I know how I lucky I am to live in a country where my freedom to worship however I wish is guaranteed. I take that for granted and I find it hard to realize that people are still persecuted to the point of death for their beliefs in other parts of the world even though I know it’s true.
Still, the constant Catholic-bashing gets me down, y’all. It hurts when I go to the happy little Facebook group I belong to that’s supposed to be about celebrating my hometown with lots of nostalgic posts and read this: “I don’t see how anyone can believe in a religion that is so self-indulgent.” Or when a local news channel chooses to juxtapose the joyful news of a new Pope with one about settling an abuse lawsuit. Or when I attempt to point out in yet another Facebook thread that there are plenty of pedophiles in Protestant churches (and in schools, and sports organizations, and other places) and am told that clearly I am just trying to minimize the evil of the abuse and the cover up.
Living in the Bible Belt, I have dealt with misunderstandings and prejudices about my faith for my entire life. I’ve heard that I’ll be going to Hell because a sprinkling Baptism isn’t good enough. I’ve come out of Mass to find sensationalistic pamphlets purportedly penned by ex-priests and ex-nuns who know the “truth” about the Church shoved under my windshield wipers. I’ve been told lies about my faith to my face and have had my explanations flatly contradicted or ignored.
When people come to my door and ask if I have a church family I experience a moment of trepidation and discomfort when I tell them that I’m Catholic because of the thoughts I am pretty sure will be going through their heads. When William was chanting “Habemus Papam” in the office of his public school last week and asking me if everyone at school knew about the Pope, I was afraid of what people might say to him. He hasn’t experienced religious prejudice yet.
My Catholic faith is the very core of who I am, and when you bash the Church in which I firmly believe, you are bashing me. Questions are wonderful. I welcome the opportunity to discuss, explain–even debate. I don’t believe that all religions are equal, but I do believe that people’s beliefs, whatever they may be, are worthy of respect. Someone else said it better than me, y’all: ”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Filed under: Catholicism, Deep Thoughts Tagged: Catholicism, faith, judgment, prejudice, religion, tolerance
So, I’m thinking now’s a good time to be getting all Catholic on the blog because HABEMUS PAPAM, y’all! This doesn’t happen every day–I mean, this is only the fourth time it’s happened in my whole life (which is edging ever closer toward the–gasp–half-century mark).
Pope Paul VI was just a picture on the school wall to me, less important by far than Father Henkel, whose picture was up there too. Pope John Paul I, bless his heart, wasn’t around long enough to make an impression. I just remember being enraged when I got to school one morning and a classmate (it was Chris Clem, I remember) announced that he was dead. (Isn’t it weird to think of how long it used to take to find out things?) I loved Pope John Paul II, as did most of the world. (Fun fact: he was a good poker player, according to a Polish History professor at Georgetown who knew this from personal experience.) I knew he’d be a tough act to follow but I’ve got no complaints about Pope Benedict XVI. His graceful resignation, I believe, will turn out to have been a great gift to the Church, as it has resulted in …
Pope Francis! Just the name makes me swoon. St. Francis, apparently the most beloved saint according to everyone on the Internet (do they go by the number of yard statues, I wonder? The number of people who choose him as Confirmation saint?). So many ideas come to mind when we hear his name–his Prayer for Peace, the Canticle of the Sun, preaching to the birds, talking to the wolf, holiness, poverty, stigmata, the Franciscans, “Rebuild my Church …” No matter what was going on in the Holy Father’s head when he picked that name, it had to be good.
He’s a Jesuit! I went to Georgetown so I love Jesuits. Now certain people can just stop making sly comments about them because the POPE IS ONE SO IT’S NOT NICE.
He’s from Latin America! I wanted a Pope from Latin America or Africa so thank you, Holy Spirit, for taking note. Seriously, though, the Church in Europe is in a bad way. Most of the Catholic countries of Europe seem to be so in name only. Churches are empty. Maybe some fresh blood is a good idea?
Then there’s everything I’ve read about him and I know you’ve read it too–kissing the feet of AIDS victims and riding buses and cooking his own meals … even the anti-Catholic muckrakers (and oh how they are always out in full force) haven’t been able to find much mud to sling.
Finally, just look at him! He looks kind, don’t you think?
Filed under: Catholicism Tagged: Conclave2013, pope, Pope Francis, St. Francis
Can you guess what this is? If you were at Immaculate Conception Church this morning you probably can, but I’m guessing everyone else is going to be puzzled.
It’s slate. A slate roof tile from the church, as a matter of fact. With a new roof being installed, some bright person thought that parishioners might be willing to donate to the roof fund in return for this little piece of history. My husband said that the minute he saw these sitting in the corner of the basement, where the fall craft fair was in full swing, he KNEW I was going to be thrilled.
