Thursday, February 28, 2013

You can watch Pope Benedict's departure ...

live on Vatican TV.

Ciao, Papa

No one really knows how to respond to this.  In 3 hours and 45 minutes we will not have a pope.  We have one now, but we will not have one then.  We will have one again, but the timing is unknown to all of us.  After 2 pm ET if we go to Mass today, the time when the Holy Father is prayed for by name will not occur.  
Picture I took of the Holy Father in 2006, shortly before I touched his hands.

On our own we will be able to pray for the pope emeritus, but not for the "acting" pope.

When John Paul II died, echoing in hearts across the world the "Santo Subito!" that was chanted in St. Peter's Square, we were able to ask him for our prayers, believing he had gone to "the house of our Father" and was ready to intercede for us.

But when a pope resigns, walks into another building and disappears, to be immersed in prayer, we don't know how to respond.  He can pray for us.  In fact, he will pray for us.  But it's not the same as praying for his intercession.

And we can pray for him, should pray for him.  But it's not the same as praying for, "Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI."

Thank you, Holy Father, for serving us well during the past eight years.  Thank you for dedicating yourself to prayer for us and for the Church.  Thank you for modeling to us the humility and service of leadership.  Thank you for teaching us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Not his own

With the startling word of our Holy Father’s abdication, much has been said about his humility.  What sort of man holds the most prestigious religious position and then relinquishes it, ask the newspapers and the television reporters?

The answer is, a man who is not his own.

In 2011, I had the gift of attending my third World Youth Day.  In reality, World Youth Day would be more accurately named, “World Youth Week,” but the “Day” in its name refers to the 24 hour period that is meant to be the pinnacle of the experience for the young people.  There is a several-mile hike on Saturday afternoon, an overnight vigil and a papal Mass on Sunday morning.

In Madrid, Spain, the several-mile hike was done in scorching heat and unmitigated sunrays.  As we marched to the vigil site, kind Spaniards hung their showerheads from the bathroom window in order to give the weary pilgrims below a touch of water for momentary relief.

When we arrived at the massive field to set up makeshift sleeping bags for the overnight vigil still several hours away, we saw fire trucks letting powerful streams flow from their hoses, offering water to the people who needed something cool and refreshing.  We took our meal tickets to the proper tent and took the only cold item in the bag – some plastic-wrapped ham – and placed it to our faces.

It probably goes without saying that in the intense heat, with one million young people sitting as close as possible, that there were many prayers lifted up for relief.

God answered.

Just before Pope Benedict XVI arrived to begin the Eucharistic prayer vigil on Saturday night, the wind picked up, the sky darkened, ominous clouds raced in the sky.  As much as we wanted relief, we didn’t desire a storm.  We had come all this way to spend this night with the Holy Father.

But the storm began and the vigil stopped.  Pilgrims huddled under the blankets that were to be their sleeping bags.  Everyone, including the Pope, waited for the storm to subside enough for the vigil to begin. 

And so, eventually, when the wind was calmer and the rain was slower, Pope Benedict XVI began.  He didn’t give his long, prepared address.  He simply said a few words and brought out Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, humbly within the monstrance. 

Everyone was silent.  Pilgrims from around the world knelt in mud puddles that had been created from the just passed storm.  All of these people had traveled to see the Pope.  And the Pope looked at Christ under the appearance of bread and wine as if to say, “No, this is who you came to see.”

Pope Benedict XVI is not his own.

One and a half years later, Pope Benedict XVI is once again acting in great humility.  It’s a sign of another humility – the humility of the Church.

In our day, people often ask why the Church doesn’t change her teachings.  Why not ordain women?  Why not allow two men to marry?  Why not allow contraception?

The Church is not her own.

The Church is the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ.  One cannot separate the head from the body.  The Church, in great humility, is called to do Christ’s work on earth, not her own.  The Church is called to uphold the beautiful teachings that have been entrusted to her, not to recreate what it means to be human.

Pope Benedict XVI is not his own.  The Church is not her own.  We are not our own.

We are Christ’s. 

We were given to ourselves.  The Church was given to us.  Our Pope is given to us.  And it’s all for the purpose of returning ourselves in love to the God who created us and redeemed us. 

When we look at this final gift of Pope Benedict XVI – his witness of humility in serving the Church – it’s an incredible reminder to us that as Catholics we are called to a similar humility, acknowledging that God is not made in our image, that the Church is not some arrangement that we concoct to suit our desires, that the Church’s teachings cannot be manipulated or reversed.  

