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, June 20, 2011

Please stop whatever you are doing and pray

With my son deployed to Afghanistan it was very hard to read this article in yesterday's Washington Post. Then my son called from Afghanistan this morning. He sounded very tired. He had been at the helipad waiting to receive a delivery. Then a medivac helicopter arrived and a flag-draped body was off-loaded. He attended the memorial service for this soldier today. Right now, that soldier is everyone's son or brother. Please stop whatever you are doing and say a prayer, right now, for the repose of the soul of this soldier. Then say another prayer for all the men and women who are serving our country.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him . May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
St. Michael, pray for us
Our Lady of Victory pray for us

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why does Terry Pratchett want to die?

Several nights ago, BBC aired a documentary by the immensely popular author Terry Pratchett. This was not a romp through Discworld. No. This was a much darker journey. Terry Pratchett explored the world of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in "Choosing to Die". This is a very personal topic for Terry Pratchett. In 2007 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He has made no secret of his desire to have control of his own death. After his diagnosis was made public he said he would like to die in his, "own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the 'Brompton cocktail' some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death."

I have not seen the program. From media reports I gleaned that Pratchett went to the Swiss clinic Dignitas to explore using its assisted suicide services and followed the course of two British men who did the same. The death of one of the men, Peter Smedley, was captured on camera and the scene was included in the documentary. This graphic look at euthanasia and assisted suicide has provoked both horror and praise.

What drives a man who is in no pain at the moment to take a cup of poisoned tea in his hand and willingly gulp it down? I believe there are two factors. The first of these is pride. Mr. Smedley was a millionaire. He had made his fortune in the hotel industry. He was used to having others look to him for guidance. He had a degenerative neurological disease. There was going to come a time that he would be dependent on others for the most basic of needs. Similarly, Mr. Pratchett is a celebrated author. He created a world and everything in it. How can he allow his brilliant mind to wither into a lump of Silly Putty? The answer for both Mr. Pratchett and Mr. Smedley lies in the fact that allowing others to care for us when we are in need is actually an act of generosity and holy humility. Yes, it is humbling to have someone else bathe us and feed us. It is humbling to have someone see us when our hair is unkempt and our breath stinks. But in that humility, we allow others to be virtuous. We generously give others the opportunity to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, clothe the naked, and minister to the sick.

But do others want to be virtuous? When physician assisted suicide and euthanasia were being discussed in light of the Oregon assisted suicide law, it was directed mostly at cancer patients who had a grim prognosis. The reason these patients were looking at taking their own lives was that they feared being in pain. Once they were assured that they could be kept comfortable, most chose to continue living. The medical community realized they had not been adequately addressing pain. Suddenly pain assessment became part of every practice of medicine. This is the origin of the ubiquitous query about your level of pain on a scale of one to ten no matter why you are seeking medical care.

Just as these terminal cancer patients fear pain, those like Terry Pratchett who have a degenerative disease fear becoming a burden. Will anyone really take care of them? Will they be treated with kindness and compassion? Will they be laughed at or treated with dignity? If you wander through any nursing home you will see rooms of elderly souls who are mere shadows of their former selves. They seem warehoused and forgotten. In our self-gratifying culture, is it any wonder that self-sacrifice for the debilitated seems almost unthinkable? Just as the medical community realized their failure to assess and address pain contributed to the appeal of suicide and euthanasia, our culture must see that our failure to embrace the opportunity to lovingly care for the chronically ill and disabled breeds a fear of being ill and disabled that makes death look desirable.

The debilitated patient exercises humility and generosity when he allows himself to be cared for. The virtuous caregiver is generous and patient. Every challenge is an opportunity for virtue. Seeking death selfishly denies this expression of holiness.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Conservative and Liberal are not the right words

Much can be said about the Roxanne Martino fiasco at Notre Dame. For those who have not heard, The University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees elected Ms. Martino as a member. The Cardinal Newman Society then revealed that Ms. Martino had donated $25,000 to Emily's List, a PAC dedicated to electing pro-abortion women to congress. Fr. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, claimed that Ms. Martino is a strong supporter of all Catholic teachings and was unaware of the connection between Emily's List and the pro-abortion movement. Now there are two scenarios here. The first is that Fr. Jenkins is being less than truthful about what Ms. Martino knew and when she knew it. It is truly hard to believe that Ms. Martino could have been unaware of the purpose of Emily's List. Supporting abortion is not just a sideline cause. It is their raison d'etre! Of course, let us say that Fr. Jenkins is being completely truthful and Ms. Martino had no idea of the pro-abortion purpose of Emily's List. That means that the Notre Dame Board of Trustees is electing a woman who is conspicuously careless with large sums of money. Neither of these scenarios looks good for Notre Dame.

