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 Jägerstätter

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do we need pretty churches?

Why do we need pretty churches? A discussion on Richmond Catholic has digressed a bit from the placement of tabernacles to the general need for Catholic iconography in churches. Consider this comment:

I don't agree about the need for churches with icons. I grew up in a parish where we had Sunday Mass in the school auditorium. We had a movable altar and I never heard anyone comment that they did't feel like they were in the presence of the Lord during Mass. The parish church was several blocks away from the school. I attended Mass on a cruise ship...converted movie theater....I felt the presence of the Lord. What about Mass being said on battlefields and on battleships? Yes, I love all the icons, but it is ambience, not essence.

As I mentioned in the comment box, we must distinguish between times when Catholic symbols are absent out of necessity and when they are absent by choice. I frequently attend Mass at St. Raymond of Penafort parish on Saturday evenings. They celebrate Mass in a local firehouse as they await the completion of their church building. They bring in a crucifix, a beautiful statue of Mary, and a tabernacle. As you enter for Mass, you can pick up a small foam cushion to serve as your kneeler. The music is sung a cappella. The congregation is reverent. There is no question that this parish appreciates the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

I also refer you back to the blog by the Marine chaplain, Fr. Deusterhaus. He describes his minimalist surroundings but the Marines knelt on stone at the presence of our Lord. There is also a very moving picture on display at the newly opened Marine Corps Museum in Quantico. A priest is celebrating Mass in the field. The troops kneel in the mud. They have constructed a make shift communion rail.

Contrast this to the parishes that willingly remove any symbol or sign that Christ is present. The tabernacle is hidden. The cross has no corpus. There is no holy water. The building is devoid of any representation of saints. The focus becomes those who have gathered rather than He who has redeemed us. This is not to say that all church architecture must resemble the Vatican. I attended Mass in a beautiful small church in Arizona. The style clearly incorporated features of area’s Native American heritage. There was not a lot of gold and glitter. (The vessels used at Communion were appropriately of a noble metal. No pottery.) Yet, this was clearly a Catholic church. The tabernacle was prominently placed in the sanctuary. There was a crucifix. There were depictions of the saints.

My daughter the aspiring architect believes church architecture is a profession of faith. What are we professing if we choose to have only an empty room? My fighter pilot husband proclaims “Train like you fight. Fight like you train.” If you “train” or worship with no sense of the awe or majesty of the Eucharist, how will you ever grasp that which the Catechism states should be the source and summit of our Christian life? I believe there has long been a similar phrase in the church: Lex orandi, Lex credendi. The manner of our prayer is the manner of our belief.

So the real issue is not a matter of church beauty or artistic merit. Rather, the call to bring back the tabernacle as well as Catholic iconography into our sanctuaries is a call to bring back the visible and physical reminders of the central dogmas of our faith as a sublime form of catechesis.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Feeling like Peter

I am feeling a bit like Peter. You remember how he tried to tell Jesus not to make the trip to Jerusalem? Part of me is telling Pope Benedict XVI to stay home. Why do you want to go to Turkey? There are some not-so-nice people there who really don’t like you. But I don’t want to be a stumbling block to the will of the Holy Spirit. If Pope Benedict feels called to go to Turkey, I will trust in Divine Providence.

The Vatican has a very nice summary of the goals of this trip. This journey is meant to be pastoral, ecumenical, and an opportunity for interreligious dialogue.

It is significant that the Holy Father’s first journey to a predominantly Muslim country begins in the very land from which Abraham, the common patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, undertook his journey of faith in God. It was from Harran, a village in present-day Turkey, that he set out in a spirit of total dependence upon God, trusting solely in the word that had been revealed to him.

The renewed memory of these common roots linking the three religions, which the Holy Father wishes to evoke in his journey, is an invitation to overcome the conflicts between Jews, Christians and Muslims that have taken place over the centuries.

So, my dear Holy Father, go if you must. Do be careful. I will be praying for you.

Ora Pro Nobis!

Please add the following intentions to your prayers:

Rin Tin Tin Grin

As I watched a little bit of college football this weekend I kept seeing a commercial for an upcoming “news” story. It started out with a description of “your baby” having an underbite that caused eating problems. But it is fixable. For around $1200 “your baby” will be playing and eating normally. The catch: “your baby” is a dog. The fix is braces.

We are truly a very wealthy society that we can now put braces on our poodles. I usually don’t like to criticize how people spend their discretionary income. But orthodontia for the dogs seems a bit much. Perhaps my years of practicing medicine makes me especially sensitive to anything that looks like the squandering of our medical resources. Of course, it may also be that my youngest gets his braces this Friday. Having already been through the ordeal of braces with two older children I know this is a long-term commitment of time, care, and money. I just can’t justify making this same investment for a dog. Don’t expect to see any Rin Tin Tin Grins in our household.

Pray for the Pope!

The Knights of Columbus ask that all Catholics pray each day for the Pope as he journeys to Turkey. The following prayer was composed by Bishop William E. Lori, supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.

Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence. We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Please join your prayers to those of the Knights and pray this every day beginning tomorrow, November 28 and continuing through Friday, December 1.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rice 31, SMU 27

Rice 31, SMU 27

Perhaps not as significant to the national college football scene as the Texas A&M win I mentioned below, but this is a big game to my beloved Rice Owls. This seven win season gives Rice its first bowl bid since 1961. My freshman at Rice has seen nearly as many football victories at Rice during his first year as my husband and I saw in our four years at Rice.

Go Owls!

Texas A&M 12, Texas 7

Texas A & M 12, Texas 7

I didn’t get my oldest home for Thanksgiving. He had an important appointment in Austin. Even if I didn’t get to have my oldest home, I did enjoy the game. I do wish the television coverage had included the Corps of Cadets marching in. Of course, recognizing my son would be easy.

He’s the one with the really short hair.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Menu

I don’t experiment too much with our turkey dinner menu, but it has evolved over the years. Cooking the turkey is the easy part. Getting all the side dishes ready so everything is done together is the challenge.

Of course we are eating turkey. The first Thanksgiving dinner I ever cooked was during my first year of marriage. I had my Doubleday Cookbook. I looked up “how to cook a turkey”, followed the directions, and ended up with a picture perfect roasted bird. I used the beer-and-butter basted recipe. Since we aren’t beer drinkers around here the beer for the turkey was always a special purchase. For the last few years I have just used sherry or another wine I have on hand and it has worked fine.

