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 J├Ągerst├Ątter

Friday, November 11, 2016

Dear College Administrators...

The Message, Gerard Terborch, 1655

I teach at two different institutions of higher learning. One is a community college. One is a four-year university. Since the election of Donal Trump as President of the United States I have received no less than six emails from various college administrators offering comfort, resources, and advice to help staff and students alike cope with the election results. I am not alone. All across the country classes have been canceled, exams delayed, and grief counselors summoned to support the Millennials through this existential crisis. The University of Michigan handed out coloring books and Play-doh to assuage the angst.

Here's the thing. Four years ago, when Romney lost to Obama, there was not a peep of support. There were no emails assuring those who did not support Obama that they were still a valued part of the community. There were no declarations of inclusiveness. There was no acknowledgement that members of the school community were disappointed and worried about the future. 

To be fair, students who voted for Romney probably did not need this hand-holding. Students who vote for Republican candidates have no desire or expectation to be taken care of by the government. They consider themselves more self-sufficient. They see their candidate as a means to policy implementation but not their heart and soul. It is a much more rational and analytical approach. Their candidate loses and they move on. On the other hand, students who think the government has all the answers and will solve all their problems panic when they feel like the sustenance has been interrupted. Their celebrity-cult worship of their candidate is so emotional that when their candidate doesn't win, they respond like a jilted lover. 

Yet what message have college administrators sent with this over-the-top outreach to Hillary Clinton supporters? What am I, a Latina female who is very happy that Hillary Clinton is not the next president, a woman of faith who is frustrated and angered by the erosion of religious liberty under Obama, a parent and grandparent who is concerned about the infringement upon parental rights by the progressive agenda, and a physician who sees the focus on costs replacing the focus on patients in current health care policy, supposed to think?

Instead of all this tear dabbing and soothing whispers, why didn't college administrators offer a simple lesson in civics. This is how elections work. You don't always win. But our government is buoyed by checks and balances. We did not elect a king. We elected a president. He cannot unilaterally rule by fiat. If you are disappointed in the election results, stay engaged and make the next election different.

Instead, the school leaders validated unreasonable fears and reinforced the idea that this lost election is a catastrophe of monumental proportions. The disappointment Hillary Clinton supporters feel is much more significant than the disappointment of Romney supporters four years ago. It is not hard to figure out that the declarations of welcome, inclusivity, and support do not apply to staff and students like me. 

Dear College Administrators: message received.

UPDATE: Just in case I had not gotten the message, the director of admissions at George Mason University made it explicit.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Give Me that Old-Time Education!

Schoolteacher by Jan Steen, 1668

It is hard to believe that I have been teaching college students going on seven years now. This started out as an experiment when I was actually looking on Craigslist for a part time job for my son and stumbled across an ad for an adjunct professor position at the local community college. I started teaching one entry level anatomy and physiology course. Then I added the second semester course. Then I started teaching an entry level course at the local four year university. Then I added a 400-level anatomy and physiology course at the university.

So now my little part-time job that was going to ease me back into the workforce as my nest emptied has turned into nearly full time work and four college courses each semester. I really do love the teaching and love offering an intro to anatomy and physiology sprinkled with clinical correlations gleaned from my years of practicing medicine. It seems to be a good mix and for the most part, my students seem to be enjoying it.

Of course there is no pleasing everyone. I am trying to figure out what happened in 1990. The students born before 1990 have a very different outlook than those born after 1990. If you want to get a glimpse into today's college youth, take a look at some of the reviews on Rate My Professor. For example:


She will help a lot but unless you are really good at science, I don't recommend. She is a traditional instructor, expects your to really know the material and so is not big on extra credit. Attendance at labs is mandatory and doesn't tolerate lateness. Study guides/notes help but I found myself putting in lots of hours of study and work
Or:

Good professor but very much a traditional type of old style teacher. Straightforward about information and grades but does expect a fair amount of work; good, fairly interesting lectures. Mostly grades on exams and lab quizzes but gives some extra-credit. 
Or:

This class is TOUGH. It really requires you to constantly study, not many people in my class did great. Personally I felt as if I was teaching myself the entire time,.Don't get me wrong she can be very helpful but if you decide to take her you need to be sure her teaching method is right for you
(Not all of those reviews are from my Rate Your Professor entry.)

