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I was having one of those dreams last night.  You know the kind.  They usually happen right before time to wake up, and are inspired by anxiety from the waking world leaking out of the subconscious.

I’ve had variations on this one hundreds of times. but this one took a turn.  Let me tell you about it.

I was in college, and I was late to class.  In fact, I think the class was almost over by the time I arrived.  As I tried to enter the room quietly, I saw that the desks were strewn about the room in no discernible arrangement.  People weren’t in their right seats, having abandoned their stuff at one desk to go sit elsewhere.  So it was hard to determine where I might sit, and I had to walk all the way across the room to find a spot.

The teacher was explaining an assignment, the details of which were pertinent and funny but which have sadly already slipped away from me.  I do remember that, naturally, I couldn’t find a pencil, or paper, or my textbook to help me.  As I settled down to finally start writing, I noticed that the guy next to me had decided to just write a poem instead.  The classroom was in complete chaos, with the teacher, who was sometimes at his desk glaring and other times completely absent from the room, alternately ignoring us and yelling that we would fail the class if we did the assignment wrong.

You probably saw this coming a mile off.  Here’s the teacher:

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Credit: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons

And then I woke up.

You might remember a little over a year ago when I reviewed–very favorably–Page Zaplendam’s Order of the Blood.  I encourage you to click over and read my first review, which also includes an interview with the author.

I enjoyed this far from typical vampire novel very much and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read an advance copy of the sequel, The Egyptian Elixir.  I was provided with a free copy in exchange for my honest review.

From the book jacket:  When John Grissom and Van Helsing find themselves witnesses to an assassination attempt on the Marquis of Wellesley, they discover London’s most notorious purveyor of stolen goods at the bottom of it.  But his ability to influence people is odd to say the least.  The vampire and the hunter investigate, but the Egyptian elixir may prove the undoing of them both.

John Grissom is a Catholic, and doctor, and a gentleman, who also happens to be a vampire.  Van Helsing (not THAT one, but rather his ancestor) is a vampire hunter.  They form an unlikely crime-fighting duo in Regency-era England.  Throw in some English aristocrats, a dimwitted giant, and a mysterious Egyptian pharmacist and you’ve got a fast-moving and engaging tale.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that what I enjoyed the most about this installment of the Unofficial Chronicles was the budding friendship between Van Helsing and Grissom.  Henrietta Isherwood, Grissom’s erstwhile assistant and potential love interest, is physically absent from this installment but obviously remains on Grissom’s mind.  She returns in the next book but her absence here allows the author to focus on the “bromance,” a good choice for this volume.

Now THIS is exciting.  To celebrate the release of the new book, you can get a free Kindle edition of Order of the Blood right here.  After you read it I promise you will want to buy the new book, which is available at a very reasonable price here.

If you want to learn more about Page’s work, and keep an eye out for her future stories (hint: there’s another book coming soon!), you can find her website here.

 

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Lorelei and I had the opportunity this week to join in a local march in support of refugees and immigrants.  This peaceful and patriotic event began in Market Square–Knoxville’s downtown gathering spot–with a silent vigil.  Then all of us–over 1,100 people, in the middle of a weekday!–marched to the City-County Building for a brief rally before a delegation carried letters opposing the President’s Executive Order to the lawmakers within.

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As we made the 25-minute drive from our home to downtown Knoxville, I made sure Lorelei understood what we were marching about.  We talked about the signs she had made and what they meant.  We talked about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount.  I told her that when we turn away immigrants and refugees, we are turning away Christ.

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But we didn’t just talk about religion–we had a civics lesson too.  We talked about the principles our country is founded on, and how it isn’t unpatriotic to try to hold the country to those values.  We talked about the importance of letting our representatives know our position on this and other issues, and on how people coming together can bring about change.  I told her about Yassin Terou, a Syrian refugee who found success here as a restaurateur and has made it a point to give back to his adopted community.  We talked about the message on the Statue of Liberty and about the American dream.

