Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Humble Beginning

Remember, man, you are dust. And to dust you will return. (Gn 3:19)

Thousands of Catholics will hear these words today. It is a call to humility. I am reading On Conscience by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). This collection of essays echoes the call to humility. While one is obligated to follow one’s conscience, the proper formation of the conscience does not depend on subjective personal feelings, but rather on objective truth.

So we begin these forty days as an exercise in surrender to God’s will, not our own. Through fasting and sacrifice we will detach ourselves form the worldly and seek that which is eternal. Through prayer and study we will seek the Wisdom of God over the wisdom of men.

Today we make our first steps on the Journey to Easter. Like any journey, there is excitement and anticipation. It is an adventure! Remember these feelings. In a few days or weeks we may very well sound like tired children whining, “Are we there yet?” How do we sustain our focus? How do we implement our intentions?

With Grace! It is not through our own efforts that we will arrive at the Resurrection. Rather, by joining each step of our journey with the steps of Christ as he carried his Cross, we will find the strength to keep going. By participating in the Sacrifice of the Mass, we will gain the sustenance of His Perfect Sacrifice in the Eucharist. Through prayer we will find the steadying hand of the Holy Spirit guiding us on the right path. With true contrition and humility, we confess our sins and receive the grace of God’s mercy. We do not renew ourselves. It is by the Grace of God that we will find ourselves converted and reborn on Easter morning.

Reflect on the words of today’s Responsorial Psalm:

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

(Psalm 51)

It is not up to us to design a new and improved model of ourselves. Rather we must simply surrender to God’s will and let Him fashion us for His purpose.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spiritual Combat

This afternoon our parish continued our St. Paul Speaker series with Fr. Jerry Pokorsky speaking on Spiritual Warfare. This was a wonderful presentation with so many take home points that it is amazing Father only spoke for thirty minutes. I easily could have listened to him for twice that length of time. The discussion of spiritual warfare dealt with individual spiritual combat. Each of us is called to be a warrior for Christ. He ended his talk with a recommendation of the book The Spiritual Combat by Lorenzo Scupoli. The few excerpts that he read convinced me this was a book I had to have. Consider this:

Therefore, let everyone examine himself, let him direct all his actions to this most excellent and noble end. If he discovers that he is performing a work of piety in order to avoid punishment, or to gain the rewards of the future life, he should establish as the end of his undertaking the will of God, Who requires that we avoid hell and gain Heaven.

It is not within man's power to realize the efficacy of this motive. The least action, no matter how insignificant, performed for His sake, greatly surpasses actions which, although of greater significance, are done for other motives.

For example, a small alms, given solely in honor of God, is infinitely more agreeable to Him than if, from some other motive, large possessions are abandoned, even if this is done from a desire to gain the kingdom of heaven. And this, in itself, is a highly commendable motive, and worthy of our consideration.

The practice of performing all of our actions solely from the intention of pleasing God may be difficult at first. With the passing of time it will become familiar and even delightful, if we strive to find God in all sincerity of heart, if we continually long for Him, the only and greatest Good, deserving to be sought, valued, and loved by all His creatures. The more attentively we contemplate the greatness and goodness of God, the more frequently and tenderly our affections will turn to that Divine Object. In this way we will more quickly, and with greater facility, obtain the habit of directing all our actions to His glory.

In conclusion, there is a final way of acting in complete accordance with this very excellent and elevated motive. This is fervently to petition our Lord for grace and frequently to consider the infinite benefits He has already given us, and which He continues to bestow every moment from an undeserved and disinterested affection.

To my delight, this sixteenth century book is published in its entirety here. I love being able to scroll through the book and cut and paste sections as needed, but bibliophile that I am, I will be purchasing a hard copy as well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Does Your Doctor do Abortions? The Answer Might Surprise You.

