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How to Use a Mobile Device to Become a Better Catholic

It’s a new year! How can I improve myself? I want to enter the new year with a pure and fresh outlook, as we all do. I want to improve my daily prayer routines to keep myself aligned with God in every day life. I wish I had a rigorous prayer routine that doesn’t rely so much of the predicaments in which I find myself weekly. Daily. OK hourly. But in this culture of technology distraction and multi-tasking, How? I think there’s a way to use the same mobile devices that I use to organize all the rest of my life in today’s technology culture–and use them to become a better Catholic in 2017.

The first test of this tech culture idea came this summer, with some success. In recent years, my daily prayer methods and spiritual routines have gotten away from me. I pray spontaneously, but I no longer pray the way I used to—truth be told, this year I had to make a concerted effort just to attend the same Mass every week.  We had fallen into the poor habit of fitting in Masses at the most convenient times, based on other weekend activities, naptimes & the children’s health, and generally how we feel that day.  We didn’t even attend the same parish every week, and sometimes my husband’s work schedule means he has to attend Mass alone in the evening after the kids’ bedtime.

Theoretically, moms told me, my children might exhibit better behavior when they have the same Sunday routine, and they might ingratiate themselves to the familiar ushers etc. (which might enable the ushers and parishioners to regard my kids with more patience and generosity in the moments when their behavior is less than perfect).

So a weekly, recurring Sunday noon Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Paul was added to our shared “Family” calendar using our iPhones. I carved out the drive time and adjusted to a more structured mindset to attend the Cathedral of Saint Paul’s noon Mass every week. It paid off for the most part, especially in ingratiating my kids with the ushers.

My mobile phone helped quite a bit in this case. It even allowed me to block off “Travel Time” before the Sunday Mass recurring appointment, with the time allotment and directions automatically calculated based on my starting Location. Slick. And it worked: it took only 2 Masses to get myself comfortably in the routine, and because of the calendar block, I was able to avoid other activities that might cause stress.

How else can I use my trusty mobile phone and tablet to keep my spiritual life calm and on track? Here’s what I’ve done, and I’ll check back in a couple months to let you know how it goes.

First, I took a look at the methods I use to organize the rest of my life.  Work calendar, shopping and to-do lists, bills, handyman contacts, and the rest. I am delighted to realize that I can apply the same methods that I use to manage my massive task list at work, to my prayer life.

At the office, I avoid a “reactive” work style by setting a written & visually-illustrated plan: Power Point slides laying out up to 3 high-level goals; a smattering of the best, most realistic high-level strategies to reach each goal; and then specific to-do tactics within each strategy. (I won’t bore you with an example of a marketing plan for legal industry technology marketing).

Then I lay out a timeline of which projects I’ll work on and when; and finally the rubber hits the road. I use Outlook to set reminders & meetings in advance.

This month I’ve given it a try: I set up my mobile phone and tablet to help me keep track of prayers, and help me to act upon my commitments. I should specify that I use an iPad and an iPhone. I’m sure the functions are slightly different on other mobile devices/platforms, but I’m also sure the same functions can be done (perhaps better).

Reminders for prayers and devotions

Reminders for prayers and devotions

  • Reminders: I set up the Reminders for anything that doesn’t take significant time—such as small prayers, little things to improve my relationships.
    • I make it virtually unavoidable for myself by naming each Reminder by the actual prayer text.  I.e., the pop-up doesn’t say “Reminder: Pray for stepkids.” Instead it says “Reminder: Dear God, help me see my stepchildren through your eyes.”
    • Reminders can be customized to recur as you wish, so some of mine pop up daily or monthly.
    • In addition, Reminders can be organized into lists, shared across my phone & tablet, and I can choose to share them with our Family group of people.
    • Reminders can be color coded too! The color choices aren’t numerous, but it helps me enter the prayer optimistically when these things are pretty.
  • Calendar appointments: Anything that takes more than 15 minutes gets a Calendar appointment. We’ve already discussed the Sunday Mass success with our shared Family calendar!
    • Alerts, recurrence, location and drive time can be set too.
    • The location automatically pulls in a map, and if I click into the map, it automatically opens up the Maps app for driving directions.
    • Invitations can be sent to anyone who isn’t already in our Family list. 
  • App masquerade (my fun name for it; “masquerade is not a technical term): Did you know that any web page can masquerade as an App? In the spirit of making things easiest, and placing reminders where I can’t miss them, I skipped the Bookmark function and saved the USCCB’s Daily Readings as an App icon directly onto my Home screen. To do this:
    • Open the webpage that you want to save.
    • Click the Send button
    • One of the options is “Add to Home Screen”
    • Note that occasionally, if the web page changes significantly, you’ll need to resave it.
  • Color themes and background photos: I did consider placing a religious-themed photo as the background of my tablet so I would constantly reminded of something (I could change it as I wish). But to be honest, I thought it might be counter-productive. A reminder of the same thing, all the time, might actually desensitize me. Instead, I opted for a color theme: One of the ways that the Church’s relationship with art comes to life is in color symbolism.  Liturgical colors are not assigned randomly: psychology comes into play as well, as colors elicit emotions. The associations of color and emotion are written into our fabric of humanity. Prior to dedicating my mobile devices to my spiritual improvement, I used to change my background photos to fit the seasons of the earth; I now choose a color theme or photos of certain people to put me in the right frame of mind to make inroads in a certain virtue. For example, if you are struggling with faith, perhaps choose a blue color theme to evoke trust as you go about daily life.
  • Email VIPs and folders/tabs: Some meditations, novenas etc. offer email notifications (see my separate post 6 Ways to Turn your Smartphone into a Sacramental). Here, a shortcut can be created specifically for spiritual activities.  Using a mobile device makes this SO easy!
    • Simply open an email from the sender.
    • Click the little “i” information button. This is for the Apply family of mobile devices (I assume there’s a similar function for other brands).
    • Make the sender a “VIP.” Then, you can go straight to your VIP email folder to see any new emails from those senders.  I like to do this whenever I find myself with a spare minute.

      ipad-lock-screen

      Set my lock screen options for spiritual prayer reminders

  • Lock screen: in my mobile device’s settings (and in some of the individual apps’ settings), I can choose which Alerts are shown on my “lock screen.” This is the black-out screen when my tablet or phone is at rest. I set up my reminders, appointments and any emails from my VIPs to show up on my lock screen.

So there it is!  Reminders, calendar appointments, themes, lock screen VIPs and my “App masquerade.” I’ll check back in a couple months to let you know how it goes. Happy New Year!

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 http://www.mafamily.org/human-sexuality/tell-beth-israel-deaconess-medical-center-to-reinstate-dr-church/7011/ .

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 www.catholicstoremonth.com. …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

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