Monday, December 31, 2007

Three Years Ago...

It is funny to think that 3 years ago today I was excited, tense, anxious, nervous and all smiles in seeing friends and family and taking care of last minute preparations for our wedding day. It seems so long ago. Tomorrow, at approx. 1:30pm EST we will have been married 3 years. James and I actually became friends 11 years ago this past week. While I was lamenting having my wisdom teeth removed, college applications and a minor fender bender.

I never would have imagined that in three years we have had two beautiful daughters.

Cecilia is a very active and intelligent 23 month old. She laughs, runs and plays with delight. She is learning words all the time and has begun potty training. She absolutely loves to be read to and loves her fruit and veggies. She will pass up cookies for an apple. She likes to sing and loves her baby sister and likes giving her kisses (I think Felicity gets more than we do). She is a beautiful and happy little girl.

Felicity is only 6 weeks old but already impresses us with her improvements in head control and hearty nursing and long hours sleeping. She smiles and rarely cries. She likes to nap in her swing and loves being held. She, unlike her sister, likes to be swaddled and likes looking at the world around her. She is laid back and generally calm but is eager to be more mobile.

Two people. Two girls. Two human beings that did not exist 3 years ago are alive and well today already making the world a better place. Two children make us smile and laugh and light up our lives as no one ever has. Imagine if they weren't here. I can't. They make life so much more complete and full in a way that no exploded diaper or toppled plate or temper tantrum can undo. Two little blessings we could not imagine our lives without. God has been very good.

Holy Family Homily

I didn't get a homily on the Holy Family or even family yesterday so I was grateful to find Fr. Martin Fox's online. I had to share:


What does your Holy Family look like? (Sunday homily)
This time of year, we all see the Hallmark-Card images
of family that are hard—
no, make that impossible!—to live up to.

So it was with my family, growing up;
probably yours, too, I imagine.
One of the best things I ever did
was to accept the reality of my family’s brokenness,
instead of the ideal that never was.

Speaking of “best things,”
my father says one of the best things he did,
as a husband, was to take mom out for a date
every Saturday night.

This goes with something Pope John Paul the first said:
“Parents begin to educate their children
by their love for each other.”
This is one reason why,
when married people come to confession,
I sometimes give this penance:
“Do something romantic for your spouse.”

But what the pope said calls to mind
something truly amazing:
God, in becoming a true human being,
an infant at Mary’s breast, growing up in a home,
learned about love from Mary and Joseph!

This is the mystery of the Incarnation:
God becoming like us in all things but sin.
He whom all heaven could not contain,
into Mary’s womb came to dwell.
The all-powerful Creator became a defenseless child!
The Ancient of Days learned about human life and love
from watching Joseph and Mary.

And you worry about what you teach your children!

On this Feast of the Holy Family,
let’s acknowledge some things:
Sometimes, in church, we talk so much about married life,
we neglect those who are single,
or those whose marriages ended in deep pain.

We often don’t know what to say.
Well, we could start with, “I’m not going to judge you;
and I do want to welcome you!”

Some people don’t “fit the mold”;
some can’t marry as God and nature define marriage.
It’s not our place to redefine marriage;
but it is certainly our place—indeed,
it’s absolutely our obligation before God—
to embrace everyone without mockery,
without ugliness, as Christ in our midst!

We hold up the Holy Family as an ideal;
but Christ knows well how “dysfunctional”
our families can be.
That’s why he came to be part of our human family!

You and I know about messages in society
and the media that threaten family life.

Let me say this:
Father Tom and Father Ang and I, and this parish—
we want to help!
Please tell us what we can do to help more!

You and I are also painfully aware of family troubles
we don’t like to talk about:
Alcoholism or other addictions;
anger, emotional abuse or physical violence;
depression or other emotional problems.

Yes, Christ took a beating on the Cross;
but he never inflicted such abuse on anyone—
and neither should we!

To make matters worse, some of these issues
aren’t dealt with openly,
but instead become shameful secrets,
wounds that never heal.

Don’t we call this the season of Light?
Christ offers his Light to heal these wounds.
Will we let him?

Christ, who came to carry the Cross
of all our human sinfulness,
will give you courage and walk beside each of us
on our own Way of the Cross. Will we let him?

Our second reading talks about the role
each of us has in our families.

Christ is the child among us—should he witness
parents berating and demeaning each other?

Christ the teenager: we have no idea what music he liked.
But do you think he would have tolerated music
that demeans women and exults violence?

Christ was a worker;
but he did not make work an excuse to neglect his family.

Christ the man saw women as Images of God,
not as servants, or imaginary partners on the Internet.

Christ was strong enough to bite his tongue;
he didn’t need fists or words to prove himself.

Men, are you and I “man enough”
to follow the leadership of Jesus Christ?

And Christ the healer never shamed anyone he met;
not the prostitute, not the tax-collector,
not the leper or the alien.

And he will never shame nor despise any of us
for our sins, our wounds, our secrets…
whatever they may be.

Yes, our families are far from the ideal.
But they, too, can be “holy families.”
Not because they look like a Christmas card,
but because we let Christ bring courage,
and healing, and hope:

Not to the families of our dreams,
but to the real family life we actually have.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Baby-Sitting Disservice at Mass

Our parish offers a baby-sitting service during mass on Sunday. It has been advertised in the bulletin and encouraged by our pastor. Now, this is not the children's liturgy where children sit with their parents through most of mass and leave only for the readings and homily. For the baby-sitting service, parents drop their children off at a separate room under the rectory, go to mass, and pick up their children after mass.

