“It is difficult, sometimes overwhelming, for expecting parents to receive news that their unborn child may be born with a disability,” Brownback said.“This legislation will help parents receiving such news by supplying them with current and reliable information about the many options available for caring for children with disabilities," he added.In a rare show of bipartisan support, Brownback is working with pro-abortion Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts on the bill.The bill now moves to full Senate consideration and Brownback said he hopes the body will move on it quickly. “I am hopeful this bill soon moves to consideration by the full Senate. The quicker my colleagues and I move to pass this bill, the more quickly we can help families across the nation," he said.The bill also calls for the creation of a national registry of families willing to adopt children with pre- or post-natally diagnosed conditions.
HT Life News
When the unlikely pair first introduced the bill in 2005, it was killed in committee, so the fact that it made it out of committee intact is big news. .Senator Brownback's office gave it a 50% chance of approval once it reached the Senate floor.
It's an election year, so, let's get moving on this immediately.
I want you all to contact your senators and write letters to the editor of your local and national papers in support of this important bill S1810.
ACTION: Contact your senator at 202-224-3121 and urge support for the bill, write letters to the editor, or go to for more specific contact information.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New online Catholic Bookstore

The proprietors of BOGO Wines cordially invite you in to browse at their new online bookstore, St. Michael's Bookstore and Gifts. All orders recieve free shipping.

Welcome readers of the Chicago Sun Times

You read about my upcoming review of "Miles from the Sideline" by Maura Weis. It should be up tomorrow.

The Catholic Carnival

Is over at Adam's Ale. Stop in for a pint of bitter, and a good read.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Media Campaign to Call Catholics Home

Catholics Come Home
There’s a new advertising campaign originating out of Phoenix called Catholics Come Home. Using slick commercials and a high-tech web site, the campaign seeks to goad the conscience of lapsed Catholics to re-discover (or discover for the first time) why their Catholic faith is important to their lives, their families, and their eternity.
They have three commercials at the moment: “Epic 120”, which is a two-minute tour through the impact the Catholic Church has had on history and still does today; “Movie” which reminds us that after our lives end we will review our lives (like a movie) and will get to evaluate what we have done; and “Mix”, which shows individual Catholics explaining how they left the Church, why they came back, and what a difference it’s made.
These are high-quality productions, as good as anything out thereThe local Phoenix Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Sun, did a story on the start of the campaign in that diocese recently. They say the average Phoenix household will see the commercials 13 times between now and Easter.
And if it’s successful—and they have the money for it—they’ll expand into other dioceses. Looks promising. I know where my Lenten almsgiving is going.

Show the ACOG that the abortion of children with Down syndrome must end

By signing this petition. I did!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You make this world a better place award

Tonight we will watch the Academy Awards, but I think I have a more important award here. It's the "You Make the World a Better Place Award", given to me by Ruth over at Wheelie Catholic.
That is what some special mom bloggers do by telling us how much joy their children with Down syndrome bring them. They are trying to lower that awful statistic that 90% of these beautiful children are aborted before birth by their blogging, their mothering, and the joy on their faces. They are doing a fabulous job. The award goes to . .
Raising Joey for a great mixture of eduation and personality, this blog shows that Joey is one lucky little boy.
Gabi's world For creating a wonderful family around her lovely daughter, which extends to many of us in the blogosphere.
Pondered in my Heart for providing such wonderful photo essays of life in her home, we feel like we live there.

