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Mary: a model for every stage of life

By Mary Morrell

When my first granddaughter was about two years old, she loved to climb, jump and swing – always from the highest point she could manage. Anything a worried grandma like me would fear she loved to do, and my son happily obliged her.
 
One day he had her by the ankles and was spinning her around as fast as he could. She was screaming and laughing, and I was just plain screaming, “Stop!”
 
I was worried that his hands would slip or he would trip over his own feet or some other catastrophe would happen. My granddaughter, on the other hand, wanted one thing: “Do it again, Daddy!”
 
While I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, she wasn’t the least bit afraid. She had complete faith in her father. How like Mary and her unfailing trust in God, I thought.
 
Mary could have easily thought her life was beginning to spin out of control when the Angel Gabriel visited her to tell her she was going to have a child and not just any child: God’s child.
 
Just think of the circumstances: She was a teenager, engaged but not married, having to tell her future husband about her pregnancy. How would he respond? Would there be a wedding or would she be ostracized or maybe stoned to death? If, like so many other young women, Mary had imagined her future, this probably wasn’t how she saw her life unfolding.
 
Then there was the prophecy of Simeon shared when Mary and Joseph presented the infant Jesus in the temple: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many may be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”
 
These words warn a very young Mary that she will suffer along with her son as He fulfills God’s work.
 
It has not always been easy for me to relate to Mary. Every image of her I had ever seen was one of youthful, radiant beauty, and holiness far beyond my reach. For us, time quickly takes away the bloom of youth, and our imperfect nature sometimes makes holiness seem inaccessible.
 
Then, as an adult, I discovered an image that resonated with me and my relationship with Mary blossomed.
 
On a visit to one of our Catholic schools, I saw a life-size bronze statue of an aged Mary -- as she might have looked as she stood at the foot of the cross, watching her son die a painful death.
 
She was seated in a chair. Her face had aged, her hair was pulled back in a bun, her hands reflected a life of hard work, but she emanated a beauty that came from wisdom and the experience of living life with all its joys and sorrows.
 
This is the Mary who persisted, who was resilient in the face of circumstances that she could not control. The Mary I saw before me was a woman of grace who must have gotten tired as we all do when we age, who probably had aching bones and muscles and who sometimes felt overcome with weariness.
 
Finally, I had found the Mary I could truly relate to.
 
As I began to see my life in line with Mary’s, I began to see that Mary’s holiness can be our holiness as we try to live our ordinary lives with extraordinary faith.

Originally published in the summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic.
 

Virtual prayer groups

By Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington
 
How many times have you told someone, “I will pray for you,” after learning of a troubling diagnosis, a bereavement or a worry on that person’s mind? Prayer is something we Catholics do, for and with one another — from the highest form of prayer, which is the Mass, to private devotionals for particular intentions.
 
When it comes to building a culture of life, prayer may be considered the most powerful tool we have. Especially in a state like Vermont where abortion is widespread and assisted suicide is legal, movements like 40 Days for Life (40daysforlife.com) and Cenacles of Life (cenaclesoflife.org) offer tangible opportunities to pray and fast in solidarity with others who are committed to promoting the sanctity of human life. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for some people to find time to gather physically to pray.
 
Thanks to the tools of our modern age, however, a solution has emerged: virtual prayer groups. These take many forms, but their common feature is that members connect digitally around shared prayer intentions, allowing them to pray “together” wherever they are and whenever they can.
 
Many Vermonters participate in Nine Days for Life, a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops-sponsored novena for pro-life intentions that takes place nationwide during the nine days leading up to the annual March for Life each January in Washington, D.C. Participants register at 9daysforlife.com and are sent daily reminders and prayers via email, text or social media apps.
 
Social media platforms like Facebook also offer myriad public and private prayer groups devoted to specific causes. Informal prayer groups can arise organically and take a variety of forms; not all require members to be tech-savvy.
 
