Bono: Catholics Should be Made Aware of How Their Church Helped Secure Debt Forgiveness

Bono speaks at the International Herald Tribune’s Luxury Business Conference on Nov. 16, 2012 in Rome, Italy. Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Christians seldom hear the good news of their faith from contemporary media.

Instead, we are inundated with attacks on the faith which seek to condemn all Christians and indeed Christ Himself based on various “crimes” committed by Christians, many of them hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

No one in the popular media talks about the civilization-building influence of Christianity, the total reversal of the view of the value of individual people from that of the ancient world. Instead, they seek to condemn all of us and, as I said, Christ Himself, based on the fact that the leaven of Christianity has worked and is working slowly through the centuries and not all at once to bring the Kingdom.

The good things of the modern world, individual liberty and freedom, the value of the individual human person in life and law, are all innovations of the Western world which found its driving inspiration in the teachings of the Gospels of Christ and the message of the Cross.

Here is one small example of a good the Church helped bring about. Read it and enjoy it. You won’t hear about it on any of the cable shows dissecting and attacking the Gospel narratives of the Nativity that will be on air for the next few weeks. Neither will you see it in any “coverage” of Christianity or of the Church.

The CNA/EWTN article describing Bono’s visit and comments about the Catholic Church’s pivotal role in the debt forgiveness of and how it helped build schools reads in part:

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2012 / 06:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The famous U2 vocalist Bono traveled to the Vatican Nov. 16 to thank the Church for its work to free the world’s least developed countries from their foreign debt, enabling them to invest in education.

On Friday, Bono spent nearly an hour speaking with Cardinal Peter K. Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, according to Vatican Radio.

In 2000, the Church was an important backer of the “Drop the Debt” campaign, which coincided with the Church’s jubilee year. Bono was one of the leading figures in the campaign, and is known for his activism for world’s poorest people.

Drop the Debt was an effort to persuade first-world nations to forgive the debt owed them by the poorest countries. The success of that effort has made possible “an extra 52 million children going to school,” Bono told Vatican Radio, since governments were able to use the money they would have had to pay back for investment in schools.

Bono said the Church deserves “incredible credit” for their role in securing debt forgiveness, and that Catholics should be made aware of how their faith was central in the efforts.

Jubilee years are celebrations of God’s mercy, the forgiveness of sins, and reconciliation, and are rooted in Jewish tradition.

The Jewish tradition of jubilee years was that every 50th year, slaves and prisoners were freed. Debts were also forgiven, which is why the Great Jubilee of 2000 was an opportune time for the Church to advocate forgiveness of foreign debt.

Pope John Paul II met with Bono on the eve of the Jubilee year to discuss the debt campaign, and shortly after his death, Bono recalled that “we would never have gotten the debts of 23 countries completely canceled without him.” (Read more here.)

491 Canadian Babies Survived Abortions and Left to Die

The grisly logic of abortion is most apparent in the debates and discussions concerning what to do with and for babies who, against all the odds, manage to survive an abortion.

In most places, these little ones are discarded. Left alone, untended and untouched, they die the lonely death of a human who has been deemed less than human by other people.

As one nurse here in Oklahoma described it to me, “No one does anything to keep them warm or give them fluids. No one picks them up or holds them.” She described one baby girl who survived 13 hours like this.

This hardness of heart of medical professionals is equalled by the pro-abortion people and the politicians I have tried to talk to about this. I have been met with indifference from the politicians and one of the coldest statements I’ve ever heard from a pro-abortion person.

“That’s the doctor’s fault,” this person told me, “he should have killed the baby with a lethal injection before the abortion.”

This statement, with its frank acknowledgement that this baby could have survived and assertion that the only fault in the whole thing was that the doctor hadn’t killed it more effectively, still troubles me.

It was one of those dear God what have we become moments for me. What has abortion and this power to kill at will turned us into?

It appears that it has made those who support abortion into people who welcome every aspect of a constantly-expanding culture of death. Euthanasia has become the new abortion; the latest legal hurdle to be jumped in the on-going race toward an absolute culture of death.

People who support abortion always seem to jump on the newest killing bandwagon, whatever it is. They find an argument that makes killing a “right” of some sort for each new murderous idea that the purveyors of death hatch up. They never see the essential wrongness of laws that legalize killing the weak and defenseless.