Yesterday, I mentioned that your local crisis pregnancy center is a great place to offer your alms this Lent. Your diocesan Gabriel Project and Project Rachel also need your donations. Physical help to these groups is a corporal work of mercy. Offering your prayers, especially the Rosary, for an end to abortion and in support of all women in crisis pregnancies is a spiritual work of mercy. We need to do both.

Have you ever prayed in front of an abortion clinic? I have. It is very powerful to offer prayers in such close proximity to the evil of abortion. The visible presence of praying pro-lifers has saved many children from abortion. You might want to get out your Rosary the next time you are in your family physician’s office. With the advent of the medical abortion, the practice of abortion is moving from the surgical clinics to your local doctor’s office. As you can see by this conference being offered by the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, there is a push to make medical abortion a standard part of your family doctor’s scope of practice.

I recommend that you ask your family doctor if he or she offers abortion services. If so, I encourage you to look for a new doctor. Let your doctor know that you are uncomfortable trusting your healthcare to someone who does not acknowledge the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

Contemplating Divine Mercy

I received the following email from the Apostolate for Family Consecration:

Starting this March 11 (the 2nd week after Ash Wednesday) up to April 19, Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter), we invite you to join the Apostolate for Family Consecration as we pray for the outpouring of Divine Mercy on our families and our country - for the protection of families and the sanctity of marriage and human life, for those struggling with unemployment, for the recovery of our economy, for the safety of our military personnel in the Middle East and for grace and guidance for our civic leaders.
For 40 days, we will reflect on God's greatest attribute using the new Drawing Down Divine Mercy prayer and meditation book. It's a perfect meditation during this Lenten Season.

This new Drawing Down Divine Mercy prayer and meditation book is a complete presentation on the richness of the Divine Mercy devotion. It features 40-day meditations taken from Pope John Paul II's encyclical, "Rich in Mercy". It also includes excerpts from St. Faustina's diary and the prayers for the Divine Mercy novena which Our Lord gave to St. Faustina to be prayed from Good Friday until Divine Mercy Sunday.

You can order this book here. It will begin shipping on March 2nd.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Lent. You Lent. He Lents

But let me say this, because I think it’s really important: get ready for Lent. Call an assembly. Prepare a fast. This year, may we Lent like we have never Lented before.

--The Anchoress

I never before thought of “Lent” as a verb. But I think that is a very accurate concept. We are called to action—to fast, to give alms, and to pray. We have one more week to prepare for Lent. Are we going to be ready for action?

We can enhance our contemplative life with spiritual reading. I offered a few ideas here. Pope Benedict encouraged us to discover power of fasting. Fasting brings us in solidarity with those who do not share our blessings of abundance. This solidarity should then urge us to share our blessings with those around us.

In these difficult economic times, there can be a tendency to withdraw. We become protective and tight-fisted with our possessions. But this hoarding leads to more anxiety and very little peace of mind. Where does our true treasure lie?

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Mt6:19-21)

The more we feel our worldly goods are causing us to worry the more we need to detach ourselves from them. Giving to others even when we feel insecure about our own material well-being is a source of such detachment.

I know your local food pantry can use some help. Our parish has a food collection every month. I found that I was just grabbing a can or two out of the pantry on collection Sunday. I have now started to be more deliberate in my giving. When I make a major grocery shopping run, I include items for the food pantry on my list. I try to put together a bag that will be the foundation for several meals. Making my shopping for the food pantry more intentional also brings me more in solidarity with those I am helping. As I pull cans of Chunky soup off the shelf I try to remember to pray for their eventual recipients. They are not vague entities. They are real people with real hungers, both physical and spiritual.

Being pro-life means being so much more than being anti-abortion. The women who choose life and their children need your help. Your local crisis pregnancy center or home for unwed mothers could really use your support. The Sisters of Life is an order of women religious who are both contemplative and active in the upholding of the sanctity of life. They are a growing order that could use your financial gift. The Paul Stefan home is an amazing pro-life home for those involved in crisis pregnancies. Share your treasure with this ministry of love.

