Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lumen Fidei #20: Courage to Love

From #52: 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.
We've kind of messed up as a society in our views of marriage. On one hand, we take it so seriously that a lot of young people are scared to take the plunge. They think it's safer and less complicated to just live with someone without getting married. On the other hand, we've lost any sense of permanency. We talk about trial marriages. It's not so much until death do us part, but until we can't stand each other anymore.

It takes a lot of courage to get married. It's not something to do half-heartedly or without thoughtful consideration. In getting married, you are not only changing your own life, but that of another human being. A person that you'll get to spend the rest of your life getting to know and love.

But there is a bit of recklessness involved to. It is called "taking the plunge." After all the thought and prayer, you eventually have to do it. Courage doesn't mean not feeling fear, it's not letting that fear control you. One antonym of fear is faith.

To get married, you have to have faith in a bigger picture. This bigger picture might not be exactly what you think you want. But we have to believe that this bigger picture is what is best, that the Person in charge of the bigger picture only wants the best for us. Marriage is never easy. It will require sacrifice. It will require change.

But all of that sacrifice and change is making you into a better, holier person. The main job of a spouse is to make sure their beloved makes it to heaven. That's one heck of a responsibility and one heck of a reward.

This is part of a series of reflections on quotes from Pope Francis' first encyclical. To read more, visit here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lumen Fidei #19: Let Us Build A House

From #50: That faith is not only presented as a journey, but also as a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another. 
As much as we want to cram religion into the personal sphere, religion cannot be simply personal. If you are close to God, you want to share Him. You want to reach out to other people who are also getting close to God. Something so big cannot be contained. A journey as important as faith cannot be done alone.

When you are baptized, among other things, you are baptized into a community. When my son was baptized, it was important for me that it happened as part of a regular Sunday Mass. We don't have any family in Syracuse and not many friends, but I wanted to share this event with others. I liked the symbolism of having it as part of the Mass, my only regret being that the baptismal font was at the back of the church so most people couldn't see it.

Although my son will never appreciate it, the people who were at that Mass certainly did. We still get stopped after Mass by people who comment on how good he is and how much he's grown. I think sharing that moment with our family helped other people in the parish to adopt our son. He's a part of the parish community in a way that my husband and I will never be. He's had the opportunity to grow up with them and they with him.

If you want to read more about his baptism: How My Son's Baptism Helped Me Heal From My C-Section

This is part of a series of reflections on Pope Francis' first encyclical. To read more visit here.

Three Lessons From A Conversation With A Pro-Choice Feminist

Brought on by my latest post on Ignitum Today, I've been engaging in an enlightening discussion with a pro-choice feminist. I want to share with you some of my observations:

1) Pro-lifers need to do a better job at showing that we are for all life, not just the unborn.
One of the first things that the pro-choice feminist threw at me was the stereotype that "Pro-lifers only care about the unborn." We know that your average pro-life activist working at the grassroots level cares about all children. They donate to or volunteer for crisis pregnancy centers to assist women and children with their practical everyday needs. They start homes for pregnant women, like Joseph's House that is being started soon in my town. 

Yes, for those of us who are religious, our right hand is not supposed to know what our left is doing (Matthew 6:3), but we're only giving fodder to pro-choice attacks. We need to do a better job at showing that we are for all life. We need to put our money where our mouth is.

Source, This site has other cool pics.
Our so-called "pro-life" politicians need to show that they understand that women and children need support (in whatever way they feel comfortable providing that support). Politicians need to realize that being against abortion is not enough to earn the title of being "pro-life."    

2) Conservatives and liberals need to talk to each other instead of demonizing one another. Eventually, she and I both agreed that pro-life and pro-choice people care about the poor and people who are already born. I tried to explain to her one of the main differences I've observed between conservatives and liberals: That conservatives want the social safety net to be local and charity based, while liberals are more comfortable with more government intervention. No one wants to kick the poor out on the streets and no one wants anyone to go hungry.

Liberals and conservatives both need to be willing to talk constructively about their differences. The polarization in our culture needs to stop. We aren't getting anything done and we will ultimately tear ourselves to shreds. Instead of staying in our little corners, we need to talk to each other. 

When we talk to each other, we can work on the the issues we agree on and we can learn from one another. Refusing to talk to one another is simply a sign of being insecure in our own beliefs. It's a sign of anger and hatred. Be a sign of love today: talk to someone who is across the aisle from you.