And I was. I did make some other purchases but nothing could have delighted me more.
Just think–this tile was placed on the roof in 1886. Someone nailed it up there, and that someone is long dead. About seven generations have worshiped beneath it. Just think of the way the world was then and the way it is now, all the changes that have happened, while that tile stayed up there doing its job. If only it could talk.
It was pretty dirty, that’s for sure. I scrubbed it and put it through a cycle in the dishwasher, and now it’s all sparkly. It came with a cardboard print out of some of its history. I’m thinking I will mount that on the bottom of it and maybe put one of my best photos of the church on it, and turn it into art.
I wonder, when they put a new roof on the church in 2126, will there be parishioners who will cherish the ancient pieces of slate from 2012 and wonder about the people who worshiped beneath them?
photo of a picture taken last year in honor of the 125th anniversary of the church building
Filed under: Catholicism, Knoxville Tagged: Catholicism, Church, history
I made my First Confession at Holy Ghost Church, back when I was seven, in the good old anonymous darkened confessional. Every three months thereafter, Father Henkel and his current associate pastor would appear at St. Joseph School and we would be told that today we would be going to confession. After Father Henkel led us in a brief Examination of Conscience, we got in the line of the confessor of our choice and we waited for our turn. We had no choice about it but that made it easy, really. I recall with nostalgia that feeling of a clean white soul, and how disappointed I would be when I committed my first post-confession sin and started the business of blackening it once again.
When face-to-face confession came along, I was not a fan. It was not offered as an option in grade school and that suited me just fine. My first year of Catholic High School we were given a choice of screen or no screen for those quarterly confessions, and I always chose the priest who had the screen. But my Sophomore year they removed that option. They would take us into the gym for a penance service, and then all the priests spread out on the bleachers and you had to go confess face to face WITH EVERYONE WATCHING.
I was terrified but I had always gone so I screwed my courage to the sticking place and approached the pastor of my own parish. I didn’t know what to say or do and he was not helpful–not that he was unkind or anything like that, but he was unable to put me at ease. After that, I was never able to make myself go again. I would sit miserably in my chair watching my friends, LONGING to go, but just unable to get past that fear.
It was SEVENTEEN YEARS before I went to confession again. The occasion? My oldest child’s First Reconciliation.
Any parent knows that you can make yourself do just about anything for your kids. My child was going to confession and I had to set a good example, so into the sacristy I went, saying “Please bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been seventeen years since my last confession …” And you know what? It wasn’t so bad.
But once you are out of the habit, well, you are out of the habit, I guess. I mean, if a priest turned up here every three months and said., “Here I am! It’s confession time,” I’d be thrilled to go. But as it is, I always seem to find some reason not to go to the seasonal penance services John sometimes attends. And just forget showing up on Saturday night for the paltry half-hour of scheduled time for confessions, or actually making an appointment to go.
So how many times have I been to confession in the last 13 years? Why, FIVE of course, because I have five kids who all made their First Reconciliations during that time!
That means I went today. (As did Lorelei, which is much more important.) During the service which preceded individual confessions, Father Randy offered a wonderful reflection. He explained how our repentance is an occasion for rejoicing in Heaven. And he reminded us that we are supposed to go to Jesus with our heavy burdens. He illustrated this by having one little girl hold a heavy trash bag full of boxes with child-type sins written thereupon, taking each box out to give to Jesus and then leaving her with a lightened load. Something about it really touched me and I wanted that unburdened feeling too.
There were many priests available to hear confessions, most of them in classrooms in the school building, and the halls were crowded with children and parents as we made our way to the room of the priest Lorelei had chosen, the associate pastor of our parish (the school Lorelei attends is not our parish school). When it was her turn to go in, she didn’t want to let go of my hand. She looked up at me with worried eyes and tried to bring me in with her. For a moment I was afraid she might refuse to go in. But she did, and then came out and told me about it while John took his turn, and then she went to the church to say her penance while I went in to say, “It has been four years since my last confession …”
I do feel unburdened. I’m trying hard to keep my soul stainless today. I think, just maybe, I’m going to try to get back in the habit again.
Filed under: Catholicism, family, Parenting Tagged: Catholicism, confession, family, Parenting, reconciliation
Second grade is a big year for Catholic children. Lorelei and her classmates will prepare all year for First Communion, and this Saturday they will participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. Lorelei has said the Act of Contrition about 10,000 times in the past month, making sure she has it memorized.
