Hooooray for Our Side!!

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Woooooo Hoooo!  We know that CWG has shown some great growth, but now we have great evidence of the fact that people have their eyes ON US as an org.  Follow this link to see Sister Marie Paul Curley’s (Ed/Author Daughters of St. Paul) wonderful and respectful commentary and review of the Catholic Writers Conference held by CWG this past week-end.  WOW!  I think we have arrrrrrived!  Thanks to all who’s hard work made the conference possible!

Gems from the Catholic Writers Conference Online 2017

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: February , 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Matthew 5:38-48

‘You have heard how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer no resistance to the wicked. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if someone wishes to go to law with you to get your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone requires you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks you, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away. ‘You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even the tax collectors do as much? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Do not even the gentiles do as much? You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

 


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


FEBRUARY INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER TO LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS

God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You, and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

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How Hallmark Destroyed Marriage

book heart“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.”

These classic words from The Princess Bride, although innocuously sweet sounding, holds two of the most dangerous words to western civilization. “Tru wuv” or rather true love. This may lead you to ask, “What is the matter with you, are you a robot?” I have a great deal wrong with me, and no, I am no robot but actually a hopeless sentimental. Great love songs and sappy movies are my bane, yet I tearfully struggle through them. I love my wife and still remember shedding tears when I first saw her on our wedding day when she stepped through the church door to Pachelbel’s Cannon. Romance is not lost on me.

Despite my own mushy leanings, I contend that these words can be a black hole of sentiment that  lead unsuspecting lovers to broken hearts. Hallmark greeting cards, Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day, Hollywood, romance novels, all fuel this dark singularity. Some of you are probably screaming, “Black hole? Singularity? What could possibly be so dangerous with romance?” Well, for Christians, specifically Catholics, our deeply held belief of the Sacramental nature of Marriage is at stake.

At one particularly moving wedding homily, a priest first told the following joke: “There are three rings in marriage. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and suffer ring.” After raucous laughter he continued with a profound interpretation, “All joking aside, marriage is a sacrament precisely because you are called to witness to the suffering of Christ. Just as Christ loves us in our darkest moments when our actions show we despise Him, you must love your spouse precisely when romance is gone and you don’t feel the warmth of infatuation.”

What? The warm feelings surrounding a wedding won’t always last? I am called to love my spouse even when they aren’t loving me? What happened to happily ever after? Society has forgotten the depth and power of the marriage bond and the symptoms of this illness are everywhere you look. No fault divorce allowing one spouse to abandon the other without cause, children in poverty with unwed parents far more prevalent, sexual deviance justified because they ask what’s wrong with their “love”, young people waiting so long to marry they miss out on having children, etc. I could give you further reading but you could find mountains yourself and you probably don’t even need it to be convinced. It is easy to observe the breakdown  around us.

The Church hasn’t wavered from its positions regarding the nature of marriage, and rightly so, but teaching from the pulpit, focus within Catholic education, and reinforcement from parents and family has been woefully inadequate. As Catholic writers, parents, catechists, and parishioners the virtues of marriage as a sacrament must always be on our lips. We can affirm the joy a couple feels at a wedding, but more importantly we must extol the fidelity of a spouse who stands vigilant at their sweetheart’s deathbed. We must encourage each other to weather the pains of small annoyances so when we have to suffer greater indignities, especially for the good of innocent children, we have the grace and courage to do so. Through this discipline and effort can our society recover.

This St. Valentine’s Day it would be fruitful to meditate on the saint for whom the day is named. St. Valentine, who suffered and died for the glory of marriage, pray for us.

Copyright© 2017, Mark Andrews

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My Holy Valentine

heart-81207__480[1]Here we are!  It’s about that time again.  Winter stubbornly clings and we are breathless with the hope that grey will soon be replaced with gold and that someone will finally love us!  Yep it’s Valentine’s Day once more.  More than a hallmark holiday, the idea of love and anti-loneliness is pervasive and all around us.  We see it, hear it, read it, touch it, taste it and watch endless perfusions of what to cook, how to shop, what to buy and on.  In reality this is actually the  celebration of a saint of the Church, you could say a holy holiday. Yet in all the meticulous descriptions of where to make reservations and how to celebrate, religion is rarely, if ever mentioned. We are completely fixed on looking inward.  We desperately want to figure out what makes feel good, secure, surrounded by some (any) kind of presence and most of all not alone!  During the rest of the year all of our cultural icons point to one or all of these hungers.  At Valentine’s Day, though, these are magnified everywhere in the culture.

