Sunday, January 30, 2011

Catholic App Spotlight: Confession

I've promised to share Catholic Apps that might be of interest to Catholic Post Book Group readers, and I expected to share the many Catholic Apps I use on my iPhone.

But in the last few days, there's been quite a bit of chatter around about Confession, a "Roman Catholic App."

Lisa Hendey of shared her generally positive experience with it.  And I first saw the App highlighted on Mary DeTurris Poust's post on the OSV Daily Take blog, to which I responded, "I love Apps!"

I did download it because, hey, I love Apps!   And I love to support Catholic developers, especially since Apps are so inexpensive--this one is  $1.99.   But I have not used it yet, and I must confess (pun intended?) I'm totally sold on the concept.  I'm not sure that I'm willing to use an App, even a password-protected one, to prepare for Confession (or to take into the confessional), but it might be good for a nightly examination of conscience.

Have you used this App?  What do you think about this idea?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Grace to Race Question: How are Your New Year's Resolutions Coming Along?

So how are your New Year's Resolutions coming along?

Now that we're almost through January, it's a good chance to reflect on the goals we've set and how we've done.  The Grace to Race was a book that inspired in me an effort to be more spiritually and physically mindful.  And Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms has prompted me to tackle certain areas of home organization.  First on my list is a printable grocery list of regularly purchased items.  Haven't done that, but it helps to write it down.  Maybe it will get done in February.

I'm surprised--not sure why--at the lack of progress on my main areas that I had planned to do.  I had determined to write down my new year's resolutions this year, and other than a quick email to my husband with some ideas for "family resolution" possibilities, I didn't do much.  I do think I have made some progress in things, but being more concrete is going to help me feel like progress is happening.  I have started using the Teux Deux app, and I love getting to cross things off the lists, but it hasn't quite become second nature yet.  Some days I use it, some days not so much.

Here's one resolution I am actually beginning to keep:  After a not-so-great phone interview recently, I determined to get more practice in this area.    So I've decided to interview one person I know per week (for no more than 30 minutes) for "practice" in writing up the questions and being a good listener to bring out the best in those I interview.  I send the friend the questions ahead of time, and then do the interview over a cup of tea or coffee.

This week I had my first--I interviewed a longtime friend who also happens to be a physical therapist, about her work and its benefits.   We had a lot of fun, and I had some great practice.  One of the tips that she gave is that posture is very important in keeping our bodies healthy.  As I write this, I'm trying to sit a little straighter.

Next week, I'll interview a choir director about music, and in return I will teach her how to play backgammon.

Are you making progress on your New Year's Resolutions?  If you chose a "word" to focus on for the year, how's it working out?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Local Author Father Gary Caster to sign books this Saturday at Lagron-Miller this Saturday

This weekend, readers can meet a local author who has a new book based on the spirituality of St. Therese.

Father Gary Caster, author of The Little Way of Lent:  Meditations in the Spirit of St. Therese, will be signing books at Lagron Miller Catholic book and goods store, 4517 North Sterling Ave., Peoria, Illinois, from 1 to 3 p.m. this Saturday, January 29.

Father Caster is a priest of the diocese of Peoria, but currently based at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.  I'll be reviewing Father's book for the blog soon, and I hope to have a Q&A with him as well.

Our family has a connection with Father Caster that we like to laugh about, every year.  Many years ago, Father was my boss when I was a teacher at Peoria Notre Dame High School.  When I announced I would not be returning to teaching because I was expecting, Father was gracious and asked for my due date.  I told him early November, and he said, "I hope you have the baby on November 30, because that's my birthday."  I told him, laughing, "I hope I don't, because that means the baby will be three weeks late!"

I bet you can guess our oldest daughter's birthday.  That's right--November 30.

And Father Caster sends a card every year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Feast of St. Francis de Sales

Today is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, the patron of this blog, (as I explain in the "About" page).  St. Francis is the patron saint of journalists and writers.

In a procrastinating move to avoid my to-do list- quick check of what people are saying about St. Francis on this, his feast, I found a couple of interesting tidbits:

Universalis, as often is the case, has a nice little reflection on today's saint. Here's what he has to say about St. Francis:

"St Francis taught that we can all attain a devout and spiritual life, whatever our position in society: holiness is not reserved for monks and hermits alone. His wrote that 'religious devotion does not destroy: it perfects,' and his spiritual counsel is dedicated to making people more holy by making them more themselves. ....

