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 30, 2012

What's Missing

This image showed up on my Facebook news feed because a friend had left a comment on the site that posted it. There is really nothing objectionable in it so why does it feel like something is missing?

After pondering this for a bit I realized that what is missing is Christ. This is all about us--what we will do--what we will accomplish. Nowhere does it say we are dependent on God. Nowhere does it say He is in charge. Jesus is spoken of as an historical figure who said some good things, but nowhere does it mention our fallen nature and His great mercy and love. Where is Jesus in our current world? Nowhere does this mention the Cross.

My question is, other than the mention of a Bible verse, what makes this statement any different than the local Rotary club, or the Kiwanis or the Junior League or any other secular service organization? As Christians we are more than just a social service organization. Pope Benedict XVI addressed this difference in Deus Caritas Est:

The increase in diversified organizations engaged in meeting various human needs is ultimately due to the fact that the command of love of neighbour is inscribed by the Creator in man's very nature. It is also a result of the presence of Christianity in the world, since Christianity constantly revives and acts out this imperative, so often profoundly obscured in the course of time. The reform of paganism attempted by the emperor Julian the Apostate is only an initial example of this effect; here we see how the power of Christianity spread well beyond the frontiers of the Christian faith. For this reason, it is very important that the Church's charitable activity maintains all of its splendour and does not become just another form of social assistance.
Individuals who care for those in need must first be professionally competent: they should be properly trained in what to do and how to do it, and committed to continuing care. Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church's charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity. Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6).
A true Christian understands that "Love of neighbor" does not stand alone. It begins with "Love of God". 
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Christianity begins with understanding the Cross and Christ's total self-giving for our salvation.  St. James explained, faith without works is dead. But our good works alone are not enough. We are saved by God's grace. We can never equal his goodness. We stand in solidarity with all mankind as children of God. However, while we are called to love our neighbor, we are not called to tolerate and condone everything our neighbor does. Out of love and mercy, we must counsel sinners and instruct the ignorant. There is no love in allowing others to persist in sin. It is not judgmental to call what is good--"good" and what is evil --"evil".

So this statement about what it means to be a Progressive Christian sounds fine at first blush, it is actually quite deficient. One cannot be a Christian without Christ. Not just the historical Jesus with His words of wisdom--but the very real present Jesus who calls each of us to be more than just "good". He calls each of us to be holy. He calls each of us to be a saint.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Now that we are here...

RAnn made an important point in a comment on my previous post: We would not be in this mess with the HHS mandate if Catholics were by and large following Church teaching and not using contraception. It is similar to the point made my Emily Stimpson here and here, reinforced by Pia de Solenni here, addressed by Thomas Peters here, and finally Tom Crowe offers a summary of all the aspects of these viewpoints here.

I highly recommend you take the time to read all the links above, but in case you are hurried here is the executive summary:

It is all well and good that our bishops are speaking out forcefully against the HHS mandate. It is a true threat to religious liberty. At the same time, there is some real frustration because we are in this mess because our shepherds have not done a very good job for at least forty years and probably longer in  proclaiming the Gospel of life. Catholics know the Church does not approve of contraception, but how many understand the "why" of this prohibition? Not only have bishops and priest not given the reasoning for the Church's stand, but many have been poor shepherds and actually given tacit approval to the use of contraception, sterilization, and other immoral actions. While the Obama administration bears the blame for initiating this assault on religious liberty, the Church leadership's failure at catechesis has enabled this crisis.

So this is where we are:  a new generation of bishops are ready to lead the charge against the assault on religious liberty. A small number of well-catechized Catholics appreciate the threat and are joining the battle. The vast majority of self-identified Catholics are oblivious to the issue. I don't refer to them as Catholics in the pew because a good many of them do not find a pew except on Christmas and Easter and maybe when "Grandmother" is in town. They are using contraception with no idea of the serious moral implications.

The answer to this dilemma begins where the answer to all dilemmas begins--with God. We begin in prayer. We ask for forgiveness for our failings. Perhaps one of the most relevant devotions for these times is the Divine Mercy chaplet where we pray repeatedly: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world". 

And then we act. One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is "to instruct the ignorant". There are a whole lot of ignorant Catholics out there. We need to teach by example first, and then as St. Francis admonished, use words if necessary. We also cannot ignore the political realities. In order to combat the evil around us we have to engage the political process. That means working tirelessly for candidates and legislation that embody true Catholic principles.

It is true that if the bishops, priests, and laity had embraced Humanae Vitae, the state of the Catholic Church would be very different. The reality is they didn't. So we are where we are. That doesn't mean we throw up our hands at the task and point fingers of blame.  It means that we trust in God and seek to be instruments for His plan.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Call to Battle!

As they say in the fighter pilot world: Fight's on!

