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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mark your calendar for Wednesdays with Pope Benedict

I have much to write about. It has been a busy two weeks. But before I cover anything else I must encourage you to make Pope Benedict's Wednesday general audience part of your Year of Faith commitment. Every Wednesday the Holy Father offers his teachings and reflections and they are not to be missed. Today he once again discussed the role of faith in the modern world:

"In our time", the Pope said, "we need a renewed education in the faith. Certainly this must include a knowledge of its truths and of the events of salvation, but above all it must arise from an authentic encounter with God in Jesus Christ".
"Today, along with many signs of goodness, a spiritual desert is spreading around us. ... Even the ideas of progress and well-being are revealing their shadows and, despite the great discoveries of science and progress of technology, mankind today does not seem to have become freer. ... Many forms of exploitation, violence and injustice persist. ... Moreover, there are growing numbers of people who seem disorientated and who, in their search to go beyond a purely horizontal vision of reality, are ready to believe everything and the opposite of everything. In this context, certain fundamental questions arise: ... What meaning does life have? Do men and women, we and coming generations, have a future? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?"
 Do read the whole thing. The Pope offers some challenging questions: Is my faith in God as solid as the faith I have in exact scientific calculations? And if I claim that it is, do I trust God or do I merely assent to his existence? Do I open myself to Providence, relinquish my control and let God take the wheel?

Pour your coffee and think about that. Then join Pope Benedict XVI every Wednesday for more great catechesis.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pilgrimage for Life and LIberty

Today the US Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsored a pilgrimage for life and liberty at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC and I was fortunate enough to go. It was amazing. First of all, the upper church was packed. This is a huge church and we were packed like sardines in the pews and there were people standing in the side aisles and in the many small chapels that line both sides of the church. There were even rows of chairs set up in the open area behind the last pews. The Shrine web site says the upper church seats 3500 and with all the chapels has a capacity of 6000. Bet you didn't see any news coverage of thousands of Catholics gathering to pray for life and liberty.

Archbishop Lori of Baltimore was the primary celebrant. He is the leader of the USCCB ad-hoc committee on religious liberty. He gave a rousing homily that resulted in a standing ovation when he was done. I normally do not like applause during Mass, but somehow his words needed an immediate response. Our faith is under attack. The secular culture is trying to push us into a closet so that our faith is unseen and unheard. But Christ calls us to proclaim the Gospel in every aspect of our lives. We do not hide.

Perhaps one of the most important things that Archbishop Lori pointed out is that the HHS mandate is not an isolated issue. It is a harbinger of things to come. He is very right. Obamacare has at least a thousand places where the wording is "The secretary shall decide...". There are already committees in place to decide who gets care and who does not; what care will be given and what will be withheld. First they make us pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization. Then they will forbid the provision of nutrition and hydration at the end of life. They can declare that everyone over some arbitrary age is ineligible for cancer treatment. There is already consideration of withholding anything more than palliative treatment for stroke victims over the age of 70. These are decisions that should be made on an individual basis at the bedside by a patient(or his surrogate) and his physician. They cannot be ethically made by bureaucrats in Washington. Yet that is exactly what Obamacare promotes.

Religious liberty will be attacked on more than the health care front. In Canada, an education minister has declared that Catholic schools cannot teach that abortion is wrong. Expect to see the same sort of thing here if we allow the radical secularists to control our government.

This pilgrimage marked the beginning of a Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty. Even if you could not attend the pilgrimage you can join in the prayer. Please offer a Rosary or other prayer every day for the next nine days for the intention of Life and Liberty. As the Gospel said today, with God, all things are possible.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Confessio and Caritas

Pope Benedict XVI offered an extemporaneous reflection on the Year of Faith at the Terce service for the Synod on the New Evangelization:
Because God shows Himself in the figure of Jesus, who is the Word, with a content which asks only to enter in us. The willingness to suffer also belongs to the Christian confession, said the Holy Father: Confessio carries within it the concept of martyrology, in the sense that it expresses the willingness to bear witness even up to the sacrifice of life. And it is this that guarantees our credibility. The Confessio should remain in heart and mouth. It must necessarily become public, because the faith carried within must be communicated to others, proclaimed, with the courage that derives from intelligence.
Because God, the Pope stated, is not only a spiritual essence. He enters in the life and senses of man. Thus in the Confessio the force of our senses is necessary, which are mutually penetrated in the symphony of God.
All of this presupposes Caritas, which is love that becomes ardor. According to the Pope, it is the flame that kindles others and becomes the fire of charity.
The Christian must not be tepid: this is the greatest danger. Going back to Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, the Pope explained that Fire, Spirit, is light, color, and force. God’s power is the power of transformation. Thus vigor creates the movement of Caritas, which becomes fundamental for Evangelization.
This is so wise. We must be unfailingly faithful. We cannot compromise our faith. But we must not be angry Catholics. We must always live our faith in love.

Marginalizing parents

This article in the Washington Post struck a nerve. A pediatrician writes of how he struggles to provide quality care to teenage girls but the mothers of these girls won't give him the privacy he needs to ask the tough questions about sex, drugs, abuse, and other sensitive issues. And then when information comes to light about a sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy, he cannot share this information with a parent unless the minor girl consents.