I make dressing—not stuffing. And it is made out of cornbread, not white bread. This recipe has evolved from my Aunt Vee’s recipe. The key here is to have a well-seasoned turkey broth made from the turkey neck and giblets. I do not chop up and include the liver and gizzard in the dressing. My mother and aunt did that and I always hated the surprise bite with a chunk of turkey liver. I crumble one batch of homemade cornbread with a melted stick of butter, two eggs, and enough broth to make it the consistency of pancake batter. I add a couple of chopped boiled eggs and the shredded meat from the turkey neck. I season it with a little more poultry seasoning and maybe a little Cajun seasoning. I used to bake it for an hour but now I make it first thing on Thanksgiving morning and pour it into my oval crock pot. By the time we eat dinner in the early afternoon it is fully cooked but moist and delicious.

Mashed potatoes are a must. When the whole crew is home this can mean cooking a full five-pound bag of potatoes. The trick is to mash the potatoes without whipping them until they are gummy. Making gravy has been my Achilles heel. I admit that for several years I gave up and served the instant gravy made from the powdered contents of an envelope. However, I think I have finally figured out how to brown the flour in the drippings and add water or broth until the consistency is just right.

My recipe for sweet potatoes is another recipe I picked from the Doubleday Cookbook for that first Thanksgiving dinner. It is called “Sweet Potato Puff” and is sweetened sweet potatoes seasoned with cinnamon and mixed with a bit of orange.

Years ago my husband got me a bread maker. That was the end of our store-bought rolls. We now have butterhorn rolls. These look like the refrigerator crescent rolls but taste so much better. It is a recipe from the best bread machine cookbook I have ever seen, Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway.

Cranberry sauce is the jellied Ocean Spray canned sauce. You know Ocean Spray changed the design of their can so you can no longer open up both ends and push the whole cranberry sauce cylinder out. However, with a bit of shaking I can still get it out in one piece and slice into circular slabs.

Dessert is pumpkin pie. The pumpkin is canned but the crust is homemade. Just follow the directions on the can of Libby’s pumpkin. It works every time.

My prayers will be with all my readers tomorrow. I feel truly blessed to be able to share this faith journey with you. I hope you are able to gather around the table with family and friends and give thanks for many blessings. Bon Appetitie.

Parenting with Love

You must read this essay. Simon Barnes, the chief sports writer for the Times, writes a remarkable, love-filled account of his life with Eddie, his son with Down's syndrome:

Some bits are hard, some bits are easy, some bits are fun, some bits are a frightful bore. That’s true of life with Eddie, it’s also true of life with Joe. But you don’t even begin to break it up into categories: it is the one endless, complex business of being a parent. You don’t go into parenthood to make sure that the benefits outweigh the deficits: you go into it out of — brace yourself but no other word will do — love.

Parenthood is not really about the traditional round-robin Christmas letter: Jasper is school captain and is having trials for Middlesex at both cricket and rugby and played Hamlet in the school play of the same name, while Oxford and Cambridge have both offered scholarships. He has just passed grade ten on the cello. Parenthood is not about perfection, it’s much more interesting than that: it’s about making the best of what you have. Define best, then? Do that for yourself, but I’ll give you a clue: if you think it’s all about A levels, you’re on the wrong track.

So my task, then, is to bring the best out of Eddie. That is unlikely to involve A levels. I know that there will be many harder things to face as he grows older. No doubt we will take these things in the order in which they come. We can imagine a few horrors, of course, but we will live through the actual events day by day. And we will continue with other important tasks such as giggling and playing ball and providing hats and dealing with a world that can’t imagine the dreadful fate of being a parent to a child with Down’s syndrome.

This essay is not about parenting a child with Down’s syndrome with great love. It is about parenting in general with great love.

(H/T to ,Amy Welborn for the link)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bless Us O Lord....

As usual, Jen at “Et tu, Jen” asks a question that makes me think.

Why is it so firmly embedded in Christian culture to pray before eating but not before receiving other life-sustaining gifts?

I know that I am very uncomfortable if I sit down to a meal with others and we do not say grace. Now I will not say that if I am eating alone I always say grace, but definitely if I am eating with someone else it feels awkward to dig in unless I have given thanks. Thirty years ago when I was just getting to know the man who would someday be my husband, I invited him over for dinner. As the two of us sat down at the kitchen table we hesitated and squirmed a bit. I realized he didn’t feel right eating without saying grace either. We bowed our heads, recited “Bless Us O Lord…” and enjoyed the first of many meals together. My mother-in-law used grace as a screening tool for her children’s dinner guests. She would invite them to say grace. If they began “Bless Us O Lord” she knew they were Catholic. So how and why did we develop this attachment to giving thanks before meals?

I think the practice of grace before meals is a way of humbling ourselves before God. We acknowledge that even the bread on our table is not really the work of our own hands but of His. Of course, as children the theology of this escapes us. We just form the habit of praying before meals. As we get older we grow in understanding the practices of our faith. Sometimes a practice or posture is the result of our understanding and other times our understanding is the result of our practice or posture. For example, our priest made a point of asking people to bow reverently before receiving Holy Communion. Most complied though after Mass there was a little grumbling about meaningless rituals. Yet over time, many people were surprised how this gesture increased their appreciation for the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the same way, saying grace may seem like a mindless habit, yet our persistence in this habit is a daily reminder of our dependence on Divine Providence.

Certainly we could express this same humility and gratitude for God’s gifts before other events of our day, but the communal expression at the dinner table is often associated with many poignant memories. So in addition to the obvious theological basis for giving thanks there is an emotional attachment to this practice as well. Now that my children are heading off to college one by one, the holiday reunions when I have a full complement of knees under the table and my entire family’s voices joined in prayer before meals can bring tears to my eyes. My prayer of thanksgiving is more for these moments in our lives than it is for the turkey dinner.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Maybe it Was Just a Botched Joke?

The New York Times interview with the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is making the rounds of the blogosphere. This quote in particular is garnering attention:

How many members of the Episcopal Church are there in this country?

About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

So Catholics are now a bunch of uneducated, environmentally hazardous, baby makers? Actually this statement is very interesting in light of the American Bishop’s assertion that 96% of married Catholics are using contraception. Maybe this was just a “botched joke” One of the best responses to this elitist attitude is this.

The truth of the matter is The Episcopal Church has become nearly indistinguishable from the Unitarians and is hemorrhaging members. Many of them are “swimming the Tiber” and coming home to Rome. We must welcome them with open arms and keeping praying for those remaining on the far shore.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I am so proud of our priests!

I have written so many times about how blessed we are to have the three priests assigned to our parish. Each serves the parish in his own unique way. This past week’s National Catholic Register features a great profile of our youngest parochial vicar, Fr. James Searby. (For a limited time the print version of the National Catholic Register is available online).