Each child had to do a project on the Commandment of their choice in preparation for this Saturday. Lorelei chose the the third commandment, which was simplified as “I will keep Sunday holy.” Here is a picture of the poster she and I made:
I had a whole gallery of images of our parish church (Immaculate Conception) because every Sunday I check in on Foursquare and take a new picture. Our church was built over 120 years ago and is getting its first new roof right now (yes, slate really does last almost forever!). It stands on Summit Hill in downtown Knoxville and before the tall buildings went up could be seen from all over downtown. If you ever drive through Knoxville on the interstate you will get a great view of it!
My family has a long history with this church–my mother was a parishioner from her early childhood and attended the parish school. My parents were married there and I was baptized there. Other than my own house, there is nowhere else I feel so at home.
I thought I would share a few of my favorite pictures that I discovered when Lorelei and I were choosing the ones to use for the poster.
An instinctive taste teaches men to build their churches with spire steeples which point as with a silent finger to the sky and stars.
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Filed under: Catholicism, Knoxville Tagged: Catholicism, Church, Knoxville
So, feeling like you do about both Romney and Obama, who ARE you going to vote for?
That’s more or less what I was asked by a friend recently, and I promised I would be answering here. It’s going to be a long and complicated explanation before I get to the answer, though, so get comfortable.
I get the feeling that my liberal friends expect I’m going to go with Romney for “pro-life reasons.” Meanwhile my conservative Catholic friends seem convinced that I am an Obama supporter and am headed straight to hell. Gosh, it’s so inconvenient of me to get all complicated and refuse to hop into one of the little boxes we all like to put each other in.
If I were going to self-identify as a member of a political party, I’d call myself a Democrat. I’m more or less a bleeding heart liberal, if you want to know the truth. When I take that “who should you vote for” survey that’s been making the rounds this political season, I’m told I should vote for the Green Party candidate, that I agree with about 95% of her positions. Of course, as Sister Louise would have said, there’s always that 5%. And what a 5% it is.
I like President Obama. I think he’s a good man with good intentions. Pretty much everything the haters say about him isn’t true. In my opinion he’s been quite effective–it’s just that his detractors don’t approve of his achievements. Like Obamacare, which I’m excited about, even though I’d prefer a completely government-run system like the ones in Europe. (There. I said it.)
HOWEVER. Obviously, if you know me or have read pretty much anything I’ve written including the title of this blog, you know that abortion is a huge issue for me. And apparently it’s become a huge issue for our President as well, an issue on which he has come down firmly and stridently on the wrong side. That was why I did not vote for him last time. Even though I liked him more then than I do now, honestly, I just could not bring myself to push the button and thereby tacitly approve of his radically pro-choice position (and yes, I do believe he is more radical in this area than many other pro-choice politicians).
Now, I don’t think it is any way wrong or sinful to cast a vote for a pro-choice politician (if that is not your REASON for voting for him) in the presence of other proportionate reasons for your vote. I don’t rule out ever voting for a pro-choice candidate in the future. What is a proportionate reason is open to one’s prudential judgment, reached by informing the conscience about Church teachings, studying the issues, and ideally through prayerful reflection. But there are other reasons that I won’t be voting for President Obama.
Frankly, his HHS mandate INFURIATED me, and a lot of other “progressive” Catholics. So many stood with him on his health care plan BECAUSE of their Catholic faith, and then he basically spit on them. Seriously, I know that a lot of you will just think I secretly hate women and don’t want them to get birth control but this is seriously a religious freedom issue, whether you believe it or not. Still, I don’t think in the end the mandate will pass constitutional muster, so it may not matter on a practical level, but it speaks to a part of the President’s character that I do not admire.
It’s the same part of his character, I believe, which has led him to quietly allow torture to continue, to expand on his power to spy on, to imprison, to even execute Americans without trial or explanation. And I’m not going to wear myself out providing the links for all this. I’ve read and posted many over the past several weeks and can’t get anyone to even discuss them with me. Republicans like this side of Obama and don’t want to draw attention to it, and Democrats don’t like it and don’t want to draw attention to it. But someone needs to. Ditto the drone warfare, which I knew nothing about until recently. Part of what makes me call myself a Democrat is that we are supposed to be against these kinds of things.
