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

Friday, August 29, 2008

Relax with Catholic Carnival 187!

As we enjoy this long, last official weekend of summer, take the time to peruse the great blog posts Ebeth has featured at Catholic Carnival 187!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Encore Presentation

In light of all this talk about Representative Pelosi and Senator (now VP candidate) Biden, I would ask that you read again this post that I wrote about a month ago.

Pelosi has Company

Just in case you think Ms. Pelosi is a rare bird for mangling Church history and teaching to justify her support of abortion, read this:

SEN. BIDEN: Well, I was 29 years old when I came to the United States Senate, and I have learned a lot. Look, Tim, I’m a practicing Catholic, and it is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my, my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility. And the decision that I have come to is Roe v. Wade is as close to we’re going to be able to get as a society that incorporates the general lines of debate within Christendom, Judaism and other faiths, where it basically says there is a sliding scale relating to viability of a fetus. We can argue about whether or not it’s precisely set, whether it’s right or wrong in terms of its three months as opposed to two months, but it does encompass, I’ve come to conclude, the only means by which, in this heterogeneous society of ours, we can read some general accommodation on what is a religiously charged and a publicly-charged debate. That’s the, that’s the decision I’ve come to.

Even within our own church, there’s been debates about life, you know, from, from “Summa Theologica,” Aquinas, and 40 days to quickening and right to, you know, you know, Pious IX, animated fetus doctrine and so on. So this—the, the, the decision’s the closest thing politically to what has been the philosophic divisions existent among the major confessional faiths in our country. And that’s why, I think, that’s why I’ve come to the conclusion some long time ago, over 25 years ago, that is the—it is the template which makes the most sense.

(H/T to American Papist for the link)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to School

Right now my oldest son is in an Army training environment rather than an operational environment. My next two children started classes at Rice University this past Monday. Next week my youngest begins high school. And guess what--beginning next Monday, it is back to school for me as well. Only Catholic Dad will not be an official student.

Beginning next Monday, I will be participating in the certification program at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. I am a little nervous. It has been a long time since I was a real student. There will be reading assignments and homework and papers and......GRADES! Oh my!

I am hoping that once I complete this year-long program there will be gainful employment for a Catholic bioethicist/doctor/writer. We shall see.

I am not quite sure how this course will affect this blog. Like I tell my kids, I will have to get my schoolwork done before I play so the course work has priority over the blog. But I also suspect that the topics covered will stimulate a lot of thinking and discussion that I will want to share with you. So, stay tuned.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Study in Contrasts

That didn’t take long. Close down the Olympics and it is back to business as usual:

Roman Catholic Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, Hebei province, China, was arrested again by local authorities. Bishop Jia Zhiguo belongs to the “underground” church not recognized by China’s communist government. He was arrested on the morning of August 24, the twelfth such arrest since January 2004. Zhengding is a small village situated approximately 100 miles south of Beijing. Its Roman Catholic community numbers approximately 110,000. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was consecrated bishop in 1980.

Government officials arrived in vehicles at Christ the King Cathedral at WuQiu while his current whereabouts are unknown at this time. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was last arrested in August 2007 and released four months later. The reasons for his current unrest are as yet unclear. After his release in December 2007, the bishop was consigned to house arrest and not allowed to receive visitors unaccompanied by government watchers. Police patrols prevented visitors to the bishop during his house arrest.

Bishop Jia Zhiguo is nearly 74 years old and in delicate health, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation. During his confinement at home, his requests for medical treatment were denied by Chinese authorities. The bishop has now spent at least 18 years in prison.

In the comments to my post below, Jim asks some good questions about Bishops in the United States:

Why do you suppose Catholic bishops in the United States have been so hesitant to discipline pro-abortion Catholic politicians? If Church teaching on the issue is so clear, why have so few bishops here in the US been reluctant to tell the likes of Joe Biden that, "No, Senator, you may not receive Holy Communion until you publicly repent"?

I am going to start out being charitable here. As a whole, the bishops try to abide by the principle that each shepherd knows his own flock best. I know with my own four children that while one may respond very well to direct confrontation, another may need a more gradual approach. When it comes to these pro-abortion politicians I personally would like to see a few lightning bolts fly. Let the zapping begin. However, I am not the shepherd. I am just one of the sheep. So if in the pastoral judgment of a bishop he thinks he will get better results if he takes a more measured approach, that is his call.

