Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reflections from a funeral

This past week brought the tragic event of the death of my second cousin Max, called to God in His perfect time, but a time too soon for the family and friends close to him. He died alone in an accident, rolling his truck over into a stream.

I have to admit that I didn't know Max very well, he was seven years younger than me and was in a branch of my extended family that we drifted apart from after the deaths of my uncle and my mom. It's sad that some families drift apart, but I guess it's part of the cycle; kids grow up, have families of their own and start their own life stories when the previous generations have passed on. I don't think I'd seen Max since my wedding almost eight years ago, and then he was an awkward but friendly teenager. I liked him, as I liked his whole family.

I don't intend this post to be a hagiography of a relative I didn't know well enough. It would be unseeming of me to inflate my grief, but it was evident from everything I heard about him that Max was a remarkable young man, and his death a great loss to his loved ones.

No, I intend this post to be about faith and humility, both of which those left behind will have to have in the time to come, both of which I've seen in his family. Max's family, just like every other family--mine and yours--has had their problems, problems which I only know of generally and are not my place to discuss here anyway. But let's just say that they are problems that have broken many people.

But in a sense, they are broken people, as we all are, if we care to admit it. What has always struck me is that all of that part of my family still not only have faith, but it is a faith that has seeped in, internalized, and taken root. Not "professional Catholics," whatever that means, theirs is a faith that recognizes the frailty of one's self and knows the limits of one's strength. But most importantly, recognizes that the true strength to sustain comes from God alone. God alone upholds us in our frailty; God alone is the source of strength; God alone is the source of comfort. All other strength and comfort may come through intermediaries, but their source ultimately is God Who is merciful, God Who loves, God Who shares our sufferings.

Ours is a god who did not suffer cruel death so that we may say, "I'm OK, you're OK." Rather, "I'm not OK. You're not OK. But that's OK." For we are broken people. We are sinful man. We are tempted to cruelty, selfishness, pride and arrogance. But the love of God can transform not only clay into flesh, but hearts of stone into receptacles of burning divine life.

Max was not, I'm sure, a perfect person. But then again, neither am I and neither are you. The point is not whether we are perfect, for by definition that's out of the question. The point is whether we recognize our need for God, and if we recognize that need, whether we seek Him.

Like the parable of the tax collector and the pharisee (Luke 18:9-14), we may either say within our heart that we're Basically Good People (TM) and not in need for God's mercy, so we receive none. Or, we may recognize in His wounds our own guilt and need for mercy, and asking it, receive it.

Grief is a terrible pain at the sense of loss of a loved one. But I believe that grief is a manifestation of God's mercy. Grief makes evident to us the fact that our hearts are made for love, and when a person we have come to love is gone, we recognize that our hearts are missing something that we cannot provide. In grief, we have a need that only someone else can fill. All of us have a need that only someone else can fill, and that recognition is a shadow and a glimmer of the need we have in our hearts that can only be filled by God.

May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome you
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.

May choirs of angels welcome you
and lead you to the bosom of Abraham;
and where Lazarus is poor no longer
may you find eternal rest.

Whoever believes in me, even though that person die, shall live.
I am the resurrection and the life.
Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thinking and praying today...

...not only for the repose of the soul of my cousin's son Max, and the comfort of his family and friends,

but also for the hundreds of thousands walking today in the bitter cold in Washington to give witness to the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death.

May the slaughter stop, please God.

Debunking the debunking...

Rather than continue to troll my college classmate's Facebook page, I'd like to take this opportunity to refute the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's recent blog post, "Debunking Abortion Myths, in Honor of Roe".

my comments in red.

1.Emergency Contraception (EC) is an abortifacient.
Well, no, not by design, but the drug manufacturer does admit that theoretically it could act as one and no study has definitively proven that it can't work that way.

2. Women use abortion as a form of birth control.
Actually, 54 percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Birth control methods fail, and inconsistent contraceptive use, as well as life changes, contribute to unplanned pregnancy. "

Strictly speaking, contraceptives are not birth control. They are conception prevention. Abortion is the action that prevents birth. It is the second line of "defense" in avoiding having a baby. When contraceptives fail, abortion is the final answer.