There are so many worthy ministries that depend on our generosity. Catholic Culture is an invaluable web resource that I turn to often. Like public radio and public television, the good folks at Catholic Culture depend on donations to use modern communications technology to bring the Gospel message to the world. The Apostolate for Family Consecration offers a multitude of resources for building our domestic churches. Help them evangelize our culture by evangelizing families.

I mentioned the Sisters of Life, but there are many religious orders that need our prayers and our alms. Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, the Nashville Dominicans, Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker and Apostles of the Interior Life are all faithful servants of the Church .

Back in elementary school we learned that a verb is an action word. Beginning Ash Wednesday: I Lent, you Lent, and he Lents. Let us respond to the call to prepare with active prayer, fasting, and alms giving.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

They Are Listening

I guess folks are listening after all. The concerns about government intrusion and control of our health care made the news. Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has released a statement of “Frequently Asked Questions about the Health Provisions in the Uncontrollable Spending Stimulus package. In it he denies there should be any concern about government monitoring of our health records or the government setting treatment guidelines. He makes statements like:
“In fact, the Senate bill specifically prohibits the government from making any coverage
decisions based on this research [Comparative Effectiveness Research], or even from issuing guidelines that would suggest how to interpret the research results. The sole aim is to disseminate the results of the research to the public, so that patients and their doctors can make the best decisions for their specific situations, together.”

It would really be helpful if he would point to the specific statement in the legislation that supports his claims. He says that the fines for physicians who do not meet “meaningful use” standards refer to the use of electronic records and not to the adoption of specific treatment guidelines. However, the term “meaningful use” is left undefined and up to the discretion of the HHS Secretary to delineate.

Do I feel better? A little bit. However, this is a partisan senator who is head of the committee responsible for this monstrosity of a spending bill. He wants to get it passed. Do I trust him to put out a straight answer free of political spin? No.

Implementing electronic medical records and tasking the government with comparative effectiveness research are huge undertakings. I am actually a strong supporter of both these initiatives. These should not be footnotes in a rushed-through-congress-before-anyone-realizes-what’s-going-on, “catastrophe” avoiding, pork laden spending spree bill. These topics deserve thorough public discussion and debate. What exactly is the government role in these activities going to be? How will the results of the information be used? The House version of this bill specifically states that the results of comparative effective research will prevent the prescribing of expensive treatments? It states that cost effectiveness will be factored in to treatment decisions. What does that mean? In Great Britain it means that a monetary value is placed on human lives in order to justify the expense of treatment. What does it mean in the United States? Why are we sneaking these provisions through rather than subjecting them to open and honest scrutiny?

Bottom line—The Health Provisions have no short-term impact on the economy. Take them out of this bill. Propose them as separate legislation. If we are going to do this, let’s do it right.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Work of the Holy Spirit

I would greatly appreciate your prayers. Tonight our parish begins a series of six presentations on building the domestic church. Please pray that the Holy Spirit moves those who would benefit to be present. Also pray that the Holy Spirit gives me the words that need to be heard. Thanks.

UPDATE: I would call it a successful evening. I spoke to a full classroom and received many positive comments when it was done. Session 2 will be next Wednesday and I will speak on how keeping kids Catholic begins with keeping parents Catholic. Thank you for your prayers. God is good!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is Anyone Listening?!

I keep writing about the health care commission authorized by the House stimulus package. Is anyone listening? Betsy McCaughey at Bloomberg .com has more information that is terrifying:

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”

Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.

New Penalties

Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)

What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

Elderly Hardest Hit

Daschle says health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.

Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (464).

The Federal Council will have the power to prohibit care to premature infants because their potential disabilities make their lives unworthy of preserving. This legislation will enable the federal government to deny care to the elderly simply because of their age.

This provision has no business being in an economic stimulus package. If this is such a wonderful idea, let's take it out from under the cloak of darkness and expose it to the light. Take it out of the stimulus package and debate it as a separate piece of legislation. Let its supporters defend its merits. Make its supports defend the scope of control over individual lives this plan is ceding to the federal government.

