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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My Introduction to Flannery O'Connor

For my recent birthday, my husband gave me the The Complete Works of Flannery O’Connor. She is one of those authors I have heard about for years but never got around to actually reading. I have read about half of the collection. I really am enjoying the stories in an odd sort of way. Flannery O’Connor can transport me into a scene so completely that I feel, see, hear, and smell the action.

New York was swishing and jamming one minute and dirty and dead the next. His daughter didn’t even live in a house. She lived in a building—the middle in a row of buildings all alike, all blackened-red and gray with rasp-mouthed people hanging out their windows looking at other windows and other people just like them looking back. Inside you could go up and you could go down and there were just halls that reminded you of tape measures strung out with a door every inch. (The Geranium by Flannery O’Connor)

Yet, so much of the time it is action I would rather avoid. The stories are dark. They don’t hide from the evil side of human nature. She uncovers all the misery, despair, and sin I would rather not think about. She doesn’t pretend that the bad guys don’t ever win an earthly battle. Yet somehow, at the end of the story, I am not left despondent. I really can’t explain it. Maybe it is because tucked inside each of her stories there is a spark of true goodness. The vignettes are short, so if the little glimmer of hope hasn’t triumphed by the end of the story, the optimist in me still believes it will win out in the end. Flannery O’Connor just didn’t write that far. Or maybe that is how I justify continuing to read these short stories that bring out a morbid voyeurism akin to staring as I pass an auto accident.

I am glad this book is a compilation of short works. It is perfect for reading a small dose and mulling it over. This is definitely a book to be sipped like a very hot cup of morning coffee.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What makes an effective diocese?

I just brought in the mail today and was happy to receive this week’s National Catholic Register. Before I comment on the main topic I would like to give this editorial endorsement to the National Catholic Register. I think every Catholic household in America should read the Register. Remember how I mentioned in the previous post that Confirmation is a beginning, not a graduation. Learning about your faith is a life-long process. With the state of adult education in most parishes this is a real challenge. The National Catholic Register meets this challenge. If enough parishioners read it, there might even be a push for more adult education within the parish.

On to this week’s edition. An editorial that is accessible online to all, not just subscribers, looks at the Six Habits of Highly Effective Dioceses. Specifically, it analyzes the characteristics of the diocese having the most success with vocations. These dioceses could answer yes to the following questions:

1. Is the Eucharist the center of the vocation effort

2. Is the diocese unabashed about personally inviting men to be priests?
3. Is the seminary faithful to the magisterium of the Church?

4. Are there many strong and faithful families to draw from?

5. Do young men know and interact with priests?

6. Did young people in the area go to World Youth Day?

Do read the entire article since each of these questions is discussed in detail. There are a few points though that I would like to highlight.

Question 1 included this commentary:

We found that the promotion of Eucharistic adoration for vocations is a decisive factor in attracting candidates. The reason is simple: It’s a vocations strategy that came from Christ himself, when he told the apostles to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers.”

The discussion of question 5 includes this comment:
For many priests, serving at the altar was the first place they first came to know men who had been called and understood what the call entailed. Parishes should make sure that boys feel welcome at the altar, and that altar serving isn’t, in effect, girls-only.

I cannot second this sentiment loudly enough. We are so fortunate to have a male only altar serving corps. We have over 100 young men faithfully serving our parish. What a marvelous way to sow the seeds of priestly vocations!

Please consider a subscription to the National Catholic Register for yourself or for your priest. This is a reliable source for an orthodox presentation of current events through the lens of Catholic teaching.

Top Ten Memorized Prayers

I haven’t written too much about 7th grade CCD lately, but it is going well. The Confirmation preparation is proceeding along. (Other posts about confirmation preparation are here and here) It seems like we have hit a portion of the curriculum that is a series of lists: the seven sacraments, the seven cardinal sins, the seven virtues to oppose the seven sins, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, etc. I am really trying to convince these twelve and thirteen-year-old students that these facts, committed to memory, are just the building blocks of faith. Just as you cannot read and enjoy a complex novel until you memorize the phonics that allow you to read, you must memorize some basic tenets of our faith so you can appreciate its depth and richness. I am sure nearly every class I have said, “Confirmation is a sacrament of initiation. It is not a graduation. You are only beginning to learn about your faith. This is a lifelong process!

In addition to the above lists, I have come up with a list of ten prayers I think they should know. Each of these prayers is included in the appendix of their textbook. I am going to suggest that as we approach Lent, they memorize and say these prayers on a regular basis as part of their Lenten project. My list (in no particular order) is:

1. Our Father
2. Hail Mary
3. Glory Be
4. The Apostle’s Creed
5. St. Michael’s Prayer
6. Act of Contrition
7. Anima Christi
8. Prayer of Fatima
9. Guardian Angel Prayer
10. Grace before Meals

If you were going to choose your top ten memorized prayers, what would you include?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Thy Will be Done

In the spirit of talking about college visits, I want to pass on this post from Amy Welborn. She calls attention to a pastoral letter from Bishop Yanta of Amarillo.

Two big mistakes by parents and children

The first mistake by the parents to children: “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Parents should remember and teach that the first calling of the Christian and Catholic is to follow Christ.

God has a general plan for everyone in the whole human race: salvation by righteous living, discipleship – for Christian to follow the master Jesus, and holiness like that of the saint’s name chosen at baptism by our parents, or the saint’s name you chose at Confirmation as a young Catholic. That is God’s general plan for us. God also has a specific plan for everyone to attain salvation, discipleship, and holiness.

So the question becomes: “What do you think God wants you to be in your life?” God has a special love for every human person and a special plan for each of us (Ephesians 1:9).

I keep thinking of this as my daughter weighs the variables for choosing a college. She is trying to figure out what her priorities are and what they should be. I faced a similar dilemma when I was applying for my residency programs after medical school. I had thought for years I would be an obstetrician/gynecologist. I loved taking care of women’s health needs. I loved delivering babies. I loved doing surgery. When it was time to choose a residency I was married. My husband was stationed in a fairly remote location that only had a family practice residency program. After a great deal of prayer and discernment, I realized I was called to the vocation of marriage and my first responsibility was to be with my husband. Practicing medicine would have to fit within the context of marriage rather than fitting marriage into the context of practicing medicine. I chose to do family practice. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I would say it was Providential.

Similarly, my daughter will need to spend some time in prayer and discernment. I know she has in her mind what she wants to happen. I hope she can accept that God has a plan too and her will must bend to His. I am praying for her!

Wish You Were Here!

I was tagged by Barb for the Wish You were Here Meme:

Who are the five Catholic (or Christian) bloggers whom you would most like to meet in person, but have not (yet)?

Like everyone else I am saying, “Just five?”

Barb, I’d like to meet you too! Looks like soccer will be taking me to Ft. Dix on Saturday May 12 as well as the weekend of June 16-17 so maybe we can work something out.

Other bloggers I would like to meet are:

Rosemary of A Catholic Mother’s Thoughts

Rich Leonardi of Ten Reasons

Sister Mary Martha

Kelly of the Lady in the Pew

Thomas of American Papist

There are many others as well! I do wish you all were here to join me in a cup of coffee or tea. Wouldn’t that be fun?

This University gets the Catholic Mom Stamp of Approval

I have not been shy about expressing my frustration with universities who claim to be Catholic but do everything they can to obfuscate their Catholic identities. I am sure we will see another round of this as we approach Valentine’s Day with its annual V-Day kerfuffle. Yesterday, however, I had a very different experience at a Catholic university-- specifically at The Catholic University of America.

My daughter is seriously considering attending CUA in the fall of 2008. Yesterday we attended a university open house to get a good look at the school. The day’s activities began with Mass at the adjoining Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. For me, this is a no-mascara church. The sheer beauty and poignancy of the artwork brings me to tears. I get a bit misty-eyed just thinking about the chapel for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mass was celebrated by the CUA president, Fr. David O’Connell.

