July 22:   So, squirrels don’t really have particular religions among themselves, ‘cept for those who live on the other side of the tree!!  Some were wondering just what constitutes being a Catholic? I mean, what are the most essential requirements the Church asks of any Catholic? I know sometimes people ask this question, so I thought I’d use my Sheltie smarts this week and explain what the 5 precepts of the church are. They include:

(1) You shall attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation and abstain from work or activities that offend against the character of the day. (2) You shall receive the Sacrament of Penance at least once a year. (3) You shall receive the Eucharist at least during the Easter season. (4) You shall observe the prescribed seasons of fasting and days of abstinence (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday). (5) You shall contribute to the material support of the Church.

These precepts are supposed to remind us that one cannot be a Christian without making a moral effort, without participating personally in the sacramental life of the Church, and without union with her in solidarity. They are obligatory for every Catholic Christian! 

I found these precepts in my Dad’s Catholic Catechism, so if you want to know more, just go to section 2041 – 2043 and you’ll learn much more! You might even be smarter than the squirrels in my Dad’s garden. ☺

July 15:  Who is St. Monica anyways??  There is a prayer group called St. Monica’s that meets Monday evenings in our new Gathering Space.  This gives way to who exactly was St. Monica and why a prayer group named after her?
St. Monica is the patron saint of Conversion, Married Women and Mothers.  In this day and age there are more and more Moms praying that their children will return to the faith and share their parents’ belief in the Eucharist and Risen Lord.  Monica was (is) a good role model.  She was the mother of St. Augustine, one of the smartest Doctors of Catholic Theology, but Augustine wasn’t always the model child.  Many of his youthful years were spent “living the good life” and not always a moral human being.  His mother never gave up hope and, through persistent prayer and fasting, eventually led her son back to the faith and renown in his intellect and prayer life.

Today, with Google searches, online shopping, text messages, tweets, and instant credit, we have little patience for things that take time. Likewise, we want instant answers to our prayers. Monica is a model of patience. Her long years of prayer, coupled with a strong, well-disciplined character, finally led to the conversion of her hot-tempered husband, her cantankerous mother-in-law and her brilliant, but wayward son, Augustine.

Come and join St. Monica’s prayer group, Monday evenings, 7:00 pm in our awesome and cool Gathering Space!! 

July 8:   Do you believe in miracles?” a squirrel once was asking me and I could only bark back and emphatic YES!!  The problem is we don’t pause in our busy schedules long enough to recognize them!  My Dad came across the following story this week that shows the power of God’s work in our lives! 
There is a marvelous miracle described in Willa Cather's book, Death Comes for the Archbishop. In the story, Father Junipero and his friend, Father Andrea, set out on a journey through a Mexican desert with bread and water for one day. On the second day, they are beginning to lose heart when, near sunset, they see in the distance three very tall cottonwood trees. They rush toward the trees and see a little house. An old Mexican comes out of the house, greets them kindly, and asks them to stay the night. Inside the little house the man's young wife is stirring porridge by the fire. Her young son is beside her playing with a pet lamb. The family shares their supper with the priests, then gives them sheepskins to use for sleeping on the floor. The next morning when they awake, the family is gone, presumably caring for their sheep. Food was set out on the table. The priests eat and continue on their way.
When the brothers at the monastery hear Father Junipero's story, they say they know of the place with the three tall cottonwoods, but insist there is no house there. So Father Junipero and Father Andrea take some of the brothers and travel back to the place. The three tall trees are there, shedding their cotton, but there is no house and no family. The two priests sink down on their knees and kiss the earth, for they know it was the Holy Family that had entertained them there.  Father Junipero recalled how he had bent to bless the child after evening prayers. The little boy had lifted his hand and with a tiny finger had made the sign of the cross on Father Junipero's forehead.
Stories like this can make believers out of skeptics. In the book, those who hear about Father Junipero's miracle develop such an affection for this story that it brings them pleasure for the rest of their days. That's what the story of a miracle does. It strengthens faith through the pleasure of just remembering it. 

So I told all the squirrels to help spread the awesomeness of God in their lives and inspire and strengthen the faith of others!!  You, too!!

July 1:  The squirrels are chatting and talking all about Cardinal Dolan coming to Sacred Heart next February 7th and more questions are being asked about who this guy is?!!  Last week’s column I gave some biographical information regarding dates of his birth, ordinations and clerical assignments.  I’m adding a few more interesting facts about this Cardinal that I think you’ll find interesting as well:

    -Spent seven years in Rome as Rector of the North American College, considered the West Point for U.S. priests.
    -When taking the stage to greet Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report, Dolan jokingly kissed Colbert's ring instead of shaking the comedian's hand. When asked by one student considering the priesthood in the crowd of 3,000 about whether he should date, Dolan said it could help decide the right path, then quipped, "By the way, let me give you the phone numbers of my nieces."
    -In 2004, Dolan publicly released the names of Milwaukee diocesan priests who had been accused of molesting children.
    -Speaks only halting Italian and little Spanish, and no French or Latin, which could be a drawback. (By contrast, Benedict speaks eight or so languages).
    -On his blog, "The Gospel in the Digital Age," Dolan writes on a wide range of issues, from gun control to abortion to the future of Catholic schools.
    -No American has ever served as pontiff.

For more of Maggie's musings, see our online bulletin archives.  Maggie's column appears on page 3.