Friday, December 31, 2010

"A teenager's simple act elevates all"

I think I'm going to start a collection of good-news stories about teenagers. Next time I hear an adult whine that teens are such horrible creatures, or that my job must be absolutely impossible because what teen would ever listen, I'm going to hand them the stack of good-news stories. And they aren't even a few isolated cases of goodness. There are wonderful teens with inspiring stories everywhere. We simply have to listen.

So, this good-news story comes from Boston. The Boston Globe article, "A teenager's simple act elevates all" relays the self-gift of Rudy Favard, a high school senior and co-captain of the football team. You have to read the whole story, but it starts like this:


"Everybody was waiting for Rudy.

On Tuesday night, Patty and Rick Parker were in their cramped kitchen with their 8-year-old son Ben. Dinner was over. Bedtime was near.

Ben’s twin brother, Sammy, lay on a cot in the narrow hallway just outside the kitchen. Unable to see or speak or control his limbs, he coughed or let out a little moan every now and then. Rick and Patty took turns feeding Sammy, who has cerebral palsy, through a stomach tube. He cooed when they kissed his face or stroked his cheek, and when they cooed back, he opened his mouth into a wide, joyful O.

A few feet away was the narrow, winding stairway that is the family’s biggest burden lately.

Which is where 17-year-old Rudy’s simple, life-changing act of kindness comes in."

So what does Rudy do? Continue the story here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Unwrap the Silence"

Before 2011 comes rolling in with lights, noisemakers, crazy hats and the sparkly, dropping Times Square ball, be sure to spend a few quiet minutes reading Elizabeth Scalia's, "For 2011: Unwrap the Silence." It is beautiful, peaceful, reflective reading. I leave you with a piece of it:

We have allowed silence to become a gift forgotten, one we only consent to
unwrap when all of our alternative bows and strings have been unraveled, and our
diversions have been utterly played out. Our inability to be silent puts our
minds and our souls at a disadvantage, because it robs us of the ability to
wonder, and if we are not wondering at the impossible perfection of the world in
its creation—if we are not wondering at spinning atoms and Incarnations—then we
are lost to humility, and to experiencing gratitude.

And, without gratitude, we cannot develop a reasoned capacity for joy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

10 "Good News" moments of 2010

Well, it's the end of the year, which always ushers in a flurry of "top 10" moments, reflections and lists. While we don't have to look very far for bad news (try the newspaper, Internet, movies, television and the general moral conscience of society), I would like to reflect on 10 wonderful pieces of good news from the past year, all related to Theology of the Body or Ruah Woods or the faith. And perhaps the even better news is that these "Top 10" barely scratch the surface.



10) The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II -- The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy was finally published by George Weigel. This second and final part of Weigel's biography of John Paul II was much anticipated. Having received it for Christmas, I am enjoying the portrait of the late Holy Father in the latter years of his life. It's so wonderful that on the third day of Christmas I was already half way through the 500+ page work.

9) In the fall, Ruah Woods hosted its first ever book discussion group. We had a wonderful time with nearly 20 young adults eager to engage in discussion over Edward Sri's Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II's Love and Responsibility. We had wonderful conversations about love vs. use, true friendships and relationships, modesty, "raising the bar," contraception and the gift of chastity.

8) Pope Benedict XVI's grace and humility in leading the Church, even amidst gross societal-wide misunderstandings. He dealt with many of those this year and yet continued to be an unwavering voice of truth. This year marked five years since the death of John Paul II and thus five years (and counting) of the pontificate of his successor.

7) It is always a gift to teach Theology of the Body for Teens. This year Courtney Brown and I taught 68 teens the program (including IHM youth ministry's fall retreat). As always we walked away blessed from meeting them. And they walked away with a renewed enthusiasm for their faith and a greater understanding of God's love for them. What a gift to watch teens say that TOB for Teens: "'is where the healing begins'. I can honestly tell you that after this class I have gained such a beautiful new respect for myself, for women, and ultimately for God and everyone." And, "I cannot thank God enough for loving me so that I was able to love myself and love others. In a way, I believe these classes were God’s way of calling me back to Him. Theology of the Body for Teens helped me when I thought no one could help me, and I appreciated all that Theology of the Body has done for me." You can read more testimonies and watch a brief video of teens and their parents at our Kenosis website.

