Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Our New Little Catholic

Joseph Patrick, "Joey," "JP," or "Joe Pa" was born September 21, 2007. He weighed 7 lbs 4 oz and was 19 3/4 inches long. He was named for St Joseph and St Patrick and according to his uncles "the" legendary coach from Penn State Football. He is our little gift from heaven.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Beloved: Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity." 1Tm 4:12

It is not easy being a young person today. In any society. In any religion.

If you live in the Middle East, you are either being courted by a national military or a radical, violent group.

If you live in Columbia you are being courted by right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing rebel groups.

If you live anywhere in the world, you face peer pressure and doubt.

Child soldiers, suicide bombers, drug experimentation, sexual exploitation-- when did the world decide to become so difficult for people in the most volatile time of their young lives?

I often cringe if I hear an older person criticizing the youth for things such as not holding a door open for a lady or having one too many earrings or orange hair. If these are the worst things you can find wrong with someone (and they are all superficial) you are lucky.

I have even heard these things said in plain earshot of the "offender" who was volunteering at a church function or charity event.

I'm not saying all young people need to be given a pass. But when we read St. Paul's letter to Timothy, it doesn't say anywhere that you have to model through physical appearance but through, "speech, conduct, faith and purity." So, before you criticize a teenager or person in their early 20s for receiving communion in jeans, remember, they have made it a point to receive this gift from God. And their conduct is modeling a good Christian life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


It's a beautiful Greek term meaning love for one's fellow man. It is something, that as a mother, I want my children to learn.

In the readings for today is the very familiar verse from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians in which he extols the virtue of love. It is so familiar that I have seen eyes glaze over as it is read at weddings and people gently sway to the rhythm of it. That's part of the reason I chose NOT to have it read at my wedding.

When I was in college in a class on literature, this was one of the selected readings. Of course, many in the class brought up how beautiful it was to hear at weddings and how it was a perfect rendering of romantic love. Then the professor brought an alternate reading. What if Paul was preaching to the Corinthians agape? A few lightbulbs went off.

Am I patient or kind because I love this person? Or do I show my love for my fellow man when I am patient and kind? I'm sure the answer is both/and.

Do we really think of that though when we hear St. Paul's Epistle read? For many of us the answer is no. Maybe it's just that it's an ingrained part of those Catholic and Protestant weddings. Or just that we never think more deeply about the reading.

Today, I practice St. Paul's teaching. I practice agape.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


You Are Mine

I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear my voice,
I claim you as my choice
Be still and know I am here

I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night, I will be your light
Come and rest in me

Do not be afraid I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow me I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

I am strength for all the dispairing
Healing for the ones who dwell in shame
All the blind will see, the lame will all run free
And all will know my name

Do not be afraid I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow me I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

I am the word that leads all to freedom
I am the peace the world cannot give
I will call your name, embracing all your pain
Stand up now walk and live

Do not be afraid I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow me, I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

copyright David Haas

We all resist the idea that we are not in control of our lives. After all, God gave us free will. And for those of us American, the idea that we will live free or die trying, is ingrained.

Lest we forget, free will is a gift. In David Haas' hymn "You Are Mine" God "claims (us) as (his) choice," an idea that no matter what, God possesses our souls. But when we use that gift of free will we come to recognize that God is "the word that leads all to freedom." It is only when we surrender the control to God that we are truly free.

And that is the comfort of this hymn.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Message to carry in the Heart

Be Not Afraid
1. You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face of God and live.

R. Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

2. If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown. If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed. If you stand before the pow'r of hell and death is at your side, know that I am with you through it all.

3. Blessed are your poor, for the kingdom shall be theirs. Blest are you that weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh. And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me, blessed, blessed are you!

~Bob Dufford, S.J.

This is one of my favorite hymns. I think of it often when I feel alone in the world. I think of it when all else in my life seems to be in chaos. I think of it when I am scared, anxious or nervous. And as I await the birth of my son, I think of it often as a promise from God to this little unborn soul.

Our Beanstalk Died

It's not really a beanstalk, but it was getting SO tall, I was beginning to wonder what my husband had traded for it.

This massive plant, which I have no idea what it is, has been growing outside our front window for a little over a month. In a huge thunderstorm late Friday night, it began weeping. Then, yesterday, as I was typing up some homework for my husband (I know, I'm a wonderful wife) I heard a snap sort of like when you crack a joint and it snapped in half.

I thought of several things. I thought of the tower of Babel, being built so high as if to reach heaven, only for God to bring the people down to size by changing their languages. It also reminded me of Daedalus and Icarus, men who wanted to fly, only to get too close to the sun.