Their inculturation in the death-dealing logic of killing as a solution for the messiness of life has taught them to regard the lives of needy human beings as an unfair burden on the rest of us. The sanctity of human life is an enemy in a world run by this logic, an irrational barrier to doing what they want with whomever they decide should die. Human life is something to be controlled and wiped out whenever it becomes troubling.

We’ve moved to an all-out commodification of human beings with designer babies and embryonic stem cell research. Women, as usual, are commodities in this brave new world whose reproductive capacities are farmed by egg harvesters and whose uteri are rented by those who want the “services” of a surrogate. This new form of prostitution is destructive to women in ways that previous generations of misogynists could never have imagined.

At the same time, more and more of our young people eschew the joys of marriage. They dismiss the incredible privilege and happiness of forming their own families and raising their own children to chase after transient stuff and nonsense which offers no fulfillment, robs people of their peace and sets the whole of society on a suicidal path.

Is it any wonder, given the utterly bizarre way that our society is tending, that we are indifferent as a culture to the lives of children who are born alive after an abortion? We are a people who will charge someone with a felony for mistreating a cat or dog but who studiously support those who do nothing to comfort or aid a newborn baby we’ve decided shouldn’t be alive in the first place.

I’ve dealt first hand with the indifference of politicians to babies who survive abortions. It was a chilling realization for me. Nice people can zip on their compassion-proof suits and become indifference itself to this crime against humanity. Their hardness of heart is absolute, and it extends to people who try to reason with them about what they are doing.

There is no indifference to suffering like the indifference of someone who has decided that other people are not fully human and they can kill them if they want. There is no anger like the anger of these people when you tell them that what they are doing is wrong.

The killing indifference of abortion depends on the illusion that the babies who die are not babies, are not human, feel nothing, are nothing. This illusion is necessary to maintain the parallel illusion that abortion is a kindness and that we are doing nothing wrong by supporting it.

Maybe that’s why the proponents of abortion on demand are so adamant that this killing rite be extended to any baby that survives the abortion itself. A “failed abortion” with a living child at the end of it is a frightening reminder of what we are doing.

It also, in the logic of abortion, cancels out the decision the woman made when she decided to abort in the first place. Here she’s made her “choice” and gone through an abortion, only to end up with a baby anyway. How gross.

A living child at the end of an abortion is more than an inconvenience. It is an assault on the illusions that sustain abortion as a “right.” Is it any wonder that these little ones are shuffled aside and ignored to death? Any other action would paint a bull’s eye on the entire linguistic edifice that sustains the lies of abortion.

A LifeNews article says that an admitted 491 babies survived abortions and were then left to die in Canada last year. I’m sure the actual number is much higher, for the simple reason that most of these babies don’t make it onto the charts. I’ve heard stories about babies who survived abortions here in Oklahoma from nurses and hospital chaplains. From what I was told, none of these babies were ever officially charted as being alive.

I admire LifeNews and often use them as a source. But I do not agree with the article’s assumption that the Infant Born Alive Act here in the United States protects babies who survive abortions. Based on first-hand accounts from professionals who work in our hospitals here in Oklahoma, I do not believe that it does.

However, the article still provides an interesting analysis of the part of this tragedy that is out in the open in Canada.

The LifeNews article reads in part:

Figures from Statistics Canada, a federal government agency, show 491 babies were born alive following botched abortions during the period from 2000-2009 and left to die afterwards. The numbers have pro-life advocates up in arms.

Andre Schutten, legal counsel for ARPA Canada, noticed the numbers and blogged about themrecently.

The blog Run with Life has reported that, from 2000 to 2009, 491 babies have been born alive following a failed abortion procedure, and subsequently left to die. And those are only the ones that are recordedby Statistics Canada.

The blog explains that “there were 491 abortions, of 20 weeks gestation and greater, that resulted in live births. This means that the aborted child died afterit was born. These abortions are coded as P96.4 or ‘Termination of pregnancy, affecting fetus and newborn’.

The question that should immediately present itself is, why has there not been 491 homicide investigations or prosecutions in connection with these deaths? Section 223(2) of the Criminal Code (the accompanying subsection to the now infamous subsection that Mr. Woodworth’s motion 312 was examining) reads “A person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.” That is to say, anyone who interferes with a pregnancy such that the child dies after it is born alive due to that interference, is guilty of homicide.

