1/22/73

Re-post.

“The Virgin with Child,” Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, c. 1420

In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass “For Peace and Justice” (no. 22 of the “Masses for Various Needs”) should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day. –General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 373

In an annual recognition of the Roe v. Wade anniversary, our U.S. Bishops have made January 22 to be a penitential “Ash Wednesday” of sorts in which we are required as Catholics to wrap our prayer in penance as we beg for God’s mercy to pardon the slayers of the pre-born, to awaken the consciences of all to the inviolable dignity given by God to each human being at the moment of conception, to aid us in building a culture of life that obviates the temptation to abort and, as the quote above says, to restore legal protection that guarantees the pre-born’s right to life.

Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world’s rejection. And every elderly person…even if he is ill or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the ‘culture of waste’ suggests! – Pope Francis

We pray for the hastening of the day when a prominent civil rights activist will write in an article marking the anniversary of this court decision,

As we recall that there once was a time when we, under the pretext of civil liberties and human rights, defended the chemical burning, dismembering, evacuating and poisoning of pre-born human beings, let us reaffirm this day our unrelenting commitment to be a voice for the voiceless and a defender of the defenseless. Let us reassert our resolve to labor and give birth to a world wherein every child conceived is welcomed by their mother, their father and by a human family united by the bonds of love, compassion and justice. May we never again fail to see in each pre-born human life a living witness to the fragile web of our interdependence and the primordial sign that we are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper…

Two vantages, one reality

I will leave you with two quotes — one that reflects on the need for truth and the second on the need for compassion. The first quote is by a pro-choice feminist Naomi Wolf, written in the October 16,1995 edition of The New Republic, in an article called “Our Bodies, Our Souls: Rethinking Pro-choice Rhetoric.” The second quote is by Pope St. John Paul II, and is taken from his March 25, 1995 Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae #99.

So what will it be: Wanted fetuses are charming, complex, REM-dreaming little beings whose profile on the sonogram looks just like Daddy, but unwanted ones are mere “uterine material”? How can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that the truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy. Besides, if these images are often the facts of the matter, and if we then claim that it is offensive for pro-choice women to be confronted by them, then we are making the judgment that women are too inherently weak to face a truth about which they have to make a grave decision. This view of women is unworthy of feminism. Free women must be strong women, too; and strong women, presumably, do not seek to cloak their most important decisions in euphemism. -- Naomi R. Wolf

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life. — Pope St. John Paul II

Romane, born May 20, 2014 at 10:51 a.m. 2.935 kg. 8 seconds of life. Taken from slate.com

 

“How will you find anything in your old age?” Sirach 25:3

Below is a 2 year old post dusted off for reuse. As I re-read it, it reminded me of two things: (1) Pope Francis’ recent comments on old age and (2) a very moving video of John Fraley playing a song to his Mom who has Alzheimer’s. Here is the quote and then the video:

Harm can also be waged quietly, through many forms of neglect and abandonment, which are a real and true hidden euthanasia.

People need to fight against this poisonous throwaway culture, which targets children, young people and the elderly, on the pretext of keeping the economic system balanced, where the focus is not on the human being but on the god of money.

While residential care facilities are important for those who don’t have a family who can care for them, it’s important these institutes be truly like homes, not prisons, the pope said, and that their placement there is in the best interest of the older person, not someone else.

These retirement homes should be like sanctuaries that breathe life into a community whose members are drawn to visit and look after the residents like they would an older sibling.

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Sts. Joachim and Anna, taken from vultus.stblogs.org

With all of the Marian themes abounding in this liturgical season, I found myself reflecting on Mary’s agèd parents, Joachim and Anna, and more generally on the significance of old age in our Catholic tradition. I recalled especially the first reading from Sirach on the feast of the Holy Family, and this line in particular:

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

That reflection called me back in my memory to two places. First, to a comment Mother Teresa made when she came to visit the hospice I was working at in Washington D.C. back in 1992. She said something like this:

I was asked once who were the poorest of the poor in the United States, and I said it was those elderly men and women in nursing homes. These are so often unwanted, unloved, forgotten, abandoned, and uncared for. Let us not make a mistake. We think of hunger for a piece of bread. The hunger of today is much greater: for love – to be wanted, to be loved, to be cared for, to be somebody.

