Tuesday, April 30, 2013


This looks like a fascinating film about international adoption.I have only watched the trailer,but I believe it is worth sharing.

(Just click on the play button below and switch to full screen viewing.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Is Gosnell alone?

Live Action is at it again.  This time they they have undercover investigated late term abortion clinics.  Kermit Gosnell, the late term abortionist in Philadelphia, is currently on trial for killing one woman and several newborn babies.  Anyone who has even cursorily followed his case knows that incredibly gruesome things were happening at 3801 Lancaster.  

But we have to ask -- is Gosnell alone?

In reality, 3801 Lancaster was not the only site of inhuman treatment toward babies and their mothers.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Quote book

To married couples -- "Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the cosmos, the world." -- Pope  Benedict XVI

Friday, April 26, 2013

Of cars and marriage

Br. John Devaney's car
Dominican Br. John Maria Devaney recently described the for better, for worse nature of marriage as a bit like his relationship with his long-running Volvo. 
As a friar, I will obviously never take wedding vows. (My until death moment came last August 11th, when I made solemn profession to God in the Order of Preachers.) Yet if you’ll allow me to share the story of a car I once owned, maybe it can shed some light on the beauty of a true, sacramental, indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman.

In the winter of 1999, returning home to New Jersey after graduating from college, I purchased a 1989 Volvo 740GL. I don’t know why, but something attracted me to Volvos, so when I found one at good price with only 80,000 miles on it, I didn’t have to think long. For the next seven or eight years, I drove that car from Maine to Virginia to Vermont. I drove it all over New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. I took it on countless trips to Boston and Cape Cod and elsewhere. I installed Sirius Satellite Radio in 2002 as one of their first 100,000 customers. During the warm May and June evenings, my friends and I would open the sun roof and smoke cigars while heading into New York City for some live music. Good times.

Of course, Volvos have legendary durability when it comes to things like the drive train or the transmission. So, on my car, it was the silly stuff that would break, such as the shock mount, the turn-signal light housing, the antenna, the light over the license plate (which actually got me pulled over once), or the hub caps that seemed to fly off too easily. After a quick fix, I’d be good for thousands of more miles. From 150,000 to 200,000, from 200,000 to 250,000: as the odometer rolled on, I was just hoping I could reach the coveted 300,000-mile mark.

Read the rest of the story here

It reminds me of something I read  several years ago.  The book (I can't remember which one) was discussing the common test drive analogy used to justify cohabitation.  (You wouldn't want to buy a car without test driving it, right?)  The author said at first glance the logic sounds good, but "who wants to be the car?"  Then the author went on to describe the difference between how men treat a test drive vs. their long term vehicle.  For a test drive, speeding, quickly braking, and testing the car's limits are more common.  But when it comes to a car that a man owns, he treasures it.  He cleans it, forbids his friends from eating snacks that might make the cushions dirty, he gets the oil changed faithfully every 3,000 miles.  In short, there is a huge difference between a test drive and a long term vehicle.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Changing our NFP vocabulary

One of my soap box issues is the way in which we talk about Natural Family Planning. People talk about NFP's "failure rate" and they talk about having _____# of children, "all of whom were planned." It starts to sound rather like the contraceptive mentality that fuels birth control pills, implants and patches. The general idea is that I am 100% in control, that children happen on my terms and that NFP is natural birth control because it doesn't use any sort of chemical or foreign substance.

But should we talk about NFP that way? Should children be "mistakes," "accidents" and "failures" of the system? Did the parents of all of the children who were "planned" literally choose that at this particular moment pregnancy WOULD occur, and by some incredible miracle God looked at the couple and said, "Yes, ma'am, here's your third child. Coming right up!"

The truth is, "planning" is not 100% control. A couple may be aware of fertility from charting, but the couple does not tell God when to send a child. God chooses, in His great love, to co-create with the parents, and to allow them the gift of sharing in parenthood with Him. 

Dwija at House Unseen, Life Unscripted has penned a great reflection on the language we use to describe NFP. Is a couple terrible at NFP because they have multiple children?

Recently I shared this little NFP interview that Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas published. Do you know how long ago she sent me those questions? A long, long, long time ago. But it took forever for me to respond. And do you know why? Because I kept thinking "No one is gonna want to hear what I have to say about NFP because, like, look at all these kids I have. They're gonna think it doesn't work." I was embarrassed to act like I'm some kind of ambassador for natural family planning what with the fact that, I don't know, we have a family and all.

Friends of mine have said and written things like "Well, obviously I suck at NFP because I keep getting pregnant."

Articles I read say things like "But does NFP work?"

You guys, we have fallen into a hole. We've fallen into the hole of defining life the way corporations want us to define it. "Family planning" has come to mean "child prevention" and we simply accept that, "natural" has come to mean "non-chemical" and we simply accept that and I, for one, am tired. I'm tired of feeling obligated to feel embarrassed that our family contains children. I'm tired of my friends having to tell the world that they "suck" at NFP because their families contain children. I'm tired of everyone I know who knows about NFP having to constantly justify marriages resulting in children.

