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Three ways to keep all the kids involved, including the child in heaven

Yesterday it happened: I dropped a penny on the ground, and somehow I found myself in a conversation with my four-year-old about Philomena, who is I guess his “big” sister from my earlier miscarriage. I realized that I need to be more deliberate about involving my child in heaven in our continuing lives on earth.

This isn’t my son’s first encounter with the idea that people will die; my boy has had a rather soft and easy introduction to death—almost as if there’s nothing bothersome about it. Since it’s fruitless to evaluate whether or not that was best, I don’t let myself dwell on it.  As it is, he heard about death first when we had a week of annoying fruit flies in the kitchen, and I unthinkingly used the word “kill.” Then, he came home from one of his first weeks at pre-K 3 telling me the story of St. Andrew who went to meet Jesus.  To put the nail in the coffin, one day he overheard me and my mother confirming that my parents will not permanently move out of state until after the death of my grandmother, because they want to have some time with her during their retirement.

“Why will Grammy die?” called my little guy from the next room. Oops.

That certainly did hit closer to home than his prior impressions of death; he loves his great-grandmother. Both of his living great-grandmothers.  But even so, death has always been positioned in a kind way for him. I don’t know that he grasped the real sadness surrounding it until he learned that he has another sister.  He was so curious about her, and very, very sad and confused that he doesn’t know her.  I think he even felt upset with me, that I didn’t tell him about Philomena earlier. I’ll have to give him the chance to talk to me about that.

As usual, he’s right—she is a part of our family. I should have carved out a role for her with all of the siblings long before now.  A role more visible than thinking about her when I find a penny or see a picture of a cherub.  Starting today, we have added Philomena to our bedtime prayers—in a different capacity of course, because she doesn’t need God’s help on earth.  Here’s what I know we can do:

1. Make it personal: what do I know about my oldest-but-littlest baby? Not much, but I can feel that she is a joyous soul. When we have grumpy mornings or someone in the house is feeling negative, we’ll ask her to bring joy to our home.

2. Keep pro-life activity going, to show my children that life is always precious. I don’t want this to be an issue that comes up when they’re in middle school in a political discussion, they way it did for me. I want it to be obvious, something that they experience and therefore KNOW long before they are challenged by politics. I’m not huge on rallies because I feel too much anger in the air (even if it is peaceful). Instead we’ll be making small donations of baby items from time to time in her memory, letting the kids know what’s happening and that these items are being given to a mom who is having trouble finding a way to keep her baby.

3. Praying for the dead is the seventh Spiritual Work of Mercy. Our child went straight to heaven – with no opportunity to commit a sin, ever! But whom is she waiting for in heaven? But obviously many souls who need to cleanse in purgatory on their way to heaven are simply forgotten. My kids can help their sister have even more friends and family in heaven by praying that they get there soon.

Do you have more ideas on how to involve a lost child in family life?


-Michelle Gracia


Understanding the Moral Value of Money

Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to build somewhat of a Financial Guide that I’ve shared with family members–one version for families and one for single ladies. I share the opening chapter of it here, relating the fundamental concept of money and its place in the moral fabric of society.

My father recently reminded me that I haven’t posted in a while. Too true!  Like many people I’ve been tied up in the mundane things of being a parent. But those mundane responsibilities of parenting are truly a blessing.  In a lot of ways I’ve never been happier to help solve scheduling conflicts or prioritize too-busy schedules.  Were we all as “stressed” growing up as youth are today?  I remember being busy, but I don’t recall feeling pressured and worried about it.  Perhaps my parents would tell a different story?

At any rate, here’s my opening piece…

Understanding the moral value of money

  1. On a universal level, money is part of God’s system for human life: it was invented when human beings first began living in communities with more than one family. Then, just as now, money established a consistent way of exchanging objects or services fairly.
  2. On an individual level, money is a tool. It is neither inherently good nor inherently evil; your use of it is good or evil.
  3. Money is intended to be a tool for maintaining peace. Using money properly, we can interact fairly as people, which in turns helps us interact peacefully.
  4. Related, money is not necessarily an individual blessing. Be wary of agreeing when people say “I’ve been blessed,” when they talk about having things/opportunities/financial stability. It never sat right with me, yet I heard it almost every day when I lived among a society very genuine Christians. The truth: Money, or even financial stability, is not a sign of God’s love. God’s method of guiding one person’s life may involve money, and His methods may involve poverty for another. It’s true that God gives more to some people and less to others; this is not a quantitfication of His love, it’s a reflection of how He thinks you’ll best learn.
  5. Recognize the correct role of God in your finances. Remember that both math and money are part of the Order that God has established for human life. It has a purpose. God is not likely to break His own rules, even to finance good things.

