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We have some major moral issues on the table that ethics cannot ignore. We pose them here in question form to allow each reader to arrive at his or her own conclusions, always guided by a well-formed conscience rather than what’s simply comfortable.
1. Is it moral to strip 24 million people of affordable healthcare?
2. The speculation is that the current government will defund Planned Parenthood for one year.
3. There are individuals in government who are seriously considering defunding Meals on Wheels. If that were to happen, 2.4 million senior citizens would lose the one healthy meal they eat.
4. In the Old Testament God delivered the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, and led them to a promised land where there were already people. In the New Testament, Jesus says, “I was a stranger and you took me in.” In both situations, the moral option being presented is openness to those who are seeking sanctuary.
5. Assisted suicide and direct euthanasia are legal in some countries and being considered in the United States. The argument is that persons whose quality of life fails to meet certain criteria are better off dead. Even atheists must ask themselves how can one ethically and morally support the taking of a life that is not a direct threat to our safety or that of our family?
If I had to face God’s judgement today, can I justify my position and my silence on any of these issues?
St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that he who sees sin and remains quiet is as guilty as the person committing the sinful act.
During Lent, many of us agonize over what we should sacrifice during this holy period in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Chocolate seems to be the most common “expiatory lamb.”
I’ve always wondered how giving up chocolate is a real penance. I realize that for some people, chocolate is addictive, as is smoking for others. But is the idea of penance to make ourselves miserable for misery’s sake or is the idea of penance to offer God something in atonement for our sins?
If we look at the Old Testament, David dressed in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of atonement and
was excoriated by Nathan. But it was a sign. His atonement included much more than making a fashion statement. David fasted. He dealt more justly with his people, especially those whom he had offended. He offered the animal sacrifice prescribed in the law. Above all, he prayed. Many of the psalms are the product of David’s intense life of penitential prayer. David has become the model penitential man for the Jewish and Christian people.
Another personality that jumps out at us as a model penitent is John the Baptist. The New Testament tells us that he came dressed in animal skins and ate bugs. Yuck! He preached conversion from sin. His fight against sin cost him his head when he pointed out that Herod was living in an adulterous relationship with his sister-in-law. David and John are still relevant penitent models.
David teaches us that atonement for sin goes beyond, “I’m sorry.” There are consequences that the responsibly contrite person must assume. This was the king who walked through his kingdom in sackcloth and ashes, dressed as a pauper instead of royal robes. This was the king who humbled himself before his people admitting that he had sinned against God and against man. He tried to do something to make it up to both God and man. David understood and taught that true penance must cost us something and that it should offer a gift to God and man; but it had to be a gift that came from the penitent’s heart, not from his wallet.
John, on the other hand, had no sin for which to atone. But he knew that many people around him needed to atone for sin. He did penance for those who didn’t do penance for themselves. Essential to a penitent life is to bear witness to the Truth. John proclaims,
“Behold the Lamb of God, and I must decrease so that he can increase.” By decreasing, John, like David before him, surrenders the glory that comes from attention and admiration and directs it to God.
Our life should be an on-going Lent. But during the Great Lent, 40 days before Easter, let us be truly sorry for our sins. David and John are our models of penance. We must present ourselves to the world, not in the best possible light, but as we really are, men and women who struggle with human weakness and sin, one hour at a time. True penance reaches out to those around us, especially those who are most in need of our compassion, the man and woman involved in abortion, the adolescent who is rebelling out of control, the neighbor who has lost a loved one, lost a job or is in deep financial crisis. The person whom we fear is also worthy of our love and prayer, especially those who engage in acts of terrorism, those who molest children, or those who abuse their spouses.
In our family, there is always the one person who is the thorn in the side. We must have the courage of
John and denounce his or her sin. But we must also have the humility of David and admit that we too are sinners. Finally, let us not forget to proclaim the Truth. God forgives and embraces a humble man. Humility is being who we are in the sight of God. Nothing else.
