Thursday, December 31, 2009
If there was a "Worst Theologian of 2009" category in the parade of annual year-end awards clogging up the media these days, there is no doubt it would have to go to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her multiple theological faux pas sans mea culpas.
Elizabeth Lev, in her column "Nancy Pelosi, Catholic Without a Clue," at Politics Daily dissects Pelosi's misguided church-speak, particularly on abortion and when human life begins:
"Pelosi's Catholic-lite construct here suggests that free will means the ability to judge what is right and wrong, with each person's conscience being the final arbiter. Coherency in her concept of Catholic teaching would mean legalizing rape and murder and allowing each person to choose and then take responsibility for his or her own actions. More than the far left liberal that many claim her to be, Pelosi seems to favor anarchy."
"With an F in theology and an incomplete in history, Pelosi's Catholic GPA seems to be at an all-time low. The Catholic Church does recognize the principle of 'invincible ignorance' for those who are doctrinally challenged in understanding how the church works and what faith demands of the believer. To enjoy the benefit of that compassionate principle, however, Pelosi would have to suffer from severe doctrinal deprivation (as distinct from mere opportunism or a malicious desire to harm the church to which she claims to 'ardently' belong)."
Read her full column HERE.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The New York Times ran an article this week about the human propensity to procrastinate. This wasn't about putting off dreaded yard work or laundry. This was about saving free airline tickets or gift certificates to restaurants or even a nice bottle of wine for "some day." You know that imaginary day that exists in your mind's eye -- the day that's worthy of a nice Merlot or the event that ranks high enough on the celebration meter to warrant a dinner out or maybe even a trip to some exotic place?
I know some of that feeling. Although I'm the type who wears or uses Christmas or birthday gifts in record time -- often the same day they are received -- I am also the type who deems certain things too special for just any old day. Take, for example, the bottle of champagne that has been sitting in our refrigerator for months. It was originally purchased by my husband, Dennis, to celebrate the completion of my third book (which will be out in October), but we didn't open the bottle that day for one reason or another, and so I decided we'd save it for some other special occasion. Enter a big win for Dennis at work. But we ended up skipping it that day, too, so now it's on tap for tomorrow night, New Year's Eve. I still have my doubts as to whether this bottle -- which is not that extravagant to begin with -- will ever make it into a champagne flute.
From John Tierney's article "Carpe Diem? Maybe Tomorrow" in the Times:
"When there is no immediate deadline, we’re liable to put off going to the zoo this weekend because we assume that we will be less busy next weekend — or the weekend after that, or next summer. This is the same sort of thinking that causes us to put the gift certificate in the drawer because we expect to have more time for shopping in the future.
"We’re trying to do a cost-benefit analysis of the time lost versus the pleasure or money to be gained, but we’re not accurate in our estimates of 'resource slack,' as it is termed by Gal Zauberman and John G. Lynch. These behavioral economists found that when people were asked to anticipate how much extra money and time they would have in the future, they realistically assumed that money would be tight, but they expected free time to magically materialize.
"Hence you’re more likely to agree to a commitment next year, like giving a speech, that you would turn down if asked to find time for it in the next month. This produces what researchers call the 'Yes ... Damn!' effect: when the speech comes due next year, you bitterly discover you’re still as busy as ever."
Boy, have I been there. Any time I agree to a speaking engagement, it seems like a fabulous idea -- precisely because it's usually six to nine months in the offing. But once I'm within one month of the date, I start wondering what I was thinking when I said yes.
As I pondered this strange phenomenon, it occurred to me that this misguided notion that tomorrow will be less hectic than today trickles down not only to our recreational lives but our spiritual lives as well. At least it does for me. Despite being admonished through Scripture on a fairly regular basis to be on watch, be vigilant, get ready since we know not the day or the hour, I manage to convince myself that there is always tomorrow. I don't need to pray now because I'll have more time when my work project is finished or when the kids are back in school. I don't need to meditate or spend time with Scripture or get my spiritual life in order now. I'm far too busy. I'll get to it next week, next month, next year.