So now let’s talk about Mr. Romney. I said before that I didn’t think Romney believes in anything but Romney, and after watching three debates and following this race pretty closely, that opinion has not changed. I just can’t think of any good reason to vote for him. I have absolutely NO CONFIDENCE that he will make any meaningful changes in abortion policy. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but let’s remember that his sister, his wife, and most recently a campaign surrogate have all more or less gone on the record saying he won’t make any changes and that this is just not a big issue for him. Yes, I know what he says himself, but he says all kinds of things all the time, half of which contradict each other–he will say anything to win. You can say–and I have actually read some comments from prominent pro-life sources that try to assert this–that his wishy-washy comments are just to get votes and he’ll hop on board the pro-life train as soon as he’s elected. But how do I know that? And don’t we want a president who is unapologetically pro-life no matter what, if that’s the only reason he’s getting our vote in the first place? Let’s not forget, too, that Mr. Romney used to be one of those “pro-life for myself, pro-choice for others” politicians, and he has a great story to back up his reasons for his stance–the botched illegal abortion that killed a young relative of his. I haven’t heard him mention her lately, have you? Wouldn’t you like to know what changed his mind?
Like I said, I’m basically a Democrat at heart, so a Republican is going to have to provide something extra to make me want to vote for him. Mr. Romney’s stance on abortion does not convince me. And I know he says he will repeal the HHS mandate, but I don’t know if I believe it. Plus as I’ve said I think it’s a moot point anyway, plus his repealing of it is tied to his repealing of Obamacare, which doesn’t exactly appeal to this uninsured American who will be spending more hard-earned money this month on medication than I can afford. Oh, and that’s hard-earned but UNTAXED money because we are part of that lowly 47% who just won’t ever take responsibility for our own lives. I supposed Mr. Romney would like us to just not claim our five dependents and reject Mr. Bush’s tax credits so that we can pay income tax in addition to the self-employment tax which we DO have to pay.
In 2008, I did not vote for President. I went to the polls and voted in the local races, but I just skipped that part.
This year, that doesn’t feel quite right. I’ve read that not voting at all is cowardly or lazy. I know I am not lazy and I hope I am not a coward. But I read another article this year that said that in voting for a candidate you are effectually agreeing with their stances, that you are complicit in what they do. And I just can’t do that. Maybe it would be different if I lived in a swing state. But Mitt Romney takes Tennessee no matter what I do tomorrow. That gives my vote a sort of purity–it’s just between me and my conscience.
I could pick a third party candidate, like the Libertarian, who is against the drone wars and the eroding of our freedoms, or the Green Party candidate with whom I appear to largely agree, but unfortunately my areas of disagreement with both of them are in significant areas. So here is what I have decided to do.
I am going to write in “None of the Above.” I want the record to reflect that this pro-life Democrat could not find a candidate that she could in good conscience vote for. For me, that is the most honest vote, after tons of study of both secular and religious documents, much discussion and debate, and plenty or prayerful reflection.
I hope that you will respect my decision, as I plan to respect yours.
Filed under: Abortion, Catholicism, Deep Thoughts, Politics Tagged: Abortion, Catholicism, consistent ethic of life, Deep Thoughts, election2012, Life Issues, Politics, voting
A couple of people posted on my last entry that the reaction to what I had written showed the power of my words. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But the fact that the reaction was the exact OPPOSITE of what I was looking for when I wrote the original column doesn’t make me feel powerful–it makes me feel impotent against the rising tide of politically-inspired ill will–even hatred–between Christians with opposing political views.
As if having the hierarchy oh-so-gently suggesting that I had written something that was not authentically Catholic was not enough, soon the newspaper was inundated with letters to the editor, some of which did not just attack my arguments, but went after me personally. I was obviously just a liberal looking for any excuse to vote for John Kerry, said one. (Come on–was anyone THAT enthusiastic about voting for John Kerry?) The truth is that I have AGONIZED during every election season from 2000 on over what vote to cast. That fellow Catholics would presume to judge me in print–essentially proving my original point, although that was cold comfort–was painful. My files are ashes now, otherwise I would share more of the comments with you.
By this time I was on bedrest waiting the imminent arrival of Baby #5. I didn’t even get to vote in the election–how hysterical is that? As one of the few–but much appreciated–supporters wrote in, how many of my detractors were pro-life enough to give birth to five children?
Yes, there were supporters. That was perhaps the one positive result of the experience at the time–I heard from (not often in writing though!) several people who I never would have guessed felt the same way I did–people who thanked me for speaking out and encouraged me in my belief that I hadn’t done anything wrong–people who admitted they were afraid to let the rest of the Catholic community know how they felt for fear of judgment. THAT’s what I was writing about. THAT is what I wanted to speak out against, what I naively thought my words might change.
Filed under: Catholicism, Life Issues, Politics Tagged: Catholicism, Deep Thoughts, election2004, election2012, Life Issues, Politics, voting
I felt good about what I had written. I thought I had expressed myself well. I sat back and naively expected peace and goodwill to ensue.
That isn’t what happened.
I was working in my kitchen one morning when the phone rang. This was pre-iPhone days so the identity of the caller came as a complete shock. It was the Chancellor of my Diocese calling to tell me that the Bishop!! wanted me to know that he could not support everything I had written.