Stop the crazy train of poor definitions! I wanna get off!

Read the rest here.  It's an excellent read.

These are conversations that we really must be having. When a contracepting couple asks about NFP -- online, in real life, in any number of situations -- I often hear the answer, "Well, it's just as effective as the Pill. Yes, we have four children, but all of them were planned."

Is NFP really just the natural version of the Pill?  Is Natural Family Planning really about planning or is it about cultivating hearts that are ready to receive?  Is it more about control or more about allowing God to guide me in His plan?  Is it primarily about saying no or about saying yes?

There are plenty of questions we need to be asking.  Instead of borrowing the same terms of the contraceptive culture, let's start building a vocabulary that adequately describes who the human person is, who children are, and what the relationship between life and love truly is.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The new translation of "Love and Responsibility"

Prof. Ignatik
On April 22, I was able to attend the book launch of the new translation of Karol Wojtyla's classic work, "Love and Responsibility."  The launch was held at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, where the translator, Grzegorz Ignatik, is a Ph.D. candidate.  

Why is there a new translation?  There are quite a few reasons that were outlined during the book launch:

  • In 2001, Pope John Paul II offered revisions to his original work in Polish that are reflected in the new translation.
  • It includes the first English publication of Karol Wojtyla's 1974 essay, "On the Meaning of Spousal Love," which was, at least in part, a response to initial criticisms of "Love and Responsibility."
  • It provides a smoother translation.
  • Grzegorz Ignatik said that the goal of the new translation was to faithfully reflect the original text in its depth and beauty.  The goal was also to let Karol Wojtyla truly "speak."  Prof. Ignatik added, "I hope that you will find his English perfect."
  • The new translation is more apparent, keeping ambiguities from the original text and including original Polish words in parenthesis.
  • All of Karol Wojtyla's footnotes, as well as his introduction to the text are included.  (Apparently, in the previous translation some of the footnotes were deleted, while others were placed incorrectly.)
  • There is more consistency in the translation, resulting in simplicity and precision.  In the older translation, many words are translated differently throughout the text, making it more difficult to see what Karol Wojtyla was saying.  For example, one word was translated 15 different ways in the older text, including as experience, feeling, emotion, response, reaction, etc.  In the new translation, the word is "lived experience," which is an exact translation of Wojtyla's word.
  • The endnotes, provided by Grzegorz Ignatik, include explanations of the words and concepts, translations of foreign words, and explanations of why words were translated in a particular way.  The notes, however, are meant to be secondary or auxiliary, as Wojtyla's text itself is the main substance of the book.  

Although I have not yet begun reading the new translation, after paging through it, I am looking forward to diving in.  It looks like an excellent improvement to the old work and appears to be much easier to read (though still theologically challenging).  Having read the old translation more than once, I know that Bl. John Paul II's pre-papal work on the nature of love is an excellent resource, and I can only imagine how much more this new translation communicates what our world needs to hear today about love, responsibility, marriage, fruitfulness and chastity. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finding hope in tragedy

We're all still asking questions after more than a week since "Boston." We want to know why. We want to know how two people could ever conspire to do such a thing. We want to know what is happening to the world.
Amidst all of our sorrow, fear and heartache, there comes this. Newlyweds Patrick and Jess Downes were both watching the marathon from the finish line, reminiscing about their participation in the race in 2005 before they knew each other. The next thing they knew, there was a blast. In the chaos, they were separated at two different hospitals. Both lost their left leg.
And yet, as the horrible tragedy impacts them both in ways they never could have realized, just before they celebrate nine months of marriage, what did Patrick, who is pursuing his doctorate in psychology, have to say to his father? “Dad, maybe this will make me a better psychologist."
Even in the tragedy, there is hope, there is goodness, there is love.

Let's keep the Downes in our prayers, as well as all of the victims, as they seek physical and emotional healing, and allow good to come from evil.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

St. John Paul as soon as October??

Bl. John Paul II's second miracle, a necessary step for canonization, has been approved.  Details here.  His canonization could come as soon as October 2013, if the remaining steps are carried out as quickly as the first.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Why the Church Would be so Ridiculous as to Oppose IVF"

"Bad Catholic" Marc Barnes does a wonderful job of articulating the consistency of the Church's defense of the dignity of each person, and the truth of life and love in his post, "Why the Church Would be so Ridiculous as to Oppose IVF."
The Church opposes the confusion of love and economy. In some cases, our culture nods her head in approval. After all, this is the reason it’s a sin — and a heinous one — to promote loveless sex, sex which views a man as a sperm-bank and woman as a functioning uterus. This is one of the many reasons the Church condemns rape. This is one of the many reason that the Church is so heroic in opposing gendercide — the intentional abortion of baby girls. These evils are all evils of economy, that Wal-Mart category that counts the costs, that meets demand, that owes and is owed, and that has as much to do with love as porn has to do with a culture free from sex-trafficking — that is, nothing at all.

