Monday, December 8, 2014

The Immaculate Conception

Have a great Advent.  Don't forget today is a Holy Day of Obligation--The Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  All practicing Catholics should be going to Mass today.  God bless.

Here is a copy of the article I wrote for the Cathapol blog for the series on what Catholics believe: The Immaculate Conception.  I thought it appropriate to publish today.

"We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."   [Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (or Apostolic Constitution on the Immaculate Conception)]
While the Immaculate Conception is a Catholic Dogma, most people, Catholic and non-Catholic, have no idea what it means.  For someone who has studied Catholic theology, the above statement is a pretty good description of the dogma.  Mary was given special grace because of her Son.  I really like the way Bishop Venerable Fulton Sheen said:
“Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting....Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed of her? Or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes; the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?

"Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother?... Do you think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?"  [Quote from here.  Likely from Venerable Fulton Sheen's book Mary, the Woman the World Loves, the blog does not cite the source]
This is the special gift God gave to Mary.  He created her as the perfect specimen of a woman and mother.  Mary was created as the person He meant Adam and Eve to be, but they disappointed Him.  Mary would be the pride in contrast to His disappointment.

To hopefully make it a little easier to understand here are ten facts on the Immaculate Conception:

1)  The Immaculate Conception refers to the special grace given by God to Mary at her conception.  It does not refer to the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ.  However, this grace was given to her because of and for her Son, Jesus Christ.

2) The Church does not teach that Mary's Immaculate Conception was necessary to ensure that Original sin would not be passed on to Christ.  This was never a part of the teaching on the Immaculate Conception (despite what some sites on the internet purporting to explain the Immaculate Conception).  The Immaculate Conception was an unmerited gift given to Mary in anticipation of Jesus' redemption of man and God's knowledge of Mary's "yes" to His plan. 

In the Immaculate Conception, therefore, God made a fitting or suitable dwelling place for His Son, Jesus, not out of necessity but out of love.
For it was certainly not fitting that this vessel of election should be wounded by the common injuries, since she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin.  In fact, it was quite fitting that, as the Only-Begotten has a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol as thrice holy, so he should have a Mother on earth who would never be without the splendor of holiness. (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus)

3) Gabriel addressed Mary: "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee." (Luke 1:28).  She was filled with grace.  In Catholic parlance, this means that Mary was filled up with God's very life.  If she is filled with God's life or the Holy Spirit, there was no room for sin of any kind.

4) Mary's Immaculate Conception does not mean that she was divinely conceived.  St. Anna and St. Joachim are, traditionally, the names of Mary's parents; her conception was a human one.  She was, however, untouched by Original Sin.  Therefore, Mary remained sinless.

5) The Immaculate Conception is symbolic of the Immaculate bride of Christ (His Church) awaiting her Bridegroom.

"...the faithful, living in the liturgy the spirit of Advent, by thinking about the inexpressible love with which the Virgin Mother awaited her Son, are invited to take her as a model and to prepare themselves to meet the Savior who is to come. They must be "vigilant in prayer and joyful in...praise."(15) We would also remark that the Advent liturgy, by linking the awaiting of the Messiah and the awaiting of the glorious return of Christ with the admirable commemoration of His Mother, presents a happy balance in worship. This balance can be taken as a norm for preventing any tendency (as has happened at times in certain forms of popular piety) to separate devotion to the Blessed Virgin from its necessary point of reference-Christ."  [Marialus Cultus, 4]

6) The Immaculate Mary was prefigured by immaculate Eve.  Eve was created immaculate--without Original Sin.  Mary was conceived without sin.  Eve fell from grace and brought sin into the world.  Mary remained "Full of grace" and brought salvation, her Son Jesus Christ, to the world.
"As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvaton for herself and for the whole human race." Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert..."The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith." Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."  (CCC 494)
So, Mary is called the new Eve and the mother of us all because her Son would be the new Adam and save the world from the sin of Adam.

7) Mary is the Immaculate Ark (and queen) seen in John's vision.  "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant could be seen in the temple." (Revelation 11:19)

The Ark in the Old Testament
The New Ark -- Mary
Immaculate vessel made to God’s specifications (Ex. 25:10-22)
Immaculate vessel conceived to God’s  specifications (Luke 1:28)
Contained the Rod of Aaron (Num. 17:25; Heb. 9:4)
Bore the Rod of Jesse—Jesus (Isa 11:1;
Contained the manna from Heaven (Ex. 16: 32-33; Heb. 9:4)
Bore the manna from heaven (John 6:32, 48-51, 58)
Contained the Ten Commandments made of stone (Ex. 25: 21; Heb. 9:4)
Bore the Law made flesh (John 1:1-5)
Watched over by angels (Ex. 25:18-20)
Watched over by angels (Luke 1:26)
Covered by the Holy Spirit (Ex. 40:34-38;  Num. 9: 18-23)
Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35)
Used in the battle (Josh. 6:3,4)
Used in the heavenly battle (Rev. 11:19)

8) The original "Immaculate Conception", the Holy Spirit, is her heavenly Spouse.  Joseph became her worldly spouse and protector on earth.
 "Among creatures made in God's image, the union brought about by married love is the most intimate of all. In a much more precise, more interior, more essential manner, the Holy Spirit lives in the soul of the Immaculata, in the depths of her very being." (St. Maximilian Kolbe, Final Sketch, source)
"...the Holy Spirit manifests his share in the work of Redemption through the Immaculate Virgin who, although she is a person entirely distinct from him, is so intimately associated with him that our minds cannot understand it. So, while their union is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary's action is the very action of the Holy Spirit. For Mary as the spouse of the Holy Spirit is raised to such a height of perfection above all other creatures that she accomplishes in everything the will of the Holy Spirit who dwelt in her from the first instant of her conception. " (St. Maximilian Kolbe, Final Sketch, source)

9) The most well known Protestant "reformer", Martin Luther, believed in Mary's Immaculate Conception.  Even after he split from the Church and many of her centuries old doctrines, he did not waiver on this one:
"... so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin ... And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin." (Martin Luther's Works, vol 4, pg 694)

"God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, " (ibid. vol 52, pg 39)
". . . she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. . . . God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. . . . God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her." (Ref: Luther's Works, American edition, vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968)  [Source of quotes here]
10) The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8th.  It is a holy day of obligation.  This means that it is the duty of every Catholic to attend Mass on that day.  We remember what Christ did for His mother and how His mother was a willing participant in God's plan of salvation.  In this way, we honor Christ through Mary. 

“Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had the infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideas. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself? Would you have made her of such a type that would make you blush because of her unwomanly and un-mother-like actions? Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed of her? Or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes; the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?
Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother? If you who hate selfishness would have made her selfless and you who hate ugliness would have made her beautiful, do you not think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?”
- See more at:
“Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had the infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideas. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself? Would you have made her of such a type that would make you blush because of her unwomanly and un-mother-like actions? Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed of her? Or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes; the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?
Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother? If you who hate selfishness would have made her selfless and you who hate ugliness would have made her beautiful, do you not think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?”
- See more at:
More reading:
Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854.
Pope Saint John Paul II, Marialis Cultus, February 2, 1972.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent--Happy New Year to the Church

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.  This marks the first day of the Church's liturgical year.  It is both exciting and a little terrifying.  It is a wonderful, joyful time of the year in anticipation of Christ's coming (and coming again).  However, it means that once again I am way behind the eight ball in planning for Christmas.  But, I always have a good time this time of the year because of my five kids.  They are really the joys of my life.

We mark each Sunday before Christmas with a candle.  The color purple symbolizes prayer, penance, and doing good works in the time of preparation. Pink or Rose is for Gaudette (or joyful) Sunday.  Two weeks of Advent are already complete and Christ's arrival is imminent.  The evergreen wreath is a symbol of everlasting life (the evergreen boughs) and eternity (the circle).

This week's readings:

You, Lord, are our Father,
our redeemer You are named forever.
Why do You let us wander, O Lord, from Your ways
and harden our hearts so that we fear You not?
Return for the sake of Your servants,
the tribes of Your heritage.
Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before You,
while You wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but You
doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
Would that You might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of You in our ways!
Behold, You are angry, and we are sinful
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags,
we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
There is none who calls upon Your Name,
who rouses himself to cling to You,
for You have hidden Your face from us
and have delivered us up in our guilt.
Yet, O Lord, You are our Father'
we are the clay and You the Potter:
we are all the work of Your hands.
(Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)

Lord, make us turn to You; let us see Your face and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
From Your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse Your power, and come to save us.

Lord, make us turn to You; let us see Your face and we shall be saved.

Once again, O Lord of Hosts,
look down from heaven and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what Your right hand has planted,
the son of man whom You Yourself made strong.

Lord, make us turn to You; let us see Your face and we shall be saved.

May your help be with the man of Your right hand,
with the son of man whom You Yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from You;
give us new life, and we will call upon Your Name.

Lord, make us turn to You; let us see Your face and we shall be saved.
(Psalm 80:2-3; 15-16, 18-19)

Brothers and Sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always on Your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in Him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(I Corinthians 1:3-9)

Jesus said to His disciples:  "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.

"Watch, therefore, you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all:  Watch!"
(Mark 13:33-37)

May the Lord find us waiting and watching.  God bless you all at Advent.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween is a Catholic Holiday

All Hallow's Eve, now called Halloween, is the eve of All Saints' Day, a day formerly a holy day of obligation.  Like all holy days the eve or vigil Mass became a celebration in itself.  So, Halloween grew into parties and celebrations, and eventually trick or treating, bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving, and lots of punch and candy.  Halloween was never a pagan holiday.  Though the trappings are there, the costumes, the tricks, the candy, the haunted houses are just that--trappings.  They are mostly harmless and make fun of things we think we should be scared of.  However, it really is supposed to be a celebration of the lives of the saints.  Don't let any overly sensitive "Christian" or delusional pseudo-pagan talk you or your kids out of having fun.  Play with your kids, dress up like a kid, have fun like a kid--just for one night enjoy and celebrate.

Further reading and ideas:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Anti-Catholic Political Ads are Back in Style

In Washington state, the state I hesitate to say is where I was born and lived in until I was 24, the elections are being tainted by anti-Catholic bigotry.

I don't know anything about Mark Miloscia or his politics.  Obviously, from the above he must be Catholic.  But really, "he has best represented the people of The Vatican."  What is this the 17th century, when Catholics were not only not welcome in the Colonies but were actively blocked from participating in any type of politics and had few rights under the "law?."  Is this the 18th century, when the only state were there was actual freedom of religion-Maryland, which was founded by Catholics-was taken over by protestants and it became illegal to practice Catholicism in the open?  Is this the 19th, were Irish Catholic immigrants were indentured servants with no rights and no freedoms as citizens?  Is it the 20th century where the public was told a Catholic candidate (including John F. Kennedy) would mean the U.S.A. would become a vassal of the Vatican?  To think that our country had not evolved past such prejudices is almost unthinkable and bodes no good for the future of our country.

The website listed at the top of the cartoon goes to a webpage that lists all of Mr. Miloscia's "sins."  From what I can gather from this list, Mr. Miloscia voted his conscience.  For instance, he voted against forcing Catholic Charities to pay for voluntary abortions and forcing all insurance carriers to cover contraception.  He voted against same sex "marriage" and "domestic partner" "rights".  He voted for a tax on adult entertainment materials which the web page author calls a "sin tax" on "playboys and marital aids."  He voted against the "Death with Dignity Act" (which unfortunately passed) which gives terminally ill and elderly people the right to "choose their time of death" in other words, giving people the right to kill themselves if they are suffering.  All of these issues are morally repugnant and against Catholic teaching.  Instead of berating him for voting "Catholic" they should be applauding him for voting his conscience.  After all, that is what the other side says there doing.

The irony is that Mr. Miloscia was a Democrat but left the party over these very issues.   He became a Republican candidate to put forward a more conservative agenda than the Democrats are willing to hear.  Washington state has become a liberal bastion and an embarrassment to all moral thinking and acting voters.  If I still lived in Washington state, I'd feel very ashamed at this campaign.  Portraying a Catholic as a nut case and a vassal of the Vatican because he votes his conscience is barbaric and the epitome of the smear campaign.  None of the things listed in the anti-Catholic smear ad seem to be "sins" at all, let alone deal breakers as far as a politician should be concerned.  I pray that Mark Miloscia stands his ground and votes his conscience despite the smear campaign, despite pressure, and despite election.

Also ironic are all the inconsistencies on the website.  The website says that Miloscia voted against forcing pharmacies to provide emergency contraceptives, voted against forcing employers to carry insurance for contraception and abortions but then accuses him of lobbying for large pharmaceutical companies, because of campaign contributions.  Says he "lobbies for the Vatican" yet sets up a page pitting his alleged record against out-of-context quotes by the pope which appear to oppose Miloscia stand on the pet legislation.

Go here to read Miloscia's side of the campaign.