"'People can become overly focused on an ideal,' Dr. Shu said. 'Even if they know it’s unlikely, they get so focused on the perfect scenario that they block everything else. Or they anticipate that they’ll kick themselves later if they take second-best option and then see the best one is still available. But they don’t realize that regret can go the other way. They’ll end up with something worse and regret not taking the second-best one,'” Tierney writes.
That's exactly it. I'm waiting for the ideal spiritual moment. That magical non-existent time when the house will be quiet, the office will be neat, the incense will be burning, the icon will be in place...Then, if and when that time ever arrives, I think I will sit down and begin the prayer life I've been longing for.
But, as we all know, those perfect moments don't come around very often. Or, looking at it another way, those manufactured moments we imagine don't come around very often. But the perfect moment? That's ours for the taking whenever we decide to stop and savor what we have right now, be it a dinner out at a fancy restaurant or a few minutes of silent prayer stolen between work deadlines and the laundry.
Carpe diem. Now.
(This was today's post on my personal blog, Not Strictly Spiritual.)
My middle child wanted to have a play date today with a girl I'd never met from a family I didn't know. Just from talking to the girl's mom on the phone this morning, I could tell we'd hit it off even if our kids didn't bring us together. Two talkers, happy to share stories and a laugh. So when Amy came by to drop her daughter off for the long-anticipated play date this afternoon, it didn't seem odd when she signaled that she wanted to talk to me away from the prying ears of children for a minute or two.
Turns out the 47-year-old woman who has babysat Amy's three children day after day over the years died of cancer on Christmas Eve. It had been a tough week emotionally, and, although her daughter seemed to be doing fine today, Amy wanted me to be aware of what was going on in case she became upset for what may seem like no reason or in case she suddenly said she needed her mom. She looked a little tentative about leaving until I told her that my first book, "Parenting a Grieving Child: Helping Children Find Faith, Hope and Healing After the Loss of a Loved One," was about exactly that kind of thing.
Then she just seemed stunned. She kept saying how she couldn't believe the turn of events, that this first play date would happen when it did, that I would not only know what to do if her daughter got upset but could also give her a copy of my book to help her through the more rocky terrain of childhood grief. And for the second time since first meeting by phone earlier that morning, we seemed like long lost friends who had simply never met because I, too, could not shake the feeling that our chance meeting wasn't so coincidental after all.
Many people don't even realize that children grieve just as powerfully as adults do, albeit in different ways. It was refreshing to meet a mom who not only knows the score but is aware enough to make sure other adults in contact with her children understand as well. She knew that her younger daughter would wear her emotions on her sleeve and would not be afraid to tell me if she was upset or needed something. Her older daughter, she said, was more stoic. She said that earlier today her junior high daughter was irrationally upset about her shoe, but the mom quickly realized that it really wasn't about the shoe. It was about something much greater, much deeper. That is a mom very in tune with her children and with the reality of life and death and how it can affect us in strange ways when we least expect it.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
By Russell Shaw
Was 2009 a turning point for the American bishops, marking a tougher and more realistic approach on their part to the myriad problems, internal and external, besetting the Catholic Church in the United States? It’s too soon for final conclusions, but, on the evidence, history may judge the year just past in exactly those terms.
Two episodes in particular suggest as much.
One is the remarkable fact that some 80 American bishops, acting on their own, spoke up last spring to protest Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama to receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address. Obama makes no bones about backing legalized abortion, and the bishops considered it scandalous for the country’s highest-visibility Catholic university to pay gratuitous tribute to him in this way.
The other episode has been the upfront campaign by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to keep public funding of elective abortion out of the health care legislation being pushed by Obama and the congressional leadership and to make the plan more generous in scope. The bishops have sought to influence legislation often before, but it’s hard to think of a time when they’ve put up a fight as strenuous and determined as this one.