But when the Church opposes IVF for the exact same reasons, the culture rage quits. I understand the anger, I really do, for there is nothing so emotionally painful as infertility, nor anything so understandable as the use of artificial reproductive technology to alleviate that pain. But let’s take a step back and look at the thing.

It's well worth the read to see the link that love, life, dignity, fruitfulness and marriage share. It's a delicate issue, certainly, but Marc Barnes' articulation is a good place to start.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rethinking how "pro-life" we are

Amy Ford recently asked the question, "How pro-life are you?" 
For the most part, when I explain how I help young girls with crisis pregnancies, even throwing them baby showers, I usually get big eyes, an awkward (or sometimes dramatic) pause, and then a slow, big smile spreads across the listener’s face as that new idea slowly starts sinking into his or her heart.

But every once in a while, I get a different reaction. Once a crabby old man said, “That’s all they need – another handout,” as he went off on a tangent about the government. Another time I was at a fabric store and the woman who worked there was measuring out my fabric. She asked if I was going to use it for a party. I answered her and explained that it was for a big baby shower for single and pregnant girls, and she stopped what she was doing and looked up at me and said, “I’m a teacher at an alternative school, and a lot of the girls are single and pregnant. Why in the world would you want to reward them for their bad behavior?” Another time, a woman met with her pastoral team at her church in Houston about possibly starting an Embrace Grace. Her pastor responded, “This sounds like a great program, and I’m sure they do great things to help these girls. But we really want to be careful about this and how it might be perceived as honoring girls that have sinned.”

Every time I hear stuff like this, my first instinct is like a momma bear to her cubs; I want to defend and protect these girls who choose life. But then I quickly calm myself before speaking and try to explain how the person I’m talking to might need to think differently about the situation.

Her stories and thoughts are good ones to ponder. It's true that many people shun single pregnant women, and these are often the same people who claim the moniker, "pro-life." It's the same reason I am hesitant to advocate school programs that involve caring for a baby doll for a particular period of time. The goal is to show kids that they aren't ready for a baby. The real result, though, may not be abstinence and love of babies, but instead a fear and dread of being a parent, and a bee-line to Planned Parenthood.
We need to find a way to be consistently pro-life -- embracing the beauty of every human life, regardless of the circumstances of his or her conception. We need to celebrate each life. We need to welcome young parents who are not being supported, affirming their desire to nurture the life that has been entrusted to them.

Read the rest of Amy Ford's article here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Quote book

"Nowhere is the dogma of the worth of a man better preserved and practiced than in the family. Everywhere else man may be reverenced and respected for what he can do, for his wealth, his power, his influence, or his charm; but in the family a person is valued because he is. Existence is worth in the home." -- Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Are there unattractive people? Why do they need a patron saint?

Since first learning of St. Drogo, I've been a fan.  His name alone is rather incredible.  Then, of course, one learns that he is the patron saint of coffee makers ... and of ugly people.  His brief biography says that while on pilgrimage he was "stricken with an unsightly bodily affliction."  Several years ago, friends and I doing pro-life work for the summer decided to ask for his prayers.  We were rather mystified by this man with the odd name and the even odder patronage.  

Whenever I tell people that I like St. Drogo, they either tell me, "You're not ugly!" or say, "God doesn't make ugly people, so why do they have a patron?"  My early requests for his prayers were not due to poor body image, but rather an interest in a saint who is largely unknown.

But the second common response to my praise of St. Drogo (who I still maintain was responsible for some iced coffee brought to my fellow pro-life walkers and I on a hot June day several years ago during our 1,300 mile journey on foot throughout the Northeast) is one that is interesting.  

Does God make ugly people?  Do unattractive people exist?  Why do they need a patron?

These are great questions.  God, who is all Beauty, does not create that which is not beautiful.  If we view someone as unattractive, it is not their lack of beauty, but our inability to perceive it.

Still, we have sin, which means we have suffering, which means we have all sorts of marks, wrinkles, blemishes and other signs that point to less than perfection.

But can these be beautiful?  We look at Mother Teresa in all of her wrinkles and leathery skin and say, "How beautiful!"  We see it in her eyes, in her smile, in her aged, wrinkled hands holding a child dying in Calcutta.  Even her wrinkles and her tired eyes are beautiful, because in them we see signs of her selflessness, her love and her faithfulness.  

The existence or not of "unattractive people" isn't necessarily the only reason for a patron, however.  Unattractiveness, even if only perceived and not real, can also be felt.  It's no secret that nearly every woman in the United States of America could point you to her "flaws" faster than her beauty.  A zit.  A wrinkle.  A big nose.  A crooked nose.  Stringy hair.  Frizzy hair.  Little eyes.  Big eyes.  A double chin.  Sunken eyes.  

You get the picture.  But what if we could learn to see ourselves how others see us?  What if we could see ourselves how God sees us?  Surely it would be different.  One is seeing through eyes of love, wonder and gratitude.  The other is seeing with eyes of criticism, anger, frustration and fear.  

