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March 25th, 2009

REALLY NEAT MOVE

Student chess achievers to Obama: ‘Your move’

Students at a Virginia “private” high school have challenged President Obama and White House staff to play chess with them, in a bid to win funding for their continuing education. Teacher Lisa Suhay says chess has transformed 40 underachieving students at Ryan Academy High School (a small private school that is “little more than four walls” and catering for blue-collar families) “from victims into victors — at no cost to the taxpayer or school.”

Her students solicited free chess sets and learning materials from the Hip-Hop Chess Federation and other sources. Hip-Hop Chess — which stresses unity, life strategy, and non-violence in the classroom — is also used successfully by John J O’Connell High School in San Francisco. Ms Suhay , who earns $16,000 a year before tax teaching five subjects at Ryan, writes: “Every one of my students learned to play chess this year. What’s more, they all began to think more clearly and often, and think before they acted. Achievers blossomed and borderline drop-outs are now making the honor roll and are seriously thinking about college and jobs that do not involve fries or result in an orange jumpsuit and leg irons.”

Now, because of the ailing economy, many students face expulsion for not being able to pay their tuition. Others have been accepted to college but have failed to find funding.

“But, thanks to chess, these children have become critical thinkers. Determined, they held a mini ‘war room’ discussion. They decided that their best strategy to get out of this corner, and help others do the same, was to promote awareness, raise money, and to ‘go for the king’.” Hence, the White House challenge. “Last week Rahm Emanuel received a long cardboard tube packed with their essays, letters of request, and one precious possession: a scholastic tournament set with ‘Mr. Prez’ scrawled in Sharpie marker on the underside of a king.”

If it comes off, money raised for the benefit games will go to a new fund for chess scholars — who qualify by winning in an HHCF-sponsored tournament at either school. Ms Suhay sees this daring bid as giving the new White House administration “the opportunity to help create change without an act of Congress”. ~ Yahoo/Christian Science Monitor, Mar 20

March 6th, 2009

BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT

Recently I’ve been thinking I should write about the baptism in the Spirit as something that has been important in my life and the life of many, many Christians. Two things have come together that prompt me to do it now, especially since it doesn’t involve too much thinking. The first was finding a copy of a talk I was asked to give during a Life in the Spirit seminar some years back. The second was an online audio that I chanced upon by Fr. John Randall, an old time charismatic, telling what the baptism in the Spirit has meant in his life.

MY TALK

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, the Lord says: “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul says, “I will, therefore, all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

You see before you someone leaning heavily on the Lord’s sufficient grace.

I have always hated being the center of attention. I wouldn’t exactly say I volunteered for this talk. Rather, I was sort of pushed into it. Someone said, “Dorothy, why don’t you give the talk on Receiving God’s Gifts? Good. That’s settled.” I never said “yes,” or “OK,” or any of those positive things. I just didn’t say “no,” because I knew God wanted me to do it. I don’t know how God can make you know something without ever saying anything, but he can. Read the rest of this entry »

January 15th, 2009

IS THERE A RIGHT WAY?

The genius of Shakespeare has Hamlet describing moral relativism in a few well-chosen words: “There is nothing either good or bad, But thinking makes it so.” In moral relativism,  nothing is absolutely good or bad. In moral relativism, there is only my good, or your good.  Good is not seen as rooted in human nature but varies with the times and the cultural milieu and the Zogby poll and who is in power.

On the other hand, our forefathers felt there were unalienable rights (or goods), among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, given to us by our creator.  Taking innocent life (murder) was always wrong. Enslaving human beings or maltreating them was always wrong. Hitler, a moral relativist, thought executing Jews, gypsies, Poles, the disabled, “useless eaters,” and various others was beneficial to the nation.  Rights came from the hand of the dictator, not from God.

The new pope, Benedict XVI, has lost no time in pointing out the danger of moral relativism.  It is getting so that it is hard to come up with anything that is still believed to be wrong by most people. We used to have right and wrong, truth and goodness.  Now we have political correctness and tolerance for everything and anything.

Child molestation is still generally considered bad though there are homosexual groups pressing for a lowering of the age of consent.  Another group will happily teach our children various ways in which they can pleasure each other sexually short of sexual intercourse.  They call it “outercourse” (and actually promote it as a kind of “abstinence!”) We know our kids are learning well  when we hear of the oral sex that is going on in grade school and on the school bus. Read the rest of this entry »

January 12th, 2009

HUNGRY FOR LOVE

Last night I feel asleep listening to Father Groeschel talking to Fr. Felix Ilesanmi Osasona, MSP, about how the church in Africa is growing by leaps and bounds.  The previous night had been relatively sleepless and the day difficult, with five inches of snow to cope with.  I slept well last night, even with EWTN blasting the whole time.  I woke up to find, at 6 AM, Mary Beth Bonacci telling me about love.   What a blessing!  I wish I could just insert a wee video of that half-hour for readers that aren’t  able to  watch EWTN regularly at 6 AM.