Student after student is surprised that a college course requires you to study outside of class. They are surprised when the grading requirements are firm and there is not automatically extra credit given to boost the grades at the end. They are surprised that failure is an option.

And what is this "traditional old-style" teacher label? Expecting students to know material for an exam is "old-school"?

As I said, most of my students are wonderful. But I am concerned that the number of students who have never experience the "old-fashioned" teaching style before is growing.




Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Spirit of Vatican II" and "I'm a Pope Francis Catholic"

Basilica of St. Peter, Engraving by Giovanni Piranesi  18th Century

I ran across this article that proposed five phrases that should be banished from the Catholic lexicon. Among the collection was  "Spirit of Vatican II". I am old enough to have lived through the liturgical turmoil that followed Vatican II so I do remember this phrase being used to justify all sorts of innovations that had no grounding whatsoever in the documents of Vatican II. However, I think currently when the phrase is used, it is done so in a pejorative way to condemn actions or ideology that are contrary to Catholic teaching. It now refers to an inappropriate twisting or erroneous interpretation of the work and documents of Vatican II. So, when it is used in that context, I am not so sure it needs to go away.

For many years I thought that if Vatican II had occurred in the internet age, all of the ridiculous liturgical and catechetical initiatives that were wrongly attributed to Vatican II could not have occurred. I was certain that all the incorrect assertions would be rapidly called out because the truth would be so readily available.  However, after the election of Pope Francis I have revised my opinion. Currently all sorts of incorrect statements about Church teaching are being attributed to Pope Francis and are flying around the internet at lightning speed. Since far too many people blindly read the latest 140-character twitter post or Facebook meme and accept it as Gospel truth, we are hearing that Pope Francis is changing the Church teachings on homosexuality, marriage, Communion, and abortion. Vice-Presidential candidate Tim Kaine claims he can support legalized abortion because he is a "Pope Francis" Catholic.

The truth is, Pope Francis has not changed a single Church teaching. He has not lessened the severity of a single sin. He has been steadfast in his support for marriage as the unique union of one man and one woman. However, he is more of a pastor than a teacher. His language is imprecise and lends itself to cherry picking phrases that when taken out of context can be construed incorrectly.

For example, take his "Who am I to judge" phrase that is quoted all over the place as a call to accept homosexual behavior. The phrase in context is:

That is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Mah! So much is written about the gay lobby.  I have yet to find anyone who can give me a Vatican identity card with “gay” [written on it]. They say they are there. I think that when you encounter a person like this, you must make a distinction between the fact of a person being gay from the fact of being a lobby, because lobbies, all are not good. That is bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a very beautiful way, but says, wait a moment, how do you say... it says, [that] these persons must not be marginalized for this, they must be integrated into society.”

He refers to the Catechism as giving the correct response to homosexuality. In other words, someone who suffers from same-sex attraction but seeks to live according to God's will must be supported and loved. All sinners must be welcomed into the field hospital of the Church. The Catholic Church does not shun anyone.  Nowhere has Pope Francis supported homosexual behavior or minimized its sinfulness.