While Catholics are only about 7% of the population in the state in which I now reside, at least this type of campaign hasn't happened here--yet.  However, much of the nation saw the "Black Mass" debacle in Oklahoma City on the news.  At least only 42 people (reportedly) attended the performance (in an 80 seat auditorium)  that was pointedly done to ridicule a true Mass and the Catholic Church.  Our Archbishop stood up for Christ and got an legal injunction for the return of the supposedly blessed Host that was to be used that night.
One of the few prejudices that are still politically okay--Catholic bashing. But while I can understand why people who hold completely morally opposite views might attack a candidate like Mr. Miloscia, I don't understand why other Christians wouldn't speak out.   Catholic entities such as Catholic Charities and abbeys that refuse to pay for contraception and abortions on moral grounds are being attacked.  Many other Christian organizations don't believe that affects them.  How about the pastors in Texas?  Does the fact that the new, openly gay attorney general is ordering pastors, under threat of criminal prosecution, to turn over copies of all sermons that speak out against homosexuals in general or her in particular get anyone's attention?  Our country is slowly but surely turning into a country that no longer believes in freedom of religion or a right of any Christian to have his beliefs affect his public life and decisions.

[Note: The above cartoon, although it can be found elsewhere online, has been taken off the original website by the anonymous author at the request of the Democratic opposition]


This article is strictly the opinion of the post author--Cathmom5.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Syncretism and other nonsense.

We have a very interesting non-Catholic who has been commenting on Catholic Debate Forum accusing the Church of pagan roots. 

First, he said that the Church got its practice of eating fish on Friday from pagans who ate fish on Friday in honor of Freya.  Freya was a Scandinavian goddess that was never an influence on Christianity or its customs.  Beside the fact that the Scandinavian peoples ate fish on a regular basis, not just on Friday.  He also mentioned a couple of other gods who were supposedly honored by fish consumption.  Even if that were true, what has that to do with the Christian practice of eating fish on Fridays?  Nothing whatsoever.

The practice of the Catholic Church is to not eat meat on Fridays.  The Church observed this custom from early in its existence (its founding by Christ in the first century).  It is a custom in consideration of the poor.  The poor could rarely afford to eat meat.  European poor often ate bread, porridge, and vegetables on a regular basis.  If they were fortunate, they lived near rivers, the Mediterranean or other seas in which obtaining fish only cost time and ingenuity.

Fish became a customary alternative to meat not only because the poor usually ate fish, when they could afford it (usually much more often than they could afford meat), but fish was not considered to be meat.  Fish are cold blooded and that in itself made people think that their flesh was not the same as meat.

Another point about eating fish is that Jesus called His followers to be "fishers of men." Jesus chose Peter and Andrew, James and John to be apostles.  Both sets of brothers were fishermen by trade.  Thus, His call to be "fishers of men" was not lost on them.

And, the early church used the fish rather than the cross as a secret code that they were Christians.  The illustration above shows how the word fish in Greek can, ironically, be used as an acronym for Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.  The early Christians saw this as an affirmation of their faith in Christ.

Colors of Mardi Gras
This silly person then tried again to link Catholicism with paganism by saying that "carnival/Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday" was another syncretism (which he erroneously considers the custom of eating fish on Friday to be) to make it "easier to join the Church."  It is quite obvious to anyone who actually knows anything about history that Mardi Gras comes from the Church's practice to rid their houses of any luxury food items such as meat, fats, sugar, eggs, milk, etc. the day before (thus fat Tuesday which is what mardi gras means in French, by the way) Ash Wednesday.  Thus, it was called Mardi Gras in French or Fat Tuesday in English, because they would consume all these items on that day.  It was the practice of many parts of the Church until modern times to not eat these items, including meat, for the entire 40 days of Lent.  They would then have a grand celebration on Easter Sunday with any of the items they could afford from which they had abstained during Lent.

Carnival actually comes from the Latin carne vale which is roughly translated "farewell to flesh" also has its roots in the Church celebration before Lent.  It is not a pagan custom adapted to Christian practice; it is quite the opposite.  The Christian practice was adapted and customized by the cultures (such as Rome) around the Church.  In Rio, carnivale has become a huge party with drinking and costumes.  Mardi Gras in New Orleans came there by the French and Spanish Catholics who settled there (also where the cajun language came from).  These customs has been taken too far in some places  and seriously misrepresent the Church's intent before the celebration of the holy days of Lent.  The roots of the celebration, wherever it is, came from the Church, not the other way around. The accusation that these customs have their roots in paganism or that the Church is pagan comes from ignorant anti-Catholics from the 19th century on that attempted and still attempt to discredit Christ's Church.

Even if this (mardi gras or eating fish) were syncretisms to "make it easier to join the Church" what would be the harm in that?  We should make it easy for those seeking the truth to embrace and love the Lord through the Church He Himself established.  We welcome one and all--the sinner as well as the saint.  Christ said that the physician is called to heal the sick.  What better nurse to the Great Physician than His Church?

By the way, the traditional colors of Mardi Gras represent justice (purple), faith (green), and power (gold).  Very Christian indeed.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Son and The Music Man

Lately, life has been extremely busy and stressful.  I've had a few anxiety attacks in the last couple of weeks.  What with the doctor's appointments, the start of school, being buried under mounds of stuff, and trying to keep up with dance classes, boy and cub scouting, CAP, CWV, Kof C, etc., etc., etc., the stress is culminating in lack of sleep, stomach aches, forgetfulness, and higher blood pressure.

Tonight, however, I had a pleasant evening with my 15 year old son.  He wants to be an actor.  He is presently in competitive acting class at school, although he's already learned an adult lesson--sometimes even what you enjoy can become work.  He doesn't enjoy competitive drama as much as he loved his drama one class last year.  It was more like playing last year.  It is more like work this.  So, when my girlfriend couldn't go to the theater with me this evening, I took my son. 

Patrick Cassidy and Shirley Jones in The Music Man in Concert
What an enjoyable experience.  My son is a genuinely fun person to be around.  He is witty and fun, kind and good-natured.  We went to see The Music Man in Concert.  It stars Shirley Jones and her son, Patrick Cassidy.  If anyone reading this loves musical theater or movies and this comes to your town, go see it! 

My son had never been to the Oklahoma City Civic Center before.  He took in the experience like a true aspiring actor.  He studied the theater.  He enjoyed getting a treat (and sneaking it into the theater).  He enjoyed the wonderful seats we had.  Having grown up on musicals and being the same age as Patrick Cassidy, I had a whole different perspective on the concert.  But, my son's fresh eyes on The Music Man (he'd seen Matthew Broderick's movie version), enjoyed the songs very much.  His favorite song from the musical is Shapoopi.  What teenage boy's wouldn't be?  What teenage boy nowadays knows that song?  Sometimes having older parents can be an advantage.

Musical theater doesn't have the same impact it once had, but it sure can make for a nice break in a stressful world.  And, give a too-busy mom an opportunity to slow down and enjoy being with her son.  God has truly blessed me.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Lately, I've been thinking about a friend of mine with whom I had a slight falling out.  I've known her since the fourth grade, but her family moved when we were in high school.  So, we've been in contact over the last 30 years or so through mail, phone calls, and the very rare visit.

Over the years she had not been interested in any particular church.  In fact, I had the feeling she did not go to any church or believe in any particular faith.  I, however, have always been open about my faith, but I have never pushed it on anyone else.  I try to live the Gospel and win others for Christ by example.