These things are given.  There’s a humility to accepting them and to realizing that we are creatures.  We are not our own.  We are His. 

Have you adopted a cardinal?

I love how the Catholic Church encourages us to embrace the love of Christ for each particular person.  We spiritually adopt unborn babies, priests, and now cardinals for the upcoming papal conclave.  First, go to the Adopt a Cardinal website.  When you have been given a particular cardinal's name, pray in a particular way for him during the conclave -- for his openness to the Holy Spirit, for his guidance, for his perseverance in serving the Church ... really for whatever you feel called to intercede for him.  

Perhaps your cardinal will become the next pope, or perhaps he will lend his voice to communicating what the Holy Spirit asks of him.  We won't know exactly what each cardinal says or does during the conclave, but we can rest assured that our prayers for each of them are a way for us to serve them, as they serve us.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Head Over Heels"

Perhaps you have already seen the short animated film, "Head Over Heels."  In my media ignorance, I just came across it.

First, here's the trailer:

I watched the entire film (10 minutes long) on YouTube and was quite impressed.  It is certainly a depiction of love as a choice and not as a feeling.  It portrays sacrifice in marriage as something that often takes time, not an immediate reaction.  It shows the husband as initiating, the wife as receiving and giving in return.  

I also found an interview with the director, Timothy Reckart, from the Verily Magazine blog, who appears to have had many of these ideas in view as he created the piece.  

If you haven't seen the film, I highly encourage taking ten minutes to do so, and then following up by reading the analysis from Timothy Reckart.  

Although it did not win the Oscar it was nominated for, this animated short is a hopeful sign of movies that are thoroughly Christian without the label or the feel of being "preachy."  In other words, it's a film for everyone.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

A great evangelist

Yesterday at Mass, there was a petition for all who have died, especially for John Paul Kilner. I heard someone whisper to her son, "He was that little boy who died." This morning I came across an article in the Washington Examiner about little John Paul. He was only 14 months old when he died of spinal muscular atrophy, but as the article explains, he had a tremendous impact without ever uttering a word.
Father Drew Royals, Pat's high school friend, gave the homily. He said to Pat and Elena, "You saw so clearly that John Paul's life possessed a dignity that was radically equal to that of everybody else. His medical condition was simply the battlefield upon which this young warrior-prince would carry out his campaign."

At the funeral Mass, we mourned a calamity. The pain of JP's death pierces the heart, again and again.

Also, we thanked God we were blessed with John Paul for 442 days. Fr. Drew reminded us that "this blessing carries with it a great responsibility."

"If our love for this little one has enlarged our hearts," Fr. Drew said, "then that means that now we must love all the more. Your work is not done."

You can read the article by Tim Carney here.

You can also read the blog, "Letters to John Paul" written by his parents.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Humans retire. Machines are repaired.

Just yesterday I was reflecting on the remarkable witness of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation in light of our culture's fear of aging and illness. Scientists are hoping to find the elusive Fountain of Youth once again by developing ways for people to live longer, to be unimpeded by the marks of aging, and to live youth perpetually. 
There stands Pope Benedict. 85 years old. Aging. Naturally. And rather than phone the hospital for some replacement parts, he simply says -- I've done all I can. I am limited. I am aging. I am human. 
Quite the witness in today's world! Doubly so when I saw that today's Public Discourse article is about "The Building of Bionic Man." It might seem the stuff of science fiction, but it's coming closer to reality. Replace a part for something better. Replace a part because it's not perfect. Replace a part because it might enhance you. 
Dr. William Carroll raises the question of how we can tell the difference between machine and human in these cases:
Mechanistic materialism has profound ethical consequences. If living things are simply complicated machines, why should we treat them differently from non-living things? Ethics is grounded by our view of what the world is really like. It is important, then, to think clearly about machines and organisms, for confusion about the basics leads to confusion about how to act. If living things are nothing but complex machines, the sum of their diverse parts, it becomes easy to see all of evolutionary history as only a mechanical, algorithmic process.

As much as modern man might like to think he can create, he cannot. You can read Carroll's article for more on the difference between machine and human. 
And as you read about the future bionic man and sigh, shaking your head at "what has our world come to," just remember the quiet witness of a man in white who has embraced his finitude as a creature and has told us that it is okay to age, it is okay to suffer, it is okay to tell others that you are not Superman.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Love is the pulse of sacrifice"

This is a beautiful look into a real marriage, where the stuff of sacrifice is frequent but viewed with gratitude. You can read Ann Voskamp's story here, but in case you aren't convinced that it's worth clicking, I'll share a piece:
Marital love is a demanding and dying thing compared to the stuff of movies and mirages.