What's the difference?  Here's a fascinating glimpse:


How do we begin to see beauty even in ourselves?  It begins with seeing beauty as a gift from God and not as our own endeavor, the amount of money we sink into Cover Girl or the number affixed to our dress tag.  If we see God as beautiful, and then see ourselves as made in his image and likeness, then the stage has been set for a healing in beauty.  It takes time -- maybe even a lifetime -- but it's a gift that we can come to recognize, to receive and for which to be grateful.  Perhaps St. Drogo can accompany us on this journey, realizing beauty where we thought only ugliness was to be found.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Even if it's not the gift you expected

Hilary and John Ní Lorcháin welcomed their baby daughter Margaret into the world one day before their first wedding anniversary. She had Trisomy 18 and only lived for 2 1/2 days. Hilary recently penned a reflection for the Irish Times.
I know that some people think hospices are about giving up on life. A place of defeat. But in reality, they are about living life to its natural end with courage and dignity in a community where the value of peaceful endings is recognised. But what's that like for parents of a newborn? How do you deal with that? There was no map, no manual that could help us, but something wonderful happened while we were there, something that we shall cherish always. I don't think it could have happened anywhere else.

Through all the various emotions of the previous nine months, I hadn't expected that I'd feel proud. I hadn't expected that strangers would say nice things about Margaret. Some people might even have thought her life not worth the wait because she was going to die anyway. They might have pitied us.

But in the hospice, as we carried Margaret down the corridor, a man came over and gazed down at our little bundle. "She's so beautiful," he said wonderingly, adding: "She's perfect." Not "I'm so sorry she's dying."

He didn't seem like the kind of man who would have gone out of his way in normal circumstances to coo over a newborn. But here was different. We were all here for a reason.

A woman walking behind him looked straight at me and said: "She's a gift – a real gift." The words had weight. The weight almost overwhelmed me. I nodded through a sudden blinding rain of tears. And so we continued our slow walk through the corridor to our room – bowed down but grateful.

All mothers sooner or later feel pride and I did then. For the first time and the last time.

There would be no other moment like that – no pride in scholarly or sporting achievement, no pride in her girlhood or her coming-of-age, no frivolities of planning a wedding, none of those deep heart-to-hearts shared between parent and child.

This was it. You take what is on offer. You don't reject a gift, even if it's not the gift you expected.

It was the most beautiful experience that I would never wish upon anyone else. Strangers had gone out of their way to tell our dying daughter that she was beautiful. What more was there to say? She was beautiful.

It's a beautiful reflection. Read it all here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Where are the good Catholic men?

So wonders Randall Smith in this Catholic Thing article.
I know plenty of gifted, beautiful, unmarried, young Catholic women (where were they when I was younger?), and they all have one complaint: Where are all the – no, scratch that – where are any good marriage-ready Catholic men? I used to think they were just carping – people do like to complain. But I’ve begun to see their point. As I seek to find suitable spouses for the many young Catholic women who are earnestly looking, I’ve discovered that there really aren’t all that many available.

I love my male Catholic students. Some are just great. But even most of the great ones aren’t exactly ready for the big leagues just yet, and they know it. In fact, they know it a little too well. Most of them can’t imagine being ready for marriage for at least another ten, maybe twenty years – if ever.

Randall Smith's answer is intriguing. Be sure to read it here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

From the "You can't make this stuff up" file ...

We have two stories.

1) In California, legislation is being considered that would require insurance companies to cover the "infertility" of same-sex couples.  If they have not conceived after a year of sexual relations, they would qualify.  ...I'm pretty sure the year wouldn't be a necessary qualification in this case.

2) An Israeli company is experimenting with powdered eggs ... women's eggs.  After all, freezing eggs becomes a bit of a chore with the space and expense, so why not freeze dry them?  Add water and sperm to "make a baby."  

We really are living in the land of the spoiled child.  If I want something, even if it is naturally impossible, then someone somewhere somehow has to figure out how to give it to me.  Now.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Prayers for our Pope Emeritus

I just read that the Spanish paper El Mundo is reporting that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's has health problems that are "very severe" and that "we won't have him with us much longer."  

Let's keep him in prayer.  

UPDATE: The papal spokesman says that Pope Emeritus Benedict does not have a serious illness.  Of course, one does not have to have a serious illness to have declining health, so it is not clear if Fr. Lombardi's words are entirely denying the report from El Mundo.  Regardless, we have all seen how different our last Holy Father looks now from the picture at left, which I took in 2006.  Consequently, whether or not he now has a "very severe" condition, this is still a good reminder to keep him in our prayers.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Remembering the person in the marriage debates

I found this article quite engaging. Brandon Ambrosino recounts his experience as a college student at Liberty University, eventually "coming out" to several professors. Liberty University, if you're not familiar, was begun by Jerry Falwell, who is known as extraordinarily denigrating to those with same-sex attraction.
Mr. Ambrosino writes that most people who learn that he has same-sex attraction and attended a fundamentalist college think his life must have been one of misery and persecution.
Instead, he shares stories like this:
After I made an ambiguous and slightly off-color remark about Oscar Wilde during her British Literature class, Dr. Prior (who writes for The Atlantic from time to time) asked me to come talk with her during her office hours the next day. I agreed to stop by because, well, she was fabulous, and I couldn't imagine having an awkward conversation with someone that fashionable. After all, her daily mantra—which she borrowed from her beloved Wilde—is, "One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art."