3) It all boils down to the existential questions of: When does life begin? What is a human? That's where the real argument is. We can go around in circles all day with protest slogans and signs, but in the end, this is the question that matters. When we are debating abortion, we are debating the meaning of being human.

This is a question that everyone, regardless of your opinion on abortion, needs to ask yourself. And keep asking yourself. It's not a question you can answer and then walk away, you need to analyze your answer. Is this really the right answer? Is this universally true? Human lives are at stake both inside and outside the womb. 

Often our answers to what constitutes life inside the womb as implications for those already born as well. For example, let's say you come to the conclusion that life starts when the brain becomes active, what does that mean for our definition of "brain death"?

Science can be used to come to the answer, but science cannot provide the answer. Religion can be used to come to the answer, but religion cannot provide the answer. I think if we could all put down our rhetoric and bickering, we could get somewhere by limiting ourselves to the question at hand: What is a human? 

Yelling at each other is getting us no where. We are more mature than that. Let's all act like it. 
Hug a conservative/liberal/whatever-you-disagree-with today 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lumen Fidei #18: Equal Opportunity Faith

From #48: The Gnostics held that there are two kinds of faith: a crude, imperfect faith suited to the masses, which remained at the level of Jesus' flesh and the contemplation of his mysteries; and a deeper, perfect faith reserved to a small circle of initiates who were intellectually capable of rising above the flesh of Jesus towards the mysteries of the unknown divinity. In opposition to this claim, which even today exerts a certain attraction and has its followers, Saint Irenaeus insisted that there is but one faith, for it is grounded in the concrete event of the incarnation and can never transcend the flesh and history of Christ, inasmuch as God willed to reveal himself fully in that flesh. For this reason, he says, there is no difference in the faith of "those able to discourse of it at length" and "those who speak but little," between the greater and the less: the first cannot increase the faith, nor the second diminish it.
Paul tells us that in God there no Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman, because we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). We are also told:

One body, one spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Seems pretty clear to me. Just as there is one God, there is only one faith. And faith isn't just for the theologians or the church-goers. Faith is for everyone.

I always think it's funny when people assume that I'm somehow closer to God because I have a Master's and I volunteer a bunch for the Church. I'll let you in on a little secret. Even people like me have doubts. We, too, have things that we struggle with, things that we don't completely agree with the Church hierarchy about, and things that just don't make sense to us. We also go through dry periods in our spiritual lives and dark nights of the soul.

I'm not any more precious to God than some militant atheist troll on the internet. We're all precious in His sight. We are all His children. He wants nothing more than to welcome us all home. He created us all, He redeemed us all.

Any faith that claims that some people are superior to others is full of it. We are all called to holiness and we all fall short. God loves us all more than any of us will ever understand and He wants a relationship with every single one of us. As the CCC quotes (605), "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."

Full of it like this baby.

Keeping an Alzheimer's Patient Alive?

In Canada right now there is a court case in which a family is suing a nursing home for spoon-feeding their loved one.

Her advanced directives say that she does not want to be fed if she becomes incapacitated. She worked as a nurse and she's seen people die from Alzheimer's. She was abundantly clear with her loved ones that she did not want to die like that.

But the feeding isn't being forced upon her. She's opening her own mouth and swallowing the food. Although her family argues that it's just a reflex, I say that's irrelevant. The important thing is she is doing it, so on some level she's feeling hunger and she's eating.

They say she's in a so-called "vegetative" state. She has to be transferred using a lift. She spends her day in bed or in her wheelchair. Eating is likely one of the only things she can do anymore. And again, that is also irrelevant. Euthanasia is always wrong.

I think my opinion in the case is pretty clear, but this is where it gets murky. The nursing home has threatened to call the police if her family tries to take her out. They have refused to transfer her to a hospice. I think the nursing home is overstepping it's bounds in those respects.

No, she should not be denied food that she is eating on her own, but that does need to be balanced with the family's rights. The family is wrong in insisting that she starve to death. The nursing home is wrong in not letting the family move her. Yes, she needs to be protected from abuse. But, it's still her family.