Lori Daudelin, who helps coordinate the diocesan post-abortion healing ministry known as Project Rachel, developed a prayer ministry called “Friends of Project Rachel Prayer Partners,” a community of volunteers who pray for participants in the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat as well as those who call Project Rachel for support.
 
Daudelin sends requests to members using both email and surface mail outlining prayer requests. “Members’ time commitment is whatever they want it to be,” Daudelin explained. “They offer the prayers they feel led to.” She always is looking to add new members to this prayer community.
 
Pam King of Swanton, co-director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Church in St. Albans, leads a virtual prayer group which began spontaneously more than two years ago when a handful of friends agreed to pray a novena for a mutual friend who was experiencing troubled times. King sent daily reminders via text message to connect participants and to formalize their effort. Members texted “Amen” after they finished praying. The group continues with some 30 participants who receive either text or email reminders.
 
With input from the members, King identifies prayer intentions and searches out appropriate prayers to support them. “We have developed a kind of spiritual family where we support each other in times of need,” King explained, adding that it is a format that is easy to adapt to suit the goals of any prayer ministry. She often consults the website praymorenovenas.com to find suitable prayers for the group.
 
“Catholic Apptitude” (catholicapptitude.org/mission) is another online resource offering reviews of many digital apps devoted to prayer and devotions.
 
There are no limits to when individuals can pray, and now, with the availability of digital media, there are fewer limits to how and when we can pray together. 

Originally printed in the summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 

Praying in secret

By Carrie Handy
Respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington

 
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus exhorts His listeners: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them,” and, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites who love to stand and pray … so that others may see them.” Commenting on this, a priest I know said in a recent homily, “Most of us are pretty good at obeying this part of the Sermon on the Mount; it comes pretty easily for most of us.”
 
Pondering his statement, I wondered why that would be. Is it because in our modern culture, we are perhaps a bit too happy to have an excuse to hide our faith from the world? Here in Vermont, ostensibly the least religious state in the nation, being a Christian is often conflated with being a bigot and a hater. No one relishes that kind of calumny, but shrinking from our responsibility to be Christian witnesses to our faith may be helping to dilute its power in the wider culture and allow such error to flourish. Jesus didn’t intend for us to use His words as an excuse to let our faith disappear from the landscape.
 
Sadly, Catholic principles rapidly are disappearing from the landscape. Where they do exist, they are often the subject of criticism and ridicule. Opposition to abortion is translated into oppression of women; opposition to assisted suicide is framed as indifference to suffering. Believing in the complementarity of the sexes and that our sexuality and our physical bodies have a God-given purpose which must be respected, and which obviates abortion, sterilization, contraception, homosexual acts and same-sex marriage, to name a few examples, makes us judgmental haters.
 
Catholics today are called as never before to become informed about the truths of our faith in order to be able to explain the “why” behind the teachings that seem increasingly at odds with modern society. Unless we can articulate these truths within the wider culture, we run the risk of being swept up into a secular mindset that runs counter to basic Christian principles. As I’ve heard Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne say on more than one occasion, “The number-one purpose of the Church is to save souls.” Saving souls in today’s world means standing for truth, in charity, even when it’s hard.
 
We are called to be salt and light and leaven in the world. Standing for pro-life truths in particular can be extremely challenging in a state where abortion on demand and assisted suicide are legal. It is incumbent upon us to spread the pro-life leaven amid a culture of death and to help reignite our determination to protect the most vulnerable lives among us.
 
How to do that? Here are a few ideas:
 
* Educate yourself. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website has a wealth of material covering a range of topics related to human life and dignity.
 
* Educate others. Bring pro-life speakers to your parish and community. The Respect Life Speakers Bureau can help.
 
* Speak up. If putting yourself out there is uncomfortable, start small: Something as simple as occasionally sharing a pro-life article or quote on social media can signal to others that you are pro-life.
 
When someone in your midst displays ignorance about, or disdain for, your faith or pro-life views, “out” yourself as a believer. Don’t be afraid to let them know you disagree.
 
