17 December 2011

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

The 1st Joyful Mystery:  The Annunciation

“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!” “You shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” 

The fruit of the mystery is humility. 

Mary’s answer to Gabriel is simply incredible, but it became much more precious for me when I stopped to ponder the middle of this story. We may miss the best part is we fail to recognize the humanness in Mary. Not sinfulness, but humanness. That’s the quality that makes this event so marvelous.

“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’”

She was greatly troubled! Scared, even? Can you see her expression; hear the thoughts racing through her mind?

What in the world is going on?!? He’s telling me not to be afraid… what is this all about? A son? Now I’m confused. How can this be? I do not know man. God Himself will do this? The child will be holy? The Son of God? 

Now comes the glorious ending: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” 

She went from being troubled and confused one moment to being perfectly willing and trusting the next because of true humility. Her reply is remarkable not only because of what she said but because of all she didn’t say. She didn’t say, “Me? Why me?” Or, “But, but, wait…” She didn’t say, “I can’t…” Gabriel gave her precious few details about how this would all unfold, yet she didn’t hesitate to agree.  She understood it wasn’t really about her; it was about Him.

Mary didn’t say “yes” with a proud spirit or a self-congratulatory attitude, nor did she refuse out of a feeling of inadequacy or unworthiness. She knew she was a mere mortal, most unworthy. She also knew God was wise and loving and able. Her “yes” had nothing to do with her and everything to do with Him.

Yes to His plan, His will, His power, His authority. She took Gabriel at his word and believed that God knew what He was doing, and her part was to simply say, “I am at your disposal.” It was up to God to do everything else. It’s also noteworthy that she didn’t offer any assistance. She didn’t presume that she could add something to the mix that would make it better. She said yes, and then carried on as usual. Not knowing what would happen next or how it would happen, she left everything after that moment up to God.

That’s real humility. To say to God, “As You wish. You will do it. Do with me whatever You please. All glory is Yours.” It seems plain enough, but so often real humility gets all mixed up with false humility (which is actually pride). It seems more humble to refuse when asked to do something, especially something important, and we say self-deprecating things like, “Oh, I’m not that good,” or “I’m not smart enough,” or “I’ve never done that before,” or “There are lots of people who are better at this than me,” and on and on and on.

Don’t you shudder to think what might have happened if Mary had responded that way?  She may have felt there were smarter, more capable, more experienced women in the community. She could have tried to defer and list all the reasons why she was right to defer. But thank God she was humble enough to say yes.

It’s not a mark of humility to say to God that His plan can’t be done because you’re not the one, you’re inadequate, you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not ________________ (fill in the blank).

Of course you’re not good enough. So what? God is good enough.  God has everything, God is everything and humility is just saying “yes” and not thinking too much or too little of you, but only of how great God is.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49 

Mary, most mild, pray for me that I will humbly say “yes” to God in whatever He asks of me.


The 2nd Joyful Mystery:  The Visitation of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth… Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Luke 1:39-40, 56 

The fruit of the mystery is love of our neighbor.

Gabriel had just left her, and the first thing she does is prepare to leave and visit Elizabeth, her cousin. Gabriel had told her Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, a testament to the power of God.

It wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable for Mary to have stayed home to rest and take care of herself, now that she herself was expecting. And after all, the angel had said this child would be the holy Son of God! That certainly deserves some pampering and special treatment!

But I suspect Mary was overjoyed at the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and couldn’t wait to get there and share the wonder of it all with her. Now the two of them could delight in each other’s miracles and bask in the glory of God and all He had done by His power alone. I can easily imagine them hugging and laughing and fussing over each other.

It’s really a simple lesson this mystery teaches – take care of each other. Even when you have good reason for worrying only about yourself, try to find a way to care for someone else also. I’m your neighbor and you’re mine. There will be plenty of opportunities for us to care for each other and meet the other’s needs. But will we?

And what about the neighbor we don’t particularly like? What about the neighbor we can’t stand? There’s where it gets sticky! Even then, we are asked to find ways to show love. Love that is hard to give, love that requires a real sacrifice, love that is on-purpose-even-though-I-really-don’t-want-to is the truest of all.

A good place to start is our own families. Love-on-purpose that family member you don’t like being around. Love-on-purpose the one who irritates you to no end. Love-on-purpose the relative you have nothing in common with. Love the one who just plain drives you crazy. Do it as unto Jesus, and watch how your heart changes.

Be happy for the blessings in your family member’s lives and celebrate with them. Rejoice in their good fortune without envy, and bear their sorrow with them whenever you can. Pray for them. Bring Christ to your family, as Mary brought Christ to Elizabeth’s.

These are simple, ordinary bits of guidance, and most of the time we’ll do these things without earthly applause. We just do it because it’s the right thing to do. We may fail miserably and often in loving our neighbor, but the good news is we’ll never run out of chances to live this mystery, and practice makes perfect!


The 3rd Joyful Mystery:  The Birth of Jesus

“She gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7

The fruit of the mystery is poverty.

When I think about poverty, my immediate reaction is to be repulsed.  Poverty is not something I find enchanting.  My instinct for self-preservation vehemently rejects the idea of poverty.  It inspires fear and dread in me.

Poverty means to be vulnerable, shunned, and perhaps worst of all, invisible.  Poverty is empty and deprived.

What a stunning paradox then that God would offer Himself to us in poverty.  Omnipotent, All-possessing King lies helpless and needy in humiliating surroundings.  He who commands the sun to shine and our hearts to beat within our chests comes powerless into our world to be greeted by cows and sheep.

It’s disarmingly brilliant.  We cannot refute the love of a God who sheds His riches and might and gives Himself to us in poverty.  He did not come with frightening awe and intimidating splendor so we would cower before Him in fear.  He came to us small, weak, dependent and poor.  He sought to inspire our affection and devotion rather than command our submission.

As much as I may dread the possibility of material poverty, I must learn to embrace the mystery of being poor in spirit.  Who are the poor in spirit?  Only those brave souls who willingly admit their wretchedness before a holy God, who know exactly how undeserving they are yet humbly bow before Him, grateful for His mercy.  Those souls who never presume to be good enough on their own to stand before Him, but know how truly pitiful is their human state.

More than just a superficial knowing, the poor in spirit live the knowledge of their sinfulness truthfully, without making light of their sin.  What courage and honesty it requires to see myself as I truly am, without shining up my sin and spritzing perfume on my foul offenses.

If gold could have relieved our troubles and lifted us out of our darkness, then Jesus could have simply come in His Royalty and tossed us bags of coins.  If physical power and strength was all we needed to defeat our enemy, then the Invincible One could have come with His armies and settled the whole matter in minutes.  He came to us in poverty so we would see that all we will ever need is who He is.

We need Him, the person of Jesus.  Only He can save us, because we don’t need wealth or power – we need mercy.  We need forgiveness to cleanse us.  Only His blood can do that.  The illusion of our goodness keeps us full of ourselves, but the poor in spirit have Christ as their inheritance, for they know how empty they truly are and so they are filled with Him.  “Blessed are they who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”   Isn’t it just like our God to turn poverty into unfathomable riches?


The 4th Joyful Mystery: The Presentation in the Temple

“When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, (as is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.”) and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24

The fruit of the mystery is obedience.

It’s rather humorous to read that paragraph. Mary and Joseph took the Lord to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord! The Lord presented Himself to Himself!

The Father demanded no special treatment for His Son. No exceptions, no favoritism. The Law of Moses was the Law and the Law was to be obeyed.  He came to fulfill the Law, not toss the Law out the window. He came to live our human experience is every single way that we do, including obeying the law.

But notice, please, which law we’re talking about here. God’s law – the law that is always just and right and good. We needn’t ever worry when obeying God’s law. It will always be for our benefit and His greater glory. Obeying God’s law will never steer us wrong or lead us down a destructive path. God’s blessing is always in His law.

We live in a time when there are many unjust and just plain immoral laws, and one day we just might have to choose between following God’s law and following the law of the land because the two may be in irreconcilable contradiction. In fact, that day is fast approaching.  For today, there will most assuredly be occasions, however small, where I have to choose to obey God. I may be sorely tempted to ignore or “forget” His commands and then try to justify my rebellion. No surprise – that never works out well!

Time to refresh my memory about why it’s so good for me to follow God’s law:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 19:7-8

“I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.” Psalm 119:104

“The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.” Psalm 119:110-112

“Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165

Strength, wisdom, joy, light and clarity, understanding, courage, and sure footsteps… all the benefits of obedience. God is good!


