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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Last day to let HHS know you oppose contraceptive mandate!

Today is the last day for comments on the HHS mandated no-cost contraception insurance coverage. If you have not made your voice heard, please comment now!

Read this letter written by Keith Rothfus, a candidate for Congress from Pittsburgh. I thought it was so good I sent him a campaign donation. We need congressmen like him!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where I will be on Saturday

This Saturday, October 1, I will be giving a presentation entitled "Ten Questions on Health Care Ethics every Catholic Should be Able to Answer." The talk will follow the 9:00 am Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale. We will probably start around 9:45. If you are in Northern Virginia I would love to see you there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Would anyone notice?

Rob Vischer at Mirror of Justice expresses some concern over the expanding use of drones in military conflicts. He worries that if we are not putting troops in harm's way we will not be as judicious in our use of military force. That may be a reasonable theoretical concern. However, here is my response:

My husband just retired after 30 years of service to the Air Force and my oldest son is currently in the Army, stationed in Afghanistan.I spent much of today walking the halls of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Around every corner was a young man who was maimed from service in Iraq or Afghanistan. The number of amputees I saw brought me to tears. This sight is hidden from most Americans. I understand your concern that using drones might loosen the inhibitions against using military force. However, there is such a disconnect between the military and the general public as it is, that most Americans are only vaguely aware of the sacrifice of our armed forces in the current conflicts. I don't know that many would notice we are losing drones instead of soldiers.
Now I realize that many of you are part of a military family and know exactly what the cost of armed conflict is. I also know that many of you are unwavering in your support of the military. My comments are not directed at you.  Unfortunately, for way too many Americans, episodes of NCIS are as close as they come to the military. They are oblivious to what it means to serve in the military and to be part of a military family. There is a huge gulf between those who serve and those who don't. No one who is not in the military or a civilian supporting military operations is sacrificing for this war effort. The military is a fuzzy concept without a human face.

If you don't know anyone in the military, why don't you take a look at this. Put a name and face to our military. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for their sacrifice and another prayer for their continued safety.

The full story on HPV

The Washington Post ran  a very abbreviated version of my article opposing mandatory HPV vaccines. My full argument is up at the HLI website.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I would never consider my own kids as a persuasive argument for abortion!

This has got to be one of the saddest commentaries on motherhood I have seen in a long time. Carolyn Hax is a newspaper advice columnist. A woman writes to her because her 15-year-old niece is pregnant and the girl will not listen to her parents' advice and get an abortion. The woman suggests that she have her niece come live with her for a few months since she has three children under the age of six. Time spent in such a household would certainly open her niece's eyes and make her see the sensibility of abortion. Carolyn Hax responds that it should only take a couple of weeks. She advises the woman not to bring up the subject of abortion. Just let her daily life do the talking.

My first three children were born in under four years. My oldest was eight when the fourth child was born. As chaotic and exhausting as those years were, I would never consider our household to be a living statement for the wisdom of abortion. Pray for any woman who thinks a pregnant teen would see her life with children and opt for abortion.

Washington Post publishes my letter on HPV vaccination!

I sent the Washington Post  an op-ed article explaining why mandatory HPV vaccines are an intrusion on parental rights. HPV infection does not rise to the public health risk level needed to merit overriding parental authority. They truncated it to a Letter to the Editor and took out most of my medical information that justifies my position. But they did publish it and gave it a prominent place on the page. My full argument should be up on the HLI America website in the near future. I will keep you updated. In the meantime, feel free to visit the Post website and offer support if the liberals start taking pot shots.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thanks, but no thanks

I love nuns! I am overwhelmed when I think of how completely they have given themselves to Christ. I have a couple of orders on my monthly charity donations list. In my work with pro-life advocacy and bioethics I run into these holy women regularly. I often will send a donation to the order of a sister with whom I have just worked. Take a look at this post by the Anchoress. She has a beautiful round up of nun news.

However, not all orders have stayed true to their charism. That is why there now two groups of nuns in the United States. There are orders who belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). They have shunned tradition, are very concerned with feminism, fight the Magisterium, support women's ordination, and are often into New Age nature worship. These are also the orders with very few new vocations. Then you have the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.(CMSWR) They are faithful to the Magisterium, love the Church, and are supportive of tradition. These are the orders that are growing by leaps and bounds.