"So what did you want to talk about?" I asked her.

"We can talk about anything you'd like, Brandon." This answer made me loathe her. Come on, lady! We both know why I'm here. You just want me to admit I'm gay so you can perform an exorcism on me!

"Well," I huffed, "You asked me to come in..." to come out, I thought to myself. My wit shines in tense situations.


So we sat. And sat. And stared at each other. And every now and then mentioned something trivial (for instance, my turkey sandwich) that, for some inexplicable reason, made us laugh uncontrollably. Finally, she told me she had to get going because her next class started soon.

"Ok, ok, wait," I told her, and she cocked her head.

"Yes?" she asked me, and the tone of her voice calmed me down. It was as if she was saying, Brandon, I already know what you want to tell me. Please, just say it.

And I did: "Alright... for the last few months... well, really, for years, I've felt... ok, who knows how long? I mean, anyway, it doesn't matter." She just nodded and made mm-hmm sounds.

"I've been... struggling"—I made sure to use this word, since it implied that I was not fully a homo, but only dealing with the evil temptation—"with... with the idea... with thoughts of..." and the word got trapped in my throat. I couldn't bring myself to say the word. That word was so powerful and scary.

I looked at her as my eyes welled up with tears. And when I saw that her eyes were welling up, too, I realized I was safe and that she could handle my secret.

"Homosexuality!" I blurted. "I've been struggling with homosex..." and I broke down. Here I was in the English chair's office at the world's most homophobic university, and I'd just admitted to her I was gay.

She got up from her chair, and rushed over to me. I braced myself for the lecture I was going to receive, for the insults she would hurl, for the ridicule I would endure. I knew how Christians were, and how they clung to their beliefs about homosexuals and Sodom and Gomorrah, and how disgusted they were by gay people. The tears fell more freely now because I really liked this teacher, and now I ruined our relationship.

"I love you," she said. I stopped crying for a second and looked up at her. Here was this conservative, pro-life, pro-marriage woman who taught lectures like "The Biblical Basis for Studying Literature," and here she was kneeling down on the floor next me, rubbing my back, and going against every stereotype I'd held about Bible-believing, right-leaning, gun-slinging Christians.

When I heard her sniffle, I looked up at her. "It's going to be ok," she said. "You're ok." She nodded her head, squeezed my shoulder, and repeated, "I love you."

The article is quite long, but I found it worth the time.  While Mr. Ambrosino self-identifies as "gay" today, it is clear that his encounters with loving professors at Liberty University impacted him.  Did they tell him they approved of same-sex activity?  No.  But they told him something else -- You are a person.  You deserve love.  You are loved.  You have dignity.  You are a child of God.

When issues like the redefinition of marriage become nationwide debates, we tend to forget that people are involved.  On the one hand, the redefinition proponents tend to only talk about the fact that people are involved.  On the other hand, marriage defenders like to talk about ideas, philosophies and teachings, without regarding the person.

We need both.  

We need to affirm the truth and beauty of the Church's teachings on marriage.  But we also need to love the person as a person, not as a charity case.  We need to share authentic love.  Because it's authentic, it includes truth about what is a morally good relationship, what love and marriage are, etc., but that truth can be communicated in different ways depending upon the situation.

For the young man at Liberty University, he knew where his professors stood on the topic.  What he didn't know -- what he needed to know -- was that his person, his identity was not his sexual attraction.  It wasn't hypocritical for the professors to love him and yet disapprove of same-sex activity.  They were doing both, even in not specifically addressing the topic from a moral viewpoint.  

As the debate becomes more heated, we all need to consider -- are we doing both .... well?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Celebrating the Annunciation ... words and art

I'll admit it's the same Annunciation quote I shared last year, but isn't it a good one to hear again?
del Sarto

 "... [A]fter the Our Father, the Hail Mary is the most beautiful of all prayers. It is the perfect compliment the most high God paid to Mary through his archangel in order to win her heart. So powerful was the effect of the greeting upon her, on account of its hidden delights, that despite her great humility, she gave her consent to the incarnation of the Word." -- St. Louis de Montfort
Fra Angelico


de Champaigne

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Celebrating the birthday boy

It's Bl. Pier Giorgo Frassati's birthday today. Every year his niece has a special birthday gift idea for Bl. Pier Giorgio, and for this Year of Faith, she is urging us to renew our baptismal promises. There is a whole ceremony available for it, but I'd just like to share this quote from Bl. Pier Giorgio that his niece includes in her packet:
“Every day that passes by convinces me all the more how bad off the world is, how much misery there is and unfortunately good people are suffering while we who have been given many graces by God have, alas! paid Him back so poorly. It’s a terrible admission which torments my brain, every now and then while I am studying I ask myself: shall I go on trying to lead a good life?  Will I have the good fortune to persevere to the end after all? In this tremendous conflict of doubts the Faith given to me in Baptism suggests to me with a sure voice: “By yourself you can do nothing, but if you have God as the centre of every action of yours you will at last reach your goal” and I’d like to be able to do precisely that and to take as a maxim the saying of St. Augustine: “Lord, our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (to I. Bonini,15.1.1925)

Timely, for sure!