When my family and I moved to Oklahoma, it was the closest I have been to my friend, who lives in Kansas City, in many years.  I suspected that she was getting involved in some kind of church a few years ago when she called and asked me about a Catholic funeral she had gone to.  She asked about a prayer that many of the people in the church were praying.  After asking her a couple of questions, I understood the "prayer" in question was the Rosary.  The Rosary is actually a set of prayers for the meditation of the life of Christ and His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  There was no rudeness, no judgement--that would come later.

I invited her to a couple of my kids' First Communions--she made it to one.  It was a nice visit and I enjoyed answering any of her questions about it and the Church.  I wonder now if she was already involved in the "church" that has now turned her against her long time friend.  She seems to be convinced now that my soul is "in danger."  Supposedly the Holy Spirit came to her and told her to let me know I was in danger.

What I am unsure about is where to go from here.  I received several emails over the last several months with such ridiculousness like her asking about church authority and comparing Mormonism to Catholicism because Mormons use words such as bishop.  The fact that Mormonism isn't actually Christianity seems to be beyond the thought process of radically anti-Catholic "Christians."  Christianity is supposed to be about knowing, loving, and serving God.  The Church is the Body of Christ in which to do that.  We know God through Scripture and the Sacraments.  We love Him in receiving the Eucharist.  We serve Him by doing works of mercy, such as clothing the naked, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and the like.  We absolutely do these things for God, and not, as Mrs. Osteen so dramatically put her foot in her mouth about, for ourselves.  We do these things as offerings to God.

Now to have a long time friend sending me messages of condemnation and accusation was hurtful.  I did try to answer her questions as thoughtfully as possible.  I'd get back messages about how I was close minded.  Of course I'm close minded.  I made a long, thoughtful journey to the Church.  Why does a friend, who seems to have fallen in with a radically anti-Catholic "charismatic" church, think she knows better in a few months better than a 2,000 year old Church?  It is one thing about the Protestant "churches" I no longer understand.  The intolerance and lack of charity of these groups really floor me. 

When I did try to defend the Faith and answer her questions, I was told that I was being emotional and therefore deep down I must know I am wrong.  What?  Where did that come from?  Let me get this straight, if I am passionate about Christ, about His Church, and about my Faith, then I must be wrong?  I fail to see how that works.  It is circular reasoning to me.  On the one hand, protestant groups want one to be passionate and loud and outgoing about their faith and evangelizing others, including other Christians.  But on the other, if one IS actually passionate and loud and outgoing about their faith, if "they" don't understand it, then one must know deep down they're wrong.  How does that work again?

I am passionate.  I am sure.  I am knowledgeable.  I feel deeply. 

No, I don't believe I am wrong to be a Catholic.  I became a Catholic when I was 36, having been a Baptist of some flavor since I was very young.  I read, I studied, and I joined RCIA.  I prayed a lot and I do believe the Holy Spirit answered my questions and moved me in the direction I was supposed to go.  When one, friend though she may be, questions your integrity, your passion, a very important part of your self, it is not only hurtful but it makes it clear that she doesn't really know you at all.  It is hard to trust such a person and hard to carry on a friendship with her.

I am unsure where to go from here.  Charity and patience is what I need but can be hard to muster when ever word you say is judged in a negative light.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


A childhood friend wrote to me recently.  She was never that interested in any church and really didn't discuss much about it with me until about a decade or so ago.  At that time, she politely asked about a prayer some people were saying together at a Catholic funeral.  I told her it was the Rosary.  I explained the Rosary--how it is a meditative form of prayer concentrating on the lives of Jesus Christ and His mother Mary.  Since she is not Catholic, I also provided her with the Scriptures for each of the "mysteries", the stories that one contemplates on while praying, so that she could see that it is Scriptural.  Her response was gracious.  Later she even attended of my sons' first communion.

Well, she apparently had a "meet Jesus" moment in recent months and has been asking questions.  However, the questions have gone from polite and curious to accusatory and downright anti-Catholic.  I don't know what kind of "prayer ministry" she's joined but they seemed to have convinced her that Catholics are not Christians or not "saved."  She has been convinced that my soul is in danger and that I can't possibly understand what a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ (because I'm Catholic).  How can otherwise well-meaning people be so hateful to other members of the same family--God's family?  I believe it is the influence of the dark one, the one who does not want Christ's Church to be one as Christ Himself wished it to be.  I've tried to be patient and tried to be loving but it is extremely difficult to get past the feeling of betrayal.

She started off by sending me a letter telling me that I had been on her mind a lot lately.  She said, "I don't know why the thoughts come to mind over religion, its [sic] not really over being saved or not, its more of believing something that just isn't correct." So, after years of not going to any church, asking respectful questions, and listening to explanations from me as to why I am a Catholic, she's decided she knows what is "correct."  I couldn't possibly know better than her charismatic group.

She asked me a question a couple of months ago about an interview she'd heard with a priest who had stated that the Real Presence in the Eucharist was the center of His personal relationship with Christ.  This phrase, "personal relationship with Christ," raised a big red flag for that fledgling Christian zealot.  She asked me if I "could never take the Eucharist again would [I] be close to the Holy Spirit/Jesus, the Personal Relationship as Catholics put it."  As a matter of fact, one Catholic put it that way.  That priest doesn't speak for every individual Catholic.  However, I did try to explain to her that I had no objection to the priest from the interview expressing his feelings that way.  After all, how much more personal can you get than to meet Christ in the Flesh. There is nothing more intimate, more personal than Christ becoming a part of you in a real, mystical way every time you go to Mass.  But, this tack never satisfies.  I understand that Protestants, especially some of the latest off shoots of the mainstream Protestants, such as Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc.  These off-shoot sects as those who are now doing strange things like not celebrating Easter or Christmas and perpetuating lies like St. Patrick, bishop and missionary to Ireland, was not Catholic because he never mentions the Catholic Church in his writings (1-Very few of his writings have survived the intervening 14 centuries, 2-There was no need to "mention" the Catholic Church, it was the one and only Christian church in existence at the time).  They are so against any hint of tradition that might in any way lead back to the Catholic Church that they make things up about Catholics and about historic tradition.

She persisted on this tack however, insisting that I answer whether or not I would have a "personal relationship with Christ if I could not have the Eucharist."   I told her that was not a fair question.  It would be something similar to whether or not I could ever eat breakfast if I could never have eggs again.  Now, I know my example is a little absurd but I couldn't think of anything better off the cuff.  I can still have breakfast--I just can't have eggs.  I can still have a "personal relationship" with Christ without the Eucharist, but why would I want to?  What closer relationship to a person than the person themselves--in person!!!  When I go to the Eucharist (Greek word for thanksgiving), I am with Him, He is Present, and He is in me at that moment.  How much more personal is that?