We then proceeded to the Pryzbyla center at CUA for the opening address. The admissions officer began his presentation with words to the effect of, “Look at our name. We are the CATHOLIC University of America. That is what we are about. We are a pontifical university directly chartered by Rome.” It was refreshing to hear a university talk about being Catholic and connected to Rome in the same sentence. Fr. Bob, the university chaplain, spoke of the great opportunities CUA offered for the growth and development of one’s Catholic faith. As we toured the campus, our student guide pointed out the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel located amidst the cluster of dorms. She spoke of which Mass students choose to attend, not if they choose to attend. Of course we also heard about the wonderful academics and the opportunities for my daughter to play soccer. But there was never any question that Catholicism would be woven into the fiber of her college experience by the design of the university. It would not be an afterthought.

I am sure Notre Dame, Boston College, and maybe even Georgetown have similarly vibrant Catholic student lifestyles. What is different here is the unapologetic manner with which the CUA administration proclaims its Catholic identity. Yesterday was a recruiting event for the university. In an effort to draw in students they put their Catholicism front and center. That is significant. I cannot guarantee that I will agree with every future decision the CUA administration will make. I am confident that the current decision makers respect and honor the authority of Rome. Based on what I’ve seen so far, this university gets the Catholic Mom stamp of approval.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Musings on the Domestic Arts

Michelle has a cute post about wearing aprons and building bridges. This got me to thinking about the domestic arts that are disappearing from our homes. It is interesting to see the surprised looks on my children’s friends when I pull out a needle and thread. Many homes don’t even have the most rudimentary sewing supplies and probably most don’t have a sewing machine. I don’t consider myself an expert seamstress. But I do own a sewing machine and I can make a Halloween costume, sew on a button, hem pants, and sew on merit badges.

I am much more adept in the kitchen. I know how to make a cake, brownies, and pancakes without using a mix. When a recipe calls for Parmesan cheese I shred it off a hunk of cheese rather than shake it out of a green box. I know that when measuring viscous liquids like honey or corn syrup it helps to spray the measuring cup or spoon with non-stick cooking spray first. The syrup glides right out with no scraping. Of course with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry I can get kind of nutty about measuring. I probably spend way too much time making sure the meniscus of the liquid hits exactly on the appropriate measurement marking.

Cleaning is definitely way down on my list of favorite activities, but I know what needs to be done and how to do it even if I don’t always do it as much as I should. I also make sure my kids know how to do it too. My youngest is twelve. He is now completely responsible for making sure he has clean laundry. I may ask the question, “Do you need to do laundry?” but it is his job to get his laundry done. I am amazed at how many seniors in high school have never done their own laundry on a regular basis. I remember an older woman telling me about having a young teen visit her home for dinner. She asked the girl to give her a hand in the kitchen with the dishes. The girl stared blankly at the dishwasher and asked question after question. The teen’s mother then explained that the girl never loaded their dishwasher at home. Someone else always took care of cleaning the kitchen. My kids have always been included in the kitchen clean up. Even if they were too young to trust with breakable plates, they could gather the flatware or throw away the paper napkins.

With busy working parents it makes sense to outsource a lot of these chores and take advantage of convenience foods. Yet without the personal investment in making a home, we risk losing some of the warm cozy nest feeling of our homes. Our house becomes just another office where we keep our stuff between work and school days. Another danger is that our kids assume they will step out of our home and walk into that same outsource-all-the-chores lifestyle. That is an expensive proposition and there are quite a few twenty-somethings who are caught unawares when they can’t afford the maid service, lawn service, laundry service, and restaurant habits they had at home.

As my husband and I get older and kids move out of the house, I will not be surprised if I do a little more outsourcing of household tasks. But I also know that all my children, both sons and daughter, will be able to manage a minimally clean house, nutritious meals, and clean clothes with sewn on buttons even if they have to do it themselves.

Friday, January 26, 2007

If not at conception, then when?

The comments are flying at Dawn Eden’s blog post about the Yale pro-choice medical students inviting the general public in for a how-to lesson on performing abortions. One commenter, in particular, is interesting. She is a female medical student, married, who writes the following:

Women have abortions because they don't feel they are up to carrying and parenting - how sad (but mature) to recognize that! I am sad but sure in the knowledge that I cannot be a very good dog owner right now as my yard is insufficient. I am also practicing exceedingly careful birth control with my husband!!! However if despite my extremely careful plans enacted with the help of my husband we were to conceive, this would still be an inappropriate time for a child and so I would sadly, very sadly and with disappointment both in that I am not up to the task of parenting right now and that I was incapable of preventing conception, I would abort! It's not happy, it's not good, it's not completely okay - but neither should it be abhorrent. I don't want to feel shunned because my husband and I love each other! I want to feel consoled and supported, and I want access to better birth control information!

She presents abortion as such an admirable and noble choice. How could we object! I mean becoming a dog owner is on par with becoming a parent, isn't it?

Of course I did enter the fray of these comments a few times and did not hide my credentials as an MD. This did incur the ire of a few posters. One pro-abortion commenter responded to the statements of pro-life folks: “How many pro-choicers do you actually know?”

Here is my response to her:

How many pro-life folks do you really know? I believe that life begins at conception. When that life begins it has non-negotiable human dignity. This dignity is not based on any utilitarian judgment by an external source. You do not hold to this premise. However, I am going to make an assumption. I am going to assume that you do grant a two-year-old this non-negotiable human dignity. No matter how inconvenient, or unplanned, or disruptive the presence of this two-year-old is, you will not advocate for a woman's right to end the two-year-old's life. So something changes for you between conception and the age of two. What changes? When does it change? Why does it change? Remember, we are talking about an intrinsic human dignity that is independent of someone else's life circumstances. Help me get to know you and explain when human life becomes sacred for you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Driving to Distraction

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Child #3 has just started driving solo. This certainly has me my prayer meter pegged. I often light a prayer candle when she is on the road.

This item from Yahoo News supports the Virginia policy of a graduated drivers license. You can get your permit at age 15 ½. You can get your license once you have had your permit nine months and completed the required behind the wheel training. For the first year of driving you cannot have more than one non-family passenger under the age of 18 in the car with you. For the first year of driving you cannot be driving after midnight. I might even be tempted to make the rules more stringent after reading these statistics.

But teens reported a host of other in-car distractions that researchers say help make traffic accidents the No. 1 killer of U.S. teens, with a fatality rate four times higher than drivers aged 25-69, based on miles driven. About 5,600 teens died in traffic accidents in 2005, and about 7,500 were driving cars involved in fatal accidents.

Researchers found that one teenage passenger with a teen driver doubles the risk of a fatal crash, while the risk is five times higher when two or more teens ride along. Most states have laws restricting passengers when teens drive, but 15 states do not.

Nearly 90 percent of teens reported seeing peers drive while talking on cell phones and more than half spotted drivers using hand-held games, listening devices or sending text messages.

About 75 percent said they see teens driving while tired or struggling with powerful emotions, such as worries about grades or relationships. More than nine of 10 teens also reported seeing teen drivers speeding and half said they sometimes drive at least 10 mph over posted speed limits themselves.

Keep those teen drivers in your prayers!

Such a Simple Procedure at Yale

This is one group at a secular university. If Yale wants to host such affairs it is within their constitutional rights to do so. Yet I feel physically ill as I read the accounts of the activities planned at Yale to celebrate and endorse Roe v. Wade.

On Thursday, the Yale Medical Students for Choice will host workshop on manual vacuum aspiration for medical students, using a papaya as a uterine model. Manual vacuum aspiration is a surgical abortion method that uses a syringe to remove the fetus from a woman’s uterus. Merritt Evans MED ’09 said she thought it was important to have the workshop because the procedure can be used for a variety of different purposes — including miscarriage management and the treatment of a failed medical abortion or ectopic pregnancy — and is inconsistently taught in medical school.

While the workshop is targeted towards medical students, undergraduates are also invited to attend.