As long as we have a large number of people willing to swallow anything agenda driven media outlets propose without questioning its authenticity and accuracy, we will have claims that the Church is changing and there is a new "spirit" leading the way.  There is no such thing as a "Vatican II" Catholic or a "Pope Francis" Catholic or even a "Pope John Paul II" or "Pope Benedict XVI" Catholic for that matter. There is only one, holy catholic, apostolic Church founded by Christ on the Rock of Peter. If you want to know what that means, do as Pope Francis suggests and pick up the Catechism.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

New Evangelists of Monthly


Time to head over to New Evangelists Monthly for an aggregation of some of the best Catholic writing over the last month. Enjoy!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Dear Susan B. Anthony, I am Sorry

Susan B. Anthony

Lovely Warren, Mayor of Rochester, New York is invoking the name of Susan B. Anthony in celebration of the nomination of Hillary Clinton for president. I do not think Susan B. Anthony would be pleased at all with this turn of events as I explain in my latest article up at the HLI Truth & Charity Forum.

Therefore, it is with great sadness that I must tell you that Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party, believes no child in the womb deserves protection from abortion at any point during the nine months of gestation. She idolizes Margaret Sanger, a racist and supporter of eugenics who pushed for the elimination of African-Americans through birth control and abortion because she considered them “human weeds”.
Head on over to the Truth & Charity Forum to read the whole article.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Standing Firm in Faith with Love

Joan of Arc by John Everett Millais.
St. Joan of Arc was martyred in Rouen France 1431, as was Fr. Jaques Hamel in 2016

If I look at myself, I realize that I do not fit into neat categories. I am Catholic. I unequivocally support the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. I tend to vote Republican and have what would be considered conservative principles. Yet, I oppose the death penalty. I drive a Prius. I am open to some regulation of gun sales for the sake of safety. I am not a caricature of any political ideology. And you know what--neither is anyone else.

Politicians may set themselves as icons of an ideology. Maybe they truly believe their own dogma. Maybe they are just seeking power. However, the ordinary unknown individuals who follow these standard bearers are far more complex than the sound bites and political rhetoric.

My latest article at Catholic Stand offers some thoughts about how easily we make instant generalizations about people we don't know. Making these broad brush assumptions is lazy. We can make judgments about actions. What is right and what is wrong is not determined by a majority vote but by an objective truth that transcends mere human whims and desires. But we cannot know a person's heart from afar. We have to listen to them. We have to get to know them. And we have to allow them to know us.

Two young men invaded the sacred space of a Catholic Church in Rouen, France and murdered an elderly priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, during Mass. They claimed to be doing it in allegiance to ISIS and to Islam. It would be easy to say that all Muslims are evil and some have done so. But that would be wrong. Those who justify violence and murder are evil. The local Muslims have refused to bury the  perpetrator of this atrocity because they do not want to "taint Islam" with such horror. Muslims in France as well as other parts of Europe attended memorial Masses to show solidarity with Catholics and to display their opposition to the terrorism of ISIS.

Do I think Muslims are in error in their theology? Yes, I do. Do I hope that they someday come to believe in Christ? Of course. But I am not going to lead them to Christ spewing hatred. All people, regardless of their ideology, are made in the likeness and image of God. For that reason alone they deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, compassion, and mercy. We are commanded, not asked, by God to love them.

The current political season looks to be the ugliest in my lifetime. It is tempting to withdraw and deal with the aftermath after the elections in November. However, nothing short of the moral standing of our country and culture hangs in the balance. It is an uphill battle to bring the light of truth out of the morass of evil that appears to be overwhelming our society. We have no choice but to accept the challenge and remain engaged.

We cannot abide evil and errors in order to get along. Tolerance of evil is not love. We must stand firm in faith. To admonish sinners and to instruct the ignorant are acts of mercy and we would be remiss in our Christian duty if we failed to do so. But it must always be done in charity. It must always be done with respect for the human dignity of those who disagree. Before engaging in such correction, stop and pray. Ask for patience, wisdom, generosity, and humility. The goal is to gain disciples for Christ, not to win political points. Let all know we are Christians by our authentic love.




Saturday, July 09, 2016

Make Your Own Metaphor


 Gardening can be a metaphor for so many things--faith, parenting, and life in general. I am not going to try and figure it out right now. I am just going to talk about gardening and you can apply it as you see fit.