6) The first Theology of the Body Congress in Philadelphia was amazing! It was such a gift to hear remarkable presentations by Fr. Brian Bransfield, Helen Alvare, Fr. Roger Landry, Michael Waldstein and others. There were friends from the TOB world at every corner and plenty of new people to meet. I walked away with 30+ pages of typed notes from the wonderful talks. And I'm not sure that I had ever really reflected on the fact that those engaged in TOB education and promotion now are among the front runners in the field.


5) How incredible to watch the Underground flood with people on Nov. 4 in order to hear Jason Evert's compelling chastity message! There were 500 teens, young adults and parents who crammed into the building. Yet despite the large crowd, one could have heard a pin drop during Jason's presentation and concluding Q&A session. His free materials were gone in minutes, as teens rushed to the table to receive miraculous medals, rosaries, chastity commitment cards and booklets. The lines to speak to Jason after the talk lasted for a couple of hours.



4) CREDO and Cast Your Nets were two local youth events that continued to draw large crowds in 2010. The numbers aren't even what's important -- who can ignore the enthusiasm of the teens who participate in these events? Then there's the student-led all-school Holy Hour at one local high school. Add to it the hundreds of local teens who head to the annual March for Life, and one has to have great hope for the future. It's no wonder John Paul II told the young, "For me, our meeting has been a deep and moving experience of your faith in Christ, and I make my own the words of Saint Paul: "I have great confidence in you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy" (2Cor 7,4). These are not words of empty praise. I am confident that you have grasped the scale of the challenge that lies before you, and that you will have the wisdom and courage to meet that challenge. So much depends on you."


3) The Human Person According to John Paul II by Fr. Brian Bransfield is the most remarkable presentation of John Paul II's thought I have read. The book was published this year and has received praise from many people looking to delve more deeply into the thought of the late Holy Father. Fr. Bransfield has a gift for simply expressing profound truths, connecting the dots and presenting a wealth of information in only 250 pages. The hundreds of footnotes point to the depth of research put into the work and yet Fr. Bransfield's pastoral heart make the work accessible.

2) On a personal note, 2010 was quite eventful. In May, there was graduation from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, DC. Only a couple of days later I was off to Italy, where I saw the Shroud of Turin and dozens of gorgeous churches. But the purpose of my visit was to give a week-long seminar about Theology of the Body in Chiampo. I was also blessed to present to a campus ministry group at the Angelicum in the room where John Paul II defended his doctoral dissertation. Last but not least, I found myself dubbed in Italian during TOB interviews taped for Tele Giovanni Paolo II. It was incredible to see the hunger for TOB in Italy, even though this is the country where the audiences were first delivered. And it was truly a gift to be able to speak to such wonderful people -- the first groups to whom I spoke after completing my Masters degree.



1) Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life began on Sep. 14, the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It has been extraordinary to watch the Holy Spirit work in the lives of the Kenosis teens in only three months time. They have eagerly attended meetings, looked for opportunities to share their faith with friends, surrendered their lives more completely to Christ during the first Kenosis retreat, and gathered strength in knowing they are not alone in building a culture of life and a civilization of love. They chose the patron and patroness of Kenosis -- St. Maximilian Kolbe and Bl. Chiara "Luce" Badano. And they can't wait to see what God has in store for 2011.

This just in: Chastity leads to better relationships

I love this!

From the UK-based "Telegraph" --

Psychologists found that couples who waited until after their wedding night
rated the stability of their relationships 22 per cent higher than those
whose physical relationships developed earlier.

Those who practised abstinence were also found to have 20 per cent increased levels of relationship satisfaction, 12 per cent better communication and 15 per cent improved "sexual quality".

Experts said that this may be due to improved communication
between individuals who were chaste before marriage.

More than 2,000 married couples were questioned as part of a study by the Brigham Young University's School of Family Life in Utah.

Prof Dean Busby, who carried out the study, said: "There's more to a relationship than sex, but we did find that those who waited longer were happier with the sexual aspect of their relationship. I think it's because they've learned to talk and have the skills to work with issues that come up."