  St Francis is the patron saint of writers and journalists, who would do well to imitate his love and his moderation: as he said, 'whoever wants to preach effectively must preach with love.'"

I've read Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis' best-known classic, many times--it is usually on my Lenten reading list.  Since I've not done so in a few years, I've already set it aside for this Lent.  That's why it's really great to see a new generation of Catholics discover this fantastic saint.

*Jen at Conversion Diary (who will be speaking at this year's Behold Conference in our diocese) has decided to take on a year of St. Francis de Sales.  She has a great way of translating St. Francis' writing for a modern audience, as you can read in this post on "banishing the spiders." 

*'bearing', a blog I visit occasionally, is also blogging through Introduction to the Devout Life.  I haven't had a chance to read too much of the series, but again it's nice to see some of the "young 'uns" writing and learning about this great saint.

*The Ironic Catholic has a free e-book giveaway for today only.   I already have this book and it is fun to read! (St. Francis de Sales is also the patron of her blog, proving she has great taste in saints, in addition to her excellent sense of humor).

 Today is also the baptism anniversary of our oldest daughter.   We tend to really mark baptism anniversaries in our house, so we'll be celebrating at our house tonight!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Does "The King's Speech" Have an R Rating?

Have you seen "The King's Speech" yet?  The small independent film is getting lots of awards and nominations--Colin Firth won a Golden Globe for best actor, the film earned 14 nominations by the BAFTA, the British equivilent of the Oscars.  Next week when the Oscar nominations are announced, I won't be surprised to see this wonderful film getting quite a few nominations.

"The King's Speech" is based on the true story of Prince Albert, who struggled with stuttering during his life, and is helped by speech therapist & actor Lionel Logue.  When his older brother Edward abdicates the throne so that he can marry divorcee Wallis Simpson, Albert becomes King George VI and is able to rise to the task of leading the nation during WWII in the age of radio and newsreels.

My husband and I saw the movie last weekend and we loved it; we found it beautifully made and acted.  Since I'm a confirmed Janeite, I was quick to spot a little interesting casting:  the wife of Lionel Logue is played by Jennifer Ehle, who was Lizzie Bennet opposite Colin Firth's Darcy in the BBC miniseries of "Pride & Prejudice" that made Firth a star back in the 1990s.

But we were completely perplexed as to why the film received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.   There is one short scene in which the speech therapist encourages fluency by having the prince say swear words repeatedly.  Indeed, as the  Plugged In Online review reports, "The Weinstein Company sued the MPAA for assigning The King's Speech an R rating, ... 'While we respect the MPAA,' said owner Harvey Weinstein, 'I think we can all agree that we are living with an outdated ratings system that gives torture porn, horror and ultraviolent films the same rating as films with so-called inappropriate language.'"

I not only agree with that statement-- I would go farther.  More than a few PG-13 movies have all those elements and are much more inappropriate for younger viewers overall than any moment in this "R" film.  I'll be taking my 13-year-old daughter to see "The King's Speech" this weekend, and we wouldn't mind our younger children seeing it when it's on Netflix (though we might fast-forward through the one scene of swearing so as not to inspire any 7-year-old copycats, not that that's likely given the context).  I highly recommend it as enjoyably instructive about the WWII time period, with good things to say about friendship, family and doing the right thing, not just through those who do the right thing, but through those who don't, like King Edward VIII.  Peggy Noonan has an excellent column describing some of the good elements about the film and people acting like grown-ups.

I'm so perplexed and angered by this rating for "The King's Speech" that I want to open a discussion:  why do films get the ratings they do?  How do you screen movies for your family?   What do you think about the movie rating system, and would you propose anything different?

Our favorite site for this is Plugged In Online--they review all sorts of media, not just films.  The reviews are exhaustive in content, so we know what to expect, but also considered is artistic quality and age-appropriateness.  The reviews even warn about plot spoilers so you don't have to read ahead if you don't want to.

Finally, the website for "The King's Speech" has an excellent trailer that tells the story of the film, that I can't seem to embed here, and a link to the actual speech given by King George VI, that I can:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Q&A with Sister Madonna Buder, author of The Grace to Race

I had the good fortune to interview Sister Madonna Buder, author of The Grace to Race, a few days back.   My Catholic Post review of the book makes it clear how much I enjoyed this book, and Sister was gracious enough to talk with me on the phone for a long conversation about her racing and her vocation.  Following is the best of our conversation.  Thank you, Sister for your time and for your wonderful book!