I am not going to try to recount that whole conversation. It was eight long years ago after all. But some parts I remember quite clearly. As I stood in my pantry, the Chancellor told me that the Pope’s condemnation of the Iraq war was just “a prudential judgment.” He said that the Pope had not declared it an infallible, ex cathedra teaching. I think he might have been a bit surprised that I was able to fire back the names of the TWO (yes, only two) such pronouncements on which all theologians agree.
U.S. President George W. Bush greets Pope John Paul II during their meeting at the Vatican June 4, 2004. http://bit.ly/PIqxtV
Anyway, I remember the impression I was left with–that I had just been ARGUED with by a Church official about whether there might be a “Catholic” way to vote in the coming election. And I remember wondering if it comes down to prudential judgment, ought not I, as a Catholic, to give more weight to the judgment of the Holy Father than to that of any elected secular official?
Before it got better, it got a lot worse. Shortly thereafter I got another call. This time it was the Bishop himself on the other end of the line! I sensed that he felt bad about the Chancellor’s call. I honestly cannot remember WHAT he said, but I could tell he wanted me to feel better about the whole thing. I believe he stated that he would be publishing something himself later to clarify these issues.
At this time my husband had been a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, and I saw the Bishop frequently. He had always been friendly and kind and complimentary about my column in the past. So I felt bad. Very bad.
See, I consider myself to be orthodox, more so than most people I know. I take the teachings of the Church very seriously. I am not a “cafeteria Catholic.” And before I wrote that column I read the relevant parts of the Catechism and the Gospel of Life and the document the Bishops put out every election year. I had my husband read it over too. I wanted to make ABSOLUTELY sure that it reflected Church teaching. To have someone in the hierarchy suggest differently was DEEPLY painful. (I am sorry for all the capital letters. It’s how I am feeling as I write this.) It’s still painful. I don’t feel completely comfortable publishing this, and probably would not if either of the people involved were still in the Diocese of Knoxville.
Was I wrong? And if I was wrong, was I going to have to believe that the Church could back certain voting choices? If so, would I have to follow those directions to remain a faithful Catholic? Or was I going to have to become a dissenter in order to follow my own conscience?
I didn’t like any of those options. I was in spiritual agony. I was also about eight months pregnant. Not a good combination.
I went back and reread what I had written. I read the documents again. I still couldn’t find anything wrong with what I had said. Nor could other people I trusted. Could this mean that it was the “prudential judgments” of the Bishop and the Chancellor that were in error? That was a scary thought.
In the end, though, that’s what I’ve come to believe. I stand today by what I wrote eight years ago.
But there’s more to the story. Stay tuned.
Filed under: Abortion, Catholicism, Deep Thoughts, Life Issues, Politics, War Tagged: Abortion, Catholicism, conscience, election2004, election2012, George W. Bush, Iraq war, papal infallibility, Politics, Pope John Paul II, voting
This is a slightly edited version of a column I wrote in the fall of 2004. At the time I was extremely disturbed by the vitriol surrounding the Presidential campaign, particularly that directed by Catholics at other Catholics, presuming to assert that there was only one way for a good Catholic to vote. I did not remember people being so hateful about politics in the past. (Of course, things are much worse today, with Catholics routinely being told by their brethren that they are going to go straight to hell if they vote for President Obama.) So I wrote this in the hopes of calming folks down a little bit, at least folks who read the East Tennessee Catholic.
The first time I was eligible to vote, at 21, I was away at college and did not get my absentee ballot in time. As my parents and grandparents were all Democrats, so was I: no decision-making was necessary.
I was similarly complacent the first time I voted, for George H.W. Bush. He was against abortion, the most horrible evil in the world. How could other issues matter?
Four years later other issues seemed more important than I had thought. In the most recent elections choosing a candidate has become agony. I am unwilling to equate “pro-life” with anti-abortion, so I see no “pro-life” candidate. Anyone who wages pre-emptive wars that kill up to 20,000 innocent civilians is not pro-life. John Kerry’s assertion that life begins at conception while he blithely votes to give women unlimited power to end it doesn’t sit well with me either. What’s a Catholic voter to do?
Thoughtful Catholics will come down on both sides, and if they have informed and followed their consciences, they are not sinning. But no candidate is in line with all of the Church’s moral teachings.
Although the Church gives us guidance in this matter, it does not endorse candidates. Many of you read Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s statement that when a Catholic does not share a candidate’s pro-choice stance but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered “remote material cooperation” [in evil] which is “permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” The cardinal does not define the proportionate reasons, leaving us to define them ourselves.