Today at Holy Spirit parish, where he’s served since being ordained in June 2005, Father Searby brings that sense of holy adventure to youth — and makes promoting confession a keystone of his priestly ministry.

“He has a great zest for life and particularly seems to connect with young people,” says Father Edward Hathaway, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, Va. “They’re attracted to him for his enthusiasm as a priest and his love for the Church, which is evident.”

Holy Spirit’s youth minister, Christine Najarian, sees that process constantly unfolding. “He gets kids excited about seeking the Lord and growing in holiness,” she explains. “He definitely models it and speaks it.”

No wonder the number of attendees for the church’s annual teen retreat weekend nearly doubled this year. The number of boys quadrupled. Afterwards, when Najarian asked the young Catholics where they’d grown most, she consistently got the same answer: in confession.

“Father preaches a lot on the need for confession,” she says. “The kids have taken that challenge and now make confession an important part of their lives.”

You can also hear Fr. Searby preach on his podcasts found here.

Fr. Searby does not try to attract young people to the Church by making the Church blend in to the popular culture. Rather, he gives the young and old alike the Truth of the Gospel. He speaks clearly about sin and about forgiveness. He promotes reverent liturgies with a generous helping of Latin. He is ardently devoted to Our Lady. He brings to life the stories of the saints. Our parish is so blessed to have him.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Bishops Have Spoken. Spread the Word!

Last week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrapped up their meeting in Baltimore. They published some very important teaching documents. You can download them here. I think the two most significant documents are Married Love and the Gift of Life and Happy Are Those Who are Called to His Supper: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist. These documents are written for the entire body of the Catholic faithful. The first document on married life outlines the Church’s teaching on married life and its ban on contraception. The second document on the Eucharist clearly states the dogma on the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and goes on to teach that we must be in a state of grace to receive Communion. It outlines conditions that would make us ineligible to receive Communion. Many have criticized the failure to specifically list use of contraception as an obstacle to receiving Communion. While I would have preferred to see such a statement, I think this document taken in conjunction with the document on marriage makes the Church’s stance understandable. A third document Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care is probably written more for priests, but it does an excellent job of stating and explaining the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

I really do hope you take time to read these words from our bishops. However, what I really want is to hear priests talking about these documents from the pulpits. Most Catholics in the pew are not enmeshed in the Catholic blogosphere and are not reading the Catholic press. Our priests need to get the word out. In addition to a word from the pulpit, it would be good for parishes to post the web site for these documents in the parish bulletin. Adult Catholics need to be told religious education did not end with Confirmation. We've got homework to do.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Playstation 3 Sale becomes a Melee

In my post below I noted that we had never purchased a video gaming system for our children. Now Thomas at American Papist confirms I made the right decision. Just a reminder to folks in line to buy the newest Playstation: the action of a video game is virtual. It is not real. Rediscover the real world. It is far more exciting.

The Family Catechesis Model

I have often expressed my frustration with the CCD as school model of religious education. Over at Amy Welborn’s blog, a commenter offered an intriguing alternative:

As a brand-new DRE at a solid, but small, parish who is now this year (under my inexperienced watch...pray for us!) transitioning into a completely different religious education system, I suggest that others take a look at what we are doing and the program we are using. Individual families who are struggling to find a decent RE program at your parish, read this too!

At my parish are using the Family Formation program out of St. Paul's church in Ham Lake, MN (this is Jeff Cavins' parish, btw, and his family has used the program too!). For us, as an entire parish, to join up with St. Paul's and utilize this program has been remarkably easy, logistically - but there is a huge shift in our philosophical thinking about RE that we are having to make, which is very challenging to our parents.

Take a look at the Family Formation web site linked above. This is the program I have been looking for. It takes religious education and puts it in the home but offers parents the support they need to do it right. Of course, this kind of program requires parents who are committed to passing on their Catholic faith to their children. While every parent promises to do this when their children are baptized, for many it seems to be little more than lip service. Maybe I am the eternal optimist, but I can’t help but think that a core group of parents enthusiastically embracing the role of primary catechist in a parish sanctioned program would inspire the lukewarm parents to give it a try. This would be especially true if the program had the support from the pulpit of the pastor.

Of course, this program only works when there is a consistent family unit. Scroll down the comments of Amy Welborn’s post and read the tragic words of “Brenda of Flatbush”:

3. The notion that most of my kids' families would serve as their 'primary catechists' is so funny I could puke. Many of my kids seem to lack anything resembing a recognizable 'family.' Most are children of divorce. Few ever attend Mass. Many bounce around among 'cousins.' Many come from homes where no English is spoken. I have tried collecting phone numbers and calling parents at home to 'welcome their participation.' Half the time, their phones are disconnected. It would be more accurate to say that their entire lives are disconnected.
3. Every year, I poll my kids (4th through 6th graders), all of whom have made their First Communion with a white dress/suit and party, as to what we do on Sunday as Catholics. The universal answer is: "Go to church?" (Never, ever "mass.") When asked what they do at Church, about half will say: "Get the bread?" When asked what "the bread" is, one or two out of 20 will ask shyly, "Jesus?" This feedback has been identical over 30 years in 3 different parishes of widely varying demographics. Yes, folks, this is the church of tomorrow, as we reap what we have sown. See them signing up in droves for the 'envelope system'??
4. For all this ignorance, my kids are deeply conversant with culturally transferred superstitions and loony New Age notions from TV: ghosts, reincarnation, UFOs. They are also weirdly obsessed with PETA-style messages on animal rights; our discussions of the origin of "lamb of God" invariably must be preceded by a full-force investigation of why it was okay for the mean Israelites to kill a poor little lamb. (Apparently none of them have thought hard about the content of their chicken nuggets.)
5. As they get older, the kids are utterly unprepared for even the most basic apologetics about their faith--duh. And in NYC, they won't make it to the subway in the morning without being leafleted by Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, and Seventh-day Adventists, all eager to tell them what's wrong with being Catholic. My little sitting ducks, ripe for the taking by the hardest-working poacher to follow me.

So maybe a school style CCD is the best we can do for Brenda in New York. Still, I would like to see more of our parishes moving to the family catechesis model. If there was more recognition and support for our “domestic churches” maybe experiences like Brenda’s would become less common.

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter Nine, Part Two

Chapter nine, part one is here.

Chapter nine of Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi discusses bringing a Catholic approach to the world. In the first post on this chapter we discussed bringing Catholic values into our societal concerns. The second part of this chapter address bringing Catholicism into youth culture.