First of all, I loved your book.  Well done!  Let me ask a kind of bold question:  why is a nun doing triathlons?   

Well, it can seem different to what you would expect a nun’s life to be.   But I’ve always been active, mountain climbing & other adventuring, and I need to use that gift for His glory.  I’ve learned that if the Lord gives you a talent, and you recognize it and you know it’s a gift, then you are almost duty bound to use it as a compliment to the Creator.  To ignore it is insulting the Creator.  Once I was climbing a mountain and the answer struck me, “I gave you a gift and you are complimenting me to use it, and if you don’t, it’s lost.”    This thought was the one that helped me persist because I knew the attitudes in society of what a sister “should be.”

Do you see racing as your primary ministry?  How is that part of your vocation?

It seems to have developed into that, but it is a mystery to me as to how this has all come about.  All I can do is say is, “Yes, Yes, Yes, Lord.”   In fact, the last few days have been snowy out here, and it’s been difficult for me to run to Mass, even with my YakTrax.  So I can only say, “Yes, Lord, Yes, Lord.”

How are you able to recognize that it’s not just you out there, but really something that is given by God?

That is really discernment, and that’s both a thought process and a heart process.   Is your heart really into it? If you try to strip yourself of all the trappings of 'what’s in it for me,' and consider the effects an action would have on other people-- that’s helpful in discernment.

 I’m a runner (I’ve even raced a sprint distance triathlon, along with all four of my sisters—a great experience!) and I’ve always found it hard to explain to others how I find it spiritually and emotionally productive to run, especially long distances.

Could you explore a little what you mean by what you call “a different kind of prayer posture” and how your racing relates to your prayer life?

Prayer is not a place.  When you talk about posture, that indicates a static movement.  To me, prayer is being in constant communication with the Beloved.  That does not require any kind of posture.  If kneeling is a posture that puts you in a state of reverence, then it’s productive.   But other ways of being can be prayerful; what matters most to God is that you’re thinking about Him.  And you can be thinking about Him no matter where you are or what you’re doing.  For me, I find my comtemplative spirit is on the run, so to speak. (pun intended!)

One of the things you capture well in the book is that there’s something special about running or being active that can really connect with you God in a different way.

It certainly draws a person into a sense of wholeness. You’re not a compartmentalized in denying the body and spirit.  You are in harmony as one being, and this is what we have to be mindful of for our wholeness’ sake. 

Some people are a little top heavy, mentally, and so their body gets neglected.  Other people are so intent on bodybuilding that their mind and emotions get neglected.  Other people are emotional 'touchy-feely' and their mind gets pushed aside.  I think we actually spend our lifetimes attempting to get into balance.   Racing helps me to be more whole as a human.

Following up on the previous question:  I was part of a discussion recently about the Theology of the Body, John Paul II’s series of talks exploring that we are meant to speak the truth not just with our words, but with our bodies.  I was reflecting about how while the Theology of the Body is primarily discussed in the context of vocation to marriage, it really applies to everything we do with our bodies. For instance, I like to dedicate each mile of a race to a family member, and in a sense that is an offering for them.  Do you have any thoughts on that?

It’s very common to dedicate a race or a portion of a race to a person.  I like to do this.  And that helps with the focus being on other people, not just me.  Paradoxically, it’s as much to the runner’s spiritual and emotional benefit as it is to the person we want to benefit.  That goes back to the focus.  For one, if you’re thinking about every step you’re taking it becomes drudgery, but if you thinking about your reason for doing this, it uplifts you.  Also, offering it for others helps get our prayers and thoughts in alignment.  Prayers and thoughts are very closely linked.  So that’s why we have to watch we think!   

Ultimately, it’s the intention with which we do anything that makes it worthwhile.  And the intentions we offer for others can be very powerful, especially for someone who needs prayers for a peaceful death.

After all these years, do you still enjoy racing?

I don’t know if I would call it racing anymore (laughing).   Well, as far as putting forth the effort, I don’t mind that, especially the running.  But what I enjoy most is the camaraderie -- being out there with like-minded people who are enjoying the gift of physicality.  How they express their gift is totally individual, but it’s all God-given.

How do you feel you minister to the other people at races?  You write a lot about that in The Grace to Race.