It's rather amusing how shocked people are by this piece of info. Although at
the same time, how sad that a random news article -- one that easily could be
dismissed as biased or "too religious" -- would be the deciding factor in
someone's relationship choices.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Amazon's gift-destroying "genius"


The days after Christmas are always filled with jokes about Aunt Edna's gift of a tacky sweater or how to lie to one's cousin about what happened to last year's gift of a three-foot tall Greek statue. So, it wasn't much of a surprise to see an article about Amazon's role in the lives of disappointed gift-receivers. What was surprising was the content of the article.

Apparently:

"Amazon is working on a solution that could revolutionize digital gift buying. The online retailer has quietly patented a way for people to return gifts before they receive them, and the patent documents even mention poor Aunt Mildred. Amazon's innovation, not ready for this Christmas season, includes an option to "Convert all gifts from Aunt Mildred," the patent says. "For example, the user may specify such a rule because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than the user." In other words, the consumer could keep an online list of lousy gift-givers whose choices would be vetted before anything ships."
And:

"Most cleverly - or deviously, depending on your attitude toward this sort of manipulation - the gift giver will be none the wiser: "The user may also be provided with the option of sending a thank you note for the original gift," according to the patent, "even though the original gift is converted." (Alternatively, a recipient could choose to let the giver know he has exchanged the item for something else.)"

And all of this patented gift-returning is in the name of economics. Because shipping costs are so high these days.

So gifts aren't really gifts. They are economic exchanges that happen to fall around the 25th of December (the "holiday" time of the year). But the question is this: If the meaning of life itself is "gift" then how does the reduction of gift to economic exchange impact how I see my identity? If the way I define "gift" is getting or accumulating whatever it is I happen to want at this particular moment, then how does this impact whether or not I view Christmas itself as a gift?

A true gift requires a giver and a receiver. In Amazon's patented return world, the "giver" becomes oneself (mediated by a corporation), and the "receiver" becomes the same person as the "giver" (also mediated by a corporation). We aren't talking about true gifts anymore. We are fueling a culture of isolated, radically autonomous individuals who think true existence is self-sufficiency.

Whether or not Amazon's grand plan is ever officially unveiled, I think it's safe to say that the concept isn't foreign to how our society views the world today. So, thank you, Amazon, for leading us one step farther away from understanding who we are.

And, who are we, you ask? We were created by God an unique, unrepeatable persons ... a pure, complete, radical gift. Where there once was nothing, there is now something. And it's not just "something," but is you. You, as the "receiver" of the gift of yourself have the option of responding to the gift of your life with gratitude or rejecting the gift. And if you receive the gift of yourself, you are also called to give the gift of yourself in return -- returning your life in gratitude to God by serving others. This return of the gift is done irrevocably through marriage and religious life, which express through vows one's total self being "given."

I think I'm going to go enjoy the gift of coffee I received this Christmas now ...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pope Benedict's Christmas 2010

It's worth a few minutes to peruse Pope Benedict XVI's reflections on Christmas Eve. Here's a snippet just to get you started:

"Benedict XVI said that part of Christmas is 'simply joy at God’s closeness. We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts.'"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Quote book -- Merry Christmas!


"With the birth of Jesus, in the simplicity and poverty of Bethlehem, God gave back dignity to every human being's existence. He offered to all people the possibility to participate in his same divine life. May this immeasurable gift always find hearts ready to receive it!" -- John Paul II

Friday, December 24, 2010

Does the candy cane mean anything?


A high school student recently asked if there is any Christian symbolism to the candy cane. Some maintain that the red and white colors represent Christ as fully human and fully divine. (Therefore, three-colored candy canes would be heretical.) I also came across a lengthier description of the religious significance of the candy cane.

So if you receive a candy cane this Christmas, consider yourself reminded of the great gift of Christ's life and death for you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Oprah, then NPR


The Dominicans are enjoying opportunities to share their joy of religious life through radio and television. The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (Ann Arbor, MI) have appeared on Oprah twice. Now the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville, TN) had an appearance on NPR. You can read the article and listen to the show here. The article features great interviews with several sisters and some of their students in Nashville.