Therein lies the most obvious clue to our exhausting search.  The philosophies of  world faith can basically be boiled down to two concepts. Non-Christian religions the east focus on looking inward, the pursuit of personal perfection. Christian religions of the west focus on looking outward, the pursuit of a relationship with the most high God. These two forces drive everything in the culture.  In the U.S.  our basic Christian ideals have faded into the pursuit of perfection.  There’s the unsolvable dilemma. As humans, personal perfection is basically an unreachable goal.  In the words of Bonnie Raitt: “I can’t make you love me.”  As a human who is imperfect, though, I can come to God over and over and beg his forgiveness and ask Him to teach me how to let Him love me!  His  answer is never no.

So when you think of Valentine’s Day remember that it is one more opportunity to aim at holiness and to tell God you want to be loved.  It is a day to tell Him that you love him and to ellicit St. Valentine to fill you with wisdom about the true nature of love. Neither of these is hard and neither requires the purchase of flowers, exotic chocolate or pricey jewelry.  St Frances De Sales describes a prayer/practice that would be perfect for the day.  If it’s the only thing you do that day, you will have accomplished quite a bit and maybe a new prayer habit.  Oh yes, reach outward, tell those who love you that you love them.  If no one comes to mind immediately resolve to tell one person that day that God loves them very much!

“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

— St. Francis de Sales

 

Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham

 

 

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Valentines for God

Valentines Day by Graphilandia (dollarphotoclub.com)

Valentines Day by Graphilandia (dollarphotoclub.com)

How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Feeling guilty yet? The excesses of the holidays make clear the need to evaluate many aspects of our lives and resolve to change them.

In February we realize how idealistic we were on the first day of a new year. What’s so obvious it hurts is that we haven’t limited our good intentions to one or two gentle self-improvements, but tried to remake the whole of our little world. Does the Lord chide us for thinking so much of ourselves that we can change our bad habits by sheer willpower? How many of those resolutions did he inspire? Aren’t the few he gave us the habits that we successfully change?

The Lord impresses me as a loving guide, not a finger-pointing judge constantly pinging us on our human failures. He put his unselfish love in our hearts. We have the privilege of nurturing it and sharing it with his people. The other-centered desires that he puts in our hearts are not difficult to attain, for he gives us all we need to fulfill them.

Valentines, not resolutions

He wants valentines, not resolutions. He wants us to change our lives in response to our love for him. Of all the improvements we could consider, he wants us to ask him what he wants to be improved. He wants us to change for his sake, for love of him.

Resolutions based on the ideals of the world, to be skinnier, more attractive or more fashionable aren’t as significant to him as those that make a lasting difference. The Lord sees our attempts to improve. He understands that we do not know ourselves as well as he does.

Change that lasts

He can motivate us to choose the better part, to make time for him. Alone with him, he can inspire resolutions to get our schedules, finances and families in his right order and to help us to live longer and happier lives of serving him. When we ask him, he puts the will and desire in our hearts to change. Then the change will last. I can’t help but think that any lasting changes are not the result of our will power, but side effects of loving him.

Write a valentine to the Lord. Take those resolutions, the ones you are avoiding, and present them to him. Relinquish your ideals of what you should be in the world and let him show you what you can be in him.

His love for us is overwhelming. Let our response be a life given as a valentine expressing our love in return.

What does your valentine to the Lord say to him?

(Copyright © 2013, revised 2017 Nancy Ward)

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The Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer

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Step Seven – Humbly ask God to remove all our shortcomings as writers, allowing Him to cleanse us of our worldly desires.

Are we humble? Are we humble enough as writers to develop a truly deep relationship with God?  We know our shortcomings as writers both professionally and personally. Do we have enough love and faith to really give our writing over to Him?

Believe it or not, we fail this step by not being kind. We, who are kind to everybody else, are most unkind to ourselves. Often we envision a God who created us with numerous faults and unholy tendencies.  We think that our life’s work is to overcome our inclinations and failings. This attitude spills over into our writing. We are harsh on our creations. We strive for perfection and delay sharing our work because we question its value. That is because we want control, perfection and acclaim. Our work becomes a burden instead of a pleasure. It can become a curse instead of a gift. Why are we so unkind to ourselves? Why are we always judging ourselves and our work harshly?

On one hand we are influenced by the success of secular writers; we may even compromise our message to gain that financial success. We allow ourselves to change or soften our message of Christ’s love to make our writing more mainstream or palatable. Then to top it off we carry the guilt of compromise and again judge ourselves.