After mass this morning, I left thinking about the deacon’s homily. Before I go any further, this is not a criticism of the homily. As a matter-of-fact, the homily triggered the grey matter between my ears. The result is that I have found that I can build on the foundation that the deacon laid out this morning.
The Gospel has one line that struck me like Thor’s hammer, “your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’ (Mt 5:13). Today’s homily reminded us that the Christian vocation is to be a light for the world.
There are probably as many interpretations of the “light” imagery as there were people at mass. For each of us our interpretation may meet our spiritual needs. We must hang on to it.
However, we are not a Church of individuals. We are a Community of Shared Meaning. We believe in one set of absolute truths.
A light is that which illumines the darkness. St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of the spiritual masters in Church history, teaches us that man is in a constant state of tension between two angels, the angel of light and the angel of darkness. The angel of light leads us away from sin toward God. The angel of darkness leads us in the opposite direction.
If we apply what St. Ignatius teaches us to what Matthew the Evangelist quotes from the mouth of Jesus, it becomes clear that we are called to be the light of the world. But we can only be a light to the world when we choose to be led by the angel of light, not the angel of darkness.
The angel of light is the Angel of Truth. While the angel of darkness, is the Angel of Sin.
To be a light in the world, we must be very aware of what sin is and the natural consequences for those who follow the Angel of Sin. Sin is not a matter of personal feeling. It’s not even a matter of personal belief. I can’t say to God that I did this or that, because I believed it was the right thing to do, when God has clearly spoken through the scriptures, through the Fathers of the Church and Sacred Tradition and through the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church). That will not fly with God. We cannot justify ourselves because we disagree with God and believe that our opinion is better than His or that He always agrees with us. The man who is a true light of the world is the man who knowingly chooses to follow the Angel of Truth, even when truth is hard to swallow.
The man of darkness, is he who follows the Angel of Sin, because he has decided that his personal belief about what’s right and wrong trumps the truth that God revealed about right and wrong.
This morning the deacon said that we can choose to “feed the good wolf or the bad wolf.” For people who suffer from cynophobia (look it up), there is no such thing as a “good canine”. So, let’s use St. Ignatius, who said the same thing using language from the great Catholic mystics.
If you choose to do and to support truth that has been revealed by God through the Church, the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, you are a powerful light to those who care to look. People like St. Francis of Assisi were not small lights. Their fidelity to God’s moral law and to the Truth taught to us by God through the Church and Scripture turned them into bright stars that continue to shed light hundreds of years after their death.
To be a light, there is only one choice. Run away from sin.
This year we have heard much talk on women’s rights and women’s healthcare.
Unfortunately the natural and divine rights of women never form part of the discussion.
When God created woman using whatever method served the ultimate good of women, He instilled into natural law His divine plan for women. Believers and non-believers who are properly educated know of the existence of Natural Law. Human logic cannot deny the existence of Natural Law. Nothing that follows a fixed process is random. It submits to a series of laws that allow the process to repeat itself. These fixed processes are laws that exist independent of human will.
The first and most significant process is conception. Without conception, a species becomes extinct. The conception of a human being secures the continuity of humanity. The child that is conceived has a purpose, to secure the future of the human race. To fulfill his or her mission, the child must emerge from the womb into the greater world of man. Therefore he follows the logic.
A human being in the womb has a mission and a place in society. To fulfill that mission and fill in the place that only she can fill, because of her singularity, she must emerge from her mother’s womb. Therefore, we can logically conclude that a human being has the right to be born.
The right to be born is inseparable from a woman’s right to bear children. But a right that is a burden is not much of a right, unless we understand pregnancy as a burden. If pregnancy were a natural burden, how can it also be nature’s way of securing the continuity of the human race? Can we honestly say that the preservation of humanity is a burden imposed on the female of the human race? Such a conclusion is absurd to the extreme. The conception and birth of a child, under any circumstance and with whatever abilities or disabilities, is not a burden placed or imposed on women.
Conception and pregnancy is one right and at the same time a duty belonging to mother and child. Women who conceive have a right to carry a child to term. They also have a duty to protect the child’s right to be born. A child comes into the world to fulfill a mission, to occupy a place in society that no one else can occupy, and to secure the generativity of the human race.