That said, if a bishop is avoiding making a firm statement because he is afraid of ruffling feathers, shame on him! If an American bishop will not confront a pro-abortion politician because he is worried about losing a big donation or an exclusive dinner party invitation or the prestige of rubbing elbows with the rich and famous he should look at Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo. Bishop Jia Zhiguo is risking his life and freedom to speak the truth of Catholicism. He has spent nearly a quarter of his life in Chinese prisons. He is not seeking the comfort of cooperating with the government. He is protecting the souls of his flock. I will leave it to God to judge the motivation of our bishops. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mt.8:36)

Not in the Diocese of Arlington

Well, that can take the wind out of your sails. I just posted on what I still consider a great vocations poster. I was so impressed I passed it on to the priest in charge of vocations. I told him I thought it would be great to have postcards with that image and quote from Pope Benedict to give to parents. He didn’t answer me but had his assistant respond to me:

We have recently seen posters from other dioceses using similar images with boys. While they are endearing and clever, and no doubt might grab the interest of the faithful at large, in our opinion they do not adequately depict the mission that our Office of Vocations wants to convey.

The mission of the Diocese of Arlington Office of Vocations is …

… to seek out men and women of prayer called to witness the faith with courage, teach with clarity and serve with charity as priests and consecrated religious. We focus on the restoration of all things in Christ through prayer, hard work, generosity and sacrifice. We foster the formation of men and women deeply rooted in an abiding love for Jesus Christ, especially in His Eucharistic Presence and for our Blessed Mother, so they may become holy laborers for the Kingdom who come to ‘serve’, not ‘to be served’.

Also, the statement “No One Is Born a Priest” contradicts the truth that each person is imbued with their vocation at conception. In that regard, each priest-to-be IS “born” a priest though not formed as yet as one.

Although these are eye-catching images of boys dressed up as priests, Father prefers to hold up images of men who are presently responding to the Lord's call. His experience has taught him that those who are possibly being called to the priesthood are much more likely to act upon those promptings after seeing images of mature men with whom they can more easily identify.

You know, she is right. Young men discerning the priesthood will not be drawn to this poster. But that is not the point of this campaign. This campaign is aimed at the rest of us. It is aimed at the parents, teachers, and friends of potential priests. One of the biggest obstacles to men considering the priesthood is the lack of support they get from family and friends. The words of Pope Benedict in conjunction with this image remind each of us that vocations don’t just happen. They must be fostered and nurtured.

I know that our diocese has been successful in recruiting candidates for the priesthood. I guess the office of vocations feels it is someone else’s mission to cultivate a vocation friendly environment within families. I am just not sure who that someone else is.

UPDATE: I do want to emphasize that Bishop Loverde understands very well that families must nurture vocations. He makes this a theme of every Confirmation Mass homily.

Your Child Has a Vocation

This poster from the Diocese of Raleigh is just too precious not to share. (H/T to American Papist)

I hope that you often hear a prayer for vocations offered at Mass. We need more priests. Jesus implored us to pray for more workers because the harvest is in abundance. But I am also certain that each of us is called to do more than pray.

I do not believe that our priest shortage is because God has stopped calling men to the priesthood. Rather, young men have stopped hearing and stopped answering this call. As parents we are called to impart the faith to our children. We are to give them the faith foundation that allows them to hear God’s call. He is calling each of them to a vocation. For some it will be to the vocation of marriage. For some it may be to the vocation of consecrated religious life. For some it may be the vocation of being single. And for some it is the vocation of the priesthood. Our families, our little domestic churches, are the font of vocations.

Our parish community must support families as they nurture vocations. The parish should enable families to build a life centered around the faith. Parents cannot teach what they do not know. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I frequently lament the sad state of catechesis of Catholic adults. Therefore, it is up to the parish to bolster the religious education of both adults and children. This takes time, talent, and treasure.

Over the last four weeks I have attended Mass in three different parishes. Every single one of them had an announcement from the ambo as well as a blurb in the bulletin pleading for religious education volunteers. If you are reading Catholic blogs, you are light years ahead of most of the Catholics in the pews. You are qualified to teach. Remember: God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.

Religious education efforts will foster vocations. You may plant the seed of faith in a child who is not getting this formation at home. You may strengthen and develop the faith of a parent so that he can nurture the vocations of his children. Your efforts and sacrifices for your faith will inspire others to make efforts and sacrifices of their own.

Of course, all this doing is not a replacement for prayer but done in conjunction with prayer. Children are never too young for us to pray for their vocations. I would like to share a prayer I try to say daily for my children.

Heavenly Father,

I bring to you my children. (insert names here)
I ask that you send your Holy Spirit into their hearts and give them the grace to hear your call. May they discern the vocation to which you are calling them. If you are calling a child to the vocation of marriage, I also ask you to send your Holy Spirit into the heart of his or her future spouse. May this spouse respond to your call and with my child seek to serve you faithfully. May they keep their faith in Christ anchored in your One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I ask this through the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary and through your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Paging Archbishop Niederauer:

I tried to write my first post today without bringing in the messy politics. However, I have to admit that I did think of nominally Catholic Senator Biden when I wrote it. I’ve been wading into the discussion about the Catholic credentials of Obama’s pick for VP on Dawn Eden’s blog. Then one of the comments pointed me to this:

MR. BROKAW: Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his pay grade, whether you're looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, "Help me out here, Madame Speaker. When does life begin?" what would you tell him?

