KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Spirit of Vatican II" and "I'm a Pope Francis Catholic"

Basilica of St. Peter, Engraving by Giovanni Piranesi  18th Century

I ran across this article that proposed five phrases that should be banished from the Catholic lexicon. Among the collection was  "Spirit of Vatican II". I am old enough to have lived through the liturgical turmoil that followed Vatican II so I do remember this phrase being used to justify all sorts of innovations that had no grounding whatsoever in the documents of Vatican II. However, I think currently when the phrase is used, it is done so in a pejorative way to condemn actions or ideology that are contrary to Catholic teaching. It now refers to an inappropriate twisting or erroneous interpretation of the work and documents of Vatican II. So, when it is used in that context, I am not so sure it needs to go away.

For many years I thought that if Vatican II had occurred in the internet age, all of the ridiculous liturgical and catechetical initiatives that were wrongly attributed to Vatican II could not have occurred. I was certain that all the incorrect assertions would be rapidly called out because the truth would be so readily available.  However, after the election of Pope Francis I have revised my opinion. Currently all sorts of incorrect statements about Church teaching are being attributed to Pope Francis and are flying around the internet at lightning speed. Since far too many people blindly read the latest 140-character twitter post or Facebook meme and accept it as Gospel truth, we are hearing that Pope Francis is changing the Church teachings on homosexuality, marriage, Communion, and abortion. Vice-Presidential candidate Tim Kaine claims he can support legalized abortion because he is a "Pope Francis" Catholic.

The truth is, Pope Francis has not changed a single Church teaching. He has not lessened the severity of a single sin. He has been steadfast in his support for marriage as the unique union of one man and one woman. However, he is more of a pastor than a teacher. His language is imprecise and lends itself to cherry picking phrases that when taken out of context can be construed incorrectly.

For example, take his "Who am I to judge" phrase that is quoted all over the place as a call to accept homosexual behavior. The phrase in context is:

That is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Mah! So much is written about the gay lobby.  I have yet to find anyone who can give me a Vatican identity card with “gay” [written on it]. They say they are there. I think that when you encounter a person like this, you must make a distinction between the fact of a person being gay from the fact of being a lobby, because lobbies, all are not good. That is bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a very beautiful way, but says, wait a moment, how do you say... it says, [that] these persons must not be marginalized for this, they must be integrated into society.”

He refers to the Catechism as giving the correct response to homosexuality. In other words, someone who suffers from same-sex attraction but seeks to live according to God's will must be supported and loved. All sinners must be welcomed into the field hospital of the Church. The Catholic Church does not shun anyone.  Nowhere has Pope Francis supported homosexual behavior or minimized its sinfulness.

As long as we have a large number of people willing to swallow anything agenda driven media outlets propose without questioning its authenticity and accuracy, we will have claims that the Church is changing and there is a new "spirit" leading the way.  There is no such thing as a "Vatican II" Catholic or a "Pope Francis" Catholic or even a "Pope John Paul II" or "Pope Benedict XVI" Catholic for that matter. There is only one, holy catholic, apostolic Church founded by Christ on the Rock of Peter. If you want to know what that means, do as Pope Francis suggests and pick up the Catechism.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

New Evangelists of Monthly


Time to head over to New Evangelists Monthly for an aggregation of some of the best Catholic writing over the last month. Enjoy!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Dear Susan B. Anthony, I am Sorry

Susan B. Anthony

Lovely Warren, Mayor of Rochester, New York is invoking the name of Susan B. Anthony in celebration of the nomination of Hillary Clinton for president. I do not think Susan B. Anthony would be pleased at all with this turn of events as I explain in my latest article up at the HLI Truth & Charity Forum.

Therefore, it is with great sadness that I must tell you that Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party, believes no child in the womb deserves protection from abortion at any point during the nine months of gestation. She idolizes Margaret Sanger, a racist and supporter of eugenics who pushed for the elimination of African-Americans through birth control and abortion because she considered them “human weeds”.
Head on over to the Truth & Charity Forum to read the whole article.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Standing Firm in Faith with Love

Joan of Arc by John Everett Millais.
St. Joan of Arc was martyred in Rouen France 1431, as was Fr. Jaques Hamel in 2016

If I look at myself, I realize that I do not fit into neat categories. I am Catholic. I unequivocally support the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. I tend to vote Republican and have what would be considered conservative principles. Yet, I oppose the death penalty. I drive a Prius. I am open to some regulation of gun sales for the sake of safety. I am not a caricature of any political ideology. And you know what--neither is anyone else.

Politicians may set themselves as icons of an ideology. Maybe they truly believe their own dogma. Maybe they are just seeking power. However, the ordinary unknown individuals who follow these standard bearers are far more complex than the sound bites and political rhetoric.

