Friday, February 26, 2010

"On My Honor"...The Attack on the Boy Scouts of America

I have to admit, we weren't much of a Boy Scout brothers were more involved in CYO sports and model building clubs.  We girls were all enrolled in Girl Scouts, however, and a lot of the neighborhood boys were into scouting.  The memories of the Boy Scouts were all good.  They stood for honesty, loyalty, helping others and patriotism.  Their motto even began with "On my honor..."  What could be more respectable than that?

These days the Boy Scouts of America have been under attack.  In a Wall Street Journal article, Tony Woodlief writes that criticism of the Boy Scouts recently has centered on "God, gays and girls."  Sort of sounds like a microcosm of criticism of the Catholic Church.  What is it with the drive to take masculinity out of the male species, or, as Woodlief calls it, the "sissification" of the Boy Scouts?  I really hope that the Boy Scouts weather this storm and make it through with their all male identity intact.

Growing up, nobody seemed to mind or even to notice, that there were certain activities that were all boy and certain ones that were girls only.  Honestly, it never bothered me that I couldn't join the Boy Scouts.  As long as there are opportunities for all, and one gender isn't seen as superior to the other, do we have to eradicate all differences?

Well, hang in there Boy Scouts.  You may weather the "no girls" storm, but the next one headed your way is the fourth "g"...."Green."  It seems that PETA wants to do away with your fishing badge.  Just tell them to go jump in a lake! (but remember to do it honorably).

Lent and Our Spiritual “Instinct” To Reform Our Lives

Lent is a forty-day invitation to reform, to plant new seeds where stones and rubbish once occupied parts of our souls.

The need for reform is a spiritual instinct which God has created in every one of us. It is an instinct that allows us to desire for and to be opened to expanding God's life within us.  To do that, we must remove the obstructions we have piled up within ourselves.

Whenever we experience stress, isolation, hurt feelings, jealousy or anger, flashing red lights should turn on in our souls.  These emotions and attitudes warn us that our relationship with ourselves - and/or - our relationship with others - and/or - 
our relationship with God - needs to change: needs spiritual renewal.
None of us is in a privileged position that relieves us of our obligation to bring about deeper maturity in our spiritual lives. We mature as Christians whenever we actively return to following God's ways. This was Saint John the Baptizer's urgent message to us: "'Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!'" [Matthew 3:1-3]

Our Lord Jesus wants us to experience the joy that reform brings: Joy that there is new spiritual life growing within us.  We have all received the seeds God has given us.  Now, we must allow them to grow.  However, the fruits of spiritual growth manifest themselves during - what seems to us to be - an indefinite period of time.  Change comes over the span of time.

The problem with this, is that while waiting for the growth, we may be tempted to doubt that change is possible, or that a worthwhile change is coming soon.

When Saint John the Baptizer was in prison,  he heard of the miraculous works of the the Lord Jesus.  John sent some of his disciples to Our Lord Jesus with the question, "Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?" [Matthew 11:2-6]    John, who had been waiting a long time for the growth of God's Kingdom on earth, seems to have been tempted to doubt if a worthwhile change would be coming soon.  It caused him to question Our Lord Jesus: "Are you the One?"

A question that is worthy of our reflection and our prayer at least once during Lent, is:  Are You the One, Lord Jesus?   Occasionally, we need to put ourselves in the place the Apostles found themselves as they traveled with Our Lord Jesus into the region of Caesarea Philippi.  "He asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'"  Our Lord Jesus then asked them: "'But who do you say that I am?'" [Matthew 16:13-17]

Have we ever asked ourselves the reasons why we believe?   Have we ever asked Jesus the Christ, "Are You the one I will grow to become like? Are You the soul of my spiritual life?" 

The question Saint John the Baptizer asked Our Lord Jesus - and Our Lord Jesus' response to the question - reveal something about our personal relationship with God: God never forces us!
God never pressures us to believe, but rather invites us to believe. God shows us the way His love works, and then leaves it up to us to accept or reject Him.  God is patient with us. God lets us grow in our uniquely individual ways.

To allow us to improve our lives, God suggests things to us: "Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those who are frightened, 'be strong, fear not!'" [Isaiah 35:1-60]   And then, after His suggestions, God courteously invites us to accept Him.

