Friday, February 07, 2014

Abortion and Iconoclasm

Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy.  As a medical term, this can cover both deliberate miscarriage and natural miscarriage.  For the sake of this post, I will be using the term to mean a deliberate or induced miscarriage.

Iconoclasm is the destruction of icons or religious images.

It occurred to me earlier today that abortion is a sort of iconoclasm.

Christians believe that humanity is created in the image and likeness of God.  The Church, science and common sense tell us that a baby (child, fetus...) is a human regardless of which stage of development it exists in.  The DNA is all the same.  Saying a fetus is less human than a newborn is something like saying a 5 year old is less human than a teenager.

An abortion destroys the image and likeness of God.  To me, that sounds like iconoclasm.

The Catholic Church is, along with the Orthodox Church, about the only institution which has consistently condemned abortion.  Interestingly, it has been a notable victim of iconoclasm at various periods.  During the "Reformation" religious artwork and statuary was destroyed.  In the era following the Second Vatican Council, many Catholic churches were stripped of their religious artwork and statuary by "progressive" Catholics.  It is interesting to me that followers of both movements tend to be quite liberal in their views on abortion.

Religious artwork can lift the soul and remind those earth-bound of heavenly things, but even so does not possess anything like the value of a human being.

Where in the World...?

Imagine this scenario.  A priest, during Mass steps back to permit a lay-person who has been sitting beside him all during Mass, to address the congregation.

The lay-person proceeds enthusiastically to  invite the congregation to attend a Liturgy of the Word with Communion service the following Sunday, during the regular Mass time.  This lay-person, employed by the government as a "chaplain" proceeds to tell a series of partial truths about Liturgies of the Word.  We are told that they have been happening for a long time (which is true), and that they have been used by missionaries where priests are unavailable (which is also true).  We are told that they have been blessed by the Second Vatican Council and the Pope.  Almost true.

Liturgies of the Word happen all the time.  They are a legitimate way for lay-people to pray without the presence of  a priest.  The hitch is "without the presence of a priest".  They do not fulfill the obligation Catholics have to attend Mass on Sunday.

If a priest is truly unavailable for Mass, people should be directed to other parishes.  Our chapel has another parish only a few minutes away.

We were not so directed.

There was someone else attending Mass with us that day.  She is not Catholic.  She, too, is a government employee and the head chaplain for our chapel.

She was there, it seemed, to make sure the announcement was made regarding the Liturgy of the Word with Communion service.  She knew the priest did not support it.  She made the decision that funds would not be made available for another priest to fill-in.  There are priests who would have made the trip.

A few weeks later, this governmental chaplain is again in the back of the Church.  We have a guest priest, along with our regular priest.  The guest has been a government chaplain for a long time.  Today he is giving the homily.

He admired all the children in the congregation.  We do have a surprising number compared to other parishes.  I thought when he started talking about the shortage of priests, we might get some encouragement to rear our children to be priests and religious.  No.  Instead, we get crowing about how impressive this government chaplaincy is to allow lay-people to do all this neat stuff.  He said that when he spoke to priests in other countries and places about what lay-people do in our chaplaincy, it was like trying to explain a frozen river to someone at the Equator (or something like that).  They looked at him like he was odd.

I wonder if it occurred to him that they looked at him that way because they thought he was very misguided.

We were told on no uncertain terms that the lay-"chaplains" would be preaching on Sundays, even during Mass.

Catholic teaching does not support this innovation.  I am very familiar with the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.  And Redemptionis Sacramentum.  They actually speak expressly against lay-people...any lay-people...from giving a 'homily' during the time reserved for a homily.

I find it very scary that the government feels it can tell the Church what to do, even in a chapel.  This is exactly the type of situation which the separation of Church and state was supposed to address.  Oh, wait.  We're not Americans.

Oh, Canada...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blessed Salt. Don't Be Home Without It

Blessed salt is a sacramental in the Catholic Church.  It is treated much the same way that holy water is.  I like to tell people that it reminds the devil who is really the boss over our lives...and that it isn't him!

The first time I heard of blessed salt, I rolled my eyes and probably said something to myself about superstitious practices. It was definitely not something I'd been exposed to.