1800 yo copy of Paul's letter
Her latest insult not was to ask me about authority.  She said they had talked about authority in her "prayer ministry class."  She said the class "was all around who has the Authority given by Jesus and the Holy Spirit? [sic] Much of what the book of Hebrews speaks."  She doesn't specify just what Hebrews "speaks" of authority.  If she is talking about the absolute obedience that some protestants believe is implied in Hebrews 13, she'd be wrong about the Catholic Church.  While Catholics do believe that Church leaders have authority in spiritual matters, Catholics are not now nor have they ever been mindless drones of a huge religious machine.  All one has to do is look at the rate of conversions in the Catholic Church.  Twice as many are entering the Church as leaving it, and many of the converts are the more educated of former Protestants.

But not only does my friend ask about authority, but she then equates Catholics to Mormons when she asks, "Is it only given to Men like LDS/RLDS/FLDS?"  No, we don't believe authority is "only" given to men.  The authority in the Church was given to Christ, who passed that same authority to His apostles.  The Holy Spirit was then sent by Christ to give the apostles the courage and strength to live out that authority in the Church.  The Holy Spirit is now the soul of the Church Christ founded and guides her leaders to this day.  That is the authority the author of Hebrews was referring to in chapter 13.  Christians do not act as mindless drones, but neither do they make up an aimless body.  Th
LDS Temple Salt Lake City
is comparison between the LDS and the Catholic Church is more than insulting and I will not tolerate this insult anymore.  The Catholic Church was founded by Christ upon Peter and the Apostles almost 2,000 years ago.  The LDS has no such founding or authority, having been founded by a crazy man about 150 years ago on his own fictional writings.  There is no comparison.

She asked if it were "maybe Pastor's and Deacons?"  If she means Protestant pastors and deacons, then my answer would be a no.  While Protestant Churches have some of the Truth Christ left for us, they lack much of it.  These Pastors and Deacons did not get their authority from the Church Christ established, therefore, no they don't have the authority of interpretation or the giving of the Eucharist.  They have some authority over their own church, their own little kingdom as it were, but they do not have the authority Christ gave the apostles or the Church.

Jesus gives the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter
She then asked "Is it [authority] the Pope and Priests and Saints of the Church?"  The simple answer is yes at least about the pope and priests.  I'm not sure that saints have authority per se on their own.  Saints are examples of Christian living and the holiness that we should all aspire to.  But the Pope was appointed by Christ Himself.  Christ chose Peter as the Rock upon which the Church is built.  He commissioned Peter to "Feed my lambs.  Feed my sheep."  This is an obvious referral to Christ, the Good Shepherd, passing the job as the shepherd of His sheep on earth to Peter.  He made Peter His visible representative on earth.  Minimizing what Christ did or saying it isn't so just because you don't think it should be that way, doesn't change the fact that Christ did indeed put Peter in charge of His Church.  He also commissioned the other apostles--"Go into all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  Christ commissioned them as the first priests.  It is that simple.

The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles
"Did it [authority] die off sometime after the 12 Apostles where put to death?"  No.  Why would it?  Christ founded His Church on the apostles--founded, not just tossed out there temporarily.  Look in the book of Acts.  Matthias was commissioned to take Judas' place among the twelve.  If authority was to "die off" with the apostles, why would they choose a replacement for one of them?  It would be pointless.  Obviously, the 11 thought it necessary to choose and train a replacement for the future of the Church.  Also, the "Council of Jerusalem" also points to the continuation of authority.  There really would be no point in hashing out the issue of whether or not one had to be a Jew to be a Christian, if they felt they had no authority to decide for future generations.  So, easily the answer to that question is NO.

"Or by some wild chance ignored by Christians over the years,..."  So, when Christ said, "...the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" or "I am with you always" He had to have been lying.  The Church was founded by Christ, emboldened and given life by the Holy Spirit, and watched over by generation upon generation of disciples of Christ, but only "Christians" now know what Jesus meant by those words.

She says that "...we who have knowledge/understanding given by the Holy Spirit and reading the Scriptures we all have the ability given to us if we pray and seek the Holy Spirit?"  I would then ask her as I would any misguided Protestant, "What makes you right and not Joe Smith down the street?  You two don't agree with each other but you both say that the Holy Spirit and Scripture guide you.  So, who is right?"  Most Protestants don't think that deeply about what they've been told to believe.  The vast majority of Protestants believe what their Pastor or whatever they call their leader tells them to believe.  Why do some Protestants believe baptism is necessary and some just believe it is water over their heads?  Jesus said, "Go...baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  So, He just meant the original 12?  No one else needed baptism?  What about the Lord's Supper?  Since it is just a symbol to most Protestants, some churches don't even bother with the farce of reenacting it.  Jesus said, "When you eat this bread and drink this cup..."  Why don't they think Jesus' words are important?  He said when you do it; he didn't say if you do it.  Why do Protestants believe it is okay to say, "This is what we believe: x, y, z" and then just find those convenient Scriptures that support their beliefs while ignoring the rest of Scripture?  It is sad and not a little hypocritical.

 When I told her I found some of her questions disrespectful and a little insulting she said, "It didn't surprise me that you have no interest at this time. I hope sometime we might be able to enjoy talking of such things."  I don't mind talking of such things, but, I'm sorry, we are not on equal footing in this matter.  I am much more educated in my Faith and in Christology.  She may be part of a pentecostal group that believes that the Holy Spirit is guiding them--that doesn't make it so.  Telling me that I must know I'm wrong because I passionately defend my faith (which she did in a different email) is just ludicrous.  If you want to talk, let's talk, but leave the insults out of it. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My best friend

It has been a very long time since I had a real best girlfriend.  A girlfriend I could talk to on the phone for hours at a time.  Someone who understood how I felt and would let me talk about anything and everything until I was all talked out.

My sister was my best friend growing up.  We talked all the time.  We fought as sisters do and we'd make up.  Nothing could separate us.  That is, until she got married.  Then most of the time she was so wrapped up in the day to day of an 18 year old trying to take care of a tiny apartment, and being pregnant that she hardly had time for me.  As things became more routine, we eventually got our best friend groove back.  Then I joined the Air Force.  For the first few months, I was not able to talk to my best friend very often.  I had very few chances to call home during training and she was busy with her second child.  But, after I got stationed at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, DC, we were able to talk more.  We would talk an hour or more once or twice a week.  It was nice to have a best friend.  That seemed to change when her marriage fell apart.  Apparently, I could not sympathize in the right way or say the right words.  So, the calls became less frequent.  She visited me once, after I was married and pregnant with my first child.  She was divorced and seeing a muslim immigrant.  Later she married a friend's cousin from Pakistan.  She resented the fact that I would not come to her wedding in Pakistan.  At that time I was living in Germany, had two toddlers and I was not about to go to a third world country on my own or with two little ones and endanger our health.  When I was pregnant with my fourth child (and only daughter), she got angry at me on the phone.  Later I found out that her (second) husband didn't like her talking to me on the phone when he was home.  He felt that we were conspiring against him.  And, because I didn't know about or help her out of her abusive situation, she seems to have blamed me for it.  She later left the abusive SOB with the help of another friend.  I didn't know why she wouldn't talk to me until years later.  Since then, she has remarried her first husband but only spoken to me a handful of times.  Our best friend phone calls ceased 14 years ago and have never resumed.  I rarely get so much as a Christmas card.  It is a hole in my heart and life that can never be filled.  Although she said she's forgiven me (for what I am still not sure), she still doesn't speak to me unless we happen to be in the same place which doesn't happen very often.