The 5th Joyful Mystery: Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple

“While his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends…After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers…His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” Luke 2:43-48

The fruit of the mystery is joy in finding Jesus.

To be honest, it really seems to me like Jesus got a pass here!  He really didn’t think that by staying behind he’d scare the living daylights out of his parents? He didn’t think they’d mind him just disappearing? Worrying them that way was not a very thoughtful thing to do!

There’s Mary, worried out of her mind after searching for three days, and this is his response: “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Well no, Son, actually, we didn’t know that! How would we know that?!? You could have just said so before we left, instead of making us look for you for three days!!

Anybody else thinking they would have wanted to dish out some serious punishment if their teenager had done this to them? (Who knows, maybe Mary and Joseph did!)

His boyhood thoughtlessness aside, there’s an important message in this mystery for the whole world: our worrying ceases when we find Jesus. Our hearts are anxiously searching for Him, and we are troubled and frightened until we find Him. There is joy in finding Jesus; there is worry and fear without Him. This is true for every soul that has ever lived whether they realize it or not. “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in You.” St. Augustine

In every event of our day, in every encounter, every task, every challenge, every burden, every struggle, there will be joy once we find Jesus in it. We will be overcome with worry til we do. He is there with us in everything and He wants to be found. It only remains to be seen whether we will look for Him.

There are a hundred opportunities every day for me to look for Jesus in what’s happening in my life and in the people I encounter. If I don’t see, it’s probably because I don’t look. I’m too wrapped up in my own head, too caught up in a hectic schedule.  And so I find stress and anxiety instead of joy. I find worry and fear instead of Jesus.  Silly me.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

Blessed Mary, ever patient Mother, teach me how to find Jesus… always… in everything.

16 November 2011

The Divided State of America: How Long Can We Stand?

at Catholic Online

"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand."

Our house is divided and may not stand much longer.  We've been bitterly divided once before, and just as the evil of slavery nearly tore our nation in two, so will the evil of abortion and the desecration of marriage.  We seem poised on the verge of a new Civil War.  (The difference now, of course, is that those who value the sanctity of human life will not wage war on fellow citizens.  We cannot kill in the name of stopping the killing.)

The modern-day battle is for true marriage and the humanity of the child in the womb.

There's no way to satisfy the demand of full "equality" for cohabiting homosexuals in a newly-invented view of "marriage" and still protect religious liberty.  Any exception written into same-sex "marriage" laws to protect those people or institutions who define marriage as between a man and a woman will always be rejected by homosexual marriage equivalency groups.

The two views of what constitutes marriage are irreconcilable; there's no way to accomplish so-called "equality" in marriage and still allow individuals or institutions the freedom to reject that so-called "marriage equality" based on their faith teachings or upon the Natural Law.  The stage is set for a bitter clash that has no solution.  The writing on the political wall right now clearly says that the Constitutional right of religious freedom will be sacrificed on the altar of the homosexual equivalency movement.

This is the divided state of America.

It is the same with abortion.  It comes down to a stark and unyielding difference:  one side says the unborn are human beings from the moment of conception; the other side says it's just tissue, just cells, an insentient thing that has no right to anything.  Both cannot be true.  Both cannot be even partially true.  One is entirely true and the other is entirely false.

Science tells us that at the moment of conception, a genetically unique human being is created and exists.  The size of the human being is not the issue, nor is that human being's independence or awareness or intelligence.  There exists, in point of fact, a human being who did not exist before.

With science against them, those who demand abortion now switch their argument to whether or not this human being is a person.  Personhood, under their rules, requires physical separation from the mother, as well as the ability to survive apart from her.  Many go even further and insist that personhood requires a certain degree of intelligence, self-awareness, and function.  By their standards, a newborn, a 2 month-old infant, even a toddler is not a person.

Mostly though, their demand for abortion revolves only around the woman and her "rights" to do whatever she pleases with her body.  Do not bother them with the logic that it is not the woman's body being destroyed in an abortion, nor with the logic that the woman's actions (her choices) are the reason the baby is now residing in her womb.  They insist that the baby is nothing more than a parasite and no woman is obligated to play host to such an unwanted intruder.

So which is it?  Will we decide once and for all that a newly conceived child in the womb is a meaningless, parasitic clump of tissue or a human being?  We cannot continue to have it both ways.  A choice -- a real choice -- must be made.  We can dispassionately look at reality and science and acknowledge the truth, or we can continue to write our laws based on sophistry and willfully blind, self-interested, and unjust emotional demands.

No longer can we continue to hide behind euphemistic rhetoric.  We take cover under the deceiving phrase "terminating a pregnancy".  Childbirth terminates a pregnancy, but it doesn't kill the child.  A pregnancy does not happen apart from a baby.  We're terminating babies, not pregnancies.

We spit out the word "fetus" with a pejorative tone and use it as a shield, as though the term magically empties the child of all human value -- because that's exactly what we want the term to do for us that we might more comfortably live with our "choice."

When we scream for "choice", we have to summon the guts to admit what choice we're talking about.  We want the right to kill our babies.  We want the right to kill our babies.  That's what we're talking about.  Is that who America is?  Is that who America wants to be?

We want the right to take a chemical poison and cause a 9, 10, or 11-week fetus to die and be expelled from the womb as though he or she were nothing more than a large blood clot.  We want the right to suction a baby out of the womb as though we were vacuuming out our cars of junk and stray french fries.

We want the right to reach into the womb and dismember a 23-week fetus.  We want that right so badly that we delude ourselves into thinking it's moral and just and even compassionate.  Which of us would find it compassionate to dismember a 2 month-old infant?  Why is it any different simply because the dismembering is done on a smaller baby who is still in the womb?  Does that make the dismembering kinder?  Does it make the dismembering less grotesque?  Does it make the act itself respectable?  Of course not.

We can't delicately operate on a 23 week-old fetus in one room and stab the heart and crush the skull of a 23 week-old fetus in the room next door.  We call the first an example of life-saving, miraculous medical advancement and the other a sacred "right" and protected "freedom."  One child is considered a patient and the other child is not considered anything at all.

How long can we perpetuate this absurd incongruency?

This intellectual dishonesty is leading us toward national schizophrenia.  We simply cannot insist that to kill one child is moral, right and respectable while to kill another child is abhorrent and criminal.

Either it is moral, right and respectable to kill a child at any age and stage of development or it is abhorrent and criminal and the height of evil.  It must be one or the other.  Either we will protect our defenseless children from harm, or we'll inflict the harm ourselves and call it our right.

It's time for honesty.  Those who demand abortion must come clean and say out loud, "We want the right to kill our babies."  Those who legislate for abortion on demand must come clean and say, "We will make sure it's legal to kill our babies and pay for it with our taxes."

Those who want to sit on the fence rather than "tell someone else what to do" must come clean and say, "I'm content to let it be legal to kill our babies.  That's okay with me."

The issue is not "reproductive rights" but the humanity of the child in the womb.  The question is not one of "equality" in marriage, but of defending the foundation of the family, and the unchangeable meaning of marriage.

In both cases, the conflict demands a final and coherent answer.  Government does not have that answer.  The Church does.  But we're not really "one nation under God" anymore, are we?  Soon we may not be one nation anymore either.

25 October 2011

China's Shame: Two year-old Wang Yue Crushed Under Two Vans, Left to Die

at Catholic Online

Little girls are worth next to nothing in China.  Baby girls are killed on a regular basis in China.  We all know that.

Yet little YueYue's story may finally succeed in accomplishing what up to this point has not quite been done:  bringing shame upon China for their abhorrent and violent treatment of their daughters.

The Chinese government routinely rounds up women who violate the 1-child policy by getting pregnant with a second child and forcibly aborts them, even well into the third trimester of pregnancy. Some mothers die along with their preborn babies. Sometimes they threaten and beat up fathers and husbands who refuse to cooperate; they threaten families' homes and businesses; in short, they destroy people's lives in every way they can -- literally.  All for the sake of their evil, anti-human policies.

Yet inexplicably, this has failed to draw the international ire it deserves.  Even our own government tries not to really notice, and certainly goes out of its way not to criticize.  I don't really expect intelligent or courageous talk from Vice President Joe Biden, but his political-correctness sank to an inexcusable low when he told the Chinese, "We understand."

Perhaps Wang Yue, by her horrible, brutal death, will begin to arouse a disinterested world; perhaps she can revive the death-cold heart of her country by forcing the Chinese people to see her for what she was:  a human being; a helpless child they trampled and threw away.

