The Visitation... the very first Eucharistic Procession of Christ, truly present within His beloved, blessed mother, is celebrated today.
Can you imagine the joy of Mary as she made her way closer and closer to the home of St. Elizabeth? Knowing that she was about to bear witness to another miracle - the fruitfulness of a barren old woman - she must have been singing non-stop praises!
And yes, of course Our Lady was besides herself with joy knowing that she carried God within her womb, but I'm willing to bet she always placed the joy of others before herself.
She wasn't someone who simply clapped her hands and said "Congratulations" only to lose herself in her own life five seconds later.
No. She immersed herself in the joys, sufferings, triumphs and challenges of those around her. She always - ALWAYS - placed others before herself due to her perfect humility. She must have savored the miraculous blessing of her elderly cousin as much as St. Elizabeth, herself, did. It's why Our Lady stayed on to take care of her and help her in her final months of pregnancy. She joyously accepted her role as servant, even while pregnant with the God of the Universe.
How blessed are we to have such a gracious, loving woman as our Heavenly Mother?
And what of elderly Saint Elizabeth? She no doubt dropped to her feeble, creaky knees as Our Lady approached. We are told in the gospel that she was moved by the Holy Spirit and proclaimed Mary's Divine Motherhood as little John the Baptist leapt in her once barren womb.
That's why I love the above statue so much. These two pregnant women, through the power and grace of God, join together in love, support and prayer. This loving example of kinship, faithfulness and humility gave us one of our most beautiful prayers of praise - the Magnificat.
My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy is his name!
His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
and sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons for ever.
So Father Z had an interesting seeded article regarding the Saudi Arabian hub of McDonald's. Apparently a Power Rangers toy was stamped with what can be seen as the name of Muhammad. Muslims in Saudi Arabia got a bit miffed considering the name of Muhammad is sacred to them. Seing it stamped on the bottom of a toy that features a ninja spinning around stomping on it understandably gets them a little riled up.
A lot of people on Father's thread were asking if the squiggle could really be the name of Muhammad. I was curious, myself, so I did a quick Google image search for his name. I found a couple different variations, but only one was similar to the image at the bottom of the Happy Meal toy. It wasn't the name of Muhammad, either. The closest thing I could find was the name of "Allah" written in Thuluth, a calligraphy font that happens to be used on the Saudi Arabian flag.
Soooooo, after comparing these items, it becomes clear that the little squiggle is definitely NOT the Power Ranger's lightning bolt (which some folks have put forth as explanation). I don't think it's the name of Muhammad, either. However, a case could definitely be made for the image to be a slanted version of the calligraphy for "Allah." Considering the font is so specific (being on the national flag and all), I can't help but wonder if that wasn't done on purpose.
I'm no expert, obviously, but from what I've been able to find, I'm confused there's an uproar specifically regarding the name of Muhammad and not the name of Allah. Then again, if the name of Muhammad is sacred, the name of Allah would be doubly so. In lieu of printing God's name repeatedly on news sites to rally opposition to the toy, maybe they chose to focus on Muhammad instead because it'd be an easier pill to swallow than allowing the name of God to be dragged through the mud.
I dunno - conjecture on my part, but I'm really confused on that.
All this being said, I can understand why Muslims would be a little testy over it. If something that Catholics found sacred was being stomped on my a toy ninja, I'd probably be a little peeved, myself.
Ah well. I'm curious to know who was responsible for the design.
***Update 5.31.12*** Corrected Information!!!
Two people (one from WDTPRS and one from an Islamic forum I contacted) were able to shed a little light on this for me. If either of them ever find their way back here, please know how much I appreciate that! :)
The calligraphy that I have listed as "Allah" isn't actually "Allah." The gentlemen who explained it to me through the forum said that sometimes it's easy for people to misunderstand that because the name of Allah is always so closely linked to that of Muhammad. Arabic calligraphy "builds" on itself, much in the same way Japanese characters do. A simple calligraphy picture could contain an entire story to the keen eyes of one who understands the language.
I find that incredibly wonderful! :)
However, that means I was wrong about the calligraphy for Allah. The woman on WDTPRS says that the squiggle can be understood as Muhammad's name (and the gentlemen affirmed this), so the current rallying makes sense again to me. Also, I was right on the Thuluth font as well, so that's something, right? Ha ha ha!
I wanted to be sure to update this page with that information as I don't want anyone running around with improper background because of me!
Disclaimer: I lifted this entire article from Devin Rose (who in turn lifted it from Brandon Vogt). Something tells me neither of them would be particularly unhappy with me for doing so. As such, I, too, would harbor no ill-will if anyone wanted to 'plagarize' this entry in an effort to spread awareness for such an incredible cause!
Also stolen from Rose (and I guess Vogt)
In Cameroon, Africa, books are rare–especially the good ones. My friend Linus is studying in one of the seminaries, and he says there the situation is even worse. The seminaries are bursting at the seams with young men yet they lack solid Catholic materials. (Most of the seminaries do have computers, yet the internet is spotty at best.)
But what if we could change that? What if we could get provide good Catholic books for every seminarian?
I think we can. Through the power of the Catholic blogosphere, I’m convinced we can crowd-source a solution.
The plan is to send 2,000 CDs to all the seminarians in Cameroon, each loaded with Catholic eBooks including:
Several people have combined their resources to make this happen including Our Sunday Visitor, New Advent, Aquinas and More, Word on Fire, Lighthouse Catholic Media, and Libreria Editrice Vatican. These groups have also provided some great giveaway perks for donors:
Some of you know I'm a huge Joe Castillo fan. His work is absolutely incredible, and I was lucky to even see him perform live last summer with my husband, John (a hilarious story in itself considering Castillo's a Christian artist).
Anyway, I'm part of his mailing list, so this popped up in my inbox over the weekend. I wanted to share it with all of you. If you're interested, feel free to check out his website.
Today John and I celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary!
April 28th marked our 8th year together, but today marks our 5th year as husband and wife!
To celebrate, I'm posting a bunch of photos (in no particular order) that pretty much highlight the last 8 years.
In looking through these, I can't help but smile. It's been an incredibly fun journey filled with so much laughter and joy. It's a nice reminder of how blessed I really am to have him in my life.
I'm a very, very lucky woman.
A friend of mine asked, "Why did the Spirit need to descend upon Mary at all? She was already full of grace."
That's honestly a great question!
Today is the 8th day of the Novena to the Holy Spirit. I find it interesting that today, Friday, we call upon the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Wisdom, and today is the day this fine young woman asked this question!
"Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written 'all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands.' It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree."