God is continuously transmitting a message to us: through Scripture, the holy Eucharist,  the Sacrament of Penance, and our Church's holy Traditions.  His message  is: "See what I'm doing? See how I love you?  I am the One you are looking for!  I am forming you into the image and likeness of My beloved Son, Jesus!  I want to see and love in you what I see and love in Him!"  That's the reason why we all must be firmly committed to continuously, unendingly growing in spiritual maturity.  And that's we must be patient with our maturation.  Growth takes time.  Change doesn't come all at once. But if it is happening, we'll know it.  We'll feel a gentle, quiet joy deep within - a  grateful joy of knowing that God is bringing it about.  Put your faith in that!

In quiet prayer, may I suggest that you recall all of the ways in which God - in His compassion for you --  has worked to heal, console, guide, and bring you new growth. Then, be joyful and offer God thanks!

After your prayer, may I also suggest a practical deed of Christ-like service:  Bring God's compassion to another person who could use it.  Extend some hope to someone who feels and thinks like Saint John the Baptizer in prison.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Invite Stupak! Abortion is NOT Health Care

House Minority Leader, Rep. John Boehner (R, Ohio) has asked President Obama to invite Congressman Bart Stupak to tomorrow's health care summit.  As reported by National Review Online, Boehner has asked the President to include Stupak particularly because he represents the predominant view in this country that abortion coverage should not be included in any health care legislation.

It's unlikely that the president will include Stupak.  Obama is not only beholden to the abortion lobby, but his political history indicates that he truly believes that nothing should interfere with the ability to terminate the life of a child, even a child that has already been born.  Jill Stanek explains it best:

Now back to our regularly scheduled prayer for the soul of our country.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

God Has put the Peace of the World in Her Heart

There has been so much terrible news in the recent past, and not much on the horizon looks promising, either.  Sometimes I find myself in a quandry as to what to do, who to write to, where to start... then, I remember that there's only one place to go, and that's to my knees in prayer.  Lately the story of Fatima has been coming back to me, again and again.  Especially the request of the Blessed Mother to honor the first Saturday devotions.  That is, to attend Mass, pray the Rosary and meditate for 15 minutes on the mysteries of the Rosary for 5 consecutive first Saturdays (or every first Saturday, for that matter).

While at the March for Life last month, I bumped into Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR, who has been very involved in the promotion of the Fatima message.  I told him that I had just watched the movie, "The 13th Day," and was especially moved by it.  Father Apostoli said that it was important to watch the additional commentary that was provided with the film, explaining the messages of Fatima.  He said that we have to get back to observing the first Saturday devotions.  In fact, he is working on a book about Fatima, the messages, and first Saturdays, and had just finished the 13th chapter the night before.

It's quite amazing to ponder the role of Fatima over the last century.  Pope John Paul II was shot on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  His would-be assassin even asked whose feast day it was in the church because, as he put it, "I never miss.  My hand guided the gun, but someone else's hand guided the bullet."  The Holy Father asked that the documents relating to the third secret of Fatima be brought to him in his hospital room as he recovered.  This secret revealed the assassination attempt on the pope.  After he recovered, the pope brought the bullet to Fatima and had it placed in Our Lady's crown.

The one inextricable message from Fatima is the link between peace and prayer.  As Father Apostoli said at the "Worldwide Fatima Sanctity of Life Day" last year:

“God has put the peace of the world in her heart,” Fr. Apostoli said of Mary. “Our Lady of Fatima said if people observed what she said, there would be peace; if not, there would be more war.”

Fr. Apostoli noted that Our Lady of Fatima’s prediction rang true with the end of the Cold War.

“The Pope consecrated Russia to Mary and there was a period of peace following the Cold War,” he explained, exemplifying one of the promises of Fatima. “The Berlin Wall came down without bloodshed; the Soviet Union disintegrated …. Prayer has spiritual power. There is an old saying that there are more things wrought in this world by prayer than people imagine.”

Four Times the Fun

Father Jim's "baby laughing" post put such a smile on my face that I had to reprise this video from a year ago:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's So Funny?

On Faith And Humor
(Part Of An Ongoing Series)

Humor and laughter are powerful gifts from the Holy Spirit. Throughout my life and vocation, the ability to recognize what is ludicrously improbable, absurd and inconsistent in myself and in my fellow human beings has helped me remain (reasonably?) sane and hopeful. And if you haven't guessed already: satire, farce, and the comedic are glorious components in the concept and daily operation of this grand cyber-institution, The Catholic Jedi Academy.