Now, I'm not condemning parents who use this service - after all, our pastor has been encouraging parents to use it, so they may not have a second thought about it.

However, James and I have a grave objection to the so-called "service." Since the parents go to mass, it is safe to assume, if not all, at least the vast majority of these children are baptized. And at their baptism their parents promised to raise their children in the Roman Catholic faith and doing this means attending mass. The only exemptions I know of from going to mass are for health reasons or if one is truly incapable of getting to one. There is no exemption for age. Even if they are too young to understand the mass, that does not mean they do not benefit from attending mass, hearing the hymns, seeing others pray, or receiving grace from simply being in the presence of Christ. This "service" is not only a disservice to the children but is in fact the breaking of the promise their parents made at their baptism!

As for why a priest would encourage this disservice and breaking of a promise made to God, my only hope is that he does not realize what he himself is doing.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Atheistic Hypocracy

The website of the Connecticut Valley Atheists reads:

"The mission of Connecticut Valley Atheists is to promote to the public a positive perception of Atheists and Atheism. CVA intends to accomplish this through community activities, charitable works, and sponsorship of educational events which demonstrate that Atheism is an ethical and meaningful way of life. We intend to seek out and encourage like-minded people to join us and contribute to our efforts."

Yet they have erected a sign under the pretense of celebrating the winter solstice with a picture of the World Trade Center Towers and the words "IMAGINE NO RELIGION." I say, "under the pretense" because since when did celebrating the winter solstice necessitate the absence of religion? It doesn't. And when was the sign erected? On December 1st - the day before the First Sunday of Advent. And this is supposed to promote a "positive perception of Atheists and Atheism"??? Spare me. If someone wants to be an atheist, I recognize their free will to do so but don't put up public displays against religion for the Advent and Christmas seasons and claim you just want to encourage a positive perception of yourselves because such an excuse makes no sense.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Favorite Passages from Spe Salvi

4.When the Letter to the Hebrews says that Christians here on earth do not have a permanent homeland, but seek one which lies in the future (cf. Heb 11:13-16; Phil 3:20), this does not mean for one moment that they live only for the future: present society is recognized by Christians as an exile; they belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage.

23.There is no doubt, therefore, that a “Kingdom of God” accomplished without God—a kingdom therefore of man alone—inevitably ends up as the “perverse end” of all things...

28.Our relationship with God is established through communion with Jesus—we cannot achieve it alone or from our own resources alone. The relationship with Jesus, however, is a relationship with the one who gave himself as a ransom for all (cf. 1 Tim 2:6). Being in communion with Jesus Christ draws us into his “being for all”; it makes it our own way of being. He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become possible truly to be there for others, for the whole.

32.When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me[25]. When I have been plunged into complete solitude ...; if I pray I am never totally alone.

33.Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. ... To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well.

34. For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly. ... We become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others. Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle to prevent things moving towards the “perverse end”. It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God. Only in this way does it continue to be a truly human hope.

35.Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere. Certainly we cannot “build” the Kingdom of God by our own efforts—what we build will always be the kingdom of man with all the limitations proper to our human nature. The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope.

37.It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.

39.Let us say it once again: the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity. Yet this capacity to suffer depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon.

42.A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope.No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering.

43.God now reveals his true face in the figure of the sufferer who shares man's God-forsaken condition by taking it upon himself. This innocent sufferer has attained the certitude of hope: there is a God, and God can create justice in a way that we cannot conceive, yet we can begin to grasp it through faith. Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh[33]. There is justice[34]. There is an “undoing” of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright. ... The purely individual need for a fulfilment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ's return and for new life become fully convincing.

44. The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. ... God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value.

47.The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

49.The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

God Knew What He Was Doing

I frequent a few message boards including Catholics ones and ones for moms who were/are pregnant and with small children. One of the hotter topics on the latter pertains to optional medical intervention to bring about labor and delivery before it would otherwise naturally come about. This would include unnecessary c-sections, breaking the bag of waters and using drugs such as pitocin,cervidil, etc.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I understand there are certainly times when a c-section is necessary or drugs are needed to speed along labor and delivery like when an unborn baby's heartrate drops and does not rebound or when mom's blood pressure goes through the roof. Obviously those are things that should not happen simply to give birth.

But I have been in awe of the number of women choosing to have their labor induced or have a c-section simply because they want their baby born on a specific day or because they are tired of the inconvenience of being pregnant. Certainly pregnancy is not all ease and comfort and that last month is generally far from it. But it seems like nowadays there is no sense of the natural order of things. Pregnancy is not a disease. Labor and childbirth are natural processes. "Full-term" is anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks. Some women are scared into induction by medical professionals though ultrasounds. They will be told at 36 weeks that their baby is measuring 7 1/2 pounds and if they go full term they will have huge babies and no one tells them that those late ultrasounds can be off by 1-2 pounds! I've even heard doctors pushing inductions because "no one wants to be in the hospital on (such-and-such) holiday" which really translates into "I don't want to have to deliver you on a holiday."

And of course most of these women do not realize that, like almost all medical interventions, there are risks involved - determined or undetermined - they opt for risks that they might not have even had to worry about.

Where has our respect for nature gone? You'd think with all the talk about being green and driving hybrids and eating organic and saving the planet, people would be MORE aware of nature and the natural order and yet it seems to be the opposite. God knew what he was doing and the baby won't stay in forever. Moms and dads and God chose when the baby got in there. God and the baby should choose when he/she comes out.