I couldn't help but think of the Blessed Mother upon reading those words. Indeed, she is the Mother of Wisdom. Through her, the supreme goodness of God came to us in the form of Jesus, Her Son. Being our most favored and beloved intercessor, we are granted innumerable graces through Her Immaculate hands. She is our perfect example of faith, hope and love, and when we dedicate ourselves to following her sweet example, we find that our faith is strengthened, our hope solidified and our love purified. In following Our Lady, we cannot help but find new ways to practice virtue.
Notice how in most images of Pentecost, Our Lady is pictured front and center - normally much brighter and more "enflamed" by the Spirit. Her unyielding "Fiat" was the catalyst that bore forth the Church. Through her eternal "Yes," the Church gained the gift of Christ's Incarnation. Through her eternal "Yes," the Church gained it's most powerful intercessor. Through her eternal "Yes," we gained a true and blessed Queen-Mother who always pleads for us children before the Throne of Her Beloved Son. Her sacrifice, also perfect, was offered in union with that of Jesus. Even that most painful "Fiat" gained for us untold blessings.
The Spirit descended upon those present, but He no doubt came to His Beloved spouse first. And this is where I think her question comes in.
Did the Holy Spirit "HAVE" to alight upon the Blessed Mother? Did she really "need" grace to perfect anything she was lacking to enable her to go forth and help build the newborn Church?
Considering how much the Holy Spirit must love Our Lady, who is to say He simply didn't WANT to pour Himself out upon her? Who is to say He didn't wish to miraculously expand her already pure and loving heart in order to fit more of Himself within?
Point is, pouring Himself out to Mary gave Him great joy because He knew how much joy He was giving her. In deepening and expanding her already perfect capacity to love, He didn't diminish her previous state of perfection.
Think of it this way. Captain Rich Pants is the World's Richest Man. He is a bazillionaire, and he happily gives away much of his fortune to charity. Putting another $100 into his bank account isn't going to have people saying, "Oh my gosh - he wasn't the World's Richest Man before! NOW he's the richest!"
No. Both before and after the $100 transaction, he was the World's Richest Man. Even WITH all the checks to charity.
Now let's say we up the transaction to one bazillion dollars (whatever that is). Would this addition be any different than the $100?
No. Both before and after either transaction, Captain Rich Pants was and would be the World's Richest Man.
The same is true of the Blessed Mother. Instead of being a bazillioniare, though, she was blessed with the Jackpot of all Graces. Just because the Holy Spirit wanted to gift His beloved an extra blessing of graces doesn't diminish the fact that she was perfected in graces before His arrival.
So did the Holy Spirit "need" to also bless Mary with His Grace? Probably not. However, it made Him happy to do so, and no doubt it made the Blessed Mother happy to receive Him.
Another perspective - My Mom's van works perfectly fine. She loves it. It gets her to where she needs to go and she's able to pick up her friends and do grocery shopping and such. However, if I ever came into some money and purchased her a Stretch Hummer (that somehow ran only on used vegetable oil to stave off environmental irresponsibility), I would hope no one would give me the stink eye because the van she's had for a few years suited her just fine.
A gift is a gift. The Holy Spirit poured His Gifts out upon them freely and lovingly. Just as it'd make me happy to give my Mom an awesome upgrade to her car, the Holy Spirit was happy to give Mary an even deeper perfected love of Him and His Church.
Hmmm... I had no idea this is what those "Harmony" shirts I've been seeing were all about.
Apparently folks are looking to boycott Target for it's current push to financially back the Family Equality Council (read: LGBT lobby). I was completely unaware of this until today!
I don't really have too much of an opinion on this just yet. Thus far, I don't see the donations as horrible because in order for me to participate, I'd have to be directly purchasing these "Pride" items.
I'd be happy if they'd offer something like Soaps for Life in their stores as a worthy cause to get behind. I doubt there would be a conservative call for boycott with something like that. The liberals might boycott, but the point is, if you don't support a cause, you're not being forced to purchase the items in question in this case. If Target was donating a portion of ALL sales to the FEC, I'd be singing a different tune. But they're not.
That being said, I expect to see well-placed signs and tags on these items so I can steer clear of them if I were to enter a Target. I don't want to mistakenly donate money to something that goes against my belief system - same as I'm sure a pro-abortion person would balk at seeing any of his or her money go into an ultrasound truck that sits in front of a Planned Parenthood for mothers who are on the fence. So long as signs and tags are visible and plenty, I wouldn't boycott Target itself so much as the particular line of products.
Kinda like boycotting a particular brand of make-up because they do animal testing, ya know? Obviously not the same level of morality, but my point still stands.
My friend, Christina, said something to me that has been bouncing around in my head for the last few days:
There's something about a fire that doesn't seem to burn you. [This] issue had fire written all over it and you just jumped on in like it was a bubble bath.
Ah... the story of my life.
Last week, when I wrote that "Alone" entry, I got several follow-up messages from the person the entry was originally about. He gave me permission to post his story here, because I honestly think it's something that folks should be aware of, especially those of us who are active on Christian blogs / forums.
While I was chatting with some folks on a Christian forum, a young man timidly asked for advice with an issue he'd been struggling with. We happily agreed to hear him out. He identifies himself as homosexual, he's 19, and he still lives home with his "strict Christian parents." He loves his parents dearly, but he hasn't "come out" to them, yet. He was looking for advice on how to best do it without having them disown him.
Within minutes the thread was lighting up with comments like:
"It's a phase." "Keep that to yourself until you get it fixed."
"You'll go to hell!" "You SHOULD be disowned."
"Homosexuality is a disease." ETC...
Seriously. I was absolutely FLOORED. I immediately jumped in to dispel the notion that his sexuality was a one-way ticket to hell that needed to be exchanged through a one-night stand with a woman (suggested by a particularly vulgar member who, until that point, had been the most proper one of the bunch!). I then pointed out that the various responses were less than Christian in content.
You'd think I stumbled upon a hellmouth or something. Not only was I trying to defend this person against attacks, I was on the receiving end, myself, with no hope of respite. To say anything contrary to "Gays are evil, hell-bound freaks of nature" was tantamount to painting yourself with a bulls-eye and handing out arrows during open season. I felt HORRIBLE because all that viciousness simply caused this young man to pull away, completely embarrassed, ashamed and hurt by the torrent of verbal abuse. Worse, he assumed that response was a unanimously Christian one because no one took a stand against it!!! Heaven forbid!
For the record:
Condemning a person is NOT CHRISTIAN CHARITY.
Suggesting that they commit a mortal sin in order to "reverse" another perceived mortal sin is NOT CHRISTIAN CHARITY.
Responding to a plea for help with vitriol and wishes for the emotional distress of family abandonment is NOT CHRISTIAN CHARITY.
