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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

This is not just a Catholic issue

Both Amy Welborn and Dominico Bettinelli have been covering the scandal in Delray Florida where two priests are alleged to have misappropriated millions of dollars. I have nothing to add to the news coverage but I do find the comments at both of these blogs interesting. Many attribute this corruption to the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church or to ineffectual parish councils. Others blame a system that allows priests to stay in one place too long. There are intimations about a conspiracy among Irish priests to allow for such criminal activity.

Perhaps before we allow our vision to become too focused on ourselves, we should read this article by Laura Griffin in the Dallas Morning News.

Houses of worship by nature are built on trust, intended as places of God and good things. For that reason, they have increasingly become targets for people willing to abuse that trust by dipping into the coffers for themselves.

Ms Griffin goes on to detail a series of Protestant and Jewish worship communities who have suffered embezzlement by their spiritual leader or a trusted church employee.

I think the sexual abuse scandal has conditioned us to look inward at our Church structure to account for the occurrence of sin by priests. In reality, this sin stems from the universal frailty of human nature and our struggle against vice. So Frs. Skehan and Guinan did not embezzle funds because they are priests. If they are guilty of these crimes it is in spite of being priests. We do not need to beat our breasts proclaiming that we bear these abuses because of our Catholicism. We bear these abuses because priests like all mortal men are faced with temptation and sometimes fail to resist. Certainly better accounting and oversight in a Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish community will discourage such conduct. Removing temptation with wise financial practices will shield Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish communities from financial abuse.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Another step in a new career

Can I say “writer” without feeling guilty now?

Since I retired from the active practice of clinical medicine, I have been tentatively trying to redefine myself as a writer. I have had moderate success with lots of editorial pieces published in various newspapers including both the Washington Post and the Washington Times. I do get paid occasionally for book reviews and I did have two essays included in Chicken Soup for the Military Wife’s Soul. However, now I have a regular gig.

I just received my advance copy of the October/November issue of True Girl Magazine. I have a column in this issue and am listed as the health editor. I will be a regular columnist in future issues to address health concerns of teenage girls.

True Girl Magazine is aimed at Catholic girls ages 12-19. It is full of fashion, fun and faith. Several of the articles are written by teens. All the pictures of girls are real teens wearing modest clothing. Information about Catholic devotions and saints are included. This magazine provides support for enjoying and navigating the teen years within the context of Catholic values. And I must honestly say, my sixteen-year-old daughter loves it. I really believe True Girl fills a void that is all too easily filled by the likes of Seventeen, Glamour, Marie-Claire, and Cosmopolitan. Take a look at any of those magazines and you know you don’t want your teen filling her head with those images and ideas.

So I am excited. This is a bit of a milestone for me, or at least a baby step towards a new vocation. I will just keep praying and trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide me on this journey.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Excellent Leadership by our Bishop

This week’s Arlington Catholic Herald contains a homily by Bishop Paul Loverde on unity within the Church. It was given at the Diocesan’s monthly Respect Life Mass. This is an excellent example of episcopal leadership with regards to life issues so do read the whole thing. However, the following words deserve special attention.

A similar challenge faces us today, namely, to foster true unity within the Church we love so dearly. The Church’s unity is at stake; not all those who call themselves Catholic accept and obey the Church’s authentic teachings, especially in the arena of moral living. We see clear evidence of this before us every day. For example, many legislators, at both the congressional and state levels, call themselves Catholic, but do not support legislation which would protect and defend human life from conception to natural death. They neglect, ignore and sometimes oppose the absolute truth that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death. Another example, an organization claiming to be Catholic and entitled “Catholics for a Free Choice” advocates as morally acceptable the choice which results in the deliberate death of the unborn child. Indeed, there is an entire arena of issues where Catholics around us — in our parishes and neighborhood, within the workplace and sadly even within our families — dismiss the Church’s teaching about the life issues with the inevitable result of growing disunity within the Church. When we Catholics lose our rootedness in the truth as proclaimed by Christ, enriched by the Living Tradition of the Church and taught clearly by the Church’s Teaching Office, then disunity results within the Church as well as in society. That is why we asked the Lord moments ago in the Opening Prayer for “courage to work for the unity of your Church” through the prayers and faith of Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian.

I greatly appreciate Bishop Loverde’s leadership on this issue.

Me...A Brainwashed Woman?

Once again the Richmond Catholic blog has piqued my interest. A thread not too long ago dealt with the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. While the thread was contaminated by a blog troll, it did offer some interesting insights. Now there is a discussion about a survey going out to the women of the diocese. The purpose is to see if the diocese is meeting the needs of its women. It is being administered by the Richmond Diocese Women’s Commission. This is the cause of the consternation since the members of this committee are purported to be dissidents supporting women’s ordination. Indeed the Women’s Commission web site includes a link to Future Church, a group known for its advocacy for women’s ordination. I also note the group makes prominent reference to St. Mary Magdala and asserts her leadership role in the early church has been suppressed by the Church’s male hierarchy. The Women’s Commission provides instructions for offering “spirituality” groups for women. I always get a little wary when the word spirituality appears frequently and the word faith is never used. The resource materials include numerous works by Sr. Joan Chittister, a known dissident who advocates for women’s ordination among other things. All prayers offered on the Women’s Commission web site avoid the use of male pronouns with reference to God. So yes, I do believe some of the concerns about just exactly what is this survey looking for are justified.

I joined the discussion with a suggestion that all women read Pope John Paul II’s letter, MULIERIS DIGNITATEM and reminded them that both faithful Catholic women and faithful Catholic men are expected to offer humble obedience to the Magesterium. Most comments supported this sentiment. However, one was obviously not pleased.

To Catholic Mom

You are still brainwashed by the clergy. Please don't take us back to the dark ages. Woman should and eventually will have a more active role than cleaning the church. Woman make up most of the church and not many of us want to be rated as second class citizens in organized religion.

Well, that is interesting. Women barely made up twenty percent of my college and medical school classes. I entered the Air Force where I was even more of a minority. I was constantly doing battle against subtle and not-so-subtle sexual harassment and discrimination. I never hesitated to challenge authority in the name of fairness. So it is almost comical to think of myself characterized as a meek female brainwashed by a powerful male clergy.