In neither case, to be sure, did the bishops prevail. Notre Dame shrugged off the protests and honored Obama while most graduates and faculty cheered. And although the House of Representatives amended its version of health care legislation along the lines the bishops wanted, the Senate adopted a watered-down "compromise" that may end up be in the final version of the bill signed by Obama.
Thus the point being made here isn’t that the bishops won. The point is that they put up a serious fight, thereby perhaps reflecting growing awareness that, absent resistance from them, the Church’s interests will only continue to take a beating. It’s impossible to imagine their predecessors of the 1970s and 1980s doing as much, and the new developments underline the fact that the hierarchy today is greatly different in membership and mindset from the hierarchy of those days.
So do the words and actions in the past of a surprising number of individual bishops.
To mention three by way of example: Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who roundly denounced The New York Times for overt anti-Catholicism; Archbishop-designate Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, who told a group calling itself Young Catholics for Choice that by flouting Church teaching on contraception, abortion and sexuality they were “tragically distancing themselves” from the Church they claimed to belong to; and Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, who took on Rep. Patrick Kennedy — Ted Kennedy’s son, no less — for trashing (and misrepresenting) the bishops on abortion and health care.
It’s also worth noting that nearly 60 bishops and dioceses provided financial assistance (including $50,000 each from Philadelphia and Phoenix) to the Diocese of Portland, Maine, for a successful campaign against same-sex marriage.
Perhaps significantly, all this has been happening with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago as president of USCCB. Cardinal George is a tough-minded intellectual who’s not afraid to speak his mind publicly — as he did during the year past by criticizing Notre Dame for honoring Obama and by speaking out against health care abortion.
It remains to be seen what the impact on episcopal activism will be if, as seems probable, the bishops next November choose as successor to head USCCB a prelate who generally takes a softer line, more in the manner of the bishops of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I'm not one to read the sports pages, but today I'm glad I happened upon a powerful and personal column about the travails of Tiger Woods by Washington Post columnist Mike Wise, who confesses to his own Tiger-like infidelities while reminding us that what happened to one of the world's most famous athletes is a serious sickness, not just an isolated sin. People in general have taken quite an interest in Tiger's great fall -- from jokes to disgust to curiosity -- but, as Wise astutely observes, Tiger's mistakes are a symptom of a bigger problem, something hidden behind his sexual indiscretions, much the same way problems are hidden behind addictions to alcohol or drugs, pornography or gambling.
From Wise's column:
"I am Tiger Woods, and I have poked fun at his travails because I use humor as camouflage, because if I were to deal with the truth, if the world were to know the details of my sad, pathetic electronic communication with other women at one time in my life, the horrific embarrassment would not just send me into seclusion; it would send me off the ledge.
"It's easy -- maybe even natural -- to judge his actions and ignore what led to them:
"Tiger Woods has an emotional void in his life. This void must be huge. For him to be where he is today, this deep emptiness must have consumed him, must be something he has been living with for a long time. Moreover, he has to live with his emptiness while being fully aware that everyone in the world knows just what a manufactured lie his image has been.
"Having stared into this void, having known this hollowness, I can neither excoriate the guy nor exonerate him.
"I am Tiger Woods, and because of that, I can only hope that he realizes he's sick and takes steps to get better."
It's really worth your time to read the column in its entirety. Click HERE to read on.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
One year ago the Catholic writing world lost a precious gift and friend, Emilie Lemmons. I didn't know Emilie personally but got to know her, as so many others did, through her moving and honest blog posts. As she faced the challenges of her illness and the reality of leaving behind her husband and sons, she made us all a little more aware of our own blessings, our own mortality, our own opportunities to create moments of joy even in times of strife. So I was thinking of Emilie this morning, because, as I wrote last year at the time of her death, she made a difference in my life even though we knew each other only through the blogosphere.
Then this morning I opened my local paper and saw the story of another faith-filled woman, Laura Schonhiutt, whose strength throughout her own terminal illness inspired an entire community, people who had been total strangers to her before they decided to put aside their own worries in favor of helping someone in need. At this woman's funeral a couple of weeks ago, the women of her local community served as pallbearers, something that was symbolic of what they'd been doing all along. The article put it like this:
"'These women carried my sister and all of us through a very difficult time,' said her sister, Anne Skrebutenas. 'We couldn't have done it if it weren't for these amazing women who came out of the woodwork to help us.'