I think I do this just by being me.  A lot of it depends on the very fact that I am a religious, you know.  Even an atheist feels a little bit interested running next to a spiritual person.

People minister to me, too, as I help them with spiritual matters.  One time, during the Capital City Marathon (in Olympia Washington), a man started talking to be at about mile 20, which is when things tend to get tougher in a marathon.  I guess he knew who I was, and he wasn’t very spiritual, so he wanted to talk with me about my beliefs.  It actually was a very productive conversation, and he thanked me after we finished the race for talking with him.  But I don’t think he realized how much he helped me to finish.  The talking helped me to push through.

When is your next race?

I plan to run the Boston Marathon in April.  I want to open a new age group for women if possible.  I don’t know if there’s been an 80-year-old woman to run Boston.  When I last ran Boston in 2008, there were several men in their 80s, but no women.

This month at the Catholic Post Book Group blog, we’re talking about new year’s resolutions and making changes.   Any thoughts or words of wisdom to share with people who might want to start getting active?

Well the first thing is just to put one step in front of the other.  Some people look at a distance and think, 'Oh, that’s too much'.  Start by putting one step in front of the other, and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve gotten.  Then you keep increasing it until it becomes a routine.

You write in The Grace to Race of your love for the Blessed Mother and for St. Therese.  Is there a patron saint of triathletes or racers?   Could you recommend a particular saint for this, especially for newer athletes?

Actually, we are all called to be saints, if we recognize the Christ within us and Christ in others.   Even if we don’t have the capital “S” in front of our names, we can all try to be little saints running around.

Anything else you would like to add or wish that I had asked?

I just want to say one word to anybody who is attempting to do a race or to get physically active when they haven’t been:  'Godspeed.'   It's an old Anglo-Saxon term, a meaning-well term:  'Godspeed.'

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Q&A with Tami Kiser, author of Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms

Here is my Q&A with Smart Martha author Tami Kiser.   I am so grateful for Tami's willingness to fit this interview into her busy schedule, and to write such an excellent book.  Thanks, Tami!

I loved the encouragement in Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms. Explain how you got the idea for “Smart Martha.”

I began just doing “organization” seminars for women.   A few years ago as I began planning on how to expand my seminars, I was deeply struck with the gospel reading about the Mary and Martha story.  I felt like this is what my seminars were missing!  It was a light bulb moment.  We women tend to not only need help with organizing our busy lives, but more importantly, we need help finding Jesus in our busy lives.

Tell me about your Smart Martha seminars.

The Smart Martha seminars are usually held at parishes sponsored by women’s groups.  Throughout the five-hour event, there are presentations, group activities, small group discussions and usually a catered lunch.  Each attendee gets a workbook that contains all of the information presented as well as room to make additional notes and personal worksheets.  The women who attend have a great time and leave with inspiration, new ideas, and a fresh perspective.  The topics we cover are:  Having a Mary Attitude during our Martha Tasks; Managing Everyone’s Schedules and Activities; Toys!; Dinner; Laundry; and Keeping It All Clean.  I have traveled to many different cities and states averaging about one seminar a month.

One intriguing aspect of your book is your take on Stephen Covey’s “sharpening the saw,” about rethinking routines and taking the time to implement them to save time and grief in the long run.  What’s a good example of that?  

I give the example of a key rack at the seminar.  For the longest time, our family struggled with lost keys or not having the right set of keys for the vehicle that was needed.  We were inconvenienced by this for the longest time.  If I wanted to take the small car to get a loaf of bread and milk, I had to track down the keys from whoever had the car last.  To solve this, all I needed to do was to purchase a key rack, hang it up, and then get everyone to always put his keys on it.  Now, the right set of keys are always available. This is the example of “sharpening the saw.”  I could have just gone on with our lives always being inconvenienced by the lost or missing keys—causing the family a little stress and a little time.  This is like a person sawing wood with a dull blade who says he is too busy to sharpen his saw.  There are lots examples I could give: Cleaning out the closet so people can find their coats more easily; designating a place for shoes so that no one ever has missing shoes; or hanging up hooks for backpacks so that mom doesn’t have to clear them off of the kitchen counter. 

You champion a Martha/Mary balance that promotes organization in order to be present to one another more fully.  Why do you think moms need to hear that message?