So, I've tried to forge friendships with women around me.  I thought I had a friend in when we lived in Germany.  She was an officer's wife however and made it quite clear that enlisted wives were beneath her.  We went on a tour of Belgium together, with my two oldest sons (toddlers at the time) in tow.  While she enjoyed having the company, she made it clear that I was not only not her first choice but that I was actually a burden on the trip.  The purpose of the trip was to scout locations for a wives club (which was combined enlisted and officers wives at the time--that changed later) outing.  So, no we did not get close.  Oh, but Belgium is where I discovered the saint that would become my patroness, St. Walburga.  It was the first time I ever saw a woman saint depicted with a bishop's crook in her hand.  I later found out that Abbots are considered of the same rank as bishops and are often depicted with bishop's crooks.  St. Walburga was a physician, and abbess who later took over the whole abbey of men and women when her brother, the abbot died.  I took her as my confirmation Saint when I became a Catholic at Easter, 1998.

Since I was older than most mothers who had children the same age as mine, I usually had little in common with them.  Women my age have teenage or adult children, so they don't want to be around someone with young children.  In Texas, our parish had a wonderful women's group that had women of every age and situation.  It was great to be a part of a group at least, even if I could not find a close friend among them.  By then I had four children and, believe it or not, that was unusual even in a Catholic parish.  The support and friendship I felt there was wonderful, but I was sorely disappointed when we came to Oklahoma.  The parish here has no women's group and when I asked if we could have one, people looked at me as if I had two heads and asked why would we need such a group.  So, no women's group.

When I decided to home school, that made me even weirder.  Catholic homeschooling came out of the Protestant homeschooling movement which had been going on for decades before Catholics started doing it in large numbers.  However, when you are in a town (in Texas, mind you) where there is one Catholic Church in town and one on the outskirts of town, no Catholic schools at all, and you are one of the few white families (our parish was about 60% Hispanic, 30% Filipino, and 10% white--this is my estimation) it is very difficult decision on what to do about education.  However, there are schools such as Seton (since 1980) and Kolbe Academy Home schools that are Catholic and help you give your kids a good Catholic education.  I joined the on base home school support group.  They were very nice ladies, but they made it abundantly clear that Catholics weren't welcome to many of their activities.  The librarian there was great; she supported all home school mothers.  She would ask the group every year what books to order to help them.  She would fit as many of the books on our wish list as she could in her budget.  However, none of these women were going to be a close friend.

Here in Oklahoma, I've tried, too.  I even thought I had a friend who had children the same age as me.  As we got to know each other, I thought we were good friends but, like all the "girlfriends" I've had before, she was younger and had already established friendships.   I was invited over for group things but rarely did we do things together.  The first time she hurt my feelings, I tried my best to just take it and never let her know.  I think I was successful because I believe to this day she doesn't know how her actions hurt me when she picked another "friend" over me.  I tried not to let it make me bitter but in some ways it has.  I would write more about the hurts and disappointments over the years but I believe she reads my blog, so I will end it here.  I am trying to let it go and just be friendly when we see each other.  

I have one friend now with whom I talk on occasion, but it is the same thing.  Her two kids are grown and I am still raising mine.  So, we have lunch together.  Sometimes we go to a play or musical together.  The last time we went out we saw "Sister Act" on stage.  It was fun and funny.  I had a good time.  But, still not best friend fun.  I can't call her and talk for an hour on the phone and bear all to her.  I enjoy her company but it is not the same as my best friend/sister that I miss so very much.

As I go through my cancer treatment, I feel very much alone.  I have no best girlfriend.  I have no one to talk to until I'm done talking.  That best friend is gone and I feel alone.  I do have a "cancer buddy", as my daughter has named her, with whom I am talk sometimes.  She went through something similar to me in the Fall.  However, she's pretty much done and my journey goes on.  But, we only talk here and there.  It is usually an hour at a time but only about once every other week or so.

My mother has been my rock.  She stayed in the hospital with me both times and kept me company.  She lets me blather on the phone and get things off my chest.  I feel bad sometimes though because she has an ailing mother (my grandmother is 90 next month) and a daughter going through cancer treatment.  She's kind of sandwiched in between.  She's been wonderful.  I guess my mom is the best friend I can have for now.  While there are things I cannot tell her, I can tell her a lot.  God bless moms!  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cancer and all that Goes with it--Again

St. Agatha prayer card
Note: This was written in May.  I have had another mastectomy since.  I will write on that soon.

Well, It looks like I get to go through the whole nightmare, again.  Yes, I should have had my other breast rechecked at the time.  Yes, I probably should have insisted on a double mastectomy.  But, I did not want to have healthy tissue removed.  I was taking tamoxifen.  That was supposed to block the hormone receptors in the cancer cells.  Apparently, it didn't work.

Last week I had a biopsy. The doctor had me go through yet another mammogram.  Afterward, I noticed that the technician had a mammo on the light box.  However, it was the pictures taken in August, not the one I had done in April.  So, if they are working off my old one, why didn't they biopsy my right side then?  Wow, it could have saved me a whole six months of anxiety, wondering, and pain.  However, if the biopsy comes out positive, I may save myself a trip to the OR. I put off my reconstruction for this and may be able to have it done at the same time as my second mastectomy.  Now, I just have to wait a couple of days for the results and the decision on surgery.

As small as our community is at church and civic groups, I find it interesting that people I'm acquainted with don't know about my mastectomy.  I thought that rumor would go around like wild fire.  I am amazed and pleased at the same time that my life is not grist for the rumor mill.  But I also notice that when people do find out about it, they seem to expect me to look like an Amazon warrior--you know, the mythical female warriors who had one breast cut off to make bow and arrow easier to use in battle.  I had a simple mastectomy of one breast.  The surgeon removed all the breast tissue.  He lifted the muscle off the rib cage, inserted an expander, and sewed the skin back together.  I feel very self conscious in tight clothes because to me it looks very odd.  My daughter says no one else notices the odd shape of my left breast or that it has changed its shape and size over the last six months.  It still makes me feel strange, especially the sleepy flesh feel of it.  It is not me but it is what I have to live with now.  My husband is understanding and says he is okay with the artificiality and ugliness of it.  It is one of those strange things you never really thought you'd be talking to your husband about when you were a girl.