One quote: "I met the person for me. I've been known by him forever. And I've known him more or less throughout my life. And now I know that this is where I'm called to." -- Sr. Beatrice Clark, OP

Q's from HS series

Fr. Kyle Schnippel, always eager to reach the young people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, has launched a new feature on the Cincinnati Vocations website: Q's from the HS. Periodically, Fr. Kyle will answer questions submitted by high school students regarding priesthood and religious life. So far, he has covered "Why can't women be priests?" "Is it hard giving up women?" and "Do you get to 'hang out' with friends?"

I'm looking forward to reading future questions in the series.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love and Life in the Divine Plan conference


Where can you go to hear Janet Smith, Bradley Wilcox, Jennifer Roback Morse, and other marriage and family crusaders speak for $25? The Ruth Institute will sponsor the "Love and Life in the Divine Plan" conference at Aquinas College on Feb. 25-26, 2011. It sounds like a great event. Any maybe it's a little warmer in Nashville?

Learn more here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Update from the Vatican about condoms and HIV


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith just published a note to clarify Pope Benedict XVI's gravely misunderstood comments from Light of the World regarding the use of condoms by those infected with HIV. The statement is available here.

(On a total side note, I have to say that I still love this picture of Pope Benedict, which I took in 2006 in Rome. It seems a bit miraculous that I just held up my camera, while looking at him, and this was the result.)

When you think it can't get any worse ...

... you learn of a sperm bank for celebrity look-alikes. I'm doing research for a talk about designer babies and came across a link to the California clinic. You can scan through hundreds of celebrity names and choose which sports player, actor, singer, politician you want your little child to resemble. Then read the stats about the man in question and decide whether or not to proceed with your dream of having a child who might look like your Hollywood crush.

I feel like I might lose my lunch after scanning through the testimonials, "success" stories and donor profiles. Oh, and if celebrity look-alikes isn't your thing, there's also a "Beautiful People" sperm bank and a (now discontinued) genius sperm bank.

How is this not considered commodifying children?

Have you prayed for priests today?

We often don't think to keep priests in our prayers -- for the grace, courage and growth in holiness necessary to serve the Church. Fr. Rob Jack has given the Archdiocese a tremendous gift by assigning a priest (living or deceased) to each day of the month, affording us the opportunity to pray in a particular way for all of our local priests. You can view his site here.

St. Therese's Daily Prayer for Priests:

O Jesus,
I pray for your faithful and fervent priests;
for your unfaithful and tepid priests;
for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields.
for your tempted priests;
for your lonely and desolate priests;
For your young priests;
for your dying priests;
for the souls of your priests in Purgatory.
But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me:
the priest who baptized me;
the priests who absolved me from my sins;
the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion;
the priests who taught and instructed me;
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way
(especially …).
O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart,
and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity.
Amen

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas starts with Christ

It looks like Cincinnati Right to Life is busy. They have five billboards (like the image below) throughout Cincinnati. It's a great message to bring to the area.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mattie Stepanek

Although lengthy, this video is well worth the time! Mattie Stepanek spent his short 14 years sharing the love of God through poetry, speaking and incredible profundity. Through great suffering, he touched -- and continues to touch -- many lives, as will the peace and joy of his mother, Jeni.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Human Experience

Since "The Human Experience" first began its national screenings a few years ago, I have been eager to see the film. Last night I finally had the opportunity.

All I can say is, "Wow." There is something so simple and beautiful about the film's ability to encounter "ordinary" human persons across the globe, asking questions like, "What is the meaning of life?" Without being remotely "preachy," the film succeeds in portraying the beauty of every human life, the gift of living. Even in extreme situations of suffering -- those things we have been trained to say render life meaningless -- we see persons who know that to live is to be a gift.

What we see in the film is that every life has a purpose. It's a purpose and a meaning not grounded in what we do but in who we are. The words "image and likeness of God" are never uttered during the 90 minutes, but they are lived, intuited and experienced.

Life is not meant to be selfishly hoarded. Rather, we "cannot find ourselves except in a sincere gift of self" (Gaudium et Spes #24).

Listening to and entering into others' experiences has the power to transform our own perception of the world and our own future experiences. The way in which we encounter love informs our own way and ability to love others.