On January 19, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of American bishops in Rome for their ad limina visits and gave them their marching orders. He let them know, in no uncertain terms, that America cannot rest on her laurels of religious freedom. The Church and all she represents are under assault in the United States:
[I]t is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.
Continue reading at HLI America

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who said anything about ignorance?

As I mentioned, my latest piece over at HLI America takes on the "experts" who think they know better than I do what my children need to know about sex and when they need to know it. As expected, the first commenter is outraged because she assumes I want to keep my children ignorant and in the dark about sexuality. I never said that. I said I will teach my children. Why does she assume that parents are incapable of providing essential information about sex to their children?  If anyone wants to wander over there and offer some support in the com box, I would appreciate it!

The "experts" want to tell your child about sex

If you, like most parents, are anxious about how to impart a healthy and moral view of sexuality to your children, a coalition of  ”experts” want to come to your rescue. They have decided what your children need to know about sex and when they need to know it.
The Journal of School Health published the special report, National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12. The purpose of these standards is to make a radical agenda normative for all public schools in the United States.
According to the “experts,” what should your child know? By the end of the second grade, your child needs to, “Identify different kinds of family structures,” which means that they not only want your child to know about traditional two-parent families, single-parent families, blended divorced families and gay-parent families, but they want them to see each of these as equally acceptable and good. In addition, by the end of the second grade your child should be able to, “Provide examples of how friends, family, media, society and culture influence ways in which boys and girls think they should act.” Notice how family is lumped in with the media, society and culture as just another source of influence to be critically evaluated – by children in the second grade.

Continue reading at HLI America

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Isn't she talented?

My aspiring architect daughter is letting her creative juices flow as she starts up her jewelry business. Take a look at her creations.

Robert McCartney gets all selectively sanctimonious

What did I tell you? As soon as people criticized the actions of Page Melton (now Page Ivie), the powers that be at the Washington Post came down on them, characterizing them as judgmental cowards. Columnist Robert McCartney goes on to say that those who object to a woman divorcing her disabled husband so she can marry another man and get on with her life are just out of touch with the American mainstream:
These writers have every right to voice their disapproval of Ivie’s actions on the grounds that their view of the marriage covenant is different from hers – and, given the national divorce rate, different from that of most Americans.  
 I agree with Mr. McCartney that hateful comments offer nothing to the discussion. No matter how much we disagree, we should always try to respond with charity. However, Robert McCartney has never uttered a peep over the hateful comments directed towards Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, clergy, Catholics in general, or any one else with whom he has ideological differences. No, it is only when the comments go over the top in criticism of one of his beloved liberals that he gets his feathers ruffled.

And surely Mr. McCartney isn't suggesting that because many Americans are choosing to solve their marital issue by getting a divorce, we shouldn't think getting a divorce is any big deal? Is that how he determines what is right and wrong? Once over fifty percent of people engage in a behavior it becomes morally acceptable and good? I can't imagine having to consult the polls every time I needed to make a moral decision. I will just continue to base my choices on the firm principles of natural law as taught by the Catholic Church, built on the Rock of Peter. The shifting sands of popular culture offer no foundation for building an ethical life.
Page Melton did what she did so that she could become Page Ivie. She can lay out all the justification for her actions that she wants. I will leave it to God to pass judgment. What I can say is that no matter how she wants to spin it she did not keep her vow to stay married to her husband in sickness and health until parted by death. Her first husband is very much alive and she is no longer legally married to him. So be honest. Don't sugar coat it. Admit what you did. You found being married to a man with brain damage was just too hard so you quit. You divorced him. You married someone else. You still look after your first husband. But you are no longer legally married to him.  If it is all so wonderful and noble, why try to paint it as something it is not?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All parents are homeschoolers!

I strayed from a strictly bioethics topic to write on parenting over at HLI America.

We are all homeschoolers. Some of us may seek more outside help to cover English literature, calculus or social studies, but the crucial education of our children in truth and virtue begins at home, and begins with parents. This means it is our responsibility to form our children in the principles of a culture of life.
That is a very high sounding ideal, but what are the practical nuts and bolts components of raising children of faith and virtue? First and foremost, parents can show their commitment to the dignity of every child when they are open to the gift of life and welcome each new family member as a manifestation of God’s love. Supporting a culture of life must be a family activity and can be accomplished through both corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Please read the whole thing here!