More importantly, even a cursory reading of Mulieris Dignitatem will provide evidence of the high esteem in which the Church hold women. Women can be lectors, cantors, parish committee members, Diocesan office holders, as well as consecrated religious. They simply cannot be priests. Yet, somehow, those rabid for the ordination of women see this as relegation to second-class status.

This tells me they really do not understand the call to the priesthood. This is a call to humble subservience, not a call to power. I sometimes sense the same attitude among those who are angry that our parish does not use girls as altar servers. They want to see their daughter up there “performing” in front of the congregation. They do not recognize being an Altar Server as an act of service. There are many avenues of service open to the girls. Yet some parents are unhappy because these avenues are not so public.

Men and women are of unquestioningly equal dignity. They are not identical. Our roles in salvation history differ. God made us complementary to each other. The Church values us both equally. As individuals and especially as women, we must do the same.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

CCD Week Three: What's Working

Our third CCD class was this evening. I wrote about the first week here. I must report that my door prize each week is really working well. Every week I give a door prize (a candy bar with a holy card). The children get one more chance to win if they do their homework or know the saint of the day. However, they get five extra chances if their parents write one or two sentences indicating something they learned by reviewing their child’s lesson. Last week I only had about three parents write a note. This week I had six parents indicate they had learned something. I only have twelve children in my class so this is great participation by parents as far as I am concerned.

We were studying the composition of the Bible last week. For homework they had to fill out a worksheet and list all the books of the Old Testament and all the books of the New Testament. One student came in very confused because her Bible only had forty books in the Old Testament and the worksheet had forty-six spaces. I explained that she was looking at a Protestant Bible that was missing the deuterocanonical books. That then led to a very brief discussion of the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther. All of the children had heard of Martin Luther. However, most thought he was the same person as that other historical figure, Martin Luther King, Jr. They were amazed that the man who initiated the Lutheran Church was not the same man who gave the “I Have a Dream” speech. Glad we cleared that up.

Any one else have some helpful hints for CCD?

UPDATE: See Thoughts on Confirmation Preparation here.

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter Two

See the discussion of Chapter One here.

Chapter Two: Why Kids Leave the Church

This chapter consists of three essays:

Why Teens Stop Going to Mass by William J. O'Malley, S.J.

Are We Reaching Our Youth
by Mark Berchem

Why Young Catholics Leave, and What Parents Can Do About It
by Bert Ghezzi

For Discussion:

1. Why do young people stop attending Mass? How do parents affect this choice?

All three essays in Chapter Two address this question. The broad answer is young people stop attending Mass because they have never internalized their faith. It is Mom’s Faith, or Dad’s Faith, or Grandmother’s Faith. Why don’t they take ownership of their Faith? Perhaps it is because they have never seen their parents take ownership of their faith? Fr. O’Malley writes:

If parents’ attendance at Mass seems to be a perfunctory and joyless fulfillment of form, if God is never spoken of in the home as a person with whom the parents have a real relationship, the teenager assumes that, even for the parents, the forty-five minutes on Sunday is at worst phony and at best deadened formalism.

I believe this happens when Faith is viewed as a series of obligations rather than a series of opportunities. I call this “Check list Catholicism”. Attended Mass-check. Got to confession once this year—check. Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation—check. Okay, the faith card is punched for Heaven.

Instead, parents need to communicate that the Sacraments, rituals, and devotions of Catholicism are opportunities to deepen their own relationship with God. If they are being done as a matter of rote with no visible impact on everyday life, then there is no motivation for kids to continue them when they escape parental control.

My children know I chat often with St. Monica whom I view as the patron saint of nagging mothers. Blessed Mother also is asked to intercede on a regular basis. (I really can’t imagine raising children and not uttering a few Hail Mary’s. How do the Protestant mothers do it?) No meal is eaten without first offering grace. We attend Mass every Sunday, but also try to attend daily Mass on occasion as well. Whenever there is a dilemma, I ask, “Did you pray about it?” There is no aspect of our lives that is off limits to our Faith.

2. What must parents do to reach their kids?

Parents must model what it means to internalize one’s Faith. Mark Berchem writes:
We can start by witnessing the vitality of our own faith. We must catch our kids’ attention by how we live. Does our faith make any difference to us?…

How we live our faith really does make an impression on our children. Who do you think kids are looking at? It’s ordinary me and ordinary you. They see us day in and day out in real life situations. We can show them that Christ is alive and that our faith really does make a difference.

3. What are the reasons young people leave the church?

Bert Ghezzi itemizes three primary reasons kids leave the Church:

--There are those who are experiencing family tensions. The Church represents the parents against whom they are rebelling. Their motivation stems less from a rejection of the Church than it does from a general rejection of their parents and what they represent.

--There are those who grow bored or weary of the Church. These are the kids who never internalized their faith. They turn their attention and activities to their job, their hobbies, their friends, or other worldly pursuits. They see no relevance of the Church to their daily lives.

--The third group are those who have adopted lifestyles that conflict with Church teachings. Like those in the second group, their faith was never internalized. However, unlike the second group who never really reject the Church but rather ignore it as they go about their daily lives, this third group actively denies the truth of the Church. They deny the authority of the Church in matters of morals.

4. What can parents do to help keep their children from leaving the Church?

Number one on the list is to pray. And make sure your kids know you are praying. I enjoy lighting prayer candles for special intentions. When my children see a candle burning they know I am praying and often will ask about it. We also occasionally say a family rosary together. It is good for families to respond to life’s happy and sad events with prayer.

Catholicism should permeate the family and the home. Parents need to share how their Catholicism affects their jobs, their leisure activities, and their life choices. It cannot be compartmentalized to the church building on Sundays. Children must see that Faith makes a difference.

Over half of young Catholics leave the Church as a way to rebel against their parents. Fostering healthy relationships between parents and children would go a long way towards keeping kids Catholic. That does not mean there is an absence of conflict. But it does mean that the dignity of all family members is respected even when there is a disagreement.

Back to School Night

Schools in Northern Virginia don’t begin until after Labor Day so we are just now getting into Back to School Night season. My turn was last night. I got the opportunity to walk through my seventh grade son’s schedule and spend a whole ten minutes with each teacher. It really isn’t very enlightening but it does put a face with the name of each teacher. My presence also provides extra credit points for his math grade.