This book was published in 1989. Most of the essays were written in the early eighties. The concerns about youth culture touched on drugs, alcohol, sex, and teen music. The offensive tunes list included Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”. Well, things haven’t gotten any easier in the last twenty years. Add increasingly raunchy television and the internet to the drugs, alcohol, sex, and teen music. And teen music has gotten a whole lot more vulgar than Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”. So what do you do?

I wish I had perfect answers. Part of the challenge is to pick your battles wisely. Values and standards must be consistently enforced but some issues are more critical than others. My teens eschew the modern teen music for classic rock. This means my car radio is blasting The Who, Journey, Led Zeppelin, and Pat Benetar. Sure, it would be ideal if we always used this travel time to listen to Christian music, recorded prayers, classical music, or turned the radio off and just talked. Sometimes this does happen. But Led Zeppelin is tolerable. I do draw the line on what sorts of lyrics are allowed. I do not allow my children to swear and I do not allow music that is filled with profanity. We do not listen to lyrics promoting violence, rape, or misogyny.

Television, the internet, video games, and movies are electronic time sinks. They can completely absorb your family. Often the content conflicts with Catholic values. Our approach has been to make it clear that we control these entertainment electrons. They do not control us. Using any of these electronics is a privilege, not a right. When the children are young, it is very easy to limit what they watch and avoid unwanted content. As they get older, it is important to keep tabs on what they are watching and hearing and help them see how well their music and video measures up to Catholic standards. If it is a flagrant affront to Catholic values it needs to be jettisoned. Sometimes just commenting on the conflict will be enough. We watched the movie Bruce Almighty. It really did have a valuable moral to the story. However, half way through the movie it becomes clear that the main characters are not married, but just living together. This was a good time to clearly point out their behavior was unacceptable. Don't let this teaching moment pass. Failure to comment let's your children think marriage is just a matter of personal preference. Even though the characters were nice people they had made a bad choice by cohabitating.

We avoided the mindless television habit by setting pretty stringent limits when the children were young. We didn’t own a television for many years and just subscribed to cable two years ago. A television has never been the center of our family room. No television is ever allowed at meals. No televisions in the bedrooms. We sit down to watch specific shows, not just channel surf for something to watch. When the show is over, the television is turned off. It is never just background noise. Watching television is a deliberate choice, not a default activity. While we have been much quicker to adopt a computer-assisted lifestyle, the computers are located in central locations that are subject to parental viewing. We have allowed strategy computer games, but no first person shooter games. We have never purchased a video gaming system. I don’t believe computer games, video games, and television are inherently immoral. I do believe it takes an enormous amount of discipline to keep them from crowding out far more valuable family activities. The benefit of these activities is often not worth the effort to control them and it is easier to just get rid of them.

My teens have not rebelled too much against these limits because these limits have been presented as part of the Catholic identity they have always known. We warned them being Catholic means being counter cultural in our modern society. Their music, movies, television, internet, and clothing can all be held up to judgment against Catholic standards. The older they get, the more I let them do the vetting, but if I think they have grossly erred, I will step in.

Encouraging groups and activities that foster Catholic values is a big plus. We have been blessed with a dynamic high school youth group at our parish. I cannot overemphasize how critical it is to build a community of support for Catholic culture. We do our children a great disservice when we assume they will have no interest in an authentically Catholic life. Low expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More on Infant Euthanasia in the UK

I am happy to report that the Vatican has weighed in on the issue of infant euthanasia in Great Britain.

Speaking with Italian reporters, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, deplored the “cruelty” of a proposal to allow newborns with severe handicapped to be euthanized in the United Kingdom.

The cardinal noted that the position of the Church “is unchanged, life does not belong to man but to the Lord. The life of an innocent being cannot be taken either by direct or indirect means. Euthanasia is never permissible. This goes for the terminally ill and for children, including those born with serious problems.”

According to Cardinal Lozano, “Ending the life of an innocent person, even if it is a premature baby who is gravely ill, is the equivalent of euthanasia, and this is an illicit action, as well as an act of cruelty.”

Cardinal Lozano also emphasized that the Church does not teach that doctors must use disproportionate means or medicines that will only prolong the agony of a person who would otherwise be close to death. “Nobody should be obliged to accept this kind of therapy,” he said. “But in the case that is being presented here, we are dealing with murder. We must remember that the fifth commandment says, Thou shalt not kill.”

You may remember it was reported that the Church of England was in agreement with the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in its support of euthanasia for severely disabled newborns. The Anglicans have clarified their position and stated they were only referring to rejection of extraordinary care and not euthanasia.

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter Nine, Part One

Chapter eight is here.

Chapter nine of Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi is subtitled Communicating a Catholic Approach to the World. It is very appropriate that this falls near the end of the book. Through the first eight chapters we have talked about why we teach our children about the Faith, how we teach our children about the Faith, and what we teach our children about the Faith. Now we take this Faith and put it into action. I am going to divide this chapter into two posts. The first will deal with instilling Catholic social principles. Tomorrow I will address keeping Catholic values in the youth culture.

I have to admit the title of the first essay in this chapter, Raising Kids with Concern for Social Justice by James D. Manney, is one that I approached with trepidation. Unfortunately, the term “social justice” has been hijacked by those within the Church who wish to downplay any concern for the liturgy. “Why are you worried about the vessels used at Mass or adherence to the liturgical norms? There are social justice issues that need addressing.” Yet this essay did a very good job of depoliticizing the term. Social justice is not a new idea. The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are very old precepts of the Faith.

How do we teach our children to view the world within the framework of these Works of Mercy?

As this first essay points out, we must not be overwhelmed by the big picture. World hunger, substance abuse, homelessness, domestic violence, etc. are huge problems. No one individual, no one family, no one community is going to resolve these issues. Yet each of us is called to address his own little corner of the world and make it better.

I live in the second most affluent county in the nation. It is commonplace for the children in this community to have expensive cars, expensive clothes, attend expensive schools, and have lots of discretionary spending money. We live in a very nice house and can afford for our children to participate in a variety of activities. We eat out occasionally. Yet in this community we appear almost counter cultural. Even though I could be practicing medicine, I have elected to manage our household and be the primary parent at home. I am probably the only person on the block that does her own housework. (I am afraid it shows sometimes, too) We drive practical cars. None of my teens has his own car. My older boys did have access to a 1992 minivan with 189,000 miles on it. We have no gaming systems. Up until two years ago we had no cable television. We now subscribe to the smallest cable package available just so that we can get a cable internet connection. Last year we replaced the television that had been purchased in 1988 because the plastic knobs and buttons were starting to fall off. No plasma screen. No HD. No big screen. Yet my children are not rebelling at our modest lifestyle. Why?