The U.S bishops published “Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility,” which states: ”The 2004 elections … pose significant challenges for our Church … the Church cannot be a chaplain for any one party or cheerleader for any candidate. Our cause in the protection of the weak and vulnerable and defense of human life and dignity … As Catholics [we are called] to recommit ourselves to carry the values of the Gospel and Church teaching into the public square … Faithful citizenship calls us to seek ‘a place at the table’ of life for all God’s children in the elections of 2004 and beyond … A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good.”
Finally, our Holy Father quoted the following statement of the Second Vatican Council in “The Gospel of Life” (Evangelium Vitae), a must-read for anyone who dares consider himself an authority on life issues: ”Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator.”
The pope adds: “ The underlying causes of attacks on life have to be eliminated, especially by ensuring proper support for families and motherhood. A family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies. For this reason there need to be set in place social and political initiatives capable of guaranteeing conditions of true freedom of choice in matters of parenthood. It is also necessary to rethink labour, urban, residential and social service policies so as to harmonize working schedules with time available for the family, so that it becomes effectively possible to take care of children and the elderly. “
With the help of these experts, I have the following reflections to offer. One way to choose your candidate is to decide which issues are crucial to you and vote for the candidate who shares your perspective. If you judge abortion the ultimate issue, you vote with the candidate who opposes it. Or you might vote based upon the amount of change you expect the candidate to be able to effect in various areas of importance. For example, if you voted for President Bush because he was pro-life the last time around, look at his record: how many lives has he saved? How much power does the President have to effect change in this area? Some voted for Bush in 2000 so he could choose Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. But he has yet to appoint a single justice. And who can guarantee his choices would vote against abortion? Look at the records of Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter, both appointed by conservatives.
What can a President affect in the way of life issues? He can start a war, a war our Holy Father opposed. And what about other life issues the pope enumerates in “The Gospel of Life”? Some “conservative” social policies may lead to more abortions, when women choose abortion because of a lack of money, homes, or childcare.. Check out www.votingcatholic.org, a site that lists many Catholic issues and Bush’s and Kerry’s positions on each.
Because the Church doesn’t tell us for whom to vote, we must inform our consciences before making this important choice.
Have you fully informed yourself on the Church’s position on all life issues by reading “The Gospel of Life”? Have you prayerfully considered the the teachings of our bishops? Have you acquainted yourselves with positions and records of both candidates? IF so, your conscience has been properly formed, and you have nothing with which to reproach yourself. And if in charity you assume that your fellow Catholics who may have chosen a different candidate have done the same, you have nothing with which to reproach them either.
My column did not have the effect I had hoped or expected. More on that in my next post.
Filed under: Abortion, Catholicism, Deep Thoughts, Life Issues, Politics, Reprints, War Tagged: Abortion, Catholicism, column reprints, consistent ethic of life, Deep Thoughts, election2012, Life Issues, Politics, voting
Facebook is a lot of things to a lot of people. It has the power to unite and to divide, to heal and to injure. It sounds ridiculous, no doubt, to non-users, but its effect on my life has been profound. But one of its most surprising and beneficial effects has been its impact on my prayer life.
I would like to be one of those people who gets up half an hour early to pray, who has a home shrine, who walks in labyrinths and attends adoration weekly. I wish I could work up the energy to attend Mass more than once a week and find the time to go on a retreat. Maybe some day I will be one of those people.
Still, one thing I do try to do, every single day, is pray for other people. But you know how it kind of becomes a reflex to tell someone you will pray for them, and you say a prayer then, but later you more or less forget about it? I always did that, and I felt bad about it. As I said my nightly prayers I would find myself saying something like, “For all those people I said I would pray for.” I know God can sort it all out, but I still felt guilty and thoughtless.
But the thing about Facebook is that you see daily the friend or acquaintance for whom you have promised to pray. Not only has my circle of friends widened thanks to Facebook, so that I have more friends to pray for, and more of THEIR friends to pray for when they ask me to, but I see regular updates which remind me to keep that person’s intention in my prayers. And I feel myself drawing closer in spirit to the people I am praying for.
After what we went through last year, I KNOW the power of prayer to lift people up. But the benefits are not all on the receiver’s end. I find myself feeling almost excited about saying my nightly prayers now, as I make an effort to go through and think about each person I have promised to pray for, and ask God for the special blessings each one needs. If I fall asleep before I finish–it does happen–I don’t just feel guilty, I feel disappointed. I never really thought of prayer as something to enjoy before, and now I do.
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Facebook, Prayer
Y’all, sometimes I just have to get things off my chest. And I haven’t ranted about church music in a while. So, for those of you who like such things, enjoy this mini-rant.