Happy birthday, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati! Thank you for your continued prayers and witness. 

Rather than stick our heads in the sand, what do we do?

Emily Stimpson has a great new column -- "A Catholic's Guide to Surviving the End of the World as We Know It."
Does anyone else feel like one night, not too long ago, they went to bed in a reasonably normal world and woke up to a world scripted by Albert Camus?

My hand’s up. Way, way up. I know I’m still supposed to be bubbling over with Easter joy (and believe me, I’m doing my due diligence in the chocolate-eating department), but the culture’s rapid and violent pivot to absurdism has me too disoriented for bubbling. Spinning is more like it.

I mean, we’ve got George Washington University students trying to get their Newman Center’s chaplain removed because, well, he’s Catholic; Johns Hopkins University won’t recognize a student pro-life group because that might make other students uncomfortable; and suddenly anyone who has the temerity to say marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman is a crazed, fundamentalist bigot who probably tortures small puppies behind closed doors.

Oh, and people in all seriousness are arguing on Facebook that a government that can’t even pay its electrical bill should fund research on duck genitalia.

Spinning, spinning, spinning.

So, how do we, as Catholics, respond to the madness? Guns? Ammo? Canned goods?

Um, no.

1. Get Married.

Seriously. It all starts here. As Pope Benedict said not long ago, there is “a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage.” He then went on to point out that “marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the New Evangelization.”

Read the rest of #1, along with her other four recommendations here.  (And if you're response to #1 is, "I wish I was married!" keep reading, because Emily Stimpson is talking to you too.)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Same-sex "marriage" and a fifty-year-old pill

It's nice to see a secular site pointing out the link between same-sex "marriage" and birth control. Damon Linker writes:
Permitting gay marriage will not lead Americans to stop thinking of marriage as a conjugal union. Quite the reverse: Gay marriage has come to be widely accepted because our society stopped thinking of marriage as a conjugal union decades ago.

Between five and six decades ago, to be precise. That's when the birth control pill — first made available to consumers for the treatment of menstrual disorders in 1957 and approved by the FDA for contraceptive use three years later — began to transform sexual relationships, and hence marriage, in the United States. Once pregnancy was decoupled from intercourse, pre-marital sex became far more common, which removed one powerful incentive to marry young (or marry at all). It likewise became far more common for newlyweds to give themselves an extended childless honeymoon (with some couples choosing never to have kids).

In all of these ways, and many more, the widespread availability of contraception transformed marriage from a conjugal union into a relationship based to a considerable degree on the emotional and sexual fulfillment of its members — with childrearing often, though not always, a part of the equation. And it is because same-sex couples are obviously just as capable as heterosexual couples of forming relationships based on emotional and sexual fulfillment that gay marriage has come to be accepted so widely and so quickly in our culture. (If marriage were still considered a conjugal union, the idea of gay marriage could never have gained the support it currently enjoys. On the contrary, it would be considered ridiculous — as it remains today among members of religious groups that continue to affirm more traditional, conjugal views of marriage.)

Read the rest here at The Week.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"I think it's a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist"

Have you heard people engaged in the redefinition of marriage debate argue that redefinition will not change marriage or affect anyone other than the two people of the same gender who exchange wedding rings? It's a pretty common argument.

But what would a group of redefinition advocates say if it wasn't on national television? What about a response at a writer's festival workshop in Sydney, Australia in 2012, under the title, "Why get married when you could be happy?"
Here is some of what was said:

Masha Gessen: “It’s a no-brainer that we should have the right to marriage but equally I think that it is a no brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.” (cheers from the audience)

“That causes my brain some trouble. Part of the reason that it causes me trouble is that fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there.”

“Because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change. It’s going to change and it should change. And again it should not exist. I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago. I have three kids who have five parents, more or less.  And I don't see why they shouldn't have five parents legally.”


Dennis Altman: I am fascinated by how reluctant the people who argue vehemently for same sex marriage are to talk about sex. The original concept of marriage in the western world of course was based heavily on the idea of monogamy really so that the man could be guaranteed that the children were his.

Now I am going to speak now as a gay man: one of the things about gay male culture is that it is not a monogamous culture. All the evidence we have suggests that monogamy is a myth. There are many longstanding gay relationships. There are virtually no longstanding monogamous gay relationships. I happen to think that this is a good thing. I happen to think that this puts sex in a much better perspective than the concept that we are being fed.

