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

Monday, January 24, 2011

March for Life is about more than abortion

For the first time in several years I will not be marching in Washington with the National March for Life. Family issues require me to stay close to home today. But I will be there in prayer and spirit. Thirty-eight years have passed since the infamous Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision and fifty million innocent human beings have been killed. Some may quibble with my characterization of the unborn as innocent human beings. Certainly most of those who have been aborted do not resemble the quintessential Gerber baby. Our current president asserted that it was above his pay grade to decide when life begins. Supreme Court Justice Blackmun apparently concurred as Fr. Araujo at Mirror of Justice relates:

First of all as I reread the decision penned by Justice Blackmun, I realize that he did not, contrary to the opinion of others, answer the question he posed about the personhood and the humanity of the unborn. As lawyers, we know that the use of language is important to the position we argue and then seek to justify. In a manner of speaking, Justice Blackmun posed the question about the status of the unborn, but he dodged the bullet when the trigger was pulled when he said, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.” (Italics added)

In spite of the fact that there may not have been consensus in 1973, Justice Blackmun was in a position to answer the question then just as we are today. Consensus is not essential to answer any difficult issue. Facts and objective reason, on the other hand, are crucial to the task. And what do the facts state: that the fertilized ovum is a new human. On that point, it is worth reflecting that each one of us was in this precise state in the earliest moment of our human existence. While in our mother, we were not simply of our mother. We were us and no other. We were different. We were separate. We were human. We were new. Objective reason helps us to understand these facts and to comprehend their significance about the meaning of being human and being person.

I would like to add to Fr. Araujo's well written essay. I teach anatomy and physiology at a secular institution. There are no revealed truths in this class. As Sgt. Friday would say, we deal in "just the facts". However, these facts unwaveringly declare that the nascent life within the womb is a living human being. What is the definition of life? Science says six characteristics define life. The first is metabolism. The embryo, from the first moment of its conception, supports itself with a complex array of chemical reactions. That is the definition of metabolism. The second is growth. There is no question that the embryo grows both by the addition of new cells as well as the enlargement of existing cells. The third characteristic that distinguishes living from non-living is responsiveness. This is not necessarily a conscious responsiveness. Rather it refers to the organism's ability to detect changes in the environment and react to these changes. Fourthly, a living organism moves. Movement of the whole organism as well as movement of organ systems or even cellular structures qualifies as a sign of life. Differentiation is the fifth hallmark of life. A living begins with non-specific stem cells that differentiate into more complex and more specialized cells. Finally, life is capable of reproduction. Again this refers to both the reproduction of the entire organism as well as the reproduction of cells within the organism. Based on these widely accepted scientific principles, there is no argument that the newly conceived embryo is a living being. This new life carries out these six life-defining processes independently of his mother. His mother supports, but does not direct these functions. Now that science has established the newly conceived embryo is a living being, the question to be asked is "What kind of being is this new life?" The only answer is that the newly conceived embryo is a living human being. He has his own unique DNA that defines him as a unique human being. There can be no argument that the embryo is a fully alive human being from the moment of his conception. The crux of the argument concerning abortion is whether or not more powerful human beings have the right to declare less powerful human beings as unworthy of life.

On this disturbing anniversary I want to point out that as grotesque and horrific the acceptance of abortion is, it is not the root evil. Abortion is a symptom of a much deeper issue. Man has forgotten the reason for his existence. Like Adam in the Garden, he has chosen to make himself like God and become the arbiter of life and death. This arrogance of a false enlightenment has been emerging for years. A pivotal moment that precipitated this modern fall was the 1930 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion. At this gathering, the Anglicans became the first mainline Christian denomination to condone contraception within marriage. This changed the understanding of the marital relationship. No longer was sexual intimacy a partnership with God, open to new life. Rather, it was wholly human. It was stripped of its Divine purpose and became something banal and mundane. The attempt to separate the procreative aspects from the unitive aspects of sexual intimacy left a disordered view of sexuality in its wake. This is what prompted Pope Pius XI to issue his beautiful encyclical, Casti Connubii, on Christian Marriage on December 31, 1930. Similarly, the promulgation of oral contraceptive led Pope Paul VI to issue his prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae in 1969. Both men understood that when marriage became an avocation, a quest for earthly happiness, rather than a true vocation, a response to the calling of God, society would suffer. Contraception has allowed children to be viewed as commodities that are obtained at the whim of the parents for the benefit of the parents. Is it any wonder that this selfish perspective has degenerated from the prevention of pregnancies to the elimination of pregnancies?