I had had the mixed fortune of spending three of my high-school years taught by a rather liberal order of nuns.  As a child, my family attended a very 'hip' and fully Vatican II-impacted  (and beyond, I later learned) parish.   I didn't learn to pray the rosary until I was an adult, and never did learn to recite the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Popular piety was just so much ancient history.

I was already beginning my impromptu crash course in authentic liturgy when I heard about blessed salt.  It just seemed weird.

But the Holy Spirit tends not to just let these things go.  More and more I heard about people keeping blessed salt at home and using it to 'chase' apparent evil from their homes.  At the same time, I was becoming more immersed in volunteer work at our parish.  Smokey (the Devil) often doesn't take kindly to others working to teach the Catholic faith.

At this point, our family was living in military housing.  It was old.  My father came to visit.  He complained one morning that the overhead light in the bedroom he slept in had switched on in the middle of the night.  I thought I'd noticed the hall light doing the same thing...or maybe I just forgot to turn it off?

It got worse.  Electrical outlets stopped working intermittently.  The electrical breakers never seemed to trip, but I was getting really tired of having to reset the clocks because of the power shutting off.  I was particularly bothered when my bedside light wasn't working.  I prayed before bed, and not having a light made it hard to follow my Liturgy of the Hours.

I asked the housing office to send an electrician, which they did.  He replaced the light switch in the bedroom, but could find no other reason for the electrical trouble.  Everything was fine for a couple of days, then the outlets started cutting out again.  My aggravation was palpable.

In my parish work, I had become good friends with our priest.  One day I mustered up the courage to ask him about blessed salt.  His eyebrows shot up when I asked, and he said "You're the second person in twenty-four hours who has asked me about this."  He invited me to bring in some salt to be blessed.  He looked up the blessing.  It is no longer common thing.  Father told me simply to 'use it in faith' and I would not be acting superstitiously.

In the meantime, I had called again about our electrical troubles.  Again a frustrated electrician replaced a token receptacle, and again, the electric trouble began within a couple of days.

Armed with my blessed salt, I decided to bless our home.  I waited until no one else was home, and feeling a bit silly, I walked around the house sprinkling salt.

Much to my amazement, as I had not yet made the connection, the electrical trouble stopped dead after I sprinkled the salt.  To make it even more astounding, I discovered the the electrical circuit that had been plague with the problems was the same circuit which powered the computer.  The computer had never turned off.

Since that time, the only hint of trouble we ever had was a flicker in the electricity.  Not enough to reset the clocks.  When this happened, I said the Saint Michael Prayer and it stopped for good.

I am a firm believer in blessed salt to keep a home (or office or wherever) free of evil.  I do not use it a lot, but sprinkling it in a home where tensions are high, or where sin is entrenched seems like a powerful way to remind evil who is boss in that area.  The 1962 Missal has prayers for blessing salt, water and a great many other very common things such as food, animal feed, crops and machinery!

We need to be aware of the presence of evil and our susceptibility to it, particularly if we are working for God in whatever capacity.  We can become targets.  In a way, this is a good thing, as it means we are doing something good.  It can make life stressful and can affect those around us.  We need to re-discover the resources our Church has for us and use them.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Don't Leave it to the Experts

My husband and I were talking this afternoon about doing stuff.  He's recently earned his commercial trucking licence and is meeting a different group of people than his office and computer-related work generally exposes him to.

These people do stuff.  One fellow created a fairly complicated machine completely on his own.  He designed it, welded what needed welding and cut what needed cutting.

I mentioned how, not so long ago, people where we live were not encouraged to take up trades.  The powers-that-were seemed to think that only university educations were really worth having.  Things have not changed much.  Of course this has left us a legacy of highly educated unemployed, while highly-paid trades jobs go unfilled for lack of qualified workers.

My husband and I were both in the university stream.  He says he wishes he was more fearless.  I laughed a little at this because of the two of us, I think I would qualify more as the fearful one.  At any rate, I am not good at getting my hands dirty.

We should really know better.

I think it started early.  About the time women stopped being able to deliver babies without "medical" intervention.  Doctors became the experts in birth and child-rearing.  Suddenly, mother no longer knew what was best.

On it went.  We became convinced that healthy baby milk came from cans and bottles.  Scientifically designed food came from a store.