I've seen people die from Alzheimer's as well. It is not a pretty way to go, but no way is pretty. As Dr. House said (Edited for language):
"Our bodies break down, sometimes when we're 90, sometimes before we're even born, but it always happens and there's never any dignity in it. I don't care if you can walk, see, wipe your own [butt]. It's always ugly. Always. You can live with dignity, we can't die with it."
This case in part shows how advanced directives can be tricky. No one can account for every possible circumstance. Who knows, she might have been only referring to getting a feeding tube or hydration through an IV. Spoon-feeding is not unreasonable, especially if it's not forced. As one person noted on Free Republic, if spoon-feeding becomes optional, what next?

Also, how can we judge her quality of life? We don't know what it's like until/if we get into her shoes. Quality of life arguments have always bugged me. Only the person living the life can judge it's quality and, again, I question the relevancy of the question.

So, if quality of life, how conscious she is of eating and her disabilities are all irrelevant, what is relevant? She's a human being, for starters. Even from a secular perspective, the value of human life has always been seen as an absolute good that can only be taken away for an important, grave reason.

From my religious perspective, life is a mysterious gift that is not ours to take away. God formed us in our mothers' wombs (Psalm 139:13), and only God can take us Home. It's like that Bill Cosby quote, "You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you out." Only God can do that.

No, no she can't.
The most important thing in this case is that this woman is a child of God. Everything else is secondary. Primarily, she needs to be protected. Secondarily, her family has rights as her legal guardians and I'm not sure if this nursing home has not overstepped their bounds a little bit in this case. I'll be awaiting the outcome of this case. It will be an important decision setting precedence for or against euthanasia in Canada.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wrongful Birth, Wrongful Life, Pre-natal Testing and C-Sections

This story explains a lot.

My current homestate, New York, is one of many states which does not protect medical personnel from wrongful birth or wrongful life lawsuits.

A wrongful birth suit is when a family sues a medical professional because their child was born with some kind of illness or disability that if caught before birth would have resulted in an abortion.

A wrongful life suit is when an individual sues a medical professional because they feel they should never have been born.

Borrowed from one of the most awesome blogs on the net. Who borrowed it from somebody called Saturn Stills at
When I got pregnant with James, I was told about all of the pre-natal testing they could do. I refused to do them because a) we have no family history and b) most importantly, the test results would not changed anything, I would never have an abortion.  When I refused, I had to sign a waiver saying that I had been offered these tests, been informed of the pros and cons, and refused. Since I was in my twenties with no family history, the doctors didn't really attempt to persuade me either way. I wonder what will happen next time around since we aren't planning on trying to get pregnant again until I'm at least 30.

One of the biggest c-section myths out there and the one that hacks me off the most.
I also wonder if this mentality has something to do with the c-section rates. There are a number of factors in making c-section rates as high as they are. I know, however, in the case of myself and many other women who have unwanted c-sections, they are pressured into it by doctors. And one of the reasons for the pressure? The doctors are concerned that in the course of regular labor, something will go wrong. They are afraid something will go wrong and they'll be sued.

I addressed this topic specifically with my doctor since I knew it was an issue. I told her that I wouldn't sue her for something that is out of her control. Life and death are a mystery. Childbirth is more of an art than a science. Some things just cannot be predicted and controlled.

I can understanding suing someone when there has been gross negligence, but this "sue-happy" culture makes no sense. Someone doesn't have to pay every time something goes wrong. Pardon my language, but shit happens.

And suing the doctor involved in the birth of your child because the child has a disability is sending one message out loud and clear, "This child should not be alive. A handicapped life is not worth living. A disabled life is less valuable than the life of a 'healthy' person."

I can understand that those with special needs children need money to pay for their care, but you don't have to get it at the expense of the innocent doctor. There are many government and charitable organizations to reach out to for help. And if that isn't enough, be an activist for more aid.

People suing the medical personnel is only making things worse for all of us. It is creating the environment in which few people go into the OB profession because the insurance costs are too high. And people in the profession are scared. And women and children are subjected to unnecessary tests and interventions because the professionals are scared.

Not to mention the message this is sending to world about the value of human life.

Lumen Fidei #17: Sacramental Reality

From #40: The sacraments communicate an incarnate memory, linked to the times and places of our lives, linked to all our senses; in them the whole person is engaged as a member of a living subject and part of a network of communitarian relationship.
A while back I reviewed The Catholic Imagination, by Andrew Greeley. I remember overall appreciating the book although he did perpetuate some half-truths about Catholic teaching. The main point of the book is that people who are raised Catholic, even if they later leave the faith, have a very distinctive mindset.