UPDATE: It is not just me. The Washington Times is also waving the warning flag about this deadly provision of the stimulus bill. Read "Health Efficiency Can Be Deadly".

Think of it, a centralized, federal database tracking your every visit to a health care provider - where you went, who you saw, what was diagnosed and what care was provided. Chilling. The immediate concern is privacy - traditionally these matters are between a doctor and patient, but now the federal bureaucracy will interpose itself into that relationship.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Contraceptive Mentality taken to the Extreme

From the online version of Psychology Today:

So here’s my answer: Personal responsibility. A grassroots movement means we mean it. It means people having children in year six would feel shame and embarrassment at their unbelievable selfishness.

And yeah, if you are having children right now you are being selfish. You’re stealing. Stealing from the future. Stealing from the rest of humanity. Stealing from every living thing on the earth right now.

The current planetary die off rate—meaning the rate at which species are going extinct—is a 1000 times greater than ever before in history. Why? Because humans—one species among millions—have stolen the food, the water, the space.

And every time we bring more life into this world we’re increasing that theft exponentially.

He actually sounds like an egalitarian version of Nancy Pelosi. He wants everyone to stop having children. Speaker Pelosi just wants the poor to stop having children.

Pope John Paul II warned against this attitude in 1981 when he wrote familiaris consortio.

h/t Jay Anderson

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Simply Brilliant!

I mentioned quite a few books that make great Lenten reading, but there is also a treasure trove of spiritual writing by the popes and it is available free of charge at the Vatican web site. May I suggest you read Familiaris Consortio, an Apostolic Exhortation by Pope John Paul II? Just listen to this:

On the other hand, however, signs are not lacking of a disturbing degradation of some fundamental values: a mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality.

At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God's plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one's own selfish well-being.

Worthy of our attention also is the fact that, in the countries of the so-called Third World, families often lack both the means necessary for survival, such as food, work, housing and medicine, and the most elementary freedoms. In the richer countries, on the contrary, excessive prosperity and the consumer mentality, paradoxically joined to a certain anguish and uncertainty about the future, deprive married couples of the generosity and courage needed for raising up new human life: thus life is often perceived not as a blessing, but as a danger from which to defend oneself.

The historical situation in which the family lives therefore appears as an interplay of light and darkness.

This shows that history is not simply a fixed progression towards what is better, but rather an event of freedom, and even a struggle between freedoms that are in mutual conflict, that is, according to the well-known expression of St. Augustine, a conflict between two loves: the love of God to the point of disregarding self, and the love of self to the point of disregarding God.(16)

It follows that only an education for love rooted in faith can lead to the capacity of interpreting "the signs of the times," which are the historical expression of this twofold love.

The Influence of Circumstances on the Consciences of the Faithful

7. Living in such a world, under the pressures coming above all from the mass media, the faithful do not always remain immune from the obscuring of certain fundamental values, nor set themselves up as the critical conscience of family culture and as active agents in the building of an authentic family humanism.

Among the more troubling signs of this phenomenon, the Synod Fathers stressed the following, in particular: the spread of divorce and of recourse to a new union, even on the part of the faithful; the acceptance of purely civil marriage in contradiction to the vocation of the baptized to "be married in the Lord", the celebration of the marriage sacrament without living faith, but for other motives; the rejection of the moral norms that guide and promote the human and Christian exercise of sexuality in marriage.

In God's Own Time

I’ve been teaching religious education classes off and on for close to twenty years now. Throughout these years I’ve come to realize that without a solid foundation in the faith built at home, our little CCD classes are woefully inadequate. In the early 1990’s I discovered the book Keeping Your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi. Here was the book that could guide me through being a Catholic parent. I wanted to share this book in a structured format like a discussion group or class. The book comes with discussion questions at the end of each chapter. But I also was sure I was not the person to lead this. My oldest child was in his early elementary school years. What did I know? I was just a beginner parent.