Probably because this is my fourth time as a seventh grade parent I am feeling pretty relaxed. I know the drill. The biggest factor right now is teaching my son organizational skills. Each child has an assignment planner in elementary school, but the teacher tells the children exactly what to write in it. In middle school, the student must decide for himself what needs to be written in the planner. There are lots of helps including school web sites that keep a log of assignments, but it is still up to each individual student to take care of himself. Time management is always a challenge. My sons have always struggled with estimating how much time a task will require. Red flags go up when I hear a child say, “Oh, I have plenty of time. I just have to do X, Y, and Z.”

I really like the math teacher. My daughter also had her in seventh grade. However, she does make some parents uncomfortable. This is an honors math class. She was very frank with the parents. This class is rigorous and the children will be challenged. For most of them, they have gotten good grades in math without a lot of extra effort. This year will be the first time that many of them have had to study outside of class time. They will see grades on quizzes that they have never seen before. That is okay. They will have the opportunity to correct quizzes and retake quizzes until they learn the material.

This approach upsets some parents because they are worried about their child’s self esteem when he sees a C or lower on a quiz. Can he handle it? Actually, I wonder if the real issue is can the parents handle it. A student teacher once told me that at one back to school night the parents split up after homeroom. Part went to the general math class and part went to the gifted math class. She stopped one mother because she was going to the gifted class when her son was in the general math class. The mother persisted and went to the gifted class. She didn’t want other parents to know that her child was only in general math.

Another observation from Back to School night is they must have lowered the admission age for colleges because some of these teachers look like babies! In fact, I realized that two of my son’s teachers are first-year teachers and I am old enough to be their mother. Very different from the first child when his teachers were usually my contemporaries or older.

This short introduction to my son’s teachers was very positive. I don’t think I was disappointed in any of them which is really wonderful. All in all, it looks like a great year ahead. I will be asking St. Benedict as well as Blessed Mother to pray for my son and all the students during the school year.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mathematical Musings

Today’s Washington Post has an article about a food pantry in the nation’s wealthiest county, Loudoun County, in Virginia. It is a worthy topic to explore how amid the very wealthy there are those who are struggling to survive. I guess journalism majors don’t take much math. Or maybe my family is just a bunch of math geeks. In any case we were all embarrassed for the writer when we read the following statement in the Post:

Its median family income is more than $98,000 a year. Half of the county’s households make even more.

Uh, yes. That is what a median means:

The middle number in a given sequence of numbers, taken as the average of the two middle numbers when the sequence has an even number of numbers: 4 is the median of 1, 3, 4, 8, 9.

Even my seventh grader recognized that by definition half of the county’s households have an income above the median. The other half are below. And not everyone with an income below the median is frequenting the food pantry.

What the writer was really trying to express is the range of incomes in Loudoun County. The curve has a long tail that reaches to very low incomes. Maybe the mode of the income distribution would have been a better statistic to consider. Or maybe we will just forget the statistics all together and pack up a couple of bags full of groceries to give to the food pantry. Unlike calculus, Christian charity knows no limits.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Novena to St. Michael the Archangel for the Safety of Pope Benedict XVI

Thanks to Stella Borealis Catholic Roundtable for the following prayer:

Novena to St Michael the Archangel for the Personal Safety of Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.

Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.

Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,

The personal safety of Our Holy Father,
Pope Benedict XVI, particularly on his
planned trip to Turkey.

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.

Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bible at the'Bou

I wrote a few weeks ago about our parish youth ministry summer activity, Mass and McDonalds. This week the diocesan newspaper, the Arlington Catholic Herald, highlights another of our parish high school programs, Bible at the ‘Bou. I am just so proud of our parish youth ministry. Keep up the good work, guys! You are in my prayers.

A Very Timely Prayer

Argent has this prayer from St. Pope Leo XIII on her site. It is so perfect for these times that I had to offer it as well.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer of Consecration for the Human Race

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Your altar. We are Yours, and Yours we wish to be; but, to be more surely united with You, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known You; many too, despising Your precepts, have rejected You. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Your Sacred Heart.

You are King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken You, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned You; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

You are King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof; call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.

You are King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism; refuse not to draw them all into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Your eyes of mercy toward the children of that race, once Your chosen people. Of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.

Grant, O Lord, to Your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to It be glory and Honor forever. Amen.

Amen! Amen! Amen!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter One

Welcome to our first discussion of the book, Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi. Below are my thoughts on the first chapter. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments box. If you want to offer your thoughts on your own blog, just link to your blog in the comment box.

The first chapter of Keeping Your Kids Catholic is a single essay by Dolores Curran. The book is nearly twenty years old so some of the phrasing like “We are the Church” sets my teeth on edge. Also, Ms Curran's more recent writing has veered off into a very feminist vein making her a darling of the likes of Sr. Joan Chittister so I wouldn't seek her out as a current advisor. Yet the gist of her commentary in the book is as true now as it was twenty years ago: “Teaching religion is parents’ business and must begin in the home.”

1. What obstacles do parents face in deciding to introduce their kids to the faith?

I think the way that question is phrased gives the first clue to the “obstacles”. If Faith is viewed as something external to the home, then the introduction is forced and awkward. If Faith is interwoven into the very fiber of the home, then no introduction is necessary. When do we introduce a younger sibling to his older brother or sister? There is no formal introduction. The child assimilates the knowledge of family structure as he grows. Bit by bit he adds to his knowledge of his sibling—his middle name, where he was born, what foods he likes. So ideally, Faith is part of a child’s home from the time of his birth. That means his parents should have a deep personal Faith that permeates their lives.

What if that hasn’t been the case? Well, the sooner it becomes the case, the better. Creating a faith filled home is easier when children are young and more malleable. The older they are, the more resistance you will meet to a change in family priorities. Yet, with God, all things are possible. I recommend what I call Pizza Dough Spirituality. Pizza dough is very elastic but it has to be stretched very gently or it will snap. When we are making changes in our family, they need to be slow and steady. Maybe getting to Mass every Sunday is as big a change as we can make at first. Then maybe we can work on getting there on time. Then perhaps we can try to read the readings before we go.

Of course, pressures outside the home also present obstacles. For example, I am amazed how many birthday parties at Chuck E Cheese’s occur on Sunday mornings. My husband and I have made it clear from day one that attending Mass is non-negotiable. We are not averse to adjusting which Mass we attend to accommodate social activities but we do not miss Mass—period! I am not sure if it is by chance or by design, but our children have gravitated to others who have similar priorities. Finding friends and communities that support your Faith is critical.

