Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Our Pope-tastic Weekend

The weekend of April 20th, Kevin and I went to New York City with his parents to do a bit of sight-seeing and attend the papal mass at Yankee Stadium. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I think we all received many spiritual graces at and after our time with the Holy Father and nearly 60,000 other Catholics.

During the processional, the choir sang "Tu es Petrus" (You are Peter) which is the following Scripture:

"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I shall give thee the keys to the kingdom."

During this short choral piece, my understanding of the papacy new depth. The papacy and the teaching authority of the Church empowered by the Holy Spirit have enabled the Catholic Church to remain as such for 2000 years. I have known this for a long time, but at that moment, to be in the presence of the Pope and to experience that rich spiritual heritage was very moving. It made me feel truly joyful to be Catholic. And the joy continues!

Here are some pics from the mass:

These flags sporting Vatican colors were flying all around the stadium (instead of the usual MLB flags).

Papa Ben on the Big Screen! We had bleacher seats so our view was of the back of the stage.

The Pope Mobile making its way in front of our seats.

Even though we had far-away bleacher seats, they were right next to the gate where the Pope Mobile entered and exited the field. So, here's our "up-close-and-personal" photo of Il Papa.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Man Candles

Starting to think about a gift for Father's Day or that special guy's birthday?

Look no further than the Mandle.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More Darndest Things...

Here are some more "interesting" things people have said to me recently concerning pregnancy.

"So, has the Titty Fairy come yet?"

"Pregnancy is just one crisis after another."

"Wear your pre-pregnancy clothes while you can because you'll never wear them again. Ever!"

I took the third one to heart, at least in part. I'm wearing all of my faves now!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Il Papa

We're back from NYC, and the papal mass was truly awesome! A very grace-filled time was had by all. I will post pictures soon, though they are not as great as some you may find on the web. Here are a few of photos I found on another blog:

I also want to pass along this quote from said blog. It really summed up my experience:

"...in this one place and time, people in this stadium are bursting forth with a simple, and may I say, very palpable feeling of joy at being Catholic."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Words of Truth

This is an excerpt from Pope Benedict's address to the US Bishops on April 16th:

People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty. People need to be constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The goal of all our pastoral and catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with "Christ Jesus, our hope" (1 Tim 1:1).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Papacy: Grounded in Truth and Holiness or Super-Stardom?

I found two articles on MSN yesterday that assert very different viewpoints about Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States. The first article, "Why This Pope Doesn't Connect," was written by Lisa Miller, a senior editor at Newsweek. She claims that "American Catholics want...to feel something, a catharsis, a connection to their tradition, a sense that their leaders see and hear how difficult it can be to be a Catholic in this imperfect and chaotic world." Miller admits that her statement is a generalization, but is a catharsis, a release of emotional tension, really what American Catholics are really looking for? Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church in America has experienced major confusion. For many clergy and laity, implementing the changes in the Second Vatican Council meant sloughing off what made them "feel" constrained and guilty in liturgy, theological doctrine, and moral action. Miller supports this point by providing the following statistics:

  • 58% of American Catholics believe you can be a "good" Catholic and disregard the Church's teachings on abortion

  • 65% believe you can ignore its position on divorce and remarriage

  • 75% believe you can disregard the ban on birth control

    • Those numbers alone do little to prove the need for a release of emotional tensions, which would characterize such a catharsis. I believe those numbers show that Catholic Americans have distanced themselves from their tradition. Our consumer/utilitarian culture, moral relativism and a lack of catechesis are at least partially to blame for the current crisis of disconnect in America. It is essential for American Catholics to connect with their tradition, as Miller asserts. However, connecting to the tradition of the Catholic Church is more than attending papal ceremonies and experiencing warm fuzzies at the sight of the current pontiff. American Catholics will connect with their Catholic tradition when they make the effort to connect to the teachings of Christ and his Church that remain largely unchanged, even since the Second Vatican Council. They will connect when they practice the tradition of faith handed down by the Apostles. They will connect to the Church upon a conversion of heart, mind, and action; the very thing Pope Benedict longs for and prays for for his entire flock.