It is always a good thing to have high ambitions, to attempt to reach ones potential and beyond, but we must always remember to give thanks to God for allowing us to reach this potential and not grow so high or fast that we forget what got us there.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Once Was Lost, But Now Am Found

Today's Gospel often leaves some with a bad taste in their mouths. After all, as Jesus says there will be rejoicing in heaven for the one soul who repents, but for those who have no reason for repentence, there is no celebration. Kind of makes you wonder why we all try so faithfully to do the right thing.

But then I heard our priest's homily. He told us to focus on something else in the Gospel message. He told us to focus on the fact that what was lost was found. Immediately, I began to think of "Amazing Grace." The grace of God is in his forgiveness. No matter how we stray, He always allows us back into the fold. In the first reading, God wants to show his vengeneance and smite the Israelites that he had just brought out of Egypt because they were worshipping a golden calf. But Moses reminded God of his promise to Abraham to make his descendents as numerous as the stars. And on the behalf of the Israelites, Moses was able to ask and receive God's forgiveness.

Are we not all prodigal sons in some way? Maybe we don't attend mass or confession frequently. Maybe there is a divorce in our past or we have denied our faith in some way. But God always allows us back into his graces.

Our priest often givesn "assignments" for the week. This week's was one I would like to share. Think of a time when someone forgave you. And think of how receiving that forgiveness felt.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Our Lady of Sorrows


O Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Mother of God, who didst endure a martyrdom of love and grief, beholding the sufferings and sorrows of Jesus! Thou didst co-operate in the benefit of my redemption by thy innumerable afflictions and by offering to the Eternal Father His only-begotten Son as a holocaust and victim of propitiation for my sins. I thank thee for the unspeakable love which led thee to deprive thyself of the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus, true God and true Man, to save me, a sinner. Oh! make use of the unfailing intercession of thy sorrows with the Father and the Son, that I may steadfastly amend my life and never again crucify my loving Redeemer by new sins; arid that, persevering till death in His grace, I may obtain eternal life through the merits of His Cross and Passion. Amen.

Mother of love, of sorrow, and of mercy, pray for us. (Courtesy of


Our mother of sorrows, with strength from above you stood by the cross, sharing in the sufferings of Jesus, and with tender care you bore Him in your arms, mourning and weeping.We praise you for your faith, which accepted the life God planned for you. We praise you for your hope, which trusted that God would do great things in you. We praise you for your love in bearing with Jesus the sorrows of His passion.Holy Mary, may we follow your example, and stand by all your children who need comfort and love.Mother of God, stand by us in our trials and care for us in our many needs. Pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen! (Courtesy of

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Sad Day

I really liked the country singer Mindy McCready. She was pretty, blond, and had a sweet voice. She had a really gentle smile and got engaged to Dean Cain with a gum wrapper/twist-tie engagement ring.

So it was sad to read today that she is going to jail for a year. Her life has spiraled out of control over the last few years with drug and alcohol abuse. She has been in abusive relationships after her engagement with Cain ended. She lost a baby in a miscarriage. In her pictures now, she appears sad, scared and alone. She was arrested for DUI. Hence her imprisonment.

Just as I was contemplating St. Monica's love for her son, Mindy McCready reminds me that sometimes, there just aren't enough mothers with St. Monica's love left in this world. This is what sets McCready apart from Britney Spears, who has a caring mother and father both desparate to help her. We all know about Brit's cutting her parents off, but like St. Monica, they are still there. I would like to pray that somewhere, on heaven or earth, Mindy's mom will find her way back to her daughter. Perhaps then, a healing can begin.

At the End of the Day

My c-section is scheduled for a week from today. I am looking forward to meeting my son. I am also at a loss for how the time went by so quickly.

My pregnancy was so different this time from the first time. No morning sickness. No blood clots in my eye. More sciatic nerve pain. Knowing the sex of the baby. Having a one year old to chase after.

One thing I keep reflecting on is knowing the sex of the baby. This morning, Jeff and I came to the conclusion as to why we found out the sex. Because we wanted to experience knowing that piece of information. And that experience, has convinced us we would rather be surprised.

I feel almost as if I have cheated my son of a little of the excitement of his birth. We were so excited to meet Shelby, to know this brand new person of whom we had no pre-conceived notions. I don't feel that same anticipation. In fact, I have felt a lot more anxieties as a result of knowing I was having a son.

"Will I be a good mother to a son?"

"As good a mother as I am to my daughter?"

