Friday, October 24, 2014

faith & family friday: breakfast with fr. frank pavone


When we learned several months back that Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life would be flying to Fargo in October to keynote our local Teens for Life's annual Cupcakes for Life event, we parent volunteers were thrilled.

Fr. Frank is as passionate about the pro-life movement as they come. I've heard him speak before, including a few years ago in D.C. during the March for Life, and again at a Catholic media conference in New Jersey two summers ago.


What I didn't expect was to be invited for breakfast at our local Village Inn restaurant the morning of his visit; the invitation came just a days prior. And today was the day. This morning, after dropping of the kids at school, a relatively small group of parents, along with the chaplain and superintendent of our local Catholic high school, gathered at this longtime haunt of locals to "break bread" together.

It was relaxing and enjoyable. Fr. Frank is a sweet man. Though he's been vilified in some circles, having met him a couple times now, I see only fervent optimism, deep concern for women and babies and a beautiful love for the Lord of Life and our fellow brothers and sisters.

It was an honor to have him here, and an honor for me personally to be among the few who enjoyed eggs and bacon with him. He shared a little about his life on Staten Island (when he's static, which isn't often) and he wanted to know about all of us, too. We went around the circle, sharing whey we're involved in this group and other ways we are advocates for life.


Toward the end of our short hour together -- Fr. Frank had to hurry over to a school assembly right after breakfast, then on to other planned events of the day -- he shared some encouraging insight with us.

"Before we all leave, there's one thing I want you to know," he said. We were all ears.

Fr. Frank expressed his optimism for the pro-life movement, how vibrant it is, how young it is, and he said something that I know is going to stick with all of us. He said one thing that can't be taken away from the movement is the stories of the post-abortive women and the devastation they've experienced.

I can't remember exactly how he said it, and I didn't have my recorder to freeze it, but his sentiments were something alone these lines: "Scars don't lie." The stories of women whose lives have been altered forever by abortion, from mothers who felt forced to take part in one of the most unnatural acts in existence, are not going to be quelled. And there's nothing anyone can do about it.

He talked about how the healing is happening, and justice, too, not so much by what any of us might be doing (though he encouraged us and said we are points of light along the way), but because injustice necessarily corrects itself. By virtue of it not being of God, and of the way the world is meant to work, abortion is losing ground as an accepted action, and will continue to. Too many have been harmed, and unnatural, wrong acts correct themselves in time.

It was refreshing to hear this. Those of us who believe that death is never a good answer to any "problem" in society can feel disheartened at times by a culture that touts death as an acceptable answer. Death does happen, but it should always happen naturally, at God's appointed time, not at our own choosing. This is my fervent belief, and it's one of many reasons I am solidly pro-life.

Our breakfast with Fr. Frank was just the beginning of an amazing day. Right after that, I visited a local preschool and shared other passions of mine -- that of words and stories and the awesome state of North Dakota. The kids were absolutely charming and so smart!


This afternoon, a group will gather at the local abortion facility and take part in a peaceful prayer event, then celebrate Mass with Fr. Frank at the nearby Adoration Chapel. Tonight, the Cupcakes for Life event will take place with Fr. Frank rousing the troops.

It's a 60-degree, beautiful fall day, and everything feels especially blessed. It's a good day to be alive and living for life.

Q4U: Have you ever dined with a hero?


Monday, October 20, 2014

meaningful mondays: pro-life pie (with a dollop of measure 1)


I'm not a big political person. My faith is the prime motivator of my life's works. But sometimes, the two converge and I can't just burrow my head in the sand.

As well, I want to be a conscientious, informed citizen, and I've done my best to do so on the upcoming election, which is almost upon us. On Nov. 4, we're going to be asked here in North Dakota to make a big decision. It's one that other states are watching with a careful eye. What we do here could affect the rest of the country.

So if you're not from North Dakota, don't think it won't affect you. It will. Measure 1 especially has huge consequences for everyone in this nation who cares about the sanctity of life.