On October 13, Wang Yue, nicknamed "Little Yueyue", was crushed nearly to death in the street in the Chinese province of Guangdong.  She'd wandered out alone into the small street near her parents' shop, and she was run over by a van.  The driver hit her and she fell under the front wheel.  The van slowed to a stop, and then drove on, crushing her a second time under the back wheel.

The driver never stopped again.

Now mutilated, smashed and broken, bleeding profusely onto the ground, Little Yueyue lay there as a total of 18 people passed her by.  The first man to encounter her practically had to step over her as he walked past.  He never stopped.  Others walking down the street stopped to stare for a moment before turning their heads and continuing on their way.

Her little arms still moving from time to time, she waited in agony for help.  Not a single adult who witnessed her suffering did anything to help her.  A 2 year-old child lay in the street crushed and dying, and no one would even acknowledge her there.

Then, unbearably, along came a second van.  The driver made no apparent attempt to avoid her, and she was crushed under the wheel for a third time.

As more people continued to pass her by, her blood flowed into the street.

Finally, an older woman carrying a trash bag sees her, set her bag down, and walked over to the mangled child.

She grabbed Yueyue by the arms and dragged her across the pavement, out of the way of oncoming vehicles and people.  Then, the child's mother appeared, and she half-carried her dying child away.

Little Yueyue died of brain and organ failure on Friday, October 21.  The intensive-care doctors treating her said her injuries were too severe and treatment had no effect.

The entire, horrific, unspeakable scene in the street was captured on surveillance video and posted online for the whole world to see.  There can be no denying what happened to this child; no one can attempt to explain or rationalize or ask us to understand.

I watched the video and fought the intense urge to vomit.    The violence, apathy, callousness, and stone-cold indifference of the people who crushed and then ignored this little girl is sickening beyond words.  It will leave you shaken to the core.  If it does not, something's very wrong.

We must call China to account for this act of brutality and inhumane cruelty.  Chinese officials may attempt to conceal from the eyes of the world their violent treatment of pregnant women, their destruction of preborn babies, their brutality against families who violate the inhumane one-child policy, but this, this they cannot conceal.

They cannot pretend it did not take place, nor shroud it in political language. The images and facts of Yueyue's death give indisputable testimony to the truth that China has lost its humanity and its soul.

We can take some small measure of encouragement from the cries of outrage being voiced by many Chinese citizens who are asking what has happened to their country to cause such apathy in the face of a child's suffering.

A BBC news story said that many people in China choose not to help for fear that they will end up being charged for the crime.  Without evidence to prove their own innocence, they will not interfere.

A professor of social science at Hong Kong University of Science "said he believed China's political environment had 'no tolerance' for people with a social conscience."

Can anyone still seriously question the destructive effects of a government that rejects the moral laws of human freedom, religious freedom, and the sanctity of human life?  Look at China: see what happens when people become mere instruments of productivity for the sake of economic prosperity.

Will the United States government now finally voice an unequivocal condemnation of China's brutal and cruel human-rights violations?  What do you think, Joe?  Do you still understand?  How about you, Mr. President?  Any comment?

Be wary and pay attention, America, because China's present could become our future if we do not cherish our freedoms and guard our hearts.

I saw a beautiful photo of Yueyue, her mother and her older brother, and the thought occurred to me, "Wait -- she's their 2nd child?  How'd they manage to have a 2nd child?"

Is it unreasonable to question whether perhaps this little girl was targeted and killed intentionally because she was her parents' 2nd child?  It's a chilling thought, but is it really an unreasonable one?

For now what we know for certain is that a little girl has demanded through her death the attention her country refused her as she lay bleeding in the street.  She died a victim of apathy and cruelty.  Shame on China!  Shame on every person who passed her by and ignored her.  Shame, shame, shame!

Rest now in peace, little Yueyue, in the loving embrace of your Heavenly Father.  Those who mourn your death beg your forgiveness and ask for your prayers.  Please pray for your lost country.

14 September 2011

On the Road to 2012: An Exclusive Interview with Karen Santorum

at Catholic Online

This week I had the great honor of interviewing the woman I hope will be the First Lady in 2013.  As I picked up the phone to call her, my nerves were jumping and I was praying she wouldn’t notice.  After just a minute of talking with her, it felt as relaxed as having coffee and dessert with a good friend.  Karen Santorum is warm, gracious, completely genuine, down-to-earth, immensely likable, and filled with a spirit of love.

We spoke at length about everything from campaign life to family life to faith and trials, and the serious concerns she has about the direction our nation is headed.  She is highly motivated to fight for our country alongside her husband, Senator Rick Santorum, and believe me, she’s got the steel for it.

The Campaign

What struck me the most was the distinct lack of ego in their decision to run for President.  For them, it’s not about Rick trying to win something for himself – it’s about preserving a nation for their children and simply following the road God has laid in front of them.

JH:  How did you and Rick come to the decision to run for President?

KS:  We’re doing this because we truly believe God is leading, and we have to be faithful.  We spent more than a year praying about this, talking with our friends, our families, our spiritual advisors, and our children.  It was a long process of talking it out, and we all had some real reservations.  I had no desire at all to jump back into the political arena.  We were in that life for 17 years and now I had a different vision for my family.  Our kids all had their own thoughts and concerns, too.  The boys wanted their Dad to continue coaching their baseball team, for instance.  They weren’t too sure they wanted to share their Dad with the whole country.  It’s a real sacrifice for them.

Rick and I both said that if even one of the children had said they didn’t want Dad doing this, we absolutely would not have done it.  But they are behind their Dad all the way, and the whole process is teaching them a lot about the way our political process works and how a President is elected.  We’re very protective of our family time when Rick is able to be home these days, and we maximize that time together.  No one is allowed to intrude!

To be honest, Rick had no desire to run until Obamacare.  That was the final straw for him, the line in the sand.  Something has to be done.  That law will change our country fundamentally forever, and as parents of a special-needs child we knew that they would be the first to be denied care under Obamacare.  Rick and I can’t stand on the sidelines and allow Obama to bring our nation to its knees.  We knew we had to get in and fight.

But ultimately, we are just trusting God and praying for His will to be done.  He could end this tomorrow and we’d be at peace with it.  It could be God’s will that Rick just has a voice in the mix; it could be God’s will that he get to the Caucus and he’s not the guy; or it could be His will that Rick is the guy.  Trust and be faithful is all any of us can do.

JH: What are the unique gifts and strengths that Rick brings to the table to solve our nation’s biggest challenges?

KS:  Most important, he’s rock-solid.  Rick is rooted in his faith and has a solid foundation.  You get what you see.  He walks the walk.  He’s someone who goes after the issues with such a passion.  Preserving marriage, the sanctity of Life; these are things we really have to roll up our sleeves and fight for.  He’s also brilliant in matters of the economy and national security.  He has a mind for history and facts and numbers.  There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be a great leader to this nation.

JH: Why should Catholics vote for Rick Santorum?

KS: He’s a devout Catholic who lives his faith, is very prayerful and will always stay grounded.  He’s a loving, devoted, faithful husband and father.  It’s one thing to take the pro-life stance and another thing to fight for it and yet another thing to live it.  Rick lives it every day.

Catholics in America need to understand the critical importance of their votes in 2012.  Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were both elected because they won the Catholic vote.  That is not to our credit!  I see America right now literally poised on the edge of a cliff, and Catholics will decide whether the nation goes over the edge or gets pulled back.  We have a huge responsibility.

Life with Bella

Here is where Karen’s heart and passion come shining through.  Here is also where the mama bear’s claws come out.  In 2008, Rick and Karen welcomed little Isabella to their family.  Just four days after her birth, they got the devastating news that Bella has Trisomy 18, a rare and usually fatal genetic disease.  Since that moment, they have intensely battled our culture of death, protecting their daughter from being euthanized and fighting for her medical care.  Most doctors urge women to abort babies with genetic diseases, and many such infants are euthanized after birth in order to “relieve their suffering.”

Listen to Karen talk about Bella, and you’ll hear one word over and over:  blessing.  Rick and Karen want the whole world to know the joy they’ve found in their sweet angel.

KS:  After having Bella I had to relearn how to live my life.  Now I’m a blessed mother of a special-needs child.  Since her birth, I’ve learned that God truly has a reason for everything.  Like every one of us, God has a purpose for her.  Bella has made all of us grow in our faith like never before, made us more virtuous and shown us God’s love and mercy.  Her life is a very happy and joyful life.  Bella is an angel.  I truly believe I am in the care of a saint.