Marriage is for a lifetime

I have been struggling for four days to figure out how to write a post on this article without sounding harsh and judgmental. I have finally given up and will just have my say. The title of the article is:


A family learns the true meaning of the vow ‘in sickness and in health’


The thing is, I don’t think they learned the true meaning at all. The gist of the story is that at age 46, Robert Melton suffered a stroke and a heart attack. His brain suffered from lack of oxygen but he survived. He was conscious and conversant but had some mental disabilities. He had an incomplete memory of his family but did eventually remember his wife and daughters. He needed a very structured environment so he was placed in an assisted living facility. The family had a healthy and happy routine of visiting every Saturday, while Page also visited a few days during the week. Then Page reconnects with an old friend, Allan, who is getting divorced. They hit it off and develop a relationship. They even include Robert in the relationship by visiting him together. The next thing you know this old friend is proposing marriage and Page is accepting. Of course, there is this problem that she is still married to Robert. So she divorces Robert, marries Allan, moves the whole family to St. Louis, and moves Robert to a new assisted living center in St. Louis. He is part of their “blended family”.


I am sure it was devastating for Page to find, that as a relatively young woman, her life would not take the fairytale path of marriage, two kids, and happily-ever-after. But that disappointment does not justify her abandoning her marriage vows. She married Robert “in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live”. The vows do not say “in sickness—but not too sick”.


I feel for Page. I really do. But what does it say about our culture’s view of marriage when the Washington Post holds up this story as something noble and wonderful? Is marriage really so plastic that we can mold it into anything that gives us earthly pleasure?


This view is so selfish. Marriage is not about me, but about total self-giving of myself to my spouse. It is a vocation. It is a calling to serve God as a couple in whatever manner God has chosen for us. In sickness and in health. In times of wealth and times of poverty. During times of joy and during times of sadness.


Perhaps this story hit me so hard because I had the rug pulled out from under me over the last couple of years. My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. I have endured the physical pain, the chemotherapy, and the uncertainty with him ever since.  I’ve spent hours on my knees scrubbing the bathroom floor grout to keep our house as antiseptic as possible when the chemotherapy left him susceptible to infection. I have spent even more hours on my knees in prayer.


So I guess there is part of me that feels really angry that the Washington Post says my sacrifice is meaningless and totally unnecessary. I could just go find someone else who will give me an easier life as long as I remain kind and supportive to my current husband.  But I don’t serve the Washington Post. I serve God. This is not how I envisioned our retirement years. Yet this is what God has offered us. And I say “yes”. I say “fiat!” I say “Thy will be done.” That is the true meaning of "in sickness and in health."


Life isn’t always fair and bad things happen. But every challenge is an opportunity for virtue. It is an opportunity to grow in holiness. God did not make us for happiness on this earth. He made us for happiness in Heaven.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Intercession by Blessed Fr. Seelos

When my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010 I found that Blessed Fr. Seelos was a powerful intercessor. My husband was in terrible pain that was poorly controlled with medications. Before he even began the chemotherapy the pain seemingly miraculously subsided. There is no doubt in my mind that his relief was Divine intervention and was helped along by the intercessory prayer of Fr. Seelos. I have continued to ask for his prayers ever since and include him in my Litany of Saints after a Rosary. So I am very happy to see Blessed Fr. Seelos is credited with the recovery of a priest who suffered a fractured neck and was paralyzed.

An American priest who was paralysed from the chest down has started to walk again after praying to a 19th-century Blessed.
When Redemptorist Fr John Murray struck his head against a railing after tripping along a walkway 15 months ago, the consequences were devastating.
The Baltimore parish priest suffered a broken neck that left him immediately paralysed. Rushed to a hospital, he underwent emergency spinal cord surgery and later began rehabilitation.
Doctors said that Fr Murray, who was known across the east coast of America, for his preaching abilities, would almost certainly never walk again.
“When they said I’d never be able to move, they took away all hope,” Fr Murray told the Catholic Review, Baltimore archdiocese’s newspaper.
But on November 28 2010 Fr Murray did something everyone said was impossible. While living and undergoing rehabilitation at Stella Maris in Timonium, Maryland, he moved his left leg ever so slightly, lifting his foot off the ground.
“I was ecstatic,” Fr Murray said. “Here I was about six weeks after they told me I’d never move again and, lo and behold, I could move. Just the foot, but it kept going and going and going.”
Continue reading here.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Conscience Rights Affect Quality of Health Care

Did you know that the quality of care provided by doctors and nurses can be negatively impacted when they are forced to violate their moral or professional principles? Over at HLI America I cover a new study that suggests patients will suffer if conscience rights are not respected.

Are there significant consequences when doctors and nurses provide health care that violates their moral or professional principles? The APPROPRICUS study, results of which were reported in the December 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests that the inability of physicians to practice medicine in accord with their personal ethical standards leaves them professionally dissatisfied and clinically less effective. Specifically, the authors conclude:

Among a group of European and Israeli ICU clinicians, perceptions of inappropriate care were frequently reported and were inversely associated with factors indicating good teamwork.

Continue reading here