The love of imagination — it’s a different beast entirely than love made in the image of a Saviour with nails in His hands.

The Farmer writes little with pens. He’s a man who prefers to write his love letters with his life.

I need to write down my thanks.

Stop here, to read the story that started the reflection.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stations of the Cross by young people

During the first year of Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life, we realized that we had scheduled a meeting during Holy Week.  It didn't seem appropriate to study a new topic that night, so we decided to spend the evening praying the Stations of the Cross.  We gave the teens a theme -- looking at the stations through the lens of self-gift -- and asked them to write the meditations that we would pray together.  Their reflections were beautiful and profound, and we shared them on this blog in the following days.

Last year we had another evening dedicated to the Stations of the Cross, this time with the theme of the joy and fruitfulness of suffering.

Throughout the year, but particularly during lent, these reflections are some of the most searched for and clicked on posts on the blog.  In order to draw your attention to this wonderful opportunity for prayer and to make it easier to have all of the links in one post, below are links to the meditations the young people prepared.

As these were prepared by young people, I think it also points to the reality that our youth are capable (and desire) far more than we often give them credit.

Stations of the Cross through the lens of self-gift
- Part I
- Part II
- Part III

Stations of the Cross focusing on the joy and fruitfulness of suffering:
- Part I 
- Part II
- Part III

Monday, February 18, 2013

"The Drop Box"

No, it's not a computer storage program, it's the name of what promises to be a beautiful film:


You can learn more about the film here.

(Thanks to Jenny for sharing the link.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Well done, good and faithful servant ...

Pope Benedict XVI's last moments in St. Peter's Basilica following his final public Mass on Ash Wednesday:

Thanks to Chant Cafe for sharing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

John Paul II on love ...

When will they start making "Love and Responsibility" inspired St. Valentine's Day cards?

"Betrothed love comprises on the one hand the gift of the person, and on the other hand, acceptance of that gift.  Implicit in all this is the 'mystery' of reciprocity: acceptance must also be giving, and giving receiving.  Love is of its nature reciprocal: he who knows how to receive knows also how to give -- I am of course speaking of a 'skill' which is characteristic of love, for there is also a 'skill' in giving and receiving which is characteristic of egoism.  

"The skill in giving and receiving which is typical of love is exhibited by the man whose attitude to a woman is informed by total affirmation of her value as a person, and equally by the woman whose attitude to a man is informed by affirmation of his value as a person.  This skill creates the specific climate of betrothed love -- the climate of surrender of the innermost self.  Both man and woman need this genuine capacity for affirmation of the value of the person, if the gift of self is to be fully valid, and equally if acceptance of the gift is to be valid.  

"A woman is capable of truly making a gift of herself only if she fully believes in the value of her person and in the value as a person of the man to whom she vies herself.  And a man is capable of fully accepting a woman's gift of herself only if he is fully conscious of the magnitude of the gift -- which he cannot be unless he affirms the value of her person.  

"Realization of the value of the gift awakens the need to show gratitude and to reciprocate in ways which would match its value.  We can also see here how essential it is for betrothed love, a love which is a reciprocal giving of self, to contain the inner structure of friendship."          -- Karol Wojtyla, "Love and Responsibility" 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What about the encyclical on faith?

Last night, right before falling asleep, my eyes widened and I exclaimed, "But what about the new encyclical on faith?"  If you have forgotten or didn't know, the Holy Father had announced a couple of months ago that he was nearly finished writing an encyclical on faith that would be released during lent this year.

Well, I just did a bit of research and learned here that Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a press conference this morning that the encyclical will not be ready in time, and so there will not be an encyclical.  That's certainly a loss for all of us in this Year of Faith, but as my husband said last night, perhaps the Holy Spirit had reasons why it was better for us to not receive this particular encyclical.  

The question remains whether or not the Holy Father's writings will be published at a later date as a non-papal document. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

What is the Holy Father teaching us?

After seeing Pope Benedict XVI four times, this remains my favorite of the photos I've had the opportunity to take.

It's a bit of an unprecedented day, and consequently I'm not sure that I really have words for the blog right now. There's plenty to read online right now about the Holy Father's abdication, about his papacy, about the rest of his life, about the next pope. Plenty.
But what has struck me as a particularly beautiful and brief point comes from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor. According to their facebook page, "As Sr. Mary Theresa just said: 'Pope John Paul II remained in office so that he might show us how to suffer and how to die. Pope Benedict XVI is leaving the Papal Office so that he might show us how to live in humble honesty.'"