Entertainment came from radios and televisions and movie theatres.  People stopped going to dances and having sing-alongs around the parlour piano.  Education came from school...and only from school.  My mother was told not to help me read at home (I was starting to do it on my own), because she'd do it incorrectly.  When I first proposed home-schooling as an educational option to my college-aged peers, the skepticism was palpable.

We have become a society of one-trick ponies.  And if you are of the urban, college and university crowd, you could starve to death if someone turned off the power grid.

I've seen evidence of that.  When neighbours found out we were taking walks along a path and picking berries, they expressed concern that we might poison ourselves.  When power was lost a few years back for the period of a couple of days, huge insurance claims were placed for food lost from deep-freezers.  That was odd because the cause of the power outage was an ice-storm.  It was wintertime.  Ice...winter...and people didn't figure out how to keep their food from thawing.  It's happened again this winter, too.

In the time that this has all come about, religious observance shrank to be a Sunday-only occurrence for a great many people, if it happened at all.  Devotions to practices like the rosary shrank too.  Why pray at home when the expert will guide us on Sunday?

We have lost integrity.  Many places have lost the right to raise food...even vegetables.

The latest (November, 2013) issue of Catholic Insight magazine has an article on raising rabbits.  For food.  I can imagine the letters they'll get.  I would love to have chickens, but they're not permitted where I a city.  We could probably get away with rabbits though.  Hmmm.

People need to understand the necessity of being able to care for their own needs.  I am no exception to this. Grow vegetables.  Demand the right to have a hen (they don't crow like roosters do...and they're much smaller and less dangerous that the ubiquitous dogs) or two for eggs.  Learn how to work a drill, a saw and a screwdriver.

Do math.  Sing, even badly.  Dance.  Cook.

Pray.  I don't think you CAN pray badly.  Do it often.  We lay-people cannot give homilies or confect sacraments, but we can pray without supervision.  And we should.

Happy Epiphany.  May the light which the wise men followed be one which we, too, can follow.

Friday, December 06, 2013

This is taken from Zenit:

Population Control and the Elephant in the Room
Slowing Population Growth Will Have Grave Consequences, Warns Pro-Life Expert
By Joseph Meaney
ROME, November 28, 2013 ( - I am amazed at the sheer audacity and persistence of the population control crowd.
Since the 1960s, they have given a single answer to every major social issue encountered. Hunger? Population control. Poverty? Population control. Racial/Religious conflicts? Population control. Communism? Population control. Women’s rights? Population control. Ecological problems? Population control. And on and on. How could powerful leaders and nations be duped by such an asinine proposal?
As the old proverb goes, “Be careful of what you wish for, you might get it!” After decades of unrelenting contraception, sterilization, and abortion at the cost of billions and billions of dollars — and several billion lives killed and prevented from coming into being — world population growth has slowed so much that its peak and decline is in sight. The United Nations’ estimated world fertility rate is currently 2.36 children per woman, the result of constant declines since 1965. Global estimates, however, mask a wide diversity of regional and local realities. Europe as a whole averages a total fertility rate (TFR) of only 1.6 children per woman while Africa remains dynamic with 4.5 on average.
Among 224 sovereign states and dependent territories, 112 have TFRs below 2.1, including two out of the three most populous nations in the world: China (1.55) and the USA (2.06). The most recent economic recession actually pushed the U.S. TFR down to below 1.9. The 2.1 TFR statistic is widely used as a proxy for the minimum fertility rate needed to prevent population decline absent immigration/emigration, hence the phrase replacement fertility. This is only true, however, for countries with extremely low mortality due to peaceful conditions and advanced health care systems. The poorest nations of the world can require 3 children per woman just to stave off depopulation. This explains why world population growth is slowing dramatically with a world fertility rate at 2.36 and dropping.
The other major factor putting the brakes on population growth is the slowing ofincreases in life-expectancy. People living longer on average than ever in history and the post World War II Baby Boom contributed much of the population surge of the latter half of the 20th century. Population expert Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt often uses a simple phrase to describe the world demographic situation: “Population did not boom because people suddenly started breeding like rabbits, but rather because they stopped dying like flies.” As societies have started aging, in some countries dramatically, mortality rates are inexorably catching up. Working populations in industrialized nations are graying in what has been called the Silver Tsunami, reflecting the fact that Japan is the most geriatric society in the world. Look at the economic performance over the last couple of decades of the once world leader Japan. It is not a pretty picture.
There is an elephant in the room that is hardly talked about. As the Baby Boom generation begins to retire expecting pension and social program payments in the golden years, the younger generation entering the workforce is not going to be up to the task of earning those funds. The post-1973 and Roe v. Wade U.S. generation has had well over a million children aborted out of it every year. One must add to this those never born due to sterilization and contraception. All the while the population demagogues have shouted their encouragement from the rooftops and successfully garnered funds to spread the “blessings” of population control worldwide.
Paul Ehrlich, who wrote The Population Bomb in the 1960s, is 81 years old now. Both he and Lester Brown, 79, of the Worldwatch Institute, will probably not be around much longer to taste the bitter fruits from the hysteria they promoted. Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, will certainly be with us for a while yet. This multinational “non-profit” rakes in over a billion dollars a year in the USA alone. A shocking 45% of that money comes from government entities, and therefore out of the pockets of the American tax payer. They are the largest abortion providing institution in the United States and should be called to account for their active role in the worldwide artificially created population disaster that is looming.
It is a truism that birthrates have the turning radius of a battleship, not a go-kart as Jonathan Last said in his recent book What to Expect When No One is Expecting. There is an incredible urgency to promote pro-child and pro-family measures and to stop those who are feverishly digging us ever deeper into this birth-dearth hole. Pro-lifers can say this quite altruistically since it mainly is the liberal segment of the U.S. population and in other rich countries that is aborting and contracepting itself into oblivion.
Feminists, at least those who truly prioritize defending women, should also enter the fight against population control. Innumerable human rights violations, mainly committed against women, have gone on for decades with coerced abortions, sterilization, and contraception as a sad fact of life in many places, most notoriously in Communist China. Population control policies and new sex determination technologies have fueled the worldwide sex selection abortion crisis. Millions of baby girls have been aborted simply because their parents found out they were female.
The world is indeed in a sorry state, but it will only get worse until the elephant in the room of missing and wounded people is acknowledged and addressed.
Joseph Meaney is the international coordination director at Human Life International. This article is published by kind permission of HLI's Truth and Charity Forum.