So again, why have there been no criminal prosecutions? Why no outcry? And why are the provinces funding this explicitly criminal activity? (Read more here.) 

Why Are So Many of Us Unable to Stay Home, Even for One Day?

More and more stores are staying open on Thanksgiving.

Black Friday sales were pushed back to Thanksgiving Day in a lot of places yesterday so that eager shoppers could forego the necessity of staying home with their families and go buy things.

What does this say about us and our sense of family, community, and even our ability to just stop for one day and be at home?

The National Catholic Register ran an interesting article on the topic today. More than one priest, including Cardinal Dolan, has weighed in on the subject. From what I read, it seems that they see this trend as another attack on the family.

I think they’ve got the emphasis in the wrong place. I think that rather than being the retailers’ fault, this phenomena of Thanksgiving shopping is another symptom of the deteriorating home lives and interior peace of a lot of Americans.

Far too many of us have lost the concept of home. We don’t even know what home is. We think it’s a house, a place to be furnished and shown off. We have no concept of home as a nesting, resting, sheltering place in the storms of life. We’ve destroyed the concept of home as refuge and resting place by destroying the family.

Our families, with all their dysfunctions and bitterness, have become the last people in the world a lot of us want to spend time with. Our homes and families, rather than being safe harbors in a troubled world, have become just another place where the nuts attack and the few sane ones battle for footing. Thus, we have the growing trend of shopping ’til you drop instead of staying home for one day with your family

We have also created a society where large numbers of people are adrift in the world, living as singularities. Our increasingly fractured families and nomadic lifestyles leave a lot of people without families to go to on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile our traumatic lifestyles create an obsessive need to be constantly in motion and an inability to rest.

So many of our families are scarred by divorce, drugs, alcoholism and a hamster-in-a-cage work/buy/work/buy mentality that we are rapidly becoming a nation of home-induced trauma victims. One of the hallmarks of trauma victims that I’ve observed is that they can not sit still. If they are quiet for very long at all, the demons of their mind start jabbing at them. So they go-go-go and make chaotic jumbles of their lives in the process.

The end result is that we’re developing a national inability to stay home with our families for even one day. That’s why I think the priest who’s quoted in this article has identified the symptom but diagnosed the wrong cause. The retailers aren’t causing this phenomenon. They are reacting to it.

These stores wouldn’t stay open if nobody came to buy. We’re feeding this beast. Not them.

The National Catholic Register article says in part:

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Shoppers wait to enter a Best Buy store on Nov. 25, 2011 in Naples, Fla.

– Spencer Platt/Getty Images

DENVER, Colo. — The expansion of Thanksgiving weekend shopping to the holiday itself has raised concerns among both workers and clergy who worry that the change puts family time at risk.

Father Sinclair Oubre, spiritual moderator of the Texas-based Catholic Labor Network, said the store openings are a “disturbing trend” that is “an assault on the family.”

“We have almost completed the evolutionary process of having two classes of workers: those who get holidays off, and can stay with their families, and those who are forced to work, so that those who have holidays off won’t have to stay with their families,” Father Oubre said.

Retailers such as Sears, Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Toys “R” Us and Gap are increasingly opening their stores on Thanksgiving Day. The following day, known as Black Friday, is one of the most profitable shopping days of the year.

Business analysts cite increased competition from Internet shopping and some customers’ desires to shop on Thanksgiving as motives to open stores on what is traditionally a day off, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In 2011, retailers who opened on Thanksgiving Day earned 22% more over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Two popular Internet petitions on the Change.org website are protesting the changes.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/thanksgiving-day-shopping-called-assault-on-family-life?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2012-11-22#ixzz2D3rr2S6C

A Funky Thanksgiving is on the Way to My House!

A funky Thanksgiving is on the way to my house!

My husband and my sons are cooking, due to Gimpy the Foot. I offered, but they were adamant that there was noooooo way that they want me re-injuring the Gimpster by a long-standing session in the kitchen.

Not, mind you, that they’re being all that altruistic. As my youngest told me, “You’ve been such a baby about this. I want you back the way you should be.” (I’m assuming he means in full-speed Mom working order.) “I am sooo ready for you to get over this.”

There you have it: The young son, taking care of the young son by taking care of his mom. (He’s right, btw. I have been a baby about Gimpy.)

My husband could cook, once upon a time. I remember it dimly. Back in our dating days, he cooked for me all the time. It wasn’t fancy fare, but it did taste good. Foolish woman that I am, I thought this meant I was getting a great husband with a co-chef thrown in.

