Monday, September 26, 2011

We Heart Racing

I've been trying to convince my friend L. and her family to come with us to an Indy Car race.

You'll love it, I tell her. I was a reluctant race attendee at first, after all, and now I'm a huge fan. It's one of the highlights of our summer, going to the track; watching practices and qualifying runs and other races leading up to the main event.

Sometimes we get to meet and talk to the drivers,

or watch the mechanics working on the cars.

The races are fun and exhilarating, I assured my friend.

L. is a football fan. We go as much to socialize as we do to watch the games.

"Isn't racing loud?" she asks.

Yes, you need ear protection.

"So when do you talk to each other?"

You don't.

"But, doesn't it...smell? Like fumes?" she says, wrinkling her nose.


It smells like exhaust and fuel and motor oil and rubber.

We love it.

But it also smells like popcorn and funnel cakes and French fries and pizza.

You get to meet all kinds of people, too; NASCAR fans, open-wheel fans, and folks who show up knowing nothing about racing but just want to have a good time.

There's always at least one fellow sitting near you who, every time Danica Patrick drives past, stands up and pumps his fist and yells, "WOO-HOO!"

I'm told that the Indy Car crowds are more subdued and laid back than NASCAR crowds.

Someday I'll go to a NASCAR race and find out for myself.

Soon racing season will be over. We'll be planning our next trip to a race.

Perhaps the Indy 500? We'll see.

(All photos taken by yours truly at Mid-Ohio in August 2010, and Baltimore in September 2011.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Get Thee to the Church: St. Jude Shrine, Baltimore, Maryland

Every summer we attend at least one Indy Car race, and this year it was the first ever Baltimore Grand Prix on Labor Day Weekend. I was hoping to get something up on this blog about that before now, and I hope to post a few photos and thoughts about it sometime this week. Anyhow, since this was the first Indy Car race in Baltimore, and the first street race we've ever attended, we decided to splurge and get a hotel right beside the track. When we went down to the lobby for the continental breakfast, we could hear the race cars on the course.

There were several churches withing walking distance (including the Basilica of the Assumption; I hope to visit that one the next time we're in town); and the closest was the Shrine of St. Jude.

The morning Masses were back-to-back, and we arrived just before the first Mass ended. You can see the priest blessing folks on the left.

My favorite Station of the Cross.

One of the lovely stained-glass windows

A close-up

Mary Queen of Apostles

There was a lovely side chapel dedicated to St. Jude, but I didn't get any photos because there was a steady stream of people going in there to pray and I didn't want to disturb them. During Mass, Larry and Joe got to bring up the gifts!

After Mass we headed downstairs to their gift shop. While we were there a lady asked Joe if we were here for the Grand Prix. Yes, we were, he told her. The woman then asked, "Are you one of the drivers?" Joe (laughing inwardly) said, no, we were just here to watch the race. The nice lady told him that if he was a driver, she would say a prayer for him.

Someone must have been praying for the drivers that day; take a look at this:

This crash happened on Sunday morning during practice, right in front of the grandstands where we sat during the race. We weren't here for this because, well, we were at church. Tony ended up finishing in third place.

And look what we stumbled across on our walk back:

Pretty cool.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Seven Sorrows of Mary for LIfe

Since today (September 15) is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, for my Seven Quick Takes this week I want to share something I've been working on for a while now. Last spring after meeting Immaculee' Ilibagiza and reading her book, Our Lady of Kibeho, I started praying the Our Lady of Sorrows Rosary. (Mind you, I don't pray this on a regular basis like I should--Our Lady recommends every Tuesday in addition to the daily Rosary which I don't always say either--but it is a devotion I turn to every so often. Actually, I think it was when my cousin Greg died that I first started exploring the Seven Sorrows of Mary devotion as a way to pray for my Aunt A. who had lost her only son.)