"The Human Experience" expresses all of this in cinematic grandeur, with scenes that communicate the beauty of life, the richness of history and the profundity of a smile. Perhaps it is best summed up in one of my favorite John Paul II quotes:
"Life is a talent (cf. Mt 25:14-30) entrusted to us so that we can transform it and increase it, making it a gift to others. No man is an iceberg drifting on the ocean of history. Each one of us belongs to a great family, in which he has his own place and his own role to play. Selfishness makes people deaf and dumb; love opens eyes and hearts, enabling people to make that original and irreplaceable contribution which, together with the thousands of deeds of so many brothers and sisters, often distant and unknown, converges to form the mosaic of charity which can change the tide of history."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Quote book


"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. ... There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity and the true way of all your loves upon earth." -- J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Update on Dan Crews

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Dan Crews, a quadriplegic in Antioch, IL. The blog post (and a corresponding article on Catholic Exchange and blog post on Reflections of a Paralytic) urge people to send encouraging words and letters to Dan.

Apparently they are. I accidentally came across this article today. Praise God, and keep the letters coming!

JPII handwriting?!


A friend just shared the amazing news that the "JP2 font" is now available! Yes, you can write like JPII now. Read more from Fr. Z here, and see the font (in all its $65 glory) here. It really does look like John Paul's handwriting!

The Twelve Days of a Large Family Christmas

As the oldest of ten children, I can relate to the comments of strangers presented in this fun video.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Bridalplasty"


Just when you think quite possibly you've heard it all, you come across an article about the new show, "Bridalplasty." Yes, that's right, it's time to mix reality television bridal shows and plastic surgery into one amazing opportunity for the winning bride to walk away with a "new and improved" body for her wedding day.

I suppose we are supposed to experience tremendous excitement that brides-to-be might have the unique opportunity for a surgical self-esteem boost. I mean, that's what their wedding is all about, right? Looking their artificial best.

In this interview, two of the show's creators discuss their enthusiasm about the show. Shanna Moakler says, "I work with girls – teens, and young women – and it’s such a personal choice and it’s something that I don’t think you can teach someone all the self-esteem in the world but if they have something that just bothers them they can’t get over it."
Her counterpart, Dr. Dubrow, adds, "You know, it would be nice to say what we should have to have self-confidence. But the truth is self-confidence is composed of a lot of different variables. And you may be amazing person, but always self-conscious about the bump on your nose and when you have that removed you are just a better version of yourself."

So, a better version of oneself involves a nip and tuck, a lipo and a nose job. Shanna Moakler, who says she would support her daughters getting plastic surgery when they are in their 20s, also explains that plastic surgery can change one's identity: "What was really amazing for me, as a woman, was seeing when you did do the procedures on them how it changed their whole identity. Meek girls all of a sudden had self-confidence and more personalities. They were just different women by the end of the journey."

When we identify ourselves externally -- by what we have, what clothing size we wear, what affirmation we are given -- then our identity is malleable. But that's not where our identity lies. Who we are is a gift from God -- created in love by God in order to love God and others. And somehow I don't see how a nose job can alter that identity.

The irony of the plastic surgery movement, which puts so much emphasis on the body, is that it actually disregards the body. The body becomes nothing more than an accessory -- an item, a thing, an object that we can do whatever we want to as long as it makes us "happy." The body is no longer seen as integral to my person.

Coupled with the backdrop of wedding preparations, "Bridalplasty" glaringly reminds us that our culture doesn't care about the body, and simultaneously doesn't understand the person. If beauty is "all about me," then I will never be happy. If I don't receive beauty as a gift from God to reflect His love, then I will never be satisfied. No amount of procedures will change my constant dissatisfaction.

And if our young brides-to-be are so concerned about their physical appearance matching their imaginary fantasies rather than allowing their God-given beauty to reflect God's love to their husband and to the world, then inevitably their understanding of marriage will begin to crumble as well.


Welcome to the Culture

Catholic Exchange has my latest article. Actually, it's a republished article, since it mysteriously disappeared when the site was redesigned a few months ago. In any event, it features a story and reflection I shared at the Kenosis retreat this weekend and at a Louisville Young Catholics event last night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Refreshing insights from a "teen"

I am so proud to know the author of this piece, a local senior in high school. Sebastian considers the modern notion of the "teenager" and issues a challenge to those working with teens:

"A person cannot grow if some one is telling them not to. Dumbing down subjects and trying to make everything “fun” and “teenish” is only making it worse. Instead of presenting a challenge to teens and trying to encourage them to grow, it’s just telling teens, “It’s okay to be rebellious and we embrace you as such and you can do what is fun and easy and we’ll take care of everything else.” If any one good thing has come from the development of “teen,” it’s that the “teen,” by nature, is constantly looking for adventure and a challenge. We’re done with mediocrity and simplicity and everything easy. We want something deep and challenging, yes, even things that require some work and effort."