Something to ponder as we continue to ask our questions and pray for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pope Benedict to the youth

The Holy Father had this to say on Thursday:
"I also want to reaffirm this forcefully: the Church has confidence in the youth, she hopes in them and in their energies, she needs them and their vitality, to continue to live the mission entrusted her by Christ with renewed enthusiasm. I very much hope, therefore, that the Year of Faith be, even for the younger generation, a precious opportunity to rediscover and strengthen our friendship with Christ, which brings forth joy and enthusiasm to profoundly transform cultures and society."

Friday, February 8, 2013

St. Josephine Bakhita

Today is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, a woman who was captured as a small child from her village near Darfur (in what is now Sudan) and sold repeatedly as a slave. Eventually, she moved with her "owner" to Italy, where she came to embrace the Catholic faith. She became a sister and allowed the pain of her past to assist her in serving others -- by listening, advising, having compassion, empathy, etc. 
I always love reading these words of Pope Benedict XVI about St. Josephine Bakhita in his second encyclical, "Spe Salvi" --
The example of a saint of our time can to some degree help us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time. I am thinking of the African Josephine Bakhita, canonized by Pope John Paul II. She was born around 1869—she herself did not know the precise date—in Darfur in Sudan. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life. 

Finally, in 1882, she was bought by an Italian merchant for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani, who returned to Italy as the Mahdists advanced. Here, after the terrifying “masters” who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of “master”—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name “paron” for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a “paron” above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme “Paron”, before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her “at the Father's right hand”. Now she had “hope” —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” 

Through the knowledge of this hope she was “redeemed”, no longer a slave, but a free child of God. She understood what Paul meant when he reminded the Ephesians that previously they were without hope and without God in the world—without hope because without God. Hence, when she was about to be taken back to Sudan, Bakhita refused; she did not wish to be separated again from her “Paron”. On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and received her first Holy Communion from the hands of the Patriarch of Venice. On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters and from that time onwards, besides her work in the sacristy and in the porter's lodge at the convent, she made several journeys round Italy in order to promote the missions: the liberation that she had received through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ, she felt she had to extend, it had to be handed on to others, to the greatest possible number of people. The hope born in her which had “redeemed” her she could not keep to herself; this hope had to reach many, to reach everybody.

Also, this week I came across a booklet from the Catholic Truth Society about St. Josephine Bakhita. It's no longer in print, but the whole document is available to view online. It's an incredible story and definitely worth the time to ponder the life and faith of this new saint, who was canonized by Bl. John Paul II in 2000.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

An open letter to Melinda Gates

A Nigerian woman, Obianuju Ekeocha, recently penned an open letter to Melinda Gates about the $4.6 million "legacy" that Mrs. Gates wishes to leave Africa. It's an excellent read:
I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children. I see it buying us disease and untimely death. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.

Please Melinda, listen to the heart-felt cry of an African woman and mercifully channel your funds to pay for what we REALLY need.

She also describes the current culture in her home country as one far more open to love and life than our own:
The first day of every baby's life is celebrated by the entire village with dancing (real dancing!) and clapping and singing - a sort of "Gloria in excelsis Deo." 

All I can say with certainty is that we, as a society, LOVE and welcome babies.

With all the challenges and difficulties of Africa, people complain and lament their problems openly. I have grown up in this environment and I have heard women (just as much as men) complain about all sorts of things. But I have NEVER heard a woman complain about her baby (born or unborn).

Even with substandard medical care in most places, women are valiant in pregnancy. And once the baby arrives, they gracefully and heroically rise into the maternal mode.

It really is a good read. You can find the entire letter here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Have you heard about the latest HHS mandate "compromise?"

Well, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia says they might not be much of a compromise.
"The trouble is, the new rules are very complex. And they may actually make things worse."

Read his article here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

People are irreplaceable

Jennifer Fulwiler linked to this beautiful piece by Dana at "Death by Great Wall" about how her infant daughter's death 11 years ago helped her to understand the grief of her adopted son over the loss of his birth mother and foster mother. 
Wenxin is well-adjusted and happy in our family. Maybe he will never look back, but I won't be surprised if someday in the future, grief sneaks up and hits him with the realization of what he lost. He may grieve the loss of one or both of his other mothers. It won’t mean that I’m a bad mom or that he doesn’t love me. It will just be grief – a normal and healthy response to loss. I refuse to add baggage by making him feel guilty for loving or missing them. They play an important role in his story. So do I.