We are so blessed to be her parents and her family.  Yes, there’s also a painful side of the journey because you’re fighting for her life, to have her treated with the same dignity as every other child.

JH:  What would you say to those facing the possibility of a child with Trisomy 18 and wondering whether they can handle it?  Maybe a woman tempted to abort a baby she is convinced will only know suffering?

KS:  It doesn’t make any sense to me that we choose death over love.  You never lose with love.  It’s never made any sense that when a doctor says your child has whatever defect, he then says “let’s kill the baby.”  If the doctor said that about your five year-old you’d be outraged!  As parents we’re wired to do everything possible to save our child.  Why does that not apply to these sweet babies in the womb who need our love and care?  Just simply bring your child into the world and love your child.  You don’t know what God has planned.

Bella is the greatest “burden” I’ve ever had.  I wouldn’t trade the blessings that have come with her for anything in the world.

JH:  Is it safe to say that special-needs children and their parents will have a fierce advocate in the White House under President Santorum?

KS:  Oh, absolutely!  I have a real fire in the belly about this issue.  It’s heartbreaking what these families go through.  I was a NICU nurse for years and I thought I understood, but in fact, I was clueless.  Now I know; now I get it.  Until you’re in it every day, you just don’t know.

I’m on a mission to get every obstetrician and geneticist in the country to change the way they think and especially the way they talk about genetic diseases like Trisomy 18.  When a doctor says your child has a “lethal diagnosis” that is “incompatible with life” – those words are toxic.  Those words lead to death.  Doctors need to stop saying those words.

I can’t tell you how many battles we’ve fought with doctors who wouldn’t even call Bella by her name.  These children are denied the dignity they deserve as human beings. Parents should not have to fight for their children to receive medical care.  This is why it’s critical that we get rid of Obamacare.  Special-needs kids will be seen as lives not worth living and they’ll be the first to go.

We’re grateful that Bella now has a good team of doctors who take great care of her and she’s doing great!  I love Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Other hospitals we’ve been to didn’t even want to try to give Bella the care or help she needed – she wasn’t worth it to them.  At CHP, their philosophy is, “Just give the babies a chance.”  Amen!

JH:  Years before Bella was born, you and Rick experienced a “crisis pregnancy” and you lost your son, Gabriel.*  Again, you battled the culture of death.  It was the same time Rick was fighting in the U.S. Senate to pass the Partial-birth Abortion Ban.  You were living exactly the scenario the abortion peddlers point to as proof that we "need" abortion.

KS:  Before Gabriel we always had picture-perfect pregnancies.  Then to have a baby with a fatal defect – that’s how the doctors say it – right at the time of the Partial-birth abortion debate, that was no coincidence.   God blessed us with the gift of “why.” As though He said, “Here’s why I’m doing this.”  We saw the fruits of our son’s life and the significance of it.

Before Gabriel, I thought I was pretty strong and could handle just about any cross.  Any cross except the death of a child or a sick child, I told the Lord.  Don’t give me those!  But I’ve gotten both!  Our crosses come in all shapes and sizes, but we’re better because of them.  All you can do is embrace the cross God gave you and thank Him for it, because there’s definitely a reason.  Even in the worst times God’s light shines through and He is working.

Family, Faith and Church

Karen dreams of getting 8 hours of sleep someday.  For now, she’s up by 0600 and doesn’t quit til midnight.

JH:  How do you juggle all the demands of the campaign and family life and still keep your sanity?

KS:  It’s not easy.   It’s a cross to do without Rick at home these days.  He’s on the battlefield right now fighting the battles God wants him to fight.  The only way I get through it is daily mass and keeping my prayer life in order.  Daily mass, prayer time, family rosary; these things give you strength and I notice a real difference.  I know if I’m not there I won’t be able to walk this walk.

JH:  Any advice on passing the Faith on to our children?  What have you and Rick done that’s worked well?

KS:  It’s a work in progress!  They’re not going to get the Faith if you don’t live it.  Live it with a lot of love.  If you talk, but don’t live it, or maybe there’s anger, they’re not going to get it.  You have to live it.  The family rosary has been a beautiful thing for our family.  It’s the time we can all come together again and you’re praying, and offering your prayers for so many other people. 

The most important thing is, do it with love.  Always with love, never with force.  You just can’t teach the Faith without the love of Christ.  It has to be infused with love.

JH: Why be Catholic in 2011?  Isn’t the Church outdated and full of criminals?

KS:  God’s truth never changes.  No matter how modern we get or where we are technologically, God’s truth is the same throughout the ages.  We can still be pure in the middle of a modern world!   The terrible betrayals and disgusting scandals have served to prove one thing:  God is in charge.  Despite the sin and failings of men over the centuries, God is still in control and we’re still here.  We are human and we’re going to fail and make terrible mistakes, but God is leading His Church.  We can never forget His love and mercy.

As I finish writing this, the Church is celebrating the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.  My time with Karen left me keenly aware that I’d met a woman who knows the Cross intimately.  She knows the suffering and the pain, yet she is radiant with hope, overflowing with Love.  She understands that embracing and carrying our cross always leads to triumph.  Her strength and faith is, quite bluntly, awe-inspiring.  It is abundantly clear that Rick is forged by that same fire, and possesses the strength and courage born of a deep love of Christ and His cross.  That, folks, is a house built on rock.

That’s the stuff great leaders are made of.

* I highly recommend Karen's book, Letters to Gabriel, which chronicles the entire story of little Gabriel's life and death.

10 September 2011

Innocence Lost, Innocence Restored

at Catholic Online

I have a melancholy streak a mile wide.  I love grey, cloudy days and cold weather and I especially love a beautiful, haunting sad song.  (Guess I’m kinda weird that way.)  Several years ago I heard a song in the background of a TV show that grabbed my melancholy by the arm and dragged me over.  The music – a simple piano – was beautiful and the young man’s voice was earnest and mournful.  I was hooked.  I meant to hunt down the song later and find out about it, but life happened and I never did.

Somehow it rose up in my mind this week as the solemn anniversary of 9/11 approached.  This time, thanks to iTunes, I finally tracked it down.
“I’d trade wisdom back in for innocence/to get away from all my lies/I’d trade wisdom back in for innocence/to get away from getting by/ I’d trade wisdom back in for innocence/for just one look through those eyes”
“Slow Down” (Ben Jelen)

There are many days when I’d give anything to trade in some life experience and get my innocence back.  That loss is the worst part about growing up.  The gradual, almost unnoticed fading away of our ideals, our hopes, our belief in goodness and even the possibility of things we can’t imagine.  Cynicism replaces optimism; guardedness shuts out generosity and faith; fear replaces trust.

Then there are the moments like September 11, 2001, when innocence is shattered forever in an instant by a horror we still can’t comprehend and never saw coming.

One minute I was sleeping cuddled up with my firstborn baby, holding her tiny fingers, breathing in her intoxicating new-baby scent, surrounded by bunnies and pink blankets, and everything was perfect and pure.  The next minute the explosions in New York blew everything apart.

I remember thinking, “This can’t be real.  The United States doesn’t get attacked!”  I sat glued to the television like every other person in the country, unable to believe my eyes.  It was simply too surreal, too hideous to take in.  The shelter of our homeland had been invaded by the most hateful violence.   And just like that, I realized that my daughter and I were no longer from the same country.

The country I grew up in was gone.  I could never pass it on to her.  She’ll know it only through stories and history books.  I don’t claim to be the first parent to ever feel this way, and there’ve surely been other page-turning events in our history that left two different Americas on either side.  But there’s no denying that 9/11 changed everything in a radical way.

The last remnants of innocence and naïveté went up in the smoke and rubble of those burning, collapsed towers.  No place on earth felt safe anymore.  Perhaps safety had been just an illusion before, but now even the illusion lay in ashes.

I long to go back to the days when I wasn’t nervous getting on a plane.  I long to return to childhood, when I didn’t know that life can be altered in the blink of an eye, completely against your will.  I wish more than anything that I could protect my own children from losing their innocence, but I know I can’t.