"In her eulogy, Skrebutenas said her sister spoke in her final days with gratitude about the circle of friends in her adopted town. She had searched unsuccessfully for that sense of community and connectedness in Ohio for many years.
"Laura asked me, 'Why do I have to go to heaven? I've found heaven right here in Niskayuna,' her sister said."
As we prepare for our Christmas celebrations and rejoice in our own sense of community and connectedness, it's good, I think, to remember how precious this time on earth is and how these preparations we've been making throughout Advent are not just about getting ready for a joyous party here on earth but about getting ready for a joyous eternity in heaven. And we never know when that day will come, as the tales of these two women remind us.
Please visit Emilie's blog, lemmondrops, which is as she left it, by clicking HERE. Read the inspiring story of Laura Schonhiutt by clicking HERE.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York joined Rabbi Harlan Wechsler, founding rabbi of Congregation Or Zarua, on his show Rabbi Wechsler Teaches on Sirius XM Stars last Sunday. The interfaith pair covered a wide range of topics, including the two clips below: one on the "war" on Christmas and the other on the importance of community in the faith life of individuals, be they Christian or Jew. Archbishop Dolan posted the clips on his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age. If you want to listen to the show in its entirety, it will be rebroadcast in the Conversation with the Archbishop time slot on The Catholic Channel, Sirius 159/XM 117, over New Year’s weekend. The first airing will be on New Year’s Eve at 1 p.m. eastern time.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
A new national poll shows that 72 percent of U.S. voters oppose any use of public money in the health care reform plan to pay for abortion. That's a 3-to-1 margin against what the U.S. Senate is about to approve.
The independent poll, released today by Quinnipiac University, also shows that Americans "mostly disapprove" of the health plan in general by 53 percent to 36 percent. President Obama doesn't fair much better, with 56 percent of voters saying they disapprove of his handling of health care reform. And yet, the U.S. Senate is preparing to push health care reform through on the morning of Christmas Eve and has even voted to limit debate on the issue. I guess that's as close as they can get to putting their fingers in their ears and singing, "la, la, la, la, la," in order to avoid hearing the truth. The image fits, doesn't it?
To read the Quinnipac poll's findings, click HERE.
Monday, December 21, 2009
I have not seen James Cameron's latest mega-movie Avatar, but I'm sure at some point I will. Not because I love science fiction but because I am the the mother of a 13-year-old boy who loves science fiction. I can do a mean Yoda impersonation thanks to many viewings of Star Wars with said son. So I was intrigued when I saw Ross Douthat's op-ed piece, "Heaven and Nature," on Avatar in the New York Times yesterday.
At first I was nodding in agreement with Douthat as he pounced on the "capitalistic excess" and Cameron's "apologia for pantheism," but by the time I got to the end I had switched sides. Douthat's argument doesn't fully hold up. Sure, I can see how Avatar with its blue-skinned beauties living in an idyllic world could make the Hollywood types swoon -- a semi-religious experience minus the religion. And yet, aren't we all, even we Christians, meant to be in some sort of spiritual communion with the natural world around us? I'm not talking about worshiping a tree, but you don't have to look too far off the beaten Catholic path to remember that one of our greats -- St. Francis of Assisi -- often waxed poetic about the wonders of the natural world, of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. I know St. Francis. St. Francis is a friend of mine. And let me tell you, St. Francis was no pantheist.
I'd even argue that Douthat's take on the "mystical Force" in Star Wars being of a pantheistic vein is off the mark. As mentioned above, I've seen my share of Star Wars and I don't get pantheism. I get good vs. evil, which inevitably brings me back to Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, not sun gods and water fairies. Same goes for Douthat's take on The Lion King, which was my son's all-time favorite movie when he was a preschooler. Yes, it focuses on the "circle of life," but there is a circle of life, whether we worship the One True God or are dabbling in New Age niceties. In fact, when I wrote my first book, Parenting a Grieving Child, I suggested parents use movies like The Lion King to help their children understand life and death.