I didn’t reckon with post-vow amnesia. As soon as he slid the ring on my finger, he forgot how to so much as boil a pan of water. When I can’t cook for some reason, he grills (he’s fantastic with a charcoaler) and brings in the meat. Nothing else. Just meat. Other than take-out, that’s the sum of his gastronomic contribution to this family for the past 30 years.

Before anyone gets riled up with the idea that my husband wooed and wed me under false pretenses, I should admit that I pretended to like football back when we were dating.

Madame Pot, meet Mr Kettle.

I suggested having the meal catered or even – horrors – eating in a restaurant. But they will have none of such sacrilege. They know what Thanksgiving looks like, and it comes out of Mom’s kitchen, not some box. Besides, if they ate out, there wouldn’t be any leftovers, and every civilized person knows that you need tons of leftovers for watching football around the clock over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I was a fool – delirious on pain meds or some such – to even have such a crazy idea.

Now, my charcoaling spouse and my Ramen-noodle-is-a-feast sons are going to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.

I can hardly wait to see this.

I’m going to try to pin them down on what they think is an essential Thanksgiving Dinner – as opposed to the groaning sideboard affairs I spin up – and then make a list and send them off to the store for their last-minute Thanksgiving Eve shopping spree.

That alone should be a challenge for them. I had to get my girlfriends to shop for me after I busted up Gimpy because my men cannot follow a list. Now, they’re going to be on their own, trying to follow a list and come home with all the makings for an abbreviated Thanksgiving Dinner.

I start giggling when I think about it.

I know we’ll have turkey. And ham.  I trust they can get that done. The rest of it is going to be anybody’s guess. They nixed my suggestion that they go to mixes and not try to build things from the ground up. Their only concession is that they ordered the pies from a local bakery.

I figure if worse comes to worst we can put the veggies down the garbage disposal and go to a restaurant, then come home to four days of pigging out on leftover turkey and ham with a salad or something on the side and plenty of pie for desert.

In the meantime, I’m going to sit in my recliner and watch. And grin. And think about how very, very, very blessed I am.

You know that list I wrote of the 10 things I’m thankful for? Well … this is one of ‘em.

 

 

 

Book Review: All Missionary Work is Relational

For a link to buy Making Friends With the Taliban or to join in the discussion about it, go here

 

Making Friends With the Taliban is the story of one Christian missionary’s work in Afghanistan.

Dan Terry built his work in this war-ravaged country through what I have been told by other missionaries to the Middle East is the only way to do it. He did it by building relationships.

This can be difficult for Westerners because our internal clock is set differently than that of people in other parts of the world. We are accustomed to running by the clock. We want meetings with focus and clear-cut agendas which we follow check, check, check down the list, then set a time for another meeting and adjourn.

This not only doesn’t work in other parts of the world, it is highly offensive and rude. The successful missionaries I’ve known, the ones who actually accomplish things in other cultures, are either able to re-set their internal clocks to run on local time, or they are made that way to begin with.

I think usually it’s the latter. From what I’ve seen, God calls special people for this work. They look the same as the rest of us, but they are not. To begin with, there’s the question of fear. The missionaries I’ve known have been quiet, gentle people who wait on God rather than storming heaven. But they are also surprisingly nerveless in situations that would send me right over the top of the wall.

Getting lost doesn’t faze them. Rocky boats on high seas don’t ruffle them. Falling out of trees and getting bashed hundreds of miles from medical care is all in a day’s work. I once had a missionary friend describe getting stabbed at a roadblock with the gentle comment, “we ran into some rascals.”

They are also gifted with great hearts for the welfare and well being of other people that the rest of us might just want to run away from. Their ability to not even see the external trappings of people and look straight through to the person has never ceased to amaze me.

Dan Terry evidently had all these abilities in large quantities. He was one of those special people God calls for this special work of nurturing, raising up and equipping people who are trapped in centuries of living as the downtrodden and the forgotten.

A woman missionary friend of mine who had spent years in Egypt told me, “Everything in the Middle East is relational.” Based on this book, it would appear to be the same in Afghanistan, only perhaps more so.

Dan Terry had the gift of relationship mission building. It allowed him to do things few other Westerners could. But it also alienated his more clock-and-agenda-bound colleagues in his missions sending organization. This conflict of ways reached the point that the organization eventually severed their relationship with Dan.