Therefore, women have a natural right to be mothers. To shame them or frighten them to avoid motherhood is a heinous violation of a natural law that is given only to women. It is a covert form of mind control.
The right to motherhood must be protected by other rights: healthcare, education, safety, protection from abuse and exploitation, equal pay for equal work, and the right to extend herself to family, friends, public service, and to participate as an equal partner with men in business and governance.
For the sake of clarity, equal does not mean the same. A ten-year-old child has the same rights as her mother, but they are also very different. The ten-year-old only gets to exercise these rights when she has the physical, intellectual, and emotional ability to do so.
So too it is between men and women.. Each has the right to those life domains in the measure that he or she is able to do so. The measure of a woman’s ability to exercise other rights is never determined by her male counterpart. The measure to which a woman exercises her rights is dependent on her natural abilities. Neither women nor men can interfere with or deprive one of abilities endowed by nature and by nature’s Creator.
As we approach the inauguration of a new presidency and the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, I assume that many of our friends expect the Franciscans of Life to say something wise and uplifting. Try as I did, I was unable to come up with anything wise to say. Perhaps is the fact that I fell today and lacerated my forehead. Thank God that my cranium was not currently occupied. In any case, I can’t come up with some wise and profound comment to make. So, I’ll let my simple country logic do the talking.
Roe vs Wade must never be forgotten, not only because it made abortion a constitutional right in our country, but it did much more. It stripped the preborn human being of the right to be born. Roe vs Wade was one of the most selfish acts that the American people have ever perpetrated on its citizens.
Our Founding Fathers rebelled against a monarchy and parliament that was tyrannical, a king and government that had no respect for the basic human rights of its citizens on the western side of the Atlantic. As far as the English crown was concerned, the colonists and their descendants were to be silenced when it came to matters that affected their lives, the lives of their families and the future of the kingdom. We must say “kingdom”, because on July 3, 1776 there was no United States. There was simply the American colonies and territories of the English Kingdom.
But our forefathers changed all that. They fought and many gave their lives for the right to live, the right to have a voice about their lives, and the right to choose their future.
Hilary Clinton once said that the unborn CHILD has no constitutional rights. The issue on the table is not whether the being in the womb is a person, human being, child or other. The question has been settled. The being in the womb is a CHILD.
The laws of nature dictate that the child of two human beings cannot be a chimpanzee. He must be a human being, regardless of his parents’ faults and virtues.
Yet, this human being, who lives in our midst, is denied the right to be born.
We have dared to do the unimaginable. We have dared betray the memory of those who fought for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We betrayed their dream of a nation where people were given the right to live according to the graces endowed by their Creator, as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote.
We have misrepresented the mind of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In other words, we have hijacked the American dream.
Roe vs Wade limits the right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness to those who have the power and cold-heartedness to terminate the life of one who is weaker and defenseless.
Br. Jay, FFV
Video by youtube user on ultrasound of their 8-week baby.
See and hear baby’s heartbeat, watch the 1-inch baby wiggle,
and see description for link to video of 1st year birthday.
The Franciscans of Life have as part of their foundational charism “paying special attention to…the chronically and terminally ill and their families and caregivers”.
In particular, we are called to”bring Christ’s compassion to the sick, especially those whose lives are threatened by the culture of death. We believe that death with true dignity occurs when man dies at the time and in the manner determined by Providence, not by man. To accelerate death in the name of dignity is a distortion of the meaning of dignity. It takes away from man what God has given him, the capacity to share in redemptive love. […] To help families and healthcare providers choose life, the brothers will work for the creation of education programs on end of life issues that proclaim the moral law and teach that the sick and elderly are not a problem to be solved, but brothers and sisters to be loved.”
Yet, “Recognizing that we are simple men, we do not aspire to do great things, but to be faithful in the small things”, with the Church and in submission to the Local Ordinary and the Magisterium of the Holy Father. This of course implies that we collaborate closely with other groups. First and foremost, of course, with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami.