But I do get very anxious when I am told that people want to have a marriage that is exactly the same as the ones that their heterosexual sisters and brothers have. What their heterosexual sisters and brothers are signing up for – whatever they do in practice – is a belief in life-long monogamy.

There is a level of hypocrisy in that – that is built into the marriage ceremony. That, I do not want to see replicated.

Jeanette Winterson: Are you saying that the hypocrisy is built into the religious ceremony or in the concept of marriage altogether?

Altman: I would love to have the people who are out there arguing for same sex marriage say “lets be clear: marriage is about primary emotional commitment to another person and it doesn’t mean I won’t **** around.

You can read more here and listen to the panel here. These aren't isolated thoughts either. If you have the opportunity to listen to the logic of those advocating the redefinition of marriage when they are not in front of a television camera, the arguments can start to sound a bit different. Suddenly it's not all about "love" and "equality" and "fairness."  

That's not to say that all people who advocate redefinition are interested in ruining monogamy and praising five-parent families, but we are walking down a slippery slope that does not end with a simple Supreme Court proclamation.  The logic of same-sex "marriage" lends itself toward destroying these other areas of marriage too.

Letters from Prison

Kresta in the Afternoon shared these poignant letters from Vatican Radio's site. There are a number of them, each written by Los Angeles county young people in juvenile prison.  The letters were written to Pope Francis after the youth were touched by the news that he was visiting a youth prison in Italy for Holy Thursday Mass.
Dear Pope Francis,
When Jesus washed the feet of his friends he gave an example of humility. I have been raised to believe that it is only with respect in hurting your enemy that you are a man. Tonight you and Jesus show me something in this washing of the feet something very different. I hope we kids learn from this.
Dear Pope Francis,
I have never been to Rome. I do not know if it is near Los Angeles
because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood. I hope one
day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you
and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday.

You can read others at Vatican Radio.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"After Ezra: An Easter Story"

This story is just beautiful! Rather than try and summarize you or convince you, I'll just start with the beginning:
Anumeha Galloway was about to deliver her son Ezra in the earliest hour of Jan. 5. Ezra was dead, she knew. His regular movement stopped while she was having lunch with her husband, two days after the due date of the couple's first child.

She was not crying. It was time. She looked at her husband, Ryan. He smiled. She was fuzzy from the painkillers and began to think she needed a coffee to wake up a bit, that she should brush her teeth to get ready for her baby — but, no, it was going to happen now, right now.

Joy came over her when he came into the world, an umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.

The couple had planned to baptize Ezra Saturday night at St. Augustin Catholic Church in Des Moines, after the Easter Vigil ceremony to join the Catholic faith. They studied the faith for months, contemplated life's mysteries and the everlasting. They had tried to convince their parents that Catholicism was the right choice, but couldn't.Ezra was beautiful. He had his father's nose and his mother's round face. They held him. They felt no anger or regret or pity.

The whole reason for our faith, Ryan Galloway said, is that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. Now, he could hold his son and smile because of that faith. It meant he could see his son again someday.

They could tell Ezra then that he gave them so much, which they were about to learn.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Using eggs from aborted babies to ... make a baby??

What happens when there is a worldwide "egg shortage" for artificial reproductive technologies? Well, we're already aware that there are aggressive campaigns to target the smartest, most beautiful, most talented women to extract their eggs for outlandish sums of money. Some are even aware of the women who have died in these procedures or the complicated health issues that some have faced after "donating" their eggs. (I thought donating was a term used for giving without an economic benefit in return.)

And now, the "egg shortage" has us looking somewhere else.
Aborted baby girls.
It's absolutely horrific, but as testing is underway, it unfortunately may be true. From the Daily Mail:
Scientists are ready to plunder the ovaries of aborted babies for eggs to use in IVF treatment. Experiments have taken the process almost to completion, it emerged yesterday.

They raise the nightmare prospect of a child whose biological mother has never been born. The news, from a scientific conference in Madrid, was greeted with widespread revulsion at how far science is testing ethical frontiers.

Experts warned of appalling emotional and biological problems.

But fertility doctors say the development could ease a worldwide shortage of donated eggs for women who cannot produce their own.

Only last week a British clinic offered cut-price IVF treatment to women who agreed to donate eggs.

Scientists have known for some time that female foetuses develop ovaries after as little as 16 weeks in the womb.

Now researchers from Israel and the Netherlands have kept ovarian tissue from aborted foetuses alive in the laboratory for several weeks.

They stopped the experiment at the point where they believed eggs were about to be produced. Chief researcher Dr Tal Biron-Shental said it was 'theoretically possible' that with extra hormone treatment they could have produced mature eggs suitable for IVF use.

He claimed it would be ethically 'almost the same' as existing techniques.

Details of the major research programme were unveiled at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Madrid.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-186802/Should-eggs-aborted-babies.html#ixzz2PKWnb0MZ.
What in the world is going on today? How could we ever become so fixated on getting what we want that we would use babies that "aren't wanted" to create babies for those who "want" them? What kind of wanting is that? We can consider using the body of a baby who never got to see the world to become the raw genetic material for another baby?  We can find it "ethical" to use an unborn baby as a mother?

