The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Grandchildren, et al.

I haven't posted much lately, but I have an excuse. We've had visitors...special visitors.

Dear Diane and I had two wonderful weeks to enjoy our elder daughter, Erin, and five of our grandchildren who came here to Florida for a visit. Our son-in-law was unable to make the trip because of work so he was absent from the picture we had made during his family's stay with us. I suppose I could "photo-shop" him into the picture, but that might be beyond my limited capabilities. He'll just have to wait until the next family photo-op. Here's the photo of Mama and her five little ones...


At the same time we were also blessed by a visit of our younger son and his bride of six months who spent several days with us on their way to a vacation ever father south in the Florida Keys. Because every square inch of our modest home had been claimed by the grandchildren, son and daughter-in-law stayed at a nearby hotel and spent their days with us.

On one of our excursions we spent the day at the Homosassa State Park in Homosassa Springs, Florida so we could see the manatees and other critters and birds native to our state. We all had a great time and enjoyed a nice lunch of seafood at a nearby waterfront restaurant. That's where the below photo of our son, Brendan, and his wife, Amari, was taken.


The good news about retiring in Florida is that our children and grandchildren like to visit, especially when the northern weather is cold. The bad news? They don't do it often enough.

We miss them all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homily: Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

Readings: Is 49:8-15; Ps 145; Jn 5:17-30

As the time of His passion and death approach, Jesus once more patiently tells His disciples, His critics, and us that He does all through God the Father, not through His humanity.

We can never fully understand Jesus’ relationship with the Father because it’s unlike any human relationship, even the most idealized. In our imperfect state we’re simply unable to grasp perfection.

But from this Divine Father-Son relationship comes a love so great that it extends to us all. Our Father loves us so much that He sent His beloved Son to take on our humanity, to offer Himself as a living sacrifice to redeem us from our own sinfulness. And the Son loves us and His Father so much that He does this willingly. He takes on all our sins, all our indignities, throughout all time. What kind of love is that? We sin, we fail, and He who made us pays the price.

And so today we encounter Jesus, fully aware of His approaching suffering and death, and yet loving even those who will condemn Him. He continues to explain the truth to those who reject it. He continues to hold out hope to all of us that the day of resurrection is coming. You see, brothers and sisters, Jesus isn’t just foretelling His resurrection, but ours as well. He tells us plainly that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” And He invites us to trust in the perfection of His relationship with His Father, and to join in that same relationship, at least to the extent allowed by our limited human capacity.

We’re really not all that different from those who were blind to the loving divine relationship. The Pharisees and others, driven by fear and jealousy, rejected Him and the Good News, accusing Jesus of blasphemy. They never looked inward, did they? They never asked, “What do I bring to others?” Indeed, what do you and I bring to others?

Do we really hear and accept the Good News Jesus offers us? Or do we only pretend to hear, remaining closed to the Word of God because sharing it demands that we have a changed heart? Ask Christ to touch your heart and bring you the gift of openness to His Word.

Never doubt God’s love, but recall the words we heard from Isaiah – “I will never forget you" – words intended to strike the heart, words that we all long to hear from those who love us.

And so today, let’s all just keep this simple truth in the forefront of our thoughts: God will never forget me.

I will go to Calvary in my prayer and pray:  "God will never forget me."

I will go to the Empty Tomb in my prayer and pray:  "God will never forget me."

I will bring my brokenness and worries, my problems and joys to God and pray: "God will never forget me."

And then, filled with God’s love, let me then ask, “Who is God asking me never to forget?"



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Surgery Postponed

Well...it seems I wasn't supposed to have my minor outpatient surgery after all, at least not today. For a whole slew of odd reasons that my doctor's office decided were relevant, the surgery's been postponed until July.

Thanks for the prayers anyway.

Blessings...

Outpatient Surgery Today

In a few minutes I undergo some minor outpatient surgery. It's something I'd rather avoid, but my doctor thinks it should be done.

So I ask for a little prayer that all goes well. Thanks and God's peace.

Deacon Dana


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Culture of Death

Did you hear about the Oregon couple who sued their healthcare provider because their daughter was born with Down Syndrome? That's right, it seems the parents of little four-year-old Kalanit Levy are very upset because Legacy Health of Portland failed to identify the girl's condition prenatally and want to be compensated for this "wrongful birth." Had they known of their daughter's condition before she was born, Ariel and Deborah Levy stated they would have aborted her. Kalanit will require all kinds of extra care that her parents are apparently unprepared or unwilling to provide, so they wanted $14 million from Legacy Health. Read more here.