Since I AM a film critic, and we just watched the Oscars . . .
I have to make a film reference. It was films like these which help prepare me for special motherhood. Two of them, My Left Foot and Rain Man won Best Picture Oscars.
"Rain Man" Selish yuppie Charlie finds out he has an autistic brother Raymond who has been institutionalized, and they bond in a cross-country trip.
"Forrest Gump" Retarded and physically handicapped young man, shows how love and determination help him overcome the odds to become a great man.
"Places in the Heart" A blind boarder and a homeless black man help a struggling widow beat the odds and save her family in the midst of the Great Depression.
"The Miracle Worker"
Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing to scarlet fever, and is out of control, until special teacher Annie Sullivan takes her in hand.
Black young man with mental retardation becomes a special assitant to the town's high school football team, despite local opposition.
"I am Sam"
A mentally challenged man raises a dead friend's daughter and fights to retain custody of her as she grows up.
"My Left Foot" Christy Brown a victim of cerbral palsy writes of his childhood and youth in Ireland with his rough and tumble, loving family who help him discover his calling in life.
"The Ringer" Loser hard up for cash bets he can pretend he has a mental disablity and win the Special Olympics, till his fellow athletes teach him a lesson or two.

I now appreciate the fact that these films helped prepare me for the unexpected joys and challenges of special motherhood.
God bless great special needs mothers who share their joy in their blogs, and great filmakers who can express this joy of loving someone with special needs in film.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Many of you have been praying for Stacy

During the fall 40 Days for Life campaign, we sentout a prayer request for a couple named Stacey and Joe Persichetti, and their unborn son, John. Stacey, the mother, had been diagnosed with serious brain cancer. During the course of hertreatment, it was discovered that she was pregnant.
The family and their doctors tried to determine how best to treat her and Baby John.Throughout the entire ordeal, Stacey selflessly demonstrated a willingness to risk her own life togive her baby a chance to live.Thousands of people around the world have been praying for the Persichettis, and we asked thefamily for an update.
We received this tragic news from Stacey: "John Christian was born on Saturday, November 3rd and lived only for a short time. He was beautiful and we were able to have him baptized and hold him for a few minutes. Thank you for all the support and love that have been showered on us during this time. Our consolation is that we have a saint waiting and interceding for us."Not long after Stacey and Joe experienced the darkness of the loss of Baby John, God provided them with a glimmer of light.
Stacey e-mailed me a few days ago to say: "After over a year of treatment, the doctors at Duke see no signs of cancer and have officially ended all treatments. They are very optimistic about my prognosis and will continue to monitor me. God has been with us through this journey and I see firsthand His love. Thank you again for the many prayers."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy 16th Anniversary to my husband

Since I have the flu, and today is my 16th wedding anniversay, I'm going to link to my article in Celebrate Life magazine as an anniversay tribute to my dear husband, and to God who has done great things for me. (you can see our wedding picture there)
Happy Anniversary Honey!

How far education has fallen in the last century

From my emails:
What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895...

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina , Kansas , USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina , and reprinted by the Salina Journal.
8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie,""play," and "run."
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
8. Name event s connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
[Do we even know what this is??]1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco ..
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.
Gives the saying "he only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?!
Also shows you how poor our education system has become! and, NO! I don't have the answers!

Finally a snow day!

I hate to start looking forward to spring until we've enjoyed a good snow. Already the daffodils near the front porch are making progress. . .
Last two years, we couldn't coax Christy outside in the snow, she was so frustrated by the snow gear, it made her grumpy and she couldn't enjoy the snow. It's great to see her having fun, even for a short time with her sister Bella.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Update on Kennedy-Brownback Legislation

From the National Down Syndrome Congress:
The mark-up on the Pre-Natally and Post-Natally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act (S. 1810), known as the Kennedy-Brownback bill, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 27, 2008. Once the bill is reported out of the committee, our efforts will need to focus on moving it in the House of Representatives. As always, we will keep you posted about new developments.
To see the most recent version of the bill that has been introduced, go to: and key in S. 1810 in the space for the bill number.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Before a mother can lay herself down to sleep tonight. . .

