Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Break

It is so nice to have a few days off from school, and all of the weekly details of life.
We don't have lessons, classes, or school, so are able to focus on some of the things that make life fun!
The boys are having a great time breaking in their new possessions.
John got a video camera, and he has big plans for it.
Paul has been waiting for it to get dark each night so that he can go out and use his night-vision binoculars.
Brendan has a new Kindle and we are going to be able to do lots of great stuff with that, but right now he uses it to listen to music, look at pictures and play games.
Tim has a Kindle as well and he is taking time out in the evenings to read, which is a nice break for him!
I took two of the boys over to Barnes and Noble to use their gift cards. Paul came home with two new books, and so did I!

I also went to Jo-Ann's looking for a sewing machine cover. I didn't find one at the store, but when I came home I found one online and ordered it.
Dinner tonight was...not ham!
I made a big stir-fry and rice and we all enjoyed that.

It is so cold out that I am thinking of getting another heater for the basement office!

Maggie is just happy to be loved....

Monday, December 24, 2012

Great Wolf Adventure IV

Last week, on Monday, we were thrilled to be able to head out to Williamsburg, VA to visit the Great Wolf  Lodge another time.
This is the 4th time we have been able to go down, and make it a part of our Christmas.
The boys had a lot of fun with their friends and we just enjoyed relaxing in the water park and letting the guys explore the Lodge at will. 

Lobby all decked out for Christmas

Lodge at night.

Summer fun in the winter time.

Liam Watkins

Paul in the wave pool.

Brendan and Henry


Adam, Liam, and John

Brendan, Henry, and Paul

A few kids....

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thoughts from a Friend

My Friend Karen posted this on FaceBook, but I thought it was such a touching and true post that I wanted to share.
Karen has been there. She knows what she is writing about like few other people I can think of.

  • I don’t normally like to post things of any real meaning on facebook as I know what’s written is out there for good. But, I have a couple of things I’d like to post about tonight and the first is the hot topic of the TRAGEDY at Sandy Hook.

    First and foremost, I would like to address that fact that there has been some debate on how many people continue to talk about the incident. How many people judge the families for putting out pictures of their loved ones, how many people want to know why we need to hear about each funeral. I can say that when I lost my brother to a NATURAL cause, I wanted the world to know he existed. I wanted to scream to everyone that I knew that my brother passed on because I wanted to hang on to the fact that he was very much part of my world. These parents, siblings, friends, etc, are reaching out in grief. They aren’t looking to profit off of the horror of the loss of love they are now feeling. They are looking for a way to keep their loved ones alive. I cannot imagine their pain, but do know they certainly don’t need our judgment on top of it all!

    I would then like to address the blame game and that of mental illness.

    I just read an article by Melinda Henneberger that my cousin Carrie posted and agreed with much of what it said.

    I do believe there needs to be better mental health treatment, gun laws, less shoot ‘em up video games, etc. But, the fact that everyone wants to continue to play the blame game is, to me, not getting us anywhere.

    I have strong feelings related to the mental illness hot topic of the week. I’m sure that the gunman must have suffered something. No “healthy” person shoots up first grade classrooms. I believe that he must have allowed evil to enter his world, as no being filled with Love shoots up first grade classrooms. I believe that these two things combined created his environment with a flawed human being carrying out an, unthinkable to most, plan to murder and kill.

    Mental illness alone, however, does not kill. I live with bipolar disorder. Even before treatment, I did not change enough of “me” to desire to hurt others. I’m not saying mental illness doesn’t cause violence. It certainly can be an effect of the illness, but I personally believe there is more to it than that. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do believe that there is still an element there of choosing evil over love. Choosing hate over forgiveness. Maybe in a certain mental state, you have less control over your choices, but at some point, you opted to no longer hold onto LOVE.

    I know they are saying that the gunman may have had asperger’s. Asperger’s is not a mental illness. It is a developmental disorder. Does it cause one to not understand social cues? Yes, it does. Could it potentially cause you not to have as much empathy for others because you just don’t understand them, absolutely!! But, it doesn’t cause you to kill. It makes your life a heck of lot more difficult than others, but as Ms. Henneberger points out, it generally causes you to be bullied, not to bully.

    Do I know what caused Adam to snap? To premeditate these killings? To kill his mother? To alter the lives of so many innocent people, including his own family? No, I don’t. Do I know whether he lived with/suffered from a mental illness? No, I don’t. I certainly suspect he must have. But, I don’t think we can blame the illness completely for his decisions. I don’t think we can blame guns, I don’t think we can blame his mother, the divorce of his parents, etc.