I’ve seen this same sort of thing with missionary friends of mine who were affiliated with other agencies and who worked in other parts of the world. Based on what I’ve seen with my friends, I think it may have been more than a misunderstanding between Dan Terry and his missions organization.

Professional jealousy of a type that might surprise the more idealistic was the primary motivator for troubles between my friends and their colleagues. They could, as Dan Terry could, work with and convert people who the rule-bound missionaries could not even really talk to.

In their field of Papua New Guinea they successfully converted hundreds of people to Christ while their co-workers stayed isolated with their books and their grudges. All this was intensified by the fact that they were the only Americans there, which evidently made them crude and rude in their colleagues’ eyes.

God calls special people to do this work. There is a place for the academicians and bean counters in missions work. But a lot of times that place is not in the field. People being what they are, this can create hostility and jealousy.

Making Friends Among the Taliban is the story of the work of Dan Terry, a missionary who had “it.” He had the ability to do the kind of relational work that any successful missionary must have. He was punished for this ability by this missions society and ultimately let go by them. That is their disgrace, not his.

This book does not have the clear narrative style of a page-turner, and it also doesn’t have the heavily-footnoted scholarship of an academic study. But if you want to read an outline of the work of a man who knew how to do relational missionary work, I can’t think of a better source.

The Only Life You Can Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner is the Messy One You’ve Got

We bring the messes we’ve made of our lives to the dinner table on Thanksgiving. That can make this once-a-year family meal into a battlefield or, as more often happens, a sullen duty.

Families marred and disfigured by drugs, violence and too many divorces are incubators for fractured people without  inner peace and contentment. This kind of family robs them of their spiritual and emotional freedom, leaving them trapped in a spider’s web of resentments and anger. They can’t feel joy. They cannot share joyous times with anyone, but especially not each other. That is what the loss of family does to people.

I know people who spend all day Thanksgiving driving from the husband’s mother’s house to the husband’s father’s house, to the wife’s mother’s house, and on to the wife’s father’s house, sitting down to a full-bore Thanksgiving feast at each stop.

They are dutiful and long-suffering in their efforts to make up to their parents what their parents have done to themselves with their divorces and remarriages. Thanksgiving for them is a joyless and exhausting round of overeating and trying to make right what wasn’t their fault in the first place.

Oftentimes, these same frazzled and over-stuffed people are fresh from arguments with their former spouses over when and how to shuffle their children back and forth between them. In some families, the two spouses each have children from prior marriages and maybe one or two they’ve had together to transport around.

It all becomes an endurance march instead of a delight, a dreaded day rather than an anticipated one.

Then there are the unhappy Thanksgiving feasts where relatives who actively hate one another sit through a meal in an atmosphere that buzzes with sullen resentments and long-time grudges. All this is mixed in with the dread of the cousin or stepfather showing up loaded on drugs or stumbling from booze.

The interesting part of all this is how often the people who are leading these miserable lives full of self-inflicted misery blame society, each other and God for the messes they’ve made of the time they’ve been given in this life. The same parents who shuffle their kids on the parent to parent express and live their lives in a bath of resentment and anger will wail and whine “I didn’t raise them this way” when those children hit their teens and turn into mixed-up monsters of sexual promiscuity, rebellion, narcissism and drugs.

Thanksgiving can be a rough day for families full of people with messy lives. The reason is that the enforced family togetherness brings all their disparate chickens flapping home to roost. Everything they numb and blind themselves to all the rest of the year flies up and lands in front of them on Thanksgiving.

For one day, they are faced with the mess they’ve made of their families, the utter lack of a stable home they have provided for either themselves or their children.

We’ve made Thanksgiving tough by the expectations and endless requirements we heap on ourselves.

Let me repeat that: We’ve made Thanksgiving tough by the expectations and endless requirements we heap on ourselves. 

There is no requirement that we spend Thanksgiving shuffling our children and ourselves from broken home to broken home. We do not have to allow the family drunk/drug addict to show up and destroy things. If our relatives beat us when we were kids, we don’t have to see them now.

We can’t undo divorces. We can’t control other people. But, if we’ll stop blaming and whining, we will realize that we have absolute control over ourselves.

We can sit down with our children and our spouses and determine what matters to us on this day. The most important thing, of course, is the children. For some reason, these families who’ve made a mess of things are the first ones to forget that, so let me repeat it: The most important thing is the children.