Then last spring during 40 Days for Life I went over to Priests for Life's website to see if there was a pro-life meditation on the Seven Sorrows of Mary. When my friends and I pray in front of the abortion clinic in Richmond, we pray using Father Frank's pro-life mysteries; and I've seen his Stations of the Cross for life as well. I wanted some pro-life reflections on the Seven Sorrows of Mary; and when I couldn't find any of those, I decided to write some. How hard could it be?

Harder than you think. It took forever. I'll probably tweak them a few times. (And I was hoping to get them out in time for the Seven Sorrows Novena, which ended today. Or maybe yesterday, I'm not quite sure.)


(To pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary, start with the Act of Contrition, and after announcing each sorrow, pray the Our Father and seven Hail Marys.)

First Sorrow: The Prophecy of Simeon

Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and blessed him. He told Mary that a sword would pierce her heart because of the sufferings of this child, and Mary was deeply troubled by this.

Mothers are often told that their unborn children will cause much suffering for them. They are told that their babies should die because they will be forced to quit school, because they will cause shame in their families, because the child will be poor, because the father is a criminal, because the child has an abnormality.

Pray that mothers facing pregnancy and difficult circumstances will be given the grace and courage to choose life for their babies. A sword may one day pierce her heart, but abortion forever pierces the hearts of both the mother and the baby.

Our Father... Hail Mary... (7x)

Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt

Mary was sorrowful when Joseph woke her and the child Jesus and immediately took them to Egypt. Herod had learned of the child and wanted him killed. Mary had to leave her home and the people she loved so that her child would be safe.

Many mothers are faced with difficult circumstances, and the pressure to abort is great. Pray that there will always be a place for a mother to go for help when she needs it. Pray for pregnancy resource centers, that they will have the support they need to help women bring their babies into the world. Pray for the establishment of new centers, and the expansion of existing ones. An unplanned pregnancy can be frightening; let us pray that help will always be available.

Our Father... Hail Mary... (7x)

Third Sorrow: The Loss of Jesus in the Temple

When Mary discovered that Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem, her heart was filled with worry. She and Joseph searched for three days, and with each passing hour they were more and more anxious. Mary could not bear to be separated from her Son.

Mary's separation from Jesus was temporary. Abortion forever separates a mother from her child. Pray that women who have had abortions will find peace and forgiveness and healing. They are permanently scarred from the choice they have made. They will never hold their children or see them grow up. May God give them peace, and the courage to help other women avoid this great sorrow and choose life.

Our Father... Hail Mary... (7x)

Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary

Mary followed Jesus on the Way of the Cross, as He was forced to carry the heavy Cross to his death on Calvary. She wished that she could carry it for him, but with sorrow she knew that this was God's plan. As Jesus struggled to bear the Cross--after he had already been scourged almost to the point of death--Mary sorrowfully walked by his side to comfort Him.

The cross of an unplanned pregnancy can be a tremendous burden to bear, and there can be an overwhelming temptation to abort. Pray that Mary, through the love encouragement of others, will walk beside women who are struggling with this choice, and comfort them during their difficult time. Mary knew that Jesus' suffering and death would lead to eternal life for mankind. Pray that these frightened mothers will, despite the struggles they face, choose life for their babies, and that pro-life people will give them the support and encouragement that they need.

Our Father... Hail Mary... (7x)

Fifth sorrow: Mary Stands at the Foot of the Cross

Mary couldn't bear to see her precious Son suffering on the Cross. She stayed with him as the soldiers drove nails into His hands and feet and hung Him up to die. She stayed with him through the many hours of His unspeakable suffering as He hung on the cross, and as the life slowly left His body. She knew that this ordeal would end in His death, yet she stood beside Him and never left His side.

Sometimes a mother is told that her unborn baby is sick, or deformed, or abnormal, and that if her child is allowed to be born, he will only suffer and die. These sorrowful mothers face great pressure and temptation to end the life of their babies, because they are told that doing so will avoid "unnecessary" suffering for their children. They know that when their babies are born, they will be faced with hardship and suffering; pray that they will be encouraged to stay by the side of their children, and carry their babies to term, even if their suffering or death seems likely. As Jesus hung on the cross in agony, he felt the presence of His grieving Mother beside him, and was strengthened by Her love. May the babies who are faced with suffering be comforted and strengthened by their own mothers' love, even if their lives are made difficult, or even shortened, by illness or abnormality.