Yesterday a jury apparently agreed that the "parents" should be compensated and awarded them $2.9 million based on the estimated lifetime costs of their child's care. Attorneys who deal with these cases agree that to win a wrongful birth lawsuit "parents must argue that they would have terminated the pregnancy had they been fully informed." And so this Oregon jury in effect decided this one little girl should not have been born. Hers was a life not worth living. And the Levys have been paid off...for what? For not aborting Kalanit because they would have had they only known? Are they then rewarded for doing what thousands, probably millions, of parents do every day: give birth to and take care of their disabled children, not because they have to but because they love them?

The political left seems to be particularly bothered by these disabled children because they represent an overt rejection of abortion, and these days everything is about abortion. Abortion is the political left's cause célèbre against which all else is measured. And so anyone who knowingly gives birth to a disabled child -- e.g., one with Down Syndrome -- better be prepared to be denounced. Back in 2008 when Sarah Palin was added to the Republican ticket, Carol Fowler, the chair of the South Carolina democratic party stated that the Alaska governor's “primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion”; in other words, she hadn't aborted her Down Syndrome son, Trig. Then, on Trig Palin's birthday in 2011, Jack Stuef of the popular leftist blog Wonkette not only attacked Sarah Palin but also three-year-old Trig:
"Today is the day we come together to celebrate the snowbilly grifter's magical journey from Texas to Alaska to deliver to America the great gentleman scholar Trig Palin...What's he dreaming about? Nothing. He's retarded."
It would seem the left's mandate to adhere always to political correctness does not apply to them, and certainly not when abortion is involved.

According to lawyers.com courts have found it difficult to seat juries in these wrongful birth cases because they have to immediately disqualify those with strong pro-life views and there are just so many of us. I find it particularly disturbing that my support for life would disqualify me as too biased when the person who wrote the above comments on Wonkette would be completely acceptable.

Read again  the words of Pope Paul VI in his monumental encyclical, Humanae Vitae (1968), in which he warns of the consequences of the contraceptive mentality:

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the "principle of totality" enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII.
I'm afraid we, as a people, have allowed this power over life itself to pass "into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law."

Let us pray for life every day:
Heavenly Father, your cosmic gaze focused on dust and you fashioned in your image and likeness every man and women: give us, we beg you, a keen eye to recognize that image so that respect for all human life becomes our way of life. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, March 18, 2012

iPad Apps Galore

The other day, a parishioner, apparently after seeing me praying the Liturgy of the Hours using my iPad, asked me if there were many other useful apps for Catholics. He had just purchased his own iPad and didn't know what was available. I was in a bit of a hurry at the time, but I did mentioned a few of my favorites to him, and then promised to address the subject soon on my blog...hence this post.

As a bit of a techno-dweeb, I have to admit, I find some the new technology not only easy and fun to use but also remarkably useful. I've had one or another version of the iPhone for several years now and have owned an iPad 2 since that version was first released by Apple. Both get frequent use and I now rely on them for many of the tasks that fill my days.

The iPhone is a terrific phone, but for me a bit too small for web browsing, watching movies, reading eBooks, or anything but the simplest kind of data entry. It's handy when you need to search the web on the fly for a specific piece of information, make a brief note, find a nearby restaurant or the lowest gas prices, or check a specific Bible verse. I also use its GPS functionality on occasion. This was especially handy on our last trip to Europe and helped us considerably as we roamed the streets of large cities and tiny villages. It's always nice to know where you are. But since acquiring an iPad, I seem to use the iPhone more for phone calls and less for everything else.

A lot of folks complain about the iPad's on-screen keyboard, but I've had no problem with it. Even with my large fingers, I'm able to type rather quickly without too many errors. Indeed, I'm writing this post using an iPad application called, BlogPress. This particular app makes it easy for me to write and post to my blog wherever I happen to be, as long as I have a WiFi connection. (I was too cheap to buy the 3g version of the iPad that requires another expensive AT&T data plan.) The BlogPress app, though, was very reasonable and cost only $2.99.

Note: You will find all these apps at the App Store on your iPad. Just search for the name of the app and then purchase and install it.