So, my cancer odyssey has begun again.  Hopefully, if I do have another mastectomy, I won't have to worry about cancer again.  But, you never know.  I had no risk factors for breast cancer (except, as my good friend Paddy says, I have breasts and I'm  a woman. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Catholic Layman's take on the "Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants"

In researching a paper, I came across an article titled  Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants.  The author did not say, in the article, what her affiliation was but claimed to be neutral for this article.  Here are her 12 "simple differences" and some clarifications from a Catholic layman.
Pope Francis

1. The Pope. Catholics have a Pope, which they consider a vicar for Christ — an infallible stand-in, if you will — that heads the Church. Protestants believe no human is infallible and Jesus alone heads up the Church.

Of course the pope is a "difference" between Catholics and Protestants.  The very name "Protestant" bespeaks of the protest of certain men and their followers in the 16th century who left the Church and founded churches on their own feelings, opinions, and personal interpretation of Scripture, and protesting against the authority and doctrine of the Church.

The pope is the vicar of Christ.  It is a title of honor as well as jurisdiction meaning that he is the earthly head of the Church, representing our true Head, Jesus Christ.  Christ Himself appointed Peter as His vicar when He said, "Feed My lambs...feed My sheep" (John 21:16-17).  This authority has been placed in the hands of subsequent popes with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit and soul of the Christ's Church.

The pope however is not infallible in the way Protestants believe the word to mean.  Infallible does not mean he is sinless or never makes mistakes.  The pope goes to confession just like every other practicing Catholic does.  He is not perfect; he does sin.

Actually, infallibility is a charism (a gift or grace from God in order to do something God asks of us) given to the  pope which makes it impossible for him, as pope, to declare any error in doctrine.  This infallibility only applies to proclamations of doctrine that he has prayed over, has run by many theologians and bishops, and declared or proclaimed from the "chair of Peter."  While the pope's other writings and teachings are considered authoritative, they are not all infallible.

An example of an infallible declaration is the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854:
...for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." [emphasis mine]

Notice the declaration (in quotes) and how it is meant to be for "all the faithful."  This type of proclamation is protected by the Holy Spirit.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC
2.  Big, Fancy Cathedrals. Catholics have them; Protestants don’t. Why? Catholicism says that “humanity must discover its unity and salvation” within a church. Protestants say all Christians can be saved, regardless of church membership. (Ergo… shitty, abandoned storefront churches? All Protestant.)

I can only address some of the many reasons for the "big, fancy" Catholic Cathedrals.  1) They were meant to model the Church after the Kingdom of Heaven.  When one steps into a cathedral (especially the vaulted, medieval ones) you are meant to feel as if you stepped into that Heavenly place.  2) The stained glass windows, statues, wall paintings, mosaics and tapestries of the medieval and middle ages Cathedrals were there to tell the stories of Scripture to illiterate worshipers.   The vast majority of the population lived just above poverty level, with no time to sit and learn to read.  (Even Emperor Charlemagne was illiterate.)  Statues and pictures of saints tell the stories of these wonderful Christians who are a part of the family of God.  In other words, they are family portraits.  3) The artwork in the cathedrals was both education for the people and gifts from the artists (or patrons of the artists).  4) The cathedrals, generally, were built by the people over a century or more as  a gift to God--a form of worship to God.

I would like to know where the quote "humanity must discover its unity and salvation" within a church came from.  I'm not sure what the author is trying to imply here.  The Catholic Church believes that Christ founded one Church and meant it to stay one ("...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.").  So, that is the unity, but it is not about the building.  The Church believes that salvation comes through the Church, however tangentially.  There is the salvation part, but that is not about the building either.  Maybe this is just a case of a Protestant not understanding Catholic vocabulary.?  Who knows.

While it is true that there are crappy store-front Protestant churches, there are also some pretty spectacular Protestant Churches such as the Washington National Cathedral, the Episcopalian Cathedral in DC which took over a century to build in modern times.

St. Walburga
3. Saints. Catholics pray to saints (holy dead people) in addition to God and Jesus. Protestants acknowledge saints, but don’t pray to them.

It is important to clarify here that Catholics do not pray to "holy dead people".  We talk to our living family members.  When we pray to the saints, it is indeed in addition to praying to God, but it does not replace praying to God.  One, we believe the saints to be alive ("He is not the God of the dead but of the living" Mark 12:27) and with Christ their Savior.  Two, we pray to them to talk to God for us, just as we ask the other members of the family of God on earth.

I don't what Protestants acknowledge saints, except Orthodox and Lutherans, at least not in the same context.  Many Protestants believe that all "believers" (In quotes, because believers is whatever their personal definition of a believer might be) to be saints.  Therefore, the meaning of the word doesn't even correlate. 

Holy Water font
4.  Holy Water. Catholics only.

Here the author did not even explain if or why holy water is a problem.  Why holy water?  Yeah, that's a difference, of sorts...

Here are some points on holy water:
--Water was used to ceremonially wash the body before entering the Temple in Jerusalem and it was a custom in the early Church as well.
--Holy water is used for baptism.
--Holy water fonts are available in Catholic Churches to remind us of our baptism and ceremonially cleanse us upon entering the nave (the main body of the Church).
--Catholics are sprinkled with water at certain Masses, reminding us of our baptism and our baptismal promises.
--On the altar, the priest pours a small amount of holy water in the chalice, indicating the water which came from the side of Christ along with His blood.
--The priest purifies his hands (ceremonially washes) before the Eucharistic prayers.
--It is a sacramental, not magic.

Fr. Morris, seen on TV
5. Celibacy and Nuns. Catholics only.

Celibacy was advocated by Christ and soon followed by the Early Church.
The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.' But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'  (Matthew 19:10-12; emphasis mine)
The writings of the Church fathers show that, in the early Church, married priests were not the accepted norm in the main centres of Alexandria, Antioch and Rome. They were considered a "problem" that existed in the outlying regions. By the third century there were almost no married priests and several councils put the issue to rest until around the 9th century when many bishops and priests took wives and had children. The state of the priesthood fell to an all time low.  A huge problem emerged with priests "willing" Church property to their families. Up to that point, the principle of celibacy was never completely surrendered in the official enactments of the Church. In 1123, celibacy was made official. Although, throughout history there have been scattered instances of abuses of the Canon Law, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently stuck to this position on celibate priests.  (Catholic Bridge, "Why Can't priests get married?")
Ingrid Bergman in Bells of St. Mary's
In this day and age of clergy divorce, adultery, and "Preacher's daughters", the importance of singular dedication to God and their calling should be very apparent.  What some anti-Catholics do not understand is that there are married priests in the Catholic church.  Yes, they are the minority, but they do exist.  Celibacy is a discipline in order for priests and other religious to dedicate their whole lives to God without the distractions of spouse, children, and family responsibilities.  Men who become priests are responsible for a much bigger family--Christ's family.