The clever, skillful and devout Catholic author, G.K. Chesterton, commented: "Laughter has something in it common with the ancient words of faith and inspiration; it unfreezes pride and unwinds secrecy; it makes people forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves." 

Below is a video that illustrates what good old G.K. was saying. Weird as it may sound, this video can help make us better Catholics - simply by our laughing along with the endearing Baby "starring" in the video.
Here's the set-up: While hanging out with Daddy (as he plays a game of Golf on the Wii), the Baby finds something absolutely hilarious. I have no idea what delighted this Baby, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is our Catholic ability to share in this moment of unadulterated jubilation and silliness! 

Take a look: I hope you'll experience what Chesterton meant!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lenten Self-Defense Against Spiritual Leprosy - Part 2

Cynicism, or distrust, or self-centeredness should have no place in the mind and heart of a person committed to living our Catholic Faith.   Because, spiritually, these attitudes are poisonous, dangerous!  They infect us with spiritual leprosy!  The symptoms emerge slowly:
  • We stop trusting God and human beings.
  • We stop expecting goodness or justice.
  • We even lose our desire for these.
  • We stop planning, we stop setting goals for ourselves.
  • We lose our sense of purpose.
  • We refuse to believe promises.
  • We abandon faith and belief and convictions.
Cynicism, distrust and self-centeredness are spiritual leprosies which starve our souls, misguide us, drag us away!
And we willingly allow them to — until they drag us right up to the crumbling edge of a gaping pit called, despair: where we realize that we have completely lost our hope — because we allowed it to be taken from us.

How do we refill our souls with hope?  How can we defend ourselves against spiritual leprosy and despair?  Thanks be to God!  Exactly! Thanks be to God! Through His Son, Our Lord Jesus, and with the Power of the Holy Spirit, we have a spiritual weapon: gratitude!

Gratitude is a conscious, intentional, moment-to-moment awareness of every blessing and goodness that God is pouring into our lives,  and other people’s lives, and into our world.

Gratitude is the spiritual equivalent of DNA.  It is the building block that our lives as Catholics is fastened to:
  • Our faith begins with gratitude.
  • Our faith deepens and grows stronger with gratitude.

Each one of us has been given so much by God.  And when we recognize any of those gifts, and appreciate them, we become filled with gratitude.  We must have gratitude to survive.
Because, the only spiritual weapon we have to defend ourselves against cynicism and despair is gratitude!
Our gratitude transforms cynicism and despair into optimism and hope!  
Our gratitude transforms whatever good we do for other people into experiences of Christ's grace.
His grace is what firmly anchors us in hope and love.

When that tenth Leper was healed, his healing did not mean that all of his problems were now over.
We have to remember:  He lived 2000 years ago. When no one understood Leprosy and no one could cure it.  As soon as he showed the symptoms of Leprosy, he lost his entire life! 
He had no house to return to, no  property, no money or clothing –  they were all burned when he was discovered to be Leprous. 
Also, the governing Authorities forced his wife, children, and relatives to abandon him and shun him because he was a Leper. And, now, he will have to convince everyone that he is no longer Leprous.

And yet, despite the problems he knew that he would face in the future, that tenth former-leper ran back   to thank Our Lord Jesus for healing him!
Likewise, you and I must constantly remind ourselves that our blessings far outweigh our struggles. 
Because of Our Lord Jesus’ love for us, we always have reasons to be thankful and to be hopeful –  despite any crosses, or sadness, or anxieties we must cope with.

          As they were going they were cleansed.
          And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 
         and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
         He was a Samaritan.
          Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not?  
       Where are the other nine?  

Are you one of the nine?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lenten Self-Defense Against Spiritual Leprosy - Part One

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not?  Where are the other nine?  Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
From the holy Gospel according to Luke [17:11-19]

If someone asks us about the disappointments and prob­lems in our lives, we all can immediately rattle off a long list of them:
  • I’m tired.
  • I’ve got too much to do.
  • My husband is useless about helping me with the laundry and shopping.
  • My wife and kids are driving me crazy.
  • The people I work with are lazy or stupid or both.
  • I’m over-weight: I need to go on a diet.
  • My shoes are killing me.
  • The world is going to Hell in a hand basket.
If someone asks us about the things that are good and going well in our lives, we draw a blank, and it takes time for us to name a few of those good things in our lives. 