Another app I use often is Apple's mobile device word processor called Pages. For $10 It provides me with a reasonably functional word processor that lets me create a document when I'm away from home, convert it in MS Word format, and email it to myself so I can edit it, print it, whatever...on my home PC. I find it especially useful for writing homilies when I'm not at home.

I've never counted the number of apps I've downloaded to my iPad, but there are a lot, probably a couple of hundred. Most were free downloads that sounded good at the time, but I've rarely if ever used. I need to delete the majority of these and free up some of my 32 GB of memory. But many of the apps on my iPad I use almost daily and these are the ones I will share with you. Most are "Catholic" apps.

iBreviary Pro Terra Sancta HD. This is a free app, that includes the Liturgy of the Hours. Using it I can pray the Church's daily prayer on my iPad without having to take my breviary with me wherever I go. Another blessing: no searching for the correct pages. If I'm leaving on a trip I can download each day's prayers in advance and not worry about finding a free WiFi hotspot while away from home.

VerseWise Bible RSV-CE. This is the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition of the Bible, the same version as the popular Ignatius Bible (1st Ed). It costs only $7.99. The app includes a search capability and allows those of us with tired, older eyes to adjust the font style and size to meet our needs. You can bookmark your current page and highlight text. The app also remembers the last 100 verses you visited so you can return to them easily.

Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition. For those of you who actually like the NAB, it too is available as an iPad app for only $2.99. The app includes many of the same features as the RSV app above, but to me seems is a little less user friendly.

iPieta. This is one of those Catholic catch-all apps. It includes a Catholic Bible, dozens (hundreds?) of spiritual books and Church documents, prayers, novenas, hymns (many audio files included), Mass readings, a liturgical calendar, and lots more.

Catholic TV and Radio. This free app lets you watch Catholic TV shows from a variety of sources, including EWTN, and listen to Catholic radio programs. Another Catholic radio app you might want to check out is Ave Maria Radio.

Catholic Mass Times, published by TheCatholicDirectory.com. If you travel a lot and have trouble finding a Catholic church so you can attend Mass, this free app is for you. It locates the churches nearest to your current location, or you can search by address or zip code. It then displays Mass times, although on occasion I have encountered errors, probably because the parish didn't update the information on the website. And for shut-ins, it includes videos of Masses celebrated on Catholic TV.

The Boston Pilot. Of all the Catholic newspaper apps, I believe this to be the best. It's free and offers excellent local, national and international coverage of news of interest to Catholics.

3-Minute Retreat -- Enhanced. I really enjoy this free app, published by Loyola Press, and usually begin my day with it, right before I pray Morning Prayer. It might not be for everyone, but it helps me to start my day better than I would without it.

Kindle and Nook. With my iPad I can use the free apps offered by Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes and Nobel (Nook) and download and read hundreds of eBooks. Being a true reactionary, I enjoy the classics and other time-tested works that are often available online for no cost. I have well over 100 Kindle eBooks stored on my iPad and with only a few exceptions they were all downloaded for free.

OpenStates. For those of you who like to keep informed on your state government and elected state representatives, this is a terrific free app. Based on your location, it will identify your state representative and senator. You can then see how they've voted on specific legislation, check out current bills before the legislature, and much more.

MyCongress provides some of the same information as the OpenStates app, but for the U. S. Congress.

I think that's enough for now. If I came across some other good apps, I'll pass them along and hope you will do the same.

Blessings...

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Homily: Year B, 4th Sunday of Lent

Readings: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

Well, here we are, smack dab in the middle of Lent, and we find the Church reminding us to be joyful; for this weekend we celebrate Laetare Sunday with its theme of hope and joy in anticipation of Easter. It’s a theme that threads its way through all of the readings we just heard, a theme reminding us that despite the darkness we so often encounter, despite all the sorrows and challenges of life, as Christians we have good reason to be joyful.

Lent, you see, is a time of hope and joy because it is also a time of forgiveness. This is the message of our readings: that no matter our sinfulness, when we turn to God in repentance, He forgives. We see this clearly manifested in our first reading from Chronicles.