This gentle young man and I have been blessed to have several discussions on this now. He now understands that regardless of his sexuality, he is a body and soul created and loved by God. He understands Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and though he doesn't agree with it, at least he doesn't believe Catholicism teaches he's got a sure-ticket to hell just for being attracted to other men. He also feels better about talking to his parents about this. After all, a parent's duty is to love above all else. Heck, our job as humans is to love above all else. Loving doesn't mean accepting the sins of another, but it DOES mean accepting the person for who they're made as and helping them carry the crosses uniquely granted by God to help them on their path towards Heaven.
Keep folks like this in your prayers. It takes a lot of courage to be upfront about your deepest struggles, especially when you've got the whole world ready to rip into you.
And this is why I tend to step into the fire with seemingly little regard for the flames. On the other end of the verbal assault, someone is feeling the effects. On the other side of the computer screen, someone is being made to feel subhuman. When these hot-button conversations ignite, there is someone, somewhere being given a very incorrect view of Christianity through the poor examples of those who laud themselves as being the epitome of Christian practice. I can't help but feel my own heart break for them.
So yes. I frequently involve myself in these types of conversations and threads because if I don't, who will? Be the change you wish to see, right? If I had kept my mouth shut and just allowed them to steamroll this person, what type of image would he have of Christianity? Would there be no nugget of hope regarding coming out to his parents?
And what of the people who could easily have offered their own "Likes" or commentary to mine? Instead of private messaging, they could have helped this young man feel something of the love of God. Instead, he was left with a very bitter taste in his mouth, spoon-fed by supposedly loving Christians.
Our duty is not to stand by and allow such ill-feelings to spread. Our duty as Christians is to love God by loving one another - not silently... not ashamedly... not timidly. We are called to live our love out loud.
If that means dancing in the fire, bring on the flames.
On the heels of the other two Godparent posts...
I had written a poem for my friend, Frank, once, when I thought I was pregnant and needed to think of Godparents for my future child. I wanted to extend the message from my child, so I wrote it from his / her point of view. Since I doubt I'll ever get the chance to send it off to him, I'll leave it here for anyone who wishes to use it in their personal requests to future godparents. Blessings to you all.
Will you be my godfather, although I'm still brand new,
and daily pray we see the Face of God when life is through?
Will you be my godfather and wrap me in your prayers
and ask the Lord to keep me in His gentle, loving care?
Will you be my godfather and take my little hand
to help me walk with Jesus and to follow His commands?
Will you be my godfather, a Catholic rock to stand
in staunch defense of Catholic faith forever in this land?
Will you be my godfather and cultivate my soul
that I may love my God and Church, respectful to the Stole?
If you'll be my godfather, how grateful I will be
to know that I've been blessed with you - an angel I can see!
Together we will pray and love, examples to the world
of being truly Catholic with our Christian love unfurled!
***Update 5-29-12*** So I've gotten a couple e-mails asking and / or accusing me of lifting this from another site. I can assure you that I haven't. The above was written not long after Vince was born (just after Valentine's Day 2010). I was on a baby-thread with several ladies and brainstorming ideas. I posted this poem and later found out it was lifted and "edited" (poorly, might I add) by someone else. The above poem is the original. It's actually missing a couplet (because I ended up not liking it), but this is fully my creation. I came across it on my computer as I was cleaning out old files.
Also, I can see that at least 20-30 people are coming across this page via Google each day. Please give me the respect of crediting me. I don't care if you use this in your personal lives, but PLEASE give me the courtesy of putting my name as author of the poem. Thank you.
My Godmother, Aunt Bernadette, and I
As I was discussing the issue of "old-fashioned" Catholic practices, my friend asked me what the purpose of a godparent even was. Is there any point at all to having them?
A wonderful bit of history...
Way back when Christianity had just started taking root, no one liked us. Jews thought we were fortune-telling zealots who should be smited for blaspheming against God in claiming that He became human and was crucified, the Romans thought we were political upstarts vying for civil war, and everyone else thought we were kooky cannibals who ate and drank each other's blood.
Ya know, or something to that effect.
As a result of this mass confusion regarding who Christians were and what we believed, folks tended to just relegate us to the fringes of society in the hopes that we'd eventually die off. When that didn't work, and our numbers began to grow, they figured they'd speed up the process by feeding us to the lions, torturing us to instill fear in potential converts, and very publicly putting us to death in a variety of cruel and creative ways.
As a result, Christians realized they needed to devise a more secure form of worship in which their lives wouldn't constantly be in peril.
We moved to the catacombs. We created communities in the middle of deserts, far from the authority of crazed sadists. We began using code language, and yes, we came up with the idea of sponsors.
The term "Sponsor" is synonymous with "Godparent." A sponsor is a person who is rooted firmly in Catholicism and agrees to help a newbie not only learn the ropes, but live those ropes through prayer, example and a life-long mentoring relationship. This is why the Church requires one sponsor to be a faithful, practicing Catholic for folks (children included) getting baptized / confirmed.
Anyway, the need for a sponsor back in the early Church ran a little deeper than just a mentoring relationship. Sponsors were the gatekeepers of Church activity. One could not become a vested member of the Church without a well-known sponsor stepping up and vetting you before acceptance by the community. This protected the Church from those who wished to infiltrate the now secret (and illegal) Christian communities that were blossoming throughout the empire.
The term "godparent" is synonymous with sponsor for good reason. Since there was so much martyring going on back then, children were many times left orphaned when both parents were arrested and taken to their execution for refusing to deny their faith. If the children were lucky enough to escape with their lives (and sometimes they were not), it was an unspoken agreement that the sponsor of the family would adopt the children and raise them as if they were their own (thus ensuring the salvation of their souls through the continued development of their Christian faith).
Nowadays, we continue the tradition set forth by our early members. Godparents are still supposed to be there as examples of true Christian living. Now these sponsors are typically chosen by parents for their children at baptism, but children have the option of choosing a new one at Confirmation.
However (and this is a big, important however), the Church strongly suggests that those preparing to be chrismated use the same sponsor they had for baptism. The reason for this is the strong connection between Baptism and Confirmation. Baptism, after all, is the 1st Sacrament of Initiation. This is the key that opens the flood of God's graces to us. We are cleansed of original sin and reborn in the Spirit. At Confirmation, our original baptism is perfected through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our souls are once more marked with an eternal sign of the Spirit, and we are given untold graces that enable us to live out our Christian lives boldly and without shame.
This is actually the reason why the Church suggests that we receive Baptism and Confirmation BEFORE Holy Eucharist (the 3rd Sacrament of Initiation), but that's an entry for a different day.
So in a large nutshell, that is why we have Godparents.