My latest article at Catholic Stand offers some thoughts about how easily we make instant generalizations about people we don't know. Making these broad brush assumptions is lazy. We can make judgments about actions. What is right and what is wrong is not determined by a majority vote but by an objective truth that transcends mere human whims and desires. But we cannot know a person's heart from afar. We have to listen to them. We have to get to know them. And we have to allow them to know us.

Two young men invaded the sacred space of a Catholic Church in Rouen, France and murdered an elderly priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, during Mass. They claimed to be doing it in allegiance to ISIS and to Islam. It would be easy to say that all Muslims are evil and some have done so. But that would be wrong. Those who justify violence and murder are evil. The local Muslims have refused to bury the  perpetrator of this atrocity because they do not want to "taint Islam" with such horror. Muslims in France as well as other parts of Europe attended memorial Masses to show solidarity with Catholics and to display their opposition to the terrorism of ISIS.

Do I think Muslims are in error in their theology? Yes, I do. Do I hope that they someday come to believe in Christ? Of course. But I am not going to lead them to Christ spewing hatred. All people, regardless of their ideology, are made in the likeness and image of God. For that reason alone they deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, compassion, and mercy. We are commanded, not asked, by God to love them.

The current political season looks to be the ugliest in my lifetime. It is tempting to withdraw and deal with the aftermath after the elections in November. However, nothing short of the moral standing of our country and culture hangs in the balance. It is an uphill battle to bring the light of truth out of the morass of evil that appears to be overwhelming our society. We have no choice but to accept the challenge and remain engaged.

We cannot abide evil and errors in order to get along. Tolerance of evil is not love. We must stand firm in faith. To admonish sinners and to instruct the ignorant are acts of mercy and we would be remiss in our Christian duty if we failed to do so. But it must always be done in charity. It must always be done with respect for the human dignity of those who disagree. Before engaging in such correction, stop and pray. Ask for patience, wisdom, generosity, and humility. The goal is to gain disciples for Christ, not to win political points. Let all know we are Christians by our authentic love.




Saturday, July 09, 2016

Make Your Own Metaphor


 Gardening can be a metaphor for so many things--faith, parenting, and life in general. I am not going to try and figure it out right now. I am just going to talk about gardening and you can apply it as you see fit.

I have about a dozen rose bushes around my house. Roses are the divas of my garden. At the moment, most of them are not blooming. I plead with them. I spray them. I feed them. They are so needy. Rose are So. Much. Work! Every now and then they tease me with with that wonderful color or that perfectly formed flower or that heavenly perfume. So I keep at it. I know their potential.



Hydrangeas, on the other hand come back every year and put on a glorious show with great big pompoms of color whether I pay attention to them or not.  I don't have to feed them, spray them, or do much of anything to them. Around the end of July, I trim them back so that they don't encroach on the grass so much. A few of these in a vase make a dramatic arrangement that lasts for days. It is an extravagant reward for so little effort.

Do not discount the value of annuals. I used to shun annuals because it seemed like such a waste to plant them every year. But I have grown to love a few baskets of bright color tucked in among the perennials. Sometimes I carefully pick out the contents of the baskets. But this year I picked up some ready made assortments from Walmart. I just plopped them in my hanging baskets and they took off with a lovely blend of color and textures. I know it is temporary. But it is still lovely. And it was easy. There is something to be said for flowers that do not make you their slave.


Then there is my wild side. We began in spring with daffodils that were followed by peonies and amsonia (star flowers).  Right now we are in the summer phase so my garden is this disordered mass of butterfly bushes, daisies, bee balm, and cone flowers. Mint grows wild everywhere. Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out what is a wanted plant and what is a weed. I have to let them abide in the garden together until the weeds declare themselves as such and I can pull them out. It is a never ending process. I have to stay vigilant because the weeds can crowd out the more desirable plants if I ignore them for just a few days

So like I said, gardening can be a lot like life whether I am talking about my faith life, family life, or professional life. Maybe that is why I garden.









                                                                           

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

On second thought...



I subscribe to two print newspapers and numerous online new sources. I have to do this for my writing work, but I also feel a need to stay alert to the happenings in the world. However, sometimes the news is just so bleak it is tough to get past the headlines. I bury myself in the sports section and the crossword. Well, today even the sports section was disappointing since Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud. I understand that he will not serve jail time and I know that even the prosecutor acknowledged that Messi was unaware of the illegal tax scheme but it is still disappointing. So that leaves me with the crossword.

I do the weekday crossword puzzle daily and it is a rare day when I do not complete it. Usually by the time I have finished my morning coffee and breakfast it is done. I always do the puzzle in ink. I was surprised when someone thought this was a sign of supreme confidence. Actually, it is that I hate using a pencil to write on newsprint. The Sunday puzzle is a different beast altogether. If I am going to attempt it, it is going to hang around all week as I pick it up and do a bit here and there.