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This wasn’t Lorelei’s first protest–she has taken part in many a March for Life–but this is the first time she knew what she was protesting.  She’s 12 years old, with little patience for or experience with being silent, but she made me proud.  She remained quiet, paid attention, liked pointing out all the signs (she was our sign-maker), and enjoyed the chanting we did at the end of the march.

Lorelei carried this sign:

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It was inspired by the lyrics of the Marty Haugen song.  It’s slightly heretical for singing in church in my opinion, but some of the words seemed tailor-made for this occasion:

Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live . . .
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place . . . 
Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

My favorite part of the gathering happened almost at the end, when we recited The New Colossus together.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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I can’t recite that under the most ordinary of circumstances without crying, and those were not ordinary circumstances.

After that, much of the crowd dispersed, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” And it is.

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That’s what a Facebook friend of mine asked the other day.  It’s no secret that there are lots of liberal Christians but in recent years they’ve been loath to use the Bible to make political points.  The reasons are many, ranging from a strong belief in the separation of Church and State all the way to simply being on the side of an issue that Scripture doesn’t support (which is why faith should transcend party for Catholics, just saying).

But in the present heady moment the “liberals” have all the Scripture on their side, and pretty explicitly too.  Conservative Christians suddenly find themselves in the uncomfortable and unfamiliar position of being targeted by the very pointed words of Christ when they try to defend the recent Executive Order.

Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’  Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’” ~ Matthew 25:41-45

So perhaps it’s very natural that religious folks who lean liberal politically are excited to be able to demonstrate that they read the Bible too, and that they’ve taken these parts of it to heart.  Many American religious leaders have been quick to speak out against the Executive Order, which actually violates the religious freedom of American Christians who are called to welcome the stranger and are being prevented from doing so.

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Flipping through the monthly missalette to pass the time, back in the days when I was a child and Mass seemed to last forever, I’d sing the songs in my head and read the prayers on the back.  One prayer struck me so much that I committed it to memory.

I haven’t thought of it much in recent years but it came to me suddenly today–perhaps through the prompting of the Holy Spirit?  It’s a prayer we could all use in these troubled times.

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When I think of conversations nowadays online interactions come to mind.  Much of our discourse on important matters is virtual now.  We listen with our eyes and minds and not our ears as we read the posts and comments and articles in our feeds.  But don’t we still fall prey to the same errors the prayer mentions?  Haven’t we all read something too quickly and made uncharitable assumptions in our rush to respond?  Have we thought about the feelings of the person reading our witty, snarky comebacks?  Are we listening and trying to learn or simply planning our next salvo?  Are we having conversations–exchanges of ideas–or are we fighting battles with words as our weapons?

God comes to us through the souls we encounter–this we know.  And they encounter Him through us.  Are we allowing ourselves to be channels of His peace, or of something else?

For my part, I am going to say this prayer every morning before I fire up Facebook.  Will you join me?

My Catholic Uniform

We’d often run errands on the way home from school when I was a little girl.  That meant we’d be spending the afternoon in red plaid jumpers.  And if we got into mischief while our mother was shopping, she’d pull us aside and sternly remind us that we were wearing our uniforms and had to behave.  She’d tell us that everyone who saw us could see that we were Catholic and that we were representatives of our school and our faith.  That people would form opinions about all Catholic children based on our behavior.

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You know how you grow up and have kids and hear your mother’s words come out of your own mouth?  Sometimes that’s not a good thing, but I don’t regret repeating the same warning to my children when we were out in public and they were in uniform.  In heavily Protestant East Tennessee, where Catholics number only two percent of the population and prejudice and misunderstandings still exist, the way visibly Catholic people behave in public makes an impression.

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You know where else it makes an impression?  On social media.  I don’t wear a red plaid jumper any more, but I have made myself very visibly Catholic on Facebook and elsewhere.  Not just because people who know me in real life know that I am Catholic, but because I often write on Catholic topics and (try to) explain Catholic doctrine.