Our Father... Hail Mary... (7x)

Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives the Dead Body of Jesus

Our Lady was overcome with grief as the broken, mangled body of her Son was placed in her arms. She wept as she looked at his bloody face, his pierced hands and feet, and the deep scourge marks on his body.

Abortion tells women that their babies are just blobs of tissue; that they have no arms or legs or head or heart. The mothers do not see their children's severed limbs, their bloody faces, their crushed heads and mutilated bodies. Pray that through the work of pro-lifers, the world will recognize the dignity and humanity of the tiniest of human beings, and that all mothers will, by choosing life, joyfully receive their newly born babies into their arms.

Our Father... Hail Mary... (7x)

Seventh Sorrow: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

With a heavy heart, Mary wrapped her dead Son in burial cloths and laid Him in the tomb.

In this Culture of Death, aborted children are labeled "medical waste" and thrown away. A mother's womb, which is made by God to be a place of warmth and protection and peace, becomes a chamber of death. We know that Jesus rose again after three days, and His tomb was transformed from a dark place of death to a gateway to eternal life. Pray that abortion will one day be abolished, and a mother's womb will always be a place where babies can grow and develop and be given life.

Our Father... Hail Mary... (7x)

It seems there are several options for concluding prayers; some like to say three more Hail Marys and/or the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. The one from Immaculee's pamphlet on the Seven Sorrows goes like this:

Queen of Martyrs, your heart suffered so much . I beg you by the merits of the tears you shed, in these terrible and sorrowful times, obtain for me and all the sinners of the world, the grace of complete sincerity and repentance. Amen.

Mary, who was conceived without sin and suffered for us, pray for us. (3x)

Father Frank Pavone inspired these meditations. These last couple of days, I've been reading about how his bishop, Most Reverend Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, decided to order Father Frank to stop his full-time prolife work and return to the Diocese of Amarillo. Bishop Zurek apparently has some concerns about the finances of Priests for Life, but doesn't accuse Father Pavone of any wrongdoing. It seems very strange; you can read Father Pavone's official statement about it here.

Father Pavone is a hero for all life. Please keep him and Priests for Life in your prayers!

And for more Quick Takes, check out Jen's Conversion Diary blog.

Have a blessed weekend!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

All The Missing People

I wanted to post something about the September 11 attacks today, since we're commemorating the tenth anniversary of that terrible day. I have all these thoughts swirling through my head, and I'm sitting here wondering--how do I put them into words?

Larry had just started his second year of preschool. Moe was less than a year old. I had dropped Larry off at his Montessori school and driven Curly and Moe back home, all the while listening to a Barney CD in the minivan. Soon after we arrived home the phone rang and it was my friend L. calling to tell me to turn on the TV. I wasn't sure what I was seeing at first; I only knew the World Trade Center was on fire. I don't remember whether I turned on the TV before or after the second plane hit, because the images were so horrifying that I kept flipping the channel to PBS so the kids would see Barney on the screen instead. I kept flipping it back and forth, and saw the plane that hit the second tower being replayed over and over. I talked to L. several times over the course of that morning; at one point she called to report the attack at the Pentagon. My husband was supposed to fly to Texas that day on a business trip. I called him at work, where he and his colleagues were all gathered around the television. He told me then that all flights had been grounded and that he would be home with us that night. I was supposed to meet L. that day in the park for a picnic lunch with our kids, and when the first tower fell she called me in tears to tell me that she just couldn't; she needed to stay at home where it was safe. I briefly flipped the channel again from Barney to the sight of only one tower standing, and lots of smoke and dust surrounding it. The reporters were in shock; I don't think they had quite grasped the enormity of what was happening just yet. Barney stayed on our television for the rest of the morning after that. Sometime in the middle of all this Larry's school called to tell me they were sending everyone home early. When I picked him up, he said, "Mommy, we didn't play outside today." I wanted to cry.