"Will we be able to foster the closeness we desired for our children knowing that they are the opposite sex ahead of time?"

People told me countless times that it is important to know the sex of the baby so you can "be prepared." As Jeff said, "What did we do differently because we knew the sex? We bought a blue bouncy chair. That's pretty much it. "

We had already had the to circumsize vs not debate while pregnant with Shelby. We had enough yellow clothes and unisex outfits to get him through his first six months. Our nursery theme was specific to a child not a boy or girl, the way we would have done it regardless.

My mother feels that it is easier to connect with the baby if you know the sex. But that has not been our experience. Children are very strange to me, because you really know nothing about them when they are born. All you know is you love what you are given. So, it doesn't matter the sex of the baby.

I will say that during my first pregnancy the people who annoyed me the most were the ones who asked if I knew what I was having. Especially those who asked repeatedly when they knew we wanted to be surprised. It was a bullying technique to get us to find out. This time, though, those people have been replaced by the ones demanding a name. We have names narrowed down, but people want a name. The name. And unfortunately for the rest of the world. The Herrett Family--Jeff, Kristen and Shelby--have to meet their son/brother in order to name him. It's just the way it works in our house.

Now, all of this makes me wonder, at the end of the day how did my parents, and so many parents, and grandparents manage without knowing the sex of their baby and also many did not give out names. And the answer that it was because the technology wasn't there is only a part of the answer. They weren't pressured in part because people did not want to nor expect to buy personalized gifts for an unborn infant. At your baby shower, you got the basics, cribs, diapers, sheets, burp cloths, etc. Stuff that you needed regardless. People nowadays want to theme your shower and give you clothes (something most people waited for until after the baby was born in times of yore) and engraved or monogrammed items. My father commented, after Shelby was born, that when we (my brothers and I) were born, we just had a few white t-shirts and a couple of onesies to wear until about a week or so when gifts from friends and relatives came in. As a culture we were more patient, easier to appease, and perhaps more relaxed about life in general.

The most common reason I hear now for finding out the baby's sex is this: I'm too impatient and I need to plan. I think God conceals babies in our wombs for nine + months to help us learn the importance of patience and to let us learn the valuable lesson Jeff and I learned as we had our c-section in the middle of the night for Shelby: we move on God's time, not our time.

Don't get me wrong, if you want to find out, find out. But as we found, the grass wasn't greener. In fact it turned out to be brown, needing water, and brittle. So when we might be blessed with baby #3 don't be surprised we don't know the sex and we're not giving out names. Just use it as your own lesson in patience.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How Did She Do It?

I often find myself wondering, how did St. Monica do it? I mean, how did she never lose faith in her son (St. Augustine of Hippo) when he was hell-bent and determined to live apart from the Lord. Wouldn't it just have been easier to say, he's a lost cause, throw up her hands in disgust and ignore him?

A lot of parents do that today.

My husband, who spent the better part of last year as a teaching assistant in the public school system, was astounded at the number of grandparents raising children. Men and women who had raised their own kids, worked hard, and now should be enjoying the "fun" part of parenting, were starting from scratch. These men and women have the love of St. Monica in their hearts.

I remember my mother telling me that when my brothers were at home as teenagers and were really pushing it, she would tell them, "The only thing keeping me from killing you is that you were a beautiful baby and I loved you so much when you were born."

St. Monica must have had a similar mantra.

Last night, I had a moment to reflect on how perfect the love between a baby and parents is. Jeff and I both bolted upright when we heard the baby wake up. Shelby does occasionally awake at night and go back to sleep. But something was different. As I got my glasses, Jeff came back down the hall.

"Is she okay?" I asked.

"She's not making any noise, I didn't check."

I had been fighting insomnia the better part of the night leading me to believe I might go into labor, so I decided I would check on her.

I opened the door and the stench of fresh vomit was in the air. I went to turn the light on and the poor baby had gotten sick all over her bed and herself. She was trying to go back to sleep.

She opened her eyes and seeing me stood up.

"I'm so sorry this happened," I told her, "Mama's going to clean you up and you'll be okay."

Jeff, hearing this over the monitor came back down the hall. As I removed her diaper and prepared to bathe her, he stripped her sheets, put them in the laundry and began disinfecting her room. While I was bathing her, Jeff came in to help. Shelby gave us a look of such trust and love as if to say, "That was kind of scary, but now my Mama and Daddy are here, and everything is all better."