The Chicago Tribune now reports that Roxanne Martino has resigned from the Board of Trustees.

A Chicago business executive resigned Wednesday from the University of Notre Dame's board of trustees after a conservative Roman Catholic watchdog group reported that she donated thousands of dollars to an organization that says it is "dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women."

Roxanne Martino, a 1977 Notre Dame graduate and president and chief executive officer of Aurora Investment Management, a Chicago firm with more than $8 billion in investments, said she stepped down less than two months after her appointment in "the best interest of the university."

I do believe her resignation is in the best interest of the university. However, could we please dispense with the labels of "conservative" and "liberal" or "progressive" when referring to Catholics? This is not an issue of politics. This is an issue of being faithful to Church teachings or being unfaithful to Church teachings. Are you Catholic or not? Faithful Catholics are sinners. They often fall short of living up to the teachings of the Church. But they recognize the authority of Church teachings, acknowledge their sins and pray for God's grace that they sin no more. Unfaithful Catholics pick and choose among Church teachings, rationalize their deviance from Church teachings, and have no intention of repenting. The only authority they recognize is their own.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

To Err is Human...

Sometimes the fear of making a mistake or of failure can paralyze us. Inaction is preferable to imperfect action. Sometimes a mistake is just a coarse file that hones away our rough edges. Wrong decisions are part of the human condition. Redeem them by making them hard lessons on the road to holiness.

Life is simply time given to man to learn how to live. Mistakes are always part of learning. The real dignity of life consists in cultivating a fine attitude towards our own mistakes and those of others. It is the fine tolerance of a fine soul. Man becomes great, not through never making mistakes, but by profiting by those he does make; by being satisfied with a single rendition of a mistake, not encoring it into a continuous performance; by getting from it the honey of new, regenerating inspiration with no irritating sting of morbid regret; by building better to-day because of his poor yesterday; and by rising with renewed strength, finer purpose and freshened courage every time he falls.
Do read the entire piece linked above. It is definitely worth your time. (H/T Happy Catholic)

Counting Blessings

When your son is deployed to Afghanistan, you take your blessings where you find them. Of course, one of the greatest blessings of my son's current deployment is that my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter are spending so much time with us. This is time I treasure. Another blessing is that my son is on a Polish base. That means there is a chapel staffed with two priests. He attends Mass every week. It is in Polish, but the Polish American Liturgical Center was kind enough to send him a missal with English translations of the Polish Mass. The post chapel is named in honor of Divine Mercy. This is also very special since my mother was very attached to the devotion of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The Divine Mercy group that prays the Chaplet, the Rosary, and the Stations of the Cross at her parish every Friday is the fruit of her labor. So having my deployed son worship in a chapel dedicated to Divine Mercy so soon after my mother's death is somehow comforting. God is good.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

You might need a Catholic refresher course if...

The religious education office in our parish has worked very hard in the last few years to increase the adult education opportunities. It is still a struggle to convince many of our parish adults that they need religious education. I like the current approach. There is a full color page in the bulletin that begins with:

The office of Religious Education would like to ask you a few questions about the Faith:

  • What are the 7 Sacraments? What is a simple definition of each one?
  • Can you list the 10 order?
  • How often is a Catholic obliged to go to Mass? to receive Holy Communion? to go to the sacrament of penance?
  • What is the conscience?
  • Can you list the 20 mysteries of the rosary?
  • What is the role in the Church of the bishop? of the Pope?
  • In what areas of teaching can the Church not err?
  • What two conditions could keep a Catholic who is attending Mass from receiving Holy Communion?
  • What is the Immaculate Conception?
Missing any of the answers to these questions? Why not take one of our Adult Faith classes and grow in knowledge of our Faith?

I hope many of our adults see these questions and realize they have forgotten a few things since eighth grade confirmation classes or maybe they never learned them to begin with. Maybe they will be inspired to try a little Catholic refresher course. And then perhaps they will realize that there is always something new to learn about the Faith. Religious education is a lifelong endeavor.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Virtue: the habit of doing good

