Blessed Franz Jägerstätter and the Simple Life of Sanctity

I was sitting at the lunch table over my daily salad while my husband prepped his grilled cheese at the stove. The children chatted with each other across the table from me.

“I’ve been thinking about Bl. Franz Jägerstätter again,” I said to him between bites. Bl. Franz had been a regular topic of conversation since we had finally seen the movie A Hidden Life, which tells the story of his martyrdom. After watching the movie, I spent several weeks reading a biography of the blessed, In Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter by Gordon C. Zahn, and my husband and I had had many conversations about his actions.

I continued, “When his diocese acknowledged his sanctity 20 years after his martyrdom they said that his sacrifice was a beyond the ordinary call of a Christian. But it seems to me that the ordinary call of a Christian is, in fact, to extraordinary sanctity.”

Bl. Franz was an Austrian who was martyred by the Nazis in 1943 for refusing to take the military oath in support of Hitler. He was a peasant farmer in St. Radegund, a small town in the mountains. Despite his humble state in life he received an extraordinary grace to see the unjustness of the Nationalist Socialist Party and stand firm in his conviction even in the face of death. He gave up his beautiful, happy family life with his wife and children for the sake of following his conscience.

I explained my thoughts to my husband further, telling him how Bl. Franz believed that he had received a special grace to see the unjustness of the Nazi party, a grace that others avoided. In some of his last writings, which can be found in a volume edited by Erna Putz, Bl. Franz explained this grace:

“If God had not bestowed on me the grace and power to die for my faith — if this is demanded of me — then I would be doing the same as the majority of the people are doing. God can give someone as much grace as God wants. If other men and women had received as much grace as I have obtained, they would have perhaps done much more good than I have done.” (Franz Jägerstätter: Letters and Writings from Prison, “Text no. 88,” p. 224)

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Who is My Neighbor?

A lawyer went up to Jesus one day. He wanted to test him. So he asked what one must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus directed this lawyer to the law, “What do you read there?”

The lawyer, a good student of the law, recited, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” With this, Jesus affirmed him saying, “Do this, and you will live.”

But the lawyer pushed further, asking the question that we all have in our hearts: “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus looked at him with love. He looked him right in the eye and he told the story of the Good Samaritan.

This past week as I questioned the Lord in prayer about how to respond to the unrest in our nation, in my own Twin Cities. I too am a student of the law, the moral law. Jesus told me the same story. But instead of Jews and Samaritans, the characters were more familiar.

Even after slavery ended in the United States, after a gruesome war, black people were still treated as half-citizens, or worse. Yet many who saw them passed them by. Others did even worse. They lynched them and left them dead. They used unjust laws and practices to keep them in segregated neighborhoods, bound up in poverty and systematic prejudice.

More than 50 years ago, African Americans fought for more liberties despite continued resistance, aggression and even more violence. Some strides were made for equality, but not enough. Some laws changed, but not enough hearts and minds did.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Our Children Need Us to Help them Grow in Virtue

If you have read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, you will remember Eustace Clarence Scrubb, the ill-tempered cousin of the four children of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, who makes his first appearance in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He was the one who deserved the name his parents had given him. C.S. Lewis uses him as an example of how children turn out if their parents do not use discipline and essentially spoil their child.

Yet, Eustace takes a turn for the best when he is accidentally transformed into a dragon on an island in Narnia. Before he can become human again he learns the lesson that it is better to be a giving, thankful, loving person than a self-absorbed, whiney, unkind person. He learns from the example of his shipmates, especially his cousin Lucy, and from trying it out himself. We meet him again in the book The Silver Chair where his classmates are annoyed that he does not join in their bullying antics — antics that the school downright promotes.

Lewis makes it clear in the book that the school children’s vicious behavior is the result of no one taking the trouble to form them in good behavior.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Getting Ready for Advent

We have two November birthdays in our house, plus Thanksgiving, which this year we are traveling for (hopefully, ahead of the forecasted blizzard for Tuesday night). Advent will be upon us by the time we get home!

Our family always reads from the Bible about the story of salvation history during Advent and puts an ornament for each reading on our Jesse Tree. And we love to light the candles on our Advent wreath. My goal for Advent is to enter in the busy season prayerfully and cheerfully. So, for myself I always pray with the Blessed is She Advent devotional.