She is doing much better this morning. But in that moment, I felt how perfect that love and trust is and I understood that in St. Monica's heart, she had these same memories and that is what drove her to help her son no matter what.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rejoice and Be Glad

"Blessed are you who suffer and mourn, for one day you will laugh." ~Luke 6:21

Imagine you were blessed with a final gift from a loved one. You had a voicemail or a call saying, "Good-bye, I love you."

Now imagine, you never got that gift. Imagine you could not locate your loved one. You went to the site where that person was last seen. You called his or her name. You made a sign with his or her picture and the words: "Missing."

It was six years ago. For many it might have been yesterday. There is no time limit on suffering and mourning our losses. There are doubtless many widows and widowers who still sleep on their "side" of the bed. There are also many who may have found new love out of the ashes of disasters. There are probably many children who still call out at night from a nightmare to a parent who physically is no longer there to comfort them. There are others, who can tell you matter-of-factly that their father or mother was taken in the terrorist attacks.

But as Jesus promises, those who suffer, those who mourn, will laugh again. Although it is hard to think that one day, anyone who suffered such a loss would be able to feel blessed by it and be able to rejoice, one day that time will come.

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdensm and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." ~Matthew 11:28-30

Maybe Not Today...

but someday soon, the 21st at the latest. We will have a son. I have been experiencing contractions off and on but they all go away when I lie on my side and sip water as my doctor instructed me. I got a little worried this weekend, as the baby seemed to be moving about 1/2 as much as normal. But I have an overachieving child who has been moving about 10 times an hour. Normal babies move about 5 times at this late date in pregnancy. So, he is still above average.

The triage nurse on the phone told me to hang in there, not much longer. When everyone asks me if the doctor will take the baby early, I always answer, "I don't want him to be born sooner, I just want the 21st to get here more quickly!"

But just in case, I am finishing packing my hospital bag. We have made sure the mini-crib is ready. And every day we tell Shelby that she will have a baby brother soon. We have frozen quite a bit of food and have made arrangements in case he does come sooner than expected.

I got a lot of calls, emails and text messages yesterday as Tropical Storm Gabrielle churned off the NC coast. At our house, we got no rain, no wind, nothing. Which is good in case the wives tale turned true that when the pressure drops all the women go into labor!

No, I think it was a sign that we have to continue to be patient and vigilant. For just like our Lord, we know not the day or hour our baby boy will arrive.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

"Whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." -Luke 14:27

Do we carry our crosses? As mothers, it is sometimes easy to say yes. We face choices that are difficult in raising our families. Do I homeschool, Catholic school or public school? Do I allow my children sugary sweets on special occcasions, regularly, or not at all? Do we attend mass as a family or do we do split shifts?

But what about the crosses that are not so obvious as mothers. The crosses we often times confront as we are falling asleep at night or in the shower in a brief moment away from our families. Am I doing everything I can to raise disciples of Christ? Are my children growing up with too much secular influence because I allow them to (fill in with your own answer here: ___________)? Do I spend enough time with each of my children, respecting each as individuals and not just as a part of the larger family?

When we respect that these are our crosses to bear as mothers, we become disciples of Christ. Yesterday we celebrated the birth of our Holy Mother. As a human mother, no doubt she experienced doubts in her ability. And she knew she was raising the son of God! We don't get to see this in the Gospels very much. But then there was that little incident of Jesus getting left behind in Jerusalem. No doubt Mary realized then that this motherhood thing wasn't about to get any easier! But as the primary disciple of her Son, she became an example for us all.

Yes, motherhood is a joy. The greatest of joys. But it also brings on great crosses that we must bear to continue as Christ's disciples.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Offering It Up

I have been suffering from sciatic nerve pain with this pregnancy. Well, I did with my last one as well, but this is a whole different ball game.

My son has decided his most comfortable position is directly on the nerve causing almost constant pain that shoots down my leg. At times I am barely able to walk. This pain is exacerbated by having to keep up with a very active 14-month-old little girl. Tylenol does nothing. Lying on that side or the opposite brings no relief. The method I used to combat pain with my first pregnancy, sitting with a tennis ball pressing directly on the spot of pain on my back, has actually sometimes made it worse.

This morning, the pain was causing me to involuntarily cry. I couldn't stop. Shelby was playing on the floor, so I was lying down on my side sipping water, crying and trying to play with her as best I could. As I watched her decide which toy to play with next, it hit me.

"God, I'm offering up this pain for all the women who will never be blessed to become mothers. The women who would give up their lives to experience the pain I am in now."

Over and over again, I repeated it like a mantra. Within 2 minutes, the pain began to dull.