2. How can we grow in confidence in teaching our kids religion?

We need to teach ourselves. We need to figure out what this Faith is that we want our children to embrace. If you are like me and most of your own religious education came in the confusing years after Vatican II, study of the basic doctrine of the Catholic Church has been a do-it-yourself project. That’s okay. Let your children know you are still learning. This will send a very strong message that Faith development is a lifelong process. Every household should have a Catholic Bible and a Catechism of the Catholic Church. I highly recommend subscribing to periodicals that are faithful to the Magesterium like the National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor.

3. Who has the greater responsibility in keeping kids Catholic—the church or the parents? Why?

Short answer is parents. From the Catechism (2226):

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child's earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.[35] The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.

Dolores Curran speaks of the habit of turning over faith formation to the Church that developed as our ancestors immigrated to America. I don’t see the issue as being we don’t feel qualified to teach our children their faith. I think we have developed a culture of outsourcing. As family structures have evolved to include dual career parents or single parents, more of the tasks previously done by family members are hired out. Laundry, housekeeping, cooking and yard work are outsourced. Parents pay for a steady stream of camps and tutors to teach their children everything from math to manners. Suddenly religious education gets lumped in with music lessons. We need to bring religious education back into the family. That means we need to be families of Faith. The next few chapters should help us towards that goal.

One More Thing...

I was going to write something substantial on the brouhaha over Pope Benedict’s words calling for a both Faith and Reason to enter into inter-culture dialogues. However, I am just too weary of the whole thing. Wesley Pruden in today’s Washington Times sums up my thoughts:

Benedict reminds his hysterical critics that he merely quoted the Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaeologus, much as he might have cited Hitler, Stalin or even Godzilla: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and then you shall find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith that he preached." He did not say, as some of the Muslim hysterics are saying he said, that Mohammed was evil. Even the emperor, however much he might have thought it, did not say that. It was the spreading of the faith by the sword that is evil. Who but a crazed jihadist would argue with that? "Faith" by the sword is an oxymoron, anyway, since faith, like love, is embraced only willingly and held as private and precious in the secret places of the heart. This is the essential difference between the heartfelt Christianity of the Bible and the cold, severe Islam of the Koran.

The pope's point, clear enough to everyone but people who riot for a living, is that reason and truth are under siege, and he wants to rescue them and put them once more to work in the public arena where reasonable truth-seekers can argue, debate, dispute and contend, and depart with their scimitars sheathed.

There is just no way to prettify the Muslim outrage over the Pope’s invitation to dialogue. No amount of politically correct gibberish can justify this outpouring of hate. The radical Islamists who control all power in the Muslim world will not be appeased until every non-Muslim is killed or subjugated. While there may be “moderate” Muslims, their influence is minimal and ineffective. Instead of whining about how Muslims are so mistreated in the United States, perhaps CAIR could strongly condemn the radical behavior of Muslims that trigger anti-Muslim sentiment. Their support for this behavior makes it hard to take their complaints seriously.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Priestly Podcasts

One of our priests has his own web site up and running. It includes podcasts of his sermons. Fr. Searby is a very dynamic priest and very influential with our youth. He encouraged parents to tell their children away from home at college about his web site in an effort to keep these young people connected to the Faith. I thought I would pass along Fr. Searby's web site since I have heard recently that like me many of my readers have recently sent their children off to college. In addition to the podcasts, Fr. Searby has a section of his site dedicated to supporting high school and college aged youth in their pursuit of virtue.

I Must Not Hate

Pictures like these are all over the internet. Some are saying Pope Benedict XVI made a grave mistake to make comments that would provoke such a violent response. I disagree. The Pope is not a politician. He is the Vicar of Christ. He is bound to speak the truth. If the truth causes turmoil, then so be it.

Also, most of those protesting have not read the full text of the Pope’s remarks. They are reacting to what someone told them the Pope said. In fact, I would be surprised if most of the Mainstream Media who are writing the reports have read the complete version of the Pope’s address. It is a very sophisticated scholarly address. One needs a working knowledge of European history to understand the references to the now infamous Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus. Of course, Pope Benedict was not speaking to a class of twelve-year-olds. He was speaking to a gathering of scholars in a university setting. His audience had the background necessary to appreciate the historical reference. The full remarks also carry a condemnation of the West for its exclusion of God from reasonable thought.

The whole idea that Islam is a religion of peace is a myth. There are peaceful Muslims. However, it seems they are peaceful in spite of not because of their faith. Read Drew’s post at Shrine of the Holy Whapping. He perfectly captures the difference between Allahu Akbhar (God is Great) and Deus Est Caritas (God is Love).

I am so weary of being asked to feel sympathy or empathy with Muslim outrage. All these angry Muslims remind me of frat boys in college. Remember those guys who used any excuse for a drunken party? The Islamic world seems to pounce on any excuse to justify hatred and violence.

Now the hard part. I feel anger. I feel frustration. I see the pure evil perpetrated in the name of Islam. Yet I must not let myself hate. I am really struggling with this. To allow myself to hate is to turn my back on the God of Love. That does not mean I am a pacifist. I will fight for and defend my Faith. I will fight for and defend my country. I will fight for and defend my loved ones. I just must not hate. Only with the Grace of God, our God of Love, is this possible.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rush Hour Examination of Conscience

Yesterday morning it was raining steadily here in Northern Virginia. My children left for the bus stop as per usual. I was just getting ready to brew my coffee and settle in with some reading when the phone rang. It was my daughter calling from the bus stop. The bus had not arrived and it was now only thirty minutes until school started. Okay, coffee would have to wait. I threw on a pair of jeans and drove to the bus stop. I picked up my own children plus one and headed out into the traffic.

Now D.C. suburban traffic is miserable on any morning, but make it a rainy morning and it is worthy of redemptive suffering. Add to this several hundred teenage drivers headed towards the high school with me and it qualifies as one of the circles of Hell. As I was creeping through an intersection there was an oncoming car trying to make a U-turn. I stopped to let him proceed. Before I could clear the intersection and follow this car the light changed. A truck came barreling through the intersection and cut in front of me, obviously exasperated I had allowed the previous car to cut into the line of traffic. I laid on the horn. He gave me a single finger salute. The word “idiot” just rolled off my tongue.