3. Abortion causes post-traumatic stress and other mental health disorders.
“the best scientific evidence indicates that the relative risk of mental health problems among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy is no greater if they have an elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver the pregnancy.”

a. "first-trimester abortion" what about second- third-trimester?
b. Tell that to these people.

4. Women who have abortions will never be mothers.
No, women who have abortions already were mothers.

5. Abortion causes breast cancer.
They cite a 1997 study that denies the link between abortion and breast cancer, but ignore more recent studies, including a federally funded study published in the April 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, as well as a Chinese study that indicates a 17% higher risk for breast cancer among women who have had abortions.

Making abortion illegal will stop women from having them.
Well, probably not, just as rape, theft, murder and assault being illegal have not stopped those occurrences, but no one seems to be on the "let's make them legal" bandwagon.

Pro-choice means pro-abortion.
You're for choosing what, again?

8. All Planned Parenthood does is abortions.
I'm told that the two PPNNE facilities my classmate works with do not do abortions. But what about this article saying that abortions will be at all PP regional affiliates by 2013?

9. Women who have abortions can’t get pregnant, or will have a harder time conceiving.
a. Again, get it done early and you won't have any side effects!
b. Again, tell it to these ladies.

10. Women having abortions are young, irresponsible women who can’t be bothered to take birth control.
Women of all ages have abortions for many reasons..."
Oh, well that makes it all right.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I blog today for LIFE!

I blog today for life, on this anniversary of Roe v. Wade. When people say that they are for "choice," what does that word mean except the ability to kill innocent babies?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The smoking gun that isn't...

A report has been circulating over the last few days about a Vatican correspondence with Irish bishops about the policy of dealing with priests accused of sexual misconduct.

To paraphrase a famous politician: Let me be extremely clear. In no way am I defending the crimes that happened all to often, most damningly at the hands of those in whom we put so much trust. But the letter in this story is no smoking gun to more wrong-doing or cover-up AT ALL.

Journalists who cover religion need to understand their subject matter before 'splaining to us all what is going on. Jumping to conclusions without understanding process and terminology does not support journalistic credibility.

Please go here to read Jimmy Akin's explanation of what the recently surfaced document actually means.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011



That's all I can say about that.

If you read nothing else today, read this.

H/T Mark Shea

Oh, and this video is sure to get your attention.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A parent's responsibility... first and foremost the formation of their children. Not how nice their clothes are, not how nice of a car they drive, not how expensive their toys are. While nice clothes and a nice car and expensive toys are all good things to try and provide, it is disproportionate to treat having those items as the essential mission of a good parent.

The formation of a child's character, the education of their minds, and the sanctity of their souls are the most important things a parent has to be concerned with.

In this vein, please check out this short article by Peter Bauer, which I found via the ever-helpful Catholic Dads online.

I find more and more parents, including those who attend church weekly, introducing their children to contraceptives because they’ve decided it’s an easier battle to teach their kids to sin without consequence then to not sin at all.

Our jobs as parents is to know the faith, live the faith, lead by example and teach that faith to our children. We are tasked, by Jesus himself, to protect our children from sin, to be the guardians of their innocence.

Yes, our kids will have to live in this real, broken world and our job is to do our best to prepare them for it. Yes, we should help them to be successful financially, scholastically and socially. However, our first and primary responsibility is to prepare them spiritually for the battle for their souls that awaits them.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wow, did I just agree with Robert Gibbs?

One of the reasons we homeschool... because we don't want our kids to be the guinea pigs for Planned Parenthood's social experiment in order to shepherd in a new era of promiscuity for the sake of more abortions to fill their coffers.

Be warned, resistance to this agenda will only be tolerated for so long. If we as a nation continue along this path, it will come to the point that those who teach that sex is sacred and must be reserved for marriage will be seen as unfit to teach that to their kids. It must be stopped now.

H/T Subvet
and also here.

Ah, technology!

This one is for my dad, whose VCR still blinks 12:00, and who will probably never read my blog.

Snow day itinerary

Some of you may have read about our snow day here. Unfortunately, we did not get to everything on Fric's itinerary, which you can see below. Patty and I woke up to this drawing on the table. (Well, actually, this is the second drawing. Fric graciously redrew it when Sweetie-Pie-Baby-Girl drew, er, scribbled all over the first one.)