The Mass and all of the other Sacraments bring the divine into everyday life. That should permeate our whole lives. Encountering the divine in the Sacraments helps us to recognize the divine in the ordinary. Not in the same way, but just as real, Christ is present in the Mass and in our neighbors.

Moreover, the Sacraments connect us not only to God, but to all believers at all times. As this quote points out, it highlights all of the major events in our lives: birth, marriage, birth of our children, death...

And the Sacraments are multisensory experiences. You witness the priest at the altar. You smell the incense. If you go to confession seated across from the priest, you feel his hands on your head as he says the words of absolution. You hear music, the prayers, and the readings.

Growing up with these experiences leaves a permanent mark on cradle Catholics. Those I know who have fallen away still have a deep appreciation for social justice causes, still has a grasp for how interwoven we all are. Many of the ex-Catholics I know fall squarely into the "spiritual but not religious" category as they see God everywhere. I pray that they find the Sacraments again and come back.

If you want to read more of this series of posts reflecting on Pope Francis' first encyclical, visit here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lumen Fidei #16: Share The Light

From #37: Faith is passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another.

This is one of the many points in this encyclical in which I'm reminded of this year's Lawn Chair Catechism series at We're reading Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. While my participation in the series has been shoddy at best, I have been faithfully reading along and I love this book. Just this summer, I've recommended this book on at least three different occasions. That is saying a lot for me. I don't usually volunteer book recommendations.

In the book, the stages of conversion are discussed. Essentially, in order for someone to become a disciple of Jesus, they need to have a personal relationship with His Church. Faith is passed on in personal contact between one person and another. We can't just launch into catechesis; a person needs to trust the Church and have a relationship with the Church before they can learn.

This reading has changed my views on my job teaching Confirmation at my parish. Last year, I concentrated mainly on giving my students accurate information and making that information relevant. This year, I'll likely put more emphasis on prayer and developing a connection with my students.

If you want to read more of my reflections on Pope Francis' first encyclical, visit here.

And when spreading the faith, don't forget new media.

Lumen Fidei #15: Technical Jargon

From # 36: Theology also shares in the ecclesial form of faith; its light is the light of the believing subject which is the Church. This implies, on the one hand, that theology must be at the service of the faith of Christians, that it must work humbly to protect and deepen the faith of everyone, especially ordinary believers. On the other hand, because it draws its life from faith, theology cannot consider the magisterium as something extrinsic, a limitation of its freedom, but rather as one of the internal, constitutive dimensions, for the magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.

In other words, theology as a discipline must serve the ordinary believer and work with the magisterium, not against it. I almost didn't share this quote because 1) it's too fracking long and 2) I thought only me and my fellow armchair theologians would appreciate it. I decided to share it because it needs to be said.

The Magisterium is not the enemy. We're all in this together. The Magisterium contains the collective wisdom of thousands of well-educated men and women accumulated over centuries. When we say "the Church teaches X," we are referring to this well of knowledge. It really shouldn't be cast aside like it's worthless or rebelled against like it's always wrong. At the very least, it deserves a fair hearing and thoughtful (prayerful) consideration. God gave us the Magisterium. The Holy Spirit leads the Magisterium. You can't just ignore the Magisterium.

If you want to read more of this series of reflections on Pope Francis' first encyclical, visit here.

Jesus giving the keys to Peter

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lumen Fidei #14: We're all Magi

From #35: And image of this seeking can be seen in the Magi, who were led to Bethlehem by the star (cf. Matthew 2:1-12). For them God's light appeared as a journey to be undertaken, a star which led them on a path of discovery. The star is a sign of God's patience with our eyes which need to grow accustomed to his brightness.
Every year at the Christmas party at my Newman Center, everyone got rewards. One year, the organizing committee thought it would be cute to base all of the rewards on the Christmas story. As the token convert (and a non-Christian convert to boot), I received a cute homemade ornament featuring the three magi.

The magi: Traditionally, there have been three although the Bible doesn't give an exact number. They came from the East (like I did) following a star. They looked for the Christ.

Just like the Magi, we may have a very far way to go. In this life, the vast majority of us will never completely make it. But that doesn't mean that we stop searching. The Kingdom of God is the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46), it is the treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44).

