Monday, July 29, 2013

Quote book -- World Youth Day edition

"And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community." -- Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

World Youth Day has begun!

Hundreds of thousands of youth from across the world are uniting in Brazil for World Youth Day.  Pope Francis arrived to great enthusiasm yesterday.  You can watch the major events live on the Vatican's You Tube channel.  Also check out EWTN for coverage of the events.  

The "don't miss" events include Thursday's papal welcoming ceremony, the prayer vigil on Saturday evening, and the papal Mass on Sunday.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Divorce Stories

The Ruth Institute recently launched a new website for adult children of divorce to share their stories.  It's a topic that's largely ignored in our culture -- how divorce really affects children -- and it seems an excellent opportunity for adult children of divorce to be able to share their experiences.  On the one hand, this can be healing for the children to be able to express what they really think and feel, instead of feeling that their opinions must be dictated by cultural lack of concern with divorce.  At the same time, it's a great opportunity for the culture at large to hear what divorce is really like for the children who witness it and experience it.  

You can check out the Divorce Stories site here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Quote book

"Every Christian marriage is blessed by God and is fruitful in him, whether through the blessing of children, or the blessing of sacrifice.  If God chooses the second alternative, the spiritual fruitfulness of marriage is increased and widened out invisibly so that it flows into the whole community." -- Adrienne von Speyr

Friday, July 12, 2013

What's really going on in Texas?

The other day I spent significant time listening to the Texas House's debates regarding "HB2," the pro-life bill on the table.  Along with listening and watching the livestream, I also monitored Twitter reactions to the issue at hand.  Right now, the Texas Senate is debating passage of the same bill, which the House passed.

I've been involved in pro-life work for more than a decade.  So, I have seen and experienced pro-abortion arguments, strange logic and even abusive treatment.  I've seen the signs and heard the chants.  I've also had meaningful conversations that stepped away from debate and soundbites and really engaged the issues at hand -- sometimes issues that were far below the surface.

But observing the HB2 debate in Texas has been nothing less than draining.  I have friends who have been in the Capitol building and outside at the rallies.  I'm just at home.  Nevertheless, listening to the arguments used, and monitoring the stack of tweets that bashes the bill has been a bit deflating.  

When HB2 was on the House floor a few days ago, amendment after amendment was presented by those who disagreed with the bill in order to stem its affects.  One amendment said women who are victims of rape or incest should be able to abort past week 20.  One said that young women who have not had good sex education should be able to abort past week 20.  One said if abortion clinics in Texas are closed due to higher standards, then the state should pay for the transportation costs of those who are impacted.  

One representative decorated the microphone with a wire coat hanger, while other representatives stood around her holding the same.

Arguments were made about women's rights to control their own bodies.

The representative with the wire coat hanger told the story of her own daughter who found herself unexpectedly pregnant.  After her mother (the representative) told her about all of her options, the young girl eventually decided to give life to her son.  The representative shared that her grandson is now 30 years old and has given her a great grandson.  Yet, she said that if she could go back in time she would still want her to daughter to have access to either choice -- to give birth to her son or to abort him.

I couldn't help but wonder if her grandson was watching and what he could be thinking.  "So, you don't care if I'm alive or not?  You wouldn't stand up for me?  My son -- your great grandson -- is just a matter of choice to you?"

It was chilling.

There was a lengthy conversation about matters of rape and incest.  Certainly, these are horrific situations.  But the representatives argued that a woman who is the victim of rape or incest would be punished every day of her life is she gave birth to a child conceived as a result of one of these horrific experiences.  The example of the three young women who were recently released from years of kidnapped captivity in Cleveland, Ohio was given.  One of the representatives said that if one of these young women were pregnant when she escaped, then surely an abortion would be a desirable way to terminate the pain.

I couldn't help but think of those children who are alive today who were conceived as a result of rape or incest, including the child of one of the young women from Cleveland.  What about their inherent dignity?  How do they feel when someone tells them they should not be alive, that every breath they take is a punishment to their mother?  Perhaps some day I will share on the blog a conversation I had with a woman who was conceived in rape.  It's a story and a perspective that more people need to hear.