But we are also in fruitful exchange with other national and international groups that tackle the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
One of our friends, indeed one of the most outspoken and reputable groups against assisted suicide, is the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, headquartered in Canada. Their documentary “The Euthanasia Deception” is an eye-opener.
One of the traits of the Franciscan charism is the emphasis on “preaching and using words only when necessary” (a phrase attributed to St. Francis, but actually coming from the writings of Brother Thomas of Celano, his biographer). In general, Franciscans do not argue. Argument leads to division. Yet, instructing and correcting are some of the works of mercy that our Lord entrusted to his followers. Therefore the brothers’ formation includes an academic aspect, “without extinguishing the spirit of prayer”, as St. Francis wrote to St. Anthony of Padua. This formation implies that although the brothers may be men of silence, they are not rocks. And we know that sometimes it becomes necessary for rocks to cry out (cif. Luke 19:40).
Far be it for us to enter into a dispute with our esteemed friends of the EPC, or to argue with one of the world’s foremost critics of assisted suicide and utilitarian bioethics, Wesley Smith JD. Yet, this time we have to rise to the occasion for the sake of clarity and for the benefit of the voiceless.
Earlier this month, EPC featured an article from Dr. Smith titled “Removing life support is NOT euthanasia“. We must humbly observe that both the article and its title are incomplete and, unfortunately, problematic under several aspects.
First and foremost, the author zeroes in on a patient who wants to remove his ventilator and die for the sake of organ donation…thus falling into the fallacy of doing an evil to accomplish a good.
As the Catechism reminds us, “a good intention does not make intrinsically disordered behavior good. The end does not justify the means. A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself. It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.”
Beyond this point (which we will address again later), the fundamental premise of the article is flawed, namely that “we all have the right to refuse medical interventions even if it is likely to lead to death“. On the contrary, we know that there are certain medical interventions that we are morally obliged to seek and provide! To do otherwise would constitute euthanasia.
The author pointedly mentions that the patient’s wish to remove his ventilator and die “is his right”. We respectfully disagree: there is no such a”right to die”.
As one renowned pro-life apologist states on Catholic Answers, “a right is a moral claim, and we have no claim on death — death has a claim on us. Some people see the “right to die” as a parallel to the right to life, but this is based on faulty reasoning. The right to life is based on life being a gift we can neither destroy nor discard, whereas the “right to die” is based on the idea that life is a thing we possess and may discard when it no longer meets our satisfaction.The culture of death, which chants, “My body, my life, my choice” also chants—by the same logic—”My body, my death, my choice.”
By skipping over some critical issues regarding end-of-life care and life-support, the article fails to grasp the fact that removing life support is too often the most common (and most hidden!) form of euthanasia, even though it may happen in plain light and with the full support of “the law”, as in the well-known case of Terri Schiavo and the less-known (but much closer to us) case of the sister of our Founder and Superior (see here, and follow-up article here).
But let us go back to the issue at hand: the removal of life support.
Too often, life support measures such as feeding tube, water, and oxygen are defined in the medical paperwork as “extraordinary means to prolong life” (or, worse, “to prolong the natural dying process”). When their removal causes death, it is a form of euthanasia. One quite common in Florida.
Ask yourself the following question: can we ordinarily live without food and water?
Yet, patients (especially elderly patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices) are often asked if they want to “die a natural death” or “prolong the dying process through extraordinary means” (where food and water are defined as “extraordinary means to prolong life”!). The former (“die a natural death) appears to be the way to go, even for a well-formed Catholic…except that it actually gives the caretaker the ability to pull out your feeding tube and hydration. There is nothing natural in death by starvation and dehydration!
As St. John Paul II reminded us, Catholic bioethics and morality states that Artificial Nutrition and Hydration (ANH) “always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act”. This applies also and especially to persons in persistent vegetative state (PVS). The CDF clarified that the only three moral exceptions are “(1) when ANH would be impossible to provide; (2) when a patient may be unable to assimilate food and liquids; and (3) when ANH may be excessively burdensome for the patient or may cause significant physical discomfort”.
