KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Teacher, love your students

Rosemary at A Catholic Mother's Thoughts offers a beautiful reflection:

"To teach John Latin, it is not enough to know Latin-- one must also know and love John."


I ponder this because I have moved from a career of practicing medicine to a career of teaching with a little writing on the side. A couple of times a week I face two dozen community college students and work to impart the intricacies of anatomy and physiology.

I really thought I was called to teach in a Catholic school--and maybe I will eventually. I just want to blurt out all these beautiful truths that flow from the principle of the sanctity of human life. In a secular school setting there is no blurting. So I stand before my students and witness indirectly.

I have an innate tendency to stridently march forward with a hammer in my hand ready to pound my opposition into conversion. I think God is teaching me a gentler and more effective method. He places me before these students ostensibly to teach them a college course in biology. Yet, there are so many opportunities to teach about Him.

The most obvious is to teach about this wondrous creation of the human body. How can anyone marvel at the complexities of anatomy that mesh perfectly to support our physiology. If you appreciate the choreography of electrical, chemical, and mechanical events that must occur with precision for every heartbeat, our very life seems miraculous. It is folly to attribute this to random chance.

Loving my students also means listening and being alert to the times they need a little extra encouragement. The young mother with a sick infant needs to know that this phase of sleep deprivation will pass. The older mothers need to know that their choice to put their own education on hold while they attended to their family needs was a reasonable and even admirable choice. They are not too old to learn. God, in his wisdom, puts each of us in a given place for a reason. One of my students had a beloved grandmother who decided to forgo further medical treatments for her chronic disease. My student was struggling to accept this decision. I knew this student was Catholic so I offered her a book by Archbishop Gomez on end of life decisions. She was very grateful and shared it with her family.

What I try to convey to my students is that wherever they are in their time of life, they have an individual calling. Their life is a gift and the way to show their gratitude for this gift is by living every minute of life for God's glory.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not with my tax dollars

Plenty has been written about NPR firing Juan Williams because he admitted that he gets nervous when he sees Muslims on airplanes. There is a lot that Juan Williams says that I disagree with. However, he is entitled to his opinion. If NPR was even handed and fired those who denigrated Christians, Republicans, and members of the Tea Party, this incident would not have caused a ripple. However, looking at the history of NPR and its continuous descent into a biased mouthpiece for the liberal Left, this incident is news. In an internal memo sent on behalf of NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller, NPR policy is stated to be:

“In appearing on TV or other media . . . NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows . . . that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.”
More fundamentally, “In appearing on TV or other media including electronic
Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

Unfortunately, Juan’s comments on Fox violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.

Of course the many offended consist primarily of Council for American-Islamic Relations--and George Soros who just gave NPR $1.8 million dollars to pay for shills reporters. Can anyone think of a time when NPR fired someone because Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was offended?

NPR claims Juan Williams was fired because he portrayed Muslims in a negative light. This essay calls into question whether Juan Williams is really the problem:

Those defending NPR’s reactions say that Williams “smeared” Muslims and portrayed them in a bad light.


Does not a group of men hijacking planes and flying them into the World Trade Center killing over three thousand people in the name of Islam portray Islam in a bad light?


Does not men hijacking a plane to fly into the Pentagon in the name of Islam portray Islam in a bad light?


When individuals strap bombs onto their bodies and detonate in public thoroughfares, killing men, women, and precious innocent children, all in the name of Islam, does not that paint Islam in a bad light?


When men bomb the USS Cole in the name of Islam, does that not portray Islam in a bad light?


When a Chechen group terrorizes school children in Beslan in the name of Islam, does that not portray Islam in a bad light?


When men blow up discotheques in Malaysia in the name of Islam, does not that show Islam in a bad light?


When members of the CIA are murdered, in the greatest massacre in the organization’s history, by individuals in the name of Islam, does that not show Islam in a bad light?


When a man shoots up Ft. Hood in the name of Islam, does that not paint Islam in a bad light?


When men hijack a plane, the control of which is barely wrested away from them by brave American passengers before the plane crashes into a Pennsylvania field, leaving behind a scorch mark upon the earth for families to mourn – all in the name of Islam – does not that paint Islam in a negative light?