Meanwhile, Twitter explodes if a man says anything in favor of HB2, because clearly he just "hates women."  And if a woman is in favor of the bill, then she is dumb.

It's just mind boggling to me that this whole debate is happening.  Texas is trying to pass a bill that would ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks (which amounts to less than 400 annually) and would give stricter guidelines to abortion providers.  Yet, the promoters are considered anti-woman for wanting more safety regulations to be in place.  And they are pulling out wire coat hangers as a symbol of the future, when thousands of abortions in Texas would be considered legal, just as they are today.

It used to be argued that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare," but the arguments against this bill only appear to be concerned with the legality.  

There is even an outrage over the idea of following the FDA's guidelines on distribution of the RU-486 abortion pill.  

The old arguments for abortion are being dropped in the dust, while the debate around HB2 unveils the real arguments -- the idea that babies of any age and stage are nothing but parasites on women, that the right to abortion is the ultimate right, that women are autonomous, self-determining individuals who live in the isolated world of, "My body, my choice."

Things have been getting radical in Texas.  Part of the radicality is not so much the arguments in and of themselves, but the fact that they are being championed, celebrated and broadcast so widely.  "Safe, legal and rare" has been trampled by, "Control, power and privacy" or by, "Me, myself and I."  And it's all on display.

This already lengthy post could probably be much longer, but let's just pray for Texas and for all those involved in this debate -- not only for a pro-life bill passage, but also for all of us to become loving, selfless people who live our lives "for" others. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Selling a message or a movie?

Last week, The Atlantic noted that an animated film set to be released in September 2014 is sending another message with its trailer.

Apparently, a children's movie about a little boy raised by trolls who live in boxes is also a great opportunity to show children that "family" can be whatever we want it to be (or more precisely, whatever your parents want it to be).  Gender doesn't matter, kids.  And if you see it on a movie trailer, then it has to be true, right, Mom?  Right?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

John Paul's canonization miracle

Floribeth Mora
The woman whose miraculous healing paved the way toward Bl. John Paul II's canonization has shared her story.  Floribeth Mora was healed of a brain aneurysm after watching the late Holy Father's beatification on television in her Costa Rica home.  Doctors say her cure is inexplicable.  

You can read a brief account of her incredible story here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Standing in a field with a million friends ... and the pope

My latest is up at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's blog, "Being Catholic."
A month away from my freshman year of college, I stuffed my backpack onto the bottom of a bus and took off with about 50 young people heading north to Toronto.

Three years later, I squeezed the same backpack into the overhead compartment on an airplane carrying excited young people to Cologne, Germany.

Another six years after that, I was chaperoning a group of high school students as they nervously boarded a plane – some for the first time – on our way to Madrid, Spain.

Each of these treks to other countries was ultimately for one evening, standing in a field with a million close friends (close by proximity), waiting to be addressed by the Vicar of Christ.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II invited young people to join him in Rome for Palm Sunday. On that day, 300,000 young people came. This set the stage for international gatherings every two or three years with millions of young people sacrificing everything from comfort to cleanliness to personal space to savings accounts in order to attend. As the leader for my first two World Youth Days insisted, “This is a pilgrimage, not a vacation.”

World Youth Day is not a 24-hour event. Rather, it involves three or four days of catechesis and a celebration of Catholic culture. Bishops and cardinals from across the world give dynamic lectures in each attendee’s native language. Mass according to native language is offered each day. Catholic musicians, artists and speakers lead concerts, art exhibits, movie screenings and presentations.

These preparatory days involve meeting strangers from throughout the world – trading miniature flags or pins to proudly decorate one’s World Youth Day backpack, attempting to converse with hand signals and smiles if words are misunderstood. Friendships are made. Pictures are taken. E-mails are exchanged. Meals are shared.

But on the Thursday of each World Youth Day event, a new guest arrives. The Holy Father enters the crowds of boisterous, exuberant youth, each touched by the witness of an elderly man who has made his own sacrifices to share time with them.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pope Francis' first encyclical is out

"In Abraham’s journey towards the future city, the Letter to the Hebrews mentions the blessing which was passed on from fathers to sons (cf. Heb 11:20-21). The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. So it was that Sarah, by faith, became a mother, for she trusted in God’s fidelity to his promise (cf. Heb 11:11)." -- Lumen Fidei #52

You can read the entire encyclical here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

St. John Paul II by year's end!