* Pray. Join or begin a digital pro-life prayer chain such as 9 Days for Life; volunteer for 40 Days for Life or Cenacles of Life.
 
* Participate. The Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January and the Vermont Rally for Life in Montpelier offer opportunities to show the strength and breadth of the pro-life movement.
 
* Help. Donate to Birthright, Carenet or another pro-life pregnancy care center; reach out to an unwed mother in need; become a hospice volunteer.
 
In short, put your toe in the waters: Identify yourself as “pro-life” and follow the Spirit where it leads. Above all, while you pray to your Father in secret, do not be afraid to be a witness for life in the world.
 

Movie review: 'Cars 3'

Fasten your seatbelts and start your engines for a wild (and often ear-splitting) ride in "Cars 3" (Disney), the latest installment of the family-friendly animated franchise.
 
Six years after the initial sequel and 11 since the series began with "Cars," the anthropomorphic autos are back with a vengeance. Director Brian Fee ramps up the racing action (and the roar of the engines) while introducing a fleet of new characters sure to please young viewers -- not to mention toy manufacturers.
 
Happily, there's much more than the dizzying blur of NASCAR-like action.
 
Screenwriters Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich inject a nice amount of heart and pathos into the comedic plot and add winning messages about second chances and the value of mentoring.
 
The years have been kind to ace racer Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson). He's still at the top of his game. But just over his shoulder is a new generation of faster vehicles, like the brash rookie Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer).
 
"Enjoy your retirement," Jackson tells Lightning as he whizzes past.
 
In a flash, Lightning is sidelined by an accident. Disillusioned and depressed, he retreats to his adopted home of Radiator Springs. There he draws on the support of his loyal tow-truck sidekick, Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy), and comely Porsche sweetheart, Sally (voice of Bonnie Hunt).
 
Sally knows Lightning must look to the future. "Don't fear failure," she insists. "Take a chance. Try something new."
 
A spiffy fresh paint job by Ramone (voice of Cheech Marin) helps. "It's so beautiful," Ramone says of his own work, "it's like the Sistine Chapel!"
 
With his spirits buoyed, Lightning heads to the training center run by his sponsor, Rust-Eze, and its new owner, the "businesscar" Sterling (voice of Nathan Fillion). His eager young coach, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), is thrilled with her new, if elderly, charge.
 
"You're my senior project!" she gushes.
 
As the bond between veteran racer and rookie wannabe grows, Lightning recalls the wisdom of his dearly departed mentor, Doc Hudson (voice of Paul Newman). On a whim, he takes Cruz on a road trip to find Doc's original trainer -- a grizzled '51 Ford named Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper) -- to recapture some of the old magic.
 
"You'll never be the racer you once were," Smokey intones. "You can't turn back the clock, kid, but you can wind it up again."
 
"Cars 3" is full of surprises, and there's a nice twist in store well before the finish line.
 
The film contains a brief, highly stylized crash scene.
 
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.
 

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Close to eight decades ago, William Moulton Marston -- whose name seems more suited to a stodgy novelist than a writer of comic books -- created Wonder Woman. In the years since, the character has, of course, become a staple for DC Comics.

She has also had a successful and varied career in other media, including a late 1970s live-action television series that aired on ABC for one season and on CBS (in a revamped version) for two more. While somewhat short-lived, the show -- which starred Lynda Carter and Lyle Waggoner -- exerted a considerable cultural influence.

Now, embodied by Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot, who also played her in 2016's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," the familiar superhero holds the spotlight in the enjoyable adventure "Wonder Woman" (Warner Bros.).

Director Patty Jenkins keeps the mayhem through which Gadot passes mostly free of gore. And the dialogue in Allan Heinberg's script is unspotted by vulgarity. Yet tinges of sexuality make the film safest for adults, though some parents may deem it acceptable for older teens.

Opening scenes take us to Wonder Woman's native environment, the picturesque, Aegean-style island of Themyscira. Populated entirely by Amazons, Themyscira is isolated from the rest of the world by an invisible, protective but not impassable shield thoughtfully provided by Zeus.