I got this from a friend by email, do you see yourself here?
Mom and Dad were watching TV when Mom said, "I'm tired, and it's getting late. I think I'll go to bed." She went to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the next day's lunches. Rinsed out the popcorn bowls, took meat out of the freezer for supper the following evening, checked the cereal box levels, filled the sugar container, put spoons and bowls on the table and started the coffee pot for brewing the next morning.
She then put some wet clothes in the dryer, put a load of clothes into the washer, ironed a shirt and secured a loose button. She picked up the game pieces left on the table, put the phone back on the charger and put the telephone book into the drawer. She watered the plants, emptied a wastebasket and hung up a towel to dry. She yawned and stretched and headed for the bedroom. She stopped by the desk and wrote a note to the teacher, counted out some cash for the field trip, and pulled a text book out from hiding under the chair.She signed a birthday card for a friend, addressed and stamped the envelope and wrote a quick note for the grocery store. She put both near her purse. Mom then washed her face with 3 in 1 cleanser, put on her Night solution & age fighting moisturizer, brushed and flossed her teeth and filed her nails.
Dad called out, 'I thought you were going to bed.' 'I'm on my way,' she said. She put some water into the dog's dish and put the cat outside, then made sure the doors were locked and the patio light was on. She looked in on each of the kids and turned out their bedside lamps and TV's, hung up a shirt, threw some dirty socks into the hamper, and had a brief conversation with the one still up doing homework.
In her own room, she set the alarm;laid out clothing for the next day, straightened up the shoe rack.She added three things to her 6 most important things to do list. She said her prayers. About that time, Dad turned off the TV and announced to no one in particular. 'I'm going to bed.'And he did...without another thought.

Now, look at this lovely painting of the Blessed Mother and the child Jesus. That's what keeps me going at the end of a long day. She did all this and, remember there was no running water, refrigeration, or electricity in Nazareth.

Behold Your Mother

Canticle Magazine editor and blogger at Mommy Monsters, Heidi Hess Saxton has started a group blog called Behold Your Mother. She has honored me with a guest post there, one of my favorite quotes by Blessed Mother Teresa. She has just published a book on Marian Devotion by the same name.

Catholic Blog Awards

A big thank you to my readers who nominate all three of my blogs for the Catholic Blog Awards. Cause of Our Joy, Causa Nostrae Laetitiae, and my latest blog, Catholic Media Review. I appreciate this recognition of my attempts to share my faith, and my love my family.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Doctor's Office Reading

Last Sunday, Sean Hannity in his personal TV show, "Hannity's America" interviewed Pastor Don Piper, the author of "90 Minutes in Heaven". I won't be reviewing it formally since I can't make up my mind whether I believe he actually spent 90 minutes in Heaven after a horrific crash. He claims to have been raised from the dead by a preacher who felt the Lord wanted him to pray over him at the crash scene.
I don't doubt such things are possible, I just can't make up my mind in Piper's case. I don't know him well enough. One thing which made me doubt was the fact that he was certainly not full of God's grace during his long time of suffering. I know we are fortunate as Catholics to have the inspiring examples of the saints, the comfort of Our Lady in the rosary, and the inestimable honor of receiving Jesus' Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. We have the example and the intimacy with the crucified Christ to be able to unite our sufferings with Him on the cross. Don Piper, as a Baptist certainly has the Scripture, "If you want to become my disciple, take up your cross and follow ME", but for someone who has experienced the peace and joy of Heaven, he didn't seem to understand the purpose of suffering in " making up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ".
These thoughts were going through my mind in the doctor's office this morning, as I waited some time to be seen. I have some kind of lower respitory infection, and am traveling to visit the schools in Connecticut tomorrow, so I wanted to be sure it wasn't serious.
The doctor was a woman about my age, who was curious about the book I had next to me on the examination table. I was happy to say I like the book but was still making up my mind about it's veracity, and we began to discuss our faith, schools for our children, CS Lewis, inner peace and how to recapture it once it's lost. It was an amazingly deep discussion for the situation, and we nearly forgot the burning in my chest which brought me there. I treasure my faith, and for that reason am considering leaving Long Island, my childhood home, to seek a place which will help my family grown closer to God. It was a blessed opportunity to be able to discuss that with someone who was seeking the same.
I wish her God's grace to bring her heart home to Him.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Great Backyard Bird Count