Then my memory roamed back to a conversation I had while I was in Omaha several summers ago. I was chatting with an older, “late vocation” seminarian about his experience at a non-Catholic nursing home while he was on his pastoral assignment in his diocese. We’ll call the nursing home, “Sunset.” He shared with me a set of insightful and challenging perspectives on ministry to the elderly that knocked my socks off. I told him I had to share his thoughts at some point with others. To that end, here’s a summary of his perspective:

…Every month, a priest would come and celebrate Mass at Sunset. So many of the Catholic residents wanted desperately to go to Mass every Sunday at a local parish, but had no means of getting there. Most of the residents could not drive, of course. Some had children who were fallen-away Catholics, so never wanted to go to Mass anyway. Others found themselves simply alone in their last years, for whatever reason, though some — even many — I found out were estranged from their children, or at least had a terrible relationship. Some had not heard from their children in years, were just plain old neglected by their adult children.

I used to get angry and ask myself, “Why aren’t these local parishes organizing help to get them to Mass?” I understand people are busy, pastors are overloaded with endless ministry demands and that everywhere it’s always those same 10% of the people who do 90% of the work. But if we complain about Mass attendance dropping, let’s do all we can to get all “the willing” there!

We always talk in my diocese about the pastoral priority of youth ministry in our diocese, that the young church is the future church. True enough. But if you think about it, isn’t more true that the elderly are the real future of our church? I mean, eternal life is the church’s ultimate future, and they’re about to face death after having lived a whole life as Catholics. Many of them ask for me to help them die; they’re afraid.

If the real job of the church is, in the end, to make saints, and death’s the time that finally happens or not, the church has to be there walking with them to the very end. And it’s especially these ladies I think about all the time — it bothers me — who gave so much of their time to the church volunteering over the years, passed the faith on to their children, and now, more than ever, they count on the church to help them in the last years of their life to help them prepare for death. I see them lose hope and cry over the lack of reciprocity. The church asked them all their life to pray the Hail Mary, “…pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death…” But just when “now” and “the hour of death” are about to fuse, they feel abandoned. It’s a crisis and we are just not responding as a church, I think. I feel God has given me this calling, you this calling. First to my own family and then out to others. We can’t make people think church is a NGO, a bureaucracy or programs or clerics who take care of business. It’s me and you. Jesus needs us to love these people; to touch them and smile at them and wipe their drool. Like St. Teresa says, “Christ has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours.”

I think the American church should put more pastoral energy into the elderly, and be a sign of contradiction to a cult-of-youth society that thinks of the elderly not as powerhouses of prayer, or as sources of wisdom, or as the generation owed a debt of gratitude by the younger generations, but as a burden and useless drain on resources due the young and the strong. Stop the rhetoric of words to fight euthanasia and start using the rhetoric of deeds. Sometimes I wonder if our particular way of placing emphasis on youth in the church is not as much a faith priority as it is a cultural one we have just swallowed like Kool-Aid. I think that if we as a church cultivated a culture of reverence, service and love for our elders, the youth would be far better served than by any youth-centered youth ministry program we could devise. I’ve seen it — when youth connect with the elderly it’s electric. God shows up.

It really hit me when one lady in her early 90s told me she used to be a devout Catholic, but was so frustrated by failed attempts to get spiritual support from the church. She said that some Pentecostal women, who used to visit a few of the residents, one day asked her if she’d like to pray with them. She was delighted. After praying with her, they asked if she’d like them to visit her several times a week. She said she would love that, and with two words she summarized what she saw as the difference: They did. They would bring her things she’d ask for — toiletries, her favorite candy — and eventually brought her to the nearby Pentecostal church most Wednesday nights and every Sunday morning.

How could she say no?

Bl. John Paul the Elder

I will give Pope St. John Paul II the final word here from his stirring Letter to the Elderly:

In the past, great respect was shown to the elderly. “Great was once the reverence given to a hoary head”, says Ovid, the Latin poet.(13) Centuries earlier, the Greek poet Phocylides had admonished: “Respect grey hair: give to the elderly sage the same signs of respect that you give your own father”.(14)

And what of today? If we stop to consider the current situation, we see that among some peoples old age is esteemed and valued, while among others this is much less the case, due to a mentality which gives priority to immediate human usefulness and productivity. Such an attitude frequently leads to contempt for the later years of life, while older people themselves are led to wonder whether their lives are still worthwhile….

…There is an urgent need to recover a correct perspective on life as a whole. The correct perspective is that of eternity, for which life at every phase is a meaningful preparation. Old age too has a proper role to play in this process of gradual maturing along the path to eternity. And this process of maturing cannot but benefit the larger society of which the elderly person is a part.

Elderly people help us to see human affairs with greater wisdom, because life’s vicissitudes have brought them knowledge and maturity. They are the guardians of our collective memory, and thus the privileged interpreters of that body of ideals and common values which support and guide life in society. To exclude the elderly is in a sense to deny the past, in which the present is firmly rooted, in the name of a modernity without memory. Precisely because of their mature experience, the elderly are able to offer young people precious advice and guidance.