I sang in the choir at the 7 p.m. Mass at Georgetown all four years. (We had Masses practically ’round the clock on Sunday, including a 30 minute one know as “[Father] Freeze’s Breeze” and a “last chance” one at 11:15 p.m.)
When I was a Freshman, the choir was student-led. So when we were taken over by the University’s choir director the following year, we chafed a bit under her direction. One of the things she did not like was our pianist’s habit of playing what she called “traveling music” at points where no taking was going on, like after the Offertory procession, for example. We liked the pretty music and did not appreciate her point: that there were times in the liturgy where silence is desirable.
Well, apparently the choir director at my parish doesn’t appreciate it either. Because he’s instituted a bizarre practice of singing TWO Offertory songs. As soon as we finish the first one, our cantor steals a quick look at the altar and if the preparation of the gifts is ongoing she quickly announces another song. Which we dutifully begin to sing.
But there isn’t time for two songs at the Offertory, not really. So one of two things happens. We don’t sing the whole song (and y’all already know how I feel about THAT), or Father stands there twiddling his thumbs and frankly looking impatient to get on with things already while we finish.
This singing serves no liturgical purpose. Especially since we never sing songs that are about offering our gifts or ourselves anyway. It’s filler, pure and simple. And why does the Mass demand filler? When you run out of Offertory song, there are the optional prayers and responses: “Blessed are You, Lord, God of all Creation … ” and “Blessed be God Forever.” (Did these get changed, I wonder? In our parish, I’ll never find out.) Then there are the quiet prayers as the priest washes his hands, which always fazcinated me as a child: “Lord, wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins.”
Everyone knows how much I love to sing. Even when I can hardly stand the songs. But can’t we just have some quiet time to pray?
Filed under: Catholicism, music, rants Tagged: Catholicism, choir, church music, liturgical music, music, singing
As I’ve written before, I love Easter. It’s my favorite holiday.
This Easter felt like even a bigger deal than usual to me. For one thing, all holidays post-fire feel like milestones. I know what happened to us doesn’t compare to a death in the family, but things are different now. Not only are we in a new place, but we’ve lost all the trappings of celebrations past–the baskets, the bunnies, the decorations. Easter has never been about decorating for me, but I do particularly mourn the loss of my three Polish Easter eggs, brought to me from Poland by a Georgetown History Graduate student back in 1990 when I was the secretary of the History Department there.
So the first thing I had to do was use the last of my Target gift cards for an Easter Basket shopping trip.
Jake with the new Easter baskets, waiting for me to finish up at Target
Stress and finances have made inroads into the once annual excursion for new Easter clothes–getting a new Easter dress was practically a religious observance for me well into my college years, and I took great pride in the matching outfits I scored for the three “big kids” when they were small–but this year several of us decided to get some new things. Jake had a nice suit John bought him last fall, and he and I found an Easter tie (thank you to the giver of the TJMaxx gift card!). John took Teddy out suit shopping, but finding a suit that would accommodate his large chest and relatively small waist proved impossible, so he ended up with a blazer and pants. I took Emily dress shopping, and I actually used my own Christmas Kohl’s gift card to get some new things for myself (more on my lack of personal possessions in another post!). The little people were content with “new to them” items given us after the fire.
I waited a little late (Yikes! the day before!) to go bunny shopping. It turned into a three-hour odyssey, and in the end finding matching bunnies for four out of five kids (one considers himself past wanting bunnies on Easter) proved impossible. Lorelei has carried her sheep around every day since, and William was delighted with his possum (to replace one lost in the fire) so I needn’t have worried.
The Easter Bunny brought plenty of candy. There was much speculation by William and Lorelei on the nature of the Bunny, where he comes from, what he looks like, why he does what he does, and who his “minions” are. There were also sweet rolls for breakfast. There are always sweet rolls (hot cross buns, really, only I’m not crafty enough for that so they are just glazed) or cinnamon rolls made from the sweet roll recipe (and I was trying for less mess and stress) on Easter morning. This was my mother’s tradition, but the glitch this year is that no one has the recipe any more. I had copied it down years ago in my notebook of special recipes. My mother lost the original and had taken to calling me if she needed it. You know what happened to my notebook. I couldn’t find the exact recipe online. Between the two of us we figured it out–they tasted like they were supposed to!
Easter Mass is the greatest celebration of the Church year. We made sure to arrive early–in fact we were so early we had to wait outside for the previous Mass to finish up! But that was okay because we were treated to an Easter Parade as folks exited, and we got to talk to the people who go to ten o’clock Mass! The Church looked beautiful, and we sang the right songs.
I was especially pleased to have Jake’s girlfriend as our special guest at Mass.