I remember playing outside with the kids later on that day and being keenly aware of the silence around us. Even on the quietest of days and nights at our house, there is almost always some traffic noise; we're so used to it that we often don't even notice. There is a pretty busy highway that runs close by, and there are always cars driving up and down our street. That day, there were none; everyone was somewhere watching the tragic events on television. Or at church praying, where I probably should have been. I remember hearing the sound of a plane overhead, and it was an eerie feeling. It seemed out of place in the silence. It sounded like one of those large military cargo planes, and I wondered what its mission must have been. That night Joe and I sat numbly in front of the television, watching the replays of the events over and over; the news conferences, people running and screaming, buildings crumbling, news reporters weeping. When asked how many people had died in the attacks, Mayor Giuliani told one reporter he really didn't know; it could be in the tens of thousands, and that the number of dead would likely be more than anyone could bear. One image that has stayed with me was of a man in a suit, covered in dust, talking with his wife on his cell phone, breathlessly telling her that the towers had fallen but that he was safe. As he looked up at the smoke-filled sky, he kept saying, "There are people in there. There are people in there."

We later learned that nearly three thousand people died that day. (The weird thing was, I almost felt relieved because I was sure the number would be much higher). Three thousand innocent people, going about their daily lives. Many of them were firefighters and police officers who rushed into the buildings while others were running out, even jumping out of windows to their deaths. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, we saw television and newspaper images of pictures that people had tacked to walls of their missing loved ones. We cried and prayed for all the missing people and their grieving families. We came together and vowed to never let this horrible act of violence ever happen to us again.

And yet, every day in the United States, we allow horrible acts of violence take place in abortion mills all across the country. Every day, more than three thousand innocent children are murdered under the guise of "women's health." That's more than the number of people killed on 9/11. Every single day. And 1.4 million innocents die every year. Since 1973, more than fifty million Americans have been systematically slaughtered by other Americans, and I can only imagine the amount of blood money that has exchanged hands in these homicidal hits. And too many of us just look the other way, and don't even care. Why? Because we've been fed a pack of lies by organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the National Abortion Federation. We're told that a preborn child is nothing more than a parasite, a cancer, a part of a woman's body that she can discard if she so chooses. We're told that abortion is good and liberating for women--when in fact, it leads to increases in depression, alcoholism, drug use; even breast cancer and suicide.

The September 11 attacks happened on live television. We watched the towers burning and falling, saw the gaping, smoldering hole in the Pentagon. We saw the hole in the ground where United Flight 93 crashed. We saw the photos of the people who were dead and missing. We heard about the heroes who ran into the buildings to save the victims, who worked for days and days searching for survivors in the wreckage, the passengers on Flight 93 who bravely fought the hijackers to bring down the plane that would have killed hundreds more. Abortion is the ultimate act of terrorism, and it's done very quietly right under our noses. We don't see the babies being dismembered and crushed and thrown in the garbage. We don't hear the screams and cries of the mothers who grieve for their dead children, wishing they could bring them back.

The number of dead children by abortion in America is more than we can bear. Sometimes when I'm walking through a crowd, I look around me and wonder, "Who's missing? What would this world be like if there were no such thing as abortion?" I daresay it would be a happier place. (Do you know that as we waded through the crowds in Ocean City and Baltimore recently, I did not see a single person with Down's Syndrome? Not on the boardwalk, on the beach, in the restaurants, in the grandstands, on the streets--not one. Is this because 90 per cent of people with Down's aren't allowed to be born? It made me very sad.) In the last ten years, we have sent thousands of men and women overseas to make sure the kind of attack that took place in September 2001 never, ever happens again. Over five thousand of those never came back. These people are heroes--and no matter what your opinion might be about whether or not these wars have been justified, I think you would agree. (My brave cousin Tyler just returned to Afghanistan after a short time at home on leave. Please join me in praying that God will keep him safe from harm until he returns to his family.) We must also fight to make sure that the evil scourge of abortion is abolished forever.