I had been humbled when I had my first child. I was already a doctor and had been giving parents advice for a couple of years when my oldest was born. I had read my pediatrics textbook. How hard could it be? Within a couple of months I was convinced that the author of my pediatrics textbook had never had children. I was so embarrassed. Here I had been speaking with such authority to parents and I realized I didn’t have a clue. I wanted to call all the parents of my patients and apologize for my arrogance. They were the real experts.

Not wanting to put myself in that same position with regards to Catholic parenting, I waited. But I still kept rereading that book and it still kept speaking words of wisdom to me. A few years ago, as my nest began to empty, I decided it was time to share the treasure of this book. The need to support parents in passing on the faith seemed even more dire than it had when I first read Keeping Your Kids Catholic. I was sure the time was right. I went to the DRE of my parish and asked to offer a class based on this book. Her response took me by surprise. It went something like, “That sounds very nice but what I really need is someone to teach seventh grade CCD.” Didn’t she see that if we educated the parents our job as CCD catechists would be so much easier? How could she refuse? I’ve been waiting fifteen years to teach this class! I went home and prayed about it… Fine. I will teach the seventh grade class.

The next year we had a new DRE. She was young. She was energetic. I again brought my proposal to teach a class on Keeping Your Kids Catholic. What was her response? “That sounds very nice but what I really need is someone to teach seventh grade CCD.” Arrgh! The catechists perennial lament is that the children are getting no faith formation at home. How can we not teach the parents? I prayed…Okay. I will teach seventh grade but I want to bring in the parents for some of the lessons. That strategy was extremely successful. And the religious education office began to push the idea of adult education.

In the last year, the adult education program at our parish has blossomed. I have taught a course on The Apostles by Pope Benedict as well as Introduction to Theology of the Body by Christopher West. Others are teaching a study of the Cathechism based on Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft. There are multiple opportunities for Bible studies. We had a lecture series focusing on Pope Benedict’s writing in order to prepare for the Holy Father’s visit to the United States. We have another lecture series that is ongoing looking at St. Paul. And beginning next Wednesday…trumpet fanfare please…I will begin teaching a six week series on Building the Domestic Church and Keeping Your Kids Catholic. If you live in Northern Virginia, you can call the religious education office at Holy Spirit Catholic Church and get all the details.

So why did it take so long? Because God knew that I wasn’t really ready. I had one book that had served me well. But there is so much more. In the last three years I discovered this presentation on the five pillars of a Catholic family by Cardinal Arinze. I discovered the book Catholicism and Society by Rev. Edward J. Hayes, Rev. Msgr. Paul J. Hayes, and James J. Drummey. I discovered the Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio by Pope John Paul II. And now I know how to use PowerPoint! I must be ready.

Patience is a virtue. I know I am trying to follow the path God has laid before me. I just have to remember to trod it at His pace, not mine.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

No Government Money If You Pray

Democrats in Congress have declared war on prayer, say conservative groups who object to a provision in the stimulus bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week.

The provision bans money designated for school renovation from being spent on facilities that allow "religious worship." It has ignited a fury among critics who say it violates the First Amendment and is an attempt to prevent religious practice in schools.

According to the bill, which the Democratic-controlled House passed despite unanimous Republican opposition, funds are prohibited from being used for the "modernization, renovation, or repair" of facilities that allow "sectarian instruction, religious worship or a school or department of divinity."

Critics say that could include public schools that permit religious groups to meet on campus. The House provided $20 billion for the infrastructure improvements, of which $6 billion would go to higher education facilities where the limitations would be applied.

"What the government is doing is discriminating against religious viewpoints," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works to advance religious freedom.

An Interesting Pick for #2 at the Justice Department

President Obama's picks for several appointed positions have left me scratching my head. For example, why did he pick David Ogden for the #2 postion at the Department of Justice?

President Obama has made a major mistake and put America's families at risk by selecting David Ogden to become Deputy Attorney General, says Fidelis, a pro-family organization.