Some of us never allow ourselves to know what it  was like for that tenth Leper – the Samaritan – the one who realized the value of what he had received from Our Lord Jesus, and ran back to tell Him.
Instead, we are like the grandfather in the story about the grandfather who takes his 4-year-old granddaughter for a day at the beach.  The little girl is outfitted with her sun suit, sun hat, pail and shovel.  After setting up a spot on the beach, the little girl got right to work playing with the sand.  Grandpa slowly dozed off.   Hours passed before he woke. Then, he jumps to his feet. There is no sign of his granddaughter – only her shovel floating in the surf.  She must have fallen into the surf and drowned.  The grandfather falls to his knees in tears, and from the center of his heart, he begs God: “Please God! Please! Bring back my granddaughter to me.  I’m sorry I fell asleep! Please God! Please!”
Suddenly, the little girl appears, standing at the edge of the foamy waves breaking on the shore, holding her little pail.  She happily skips over to her grandfather, who scoops her up and  showers her with kisses and hugs.  And so, the grandfather begins collecting their things to go home.  But he looks up and down the beach, appearing very annoyed.  He then looks up to Heaven and shouts to God, “Hey! Where’s her hat?”

Like the grandfather and the nine former-lepers, many of us fail to recognize how much we have  received – and are still receiving –  from God.  We fail to appreciate the  pricelessness and power of the possessions we have been given by God.  And the result of this failure?
We mourn what we do not have: "I don’t have a 64-Inch Plasma TV."
We wallow in disappointment: "I didn’t win the Lottery again."
We are cynical, distrustful, isolated, self-absorbed.

But, a person who claims to have faith in Jesus Christ should not have these attitudes!
Cynicism, distrust, self-centeredness should have no place in the mind and heart of a person committed to living our Catholic Faith. 

(To Be Continued…)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Baby Gianna - Catholic Hospital Refers For Abortions

Please keep reading the story of baby Gianna over at the Catholic Minority Report.  Jessica Chominski, the sole employee of a crisis pregnancy center in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, had been helping a pregnant woman who was being pressured to have an abortion.  Here's what happened when they went to the local Catholic hospital for testing:
While treating her, doctors discovered fetal abnormalities in the 18-week-old fetus, including diseased kidneys and underdeveloped lungs resulting from a dearth of amniotic fluid. Despite being in a Catholic hospital, the doctor stunned them by saying that since the baby had no chance of living he recommended an abortion.

Jessica was stunned but managed to remind him that they were in a Catholic hospital but the doctor, according to Jessica, merely said that while he couldn’t do it there, Rebecca could come to his office in Abington where he could arrange it.

“'Utter frustration', 'Disappointing', 'Infuriating'” are still some of the only words Jessica can use to describe her feelings regarding the doctor's suggestion in a Catholic hospital.

After months of working with the baby's mother to help her choose life, the doctor at the Catholic hospital "kicked back all the work we’d done."
 Unfortunately, I am not shocked by what happened.  I'm disgusted and angered, but not shocked.  Perhaps the role of Catholics is going to be one of fighting the system from the outside.  Sometimes when you get too intertwined with the world, the temptation is to compromise.  A similar thing seems to happen in other institutions such as Catholic Charities.

Thanks to the guys at Creative Minority Report for bringing this to light.  According to post, the story was picked up by the Philadelphia Bulletin and a "firestorm of criticism" has begun.  May good come out of this terrible incident.

And, in fact, much good has come from the courageous decision of baby Gianna's mother to carry her to term.  As Jessica recounts,
“It was an honor to be there. A witness of God’s mercy. And they all treated this baby like a person,” said Jessica. “And she died with Christ and as tragic as it was it, was the most beautiful thing we could’ve asked for. Now the baby’s in heaven.”

The nurse pulled Jessica aside and told her that she'd go to Church on Sunday and pray for little baby Gianna. Jessica told her that baby Gianna would be praying for her as well.

Baby Gianna had finally found her safe harbor. For so long Jessica had worried that this little lost sheep was without a shepherd, but that day little baby Gianna found her eternal home in the arms of Christ the Shepherd.