In view of all this, the signs of human frailty which are clearly connected with advanced age become a summons to the mutual dependence and indispensable solidarity which link the different generations, inasmuch as every person needs others and draws enrichment from the gifts and charisms of all.

Taken from pelorous.totallyplc.com

Until 2015

I write you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears. — 2 Cor. 2:4

That’s a dramatic opening statement, I know. I know also that applying it to my Blog writing may seem absurdly excessive. Maybe so. But, though I am at peace with the decision because of its clarity, it’s the experience I had within as I discerned and decided this summer that I needed to stop blogging, at least for 2014, to attend with more undivided attention to the increasingly weighty responsibilities of work and home.

Exhaustion is a great teacher.

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. — CS Lewis

As I said in June, and have said before too many times, this Blog is a nearly unparalleled joy for me. It’s my theological playground where my faith-in-quest mind is allowed a free reign it’s not allowed even when I teach — I can blow where the Spirit wills in an unfettered way. I have also experienced a deep sense of communion with those who think with me on this Blog — who read and pray and wrestle with the thoughts I offer. Thank you for enriching my mind and heart by lending your own to that which is my life’s passion: to become a sacramental sign for seekers of the Word made fresh.

Again, if you put your email in the subscription window to the right you will receive my Blogs again when I return. I will, God willing, begin again 1/1/15. May the eternal God bless you with all good things, especially through the intercession of today’s O.P. saint, St. Dominic Guzmán!

I’ll leave you with a piece of sage advice a priest friend shared with me earlier this summer that will continue to daily call me back to the One Thing Necessary.

Tom,

I keep trying to call myself back to his, many times failing in the task. Then I try to make my failure part of my prayer. Nevertheless, what Benedict XVI said to priests applies to all vocations.  Have a fruitful and restful bloggus interuptus.

“Dear brother priests, if your faith is to be strong and vigorous, as you well know, it must be nourished with assiduous prayer. Thus be models of prayer, become masters of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer, during which, after Jesus’ example, you engage in a regenerating conversation with the Father. I know it is not easy to stay faithful to this daily appointment with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life is frenetic and worries absorb us more and more. Yet we must convince ourselves: the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a priest’s life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And therefore, time for prayer must be given a true priority in our life. I know that there are many urgent things: as regards myself, an audience, a document to study, a meeting or something else. But if we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with our Lord.”

 ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

TO PRIESTS, DEACONS AND SEMINARIANS

OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BRINDISI

Cathedral of Brindisi

Sunday, 15 June 2008

 

In the love of Christ,

Dr. Tom

Taken from usatoday.net

Summer hiatus (June 14 – August 14)

{if you wish to receive posts again when I resume, please feel free to submit your email over here —>}

A random “Far Side” comic that well sums my deepest math-phobic fears. Taken from calculushumor.com

This is my 897th post since I began. Hard to believe. My son said to me the other day when he saw me typing, “Dad, that your Blog?” “Yes,” I replied. “Don’t you ever run out of things to say?” I said, “Well, why don’t you read them and tell me if I do.”

I have discerned that the Lord is calling me to a hefty bloggus interruptus, and though it sounds sinful I promise it’s not. It is a grief for me to stop, and a friend of mine warned me that I will probably lose a lot of readers. I have family vacays coming up, I am teaching a course in July on Liturgy and priestly spirituality, I am leading 2 retreats, I am preparing for a new course to teach this Fall at the seminary (Pastoral Theology) and bracing for a new year as Academic Dean (administerium meum est ad mortem). Then there’s sleep and such.

Discernment very often is about judging limits that protect one’s own personal limitations and primary vocational responsibilities. Such limits ensure that I do not become unfaithful to the few good things God is calling me to do by doing other good things He is not calling me to do. It’s among the Evil One’s favorite tactics, and the one most easily rationalized.

Right Gratitude

I truly love this template. It permits me to paint on a digital canvas the theological storm that swirls about on my “inscape,” mostly within my imagination. As I frequently say, I am never not amazed that people find in Neal Obstat a source of spiritual nourishment. For me, there is no higher purpose I could imagine for any of my theological work than for it to become viaticum, food for the journey to our Father’s house. Deo gratias, “Thanks be to God”!

I must say that since I began writing this Blog in 2010 I have had more fresh theological insights than in the previous twenty-something years of theological study combined. Part of that is the natural gift that comes with the discipline of writing — as you write, you express and create ideas. But another part, I am convinced, is that the impulse to write daily, the superabundance of fresh insights, flows (on better days) from the Lord for you. So many times this or that idea will seize me in the midst of a relatively innocuous task – taking out the garbage, sitting in a budget committee meeting or while I’m taking a shower (tmi) — and it will not leave me alone until I write it here and edit it for posting. Not in an oppressive way, but with a gentle insistence that remains until the task is completed. Now and again, some kind reader will leave a comment that affirms they “needed” a certain message, or received a certain grace from what was said in a post. That makes it all worth the labor.