Yesterday was an extraordinarily trying and frustrating day. I worked very hard to prepare and be ready for it to run smoothly. Yet, no matter where I turned, there was a glitch in the system. I had all paperwork filled out and neatly organized for my son's camp physical. Yet when I went to pick him up from school I found that he had forgotten to carry his military ID so we had to return home and retrieve it. This resulted in an alternate route to the military base. Since we were short on time I decided to detour around the major construction projects. I trusted my GPS. This meant we followed a route that went straight through the middle of Washington D.C. and up Wisconsin Avenue to Bethesda. The GPS claimed we would be there in twenty-five minutes. I realized this route would take us an hour. I tried to call the clinic to alert them to my traffic woes. All phone calls were being routed to Walter Reed because of training. The recording said Bethesda would resume receiving calls at 13:30. It was 14:30 and there was still no way to reach a live person. I left a recording and pressed on. Fortunately, a doctor was still available to see my son. Unfortunately, this meant we left Bethesda and headed for home in the midst of rush hour. I was supposed to give a presentation on Catholic Social Teaching to the RCIA class. This was part of the post-Easter mystagogy to help those who just entered the Church continue their growth in understanding of Catholicism. I knew I would never make it home and back to church on time. I drove straight to the church and had my daughter bring my laptop and the cables I needed to connect to the parish AV system. As I am connecting, I realized I have no HDMI input on my cables. Another phone call to my daughter and she once again rescued me with the needed technical assistance. Then I waited for the class to arrive. And I waited. And I waited. The only people who showed up were the two lovely ladies who bring food for the class each week and one of the RCIA sponsors who thought his confirmand was going to be in attendance. I guess not wanting all my preparation to go to waste, they asked me to give the presentation anyway. Patience is a virtue and I must admit that by the time I arrived at home I was not feeling very virtuous. Is that bad?

When I was studying for certification in Catholic health care ethics, I attended a conference that addressed the issue of selling human organs. The ethicist explained that one of the reasons to object to this practice is that it removes an opportunity for virtue. He further asserted that even an atheist could accept this argument. Now there are many reasons to reject the concept of selling human organs. It exploits the poor and vulnerable. It demeans the human person by reducing the body to a collection of commodities. And I certainly agree that selling body parts does rob one of the opportunity to practice the virtue of generosity. However, I am not convinced that virtue in and of itself is universally seen as a desirable attribute. I listen to many pragmatists that argue results are what matter. If the supply of organs for transplant increases, why should we worry if the reason for the increase is the enhancement of wealth for the donor?

Fr. Araujo at Mirror of Justice
offers an eloquent discussion of virtue and its role in citizenship.

So what is it that is so important about the virtuous citizen? He or she treasures the freedom about which the President spoke, but this person also recognizes that the rights and claims that attend this freedom must surely be accompanied by a healthy understanding of responsibilities and obligations to all others who have the right to make and perfect the same claims.

The virtuous citizen, I suggest, would be cognizant of this. The virtuous citizen would know that what has made the rule of law established by the “alliance of shared values” so admired in many places throughout the world is the recognition of what is authentically just—to each person his or her due, and the further recollection of what is justice—right relationship between and among all members of the human family. The virtues of humility, prudence, courage, hope, fidelity, wisdom, and others make this recognition and recollection essential elements of human existence and the actions which ensue from this existence.

The President did speak of the importance of human dignity to the shared values and ideals. But this dignity must be founded not on what powerful and influential pressure groups say it is but rather on what right reason establishes it to be. Sometimes this conclusion is contrary to what the culture insists. Illustrations of this point are found in human history associated with these shared ideals. But, the examples of Thomas More and John Fisher quickly come to mind. As Jacques Maritain defined it in 1943, human dignity is that which is due the person simply because he or she is human. With this point about dignity in evidence, the virtuous citizen would acknowledge that the core of the shared values of which the President spoke must necessarily incorporate the non-derogable right to life and continued existence by every member of the human family if human dignity is to have substantive meaning; moreover, these values must come to the aid and protection of the fundamental unit of every human society, viz. the nuclear family.

Without recognition of these points, the shared values of which the President frequently mentioned can be negatively influenced by human whim and caprice as I have already stated. The circumstance where these values are compromised by human fancy would be the very sort of thing of which Blessed John Paul II taught can make a democracy a thinly disguised totalitarianism. The President appeared to acknowledge something about the beliefs of the virtuous citizen when he said, “It has been the values that we must never waver in defending around the world – the idea that all beings are endowed by our Creator with certain rights that cannot be denied.” The virtuous citizen knows from where his or her being originated and that he or she is not the only one who was so created.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines human virtue:

Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.
The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love. (CCC 1804)

Because they are habits, virtues must be practiced and strengthened by repeated use. They are difficult because of our fallen human nature. However, with God's grace, they are attainable.

It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.(CCC 1811)

Perhaps today it would be good to reflect on the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Perhaps I will also think about patience. It is far more important to say my walk through life was a virtuous journey than to say it was a materially successful venture. And truthfully, no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to guarantee a glitch-free day. So a little patience needs to be packed in my purse right next to my organizer.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit

Never leave your house without making the sign of the cross. It will be to you a staff and a weapon...Let this sign teach you that you are a soldier, ready to combat against the demons, and ready to fight for the crown of justice. Are you ignorant of what the cross has done? It has vanquished death, destroyed sin, emptied hell, dethroned Satan, and restored the universe. Would you then doubt its power?-St. Chrysostom