Baby Gianna had a mother who fought for her and a God who loved her. “As a parent it’s your job to get your child to heaven," said Jessica. "That is what parenthood is supposed to be. And she did it.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Say a Little Prayer

Michael Yon, a former Green Beret, has been reporting form Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004.  While many other reporters have gone home and much of the media has lost interest, Yon stays behind to document the story of our troops who are still slogging it out over there.  Please visit his Online Magazine where he posts reflections and pictures such as these:
An American nurse tending to a Canadian soldier. 
Yon writes:
The War in Afghanistan has truly begun. This will be a long, difficult fight that is set to eclipse anything we’ve seen in Iraq. As 2010 unfolds, my 6th year of war coverage will unfold with it. There is relatively little interest in Afghanistan by comparison to previous interest in Iraq, and so reader interest is low. Afghanistan is serious, very deadly business. Like Iraq, however, it gets pushed around as a political brawling pit while the people fighting the war are mostly forgotten. The arguments at home seem more likely to revolve around a few words from the President than the ground realities of combat here.
 In his pocket, he keeps a prayer card that he found on a base in Anbar Province, Iraq:
Be Not Afraid
You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face of God and live.
Be not afraid.
I go before you always;
Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

 May God bless and keep them.

Creative Minority Report and Baby Gianna

Please go to Creative Minority Report this week and follow their story about baby Gianna.  I don't know where the story is going, but the Archbolds have asked us to read along all week to learn about what happened to baby Gianna whose mother was being pressured to abort.  Today's installment does not bode well for the poor baby, whose diagnosis is critical, when the doctor at the Catholic hospital tells the mom to consider "termination."  I love these code words for abortion...."termination."  It certainly dances around the issue, doesn't it?  I guess "killing" would be a little too precise, but why won't they just say abortion?.

A number of years ago, a family friend learned that her unborn child would be born with down syndrome.  The obstetrician advised her to speak to a genetic counselor about her "options."  She was elated, thinking that the counselor would give her advice on how to raise a child with this condition.  When she went to the meeting and learned that "options" meant "abortion" she was flabbergasted (this was 17 years ago, before we were clued in about the code words). 

Isn't it strange how we're not permitted to use words such as handicapped or retarded anymore because they might offend the people with that condition.  This is fine when it is well-intentioned, but what does it mean when we create a language that implies we are concerned about the feelings of people who don't fit our perfect mold, but then we do our best to prevent them from being born?  What kind of true compassion is that?  We are sensitive to your feelings, but we'd rather not have any more of you.  Nice.

Well, I am anxious to hear the next installment of the baby Gianna story, but I'm beginning to have a bad feeling.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Children Make Their Own Coffins...

I was reflecting on the last post concerning health care directives and living wills, and the human desire to avoid suffering, when I remembered an episode of Sunday Night Live with Fr. Benedict Groeschel that concerned caring for the sick.  Father Groeschel's guest on this episode was Fr. Peter LeJacq, a Maryknoll missionary and medical doctor.  Fr. LeJacq was sent to Africa to minister in villages that were being devastated by the AIDS epidemic.  Among the villagers were vast numbers of orphaned children who had lost their parents to AIDS and who were also sick with the disease and would eventually die at a young age.  When Father arrived in the village in the mid-1980s, he learned that the children made the wooden coffins for the dying.  Thinking that he would relieve them of a sorrowful burden, Fr. LeJacq told the children that he would find someone outside of the village to make the coffins.  The children immediately objected; "Oh, no, Father.  We like to make them.  This way we know they'll be well made when it's our turn."

Father LeJacq related that he was completely humbled by the devotion and faith of these young children.  After the funeral of one child, they returned to the village and sat in the blazing sun for two hours, each taking their turn asking the forgiveness of the dead child for any wrong they had done to him, and in turn forgiving him for any wrong he may have done.  When Father asked one child if he wasn't sad after the death of his friend, the child told him, "Oh, yes, Father.  I was sad for a little while right after he died, but, I'm going to see him again soon, aren't I, Father?"

This child-like faith and acceptance of suffering is quite an example.  Father LeJacq said that he prayed to have that same faith and to  understand why these poor children had to suffer.  He recalled that there was just one place in Scripture where the Lord explained the purpose of suffering and death.  The Lord said that it was for the strengthening of our faith and for the glory of God.  That's quite an endorsement.  Father said it made him realize that suffering was not meaningless and that it was meant for others as much as for ourselves.

Today I was at a nursing home visiting someone with dementia.  She resides on a floor where everyone else suffers from dementia, too.  The residents are in varying stages of the disease.  Some moan and cry out.  Others stare off into space.  And still others smile and carry on vague conversations that only occasionally connect to reality.  If you walked in on this scene and looked around, you might be forgiven for thinking that it's a shame that these people are living like this.  That, perhaps it would be better for them to be dead and at peace.  But, the Lord tells us that the suffering, the illness is for God's glory and to strengthen our faith.  We humble ourselves in the acceptance that although we do not understand, it is not necessary for us to understand.  In our humility we turn it over to God and trust.