Yesterday afternoon, I joined the Lutherans for Life people at their annual dessert banquet and heard a little more about Measure 1. The keynote was Janne Myrdal, chairwoman for ND Choose Life, which has been at the forefront of working to pass Measure 1.

I've heard Janne's story before, about how her parents had made brave choices living in Norway during the Nazi invasion; how they'd "done the right thing" even when it put them in harm's way.

This is part of Janne's legacy -- doing the right thing in the face of oppression and opposition, and she carries the torch for her family and others who cannot. "We have been asked to stand for life in an incredibly and relatively easy society," she said. "Unlike those before us, we're not likely to suffer bodily harm for standing up for the unborn."

So can we be even a smidgeon as brave as Myrdal's mother the day she was walking home from high school and a friend working for the Opposition approached her, demanding to see her brother? Can we say, "No" to what's wrong, and "Yes" to what's right even if it makes us uncomfortable or causes us to lose friends?

Lutherans for Life participants watching a video on Measure 1
A lot of people have become conflicted and confused about Measure 1. Some don't understand that we're at this juncture in the first place not because the pro-life people wanted to stoke the fires, but because the Supreme Court said to the states, "We're giving some of this back to you. We're going to let you restrict abortion according to the will of the people in your state."

So North Dakota acted, putting in effect common-sense laws regarding abortion, including the requirement of full disclosure to women seeking abortion about the procedure; requirement of an ultrasound; a ban on partial-birth abortion, gender selection abortion and aborting Down Syndrome children at will; as well as the requirement that any doctor performing abortions must have hospital admitting privileges here, for the protection of the woman.

These seemed like no-brainer type provisions to our legislators (from both parties) and those they represent, but because of the implications, the big guns from out of state came in to try to bully us. Planned Parenthood has funneled millions of dollars into this campaign, despite the fact that North Dakota has not one Planned Parenthood Clinic on its land, east to west. In addition, their cunning marketing folks have found ways to make it about something it isn't and put fear in the ordinary citizen to intimidate them into voting against the measure.

One way I know I'm on the right side? One side leads to death, and one to life. That's always the deciding factor to me.

Deuteronomy 30:19 is one of my favorites for this cause. "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."


Myrdal said that though many people of faith are on board with Measure 1, it's not an issue for the faithful alone, and one of the biggest proponents of the measure up for vote is an atheist. "Even the unbelieving know what life is," she said.


Using a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Myrdal said that if Measure 1 passes, it will be as if we're "driving a spoke into the wheel of injustice itself," adding, "Planned Parenthood should not get to buy our elections in North Dakota."

It's an all-out war right now, but those of us on the side of life have much behind us -- a grass-roots effort of common sense, life itself, and a hoard of young people who get it, because they know that they could easily have been one more of the abortion statistics.

Later this week, I'll tell you about another huge pro-life initiative that I'll be an even more integral part of; this one involving cupcakes, and my daughters' peers serving them.

Speaking of the kids, not long after I had a delicious piece of homemade apple pie at the Lutherans for Life event, I ran home to pull together another dinner for my oldest daughter. It was her baptism anniversary last night, so we did our customary special dinner and pie of choice, along with the lighting of her baptismal candle.


Despite how hard it often is to be a mother of teens, I can't imagine a day without her in it. 


"It's easy to be pro-abortion if you've already been born," Ronald Reagan once quipped, as relayed by Myrdal. It's so true. Let's stay on the right side; the side of light and life.

Unequivocally, I choose life, now and as long as I have life to live.

Q4U: Have you even been bold in the face of opposition?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

second-chance sundays: 'don't worry be joyful' a song we can all sing

[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on Oct. 4, 2014.]

Living Faith: 'Don't worry, be joyful' a song we can all sing

By Roxane B. Salonen

Out of context, the pastor’s words might have been misconstrued by those prone to anxious thoughts.

“Those who worry do not know God,” he’d said.

But I knew what he meant. Rather than disparaging those who’ve ever had a worried thought – we’d all be condemned if so – he wanted to encourage and give us hope.