I found this through Spirit Daily this morning. It's taking all the charity I have within me not to start spewing horrible, nasty things about this pea-brain of an "artist."
He claims he made popsicles using the Blood of Christ after a priest "inadvertently" blessed it during a Mass.
For the record, a priest cannot "inadvertently" bless anything. He either does or he doesn't. The corporal isn't just there to act as a napkin to catch fallen particles. It's also a boundary for items that need to be included for consecration.
So in order for this fool to obtain the Precious Blood, he'd've had to do one of two things:
1) Sneak a cruet of wine onto the corporal (which is direct center of the altar) in the middle of Mass (since the priest opens and places it after the Liturgy of the Word), then somehow steal it away before Communion without ever being detected.
2) Steal the consecrated wine through taking a chalice that's being used during Communion (which would create some sort of commotion, I'd assume), or accepting the Precious Blood via Communion and instead of ingesting, commit an even greater sacrilege by spitting the now consecrated wine into a vial or some other container for later use.
It's not like he could hold his little bottle of wine under his pew during a Mass and have it consecrated (which is what he stupidly thinks he did). It's not like he could drive by a chapel and suddenly the wine in his cooler becomes Christ's Blood.
Seriously - how foolish does he expect people to be???
Apparently exactly as foolish as they are. This article ran on CNN and he's planning to sell them during NY's Design Week. Disgusting.
May God have mercy on us. We have no idea how tragic we are unto ourselves.
This has been rattling around in my head since the middle of last week. A new mother was a bit frazzled because she was planning a baptism for her daughter. In the course of the planning, she tried to solidify paperwork for the baby's godparents. The godfather wasn't Catholic, but the godmother was. She just couldn't get a letter from her pastor because she no longer practiced.
Now before any of you start rolling your eyes and stamping your feet with irritation, take a deep breath and let it go. She's a good mom and wonderful person, but like many Catholics anymore, regular practice isn't "normal."
We can't punish the child by refusing baptism because the adults in her life are negligent in their Catholic responsibilities. Baptism is still an avenue of grace for her, so every effort should be made to ensure she is able to obtain a proper Sacrament.
So again - no coming down on this woman. It's not her fault our current pool of potential godparents is miserable.
Anyway, as I was talking to the new mother about this, she and I agreed that it was darn near impossible anymore to find practicing Catholics our age to trust as godparents. She said something, however, that made me kind of stop. She said, "Who goes to Mass anymore? I know I don't. Do you? It's just so old-fashioned."
I responded, "Yes, actually, I do go to Mass every Sunday. All those days of obligation, too." I then added with a laugh, "I guess that sorta makes me old-fashioned, huh?"
Now mind you, there was no animosity at all during this conversation. She made a valid point that I hadn't given much thought to before. It really is considered "old fashioned" to be a practicing ANYTHING anymore (when it comes to religion, anyway). Religion has become antiquated in the minds of youth... a relic of a past era where science had not yet 'made sense of the world.'
I dunno. When you see novenas, pilgrimages and even your own weekly Mass being attended by mostly elderly parishioners, it's hard not to think you're the odd man out. However, things like World Youth Day and the upswing in Pro-Life activism from people my own age are remarkable. They're strong signs that the youth of Catholicism aren't to be discounted just yet. I also have to admit that through blogging, I've come to meet other like-minded Catholics (my age, even!) which has done wonders for my own feelings of loneliness regarding the practice of my faith. Though we aren't members of the same parish, we're members of the same Church. We may be young, we may even be "old-fashioned," but last time I checked, Truth and Morality never go out of style. Loving and praising the Father who created me can never really be considered outdated.
Theresa and I
Today I got to help throw my friend, Theresa, her bridal shower. It was a blast!
I even wore pink for the occasion (she's a huge fan of pink).
Anyway, it was really nice getting to meet all the wonderful ladies who've been dropping me messages and phone calls these last couple months with their respective RSVPs. Putting a face to the lists of names I now seem to have memorized is nice. Ha!
Anyway, since this is one of the five separate parties I've been helping to coordinate, one of my friends asked me to list some of the things I ended up doing that weren't trashy or marriage / bride degrading.
May this help her and the rest of you looking for fun things to do for a shower!
Vistaprint. Seriously. For anything printed, I use Vistaprint. It's like the Salvation Army of print shops. I chose a postcard format with a butterfly backdrop (since she loves butterflies) and went to town.
I stayed super simple on this one. I created my own crossword puzzle using an excel spreadsheet (for the blocks) and Word for the clues. I used clues that were unique to Theresa and her fiance, but I tossed in some general "wedding" hints in there, too.
We also had a candy counter filled with Reeses Pieces (due to Theresa's sometimes nickname in high school - Reeses). Folks could guess how many pieces were in the dispenser and the closest number won the dispenser. We ended up giving it to a woman to take back to her 1st grade classroom. :)
Finally, little things like winning a prize if the bride opened your gift first, if you had a sticker on the back of your poem (part of the favors), or best "First Kiss" story (done at the individual tables) kept folks entertained as Theresa opened the line of presents.
I don't know if this'll help anyone, because these were really, REALLY specific to Theresa, but who knows?
Keeping the butterfly theme going, I found these incredible Murano glass butterfly keychains online. I tried to get them in pink (her favorite color), but they only made them in purple / blue. I got them anyway, because I knew she'd still really like them (especially since they matched the invitations).
From there, I knew I'd want to make her chocolate keys to go along with the keychain. I found the molds online (Amazon, I think) and purchased the meltable candy from AC Moore. I also got little pink heart candy to spruce up the key molds a bit.
Finally, to tie everything together, I wrote a poem entitled "The Key to Love."
Back in high school, I used to keep a book that would keep tabs on all the poetry I'd write. Theresa would sometimes keep track along with me, and after I hit the 200 mark, she said I'd have to write her wedding vows one day. I replied that I wouldn't write her vows, but I'd definitely write a poem for her. This was that poem, and it tied together the favors nicely.
This is what it all looked like:
Prizes - I admit I went a bit overboard on these, but I like variety!
I ordered a bunch of yummy smelling candles online. They were wonderful, a great price, and who doesn't love a yummy smelling candle? Theresa and her mom love those things, so I figured if we had any left over, they'd be more than happy to take them.
A couple nice accessory scarves found their way into the prize bags because I found them on sale while I was at AC Moore.
Two pretty (and sweet smelling) perfume spritzes were also found on sale, so they, too, found their way into the prize bags.
Oh, and the cake - Theresa's mother wanted to provide the cake, so when she asked me what should go on it, I said, "Just make sure it's pink and has butterflies."
This is what she came up with:
So that's about it. Lots of fun was had by all. Happy planning to all you ladies out there!