The National Catholic Bioethics Center reminds us that “We should provide food and water, even by [alternative] means, to all who are in need of them and can physiologically benefit from them. There are various means of providing nutrition and hydration, some of which are more invasive than others. The least invasive means of providing food and water should be used. The more burdensome to the patient a particular intervention, the less likely it is to be morally obligatory. In principle, the provision of nutrition and hydration by artificial means does not differ in its moral dimension from the provision of food and water by fork and cup. Both constitute ordinary means of preserving life. The fact that someone is in a state of unconsciousness and is not expected to recover [does not justify] depriving that person of food and water. If the provision of food and water proves to be useless (if they are not being assimilated by the body) or if it causes serious complications (aspiration pneumonia, infections, etc.), it can be stopped. ”
In short: “Whenever a recommendation is made not to provide food and water, one question to ask is “What will be the cause of death?” If the answer is dehydration and starvation, and artificial nutrition and hydration can be easily supplied and assimilated, then not supplying them is a form of euthanasia.”
The Catholic Medical Association also agrees that “discontinuing nutrition and hydration for a patient who is not imminently dying violates in its intention the distinction between ‘causing death’ and ‘allowing death.’”
Now let’s go back to the ventilator issue addressed in the article. A ventilator is a machine for artificial respiration.
Can we ordinarily live without oxygen?
Neuroscientist Fr. Pacholczyk, Ph.D. (National Catholic Bioethics Center) explains that “ordinarily, a ventilator offers a reasonable hope of benefit for the patient that can be obtained and used without excessive pain, expense, or other significant burden. Ordinary implies a moral obligation.”
However “if the patient’s condition is worsening with the nearly certain outcome that he will die in a few hours or days, then ventilation would be “extraordinary”, assuming all end-of-life matters have been taken care of. It may be decided that the use of a ventilator becomes extraordinary or disproportionate because it no longer achieves its perceived outcome. Withdrawing the ventilator would not be an act of euthanasia, because the patient would be dying due to the underlying condition. Yet, occasionally, ventilators may end up being part of a long-term solution.”
It is unclear from Dr. Smith’s article whether the patient who generously wishes to donate his organs is in a position to request in good conscience the removal of his ventilator. We are only told that the patient is “dying of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)”, which can have multiple interpretations. One of the question on the table (and our friends at the National Catholic Bioethics Center are much more qualified to answer it) is whether, upon removal of the ventilator, the patient would die as a result of the ALS (allowing death) or as a result of suffocation (causing death). Another question is whether the ventilator is excessively burdensome on the patient. In any case, the bottom line is the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means of supporting life. Sorry, it is not as simple as “it’s his right” to remove the ventilator; nobody has an a priori right to die.
We could address DNR, dialysis, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, invasive surgery, heart-lung resuscitation, and antibiotics, and when they may be judged morally extraordinary or disproportionate. But this is beyond the scope of this article.
We do hope that we have clarified the main topic: more often than not, removing life support IS euthanasia, when we look carefully at the whole picture. Only then we realize that most of the time such life support is ordinary, beneficial…and morally binding.
For those who wish to learn more, the Franciscans of Life are always available to provide more information. You can touch base with us here. You may also want to learn more about Living Will and Advanced Medical Directives that can protect you and your loved ones from the dangers of “hidden euthanasia”. The page of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FLACCB) provides them in English and Spanish. Again, we are here to point you in the right direction, whether you are a patient, a family member, an inquirer, or a healthcare practitioner, physician, or nurse.
Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life.
Please note: the contents of this article do not constitute medical or legal advice. When it comes to end-of-life decisions, you should consult with your pro-life physician, spiritual director, confessor, chaplain, or another highly qualified authority such as the experts of the National Catholic Bioethics Center by calling their 24/7 hotline (215) 877-2660 (select Option 4 if urgent) or by submitting an online request.