“The reason I wanted to include other people is that it is such a simple procedure, but the media attention around it … makes this an emotionally traumatic and a complicated thing,” Evans said. “It’s just to be like, ‘Here is what actually happens, here is what the medical procedure is like, this is what an aborted yolk sac looks like.’ It looks like a piece of cotton.”

“It looks like a piece of cotton.” “It’s just a blob of tissue” “…such a simple procedure”. The appearance of the aborted child does not alter the reality that it is a real human person. It was conceived and created in God’s image. It has a soul. That soul continues to live after the “simple procedure”. May God have mercy on the souls of those who don’t understand this.

H/T Dawn Eden for the link

I am afraid the link above to the Yale Daily News no longer works. It seems all the traffic from various mentions in the blogosphere have crashed the server

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My Kitchen Sink Shrine

I am following Sarah’s lead and posting a picture of the view from my kitchen sink. From left to right my statues are: St. Benedict, St. Therese, Our Lady of the Smile, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Madonna and Child, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Madonna and Child used to belong to my grandmother and graced her kitchen sink window as well. This post by Suzanne inspired the idea.

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the kitchen sink is a main artery. We mothers spend so much time in front of the kitchen sink that it only seems natural to place an image of the Blessed Mother there. She stands before us as a blessing upon the home, a companion in our day's work and a model and inspiration to virtue.

Like Suzanne I have found the window of over my kitchen sink is a prayerful place. I do spend quite a bit of time there. I have collected an assortment of statues to remind me of holy lives that have gone before me. They also remind me to offer up my tasks as a prayer.

Finding Devotions that Fit

I spend a whole lot of time thinking about prayer. I spend a fair amount of time writing about prayer. I probably spend a goodly bit of time talking about prayer. But how much time do I really spend in prayer?

I offer a whole lot of quick prayers throughout the day. If I have a particularly onerous chore to get done, I like to say a quick prayer before I begin and offer my task as a prayer as well. I also manage to get to daily Mass more days than not. But I am not very good at breaking out a specific block of time for private prayer. This is probably because I am constantly trying to squeeze 65 minutes of activity into a 60-minute time span so I always feel like I am running behind.

I was thinking about this yesterday, and I thought, “Why don’t I try to get to Mass 15 minutes early and use those few minutes for quiet, personal prayer time?” In spite of my good intentions, I only managed to arrive about ten minutes early. That was a start, but I felt chagrined that I couldn’t even manage the full fifteen minutes. I’ve been attending a newly opened church for daily Mass since it is so close to my home. Since it is not my regular parish, I don’t know all the priests yet. A very nice young priest whom I had not seen before said yesterday’s Mass. I was so surprised when after the final blessing he did not leave the sanctuary. Rather, he knelt before the altar and led us in the Divine Mercy Chaplet and then in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. How Providential that on a day I was seeking more prayer I would find a priest to lead the way!

Today Argent marks the feast day of St. Francis de Sales by sharing his very wise words on devotion. Do read the whole thing, but the following words were especially poignant for me:

It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.

Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

So once again I will try to get to Mass with enough time for some private devotion beforehand. But with the assurances of St. Frances de Sales, I will perfect my daily duties with devotions that fit the shuttling of kids, cooking, cleaning, reading, and writing that fill my days.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Catholic Carnival 103

Catholic Carnival #103 is up! Another great one-stop-shopping opportunity for an enjoyable collection of Catholic blog posts. Thanks to DeoOmnisGoria for hosting.

Catholic Kids and the Communion of Saints

image source
My husband was not raised as a Catholic. He did not swim the Tiber until several years into our marriage, though he has always attended Mass and fully participated in our Catholic family life. Still, he continues to be amazed at things our children do and say. I just tell him, “That’s what Catholic kids do!” These moments of surprise often involve the Communion of Saints.

Most recently, my daughter who has only been driving herself solo for about a week, found herself driving the back roads of Northern Virginia in a snow storm. She had soccer practice at one of the fields located in the hinterlands. It is about a twenty-minute drive from home along winding, hilly, two-lane roads. We knew snow was in the forecast but it wasn’t snowing when she left and wasn’t predicted to start snowing until after practice was over. Wrong! The snow began soon after she left home. Committed soccer players that they are, however, the team kept practicing as scheduled. When it was time to leave they the found the roads snow covered and icy. She joined a caravan of folks trying to maneuver their way back to the main thoroughfare. It was slow going with much slipping and occasionally getting stuck. I guess at one point she really didn’t think she going to be able to stop and found herself reciting a litany of Hail Mary’s as well as invoking the intercession of “St. Monica(one of my favorites), St. Barbara (her favorite), St. Patrick (her boyfriend’s favorite), and whoever else is out there!” (I guess that is the hazard of the IM-ing generation. She was open to help from any saint who was “online”.) The car did stop. She ended up in front of a school friend’s home so she just invited herself in and hung out there until we could come rescue her. As she recounted the episode we laughed and my husband just shook his head as she explained her prayerful recourse to the saints.

My boys are certain that St. Monica keeps her eyes on them when I don’t. My second son was in high school and had hurriedly pulled together an English paper. As was his habit, he had waited until the last minute to work on the assignment. I knew he was working on the paper, but really didn’t pay too much attention, other than to give a proper scolding for procrastinating. A couple of weeks later I was returning from an errand and the thought just popped into my mind to ask my son about the paper. When he returned from school I asked him if he had gotten his English paper grade. His face turned white. He had gotten the paper back that very day. In fact, probably at the hour I had that thought he was getting it from his teacher. Let’s just say he got the grade he deserved for turning in little more than a first draft. There’s no keeping secrets from Mom with St. Monica around!

Just a couple of weeks ago when my oldest was home from college I asked him to finish putting away the groceries and fold the grocery bags while I did the next round of kid shuttling. He agreed. However, after I left he thought he would just play a little computer game before he got to his task. As he sat down to the computer, the power in the house went off. Since his game was unavailable he went ahead and took care the grocery chores. As he folded the last bag the power returned. St. Monica strikes again!

My youngest now has new respect for St. Lucy. He got contact lenses last fall and was having just a terrible learning to put them in. The frustration reduced him to tears which makes getting the contacts in even more difficult. I told him to take a break and ask St. Lucy to pray for him since she is the patron of eyes. He did and sure enough, the next try the contacts went in easily.

I am sure most of you can recount instances of saintly intercession. Sometimes these events are dramatic and momentous. Sometimes, they seem almost trivial. The saints have no power other than prayer. We ask for their intercession, not their intervention. I am so happy that my children share in the consolation I find from having the entire Church Triumphant ready to pray if I but ask. And unlike my kids’ IM buddies, the Communion of Saints is always “online”.

Help Our Priests...Don't Supplant Our Priests

A comment on my post about pastoral life coordinators prompts me to address the issue again.

Esperu said...

15 years ago I was a member of a parish in New Jersey where the "Assistant Pastor" was a lay woman. (She wouldn't have that title now, I'm sure.) She was very well qualified, with an M.Div. and an S.T.L., and provided a lot of continuity to the parish. The parish had experienced rapid turnover of pastors (always a priest) but she had remained the assistant pastor for well-nigh a decade.

She never, ever, performed any liturgical function.

She spent her time visiting the sick (also as an extraordinary minister of communion -- but not during Mass), counseling the troubled, doing marriage prep, planning liturgies, and assisting with the youth group. I'm sure she had various office administrative duties as well, but I didn't have cause to see those.

It seemed pretty much licit and fruitful to me. I'm glad I experienced

This sounds like a very positive use of the laity. In a time of a clergy shortage, the “lay assistant pastor” stepped in as extra hands for the pastor. It does not sound like she usurped the priestly function or appearance in any way. She does not sound like a replacement for the priest, but rather an adjunct to the priest. Her position in no way undermined the office of priest.