We moms have a lot of responsibility and by nature, tend to be very task oriented.  This is why the Martha story resonates with so many of us.  We feel that we need to measure our success by how much we have accomplished on our “to do” lists.  Our society is also very much that way.  We are bombarded with messages that our family needs to do more and have more.  Because of this, mothers need to be reminded of what is really important in our vocation.  We need reminders of what God says we need, not what society says we need.

What would be your number one practical tip for moms looking to save time and improve their organizational skills in the new year? 

One thing?  That is tricky.  OK.  Simplify.  Get rid of things and activities.  You don’t need to organize things if you don’t have them.  And this will save you so much time. I have seen too many “organized” moms have great closets filled with bins and baskets of lots of stuff very neatly organized, but for what reason?  Get rid of what you don’t need.  Don’t just organize it.  Simplify life and enjoy people without having to worry about all of the stuff.

Is there anything I didn’t ask, or that you would like to add? 

If you are interested in monthly reminders—since we all get caught up with our stuff, I offer 3 different ones.  Since I encourage moms not to spend too much time on the computer, I make these brief and to the point.   The first reminder is a simple tip to FOCUS on organizing, cleaning, uncluttering, or simplifying as well as a reminder to be more like Mary.  The second reminder is to help moms with DINNERTIME since that is such a great opportunity to spend time with the family.  And the last reminder comes at the end of the month and has a couple of suggestions for simple family CELEBRATIONS involving the church calendar to do the following month.  You can learn more about them at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Smart Martha" Question: What's Your Number One Organizational Tip?

Polls show many people have New Year's Resolutions to become more organized, and I count myself among them.  This week, a college girl from our parish still home from break has spent several days with me moving furniture and doing some re-organizing and carting stuff to Goodwill, and we have the sore muscles to prove it!

Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms by Tami Kiser is the book that I reviewed & so enjoyed in this category.  In particular, her book has helped me to think more about home management in order to be more present to my family.  I've visited  Tami Kiser's website and hope to talk more in my upcoming interview with her about her Smart Martha seminars.

What I'd like to learn is your top homekeeping tip, and I'll start the conversation.    

My favorite home management/organizing tip is to set a timer for 15 minutes (or sometimes even 5!) and tackle ... whatever.... a dreaded cleaning job, an organizational task, or something else home-related (I've even used this very successful for writing projects).  I learned this great tip from the excellent email reminders I get from the Flylady; I've been getting the emails since way back when it was a small yahoo group, and their ideas for organizing projects and getting rid of clutter have been extremely helpful. 

The Flylady website is a lot more complicated than I remember, because I don't ever visit it, but let me say that the emails have been a great service for me, in particular the 15 minute rule (and I have three of the Flylady timers scattered in different places in our house, and they are well worth the investment).  I've tried to use that with my kids to help them with cleaning tasks of their own, with varying degrees of success, depending on the child's temperament.

So, since I'm always looking for new ideas to get more organized, what is your top organizational tip?  Share away!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Meet a Reader: Shannon Cardaronella

This month's "Meet a Reader" is a wonderful woman I met several years back at the Peoria Diocese Summer Institute.    At a dinner for speakers (both our husbands were speakers that year), we talked the entire time about, I know you will be shocked to hear this....books!  This actually is quite surprising as we have kids of similar ages, and kids tends to be a default subject.  I knew she would be great to feature here, and I am so glad to be able to introduce another thoughtful "reader" to Catholic Post readers.  Thanks, Shannon!
How You Know Me:

You probably do not know me.  More people know my husband, Marc, the Director of Religious Education (DRE) at Holy Cross Parish in Champaign and the Regional DRE for Champaign/Danville.  I love Holy Cross!   Holy Cross is one of the loveliest churches I have every enjoyed, and it is our home parish.  If you are ever in Champaign, please come worship with us.  Consider yourself invited.  I also appreciate that our parish is a motley crew of folks from all walks of life.  Marc and I have two boys:  John Berchmans "JB", 9 and David, 7.  I am a homeschool mom, and I love homeschooling also allows us to read, read, read!

Why I Love Reading:

I grew up surrounded by huge bookshelves filled to the brim and even cataloged.  My sister read to me all the time when I was very young.  My parents discussed their latest reads at the dinner table.  We read it all, from junky books to works that uplifted the mind.  We were curious about other people and places, other points of view, new ways of looking at the world.  Finally, my parents were not afraid of the world.  They both possessed an innate love of and trust in the world and people, always teaching me that most people are good and kind and want to help.  This trust allows me to go deeply into the world of the book I am reading.  There is something about losing oneself in a good book that can neither be adequately expressed nor replicated with other media. 