I believe because of the foundation we established with our children early on, we have not had to struggle to explain to our children why we don’t have all the toys and gadgets their peers do. This begins first by acknowledging every thing we have is a gift from God. We must humbly give God credit for our blessings. Once we release our “ownership” of the blessings it is much easier to share them. People may laugh at the cliché “Clean your plate. There are starving children in Armenia!” Yet that is exactly the sentiment that we must convey to our children. We have many blessings by the grace of God. There are many less fortunate than we are. Our Faith demands that we share our bounty. This needs to be done in very concrete ways from the time children are very young. It is not enough to write a check to the parish or to your favorite charity. Kids don’t connect with that. Instead, try eating a “meager meal” such as rice and beans or vegetable soup once in a while. Donate what you would have spent on a more elaborate meal to the local food bank. Our parish in Florida invited children to bring canned goods up to the altar at every Mass. I noticed that my four-year-old always managed to pick out a food that was not high on his favorites list. One Sunday I grabbed a can of tuna—one of his favorite foods. He had tears in his eyes as he gave away this delicacy. He learned we are called to sacrifice.

We moved to Virginia from Florida so falling leaves followed by falling snow was a new experience. Our neighbors were elderly. It became a ritual that if school was canceled all four children donned their snow gear and cleared the neighbors’ driveways and walks before they began their own activities of sledding and snowball fights. I know our neighbors were very grateful for the service. I don’t think they ever realized how grateful I was for the opportunity to teach my children to think of the needs of others first.

The children see both my husband and I giving of our time and talents. Even when I worked outside of the home I taught CCD and was a Cub Scout Leader. My husband is a Boy Scout leader. They see me making casseroles for families dealing with an illness or death. We have participated as a family in numerous service projects for the church, school or community. Giving is a way of life.

How do we raise pro-life children?

This question gets its own answer separate from the general charitable virtues. If we can truly imbue our children with an appreciation of God’s great gift of life, so many other issues become clear. For example, even chastity is a pro-life issue. When we teach our children that our sexuality is God’s way of giving us the privilege of participating in the creation of new life, then it follows that sexual relations belong within marriage. When we respect every human life as being made in God’s image then we afford each person the intrinsic dignity he deserves. We do not measure the worthiness of a life by earthly accomplishments.

As with every other aspect of raising Catholic children, the best way to teach these values is to model these values. We must rejoice in the gift of children. We must practice kindness and patience with the elderly. And our children need to see us make choices that reflect our pro-life views.
Over the years, we have participated in many other projects for crisis pregnancy centers, made signs for the March for Life, and had long discussions about bioethical issues. As a physician, I share with my children the dilemmas I faced at work as I tried to practice medicine and stay true to my pro-life principles. The foundation for these pro-life activities began when the children were young. In those days Cheerios were a favorite breakfast cereal. However, we learned General Mills was donating to Planned Parenthood. We stopped buying General Mills products, including Cheerios. This simple sacrifice made an indelible impression on my children. They became keenly aware of the abortion issue and its seriousness.

Kids need to see that respect for all life is not just something we trot out in January every year for Respect Life Sunday. It has to be a principle we life every day.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Solebury School and Planned Parenthood are Old Friends

Last week I published an update about the controversy sparked by the Solebury School field trip to Planned Parenthood. Well, I happened upon a little more information today. It seems that this is not the first partnership between Solebury School and Planned Parenthood. Back in April, Solebury School students organized a 5K run to benefit Planned Parenthood. Specifically, this run would benefit the Planned Parenthood Rainbow Room. As the web page proclaims:

“As Solebury School students, we value the importance of equal rights for all in every community. We embrace the spirit of inclusiveness and equality that exists at Solebury School and the community of the Rainbow Room.”

What is the Rainbow Room?

The Rainbow Room strives to provide a supportive, and empowering environment for LGBTQ youth and allies to come together for social, educational and recreational activities. We value the leadership and active participation of youth in program planning and operations.

Its newsletter includes articles like this:

The Resignation of Justice
By: Grant

As we all know, the first female Supreme Court Justice is resigning upon the confirmation of a suitable replacement by Congress. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has served on the Court for almost 24 years now, and she's done some pretty amazing things in her time. Being the most center-justified person in the highest court in the land, Ms. O'Connor has taken a fairly moderate view to most of the cases she was involved with. In the all-important Roe v. Wade case, she was one of the deciding factors to legalize abortion.
Now, with George W's nomination and Senate’s confirmation of Samuel Alito, your picture-perfect Republican- who knows what might happen in the coming years? Alito is just what this country doesn't need... a man who thinks that a woman's body can be controlled by the government's religious bias. In a time of ever-increasing right wing political power, and the gap between church and state shrinking by the minute, could the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade be overturned? What does that mean for the rest of us? Say, in particular, the LGBTQA community? Well, things don't look so great. With dissent for so-called "alternative lifestyles" at an all time high, and the country more red than ever before, abortion rights look to be in trouble, along with gay marriage rights, domestic partnership in general, and government tolerance. This is surely a time of instability and insecurity, if this reporter has ever seen one. What can we, as a community, do? Continue to stick tight, stay proud, and exercise our rights as human beings and U.S. citizens by letting our voices be heard by all, especially those in Washington.

I am guessing Grant is happier now that the mid-term elections are over. Isn’t it wonderful that Solebury School has partnered with the community. Too bad I don’t see them partnering with a crisis pregnancy center.

Anglicans Endorse Infant Euthanasia?

This is a case where I believe there is great confusion over the terms being used as well as their meaning. The headline reads, Church Supports Baby Euthanasia. “Church” in this case refers to the Church of England. However, the story reveals the definition of euthanasia and exactly what the Church of England is advocating is very fuzzy.

THE Church of England has joined one of Britain’s royal medical colleges in calling for legal euthanasia of seriously disabled newborn babies.

Church leaders want doctors to be given the right to withhold treatment from seriously disabled newborn babies in exceptional circumstances.

Their call, overriding the presumption that life should be preserved at any cost, follows that of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, revealed in The Sunday Times last week.

Exactly what is an “exceptional circumstance”? What “treatment” will be withheld? An anencephalic child has a condition incompatible with life. Death is imminent though it cannot be determined if it will be a matter of hours or a matter of days. It is reasonable to withhold extraordinary intervention such as artificial ventilation or aggressive pharmacotherapy. This is not euthanasia. However, simple hydration, nutrition and comfort measures afford this child complete human dignity in his short life. Is the Church of England advocating the removal of these as well?