If that day comes, I’ll say to him what my pastor said to me, “People are irreplaceable. That's why this is hard." I'll support him if he wants to search for his birth family or reconnect with his foster mom. Any relationship he might re-establish with them does not negate his relationship with me. They can't replace me, just like I can't replace them.

Adoption is beautiful, and I fully support it. But I think we often forget that adopted children may experience some sort of grieving process over the parents they are no longer with each day. Rather than asking them to stuff this grief, ignore it or destroy it and "be grateful for what you have," it seems helpful and healing to allow them to grieve what Dana refers to as an "irreplaceable person" in their lives. It doesn't take away from the beauty of adoption. It gives them more clarity to understand.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Oscar-nominated "Amour's" link to Nazi propaganda

Last month I wrote about Barbara Nicolosi's commentary on the fact that pro-euthanasia foreign film, "Amour" has been nominated for multiple Oscars. Now, she has outlined the striking similarities between "Amour" and a Nazi film from 1941:
As the Bible notes about the evils that men do, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So now, the latest “old” thing is to kill the sick and suffering… and soon, the embarrassing. So, the cultural Left is hugely on the bandwagon creating propaganda to convince us that killing the expensive people in our midst is an act of love and kindness and, uh, prudence. It’s the kind of thing where you want the insurance companies to have to pay the money they will save from euthanasia into a fund for orphans or something, you know,’ just for confidence sake.’

People are asking me if I think it is “just a coincidence” that the plot of ”Amour” is a near perfect twin to Goebbels’ film. My thinking is that true creativity is impossible to the demons. They recycle what works for them. But somebody needs to get the director to own up. It would be implausible to suggest that “Amour” just happened to get all the main beats of the Nazi film.

You can read the rest of Barbara Nicolosi's comparisons here.

It will be interesting to see what films are celebrated at the Academy Awards this year and how the winners reflect our cultural patterns.  One can only hope they do not follow the path of Nazi propaganda.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Leggings are not pants

There, I said it.  I've been wanting to say it for ages.  Of course, I've said it in conversations, but I don't know that I've said it online.  "Leggings are not pants."

Back when I was a girl, we had things called "tights" that were never to be called pants.  Funny thing is, they're almost the same as leggings, though leggings are a bit thicker.  Still, the same "body definition" is there.  You can see everything.  Every random person who walks by can see everything that they're not supposed to see, that they should not be permitted to see.  Every random person who walks by is invited to enter the mystery of your body ... even if they know nothing about you.

I've heard that leggings and yoga pants and all of these sorts of spandex creations are incredibly comfortable.  That's great.  But comfort isn't the only standard for clothing.  Let's not forget Pope Benedict's favorite line -- "You were not made for comfort.  You were made for greatness."

Really, aren't leggings still comfortable if they're worn with a (at least close to) knee-length dress?  Does the extra fabric spoil the comfort?

But even if it did, the funny thing is that women often respond to men's request to not dress in a revealing way with something like this -- "You don't have to look."  Or, "You need to have control over your eyes/imagination."

Do we women expect that men should exercise control, sacrifice and effort, while we lounge around in comfortable leggings, doing as we please, wearing what we please and placing all responsibility on them?

It really is an irony that some men tell women it's their responsibility to dress modestly, while women respond that it's the man's responsibility to control his look and his thoughts.

Isn't it both?  

Shouldn't we, as women, strive to dress in a way that veils the incredible mystery of femininity?  Shouldn't we be willing to sacrifice a small measure of "comfort" in order to present ourselves as women, as human persons, in all of the entirety of who we are?  Aren't we capable of respecting men by seeing them as persons worthy of love and respect by dressing as women who are persons worthy of love and respect?

This isn't one sided.  Men, also, are called to a self-control of not looking at women who are (perhaps unwittingly) revealing their bodies to any passerby.  But it's not always possible to not look.  There are billboards and unexpected commercials and even conversations with friends or strangers.  So, there's also a call to self-control in thought and imagination.  Men are called to a heroic love and respect of women by seeing them as persons, even when women do not realize their dignity as persons.  

It goes both ways, but as a woman I am more qualified to speak on behalf of women with a challenge -- Why wear leggings as pants?  Is there any good reason besides "comfort" to stroll the sidewalk with nothing more than thick tights and a short shirt?

Isn't it more appealing to appear as a mystery -- not as a matter of superiority or cockiness -- but rather as an invitation to others to see us in the full beauty of femininity, rather than the limiting vision of the lower half of a body walking down the street?