We’ve had guests over many times since we moved–four birthday celebrations and a Christmas Open House–but we had not yet hosted a holiday dinner. We went out on Thanksgiving, and my sister did Christmas. We had not hosted a holiday dinner for quite some time, actually–the last time was two Easters ago, at our then-new house, the house which is now burned down. We were so happy and hopeful that day, with no way of knowing either the very bad or the very good things that were headed our way.
Anyway, I decided Easter would be a relatively stress-free way to begin our turn at holiday hosting. We made a rule that no one could bring more than two things. My mother brought fried chicken and angel biscuits. My sister Anne (Betsy and her husband were not with us this year) brought macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. I made baked beans, green beans, and sickeningly sweet tea–just the way we all like it. Emily made lemon bars and mint juleps. My father and stepmother brought a butter pecan cake. Anne’s mother-in-law brought a ham. And even Lorelei made some cookies (with Jake’s help). All together there were 18 of us for dinner! We did it buffet style and it went smoothly and was delicious.
Of course Easter would not be Easter for the little people without an Easter egg hunt.
photo credit: Emily Sholly
It was a truly blessed Easter. How was yours?
Filed under: Catholicism, family, Gratitude Tagged: blessings, Catholicism, celebrations, Easter, family, fire, holidays, home and hearth, Spring
Yesterday, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published an eloquent statement on what it means to be both Catholic and American, and the importance of religious freedom. Since the Bishops don’t give me a personal call when they make statements, or send a copy to my inbox, I learned about this the same way many people have or will: from a link to an article excerpting the statement on my Facebook wall, in my case from the Diocese of Knoxville website.
This short article gave the impression that the most important part of the statement was its call for Catholic Americans to resist unjust laws. This was a bit alarming so I decided a look at the original source was in order.
The second place I heard about the statement was on Twitter, via a link to an an editorial on Commonweal. Had I read only that (and judging from the comments thereafter, most readers did) I would have been left with an impression of the statement as a partisan diatribe against President Obama.
No doubt other people, seeing other links which present quotations from the statement with their own personal slant, will come away with other impressions–and they will be the impressions that the media want them to have.
I don’t want–or need–anyone telling me what I need to think about anything. I can think for myself and you can too. Didn’t I just write about the importance of seeking out original sources?
Here’s a link to the actual statement. It’s a bit long but it’s well-written and interesting. I read it aloud to my husband last night. If you are Catholic, it’s your duty to read it. If you are not, and you would like to understand why Catholics are making such a big deal over the HHS mandate, you should read it too. Perhaps you will come away from it realizing that it really IS about religious freedom, not birth control, per se.
Besides the direct knowledge and understanding of the issue that I gained from reading the document in full, I received something more personal, my own mandate, if you will:
Catechesis on religious liberty is not the work of priests alone. The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom.
Would you look at that? Right there my church recognized the importance of blogging to catechesis today. The Bishops recognized the talent of Catholic bloggers and called upon them to use it! I got a little chill reading that, seriously, because one of my goals with this eclectic little blog, even with its minuscule reach, is to educate about the parts of my faith of which I have a good understanding. Now that I feel that it’s not just my goal, but also a request from the Church, I will try even harder.
Filed under: Catholicism, Life Issues, Politics Tagged: blogging, Catholicism, HHS mandate, Life Issues, media slant, Politics, religious freedom, religious liberty, USCCB
“Catholic and Southern, Wife and Mother.” That’s how I described myself for my original About page on this blog as well as on Twitter. What I put first says everything about who I think I am and what is important to me.
Being Catholic is at the core of everything else about me. I’m a cradle Catholic, and so was my mother, and my grandmother, and her father …
But especially since I’ve started doing genealogical research, I’ve learned that Catholicism has come down to me along a very slender thread. Raised to think of myself as half Irish and half Scots, I have learned that I’m just as much German and English. And my forebears were mostly Protestant.
My father’s side of the family is Protestant. My mother’s father’s side is Protestant. Her mother’s mother’s side is Protestant (although Grandmother did convert). It was her mother’s mother’s father’s parents, Hugh Higgins and Mary Foley Higgins, born in Ireland in the 1830s, who were the original Catholics in our family.
And you know, don’t you, who brought the faith to the Irish?
I’ve dressed in green, and worn “Kiss me, I’m Irish,” pins, and sung hymns to St. Patrick every year since I was a child without ever thinking of how much I owe him. And as my husband pointed out last night when I shared this revelation with him, St. Patrick’s influence continues through the generations, since John would never have become Catholic if he had not married me.
Thank you, St. Patrick.
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Catholicism, faith, saints, St. Patrick