My Favorite Book:

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  While Scarlett is the main character, it is Melanie who fascinates me.  Melanie is a beautiful Christ figure.  As a reader, I wince at Scarlett's flaws: her insensitivity, selfishness and heartless conniving.  Melanie sees Scarlett's perfections: her fortitude, intelligence, good horse sense and strength. The kicker is Melanie is right.  Scarlett -- exactly who she is, with all of her flaws, because of who she is, with all of her flaws -- saved herself, Tara, Melanie and the baby, Mammy & Prissy... her whole "tribe" if you will, against seemingly insurmountable odds.  Melanie is no doe-eyed ignorant optimist.  She accepts and embraces Scarlett and the world as they are.  This acceptance brings out the best in all, including even Rhett Butler and Belle Watling. 

What I'm Reading Now:

Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly.  Fr. Willard, our pastor at Holy Cross, gave a copy to every family at Christmas Mass.  Thank you, Fr. Willard!  There is a lot of "food for thought" in this one.  And since this is my very own copy, I can underline to my heart's content.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"The Grace to Race" and other Books Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolution

Do you have a New Year’s resolution, or more than one?

When I put this question out on the blog last week and the Facebook page for the Catholic Post, an assortment of worthy goals were listed, from physical goals, such as eating better or exercising more; organizing goals; relationship goals such as having more family time; and financial goals.  Three new books offer interesting possibilities to help nearly anyone begin to tackle the challenges of a new year.

*The Grace to Race by Sister Madonna Buder, is one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in recent years.  The lengthy subtitle tells the story:  The Wisdom & Inspiration of the 80-Year-Old World Champion Triathlete Known as the Iron Nun.

I was a wee bit put off by that “concept,” too--until I started reading and couldn’t put it down.

Sister Madonna’s book is part fine spiritual autobiography, part triathlete war stories, and throughout, true inspiration to the rest of us to really “reach” for more in our spiritual and physical lives. 

Born to a life of privilege in St. Louis, Sister Madonna Buder considers a vocation from her early years, but still dates and immerses herself in an active, happy family life.  Her decision time approaches as she reflects during a summer trip to Europe:

“Once safely on the train coursing along the scenic Rhine, I began to collect my thoughts.  My Irishman!  Monsignor Doheny!  My European adventures!  The past, the present, the future!  What was God really asking of me?  Then, from the depths of my soul, came an interior voice, ‘Can any one man satisfy you when I alone dwell in the deepest recesses of your heart?’  The message was seeping in just as surely as the waters flowed along the banks of the Rhine.  My true longing was becoming clear.”

Based on her active lifestyle through her early life, it doesn’t surprise to see Sister Madonna to take up running at age 48, begin running marathons and then racing triathlons (including the punishing full-length Ironman triathlons) through her 80s.      What is surprising is how well she shows how running has enhanced and aided her vocation and her prayer life:

“All I knew at the time was that I was running on faith, and I prayed while I ran.  Afterwards, I realized it was a different kind of prayer posture.  Besides using my heart and head, when I ran my whole body was involved in the petitioning.”

For those looking for a little personal motivation, Sister Madonna gives tips and ideas for getting or staying active, but her story itself in inspiration enough.

*Is personal or home organization among your top goals for the new year?  Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms by Tami Kiser is a super-encouraging, practical book that helps moms streamline home management and family organization. 

Kiser presents her approach not just for the sake of a sparkling house or well-groomed family, but chiefly so that family members can be more “present” to one another and others, just as Mary was “present” when Jesus visited the home of Mary & Martha in Bethany.

A busy mom of nine, Kiser culls tips from her “Smart Martha” seminars to give a boost to moms who feel drowning in school schedules and home management.  What I love best about Smart Martha is the reminders that your way may be different, but just as good, rather than a “one size fits all” approach too common in home organizing books.

One feature I found especially helpful was her take on the 7 Habits time management skill of  “sharpening the saw,” originally all about balance and taking breaks to increase efficiency.  Kiser adds to that definition that moms should take the time to rethink routines, schedules, or even rooms, in order to be more efficient and have more time for one another in the family and in the world.