If you’ve made a mess of your life and theirs with multiple marriages, remember that you owe them as much stability and emotional security as you can salvage from the complications you have inflicted on their young lives.

What is best for them?

Here are a few thoughts, based on my years of raising kids, seeing my friends raise kids and going with those same friends to the police station or the mental ward of the hospital to visit their kids when they were teens.

Why not, instead of dragging your kids from one of your divorced relative’s homes to another, have dinner at your house and tell your relatives they can come if they want, but they have to play nice and behave if they do? If they throw a fit, let them. Your children are more important than their fits.

If your parents haven’t spoken in 30 years and will not be in the same room together, that’s their choice. You first responsibility is to your own children. You can have a nice dinner with each of your parents in turn on some other day. But do not let them indulge their ancient hatreds and ruin Thanksgiving for your own family and your children.

Why not, instead of shuffling children back and forth between your former spouses and you, arrange that one spouse will have them on Christmas day and another will have them on Thanksgiving? Then, when it’s your turn to share the kids, have Thanksgiving or Christmas early for your kids at your house before sending them off.

Never say a word of resentment or spite while you are doing this. Do not whine and complain about how awful it all is for you. Invite the extended family. Do it right. Provide your children with an actual, family Thanksgiving, even if it isn’t on exactly the right day.

Why not, instead of nursing grievances from when you were six or sixteen, grow up and accept that none of this narcissistic self-indulgent picking at old scabs matters anymore? It’s over. Be done with it.

If you come from a background where you were abused (and I mean abuse, not that your big brother had a larger room than you and your folks bought your sister a prettier prom dress than yours) if you come from a background with beatings, sexual abuse or some such, then, stay away from those people. Dump them. Be done with them.

Don’t go near the people who treated you like this. Get therapy and figure out that they are poison and live your life without them. Definitely protect your children from these folks by not letting them near them.

As for the endless list of gotta dos that we inflict on ourselves at the holidays, my advice is to get real. Your house and your meal are not going on a magazine cover. So stop worrying about it.

Thanksgiving is about Thanks Giving. It’s about bringing the bizarreness of our lives to a pause for one day and eating a delicious meal, watching some football, playing a few board games with the people we love.

Some families are able to ease the work by everyone pitching in and bringing a dish. That way no one is overloaded with cooking. If that doesn’t work for your family (it doesn’t for mine) then the person who does the meal calls the shots. Do not wear yourself to a frazzle preparing a meal for the memory book. Prepare a good/great meal and enjoy.

A few other do nots are do not plan on putting up your Christmas decorations after you eat dinner. (Unless, of course, everyone has fun doing this.) Do not use china or table settings that are more precious to you than the people eating from them. Do not expect your relatives to be anybody else than who they are on this day. If your brother-in-law always shows up late, he’ll be late on Thanksgiving. Family is home, and home is a place of the heart where this sort of thing doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t wait dinner for him. But there’s no point getting upset about it, either.

I know I’m going to make some people mad with this post. It almost certainly cuts close to the bone for a lot of people and I’m not being overly sympathetic.

That’s because I’m writing it for the children. I want every parent to make this wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving a gift of real family for them. No matter how complicated your life has become, stop, think and work out ways to provide your children with a nurturing, calm and love-filled day.

It will be a gift to you as well as them, both now and for years to come.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving is Thursday. What am I thankful for?

Rest and be thankful. William Wordsworth

Thanksgiving is Thursday. What am I thankful for? The list is almost endless. Here, in the order they occur to me, are 10 of the things I’m thankful for this morning.

1. I’m thankful that my foot is healing. I have a boot and can use a walker now.

2. I’m thankful for my best friend, true companion, lover and love of my life: my husband.

3. I’m thankful that my sons are loving, kind, honest people. I’m proud of them.

4. I’m thankful I still have my mother and that she is not suffering and is relatively happy.

5. I’m thankful that, despite my overweight-out-of-shape condition, I do not have diabetes or heart disease.

6. I’m thankful for the Catholic Church.

7. I’m thankful for the gift of eternal life.

8. I’m thankful for second chances.

9. I’m thankful for a car that runs, computers, internet, electricity, hot and cold running water, central air and heat and the delete button on my keyboard.