Is it hopeless then?  Not hardly.  We cannot go back to unsullied ignorance; we’ll never be naïve again.  But we really can be restored to purity again; our innocence can be renewed.  At the Cross we trade in our dirt and rubble and the Spotless Lamb washes us clean again.  Innocence Himself takes away our stain and gives us His own pure life.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Cor 5:21

We still live in the midst of explosive hatred and violence, but we are not obligated to become hardened and bitter.  In fact, we must pray to remain guileless and hopeful, like a little child.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  Matthew 5:8   “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

If I could say something to my country today it would be this:  Follow the instinct you had in the hours and days after 9/11, when your heart told you the remedy was not in government or business or might or yourself, but in God.  Only the One who had made us can heal us.  That isn’t mythology or a fairytale or a crutch, and somewhere in our bones we knew it on that terrible day.  Before we talked ourselves out of being “religious” we heard that still small voice in our spirits calling us to seek His face again.

While we stare evil in the face and guard against danger, we may still remain pure in heart if we ask.  Whatever violence may be done to us, if we live in the heart of the Holy God who came to us as a Child, and offered Himself as an innocent Victim in our place, then we can be made new each day, over and over.  We can wear our “wisdom” like a ball and chain or we can trade it back in for Innocence.  Let us choose wisely. 

God bless us, every one, on this day of remembrance.  We will never forget.

08 September 2011

Santorum Gives the Best Answer of the Night


Watch Santorum give a terrific answer to a loaded question.  The debate was as frustrating as all the others because once again, they practically ignored Rick.  (They paid attention all night long to the wrong Rick.)  He didn't even get a final question --all the others did, but not him.  They want Rick to go away, but he's not going anywhere.  Except, God willing, to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2013.

03 September 2011

The Gospel of Tolerance: You Must Approve

at Catholic Online

Stacy Trascanos is one gutsy lady.  Last week she wrote a little blog post about how she’s getting tired of wondering “what in tarnation we’re going to encounter” every time she and her kids leave the house.  Two men ogling each other at the pool?  Two women engaged in public displays of affection in the park?  These are scenes she’d rather her young children not be exposed to every time they go out in public, but it’s become impossible to avoid in her community.

For having the nerve to express her objection to immorality, she’s become the object of wrath and nasty threats from homosexual activists.  Those who understand how Stacy feels (count me in) also know that her real crime is that she has rejected the Gospel of Tolerance. 

The Gospel of Tolerance really only has one rule: thou shalt tolerate any action, belief, lifestyle, agenda, and person except the person who believes a certain lifestyle, action or agenda is wrong and has the gall to say so out loud.  The Gospel of Tolerance requires that you have no objection to that which it says must be tolerated.  In fact, it requires that you not even question that which it says must be tolerated.

Noncompliance will not be tolerated.

The Gospel of Tolerance only contains one verse:  "Judge not, lest ye be judged."  It should be edited, however, to read more accurately, "Judge not me nor anything I say, do, or want, lest ye be judged intolerant."  In the vocabulary of the Gospel of Tolerance, sin has no meaning.  It has no concept at all.

Those who preach this gospel have fashioned a “christianity" more to their liking, since the real thing cannot be tolerated.  Theirs is a toothless kitten; soft, warm, cuddly, sleepy and sentimental.  Its only purpose is to soothe and affirm.  It makes no demands.  It certainly will not tolerate any demands forthcoming!

If their christianity has a savior at all, he is merely an amiable, sympathetic mascot for their cause and the only thing he ever said was “Don’t judge.”  The only "sin" to require forgiving is the sin of intolerance, which of course is only committed by those who object to being told what they can and can’t object to.

The Gospel of Tolerance is a ruse; it’s just a marketing ploy.  The real goal here is submission.  It's not enough to "get along" or tolerate quietly.  You must approve.  You don't dare disapprove publicly.  Those who don’t tow the line will be punished. 

Just ask the teachers who’ve been suspended for expressing opposition to gay "marriage."  Or the Catholic health care facilities being told they must dispense contraception against their explicit beliefs; or the Catholic adoption agencies that must close down to avoid being forced to place children with homosexual couples against their explicit beliefs (beliefs they’re supposed to have the freedom to live by). 

Ask the business owners now fighting lawsuits because they don’t wish to participate in gay weddings or receptions. When did they lose the right to run their own business as they wish?  Under the Gospel of Tolerance, there is no freedom to disagree, no right to object.  You must submit.  Either carry the banner or risk losing your livelihood and liberty.

Well here’s a radical piece of truth for you:  tolerance is not a virtue.  It’s not a moral victory to acquiesce to evil.

"We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty -- these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it's never an end in itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil." - Archbishop Chaput

It used to be that we could hate the sin and love the sinner, but the problem is now we're not allowed to hate the sin anymore!  We have to love the sin, celebrate the sin, and above all, stop calling it sin!

It’s not intolerant to make the judgment that something is morally wrong and oppose it.  Just as sex does not equal love, neither does tolerance!  There is such a thing as sin, and it leads to death, and Love demands that we tell our brothers and sisters the truth so that they might decide to reject sin and gain life.

This is the sobering territory in which Christians now find themselves – in the middle of the new Dark Ages, when evil is called good and darkness is called light.  (Isaiah 5:20)

Well, I’m with Stacy.  I’ve had it with all this darkness parading around as light, being championed by the government, paid for with my tax dollars, shoved in my face and my children’s faces and rammed down our throats.  I’m tired of being branded a hateful bigot for not abandoning the reasonable moral truths that have been the foundation of the human race since time began.  And frankly I couldn’t care less if you find that intolerant.

I find it intolerable that our children's innocence is being ripped away from them beginning in Kindergarten with the new mandate of Sex-Ed that indoctrinates them into embracing and celebrating homosexuality, trans-sexuality, gender-neutral insanity, every imaginable manner of promiscuity and abortion.  It’s intolerable that our kids are seen as “sexual beings” rather than human souls.

What's truly intolerable is that the adults in power are robbing the children of childhood purity to further their own immoral agenda.  What’s horrifyingly intolerable is that killing an innocent child is considered a woman’s sacred “right.”

It is intolerable that my children will probably not be able to make it to puberty without learning about sodomy and “gay marriage.”  It is intolerable that before they can even drive a car they will also be convicted of intolerance if they dare to defend true marriage and sexual purity.  It’s intolerable that they are growing up in a culture that defiles marriage, corrupts the family, perverts sexuality and destroys human life.

The irony is that because I believe that babies in the womb have the right to live and be born and children have the right to a mother and a father who are married to each other and that sex is sacred and beautiful and should be treated accordingly and that marriage only exists between a man and a woman because that is God’s plan for the human family, I’m the one who’s called an enemy of freedom and human rights and an intolerant bigot.

Then so be it.  Far better to be called intolerant than to call evil good.

One last thought – I recently read someone’s description of people who were “good Christians” and it boiled down to this:  good Christians are tolerant of others.  There’s that cuddly, feel-good christianity again. 

Find your courage, people.  This gospel of tolerance is not our salvation and it will not bring us peace.  There is Good News to share and we must live it without fear.

20 August 2011

Papa, the Young Catholics, and Amanda Marcotte: Hope in Madrid

at Catholic Online

I watched part of the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony in Madrid, Spain, and talk about great television!   From every ethnicity and country stood throngs of youth jam-packed into the square, waving their countries’ flags and they were all absolutely beaming.  They were exuberant with joy and excitement at welcoming the Holy Father and being welcomed by him.

I readily admit I was overcome with emotion at the sight.  So many young people in every manner of dress, yet they all seemed to be clothed with the same electrifying spirit.  I watched some of them present a thoughtful gift to Pope Benedict on behalf of their nation, and each of them got his childlike warm smile and blessing.  The rice from a young Korean woman; a flower garland from the young lady from Japan (she looked like a walking flower herself -- so lovely!); the sombrero from the young man from Honduras; each one given with sincerity and gratitude, and equally received.

It was a striking thing to watch.  Young Catholics in full-spectrum color, bubbling over with enthusiasm.  This, after all, is supposedly the Church that has abandoned young people and oppressed women.  I defy anyone to watch what's going on in Madrid and tell me the Church is not alive with young blood!  What I saw tonight gives me great hope for my Church, and I shamefully admit I am often susceptible to discouragement.  We, the Church, will indeed climb the steep hill before us because the souls doing the climbing are young and strong.

I saw young people screaming, crying and jumping for joy like lovesick fans at a rock concert, but their affection is for their Papa!  This young flock knows him and they respect him.  They know him because he speaks the truth without condescension or apology.  They know him because he offers them hope that will never be shaken.

They recognize in Papa's voice the One who truly loves them and gave Himself for them.  They hunger for that love and so they long to hear the words of the Holy Father, for he communicates the joy, the love, and the promise of Divine Mercy.  He dares them to build their lives on the firm foundation of the Person of Christ rather than the flimsy, shifting sands of their era.