In this, I find confirmed again and again a truth my first spiritual director drilled into me long ago:

Tom, if people some day compliment you on your work, on your teaching, and they thank you for this or that grace they received through you, I want you to say to yourself at once, “How much God must love them to give me these gifts!” Because any gift you have been given is not about you, Tom, it’s about them; it’s for them. If you make the gifts about you, think you’re special because you have them, then those gifts are ruined and they will become the very reason for your condemnation. But if you make them about others, then they will sanctify you. Remember what I told you: the premier sign of holiness is humility; and the premier sign of humility is that others’ needs and welfare populate your thoughts more than your own do. And remember, if God can speak through Balaam’s jackass [Numbers 22:21-39] he can even speak through you…

A new patron saint.

“Balaam and the Ass,” Pieter Lastman 1622. Taken from morenormalthannot.com

Favor?

If I might ask 2 final favors from you:

1. Who are you? Though I enjoy immensely the steady stream of comments from a core of a dozen or so friends and other people whom I feel I know a bit, I always wonder who is out there on the digital continent reading. If you could leave a brief comment here sharing who you are, I would be grateful!

2. Kindly pray for me and my family. I will include you in my daily prayer for a new Pentecost:

Father in heaven,
renew your wonders in our time,
as though by a new Pentecost,
by sending down your Spirit upon us.
Grant that by the same Spirit
your holy Church in [name your diocese],
praying with one mind and one heart
together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus,
and guided by Sts. John XXIII and John Paul the Great,
may make present in our world
the kingdom of your Divine Son:
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love, and peace. Amen.

[I adapted this from Archdiocese of Detroit prayer found here]

Yad Vashem

Let me leave you two texts — (1) Pope Francis’ awe-inspiring words spoken at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial during his recent journey to the Holy Land and (2) Pope Benedict’s equally awe-inspiring words spoken at Auschwitz (which I have posted before). Note the remarkably different, yet complementary, vantage each takes on the same mysterium iniquitatis, “mystery of evil.”

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Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Visit to the Memorial of Yad Vashem
Jerusalem, 26 May 2014

“Adam, where are you?” (cf. Gen 3:9).
Where are you, o man? What have you come to?
In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more:
“Adam, where are you?”
This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child.
The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew that his children could be lost…
yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss!
Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust,
That cry – “Where are you?” – echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss…
Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you.
Who are you, o man? What have you become?
Of what horror have you been capable?
What made you fall to such depths?
Certainly it is not the dust of the earth from which you were made.
The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands.
Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you.
That breath comes from me, and it is something good (cf. Gen 2:7).
No, this abyss is not merely the work of your own hands, your own heart…
Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you?
Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil?
Who convinced you that you were god?
Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters,
but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god.
Today, in this place, we hear once more the voice of God:
“Adam, where are you?”
From the ground there rises up a soft cry: “Have mercy on us, O Lord!”
To you, O Lord our God, belongs righteousness;
but to us confusion of face and shame (cf. Bar 1:15).
A great evil has befallen us, such as never happened under the heavens (cf. Bar 2:2).
Now, Lord, hear our prayer, hear our plea, save us in your mercy.
Save us from this horror.
Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you.
Hear, Lord, and have mercy!
We have sinned against you. You reign for ever (cf. Bar 3:1-2).
Remember us in your mercy.
Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done,
to be ashamed of this massive idolatry,
of having despised and destroyed our own flesh
which you formed from the earth,
to which you gave life with your own breath of life.
Never again, Lord, never again!
“Adam, where are you?”
Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man,
created in your own image and likeness,
was capable of doing.
Remember us in your mercy.

Address by Pope Benedict XVI
Auschwitz-Birkenau, 28 May 2006

To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible —and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany. In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence — a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?

In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again.

I had to come. It is a duty before the truth and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God, for me to come here as the successor of Pope John Paul II and as a son of the German people — a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation’s honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power.

This is the same reason why I have come here today: to implore the grace of reconciliation — first of all from God, who alone can open and purify our hearts, from the men and women who suffered here, and finally the grace of reconciliation for all those who, at this hour of our history, are suffering in new ways from the power of hatred and the violence which hatred spawns.

How many questions arise in this place! Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?

The words of Psalm 44 come to mind, Israel’s lament for its woes: “You have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness … because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep,O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down tothe dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” (Psalm 44:19,22-26).