I have about a dozen rose bushes around my house. Roses are the divas of my garden. At the moment, most of them are not blooming. I plead with them. I spray them. I feed them. They are so needy. Rose are So. Much. Work! Every now and then they tease me with with that wonderful color or that perfectly formed flower or that heavenly perfume. So I keep at it. I know their potential.



Hydrangeas, on the other hand come back every year and put on a glorious show with great big pompoms of color whether I pay attention to them or not.  I don't have to feed them, spray them, or do much of anything to them. Around the end of July, I trim them back so that they don't encroach on the grass so much. A few of these in a vase make a dramatic arrangement that lasts for days. It is an extravagant reward for so little effort.

Do not discount the value of annuals. I used to shun annuals because it seemed like such a waste to plant them every year. But I have grown to love a few baskets of bright color tucked in among the perennials. Sometimes I carefully pick out the contents of the baskets. But this year I picked up some ready made assortments from Walmart. I just plopped them in my hanging baskets and they took off with a lovely blend of color and textures. I know it is temporary. But it is still lovely. And it was easy. There is something to be said for flowers that do not make you their slave.


Then there is my wild side. We began in spring with daffodils that were followed by peonies and amsonia (star flowers).  Right now we are in the summer phase so my garden is this disordered mass of butterfly bushes, daisies, bee balm, and cone flowers. Mint grows wild everywhere. Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out what is a wanted plant and what is a weed. I have to let them abide in the garden together until the weeds declare themselves as such and I can pull them out. It is a never ending process. I have to stay vigilant because the weeds can crowd out the more desirable plants if I ignore them for just a few days

So like I said, gardening can be a lot like life whether I am talking about my faith life, family life, or professional life. Maybe that is why I garden.









                                                                           

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

On second thought...



I subscribe to two print newspapers and numerous online new sources. I have to do this for my writing work, but I also feel a need to stay alert to the happenings in the world. However, sometimes the news is just so bleak it is tough to get past the headlines. I bury myself in the sports section and the crossword. Well, today even the sports section was disappointing since Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud. I understand that he will not serve jail time and I know that even the prosecutor acknowledged that Messi was unaware of the illegal tax scheme but it is still disappointing. So that leaves me with the crossword.

I do the weekday crossword puzzle daily and it is a rare day when I do not complete it. Usually by the time I have finished my morning coffee and breakfast it is done. I always do the puzzle in ink. I was surprised when someone thought this was a sign of supreme confidence. Actually, it is that I hate using a pencil to write on newsprint. The Sunday puzzle is a different beast altogether. If I am going to attempt it, it is going to hang around all week as I pick it up and do a bit here and there.

Part of the reason I like crossword puzzles is that they force you to push past your first impression or first instinct. You have to take a second look and put the pieces together in a novel or unique way. That is the way I am thinking about the rest of the news. Currently, every level of government, from the local school board on up has betrayed what used to be universal ethical principles. So what does my second look tell me?

In the words of the psalmist:

Put no trust in princes,
in children of Adam powerless to save.
Who breathing his last, returns to the earth;
that day all his planning comes to nothing. (Ps 146:3-4)

The fact that the world has turned its back on goodness and truth and embraced evil and the lie of relativism does not mean that I have to follow suit. I can lament the hurried pace to Perdition that I see around me but I have the free will to choose otherwise. It is not an easy choice since I will be opposing many forces with worldly power. I may very well have to sacrifice my reputation and my livelihood and my freedom. Many around the world add to that the sacrifice of their lives. But that is not an excuse to join in the rejection of righteousness and justice. So my second look says the only thing that has changed is the ease with which I can live out the Gospel truth, not the imperative that I do so. In the words of St Paul:

10Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.11Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.12For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.13Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.14So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,15and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.16In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.17And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
(Eph 6:10-17)


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Removing Consequences--A Mistake for Education

Snow Effects, Giverny by Claude Monet, 1893


Fairfax County Public Schools have my dander up and I don't even have children attending their schools anymore. However, I do have their graduates in my college classes and the school system just made my job harder. They have instituted a new grading system that removes the requirements and incentives to study for tests and turn in homework. You can read the report of the changes here and I encourage you to do so. However, let me summarize the key changes:

1. If a student makes less than 80% on an exam they must be given the opportunity to take the test again. Failure to offer every student the opportunity to retake a test in order to exceed the 80% threshold means that no student can be awarded a grade of more than 80% on the exam.