The unborn have heroes fighting for them, too--people like Abby Johnson, Alveda King, David Bereit, Shawn Carney, Father Frank Pavone--the list goes on and on. At the end of this month, the fall 40 Days for Life campaign will begin, and thousands of ordinary people like you and me will stand in front of abortion clinics, quietly praying for the killings to end. We'll pray for the mothers, the fathers, the babies, and the abortionists. I am always heartened by the number of women who decide not to abort their babies, and the numbers get higher at every campaign. Abortion clinic workers leave the industry and begin to speak out for the unborn. Planned Parenthood is losing funding and clinics are closing. Our prayers are working. Life is winning, but the fight is far from over: we're still seeing new abortion centers being built, pro-abortion forces are pushing to block bills that would defund Planned Parenthood and put restrictions on abortion, and meanwhile pro-lifers are accused of being violent extremists who are out to take away women's rights and undermine women's health.

Today we pray for our country. We pray for the victims of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. We pray for their families and friends. We pray for the men and women in our armed forces who risk their lives to keep America safe from those who would do us harm. Let us also pray for the most vulnerable among us--the children in their mothers' wombs. I'll leave you with this reflection that was printed in our church bulletin today:

On this anniversary of 9/11, we pray for all those in our country and throughout the world at war, whose lives have been shattered by violence. We also pray today for all those who have lost a child, a grandchild, a brother or sister to abortion. We lift up the abortion providers in our communities, that they might use their gifts and talents to support non-violent solutions to unplanned pregnancy. And we pray for those who have personally experienced the pain of abortion, that they may experience authentic forgiveness that comes only from God. (Theresa Burke, Founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, 9/04)

Never forget. Never give up.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

7 Quick Takes, the Mary's Birthday Edition

Today, September 8, we celebrated the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In honor of our Mother's birthday, I'm totally stealing Catholic Working Mom's idea and posting some of my favorite images of Mary. I had a hard time choosing only seven; I was surprised at how many photos of her I've taken!


St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Upper Marlboro, Maryland


Holy Family Church, Dale City, Virginia


Our Lady Queen of Peace chapel, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC


Our Lady of La Vang chapel, National Shrine, Washington DC


Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, National Shrine, Washington, DC


St. John's Church, Hollywood, Maryland


Our Lady of Czestochowa, St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York

Ave' Maria!

(Check out Dana's blog. It rocks.)

And for more Quick Takes, visit Jennifer's Conversion Diary.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Get Thee to the Church: St. Luke's, Ocean City, Maryland

Looks can be deceiving. St. Luke's might be the most nondescript-looking Catholic church I've ever seen (well, except maybe St. Mary's in Blacksburg, before they moved into their newly-built one which is beautiful inside and out. I hope to get in there for some photos on a future visit.) I wasn't sure what I would find when I went through the doors--would it be as sterile and colorless as St. Mary's used to be?


Since St. Luke's was only a five-minute walk from our condo, I decided to stroll over for their 9 am weekday Mass on Saturday morning. (My family was happy about that, because they didn't have to put up with me wandering around snapping photos before and after Mass on Sunday.) I loved the sunburst window right behind the altar.

There was no lack of statues here. (The one of Mary was beautiful but I forgot to take her picture. DOH!)

Does anyone know which saint this is? I'm clueless.

There were a number of statues placed in front of windows.

I always snap a photo of my favorite Station of the Cross: Station IV, Jesus Meets His Mother. It's become a habit.

Outside by the flagpole is a memorial to fallen soldiers. Each statue represents one branch of the armed services.

For more about St. Luke's, click here!

I posted a few photos and thoughts from our visit to Ocean City on Friday; click here to see those.

Tomorrow Larry starts high school and it's the first day of preschool. You might not hear from me for a while; although I hope to update my Cooking Nick's Books blog this week. Last night we returned from a whirlwind weekend in Baltimore for the first ever Indy Car street race there; I might be sharing some of those memories here soon. Happy Labor Day!
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