Friday, November 08, 2013

IgniteTV has posted its first episode.

This is exciting.  It's the first new venture, of which I am aware, in Catholic broadcasting in Canada in a long time, and it promises to be different than anything that has preceded it.

IgniteTV is the brainchild of Damian Goddard, who was a sportscaster with Rogers until a private tweet in favour of traditional marriage got him fired.  That was half a lifetime ago for his youngest child.

Damian does speaking engagements and has worked tirelessly to get IgniteTV up and running.  His ease in front of the camera is evident, and his style is refreshing.

I suspect it will also be unsettling for many, but that is likely just what many need in a land where complacency seems to be the rule of faith.

Go ahead Damo!  Spark the conversation!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our youngest child is wonderful.  He is nine, but is not 'normal' for his age.

He is just about to finish grade two.  He has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) which means some or all of his work is modified so he can do it.

We have four other children, all adults now.  They're a smart, talented bunch and are now making their ways into the adult stream of things.  Our little man will be charting a different path, it seems.

It is a hard thing to know when to push and went to leave things alone with him.  In some ways he seems non-exceptional.  He's known for a long time that we don't always understand what he's saying.  He has for years been able to compensate for our lack of initial understanding.  He has figured out many ways to get us to understand him.

Interestingly, now that he's in school and getting lots of help, we have more episodes of frustration on his part.  I can't say whether it's because he is being trained away from his natural methods of compensation, or if it's because he's trying things that are more complex and just hasn't got all the bugs worked out.

I think every parent has some anxieties about the futures of their children.  Having a child with a handicap multiplies and intensifies the anxieties.  Will communication difficulties prevent him from telling us things we should know?  Will his friendly nature lead him into unfriendly situations?  But really...don't other "normal" kids have these issues too?

Almost a year ago, our "stick-handler" (who is actually known as a coordinator of services) told us that we needed to start thinking about how Aaron will be cared for when he's an adult.  My first thought was that I just wanted him to get into grade two!  But of course the stick-handler is correct.  With other children, it is assumed that at some point they will be on their own.  With our youngest, we cannot assume that he will be able to reach this level.  Will he live with a sibling?  A group home?  Might he be able to live alone?