2. No student will be given a zero for missed homework until he has been given multiple opportunities to complete the assignment and failed to do so. (In other words, deadlines are really just suggested completion dates)

3. Homework for practice can account for no more than 10% of a student's grade. This is a problem for STEM teachers. You learn science, math, and engineering by doing practice problems. Lots and lots of practice problems. Now all those practice problems can only account for 10% of your grade. Do you really think students are going to do those practice problems for fun when they know they have no impact on their final grade? I can tell you from personal experience that I used to not include homework assignments as graded material. However, once the homework started counting for 20% of the final grade, students completed it and actually learned the material better. Their test scores improved. Without the carrot of a significant grade credit, the students were not going to complete the practice questions.

Some of you may ask what good could possibly come from such a system. The stated purpose of this change is to separate performance on academic material from behavior.  In other words, the student's grade should only reflect his mastery of the material with no influence from less than desirable behavior.

My first response tends toward the snarky as I wonder how cold I will have to keep my college classroom to prevent all these special snowflakes from melting. But this is a real mistake on the part of the public school administrators and will cause great harm to the students so this needs to be opposed with reason.

First of all, education is more than the mastery of facts. This change to the grading system is meant to prevent failure by students who are capable of learning the material but whose behavior negatively impacts their grade. Yet behavior that prevents failure should be part of the lessons being taught by our schools. Principles that will be ignored with this new grading system will leave students totally unprepared for college and for life in general. For example:

1. Actions have consequences. Every choice has consequences. If a student chooses to skip class, ignore homework, go to a party or play video games instead of studying he is making a free choice that will have a negative impact on his learning. How are students going to see this impact when we tell them they are "too precious to fail" and we will jump through all kinds of hoops to make sure they do not feel the sting of failure. How are students going to gain a sense of personal responsibility and be held accountable for their choices?

2. Time management matters. As students get into middle school and high school they need to start being responsible for how they spend their time. A daily planner needs to be part of their school supplies and they need to learn how to keep track of their schedules and anticipate their workload. By removing the penalties for late assignments we are telling them that their time is their own and the teachers will accommodate their preferences. So feel free to go to the football game instead of writing your paper. Feel free to party on a school night and skip the homework. There is no reason to study for the exam since you will get a second chance if you blow it the first time. In fact, you are better off not studying for the exam since you can take it, find out exactly what is on the exam, and then retake it with targeted studying aimed at only the material that will be tested. This is the ultimate teaching-to-the-test scenario.

3. There are those with more authority than you. This system severely undermines the authority of the teachers. They set the curriculum and the schedule but now students can ignore the schedule and complete work if and when they feel like it. Students need to learn that those in authority set the agenda and they need to follow it. If a student needs to deviate from the schedule, then it is up to him to present his case for this exception to the teacher and request, not demand, an accommodation. The teacher is free to grant or deny the request. We are doing our students no favors by allowing them to ignore the schedules set by teachers.