Rich Leonardi addressed this issue as well with his post here. Pay special attention to the words of Cardinal Arinze:

If a diocese does not have enough priests, initiatives should be taken to seek them from elsewhere now, to encourage local vocations and to keep fresh in the people a genuine "hunger" for a priest (cf. John Paul II, "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," No. 32). Non-ordained members of the faithful who are assigned some roles in the absence of a priest have to make a special effort to keep up this "hunger." And they should resist the temptation of trying to get the people accustomed to them as substitutes for priests (cf. op. cit., No. 33). There is no place in the Catholic Church for the creation of a sort of parallel "lay clergy" (cf. "Redemptionis Sacramentum," Nos. 149-153,165).

Priests on their part should show themselves transparently happy in their vocation with a clear identity of their liturgical role. If they celebrate the sacred mysteries with faith and devotion and according to the approved books, they will unconsciously be preaching priestly vocations. On the other hand, young people will not desire to join a band of clerics who seem uncertain of their mission, who criticize and disobey their Church and who celebrate their own "liturgies" according to their personal choices and theories.

The situation Esperu describes fits the message of Cardinal Arinze’s address far better than the situation portrayed at Mary Queen of Heaven Parish. In the latter case, the priest is replaced and there is no sense that this is a sub-par arrangement. The “hunger” that Cardinal Arinze speaks of is suppressed.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Echoing my Thoughts

After I posted the item below, I read the editorial page of the Washington Times. This essay by Senator Sam Brownback echoes my sentiments.

Life is beautiful. One's value is not contingent upon external features, such as one's bank account, one's successes or one's lineage. A human being's value is intrinsic, not earned. Without this basic moral understanding, few of our laws would make much sense. Laws against murder, for instance, would fail to make sense if we did not deem human life to be intrinsically valuable and worthy of protection.

Rather than choose an arbitrary starting point for valuing human life, we should go to the point when life begins. For this, science gives us clear understanding of when a new human life begins. Science tells us that life begins at the moment of conception, when the combination of 23 chromosomes from each pronucleus results in the 46 chromosomes present in the zygote embryo. From the moment of conception onward, a new human being is present until that life is ended in a laboratory, by an abortionist, or at some point after birth. Sadly, our current life-related policy in the United States ignores science, choosing capricious points at which to protect innocent human life. Our current policy is inconsistent, defying both logic and decency.

I know Fr. Frank Pavone took some heat for endorsing Senator Brownback's bid for the presidency. I don't know enough about Senator Brownback to give him my support yet. However, I will say that this is the most unconditionally pro-life statement by a presidential candidate I have heard in quite a while. I will be keeping my eye on him.

A Day of Prayer, Penance, and Renewed Conviction

Today we once again mark the American travesty of Roe v. Wade. On this date, we as a nation declared that some human life is unworthy and disposable. When one class of citizens, in this case the unborn, is left so unprotected, we all become vulnerable. We have slipped down the slope and extended this sub-human status to the terminally ill, the disabled, and the elderly.

It was very easy to propose this for the unborn. They were so invisible. Call them blobs of tissue and no one would think twice. Advancement in ultrasound technology has shot down that argument so the pro-abortion argument has needed new tactics.

“Every child a wanted child”—Wasn’t that their mantra? By allowing women to abort these problem pregnancies we would get rid of child abuse. Wrong again. Women who have had an abortion are 144% more likely to abuse the children they do give birth to.

“It is my body. No one has a right to tell me what I can do with my body.” That is the reasoning of Kim in this post. So, Kim, when does the daughter in your womb claim the rights you claim for yourself? Peter Singer, “ethicist” at Princeton University claims there is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal. The newborn is no more human than the nearly born. Parents should have a “grace period” to change their minds and kill a baby that is not acceptable. If we don’t recognize the moral personhood of a human being at conception, then any other point is purely arbitrary and subject to the whims of those making the rules.

Of course there are those who see themselves on a mission of mercy and just want to alleviate suffering. To alleviate suffering is a noble goal, but if we claim the ability to judge the worthiness of another’s life we are usurping the purview of God. Look at the lives of the saints. So many of them lived lives of earthly suffering. Yet from their physical suffering came great fruits of holiness. Just because we cannot ascertain the positive fruits of another’s life does not mean they are not there. As a physician, I have witnessed the ill and the dying and the disabled lead many able-bodied health care workers, family, and friends to holiness. The contemporaries of St. Therese of Lisieux could not have guessed the great impact her simple life would have on the souls of so many. We simply do not have the wisdom to see all the ripples in the pond caused by each life.

As political rhetoric heats up with the approaching presidential election, health care will become an increasingly prominent topic. Expect economic arguments for abortion to grow. Increased prenatal screening and abortion of “defective” fetuses will be justified as necessary for the economic viability of our health care system.

Of course, I view the viability of my eternal soul as more important. I cannot sanction in any way, shape, or form, the loss of dignity of any human life from conception to natural death. Please join me today in fervent prayer for the conversion of our nation’s heart.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, please pray for the United States. Pray that each of us will recognize every human life is created in God’s image and is therefore intrinsically worthy. Pray that each of us has the courage and conviction to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially the unborn. Through your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Consider this a warning

As a follow on to the post below, the US Center for Disease Control released a study indicating the economic impact of birth defects. It estimated the financial burden of birth defects to be $2.5 billion in hospital costs alone. As the state and federal governments assume more control over our health care, there will be greater incentive for them to advocate for increased prenatal screening for birth defects and increase use of abortion to eliminate these defects. All the more reason to make sure we vote for policy makers who respect the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.

Begin the Health Care Debate with the Right Questions

The Washington Times carries an editorial today about health care reform in America. It warns of the coming tide of government-controlled health care.
If SchwarzeneggerCare is any indication, the direction is likely to be measurably to the left of previous years. Mr. Schwarzenegger's plan for universal coverage includes "pay or play," a 4 percent payroll tax and a four percent tax on doctors and hospitals to cover the uninsured. More than half the state's population will be eligible for state subsidies. The plan also sets rigid limits on profits and administrative costs, patient-care spending requirements and expands the state's Healthy Families program to children whose families earn less than three times the poverty level, including the children of illegal aliens. In other words, Democrats can learn to love a "Republican" health-care plan if it looks like Mr. Schwarzenegger's. This is a decent imitation of HillaryCare.
No one is saying much about how we'll pay for all this, of course, which is where the rubber meets the road. The most trenchant and convincing criticisms of universalhealth-care schemes continue to be the issues of feasibility, inefficiency, bureaucracy and waste. No one can reasonably oppose health insurance for every American in theory; it's the statism and the lack of a workable plan which draw opposition. For the present moment, though, both Washington coalitions would rather sound warm and fuzzy. They now wear the "strange bedfellows" label on their sleeves in public displays of comity with their newfound allies as if to promote some new era of good feeling.

Having been a practicing physician for many years, I have seen both sides of this debate. I have struggled as a patient had great need of a diagnostic test or therapy but was unable to pay for it. No one should be denied essential health care because he can’t afford it. I have also been on the phone pleading with an insurance company bureaucrat to allow me to admit a patient to the hospital even though she didn’t meet their wiring diagram criteria for how many days she should be on outpatient therapy for pneumonia before admission. The fact that I had MD after my name and the patient in front of me and lab data to indicate this woman was significantly hypoxic and needed intense antibiotic therapy and oxygen did not impress the clerk who was denying my request for admission authorization. Their rules said outpatient therapy must be tried for two days in community acquired pneumonia. Expect plenty of experiences like this if a government agency assumes control of your health care. The mandate for universal health care can become a mandate for mediocrity for all, excellence for none.

In a few weeks, I expect CMS (Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services) to once again release their analysis of health care spending in the United States. Once again there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth because of our high per capita spending and our low performance on health care indicators such as infant mortality. They will also bemoan the huge portion of our GDP allotted to health care. Be wary as politicians and lobbyists throw out these statistics. There is no standard for comparing health care costs from country to country. Each country compiles these figures independently and what constitutes a health care expense in one country may not be counted in another. Also, our high per capita expense may just reflect our own prosperity. The data makes no distinction between essential and elective health care. Your massage therapy, herbal supplements, Botox injections and kids’ braces count as health care just like prenatal care and immunizations for measles. We may be spending significantly more on health care than Costa Rica, but if we could compare what we are spending on essential primary care, it may not be that different. I don't know this. The statistics in this format are not available.