Part of the reason I like crossword puzzles is that they force you to push past your first impression or first instinct. You have to take a second look and put the pieces together in a novel or unique way. That is the way I am thinking about the rest of the news. Currently, every level of government, from the local school board on up has betrayed what used to be universal ethical principles. So what does my second look tell me?

In the words of the psalmist:

Put no trust in princes,
in children of Adam powerless to save.
Who breathing his last, returns to the earth;
that day all his planning comes to nothing. (Ps 146:3-4)

The fact that the world has turned its back on goodness and truth and embraced evil and the lie of relativism does not mean that I have to follow suit. I can lament the hurried pace to Perdition that I see around me but I have the free will to choose otherwise. It is not an easy choice since I will be opposing many forces with worldly power. I may very well have to sacrifice my reputation and my livelihood and my freedom. Many around the world add to that the sacrifice of their lives. But that is not an excuse to join in the rejection of righteousness and justice. So my second look says the only thing that has changed is the ease with which I can live out the Gospel truth, not the imperative that I do so. In the words of St Paul:

10Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.11Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.12For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.13Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.14So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,15and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.16In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.17And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
(Eph 6:10-17)


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Removing Consequences--A Mistake for Education

Snow Effects, Giverny by Claude Monet, 1893


Fairfax County Public Schools have my dander up and I don't even have children attending their schools anymore. However, I do have their graduates in my college classes and the school system just made my job harder. They have instituted a new grading system that removes the requirements and incentives to study for tests and turn in homework. You can read the report of the changes here and I encourage you to do so. However, let me summarize the key changes:

1. If a student makes less than 80% on an exam they must be given the opportunity to take the test again. Failure to offer every student the opportunity to retake a test in order to exceed the 80% threshold means that no student can be awarded a grade of more than 80% on the exam.

2. No student will be given a zero for missed homework until he has been given multiple opportunities to complete the assignment and failed to do so. (In other words, deadlines are really just suggested completion dates)

3. Homework for practice can account for no more than 10% of a student's grade. This is a problem for STEM teachers. You learn science, math, and engineering by doing practice problems. Lots and lots of practice problems. Now all those practice problems can only account for 10% of your grade. Do you really think students are going to do those practice problems for fun when they know they have no impact on their final grade? I can tell you from personal experience that I used to not include homework assignments as graded material. However, once the homework started counting for 20% of the final grade, students completed it and actually learned the material better. Their test scores improved. Without the carrot of a significant grade credit, the students were not going to complete the practice questions.

Some of you may ask what good could possibly come from such a system. The stated purpose of this change is to separate performance on academic material from behavior.  In other words, the student's grade should only reflect his mastery of the material with no influence from less than desirable behavior.

My first response tends toward the snarky as I wonder how cold I will have to keep my college classroom to prevent all these special snowflakes from melting. But this is a real mistake on the part of the public school administrators and will cause great harm to the students so this needs to be opposed with reason.

First of all, education is more than the mastery of facts. This change to the grading system is meant to prevent failure by students who are capable of learning the material but whose behavior negatively impacts their grade. Yet behavior that prevents failure should be part of the lessons being taught by our schools. Principles that will be ignored with this new grading system will leave students totally unprepared for college and for life in general. For example:

1. Actions have consequences. Every choice has consequences. If a student chooses to skip class, ignore homework, go to a party or play video games instead of studying he is making a free choice that will have a negative impact on his learning. How are students going to see this impact when we tell them they are "too precious to fail" and we will jump through all kinds of hoops to make sure they do not feel the sting of failure. How are students going to gain a sense of personal responsibility and be held accountable for their choices?

2. Time management matters. As students get into middle school and high school they need to start being responsible for how they spend their time. A daily planner needs to be part of their school supplies and they need to learn how to keep track of their schedules and anticipate their workload. By removing the penalties for late assignments we are telling them that their time is their own and the teachers will accommodate their preferences. So feel free to go to the football game instead of writing your paper. Feel free to party on a school night and skip the homework. There is no reason to study for the exam since you will get a second chance if you blow it the first time. In fact, you are better off not studying for the exam since you can take it, find out exactly what is on the exam, and then retake it with targeted studying aimed at only the material that will be tested. This is the ultimate teaching-to-the-test scenario.

3. There are those with more authority than you. This system severely undermines the authority of the teachers. They set the curriculum and the schedule but now students can ignore the schedule and complete work if and when they feel like it. Students need to learn that those in authority set the agenda and they need to follow it. If a student needs to deviate from the schedule, then it is up to him to present his case for this exception to the teacher and request, not demand, an accommodation. The teacher is free to grant or deny the request. We are doing our students no favors by allowing them to ignore the schedules set by teachers.

Each semester I give my "How to succeed in Anatomy & Physiology" spiel on the first day of class. I warn students of the pitfalls of waiting until the night before the exam to study. I can see that I will now have to include an explanation for the freshmen that college is not high school. There are no do-overs for exams. Due dates are firm deadlines. Failure is an option.