    I think Satan is winning twice over. Not only did he alter the lives of so many innocent, he managed to continue to pit half of this country against the other half. We all came together for a matter of hours to console, to talk of healing, to offer help, and then...we came at each other again. Back to politics and anger.

    No one knows why. I don’t believe anyone will ever know why. Maybe he was bipolar. Maybe he had a personality disorder, maybe he was abused, maybe he was brought up in an environment that promoted violence, maybe he played too many war games. Maybe, maybe , maybe. But, I will firmly stand on the belief that NONE of these things alone was the sole motivator for such violence. Satan worked hard and Satan won.

    I truly believe that Satan works harder at those that suffer mental illness. He attacks their thoughts (that many times race). He uses the paranoia, the panic, etc. But, we all have weaknesses. And, don’t think just because you are “normal” that evil can’t enter your world.

    As we head toward Christmas Day, I take consolation in the promise that those that died can forever be with the Lord. Their lives aren’t over. They will live forever because He died and rose again.

    As I stated earlier, I’m not debating the need for better mental health treatment, or stricter gun laws, or less time on the computer, etc. I just really and truly believe that we need LOVE . Whether you know the Lord, or you have yet to bring Him into your heart, most won’t argue that we need more love. Now is the time to be a bit more introspective. To look into what part of you chooses revenge over forgiveness,what part of you chooses jealousy over acceptance, what part of you chooses war over peace or to condemn rather than complement? None of us are innocent and if we all started to really look into our own weaknesses and begin there for answers to the violence in the world, the easier it would be to bring love into reality.

    I pray for those that don’t yet know the Lord and pray for those that struggle with the why. I pray for the victims, for the debaters, for those that live with mental illness, for their loved ones, for those that are reaching out for help. I pray for a society that would rather see where to place the blame than to admit we are all broken.

    And, then, in thanksgiving, I praise the Lord for the knowledge that He hears, that He listens, that He has saved those that have lost their lives here. I pray for those that will question Him and those that will fall away from Him because of this act of violence. I pray for those that will find Him because of their loss. And finally, I pray that you will pray with me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Road to Hell...Is Paved With Millstones

I am not in the habit of posting diatribes or rants anymore.
All of that was just taking too much energy, and I have been trying to work towards a more positive and persuasive blog, with mostly family posts.
However, recently I have found that I am thinking an awful lot about some issues that I am afraid  I just can't ignore, because they are being ignored by the very people that need to be bringing them to light.

I read this post a few days ago...Hurts and Hopes, By Monsignor Charles Pope, a very special priest that I greatly admire and respect. His post states his concern with the lack of belief in the very real possibility that a whole lot of people are on the way to an eternal destination that is going to be, shall we say, less than optimal. This one of his many points is, I think, a very important one.

Devastating – It does not require an advanced degree in sociology to understand that, to remove the unambiguous biblical teaching on the very real and possible outcome of Hell, is to remove strong motivation to seek a Savior and salvation. It is therefore no surprise that as the teaching on Hell has been largely set aside by the modern world, that recourse to the sacraments, prayer, Church attendance and any number of spiritual remedies have suffered significant declines during the same period.

He is responding, in his article, to comments made by another priest that I respect and admire, Fr Robert Barron.