*With all the depressing financial news, it’s no surprise to see that Merriam-Webster decreed“austerity” as Word of the Year (WOTY).  That’s not quite as much fun as the Oxford English Dictionary’s WOTY:  refudiate; but that’s for another column.   Financial goals can be both a worthy goal and a significant challenge.   An intriguing new book, Why Enough is Never Enough:  Overcoming Worries about Money-A Catholic Perspective by Gregory S. Jeffrey, proposes that much of our worry and insecurity about money lies in two areas: a lack of trust in God, and a lack of generosity. 

Each chapter ends with reflection questions that Jeffrey suggests people write out and talk over with a “money partner:” a spouse or trusted friend.  Overall, the reflection questions and indeed the whole book, are designed to foster in readers hearts that are “radically generous” and trusting in God for all good.

My main concern about Why Enough is Never Enough is the fear some readers might take away that the only cause of money troubles or money worries is spiritual; that somehow prayer, the sacraments and trust in God is all that is required to be a good financial steward.  In its defense, that really isn’t the book’s only message, but based on the title and some of the content, readers could be misled. 

I wish the book had given more strategies that people can do to economize, or save more, or make wise financial decisions.  These might not fall into the category of a “spiritual” or “Catholic” approach, but can still help people meet their financial goals and be more at peace with money.

Also consider:

*Once you’ve been inspired by Sister Madonna Buder’s triathlons, consider The Rosary Workout by Peggy Bowes.  Bowes outlines a sensible, easy approach to interval training (for people of any physical or spiritual level) using the prayers of the Rosary.

*A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot.  Pierlot proposes moms adapt St. Benedict’s Rule of Life to maintain rhythm and prayer in managing a family.

*7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Guide to Managing Your Money by Phil Lenahan is a well-respected newer classic (from 2007) with an online component for small group study.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Two Great Children's Books for Two Great Feast Days this Week

In early January, the Church celebrates two great American saints--St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose feast day was yesterday, January 4, and St. John Neumann, whose feast is today, January 5.

The second reading of the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, which usually is a work about or by the saint of that day, were especially good for both of these saints.  Elizabeth Ann Seton's reading was from a "conference to her spiritual daughters," and it was entitled, "Our daily work is to do the will of the Father."  It's beautiful, and I'm having some trouble figuring out how to cut and paste it from my iPhone's Universalis App to email.

Update: I was able to figure it out!  I have put a longish section from the reading at the end of this post.

In the meantime, here are two great children's chapter books from the "Glory of America" series by Joan Stromberg about these two saints.  I consider these historical fiction titles great gentle introductions to these saints; readers will learn lots about the time period as well as the spirituality of St. John and St. Elizabeth.

Thomas Finds a Treasure: a St. John Neumann Story (Glory of America, Catholic girls and boys of the U.S.A), tells the story of St. John Neumann from the eyes of a young boy who learns from his parish priest (St. John) about doing the right thing, even when difficult.

In Kat Finds a Friend, a St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Story (Glory of America, Catholic girls of the U.S.A), Kat benefits intellectually and spiritually from Mother Seton's tireless guidance and love.

Because we have a new Kindle in our house, and I use the Kindle App frequently on my iPhone, I was especially excited to see that Behold Publications is beginning to publish books in the Kindle e-reader format.  So far, these two books are not yet available on Kindle, but I did download Behold's newest title, The Search for the Madonna.  Like most Kindle books, this arrives at a significant discount to the print version, a bonus.  I'll post a review in the near future.

from Elizabeth Ann Seton, a conference to her spiritual daughters:

I know what his will is by those who direct me; whatever they bid me do, if it is ever so small in itself, is the will of God for me. Then do it in the manner he wills it, not sewing an old thing as if it were new, or a new thing as if it were old; not fretting because the oven is too hot, or in a fuss because it is too cold. You understand – not flying and driving because you are hurried, not creeping like a snail because no one pushes you. Our dear Saviour was never in extremes. The third object is to do his will because God wills it, that is, to be ready to quit at any moment and to do anything else to which you may be called....
   You think it very hard to lead a life of such restraint unless you keep your eye of faith always open. Perseverance is a great grace. To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did. Which of them gained heaven without a struggle?... 
   What are our real trials? By what name shall we call them? One cuts herself out a cross of pride; another, one of causeless discontent; another, one of restless impatience or peevish fretfulness. But is the whole any better than children’s play if looked at with the common eye of faith? Yet we know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life, that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.
   But we lack courage to keep a continual watch over nature, and therefore, year after year, with our thousand graces, multiplied resolutions, and fair promises, we run around in a circle of misery and imperfections. After a long time in the service of God, we come nearly to the point from whence we set out, and perhaps with even less ardour for penance and mortification than when we began our consecration to him.
   You are now in your first setout. Be above the vain fears of nature and efforts of your enemy. You are children of eternity. Your immortal crown awaits you, and the best of Fathers waits there to reward your duty and love. You may indeed sow here in tears, but you may be sure there to reap in joy.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Catholic App Spotlight: Saint's Name Generator