Those who wag their finger and look disdainfully at the Catholic Church and pile up their scathing criticism about this World Youth Day are yelling with their eyes shut.  They have no idea what they're describing because they've never seen it.  They’re filled with hatred, anger, resentment, disappointment, and other, less understandable motivation.  Like scrawny, feral cats backed into a corner and sprayed with a hose, they're just hissing and clawing, all fangs and screeches.

One such cat is Amanda Marcotte.  Slate had the bad sense (or was it endorsement?) to publish her latest round of anti-Catholic vomit this week.  There was nothing at all new in her ravings, just the same ol', same ol':  The Church is misogynist and hates women; the Church hates sex and thinks sex is dirty; the Church hates women who've had an abortion; the Church is full to the rafters will creepy pedophiles who practically eat little children for lunch; the Church has no remorse whatsoever for the crimes of her priests and couldn't care less who got hurt; and on and on it goes.

Well, Amanda, there's only one thing to say.  Sit down, honey.  You must be exhausted!  I mean, the energy it takes to perpetuate this much venomous anger toward the Church must be enormous!  It's clearly consuming you, so why don't you just let it go? 

Seriously, Amanda, come on home.  Are you Catholic?  It's not your fault if you were never properly taught your Church's teachings.  Sadly, most of us weren't.   However, you're an adult now, so it is your fault if you don't now seek out the truth and learn to separate fact from twisted fiction.

The good news is there's a plethora of great books, CD's and other material that can bring you up to speed real quick if you just make an effort.  You’ll find a much different Church than the one you're railing against so viciously.  You’ll find a very different God than the one you slander so callously.  But you have to seek.  That's the rule:  seek and ye shall find.

If you're not interested in seeking, well, I'm sorry to hear that.  But in that case, please close your mouth and keep your vile and ignorant screeds to yourself.  You don't know what you're talking about, and you don't have the right to spread lies and hatred.

Did you see those people in Madrid, Amanda?  Did you see the life and freedom on the faces of that crowd?  Do those really look like mindless sheep to you?  Do those vibrant young women really look oppressed or restricted to you?

They are filled with something I believe you desperately want and need:  real joy.  The pure joy that comes from knowing you are loved.  Endlessly, completely loved.  And you are, Amanda.  I'm truly sorry you don't know that.  There's no way you could know that and still behave the way you do.

They're also brimming with the excitement of being part of the Body of Christ on earth.  By God's grace, they are hearing the call to transform their generation by the witness of their lives.  They're getting ready to fling their nets wide and haul in the catch of the century.  And through their faithfulness, our dying culture will be reborn.  By God's grace...

As I said, I’m prone to discouragement about all of this.  I, too, see the statistics revealing the chasm between what Catholics are taught and what they're actually doing.  I know there is much, much work to be done in catechizing generations of Catholics who don't know two bits about their faith.  I'm frustrated on a daily basis by so-called Catholics who give the Church "the finger" and live like any other pagan.

I’m disgusted by the betrayal of public officials who are supposed to be Catholic, yet devote their lives to tearing down every moral truth when they should know better.  But you know what, Amanda?  Those folks are not the Church.  They’re just hecklers and criminals in sheep's clothing.

The Church -- the real Church -- is seen in the faith and hope now gathered in Madrid.  God is still in His heaven, and our High Priest still offers Himself for us every second of every day.  Our Blessed Mother still intercedes for us.  She's still teaching us the only way to freedom is through humble obedience to the lovable will of her Son.

I am not ashamed of being Catholic.  I'm not ashamed to join with the youth in Madrid in expressing profound affection, love and loyalty toward our courageous Holy Father, our Papa! Nearly half a million young people traveled to Spain for this WYD!  You can't diminish that no matter what you say.

The Catholic Church is both Spirit and mud.  We bring the mud; Jesus brings the Spirit.  In recent years there’s been way too much mud.  There is much house-cleaning yet to do, and many of us are standing with broom at the ready.  You'll find, Amanda, that no one is more disgusted by the filth that infiltrated our House than faithful Catholics.

Yet Christ has not and will not abandon us.  The gates of hell will not prevail.  And neither will you, Amanda.  Lay down your hurt and hatred.  Wouldn't you rather be joyful?  Come home.  We'll leave the Light on for you.

18 August 2011

America's Shop of Horrors: Manufacturing Babies Only to Destroy Them

at Catholic Online

The Republican presidential candidates have agreed lately that one of America’s big problems is that we don’t manufacture things here anymore.  That’s not entirely accurate.  We manufacture babies now, and business is booming, both for the makers and the destroyers.  One of the women featured in that hideous NY Times magazine story, “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” articulated it perfectly:

“If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it.  But we created this child in such an artificial manner – in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me – and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice.  The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.”

The story attempts to deal with the ethical dilemma caused by the increasingly common practice of “reducing” triplet and twin pregnancies when the mother says she only wants one child.  The author, Ruth Padawer, asks, “What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus?  After all, the math’s the same either way: one fewer fetus.”

Indeed, she has a point.  Just the wrong point.  The point is it’s reprehensible no matter how many babies are being terminated.  But in this case it’s particularly odious because these parents requisitioned their babies and then discarded the “extras” they decided they didn’t want.  In a bid for sympathy, we’re told how these women keep their “reduction” to themselves for fear of disapproval.

“Secrecy is common among women undergoing reduction to a singleton.  Doctors who perform the procedure, aware of the stigma, tell patients to be cautious about revealing their decision.  Some patients are so afraid of being treated with disdain that they withhold this information from the obstetrician who will deliver their child.”

Awww, the poor, poor people so afraid of disdain and the sting of judgment!  Sorry, I can’t spare a tear.

It is astonishing that our society still isn’t shocked and sickened by what we’re doing to our own children.  Good grief, people, what does it take to get your attention?  What does it take to awaken the natural instinct to protect a child from harm?  What does it take to blow away the fog and see things as they really are?

(Ironically, the abortion zealots took great offense at the NY Times story, too.  Sunsara Taylor over at RH Reality Check had a hissy fit over the “Moral Agonizing about Women’s Reproductive Rights.”   She writes, “The only basis for viewing the decision of a woman not to carry every fetus to term as a “moral” or “ethical dilemma” is the unscientific lie that treats fetuses like people, rather than as a subordinate part of a woman’s body.”)

One of the more outrageous segments of the NY Times story was about Shelby Van Voris, who became pregnant with triplets while under the care of a fertility specialist.  With her husband deployed in Iraq, Shelby was pumped full of hormone injections and then artificially inseminated with the sperm he’d left behind.  When the doctor told her she was expecting three babies, she yelled at him, “This is not an option for us!  I want only one!” 

He then referred her to another doctor who did “reductions”, but was told the staff refused to reduce pregnancies below twins.  Three other doctors told her the same thing.  “It was horrible,” Shelby said.  “I felt like the pregnancy was a monster and I just wanted it out, but because we tried for so long, abortion wasn’t an option.”

Shelby eventually found her way to Dr. Evans in New York and flew there for the “procedure.”  She told Dr. Evans, “You choose whoever is going to be safe and healthy.  I didn’t give him any other criteria.  I didn’t choose gender.  None of that was up for grabs, because I had to make this as ethically O.K. for me as I could.  But I wanted only one.”
But wait, didn’t she just say that since they’d tried for so long abortion wasn’t an option?  Then what exactly did she pay to have done to two of her babies?  A “reduction”?  How is that not an abortion?  What did she think was done to them?  Where are they now?  They’re dead.  For $6,500, she got precisely what she wanted:  one.

Shelby left the doctor’s office “incredibly relieved.  ‘I went out on that street with my mother and jumped up and down saying, “I’m pregnant!  I’m pregnant!’  And then I went out and bought baby clothes for the first time.”

Someone please tell me what kind of person is relieved that two of her babies have been destroyed?  And spare me the admonishment not to judge.  It’s appropriate to judge these acts evil and question the morality of one who commits such evil.  We have to call it what it is.  It flourishes in our nation precisely because people are afraid to “judge.”   They fear nothing like they fear being labeled judgmental.  They’d rather hide behind sophistry and euphemisms, like “reduction.”  What are we reducing again?  Oh, that’s right – innocent human beings.  How, exactly?  Just a lethal shot in the heart.  No biggie.