So before anyone starts waxing eloquently about their plan for “universal health care” he or she must answer some tough questions. The first of these is,” What do we define as essential health care?” We must make the painful distinctions between health care wants and health care needs. In the current political climate, you slap a “mental health” label on a condition and it becomes mandatory to fund its treatment. Right now in the United States we are spending more on psychotropic drugs for our children than we are on asthma or diabetic medications for our children. The fastest growing population receiving “mental health” medication is our children under the age of four. In reality, many of these children need effective parenting, not effective medication. It is hard to distinguish which teenager is having normal angst over breaking up with a boyfriend and which is suffering from clinical depression. For one medical treatment is a luxury, for the other it is a necessity.
Too often, priorities for government health care spending are determined by which special interest group is providing the most support for an influential politician. Abortion and contraception are purely elective health care choices. How many politicians will stand up to the feminists and say the government has higher health care priorities than funding these elective therapies. Do you think anyone will tell the Gay Activists that HIV can be effectively controlled with behavior modification so we need to put more effort into combating diseases that are outside our behavioral control?

I don’t have the answer to our health care dilemmas. But I don’t think anyone will have the answers if they don’t ask the right questions. This post is not meant to be the definitive piece on health care. Rather I hope to steer the debate to define health care and set priorities.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I didn't know Christ's Resurrection was up for debate

Today’s Washington Post Metro section features a front page article about St. Stephen's Episcopal Church and its recent decision to leave The Episcopal Church and align itself with the Anglican Church of Nigeria. There are lots of good discussions all over the web about the internal struggles of the Episcopal Church and the entire Anglican Communion. Take a look at Amy Welborn’s post from yesterday or take a look at David Virtue’s web site. I was under the impression that the big debate in the Anglican Communion revolved around sexual and gender politics. According to the Washington Post, something more substantial is up for debate.

Tensions at St. Stephen's, as at the other eight churches, had been building for years over a question roiling the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the global Anglican community: What does it mean to live according to scripture? Those who voted to leave think the Bible should be read literally, on the story of Jesus's resurrection and on issues such as homosexuality and salvation. Those who voted to stay believe there can be more than one way to interpret scripture.

A new interpretation of Jesus’ resurrection? Exactly what is this alternate interpretation of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ? I had no idea this was up for discussion. Of course a great deal is up for discussion at the Episcopal Church. At Gerald Ford’s funeral at the National Cathedral the presiding Episcopal priest left off the second half of the last Gospel verse because it says (John 14: 1-6) “Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It would be a shame to be so exclusive, now wouldn’t it?

I guess it goes back to my last post. If you are not preaching the truth you are not leading your flock to Heaven.

UPDATE: As I was researching a bit more on the Episcopal Church's view of the Resurrection, I stumbled across this recent interview with the presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts-Schori. Please do read the entire interview, but in light of the topic of this blog post, I will highlight this passage:

ADG: That reminds me of something else you said. This was a CNN interview when Kyra Phillips asked you what happens when we die. You had an interesting answer that got some Southern Baptists riled up.

KJS: OK. I didn’t hear their reaction.

ADG: Al Mohler – I don’t know whether you’re familiar with him –

KJS: I’m not.

ADG: He’s a seminary president [at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville] and has a blog and a radio show. [Mohler posted the exchange on his Web site]. It seemed to some people that you were saying there isn’t an afterlife.

KJS: I don’t think Jesus was focused on that. I think Jesus was focused on heaven in this life, primarily. The Judeo-Christian tradition has always said yes, there is resurrection. There is life after death. But I think Jesus was not so worried about that. I think he’s worried about what we’re doing to treat our fellow human beings as children of God. He says the kingdom of heaven is among you, and within you, and around you.

ADG: So does that mean that in your view there is no afterlife?

KJS: That’s not what I said. I said what I think Jesus is more concerned about is heavenly existence, eternal life, in this life.

ADG: So there again, that’s partly why the Millennium Development Goals are important to you? To improve people’s lives now?

KJS: Absolutely. The Anglican tradition of Christianity is world-affirming, it is focused on incarnation, and it insists that we’re not meant to shut ourselves off from the world in a pietistic sense or in a sectarian sense. That we’re meant to be in the world, and transforming the world into something that looks more like the reign of God.

ADG: Do you think there’s any part of us that lives on somewhere after we die?

KJS: Absolutely. But that’s not a question that concerns me day in and day out. I think I’m meant to use the gifts I have to transform the world in this life.

It is All About Getting To Heaven

Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are concerned about possible negative images of the Southern Baptists. Both have been life-long members of this denomination. Therefore, the two of them are banding together to develop a new covenant of American Baptists.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have proposed the establishment of a broadly inclusive alternative Baptist movement to counter what they called a negative image of Baptists and to address poverty, the environment and global conflicts.

Carter and Clinton kicked off their plans with a news conference Jan. 9 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, flanked by leaders of moderate Baptist groups including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a breakaway group of an unverified number of churches that objected to the election of conservative leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. Carter and Clinton announced a “Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant,” tentatively set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, which they hope will attract 20,000 Baptists.

“This is a historic event for the Baptists in this country and perhaps for Christianity,” Carter said at the news conference.

About 80 leaders of 40 moderate Baptist organizations claiming to represent 20 million Baptists in the United States, Canada and Mexico met at the Carter Center for the announcement. Leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention were not invited to attend.

One can’t help but think that perhaps this is an attempt to get away from all that Hellfire and brimstone talk about sin and get on with important things like the United Nations Millennium goals. And of course because we are being inclusive we certainly can’t pass judgment on anyone’s lifestyle choices.

I was discussing this interesting endeavor with my family as we drove in the car. We all agreed that this seemed like a ploy to increase the membership numbers by making the membership expectations less stringent. Immediately, my twelve-year-old son asked the question, “But how will these people get to Heaven?” There you have it from the mouths of babes (Okay, twelve is really not a baby, but you know what I mean.) It really doesn’t matter how many members you have in your “church”. If you are not preaching the truth you are not leading them to Heaven. People can elect a president or coronate an earthly king, but if they deny the authority of the Heavenly King, they will not find Heaven. When Christ pronounced that we must “eat His body and drink His blood” many left because these words were too hard. Christ did not backtrack to make the challenge of following Him more palatable. Rather, he promised His disciples an earthly cross, persecution, and suffering. But if done for His sake, He promised we would receive the reward of eternal life in Heaven. It is the truth, not the poll numbers, that set you free.

(H/T to Kelly for the link)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Let Priests be Priests!

The January 21 issue of Our Sunday Visitor has a profile of Mary Foley. She is the pastoral-life coordinator for Mary Queen of Heaven Parish in Elmhurst, IL. What is a pastoral-life coordinator? It seems that because of a priest shortage some parishes have resorted to using the laity as “pastors”. I really don’t have a problem with relieving our priests from the administrative duties of accounting, budgeting, building programs, and general administrative tasks. Many have neither the training nor the inclination for the business end of running a parish.

However, I wish I could share with you the article and pictures from OSV. (the online version is available only to subscribers and doesn’t include the pictures.) One picture shows Ms. Foley dressed in a white alb prancing about with an aspergillum sprinkling holy water at some sort of worship activity. Don’t you think that will inspire the young men of the parish to consider the priesthood? Many who still seek the ordination of women as priests see women in the role of pastoral-life coordinator as a stepping stone to full ordination. This replacement of priests with laity for liturgical functions may be a short-term fix but it will exacerbate the shortage of priestly vocations in the long run. If the laity want to be administrators, that is fine. But let the priests be priests.