God’s chosen people, driven from their homes like cattle, exiled to pagan Babylon for their sins, live in the darkness of despair. As we just heard in our Responsorial Psalm, by the streams of Babylon they sat and wept when they remembered Zion…and so they repented. And God forgave. But he punctuated His forgiveness in a way they could never have anticipated. He has Cyrus, King of Persia, free them from their bondage and allow them to return to Jerusalem. The pagan Cyrus even sends them off with a blessing from the Lord, the one true God.
By the Waters of Babylon

Here we see not only God’s forgiveness, but also a demonstration of His love, a mere foretaste of the love He will offer on the Cross, a love far beyond anything we could ever imagine. It’s this love that Jesus shares with Nicodemus as the two of them meet in darkness.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was a lot smarter than you? I have a dear friend who’s a small-particle physicist. Years ago we shared an office when we both taught at the Naval Academy. I was always interested in what he was working on, and so I once asked him about a paper he had just presented at a conference.  For the next 20 minutes I listened to what I am sure he believed was a very basic outline of his work. Oh, I caught the general gist of what he was telling me, but most of it was way over my head. So I just smiled and occasionally nodded.

I suspect that Nicodemus felt a bit like that as he listened to Jesus, and heard so much that he didn't understand.

He came to Jesus looking for answers, answers about who Jesus was, as well as answers to humanity’s greatest questions. Nicodemus was an important man, “a ruler of the Jews”, John tells us, and so he approached Jesus only at night to avoid being seen. This ruler and teacher of Israel, this esteemed member of the Sanhedrin, is courageous enough to go to Jesus, but too fearful to approach the Light of the World except under the cover of darkness.

But at least he goes to Jesus, doesn’t he? And he listens. He listens to the words of the Word of God and hears a summation of all our hopes and joys:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” [Jn 3:16-17]
Unlike His teaching to the crowds, Jesus doesn’t speak in parables to Nicodemus. Indeed, He calls on the Torah, the Law, and refers to the scene in the Book of Numbers in which Moses, obeying God’s command, ties a bronze serpent to a pole and lifts it up for the people to see. Looking on it, the people are healed from the bites of the poisonous snakes that plagued them.

In the same way, Jesus tells Nicodemus, the world will be healed of its sinfulness when it looks on the Son of Man lifted high. But Nicodemus doesn't yet realize that Jesus is talking about the Cross. In time he will understand the full meaning of Jesus’ words, just not yet.

This lifting up of the Cross, brothers and sisters, becomes our task, if we’re courageous enough to do it. We must lift Jesus up on the Cross, lift Him up and show this sign of God's healing love to the world. This is why we make the Sign of the Cross. This is why we have a crucifix raised high above the sanctuary. Yes, God so loved the world…

Good and evil, hope and despair, sin and forgiveness, light and darkness – Jesus teaches and Nicodemus gets a lesson he will never forget, even if he does not yet understand its full meaning. For as Jesus teaches this teacher of Israel, He clearly defines and separates darkness from light, the darkness of sin from the Light of the World.

How did John put it? “…the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” [Jn 3:19] It is this Light, and this Light alone, that illuminates the path, our path, the way to eternal life.

Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to the apostles at the Last Supper, with these words: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [Jn 14:6] Jesus calls us to follow the way, to step out of the darkness and into His Light.

Only those ashamed of their lives choose to live in darkness. Jesus calls us to let go of all that shames us, to set aside our fears, and to accept His forgiveness. God sees and knows all of our shame, brothers and sisters – our stupidity, our pettiness, our spiritual malignity – and He takes it all on Himself. He bears the full weight of our sins as He hangs from that Cross, and does so out of a love that is beyond our comprehension.

In that love He calls us to repentance, just as He called the Chosen People who in exile wept and remembered. In our brokenness we are like the exiles in Babylon, separated from all that they truly loved. And it was in forgiveness that they received the gift of return, a return to the Holy City, a return to the presence of God in their lives.

In the same way He offers us a gift of return to discipleship, a return to God’s grace, where we can once again be right with God and His Church. He came not to condemn us but to save us, to forgive us. In reconciliation He offers us the gift of sacramental forgiveness, our first step on that path to return, to lifelong conversion. And like the exiles returning from Babylon, our journey should be a journey to freedom. This is the journey we are called to undertake during the holy season of Lent.

After his 40 days in the desert, Jesus begins His public ministry with the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” [Mk 1:15] -- for our journey is always a journey of repentance, a journey from a self-generated place of exile. And it’s never easy, for the path is littered with fears and doubts and temptations. One thing we learn is we can’t do it alone. We’re simply not courageous and fearless and faithful enough, and our crosses are just too heavy to bear. We need God to lift that burden from our shoulders and shower us with the gifts of the Spirit.