Maybe after I view Avatar for myself, I'll see Douthat's point, although I tend to doubt it. As I see it, we are created by our Creator to live among all His other creations. We are connected -- spiritually, physically and otherwise -- whether we like it or not.
Toward the end of his column, Douthat states:
"Religion exists, in part, precisely because humans aren’t at home amid these cruel rhythms. We stand half inside the natural world and half outside it. We’re beasts with self-consciousness, predators with ethics, mortal creatures who yearn for immortality.
"This is an agonized position, and if there’s no escape upward — or no God to take on flesh and come among us, as the Christmas story has it — a deeply tragic one.
"Pantheism offers a different sort of solution: a downward exit, an abandonment of our tragic self-consciousness, a re-merger with the natural world our ancestors half-escaped millennia ago.
"But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back."
Ah, but there's the rub. Nature does take us back as dust and ash, and we become part of the circle of life.
To read Douthat's full column, click HERE.
Friday, December 18, 2009
It's funny, but about two weeks ago when I started plowing through the pile of holiday flyers that were packed inside the Sunday newspaper each week and occasionally in the weekday papers as well, I kept stopping at the Macy's ads, which said in big letters: "Believe!" And I thought to myself, Believe in what? In the fabulous perfumes they were selling for ridiculous prices? In the holiday china sets and flashy jewelry? And I considered posting about my annoyance here, but figured that maybe my heart was two sizes too small and I'd be accused of spoiling everyone's holiday cheer with my Grinchiness.
And then today I got an early Christmas present: this column by Jesuit Father James Martin in the Wall Street Journal. It takes to task all those marketers who use pieces of our Christmas message to sell their wares without actually putting anything of substance behind it.
Father Martin writes:
"The Christmas I don't like is the one most people don't: the commercial one. And this year what's been irking me are the slogans that companies are deploying in their December ad campaigns that hope to have it both ways: They're using religious themes without actually being religious. Call it faith-based advertising.
"Some aren't bad. This year J.C. Penney's ads featured the slogan 'The Joy of Giving.' (Giving is, needless to say, laudable.) But many advertisers couldn't seem to decide how religious their ads could be. Most are eager to glom onto the highly profitable Christmas angle without being Christian, which would be a challenge even for Don Draper and his 'Mad Men' copywriters. The cover of the Land's End catalog, which is bursting with preppy families who apparently divide their time between laughing dementedly, drinking steaming mugs of hot chocolate and petting horses, says: 'Make it Merry!' Make what merry? Celebrating the birth of Christ or petting a horse"
And finally, the moment I was waiting for, my least favorite ad of the year was one of Father Martin's choices for worst ad of the year: Macy's and it's ridiculous "Believe!" campaign, which tied with Eddie Bauer's "We Believe" campaign.
Here's Father Martin's take:
"The winner of this year's worst catch phrase is a tie: between Macy's and Eddie Bauer. Macy's shopping bags say, 'A million reasons to believe!' In what? What does Macy's want us to believe in? That Jesus is the Son of God? (Imagine that on a bag.)
"Nearly as maddening was the cover of this year's Eddie Bauer catalog, which proclaims 'We believe.' As with Macy's, I was eager to find out just what Eddie Bauer believed in. The Council of Chalcedon's fifth-century declaration that Jesus was fully human and fully divine? Not exactly. Page three professed the retailer's creed: 'We believe in the world's best down.'
"Of course I know that this is the way marketing works. Retailers use anything to hawk a product. And I'm sorry to be a stickler, but it's strange seeing the Christian faith being used and denied at the same time.
"Nonetheless, I try not to get too upset about it, because I don't want to let commercialism distract me from the reason to celebrate Christmas Day. Because I really do have a million reasons to believe."