I suppose I could have blurted out things a whole lot worse than “idiot”. Yet the tone of my voice spoke volumes. And the only people who were going to hear that tone were my children in the car. The other driver was going to go on his merry way completely oblivious to my epithet. (Well maybe not completely oblivious. His hand gesture indicated his regard for my use of the horn) So, why didn’t I bite my tongue?

I could blame it on my lack of coffee, but I know the real reason is pride. I felt justifiably wronged by his behavior and felt compelled to strike back, even if it was only a verbal blow. Nothing was gained but a little bit of smugness on my part and that is certainly nothing to be proud of. I wish instead of an angry insult I had the innate charity and compassion to offer a prayer for the other driver’s safe travel. I will work on that. Heaven knows that D.C. traffic will give me ample opportunity.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I think I understand them a little better now

Okay, now I think I am starting to understand. I participate fairly regularly in the discussions on the Richmond Catholic blog site. Though this isn’t my home diocese, I do visit pretty frequently. This diocese is home to many “innovative” liturgies. Tabernacles are often out of sight (and out of mind). It is common to see a cross without a corpus. The language of the liturgy is often altered to avoid using male pronouns for God. (God’s rather than His) The most recent discussion has degenerated a bit, but has come down to talking about the True Presence of Christ.

There is a contingent of commentators who see no difference between Christ’s presence whenever two or three are gathered in His name and the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Their comments run like this:

I am shocked that you believe adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is MORE important than caring for God's people. I believe they are equal. Aren't we supposed to see Christ in each other. Disregard or give less than what they need and we do the same to Christ.


WE are the real presence!


WE are church and WE are eucharist. These holier-than-thou people who take this eucharistic adoration stuff to the extreme, get on my nerves. If we're supposed to be worshipping the "eucharist", then why has the Second Vatican Council de-emphasized this dark-ages type of practice?

This explains it. If this is your belief about the Eucharist, then of course you see no need for a Tabernacle. You would see no need to bend your knee in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. If Christ is as present to you in your neighbor as He is in the Eucharist, then of course you would view the fellowship with your neighbor as central to the liturgy as your reception of the Body of Christ.

However, if you believe that Christ is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament, then of course you would want His place of repose to be prominently placed in the sanctuary. You would want to sit in His Presence and pray. You would join the parish community to worship, praise, adore and receive Him, not each other.

What I don’t understand is why these people always seem to treat Eucharistic Adoration as a detriment to social justice issues. This is not an end sum game. Time spent before the Blessed Sacrament does not necessarily take away from time spent in works of mercy. Rather, it often strengthens and nourishes us to be more generous.

Pope Benedict XVI addresses this very well in paragraphs 36 and 37 of his encylical Deus Caritas Est

36. When we consider the immensity of others' needs, we can, on the one hand, be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving every problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling into an arrogant contempt for man, something not only unconstructive but actually destructive, or surrendering to a resignation which would prevent us from being guided by love in the service of others. Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbours, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: “We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer”.

37. It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God's plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defence of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?

I will say a prayer for those who do not yet appreciate the awesome gift we have in the Eucharist. I will remember them this Friday when I kneel in Christ’s presence in Eucharistic Adoration.

UPDATE: Jimmy Akin addresses this issue brilliantly on his blog. Please take a look!

CCD Week One

I think Pope Benedict XVI must be reading our CCD book. His lecture at the University of Regensburg discussed the relation between faith and reason. Wouldn’t you know that is the first lesson of seventh grade CCD as well. Don’t worry. I didn’t try and duplicate the Holy Father’s dissertation. We are using the Faith and Life series from Ignatius Press. I really like it. The teacher’s manual is very user friendly and there are lots of references to the Catechism to back up the lesson. The end of each chapter has a series of questions and answers to solidify the important points of the chapter. For example from Chapter 1:

Q.1 Using reason can man know with certainty that there is a God?
Yes, using reason man can know with certainty that there is a God, on the basis of his works (CCC 50)

Q. 2 Can man understand God’s plan through reason alone?
No, man cannot understand God’s plan through reason alne. Man must also rely upon faith and God’s revelation (CCC 50)

Regular readers know that I am bound and determined to educate the parents along with their kids. I came up with the following idea.

Every class is going to have a door prize at the end of class. Last night I used a candy bar with a Ten Commandments holy card attached. I bought a large roll of double tickets at the office supply store. One part of the ticket goes in the drawing and the student hangs on to the other part with the matching number. Every student gets one ticket just for showing up for class. One more ticket is earned for doing the homework. Get one ticket for knowing the Saint of the Day. Get five tickets if a parent writes one or two sentences about something he/she learned from reviewing the previous week’s lesson. The more tickets you put in the hopper, the more chances you have to win the door prize.

The kids are very excited about a door prize. They are even enthusiastic about trying to teach their parents a new fact or two. I will keep you posted on how this project works out.

UPDATE: See more thoughts on CCD and Confirmation Preparation here and here.

Keeping Your Kids Catholic begins in one week!

One more week until the Keeping Your Kids Catholic discussion group begins. We will begin reviewing the discussion questions from chapter one on September 20!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This Mother Needs Prayers

Stacy Dow, a young British single mom, is seeking compensation from the British National Health Service because her five-year-old daughter is alive.

Five years ago, at the age of 16, Miss Dow discovered she was pregnant. After much soul-searching and fearing she could not cope with premature motherhood, she went to Perth Royal Infirmary for an abortion.

But seven weeks from term, she was told that one of the foetuses had survived the abortion and in August 2001 she gave birth to a baby daughter, Jayde.

Cash-strapped and unemployed, Miss Dow hoped the £250,000 compensation would help her to raise the child, now aged five. But last week at Perth Sheriff Court, Sheriff Michael Fletcher rejected the bid against Tayside University Hospitals NHS Trust, saying patients could not expect a legally binding contract with their doctor.

Where to begin? Does Miss. Dow realize what her actions are saying to her daughter? “I wanted you dead. I paid someone to kill you. They didn’t do it, so now I am stuck with you. I am going to sue!”

I am also struck by the phrasing of the first paragraph above. “Miss Dow discovered she was pregnant.” It makes it sound like she was a surprised victim of some random disease. The fact is Miss Dow made a conscious choice to be sexually active. When confronted with the consequences of this choice she made another choice to have an abortion. In spite of her best efforts, her child survived. Somewhere there is a father to this child. I wonder why he is not mentioned.