UPDATE: I thought perhaps the parish web site would have some of the pictures from the OSV article. What I did discover was that no where on the web site or in the Sunday bulletins could I find any mention of a priest. I am assuming there is a priest who says Mass but he is left out of all information on the parish. If you are interested in vocations, speak with the Pastoral-life coordinator--Ms. Foley. Ms. Foley also has her own little "corner" of the bulletin each week for spiritual reflection and teaching. While they don't seem to have ready access to a priest, they do have an outdoor labyrinth and peace pole.

UPDATE #2: See also this post.

UPDATE #3: Fr.Z also has some words about this arrangement.

UPDATE #4: As I searched for more information about the function of the pastoral life coordinator I came across this obituary:

Mass for Mr. Alejandro C. "Alex" Villamil, 67, will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, at Mary Queen of Heaven Church, 426 N. West Ave., Elmhurst. Mary Foley, pastoral life coordinator, will officiate.

Need I say more?

Catholic Carnival 102

Take a look at the great choices for blog reads at Catholic Carnival 102!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Merck is Watching

I am really not surprised by this and don't necessarily think it is anything nefarious, but I was interested to see that Merck, manufacturer of Gardasil, found my blog post on their HPV vaccine.

Word for the Day: Despoliation

Dr. Jeff Mirus, co-founder of Christendom College, has some interesting thoughts on the possibility of despoliation of the Catholic Church in the United States.

How It Worked Then

The key to the despoliation of the Church in every era is a plausible excuse which weak-kneed, semi-conscious, secularized Catholics will accept. Once there is a plausible excuse, a slightly anti-Catholic government will nearly always join forces with private citizens who stand to benefit financially by converting Church property into cold cash. With a plausible excuse in place, many Catholics and other fair-minded citizens will be so confused about whether or not the despoliation is justified that there will be virtually no significant negative response.

The excuse in Henry VIII’s day was the unpopularity of the monks and nuns whose establishments had accumulated considerable wealth in lands, buildings, liturgical acoutrements and art treasures over the centuries, generally gifts from pious lay people. The holiness of most of the monks and nuns was not noteworthy, and there was a growing sense in the sixteenth century that these people were getting a pretty cushy ride through no merit of their own. Moreover, the acquisition of a good set of monastic lands served either as a means to directly increase the royal coffers or as a way to reward private persons for services rendered.

Very often, the dissolution and despoliation of this or that monastery seemed reasonable and fair to most onlookers. Each case was presented with its own justifications. Not everybody noticed that the whole process was so systematic and thorough that there must have been other significant motives at work. No few raised their voices to opine that it would all be good for the Church in the end.

How it Can Work Now

I noted in an earlier column that financial suits against the American Church arising from the sex abuse scandal have already succeeded in converting something like a billion dollars worth of ecclesiastical property into cold cash for the benefit of a rapacious few (see Fleecing the Catholic Church). These huge abuse settlements have been largely unjustified and completely uneven when compared with the handling of similar cases involving non-Catholic organizations, but at least they have primarily affected dioceses in which there have been true scandals. Now, a new legal ruling has opened the way to despoiling the entire American Church.

Definitely some words and ideas to ponder. I definitely cannot condone or minimize the actions of our priests and bishops in the sexual abuse scandal. I also cannot understand the ferocity with which the Church is being attacked over it when this is compared to the minimal response of the media and government to sexual abuse by other institutions, most notably public schools.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Me-centered Culture of Death

Dawn Eden is blogging about an article I saw in today’s Washington Times. The Alexandria, Virginia city school district is proposing teaching middle-schoolers about abortion and sexual orientation. The proposal in itself is an interesting topic. Dawn questions the agenda (as do I) of such a proposal. However, the comments on Dawn’s blog are definitely worth a read as well. One pro-abortion commenter in particular, Kim, makes me very sad.

I think that lives already in progress take precedence over lives that never actually happened. The minute a fetus can be outside of my body and survive is the minute it becomes a separate person with rights of its own. While pregnant, a fetus is little more than a parasite that MAY become a human if you nurture it.

Nobody has any inherent right to any part of my body, and I feel that the real underlying battle is over whether or not a woman can be legally and ideologically treated as physical property. If a woman volunteers to share her body with a fetus for the purpose of procreation, that's her right. But no one can force her

This me-centered mentality is what is fueling the culture of death. The unborn, the disabled, the elderly, the terminally ill are inconvenient or make me uncomfortable. Therefore, because they affect me I should have the right to get rid of them. Please pray for the conversion of this woman’s heart. Perhaps more importantly, pray for those who share her views, especially those in a position to shape public policy. Vulnerable lives hang in the balance.

The Legacy of Church Shoes

Yesterday we attended the 9:00 am Mass. As per usual, the church was full. This Mass attracts quite a few families with small children. One family in particular caught my eye. They had seven children dressed in their “Sunday best” who looked like they ranged in age from seven years old to a few weeks old. What attracted my attention was not the size of the family. Rather it was the behavior of the children. They were not perfect, but they were definitely under control. Mom and Dad were certainly busy and I doubt that Mass offers them much time for deep meditation, but it was clear that each child knew a certain level of decorum was expected. How do parents do that?

It’s the shoes. Okay, maybe it takes more than church shoes, but special clothes and shoes for church send a clear signal that the outing to church is not the same as an outing to the playground. As soon as my babies were out of the onesies they were into church clothes for Mass. By the time they were toddlers the boys had collared shirts and usually a clip-on tie. They always wore dress shoes—never sneakers. My daughter was always in a dress. She had black patent leather shoes for after Labor Day and white patent leather shoes for after Easter. (Some Southern habits never die!) If they needed to take a picture book it was a “church book”. I had a good supply of children’s books on the saints to accompany us on Sunday.

I’ve heard the argument that God just wants us at Mass. He doesn’t care how we are dressed. It is true that the state of our heart is far more important than the state of our attire. But what does it say about the state of our heart when we cannot be bothered with presenting ourselves in a special way to receive Our Lord? Children pick up on this very quickly. When they see a little extra effort going into the attendance at Mass week after week they absorb this is an important event. If they see no special attention given to Mass attendance they will think of it as no more than an afterthought.

In addition to “dressing up” a bit for Mass, we tried to arrive early so we would be settled by the time the entrance hymn began. As much as possible, I expected the kids to follow along with the gestures: genuflect upon entering the pew, Sign of the Cross when appropriate, sit-stand-kneel as directed. Walk to communion with hands folded. In spite of these efforts we still had our share of Mass meltdowns. But these were the exceptions rather than the rule. A warning “Mommy look” usually nipped any shenanigans in the bud. None of my children ever wanted to be taken to the restroom during Mass for a nose-to-nose “Mommy talk”.

Good behavior at Mass was also coupled with happy family times. Sometimes this meant enjoying donuts at the social hour after Mass. Sometimes it meant going out for brunch. Sometimes it meant a special family meal at home. I never expected my three-year-olds to be contemplating Transubstantiation. I did expect them to be respectful of God’s house. Now my brood ranges in ages from twelve to twenty. I have had no rebellion against Mass attendance or any move to attend in shorts and T-shirts. Those in college attend Mass every week.

The bottom line is low expectations become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
It is important to give children the opportunity to meet high expectations. Church shoes are a good start.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Birthday Celebration

My dear daughter's birthday was this past Monday, but she had a party with friends last evening. I didn't get to much blogging yesterday because I was busy with party preparations including this cake. (She has a thing for orcas. Maybe it was too many trips to Sea World.)

It was a really delightful group of kids. Here is the interesting thing, though. In this group of about thirteen high school juniors, only three or four had a driver's license. My daughter has just completed the required training and only yesterday became legally eligible to drive solo. My older boys were the same way. They didn't really start driving much until they were high school seniors. This is a far cry from my generation when we were ready to get behind the wheel the minute the DMV opened on our sixteenth birthday. I am not complaining. It keeps me in touch with the other parents as they drop off and pick up kids. I am also happy to see fewer teen drivers on the road. Is this a similar scenario in other areas?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Vaccine Marketing

Front page of today’s Washington Post Metro section had a big article on the support for the new HPV vaccine, Gardasil.