It's well worth reading the entire post to hear a refreshing perspective of a teenager who is sick of being treated as an incapable child or as an individual who can't help but make poor decisions.

Ready for some good news? -- "Restore" retreat 2010

There is a plethora of negative news stories any time we turn on the TV or surf the Internet. After spending the weekend with 21 amazing teens and 6 incredible adult leaders on the first Kenosis retreat, "Restore," I figured now would be a great time to stop and reflect on some good news.
  • Watching teens from Eastside, Westside and Kentucky, public, private and home school, gathering together for a weekend, creating new friendships.
  • 21 teens in complete silence reflecting for 10 minutes on each talk with a printed meditation and reflection questions.
  • "Clock appointments" -- opportunities for the teens to spend 10 minutes in a one-on-one conversation to get to know each other.
  • Night prayer on Friday and Saturday night.
  • 1 priest for Saturday Mass, 1 priest for Sunday Mass, 4 priests for confession and 1 transitional deacon for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament -- all joyfully sacrificing their time to serve the teens.
  • 2 seminarians spending their entire Saturday at the retreat, serving as sacristans and servers, and interacting with the teens, as witnesses of men who are actively discerning and responding to God's call in their lives.
  • The amazing surprise of all of the men (teens and adults) serving the entire Saturday dinner. I don't know if I have ever seen so many glowing faces. The girls were glowing in appreciation of the gift, and even the guys were glowing in their acts of service. From leading girls to their chairs, pulling their chairs out, taking their orders, serving their food and taking the dishes, it was an honor to watch the joy and selflessness in the room.
  • Listening to the cook tell me how impressed she was by the group of teens.
  • Saturday night Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, with beautiful praise and worship music and opportunities for deeper prayer.
  • Everyone going to Confession.
  • Saturday night Talent Show. Oh, yes, this was a very talented group.
  • Together asking for Our Lady of Guadalupe's intercession for Kenosis on the date on which we usually celebrate her feast day.
  • Observing the mutual respect between the teens and the young adult small group leaders.
All in all, what a blessing! Thank you for all who prayed for the teens this weekend. It would not have been possible without you. Please continue to pray for the teens, that their experience during the retreat will bear fruit in God's perfect timing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prayers for Restore


This September, 12 high school students (graduates of Theology of the Body for Teens) met at Ruah Woods for the opening meeting of Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life. The teens have been meeting twice a month. This weekend, 20 teens will participate in the first Kenosis retreat, "Restore."
Please keep the teens and leaders in your prayers this weekend, as we go deeper in John Paul II's Theology of the Body, allowing God to restore our identity as sons and daughters of God.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Legal victories -- one step at a time

Yesterday's local pro-life world heard the news that a judge ruled that in a particular case, Planned Parenthood's doctor breached a legal duty of obtaining informed consent before performing an abortion on a 14 year old girl. The case has been brought to court because the 14 year old girl was pregnant by her 22 year old soccer coach. After the abortion that the coach sought, the girl continued to be abused. Legally, statutory rape must be reported to authorities by Planned Parenthood, pregnancy resource centers or any other agency.

Pro-life lawyer in the case, Brian Hurley, said, ""I think it's the first time ever Planned Parenthood has been in breach of that [informed consent] order."

The next stage of the case (which opened in 2005) goes to court in February.

Read more here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Solemnity!


It's the Feast of the Immaculate Conception today. In honor of the occasion, here is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI from last year's Immaculate Conception day Mass:

"Mary Immaculate helps us rediscover and defend what is inside people, because in her there is perfect transparency of soul and body. She is purity in person in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are fully coherent in her and with God’s will. Our Lady teaches us to open up to God’s action and to look at others as he does, starting with the heart, to look upon them with mercy, love, infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, scorned or exploited. '[W]here sins increased, grace overflows all the more.'"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's that time of year ...