After chronicling some of Wonder Woman's childhood (during which she's played by Lilly Aspell and known as Princess Diana), including her military training under the isle's chief warrior, Antiope (Robin Wright), the screenplay introduces an outsider in the person of Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).

An American who's spying for the British during World War I (an event of which the Amazons know nothing), dashing Steve drops from the sky when the German aircraft he purloined in an emergency is shot down. Diana takes his startling arrival as a signal that her race is being called to restore peace to humanity.

Since her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), the ruler of Themyscira, disagrees, Diana undertakes the mission on her own. Guided by Steve, and with the support of Sir Patrick (David Thewlis), a high-ranking government official in London, Diana uses her battlefield skills to take on real-life German commander Gen. Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), the fictional, sinister scientist who runs Ludendorff's chemical weapons program.

Steve recruits three additional allies for Diana from among his old pals. This gallant but shady trio is made up of Moroccan veteran Sameer (Said Taghmaoui), Scottish sniper Charlie (Ewen Bremner) and a Native American black-marketer known only as The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock).

The movie's fundamental values are sound, if not always clearly expressed. Wonder Woman chooses to see the underlying goodness in human nature that the slaughter of the trenches masks. And she consistently strives for concord, though she shortsightedly imagines that this can be achieved by killing the last surviving Olympian, Ares, the god of war.

Believing that Ares has incarnated himself in Ludendorff, Diana is convinced that assassinating him will end the current conflict and prevent any future ones. This sets her at odds with both Steve and Sir Patrick since they believe an armistice is imminent, and fear that the prospect of peace would be ruined by Ludendorff's death. Despite the tension, however, everyone on Diana's side seems to be striving to do good.

On a more personal level, Steve and Diana -- who have, of course, come to be more than mere comrades to each other -- are discreetly portrayed as spending a night together, though the camera cuts away shortly after Steve locks the bedroom door behind them. In a more peculiar encounter earlier on, Diana walks in on Steve just as he is emerging from a bath. Incongruously for a man reared a century ago, he makes no effort to cover himself. Instead, he casually stands there while Diana satisfies her curiosity.

It was probably inevitable that "Wonder Woman" would play on the humorous potential of the fact that its heroine has never set eyes a man before, though a subtler approach could certainly have been adopted in doing so. Along the same lines, the situation described above is followed up by some comically awkward wordplay that would not be appropriate for kids.

Together with the pagan details incorporated into the movie's milieu and backstory, these incidents suggest a cautious attitude on Mom and Dad's part.

The film contains frequent stylized violence with minimal blood, nonscriptural religious ideas, implied premarital sexual activity, a scene of immodest behavior, some sexual humor, at least one mild oath and a single crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Religious liberty and Fortnight for Freedom

By Sister Constance Veit, lsp
 
In college I grew in my Catholic faith and had a strong experience of religious pluralism. I was involved in the Newman Center daily, but I also had many non-Catholic friends and even frequented Hillel House, the Jewish student center.
 
Several of my Jewish friends worked in Hillel’s kosher dining room, and since they couldn’t work on the Sabbath or religious holidays, they got me and some other non-Jewish girls jobs there; we served kosher food and did the dishes on Friday evenings and Jewish holidays.
 
At 19, I didn’t know much about Jewish traditions. My orthodox friends took their religious obligations seriously and faithfully observed the weekly Sabbath, or Shabbat as I learned to call it. I tried my best to respect their deeply held convictions, even when I didn’t understand them, since I didn’t want to offend either my friends or their faith. I secretly admired the courage of the Orthodox Jewish students who unabashedly proclaimed their religious identity through their yarmulkes, their food choices and other observances.
 
Through these experiences, I learned to approach other faith traditions with reserved curiosity and respectful appreciation. As I learned more about Judaism, while at the same time examining Catholicism in depth, I came to understand that even when we are at a loss to explain the nuances of our faith experiences to skeptics and unbelievers, this does not weaken the sincerity or strength of our convictions.
 