1. Build a snowman as tall as Dad
2. Dig up a T-Rex
3. Make Power Balls
4. Build a full-sized igloo in the yard
5. Drink hot cocoa
6. Make snow ice cream
7. Empty daybed
7a. Our family (note the baby stick figure being held by the mommy stick figure)
7b. Our family all snuggling on the daybed/couchbed...
7c. ...watching a movie.

2, 4, 5, 6, 7 all done.

Pretty good day!

Let's call it Godwin's Law of Abortion...

Invariably, in any discussion of the ethics of abortion, the pro-life person will affirm the humanity of the "fetus" and the pro-choice person will say that it is only a clump of cells.

Such, of course, happened in this conversation I was in recently. Of course, it's a well-based scientific fact that human life begins at conception, and here is a compendium of quotes from different biology texts that state exactly that. Please note that many of the quotes originate from abortion supporters, notably included: Alan Guttmacher.

Some things are too horrible not to be shared.

I give you this beauty to behold. If you claw your eyes out and scratch at your ears, don't say I didn't warn you.


Helper in Childbirth

Our Lady, the Life-Giving Spring, in the face of evil, will conquer with peace.

1. Hail, bright star of ocean,
God's own Mother blest,
Ever sinless Virgin,
Gate of heavenly rest.

2. Taking that sweet Ave
Which from Gabriel came,
Peace confirm within us,
Changing Eva's name.

3. Break the captives' fetters,
Light on blindness pour,
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.

4. Show thyself a Mother;
May the Word Divine,
Born for us thy Infant,
Hear our prayers through thine.

5. Virgin all excelling,
Mildest of the mild,
Freed from guilt, preserve us,
Pure and undefiled.

6. Keep our life all spotless,
Make our way secure,
Till we find in Jesus,
Joy forevermore.

7. Through the highest heaven
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son and Spirit,
One same glory be. Amen.

Courage, man!

"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

-Winston Churchill

I forgot the rules of blogging...

Never email drunk and never blog overtired.

My favorite atheist (MFA) wishes to remain anonymous, so I will honor shis wishes.

First of all, I'm glad you commented, as it gives me a chance to clarify. I've found that my struggle in the whole blogging enterprise is hampered by the fact that 1. I never have a good first draft and 2. I write better when I'm challenged. Back-and-forth is a better method for me.

I'll ask MFA a series of rhetorical questions and I think you'll know both what I meant by that phrase and whether or not you fit into that category.

Do you actively seek to remove all notions of God from the public square? Do you complain to the town hall if the fire station puts up a sign that says Merry Christmas? Do you take offense to public displays of the manger scene? Do you lobby for schools not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because it mentions God? Do you ridicule any family members or friends for their religious faith? If applicable, do you undermine attempts your spouse may make to teach religion to your children? Do you openly mock those whose beliefs differ from yours at every turn? Do you reject any ethical standards that are Judeo-Christian in nature simply because they are Judeo-Christian? Do you see all people that hold religious beliefs as de facto idiots, and reject everything else they may say, do, think, or believe as therefore tainted or invalid?

Are you unable to read any story of good things that religious people may do without commenting about rubes, myths, and superstition? Can you bring yourself to admit that despite all the bad circumstances of history, religion has had some positive influence on the world? Are you able to refer to the leader of the Catholic Church without calling him the "poop"? Are you capable of having a rational discussion with a person of faith on matters of faith or morals and at least consider what they say without telling them to STFU?

Here I have to diverge from the format a bit to explain myself. Common vs. uncommon are a bit vague, but in this context I intend them to relate to being reflective vs. unreflective.

The common person is unreflective, unexamined. His [un]beliefs are fixed without thought. He has no humility before the truth and has not, no, cannot conceive that the world is not as he sees it. He is not interested in a search for truth, and should he recognize the truth, he must deny it to save face.

The reflective man is uncommon. He seeks the truth and is humble before it. He questions assumptions about the world, his neighbors, himself. He recognizes that his knowledge is limited. He tests the validity of ideas against fact, history, logic. He recognizes that some things are known with certainty, some with probability, some with faith. He follows the truth and is willing to be changed by it.

Both words, common and uncommon, may apply to atheists, agnostics, or those of a creed.

Please re-read that last sentence.