10. I am thankful for my girlfriends, without whom life would be shades of dull.

 

Welcome Home, Leah

To bring him back with a twitch upon the thread

 by Leah Libresco

Today, I was recieved into the Catholic Church and was given the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy communion.

I had expected, earlier this year, to choose Catherine of Alexandria for my confirmation saint.  After she was converted by a tutor, she king sent various scholars and theologian to argue her out of her belief, and, when she met them in debate, she made converts of them all.  She is the patron saint of apologists, lawyers, philosophers, preachers, students, theologians, and, generally, scrappy people picking fights in charity.  (Also potters, spinners, knife sharpeners, and haberdashers, but they’re a little off the point).  St Catherine of Alexandria is everything I like best about myself.

But she has no extant writings.  I wanted a saint it would be easy for me to get to know as themself, not just my image of them.  I wanted a confirmation saint that I could be more directly surprised and challenged by.  And I wondered if it made sense to pick the person who played to my strengths and my pride, instead of my weaknesses.

After I decided to convert, the book I read next was Augustine’s Confessions.  And the thing that spoke to me most was Augustine’s love affair with Truth.  He sought after his beloved along a long and winding path, but his love and fidelity were powerful enough to give him the strength to walk away from incomplete philosophies. (I was not yet in love, yet I loved to love…I sought what I might love, in love with loving).

I’ve grown attached to Augustine’s prayer “Give what you command, and command what you will.”  Like Augustine, I had people who loved me storming Heaven on my behalf.  (Read more here.)

The Sacramental Vending Machine vs The Highway to Heaven

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way …’” John 14: 1-6

 

Leah Libresco

When my colleague Leah Libresco enters the Church today, she will do so with the support and the presence of a sponsor.

Candidates for Baptism and Confirmation in the Catholic Church usually go through what is called a Rite of Election before their big day. During this rite, their sponsor vouches for them, affirming that they are, indeed, sincere in their desire to become Catholic.

The reason for this is ancient. In the early days of Christianity, there were those who would pretend to be converts in order to infiltrate the Church and then use the knowledge they gained to aid those who persecuted it. They were, in the parlance of the Cold War, double agents.

Back in the 1950s, there was a television show called I Led Three Lives about just such a double agent. It told the story of a man who pretended to be an ordinary citizen on the outside, was an active spy for the Communists in one of his inside identities and a double agent for the United States who was, in fact, spying on the Communists in his hidden, but true, identity. Evidently, a good many people once tried to infest the Catholic Church with their own version of I Led Three Lives  in much the same way back in the early days of Christianity.

Most Christians in those days led at least two lives; passing as best they could as ordinary citizens in their outside identity and living for Christ in their hidden, but true, identity. Thus, converts who go through the rite of election do so with a sponsor, who is a known Catholic in good standing and who vouches for their sincerity of intent concerning their desire to enter the Church.

Unfortunately, this part of the Rite of Election is no longer as archaic as it was, say, 30 years ago, not even here in the “Christian West.” More and more people seem to be attempting to enter the Church as what amounts to current-day double agents. They demand the sacraments of baptism and confirmation as if the Church was a sacramental vending machine and they’ve put in their dollar and deserve their sacrament in return.

These people approach entry into the Catholic Church with an arrogance they would never employ during pledge week at a university. The same people who will grovel and debase themselves to be part of a fraternal organization, think nothing of demanding entry into the sacraments without any requirements of genuine belief or fidelity. They are open and arrogant in their refusal to accept Church teaching.

History has made a turn into a full circle. We are once again back at a time when double agents inside the Church cooperate and aid those who want to persecute it. We have also come to a day when some of those who seek entry into the sacraments often do so with an arrogant assumption that this places zero responsibility on them to take this step with a sincere heart and genuine desire to follow what the Church teaches in their lives.

All of this makes the continuing rise in numbers of sincere conversions an even more powerful testimony to the love of Christ. One Leah Libresco is worth any number of false Christians. Leah is quite open about the fact that she is still seeking to understand certain Church teachings. Honest questioning from a sincere heart that is seeking to understand is not what I am talking about when I use phrases like “double agent.” The strongest followers of Christ grow from those who begin with honest seeking and the open hearts and minds of sincere questions.

Conversion is an on-going process. It’s a life-long process. None of us will get to the end of our growth in Christ in this life. Life in Christ is an ever-deepening miracle of love that grows and expands as we step out in our lives and live it. Questions, seeking answers to the confusions of living this faith in a fallen world, are a natural and honest part of it.