I would like to invite you to join me this year in praying with the Blessed is She Advent+Christmas devotional. It goes through the story of the family of Christ, from Genesis to Jesus’ birth, to the birth of the Church. Each of us on the Blessed is She team wrote a reflection sharing our story and inviting you to enter into Advent and Christmas with your story, of your family, of your life as a daughter of God. You’ll find my story on Day 7 of Advent!! Today (Monday, Nov. 25) is the last day to order to get it before Advent starts! But since it goes through Christmastide, don’t worry if you order it a few days late!

The Blessed is She Marketplace is having some great sales this week!


So, click on over if you have been waiting for a sale to get the planner, our virtue book for kids, or any other product!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving week!

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More on Virtue Ethics and Responsible Parenthood

As I have shown in Part I, as human beings created with reason and seeking to live in accord with natural law, married couples will find virtue ethics very helpful in embracing the twofold ends of marriage: union and procreation.

Before we get into the details, we need to remember that each virtue looks different in each human being, and thus each couple has different serious reasons in considering having more children. St. Francis of Assisi lived heroic virtue in a much different way than St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Therefore, something that makes it difficult for one couple to feel ready to actively seek the conception of another child or even to just not avoid conception may not be an obstacle for another couple. We are called to individual holiness, and the way this is lived out is based on who we are. But even so, it is worthwhile to examine how couples might apply each of the cardinal and theological virtues to their acceptance of children.

When Pope Paul VI emphasized in Humanae Vitae the need for prudence — both when actively accepting another child and when determining that it is not the right time for another — he gave some basic categories to evaluate: physical, economic, psychological and social conditions.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

The Responsible Parenthood of ‘Humanae Vitae’ Requires Virtue

When Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae in which he stated that artificial contraception violated natural law, he explained that couples who have “serious” and “well-grounded reasons” to avoid the conception of a new human life could morally limit the marital act the infertile times of the wife’s natural cycles (HV §16).

As an engaged college student and in my early married life I encountered many debates over what constituted a “serious reason.” Some would argue that unless a family is living with a dirt floor and no food, there is never a moral reason to avoid the conception of a child. Others argued that one should not chart the woman’s cycle at all, that true openness to life and respect for natural law is when couples engage in the marital act whenever they feel a desire to express marital love and have babies as they come. Both of these ways seem less than human. The first fails to take into account that children require much more from parents than food and shelter. The second fails to acknowledge the reason God gave us over our natural impulses and that to be fully human we must use prudence to choose the best act in every circumstance.

When thinking about what we are called to be as reasoning human persons, it seems that the best approach to discerning when to be open to or limit having another child is through using virtue ethics. Every marital act is a human act, one that a couple should enter into guided by reason, choosing to make a gift of self to the other, and with full knowledge and openness to the natural end of a new human life. This means couples should be guided by prudence and love whenever they choose to enter into the marital act. Understanding virtue and seeking to exercise it can be crucial to a couple’s decision to enter into this act. It is more in accord with natural law and our human nature to use prudence both when determining when to have children and when to avoid conception then to not reason about it at all.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

More on Modesty: What is Permissible vs. What is Best

I received an email from a good friend a couple of weeks after the publication of my essay on three Doctors of the Church and their explanations of modesty. He raised a number of good points, which lead me to desire to explain a little more about my understanding of the virtue of modesty in dress.

First, I will sum up the views of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales and St. Alphonsus Liguori from the previous essay, though I recommend to get the full picture to head over and read it. When considering whether an act is moral one must evaluate the act itself, the circumstances in which it is performed, and the person’s intention in performing the act. Dressing to fit with one’s state in life, the activity one is participating in, the fashions of one’s society, and with a pure intention are all essential aspects of being modest. Simplicity and cleanliness in dress are also important parts of virtuous dress since they are part of humility, temperance and respect for others.

I ended my essay explaining that our society’s fashions made certain forms of dress morally acceptable, which have not always been understood to be so. Modest dress changes according to fashion. For example, St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote about a particular fashion of his time where women “uncovered their breasts.” Since it was an already established fashion, he said that if a woman dressed that way without any impure intention, without forming lust within herself or intending to lead others to lust after her, then it was morally permissible. He also explained that while it was permissible for her to dress revealingly with pure intentions, the person who invented the trend of uncovering breasts was culpable for instituting a fashion that could lead people into sin—though this too changes with the creators intentions.

Similarly, in our society, there are many fashions that might be more revealing than what was once considered morally acceptable. For example, because it has become normative, one cannot look at a woman in a bikini and presume that she is acting immodestly. She may have no lustful intentions whatsoever. She is simply going for a swim or working on her tan wearing what is fashionable.