Mary Beth was telling me that our children are hungry for love (as is everyone) but we have to teach them about love.  We have to model love for them, explain to them what love is (early, before the hormones kick in).  Tell them about real love.   Real love is when you want what is best for someone, when you care about them and their problems, when you are willing to sacrifice for them.  Love is a decision, not a feeling.

Mary Beth says she is known as the “pizza love” lady .  She compares real love with pizza love.  When you love pizza you like what pizza does for you, you hunger for its taste, you’ll go out of  your way to get some.  But when you’ve had your fill of pizza, you toss it aside.  You don’t care that it’s sitting in the refrigerator getting green and moldy, once your appetite is satisfied.  It’s all about you.

Loving means I’m for you.  Using means you’re for me.  “Pizza love” is about what you do for me, to me.  Mary Beth suggests starting early with the “pizza love” analogy to get kids thinking about the meaning of love.  Model unconditional love for them.    She says her Dad told her, “We’ll always love you, no matter what.”  She says he never actually  said it but she understood that meant he would still love her no matter how she screwed up, if she came home pregnant, or whatever.

[In the background, as I type, Mother Angelica is leading the rosary.  It’s a nice kind of background “music.”]

Mary Beth says God is “flipped out, madly, crazy in love with your child.”  And with every other person.  God only wants what is best for them.  It’s draining to raise a kid.  We need to turn to God for the power to love our children well.  We can’t do it on our own.  Love is a theological virtue – it’s God’s power working in us.  We need to pray to be able to love well and we need to teach our children to pray early on.

Well, maybe I’m through channeling Mary Beth Bonacci.   It was a superb half-hour, followed by Crossing the Goal with real men teaching about the Lord’s prayer.  Today it focuses on the line, “Deliver us from evil.”  I will not synopsize that program, but well worth watching.

EWTN will show the March for Life in Washington DC on January 22, LIVE!   I’ve been there and have seen personally the masses of people, marching curb to curb on Constitutional Avenue, as far as the eye could see, thousands and thousands of them.  Where else will you ever get this kind of coverage?  Not in your secular press.  Not on mainline TV.

I am so grateful to be able to receive EWTN.  I had nothing to do with it – it’s that little satellite dish that my son put up there that brings in EWTN while my  neighbors on cable can’t receive it.  Thank you, Dan.

The message of Father Groeschel last night was that the United States is now a mission country! We used to send missionaries to so-called  “third world countries.”  Those countries — Asian, African — are now sending missionaries to the United States to relieve our priest shortage and
minister to our spiritual hunger.   (See Missionary Society of St. Paul)

Song (John 13:34)