I empathize with his dilemma. In my years of practicing medicine I have faced many similar dilemmas. A mother brings her daughter in for what she thinks is the stomach flu. I run a pregnancy test and it comes out positive. The law says I cannot tell Mom this result unless her daughter gives me permission to do so. This right to privacy extends all the way down to twelve-year-olds.

I know why the law is there. Parents can be intimidating and in some cases there may be a risk for abuse. However, in the vast majority of cases, parents love their children and want only the best for them. They may be angry. They may be hurt. But they still love their kids. In fact, no one loves their children more. No one wants to help their children more. A daughter in a crisis pregnancy may be so afraid of the anger and disappointment that she cannot anticipate the love and support that will follow the initial shock. Is it right for the law to stand between a child and parent at a time when a child needs her parent more than ever?

In this article, the physician really does want to include parents in the management of a teenager's crisis pregnancy. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Some doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are on a mission to make sure their young female patients know that they can get birth control pills without their parents knowing. I have heard from many young women about how they have been badgered in the exam room by a health care provider who is anxious to help them get around what these zealots see as oppression of free sexual expression.  If these young women state they are virgins, the providers encourage them to feel free to explore their sexuality. Maybe if they don't have a boyfriend it is because they would prefer a girlfriend? It's all good! One nurse practitioner actually suggested to a young girl that she wear a bra that showed off her breasts more.

So as a parent, what do you do? Do you stay or do you go when the doctor asks for privacy? Here is what I did. Since our medical care was in military facilities, we were never able to establish a long term relationship with a health care provider. As a doctor, I know it is more comfortable to ask a young girl about sexual activity when her mother is not in the room. And it is a question that must be asked. So I gave them that privacy. But I also tried to prepare my daughter for this solo talk.  I told her that the doctor was going to ask her if she was sexually active. The doctor might offer her birth control pills. I explained that the doctor may be used to seeing young girls who engage in activities we have told her are wrong. He is taught not to judge the morality of his patients' actions so he is trying to offer any and all care she might need. He has no way of knowing how strong our relationship is so he might not be anxious to include me in the discussion of these sensitive matters. I also let her know that there was nothing she should ever feel she had to hide from me. Nothing would ever make me stop loving her.

My daughter had many of these one-on-one talks with health care providers over the years as she got her yearly sports physical. Some were innocuous. Some were obnoxious. I think having prepared her beforehand helped her to be ready to answer the questions honestly and not be surprised by the very blunt and sometimes embarrassing discussion.

Medical training focuses on getting the right information and providing the right treatment. When the parent is needed to get a history, doctors are happy to include them in the process. However, I know my training treated parents as an obstacle to care instead of as a partner in care as the children reached adolescence and on in to their teenage years. In most cases this is just wrong. Do we really have to assume parents are the enemy when in most cases they are our greatest ally? Is it right to marginalize all parents because occasionally there is a parent who cannot offer appropriate support to their child?

What has your experience been? As your children get older, do the health care providers assume you are a loving parent or do they treat you as if you are a problem for your child?

Friday, October 05, 2012

Forgiveness in this season of politics

Politics can be overwhelming. I am heavily invested in the upcoming election. I am passionate about the moral and spiritual consequences that await us on November 7 if the culture of death prevails. And unfortunately, those passions can get downright testy and uncharitable. So it is against this backdrop that I read Msgr. Charles Pope's discussion of forgiveness in Our Sunday Visitor. I continually struggle with forgiveness. People hurt me, hurt those I love, hurt the country I love, and hurt the Church I love. I take this very personally! Does forgiveness mean I am supposed to put all that aside and embrace them over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee? Not necessarily.

Msgr. Pope offers a more realistic view of forgiveness. It is a gift from God. It allows us to view the past without the anger, resentment, and desire for revenge that consumes us when we fail to forgive. Even that is not easy. But with the God's help and grace, it is doable. Forgiveness means I can think back on past hurts and feel sorrow. I can recognize the injustice. I can pray that the perpetrator of the offense will someday also recognize the harm he has done and repent. But his repentance is not a condition for my forgiveness.

Sin has consequences. Causing harm has consequences. I may never again be able to trust someone who has betrayed me. I may find it necessary to limit my time with someone in order to protect myself from future hurt. But I have to be honest. Am I doing this out of self-preservation or as a passive-aggressive way of punishing someone? No one should have to submit to abuse. But can I put up with a relative who offers nothing but a non-stop stream of criticism as an act of charity? Am I ready to accept an apology? Or am I really hoping that there is never a reconciliation so that I can continue to cling to my sense of righteous indignation and inflated sense of superiority? Oh, Lord, I am so glad I am not like that man!

Forgiveness means I acknowledge and regret the hurt but don't fantasize about revenge. I don't eagerly await their comeuppance. I don't rejoice in their humiliation or misfortune. I do not have to like those who have caused me pain, but I do have to love them as Christ loves them and as Christ love me--warts and all. It is a tall order and only possible with God's grace. But it is possible. And who knows? Maybe someday we actually will share that cup of coffee or glass of wine.