I've been thinking for some time of having posts from time to time about great Catholic Apps for different electronic devices, such as iPhones, other smartphones and iPads.  I am a Mac girl, so know that I will probably highlighting more of those than ones available for say, the Android.  (Though I know many of Apps are available across multiple platforms).  I heavily use Apps on my iPhone and our family's iPad, and I have quite a few Catholic ones I would love to share with others.

The first Catholic App spotlight doesn't qualify as an actual App for those devices (since as far as I can see it is only available online), but it is just so cute and fun that I decided to feature it as the first App spotlight.

The Saint's Name Generator is a simple little program created by blogger Jen Fulwiler.  Fulwiler will be one of the featured speakers at the upcoming Behold Conference to be held here in the Peoria Diocese, so it's especially appropriate

This weekend, our family enjoyed generating different saints for each member of our family just for fun.  We had to laugh that my husband's saint was St. Albert the Great, patron of theologians (my husband has a doctorate in theology).

Check it out!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First, What are You Reading? Volume 5, January 2011

Happy New Year Everyone!!

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list/pile to read?

I hope you'll consider sharing yours on your blog and/or sharing yours here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

I am reading and re-reading some great classic books on the Kindle App on my iPhone.  Fantastic was Rilla of Ingleside, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of the "Anne of Green Gables" books, a coming-of-age story about Anne's youngest daughter. 

I'm also reading Dear Enemy by Jean Webster, sequel to the absolutely perfect Daddy Long-Legs.  Jean Webster wrote only these two novels (in the early 1900s) before her death at a young age.

What do you like best about them?

Rilla of Ingleside is a coming-of-age story of Anne's youngest daughter.  Rilla is a passionate, beautiful teenager ready to take on the world--one of my favorite lines is, "Taste life?  I want to eat it up!"  When World War I intrudes, Rilla and all those around her are changed forever.  

Dear Enemy, like it precursor Daddy Long-Legs, is a novel in letters (officially called an epistolary novel, but I'm trying not to be too "English major here!").  These are all letters from the spoiled and headstrong Sallie McBride as she takes on the challenge of running an orphanage and remaking it in love and .

I love, love, love novels in the form of letters.  I read once that Jane Austen once considered writing my favorite novel of all time, Pride & Prejudice, as a series of letters only.   That I would love to read.

What do you like least about them?

The only thing I don't like about Lucy Maud Montgomery novels is when they end, so I'm glad she was fairly prolific.  I've still got lots of other novels I haven't read in years and can rely on those when I need relaxation

A bit shocking about Dear Enemy is several positive mentions of (not named as such but described) eugenics--trying to prevent "feeble-minded" orphans from joining full society.  At the time Dear Enemy was written (1915), eugenics was fairly progressive and not so understood as terrible as it is now.  This was of course before the Nazis used the theory of eugenics to kill millions. 

This is a small problem, in my mind, and actually allows for a discussion with young people who have read Dear Enemy about the progression of thoughts, and how ideas do matter, whether they are good or bad.

What are you reading next?

I ordered from the library, 168 Hours:  You Have More Time than You Think by Laura Vanderkam.  I've seen it referenced in a few blog posts and elsewhere, and it looks interesting. 

My 7-year-old son and I are reading together the popular series, "Guardians of Ga'hoole" about owls.  Not usually my thing, but we are alternating pages in the first in the series The Capture, and enjoying it so far.  We wanted to read the series and see if we were interested in seeing the recent movie when it comes out on DVD.

I'm also previewing a lot of books for February and March columns.  Lots of books about marriage and love (for February) and  Lent and Lenten themes.  Any suggestions from you?  What are you reading?