This cry of anguish, which Israel raised to God in its suffering, at moments of deep distress, is also the cry for help raised by all those who in every age — yesterday, today and tomorrow — suffer for the love of God, for the love of truth and goodness. How many they are, even in our own day!

We cannot peer into God’s mysterious plan — we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. Then we would not be defending man, but only contributing to his downfall. No — when all is said and done, we must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God: Rouse yourself! Do not forget mankind, your creature!

And our cry to God must also be a cry that pierces our very heart, a cry that awakens within us God’s hidden presence — so that his power, the power he has planted in our hearts, will not be buried or choked within us by the mire of selfishness, pusillanimity, indifference or opportunism.

Let us cry out to God, with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is the abuse of God’s name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in him.

Let us cry out to God, that he may draw men and women to conversion and help them to see that violence does not bring peace, but only generates more violence — a morass of devastation in which everyone is ultimately the loser.

Pope Benedict XVI entering the Auschwitz camp. Taken from bp.blogspot.com

Pope Francis praying at the eternal flame, Yad Vashem. Taken from yadvashem.org

D-Day

D-Day claimed over 4,400 killed in action and 8,000 more wounded. Taken from http://www.crossfitjamesisland.com

…a tribute to your many friends who have paid with their lives for fidelity to their mission. Forgetting themselves and despising danger, they rendered the community a priceless service. Today, during the Eucharistic celebration, we entrust them to the Lord with gratitude and admiration. But where did they find the strength necessary to do their duty to the full, other than in total adherence to the professed ideals? Many of them believed in Christ, and his words illumined their existence and gave an exemplary value to their sacrifice. — St. John Paul II

Last Friday, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, our family watched HBO’s “Band of Brothers” which, starting with their rigorous training in Georgia in 1942, recounts the achievements of the elite rifle company — Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army — which parachuted into France early on D-Day morning, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and captured Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden. It was very powerful and, as one of my sons said, “it makes you realize these were real people.” Something that can be lost when you study wars in history books. Afterward, I re-read Pope St. John Paul II’s remarkable reflection on 50th anniversary of the end of World War II (see whole text here), and would like to share my favorite excerpt here.

O God, grant eternal rest to the souls of all those who died in that war and in all wars.

Many are the voices raised on this 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in an effort to overcome the divisions between victors and the vanquished. There are commemorations of the courage and sacrifice of millions of men and women. For her part, the Church wishes to listen in particular to the plea of all the victims. It is a plea which helps us understand better the scandal of those six years of conflict. It is a plea which asks us to reflect on what the War meant for all humanity. It is a plea which serves as a denunciation of the ideologies which led to that immense catastrophe. In the face of every war, we are all called to ponder our responsibilities, to forgive and to ask forgiveness. We feel bitter regret, as Christians, when we consider that “the horrors of that war took place on a continent which could claim a remarkable flowering of culture and civilization – the continent which had remained so long in the light of the Gospel and of the Church”. For this the Christians of Europe need to ask forgiveness, even while recognizing that there were varying degrees of responsibility in the events which led to the war.

War never again! Yes to peace! These were the sentiments commonly expressed after the historic date of 8 May 1945. The six horrible years of conflict provided everyone with an opportunity to grow in the school of suffering. Christians too were able to draw closer together and question their own responsibilities for their disunity. They also discovered anew the solidarity of a destiny which they share in common and with all men and women of whatever nation. An event which marked the depths of strife and division between peoples and individuals thus proved for Christians a providential opportunity to become aware of their profound communion in suffering and in bearing witness. Beneath the Cross of Christ, members of all the Churches and Christian communities were able to resist even unto the supreme sacrifice. Many of them, with the peaceful weapons of witness in suffering and of love, stood up in an exemplary way to their torturers and oppressors. Together with others — believers and non-believers, men and women of every race, religion and nation — they held aloft very clearly, above the mounting wave of violence, a message of brotherhood and forgiveness.

On this anniversary, how can we fail to remember those Christians who, bearing witness in the face of evil, prayed for their oppressors and bent down to bind the wounds of all? By sharing in suffering, they saw one another as brothers and sisters, and fully experienced the unreasonableness of their divisions. Shared suffering made them feel ever more deeply both the weight of the divisions still existing among Christ’s followers and the negative consequences which these divisions entail for the building of Europe’s spiritual, cultural and political identity. Their experience serves as a warning for us: we need to continue along this path, praying and working with fervent confidence and generosity, in expectation of the fast-approaching Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. May Christians set out towards that goal on a pilgrimage of penance and reconciliation,  in the hope of being able at last to restore full communion between all believers in Christ, a step which will assuredly benefit the cause of peace.