MFA, I do not know what is in your heart. As a Catholic, I believe in the eternity of the soul, I believe in Heaven, I believe in Hell. And I don't want to see anyone headed for Hell. As a Catholic, I hope for the conversion of the whole world, starting with my own daily conversion. I hope for all to receive the mercy of God, for all need it.

Now, I cannot bring that about. I have to do my best, live my life as holy as possible, witness to those around me by example. As St. Francis said, preach always, when necessary use words. The header of my blog is my daily reminder of my own aptitude to get in the way of the Gospel, and I pray that God will break me of that failing, for my sake and the sake of others.

Yet [far] short of the conversion of the world, I have to, as much as possible, live in peace with others. I am responsible to do my part in building a kingdom of peace and justice. I aim to live peacefully with all those of good will, no matter their creed. With the cooperation of all people of goodwill, we can live in harmony.

If you or any other atheist, or anyone, for that matter, wishes to live in peace and freedom, they find a willing partner in me. If they wish to help those in need, respect the rights of all to live freely, and recognize the same self-evident rights that the Founding Fathers of our country enshrined in our Declaration and Constitution, then I am an ally. True freedom, as Pope John Paul II reminded us, is not the freedom to do whatever we want, but the freedom to live as we ought.

Those who seek to squelch faith are on a fruitless task. Man is created with a desire for that which is good. We seek happiness and recognize the possibility of happiness which does not fail, which does not end. Universally, we desire freedom and righteousness, though we often seem them only dimly, and realize them dimly.

I believe, as the Church teaches, that this desire is intended to guide us toward the God who created us. This desire can only be fulfilled in Him. His love for us is the source of all life and is the source of true happiness. As St. Augustine said, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You."


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Less of Me

Those of you who read my posts on my blog itself instead of through a feed will notice a new widget in the sidebar. This widget, entitled "Less of Me" will be chronicling my attempt at this year's New Year's Resolution. I need to lose weight. Really. My job is rather sedentary and I don't find the time or money for a gym membership, so I've put on some pounds over the last few years.

I like food. I like cooking. I like being warm and comfortable. Put it together, and you get a guy who's uncomfortable in any weather over 60 degrees, likes elastic waistbands and starts twitching when the fridge has run out of cheese. Not good.

But mostly, I have come to the realization that my weight is now preventing me from being all the father that God calls me to be. I'm too out of shape to do a lot of activities with my boys; I can't chase them around in the yard without wheezing after only a few minutes. A few weeks ago, I played paintball with some friends. After the first couple of rounds, the host looked at me and asked if I was going to have a heart attack. This guy has a flair for the dramatic, so I laughed it off, but what a wake-up.

I want to be here for my kids as they grow up and I want to be able to enjoy them. I can't do that if I'm too tired to do anything but sit down.

Please keep me in your prayers. Temptation lurks. The spirit is willing, but the flabby flesh is weak. Thankfully, I have an accomplice.

A searching atheist...

...wrote to Mark Shea asking for advice on her investigations into the Catholic faith. Leah is, as Mark points out, not the common frothing-at-the-mouth militant atheist, but is humbly searching for the truth and is willing to consider what she does not yet understand. Please pray for her.

The post and comments are worth reading there, too, especially if you or someone you know is questioning the possibility of faith.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The case for objective morality

If you haven't yet read the Holy Father's Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, please do.

Making the rounds have been the pope's assessment of the future of Western civilization should the common interest of a consensus on fundamental morals be abandoned: "The future of the world is at stake."

More striking to me is this passage, pertinent news to a world steeped in moral relativism:

To the objective realm belong things that can be calculated and verified by experiment. Religion and morals fall outside the scope of these methods and are therefore considered to lie within the subjective realm. Here, it is said, there are in the final analysis no objective criteria. The ultimate instance that can decide here is therefore the subject alone, and precisely this is what the word “conscience” expresses: in this realm only the individual, with his intuitions and experiences, can decide. [Blessed Cardinal John Henry] Newman’s understanding of conscience is diametrically opposed to this. For him, “conscience” means man’s capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life – religion and morals – a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience – man’s capacity to recognize truth – thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it.

This reminds me that we are the guardians of truth, not the dictators of it. We do not have the authority to determine what is right and wrong by our own decisions. By our opinion we cannot make good into bad and bad into good, though the world still tries to. Truth must dictate our understanding of reality, and principle, not emotion, must guide our moral action.