I thought about participating in the great backyard bird count, see the website

However, there are two problems with my bird feeder (it's attached to the outside of this window, above the cat's head, so I can see visitors while working on the computer.
The birds found it a bit crowded this weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A little potty humor

from my email:
A 3 YEAR OLD One day my mother was out and my dad was in charge of me and my brotherwho is four years older than I am. I was maybe 3 and a half years old and had just recovered from an accident in which my arm had been broken among other injuries. Someone had given me a little 'tea set' as a get-well gift and it was one of my favorite toys. Daddy was in the living room engrossed in the evening news and my brother was playing nearby in the living room when I brought Daddy a little cup of 'tea', which was just water.
After several cups of tea and lots of praise for such yummy tea, my Mom came home.
My Dad made her wait in the living room to watch me bring hi m a cup of tea, because it was 'just the cutest thing!!'
My Mom waited, and sure enough, here I come down the hall with a cup oftea for Daddy and she watches him drink it up, then she says to him,'Did it ever occur to you that the only place that baby can reach to get water is the toilet??'

Happy St. Valentine's Day

I solemnly promised not to photograph the adorable tousled heads of my pj-clad girls who sat at this table, so just imagine them there. Do something special for someone you love in the name of St. Valentine today.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hannah and Friends

Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis has a daughter named Hannah with autism. He and his wife Maura have started Hannah and Friends to help people with special needs.
I will soon be reviewing Miles from the Sideline, written by Maura about raising Hannah.

Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation Winter Newsletter

So much promising research to improve learning and memory has taken place inside of Christina's lifetime, as noted in this newsletter. They are working with mice who have Down syndrome to see where the problems are in the nerve connections in the brain which lead to memory problems, and developing drugs that can help fix the problem. People with Down syndrome have a tendency to develop Alzheimer's so much of the research may also benefit those with the disease, increases the chances that funding will be received.
This news is so hopeful. I remember, around the time Christina was born, when the big news was the 10 week ultrasound nuchal fold screening, so babies could be diagnosed with Trisomy 21 earlier, and aborted. The idea in the medical community was: we gave you a chance to abort, if you didn't take it, tough, we're not interested in a cure for Down syndrome.
Thanks be to God who inspires these scientists to find a cure for our children!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today is the 150th Anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady's Anniversary

At Lourdes we celebrate its sesquicentennial

Our Lady's flower is an Immaculate perennial

Bernadette waters its roots every day

So the buds may open their petals to pray

The flower stretches toward the Son of God

While Bernadette kneels at Mary's nod

She prays for the healing of the afflicted throng

As the larks join together to sing Bernadette's song

The healing waters from the wellspring flow

While crutches and canes are dispensed with below

The crowds chant together the rosary

As each decade and cure hides a mystery

The Eucharist heals the soul with each reception

At Our Lady's Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

And after 150 years, who would ever know?

That it began with a peasant girl at a simple grotto

Anthony Miele

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Book Review: The Daring Book for Girls

When does daring branch into dangerous? Find out in my review of this book at Catholic Media Review.

Make a Virtual Stations of the Cross in Rome

This interactive website from the Ponitifical North American College will display the Station Church in Rome for each day of Lent. Sunday's church is the San Giovanni in Laterano.

Friday, February 8, 2008

SImplify this Lent

Theresa Thomas, in her column at Catholic Exchange, shares excerpts from Dr. Peter Kreeft's classic 1990 book, Making Choices: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Moral Decisions which contains insightful tips for simplifying our lives this Lent.
She says:
"I can't help but think, as we enter into this season of Lent, about the "heaviness," the complications of everyday life, that have the potential to snuff out the fresh light and air of Christ in our lives.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about living simply. Obviously Lent is a time for penance, reflection, renewal. It's a time for introspection and consideration of things eternal. What I'm proposing this Lent is paring down life, getting rid of the 'heavy draperies' so that things eternal can shine into our daily thoughts and lives."

No matter how I think that this culture isn't affecting me, reading mediations like these, I realize how I've succumbed to it, and make yet another effort to live simply and walk humbly with my God.
I've started to get up earlier and notice how much calmer, and longer the day is. Who needs those talking head programs anyway!
I get everything done in time, with no craziness. Now, I'm going to locate my Magnificat, and start the day with meditation, and see an ever bigger difference in how the days go.