-Michelle Gracia

Why Didn’t God Make Me Funny? and Two People Who Actually Are

I’ve been trying to find a way to write about how to handle it when someone you love is doing something you think is hurtful and wrong…without sounding preachy.  I give up; I’ll discuss something else.

The Toastmasters Club at my office recently presented a competition on comedic speeches.  I was thinking of joining Toastmasters until this came along!  Wow, I am not funny.  The only person who laughs at my humor is my middle stepdaughter, God bless her, who has the same situational humor.  If you’ve never heard of “situational humor,” it’s because I made it up to console myself.

God must have a sense of humor, since so many people do.  All good things are a part of Him. if you haven’t discovered these comedy sources, they will surely brighten your day:

We non-humorists must have something to make up for it.  An uncanny knack for remembering the most annoying facts at the most inopportune time!  No?

Truly, how about those of us who can only receive humor?  Perhaps being able to laugh at someone else’s joke (though never come up with one of my own) is akin to someone’s ability to appreciate art (though you can barely draw a stick figure). Every form of art needs someone to receive it on the other end!


The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide News and Notes for Catholics

discovering god togetherDiscovering God Together by psychotherapists Gregory and Lisa Popcak is a guide to raising faithful children for Catholic parents….Anthony Esolen’s latest from ISI is Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child….Dr. Brant Pitre gives us a biblical perspective for understanding the mystery of the Eucharist in Lectio: Eucharist: Discovering the Mass in the Bible, a 5-DVD set from the Augustine Institute….Bishop-elect Robert Barron’s latest book is Exploring Catholic Theology: Essays on God, Liturgy, and Evangelization….The Massachusetts Family Institute reports that Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center is threatening to revoke Dr. Paul Church’s ability to practice medicine at the hospital because he has spoken out about the “risks of homosexuality” and voiced “his religious and moral beliefs,” says the the Institute’s website. And, it further notes that, “In contrast, MIDMC staff were allowed to aggressively proselytize for employee participation at the Boston ‘gay pride’ parade.” For information on how to show your support for Dr. Church go to .

Maureen Williamson

The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide News and Notes for Catholics

No one has even accused the mainstream publishing industry of being conservative or, indeed, Catholic, or even broadly Christian, so it comes as no surprise that Penguin Books for Young Readers and Listening Library, both part of Penguin Random House, have launched a joint campaign to highlight recommended LGBTQ books for children and teens….First Things is planning what they call an “Intellectual Retreat” August 7-9 in New York.  The subject is the concept of Seven Deadly Sinsfreedom….July is Catholic Store Month.  Designed to help “Catholic stores compete in the wider retail marketplace” according to Ignatius Press Marketing Director Anthony Ryan, the participating stores will have in-store promotions for customers.  For more information go to …Dr. Kevin Vost, author of The One-Minute Aquinas, has a new book from Sophia, Nota Bene: The Seven Deadly Sins….Good piece by William Kilpatrick in Catholic World Report on political correctness using the Bruce Jenner situation as his jumping off point.  “In totalitarian societies,” writes Mr. Kilpatrick, “everyone is expected to play along with the lie. The increasingly totalitarian nature of our own society can be gauged by the number of official lies the citizenry is obliged to consent to.”  And further: “Just as the anything-goes Weimar Republic was unable to resist Nazism and was, in fact, prelude to it, our own self-obsessed society will likely pave the way for its own abolishment.”…A Short Guide to Praying As a Family was compiled by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation.  It includes illustrations and a Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

Maureen Williamson


Same-sex “marriage” is, in the words of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, “a tragic error”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said it as well as anyone when he said that the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex “marriage”,  “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us.”

“Marriage is a natural institution with a meaning that precedes both state and religion.  From the beginning, the sexual complementarity of men and women is the basis of a unique communion that expresses something of the image and likeness of God who is a Triune communion of Persons.  We further believe that Christ raised marriage between a baptized woman and man to be a sacrament, an efficacious sign of and participation in the very mystery of Christ and the Church,” the Archbishop further told Our Sunday Visitor.

Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent said that the majority in the decision “discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a ‘fundamental right’ overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.”  Even Brian Beutler of the New Republic, who is in favor of the ruling, wrote in that liberal publication, that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s was “a muddled, unconvincing opinion.”

Regardless, same-sex “marriage” is now allowed in all 50 states.  Such a thing was inconceivable even 25 years ago.  Let us hope that when Pope Francis comes to the United States in a couple of months and meets with President Obama and addresses Congress and the United Nations that he does not forget to remind all that, as I said in my last blog, sodomy is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance.