Each semester I give my "How to succeed in Anatomy & Physiology" spiel on the first day of class. I warn students of the pitfalls of waiting until the night before the exam to study. I can see that I will now have to include an explanation for the freshmen that college is not high school. There are no do-overs for exams. Due dates are firm deadlines. Failure is an option.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Time is Treasure



Piazza San Marco, Bernardo Belloto c. 1737
I'll be honest. I think my time management skills have dropped off in the last few months. I just haven't been getting the right balance of  spiritual, physical, interpersonal, intellectual,  and professional time. My latest article up at Catholic Stand was written as a pep talk to myself. I hope you find it useful as well. Here is a snippet:

The Baltimore Catechism asks, “Why did God make me?” The response is, “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.” Perhaps this is a good place to start in taking a critical look at where we store our treasure of time. Does your use of time help you to know God, to love God, and to serve God?
Head on over to Catholic Stand and read the rest! Let me know what you think.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Thou Shall and Thou Shall Not

Sermon on the Mount, James Tissot, 1886-1896


The Gospel at this morning's Mass was the well known beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the recitation of the Beatitudes. (Mt 5:1-12) If you read a little farther you hear Christ say,

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill."
Christ did not negate the Ten Commandments. Instead he completed them. The Ten Commandments are written as a series of prohibitions: Thou shall not...  The Beatitudes give us the alternatives. Instead of doing the sins specified in the Ten Commandments, live according to Beatitudes.

Sometimes it is so easy to get tied up in the thou-shall-not's that we forget that giving up the vice does not leave us empty. Rather, it makes room for us to be filled by something even more wonderful.

Perhaps as we evangelize others, we would do better to focus on the thou-shall's instead of the thou-shall-not's. Emphasize what will be gained through virtue instead of what will be lost by giving up vice.

It is easy to grow angry as we watch our culture elevate and even celebrate sin. Certainly, we need to speak out. But sin will never bring true joy. The best rebuttal is to live a life of virtue with great gladness such that others seek the source of your happiness. And when they ask, you can respond with today's Psalm

My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.(Ps121)

Friday, June 03, 2016

Which is more important: the party or the guests?

The Village Wedding by George Hemming Mason, 1868


Here we are in the month of June and wedding season is upon us. As I began my daily constitutional of coffee and the crossword I ran across a Carolyn Hax advice column that addressed the issue of destination weddings. The questioner considered destination weddings incredibly narcissistic and was feeling pretty angry that a family member had chosen that option for her wedding. 

Ms. Hax gave a good response as far as it goes but I think she left out a very significant factor:

I realize this goes against human nature at the molecular level, but please consider not having an opinion at all.  
Instead: Are you able to go? Yes/No. Do you want to go on the given terms? Yes/No.  
And then either go or don’t go accordingly. If you can stop yourself there, without judging anybody, then you can emerge from this without emotionally downgrading someone you love or spending a nickel unwillingly spent.
This detached analysis is easy when it is a friend or acquaintance who is sending you the invitation to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on a trip to a destination not of your choosing. But when it is family, there are long-term consequences to be considered. It is not hard to imagine a sibling or parent accusing you of not really caring for the family if you don't accept the expense and move mountains to be at the wedding.

This sort of emotional blackmail is grossly unfair but that does not make it uncommon. There is no way to have a wedding without some terms. There is going to be a date. There is going to be a geographic location. There is going to be a venue. There will be conflicts with any of these that prevents a guest from going. Anything added on to these basic constraints will exclude even more attendees.

What I think Carolyn Hax should have pointed out is that the more conditions and terms a bride and groom put on their wedding, the more exclusive it becomes. The bride and groom are making a statement as to what they value: the wedding event or the guests. If they design their wedding to be so expensive that they cannot afford to have the entire family there they have indicated that the party is more important than family attendance. Making the affair a black-tie event will leave out those who have no interest in renting a tux or procuring an evening gown. Making the event a no-children gala will give parents pause as they determine whether attending this wedding is worth the price of a babysitter. And if the excluded children are family members, it speaks volumes as to how much the bride and groom value family relations.