On the other hand, we can swing the other way, thinking our work should be preachy. We are harsh on the characters we create who aren’t saints. Not quite as hard as we are to ourselves. We promote the idea that those who follow Christ must struggle constantly against their nature, the world and the evil one. Our characters must be perfect. This is a reflection of our own need to be perfect. Both these approaches in our work are wrong.

“How can we expect charity toward others when we are uncharitable to ourselves?”- Sir Thomas Brown

How can we be kind to ourselves? By letting go and not trying to control everything we write and create. Give the creation and control of the story to Him who is the entire story.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”- John 1:1

When you decide what to write is it something you thought of? Or is it an inspiration from Him?

When you develop your characters, do you allow Him to flood your mind with the people He wants your readers to know? One sign that you are in control is if they are too perfect or too flawed. God creates complex people and characters. He likes the unique and imperfect.

When you create your plot, is it action packed to catch the eye of a producer or filmmaker? Is it the plot that He gave you? Did you even ask?

I have done both! And believe me; He is better at developing plots, characters and ideas than I am. The work is always better when He writes it.

Turning our work over to Him is initially difficult. In the end it is easy and freeing. Go into prayer. Find that place to be with Him each day. Pray before you sleep each night for inspiration for the next day. What peace this will bring to your work.

This takes care of the writing, but what about the writer? Can you give yourself to Him?

“Love is above all, the gift of oneself” – Jean Anouilh

We are not perfect. We have many faults. Let’s turn ourselves over and stop trying to correct ourselves first. That is pride – the first sin. We can’t change ourselves. Only He can change us. When we learn that we have imperfect ways such as jealously, greed, the need for recognition or selfishness, let’s be kind to ourselves. We’re only human. He is God. Turn your writing and yourself with all the imperfections over to Him. Have a sense of humor about it. I like to tell Him that He made me, he can make me better.  Next, let’s work on Step Eight! It will blow your mind!

Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: February 12, 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Sirach 15:15-20

If you choose, you will keep the commandments and so be faithful to his will. He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. A human being has life and death before him; whichever he prefers will be given him. For vast is the wisdom of the Lord; he is almighty and all-seeing. His eyes are on those who fear him, he notes every human action. He never commanded anyone to be godless, he has given no one permission to sin.


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


FEBRUARY INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER TO LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS

God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You, and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

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The Long Cosmos, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

He may have died in 2015, but Terry Pratchett’s spirit lives on in more than seventy of his books. His feel-good novels consistently advocate not only for the underdog, but the under-troll, the under-gremlin, the poor, the powerless, and the downtrodden. His stories and novel-series create new worlds and even new universes. His stories cross genre boundaries of fantasy, sci-fi, romance, adventure, and eccentric history.

Pratchett’s stories customarily weave multiple storylines with only the faint wisp of kinship. He offers images that require his readers to pause, savor, and reflect until the story emerges from the seemingly unrelated details. Readers float in a sea of seemingly unconnected details from each subplot, yet the enchanting prose and literary gems darned into almost every paragraph capture his readers’ loyalty and reward their patience. Eventually, as if viewing a fragment of a magnificent tapestry—a piece the size of a page in a book—the subplot fibers, like rootlets, knit together, allowing the reader to view the novel’s grand design.

Unfortunately, The Long Cosmos, the fifth book in the Long Earth series (published posthumously, thanks to co-author Stephen Baxter), fails to sustain the Pratchett tradition. The outline came from the minds of both Pratchett and Baxter, but the reader must credit (or blame) Baxter for writing the final product.

The “long cosmos” alluded to in the book’s title includes millions of Earth-like planets that stretch across space in a long pearl-like necklace. Gifted interplanetary travelers “step” or walk from one version of Earth to the next. They need only imagine themselves on the next planet, and their bodies follow  their imaginations through space. The less imaginative may fly to distant “Earths” in a vessel called a “twain,” presumably named after Mark Twain, since one of the largest twains is called the “Samuel Clemens.”

Each variation of Earth displays a unique geological and biological evolution. Predatory reptiles like Pterosaurs may glide above, while scaly swamp creatures strike from below. Trees miles in height look down through the clouds at  the mountain tops. Their wood is so light and durable that it is used in the hulls of twains.

The story takes place in a time following the 2040 eruption of the Yellowstone volcano and the years of volcanic winter that left Earth, and particularly North America in ruins. Joshua Valiente, 67, against his family’s objections, decides to go camping on a distant Earth. After he suffers a serious accident, he is nursed back to health by a collective of trolls. Sancho, a silverback troll librarian, like Don Quixote’s sidekick, nurses Joshua and educates him in the complexities of troll communication and travel throughout the necklace of Earths. These trolls look more like orangutans than they do Shrek or the Tolkienesque variety, or even the massive trolls that populate other Pratchett novels.