This week I received a solicitation for a charitable donation to the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Wisconsin. They sent me a lovely set of Christmas cards. Now I don't send money to everyone who offers me greeting cards or address labels. I went to their web site to see who these sisters are. Are they vintage 1970's feminists or are they true brides of Christ? Take a look for yourself and you will easily see the answer. What bothered me was they had no "corporate stand" on the sanctity of human life. In fact, they explicitly state that human life cannot be placed above "Earth" and the "Cosmos". Take a look at their "corporate stand" on the "web of life":

All of creation, from the initial creative event to the arrival of humans, is a single, interconnected and interdependent whole. Over billions of years hydrogen and helium unfurl the shimmering stars and galaxies, the basic elements emerge, and eventually our solar system and life unfold. Each aspect of the creative process is necessary and essential since each mode of being depends on the interactions and transformations that both precede and follow it. This web of relationships makes it impossible to rank or separate creation in a hierarchical or dualistic manner.

Perhaps even more disturbing is they avoid speaking of God and prefer to talk about the "Creator Spirit"

We believe we are to relate to Earth, to one another, and indeed to the Cosmos, in mutually sustaining ways and that all of our systems of learning, technology, healing, economics, governance, politics, and religion, including our Christian faith and Franciscan charism, must be in harmony with the basic ecology and laws of the Universe.
TODAY THE CREATOR SPIRIT STILL MOVES OVER THE EARTH WAITING TO ASSIST US . . .
In spite of their lovely and very traditional Christmas cards, I will be offering my charitable donation elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is it really all relative?

I post this for everyone, but most especially for my young adult children and friends. First read this. Pay attention to this passage:
Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”
Many were quick to talk about their moral feelings but hesitant to link these feelings to any broader thinking about a shared moral framework or obligation. As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”
Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism. Again, this doesn’t mean that America’s young people are immoral. Far from it. But, Smith and company emphasize, they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading. In this way, the study says more about adult America than youthful America.
  Then reflect on the words of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger just before he was elected Pope:

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Decades of evil. Decades of courage. Decades of prayer.

There is no way to write an adequate tribute or commentary on September 11, 2001. Yes, I remember where I was when I found out. My four children were at school. All I wanted to do was rush and pick them up and hold them close. Yet, I stayed put. I let them finish their school day. I knew our world had changed forever. However, after sending my husband to war nearly a decade earlier, I knew how important it was to keep as much of life's normal routines intact. I was first and foremost a military wife. I knew that my husband's military mission would not include directly fighting this fight. But I knew that someone's husband or wife, father or mother, would fight it. I fell to my knees and prayed. Countless decades of the Rosary passed through my fingers as I watched the fire, smoke, and devastation unfold on television.

What I could not anticipate is that on the tenth anniversary of this horrific evil, the soldier fighting the fight would be my son. My oldest is deployed to Afghanistan.  He was the little boy who was four-years-old when the combat started in Desert Storm. He sat and watched CNN with me and when he saw my tears start to fall, he marched to the television screen, pointed to the map of the Middle East, and said, "Look, Mom. Iraq invaded Kuwait. Daddy is doing his job. He is going to push Iraq back. He has to be there." Nothing like having your four-year-old show more courage than you do. So the tears stopped.  We still had family dinners, playtime, and weekly Mass. The Rosary was our constant prayer. We rejoiced when Daddy came home. My oldest son was a skinny high school kid when the Twin Towers fell. He knew the fight was continuing.Now he is a muscular full-grown man wearing body armor and carrying a weapon half way around the world. He still shows more courage than I could ever muster.

His wife now has my role. She guards the home fires and keeps their daughter happy and healthy. I do my best to support her because I have been in her shoes. I know my husband went to war hoping it would save his children from having to fight this battle. I am sure my son likewise hopes that his children never have to face the horror of war. What I have learned over these decades is there is no shortage of evil. What I pray is that with God's grace, there will be no shortage of courage. Perhaps even more importantly, may there be no shortage of wisdom. As the decades of my Rosary continue, may decades of peace follow.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Your new Pyrex is not like your old Pyrex!