That a mother could dance in the street and celebrate after having paid for the execution of two of her babies because she “only wanted one” is chilling and grotesque beyond words.  Two babies had to die for this woman’s intolerable selfishness.  Stop calling it an option or a personal choice.  It is the most abhorrent violence.

We have a thoroughly backwards sense of the unthinkable in our culture.  It ought to be unthinkable for parents and doctors to target babies in the womb for execution.  Instead, we find it unthinkable that they should not have that “option.”  We find it intolerable that they should be criticized and disgraced.  Pitiful are we who find it more objectionable to hurt someone’s feelings than to expose evil and defend the helpless.

In the slavery of the modern age, we buy and sell children as our property.  We “own” them in the way that gives us absolute power over their very lives.  We do not receive them anymore as gifts; instead we manufacture them at will and afford them no greater value than any other expensive trinket we buy for our momentary craving.

We pay to bring them into existence for our own purposes and then when they become inconvenient, we arrange for their demise with barely a second thought.  When the ethicality of their deaths becomes a bit muddled for us, we employ clever terms like “reduction”, “choice” and “reproductive rights.” 

We assuage our guilt (what little we feel) by insisting that the baby isn’t human, isn’t a person yet, but merely a “fetus” (a term which now has a pejorative cast) and that makes it all better.  Never mind that it’s absolute bull.  We want to believe it because we need to believe it in order to prop up the illusion that we’re not really exterminating our own kids with less compassion and concern than the pest control guy has for the cockroaches in our homes.

We kill our babies, but we add unthinkable insult to unimaginable injury by denying them their humanity.  We call them blobs of insentient tissue; parasites; invaders.  But worst of all, we call them unwanted, even after we’ve gone to ridiculous lengths to manufacture them.  We order ‘em up, and we order ‘em killed.

But heaven forbid we should suffer any moral agonizing.

13 August 2011

Self-Control or Birth Control? Contraception is the Wrong Mandate

at Catholic Online

The mandate has come down from on-high, and the pundits and political operatives are gushing as though it's the greatest gift to women since suffrage or waterproof mascara.  They cheerfully tell us that beyond preventing those pesky “unwanted” pregnancies, this new birth control mandate will finally provide women with the counseling they need to prevent STD’s.

We must be really stupid.  Do women in 2011 really not understand how STD's are spread or how babies are made?

If it's information that's needed, let's take care of that right now.  Here's the deal:  Sex makes babies.  Sex often makes babies despite the birth control you're using.  Very often, sex also passes icky diseases between partners, like an extra little "gift" that may stay with you for life.  You could get a whole lot more than you bargained for from what's-his-name.

The good news is all of this is completely preventable.  You needn't risk your health or your future as though you're playing the wheel in Vegas.  It is amazingly simple to avoid getting a nasty STD or becoming pregnant when you don't want to be pregnant:  don't have sex.  (If you’re married, be faithful.)

If you choose to have sex, you are throwing the dice by your own volition and you could very well lose your bet.  Birth control will never, ever, replace self-control.  Birth control can never, ever, compensate for bad judgment.  Birth control is no substitute for respect and restraint.

As to the inane argument that contraception reduces the number of abortions, thereby making it the only truly acceptable paradigm for society, reality says otherwise.  Abortion statistics reveal that the majority of women having abortions were using birth control when they got pregnant.  (Never mind the fact that many contraceptive drugs are abortifacients, and never mind the fact that abortion zealots will admit they consider abortion itself “birth control” of the last resort.  Whatever it takes to make sure no baby is born!)

Contraception is not the antidote to abortion because fertility is not the problem.  The problem is we’ve buried the law of cause-and-effect, along with the moral laws of responsibility, accountability, fidelity, and the code of honor that used to exist among men.

All these things have been buried under a steaming mound of self-indulgent relativism.  Thanks to this infantile fertilizer we’re growing a nation of people who believe wishes are rights, freedom is license to do anything you please, and all that matters is what you want, think, and feel.

Think of it this way:  It's like selling a pill that eliminates 75% of the alcohol from your blood so it's "safer" to drive. You're still not exactly sober, not guaranteed not to crash and hurt someone, but you're more protected than if you didn't take the Alcohol Control pill.

Of course, the only right thing to do is to never get behind the wheel when you're intoxicated, but for heaven's sake, you can't expect people to do the right thing!  So instead of requiring people to be responsible and respectful of human life by not driving drunk, you teach them they can have their drinks and car keys, too, with the Alcohol Control pill!  So it's not as good as sobriety, but it's better than drinking without it.  It's protection against car accidents and deaths that is necessary because people are going to drink and drive anyway, so we should provide them with a way to do it more safely.

And when the Alcohol Control pill fails or someone forgets to take it and somebody dies in a car crash, it will surely lead to demand for a more effective Alcohol Control pill and greater access to it.  Then activists groups will be picketing for free distribution of the Alcohol Control pill, along with education about how the A.C. pill works so "user failure rates" go down.

Meanwhile, young people grow up drinking more alcohol more often, caring less and less about the consequences or how their drunkenness might affect someone else.  They damage their livers, kidneys, hearts and brains; they gamble with their health and future; they regard another person's life with cavalier indifference but as long as they're not arrested for DUI's, it's all good and victory is declared.

Rather than treating alcohol with due caution and respect for its power to harm, people are trained to complain that they can't drink whatever they want without getting wasted.  Even worse, some party-pooper has the nerve to say they can't get wasted and drive.

There's no burden on them anymore to think or act as a mature adult.  The expectation of self-control and accountability are all but wiped out.  Generations are raised to think society has the burden to remove every and all unwanted, unintended outcomes from every activity they choose to indulge in.

That's exactly where we are with sex and birth control.  The idea that more birth control will reduce "unwanted" pregnancies is a fairytale.  It's the sexual equivalent of crack cocaine to a sex-addicted culture.  Just gimme more and more sex, and delude me into thinking it's safe, I'm safe, and nothing bad will happen.

But the people growing up on top of the steaming mound of self-indulgent relativism don’t want to hear any of this.  It’s not that they’re stupid – they just want what they want when they want it with no strings, no consequences, no obligation, no demands. 

They refuse to hear that sometimes not doing what they want is the only responsible choice.  They reject the reality that their actions have consequences.  They are downright indignant at the idea that they have to exercise self-control and say “no” because the choice at hand literally involves life and death.

Just as alcohol has the nerve to intoxicate the person who drinks too much, sexual intercourse has the nerve to transmit diseases and worst of all, the unmitigated gall to make babies.  The audacity!  (Why, in this day and age, we just shouldn't have to put up with that!)

And so, sadly, we now celebrate the victory of entrusting our lives and our children’s lives to latex and chemicals rather than modeling a real respect for the beauty of sexual love and marriage, and a sense of honor and modesty.  And when the latex and chemicals fail, we don’t learn our lesson and modify our behavior.  No, instead we head over to the human butcher shop to have our babies exterminated.  We toss aside any reverence for human life.  We attack our children when they show up uninvited (as though they created themselves out of thin air).

There’s no pill for what ails us.  We’ve been given a mandate from on-high, alright, but not a contraceptive one.  It’s a mandate of chastity and love.  We ignore it at our peril.

30 July 2011

A Reflection on Beauty: God's Chosen Gift to Women

at Catholic Online

A thoughtful late-night conversation with my husband turned out this question:  If you asked a woman if she would rather her husband think she is incredibly beautiful or incredibly smart, which would she choose?

My husband said he was a bit surprised at my response.  I said that I really believe, in her heart of hearts, a woman would rather be incredibly beautiful to her man.  A woman wants to be desired and prized by her husband as the most beautiful woman he knows.

For beauty, I said, is the domain of women.  Beauty belongs to women.  Men and women can both be smart, capable, industrious, talented, clever, etc., but only women are beautiful.  We just don’t go around calling men beautiful!  I love and admire my husband and find him appealing, but I would never describe him as beautiful.  Men are to be handsome, strong, noble, charming, warrior-protectors, but they’re not beautiful.

That is God’s chosen gift to women.  I went on and said it’s surely no coincidence that God chose women to be co-creators of life with Him because new life is so beautiful!  It is further proof of God’s tenderness and affection for us; evidence that we occupy an especially-honored place in His creative heart.  He bestowed on His daughters the gift of beauty and equipped us to perpetuate beauty.

This is why it pains me so much to see so many women in our culture behaving so crudely.  Women seem to be losing all gentility and grace, choosing instead to be crass, vulgar, immodest, coarse, and unkempt.  A man behaving badly is boorish, perhaps even savage.  A woman behaving badly is just plain ugly.  They are profaning the glorious gift of beauty God gave them.  A flower should never be covered in dung.