When We Close Our Wombs

“The Visitation,” 15th century, Heimsuchung von Maria und Elisabeth. Taken from unbornwordoftheday.files.wordpress.com

The biological nature of each person is untouchable in the sense that it is constitutive of the personal identity of the individual throughout the whole course of his history. Each human person, in his absolutely unique singularity, is constituted not only by his spirit, but by his body as well. Thus, in the body and through the body, one touches the person himself in his concrete reality. To respect the dignity of man, consequently, amounts to safeguarding this identity of the man as “one in body and soul,” as Vatican Council II says. — St. John Paul II

I have a dear friend in Lafayette, Louisiana, Dr. Damon Cudihy, who is a radical witness of the lay vocation lived out under the form of husband, father and Ob/Gyn. He demonstrates daily how the synthesis of faith and life is not only possible but beautiful to behold, though its beauty has, for him, only been wrought by a steady dose of costly grace. I admire his kindness, his work ethic, his brilliant mind, his even-handedness and his joyful love of Christ, the Church and the people who cross his path every day. You can see more about his work here.

My main reason for referring to Dr. Cudihy today is to bring to your attention his recent response to an article by a theologically degreed Protestant Christian, Suzanne Burden, called, When We Close Our Wombs (see here). Her main point is summed up in the article’s final paragraph:

…most women will face many choices regarding their reproductive system in their lifetime, and many will face a decision about whether to end their fertility for health or personal reasons. Whatever choices we make, we should do so with reverence, care and the support of spiritual companions. As we do, we agree that our reproductive systems are a good gift from God. And we affirm that decisions about them should be filled with intention, care and the Christian hope that God will continue to bear his good fruit in us whether our wombs are open or closed.

When I read it, I wrote Damon and said, “Would you comment on this?” He graciously did and, though his comment has not yet (as I write this post) been approved for viewing on the “her-meneutics” website where the article first appeared, I thought I would post it here for your edification.

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Dear Suzanne,

My heart goes out to you as it does to all my patients who suffer with infertility and the heart wrenching decisions to undergo procedures which result in their permanent sterility.  As a gynecologist who has dedicated his professional life to addressing the problems of female infertility, painful periods, and heavy menstrual bleeding, and as a fellow Christian, I’d like to offer a unique perspective for both you and your readers.

The symptoms of infertility and pelvic pain (menstrual-associated or otherwise) are the most common symptoms of endometriosis.  Despite the fact that this condition is typically treated with birth control pills, the best treatment for the pain and the only treatment that restores (or preserves) fertility is surgical removal of the endometriosis.  Unfortunately, however, in the age of using birth control pills as a cure all and of IVF as the answer to infertility, fewer and fewer physicians are able to provide a more specific diagnosis and treatment plan that actually corrects the abnormality.

Your situation sounds very similar to many patients I’ve treated over the years.  More specifically, the combination of tubal sterilization and endometrial ablation.  Since I don’t perform either of these procedures, they became my patients when they experienced a fairly common condition resulting from this combination known as “Post-ablation tubal sterilization syndrome (PATSS).”  This condition of intense menstrual pain results of blood becoming trapped in the tubes because of the sterilization occlusion on one end and the scarring of the uterus (caused by the ablation) on the other.  The best treatment for these situations is usually a hysterectomy (often, in retrospect, would have been the best treatment to begin with).

One of the medical principles I strive to follow is that of “first, do no harm.” Accordingly, when surgery is necessary, I do everything possible to do so in as minimally invasive a manner as possible. (Fortunately, modern surgical technology has allowed the once morbid hysterectomy to become one where the recovery period is much quicker and less painful.)  Because fertility is a healthy condition, I would be causing unnecessary harm to a woman’s body if I were to perform a direct sterilization.  By direct, I mean a procedure where the sole purpose is destroy her capacity to conceive children.  When I perform a hysterectomy for a genuine problem (i.e. intense pain, excessive bleeding, etc), the sterility that results is indirect—one that we accept as an unavoidable (yet accepted) consequence to the best treatment for her medical problem (diseased uterus, etc).  If a woman is in a situation where a future pregnancy in unadvisable for whatever reason, there are much better ways to avoid pregnancy that maintain a more complete respect for the woman’s body as created in the image of God.  For married women, this simply entails learning one of the various methods of Fertility Awareness (often derisively called the “rhythm method” by those unfamiliar with its actual effectiveness).  Among all creation, only humans have been granted free will.  Regarding sexual intimacy, this is why mutual consent is universally recognized as absolutely essential–even among atheists.  Using a Fertility Awareness Method to avoid pregnancy is as simple as learning to identify the fertile days in a woman’s cycle and avoiding marital intercourse on those days.  While at first this may sound like an excessively scrupulous method to obtain the same end, if we thoughtfully and prayerfully reflect on it further we can see why this is the best way.