Br. Bernardo, FFV
Dear Friends and family:
Happy New Year! I trust that everyone is reaping in the graces of the Christmas season. It’s hard to believe that we just celebrated Christmas and New Year’s. In my mind, it’s still summer. I guess that’s what happens when you live in South Florida, there are no seasons.
Once more we must appeal to our friends for financial help. We have a number of bills to pay and we’re short. We have tuition due, rent, medical insurance premium, telephone and electric, as well as lots of medications.
We’re trying to help a few families of immigrants who have very low income and at least one person who is sick and disabled. We do the best we can to get enough money together each month to help them. When one family no longer needs us, we find another. Part of our mission is to help the immigrant poor who do not have access to public funds. This places them among the voiceless in our society.
Won’t you help us with whatever you can afford? You can go to our website and use PayPal or throw a check in the mail to Franciscans of Life. Our web page is http://franciscansoflife.org .
Franciscans of Life
9461 Palm Circle South
Pembroke Pines, FL 33025
Thank you for being there for us and the voiceless whom we serve.
Brother Jay, Superior
Happy New Year to all our relatives, friends and benefactors.
Christmas week was a very active one for us. On December 23rd, Brother Jay and Brother Bernardo flew into Virginia to spend Christmas with Katherine Marie Therese, Brother Jay’s brand new granddaughter. It was her first Christmas. But there was much more to it. We’ll get to that shortly.
December 24th family came in from Pensacola, FL, Pembroke Pines, FL, and Bloomington, IL. The house was filled with joy, conversation, a lot of picture taking and a fantastic dinner.
Daniel, Brother Jay’s son-in-law, cooked the main course, a roast pork shoulder. No one knew Daniel was such a great cook. Our waistlines, the next day, proved that Daniel cooks very well. Let’s put it this way, on the trip home, Brother jay could not move once he opened the tray-table in front of him on the airplane.
To be perfectly transparent, if one can be transparent with such girth, the airline industry is determined to influence relationships between people who don’t know each other. The seats are so close to each other that no one with a waist over 40” can get to the window seat. There is no way to squeeze in between the three seats in your row and those in front of you, unless you breath and hold it as you navigate in a tight space. If you try to do this after eating several holiday meals, you can forget it. You may as well pay a little extra for a seat in the bulkhead section, preferably a loveseat. But let’s get back to Christmas Eve.
Unfortunately, we were unable to attend Midnight Mass, because the local parish did not have one this year. The closest Midnight Mass was about thirty minutes away, which is a rough trip for a two-month old little girl, in the middle of a cold December night. Since we couldn’t travel that far, we sat around and talked, teased each other and I believe that one or two of us may have dozed off for a few minutes, after such a large and delicious meal.
Earlier that day, Daniel’s mother and Brother Jay engaged in a conversation about a liquor that the Carthusian hermits have been making for hundreds of years. The more they talked about it, the more enthusiastic they became about finding it. Thank God for Google. The first problem was identifying the name of the liquor. Brother Jay is a “master googler”. We found the name of the liquor, Chartreux, named after the Charterhouse where the hermits have lived for about 1,000 years.
The next step was to find out where we could purchase a bottle of it to go with the Christmas meal. Once again, Google came to the rescue and the liquor was found and purchased. Did I mention that it smells and tastes like cough medicine? Originally, the Carthusian hermits made this liquor for medicinal purposes. It’s no surprise that it smells like cough medicine without the artificial cherry flavor. Let’s put it this way. The stuff smells and tastes so awful that an ounce is about all you can drink in one evening. I don’t mean one sitting. I mean a full evening. The positive here is that you’re literally indulging in Catholic spirits that have been around for about 800 years. If you’re looking to make contact with your Catholic roots and traditions, here is a drink that you can use as an aperitif or as a cure for any disease imaginable.
Opening the gifts under the Christmas tree was a beautiful experience. You have picture some 15 people in a small living room with room for a sofa, a chair and a Christmas tree. There is no more floor space. The little floor space that used to be available is now occupied by baby Katherine’s play mat, chair and some other contraptions. If you’re not careful, you can trip on a piece of infant equipment and find yourself sitting in an infant carrier.