Prayer to St. Peregrine

O great St. Peregrine, you have been called "The Mighty," "The Wonder-Worker," because of the numerous miracles which you have obtained from God for those who have had recourse to you.
For so many years you bore in your own flesh this cancerous disease that destroys the very fibre of our being, and who had recourse to the source of all grace when the power of man could do no more. You were favoured with the vision of Jesus coming down from His Cross to heal your affliction. Ask of God and Our Lady, the cure of the sick whom we entrust to you.
Phil Gallagher(Mom's cousin with terminal cancer)
Katie McBride (10 year old with lyphoma)
Aided in this way by your powerful intercession, we shall sing to God, now and for all eternity, a song of gratitude for His great goodness and mercy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ash Wednesday in solidarity with 40 Days for Life

Guest post by CB at the Long Island Coatition for Life
Ash Wednesday vigil tonight at Planned Parenthood in Hempstead. While pro-lifers were praying around the country for the start of their 40 Days for Life campaign, we joined with them for an hour tonight. The rain held off as more than 20 of us prayed, held signs, and passed out literature. Even though the darkness makes it harder to read our signs, we received a number of supportive horn honks.
And it wasn't so dark that the pedestrians couldn't get our message and we got support from some of them also.Two young girls were walking by me and I handed them the little hands card, telling them that's how small their hands were in their mother. The reaction from the "older" girl made me think she was post-abortive or was somehow involved in someone else's abortion. I start telling them why we're there and that Planned Parenthood does abortions and they say "That's where we're going." Ugh. I start telling them that's not a good idea and they say they aren't going in for an abortion, but for a pregnancy test. Ugh some more. The girl who thinks she's pregnant.... 15 years old. I talk - they listen. I give them literature - they take it. I tell them about the Life Center nearby - they don't want to wait til tomorrow. I encourage them not to linger in PP after the pregnancy test or listen to them if they start telling her what a disaster her life will be if she has a baby now. I mention how abortion bothers women so much that the Life Center has programs to help women who had an abortion. And the older girl says "Really?" She readily takes the Life Center brochure.So the 2 teens walk into PP and are out in minutes. Why? Pregnancy test cost $100! WHY would PP charge so much, are they making sure the girl comes back for the abortion; is it a 'down payment?'We point out the LIfe Center across the street and tell them "Tomorrow. There. Free."
Thank God PP's high prices turn away customers and thank God people donate to prolife organizations so they can offer pregnancy tests kits for free. Pray that if this young girl's pregnancy test is positive, she'll find support and strength and courage to carry her child to term.Thanks for a job well done to ALL those who showed up tonight, including two families (one from Suffolk that's me and my girls!), a college student who walked from campus, a clergyman, and some stalwarts from the not-so-young crowd. And welcome to the first-timers - our group didn't quite match what they saw in D.C., but we're a strong presence just the same : )
We hope to see you again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