Sadly, a contraceptive mentality as contributed to our increasingly hedonistic society.  When we fail to recognize children as the supreme gift of marriage, we see them instead as inconveniences, burdens, health hazards, or even enemies to be avoided at all costs.  No wonder then that our federal government has now codified law that literally regards fertility as a disease—one that all insurances must pay to cure. (On the contrary, the legitimate problem of infertility is never covered by insurance.)  Since we are a people following the one who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6), we must be careful that our actions always reflect a reverence for our “bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.” (1Cor 6:19).  In doing so we give witness to God’s plan for marriage and the essential good of children—even when, paradoxically, we suffer the cross of infertility.  Since we believe that God designed our bodies and commands us to “be fertile and multiply,” we should joyfully accept children as a gift from the Most High and should be careful that any means used to avoid or postpone new life is completely respectful of our bodily integrity and the truth that openness to children is an essential purpose of marriage.

In Christ,

Damon Cudihy, MD

 

Hermit till 6/1/14

Taken from ellenfinnigan.com

 Besides institutes of consecrated life the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance. — Canon 603 §1

For the rest of this week I will be locked up for a few days in a hermitage, c/o of the generosity of my wife, to write in solitude. I love to write, and I love solitude, and I write best when I am absolutely alone. My plan is to write on the vocation of the laity and to come up with an article. I’ve tried this before, with marginal success. So, if I might, I’d like to solicit your kindly prayers that I might succeed according to God wishes.

As ever, thank you for reading what I write, to my boundless amazement.

As I will be away for 5 days, I’ll leave a 5 things for your reflection. :-) (N.B. Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland recently said, “Be positive and joyful. Offer ‘digital smiles’ and have a sense of humour.”)

1. Misérables. For those of you who love Les Misérables, I will share you with this amazingly talented one-man version of the musical’s signature songs. It’s about 13 minutes.

2. St. Dismas. There’s a gentleman who comments on this post now and again who leaves the most engaging reflections. I don’t know him. His pen name, Dismas Dancing, is clearly meant as a self-identification with the Good Thief, St. Dismas, the rebel-saint who finds joyful redemption dying on a cross next to Christ. All of his comments are candid and inspiring, and the one he wrote this past Saturday commenting on my thoughts on raising daughters was no exception. Whoever he is, he appears as a man of character and has a deep, blood-red faith. Enjoy.

Brother Neal, as you certainly know from most of my comments on your blog, I spent a full career in the Marine Corps. When I retired from the Corp, three of our four children were already married having kids of their own and marching to the sound of their own career drums. Interestingly, not one of our children entered the military, although our sons investigated the possibilities, but with their own well-established parameters for doing so in mind before making a commitment.

Last weekend, our youngest and his bride invited us to attend their collegiate Alma Mater to celebrate a couple of significant events the University School of the Performing Arts was conducting. He was the last to leave the nest, doing so in 1996 after having worked as a golf course laborer in New Orleans while discerning whether, where, and which career, profession, job would most suit his life. He ultimately chose Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA deciding to work toward life as a stage actor. His elder brother was attending Durham University in England at the time, also majoring in the arts. In that field he has excelled, just finishing up a gig in London’s National Theater in the critically acclaimed “Yellow Face”. He has a long and impressive resume. But, since I am not advertising for them, I’ll spare you specifics beyond that mentioned above. We also had two daughters, the eldest of the four. Both are exceptional in so many, many ways. Both are wonderful Moms AND professionally successful outside the home, one as a teacher in a private school in southern Georgia, the other as a property manager in central Texas. Indeed, Our Lord has not only blessed both of us (my bride and me) with wonderfully talented children, He has been magnificently generous in His blessings of them as well.

So what? In this age that denies ever more loudly that men (fathers) are no longer necessary for the rearing of children, I scream loudly in protestation using Our Lord’s message from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know NOT what they do!” If nothing else, the experiences my wife and I shared with our kids throughout our military life demonstrated in unassailable statistics and observable real life events the absolute criticality of an engaged father working in consonance with the loving mother as a holistic, functional team in order for the offspring to have at least some real potential to succeed in life. Absent an engaged father, a child (male or female) will find an alternative, often one that is the antithesis of what the child needs. But within that substitute relationship one finds approbation, approval, “Love” (such as it is), belonging, and purpose. Sadly, over the years, we knew and took care of a number of latch-key kids whose parents abandoned them to the vagaries of the social network around them. Fortunately, within our rather closed society that is the military family, these kids found acceptable substitute families willing to stand in for absent parents. My wife and I still keep in touch with a number of them through our own kids and their periodic communication with fellow “military brats” they got to know and befriend over the years.