Oh! And the wording to the poem:
The key to love is simple
yet so very hard to find -
For some it's in a sonnet
or two roses intertwined.
For others it's a mystery
with an ever-lasing quest
to find "the One," a soul-mate
or the man most richly blessed.
There are those who search in vain
amongst novels, songs or plays
for this key that's ever hidden
in an ordinary haze.
The key is not some trophy
or a prize that's won and done.
It's a friendship that rekindles
with each rising of the sun.
So search out not a soul-mate
or a lover, god or spouse
Look not in romance novels
or in bankrolls, cars or house
The key is there before you
in a friendship strong and true
Love, sacrifice and compromise
The vows of "Yes, I do."
(She's a fan of rhyming quatrains... at least those were her favorites back in high school).
I love stories like this.
I'm no fan of Westboro Baptist Church, and I honestly feel terrible for the cultish mentality that the children of that family are an unwitting part of.
However, this entry isn't about WBC so much as it is about a brave young man armed with a pencil, paper and love.
Upon seeing the demonstrators rallying with their anti-homosexual posters and signs, this young boy requested permission to write a sign of his own. Playing off their typical "God Hates ..." signs, little Josef simply wrote "God Hates No One."
Amen, little Josef! Amen!
We'd all do well to remember this.
No matter the lifestyle choices, no matter the faith preference, no matter the grievous list of sins we souls have committed, God still loves each of us and wants nothing more than to embrace us in His arms. Search out that love in yourself, as God is a part of you. Search out that love and extend it to everyone you meet.
This is a toughie for me. Still not exactly sure where I stand.
Keaton Fuller, a senior at a Catholic High school in Iowa, was awarded a $40,000 scholarship by the Eychaner Foundation. The award, named the Gold Matthew Shephard Scholarship, caused an uproar because of it's overtly homosexual basis. Originally, the bishop had refused to allow this award to be given publicly during commencement, fearing it would cause confusion and scandal among those present.
However, after speaking with the Eychaner Foundation, he reversed his decision with the caveat that the Superintendent read the script for presentation instead of a member of the foundation.
Here are the things I don't have a problem with:
The Eychaner Foundation has a Scholarship award that falls in line with its core mission to promote acceptance and tolerance of the LGBT community. Common sense.
Fuller, a student of a Catholic school, successfully applied for this award with the help of faculty members. Scholarships are open to anyone regardless of where they're from, and considering the basis for this scholarship isn't the promotion of something that goes against dogma, faculty members were not at fault for putting him at risk for supporting heresy. In fact, this scholarship aims to curb bullying and promote the love and acceptance of people who are homosexual - something that does fall in line with Church teaching.
The Eychaner Foundation desiring to publicly award this scholarship to Fuller at his commencement. Can't fault them for realizing the marketing victory this would be for them.
There being public pressure put onto the Bishop to reverse his decision. Free speech, after all, is still supposedly free in this country.
The Bishop agreeing to speak with the Eychaner Foundation to reach an amicable solution. This is, after all, how one responds with love, especially when his own flock is so up in arms about the issue. In all honesty, I believe (from the quotes) that he responded graciously, thoughtfully, and with charity.
Here are the things I DO have a problem with:
The Eychaner Foundation expecting to force its way into a private school's commencement ceremony. Asking politely and accepting a decline is normal behavior. Getting pushy and demanding you gain entrance as a SPEAKER is ludicrous.
The Bishop reversing his decision. I got several scholarships / awards upon graduation. Plenty of other students did, too. No one ever came to speak about these things considering they're private awards. We had our various scholarships listed in the program, I think, but there wasn't any singling out of students because the commencement was for ALL of us. Unless you were the valedictorian (or saludictorian), there was no real singling out for random awards. It'd've taken forever.
I'm all for this young man being recognized for his achievements. I really am. I have no issue with how he got the scholarship, what the scholarship represents, or even the faculty responsible for helping him apply. That's all well and good.
I am a little iffy on having that recognition overshadow the entire commencement ceremony due to all the protests, pressure and talks. I mean, are any of the other students having speakers for their scholarships? Would anyone have even cared if two or three of these speakers were turned away? Doubtful. The only reason this issue became an issue is because of the push by the homosexual agenda to be accepted everywhere and anywhere.
Once again, this isn't an issue of homosexuality. It's an issue of common sense. Most speakers for high school graduations consist of faculty, students and a particular person who is brought in to reflect on success and opportunity for ALL those graduating. This person was brought in to highlight the achievements of a homosexual student for academics and his work in promoting peace and tolerance for homosexuals. While that's a noble thing for sure, why must we have a commencement speaker highlight this as opposed to the student who raised funds to help a no-kill shelter survive? A student who raised awareness for those with Down-Syndrome? A student who stood outside her local Planned Parenthood every Saturday afternoon, rain or shine, to wage a silent war with her rosary in hand?
In my mind, this is a ploy to once again push the homosexual agenda onto Catholic schools in a very publicized, marketable way. Fuller is a perfect poster-child for something like this, and I can't help but wonder if that isn't at least part of the reason he was chosen. Maybe it's all those years of public relations courses that has jaded me, but I can't help but think if I were in their shoes, I'd've chosen him as well. He'd provide the perfect excuse to gain entry to a plethora of conflict that could very well kick the dust up at the Catholic Church.
I really hope they make the full script available as I'm curious to know what, exactly, the bishop signed off on.
I'm not typically a fan of icons, but this one is simply incredible. Christ, seated upon golden arches, is pictured within the mandorla - a triune of circles radiating light that signifies the Divinity of the Trinity (of which Christ is a part). His now glorified Body is wrapped in golden clothes, yet He retains the pink of the mountains (earth) to signify His two natures (Human and Divine). His halo carries the sign of His triumph - the Cross. His Hand is raised in blessing as He holds a scroll in the other.
Though Christ is leaving the Earth to take His rightful place at the right hand of God the Father, He is still the source of blessings and wisdom, as they are sent down to the waiting Church (signified by His mother and the apostles). He is, after all, sitting on what appears to be a bridge. Christ is our bridge to Heaven - He is the only path which leads to salvation.
Speaking of the apostles, they're a jumbled mess. Some critics have said that this is because they are confused and scared. Others have said it was the artist's way of conveying intense grief. I honestly think it's a bit of everything. The apostles were surely grief-stricken at the thought of saying goodbye to their Friend and God again. No doubt His Blessed Mother was besides herself once again as she understood her place was to stay behind to nurture the growing Church.
Her beautiful hands are lifted in supplication to her now glorified Son. She does not look mournful, but she does look expectant. She understands that while Heaven awaits her Son, earth would now await His Return, and she would be first in line!