Things have changed a lot since my college days. As the Little Sisters have spent the last several years in the limelight due to our Supreme Court case over the HHS contraceptive mandate, we have received valuable support and encouragement from many sources. But we have also been the object of mean-spirited hate mails, uninformed critiques and partisan judgments of our supposed hidden motives. The vitriol directed against us has been both disturbing and disheartening.
 
Remembering the mutual respect I experienced during my college days, I am deeply saddened to see our current culture’s disdain for traditional religious values and its apparent amnesia in relation to the intentions of our Founding Fathers. For me the most jarring moment occurred last year when a major political candidate proclaimed, referring to pro-lifers, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”
 
We claim to live in a pluralistic society that defends human dignity and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Such a society is committed to making room for everyone including those whose convictions run counter to the mainstream but who wish to live peaceably with others and contribute to the common good. This does not mean that every individual will find every job or social situation a perfect fit. Nor does it mean that every employer, organization
 
or service provider will be able to satisfy the desires and aspirations of every person who walks through their doors.
 
In a pluralistic society, religious organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor will inevitably encounter requests for services that run contrary to our beliefs, but refusing to provide such services does not offend the conscience rights of others. Nor does it constitute discrimination or bigotry. It is, rather, a means of safeguarding our personal integrity and the Catholic identity of our organizations.
 
Washington, D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl said it well in Being Catholic Today: Catholic Identity in an Age of Challenge: “There are some things that the Church simply will not do, and it is not discriminatory to say, ‘We do not do that.’ … We must remain true to who we are. We cannot be expected to embrace error and give up our identity, which inspired us to form ministries of teaching, healing and charity in the first place.”
 
As we observe the sixth Fortnight for Freedom (June 21 through July 4), let’s pray that religious liberty will once again be respected as the most cherished of American freedoms. Let’s pray for the freedom to serve in harmony with the truths of our Catholic faith.
 
Finally, let’s pray for the wisdom to know how to contribute to a better understanding of this important issue in a way that respects all people of good will.
 
Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
 

Companion planting with Bible herbs

With roots in Scripture, these popular plants can help your garden grow.
 
Companion planting is not a new idea in the gardening world. There is evidence of farmers using these same techniques dating back to biblical times. Growing healthy produce and flowers with companion plants makes for exceptional growth and nutrition.
 
Since people grew and preserved just about everything they ate or drank, having healthy crops was a necessity for eating well through the seasons. What they knew instinctively and what has passed down through generations is the knowledge that certain plants grown together act as helpmates. Like people, plants need good “friends,” or companions, to thrive.
 
Today there’s a renaissance of sorts going on with companion planting in the garden. Corn, beans, and squash are grown together as “sisters.” Each of the sisters contributes something to the planting. As the corn grows, the beans find support by climbing up the stalk. As legumes, they fix nitrogen in the soil, and that supports the nutritional needs of corn. The squash are quick growers, and their large leaves shade out weeds. Together, the sisters provide a balanced diet from a single planting.
 
I learned early on that Bible herbs are good flower and vegetable companions. My mom would take a clove of garlic—a common Bible herb—and push it into the soil near the roses. The garlic helped deter bugs. There’s a bonus when planting Bible herbs among your garden plants. Pests find them more difficult to seek out, since the scent, color and texture of herbs are thought to confuse them. Certain herbs attract beneficial insects to your garden as well.
 
A companion planting plan integrates Mother Nature’s traits as well as your choice of what you want to grow. Here are some of my favorite plants grown and used during biblical times and what they can do to help your garden grow better. If you have little ones in your life, have them help. They will enjoy digging up God’s good earth and learning how Bible plants make good friends in the garden.
 
BASIL
 
Of all the herbs I grow that have biblical significance, basil is my favorite. It’s not mentioned specifically in the Bible, but legend has it that basil was first seen springing up outside Christ’s tomb after the resurrection.
 