When the United Arab Emirates passes a law stating that it’s not domestic abuse to beat your wife just so long as she bears no bruises, that doesn’t paint Islam in a bad light?


When men are allowed to kill and abuse their wives, sisters, and young daughters for refusing marriage to much-older men chosen for them, that doesn’t paint Islam in a bad light?

The truth is that NPR did not fire Juan Williams because he compromised his credentials as an objective journalist. NPR fired Juan Williams because he compromised his credentials as a liberally biased journalist. Such bias is the right and privilege of both CNN and Fox News. It is not the right and privilege of a tax-payer funded entity like NPR.

Apparently the timing of this brouhaha is not good for public radio fund raising. The NPR internal memo closes with these words:

We’re profoundly sorry that this happened during fundraising week. Juan’s comments were made Monday night and we did not feel it would be responsible to delay this action.

This was a tough decision and we appreciate your support.

In reading articles and commentary about this issue I ran across this quote:

Give a bum a dollar and he will beg again tomorrow. Teach him to write a grant proposal and he will beg two weeks every year with the promise of free tote bags.

It is time to tighten our government fiscal belts. If NPR insists on being a mouthpiece for only one point of view, it does not deserve our taxpayer dollars.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Epitome of Joy

This is just too beautiful not to share. Watch it all and enjoy! (H/T Anchoress)


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Choices

My husband and I are approaching a new phase in our life. Our youngest will be graduating from high school in less than two years. My husband will soon complete thirty years of service as an Air Force officer and will have to make a change. I am still trying to figure out what I do next. The good news is that the years have brought a little more than strands of gray hair and a few extra lines on my forehead. When I was in my twenties, I was busy figuring out what I wanted to do. Now I am more focused on trying to figure out what God wants me to do.

There are so many ideas that I wish I had grasped sooner. The concept of a vocation is one of them. Marriage is a calling from God. It requires generous acquiescence to His will. We can think about what we want, what we hope for, and what we think should happen. In the end, however, the only desires that matter are God's. That doesn't mean I am supposed to sit by passively and let life happen because it is God's will. I am called to cooperate with him.

The Church teachings on marriage and sexuality leave some Catholics grumbling. "How dare the Church stick its nose into my bedroom!" Yet Church teachings are not an obstacle to our happiness. Rather they are a path to authentic joy. A focus on earthly pleasure is short sighted. St. Paul exhorts us to keep our eyes on the prize and that prize is eternal union with God.

If we really believe that our marriage is a vocation, a calling from God, then doesn't it make sense to open ourselves to his gift of life? Recently I read a blogging mother who wrote about being told that she could not be the mother she wanted to be with so many children. Her response was, "That is true, but I can be the mother God wants me to be." (I apologize for not being able to give credit to the source of this wisdom. If anyone knows who said it, please let me know.) There are definitely times when it seems better not to conceive a child. However, these should be the exceptional times in a marriage, not the rule. The decision to take into a account a woman's fertility cycles to space children should be a prayerful decision. I have written about this in much more detail here.

An even more delicate subject comes with the issue of infertility. A couple wants to generously give themselves to the vocation of parenthood. They truly believe they would make great parents and they may be right. However, the ends cannot justify immoral means. It is a defiance of God's will to engage in an immoral act to satisfy our own personal desires. In vitro fertilization (IVF) creates human persons outside the marital act. From an ethical perspective, it turns human persons into commodities. Thousands upon thousands of embryos are manufactured for the fertility industry. They are sorted, catalogued, frozen, and distributed for a fee. If they are found to be "defective", they are destroyed. IVF replaces rather than assists the marital act in the conception of a child making it an immoral act. This is not meant to minimize the suffering of those who experience infertility. It truly is a cross to bear. Sickness, suffering and death have been part of the human experience since the time of Original Sin. The challenge is to carry our crosses joined with Christ's suffering. NaPro technology offers a morally licit evaluation and treatment of infertility. Biological parenthood is not the only option to be a parent. There are many children who need the generous gift of adoption. The specific vocational path for any given individual requires prayer and discernment. It should be clear, however, that God's path will not include an option that demeans the dignity of any human person created in His image.