Only when pregnancy and parenthood is viewed as wholly human and totally separate from God and His plan for salvation, can fifty million lives be quashed without protest. When some men believe they are wise enough to determine which lives are valuable and which lives are expendable the culture devolves into the oppression of the weak by the powerful. The classification of one life as unworthy leaves all lives vulnerable.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Prayers and Puppies

Hazzard & Athena

There is a void in my heart right now. It became unexpectedly obvious after taking my dogs to the vet yesterday. Many of you whom I know from Facebook know that my mother is desperately ill. She has had a chronic leukemia for about two years and had been responding well to an oral chemotherapy. Managing her leukemia was no different than managing her blood pressure. All of that changed the day after Christmas. We were blessed on that day to celebrate the baptism of my first grandchild, Trinity, at the parish my parents attend in Katy, TX. That night my mother ran a fever and a trip to the ER revealed a transformation from chronic leukemia to acute leukemia. Her condition steadily deteriorated with one organ system after another causing difficulties. She is now in the ICU at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The good news is that she has been stable for several days. A day with nothing new going wrong is a good day. She is still critically ill, intubated, and sedated. The doctors say that there is still every reason to believe that she can turn the corner and make a recovery--IF, a very big IF--nothing new goes wrong.

Her condition also means that she is no longer just a phone call away. Funny, interesting, or joyful moments in my life often prompt a quick phone call to Mom so that she can share them. Special prayer needs also prompt a call because no one prays like Mom prays. I have a special prayer need right now that I cannot share with her. It feels so strange to not have her as a prayer partner. Yesterday, I took our two dogs to the vet. Joining us in the waiting room was a 9-month-old puppy. A very large 9-month-old puppy. He weighed in at 118 pounds. The interaction of the dogs was a comedy. It was the smaller of my dogs, my 60-pound lab, who wanted to wrestle with the behemoth. My mother would enjoy hearing about such an encounter.

So I will light a candle and appeal to Our Blessed Mother, especially as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mary always seems most maternal under that title. She will pray with me. I might even tell her about the puppies.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Light out of Darkness

Trinity Hunnell

Nothing can darken my day when I have seen a picture like this.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Words of Comfort

From this morning's reading from the Magnificat:

Psalm 32

So let every good man pray to you
in time of need.
The floods of water may reach high
but him they shall not reach.
You are my hiding place, O Lord;
you save me from distress,
You surround me with cries of deliverance.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Vocation Awareness Week: More than just priests and consecrated religious

Today marks the beginning of the National Vocation Awareness Week. This week is dedicated to the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life. It is important that each of us pray for these religious vocations. However, it would be a mistake to think that only priests and consecrated religious have a vocation.

The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare which means called. God has called each of us to a particular vocation: priest, consecrated religious, married, or chaste single. If we want to promote religious vocations we need to promote all vocations. Consider question six from the Baltimore Catechism:

Question: Why did God make you?
Answer: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

The particular way each of us is called to serve God is our vocation. When we understand that the purpose of our lives is to serve God in the unique way He has designated for each of us, the consideration of the priesthood or consecrated religious is a logical step. When we view marriage as more than just a personal choice for own pleasure, but rather a calling to serve God joined to our spouse in a unique union, then we will orient our marriage and our family in God's service. Responding to God's call is an act of generosity. The primary motivation is total self-giving rather than self-interest.

The family as the domestic church is the first place children see this focus on living to serve God. A simple way to emphasize this is for parents to rephrase the common question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Instead, ask your children, "What do you think God wants you to be when you grow up?" Decisions about jobs, moves, or any other significant family event should first be considered with a family prayer. This way children can see that all family actions must be made in accordance with the call to serve God.

So while it is important for us to use this upcoming week to pray for all of our priests and consecrated religious, both present and future, it would be a mistake to think that these vocations can be considered in isolation. Strong religious vocations are the product of strong family vocations.