You can find the rest of this series on quotes from Pope Francis' first encyclical here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Swords to Plowshares

Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich, given by the Soviet Union to the United Nations in 1959; my picture taken from UN grounds showing sculpture in front of the East River. Picture from

In days to come,The mountain of the LORD’s houseshall be established as the highest mountainand raised above the hills.All nations shall stream toward it.Many peoples shall come and say:“Come, let us go up to the LORD’s mountain,to the house of the God of Jacob,That he may instruct us in his ways,and we may walk in his paths.”For from Zion shall go forth instruction,and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.He shall judge between the nations,and set terms for many peoples.They shall beat their swords into plowsharesand their spears into pruning hooks;One nation shall not raise the sword against another,nor shall they train for war again. - Isaiah 2:2-4
For some reason, I always had the idea that God was the one who was going to come down and turn our "swords into plowshares" when this world comes to an end. But this morning during morning prayers, I had another idea.

In this passage, people go up to the LORD's mountain so that God can instruct them. After this instruction (and judgement), the people themselves turn their swords to plowshares. So...

Let's think about this for a moment. As we learn about God and follow His will, we find peace within ourselves. We know we're doing the right thing and we know we are on the right path. We are told that peace begins in ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Above is the song "Let there be peace on earth." Keep your comments to yourself. Yes, I hate most church songs popularized post-Vatican II. Not this one. Sue me.

So, maybe here is another point to all of this reading, studying, and catechizing. As we learn more about God, little by little this world will find peace.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lumen Fidei #13: It Takes Three

Stolen from.
From #32: Once we discover the full light of Christ's love, we realize that each of the loves in our own lives had always contained a ray of that light, and we understand its ultimate destination. 
In the wedding ceremony, the husband and wife are considered to be the ministers. Everyone else is witnessing the ceremony in which the husband, wife and God become one. I've heard it said by a number of different sources that the Trinity is a Community of Love. Married people have a special responsibility in reflecting that love in their households. Our other relationships need to reflect that love as well.

How do we do this? By asking one clichéd, but still very important question: What would Jesus do? Jesus gave us an example of self-sacrificial, world-changing love. In all our relationships, including the martial ones, we need to follow that example. Easier said than done. No one said any of this would ever be easy.

This is part 13 of a series of reflections on quotes taken from Pope Francis' first encyclical. To see the other reflections, visit here.

Borrowed from.

On a personal note, I'm sorry I haven't been here for the past week. My son had surgery on his eyes about a week ago. His recovery went well, but I wanted to/needed to unplug for a while to take care of him and myself.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Because He's Breathing

This heart-wrenching story is about a family who were horribly wrongly educated about the Christian views about homosexuality and the deadly results. 

Picture taken from the article
It took their son's death from overdose to realize that they should have loved and accepted him regardless of his sexual orientation. They tried to support him while being faithful to their faith. No Christian denomination (including and especially Catholic) teaches that we are supposed to hate gay people. People are people regardless of their sexual orientation. Everyone is a beloved child of God. 

Another sad thing about this article is the comments section. I usually don't read the comments on articles because the idiots tend to come out in the com-boxes, but I was asked to. Many, many people were using this story to bash organized religion. Organized religion is never the culprit. If you read all the founders of the major religions, you'd know that they all teach love. Religion isn't the problem, it is sometimes the followers who are sinful and foolish.

Lumen Fidei #12: To Touch with our Hearts


From #31: Saint Augustine, commenting on the account of the woman suffering from haemorrhages who touched Jesus and was cured (cf. Lk 8:45-46), says: "To touch him with our hearts; that is what it means to believe."
The woman with the haemorrhages. She'd been bleeding for years. Scholars say it was likely a gynecological issue which would mean that no man could touch her and be ritually clean. She was so sure that Jesus could heal her that she reached out and touched His robes. All He felt was someone tug on His clothes and some power leave Him. When Jesus questioned the crowd to see who had touched Him, she reluctantly came forward knowing that as a bleeding woman, she had no right to touch a man. But Jesus doesn't rebuke her. He says simply that her faith has healed her and tells her to go in peace.

I am originally from the "show me" state. We all value what our senses tell us as true. Right now, we cannot directly see God. We can see Him in creation. We can feel His love through other people. But we cannot see Him Himself. The closest we can get is to touch Him with our hearts, to believe. As Jesus says to Thomas:
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” - John 20:29