Just that morning he’d allowed worry to overcome him, he told us, noting that he’d had to remind himself that if we truly believe in a good and loving God, worry should never grab hold for long.

Worry is a human inclination, but it can be tempered with God’s deep love and caring for us. In claiming that reality, we can kick much of the worry threatening our daily peace to the curb.

Leaving church that day, the song, “Don’t worry, be happy,” came to mind. On the best days, this song can incite a whole lot of smiles, but it can feel wholly disingenuous other days, seeming downright offensive that anyone suggest we shirk our real worries at the cue of a corny tune.

And yet the pastor’s point still has much merit. Should worry drive us? It comes down to this: Are we in God’s hands or not?

Pondering the “happy” in the above-mentioned song brings me to another word that seems inseparable from belief in God: joy. While we can’t be happy all the time, as believers we should be able to experience joy most of the time.

Happiness and joy are not the same. Happiness is the petal; joy the root. Happiness is the wave; joy the steady, ever-flowing undercurrent.

When we fully absorb the reality of a good and loving God, joy can penetrate our souls in a way that the more fickle, surface happiness cannot.

In “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis writes, “Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.”

And as Diane M. Houdek writes in her commentary of this work, “Pope Francis and Our Call to Joy,” “If we trust that God loves us as individuals, as we are, we can’t help but be filled with joy.”

Further, she adds, knowing we are loved thus, it becomes easier for us to see that God loves those around us as well.
Joy spreads and begets love.

But joy can be threatened, too. Recently, I experienced a series of trials that tampered with my inner joy. Thankfully, amid that train of darkness, my joy was restored and revived.
It took a trip out of town with my youngest son to set joy back in motion.

After arriving in Bismarck and enjoying dinner with my mother, we wandered to the Capitol grounds to catch the sunset.

While awaiting the sky-burst on that warm fall evening, the two of us romped around on the grass, gleefully taking photos of statues, trees and sky, striking silly poses on occasion.

We paused to lie down on the grass and, head to head, sized up the looming “Skyscraper of the Prairie,” giggling while attempting a “selfie.”

Joy started sneaking back.

Then, just as golden, pink and blue streaks began to spread across the sky, a gray cat with a fluffy tail found us and endeared itself to my son, who was aptly enamored. The tender way he handled that little creature made my heart leap.

Joy had begun its healing.

The next day, I visited several area schools and talked to elementary students about the writing life and the great state of North Dakota. Their questions, smiles and thank-you notes engulfed my spirit.

Joy had returned full-on.

But how do we keep this joy thing alive?

Partly, it has to do with how we respond to others. As Houdek writes, “Perfect joy is the ability to return peace and love to those who cross us.”

What an empowering, lovely thought.

And while we cannot just turn on happiness at will, as Houdek says, “If we strive to be joyful on a daily basis, we seem to develop reserves upon which we can draw.”

With joy’s return and these reminders, I’m recommitting myself to keeping my joy-tank filled, renewed in the thought that if we let the reality of a good and loving God soak deeply into our bones, joy will pervade our lives.

And so I will sing a new song, “Don’t worry, be joyful.” Care to join in a refrain or two?

Friday, October 17, 2014

faith & family fridays: highlights and heavenly wonderings


Thursday will go down in my personal history book as a lifetime highlight.

Last spring, I was asked to be keynote speaker at the annual fundraising brunch for a local religious order, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, here in Fargo. I have been a guest at this brunch in the past and felt honored to have this opportunity.

After talking through what my presentation might comprise way back then, I suggested I share how my experiences on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana had shaped my faith life. The organizers seemed to be very receptive, and so it went.

Another order, the Carmelite Nuns of the Ancient Observance also here in North Dakota, provided harbor for me as I prepared the bulk of my talk last weekend.


I couldn't have done this day without them. (For more from that beautiful weekend, see Wednesday's post).