Bravo, Father Martin. Thanks for being willing to be a Grinch with heart -- and faith.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
By Mary DeTurris Poust
Dockers, known the world over for its casual-Friday khakis, has found itself at the center of controversy and outrage thanks to its new "Man-ifesto" ad campaign that challenges men to "Wear the Pants." Here's what the full ad says:
"Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that’s what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grownups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of manhood. It’s time to wear the pants."
It may be nothing more than a smart marketing plan to grab some headlines and annoy some bloggers and columnists, or it may be something more -- and that possibility is what's stirring people up. Over at Fathers for Good, a website sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, editor Brian Caulfied writes:
"I won't over-analyze -- it is, after all, just an ad. But Madison Avenue has had a huge influence on our cultural images and thinking over the generations, and this ad may influence the cultural language in a positive way. At the very least, it has already begun a healthy dialogue about the role of men and the struggles and challenges they face in a highly sensitive, sometimes screedish, 'post-feminist' society."
Over at Love & Fidelity Network, this was the take:
"In a post-feminist revolution world, it may seem counter-cultural to hear (or see) a message such as this one plastered conspicuously on every billboard. We find it surprisingly refreshing. Some feminists bemoan the 'call of manhood' and wonder whether patriarchal norms are once again rearing their ugly heads, but we find no reason for concern. On the contrary, given its popularity already, Docker’s message could potentially launch a cultural trend where noble masculinity is once again esteemed, and viewed not as a threat, but as a valuable and enriching quality."
Not everyone is full of such high praise. Check out this commentary from the Boston Herald's "The Edge":
What's your take on who wears the pants? Does the message make the man? Or is it just another typical shock-value marketing scheme from Madison Avenue? Tell us in the comment section.
"While Levi Strauss is waxing romantic about the days of submissive ladies and alpha males, they step it up a notch and remind us that not only have shrewish women ruined everything, metrosexuals (read: gays) are to blame, too. Plummeting sales of pleated pants everywhere? Damn you, 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.'
"...We do need grownups - to smack some sense into the marketing department at Dockers, where they clearly have been watching too much 'Mad Men' and not enough 'Modern Family.' Sure, I like to look at Don Draper, but I don’t want to iron his slim -fits for him. Especially if they are of the antagonistic, take-back-mens-power-one-Never-Iron-Khaki-at- a- time variety."
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
By Mary DeTurris Poust
School officials in Taunton, Mass., are now denying that a second-grader was suspended for drawing a picture of Jesus on the cross as part of a holiday classroom assignment. Officials say the drawing in question was not the drawing of the cross, although they have not yet produced any other drawing by the student.
An updated AP story does say, however, that the cross picture (below), which officials claim was not even drawn at school but was discovered by a teacher, was cause for following "well-established protocol," including reviewing the 8-year-old's records and consulting with school psychologists. The boy allegedly put his own name on the drawing, not the name of Jesus, raising concerns.
A Boston Globe story reports:
"She (the teacher) said the drawing was seen as a potential cry for help when the student identified himself, rather than Jesus, on the cross, which prompted the teacher to alert the school’s principal and staff psychologist. As a result, the boy underwent a psychological evaluation."
The father of the boy is sticking by his story, which was reported in our original post below:
A second-grader in Massachusetts was sent home from school earlier this month for drawing a picture of Jesus on the cross. His teacher, according to an AP story, thought the stick-figure drawing was "too violent." The assignment was to draw something that makes you think of the holiday. The Taunton, Mass., school also ordered the 8-year-old to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
The child's father said that the family had recently visited the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, Mass., "where there are crucifixion statues," as if a drawing of the crucifixion should ever require some sort of explanation or defense. The boy has since been allowed to return to school after the evaluation showed that he was not a threat to himself or others.
It's funny, but no one would have blinked had that same drawing been turned in at a Catholic school, where students understand that the crucifix is a central part of our faith story, a part that cannot be separated from the more pleasant elements -- like the Incarnation and the Resurrection. My own 4-year-old regularly asks about the crucifix hanging over our church altar. It would not surprise me in the least if one of my own children came up with a similar drawing for a similar assignment.