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it...

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: ...begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That's why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must--it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think. But that is not the case. So we have to take--you know, we have to handle this as respectfully--this is sacred ground. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been--and I'm not saying Rick Warren did, because I don't think he did, but others will try to.

Perhaps her bishop, Archbishop Niederauer of San Francisco, could enlighten Ms. Pelosi. The Church’s admonition against abortion reaches back much farther than fifty years. In fact, it can be found in the Didache in the first century. He might want to show her this link:

"The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child" (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]).

I do hope that someone with more political clout than I have calls Representative Pelosi on the carpet for such a ridiculous assertion.

UPDATE: While I have seen no response from Archbishop Niederauer, Archbishop Chaput has given an brilliant response. It is found under the headline Denver bishops clarify to local flock the Church’s longstanding teaching against abortion.

UPDATE#2: Thomas at American Papist has a great summary of the numerous responses to Ms. Pelosi's erroneous claims.

Better than a Gold Medal

And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

I guess I have been watching too much of the Olympics lately. Listening to this Gospel reading this morning I felt like I wanted to punch two fists in the air and cheer. (You will be happy to know I restrained myself) Peter, dear St. Peter, just received something far more precious than a gold medal. He got the keys—and not just any keys—THE KEYS! Christ gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. And these keys were not just for Peter as an individual. They were for Peter as leader of Christ’s Church—The Church—One, Holy, Catholic Apostolic Church. These keys were not a trophy to put in a shadow box and hang over the mantle. These keys held real authority. “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” With this authority came a promise. No power of Hell will ever destroy Christ’s Church.

Christ didn’t offer this authority to each of his hundreds of followers, or even to each of his twelve Apostles. He gave it to Peter alone. Only the Church, guided by Peter and his successors carries the guarantee that it will withstand the gates of the Netherworld. With those credentials, how could I ever do anything but follow the successors of Peter?

But what does it mean to follow the successor of Peter? What does it mean to be in communion with Rome? What does it mean to be Catholic? Fr. Alvin Kimel offered this answer:

For the Catholic, the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the decision to accept the authority of the Church is one decision. They cannot be separated, for the risen Christ will not be separated from his mystical body.

To be Catholic means to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to accept the authority that Christ established. Are you really ready to stand before Christ and say, “Listen, I know you are God and all that, but I really think you got it wrong with this Church authority thing. I just don’t think those old men, holy as they might be, are qualified to tell me how I should live my life. I understand right from wrong. I know how to be a good person. I can follow your example and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. I don’t need all that extra stuff. Thanks anyway.”

This sort of thinking takes great arrogance. Christ calls us to reject arrogance and take on the virtue of humility. He asks us to pray “Thy will be done”. It is not about me and my feelings and my plans. It is about God’s plans. I am just a small cog in Salvation History. I am called to my own role in accordance with God’s will. How do I make sure that I am discerning the will of God? I hold up my thoughts, words, and deeds, to the template of Christ’s teachings as preserved in the teachings of the Church. Do they match? If they do not, I am not free to chalk it up to following my conscience and disregard the differences. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about conscience:

1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to be personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin. In such cases the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

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.

Contrary to the assertions of some of our Protestant brethren, the Catholic Church does not tell us to check our intellect at the door. On the contrary, as Catholics we are charged to diligently study and pray about teachings we do not fully understand. We are called to seek the grace and understanding that allows us to consciously align our lives with Christ. It is a grave error to believe we can call ourselves Catholic yet reject the authority of the Church. Beginning with Peter, Christ gave us the teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium. We reject this gift at our peril.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Catholic Carnival 186

Ebeth is once again doing a fabulous job of hosting this week's Catholic Carnival 186. Enjoy her posts and enjoy her beautiful photos of her trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so commonplace these students don’t give it a second thought. Somewhere along the line the parents of these kids missed part of their cathechesis. I really do believe that it is more out of ignorance than out of a rejection of their faith that they put sports, travel, or just sleeping in above making it to Sunday (or the Saturday Vigil) Mass.

I hope that after this post, several of you have felt prompted to volunteer to teach a religious education class. You have volunteered to teach the children, but don’t forget to teach their parents as well. These parents are supposed to be the primary religious educators of their children. But, they can’t teach what they do not know. Do every thing you can to help them learn right along side their children. You can click on the religious education label in the left side bar for some ideas on how to do this. Please feel free to share your own ideas in the comments.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lex Orandi in Louisville

Lex orandi lex credendi—The way we pray is the way we believe. Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville gets it.