So while the apostles around her held their heads in grief, or held one another in mid-gasp, Our Lady was already looking forward to the day she would reunite with her Son (whether through His 2nd Coming, or her own passage into Heaven - who knows if she knew which it'd be).
Our Lady is also in a deep crimson red. Red is the color of power - of the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Mother is, after all, "full of grace" and as a result is the most powerful intercessor of all. Flanking her on either side, then, must be Saints Peter and Paul. Though Saint Paul was not present at the actual Ascension (having not had his conversion), the artist probably chose to include him anyway so as to speak of the gentiles the Church would come to encompass.
One final note about Our Lady. She is standing on what appears to be a little square platform. I thought about this for a bit, and I assume it's meant to symbolize that though Mary was left in the world, she was not of it. She is there, but she's above it - closer in union to Her Son through her holiness. There's a story from her childhood in which her mother, St. Anne, wouldn't allow the Blessed Virgin's feet to touch the floor until she was three years old (some cultures still have this practice). The earth is impure, so to have Our Lady standing above it a bit... I wonder if that's significant of her holiness and grace.
Anyway, it's a beautiful image celebrating a beautiful day. Today, 40 days after Easter, is when Christ once again reunited with His Father in Heaven. We celebrate not only His glorious ascension, but the fact that He will come again... in the same glory He ascended with!
Blessed be, blessed be, blessed be. :)
Motto of my life
Ever get embroiled in controversy in a public setting (be it classroom, social networking thread, or even the office) because you're the lone voice offering a different perspective that challenges the paradigm of others?
That's me like all of the time.
Honestly, I'm typically fine with this. It's not that I go gunning for controversy (though a few of my friends would probably beg to differ), but I don't shy away from it, either. When something confuses me, or I don't agree with something, I'll press the issue.
This happened today, and as usual, I'm the lone voice that offered a different perspective. I didn't understand a few comments and asked for clarification, but instead of being given a proper explanation, I was written off. That isn't what bothered me (that's normal MO for folks who toss out a random statement and have nothing to backup their argument).
What bothered me is the five private messages I got saying, "I totally agree with you!"
Why are you private messaging me??? Why can't you just publicly agree with me? Why do I continuously have to be the only jackass trying to plead a case?
GEEZ - that's so frustrating. Yeah, I'm glad I'm giving you a voice and all, but why not help me amplify it a bit?
I get that not everyone handles controversy well. That's fine. But for goodness' sake - if you believe strongly enough to message me that you agree with my ideas, why not take it a step further and post a simple "Agreed" or "She's not a total idiot for posting this" ?
And for the record, this isn't a passive-aggressive post on my part. I've already written the same thing back to them. But seriously!
So some of you are aware that my son was basically half-deaf for the first two years of his life. Even though I spent a full year fighting with pediatricians to give him the necessary surgery, Vincent's hearing (and subsequently, his speech development) suffered terribly.
Ever since having his tubes placed in September, he's made tons of progress. He's been working regularly with a speech therapist, and has recently figured out how to lace a few words together for basic requests. He's still about eight months behind the rest of his peers, but he's making progress.
Sometimes, however, that progress seems painfully slow to me, and it makes me want to lash out at folks who simply don't know any better.
For example, when I take Vincent to the store, there will inevitably be some nice person who wants to ask Vincent for his name and age. They mean well, and they obviously have no way of knowing that he's delayed in speech (and thus, comprehension). However, when they press him repeatedly even after my quick "His name is Vincent and he's a big boy at two years old!" I get agitated FOR him. I want to protect him from the confused looks and the subsequent, "Doesn't he talk already?" questions. Again, keep in mind that (because of his sheer size) Vince looks a year older than he actually is (he's only 2.5)
Then I end up feeling like a horrible mother because, in all honesty, he SHOULD be talking by now (at least better than he is), and maybe if I'd've fought a little harder on the ear surgery, this wouldn't be a problem for him. Maybe all of this is the result of my laziness in regards to reading to him often enough, talking to him enough, or forcing him to use words to communicate with me.
I don't know.
Some days you just end up feeling like a parental failure, and for me, this is one of those days.
One of my friends posted a video of her son singing a song. It was adorable and I was so happy to see my friend and her son sharing such a sweet moment with us. However, something inside made me want to cry because Vincent is nowhere near this little one's capacity (and Vince is almost a full year older than him!). Immediately the doubt began to rush over me.
I must not be coaxing him to talk enough.
Maybe I'm not spending enough time verbalizing with him.
I should read to him more often.
I should SING to him more often.
Maybe we should up the speech therapist to three times a week.
I can't wait until his hearing appointment, because God forbid the tubes fell out and he's already blocked again.
Should I try to bump the appointment? Maybe they can see us today.
It's enough to make a mother go insane.
I have to keep taking deep breaths and realize that Vince IS making progress. No, he's not spouting off his name and age and silly songs perfectly, but at least he's making headway. He can sing a good portion of Team Umizoomi's theme, and the lyrics for Fresh Beat songs? Pfft... Even if he can't get 'em out, he definitely knows them.
There's nothing inherently WRONG with Vincent. He's developmentally ahead of his peers in every single area except verbal / comprehension. I realize this has everything to do with the fact that he couldn't hear for the first two years of his life. I realize that catching up will take time. I realize that he's already made so much progress. I realize all of this. Even so, sometimes you just feel like you're not doing enough and because of your parenting failures, your child suffers.
Two young women from a Catholic High School were barred entrance from their prom because they arrived as a homosexual couple. They could have easily shown up with two male friends and bypassed this entire controversy, but no... they wanted to make a statement. Apparently that statement went a little something like this:
We go to a Catholic school that expressly teaches that homosexual unions are not in line with Catholic teachings. We know this. We understand this. However, we want to whine and complain anyway when said school (which is only following the dictates of its well documented, 2000+ year faith) refuses to be a party to us going directly against the same Catholic teaching that we've paid to learn.
Entitlement and a complete lack of common sense. But people will eat it right up because no one sees logic - they're too busy fawning over the "civil rights issue" when in reality - there ISN'T one. It's as basic as "The invitation says black tie. Don't show up in jeans and a T-shirt."
After writing down and cutting up all the names for the different entries, I put them into Vincent's favorite bowl and let him choose the winner!
Congratulations to Marianne - hope you enjoy your new veil from the lovely Michelle!
So I missed my normal window for Confession today. As a result, I did a quick search of the surrounding parishes to see who had confession at a later time. Turns out there was a parish about ten minutes from me that offered it just before their vigil. I was surprised that their vigil was at 4pm (just seems early to me). However, I figured I'd give it a go since I like the option of checking out new churches when I have spare time.