      The second article, "How Benedict XVI Will Make History", was written by George Weigel, a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Catholic theologian, and author of John Paul II biography, A Witness to Hope. He purports a different viewpoint on the same man, the same office. Weigel gives an interesting history of America's relationship with popes, beginning with the first Catholic diocese, Baltimore, erected in 1789. "That many Catholics feel a deep personal connection to the pope is another relatively new, and in some respects surprising, phenomenon." In 1963, for the first time, there was a "bond of personal affection" between a pope and the American people when Blessed John XXIII fought and died of stomach cancer. After him, Pope Paul VI was riddled with controversies over worhip, sexual moraltiy and church governance, and John Paul I died after just 33 days in office. Enter John Paul II. For the next 26 years, the world saw and heard the pope as he had never been seen and heard before. He was a gifted speaker, writer, preacher, and friend to all. He became "John Paul Superstar!" His funeral was even touted as "the human event of a generation."

      Needless to say, Pope Benedict XVI follows a tall order. He has not attracted as much media attention, and he is not the public speaker John Paul II was. He requires one "to look closer and deeper to discern the imprint of the shoes of this fisherman."

      Most interesting to me is the juxtaposition between the viewpoints of Miller and Weigel on the most controversial episode of Benedict's Pontificate: his Regensburg lecture on faith and reason at his German alma mater in 2006. Quoting a Byzantine emporer's sharp critique of Islam brought Benedict worldwide criticism, and Miller cites that criticism as a reason for Pope Benedict's defenders to "explain away his impolitic comments." In contrast, Weigel sees that episode as creating a windfall of dialogue and signficant interactions between the Catholic Church and Islam. After the Regensburg lecture, some "significant personalites of Islam took the pope's point about the dangers of faith detached from reason quite seriously." Since the lecture, Benedict received two open letters from Muslim leaders that have resulted in a Catholic-Muslim Forum that will meet twice yearly in Rome and in Amman, Jordan. Benedict has also had influence on Sunni Islam via his relationship with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The two recently began negotiations to build the first Catholic Church in Saudi Arabia.

      But what does all of this matter to Catholics in America? By forging unprecedented bonds with the Catholic Church and the Arab world, the pope is not just acting on the Church's interests in Arab countries. He is setting the stage for a cooperative effort with "a reformed Islam...[that] could be an ally in the struggle against 'the dictatorship of relativism'...an Islam recognizing religious freedom and affirming the separation of religious and political authority would be good for Muslims who want to live in peace with their neighbors and good for the rest of the world. The stakes couldn't be higher." In a country where we can't even bring water through an airport security check, these steps towards a more peaceful, tolerant society for Christians, Muslims, and all peoples are a welcomed endeavor.

      In some Roman circles it is said, "People came to see John Paul II; they come to hear Benedict XVI." Weigel suggests this contrast is too sharp, but it is true that John Paul II was a prolific writer, philosopher and theologian, and some of his more complicated works could make any scholar shake in their boots. However, Weigel asserts that "Joseph Ratzinger is one of the most learned men in the world; he is also a master teacher who can unpack complex Christian doctrines in an accessible way." Benedict's first two encyclicals regarding love and hope, Deus Caritas Est and Spe Salvi, are perfect examples of a teacher who specifically set out to speak to a world beset by fear while reminding it of the Christian message of hope, love, and salvation.

      Though Miller cites a few clergy and professionals who don't appear to take the pope's visit very seriously, there is at least one American who does: President Bush. In fact, the president met the Benedict's plane at Andrews Air Force base. He said this unprecedented greeting was due to the particular significance of the pope. In an interview with EWTN, the president said, "One, he speaks for millions. Two, he doesn't come as a politician; he comes as a man of faith; and Three, I so subscribe to his notion that there’s right and wrong in life, that moral relativism undermines the capacity to have hopeful and free societies. I want to honor his convictions, as well.”