And out of this trust come angels of mercy, the caregivers, the nurses, the families, the friends.  Those who serve the sick.  There was a man at the nursing home today caring for his mother.  He knew the name of every resident in the room and had a kind word for each one.  He told me that his father had been in the home up until his death a few months earlier. "It's funny" he said, "my mother was always sicker than my father, yet he was the first to go."  Then he pointed upward and said, "It's all up to Him."  He said his friends told him that he was going straight to heaven for helping his parents, but he said, "I told them, I don't think He wants me that fast.  He knows I have a lot of questions about why things happen this way."  Then he chuckled and went back to feeding his mother.

We cannot avoid pain or indignity by signing a document that tells our loved ones to stop caring for us.  We cannot avoid the cross, it is waiting for all of us.  The only thing that is accomplished by telling others not to care, is to create an uncaring society.   Lift high the cross.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Don't Sign Your Life Away - Problems with Five Wishes

Please be careful when you sign any kind of health care instruction, proxy or living will.  Father Basil Cole, O.P.  has written a good article about problems with a document that is floating around these days, called "Five Wishes".  Five Wishes is an end of life planning tool that is put out by a group called Aging with Dignity.  This group was founded by Jim Towey, a Catholic who had been on President Bush's staff and who, according to the group's website, was legal counsel to Mother Teresa for 12 years.  Father Basil's concerns with the document include the following:
The document says, “If I am close to death,” I can choose to leave it in the hands of my doctor to continue “support treatment,” or I can simply say I do not want any life support.  What is support treatment?  It can mean any device or medicine to keep me alive, such as oxygen, feeding and hydration through a tube, CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a major surgery, blood transfusions, dialysis or antibiotics. The Church teaches that one is not obliged to extraordinary or disproportionate treatment or burdensome treatment, but one is obliged to ordinary treatment unless the ordinary treatment turns out to be very burdensome.  Each individual is different and so this issue needs a prudential judgment on a case by case basis.  Hence the need exists for a good healthcare agent or someone with durable power of attorney. Feeding and hydration is not medical treatment. 
 As an attorney who deals with this issue on an almost daily basis, it has been my experience that very, very few people are able to clearly articulate what medical treatment they would want in the future for a particular condition.   Frankly, the vast majority of people who come into my office state that they "don't want to be kept alive by machines."  Now, when you think through this statement, it covers a lot of ground, and when the various possibilities of machines that are quite necessary for even minor procedures are discussed, the person usually realizes that their language must be much more precise.

Father Basil hits the nail on the head when he writes about the section in the Five Wishes document that asks the person to indicate what life supporting treatment should be avoided, "The problem with this request is that most of us are not good doctors to be able to give such directives.  As a result, it would be possible for us to die based on poor care that we authorized in the first place. "   And, I would add, most lawyers are not doctors and are not equipped to provide guidance on these directives.

In New York, we are fortunate to have a health care proxy statute where you are able to select a person whom you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf  in the case of your incapacity . You do not need to write out specific medical decisions in advance, but can discuss your religious beliefs and general desire to receive adequate and appropriate care with your proxy ahead of time.  And, if you live in a state that requires you to fill out a form with specific wishes, Father Basil has some sage advice:

Now, if you must sign some kind of document to be admitted to a hospital with these and other ambiguous questions about your future care in case you are in jeopardy of some kind, then you must qualify each sentence with “as the Catholic Church teaches, and my healthcare agent consents if I am unable to consent.”  Otherwise, you could put yourself in great peril and die before it’s time.
We can't avoid suffering in this life.  Don't fall for the illusion that a health care directive or living will can short circuit your cross.  The unforeseen consequence can be a lack of adequate care at the time you need it the most.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

St. Scholastica

Today is the feast day of St. Scholastica, the sister of St. Benedict.  I especially love the stories of the saints who have a male or female spiritual companion or counterpart.  Like St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, St. Francis and St. Clare, St. Louis de Montfot and Blessed Louise, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal....the list, I'm sure can go on and on.  The development of great religious orders with a male component and a female component highlight the specific gifts given to each sex that can't be replicated by the other, but only come to their fullness when joined together. 