This week, the District became the latest jurisdiction to propose adding the vaccine to the list of shots girls would have to get before enrolling in the sixth grade. Yesterday, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) voiced his support, saying hearings to flesh out the program should satisfy parental concerns.

At least two similar bills were introduced last week in the Virginia General Assembly. And in Maryland, state Sen. Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore County) has prepared a bill that requires middle school vaccinations. Kelley said she expects strong support from teachers and female lawmakers.

I addressed this topic back in June when Gardasil was approved by the FDA. Then as now I can justify a parent wanting his or her daughter vaccinated. This vaccine does prevent a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer. What I cannot justify is making the vaccine mandatory. Contrary to the hype, this vaccine does not prevent cancer. It prevents a sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus(HPV). It is true that most cases of cervical cancer are linked to an infection with HPV, but prevention of cervical cancer is a secondary, not a primary effect of the vaccine. Other vaccines are mandatory because the diseases they prevent cause a public health risk with casual contact in a school setting. Unless the lesson plans have gotten way out of hand, the risk of spreading HPV in school is very low.

Of course the pharmaceutical companies are very savvy. They aren’t marketing this as STD prevention. It is cancer prevention only. Who wouldn’t want to prevent cancer? You can see this is muddying the debate.

Joseph Zanga, professor of pediatrics at East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine, favors the vaccine for girls who plan to be sexually active. But "mandating is the wrong approach to this issue," he said.

"If a kid with measles is sitting in a classroom, he or she is going to infect many other classmates. A kid with HPV infects no one other than one she might have sex with," he said. "We're not protecting the public health in the same way that we protect public health when we require measles vaccine."

Virginia Del. Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News), sponsor of a bill that would mandate HPV inoculation for middle school children, disagrees.

"This is not a prevention for a sexually transmitted disease. This is a prevention for cancer," he said. "And if a vaccine can eliminate even one case of that, I think it's a worthwhile initiative."

Sorry, Delegate Hamilton. This is prevention of a sexually transmitted disease. A noteworthy bonus is it will tremendously decrease the incidence of cervical cancer. Interestingly, widespread behavior modification, aka chastity, would do the same thing. Of course it is much easier to mandate a vaccine than it is to mandate chastity.

UPDATE: This post got a look from someone at Merck, manufacturer of Gardasil

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

An issue bigger than Down's Syndrome

Amy Welborn has a terrific post about the move to extend prenatal screening for Down's Syndrome to all pregnancies, not just to those in women over age thirty-five.

This issue is so much bigger than Down’s Syndrome. The contraceptive culture views parenting as the acquisition of children--not much different than buying a car or a house. They are accessories to adorn the perfect Christmas card. How on earth could a parent with that mentality stomach anything less than a “perfect child”.

There is great pressure to abort brought to bear on women found to be pregnant with a child with Down’s Syndrome. Prenatal testing has extended to include genes for potential adult cancers. Another group suggests that maleness is justification for abortion in families with a history of autism.

Therefore, the battle for pro-life forces is not with the procedure of abortion itself—though I would dearly love to this barbaric procedure outlawed. The real fight is with the cultural mindset. We must reverse this utilitarian view of life. Even children with earthly imperfections are to be cherished as gifts from God. Every human life is imbued with an intrinsic worth and dignity because every human life is created in God’s own image. Earthly accomplishments cannot increase this worth and the lack of such accomplishments cannot diminish this worth.

Mother Teresa did not set herself up to serve the beautiful people. She immersed herself in those who society had rejected. Mother Teresa could see the face of Christ in every human life. We are called to do the same. We are called to love and the weak and vulnerable. We are called to embrace those who at first sight may repulse us. We are called to look past the outward physical picture and see the eternal soul and the image of God.

Yes, the pro-life fight is so much greater than debating abortion, euthanasia, assisted-suicide, and embryonic stem cells. These debates are symptoms of a far greater societal malady. Just as Adam and Eve sought to be as knowledgeable and powerful as God by eating the forbidden fruit, our culture seeks to do the same by usurping from God the control of who lives and who dies. Our culture is trying to separate itself from God. When such a state is made eternal it is known as Hell.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Alphabet Meme

I guess it is only fair since I have tagged Sarah a couple of times lately that she reciprocate by tagging me for the Alphabet meme.
[A is for apparitions - your favorite]: Our Lady of Guadalupe

[B is for Bible - the one you read most often] New American Bible
[C is for Charism - the one you would most like to have]: See this for a list of options and a discussion of Charism. I would choose the office of teacher.

[D is for Doctor of the Church - your favorite]: St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower
[E is for Essential Prayer - What's yours?]: Hail Mary—How does a mother get through the day without it?

[F is for Favorite Hymn]: Immaculate Mary
[G is for Gospel - your favorite author?]: Luke

[H is for Holy Communion - How would you describe it, using one word?]: Awesome

[I is for Inspiration - When do you feel most inspired by God?]: During times of creativity—writing, gardening, or cooking

[J is for Jesus - When did you first meet Him?]: I can’t remember a time I didn’t know of Him. He became personal in high school.

[K is for Kindness - Which saint or person has most inspired you by their kindness?]: Mother Teresa

[L is for liturgical year - your favorite time in the liturgical cycle?]: Advent

[M is for Mary, the Mother of God - Your favorite term of endearment for her]: Our Lady of Perpetual Help
[N is for New Testament - Your favorite passage]: Luke 24: 13-35, The road to Emmaus

[O is for Old Testament - Your favorite Book here]: Esther

[P is for Psalms - your favorite]: The 23rd Psalm—The Lord is my shepherd…

[Q is for quote - saint quote]:
“Tell the children about God and His Saints. During the holy time of Lent, speak to them of their suffering Savior. During Paschal time, of His glorious Resurrection. During Christmas time, of His Birth. You will see what a profound impression it will make on the minds of your children.”—St. John Vianney

[R is for rosary - your favorite mysteries]: Joyful

[S is for Saint - the one you turn to in time of need - not including the Blessed Virgin Mary]: St. Anthony(lost items) and St. Monica (patron of nagging mothers)

[T is for Tradition - your favorite Catholic tradition]: Having a saint for every occasion!

[U is for university - Which Catholic University have you attended or are currently attending?]: None.

[V is for Virtue - the one you wish you had]: Justice
[W is for Way of the Cross - Which station can you most relate to?]: Jesus meets his mother.
[X is for Xaverian Brothers - Do you know who they are?]: I do after a google search showed me this.
[Y is for your favorite Catholic musician]: Antonio Vivaldi

[Z is for Zeal for the faith]: Ever increasing

Anyone else who would like to try this please feel free. Leave a link in the comment box so we can see your responses.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday

17 years ago today, my little island of civilization was born. In a household filled with Y-chromosomes, you burst forth to share your feminine genius. Of course, being raised as the only daughter in a house full of sons does mean that your feminine genius does not always include pink bows and ruffles. You eschewed dolls and preferred your brothers’ Hot Wheels. But unlike your brothers, you made the cars speak to each other, form families, and go on picnics. You have grown into the vice-Mom, knowing everybody’s schedule and where everybody’s shoes were last seen. You see value in a pretty table setting and ritual meals.

I am so proud of all you have done. You have an ability to focus that few attain. Whether it is your schoolwork, your soccer playing, or your music you approach it with a singular passion. Yet it is your faith that I admire most. In spite of the pressures of school, sports, and friends, you have set your faith as a priority. I consider it a great blessing that you have taken to heart the faith I hold so dear.

Today I offer a special prayer for you. May you discern the call of God and find the vocation He desires for you. May you always feel the maternal love of the Blessed Mother. May your heart find a love that will lead you to Heaven.

Happy Birthday, my daughter. God Bless you always.