E for excellence award

Five of my fellow bloggers have awarded me the E for Excellence Award: Alexandra at Happy Hearts at Home, Adele at Journey to Therese , Dominisumus at We Belong to the Lord, Jean at Catholic Fire, and Heidi Hess Saxton at Mommy Monsters awarded me the E for excellence award. I am so honored by this. Adele's favorite post was "The Holiest Holy Hour". It's one of my favorites too, Adele, as it's a true slice of my spiritual struggles mothering my darling with Down syndrome. I nominate the following excellent blogs:
1. Credo; Catholic Journal is run by a group of youthful Irishmen faithful to their wonderful Irish Catholic tradition, which, by the way, I inherited from my Grams.
2. Pinwheels Jennifer Grafonberg is always professional, always tender when discussing mothering her son with Down syndrome. She has a new book out, "Roadmap to Holland" check it out.
3. The World IMHO Christine and I blog together on Catholic Media Review, which she named. I identify with her strong pro-life perspective, and I love the way she interjects her comments into the text of a fraudulent point of view. She loves the truth and proclaims it well.
4. Et Tu Jen is an outstanding writer, who seamlessly blends her perspective into her posts without being self-abosorbed. Not an easy task for a bl0gger. I love her scorpion sightings!
5. Castle of the Immaculate - Mary Vitamin, aka Helen has a blog that has a calming effect on me like an afternoon of recollection. She has a beautiful new baby to ooh and ahh over too!
6. Cajun Cottage Under the Oaks -I'm fascinated by the delightful Cajun Catholic Culture, and Cay brings it to life with her wondeful recipes and family anecdotes.
7. By Sun and Candlelight- any time I'm looking for great nature studies, this is where I go, Dawn and her family are so in touch with the natural world, and her bookshelf is wonderful.
8. The Divine Gift of Motherhood- Elizabeth is so graceful and professional in her writing; she reminds me of the privelege of being both a mother and a writer.
9. Behold Your Mother-Jasna Gorak has some wonderful insights into how to actively participate in the Latin Mass.
10. Fatima Now- Pascendi discusses how to incorporate Catholic social teaching into our daily lives, always a thought-provoking read.
11. Christina Dunigan, who teaches English as a Second Language in Korea, has four different blogs, and always leaves insightful comments on my pro-life posts which change the way the issues are framed. She goes by the handle "Granny Grump", yet she's no Granny!
BY accepting this Excellent Blog Award, you have to award it to 10 or more people whose blogs you find Excellend Award worthy. You can give it to as many people as you want-even those that have received it already, but please award at least 10 people.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Need some Lenten activities for the children?

Some Lenten activities other Catholic families are doing:
Just another day in paradise has an array of great ideas
Shower of Roses has a Lenten calendar
Sweetness and Light highlights Lenten Sacrifices and saints.
Catholic Mom has an entire page of great ideas and meditations for Lent.
Today, we went as a family to Mass and then went to pray the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet outside the Planned Parenthood center with other families, in solidarity for 40 Days for Life.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A very special varsity basketball player: Brad Hennefer

Watch his awesome story on the news video from his hometown of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Here's something for the boys!

"Write Like Mike" Homeschool Contest Ends February 15, 2008Walden Media and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine are sponsoring the "Write Like Mike" Contest based on Mike Lupica's new book series, Comeback Kids. The contest designed especially for homeschool boys, but not limited to boys, ends on February 15, 2008.The contest is for sports-crazy homeschoolers between the ages of 8-12. With the Super Bowl dominating sports news and the New England Patriots poised to make football history, this contest connects with the excitement surrounding this event. Mike Lupica had this to say about the Big Game in a New York paper, "The Giants are allowed to think they can do what they do, get after Brady in a Super Bowl. They are allowed to think that, even allowed to say it aloud. Delivering the goods, against this quarterback in this game, that is something else altogether. Because Tom Brady is."Your homeschooler has the opportunity to write a sports column about a local or national sporting event (250 words or less) and enter the chance to have his or her column published in an upcoming issue of The Old Schoolhouse as well as winning $1,000 towards sports equipment for his or her favorite church, school, or educational non-profit. Sports passion meets educational purpose!Mike Lupica is the acclaimed sportswriter and New York Times bestselling author of Travel Team and Heat. Comback Kids is his new series published by Walden Media and Penguin Young Readers Group.Click Here for Complete Official Rules and an Entry Form. The deadline is fast approaching as the contest ends on February 15, 2008.