The basil of the Bible was probably what is known as sweet basil. It’s the common green basil easily grown. Basil is a good companion for tomatoes. It makes tomatoes taste better, acts as a fungicide and is also good for peppers. Basil grows well next to oregano. Because bees love basil, good pollination is assured for anything planted near it. Basil’s aroma repels flies and mosquitoes: place some potted basil on your outside decks and by house entrances, and you will also be protected.
 
CHIVES/GARLIC
 
When the Israelites fled Egypt, they missed the vegetables grown in their home gardens. In Numbers 11:5, the Israelites cry out to Moses in hunger, “We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic.”
 
Chives and garlic are members of the same onion family. Chives help carrots, tomatoes, and members of the cabbage family thrive. Chives also repel cabbage worms. You can make a spray out of chives steeped in water to kill powdery mildew. Butterflies, good pollinators, are attracted to the flowers of chives.
 
Garlic improves growth on roses and raspberries, deterring Japanese beetles. It’s also a good companion to carrots, cucumbers, peas, beets, and lettuce. Garlic is especially beneficial when planted near apple, pear, and peach trees. It also repels ants.
 
CILANTRO/CORIANDER
 
Coriander is referenced several times in the Old Testament, and many of us are familiar with the verse in Exodus 16:31: “The Israelites called this food manna [meaning ‘food from heaven’]. It was like coriander seed, but white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey.”
 
Cilantro is one of the herbs that I know of as a spice, too. The leaves are called cilantro and the seeds coriander. Cilantro helps spinach and repels or distracts white flies and aphids. When it’s grown alongside anise, they act together as a good deterrent for snails and slugs, common pests on plants during early spring, when there’s a lot of moisture in the ground.
 
DILL
 
Dill is mentioned only once in the New Testament, in Matthew 23:23–24. It tells about the Pharisees paying tithes of herbs, including dill: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees… You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity… [You] strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!”
 
Scholars believe that dill was wrongly translated as anise in English-language Bibles. Dill improves the growth and health of vegetables in the cabbage family, repelling those nasty squash bugs and cabbage loopers. Cucumbers, lettuce, and onions grow better with dill planted nearby.
 
The flower heads of dill are among the best nectar sources for beneficial insects in the garden. Plant dill in an appropriate spot for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars to feed on. Even their caterpillars are beautiful. They become orange-yellow and black butterflies.
 
FENNEL
 
The name fennel is not used, but the word galbanum is mentioned in Exodus 30:34–38. Botanists believe this is a giant fennel, which is native to the Mediterranean region and southern Europe. Here’s the Bible passage: “The Lord told Moses: ‘Take these aromatic substances: storax and onycha and galbanum, these and pure frankincense in equal parts; and blend them into incense. This fragrant powder, expertly prepared, is to be salted and so kept pure and sacred.’”
 
Fennel attracts ladybugs and repels aphids. It’s also a host for beneficial pollinators and insects.
 
MINT
 
As in Matthew 23, mint is also mentioned in Luke 11:42 as a tithing herb: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.”
 
Peppermint helps members of the cabbage family, including kales. It repels the cabbage fly. Plant a container near the kitchen door to keep ants away. The white flowers of peppermint attract pollinators like bees, and beneficial insects love mint.
 
MARIGOLDS
 
This is another beautiful, useful flower not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Marigolds are a flower that I always include when teaching little ones how to plant a Bible garden. The reason? Think of the name and you’ll see why I call these flowers “Mary’s Gold,” which reminds us of the bright yellow sunshine that surrounds our Blessed Mother, along with her halo of golden hue.
 
Tomatoes love marigolds, and so do peppers, cucumbers, and even cabbage. Plant them everywhere! Certain varieties of marigolds, like the French marigold, produce a pesticidal chemical from their roots, so strong it lasts years after they are gone.
 
One of the reasons marigolds are so good as companion plants is their scent. Pests don’t like their aroma at all.
 