St. Scholastica only got to see her brother, St. Benedict, once a year.  They had to meet at a farmhouse because she was not permitted to enter the male-only monastery.  One year she was especially enraptured in a discussion with her brother on spiritual matters and it was time for him to depart.  She entreated him to stay, but he insisted that he must leave.  Not wanting to end their discussion, Scholastica sent up a prayer to the Lord asking that her brother stay.  At the end of her prayer, a violent thunderstorm broke out, preventing St. Benedict from leaving.   He is said to have remarked, "God forgive you sister!  What have you done?"  She replied, "I asked a favor of you and you refused.  I asked it of God and he granted it to me."  Three days after their meeting, St. Benedict, while at prayer, saw the soul of his sister rising to heaven.  It was to have been their last meeting.

May St. Scholastica intercede for us, especially in those times when we are feeling dryness at prayer, or failing in our trust that God hears all of our pleas.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Good German

(picture courtesy of blackfive blog)
As an American of German heritage, I'm always happy to read something uplifting coming out of the old country.

Spc  Jeffrey Jamaleldine , a native of West Berlin, grew up dreaming of becoming a soccer star.  After serving in the German military, he came to the U.S. to attend college on a soccer scholarship.  After completing his degree, he became a U.S. citizen and worked for awhile before obtaining a masters degree.  After the 9/11 terrorist attacks and then further attacks in London and Spain, Spc Jamaleldine wanted to do his part and enlisted in the U.S. Army.  He was shipped out to combat in Ramadi where he was called to support a platoon that was under fire:  
" They said they were almost black on ammo. We decided to take a truck and roll out there to see what he was talking about and, yeah, there was close to 80 people shooting at us ... we were outnumbered," he said trailing off.

"I was shooting from the M240 Bravo. It was controlled chaos. There were no friendly fire incidents ... we really had it under control. Then I looked left and I see (him) ... coming towards me," He refers to the enemy combatant approaching, strapped with an explosive vest, ready to kill..."I couldn't tilt my M240 down far enough to engage. So I took the 240 out of the mount and leaned myself over ... if I didn't do what I did, our vehicle would've exploded. But by then my head was outside of the armor, so I took a bullet to the face," he said, pointing to the now faint scar on his left cheek. The bullet ripped through his skin, disconnecting the bone structure of his jaw, and finally exiting from his temple.

After several acts of heroism by Soldiers at the battle site, a fight known today as the Battle of Donkey Island, Jamaleldine, who was in and out of consciousness, was successfully transported to a medic tent in Balad where he underwent his first, of many, surgeries.  (

Jamaleldine  is recuperating and anxious to get back to officer candidate school to continue his service in the Army.  He sees a need to give back in life and, as he puts it: "I want to do my part...Actions really do speak louder than words."  Alles Gute! to this brave soldier and Godspeed to him and his buddies.

My Answer is "YES"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Survivors: Entire New Orleans Saints Team Spared from Abortion (Colts, too) has an article online that talks about how one of the coaches of the Indianapolis Colts was spared from abortion when his 15 year old unwed mother gave him up for adoption.  Clyde Christensen, the Colts assistant head coach, volunteers for Life Centers, a network of crisis pregnancy centers in the Indianapolis area.   It was the head of Life Centers who spread the word about Christensen who describes his feelings about his mother's decision as follows:
"I am grateful for her unselfishness in wanting the best life for me and the decision that I might benefit from life in another family. I'm touched by her faith in entrusting her child to God with confidence. She trusted God would find the right family and would watch over her child throughout his life."
This coming on the heels of the Tim Tebow pro-life Super Bowl ad made me think about the fact that every player on both championship teams was "spared" from abortion.  In fact, anybody born after the Roe vs. Wade decision has evaded the hunter's net.

(from the blog

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can Anything Good Come Out of Washington?

I'm beginning to think that the bishops need to move the headquarters of the USCCB (U.S. Conference  of Catholic Bishops) out of Washington, D.C.  A political mindset seems to be creeping into the bureaucracy of the conference.  It's not hard to happen in that atmosphere.  Washington thinks differently than we do.  Washington thinks its perfectly okay to maintain a big bureaucracy and it is the patriotic duty of the rest of us to hand over cash so that it can continue to perform its exalted function.  If we question whether contributions are being used wisely, or if it is even necessary to fund certain operations, we are told that we don't understand, or that we don't have all the facts or that we just don't appreciate that Washington operates at a higher consciousness to which we are not privy (being ordinary non-Washington mortals), or we are just ignored.  Being distanced from the people helps to sustain the autonomy of the bureaucracy.  Honestly, most American Catholics probably don't even know that such a thing as the USCCB exists.