Recall what Archbishop Sheen said about women:

"To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women."

I already know that my husband thinks I’m smart.  If I thought he didn’t appreciate my intellect and abilities I never would have married him.  But I can’t lie – what my feminine heart really rejoices in are those moments when he gets that look in his eye, smiles at me and says, “How did I ever get such a beautiful wife?”

This doesn’t mean a woman’s beauty is merely physical – far from it!  The most outwardly gorgeous woman in the world, if her heart is cruel and vain, and her manner is vile is not beautiful.  The delicate and tender characteristics of femininity are what make a woman beautiful, as well as her heart.  You could say character is the stem on which beauty blooms.  Yet we shouldn’t discount the value of a lovely appearance, either.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the rose or the lily.

This is what the male-female dance is all about: the contrast between a man’s strength and a woman’s beauty.  This is what we’re in terrible danger of losing forever as we try to annihilate gender differences under some delusion of “equality.”  God forbid we be perfectly, equitably the same!   How boring, how uninspired, how ugly that would be.

The Psalmist reminds us that physical beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.  I don’t think this contradicts what I’ve said; it reminds us that time and hardship may steal the beauty of our youth, but the love of the Lord makes a woman’s heart become ever more beautiful with time and that beauty will never be hidden and will never fade away.  The beauty we should carefully cultivate is a beautiful soul, but we needn’t despise the bloom in the process.

My beloved brought our conversation to a winning conclusion by telling me I was “B-squared.”  My puzzled look turned to a grin when he said, “Beautiful and brilliant.”  See – I told you men are supposed to be charming!

27 July 2011

Fr. Paul Schenck on Marriage in New York

I've met Fr. Paul Schenck in person and heard his story.  To say it is inspiring and amazing is a pitiful understatement.  This wonderful priest is an unspeakable gift to the Church in this age.  He's written an excellent article about New York's same-sex marriage fiasco at Catholic Online.  It's worth a read:

Last Sunday's same sex "marriage" registrations are being hailed as a victory for civil rights and what is now widelycalled "marriage equality" by homosexual equivalency activists, whatever that phrase means.

I see something very different at work in the hundreds of "marriages" of male to male and female to female couples before misguided clergy, politicians and state bureaucrats.

I don't doubt that many, if not most of the couples love one another, at least in a limited understanding of that essential word which lies at the heart of the very meaning of life...

One of the roots problems with "same sex marriage" as I see it is that it is a fatally flawed attempt to recover meaning in marriage within a society that has lost confidence in the ancient human ritual and arrangement which lies at the very foundation of human society.

Marriage was in deep trouble long before anyone suggested granting government licenses to two men or to two women... 
Do read it all.

19 July 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship With NFP: Is It Worth It?

At Catholic Online

Next week is Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  (Do we get thermometer pins?)  Talking about NFP tends to be awkward because it’s so personal and it rapidly descends into the realm of “too much information.”  On the other hand, a little honesty on the subject is long overdue, so here goes nothin’!  And anyway, Danielle Bean started it.  (And God bless her for it.)

I have a real love/hate relationship with NFP.  There are days I’d give anything for another way to live in harmony with my faith and my reproduction.  It’s a great tool for understanding and managing fertility, but it’s not fair to put a pretty ribbon on NFP and sell it as just a shiny, wonderful wedding gift.  NFP requires some real sacrifice, and we should be honest about that without sugar-coating the challenges.

If you’re a healthy woman whose body is great at being pregnant and giving birth, and you & your hubby are thrilled to receive as many children as God wants to give you, then you probably don’t have any complaints about NFP because you probably have no need of NFP.

But what if you’re slightly less than healthy, or you have complications during pregnancy and a pattern of premature labor with every child (like me)?  What if you have serious reasons for not having more children?  (Some of us may wish the Church would come out and define more specifically what qualifies as a “serious reason” but She wisely leaves that for each married couple to discern for themselves through prayer and honest evaluation of their circumstances.  The Church gives guidelines regarding health and finances, but the decision is between the spouses and God.)

If, like me, you fall into this latter category, then NFP becomes a necessity.   In my case, I’m able to take care of my family today thanks to a wonderful drug that is “incompatible with pregnancy.”  Another child for us would have to be a very intentional choice, would have to be well-planned beforehand and would involve some risk for me.  Should we?  Shouldn’t we?  Don’t think for a second that my husband and I don’t wrestle with that decision.  (We’d be thrilled to welcome a new baby.)  You know how often I’ve wished for writing on the wall?  It doesn’t work that way.  So we keep praying and doing the best we can to follow God’s lead.

In the meantime, it means very careful NFP.  It means living by The Chart.  Not much room for spontaneity or surprise romantic interludes.  (Here comes that “too much information” part.)   It means small windows of opportunity for sex.  And don’t think abstinence is only hard on the guys!  Women are hard-wired to want sexual intimacy when they’re fertile, so if you must be diligent in avoiding pregnancy, you have to say ‘no’ precisely when you most want to say Yes!  It stinks!!

Times of abstinence are ideal for finding other ways to connect and be intimate with each other; or to pray together, relax and watch a movie together and above all, to “offer it up.”  When that actually happens, it’s wonderful and rewarding.  But in reality, this is where it can sputter and falter because we’re only human and we’re vulnerable to mood swings, fatigue, and chaotic schedules.  Alas, often those times of abstinence are just, well, uneventful.  That’s life.

NFP can also feel very one-sided.  It’s never the man’s fertility we have to be concerned with; only the woman’s.  It’s not his temperature being taken at the same time every day, or his – ahem – fluids being checked (what am I, a car engine?).  No wife wants to feel like the Gatekeeper.  It’s crummy to have to turn your husband down time after time.  And when it’s your health issues that necessitate all this trouble, well, you feel doubly crummy.

It’s not NFP’s fault it’s so one-sided.  Reproductive biology does not spread the burden equally between men and women.  We may not always like it, but it’s simply a fact that women bear the heavier load (no pun intended).  We’re the ones who get pregnant; we’re the ones who breastfeed.  We’re the ones who deal with weight gain, sickness, complications, exhaustion, loss of freedom, and the pain of childbirth.

The flip side is we’re the ones who get to be pregnant!  How many of our husbands would love to know what it’s like to carry a child inside you and feel the kicks and hiccups and experience the miracle of new life?  I bet a lot of men would love to know how that feels.  But that gift has been reserved for us, ladies.  Along with the ability to feed our children with the most miraculous food God ever designed.  The men have no share in that; it’s all ours.

So come to think of it, maybe all this one-sidedness presents another perspective that gets overlooked.  All this woman-centeredness means that a husband who loves his wife must really love her as St. Paul described, and give himself up for her.  He must really tame his own desires in light of her body and her needs.  He must truly prefer her above himself.  It forces him to acknowledge the wondrousness of her co-creator status with God, and treat her with appropriate reverence.  No longer is his wife merely his source of physical satisfaction, but she becomes someone that, dare I say it; he should be in awe of.

And then, this perspective should also compel women to behave accordingly!  It should make us ever mindful of the miraculous ability we possess, which was given to us by our Creator with intention and generosity.  God chose us to be co-creators of life with Him!  It ought to give us a holy pause regarding our bodies and how we treat them; while every man is a temple of the Holy Spirit, only women are “temples” of new souls.  Yes, it is an awesome weight, and in difficult times can feel like a “burden.”  But has an awesome gift ever come without an awesome obligation?  To whom much is given, much will be required.

I’d say that’s the real treasure NFP offers and this is why I love it.  Like a pair of eyeglasses, NFP helps correct our vision of each other and our physical love.   NFP is worth the “cost” because some things are sacred – like sex.  And people are sacred – like my spouse.

Love is never sterile or “preventative.”  Love is self-giving and sacrificial.  By definition, that means it is not easy or always convenient.  NFP requires selfless love that honors the other and reveres life because marital lovemaking is life-generating. 

While our contracepting counterparts are swallowing pills, snipping body parts and aborting babies in order to “free” themselves of the worry of an unplanned pregnancy, we are implored to treat our bodies and each other differently.  While the world separates love from sex, we are called to love that brings life.  If more of us lived that way, then maybe those contracepting counterparts would see the blessing of living a holy sexuality.

So after careful reflection, I think I’ll keep my chart and thermometer, thank you.  It’s worth the trouble after all.


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