And, sadly, it does not surprise me in this day and age that a school teacher would classify a drawing of Jesus on the cross in the same category as a drawing of a child shooting a teacher and another student. In 2008, a fifth-grade student was suspended by the Taunton school for a day for such a drawing. Jesus has been moved so far off the radar screen of society that what once was understood as a sign and symbol of the ultimate sacrifice and gift by our Savior has been turned into evidence of potential threatening behavior.
Read the full story, HERE.
Monday, December 14, 2009
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Friday, December 11, 2009
The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI shares the same sense of "outrage, betrayal and shame" as Irish Catholics over cases of clergy sexual abuse in that country and the handling of the abuse by the Church, CNS is reporting today. A pastoral letter on the subject is planned.
From the CNS story:
"The letter 'will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation,' said a statement issued by the Vatican Dec. 11. The statement was released after the pope and top Vatican officials spent 90 minutes meeting with Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, president of the Irish bishops' conference, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.
"...Pope Benedict, the statement said, 'was deeply disturbed and distressed' by the contents of a report by an independent Commission of Investigation, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, which looked at the handling of some 325 abuse claims in the Archdiocese of Dublin in the years 1975-2004."
Read the full CNS story HERE. To read the full statement, posted on the CNS blog, click HERE.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
I have three children in three different types of schools -- Catholic, public and private. My junior-high son, who is in our parish school, gets a full dose of faith with his academic lessons. Today he read at the Advent prayer service. Tomorrow he will attend the school Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. My elementary-age daughter attends public school, so for her anything decorated even in basic red and green is crossing the church-state line, it seems. There will be a Winter Concert and holiday gifts, but whatever she gets in the way of faith comes from home and and Mass and the faith formation class I teach. Finally, my preschool daughter attends a Montessori school, where there is no overt religious education but where Christian ideals are incorporated into her everyday learning experience without notice or tension.
Now, as we enter the season not only of Advent and Christmas but also of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, she will get a holistic holiday experience at school. There is Christmas tree "work" (as activities in Montessori schools are known) and a Nativity set and dreidel work and Kwanzaa candles. As opposed to public school where no one is allowed to celebrate their faith traditions, our Montessori school's approach recognizes many different traditions, and that's something I can appreciate. During this season of peace and light, it seems appropriate to find a way to celebrate together rather than fight alone.
I remember when I first moved to my upstate town and sauntered in the public library one December. There was a huge menorah with all kinds of literature about Judaism. For the Christians there was a tree decorated with mice. I contacted the library to express my dismay and offered to purchase and set up a Nativity scene. I was dismissed and cast as an anti-Semite, despite the fact that I repeatedly told the library administrators that I did not want the menorah removed; I just wanted a creche added alongside it. It didn't happen that year, but someone managed to get through to them and now both faiths stand together in the entrance to the library. There is something heartening about that. Our different faiths shoulder to shoulder, as they should be as we Christians mark the season of Advent listening to the prophets of Hebrew Scripture, remembering always that we did not start out of nowhere. We started as Jews and became Christians. How can we not celebrate with our Jewish brothers and sisters at this time of year?
As we venture further into the Advent and Christmas season, it's important to recognize that while this is a holy time in the Christian faith -- preparation for and celebration of God Incarnate -- this is also a holy time for people of other faiths. We should be able to live together and respect other traditions, even if we do not accept other beliefs..
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York covered this territory in an op-ed piece in today's New York Daily News. Here's some of what he had to say about the holiday tendency to argue over our differences rather than honor them:
"Obviously, I am enthusiastic about 'keeping Christ in Christmas.' For those of us who believe that Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior, was born to Mary in a stable in Bethlehem 2009 years ago, we never forget what it is and why it is that we are celebrating. Christ must remain our focus. We must never let the commercial aspects of Christmas overwhelm us or cause us to think that the gift-giving and the parties are all that matters. I know that for me, as much as I look forward to spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts, sharing Christmas dinner and cheer, it all really begins deep down inside, with faith, hope and love, as we thank God for the gift of Christ, and share this sacred present with others.He's right. It doesn't have to be this way. My preschool daughter knows it. It would be nice if we adults could learn the same.