Why am I getting worked up about the USCCB?  Because over the years its Washington bureaucracy has  funneled our contributions to questionable enterprises.  The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is one of those arms of the bishops' conference that has sent money to entities that support such issues as abortion on demand and the gay/lesbian agenda.  Part of the problem seems to be that the CCHD mandate is to fund community organizers and economic development.  According to Jack Smithat at the Catholic Key Blog (of the Archdiocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph), the community organizers tend to be a little duplicitous in their enterprises, while the economic development group does some good with its funds.  One of the questionable community organizing groups that received CCHD funds is the Center for Community Change, an organization that has been receiving funds from the CCHD.  THis same organization has engaged in political activities, including actively promoting abortion and developing leaders for same sex marriage advocacy.  Another group that was ultimately defunded by the CCHD was Acorn.

Deal Hudson wrote a scathing summary today of the CCHD based on research done by the American Life League (ALL) and Bellarmine Veritas Ministry (BVM) . The CCHD campaign takes place around Thanksgiving and parishes take up a collection from Catholics who, most likely, believe that their money will be spent for charitable purposes in conformity with Church teaching, not for the advocacy of immoral activities.   ALL reports that one fifth of CCHD's grantees in 2009 promoted abortion. 

Catholics should say, "enough!"  Write to your bishops now and demand that an investigation be done into the recipients of our money.  It is absolutely senseless that we should be funding those who would oppose the basic teaching of the Church.  The devil must be laughing at our stupidity.  Any staff member of the USCCB who was involved in those programs, involved in advocating immoral activities or involved in funding these activities, must be fired.  It's as simple as that.  Then, we should take a very close look at the operations and staffing of the USCCB and determine what is truly necessary.  While Catholic parishes and schools are closing throughout the country, we cannot afford to underwrite a bloated bureaucracy.  Especially one that is funding those who would work against our deeply held beliefs.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Not Sure if I Want to Meet this Cat Too Soon

There's an interesting story coming out of a Rhode Island nursing home.  Oscar, the resident cat at the Steere House nursing home in Providence, seems to be able to predict when residents are about to die.  According to Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor at Brown University medical school, Oscar has been accurate with his terminal diagnoses for the past five years.  In fact, Oscar sometimes knows better than the staff.  When a patient is close to death, Oscar will jump on his or her bed and keep vigil.  According to Dr. Dosa, he will leave for a few minutes to have some food, but will hop right back onto the bed, keeping his watch.

One time nurses put Oscar on the bed of a patient who they thought was about to die, but Oscar jumped out and ran into somebody else's room.   The first patient lived another two days, while the patient in the room into which Oscar ran died that night.

According to the staff, the family members seem to find comfort in Oscar's presence.  In fact, they will sometimes call the family when the cat takes up his post.  Fortunately, Oscar has a 100% success rate in determining who is on their deathbed, otherwise I would imagine it could be a bit unnerving if he mistakenly jumped on someone's bed just to take a nap.

The Presentation: A Light to Reveal You to the Gentiles

At our little prayer group last evening, the reflection came around to being a light to others.  The imagery can be a little worn, but it helped us to think about being just a small light and turning ourselves over to the Father to use this small light as he sees fit.  And, how through his power and his design, even the smallest candle can cast a big light.

I see the light so clearly in the other women in our group.  When I hear their stories of small gestures of kindness that they perform in such an ordinary way, but that are truly extraordinary in our world today.   Most of these women are grandmothers and have seen their share of sorrows.  I think of them when reading the Gospel passage on the Presentation in the temple.  Simeon and Anna, the devout elderly pair in the temple.  The holy man and the prophetess.  What had they seen in their lives?  No matter what hardships they had endured, they stayed close to God in prayer and knew that He would not forsake his people.

God bless those grandmothers and grandfathers who pray for us.  Who remain faithful throughout the years, in good times and bad, never doubting the goodness of the Lord.

Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
which you have prepared for all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.
-- Luke 2:29-32

Monday, February 1, 2010

Now That's A Retreat

In the Philippines last week, 5,500 of the country's priests gathered for a retreat to observe the year of the priest.  The retreat was led by Fr. Rainiero Cantalamessa.  This was just about all of the priests in the country.  All I can say is, Wow!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.