Love one another, love one another
As I have loved you.
And care for each other, care for each other
As I have cared for you.
And bear one another’s burdens –
Share one another’s joys –
And love one another, love one another
And bring each other home.

~~~

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.  —  Mother Teresa

Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.  — Gandhi

January 2nd, 2009

MORTIMER J. ADLER, CATHOLIC

Mortimer Adler, (December 28, 1902 – June 28, 2001) professor, educator, author, once claimed to be the most highly paid philosopher in the world. That may well be true as he was a long time professor at the University of Chicago, a popular lecturer and teacher, and author of over 50 books. He first burst into public consciousness with his best-seller non-fiction book, How to Read a Book, in 1940. His last book, Adler’s Philosophical Dictionary, was published in 1995.

I first met Dr. Adler at the University of Chicago when he and Milton Mayer were teaching a course on the Great Books. Unregistered students were allowed to sit in during the classes and enjoy the interaction as Adler and Mayer sat at the head of a long rectangular table with registered students seated all around it. I kept attending because I found the discussions fascinating and I could enjoy them without fear that I would be called on. My interest must have been obvious because at one point a note was sent from the head of the table to me, seated off to one side. It read: “Why are you here?” Under that I wrote: “Trite as it may seem, I’m seeking the truth” and sent the note back on its way.

That little incident seems to what led to my being invited to work for Mr. Adler as the Syntopicon was being put together. The Syntopicon was an index to the 102 ideas in the 54 volume set of The Great Books of the Western World, the first edition published in 1952.(Here is a link to our picture in LIFE magazine on 1/26/48.) The job certainly was nothing I applied for–I did not  know there was such an opening or even that such a thing was  happening.   (See my previous post on evolution.)

I soon married and started having children but still followed Adler’s career with interest. He was fond of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas and there was talk, even then, in the 1940’s, about his being seen praying in a Catholic church.  I learned he was accused of converting students to Catholicism because he taught St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica and Jews and Protestants were turning Catholic. He preferred to blame this on his friend Dr. Herbert Schwartz, a Jew who also had converted to Catholicism. Read the rest of this entry »

December 27th, 2008

MARY REMEMBERED

My daughter Mary gave me a plaque on Christmas Eve – it looks like the words are engraved on marble.  As I started to write this I thought that it was probably mass-produced in China in a huge plastic molding machine, but when I turned it over it actually says: “PLQ: Light A Candle White Marble.”  So maybe it is marble–there is quite a heft to it.  But it also says “designed in Atlanta made in China.”  Do those Chinese  somehow cut rectangles of marble and somehow engrave them individually?  En masse?  It is a cause for wonder.

Anyhow, it is a very nice plaque and already one of my favorite things.  It reads: It Is Better To Light A Candle Than Curse The Darkness.  When I opened the package and first read the words Mary said, “Remember the curtains?”

“Curtains?”  “What Curtains?”  “Remember what curtains?”  I see no connection between the plaque and  curtains.  Apparently at sometime in the long forgotten past we had white curtains which, according to Mary, had words at the bottom reading “It is better to light a candle” on one side and “Than to curse the darkness” on the other side.  I have no recollection of any such thing.  We had so little money that if we had any curtains in the house at all they were unlikely to have  been purchased at a store other than the Salvation Army Thrift Store.  They must have been kitchen curtains.  Conceivably they were made out of old sheets and I wrote those words there myself.   Who knows?  That sounds like me back then.

The next day I asked son Johnny about the curtains.  He remembers them, too.  They were kitchen curtains, he thinks I made them myself, and he recalls tomatoes on the window sill. Those curtains could have been forty years ago!    When you’re raising seven kids some things get lost in the shuffle but you’d think I would remember something I was so involved in.

The point is:   Mary remembered.   Johnny remembered.  The words registered.  They found them meaningful.  You can never tell when you’re raising a kid what is going to hit home and linger on.

Way back when I was in eighth grade we used to say the Twenty-Third Psalm every morning at school.  That  was permissible in public schools in those days.    I doubt that it was mandated as we learned nothing else religious in the other grades.  Maybe I had a Christian teacher who was allowed to do her thing.  As children, we never questioned. I learned the psalm as almost meaningless rote words.  To this day I can almost say the whole psalm from memory.   As an adult I find it beautiful – and comforting.

The moral is:    Keep filling those kids with good things. They come as empty vessels, blank slates.   Be careful about what goes into those vessels.  Think about what is being written on those slates.  Something is bound to stick and it might as well be something that will serve them well when it surfaces in the future and grabs hold.

This brings to mind the Jesuit maxim, sometimes attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola:  Give me the child till the age of seven and I will show you the man.

It’s better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark
Better far that you light just one little candle
All you need’s a tiny spark

If we’d all say a prayer that the world would be free
The wonderful dawn on the new day we’ll see
And if everyone lit just one little candle
What a bright world this would be.
—Perry Como, 1952

~~~

  Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.  Luke 2:19

December 10th, 2008

DR. LAURA’S STORY

At the end of this post I am going to unashamedly retell a story that Dr. Laura Schlessinger told on her radio program today.  I started listening to Dr. Laura (Ph.D., not M.D.) when her son, Deryk was 10.   That son has since joined the Army, been to the HALO school (which apparently means they teach you to jump out of airplanes), been to Iraq and back, which makes him about 22 and makes me a seasoned listener.  I liked Dr. Laura from the beginning but for others she seems to be an acquired taste.  Others just hate her from the beginning and do not hesitate to go online and post their vitriol.

That being said, the lady has written 12 best-selling books (plus 4 children’s books) and has actually dedicated her life to (1) raising her boy and (2) helping people with their life problems.  She is against anything that will harm children and finds many such things in today’s society.  In my opinion, she has an amazing ear for the nuances and intonations in what callers say, and has what I think is a truly God-given gift for cutting to the chase and divining the cause behind the problem being presented.   Now 62, she is somewhat short on patience, will not tolerate argument, will tell you to be quiet and listen, is often brusque, but sometimes astonishingly gentle and caring and really, really insightful.  I wait for those shining moments!  I will not try to summarize her opinions (which I agree with 90% of the time) but only say that after twelve years I have not tired of Dr. Laura’s program.  Try it; you might like it.   (Her website is here.)

I’ve read three or four of her books and have given others as gifts.  Of those I’ve read, I especially recommend The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands for any woman married to a man.  Or for a new bride.  Or a couple on the verge of divorce.