Seeking God's will in all we do, from the smallest decisions to the most life-changing decisions, should be the rule for each of us. I suppose it is the gift of being "of a certain age" that allows me the perspective to see that when I am faithful to this practice, there is true peace with my choice. When I ignore God's will I find myself mired in chaos. Regardless of the mistakes and bad choices I have made in the past, I can go forward in concert with my true vocation in the future. I really like this quote from Santiago Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel: “There is no saint without a past, nor sinner without a future”.

Thanks be to God for His enduring mercy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."--Mother Teresa

The current election cycle is reaching its frenetic finish and the invectives are spewing. I have some pretty strong political opinions that I am not afraid to share. However, I am not going to persuade with hate and venom. When speaking and writing to those who agree with me, it is very easy to slip into a mode that demeans and dehumanizes the opposition. This may rally the troops but it does nothing to bring reconciliation between opposing sides. Speaking to the opposition with such disdain only increases the alienation. Conversion requires a change of heart and when speaking to the heart, one must speak with love.

That is why I loved this article in the Arlington Catholic Herald. Two parishes organized an entry in the annual community fall parade. The walkers were marching in support of a local crisis pregnancy center. There were no signs with bloody aborted fetuses. There were signs that offered love and support to pregnant women. A young girl who had been adopted carried a sign that said "Thank you, Birth Mother". I am sure every walker opposed abortion. However, their message was that they embraced life.

I am not advocating that we sanitize or whitewash the horror of abortion. We must speak plainly about the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death. However, if our goal is to bring others to this conviction, we must show this by respecting the dignity of our opposition. I fully agree with Fr. Frank Pavone when in yesterday's Washington Times he says there can be no truce on abortion:

This tactic is akin to the pro-life and pro-abortion movements agreeing to disagree, an option often considered a reasonable one. It does not require that either side change its views, but simply agrees to allow the different views, and the practices that flow from them.
Sorry, but this is a proposal we in the pro-life movement can't accept. There can be no truce.

First of all, to ask us to "agree to disagree" about abortion is to ask us to change our position on it. Why do we disagree in the first place? When we oppose abortion, we disagree with the notion that it is even negotiable. We do not only claim that we cannot practice abortion, but that nobody can practice it, precisely because it violates the most fundamental human right, the right to life. To "agree to disagree" means that we no longer see abortion for what it is - a violation of a right so fundamental that disagreement cannot be allowed to tamper with it.
To "agree to disagree" is to foster the notion that the baby is a baby only if the mother thinks it is, that the child has value only if the mother says it does and that we have responsibility only for those we choose to have responsibility for.


Fr. Pavone is exactly right. We can never abandon or sacrifice the most vulnerable among us out of political expediency. We need to hold a firm line when seeking legislative protection of the unborn. However, when we are speaking to young women who are scared and who have been promised an easy road to happiness by those who advocate for sexual activity without limits or consequences because of the easy access to contraception and abortion, we must offer kindness and compassion with the truth. There is no question that Planned Parenthood and its minions have willfully lied to generations of women about the fruits of unfettered sexual activity and the "easy solution" of abortion. We are justified in our anger at such institutionalized evil. However, that anger must not extend to the individuals who have been victimized by these lies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The next step in the journey


As I wrote back in June, my husband has lymphoma. No one ever calls this disease cured, but today we got the best news possible. After six cycles of chemotherapy, he is pronounced in complete remission. The roller coaster has paused if not ended. We have completed phase I. We could not have done this without the Grace of God and the countless prayers offered on my husband's behalf. So many of you have generously offered prayers. Know that all of you, whether I know your name or not, have been in my daily prayers. I learned early on in this challenge that we pray our way through situations, not out of them. This is no time for spiritual complacency. My husband and I will continue to pray for you. We are eternally in your debt.