Does this position advocate the refusal to treat when the underlying disability is not fatal? What is meant by “seriously disabled”? The British abortion laws allow for the abortion of unborn children with “serious disabilities”. The definition of serious disabilities has expanded to include a surgically correctable condition like cleft palate.

The article sheds light on the real intent of this measure when it quotes the submission to the inquiry by the British College of Obstetricians:

The college said in its submission to the inquiry: “A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome.”
There you have it. This is being portrayed as a strategy to reduce abortions. If parents have the option to kill their disabled children they may be more likely to risk allowing them to be born. If the disability is too great, they just kill them after birth rather than before birth. May God have mercy upon us that we have come to believe infanticide is a superior alternative to abortion.

I have already written of the pressures women endure when they choose to give birth rather than abort a disabled child. If infanticide becomes the natural extension of abortion, the societal pressure to kill “imperfect” human beings will not be far behind. It is scandalous that the Church of England would align itself with such a cause. Where are the Catholic bishops in England? Have they made their voices heard? Let us pray that they will have the courage to speak out against this deplorable move against human dignity.

Please see UPDATE

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Playing and Praying

I am afraid blogging has been sparse the last few days. Soccer dominated the last week, culminating in a major tournament this weekend. Yesterday was a perfect day for soccer. Temperatures mild and the sun was bright. My daughter’s team got in two games, winning the first and tying the second. The second team should have been awarded the Tonya Harding sportsmanship award. Their young coach has a win-at-all-costs attitude and encourages vicious play. We have played them several times in the last few months and every time it seems that one of our players is carted off the field due to a brutal late illegal hit. Sometimes the referee sees the infraction and issues a yellow card and sometimes he doesn’t. Yesterday was one of the times he missed the call and it was my daughter that was carried off the field. Needless to say I became somewhat of a mother bear and there were many uncharitable thoughts running through my head as I examined the visible cleat marks on my child’s calf. Fortunately the damage was minimal and a little ice and then some time in the heated whirlpool had her as good as new. We attended Mass last night anticipating more games today.

Have you ever had a homily sound like it was written just for you? I think my daughter and I felt that way last night. We both went to Mass feeling pretty angry over the dirty play of her opponents and were both contemplating what we would like to see happen the next time the teams met. I don’t think either of us was merely hoping for a good clean contest on the field. Then our priest began to speak about the Gospel. You know the widow gave herself completely to God out of love and adoration of her Lord. We are each called to do the same. He doesn’t just want our money. He wants the fruits of all of our labors. He wants our professional work, our studies at school and our play on the sporting fields. Oops! I don’t think what my daughter and I were thinking qualified as fruit befitting of God. We needed to hear that. We compared notes and decided that this particular team needs our prayers far more than our vengeance. After a bit of reflection, it was clear that it was a near miracle that my daughter had not suffered a much more serious injury considering the mechanics of the slide tackle she received. We gave thanks to God and thanked her Guardian Angel, Blessed Mother, and John Paul II for any intercession they may have provided.

The skies let loose with torrential rain last night and it continued most of the day. Soccer was canceled and we enjoyed the gift of unscheduled time. My daughter had a little extra time to heal and I could nurse the chest cold that has been plaguing me the last few days. In spite of the Sunday cancellation, it was a very successful soccer weekend. On the field the girls played well. Off the field my daughter learned that her play is more than a game. It is a prayer.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Solebury School Rebuttal

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I blogged on a secular private school in Philadelphia that took its students on a field trip to Planned Parenthood. Apparently, the school has been taking quite a bit of flak for this outing and the students and faculty are just plain tired of it. This prompted a Solebury School student to anonymously comment:

As a student at Solebury School, I'd like to point out something. This trip was not supposed to be political. It was intended as simple observation of the activism implemented by the pro-lifers. I find it ironic that you say that the students were not being shown the pro-life activism when that was the entire point of the trip. In fact, I'd say that the students were exposed to the pro-life message more than any pro-choice one.
Personally, I believe that every woman should be allowed the right to a safe abortion without someone else's dogma being shoved in her face, but that isn't my point here. My point is that my teacher and friend Jason Gordon has been harassed in recent weeks by pro-lifers and everyone at Solebury is tired of it. Perhaps if we can all just let go of our personal opinions for a minute and see this as what it really is, an objective observation of different forms of activism, we can work together to solve the greater societal problems that lead to the abortion problem in this country without simply passing laws that won't actually be effective.

First of all, the students were not allowed to speak to the pro-life activists. They were allowed to speak and interact with the Planned Parenthood personnel. The students even wore the Planned Parenthood vests that client escorts wear. So this lesson was all about learning about pro-life activism by observing from afar? You can see the lesson our anonymous poster learned: Pro-life activists stand outside of abortion clinics and shove dogma in the faces of poor women who just want a safe abortion. I wonder what other lessons $22,000 per year will buy you.

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter Eight

Chapter seven is here.

Chapter eight of Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi is subtitled Training Kids in Catholic Morality. This begs the question, “What is Catholic morality?” Do you know what the Church teaches on morality? Does it matter in your life? The answer to these last two questions should be an emphatic “Yes!” Unfortunately, many Catholics have never really learned what the Church teaches or why it teaches what it does. Without that knowledge it is very difficult to pass on truly Catholic morality to one’s children.

This is not a do-it-yourself project. The teaching office of the Catholic Church, the Magisterium. leads the Catholic flock down the path of authentically Catholic faith and morals. Ideally, Magisterial teachings would be clearly proclaimed by our bishops and priests from the pulpit and in pastoral writings. Sometimes this happens effectively and sometimes it does not. Every home should have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I also recommend a copy of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Read these. My favorite cardinal, Francis Cardinal Arinze, reads the Catechism every evening as part of his spiritual exercises. There is no better source for practical Catholic answers to specific moral questions.

When our behavior does not conform to Church teachings we should feel uncomfortable. This is what is often derisively referred to as “Catholic Gult”. Yet guilt is not something to be avoided. John C. Blattner writes in the first essay of chapter eight:

We are born with an innate sense that some things are right to do and other things are wrong, and with the faculty for feeling guilt when we’ve done wrong. I mean healthy guilt: the kind that alerts us to moral danger the way our physical senses alert us to physical danger.