National Institute of Health develops plan for Down Syndrome

The National Institutes of Health has developed a research plan to advance understanding of Down syndrome and speed development of new treatments for the condition, the most frequent genetic cause of mild to moderate mental retardation and associated medical problems. The plan sets research goals for the next 10 years that build upon earlier research advances fostered by the NIH.
"Through the years, the NIH research effort has led to increased understanding of Down syndrome," said Elias Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health. "We are now poised to capitalize on these advances and improve the health of people with Down syndrome."
Down syndrome occurs in 1 out of every 800 births in the United States. Down syndrome most frequently results from an extra copy of chromosome 21 in the body's cells. In most cases, this extra chromosome comes from the mother. In some cases, forms of Down syndrome can result from just having an extra portion of chromosome 21. The chance of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome increases as women age.
Infants with Down syndrome have certain characteristic physical features, such as short stature, distinctive facial features and are more likely to have health conditions like hearing loss, heart malformations, hypertension, digestive problems, and vision disorders. Although Down syndrome is the most common cause of mild to moderate intellectual disability, the condition occasionally is severe. People with Down syndrome are also much more likely to die from infections if left untreated.
The NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development convened a working group of NIH scientists. Through a public comment process, the scientists listened to comments and suggestions from families of individuals with Down Syndrome, as well as from Down Syndrome research advocacy organizations. The NIH scientists then developed the research plan in collaboration with researchers in the national scientific community.
Among the research objectives identified as priorities over the next 10 years is the need for greater access to laboratory animals with the characteristics of Down syndrome.
The plan cites the need for increased research on the medical, cognitive, and behavioral conditions that occur in people with Down syndrome. These conditions include leukemia, heart disease, sleep apnea, seizure disorders, stomach disorders and mental health problems.
The working group also identified the need to study whether aging has a greater impact on mental processes in people with Down syndrome than in people who do not have Down syndrome. As adults, individuals with Down syndrome age prematurely and may experience dementia, memory loss or impaired judgment similar to that experienced by Alzheimer's disease patients.
The plan summarizes current research efforts by the various NIH institutes studying Down syndrome.
The National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD) has supported Down syndrome research since the institute was established in the 1960s. NICHD scientists have bred mice that help researchers study the intellectual disability and dementia that occurs in Down syndrome. The NICHD is currently studying specific genes and gene groups that may play a role in developing Down syndrome. Researchers are also studying the role that the age of the mother's egg plays in developing the disorder.
An NICHD-sponsored study is examining whether individuals with an additional complete copy of chromosome 21 differ as they age from people with only a portion of the extra chromosome. Another long-term study will examine the prevalence of dementia in adults with Down syndrome and whether certain medications, like hormone replacement therapy, slow the aging process in Down syndrome.
Other NICHD-supported projects include devising a weight loss program for adults with developmental disabilities, and a computer program to help children with Down syndrome learn.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is supporting studies of the genes that contribute to heart malformations found in Down syndrome patients. The NHLBI also is supporting investigations of the causes and potential treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which throat tissue blocks the airway during sleep, temporarily shutting off air to the lungs. Obstructive sleep apnea is common in Down syndrome children.
Children with Down syndrome are 10 to 15 times more likely than other children to develop leukemia. The National Cancer Institute is investigating various types of leukemia that affect children with Down syndrome.
Other NIH institutes continue to investigate additional aspects of Down syndrome. The National Institute on Aging is conducting research on ways to treat Alzheimer's disease in people with Down syndrome.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is studying the significance of two genes recently found in a region of chromosome 21. These genes are involved in the development of the immune response against disease.
The National Institute of Mental Health is investigating rates and possible treatments for mental disorders found with Down syndrome. These include autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and psychosis.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is investigating how the brain is affected by Down syndrome. The intellectual disability seen in people with Down syndrome is caused when neurons die or do not function properly. One NINDS study is investigating the potential role of a specific gene called APP, for amyloid precursor protein. It is thought that disruption of the APP gene may kill neurons by interfering with a growth factor needed for neurons to survive. APP is believed to be related to Alzheimer's disease and may play a role in Down syndrome.
The research plan on Down syndrome "is intended to provide the NIH, and its member Institutes and Centers, with guidelines for prioritizing and coordinating future research related to Down syndrome," wrote the members of the NIH Down syndrome working group in the report.
The working group is moving forward to implement plan objectives. The plan's short- term objectives are expected to be accomplished within the next three years.
The report is available on the NICHD Web site at
The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute's Web site at
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit