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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What I Learned....

The Moral Life: Fulfillment in Beatitude (Module Three) began and ended with a bang! This module was very interesting for a number of reasons: professionally, spiritually and personally.  

When living (or at least trying to) a moral life, it seems easier to consider what we have done wrong than realizing what it is that we ought to be doing as faithful Catholics. There is any number of checklists - or examinations of conscience – that list all the possible sins against each of the commandments. On the other hand, there are few lists that make us consider what we ought to doing because of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. All too often, we are just like the young man in the Gospels who thought he was good enough because he had religiously observed all the commandments while failing to consider what more he could have been doing or ought to have been doing. When asked to do one more thing, he walked away.  The question naturally arises: how different are we? You may be interested to know that I have written a book for teens called “Black and White: An Examination of the Moral Life which asks the teens to take into consideration ‘what they ought to be doing ‘simultaneous to their examination of  what they did wrong based on the Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments and the Greatest Commandment. While far short of the Catechism, it hopes to get teens to do more than just try and follow the letter of the law. This is one more reason why this module was particularly interesting to me.

This Module covered many worthwhile topics – so much so that it is almost impossible to summarize them well in a two page paper. Let’s start at the beginning. Deacon Michalak helped us understand the underpinnings of the Ten Commandments by teaching that the commandments are kind of like the tip of the iceberg. There is way more to the Ten Commandments than meets the eye. For example, the Pharisees probably followed the Ten Commandments but needed to do a whole lot more than follow the letter of the law. All of us ought to consider that we ought to want to follow the Ten Commandments because they are designed by God and for specific reasons. What are those reasons? The Ten Commandments are many things including the following. They are a test of our love, a challenge to do better and a standard to live up. They beg us to ‘put on’ virtue, discern truth and strive for authentic freedom when we obey them for all the right reasons.  But even they are not enough to get us to heaven if you consider the parable of the Rich Young Man. We learned that authentic freedom helps us choose well because it is aided by virtue rather than vice.  

Deacon Michalak (a great teacher) pointed out that we can’t understand the purpose of the Commandments unless we understand the underpinnings or foundations from which they were built and that St Thomas Aquinas found these to be more interesting than the actual Ten Commandments.  St. Thomas’ natural intelligence, wisdom and theological interests point to his holy purpose in life: to help the rest of us (millennia later) to better understand these underpinnings. Most of us could not have found this purpose in life as interesting or purposeful as Thomas must have - even though it sure was worthwhile considering how immemorial his teachings are. St. Thomas helps us learn  how to evaluate human behavior; discern moral actions vs. immoral actions; understand the natural Hierarchy of Happiness; avoid  sin, understand virtue (Cardinal, Theological, natural)  evaluate moral norms, understand Natural Law and the Conscience. He also helped develop the  Twelve Steps leading up to and including the action itself.  The University of St. Thomas has a worthy patron saint – unfortunately one theology professor seems in need of a refresher course in the Catechism considering that one young man recently told me that this man questions the principle of infallibility.

We learned that the moral life is a journey into spiritual maturity whereas the immoral life is a journey into hell. Everybody does not attain spiritual maturity for obvious reasons: sin, vice, lack of faith, etc. This journey to the final Goal – or away from it -  is always dynamic ; it is never static. Even when we aren’t moving toward God we are moving away from Him. The spiritual journey re-shapes us whether we realize it or not. The longer we walk the more perfected we ought to be getting. Holiness is matured by grace; it is through grace that we begin to live the moral life – the baby steps taken towards  holiness. Eventually, we blossom into everlasting happiness. On the other hand, ungodliness grows by means of putting on vice rather than virtue. Those who arrive at Hell do so by having perfected the trinitarian partnership of me; myself and I. Sin collapses the world around us sinking us into the narrowest of relationships – one that has room only for myself.   

The synthesis of the Hierarchy of Happiness was interesting in light of today’s misunderstandings about pleasure and happiness. America seems doomed to unhappiness given the fact that we fail to preserve basic necessary principles including the appreciation for all human life; a basic respect for Natural Law and common good; practice of the Golden Rule, etc. Too many fail to appreciate that freedom is the ability to do what we ought to do in order to obtain the greater good and the Greatest Good. Freedom is too often defined as my ability to do what I want, when I want, and how I want.  It is plain to see that this misunderstanding will only continue to shrink our ability to “do what we ought to do…” While there is no rivalry between genuine freedom and grace, there is always going to be rivalry between vice and genuine freedom because the former impedes the latter.  Vice pulls us inward whereas authentic freedom prompts us to regard the  common good for all and for the Greatest Good.

The discussion about virtue was really interesting to me. Virtue is our capacity to do good for others. It is the freedom to act with excellence. I had never before considered virtue as the boundaries of the football field wherein the game is played. It is true; nobody would enjoy participating or watching any sport without clearly defined winners, losers, and rules. The same goes for real life even though many people today suggest that we don’t need to live by the rules or tally up the wins and losses in the game of Life and Love (loss: abortion, disease, divorce, same sex attractions, vs. wins: stable family life, authentic love, joyful children, etc). We can readily observe how Law sustains reality while Goals keep us within the bounds. It should be readily apparent that only God gets to define reality because he created it! Creatures can enjoy reality but they can’t re-define or define it. After all, moral order and reality can lead in only one direction. It is either truth or it isn’t. Only God is the source of constant goodness. He never changes. We can all share God at once. Only he never runs out of love or life. There is always more to know about God. We will never be able to exhaust Him or his love. This is the only truthful reality; every other reality is manmade and therefore fallible, destructible, erodible and conditional.  It’s a good reminder that “an act is not morally upright because the Church says it is so but because is it objectively good and that’s why the Church says it is so!

The theological virtues (Faith, Hope Charity) along with the Cardinal virtues perfect our will which in turn make us more human. Prudence is the most important Cardinal virtue; imprudence is the lack of the cardinal virtues: fortitude, justice, prudence, and wisdom. Fr. Klockman mentioned that all of us are weak in especially one Theological virtues and one Cardinal virtue. We were asked to consider which virtue(s) are our Achilles Heal because that is where we will most likely be tempted and attacked by the evil one. Father also mentioned that through the very wounds  (sin) that we inflict upon Christ, become the fountain for every lasting life when we lay our sins at his holy feet. Ironically, our sin can become the way to love Christ more and more. It is also the way to move away from Christ more and more. What we do matters here and now and for all eternity.   

We learned that our conscience is not like Jiminy Cricket who kept reminding Pinocchio to stop lying. Rather our consciences are the result of judging rightly all along; it is our witness to the truth as we already know it. It is the fruit of our capacity to reason well.  In other words, it will not be superior to the formation process we have undertaken.   

There were so many other points that were interesting so let me capture them in the remaining paragraphs. Pope Pius Xll said the loss of the sense of sin was the greatest sin of the 20th Century. Moral relativism seems one and the same as the loss of the sense of sin and so other than this, what is the greatest sin of the 21st Century? Redefining sin itself?

Child formation involves getting the kid out of the kid ( was a great line of Deacon Dan). He also said that every action leads to either sin or grace.

Words matter as this Communication Era rapidly redefines is and was. Consider how moral evils have become accepted ways of life just by changing the lingo used when describing them. Abortions no longer talk about lives lost but choices made; babies are called fetus or tissue; contraception has been labeled to be a woman’s health issue and the responsible way to plan families; sodomy is now just a same sex attraction; etc.  

The Ten Commandment discussions were very good. They certainly are just the tip of the iceberg until you begin to study the depth of their command in light of the Beatitudes and the Greatest Commandment. This has been another very fulfilling semester. Thank you for all the teachers and staff.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Great Divide

The election left me and about 4 million one hundred sixty two thousand and one hundred and seventy three people wishing for different results; at the same time, 4, 236, 032 people were pleased, relieved and happy. Why this great divide? And it is great! We are a nation that is nearly split evenly in half with regard to knowing how to solve the economy, social politics, racial differences, helping the poor, religion, international political problems, etc. Essentially we have two opposing worldviews colliding with each other. And they have been a long time in the making.

Here is the million dollar question: how do the opposite worldviews merge into one without either side losing its sense of identity and purpose. Is it even possible to blend opposing views into one that is sensitive and respectful of the other?

When looking at the Great Divide in the US, it becomes much easier to grasp why areas of the world like Europe, the Middle East, and others have split into such small countries! Colliding worldviews obviously caused them to split, subdivide, subdivide further, fragment, and/or even get swallowed up by a neighboring country with or without their permission. It explains why wars begin. It explains why ties get broken. It explains why neighbors stop talking to each other. It explains why families split. This explains why  Texans keep threatening to become their own nation.

The Obama administration gets one thing right: they understand the undercurrent that is going on in this country. I would bet they use these undercurrents to get out the vote on their behalf. So while the rest of us were scratching our heads  and wondering why the President employed such polarizing messages during the election, it now makes perfect sense. He used the obvious (to him at least) lack of faith among so many to demonize spiritual and religious principles such as religious freedom and pro-life message, and traditional marriage by employing argruments related to contraception, abortion, etc. He used the obvious slide from traditional values to promote 'being chums with everyone' except those holding onto traditional values. He used moral relativism (rampant in this country according to a Marist poll (2009) to help push against those who define marriage between one man and one woman while arguing that this group of poeple are bigots and haters. He used the screw-ups on wall street (there always are and always will be these situtations)  to cement the idea that business is dirty even though that is how most people have the standards of living they have. The argument lost on many is that capitalism isn't all bad but socialism isn't all good.

Did this great divide occur overnight? No, it snuck up on us like that thieve in the night. While some think the sexual revolution took place in the sixties and seventies, they fail to realize that way back in the 20's and 30's, academia argued for and against monogamy and marriage. Cultures were studied, statements were issued. Slowly but surely, the devil convinced many not to completely abandon God but to have one foot in the secular world and one in the spiritual world. And as we know, a house divided cannot stand. And so principles, dogmas, belief systems, and attitudes changed which in turn changed worldviews of the culture and of the people in general. It took population concerns to change attitudes about monogamy, sexuality, marriage gradually. It took acceptance of contraception to change attitudes with regard to abortion. It took both of these to pave the way for same sex marriage. It will take this to bring about the right to exercise utilitarianism with regard to aging populations who cost too much too treat. It will take all of this acceptance to bring about persecution of those who are just not very accepting! These persecutions will only prove who really is the most unaccepting people of all and they tend to be the ones carrying the water for the day.

While some argue that the US is headed down the wrong path, how can we really know which way is the right way when we have one foot in the secular world and one in the religious world? While the conversion to secularism took many decades and many generations, it will take just as many to reverse the trend if we are willing and able. That is the New Evangelization.

What is your worldview? Where do you stand? What do you think about all of this? Are you ready to stand up and be counted by choosing which foot you really want to stand on?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Above My Pay Grade

Sister Simone Campbell recently went viral after going on FOX News, and addressing the DNC convention. She has been tagged - and has tagged herself-  as one of several "Nuns on the Bus" (as opposed to the wheels on the bus I suppose).

Another old sing-song that she may like goes something like this: "Some like it hot, some like it cold, and some like it in the pot nine days old."

Well, it seems that Sister likes it hot because she delivers a lot of hot air   - publicly. And she seems to especially like to criticize her 'own people and her own way of life' including Cardinal Dolan, and the Catholic Church itself. She is getting popular (among certain circles at least ) because of her criticism of "the U.S. bishops for their stance on the Affordable Care Act and the HHS mandate, as well as decrying what she sees as a Church leadership too focused on the right to life of the unborn versus other aspects of the Catholic pro-life message, and more." according to the Catholic News Herald,  ( Sept, 19, 2012.

Still, she seems to be able to take the heat so I am going to give her a bit more ...

Sister Campbell seems confused about who/what she really believes in. While openly criticizing really Catholic Catholics she seems to prefer to run with Catholics who have to keep reminding the rest of us that they (really) are Catholics. That's the funny thing, Cardinal Dolan never has to tell people he's really Catholic does he?  That's because we know he is Catholic by what he says,what he expressly believes, and what he does. Her friends, on the other hand, need to keep telling the rest of us that they really are Catholic! And that's because we don't recognize them as such by the way they live, act, and talk. Even they have to keep reminding themselves that they are Catholic! 

Also, when asked by O'Reilly about her stance on abortion - after delivering an impassioned sentence or two about the immorality of the Romney/Ryan plan, Sister quickly dismissed the question by saying that a discussion of abortion is "above her pay grade"

If you are going to insert yourself into a discussion about the immorality of certain economic plans, it seems to me that you're paid enough to be able to opine on whether killing an unborn baby is right or wrong, for heaven's sake. Even our daughter with Down Syndrome can know that with 100% clarity and without doubting herself that killing little babies seen moving around, sucking their thumbs, yawning, and stretching on ultrasounds is a black and white issue - they are human and they are alive! Who's kidding who? All of us know it's a lot easier to know life when they see one compared to  understanding the full ramifications of economic plans on the poor and displaced people!

Sister, will you please get off the bus and start holding newborns so you can really understand who you support for president - the one you back with all your might and vocal cord energy! He is the president who would allow that same child you are holding to be executed gang style just moments before birth; and all because his intelligence prevents him from knowing that "a person's a person no matter how small!

And one more comment, Sister, please pray about this. By this I mean: stop asking God to get rid of those rascally Republicans  and start asking Him to give you a heart that is obedient, humble, and one that loves enough to take up the defense for the  very least of His: the unborn child!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

the Neighbor's Signs

We are in the season of the lawn signs. Yesterday, I was talking with a friend who worried over whether she should talk to her Another Catholic Voting NO neighbor because they had just put up the No sign and it kind of shocked her. While we expect to see political signs for Dems, Repubs, and Libertarians, I have to admit that it is much more startling to see these non-partisan - strong issues -  signs that force discussions - at least in our heads.

This is the season of the lawn signs. What do they prompt? They prompt us to become bean counters - we see how many neighbors agree with us (or at least seem to). We think that a certain sign may mean that neighbor A will not be talking to neighbor B for a long time.

We naturally wonder whether to fight or take flight from neighbors expressing points of view that surprise us. Like my friend, we wonder whether to talk to our neighbor about their sign - perhaps they are a bit confused....So we wonder about it every day until that darn sign is taken down.  We ask ourselves should it be today or tomorrow. Most of us opt for tomorrow even though that day never fits our schedules. But shouldn't we - after all we are our neighbor's keepers aren't we?

We used to put up lawn signs too; but decided somewhere along the line they were just too much in our neighbors' faces even though I was raised to not to miss a fight. But it seemed like the signs seemed to put  more distance between us and the neighbors. Our signs sat in front of their big windows day in and day out    until they suddenly blew away. Do you know how many of our lawn signs just blew away? Too many to count. Their disappearances were as sudden as several of our bashed in car doors that  just seemed to happen without explanation. These incidents turned us a bit suspicious of our neighbors. 

And so, we began to wonder what our lawn signs said to our neighbors. Did they say, Hi there, how are you today? Or did they say "Hey neighbor I want you to vote for _____ (my candidate). And if I had two signs did it suggest that I thought the neighbors needed more reminders?

Yard signs bother me today - they make me want to yank them out of my neighbors yards like I presume they did to ours.  They show how unable we are to really talk about important matters. They are like the little dog who barks and barks but doesn't seem to accomplish much of anything other than annoy us. In my opinion, yard signs represent  UN-neighborliness.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could put up artistic signs that say what we believe and why.  They would be akin to giving a witness talk but in technicolor. I'd like  a billboard on my lawn showing why why I stand for marriage between man and woman. It would  picture me, Dave and our 7 kids and their 13 kids along with blank space reserved for those yet to come along. At least, my neighbor would likely better understand why we believe the way we do .

Pithy one liner signs really don't explain much about us to our neighbors. Perhaps this is a new business opportunity - making witness lawn signs - what do you think?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dreams of the Everyday Housewife

Now I'm mad...

Recently, Hilary Rosen , Democratic Stategist, inferred that Ann Romney knows nothing about economics having been a stay-at-home mom and never having "worked a day in her life." This slight against Romney's knowledge and practical experience was also an attack against everyone who has also chosen to stay home. That includes me.

Rosen is wrong - we work!

Once not that many years back, I dreamed of being a CEO of a large corporation. That soon gave way to dreaming about becoming a good mother and wife. I have lived my dreams. I worked at that large corporation and switched from there to home by choice. I had decided that my children were just a bit more worth my attention. This move afforded me time to keep dreaming while attending to being a good wife and mother. Now that the kids are nearly all grown up I have time to go back to that large corporation but I just don't think I will do it. I prefer to manage the very business that I started when I wasn't working - the very same business that I started even though I knew nothing about economics - according to the Hilary Rosen's of the world.

I'm not sure that a career has afforded Rosen this same privilege; her words hint at bitterness and stereotyped thinking - the kind that feminists were supposed to upend. Perhaps she - and others like her - have sunk too far into the male world to recognize feminine geniuses who balance multiple things at a time while preferring relationships to projects. Too many females have adopted the notion of the masculinized female who ridicules her own femininity which would normally revel in nurturing, creating, ordering life around the Creator, being careful of others' feelings, and giving of self to others (volunteer work).