Even kids have this faculty. They don’t quite understand it, and they don’t know what to call it (conscience, in case you’ve forgotten), but they know it’s there. And their little world makes more sense when we help them understand it, and teach them what to call it. It’s the well-intentioned grown-ups who tell them to disregard this inborn spiritual sensing device, and who teach them that there is no such thing as sin, who are really the misguided ones.

Now following one’s conscience has been used to justify all kinds of behavior that is contrary to Church teaching. While Mr. Blattner may be correct that there is an inborn ability to sense right and wrong, the conscience must be formed and nurtured. The Church does say one must follow his conscience, but it is the well-formed Catholic conscience to which it refers. Take out your trusty Catechism and read paragraphs 1783-1795. Of special note are:

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

The bottom line is do not be afraid to talk about sin with your children. Let them know that sin is real. Let them know sin has both earthly and eternal consequences. Then share with them the joy of God’s mercy and our salvation by Christ. Just as we apologize to each other and try to make amends when our relationships are ruptured, so to do we turn to God for forgiveness when we disrupt our relationships with Him through sin. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation we heal that relationship and start again. There is no sin that is to big for God’s mercy. Be an example to your children and make use of the Sacrament of Confession frequently and help them to do the same.

Of course no discussion of teaching children about Catholic morality is complete without discussing Catholic sexual morality. I really appreciate that this chapter echoes my own belief that it should be parents who are the primary teachers of their children on matters of faith and morals, including sexual morals. I am just going to refer you to this blog post for my detailed opinion on this matter.

It was difficult for me to summarize this chapter because the topic of Catholic morality is so broad. Yet Catholic morality must permeate every aspect of our lives. Our family relationships, our social relationships, our spiritual lives, our jobs, our duties as citizens and even our leisure activities must conform to Catholic morality. Modeling this concept is the most effective way for parents to imbue the lives of their children with Catholic morals.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

We Do Not Make the Eucharist Real

As is the pattern over at Richmond Catholic, the discussion centers around issues of the liturgy. Hand holding during the Our Father, methods of “passing the peace”, and the vessels used in Holy Communion have all surfaced in the discussion. Predictably, someone complains there should be no discussion of these issues while babies are starving and wars are being waged. However, one recent comment pushed the “don’t worry about the worship service because we have social justice issues to address” argument a bit far:

Eucharist is nothing if it doesn't nourish us and allow us to go out into the world and make it a better place.

Sorry, but we can add nothing to the Eucharist. The reality of the Eucharist, the True Presence of Christ, is completely independent of our response to it. He is there—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Our lack of response cannot negate this.

As I mentioned in the comments at Richmond Catholic, it is a false dichotomy to claim concern about the liturgy takes away from concern about social justice. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. How we pray establishes what we believe. What we believe spurs our action in the world. I keep coming back to Pope Benedict XVI’s words in 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?

There are both Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. They are not mutually exclusive. Rather, as Pope Benedict affirms above, they are complementary.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Purgatory on Earth

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this beautiful sunny day. The fall leaves outside my window are stunning. I realize the colorful display should make up for the fact that the temperature is now below 50-degrees and feeling much colder with a brisk northern wind. It is, after all, November and this is Northern Virginia so such temperatures should not be surprising. I suppose that I have been in a state of denial, not believing the colder temperatures would once again return. Never mind the fact that a good portion of my family is still calling that region known as Texas home. Never mind the fact that they are still indulging in Bluebell Ice Cream. Never mind the fact that they do not feel the need to put on at least three layers of clothing to go outside and pick up the mail. I will savor the reds and golds of autumn now and will not begrudge my Texas kin the joy of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush covered fields next spring. I will welcome the opportunity to rake the fallen leaves since it will have me conditioned for the shoveling required when the sky lets loose with that frozen white scourge known as snow. Please accept my cold hands and feet as an offering for those poor souls in Purgatory. I will enjoy my tea steaming this afternoon instead of over ice and garnished with mint. And I will trust in your mercy that I will someday once again bask in the Texas sun.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Anglican Turmoil Should Be a Warning for Catholics

Amy Welborn quotes the London Times on the discord in England between some of the current Anglican clergy and the former Archbishop of Canterbury:

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, has been banned from one of the oldest cathedrals in Britain after accusations that he has become an “instrument of disunity”.

Lord Carey, who has become a champion of orthodoxy in the Anglican Church since stepping down from the top job in 2002, was due to speak at Bangor Cathedral, North Wales, in February. The Dean of Bangor, the Very Rev Alun Hawkins, is understood to have imposed the unprecedented ban because he feels that Lord Carey has become a “divisive force” and has been “disloyal” to his successor, Dr Rowan Williams, who was born in Wales.

Closer to home, The Washington Times writes about The Episcopal Church and the upcoming consecration of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the new presiding bishop.

Since her election June 18 at the Episcopal General Convention in Ohio, an unprecedented seven Episcopal dioceses have declared that they will not accept her leadership because she allowed same-sex blessings during her 2001-06 tenure as bishop of Nevada.
Her 2003 vote in favor of V. Gene Robinson, the denomination's first openly homosexual bishop, and her statement that "our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation" in a sermon three days after her election, elicited protest as well…
… About 3,200 people will attend the installation ceremony of a woman whom Glamour magazine named one of its 12 "women of the year" for her place as "world's most prominent female religious leader."
"The bulk of this church is healthy and vibrant," the bishop said Tuesday. "A small portion is concerned about issues of sexuality at this instant."
Bishop Jefferts Schori's consecration will elevate her to the status of the most senior woman in the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion. She will represent the Episcopal Church at international gatherings, including a February meeting in Tanzania of the world's 38 Anglican archbishops. Twenty of these archbishops have released a statement saying they will not recognize her and suggested the U.S. church appoint an alternate.

I am curious what she means by “healthy and vibrant”. The Episcopal Church is hemorrhaging members. They have left behind traditional values and virtues to pander to the secular gay and feminist agendas. Consider her plan for attracting more young people into The Episcopal Church:

She hopes to concentrate on winning the young back to the church, citing Bronx musician Timothy Holder's "hip-hop Mass" and a Eucharist ceremony based on music by the pop group U2 as examples.

This is far different than Pope John Paul II’s appeal to orthodoxy that brought thousands of young people to World Youth Days. Young and old alike seek the ageless truth not passing fads.

I came very close to joining the Episcopal Church during my college years. The Episcopal Church across the street from my college felt far more Catholic than the dissident Catholic student center. However, once I looked beneath the veneer of the rituals I learned that it was all an illusion. There is only one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Do not gloat over or judge the turmoil of the Anglican Communion. There are many within the Catholic Church who would take us down this same road. The Mahoneys, McBriens, and Browns threaten the Church from within. Pray for the Holy Father and all the orthodox bishops and priests that they will be able to shepherd this sometimes unruly flock and be faithful to the Truth.