That being said, there is a difference between what is permissible, and therefore not sinful, and what is best for a person truly desiring to grow in virtue. Dietrich von Hildebrand, a 20th-century Catholic philosopher, talks about the morally conscious person in his essay “Responsibility” in the book The Art of Living. The morally conscious person is aware of his or her responsibility to the world around him or her. This person sees the beauty and value of those he or she encounters and of all of creation. When a person is awakened to this responsibility of responding to all with seriousness and gravity, not in a scrupulous manner, but in confidence certain of one’s call, while always recognizing that there is a higher being.

Read more on the National Catholic Register…

Rise Up–A Devotional on Virtue for Kids!

Over a year ago my eldest daughter mentioned to me that she was interested in having a new prayer book for devotional reading. This lead to my idea of collaborating with Blessed is She to create a beautiful prayer book for children rich in the Catholic tradition of becoming holy through growth in virtue. Further, I wanted to have a book for my children that taught them how to pray by learning to place themselves in God’s presence, make an an examination of their daily lives, and then received inspiration from the Holy Spirit. 

After a lot of writing and editing and waiting, this book has finally come together. I am pleased to introduce Rise Up:Shining With Virtue. It has 15 chapters broken down in seven days–with Scripture or a saint quote and a reflection for every day. Each chapter is written by a different Blessed is She writer and covers a different virtue.

My role in Rise Up was to choose the virtues and then explain them to the reader. The book begins with my introduction, which explains what virtue is and how to grow in virtue in general. Each chapter focuses on an individual virtue. I based the introduction for each chapter on St. Thomas Aquinas’ explanation of the virtue in his Summa Theologiae taking the language down to the level of a child. 

It starts with the three Theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. These are followed by the four main Cardinal virtues prudence, justice, courage/fortitude, and temperance. The other virtues are parts or subvirtues of the Cardinal virtues: gratitude, generosity, obedience, perseverance, patience, humility, studiousness, and honesty. The book is written in such a way that children can unpack and apply growing in virtue to their daily lives, but also decode the more abstract ones that are more difficult to understand.

Then comes my favorite part in each chapter: a passage from one of the Gospels which demonstrates this virtue and a reflection on that Scripture leading the reader into imaginative prayer. Fifteen different Blessed is She writers wrote the five middle days of the week for each chapter based on a short Scripture selection or Saint quotation. On the final day of the week, the reader is encouraged to reflect, pray, and make resolutions on how to live this virtue out.  

We were super excited to get an Imprimatur for this book. The Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat means that a Church official has read over the book at the bishop’s request and has declared that nothing in the book contradicts or is opposed to the defined body of Church doctrine or goes against the moral law. As a parent, I look for this on Catholic books for my children. It helps me to know they are reading the truth.

It is so, so beautiful. If you have a kid in your life ready to grow in holiness or who has just received a Sacrament and needs a great gift. Check out this book. I can’t wait for my kids to pray with it. 

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NCRegister: It’s Time to Exercise the “Mom Brain”

…The process of growing another human being makes a mother very tired; even the thought of exerting mental effort is often exhausting. Then the baby is born and we are not any less tired. We are just trying to get the basic things of life taken care of. But I have learned that taking care of my mind is just as important as taking care of my body. In some ways it is more important. God made us to subject our passions and will to our reason. We have a duty to form our reason in truth so that we can guide our lower parts in right action. If I challenge myself to regular exercise and healthy eating, why should I not challenge myself to regular prayer and continual study?…

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Life in the New Covenant–BIS Devotion

I had the privilege of writing the devotion on today’s daily Mass readings at Blessed is She. I even dug into my theology degree for this one!

When I was in graduate school studying theology, one of my favorite topics was how Church doctrine developed. In the reading from Acts for today, we see an early example of development of doctrine in the conclusion of a council in Jerusalem of the Apostles and first bishops.

They are considering whether Gentiles should be required to fulfill all of the Jewish laws, such as the circumcision of males and other external practices. The Church leaders, directed by the Holy Spirit, realize that certain of the Jewish laws have moral grounds, such as the idolatry of eating animals sacrificed to false gods or unchastity, while other laws pertain to practices symbolic of the Old Covenant before the coming of Christ. The Church was able to step back and see what was really required to be a follower of Christ and began to develop from the traditions of Judaism with freedom from the old law...

Find the Scripture readings and the rest at Blessed is She!