Why is it ok to ridicule stay at home mothers? I remember when we closed on our home recently after refinancing (to take advantage of lower interest rates)and the lender commenting that I was spoiled because my husband "let me stay home while he had to bear the brunt of paying the bills". I didn't get up right then and there because I took it for the greater good of the family finances! I also didn't tell him that I cook the meals; wash the clothes - even making one or two now and then; pay the bills, wake up in the middle of the night to attend to the children so my husband is fresh for his job even while my days are somtimes pretty dreary due to lack of sleep. Nor did I tell this mortgage lender that I garden and can the veggies to help make ends meet - or used to anyway. Nor did I mention that I am the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker! Literally. Also I failed to mention that I have a brain and use it to write books. Neither did I mention that I didn't like being called spoiled. Again, we moms at home take it for the sake of the family.

On another occasion I recall the words of a former colleague: "If I had a wife making your salary, I sure wouldn't let her stay home!"

I can't figure it out. Are all these people just envious of our choices? Or of the fact that we have a choice? I thought men and women were all about choice. Yes, I did make a good salary! And for sure we would be in a higher income category had I continued to work - outside of the home. But life would have been much more complex! And more than likely we wouldn't have had seven children.

No matter, it's obvious that some people fail to appreciate that money and job title do not define me or any stay at home mom! Most of us think we're in the business of forming character. Maybe that's the missing link in these career folks. Or maybe, they just don't have time to think straight!

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words cannot hurt me or Ann. But they sure can make us mad!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The very real art of Breastfeeding

The Very Real Art of Breastfeeding: The Abstract

Worthwhile human activity, whether it falls under the umbrella of science or the humanities, serves to advance society. We sort our education into generally two categories: science or art. It has become far easier to explain something in scientific terms than to discuss its humanizing consequences especially those that come about through process.
This is the argument that must be made with regard to breastfeeding - an art with deep humanizing qualities. Hands down, science has proven to the world that breast milk is best for babies. Unfortunately this proof ignores its most important element - breastfeeding. While the uniqueness of human milk has been touted and showcased, breastfeeding is still relegated to closets and bathrooms. In our society, out of sight is synonymous with out of mind. Is it any wonder then why breastfeeding rates continue to fall below healthy baby goals and objectives?
Mothers who breastfeed their babies will need to learn new skills, techniques and principles in order to get breastfeeding off to a good start. She will need to be observant. But these still won’t be enough.
If we had only known just how great breast milk was generations ago, perhaps we wouldn’t have to teach women how to breastfeed today! Lack of insight into both have advanced the cause of breastfeeding buttinskies who continue to discourage, disparage, and even ridicule breastfeeding – overtly and covertly. But are they really just discouraging the mammalian way to feed a baby? Perhaps their disparagement is more sinister. Perhaps they are part of the crowd that simply discourages men and women to love less.
Human experiences that encourage us to genuinely give of oneself to another – especially for the good of another human person – and at the sacrifice of one’s own self – simply is the process that increases our own capacity to Love. When we learn to love others authentically all of society benefits!
Breastfeeding allows mothers to give of themselves in a way that uniquely allows them to grow their own capacity to love in a way restricted to femininity… .

Friday, March 2, 2012

chapter one -- the joy of authentic parenting

As one ponders parenthood, he/she should ask some fundamental questions before stepping into the deep. The following are a few to consider. Why become a parent? What is the purpose of parenthood? What do we hope to achieve after becoming a parent? What’s in it for us? What should be our family goals and priorities? What do we have to do in order to be an effective parent? What do good mothers/fathers do? What are the primary duties and responsibilities of parents? Furthermore, do the primary duties and responsibilities of parents’ change with the age of the children. Do parents continue to have ‘obligations’ for their teens, emerging adults or married children? If so, what are they? This book looks at these questions very specifically and purposefully.
All parents – in fact all adults – look for meaning to their lives. Too many look to others to try and help them find quick remedies to sticky personal or family issues. That’s why pop icons including Oprah, Ellen, Dr. Phil, and others appeal to so many adults. Yet, John Paul ll teaches us to avoid looking to the pop culture for answers but to search for answers about faith, purpose, and meaning in life from an organized system (The Catholic Church) in an organized way. This search will lend to the resolving of the issues in grace-filled ways.
This book tries to help you find answers to the questions about parenthood that were posed earlier in this section in an organized way (The Catholic Church) by looking at parent’s moral obligations toward their children from an organized system - The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pointing to these obligations will help you attend to them in a better way; this will also provide convincing evidence that authentic parenting is critical for the formation of the whole of society as well as for each child within every family. Furthermore, there is no substitute for authentic parenting since parents are primary to the passing on of the faith and the forming of moral consciences for the next generation. This knowledge will empower you to pass on the Truth to the children living under your roof.