A few years ago, doctors were not sure if I would get to become a mother. A birth defect was preventing me from becoming pregnant, and the time we had succeeded, that same defect caused us to lose our baby. And the doctor suspected there may have been other times we had gotten pregnant and just lost our baby before we knew. I was going to have corrective surgery, but there were no guarantees. Six months later, we found out we were having Shelby. I'd like to think that some mother going through pains of pregnancy may have offered up her suffering for women like me. And maybe, my suffering, my faith, will help to ease the pain of another woman who is dealing with the same uncertainty I did.

Thank you God, for the gift of my children. I offer up my suffering for all those going through the pain of being childless.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Celebrating Christ's Love In Our Lives

"You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them and then they will fast in those days." ~Luke 5:34-35

A good friend of mine is fond of saying that when things are good, she prays less and thinks less about God. Not intentionally, it just happens.

Isn't that true of most of us?

Isn't it easier to pray when we know we need God?

How easy it is to forget that we always need God's presence in our lives. How easy it is to forget God when he is not the one carrying us and is walking beside us.

But then I read Jesus' repsonse to the crowd. And it makes me wonder. When we live in the moment of goodness in our lives, when we are in fact, without acknowledging it, living in the center of Christ's love for us, are we not also praising and thanking God by enjoying the bounty He alone has given us?

When I read this quote it makes me believe that I am celebrating the gift of Christ's love in my life when I play with my children or swim at the beach or even just enjoy a few minutes to myself to read a few pages of a good book. Jesus is saying to me that by enjoying the happy moments in my life, I am giving him praise. And when my soul thirsts for the Lord, then it is time for me to mourn my distance from Him.

Monday, September 3, 2007

For Labor Day

Want to know more about the Catholic Worker Movement?

How about one of its founders, Dorothy Day? You can read about her life and some of her writings.

On The Day We Salute Those Who Labor

Prayer to Saint Joseph for Success in Work

Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labour, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my many sins; to work with thankfulness and joy, considering it an honour to employ and develop, by means of labour, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, prudence and patience, never surrendering to weariness or difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account which I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after thy example, O Patriarch Joseph. Such shall be my motto in life and death.Amen.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

"For everyone who exalts himself will humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14: 11

From today's Gospel is this message.

And what teaches us humility better than motherhood.

I remember recovering from surgery a little over a year ago, wanting nothing more than to go to sleep, but knowing Shelby had to nurse. I gave up my need and accepted that being a mother meant to ignore the pain in my abdomen and my breasts as my milk was coming in and let her latch on. I could have easily given in and demanded Jeff give her formula, but I let go of the luxury of sleep, and pain relief, and got up to nurse.

As mothers, we make ourselves the maidservants of our children and the Lord. God has given us the tremendous responsibility and joy of raising these amazing people. A friend of mine, Ann-Elise has the following heading on her web page: "He must increase, I must decrease"- John 3:30 . She has blogged about how parenthood is an amazing way for one to allow God to increase in our lives as we decrease. I believe that when we allow God to increase through being mothers, we accept the humility of our position. We allow God's grace to enter into our lives as we are accepting His will to become mother's and when we acknowledge the humility of accepting our position, we become better mothers.

"Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Luke 1:38
Mary accepting her role as the mother of our Lord is the most beautiful reminders that the mother who humbles herself to her role, will be forever exulted.

"Part of this daily heroism is also the silent but effective and eloquent witness of all those BRAVE MOTHERS who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves. In living out their mission these HEROIC WOMEN do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. In the name of progress and modernity the values of fidelity, chastity, sacrifice, to which a host of Christian wives and mothers have borne and continue to bear outstanding witness, are presented as obsolete...WE THANK YOU, HEROIC MOTHERS FOR YOUR INVINCIBLE LOVE! WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTREPID TRUST IN GOD AND IN HIS LOVE. WE THANK YOU FOR THE SACRIFICE OF YOUR LIFE...In the Paschal Mystery, CHRIST RESTORES TO YOU THE GIFT YOU GAVE HIM. Indeed, He has the power to give you back the life you gave to Him as an offering..." John Paul II, Humanae Vitae "The Gospel of Life"

As JPII says, we do not get the recognition in the media or society that should be granted to women who make the sacrifice of becoming mothers and humble themselves to accept God's will. Again, we decrease, God increases and as we humble ourselves, we are exalted as women who walk in Mary's footsteps in heaven.

I once heard a midwife say that when you look into the face of a newborn, you are looking into the face of God. I have never heard it said better. And as we look into the faces of our growing children, as we decide to give of ourselves to make their lives better, as we humble ourselves to the will of God the Father almighty we are exalted in our place in heaven.