As we journey from slavery to freedom, the wounds we pick up along the way remind us that the risen Jesus held out His wounded hands to Thomas as proof of His own journey of love, a journey that transformed the world forever. It is the risen Christ whom the Father raised up from the tomb, the risen Christ who gives us hope.

Is there any better reason to be joyful today?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Homily: Year B, 2nd Sunday of Lent

Readings: Gn 22:1-2,9-13,15-18;Ps 116; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10

Not long ago I thought my wife’s hearing might not be what it used to be, so I decided to conduct a little test. I stood some distance behind her and said softly, “Diane, can you hear me.” Getting no answer, I moved closer and again asked, “Diane, can you hear me?” Again having received no answer, I moved right up behind her and said softly, “Diane, can you hear me?” And that’s when I finally heard her say, “For the third time, Yes.”

Well, that’s pretty much how you and I often communicate with God. We’re so intent on making sure He’s listening to us, that He doesn’t miss all those needs and wants we’re always placing before Him, that we neglect the more important task: We fail to listen to Him. We forget, or simply can’t believe, that God hears our every prayer, that He knows our every need. Not only does God hear us, but He also speaks to us; and He does so conclusively and with clarity, but only if we have a well-developed prayer life.

We need only listen, listen as the Father commanded us. That’s right, twice in the gospels the Father speaks aloud regarding Jesus.

At Jesus’ Baptism the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Mt 3:17]. And so, as Jesus begins His ministry that culminates in His death and resurrection, and in our salvation, we learn that the Father sent Him to become one of us; that He is Emmanuel, God with us. Yes, the Father states unequivocally, that He is well pleased with His Son: This Jesus, My Son, has met all My demands for holiness, for righteousness, for goodness. What greater statement could God have made about His Son?

And then, in today’s Gospel passage, the Father again speaks aloud: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” [Mk 9:7].

With these words we are given our primary responsibility as disciples of Jesus. “Listen to Him.” It’s a simple message, for God never complicates, He always simplifies. Simple but profound, God’s message isn’t obscured by some long to-do list of responsibilities and behavioral expectations; rather, it consists of one, simple command, “Listen to him.” This is the essence of discipleship, and it hasn’t changed since the days of Abraham.

I can remember as a child being fascinated by our family Bible. Every week my father would open it up, read aloud whatever passage happened to interest him that day, and then discuss it with us. To be honest, I was probably more interested in the remarkable illustrations in our Bible.

Ready
One illustration in particular both fascinated and terrified me. It was a brilliantly clear picture of an old man forcibly holding the body of a young boy against a stone altar. Even more disturbing was the large knife in the man’s hand, a knife pointed straight at the boy. That painting, by Caravaggio, was my introduction to Abraham and Isaac, and the caption beneath it consisted of a single word: “Ready!”

I remember thinking, ready for what? And so I asked my father, and he said, “Ready to sacrifice his son.” Well, that didn’t help; nor was it very reassuring. And so I asked more questions and received more puzzling answers that pretty much boiled down to: “Because God asked Abraham to do it, and because Abraham loved God.” It was all very confusing. I also found myself looking at my father a little differently, wondering if God might ask him to do what He’d asked Abraham.

Eventually, though, I came to realize that Abraham and Isaac were a kind of special case. God might not test us as He tested Abraham, but He still wanted us to listen, to obey, to be ready. Yes, Abraham loved and trusted God so deeply, He believed in God so faithfully, that he was ready to do whatever God asked of him. And God, seeing Abraham’s readiness, provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac. Years later, I learned that this readiness to do God’s will is the mark of the true disciple.

In today’s Gospel passage, we find ourselves generations away from Abraham, on another mountain where we encounter another who is ready. Peter, James and John follow their Master up its slopes, separating themselves from the world. And on that mountaintop Jesus gives them a glimpse of what is to come, a glimpse of the promise they don’t yet understand, a glimpse of God, of eternity – and they see it all through Jesus. Standing in His glory with Moses and Elijah, Jesus is fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

There was no caption explaining that scene for the apostles, but maybe Peter was starting to get the picture. Maybe deep down he’d come to realize another Biblical sacrifice was about to be offered. Like Isaac, another Son would carry his own wood of sacrifice up yet another hill.