Laura’s story:   The girls at a school were just getting to the lipstick stage and would put it on when they went to the bathroom.   But, being rather childish, they would think it fun to  press their freshly lipsticked lips to the bathroom mirror before going back to class, leaving an assortment of red lip marks on the mirror surface.   Daily the janitor would have to clean the mirrors but he eventually had enough and decided something needed to be done.   The teacher and janitor consulted and gathered the girls in the bathroom to explain to them how much trouble they were causing.   By way of demonstration, the janitor dipped his squeegee in the toilet bowl and proceeded to scrub off the lipstick marks.

It worked.  No more mirror-kissing. As Laura said, “There is a difference between teachers and educators.”

(Forgive me, Laura, for the liberties I took with your story. From the day I started this blog I knew I would one day add my voice to those who call you and say, “Thank you, Dr. Laura, for what you do.” Your little lipstick story gave me the impetus to finally sit down and do it. There is a reason your radio program is the most popular after Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity! You keep trying to get people to parent their kids and “Go do the right thing.” How bad can that be? I consider you a major blessing to the world!)

~~~

What’s the difference between a pit bull and a soccer mom? Lipstick! – Sarah Palin

November 11th, 2008

TWICE BLESSED BY QUALITY WRITING

In the past week I have been so impressed with the quality of two posts on two blogs that I feel moved to share the blessing.  Both blogs are by young ladies who are converts to Catholicism and just reading them should put to rest the popular  notion on the left that Christians in general, and Catholics in particular, are bigoted Neanderthals.

How long have I been blogging?  About six months.  How long have I roamed the blogosphere?  Even less than that.  I jumped right in not knowing what I was doing.  But I have found that there is much out there that is a total waste of time, and time is one thing that we all have in the same quantity.   So, in the interest of pointing to quality writing from unusual perspectives I offer the following.

The first blog is Conversion Diary by Jennifer F. whose conversion story begins here.   She tells how she, a former atheist, came to believe in God, and this is followed by another post on Why I Am a Catholic.  She is now 31 years old and the mother of three small children.  The post that so impressed me is titled How Would You Know?, dated November 5, and is found here.   It starts with a picture taken from an album at the Holocaust Museum of workers at Auschwitz on a break and enjoying themselves.  She wonders how they can look so happy, — do they realize the horror they are taking part in?  Her thoughts on the subject are thought-provoking, even somewhat chilling.

The second blog is Historical Christian.   Aimee Milburn Cooper has only been married about a month.  She has a Master’s in Theology and was a class valedictorian.  Her conversion story begins here,  and it’s a
fascinating one!

However,  the blogpost that so impressed me  and prompted me to write today is here.   Aimee is newly married and they have  just moved into their new (to them) home.  She realizes that she knows how to do
research but has no idea of how to keep house.  So, of course, she researches the subject of housecleaning!   Her thoughts on the theology of housework are quite profound.   (I am so looking forward to her thoughts on the theology of marriage and motherhood!)

Let me know if you enjoyed my “finds.”

~~~

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

September 29th, 2008

DISCIPLINE — with LOVE

The following was published as LOVE AND PUNISH in Marriage: The Magazine of Catholic Family Living in September, 1962, and later re-published as a Marriage Pamphlet titled  Discipline–with Love. Human nature has not changed much in the interim.

DISCIPLINE — WITH LOVE

Should children be punished?  Why?  When?  How?  One mother, when invited to attend a lecture by a child guidance expert commented:  “I don’t need any lecture.  My kids toe the line or they get the strap.”

Another mother retrieved her two-year-old from the middle of the street and, setting him down on the curb, gave him a smart whack on his well-padded rear.  The child cried for only a minute but the mother’s whole day was ruined.  “I shouldn’t have hit him,” she fretted.  “It’s a terrible thing to strike a child.”

These two women have radically different ideas about discipline.  One considers corporal punishment a cure-all, another considers it an abomination.  One spanks often, confident she is right; another seldom, and then guiltily.  Is there a happy medium?  What have the experts to say? Read the rest of this entry »

September 16th, 2008

KINDERGARTEN 50 YEARS AGO

In these days, can you imagine that one kindergarten teacher could not only keep sixty five-year-old children under control but actually teach them something? Things were different fifty years ago. Catholic schools typically had larger classes than the public schools.   Undoubtedly  Catholic school budgets were less than those of public schools and it is a safe bet that the Sisters who taught in them did not have comparable salaries to public school teachers.  They had to do the best they could with what they had.

I offer the following which was published in The Family Digest in 1955 for its historical interest and also for some ideas about religious education for families with small children. Proverbs 22:6 says: Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Some might call that “indoctrination” or “brain-washing.”   Whatever.    I can’t say it has worked in my household.

To my knowledge my children have not read this tale from the past and it might bring back memories.

WENDY GOES TO GOD-LEARNING SCHOOL

“Why spend money to send her to a Catholic kindergarten when she can go to a public school free?  It isn’t Read the rest of this entry »