Please tell me how you would explain that to a child!  "Well, sweetheart, we wanted you so badly that we found a beautiful baby whose mother didn't want her, and we took her eggs so that her life mattered ... because now we have you!"

It's nauseating that we have doctors and researchers who would even consider such a thing and begin testing it!

Pandora's Box opened wider than ever in 1960 as the birth control pill was revealed to the world.  I think somewhere between then and now the lid of the box has been ripped off and thrown into the ocean.  The problems and ideas and "solutions" being purported today at alarming rates are far more horrific than Huxley, Orwell or any other prophet of the modern age could have been.  

Eight years ago today ...

At 9:37 pm Rome time, Pope John Paul II went "to the house of the Father" eight years ago today.  

For many of us, it was the first time we had seen the lights go out in the papal apartment and seen the shudders closed to signify that we were Papa-less.  

For many, John Paul was the only pope we had ever known.  And then he was gone.  

In the days following, there were tears, long lines snaking through the streets of the Vatican waiting to pass by the body of the late Holy Father for a moment in order to say thank you, to grieve, to be present.  

There was the funeral Mass celebrated by Cardinal Ratzinger.  

There were the cries of, "Santo Subito!"  There were the first requests that John Paul II pray for us from heaven.  

In the later days of April, there was a conclave.  There was the surprise of seeing a cardinal who was close to John Paul II emerge on the balcony, a man who had even prayed the late Holy Father's funeral Mass.  There was a sigh of relief, but also an unfamiliarity with seeing another man in white, attempting to wave papally.  

It's amazing to think of all that has happened in these eight years.  From the tears of losing a dear Holy Father on April 2, 2005, to the joy of his beatification on May 1, 2011, to the welcoming of two new popes -- Pope Benedict XVI and now his successor, Pope Francis.  

Even though the Lord has blessed the Church greatly with our leaders in these past several years, it is still true that many of us still miss John Paul.  We miss his humor, his smile, his engaging presence, his passion for the youth, his poetic language, his urgency in evangelizing, his witness, his love.

Bl. John Paul II, please continue to pray for us that we too may go to the house of the Father. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

The day our father was born

Happy Easter, first of all! Enjoy the Octave. 

I wrote the following a couple of weeks ago for another source, but I am finally posting it here. It seems almost irrelevant, but Pope Francis has been our Holy Father for only 3 weeks, even though it feels like we've had a new Papa for months!  It's still something to ponder even after three weeks.

“Today our father was born,” I remarked to my husband over dinner on March 13. 

Odd as it sounds, it’s true. Earlier that day, our new father was presented to us, and to the world, wearing white with a single-handed wave and a simple greeting – “Fratelli e sorelle, buonasera!” (Brothers and sisters, good evening!)

Our pope is our father. When the white smoke began puffing out of the Vatican chimney, and bells, beeps and rings were heard around the world, Catholics rejoiced because they once again had a Papa.

Catholics also took a deep breath with the suspense, the joyful anticipation. When one is about to meet his new father, there is a sense of wonder, excitement, and even trepidation. Who is he?

We have met our new Papa, Pope Francis. For most of us, our first sight of the man in white standing silently on the Vatican loggia, staring at us while we stared at him, was our first acquaintance with this man. We saw his gentleness, his humility, his simplicity in those first moments.

We wanted to learn more, so we turned to television commentators, websites and Wikipedia. What can all that has been written really tell us about who Pope Francis will be? He is still a mysterious character, but he is also now our father, no longer one of a long list of unknown cardinals who are considered “papabile.”

If there’s one thing we may have learned in the weeks since Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced his resignation on February 11, it is this: God knows what we need far better than we know for ourselves.

It was a message writ large in white smoke on March 13. One billion of us had been analyzing, arguing, advising, and yes, pontificating, about who our next Holy Father should be. An evangelist! A manager! A multi-linguist! A theologian! A liberal! A conservative! One commentary I read said that we were asking for nothing less than Christ Himself, not His vicar on earth.

But when the 115 men in red closed the doors of the Sistine Chapel, there was nothing more for us to do but to pray. And so we did. And when millions of people pray for God’s will, we shouldn’t be surprised to be surprised.

After Pope Francis was first revealed as our Holy Father, I heard so many say the word, “perfect” – that he had the perfect name, the perfect background for this role.

We think we know what’s best in so many areas in our life – what we should do, where we should go, how we should live, how many children we should have, what school we should attend, what Church teachings we should choose to believe. We even have the audacity to think we know what’s best in choosing our own father.

But a real father? He is someone given to us by God. He is someone chosen for us, and we are chosen for him.

Pope Francis is teaching us humility in more ways than one. His presence exudes it, yes, but his presence also reminds us that we are not God. It’s a good thing too, because God, our Heavenly Father, truly knows best.