So I found my way to the Church and am immediately struck by how modern it looks (even from the outside).
The rectory, for example, looks like the dorm buildings my friends lived in back at college. The Church was offset a bit and had no real visible entrance. Luckily, I saw an elderly gentlemen walking off around a corner somewhere, so I followed his lead and found myself in a tiny room attached to the church. In this tiny room was an elevator that apparently takes you into the church, itself.
That's a first. I've never been in a church with an elevator that takes you directly into the church.
Anyway, as I exited the elevator, I took a quick look around to figure out where I was. The entire set-up of the church was confusing - I think it has to do with the shape of the building itself. It's kinda like a hexagon. The pews were all angled - NONE ran parallel to the altar. There seemed to be several "cry rooms" flanking the various walls. The confessionals were closed off, and all the lights were out. There were three or four people in the pews praying, so I followed their lead and shimmied my way into a pew near what was as close to "center" as I could get. Even from my well-chosen vantage point, I had to crane my neck to view the tabernacle because the seating arrangements were so odd.
I wish I could explain it better, but wow. Jesus was "technically" in the center of the sanctuary, but because the seating around the sanctuary was so angled and confusing, you'd be hard-pressed to acknowledge that during a Mass.
Then the artwork... barring the statues (which were absolutely beautiful), there were these huge lines that ran the entire length of the church. In my mind, they looked like music note lines. Hanging on these metal lines were the various Stations of the Cross. You could see them easily enough, but again, due to the set-up of the pews, I wonder how one might actually walk them without weaving yourself dizzy. The stained glass windows, though colorful, were an assortment of random religious symbols. Nothing inherently Catholic about any of them which just reaffirmed my sense of being in a Pentecostal church. Otherwise, it was a blank white wall.
And that's really what it was like for me - a Pentecostal church. I really thought for a quick minute that maybe this parish had originally purchased it from an organization like that and had just made a few changes. It was just so strange.
So I took all of this in while waiting for the Confessional lights to blink on. No luck, so I asked a parishioner if there was Confession tonight. She directed me to the narthex (which is the lobby area of a church) and said I could find a Reconciliation room there.
In the NARTHEX?!?!?! Oookay...
Anyway, after checking the "Reconciliation Room" a few times , I finally walked in and surprised the priest who had snuck in between my checks. I poked my head around the wall and there he was, sitting in a chair, rosary in his hand, dressed in a full-on Jesuit cassock! And he was young, too! I darn near fell over!!!
Upon recollecting myself, I asked if he would please hear my confession. He welcomed me and off I went. He gave me very sweet advice, a proper penance and even wished me a happy Mother's Day. Considering how completely displaced I'd felt in the church, I was honestly surprised by the traditional, tidy confession I was blessed with.
I almost - ALMOST - decided to stay on for the vigil, but the "odd" feelings wouldn't leave me be. I couldn't even finish my penance there. I had to leave because everything about being in that church felt wrong. I couldn't even genuflect to Christ as I crossed aisles because of how the seating was arranged. It was unnerving. I couldn't imagine attempting to make it through a Mass with such a heavy feeling of "wrong, wrong, wrong" nagging at my heart.
In all the churches I've been to, I've never once had that reaction. I've been in plenty of modern churches, too (my own home parish is modern), but none were so off-putting as this.
Ah well - on the plus side, I was blessed with a wonderful confessor. If he was the one presiding at Mass, I have no doubt the congregation was blessed tonight, regardless of the church's set-up. I honestly couldn't stick around to find out. I waited the hour and a half and took Vince to the vigil at my own parish.
I'm glad it worked out that way. Just before the final blessing, Father Atlas gave flowers to all the mothers. Then, he extended his hands in a special blessing over us. How sweet was that? Our sweet deacon handed Vincent my flower and said, "Now give that to your Mommy!" Vincent happily did so, and after Mass, he happily gave it over again to the Blessed Mother (along with a few blown kisses for good measure).
***Some viewers may find the content in the video to be offensive due to occult imagery as the female character battles emotional demons. Please view at your discretion.***
For the record, after a while, even the most thick-skinned among us start to bruise.
This lil guy knows what's up!
So apparently Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere are all aflame because of Time's new cover. It pictures an attractive, young blonde standing against her adorable and well-nourished 3 year old son. Both of them are staring straight into the camera with an almost "What are you gonna do about it?" look.
The little boy is standing on a chair that sets him at the perfect level to have his lips clamped around Mommy's nipple in a suggestive manner. The suggestion?
The giant, flame-inciting caption reads: ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH? ("Mom Enough" being bolded in red, of course, just to hit home the flame-factor). The subtext goes on with: Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes - and how Dr. Bill Sears became their guru.
Apparently Time's been hurting for readership, because this is a blatant attempt to solicit a very venomous response from people from every angle of the issue.
This image and caption immediately polarize Moms. Those who breastfeed, those who don't. Those who breastfeed for 6 months, those who breastfeed for 5 years. Those who recoil in horror at the thought of a child breastfeeding in public, those who think breastfeeding is the most natural, beautiful thing in the world. Those who think breasts are nothing but sexual objects to be kept private, to those still looking to burn the bras of yesteryear and go topless around the world. Heck, you can even throw in those who CAN'T breastfeed into the mix, or those who choose to use breast milk, just not from the breast, in daily food (cereal and such).
Seriously - there is NO other reason to choose to create an image like this. This is SPECIFICALLY for shock value and it serves its purpose well. Everyone and their mother is now talking about it.
Unfortunately, they're also delving into the awful area of judging others for their parenting choices (and that never ends well).
My Opinion / Experience
I believe that breastfeeding is a wonderful, beautiful thing that gave both Vincent and myself a chance to bond in a way that nothing else could. Even though I had a rough start, it proved to be the most rewarding part of motherhood for me. In fact, courtesy of my dedication to breastfeeding, my risk for certain cancers has dropped, my risk for cardiovascular disease has dropped, and I my baby dropped weight faster than my non-breastfeeding friends. Seriously. I was fitting into my jeans within a month.
But all the health benefits for Vince were great, too! Chance for higher IQ, stronger immune system, greater sense of security... all that fun stuff. Plus, all the money I saved on formula could be spent on things like a college fund, toys, diapers, or trips to the zoo. Win win for everyone, right?
Now I realize that not all women are as blessed as I've been with breastfeeding. I had the time and ability to do it. I stayed at home with Vince for the entire first year. I produced milk - and a lot of it - without trouble. Sure Vince had trouble latching for the first few weeks, but thanks to a kind nurse, I was given a shield which helped him figure it out. I sometimes wonder if I'd've been able to nurse at all if it weren't for her giving me that little stepping stone of help.