On Friday thousands of Catholics marched for life.  They boldly and publicly proclaimed the counter-cultural truth that unborn life is sacred and deserves legal protection.  They were cheered on by supportive Facebook posts from other Catholics who could not attend.

The following day many of those same Catholics expressed support for the Executive Order signed by the President which will result in great human suffering by preventing refugees and migrants from entering this country:  men, women, children, and yes, the unborn, all our brothers and made in God’s image.  All part of one human family.

As Catholics we are to be guided by the Catechism, by the Holy Father, by the Bishops, by Scripture.

From the Catechism, 2241:  “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Pope Francis has said: “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help . . . If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

The USCCB just released a statement which reads in part: “We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope.

Matthew 25:35 is just one of many Bible verses that speak to our Christian duty to refugees and migrants: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

I am a bad Catholic.  I am as sinful as anyone.  But I try to be an obedient Catholic, and I welcome and accept the guidance of the Church in all matters.  As I try hard to avoid scandal by never publicly proclaiming dissent from anything the Church holds to be true, I will also not remain silent in the face of this offense against our vulnerable brothers and sisters.  I will not let my actions confirm the unfortunate impression many people have formed that Catholics must be Republicans or Conservatives, or are only pro-life when it comes to the unborn.

I reject this Executive Order.  I welcome the stranger.  Not because I am a Liberal or a Democrat.  Because I am a Catholic, and I am in uniform.

Why I Blog

I thought about having a blog for years before I finally started one.  My first attempt had exactly two entries.  Nothing I thought of saying seemed important enough to share with the internet.  I would stare at my screen, paralyzed, and the words would not come.

Maybe it was because I had another outlet for my writing back then–I was a columnist for the local Catholic newspaper.  My column was the original Life in Every Limb, a name I borrowed from a Wordsworth poem.  I wrote about abortion, assisted reproductive technology, birth control, the death penalty, war, and everything in between–anything that could fall under the umbrella of life issues.  Sometimes, as I racked my brain before my deadline trying to come up with a fresh approach, I would wish I could write about parenting, or marriage, or some other topic.

Well, you know what they say about being careful what you wish for!  One day my column was axed without warning.  I launched this blog, planning to feature my old columns, continue to write on life issues, and maybe branch out to other topics.

I’ve ended up branching out quite a bit over the nearly seven years I’ve been writing.  I’m told I should pick a niche and stick to it, but that’s not me and that’s not this blog.  If I have a recipe I want to share, I will.  If I go on a vacation or a hike or visit a graveyard and take pretty pictures, I want to be able to show them to you.  If I get a free product in exchange for my honest opinion, or have the opportunity to read an advance copy of a book in order to review it, I will do that here as well.  I write about politics, education, religion, parenting–in short, as I state on my Facebook page, I write about whatever matters to me.

In the main, I blog for two reasons.  One is very personal.  In an extremely busy and other-centered life, blogging is the one thing I do on a regular basis that I don’t HAVE to do.  If I could be doing anything at any time, if I had no other responsibilities to fulfill, I would be blogging.  I love it.  I love writing, I love social media, I love participating in blog hops and linkups and blogger groups.

The other reason is that I consider blogging a ministry of sorts.  Not the recipes or the sponsored posts, of course.  But when I try to educate or persuade, when I share what I perhaps arrogantly consider my bit of wisdom on various issues, that’s what it feels like to me.  Time and again, when issues arise that are important to me, I find myself inspired and excited and writing more posts.

And I was confirmed in my definition of blogging as mission a couple of years ago when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops put out a statement saying this: The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom.

While the Bishops’ statement specifically concerned religious freedom, I don’t think it’s a stretch to conclude that they would approve and encourage any attempt of the part of a Catholic blogger to write in truth about whatever aspect of the faith.  With marching orders straight from the hierarchy of the Church, is it any wonder I continue to blog?

This post is part of the Catholic Women Blogger Network’s monthly blog hop. Want to know why they blog?  Click the picture below!

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