Maureen Williamson

The Pope Should Take Note of What Catholics Really Do Need to Be Reminded

As you may have noticed, I’ve been doing more reviews of children’s books and more news blogs lately.  I’ve just felt that I – and my readers – needed a rest from the depressing issues of the day which, more and more, end up being resolved in ways diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching.

But I guess it’s time to make a comment or two about a what is happening in the world beginning with the Pope’s encyclical.

Whether one agrees or disagrees that global warming is a fact is not a matter of faith and morals.  Therefore in a world where the Church must fight against abortion and same-sex “marriage”, which are matters of faith and morals, why make the environment the focus of an encyclical?  I doubt whether there is any Catholic, either conservative or liberal, who doesn’t have a healthy respect for God’s gift of this earth to us.  Beyond saying that, the Pope should stay out of the controversy.

On the other hand, the United States Supreme Court is likely to rule shortly in favor of the “right” of same-sex marriage.  Supposedly-Catholic Ireland just voted in favor of it.  This is an issue on which there is no theological argument.  Sodomy is one of the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.

Perhaps Pope Francis should issue an encyclical or, even a major statement, reiterating this in no uncertain terms.  Many Catholics need to be reminded.

Maureen Williamson

An Ageless Story for Children

little house

I discovered a new – for me anyway – children’s book today.  I don’t ever remember that we had The Little House written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton when I was a child and I don’t remember coming across it either when I scouted children’s books for the Conservative Book Club or when I edited Homeschooling Today, which is too bad because it is a delight.  Not to mention a story with a point as relevant today as it was over 70 years ago when it was first published and won the prestigious Caldecott Medal.

“Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country,” begins our tale.

“This Little House shall never be sold for gold or silver and she will live to see our great-great-grandchildren’s great-great-grandchildren living in her,” proclaimed the man who built her.

We witness with both words and pictures the idyllic country life day and night, season by season of the Little House. Then little by little things change.  First it is horseless carriages, then a new road, then houses and buildings and stores.  Soon the Little House is surrounded by a city.  “Now she couldn’t tell when Spring came, or Summer or Fall or Winter.”

The story of how things change with more and more urbanization isn’t a new or original one; but for most children it is a foreign one.  The Little House helps them understand the beauty and simplicity of country living and how city living differs.

The Little House has a happy ending – hooray!  Three years ago the publisher brought out a 70th anniversary edition which includes a new introduction by Virginia Lee Burton’s son, noted sculptor Aris Demetrios, and a bonus audio CD of the story (which I have not heard).

This is an ageless story with wonderful text and illustrations.

Maureen Williamson





The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide News and Notes for Catholics

what do you really wantIgnatius Press and Magnificat have three new titles in their Catholic children’s line:  Let’s Pray the Rosary, A Missal for Little Ones, and Catholic Saints for Children…Wyoming Catholic College has announced that it will not participate in federal student loan and grant programs.  “By abstaining from federal funding programs, we will safeguard our mission from unwarranted federal involvement – an involvement increasingly at odds with our Catholic beliefs, the content of our curriculum, and our institutional practices,” said college president, Kevin Roberts….Father Robert Barron’s latest is a commentary on 2 Samuel, part of the Brazos Theological Commentary series….Tan Books is now the exclusive publisher for the American Chesterton Society.…In What Do You Really Want?  St. Ignatius Loyola and the Art of Discernment author Jim Manney shows the faithful how to separate what’s imperative in life from what’s irrelevant or distracting.

Maureen Williamson

For Your Children: A story about a family that is a wonderful example for us all

sarah and simon

David R. Godine is a small publisher founded in 1970 which, unlike many publishers today, has remained independent.  A few years ago a children’s bookseller recommended Edward Ardizzone’s Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint, first published in 1965, to one of their editors.   If it is not in print, “please do all you can to publish it,” the bookseller urged.  Luckily for us, Godine has done so – something I doubt a large publisher that is part of a conglomerate would have done.

Edward Ardizzone is both author and illustrator of Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint as well as many other children’s books.  Although born in Vietnam in 1900, he spent most of his life in England.  In 1956 he was awarded the first Kate Greenaway Award for the year’s most distinguished work in book illustration.

Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint was first published in 1965 and tells the story of two children and their family including their struggling artist father.   The family is poor; but Sarah and Simon’s father is painting “a big picture which he called his masterpiece.”

“Somebody will be sure to buy it for lots of money,” he tells his wife when they are in great need of money.

The portrayal of this poor; but happy and loving family is most attractive.  The descriptions and stylish duotone pictures capture a bygone era when the family was the center of society and when even young children did their part.  The two children in the title are especially likable and their efforts to help their parents form a major part of a plot that is sure to appeal to children.  There is a predictably happy ending, of course.

I recommend adding Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint to your children’s library.

Maureen Williamson

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