But he's also drawn mixed reviews from his flock by requiring all churches to begin adhering to liturgical reforms approved by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Currently, parishes have different practices on such things as when -- and if -- they stand, sit or kneel. As a result of Kurtz's directive, some churches that haven't practiced kneeling will have to purchase kneelers, and Kurtz acknowledged some parishioners have been reluctant to change

But, he said, "The way in which we pray affects the way in which we believe, which in turn affects the way in which we act in the faith."

Asked whether some parishioners have said money would be better spent on charity than kneelers, Kurtz cited humanitarian workers such as Mother Teresa as representing "the connectedness between the care with which we pray and reaching out in service to others."

Arbishop Kurtz has been in Louisville for a year. Two years ago there were four seminarians in the diocese. There are now fourteen. He has set a goal of having 25 to 30 men in formation. Part of reaching that goal is showing young men that what we believe merits the total self-giving of the priesthood. This begins in Mass. If our prayer at Mass is no big deal, then why should young men be inspired to serve this “no big deal”. On the other hand, if the Mass shows young men the most awesome truth of our faith-- The Incarnation of Christ, his True Presence in the Eucharist, his Death and Resurrection for our redemption—well, that is a faith worth serving. Those who are called to the priesthood are then prepared to hear that call. And those called to other vocations within the Church—marriage, consecrated single life, consecrated religious—will also be better able to hear their calls. The Mass is not about fellowship. Save that for the coffee and donuts after Mass. During Mass our focus is on the Divine. Let us worship God during Mass, not each other.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Answer the Call

Religious education programs around the country are busy pleading for volunteers to teach and assist with the upcoming school year. I really can understand why so many are reluctant to take on this mission. In the ideal world the bulk of the catechesis occurs at home and the religious education classes are an enrichment of the faith passed on by parents. Unfortunately, reality looks quite different. The children often have little support for their faith at home. Sports, travel, or just sleeping in trumps getting to Mass on Sundays. Family prayer is not much more than an occasional grace before meals. Being Catholic is more of a social construct than a spiritual one. Is being a catechist worth the effort? Pope Benedict XVI thinks so.

In response to another question about what do with the children and young people who request First Communion and Conformation but do not appear to be ready to persevere in the faith, Benedict XVI confessed that “when I was younger I was stricter. I said, the sacraments are the sacraments of the faith, and therefore where there is no faith, there is no praxis of faith, and thus the sacrament cannot be conferred. And I discussed this latter with my priests when I was Archbishop of Munich. (…) As time has gone on I have come to understand that we must follow always the example of the Lord, who was very open to those on the fringes of Israel at that time as well, He was a Lord of mercy, very open—according to many official authorities—with sinners, embracing them and allowing himself to be welcomed at their dinners, attracting them to communion with Him.”

“If we can perceive even a flicker of desire for communion in the Church, a desire also of these children who want to enter into communion with Jesus, I think it is fair to be more generous. Naturally of course, one aspect of our catechesis should be to make it understood that Communion, First Communion, is not an ending event, but rather demands a continual friendship with Jesus, a journey with Jesus,” the Pope continued.

“In these sense, naturally we should do everything possible in the context of the preparation of the sacraments, in order to reach the parents as well and thus make them aware of the journey they are on with the children. They should help their children to follow their own desire to enter into friendship with Jesus,” the Holy Father said.

“If parents have the desire for their children to make their First Communion, this desire, often a social one, should be extended to a religious desire, in order to make a journey towards Jesus possible,” the Pope stressed.

So when your director of religious education begs for teachers think about answering the call. I’ll be honest. You may never see the full fruits of your labors. You will be frustrated. But with the help of the Holy Spirit you will guide children and their parents along their journey with Jesus. Most definitely, it is worth the effort.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thank You For The Prayers

First of all, thank you for your prayers against the storm. Tropical Storm Eduard made a northeasterly turn and sped up after I posted last night. He is already ashore and does not appear to be causing much trouble. We will spend the day making last minute preparations for tomorrow's move in to the dorm.

I must also thank all those who have offered prayers for my daughter's recovery from knee surgery. She is now about seven weeks post-op and making steady progress. Emotionally it is hard. She will be moving in to the dorm with her college soccer teammates, but when the rest of the girls hit the practice field she will be heading for more physical therapy. But as I have said before, every challenge is an opportunity for virtue. This is her opportunity to exercise patience and diligence.

I know we have been lifted up and buoyed by your prayers. I will be praying for you as well.

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Life....

As if I needed another reminder, I am once again keenly aware that God is far more in control of this world than I am. Right now I am in Houston. I was supposed to be moving my daughter into her dorm tomorrow. Instead, we are enjoying an extra day of visiting with my parents and waiting for Tropical Storm Eduard to make his way across the area. The storm is expected to make landfall tomorrow afternoon so most of tomorrow’s activities are canceled. Please pray for the safety of all in the storm’s path.