OREGANO
 
In Exodus 12:22, Moses tells the Israelites to prepare for the 10th biblical plague by dipping a branch of hyssop in lamb’s blood to mark their doorposts, thus sparing the lives of their firstborn. Some scholars believe hyssop to be a type of oregano. This makes sense to me, since hyssop was not known as a native plant in the Mediterranean area during biblical times.
 
Oregano provides general pest protection. Cucumber beetles will stay away if oregano is grown close by and aphids won’t bother your tomatoes. You’ll have good melon production with oregano growing near.
 
 
Rita Nader Heikenfeld is an award-winning syndicated journalist, inductee into Escoffier Hall of Fame, President’s Medal ACF, Appalachian herbal scholar, accredited family herbalist, author and the founding editor of AboutEating.com.
 
Published in St. Anthony Messenger, April 2017

 
 

Religious Liberty

By Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington
 
“Religious freedom is not only that of private thought or worship. It is the liberty to live, both privately and publicly, according to the ethical principles resulting from found truth.”
     --Pope Francis, Conference on International Religious Freedom and the Global Clash of Values, June 2014
 

Imagine being a high-ranking public official with the respect of your peers, renown throughout the nation; your esteemed career has made you a trusted adviser to your country’s leaders.
 
And then, imagine having these very people force you to choose between your principles and your alliances, at the cost of your life.
 
Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII, faced just such a choice and was beheaded for holding to his principles.
 
Fortunately, no one in this country today is at risk of execution for refusing to obey laws they consider immoral. Our Founding Fathers saw fit to protect religious freedom as a fundamental right—not only the right to practice religion according to one’s conscience but also to be protected from coercion into acting against conscience.
 
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean conscience protections are without threats. Beliefs about the sanctity of life and the meaning of human sexuality are particularly vulnerable, as Catholic principles about these topics, once considered mainstream in American society, gradually are being marginalized.
 
Abortion on demand, same sex marriage and legal assisted suicide are the most prominent examples of this here in Vermont. But it’s no longer just about moral objections to these practices; in some instances, individuals and organizations face the possibility of having to choose between obeying the law or their consciences.
 
For example:
 
 Doctors in Vermont are legally required to supply patients with information on assisted suicide when asked or refer them to those who will. There is no clean “opt out” for health care providers who morally object to this practice, although a recent court decision clarified that doctors do not have to volunteer this information unless asked. Unfortunately, even referring to another provider can be construed as legitimizing a practice deemed morally wrong.
 
 Last year the Vermont legislature refused to allow a conscience exemption clause in a law mandating employers to fund insurance coverage of contraception (some forms of which may act as abortifacients) and sterilization. As the law stands, Catholic churches and schools in Vermont must fund these practices in their health care plans.
 
 In the neighboring State of New York, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City was forced to take part in the abortion of a 22-week- old unborn child in 2009, and saw no resolution of her complaint to the HHS Office of Civil Rights until 2013, despite the existence of a law intended to protect against this type of coercion. Hers is not an isolated case.
 
Nurses have been told by Vanderbilt University and by a state-run medical center in New York that they must assist in abortions against their consciences. The Conscience Protection Act of 2017 was introduced in Congress in January in response to these and similar violations.
 
While we can expect the freedom to act according to conscience in 2017 without facing martyrdom as St. Thomas More did, it will likely take a sustained and united effort to ensure universal protections of conscience and religious liberty. In order to shine a light on the many issues related to religious liberty and conscience protections both here and abroad, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops again this year will sponsor Fortnight for Freedom, a prayer and public education initiative which takes place beginning on June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More— and ending on July 4, Independence Day.
 
Learn more: usccb.org/issues-and- action/religious-liberty/fortnight- for-
freedom/index.cfm
 
To receive daily updates during the Fortnight for Freedom, follow us on Facebook
facebook.com/DioBurlingtonRespectLife/.
 

Movie review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales'

Iconic and eccentric buccaneer Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) hoists the black flag for a fifth time in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" (Disney). The result is a flashy but ultimately unsatisfying journey for the theme park ride-based franchise that first set sail in 2003.
 