In his recent critique of Ralph Martin’s book, Fr. Barron states his fundamental objection to Martin’s reiteration of Church teaching and of Lumen Gentium 16. In effect Barron references Spe Salvi, 45-47 wherein Pope Benedict seems to suppose that few are in Hell and that the great majority of humanity will ultimately be saved.
Father Barron concludes,
It seems to me that Pope Benedict’s position — affirming the reality of Hell but seriously questioning whether that the vast majority of human beings end up there — is the most tenable and actually the most evangelically promising.
Now, it is not my place to question or criticize either one of these men. Both are very qualified theologians and both are people that I believe are concerned with the culture and the times that we face. 
What I feel needs to be said, however, is that we don't have the luxury, in this day and age, to assume that many sheep in the fold are going to go looking for the Shepherd. Many of them have very happily gone through the gate and off to frolic with the wolves, with no interest in the Shepherd and His desire for them to follow Him. If the love of Christ isn't enough to bring people to their spiritual senses, then the fear of Hell may be the only thing that can bring them back.
Now I know that it's unfashionable and downright mean to make people aware of their sin and it's consequences. It makes them unhappy and burdens them with responsibility. That's just no way to go through life. 
This makes the position of a parish pastor one that is either unpopular or disingenuous. As a rule, people don't tend to take the road less traveled voluntarily, and they tend to balk at being told that they are on the wrong path. So what is a pastor to do? As the Spiritual father of a parish full of children that don't want to hear the hard truth, isn't it just better to get them in the door some Sundays and make them feel like they are doing all they need to do to be "good" Catholics? 
Well, it may be more comfortable on this side of the end times, but isn't it more responsible to make them aware of the possibility of damnation? If you have a child, and you take them to the doctor, and the doctor says, "Well, I'm not sure, but I think it's possible that this child has a deadly form of cancer. It may not really be what it looks like. It may just turn out to be a cold." Isn't it the parent's gut feeling to do everything possible to find out, and take measures to ensure the best chance for a long life? Isn't it that "pit-of-the-stomach" fear of loss that motivates the parent to seek whatever is necessary, no matter how painful or difficult it turns out to be? What kind of parent says "Oh, well I don't really think that that kind of cancer exists, and even if it does, I don't want to make my child uncomfortable, so we'll just go home and eat ice cream and play video games. Maybe he'll just get over it on his own." 
We live in a spiritually cancerous culture. Every single soul in our society is living the spiritual equivalent of a two-pack-a-day smoker. Isn't it more urgent than ever to make people aware of the risks to their spiritual health? 
Death due to cancer is a horrible way to end life. It is painful and undignified and ugly, but it can be redemptive. Death for eternity would really suck. No chance of anything but pain and ugliness. Forever. That is truly terrifying. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FTC! Competition

John makes modifications

last minute adjustments

Drivers Mark, Will and Kevin

Robot 7

Winners of the "Innovate" award

Monday, November 19, 2012

We Choose to Follow

We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up” (Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (Bl. JOHN PAUL II) to the American bishops in 1976, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Nov. 9, 1978).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Best of Times

The last couple of days have been full of blessings.
On Friday we had Liam Watkins overnight because we were going to the Fan the Fire Conference up in York, PA, and wanted to get an early start.
We left at 7:30 a.m. and arrived at the church at around 9:00. A few glitches with the GPS notwithstanding it was an easy drive.
We spent the day listening to some great talks, good music, and had a wonderful time of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Confession, with a very special Mass as the pinnacle of the day.

Speaker and Rapper "Righteous B"
Father explaining the wonder of the Blessed Sacrament before Adoration
Eucharistic Procession
Statue of St Francis and Jesus in the Church

A moment of reflection before Mass...

And this afternoon, we were blest to spend the afternoon celebrating Maria Hoppel's Sweet Sixteen!

Waiting for the guest of honor...

What girls do at a party....

What boys do at a party....

And then there are the parents!


This is not your average musical chairs. Don't they all look well-behaved? This turned into full-contact Musical Chairs! Flying bodies, bruises, flipping chairs. The Ravens probably had fewer injuries tonight.

A few of the survivors

Of course there was swing dancing....

And Birthday Cake!

What a blessing to have so many special families to share special times with!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Recent Unpleasantness