... for Sacred Heart Radio's Advent pledge drive. This year the drive will take place throughout the day. I am privileged to be on the air at 5:30 pm with Teresa Tomeo for the fundraiser on Dec. 8, which also happens to be the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Cincinnati often forgets what a gift it is to have Catholic radio in our area. I encourage you to allow God to inspire you with how you can support Sacred Heart Radio tomorrow.

Advent = Waiting

This is incredible! "This" is a two minute video that eloquently contrasts our society's manner of preparing for Christmas with a Catholic vision of living Advent. Having just spent this weekend riding the Washington, DC metro system, many of the scenes strike a particular cord with me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Pill Hurts Women


I just returned from Washington, DC, where I attended HLI-America's conference, "50 Years of 'The Pill' in America." While I'm unpacking my thoughts from the conference, I'd encourage you to visit their newest project -- a website for women to share their experiences with the Pill. How has it harmed women in the past 50 years? Are women being warned of the risks? The new site will serve as a forum for women to tell their stories in the hopes of educating other women about the negative effects of the Pill.

"Revealing Love to Dan"

A slightly longer piece of mine about Dan Crews is on Catholic Exchange today. Check it out here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Quote book


"Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance: through its crystal the world should see God." -- St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Making Men Dispensable"

It's funny how random google searches can launch us onto other paths we were not expecting. Such was the case the other day when I found a paper by a fellow John Paul II Institute alumna, Elizabeth Pietropaoli, entitled, "Making Men Dispensable: Biotechnology, the Media, and the Fate of the Male."

If you have some time, I highly recommend perusing the article. Ms. Pietropaoli does a masterful job explaining today's quest for men to be either "metrosexual" or "hyper-masculine." In short, today's culture has sought to make men dispensable. What effect does that have on men, on women and on society at large? The paper articulates the current situation in an engaging manner, asking the reader to pause to consider what our societal pursuit of androgyny is really doing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What have you done for your marriage today?


As a contrast to the Huffington Post divorce page I mentioned the other day, check out the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' site, "For Your Marriage." With articles and tips for dating, engaged and married couples, there are plenty of resources to strengthen a marriage.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Confronting a will to die with a right to be loved


"I feel like I'm the only person in the country who does not have a way or an option to kill myself."

So said Dan Crews, a 27-year-old man in Antioch, IL, who became a quadriplegic at age 3 as a result of a car accident.

I read about Dan this afternoon. In articles here and here, his quest to die is described in a tone that seeks to elicit sympathy from the reader. But while sympathy for Dan's condition and situation is one thing, sympathy for him to die is another.

Even Dan's own mother is quoted in the Journal Sentinel article as saying, "I would rather the decision be his, and if he wants to (die), yes, I'll back him to the hilt; if he wants to stay, I'll back him to the hilt."

One can't help but think of John Paul II's words in the background of Dan's account of a life with, "No education prospects. No job prospects. I have no love prospects. All I want is to no longer live like this." In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II wrote, "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (#10).

And here is a tragic story that highlights the truth of John Paul's words. A young man with no friends, with a father away with his new wife, with a mother whose view of love is not willing the good of the other but of "whatever you want," with a television set to pass the time and a dwindling bank account to measure life's worth.

Even if he doesn't yet perceive it, Dan's life has immeasurable worth. He is not what he does, but who he is. And who he is, is a gift from God -- created by eternal Love. How can he come to see his life as a gift? To think of Dan's opportunities to offer his suffering for others, his time to write his own reflections, his possibility of interceding for the intentions of the world, his ability to be a witness to the dignity of all human life!

But how is Dan to know that his life is a gift if he does not encounter authentic love? So, here's the opportunity for the rest of us. Dan's address is publicly listed in the phone book. So we can send him an encouraging note, a Christmas card, a word of inspiration, a promise of prayer.

And perhaps Dan's life will be touched and transformed by the power of love. Maybe over time Dan will no longer mean what he was quoted as saying in one article, "Unless someone breaks into my house and kills me or there's a drive-by shooting where I live, I can't win this fight." Maybe this Advent and Christmas Dan can receive the gift of knowing that his life is a gift, not a moment of defeat.