In January 2011, Consumer Reports ran an article about the reported shattering of pyrex dishes while cooking. The Pyrex your mother used or you may have used years ago was made from borosilicate glass. This is the same kind of glass used in laboratory test tubes and flasks. Today's Pyrex is made of lime soda glass. The manufacturer says the lime soda glass is no more prone to shatter, but consumer complaints are rising. I have a pretty large collection of the new generation blue Pyrex baking dishes and bowls. I noted the article, but didn't pay that much attention to it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, my father-in-law used one of my Pyrex bowls to cook some canned beans. He cooked them on top of the stove, doctoring them up with a few spices. The bowl went from the stove to the table. We ate dinner then poured the left-overs into a plastic bowl for storage. Because he cooked the beans over a gas flame, there was some sauce that had adhered pretty firmly to the bottom of the Pyrex bowl. My mother-in-law put some soapy water in the bowl and set it on the counter to soak. Probably a good fifteen minutes later there was an explosion. The bowl shattered sending shards of glass everywhere.  We were stunned. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Coincidentally, two days later the latest issue of Consumer Reports arrived with a follow up on the Pyrex concerns. After their first article, the anecdotal reports of shattered Pyrex came rolling in. One woman reports that the glass shattered with enough force to sever her Achilles tendon when it was hit by a flying fragment. The incidents are most frequent when butter or oils are microwaved in the glassware. Delayed reactions like the one we experienced are common.

The manufacturer still claims that lime soda glass is as safe as borosilicate glass. I am not so sure. However, the Consumer Reports article did give four safety tips to reduce the risk of Pyrex glass shattering:
  1. Never place Pyrex directly on a burner or under a broiler
  2. Add liquid prior to cooking meats or vegetables
  3. Preheat oven
  4. Place hot glassware on a dry cloth pot holder. (Our bowl had been placed directly on a granite countertop. This seems to be a common factor in several of the shattering incidents. The granite may cause the glass to cool too rapidly.)
Just thought I would pass on this safety tip. I may be scouring the thrift shops for vintage Pyrex.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Use Words if Necessary

"Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary." 
(Often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)

A few days ago I wrote about fraternal correction. One of the comments asked for guidance about how to go about offering such correction. This offering from  Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula, HLI Interim President, offers a solid approach. The crux of the advice is in his last two paragraphs:

As we discuss how we can overcome this growing decay in our societies, the primary solution must be to return to a living faith. We have to live our Faith with total coherence; living by example is far stronger and more convincing than a flood of words. Living of the faith leads to a deep love of its saving truths, and moves us to share them with others.  

And as we share these truths: we must be certain that the Lord will be with us, and will give us all the graces that we need to fulfill our mission.
We teach most by our example. Great heroics make for inspiring stories that are told over and over.  However, more hearts are quietly softened and converted to the Gospel message by the demonstration of simple, faithful, living. Clothe yourself in your Catholic identity. Then remember, that once you have identified yourself as a Catholic, the Church will be judged by everything you do.

Charity in word and deed is paramount. Be a joyful Catholic. It is easy to wrap ourselves into knots over the moral decay so aptly described by Monsignor Barreiro-Carámbula. We cannot condone or ignore sin. We must be clear and forthright in promoting goodness. However, rather than relentlessly wailing about the sin around us, we should model the joy of virtue. Have you noticed how complicated and unhappy lives become when the straight and narrow way is abandoned for promises of a shortcut to happiness? Be living proof that the road to Heaven is challenging but filled with authentic happiness.

Be faithful in the little things. For example, make it to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. You don't need to make a show of it. Just do it. All four of my children played soccer. We never missed Mass for soccer games. We found Mass wherever we were or found a Mass time to fit the soccer schedule. Sometimes it meant driving a long distance. Sometimes it meant missing a team meal on Saturday night. 

A couple of years ago my husband and I were invited to an elegant ball. It was on a Friday during Lent. The meal choices were  steak, chicken, or vegetarian. The others at our table were intrigued when our vegetarian entrees arrived. "Oh, how long have you been vegetarians?" I think some were disappointed to learn that we were not an exotic progressive-minded couple. We were just faithful Catholics. Still, humble obedience to the disciplines of our faith was a form of evangelization. As it happened, there was another Catholic at our table. He expressed disappointment that he had not also kept the meatless Friday directive. I think he will next time.

We must not be afraid to lovingly offer fraternal correction. Live the faith always. If necessary, use words. 