On the way to the convention center where I was to give the talk, I sent up some prayers to a handful of my favorite saints, asking for guidance and calm. Uttering these words out loud in my van, a great reassurance came over me. I was in capable hands with the likes of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Gianna, St. Gabriel and St. Faustina.

Just that morning, St. Faustina had brought comfort through these words: "O my Jesus, You Yourself must put words into my mouth, that I may praise You worthily."

The event happened without a hitch, from the delicious brunch and visiting with friends and family...


 


To the talk itself, through which I noticed the attentive expressions on people's faces, and received the gift of laughter in just the right spots, and with more enthusiasm than I'd imagined.




It was a beautiful day that gave me an opportunity to share from the heart. At a book signing afterward, I was cheered by the comments of those who had attended.


I loved hearing about how the talk resonated with individuals in a variety of ways. "I'm from Culbertson, Montana," one said, "so I know the landscape." "I grew up near White Earth. So much of this rang true." "This reminded me of my experiences near the Badlands of South Dakota," another noted. "Thank you for sharing!"

But now, a confession -- something I shared with my hairdresser the morning of the talk. I told her that with all the time I've spent at monasteries in recent years, I've come to think that I might have missed my calling. The sisters at Carmel spend much of their day in prayer, song, and in the simple tasks of living and caring for one another, and more and more I can see the beautiful value in this life.

Did I miss it, I think? Well, it's too late now! I can hardly go back, and would I really want to?

The thing is, no, I wouldn't want to not have experienced family life and all of the treasures it offers. But that yearning? It's still there, too. And I think, perhaps, that it is a yearning that goes beyond this world. I think it is a thirsting for the perfect world of heaven. In the sacred space of Carmel, I have become familiar with the closest thing to heaven outside of bringing five new little souls into the world.

So again, without a doubt, I would not have wanted to forgo family life. But can I imagine myself dedicating my life totally to God in the context of a place that centers its time around praying for all, singing with the angels, and "hiding away" in the cloister, not to shirk the world but to keep it fully in its heart and soul? Yes. I really can!

If I were given a chance to do it all over again, I would hope for more discernment for my life's direction and looking into all the options. I would search all these out and ask God, "What do you want me to do?" In my early years, it didn't occur to me God might have a plan different than what I seemed to be seeking.

Did I get it right? Did I step onto the right path? I won't know this side of the veil. I do believe, however, that God allows us to do things our way, and even if it isn't the perfect way, as we draw nearer to Him, he helps us make adjustments so that His plan for us begins merging more and more with ours.

So I wouldn't discount that maybe my visits to the monasteries are God's way of reminding me what will be someday. For someday I believe, if I stay close to Him, all of this will be a part of my life. In heaven, I won't have to make a choice or feel conflicted. I won't wonder, should I have?

It will all be there, the life of unencumbered prayer, of joyful singing, of loving my loved ones fully and completely unconditionally, and being loved back just as completely.

I am grateful for having been shown both of these lives, and for experiencing both, too, in whatever ways have been presented. I am very blessed.

And so I will continue on this path, keeping an eye on what might have been, knowing that someday, quite possibly, it all will be, with nothing lost.

Thank you, Lord, for all of the beautiful opportunities you've offered me, despite my imperfect desires, which, I hope, will become more and more formed with what you want of me. And Lord, please help me fulfill your purpose for me on this earth right now. Your will be done.

Q4U: Have you ever wondered, what if?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

writing wednesdays: more carmel colors


The other day I promised more from my recent visit to the Carmelite monastery. Photos from these visits are among my favorites to share with readers, because I feel in a way I bring you with me when I post them. I hope you feel it.

Here's a quick peek:


I'd love to show you the rest. It's over at Peace Garden Writer -- just a quick little click away!

Monday, October 13, 2014

meaningful mondays: fall at carmel through vicky's eyes


I so wanted to download all my fall photos from my weekend at Carmel and share them with you, but alas, working on an upcoming presentation and taking phone calls that need to be taken has left me having to revise my "to do" list for today.

I can offer this much from my eyes: a tease of coming attractions. I selected it for my new Facebook cover photo, and the more I look at it, the more I see.