"All this over the past months has been a stress, and sometimes I don't know if I can go on," Miss Dow said.

"People tell me this is the way big organisations like the health trust operate, to wear you down - and I know that's what's happening to me.

"I'm still living at my mum and dad's, waiting to start a proper life on my own with Jayde.

"Jayde started school two weeks ago and is enjoying it. I still want to do the best for her, but it's exhausting dealing with the legal side."

A “proper life”? What does that mean? I’d say it is time for this young lady to accept that she is now a mother. Rather than lamenting that her child is alive and well, she needs to rejoice in this gift of life. She doesn’t need £250,000 to shape Jayde’s character and help her make wiser decisions than her mother. If Miss Dow wants to give her daughter a proper life she needs to begin concerning her self with the moral and spiritual formation of her child. Getting her own moral and spiritual life in order would be an excellent start.

Pray for this mother. And pray for a society that would shape such ideas.

(H/T to Argent for the link)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Pope Benedict's Message to Parents and Teachers

Amy Welborn has a translation from German into English of a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI on September 10 at Vespers in the Munich Cathedral. First Communicants, parents, and teachers were in attendance.

Dear parents! I want to heartily invite you to help your children believe and to accompany them on the way to Communion, which continues on after First Communion, on their way to Jesus and with Jesus.

Please, go to church with your children for the Sunday Eucharist. You will see: This is no wasted time that holds the family together properly and gives it a focus. The Sunday becomes more beautiful, the whole week becomes more beautiful, if you attend God's service (Mass) together.

And please, also pray together at home: at meals, before going to sleep. Praying not only leads us to God but also to one another. It is a force of peace and of joy. Life within the family becomes more special and of greater importance when God is there and His presence is experienced, lived in prayer.

Dear religious education teachers and educators! I ask you with all my heart to keep present the question about God, about the God that showed Himself to us in Jesus Christ in your schools. I know that it is difficult to speak of the faith in school in our pluralistic world.

But, it is not sufficient when children and young people only learn abilities and technical know-how in school, but learn no (moral) standards that give meaning and direction to ability. Encourage the students to not only ask about this or that, that is fine, but to above all ask about the Where from and the Where to of our life. Help them to recognize that all answers that do not reach all the way to God fall short.

Dear pastors and all who help in parishes! I ask you to do everything so that a parish can become an internal home for the people - a big family, in which we at the same time experience the even bigger family of the worldwide Church - through the Eucharist, the catechesis and through all manners of parish life learn to walk the way of true life together.

All three locations - family, school, parish - belong together and help us to find the sources, the wellsprings of life - and, dear children, dear parents and dear educators, after all, we all want to have "life in full". Amen.

I am copying this and including it in my letter to the parents of my students in the seventh grade CCD class. I love the way Pope Benedict emphasizes the cooperative and complementary roles of family, school, and parish.

Remembering and Praying

This day cannot pass without acknowledging the horrible evil that befell our country five years ago. I cannot view the images without feeling like I was punched in the gut, so I tend to avoid them. Yet, I cannot avoid or deny the reality of that day. The barbarous, heinous acts of September 11, 2001 were acts of unadulterated evil. Their perpetrators were the embodiment of evil.

Some object to the title “War on Terrorism” when we speak of our country’s struggle to combat those who support such atrocities. I am really not worried about what we name our cause. We are not seeking a “clash of civilizations”. We are engaging in a clash for civilization. A civilized society cannot survive when such evil is tolerated.

For the victims of 9/11 I pray:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

In remembrance of this day I pray:

St. Michael the Archangel
Deliver us in battle this day. Be our protection from the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into Hell, Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Called to be a Domestic Church

Mirror of Justice offers a transcript of Archbishop’s Wuerl’s homily at Catholic University of America. He celebrated Mass to mark the beginning of the school year at CUA. These words need to be spoken on every Catholic college campus.

We should not be surprised if life on this campus is different than what we would experience on some other university and college campuses. By definition, The Catholic University of America family is committed to the exploration of human intellectual advancement precisely out of a lived tradition rooted in the word of God — the wisdom of God. Thus as a university family, we are committed to values and the recognition of the place of virtue in our lives as we develop and face the challenge of personal individual choices and decisions.

By its very definition, the Church will always be countercultural. The beginnings of the kingdom of God breaking into this world will necessarily be in contrast with the wisdom and values of the world. What the living tradition, on which this university stands, brings to our modern world is the wisdom that helps us answer the questions not only what can I do and how can I do it, but what should I do and what ought I do.

Right now I am getting into the swing of a new school year for my family. It is a real challenge to keep the spiritual life alive and well as we are swamped by the deluge of activities that had taken a summer hiatus. Look at the first paragraph above. What if I substituted Catholic family for Catholic university. It would look like this:

We should not be surprised if life in this Catholic family is different than what we would experience in some other family. By definition, The Catholic family is committed to the exploration of human intellectual and social advancement precisely out of a lived tradition rooted in the word of God — the wisdom of God. Thus as a Catholic family, we are committed to values and the recognition of the place of virtue in our lives as we develop and face the challenge of personal individual as well as family choices and decisions.

Wow! This puts family life in perspective, doesn’t it? It doesn’t make the scheduling of carpools or family meals any easier. It does remind me that our family has a calling and a vocation greater than soccer games and music lessons. We are called as a family to be counter cultural. We are called to be a domestic church.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Southern Belles

The Kitchen Madonna is highlighting a book that sounds like such a hoot! Being Dead is no Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral, by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hayes. Now I am not what you would consider a Southern Belle. I definitely have southern roots. I expect iced tea to be served all year round. I prefer unsweetened tea, but I love to hear sweet tea offered. All soft drinks are referred to as Coke. Grits mixed in with my scrambled eggs and hot fluffy biscuits is a breakfast made in heaven. I do not wear white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter. Children saying “Yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” is music to my ears. So I can claim a few Southern inclinations, but I am definitely not “Junior League” (if you don’t understand the Junior League reference, read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood!)

I did, however, marry into a family of absolutely lovely Southern Belles. My first clue of this came soon after our wedding. After our wedding I dutifully sat down and wrote thank-you notes for all the splendid gifts we received. I tried to make them as personable as I could though I really didn’t know many of the generous givers.
Well, lo and behold, if these folks didn’t share my thank-you notes with my new mother-in-law. For several weeks I was getting very positive reports on how much Dear Miss S0-And-So enjoyed my note. It seems that among very Southern families, thank-you notes are passed about for public consumption.