This past weekend we had a first step in our return towards normalcy. Before, just as my husband began to recover from the effects of one chemotherapy cycle he would get zapped with the next cycle. This time there was no next cycle. While he is still feeling some of the residual side effects, he is closer to feeling like his old self than he has been in months. On Monday we took advantage of the beautiful fall weather and the federal holiday to drive to Maryland and walk the battlefield of Antietam. It is somewhat ironic that we would celebrate life by visiting the site of so much death, but it was a wonderful outing. I have never been much of a scholar of military history but found myself fascinated by the battle details when I could actually walk the ground and see the perspectives of the soldiers. I also found myself offering quite a few Hail Mary's for the repose of the souls of all who fell there. As a former military member and a current military wife and military mother, I know there are times when deadly military force must be brought to bear. It is evidence of our fallen human nature. It is always a sorrowful state. Military victory should not engender national triumphalism.

Now we go forward with our new reality. There will be periodic checks for the possible recurrence of cancer. But for now, my husband is a cancer survivor, not a cancer patient.

Blessed Father Seelos, thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us.

St. Therese of Lisieux, thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A little bit of catechetical ranting

Religious education classes have started all over the country. I know because this post with a catechist letter to parents has suddenly become my post popular post. It happens every fall. Once again, I too have started teaching a seventh grade class. This year looks like it will be a pretty good year. How do I know? I surveyed the class and all but two students said they go to Mass most Sundays. This is a change from last year when I only had two students in the entire class who said they attend Mass most Sundays. The young ladies are all fully clothed. Last year I was constantly having to ask the girls to put on their sweatshirts or jackets because they were revealing way too much skin. Also, unlike last year, none of my students declared themselves atheists on the first day of class--a declaration made to the priest who visited the classroom. Yes, this is definitely going to be a better year.

Teaching religious education can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. How on earth am I supposed to teach the faith in one hour per week over the course of the school year when the lessons are not reinforced at home? What I have realized, is that I am not supposed to do that. I am supposed to do what I can to supplement what the parents do and what the Grace of God provides. I do what I can to teach the basics, make the Faith relevant, and offer it all with love. Offering it with love does not mean watering down the Church teachings or seeking warm fuzzies. It does mean offering the Truth. I cannot judge the fate of anyone's soul, but I can faithfully pass on what has been revealed as the path to salvation.

Another perennial catechist's lament is that the CCD program is treated as the unwanted stepchild of the parish if the program shares facilities with a parish school. The school may hold its fund raisers but the bulk of the operating budget, facility maintenance, and tuition subsidies comes from the general parish funds. All of the parishioners support the school. Therefore, when I walk into the school and the Smart Boards are covered with drapes to keep those unwashed CCD students from benefitting from their use, the remotes for the televisions and DVD players are locked in the teacher's desks to keep the CCD classes from using them, and the chalk boards are covered with writing with big "DO NOT ERASE" messages leaving me little options for visual aids while teaching, I have to wonder if the parish school understands its purpose. The parish school educates only a small fraction of the students of the parish. Its purpose is to provide a wholly Catholic environment for education. While the school is expected to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic its raison d'être is to foster Catholicism. This is the same mission of the CCD program and the CCD program reaches many more children than the parish school. So why should a sliver of the parish youth population receive the bulk of parish resources while the primary education program of the parish youth receives the dregs? Truthfully, I am not sure that is how the resources of my current parish are divided, but if you speak to those affiliated with the school, that is how they feel it should be divided.

The parish school building should be a parish resource. School teachers should prepare their rooms to accommodate CCD on the nights religious education classes are held. CCD teachers should ensure the classroom is left ready for the school children arriving the next morning. We should be on the same team, not competitors. The children who attend CCD are no less part of the parish family than those who attend the parish school. We should not treat them and their families as "second class Catholics".

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"I already did"

This parenting thing is quite the adventure. Sometimes, you know with absolute certainty you are doing the right thing. Much of the time you are flying by the seat of your pants and praying that the Grace of God will fill in where you have been deficient. So it is cause for great rejoicing when there is some feedback to say you are doing a good job. A couple of days ago my sixteen-year-old son received a text message from a friend to say that he might not make it to the Scout meeting. His brother was in the emergency room. When my son told me of this development, I told him to text back that we would be praying for his friend's brother. "I already did," my son replied.