In another subplot, an Extraterrestrial Intelligence calls all sapient beings including beagles, humans, trolls, and the Next—a vastly more intelligent human subspecies—to “Join Us.” Although all are called to “join,” each species harbors doubts about the fitness and worthiness of the other groups. Several minor plots explore the building of a vast communications beacon and travel pods, the human interactions with other sapient groups, and Joshua’s family dynamics.

Eventually, all of the threads weave into something of a New Age coming together of the minds within the universe. The depiction of the collective intelligence of the trolls, their facility in “stepping” from one Earth to the next, and their recording of Earth and troll history in their ballad-like “long calls” proved to be the most interesting memory that I’ll take from this book.

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“Ad Orientem”—the Symbolism is Truly Beautiful

“Ad Orientem”—the Symbolism is Truly Beautiful (by Larry Peterson; Catholic Writers Guild)

By Mariapanhagia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Long ago, in a Church somewhat different, I was an altar boy (it was pre-Vatican II and we never used the term altar server.) It was a time when the Mass was said in Latin and the priest always faced ad orientem. (This actually means “toward the East” but, since so many churches do not have their altars facing east, it also refers to the priest offering the Holy Sacrifice with his back to the people.)

When offering Mass ad orientem the priest has no distractions that are facing him. The congregation behind him is, in effect, present at the Last Supper. The altar boy rings the bells to bring attention to this miraculous moment taking place before our very eyes. The people have just witnessed the most profound mystery of our faith and it all took place in only a few minutes. The reason for this symbolism is profound and beautiful. The sun rises in the East and we are coming out of the darkness to see the sun. The priest, who will stand in the shoes of Christ during the Consecration, is facing the newly-risen sun, ergo, God. At that moment, the priest, upon elevating the consecrated host toward the EAST, is actually Jesus saying to God, “This is MY body which will be given for you.” Then the consecrated wine is also elevated to the Father.

And there we kneel, the faithful, some watching and adoring the Body and Blood of Christ while many others are looking around, fidgeting, checking their watches, yawning, skimming through the church bulletin they should wait to read when they get home, not having a clue as to what is going on at the Mass they are attending. But that’s okay because at least they made it to Mass and are not home “sleeping in.” What has just happened is beyond description and the very answer to life itself. Yet it all presents to many as a grand paradox.

A friend of mine was injured in an accident years ago. He has a pronounced limp and uses a cane. Every week he comes to Sunday Mass and sits in the exact same seat. Every Sunday, without fail, he gets up at the beginning of the Consecration and slowly limps off to the bathroom. He always comes back after the wine is consecrated. He receives Holy Communion and, at a slightly accelerated pace, leaves Church before Communion is even finished being distributed. There are several others who, without fail, come every Sunday and miss the Consecration. They must not have a clue as to what is going on yet there they are, week after week.

Of course we all just had are influx of the C & E Catholics for Christmas. Although not “packed,” my church was definitely crowded. Interestingly, most every person at Mass received Holy Communion. Am I getting paradoxical yet? Is this why we have the phrase “cafeteria Catholics” in our 21st-century Catholic jargon?

Back in 1966, when Pope Benedict XVI was still Joseph Ratzinger, he said,

“Is it actually that important to see the priest in the face or is it not truly healing to think that he is also another Christian like all the others and that he is turning with them towards God and to say with everyone ‘Our Father’?”

Pope Benedict XVI showed his love of ad orientem 50 years ago. On October 12, 2016, (while meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, he reiterated his preferences in a reflection letter published in L’osservatore Romano:

“In the liturgy’s orientation to the East, we see that Christians, together with the Lord, want to progress toward the salvation of creation in its entirety. Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, is at the same time also the “sun” that illumines the world. Faith is also always directed toward the totality of creation. Therefore, Patriarch Bartholomew fulfills an essential aspect of his priestly mission precisely with his commitment to creation.”

© 2017 Larry Peterson

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: February 5, 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Isaiah 58:7-10

Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own kin? Then your light will blaze out like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Saving justice will go ahead of you and Yahweh’s glory come behind you. Then you will cry for help and Yahweh will answer; you will call and he will say, ‘I am here.’ If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist and malicious words, if you deprive yourself for the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkest hour will be like noon.


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


FEBRUARY INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER TO LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS

God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You, and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

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