Reading Rome

I am at a stage in my life when I have the luxury to really study my faith. My children are all in school. They pack their own lunches and do their own laundry. I’ve retired from practicing clinical medicine so I can trade in a few of those medical journals for different reading material. The beauty of this is that I now have time to discover the rich treasure of Church teaching contained in Vatican documents. I am not exactly leading a life of leisure. My home and family just have different demands now so I can fit the reading in more easily.

What bothers me is not that I didn’t take the time to study these documents earlier. Rather, I am frustrated that I really didn’t know they existed until now. They are not difficult to read. Cardinal Arinze recommends using encyclicals and apostolic letters as spiritual readings. Instructions from various Vatican congregations like Cardinal Arinze’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments are also valuable teaching tools.

I know I am not alone in being unfamiliar with the Vatican resources. My friends outside the blogosphere think I am speaking a foreign language when I mention Deus Caritas Est , Mulieris Dignitatem, or Redemptionis Sacramentum. Why is that? Why isn’t someone shouting to the average Joe and Mary in the pew that there are important words Rome wants you to hear? These documents are not written to take up space in the Vatican archives. They are meant to be tools of catechesis. Their utility is squandered if they are unread.

The answer begins in the pulpit. I can organize a class that may draw half a dozen curious souls. But if Father exhorts the congregation from the pulpit to study and learn, the interest will increase exponentially. Sometimes I think priests can fall into the same trap as physicians and forget what the non-physician/priest knows and doesn’t know. The patient sometimes thinks a fracture is different from a broken bone. Physicians use the term fracture to mean broken. I had to remind myself of this when I talked to patients. Concepts and words that are second nature to me a physician need clarification and explanation to my patients. Priests need to remember that concepts and ideas about our faith that are commonplace to them may not be so familiar to the laity. This is especially true in light of the dismal catechesis that occurred in the years following Vatican II. We hear we are supposed to be pro-life and the Church recognizes the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. That is a great introduction. But we need to be push past the sound bite and learn about Humanae Vitae. How often do your hear a priest urging the congregation to read the Catechism? Every Catholic home should have a copy of the Catechism. I would recommend a copy of the Compendium as well.

I am not kidding myself. Back in the day when I was changing diapers, wiping noses, and juggling a job I would not have spent long stretches every day meditating on the words of the Holy See. But I wish someone had told me those words were there and were important. I might have made time for fifteen minutes of reading every day. At least I would have known that there was an authoritative source for answers to my questions. We are Roman Catholic. Isn’t it important that we listen to Rome?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Keeping Your Kids Catholic: Chapter Seven

Chapter Six is here.

How fitting that we discuss chapter seven of Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi on All Saints Day. This chapter is subtitled Rooting Kids in the Catholic Heritage. Studying the saints is an ideal way to establish the history of trials, tribulations, and triumphs of our ancestors. The saints are role models for us as we make our own journey towards Heaven. By looking at both the ancient and the contemporary saints we see the unbroken continuum of the Faithful. We state every Sunday we believe in the Communion of Saints. These holy men and women are not just historical figures. They are current members of the Church Triumphant and are eagerly waiting to add their prayers to ours if we but only ask. For any Catholic value there is a saint that exemplifies it. St. Maria Goretti is known for her virtue of chastity. Blessed Mother is our model of perfect humble obedience to God. St. Joseph offers us a guide to being a strong father and family provider. St. Therese of Lisieux is one of my personal favorites because she really lived a very ordinary life but sanctified her mundane activities by offering them to God.

Why should we talk to our children about Catholic History?

After the Da Vinci Code brouhaha, the answer to this is actually painfully obvious. The secular world will try to tear down the Church with all sorts of accusations and allegations that are patently false. Those with a lukewarm faith and little knowledge of Church history are extraordinarily vulnerable to being swayed by arguments based on these falsehoods. I would guess that the vast majority of Catholics in the pews have minimal knowledge of Church history. Like everything else, it is very difficult to pass on to our children what we don’t have ourselves. Therefore, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to improve our own knowledge of Church history.

Our parish offers a course in Church history as an elective CCD program for high school students. Suggested books for beginning home study are Don’t Know Much About Catholic History and Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know, both by Diane Moczar as well as The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina.

How can we communicate our faith and values to our kids?

In an increasingly secular world it can sometimes be difficult to hold on to our Catholic heritage. That means that we are not afraid to look and sound Catholic. Today my children and I got up very early to attend 6:30 AM Mass for All Saints Day before school. The choices were to attend Mass last night during the trick-or-treat hours, attend this morning, or skip music lessons and attend Mass this evening. Not attending Mass is never an option. This goes for Sunday Mass and Holy Days. We don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. My second son was hanging out with buddies at a friend’s home on a Friday this past Lent. His friend’s mother invited them all to stay for dinner. They were cooking steaks on the grill. My son politely explained he would love to stay for dinner, but he would not be eating steak because it was a Friday in Lent. The mother heated up some fish sticks for him and he enjoyed the fellowship while everyone else enjoyed their steak. From a very early age we have taught our children who we are and what we do as Catholics. We have prepared them for the idea that our values and lifestyle can be counter cultural. We need to stand united as a family against the anti-Catholic cultural values. This gives our children the strength to stand firm as individuals when their Catholic principles are challenged.

Should I send my children to Catholic schools?

This is a very complicated question. The ideal Catholic school would support and reinforce the Catholic faith that we are nurturing at home. Catholic culture would be interwoven in every aspect of school just as we have Catholicism permeate every aspect of our family life and home. Some schools are more successful at this than others. Our children have differing needs so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I have had my children in Catholic schools, secular private schools, and public schools over the years. Each new military assignment brought with it an assessment of the best educational and spiritual environment for my kids. Sending your children to a non-Catholic school means you are accepting the responsibility for creating an environment of Catholic culture for your children. I admit I sometimes feel a bit resentful of all the celebration and praise during Catholic Schools Week. What about those of us who are home-schooling or sending our children to public schools? We are making sure our kids get to Mass on Holy Days, celebrating the religious significance of Christmas and Easter, and looking and sounding Catholic. I would love to have them say a Rosary during the school day but they don’t so I have to make sure we do it at home. It certainly would be nice if the Bishops acknowledged and supported all the “domestic churches” that provide the primary religious education for our children. Catholic schools can be a very beneficial and viable option, but they are by no means the only option.