On November 6, the citizens of the United States re-elected perhaps the most anti-Catholic president in its history to a second term.
Even sadder, according to exit polls a majority of Catholics voted in his favor, even after they theoretically had imbibed the bishops’ message, conveyed from the pulpit and in various other media, that no Catholic should vote for a candidate who favors abortion rights and single sex marriage and does not support religious liberty.
What is going on here? Clearly, to borrow a line from the film “Cool Hand Luke,” “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
Simply put, the U.S. is no longer “exceptional.”
In fact, the U.S. is no longer a Christian country. Our nation is in a spiraling decline, and the cause is neither politics nor economics but moral breakdown.
For the first time in human history the greatest health problem is obesity—read gluttony. Millions of men and even (believe it or not) women are addicted to pornography, and our birthrate is at its lowest in history. Cohabitation before marriage and multiple divorces are not unusual. Out-of-wedlock births are at an all-time high. And the holocaust of unborn babies by the millions continues.
Our country is morally as well as fiscally broke. Of course, these signs of decline are all interconnected. This is not the time to go into how all this came about, but to my mind the individual states have become too dependent on our central government for matters that should fall in their own purview, clearly and seriously violating and abusing the Catholic principle of subsidiarity.
The former freedom of action of individuals and families has been restricted by and over-regulated by Washington, DC. Remember, whatever the government can do for you, it can do to you.
In short, after witnessing the transformation of the American Republic into an Empire, we are witnessing that Empire’s fall. And as a Church historian, I do not know of any empire that ever collapsed and then revived.
I hope all this does not leave you too depressed: For my part, I am exhilarated.
To paraphrase a great American Revolutionary War hero, John Paul Jones, “We have not yet begun to fight.” Or as legendary Marine Chesty Puller put it: “They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now.”
This is the true “Catholic Moment” for our country, with apologies to my deceased friend Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic convert and founder of First Things. Simply said, only raw, unadulterated, lived-out-in-the-middle-of-the-world Catholicism can save the United States and perhaps bring us back to a country that acknowledges the natural law, truly takes as its guide the American Constitution, and renounces the allure of empire, returning to its conception as the humble Republic our forefathers founded.
Our role models are the first Christians who suffered and flourished and grew under at least 25O years of persecution, in some cases bloody, in other cases consisting of ostracism and second-class citizenship, until the Edict of Milan under the Emperor Constantine. Less than 70 years later, Catholicism had become the official religion of the Empire. We know the rest of the story: the conversions of the barbarians to the Faith over seven centuries and the flowering of what became Christendom or the West.
But I must stress that, as mainstream Protestantism for all practical purposes is dead in the United States. It is up to lay Catholics to build a healthy Catholic culture here worthy of the nation’s founding. The means will be their commitment to the Sacraments, life of prayer, and meditation on Sacred Scripture, and their bringing the fruits of these to their work, family life, and fellow citizens.
The Second Vatican Council, whose fiftieth anniversary we are celebrating in this special “Year of Faith,” was quite clear that its main message for us Catholics was the “universal call to holiness.”
If we take that call seriously and we live it like the first Christians did, well, we may make America again merit the title of “exceptional,” not only in emphasizing freedom for its people but in showing charity and respect for the dignity of all human persons, born and unborn, from conception until natural death.
Perhaps our rejection of the Culture of Death in the United States will bring about what the Lord wanted and wants: “That all may be one.” Indeed this is the Catholic moment when we can   anticipate many conversions to the Faith from evangelical Christians and other truth seekers.
Consider what our most insightful observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, had to say in the early 19th century when he traveled extensively through the U.S.:
At the present time, more than in any preceding age, Roman Catholics are seen to lapse into infidelity, and Protestants to be converted to Roman Catholicism. If you consider Catholicism within its own organization, it seems to be losing; if you consider it from outside, it seems to be gaining. Nor is this difficult to explain. The men of our days are naturally little disposed to believe; but as soon as they have any religion, they immediately find in themselves a latent instinct that urges them unconsciously towards Catholicism. Many of the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church astonish them, but they feel a secret admiration for its discipline, and its great unity attracts them. If Catholicism could at length withdraw itself from the political animosities to which it has given rise, I have hardly any doubt but that the same spirit of the age which appears to be so opposed to it would become so favorable as to admit of its great and sudden advancement.
The future is ours! We can and must believe what Pope Benedict XVI told Americans in 2008 re-echoing the vision of the late Blessed Pope John Paul II: “God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity.”
Meanwhile, let’s get to work and remember to pray for the conversion of our newly re-elected president and vice president! Miracles happen!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Wisdom of the Catechism


222     Believing in God, the only One, and loving him with all our being has enormous consequences for our whole life.
223     It means coming to know God's greatness and majesty: "Behold, God is great, and we know him not." Therefore, we must "serve God first".
224     It means living in thanksgiving: if God is the only One, everything we are and have comes from him: "What have you that you did not receive?" "What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?"
225     It means knowing the unity and true dignity of all men: everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.
226     It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him:
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.
227     It means trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity. A prayer of St. Teresa of Jesus wonderfully expresses this trust:
Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you
Everything passes / God never changes
Patience / Obtains all
Whoever has God / Wants for nothing
God alone is enough.

Just Makes Me Smile!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

October Photos

Early Color on the Elm
Maggie 2.7 years
Barn Dance!
Let's Hear it for GOD!
Lilly the Cheerleader!
Pre-Hurricane flowers
Morning Colors
Lilly's last game
Sparkle and Crispy!
Sunday Afternoon
Boys in the Leaves
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