Several years ago, following a very special event in which I participated with my sons while we were stationed in Seoul, Korea, I wrote a memoir about it. Perhaps the most poignant line in your blog was:

“Dad is a Son’s First Hero and a Daughter’s First Love.”

In my own memoir, shadows of your daughter’s line to you jump out at the reader—often. For, in their invitation to me to participate in a stage production, I was asked to be that “sons’ hero”. It was an immensely awesome experience. In other aspects of that same memoir, I document the very real necessity and experience of being “a Daughter’s first love.” Specific experiences throughout our lives—daughters and father—are equally awesome. In the final thoughts of that memoir, I opine that, in the many trials my kids and I experienced together in our roles as a father and his children, they have become unwitting “heroes” to me. Before “tough love” became a cliché, it governed the rearing of my kids. The operative word, however, is “love” not “tough”. Anyone can be tough. That’s the easy part. Sometimes it was too easy for me as one of those “tough” Jarheads. The horribly difficult challenge is whether love governs the issue. I submit that if a father does not do as you did and find a place to privately “grieve”, whether happily or sadly, whether having received a “hand painted piece of construction paper” upon which is written a beautiful and simple love note, or having just meted out a “just” punishment in response to an errant action—If you cannot/do not find that private place and submit to the “LaCrema Christi” so to speak, you cannot, you are not, a father in the sense that your other quotes demonstrate that we should be. Even today, I indeed grieve for the times when I allowed “tough” to be my guide, instead of the “love” that is always richly deserved, regardless of circumstances. When my kids and I talk about those days and comment on the memoir, they chide me for “beating yourself up” over things “we probably deserved.” It soothes, but shall never heal, the wounds of remembrance.

BTW, two of my heroes, the eldest child (elder daughter) and her brother, the elder son, celebrate this year their 20th wedding anniversaries. Six grandchildren from those unions, four boys and two girls—ALL incredibly talented and smart (documented, NOT just braggadocio from a proud grandfather). Youngest son this year married 12 years with youngest grandchild (ditto the above). Next year another 20th anniversary—for second daughter. They have two very smart, lovely, and talented girls. Nine grandchildren in toto, ALL talented, smart, and possessed of a firm faith background (pls see above comment re proud grandpa). Can one question why, in my world where genuine heroes are in far too short supply, that my own children are MY heroes?

“My Father in Heaven, in Your mercy and generosity, You have allowed me, in unity with the love of my earthly life, the privilege of being father and earthly trustee of four of your beautiful creatures. In them are reflected Your infinite glory and majesty. I beg You in Your Fatherly love to rain down Your graces upon me and my own sons that I/we may be always “real” father(s) to our children in Your image and reality as Father of all creation. I beg also to be imbued with the necessary graces and strength to be a true son to You as is Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I make this prayer as always in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. ”

Thanks so much for the great post. Upon finishing it, my own reaction was doubtless similar to yours in far more circumstances than we, as “tough” men might like to admit. Peace, my friend.

DD

3. Dramatic proposal. A friend of my wife and I, who is an actor in Des Moines, recently proposed to his girlfriend (also a friend and member of my wife’s church choir in Iowa) in a really creative way. Click here.

4. Catholic-Orthodox. Pope Francis and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Barthholomew prayed together Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and issued a joint statement. Here’s an excerpt:

…even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person at every stage of life and the sanctity of family based on marriage, in promoting peace and the common good, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world. We acknowledge that hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the inequitable distribution of resources must constantly be addressed. It is our duty to seek to build together a just and humane society in which no-one feels excluded or marginalized.

It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us. Therefore, we acknowledge in repentance the wrongful mistreatment of our planet, which is tantamount to sin before the eyes of God. We reaffirm our responsibility and obligation to foster a sense of humility and moderation so that all may feel the need to respect creation and to safeguard it with care. Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people…

Pope Francis and Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew kneel to kiss the Stone of Unction, traditionally claimed as the stone where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in Jerusalem, Israel, Sunday, May 25, 2014. Taken from i2.cdn.turner.com

5. Papal Prayer. Pope Francis broke protocol by suddenly asking the motorcade to stop so he could pray at the Bethlehem Israeli-Palestinian Separation Wall beneath some graffiti that said, “Pope we need some 1 to speak about Justice Bethlehem look like Warsaw ghetto.” I could not help but think of this text:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by those called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near — Ephesians 2:11-18

Taken from npr.org