"David Ogden is a hired gun from Playboy and ACLU. He can't run from his long record of opposing common sense laws protecting families, women, and children. The United States Senate has a responsibility to the American people to insure that Mr. Ogden's full record is fully reviewed before any vote on his nomination" said Brian Burch, President of Fidelis.

"Ogden's record is nothing short of obscene. He has represented Playboy Enterprises in multiple cases, Penthouse Magazine, the ACLU, and the largest distributor of hard-core pornography videos. He has opposed filters on library computers protecting children from Internet smut, and successfully defended the right of pornographers to produce material with underage children."

"David Ogden has collected checks from Playboy and Penthouse to fight any attempts to establish filters on federally-funded public libraries. Ogden even sued the federal government in an attempt to publish Braille versions of Playboy magazine - at taxpayer expense, of course," said Burch.

As a lawyer in private practice, Ogden has argued for an unlimited abortion license, gays in the military, and has urged courts to treat traditional definitions of marriage as a social prejudice.

Bureaucrats at the Service of Death

After seven years of the United States withholding support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Obama administration has restored this funding. What does the UNFPA have to say? It says that divorce and high rates of out-of-wedlock births are good things.

MEXICO CITY, February 3, 2009 ( - A leader in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has declared that the breakdown of traditional families, far from being a “crisis,” is actually a triumph for human rights.

Speaking at a colloquium held last month at Colegio Mexico in Mexico City, UNFPA representative Arie Hoekman denounced the idea that high rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births represent a social crisis, claiming that they represent instead the triumph of “human rights” against “patriarchy.”

"In the eyes of conservative forces, these changes mean that the family is in crisis," he said. "In crisis? More than a crisis, we are in the presence of a weakening of the patriarchal structure, as a result of the disappearance of the economic base that sustains it and because of the rise of new values centered in the recognition of fundamental human rights."

This organization also supports China’s One Child Policy that forces abortions on women who have more than one child. Is this really where we want to be spending American tax dollars? In the words of Leonardo Casco, a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the UNFPA are “bureaucrats at the service of death.”

H/T Jay Anderson

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him

Prayers for the repose of the soul of Michael Dubruiel, his wife Amy Welborn and their family

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon him.
May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

UPDATE: Amy Welborn has posted this column that her husband,Michael Dubruiel, wrote the night before he died. It is an amazing gift.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Catholic Carnival 210

Catholic Carnival 210 is up! Help yourself to a wonderful sampling of the Catholic blogosphere.


Read these two editorials. Then ponder the direction of our national foreign policy.

First this one by Judea Pearl

No. Those around the world who mourned for Danny in 2002 genuinely hoped that Danny's murder would be a turning point in the history of man's inhumanity to man, and that the targeting of innocents to transmit political messages would quickly become, like slavery and human sacrifice, an embarrassing relic of a bygone era.

But somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.

Then read this by Frank Gaffney:

Several observers have noted in recent days that Mr. Obama's outreach to the Muslim world is not only defensive and apologetic. It explicitly embraces a narrative that is factually erroneous and deprecating to his own country.

For example, in his Inaugural address, the president spoke of seeking "a new way forward [with the Muslim world], based on mutual interest and mutual respect." He amplified this idea during his first post-Inaugural interview, which was granted to a Saudi-owned network, Al Arabiya: He is determined to "restore" the "same respect and partnership America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago."

The problem with this formulation is that it misrepresents the more distant as well as the recent past, even as it panders to those (abroad and at home) who would blame the United States for the ills of the Muslim world. As Charles Krauthammer put it in his syndicated column last week, over the last 20 years, "America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for them. ... It is both false and injurious to this country to draw a historical line dividing America under Obama from a benighted past when Islam was supposedly disrespected and demonized."

How dare President Obama show so much deference to terrorists and so little respect for the men and women who have given their lives to try and secure basic freedoms for the people of the Muslim world.