On the upside, the crowded, overlong proceedings are relatively family-friendly. So parents willing to overlook some adult punning may give mature teens the go-ahead to board.
 
This time out, Jack joins forces with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a young science scholar whose ahead-of-her-time learning has led her to be charged with witchcraft, and with Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), an equally youthful sailor. Henry is the son of Jack's old associates Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) Turner.
 
All three main characters are seeking the same magical artifact, the Trident of Poseidon, each for a different reason. They're pursued along the hunt by the British navy, by the ghost of Capt. Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), one of Jack's old adversaries, and by living but one-legged freebooter Capt. Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
As directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, "Dead Men" is a special effects-driven adventure long on spectacle but short on human interest. The mayhem is almost all stylized, however, and the dialogue is virtually free of vulgarity.
 
One scene, played for laughs, finds an incidental character -- who subsequently turns out to be married -- in a compromising (though not directly sexual) situation with Jack.
 
The humor, such as it is, jokingly reinforces Jack reputation as a womanizer while also deflating the ego of the cheater's husband, a pompous town official on the island of St. Martin. It's a frivolous treatment of a serious subject, but the script quickly passes on to other matters.
 
On the other side of the moral ledger, late plot developments set the stage for a climactic act of self-sacrificing parental love. And Henry and Carina, who are obviously destined for each other, content themselves, once their bickering morphs into love, with kissing.
 
The film contains much action violence with little blood, brief implications of adultery, a single gruesome image, occasional mature wordplay and at least one crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
 

Gratitude: a wellspring of hope, healing

“In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.”
-- St. Teresa of Avila

 
After I had been sick for several weeks, my husband thought a few days away at the shore would give me time to rest.
 
The hotel was lovely, as was the ocean view, but I was missing my family.
 
Then we went to eat lunch in the hotel restaurant.
 
An elderly woman, probably in her eighties, came into the restaurant where the waitress greeted her as if they were friends, asking her if she had had a good winter.
The older woman replied, “Well, not really, but we have to deal with things as they come.” She went on to explain that her daughter had become very ill with cancer during the winter and had died.
 
The waitress was stunned and unsure about how to respond. “She wasn’t your only child was she?”
 
The woman, now seated with a young man, shared that she lost her only other child, a son, two years ago. He had a heart attack at the age of 63.
 
Now I was stunned. I couldn’t imagine the pain of losing one child let alone both children, and within such a short period of time. How did she cope?
 
A moment later the gray-haired woman smiled at the waitress and said, ”I’m just so grateful to be here with my nephew and for my four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.”
 
I felt myself getting choked up, but I was beginning to understand.
 
Later that evening, when we went for dinner, my husband struck up a conversation with our waitress and discovered that she was a single mother of three children, ages 9, 7 and 2. Working at the restaurant was her second job.
 
“It’s been hard,” she said, “but I was so happy to get this job. My kids are having a hard time adjusting to not seeing me, but I explain to them it’s not a forever thing. The extra money gives me, and them, security for the things we need. I’m very grateful to have been hired.”
 
There it was again, the one thing that seemed to make the impossible, possible – gratitude – a powerful state of mind that serves as a wellspring for strength, persistence, positivity and growth. Rather than live in their pain and their struggles, these two women made the decision to live in a state of gratitude.
 
Of course, there is always a need to first work through our grief, our anger and our pain when we are suffering, but eventually there comes a time when we must move forward. Sometimes our losses are so traumatic that we need the support of professionals or others who have been through a similar experience. But when we find ourselves healing, choosing to live in gratitude can be an important step in reclaiming a life of hope and meaning.
 
Priest and author, Father Henri Nouwen, explains that gratitude is not as much a decision as a discipline: “The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious. Because every gift I acknowledge reveals another and another until, finally, even the most normal, obvious and seemingly mundane event or encounter proves to be filled with grace.
 
“There is an Estonian proverb that says: ‘Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.’ Acts of gratitude make one grateful because, step by step, they reveal that all is grace.”

--Mary Morrell
 
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