It's a simple, red leaf, but it stood out to me, begged me to stop, stoop and listen to what it had to say.


Now, I see more than just the red leaf. I see what surrounds it, too: brown leaves curled like taco shells; green leaves with brown spots and holes where critters have munched; grass that seems to be holding onto a summer that lasted far too short. And the earth below, capturing all that falls into itself, readying for its leafy covering to become part of itself, soon.

I have mostly been inside, ignoring fall for other pursuits. This weekend was really the first time I allowed myself the chance to absorb more of this, my favorite of all seasons, and I will share more soon. For now, though, please allow Vicky's beautiful perspective to bring you to a place of serenity on this fair fall Monday: Be Still.

Q4U: What, if any, questions came to mind after reading Vicky's post?


Friday, October 10, 2014

faith & family fridays: why 'reinventing' marriage is going to make your life harder


First, let me be clear. Marriage cannot be reinvented. I use that term because it's the closest I can think of to describe what is happening in our nation. There is an attempt to make marriage something it isn't. In fact, marriage cannot even be defined, only described.

But of course we live in a land in which we must necessarily define things. It's the way our world is ordered, and so we must come up with some definition of what marriage is. The closer we come to defining it to match reality, the better for the common good.


This week, more movement took place on the marriage issue as it is playing out in our country and among our states. I'm sure you've heard. Some would say it's a movement forward; others, back.

Today, I want to zero in on something many seem to be missing, but that Bill May brings to light in his well-reasoned booklet, "Getting the Marriage Conversation Right;" that is, the raw implications of reinventing marriage.

While I know this is a contentious issue, my aim is to discuss using reason and calm. I think this is possible; I'm an optimist. The truth is that by ignoring reality, we are all - every last one of us - setting ourselves up for regret.

There are two definitions being purported. One is based on reality and has as its end the flourishing of society. It is child-centric. The other is based on the notion that marriage is a right that should be offered to all, and has as its end the temporary happiness of whomever falls in love. It is adult-centric.

If the latter definition becomes the law of the land, the former definition must necessarily be relegated to a spot in the corner. But that doesn't mean we won't pay a very heavy price for embracing the version that's based on non-reality.

If the adult-centric version of marriage holds, it will no longer be possible for schools to teach marriage between one man and woman. In fact, it will no longer be possible for anyone to hold this ideal without being punished, either overtly or otherwise.

Bottom line, we will not be able to, as a society, promote the only institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers. Which means children will suffer, and with them, our entire society.

Those who say both definitions can be allowed have not thought it through. There's only room for one as a working definition. So necessarily, if anyone who deems themselves worthy of it, and feels a right to it, can marry civilly, then anyone who has eyes to see marriage in reality will be scorned.

Proponents of reinventing marriage tout tolerance. But how is denying reality tolerant? How is forcing people who see marriage for what it is to accept an untruth a positive? How is that just? How does it serve the common good? How will it be good for children if we completely eliminate their connection to marriage? Once we overlook the rights of children, we are putting our entire society at risk.

I guess I'd like those who are standing up for the reinvented model to explain how they plan to be compassionate and tolerant in reverse. I'd also like them to explain how they feel about holding fast to an idea of marriage that completely disregards the rights of children to be united with their mother and father.

I've been persecuted for broaching this topic. I've been misunderstood. I've been called names. That's okay. I'd prefer we have a civil discussion if possible, and I welcome that. But the above questions need to be answered. In any thoughtful society, all the angles must be explored. And I'm afraid we are overlooking some of the big ones.

In the end, the only real question we need to answer is this: Do we need a civil institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers or not? If not, why not? That's it. It all comes down to that. Because here's the thing. We're well on our way to making that very important institution non-existent in legal terms. And I see that as a very grave move.

Can we think this through in a way that is not short-sighted? Can we look beyond our emotions and see reality? I hope so. It's vital we do.

Q4U: Do we need a civil institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers? If not, why not?