What is not honest are those who are not questioning but condemning the Church for teachings that fall afoul of the current world thinking. What is not sincere is someone who enters the Church with no interest in conversion for themselves and a hardened intention to defy the Church and support its attackers in matters of faith.

I found Christ while driving my car without any intellectual reasoning at all. Leah Libresco reasoned her way to Him in a way that reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ conversion. I think that speaks more to the kind of people Leah and I are than anything else. Jesus comes to you where you are. Then, if you give yourself to Him, He leads you gently to where He wants you to go. But the key is that you must give yourself to Him. He is the potter and you are the clay.

The Catholic Church has distilled its great wisdom of 2,000 years of Christian witness into simple, follow-able teachings that are accessible to the smallest child and challenging to the greatest scholar. I think of the Church’s teachings as a roadmap to heaven, and not just to the heavenly Kingdom but to heaven on earth as well. If we could truly follow the path of Christ in the here and now, we would re-create the paradise of before the fall.

But we can’t. Not now. Not yet. We are fallen people in a fallen world and there are tough times in life when the best we can do is just to hang on and do what God tells us. That’s when the teachings of the Church are most valuable. There are days when the confusions and griefs of life rob each of us of our judgement. There are times in every life when all we really want to do is just walk off, walk away and forget about it. Those are the times when this roadmap of Church teaching may be the only path we can see.

Go to mass. Say your prayers. Don’t lie, steal, cheat, rape, rob, kill or commit adultery. Care for the poor, stand for life, pray, even if grudgingly, for your enemies. Chose Christ by doing what He has told you to do, putting one shaky foot in front of the other … day by day by day. Stay the simple, clearly-defined course of Church teaching, and it will lead you through to the other side of whatever angst and dire is tearing at you. That is the truth of Christian living when the going gets tough as I know it.

I am not the intellectual wonderment of a Leah Libresco. I am just one of many battle-scarred veterans of living the Christian life in an openly hostile environment. In that world, sincerity and honest seeking is all.

History has made a turn into full circle and enemies of Christ attack the Church from within as well as without. But compared to the honest seeking of an honest convert who has truly found Him, they are nothing.

Welcome home, Leah. You are God’s gift to the rest of us.

 

Leah Libresco, Bartimaeus and Feeling Our Way to Christ

Leah Libresco

Leah Libresco, who blogs at Unequally Yoked, is being received into the Catholic Church today. She has written several wonderful posts in anticipation of her baptism and confirmation, including one she titled Reach Out Your Hand and See What It Gets You.

This particular post describes Leah’s reaction to the Gospel story of Bartimaeus. Leah’s take on the story is original and through-provoking. She focuses on Bartimaeus, walking toward Jesus, reaching out with his hands to feel his way. Blind Bartimaeus, feeling his way to Christ.

We are all like that, whether we know it or not. Blinded by our lack of insight and the stories of this world, we hear Jesus calling us, but we do not have the eyes to see. We must, like Bartimaeus, trust Him and take that first step in His direction.

Leah’s fine post on this subject says in part:

Traditionally, as catechumens prepare for baptism in the Catholic Church, we hear three specific Gospel readings at the three Scrutiny Masses before reception of the Sacraments (John 4:1-42, John 9:1-41, and John 11:1-44). Because my parish does two cycles of RCIA per year, I ended up hearing the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man as told in a different gospel. On October 28th, the reading was from Mark 10:46-52 as follows:

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Jesus doesn’t meet the blind man where he sits; he asks Bartimaeus to walk to him. Picture what that would be like; getting up and stumbling forward in pitch darkness, arms outstretched in front of you, until another hand takes yours. That first moment of contact with Christ might have felt like when you don’t realize you’ve reached the bottom of a flight of stairs, and come into jarring contact sooner than you expected.
When Bartimaeus reached Christ, he would have touched him with his hand, the eyes he had used in lieu of eyes his whole life. So, at the moment of contact, before Christ restored his sight, he was already perceiving Christ directly, and then, grace upon grace, a veil fell away, and he was looking at Him. Jesus would be the first thing Bartimaeus saw, with no point of reference or comparison. Presumably, for the rest of his life, everything else Bartimaeus saw was in some way interpreted in relation to that first vision. (Read more here.)


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