I was also lucky enough to have a willing breastfeeder for 2 years (a little over two years, actually). Vincent loved "the bobies" as he used to call them (BOB + EES was his pronunciation - ha). He was never more content than when he was in my arms nursing. However, when it came time to wean, he pretty much did it himself. He simply stopped asking when I stopped offering. He was much more interested in grapes or pork chops or pasta. Mommy's "bobies" didn't offer that, and his little body knew it was time to give up the comfort of nursing. For Vincent, that was the right time for him.
I was shy for a while when people would ask me about how long Vince breastfed for. Even while I was still nursing, I'd get sideways looks from folks (especially because Vincent always looked about a year ahead of his actual age). I got some mean comments about being selfish... being a poor mother... being foolish because I'd screw up his idea of breasts because he'd remember nursing as he got older. I responded by keeping quiet. I would just do my best to hide the fact that I still breast-fed Vincent because I didn't want to deal with the negative judgements I'd get.
However, I soon got over it. The people who scoffed at my nursing habits usually didn't have kids themselves. So what right did they have to belittle MY choices? I started responding to their negativity with Vincent himself.
"Do you see how happy Vincent is? Do you see how well-adjusted, secure and trusting he is? He is a direct result of my parenting choices. Obviously I know a little better than you do about raising my son."
That has shut them up every single time. BTW, that works for the Negative Nancys who complain about the schedule I try to keep him on, too. When it comes to things like this, you'd think everyone knew how to parent your kid better than you do... *shakes head*
Anyway, back to the article (and the frenzy it has caused). I'm not a fan of them choosing this picture to startle folks into reading about Dr. Sears. The woman and her child have little to NOTHING to do with him. Also, the 3 year old (while a product of long-term breastfeeding) isn't even the typical child Dr. Sears mentors on. So again, this was a very specific, underhanded PR move to sell print. That irritates the heck out of me, especially since it's now got people going for the jugular.
Crazy! There are enough myths floating around about breastfeeding. Let's not add to the foolishness, k?
So let's remember our heads in this one, ladies. Try not to be judgemental or overly-critical. We all try to do what's best for our own children. Let's be supportive and instead of turning our anger on each other, let's turn it on Time for stooping so low as to attempt this charade of a cover in order to sell magazines. Humpf!
Ladies (and thoughtful gentlemen), here's a chance for you to win my favorite veil from Michelle over at Liturgical Time!
I'm so excited to announce this give-away! The beautiful chapel veil you see above is a floral and butterfly themed fabric that is light and easy to wear. It's sides are long enough to tie kerchief-style which means it'll stay put (useful when wrangling tiny hands that would give anything to play with Mommy's hair).
Entrance is easy, and you even have a chance to double (and triple) up!
How to Enter:
(Each bullet counts as a chance to win)
- Leave a comment telling me which of Michelle's veils you like the best (and be sure to include your e-mail so I have a way to contact you - those remain hidden, and I don't do mailing lists, so no worries about privacy or spam).
- Repost this giveaway on your own blog (and come back providing me with a link that proves you did so).
- "Like" My Broken Fiat on Facebook.
- Bonus points for anyone who wants to share their story of how they came to veil. Just be sure to leave that as a separate "comment" so it gets counted as a separate entry.
Submissions end Saturday night. I'll announce the winner on Mother's Day. Best wishes and a million blessings to all of you!
A few months ago, as my class and I were discussing the 10 plagues God sent to force the pharaoh to give the Israelites their freedom, the topic of the Angel of Death came up. This same discussion ended up finding its way into my inbox this morning from a friend of mine who is trying to decide if Catholicism is right for him.
The tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborns, was a punishment doled out specifically by the Angel of Death. My class had a really hard time wrapping their heads around the image of the angel pictured in the book. He was wielding a sickle (much like the one pictured), and left a trail of death and lamentation in his wake. Not one of the kids could believe that God would intentionally "murder" children like that.
I had to reel them back in for a bit. I explained that God never "murders" anyone. The picture they saw wasn't a recreation of that night... it was an artist's choice of symbols and images to tell a story. In the book, we saw a mighty angel holding a sickle. Around him were crying mothers and lifeless children. The artist chose these things for a reason.
First, the Angel of Death didn't bring God's punishment to the firstborns... punishment was meant for those left behind who would feel the pain on an emotional level (considering that months of physical punishment did nothing to deter them).
This angel carried a sickle to symbolize the "harvesting" of souls. The sickle is an agricultural tool that is specifically used to remove the most desirable parts of grain. In ancient Egypt, that's exactly what the firstborns would have been considered. The souls that this angel harvested (firstborns) were the most desirable and respected family members in Egyptian times. The fact that God demanded that the souls makes the punishment that much more severe.
Finally, the crumpled, broken parents who clutched the lifeless bodies of their children were meant to evoke strong emotions - the artist wanted to REALLY hit home how devastating this plague was in its emotional severity, so he used young children to symbolize all firstborns.
Firstborn didn't just mean babies. It didn't just mean toddlers. Firstborn meant everyone from child straight on through adult. It meant everything from calf to chicken to donkey. God harvested the most revered of Egyptian lives for Himself as proof that He was God over all - even the best protected. He controlled Life and Death (not just over base nature and animals, but over humanity as well - something Pharaoh never accepted as true until this final plague).
However, my class was still having a really tough time reconciling God taking these innocent lives with their image of a pure, holy, and loving Being. This is very understandable considering we, as humans, many times see death as a horrible, evil thing (especially when it is the death of an innocent... someone who did nothing to cause or solicit an untimely end).
One student asked me, "Do you think they [the firstborns] were scared?"
I paused for a second, because I realized then that my poor class had in their minds this image of a massive weapon-wielding warrior with wings blazing a trail through Egypt slaughtering unsuspecting children. Their collective looks of horror and disbelief challenged me to break down the Angel of Death for them a bit... into one who looked a little more like this:
The Angel of Death wasn't running around slashing throats. In fact, I doubt the people who were chosen to die that night even felt pain. Though I never thought about it before, when she asked me that, I immediately pictured one of those children, soundly sleeping, engulfed in a brilliant light. The Angel of Death was present, and he showed this tiny soul something of Heaven. He gently said, "Come, little one. God is calling you home." He reached out his angelic hand and without thought or hesitation, the soul - immeasurably joyous and willing - leapt from its body and consented to be carried along to meet the Source of such radiating, all-encompassing Love.
Instead of punishment or pain, these souls were met with joy and love... comfort and beauty. The Angel of Death is not this menacing monstrosity that humans should fear. Instead, he is the herald of our Heavenly welcome - the one tasked with the joy of bringing us home after our earthly sojourn.
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