Another book that will enlighten you on the nuances of Southern women is the Southern Bell Primer by Marilyn Schwartz. You will learn, among other things, that every Southern bride must receive a deviled egg plate.

There are many quirky things about Southern culture and sometimes it is very easy to laugh. Yet the way God, family, and hospitality are woven into the fiber of Southern life is why I cherish my Southern roots.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Such a Tyrant!

I mentioned before the Dueling Blogs of Richmond. I really enjoy the Richmond Catholic blog. I respect that it thoughtfully seeks solutions to Diocesan issues rather than just takes pot shots at those who disagree. The Other Blog is not updated regularly and seems to be filled with a lot more ad hominem attacks. I only read it if I am directed there by someone else’s comment or blog. Occasionally someone from The Other Blog joins the comments at the Richmond Catholic blog. Recently, the discussion was about maintaining a “diverse community of believers”. I commented that diversity cannot extend to Church teachings. We are one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. Being Catholic means accepting Church authority. I was very surprised then when someone who disagreed with me surmised that I must be a real tyrant with my children.

Well, my response is to plead guilty. Oh, I am a tyrant! The kids go to Mass every Sunday. From the time they were small we have said family prayers. Poor things eat dinner as a family nearly every night. And I have pushed them into so many service projects. I enrolled them in Church apologetics and Church history courses. Oh it is has just been dreadful. Horrors of horrors, they even learned some Latin! Interestingly, the ones that have left home and gone away to college still go to church every Sunday, still read Catholic periodicals, and still intelligently discuss Church issues. They also understand that humble obedience to the teaching authority of the Magesterium is humble obedience to Christ who established that teaching authority with Peter and the other apostles.

If you want to find out more about “tyrannical parenting” remember in two weeks I am starting the Keeping Your Kids Catholic book discussion. Go ahead and get the book and read the first chapter. On September 20th we can begin discussing the first set of discussion questions.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Do we need Catholic Schools?

Both Dom Bettinelli and Amy Welborn comment on the elaborate and expensive renovations going on at Catholic high schools in the Boston area. Both wonder if these schools are really focusing on the correct mission for a Catholic school.

Before I say anything else, I first must say I graduated from Bishop Kelley Catholic High School and had a wonderful experience. I believe that experience was crucial to my holding on to my Faith through my early adult years. My older children have attended Catholic schools when they were available and had very good experiences. Still, my enthusiasm for Catholic schools has waned considerably in recent years.

Since moving to Northern Virginia, I have seen that the Catholic High Schools are prohibitively expensive. They seem no different than a secular private prep school. The parish grade schools are interesting. I see our parish pouring huge sums of money into a building project for the school. Yet I rarely if ever see the school reaching out to the parish. Our parish school was full a few years ago. Many of the children were not parish members. Yet, children who were members of the parish were denied admittance because there was no room. There seemed to be a preference for those willing to pay the premium price over those who paid the parish subsidized price. The school enrollment has dropped dramatically but parish members who were rudely snubbed before have no desire to fill the rolls now.

In another era Catholics were known for their large families and parish families would fill the parish schools. Now that Catholics are contracepting just like everyone else, schools have to squelch their Catholic identity to attract non-Catholic students. This defeats the whole point of Catholic schools. Catholic schools should be an academic extension of the Catholic community. On the parish level, the parish grade school should be part of the parish community. We are not supposed to be just filling desks. We are supposed to be reinforcing Catholic Faith and Catholic Values in our youth.

I think we are trying to utilize a model of Catholic education for a community that no longer exists. There is a place for Catholic schools in the inner city where the operation of schools is an act of charity. In typical suburbia, however, it seems ridiculous to pour inordinate sums of money into schools that educate only a small fraction of the Catholic youth. The Church would be better served by using those resources to offer quality Catholic catechesis to all of its youth and to their parents too!

You may also want to read this post.


This morning I was catching up on Gerald Augustinus’ blog. One thread had a particularly disturbing comment by “Elizabeth”:

Yesterday I was unfortunate enough to sit through a Mass by a Grumbleton wannabe. I'm sure this priest eats up everything Grumbleton has every written or said.

(Father) Xyz began the Mass with:

“For those of you unfortunate enough to know me, I am Xyz
For those who are fortunate to not know me, you will soon find out why.”

For the penitential rite:

“We gather to show our gratitude to God. Let us think of what we are grateful for.”

During the homily the priest told the congregants:
• ”the Church teaching about women not being ordained is stupid. The Church is saying they (women) are unclean.”
• “homosexuals who want to make love to each other are not welcome in the Church, this is stupid.”
• “it doesn’t matter what form of dress you wear to Mass, shorts and flip-flops are fine”
He lifted his alb, (no chasuble), to show he had on shorts.

• “Anyone who any of this bothers is judgmental.”

This is what I personally witnessed:

• The priest’s hands in pants pockets during intercessory prayer.
• Three consecrated hosts fell on the floor behind the altar because of a plastic saucer was used instead of a ciborium or bowl. He must have caught the Hosts with the sleeve of his alb.
• He then walked on the Hosts.
• He then distributed communion expecting the communicant (the extraordinary ministers) to self communicate; for them to take the host from the plastic saucer themselves.
• The Presider sat in his chair throughout Holy Communion distribution

• His version of the GIRM:
Priest: The Lord is with you. Response: And also with you. Priest: Thank you
• After the Lamb of God he announces:
“Come receive what you are and become what you receive.”

Now I have written about Masses that push the limits of liturgical correctness, but poor Elizabeth’s experience is beyond the pale.

Pray for the Diocese that endures such a priest. Pray that this priest may have a conversion and accept Catholicism or leave the Church so that he no longer precipitates such scandal.

School Daze

Summer is officially over. The yellow school bus just picked up my twelve-year-old and sixteen-year-old. Big Sister is excited. She is now an upper classman. However, she is also grimly aware of the academic grind that begins today. In such a giant school there is very little room for innovation and creativity. There is a lot of pressure to perform and meet the test norms. This is the last year for resume enhancement before sending off the college applications. This is not a criticism. It is a wistful acquiescence to the reality of the situation. Her education will be adequate in most areas and really good in a few.