Unable to grasp this fully, Peter is overwhelmed by the moment: Let’s build tents and just stay here forever. It’s so good to be here. But to be content with the present is not a statement of readiness, is it? It’s a statement of complacency. And complacency isn’t the mark of the disciple. To help Peter and the others understand this, God speaks, and Peter hears the voice of God, the voice that causes a healthy fear: This is my beloved Son – listen.

In this Lenten season, as we page through our history as a people, as we are presented each week with the stories of God’s faithfulness, as we picture the scenes and try to understand the captions God writes beneath them, as we do all these things, let’s remember what we’re called to do: to listen and to be ready to act.

Will we listen to Jesus as he speaks to us in so many ways: through the Gospel; through the Church; through each other? Are we ready, ready to act, ready to sacrifice? We’re asked to make only one sacrifice: total dedication to God – to be ready to serve Him always.

Ready to listen and respond to His call.

Ready to put sin behind us.

Ready to name grace when we see it.

Ready to love the unloved.

Ready to defend Christ and His Church in the public square.

Ready to challenge the world when it turns its back on Christ, when it embraces not life but death.

Here lies the very essence of our Christian spirituality: having hearts and minds spiritually tuned to hear what God is telling us. These days of Lent should be our listening time.

Days begun with a moment of quietness, a moment when we pray young Samuel’s simple prayer: Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

Days when we look for God and His message in life’s simple experiences and our encounters with others.

Days that end with a moment of thanksgiving.

Do we thank God for the love that gave us our very being?  Do we thank Him for the sacrifice that promises us eternal life?  Do we thank Him for each other?

Brothers and sisters, the Father who spared Isaac’s life, spared nothing in sacrificing His own Son. You and I are asked to do no less. But are we ready?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Religious freedom, contraception and Georgetown Law School

Statue of John Carroll, 1st U.S. bishop, at Georgetown U.
Back -- way back -- in 1962 I attended Georgetown University for one year before receiving a congressional appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy. In those days, Georgetown, a Jesuit institution founded in 1789, was actually Catholic. Even in the School of Foreign Service we had required theology courses. A crucifix was displayed in every classroom. There were well-segregated men's dorms and women's dorms. We had nightly curfews. The men wore ties and jackets to class. And, yes, we were actually encouraged to attend Mass and receive the sacraments.

This is no longer the case, as Georgetown has fallen into step with the zeitgeist. Over the past few decades the university has shed most traces of its Catholicity and devolved into a secular institution with a "Catholic heritage." This was at least partly evidenced the other day during Nancy Pelosi's hearings on the administration's policy requiring Catholic institutions to provide free contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients. One young woman,Sandra Fluke, who testified at this hearing complained that she and other women attending Georgetown Law School suffered financially because the cost of contraception was not covered by the university's health plan. I could hardly believe my ears. This woman wanted someone else, in this instance a nominally Catholic law school, to pay for law students' promiscuity. I'll give Georgetown some credit for their more restrictive health plan.

Apparently, as Nancy Pelosi herself has stated, women's health demands that the availability of free contraception must trump that pesky old religious freedom our founding fathers enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution. What is euphemistically called "women's health" actually has very little to do with women's health, unless one believes pregnancy to be a disease. It really involves the freedom of women to be sexually active without having to fret about the consequences. It involves the killing of a living human being up until the moment of its birth...and even after. And we're supposed to pay for all this regardless of our religious beliefs.

Earlier today I read a wonderful essay by Emily Stimpson in which she wrote:
"Birth control is not women’s friend. Abortion is not women’s friend. Sexual license is not women’s friend.

"Together, they have reduced women to objects, contributed to the ravaging of women’s bodies by sexually transmitted disease, spiked both abortions and out of wedlock births, helped build a culture of promiscuity and pornography where women are primarily valued for their sexual desirability, caused infertility, caused cancer, caused divorces, destroyed families, and left wounds so profound and so deep on the souls of millions upon millions of women that nothing but the greatest miracles of grace will be able to heal those wounds.

"They are all, unequivocally, bad news, and the Catholic Church recognizes that.

"In the culture today, women have no greater friend than the Catholic Church. It is the Catholic Church who fights for us. It is the Catholic Church who respects us. It is the Catholic Church who sees us as the beautiful, intelligent, graced images of God that we are."

And if your son or daughter wants to attend Georgetown, I suggest you refuse to pay for it.