I have attended weddings that were simple church ceremonies with the reception being a potluck dinner in the parish hall. I have attended a wedding where the bride and groom were married on horseback in a riding arena. I have attended weddings that were so elegant they could have been scripted right out of Hollywood. I can assure you, the joy and celebration of these weddings had no relationship to the amount of money that was spent on them. Every bride and groom is free to select the type of wedding and reception they want. I do not begrudge them their choice at all. They should just realize that their choices have consequences and send a message to their invited guests as well as to their uninvited friends and family regarding what they truly value.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Visitation


Today is the Feast of the Visitation. Mary had just received the news that she had been chosen to bear the Incarnation of God, the Word Made Flesh. She must have been bewildered yet her faith was so strong she gave her Fiat: May it be done according to your word!

Yet she spent little time dwelling on what she had just gotten herself into. Her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. With no hesitation she set aside her own circumstances and made haste to be by Elizabeth's side. Elizabeth was her kinswoman. Becoming the Mother of God was not going to keep her away.

In today's culture, it is hard enough to keep the nuclear family of Mom, Dad and children together much less extend it across generations. Yet our Domestic Church is meant to reach across the nuclear family lines to all whom God has placed in our family trees.

Recently, thanks to two college graduations (one undergraduate and one Masters degree) I was blessed to have a great many members of my family tree visiting at once. The ages spanned from 1 to 84. It was a raucous chaotic time. The house had not been so noisy in years and it was delightful. We laughed together. We played together. We ate together. We prayed together. Nothing made me happier than when we all went to Mass together.

While we adults love each other and enjoy spending time together, the spark of my three grandchildren made the visit magical. The aunt and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents were showered with that innocent, unconditional love of childhood. The children were enveloped in an equally beautiful love from all the adults. We were all better for having shared this special occasion with so many family members across four generations.

In our mobile society it is easy to grow distant from the relatives who are not in town. Perhaps this is a good feast day to reach out to an aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling, parent or grandparent who is out of sight. Mary did not let distance weaken her bond with Elizabeth. We should not let our family bonds wane even as distance grows.




Monday, May 30, 2016

What I really want to say

The Wedding Party--Henri Rousseau


Wedding season is upon us. I am so excited when I am invited to a Catholic wedding, especially when it is for two faithful Catholics. I also find Protestant weddings celebrated prayerfully a true joy. Secular weddings, on the other hand, leave me conflicted. I really do wish the bride and groom a lifetime of happiness, but they are starting out at a great disadvantage if they do not recognize that marriage is about so much more than "luv"! Here is what I really want to tell these couples:

Dear Bride and Groom,
I am sure you are thrilled with the grand affair you are planning to celebrate the legalization of your union. You have been living together for years so right now it is all about the party.
I really do hope you have years of health and happiness in front of you. I also pray that you someday recognize the true meaning of matrimony and see that it is so much more than a civil recognition of your mutual affection followed by an elaborate gala. 
However, at present you are asking guests to spend great quantities of money to celebrate the execution of a legal contract. Children are not welcome because they do not fit the ambience you are hoping to create. There will be no recognition of the transcendent nature of marriage nor will there be any acknowledgement that marriage is a vocation, a calling from God. It is your event and I respect your choice to keep it totally secular. 
I ask that you respect my choice to limit my participation. I really do wish you well but I am very uncomfortable pretending that this secular ritual is the same as the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Such a pretense is the reason marriage has been demeaned and degraded in our culture. I cannot in good conscience fully participate.
          I will keep you in my prayers.
Sincerely,
Your Invited Guest

Monday, February 08, 2016

The impoverished choice of abortion


I am back to publishing over at the HLI Truth and Charity forum! Head on over and read my latest article where I take on some of the euphemisms and rationalizations used to support abortion.