"However, many others don't believe as we do but still wish to celebrate this wonderful time of the year. Parties, decorations, holiday specials, gifts - I'm all for it!
"Still we see the public relations battle, the calls to spurn this retailer in favor of that, the angry denunciations of those who wish to sing 'Silent Night' or 'The First Noel' at a town event. Even more troublesome is that this season, when we should be celebrating peace, we find instead so many ways to be at odds with one another. It really doesn't have to be this way."
To read Archbishop Dolan's full column, click HERE.
Friday, December 4, 2009
We probably didn't need a study to know this, but I guess it helps the cause if there's something official to back it up. A new study entitled "The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community" has found that pornography "erodes the family, corrupts men's sense of normal sexuality and is frequently a major factor in most divorces," according to a story on Catholic News Agency. The Family Research Council (FRC) produced the study.
Psychologist Patrick F. Fagan, author of the story and director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion at FRC, called pornography a "quiet family killer."
From the CNA story:
In an FRC statement, Fagan said:
"The study reports that men who regularly view pornography have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression and sexual promiscuity.
"Married men involved in pornography report feeling less satisfied with their marital relations and less emotionally attached to their wives, the study says. It also notes that men who regularly use pornography or women who engage in 'cybersex' show increased infidelity."
To read the full CNA article, click HERE. To read the full FRC statement, click HERE.
“This is a ground-breaking review of what pornography costs families trying to create a life together. Men, women and sometimes even children are saturated by sexual content, and more significantly, are told that it has no real effect. It's just a little amusement.
"Pornography corrodes the conscience, promotes distrust between husbands and wives and debases untold thousands of young women. It is not harmless escapism but relational and emotional poison.”
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
1. A covert flight Operation Peter Pan
2. The end of the world as we know it
3. US bishops anti-poverty
4. Abortion clinic director
5. Investigations have some religious on edge
6. Setting a new standard for Catholic colleges
7. The children of Pedro Pan
8. What’s behind the Vatican decision to receive Anglicans
9. Signs of the Times
10. Author distills the importance of attention
Did you see the Vatican astronomer last night on Colbert Report talking about the search for extraterrestrial life?
Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno did a great job, in what could have been a tough forum, explaining the Church's views on the possibility of finding life elsewhere in the universe.
And he also plugged his latest book, "Heavens Proclaim: The Vatican and Astronomy" (OSV, $39.95), which was published in English by Our Sunday Visitor.
Check it out.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Gold, Frankincense and Mars - Guy Consolmagno|
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Here in upstate New York, we saw our first snow flurries of the season today, a sure sign that winter is fast approaching -- and so is Christmas. Despite our best efforts to make Advent a time of waiting and listening, preparing and pondering, it's easy to slip into the gift-buying and decorating frenzy that seems to take society by storm even before there's frost on the pumpkins.
So this season I'll be watching out for helpful blogs and stories that give the rest of us some much-needed guidance on finding the silent and sacred spaces of Advent amid the chaos and commercialism.
Over on Days of Deepening Friendship, Jesuit Father James Martin is blogging this week on "From Secular to Sacred: How to Enjoy Christmas and Not Lose Your Mind." Check out his suggestions for slowing down the rush of the season by clicking HERE. This site will be running an "Advent Retreat," so check back for other postings as we continue on our journey.
Fathers For Good, courtesy of the Knights of Columbus, offers tips in "Make This the Best Christmas Ever." This post includes lots of fun activities for families. No one says we can't be sacred and silly. Thoughts on Christmas caroling, sledding and watching old movies are mixed in with more serious suggestions about Advent rituals and volunteer projects. Find them all by clicking HERE.
And please share your own tips and traditions in the comment section. Stay tuned for more Advent and Christmas suggestions as the season progresses.