In point of fact the Catholic Church is not the only church with nuns.  Both the Anglican church, and the Orthodox church have nuns, and the Lutheran church has "deaconesses".  I don't know much about Protestant nuns but Catholic nuns are women dedicated to Jesus Christ alone.  They spend their days praying for the salvation of the world and doing good (humanitarian) works.  This can only be a good thing.

6. Purgatory: Catholics only.

Yes and no.

Purgation  or Purgatory is not only Scriptural but traditional.

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Revelations 21:27 tells us that nothing impure will enter Heaven.

Purgatory is simply a place or state of being in which Christians are cleansed or purged of all stain of sin before entering Heaven.  It is neither a second chance, nor a place or state without hope.  Anyone who is in Purgatory or in the state of purging knows that they will be in Heaven once the cleansing is complete.  Since it is after this life, time does not exist there, so we cannot say that you spend a certain amount of "time" there because time doesn't exist there.

There are other Christian sects that believe in purification before Heaven but will not call this state or process Purgatory in opposition to the Church.  So, actually there are Protestant sects that do indeed believe in it, they just don't call it that.
7. Scripture: The be-all, end-all for Protestants is “the Word of God.” For Catholics, tradition is just important as scripture — maybe even more so.

What the blogger fails to point out is that Scripture is part of Catholic Tradition. It is the most important part of the Tradition of the Church.  It is extremely important to the Church and her members.

 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."  (CCC 132)
Protestantism that I have personally experienced has traditions of their own that is every bit as important as Scripture.  Scripture alone as the "be-all, end all" is a protestant tradition not based in Scripture.

One of my favorites for Children
8. Catechism: Protestant kids memorize the Bible. Catholic kids get catechism.

It is not quite as black and white as that.  The "catechism" that Catholic kids "get" includes Scripture.  While Catholic Children don't memorize large chunks of Scripture word for word, they learn whole sections and stories by heart.  Ask any Catholic kid about Creation, Moses,  the Prodigal Son, or the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Last Supper, or the Passion of Christ, I bet you'd be impressed.  The catechism is a concise outline of the Faith passed down for twenty centuries which includes Scripture.  Children learn their Faith and learn why the Church believes what it believes.  The Catechism, including the children's version, is filled with the rich gift of Scripture. While many Catholic children can't spout memorized Scripture on demand, properly catechized children can tell others about what is in the Bible and what we believe about it.

Vatican Council II
9. Authori-tay: In Catholicism, only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret the Bible. Protestants hold that each individual has authority to interpret the Bible.

 Yes, the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture.  Christ sent the Holy Spirit to His Church at Pentecost for this very reason.  He guided and inspired men who wrote the Scriptures, who taught the Scriptures, and interpreted the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit-guided Church gave the Bible as we know it to the world--even the Protestants.  And, there has been nearly 2,000 years of Catholic theologians, scholars, and councils studying and interpreting Scripture, why would an individual believe they've come up with something new?  That is the height of hubris.

The error of individual interpretation of Scripture is what gave us the "33,000!" (I'm quoting the blogger, now) different Protestant denominations, churches, or communities--however they want to distinguish or name themselves.  There are protestants fighting protestants.  Just one example would be the importance of baptism for salvation: one groups says it is necessary, others say you're just getting wet.

10. Sacraments: Catholic are the only ones to have the concept of the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony). Protestants teach that salvation is attained through faith alone.

Ironically, those that claim that their only authority is Scripture don't or won't understand that the only place that the words "faith alone" are found in Scripture, they appear in the negative.   

"So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17, NAB)
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:17, KJV)
Faith produces fruit or it is dead, after all, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19, KJV)     

These sacraments are beneficial in the order of grace and all seven were instituted by Christ.  God's free gift of grace helps us with our faith, and our faith gets stronger with each sacrament we partake in.
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. (CCC 1131)

Mary, Mother of God
11. Holidays: Catholics have 10 Holy Days of Obligation (which mean they must go to Mass). Protestants are more like, “Just come to church on Christmas, that’s all we ask.”

This blanket statement is much too general.

Yes, the Catholic Church in America has 8 Holy days of Obligation (2 of the original 10, Epiphany and The Body and Blood of Christ, have been transferred to Sundays) in addition to our Sunday obligation.  The reality is that all Catholics are obligated to go to Mass every single Sunday of the year.  The other eight days are in addition to the Sunday obligation.

The Nativity (Christmas)
The ten (the eight with the other 2 now on Sunday) days are:  Mary, Mother of God (January 1), Epiphany (Sunday after January 1), Ascension (either the sixth Thursday of Easter or the seventh Sunday of Easter depending on the diocese), Body and Blood of Christ (Second Sunday after Pentecost), The Assumption of Mary (August 15), All Saints (November 1), Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8) and Christmas Day (December 25).

As for Protestants, I don't agree with the blogger's blanket statement.  In the Baptist church in which I grew up, it was expected, if not an outright rule, that all good members of that church went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evenings.  Also expected was attendance to any "revivals" and extra prayer meetings.  You were told in the minister's message how you couldn't be a good Christian if you didn't give time and money to God.  I'm sure that this "obligation" is still true in many Protestant churches today.
The Eucharist and Heaven
12. Communion: In Catholicism, the bread and wine “become” the body and blood of Jesus Christ, meaning that Jesus is truly present on the altar. In Protestantism, the bread and wine are symbolic.

While true, this is a broad generalization.  The Catholic Church does believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  The main reason is because we believe Christ words literally.  We believe He meant what He said:

Then he took bread, ...saying, 'This is my body given for you'...He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.' (Luke 22:19,20)
Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28)
Also, in the Orthodox and Lutheran traditions the bread and wine are more than symbolic, but expressed in a different way than the Catholic Church.

I, personally, feel sorry for Protestants who claim they believe in what Scriptures say, yet ignore what Scripture actually says.  If communion is just bread and wine (actually grape juice in most Protestants circles), what was the point of doing it in the first place?  Just going through the motions seems a lot less efficacious than believing in Christ's words.  

Conclusion: Christians have a lot more commonality than differences.  We all are sincerely trying to follow Christ and His teaching. Our Lord taught us to love God and love one another. Do I think Protestants are wrong on many levels?  Yes or I would not be a Catholic today.  I have found Christ, His Church, His family.  I am completely in love with my Savior and I believe that I am doing my best to follow Him and help my children know and follow Him.  Other Christians waste a lot of time, money, effort, and hatred on fellow Christians.  It is sad, really, because that is not what Christ intended. We are all God's children and we all deserve respect.