Love, Mom

A Smorgasbord for Bibliophiles

“So many books, so little time” I know this feeling well. There are numerous posts on the web right now with ideas for reading. I mentioned a few of my reading goals last week but after reading these posts, I may need to make some adjustments.

Eric Scheske links to Baronius Press. This new publisher has a beautiful series of Catholic Classics in paperback. I am a sucker for matched sets and could really see my bookshelves expanding to hold these. Ignatius Press features a “best books of 2006” piece on its web site with a few more suggestions. And finally, consummate bibliophile, Mama T, posts her 2006 book awards.

I think the pile of books by my bedside could grow exponentially!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Prayer answered--Prayer requested

Back in November I asked for prayers for Lynn as she began induction chemotherapy. May God be praised! Lynn has now been declared in remission. Please continue to pray for her recovery. I now ask for prayers for Ken. He has been fighting the battle against a brain tumor for a couple of years. It looks like he has reached the end of his treatment options and has just been enrolled in hospice. Please pray for both Ken and his wife as well as their young children.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Still Courageous

I wrote back in August about our Courageous Pastor. Under his leadership we have started regular holy hours, Eucharistic Adoration, daily confession, and truly reverent liturgies. This evening he stunned us by telling us that due to his deteriorating health he must take an early medical retirement. He will be leaving in two weeks. He has accomplished in a mere 18 months what many pastors cannot due in 18 years. I know that he loves being a priest and would only leave if he thought it was in the best interest of the parish to turn the reins over to someone with better health. Still, I am so sad. Please keep our courageous pastor in your prayers.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Way to Foster Vocations

The Bethlehem Poor Clare Monastery in Barhamsville, Virginia has a blog. Yesterday they offered this plea to support a young woman seeking to join the Poor Clares.

I write to enlist your help with a very worthy cause. There is a young lady by the name of Kirsten Goza who has been recently accepted by Mother Miriam to enter the Poor Clares. She was supposed to enter on the feast of St. Francis, October 4, 2006.

I know Kirsten, as she was a FOCUS missionary for 3 years (many of you know that I used to be a FOCUS missionary before I joined the staff at St. Louis). FOCUS is a Catholic outreach on college campuses. Kirsten was with FOCUS for 3 years, 2003-2006. During that time she heard God's call to the cloister and had started to work on paying off her college loans (from Franciscan University of Steubenville) so she could pursue her vocation. A very generous donor paid half of her debt, and she had found a grant to pay the other half. However, that grant fell through and her entrance date was delayed until she is free of debt. Her remaining debt is roughly $25,000.
If any of you are so inclined, details of how to offer financial assistance are posted on the Poor Clare blog. Even if you cannot offer financial assistance, please pray for this young woman as she tries to respond to God's call.

I like Catholic Matriarch better but....

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Eminence the Very Viscountess Denise the Formidable of Heffton St Mallet
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

The Untold Story of Daily Mass

Amy Welborn posts about attending daily Mass.

She was surprised at how crowded it was - well, it was noon, it was downtown, and it was (is) First Friday. But it was packed, and it occurred to me that this is one of the great untold stories of U.S. Catholicism - the numbers of folks who attend daily Mass. I'd like to see a team of reporters and photographers hit some downtown churches across the country for their schedule of weekday Masses, from 6 AM on, to see the numbers of folks there, and even to talk to a few, to take some photographs. It would give flesh to the story, to the story of Catholics are taking their faith seriously, who are leaving the house extra early or skipping lunch so they can go to Mass, hear the Scriptures, and be joined in Communion in, through and as the Body of Christ.

Since my high school years I have gone to daily Mass at least occasionally. When I was in medical school I would drive to a suburban parish for daily Mass just to get change of scenery from inner city Dallas. When I found myself “retired” with all my children in school about four years ago, I started making daily Mass more days than not. One of the surprising things for me was how much it made me appreciate Scripture. The daily readings actually lead us from Sunday to Sunday. Attending only Sunday Mass became like reading the abridged version of a novel. Of course I can always read the daily readings without attending Mass. But reflecting on them within the context of Mass gives them a depth and texture that I lose if I just read them on my own. When my schedule curtails my daily Mass attendance I really miss it.

Amy is right about the daily Mass attendees being the untold story of American Catholicism. Years ago, I would attend daily Mass with sweet little grannies. There was no one from my own generation there. I am not old enough to be the granny yet but I am older than many of today's daily communicants. There are many mothers there with their children. Some are obviously home-schooled and Mass attendance is part of their curriculum. Others are pre-school age and are growing up with daily Mass as a normal part of their routine. It gives me great hope for Catholicism in America.

Catholic Devotions Meme

Rosemary tagged me on this one. Here goes:

1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus.

Mass. I also really love the prayer Anima Christi

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer.

The Rosary. My favorite title for Blessed Mother is Our Lady of Guadalupe.

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?

I always have one with me, but I am not always wearing it

4. Do you have holy water in your home?

I do not have a font at home, but I do have a bottle of holy water at home.

5. Do you "offer up" your sufferings?

Yes, and I am working at doing a better job of it.

6.Do you observe first Fridays and first Saturdays.


7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How Frequently?

Yes, but not regularly. Probably once per month.

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or a Sunday morning Mass person?

I prefer the first Mass said on Sunday but the kids’ schedules often mean a Saturday evening Mass. It is more important to me that we go as a family.

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?

Yes. “Bless us O Lord….

10. Favorite saints:

Blessed Mother, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Monica, St. Anthony, St. Benedict, St. Michael

11. Can you recite the Apostles' Creed by heart?


12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?

Oh my, yes!

13. Bonus Question: When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?


Added bonus question: Have you named your Guardian Angel?

No, but I do “chat” with my Guardian Angel on a regular basis. Though I must admit I spend more time asking for my children’s Guardian Angels to stay vigilant.

I will tag a couple of folks. If you have already done this, forgive me since I am just now getting back into the blogging loop after the trip to Florida. I tag Sarah and David

Thursday, January 04, 2007

American Character is Not a Myth!

At the present time I have two children in college and a third child beginning the college search process in earnest. That is why The Young America Foundation’s publication The Dirty Dozen: America’s Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses caught my eye.

As college costs soar through the roof—averaging above $31,000 a year for tuition, room & board—today’s college students study adultery, the male genital, and Native American feminism. The Dirty Dozen highlights the most bizarre and troubling instances of leftist activism supplanting traditional scholarship in our nation’s colleges and universities.

The growth of these courses gobbles up tons of money and resources and ignores scholarship from conservatives. For instance, books and speeches from the late Milton Friedman and Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick are rarely studied in the classroom, yet leftist works are prevalent in college classrooms nationwide. Scores of courses were researched from hundreds of the nation’s leading schools. The Dirty Dozen is the worst of the worst. This year, we have also included a dishonorable mentions category—courses that could’ve easily made the list.

While most of the named courses deal with race, sex, or Marxist ideology, Number 11 on the list disturbed me the most:

11. Duke University’s American Dreams/American Realities course seeks to unearth “such myths as ‘rags to riches,’ ‘beacon to the world,’ and the ‘frontier,’ in defining the American character.”

And exactly what does Duke University say is the true defining factor of American character? I can only surmise that there will be some smarmy references to the greedy capitalists who rejected the altruistic value of socialism.

The opportunity and availability of education in America is incredible. I have written before about my own family experiences. Two generations ago my grandparents were not even high school graduates. By the next generation every child had completed at least high school. By the next generation every child was a college graduate and some had completed graduate degrees as well. This was not achieved because of a government social agenda. This happened because of a uniquely American ideal that every citizen has the potential for success if he is willing to work hard and take advantage of opportunities.

As I said, my third child is beginning the college search process and the choices are overwhelming. The sheer number and variety of colleges is staggering. The “rags to riches” story and the “conquering the frontier” mentality are not American myths. When these aspects of American character are suppressed and replaced with low expectations and a dependent mentality social progress stops.