The Vatican officially announced today that Pope John Paul II will be canonized by the end of 2013, although a date has not yet been set.  It is expected that he will be canonized at the same time as Pope John XXIII.

Considering that a million people attended the beatification, I cannot imagine what St. Peter's Square will be like for two papal canonizations!  Stay tuned for information about the date, when it is announced.

More information is available here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gambling with time -- why wait until the last minute for children?

One of the most read articles on "The Atlantic" right now is entitled, "How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?" It's a puzzling question that seems to uncover from the beginning the mentality behind author Jean Twenge's gamble. If the ideal question really is, "How long can I wait to have a baby?" then having a baby is some sort of work project or trophy or item on the to-do list of life that needs to be checked off somewhere along the line.
Indeed, Twenge is adamant that modern women have been sold a bill of goods. Fertility in the late 30s really isn't as bad as people say, she writes. She said the statistics used are flawed, some even stemming from before life without electricity. 

And there are "dangers" with not waiting until the eleventh hour to have a baby, she warns
Literally: an analysis by one economist found that, on average, every year a woman postpones having children leads to a 10 percent increase in career earnings.

Yes, women of the 21st century, your goal is to wrangle your life in such a way that enables you to make as much money as possible, while still managing you to have a child before the biological clock sounds its final alarms. 
As I read Twenge's article about how late one can delay childbearing, I kept thinking of all of the unknowns that live in the future. It's not just about one's age. There are other surprises in life -- illnesses, devastating car accidents, the loss of one's spouse -- that can affect whether or not one is able to have children.  The longer one waits, the more these great unknowns continue to loom.  In other words, there are no guarantees.

And if someone does have a reproductive illness, like endometriosis, it is far better to treat it early than to allow it to continue its work in the body.  Twenge suggests that women in their late 30s see a fertility specialist after six months of "trying," but wouldn't things like charting one's cycle, healing endometriosis or fibroids be far better to begin as soon as possible, rather than ask a doctor for IVF information or fertility drugs?

But the heart of the article is really the unsaid in the article.  Twenge's attitude and question presuppose an idea of children as object to be acquired, not as gift to be received.  To ask, "How long can I wait to have a child?" is almost like the high school or college student who asks, "How late can I wait to study for the test and still get a passing grade?"  Children aren't like that, though.

The fruitfulness of marriage is first a spiritual fruitfulness.  This can become visible through a child, but the couple is asked to be fruitful from the very first moment of their wedding vows.  The nature of authentic love is that it cannot help but give.  And give the couple must.  If their focus is the self and the stockpiling of money, accolades, career, material items, etc., then there's something wrong.  It's not that a couple cannot have these things, but if the focus of the marriage is on acquiring, even if it's together, this is vastly different from a marriage where the focus is on giving.

So, to ask the question of how late to delay childbearing is to misunderstand what marriage is, what generosity and fruitfulness are, and therefore what love truly is.  With a proper understanding of these, the right question to ask would be, "How soon can we have a child?" The attitude and lifestyle behind this question is vastly different from, "How can I have my cake, eat it too, and check off a child or two on my to-do list?"

I read several of the comments to the article, expecting to hear from some women who regretted having waited to try to have children.  Shockingly, most of the comments I saw were arguing that this question shouldn't be asked because not all women want to have children.  To even further the underlying attitude of the article, these commentors were expressing the idea that children are extrinsic to marriage and are only good insofar as you choose to have them.  If a woman wants to be a careerist, then no one should be telling her that she might later regret having children.  So they argue.

And it all points to the unhappy contraceptive mentality of our culture, which has not only changed our idea of love and marriage, but of children themselves.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Upcoming teacher workshops at Ruah Woods

Are you an educator, teacher, catechist or someone who teaches the faith?  Do you know someone who is? Check out the two workshops offered by Ruah Woods this summer -- Theology of the Body for Teachers and Special Topics: Gender and Sexual Identity.  Both classes are filling up quickly, so click on the links above to register before it's too late.