Little Brother is so nervous. Like his oldest brother, he is on the slower end of the growth curve. Everything and everyone looks really huge to him. He sat down with his big sister and they plotted his routes through the ever-changing maze of school hallways. I say ever-changing because the school is undergoing huge renovations. When it was first built it fell victim to that educational fad of schools without walls. It was a series of large open spaces in which the students were supposed to be so entranced with their own learning they would not be distracted by the “centers of learning” going on around them. That experiment was an abysmal failure. The school has been divided into makeshift classrooms using cubicle dividers, bookshelves, etc. The current construction project is putting real doors and walls in so hallways come and go. It adds an extra challenge to navigation.

Navigating the halls may be a piece of cake compared to navigating the middle school social world. He is already finding which friends share his interests and values and which elementary school friends are embracing the language and attitude of popular culture. We have talked about the “lemmings”—those kids who just follow the crowd without ever wondering where the crowd is going. It has been eight years since my first child tackled middle school. Is it just me, or has the culture gotten that much scarier in the last eight years? Last night I had a twelve-year-old neighbor call our house and respond to my “hello” with “Hey, Denise!” There is a cadre of parents in our area that think expecting a distinctive level of respect for adults makes children feel subservient and hurts their self-esteem.

Before my children dashed out to the bus this morning we prayed together the Guardian Angel prayer, St. Michael’s prayer, and a Morning Offering. I invite everyone to spend a little time on their knees today and pray for all our children. It is a big world out there and a little Heavenly guidance for both our children and their parents would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Sacraments as Missionary Work

Amy Welborn has a translation of Pope Benedicts remarks to a group of parish priests from the Diocese of Albano. I really love what he says about the priest’s duty with regards to the sacrament of Baptism:

In the parish, I would say that we have three fundamental tasks which arise from the nature of the Church and of the priestly ministry. The first is the sacramental service. I would say that Baptism, preparing for it and the task of giving continuity to obligations taken on at Baptism, already brings us in contact even with those who do not fully believe. It is not a task so much to preserve Christianity, but a challenging encounter with people who probably go to Church rarely.

And so, the task of preparing for Baptism - opening up the souls of the parents, relatives and godparents to the reality of Baptism - already can and should be a missionary commitment that goes beyond the confines of those who are already 'faithful.'

In preparing our parishioners for Baptism, we must make them understand that this Sacrament means being introduced into the family of God, that God exists and cares for us, that He cared enough to have taken on our flesh and to have instituted the Church which is His Body, in which He is able to be incarnated, we might say, in our society.

Baptism gives us new life in the sense that beyond our biological life, we need the gift of a sense of life which is stronger than death. The gift of biological life can be justified only if we can add to it a sense of stabllity, of a future which, despite crises which will come - and which we cannot know beforehand - will give value to our life, make life worth living, make us value the very fact that we were created.

Therefore I think that in preparing for this Sacrament or talking to parents who have doubts about Baptism, we have a missionary situation. We are transmitting the Christian message. We interpret for them the reality that begins with Baptism.

I am not sufficiently familiar with the Italian rite. In the classic rite, inherited from the early Church, Baptism begins with the question: "What do you ask of the Church of God?" Today, at least in the German rite, the answer is simply "Baptism." This does not state adequately what it is that one desires. In the ancient rite, one answered: "Faith," that is, a relationship with God. To get to know God.

"And why," the question goes on, "do you ask for faith?"
Answer: "Because I wish for eternal life." That is, we want a life that is secure even in future crises, a life that has meaning, that justifies being a man.

In any case, I think that this dialog should take place with the parents before Baptism. Which is to say that the gift of the Sacrament is not simply a 'thing,' nor a 'thingification,' as the French put it. It is missionary work.

I guess this just jumps out at me because it echoes my own thoughts about evangelizing our own. This topic is also fresh in my mind because I have been following the discussion on Jimmy Akin’s blog about the appropriateness of baptizing the child of a lesbian couple.

I am working on my first lesson plan for seventh grade CCD. This is the confirmation preparation year. I am committed to giving these children a solid foundation in the Catholic faith, but even more importantly, I see this year as an opportunity to reach out to parents who may be in need of Catholic evangelization. Let me know if you have any strategies you have found successful in bringing parents into the catechesis process. I will share my results with you as well.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lost and Found

Today was the school orientation day for my rising seventh grader. He will be attending middle school for the first time. Actually he will be attending a “secondary school”. This four-thousand student beheamouth of an educational institution houses seventh through twelfth grades. Seventh and eighth graders are considered middle schoolers. My son and his neighborhood friend were going to ride the bus. It was pouring down rain as Ernesto’s remnants eased through Virginia. I sat in the minivan with them at the bus stop, waiting and waiting. When we could wait no longer without risking their being late I drove them into school. I chalked it up to a new school year transportation snafu.

The boys were going to ride the bus home. The orientation was over at 11:20 this morning so around noon with the rain still beating down I drove back to the bus stop to give them a lift home. I waited and I waited. By about 12:30 I was beginning to get a little concerned. I called the school. Whoever answered the phone in the main office asked me to call back in ten minutes while she tried to find someone who knew something about buses. When there was still no sign of the bus ten minutes later I called back. This time the woman who answered the phone became very quiet when I told her that my son had not arrived home from orientation. She then assumed that forced calm voice people use when they are trying not to induce a panic.

“Oh, the buses have all come and gone. Do you think he went to a friend’s house?” I assured her that he had not gone to a friend’s house and I had been sitting at the bus stop for forty-five minutes and no bus had dropped off any children. “Well, perhaps your son is just lost here in our hallways. I am going to page him overhead and see if he finds his way to the office.”

Okay, I had been telling myself that this was just a late bus. Now the secretary has me thinking I really do have a missing child. I am picturing my son huddled in some corner looking like he’s doing a duck-and-cover drill. Instantaneous Hail Mary’s and Guardian Angel prayers ensue. Fortunately, the secretary also gave me the number for the transportation office. A quick call reveals that this special bus route for orientation day has so many stops it is taking longer than anticipated. Panic abates. Silent prayers of gratitude are said.

Ten minutes later my son and his neighborhood pal step off the bus, smiling broadly when they see they have a ride home through the rain. I have another well-earned gray hair. Another motherly mission accomplished.