There was another mother, a very long time ago now, who had a very unusual Son.  I wonder if I might call on her for some advice?  She has some powerful connections!

Our son has a fascination with Bible stories.  It is because of his interest that I now know the Old Testament as well as I do (albeit in very simple language!).  I am actually beginning to know the chronology of the Hebrew Scriptures.  And I am seeing it with the simplicity of a child.  The Old Testament has more than its share of adventures and destruction in it, which suits our little man just fine.  He is definitely a "crash 'em up" sort of kid.  I only hope that he sees Scripture as more than make-believe.  On some level I am sure that he does.

Our little fellow has already received his First Communion.  He was with, or even a little ahead, of his age peers.  I was nervous about all this.  As a catechist who tries hard to follow Church teaching at all time, I did not want things made easier for our son just because of his handicap.  Although I was fairly certain he understood (as well as anyone CAN understand) the Eucharist, I was worried about his First Reconciliation, which I was not willing to allow him to skip.  I shouldn't have worried about our son's speech impairment.  Our priest, who did not have English as his first language, took the unusual step of asking me to come to our son's "translate" if need be.  That was the only time we needed to do this.

Now, since our son received his First Communion, it seemed like his behaviour deteriorated to the point where I was ready to have him stop receiving.  A priest counselled me otherwise.  As long as Our Lord is in fact being consumed (and we make sure that He is!) that God can apparently account for the foibles of little boys.  In a way this is comforting to me, as it makes our son normal for just a bit!  So we just watch.

Days are busy and fly by so fast.  So often I wonder if I've prayed enough.  It is not just our disabled son who needs prayer, but all of our children.  Frequently.  Constantly.

But no guilt, right?  I smile as I write that.  No one ever prays enough for anyone, I'm sure.

Our disabled children are a gift.  We need to understand that.  We need to humble ourselves, relax ourselves enough to receive, even if we do not always feel, the gift.  Just as parents are to help their children reach sanctity, so do our children help us.

Talking with other Catholic parents of variously intellectually disabled children it is so wonderful to see the effect an unusual child has on the family.  Parents who are accustomed to communicating with bright children are suddenly stumped.  This child CANNOT understand in the the way our other children understand.  It is a whole different game plan.  The parents cannot rely on the pat responses to situation.  If a standard-issue child needs something repeated 47 times to allow them to learn, a disabled child may need to have the same thing repeated 147 times...or it just might be beyond them.  And we must learn patience.  If we cannot master patience in ourselves, we must be humble enough to ask for help.

Children are all precious.  Children outside the usual are even more precious because of their vulnerability. They are the hot-house orchids among the roses.  God, give us what we need to tend them well. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pope Francis has been pope for what, four months now?

Another Canadian blogger referred to him as "confounding".  That word perfectly describes my feelings toward the Pope, too.

Pope Francis becoming fodder for blogs and homilies.  His style is so markedly different from that of Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV that comparisons are nearly impossible to avoid.  Those comparisons also occurred between Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II.

It distresses me that so many see the papacies of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis as an either/or situation.

They are two different men with two different backgrounds and styles.  We could add Pope JPII in there and make it three.

All of the popes I recollect (and that number is growing!) have been different in styles and all, perhaps excepting John Paul I have weathered some sort of critical situation.  All have managed to seriously annoy some quarter of the population, Catholic or otherwise.

We must either trust that the Holy Spirit knows what it's doing or we don't.

Pope Francis is the Pope.  So was Benedict.  They will or have done fantastic things and have or will probably commit some very human screw-ups.

We have a very limited part of the "Big Picture" available to us, due to our ages, backgrounds, linguistic limitations and prejudices of some sort or another.

I really think we need to remember that when we make comments about what this or that pope said or did. We must also remember how selective the media can be.  Pictures of Pope Francis doing this or that treat the situations as something novel.  Frequently all that is novel is that Pope Francis is doing them, but what is implied is that Pope Francis is doing something that Pope Benedict did not, such as hugging a handicapped person.

We must remember to be charitable and to remember that there are many things we do not know about what is going on with any Pope, and within the spiritual realm in which they spend so much of their time and energy.

We must be humble as they are humble.