      Regardless of whether Benedict has "done little" to appeal to American Catholics by Miller's estimation, he is still, by virtue of his office and as evidenced by his tireless commitment to the Truth, the "Servant of the Servants of God." (Gregory the Great) I think the last few lines of Weigel's article speak the impact of Pope Benedict on the world and the United States:

      "Popes matter in ways that challenge our conventional thinking about the way the world works. Popes no longer claim the power to bring penitent princes to their knees in the snow...the modern papcy deploys a greater power, the power to propose, persuade, religiously and morally. Popes matter by changing lives and changing history."

      Sunday, April 13, 2008

      Kevin and Buck...They're tight.

      So most people know that chocolate is not good for dogs. Kevin is one of the "most people," but decided to let Buck lick fudgy chocolate frosting off his spoon anyway. I told him not to let the dog lick the nasty doggy poison, but Kevin's a softy and replied, "He likes it!"

      Kevin didn't give Buck the chance to lick all of the frosting off the spoon, and you can't leave perfectly tasty chocolate frosting on a spoon, right? I know I would if it was covered in Buck slime. But Kevin, being the sweet-tooth that he is, couldn't resist the delectable frosting still stuck to the spoon. With almost no hesitation, he too licked the spoon--slime, chocolate and all.

      His only comment post-chocolate-slime? "Ha ha...that was kinda gross."


      Wednesday, April 9, 2008

      People Say the Darndest Things...

      ...when you're expecting. Here's the beginning of my running list of funny and "interesting" comments/questions concerning our baby.

      • To me over email..."So, have you gained any weight lately? :) Don't worry. It's just baby fat."

      • To Kevin..."You'll be Daddy to more than just Buck* now!"

      • To me when I told a friend I had a "rough" morning..."So the baby sent the food back to the kitchen!"

      *Buck is our dog.

      Saturday, April 5, 2008

      Zoni Beach and Tortola Beach-Culebra, PR

      This will be the last installment of "Kevin and Andrea Go to Culebra." I have been ridiculously slow in posting the pics and info, but I think this last one will be worth it.

      Zoni beach is on the northeast side of Culebra. You can bike or walk anywhere on Culebra, but I think this one is best reached via car. It's a winding, hilly road!

      Here's some views of the beach and the surf at Zoni, as well as my very sun-burnt feet!

      If you walk west, all the way to the end of the beach, there are amazing sculptures made of palms, coconuts, corals, and other materials.

      On our second trip to Zoni, we walked beyond the sculptures, around the rocky crag to another, even more isolated beach, Tortolo. It's a very small beach with some heavy surf. Beauteous!

      If you love to hike, snorkel, explore and relax, check out Culebra, PR for a truly authentic Caribbean experience.

      Thursday, April 3, 2008


      I realize that I'm not the most consistent blogstress, but I thought I'd fill you in on one reason my posts have been less than frequent as of late. Kevin and I are expecting our first baby!! While the news is oh-so-exciting, the early consequences of pregnancy are not. Exhaustion, nausea, moodiness... I'm in bed before 9pm nearly every night. Kevin is amazed at all the free/alone time he has in the evenings!

      Pregnancy is an amazing blessing and a challenging adventure. I had an ultrasound last week, and it was such a God-send. To see the little one moving around and looking like a baby was awesome. I really needed to see that, since it is so easy for me to get caught up in the symptoms. I forget that there is a little person inside of me!

      In regard to the first trimester symptoms, I think I'm turning a corner. It's easier to get up in the morning, and the thought of chicken is not as vomitous as it used to be. Soon, I'll have to hit the mall for some chic maternity wear.

      I have some good updates and still more info on our fab Puerto Rico trip to share (a month later!). Here's hoping I get that up soon.

      St. Gianna

      St. Gerard

      Pray for Us!