Unintended consequences of artificial insemination

We medical students were for the most part broke. I was an economic vegetarian – I couldn’t afford to buy meat. The medical school faculty knew that there were always student subjects available to participate in their research studies as long as they offered money or free food. My arms still bear the needle marks of multiple vials of blood proffered for about ten dollars a pop. For $100, my roommate agreed to undergo bronchoscopy, which entailed inserting a tube through her nose all the way into her lungs so that the technician could collect cells from her deepest airways. Afterwards, she said it wasn’t worth it.

The male medical students, on the other hand, had it made. They were very desirable sperm donors: lots of women want to be able to say their child’s father was a doctor, even if they have never met him. I always wondered if in the future one of these men would look at every child who shared his physical features and wonder if this boy could be his son or that girl could be his daughter.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Faith in the face of persecution

 Psalm 3:

A psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.
How many are my foes, LORD!
How many rise against me!
How many say of me,
“There is no salvation for him in God."
But you, LORD, are a shield around me;
my glory, you keep my head high.
With my own voice I will call out to the LORD,
and he will answer me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and I fall asleep,
[and] I will wake up, for the LORD sustains me.
I do not fear, then, thousands of people
arrayed against me on every side.
Arise, LORD! Save me, my God!
For you strike the cheekbone of all my foes;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation is from the LORD!
May your blessing be upon your people!

Pope Benedict reflects on this powerful prayer in today's Wednesday audience:

Psalm 3 presents us "a supplication replete with faith and consolation. By praying this Psalm we share the sentiments of the Psalmist: a just but persecuted figure which would later be fulfilled in Jesus. In pain, danger and the bitterness of misunderstanding and offence, the words of this Psalm open our hearts to the comforting certainty of faith. God is always close, even in times of difficulty, problems and darkness. He listens, responds and saves.
  "However", the Pope added, "it is important to be able to recognise His presence and to accept His ways: like David during his humiliating flight from his son Absalom, like the persecuted righteous of the Book of Wisdom and, finally and fully, like the Lord Jesus on Golgotha. In the eyes of the unrighteous it appeared that God did not intervene and that His Son died, but for believers it was at that precise moment that true glory was manifested and definitive salvation achieved".
A quick look at today's news reveals the hostility Christians face in today's culture. The current health care reform efforts seek to marginalize faithfully Catholic health care. Any mention of God is being shut out of the public square, public schools, and the workplace. Relativism denies an objective truth and labels any such assertion evidence of bigotry. Yet, as we learned Sunday, we cannot stand by silently as our culture descends into sin. We must speak out for virtue--even when it aligns tens of thousands against us. For no earthly numbers can overcome God. We must test our faith and trust this to be true.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Fraternal Correction

8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life. (Ezekiel 33:8-9)

Pope Benedict reflected on fraternal correction in yesterday's Angelus address:

The text of the Gospel “tells us that brotherly love also involves a sense of mutual responsibility,” said the Pope, “so if my brother sins against me, I must use love towards him and, first of all, speak to him personally, pointing out that what he has said or done is not good.”
The Pope quoted the 4-5th century theologian, St. Augustine of Hippo, who said Christians cannot be indifferent to the “severe wound” a fellow believer may have inflicted upon themselves through sin.
However, St. Augustine also stressed that any subsequent fraternal correction has to be animated by love and not revenge insisting “you have to forget the hurt you have received, not the wound of your brother.”

Therein lies the challenge of fraternal correction. To admonish the sinner and to instruct the ignorant are spiritual works of mercy. In order to be merciful, they must be done with love. Fraternal correction is not a game of "gotcha" where we expose, judge, and condemn. Even Jesus promotes the leadership pearl of "praise in public, correct in private". We show our love by offering the sinner truth while never demeaning his dignity. We stand fast by our principles because to do otherwise would condone sin and lead others to sin. We offer correction with humility, fully aware that we ourselves are sinners and will need correction at times as well.

As Pope Benedict said:
All this indicates that there is a shared responsibility in the way of Christian life. Everyone, aware of their limitations and defects, is called to welcome fraternal correction and help others with this particular service.

If our fraternal correction is rejected, our response must still be one of love. We pray for the one who persists in sin. Once private correction fails, it may be necessary to publicly expose the sin to protect others from the same error. Church sanctions are not punishment. They are proclamations of the truth and a call to conversion. We cannot presume the authority to mete out God's justice. We can seek to imitate His mercy.

New study confirms abortion link to subsequent mental illness

Here is my latest piece at HLI America