A snippet:

“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” This poignant quote by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta rang in my ears as I read Karen Hartman’s latest essay in the Washington Post. The piece was published on January 22, 2016, to correspond with the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion, Roe v. Wade. As thousands of pro-life advocates marched through Washington D.C. in spite of an impending blizzard the Washington Post offered its readers Ms. Hartman’s emotional defense of abortion, using her own abortion as justification.
Read my full response here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Intellect of Motherhood

Mother Playing with Child by Mary Cassat, 1899
What else do you do when you are cooped up due to a blizzard but read? I wish I could say I made a dent in my reading pile of books. I am afraid my reading was much more work related. This meant that I spent more time than usual perusing the New York Times. It was there that I found this essay by Carol Hay, an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the gender studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. In her piece entitled Girlfriend, Mother, Professor? Ms. Hay argues that cultural stereotypes of women hinders the work of female professors. She claims that students go from seeing a woman professor as a possible girlfriend when she is young to a stand-in for their mother as she matures.

I never taught college students during my younger years so I cannot speak to ever having been viewed as a girlfriend by students. However, the college students I teach now are very close in age to my own children, and yes, they do sometimes approach me as a mother. But I also respond as a mother because that is who I am. Their pencil breaks during an exam and they don't have a spare. They come to class with the sniffles and don't have a tissue. You know what? I have both and I gladly offer it to them with a reassuring smile. A professor who teaches the other section of my course is  a woman about my age and has experienced the same thing. We laugh about it. It doesn't make us less effective teachers. In fact it might just make us better teachers as students are less afraid to approach us with questions.

Perhaps because Ms. Hay is immersed in gender studies she is programmed to see any difference between men and women as a problem where I see it as a feature, not a bug. But she also has a very demeaning view of motherhood. This quote, in particular, ruffled my feathers:

If I were to serve as their mother, I’d have only compassion and unconditional acceptance to offer, not intellectual lessons.
It was then followed by this claim:

In our culture mothers dispense hugs, not pearls of wisdom, and when they do venture to have opinions we’re likelier than not to roll our eyes at them for being nags or scolds.

Really? That is what mothers do? Someone better tell my kids because that is not what they have seen. In fact, I don't know many children who have seen this. Hugs and pearls of wisdom are not mutually exclusive. Lots of smart women are mothers and very capable of dispensing both.

The tough love I meted out to my children prepared me to face a tearful student who forgot an assignment and tell her that I cannot let her make up the work. I will not bail her out. She must take personal responsibility for her academic performance. Ms. Hay laments that standing firm leads students to think of her as a shrew. So be it. I do not seek to be the best friend of my children nor the best friend of my students. The mature students appreciate this and respect me. The less mature students are not going to grow if I worry about how popular I am with them.

I will concede that a mother may exercise her authority differently than a father. But that does not mean she is any less authoritative or any less respected. Mothers are not meek. Mothers are not mentally bland. If Ms. Hay believes that having the aura of a mother is an obstacle to her being an effective professor, it is because she does not understand the intellect of motherhood.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

A Presidential Candidate a Catholic Can Love.

Politicians by Vladimir Makovsky, 1884

Gretchen Crowe is correct to assert in a January 3rd Our Sunday Visitor editorial that it is not easy to find a presidential candidate whom a Catholic can support without reservations. Catholic Christian values do not neatly fit into political categories like Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal. However, I must take issue with Ms. Crowe's response of a wish list for her ideal candidate.

The problem with her list is that she includes a variety of issues and does not indicate that they have varying merits and weights. In her assessment, climate change is equal to defending the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. She lumps concern for the poor in with sanctity of life issues and I wonder if she is implying that the only solution to poverty is more federal government intervention. More federal money and more federal debt is often a short-sighted approach with limited success. We have been waging a federal "war on poverty" since Lyndon Johnson was president and have very little to show for it. It is a lazy and apathetic approach to put the onus on government to solve all societal ills.

Rather than looking for a president who perfectly embodies Catholic ideals, I am looking for a president who is compatible with my living as a faithful Catholic. He or she must respect the dignity of every person, believe in religious liberty and the free exercise of religion as opposed to just freedom of worship and the freedom to have a private religion and value the contributions of religion to public life. In other words, I need a president who will stay out of the way and let Catholics be Catholic. Once I stop expecting every candidate to be Catholic and focus on who will abide my being Catholic, the choices become much easier.