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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Fruits of Our Labors


It has been ages since I blogged. No major story. Just never could bring myself to sit at the keyboard and share. The internet has turned much darker than when I started blogging a decade ago. I didn’t want to add to the darkness but wasn’t sure how to open the window and let in the light. There is a great deal of evil in the world that needs to be confronted. But when I address it in writing and shine a light on it to reveal its true form, it casts a shadow. And that shadow is permanent because words on the internet never really die. So while I have written dozens of blog posts in my head, none have made it through my fingers to the keyboard and resided on this virtual page. Until today.

Last week I read Back to Work by John Waters in the First Things journal. Like many of the articles in First Things, it is a longish piece that is best read slowly in a comfortable chair with a relaxing beverage in hand. Like your drink, this pieces needs to be sipped and savored. Mr. Waters points out that with the development of modern technologies, many of us find ourselves several degrees removed from tangible productivity. We are extraordinarily busy but at the end of the day, what can we touch and say, “I did this”? There is an emptiness that accompanies all of this virtual work.

My youngest son expressed something similar. He has done manual labor and he has done office work. He laments that his college education has “promoted” him to the clean and comfortable cubicle but it does not feel near as satisfying as sweat producing physical labor. His peers are similarly disillusioned. What is the point of all this number crunching and report producing?

When I practiced clinical medicine, I loved doing medical procedures. They were the antidote to visit after visit that focused on treating lab numbers and vital signs. Sewing up a laceration or reducing a dislocated joint offers immediate feedback about my intervention.

Now that I am in academia, the feedback is much slower. I give my lectures and answer student questions then give exams to see how much information was absorbed. But I am not educating these students to pass exams. I am preparing them to go out into the world and be nurses, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, or other health professionals. I will never know the impact of my class for most of my students. I treasure the occasional note announcing an acceptance to medical school or dental school because it lets me know that, yes, my work has meaning.

This need to be tangibly productive is probably why my hobbies include cooking, gardening, sewing, and occasionally refinishing furniture. Preparing a simple meal that is perfectly seasoned with herbs from my garden gives me far more pleasure than elucidating the intricacies and complex interactions of the endocrine system. I love medicine. I love talking about it. I love teaching it. But when I am done talking and teaching, what do I have to show for it? Tender ravioli with just the right amount of chopped sage leaves, colorful chopped peppers and garlic in a browned butter sauce ignites the physical senses of sight, taste, smell, and touch. Canning twenty-five pounds of tomatoes into quarts of tasty sauce feels like a crowning achievement. Last night I finished my first experiment with chalk paint and turned a dated thrift shop wine cabinet into something a little more cute and trendy.

So perhaps that is another reason why these blog pages have been silent for so long. I needed to experience real people in my real physical world. The internet can be a powerful connector across the miles. It can offer words that need to be heard at just the right time. But it is a mistake to let it replace live person-to-person interactions. Just as we sometimes need to physically see the fruits of our labors, we need to physically experience the fruits of our relationships.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Dear College Administrators...

The Message, Gerard Terborch, 1655

I teach at two different institutions of higher learning. One is a community college. One is a four-year university. Since the election of Donal Trump as President of the United States I have received no less than six emails from various college administrators offering comfort, resources, and advice to help staff and students alike cope with the election results. I am not alone. All across the country classes have been canceled, exams delayed, and grief counselors summoned to support the Millennials through this existential crisis. The University of Michigan handed out coloring books and Play-doh to assuage the angst.

Here's the thing. Four years ago, when Romney lost to Obama, there was not a peep of support. There were no emails assuring those who did not support Obama that they were still a valued part of the community. There were no declarations of inclusiveness. There was no acknowledgement that members of the school community were disappointed and worried about the future. 

To be fair, students who voted for Romney probably did not need this hand-holding. Students who vote for Republican candidates have no desire or expectation to be taken care of by the government. They consider themselves more self-sufficient. They see their candidate as a means to policy implementation but not their heart and soul. It is a much more rational and analytical approach. Their candidate loses and they move on. On the other hand, students who think the government has all the answers and will solve all their problems panic when they feel like the sustenance has been interrupted. Their celebrity-cult worship of their candidate is so emotional that when their candidate doesn't win, they respond like a jilted lover. 

Yet what message have college administrators sent with this over-the-top outreach to Hillary Clinton supporters? What am I, a Latina female who is very happy that Hillary Clinton is not the next president, a woman of faith who is frustrated and angered by the erosion of religious liberty under Obama, a parent and grandparent who is concerned about the infringement upon parental rights by the progressive agenda, and a physician who sees the focus on costs replacing the focus on patients in current health care policy, supposed to think?

Instead of all this tear dabbing and soothing whispers, why didn't college administrators offer a simple lesson in civics. This is how elections work. You don't always win. But our government is buoyed by checks and balances. We did not elect a king. We elected a president. He cannot unilaterally rule by fiat. If you are disappointed in the election results, stay engaged and make the next election different.

Instead, the school leaders validated unreasonable fears and reinforced the idea that this lost election is a catastrophe of monumental proportions. The disappointment Hillary Clinton supporters feel is much more significant than the disappointment of Romney supporters four years ago. It is not hard to figure out that the declarations of welcome, inclusivity, and support do not apply to staff and students like me. 

Dear College Administrators: message received.

UPDATE: Just in case I had not gotten the message, the director of admissions at George Mason University made it explicit.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Give Me that Old-Time Education!

Schoolteacher by Jan Steen, 1668

It is hard to believe that I have been teaching college students going on seven years now. This started out as an experiment when I was actually looking on Craigslist for a part time job for my son and stumbled across an ad for an adjunct professor position at the local community college. I started teaching one entry level anatomy and physiology course. Then I added the second semester course. Then I started teaching an entry level course at the local four year university. Then I added a 400-level anatomy and physiology course at the university.

So now my little part-time job that was going to ease me back into the workforce as my nest emptied has turned into nearly full time work and four college courses each semester. I really do love the teaching and love offering an intro to anatomy and physiology sprinkled with clinical correlations gleaned from my years of practicing medicine. It seems to be a good mix and for the most part, my students seem to be enjoying it.

Of course there is no pleasing everyone. I am trying to figure out what happened in 1990. The students born before 1990 have a very different outlook than those born after 1990. If you want to get a glimpse into today's college youth, take a look at some of the reviews on Rate My Professor. For example:

She will help a lot but unless you are really good at science, I don't recommend. She is a traditional instructor, expects your to really know the material and so is not big on extra credit. Attendance at labs is mandatory and doesn't tolerate lateness. Study guides/notes help but I found myself putting in lots of hours of study and work

Good professor but very much a traditional type of old style teacher. Straightforward about information and grades but does expect a fair amount of work; good, fairly interesting lectures. Mostly grades on exams and lab quizzes but gives some extra-credit. 

This class is TOUGH. It really requires you to constantly study, not many people in my class did great. Personally I felt as if I was teaching myself the entire time,.Don't get me wrong she can be very helpful but if you decide to take her you need to be sure her teaching method is right for you
(Not all of those reviews are from my Rate Your Professor entry.)

Student after student is surprised that a college course requires you to study outside of class. They are surprised when the grading requirements are firm and there is not automatically extra credit given to boost the grades at the end. They are surprised that failure is an option.

And what is this "traditional old-style" teacher label? Expecting students to know material for an exam is "old-school"?

As I said, most of my students are wonderful. But I am concerned that the number of students who have never experience the "old-fashioned" teaching style before is growing.

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.