Pope Benedict XVI on Lenten Fasting

Yesterday’s feast of Candlemas marks the last day of the liturgical year that looks back toward the Nativity. Now we look forward to Easter. Lent begins on February 25. It is time to think about how you will spend your Lent. I wrote here about spiritual growth through reading. Pope Benedict XVI asks to also focus on fasting this Lent. Please read his 2009 Lenten message.

In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a "therapy" to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. In the Apostolic Constitution Pænitemini of 1966, the Servant of God Paul VI saw the need to present fasting within the call of every Christian to "no longer live for himself, but for Him who loves him and gave himself for him … he will also have to live for his brethren" (cf. Ch. I). Lent could be a propitious time to present again the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution, so that the authentic and perennial significance of this long held practice may be rediscovered, and thus assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf. Mt 22, 34-40).

The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord. Saint Augustine, who knew all too well his own negative impulses, defining them as "twisted and tangled knottiness" (Confessions, II, 10.18), writes: "I will certainly impose privation, but it is so that he will forgive me, to be pleasing in his eyes, that I may enjoy his delightfulness" (Sermo 400, 3, 3: PL 40, 708). Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.

At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. In his First Letter, Saint John admonishes: "If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him – how does the love of God abide in him?" (3,17). Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, 15). By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving. From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community, in which special collections were taken up (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27), the faithful being invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their fast (Didascalia Ap., V, 20,18). This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent.

What does this mean for our domestic churches? We need to do more than just abstain from meat on Fridays. We need to truly sacrifice. Shrimp scampi is not a sacrifice. What do you think would be a meaningful sacrificial meal? It should be something inexpensive and simple. Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup works. Black bean soup made with vegetable stock is a good choice. In the summer I usually have a bumper crop of basil so I have frozen pesto sauce that I thaw out to serve on pasta during Lent. Think about portion control. We should not feel stuffed after our Friday abstinence. Feeling a little bit hungry offers us the opportunity for solidarity with those who eat meager meals by necessity rather than by choice. It is worthwhile to note the sacrifice and offer the financial savings of this meager meal to a charitable cause. I will write more on almsgiving soon.

Stimulus Plan Alternative

Maybe instead of a trillion dollar spending spree, we just need to ask all the Washington insiders to pay their back taxes.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Candlemas: Simeon's Answered Prayer

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."

(Luke 2:25-32)

Today is the feast of Candlemas or the Presentation of Our Lord.

There is so much to ponder with this feast. We can think about all the ways Christ is revealed to the world. We can think about Mary’s faithfulness and piety. For me, I find Simeon to be my point of reflection this year. Simeon had a promise from God. He would see the Messiah. Even as the years passed by and he grew older, he did not waver in his trust in God’s promise. His prayer would be answered. Then, in the ordinary persons of a typical Jewish mother brings and her typical Jewish baby boy, Simeon recognizes the answer to his prayers.

I have often prayed for very specific things. Sometimes, I get exactly what I ask for. Sometimes, however, the answer seems to be “no”, but in time I realize that God has answered my prayers, just not in the way I expected. Consider this analogy: You have to walk to your job. You ask your father for a bicycle for your birthday. You give him all the reasons why you need a bicycle and all the justifications for why he should give you one. Your birthday comes and goes, and while he gives you some pretty nice gifts, he does not give you a bicycle. You feel let down and frustrated. After all, you weren’t asking for the moon. You just wanted a bicycle. You deserve a bicycle. What would have been so hard about giving you a bicycle? Then six months later, your father hands you a key. He is giving you a brand new car to get you to your job every day. Are you still going to be mad that you didn’t get a bicycle?

God does answer our prayers. He answers them with that for which we are really asking and not with that for which we think we are asking. He answers them in His time, not ours. He loves us and will not forsake us. We need to broaden our view and hold steadfastly to our trust in His mercy and love. Then we will see how abundantly our prayers are answered in ways quite unexpected.