In any case the gifts were distributed and opened. The beauty of the event was that there were no “over the top” gifts, no electronic gadgets (other than a book light for Brother Jay) and there were many books given as gifts. Each gift was purchased with the intention of enriching the life of the next person, as the infant in the manger enriched the lives of the shepherds and peasants in the surrounding pastures.
These are true Christmas gifts. It’s not a show of opulence; nor is it an attempt to impress the recipient with one’s FANTASTIC present. It was a sharing of gifts that have meaning that we share and that enrich the life of the recipient, because the giver has been enriched by it first. You’re not just sharing a thing, you passing on a positive experience in your life.
On December 25th, everyone met up at the local parish for Christmas Day mass. It was a great experience. We were all filled with the same awe as the shepherds in Bethlehem the morning of Our Lord’s birth. That’s one of the wonderful things that happens when you have a family where everyone is a practicing Catholic and well catechized. The mystery of the Eucharist, especially on a solemnity such as Christmas, moves you as an individual and as a family. In this way, the entire family travels down the path to redemption following Mary, the star that leads to Incarnate Son of the Father.
Then came December 27th. This was the day that Baby Katherine was to be baptized, her godparents being her paternal uncle and auntie. This time, family members came not only from the cities that we mentioned above, but more family arrived. Some drove all the way from Miami. Others took a five-hour bus ride to be there. There were cousins who live in New York and other relatives from Virginia, and there were the brothers, the Franciscans of Life. There were also childhood friends who are now married and parents themselves. They took the time off from work to participate in the baptism.
Three generations of family from her father’s side and three from her mother’s side, plus long-term friends, were present to welcome Katherine into the Church and to formally name her, Katherine Marie Therese. She is now a Catholic along with her family and friends. For this we are grateful to God. Passing down the faith to the next generation is always a memorable event when those present are more than spectators. They are men and women of faith opening the door for a loved one to enter into a deeper communion with the family and with Christ, through the waters of Baptism.
It was finally time to go home. But Brother Bernardo couldn’t find his wristwatch. He decided to take a look behind the sleeper sofa, not knowing that the sofa is alive. The bed started to close and swallow him up.
Thankfully, the sofa spit him out and the brothers returned to the Motherhouse, exhausted, elated, enriched and in one piece. It’s going to be a great year. The best part is that it’s not an election year. NO MORE CAMPAIGNS!!!!! YEY!!!!!
Normally, I prefer not to comment on the politics around me. I’m not indifferent to right and wrong. I’m indifferent to people who like to argue instead of engaging in a dialogue that arrives at some constructive conclusion. I’m afraid that this Christmas is being marred by so much hatred that it would be irresponsible for any Franciscan not to say something and continue to refer to himself as a man of peace.
On the national front, we have hate speech, conspiracy theories and a great deal of anger concerning the results of the elections. The fact is that no matter who won the election, there is no way that we would not be facing an uphill battle against sin and oppression of the voiceless, be they the preborn person or the immigrant and many others. We do not achieve peace by exacerbating conflict, by throwing fuel into the fire.
We achieve peace first and foremost through prayer. A man or woman who prays cultivates interior silence. He who cultivates interior silence opens an interior space where he can hear his brothers and sisters. The soul has many chambers. There is also another chamber where we find true Wisdom. In there, as well, one must be silent to hear the Word. It is the living Word that gives us the peace that the world cannot give, but that we can share with the world.
This is discernment through contemplation. It leads to answers that are appropriate for today’s concerns. Without proper discernment and contemplation, we run the risk of providing our own answers to the problems of today. So far, our answers have not taken us very far along the road to peace, interior and social peace.
There are Catholics who believe that they must provoke the Pope and the bishops until they bend or explode. Whether the Pope and the bishops bend to a certain point of view or they lash out in anger and frustration, the fact remains that the Church does not win. I’m not referring to the Mystical Body. The Mystical Body is holy. The Bride of Christ cannot be seduced to compromise with culture or to erupt in anger after being insulted and pushed around.
Those of us who make up the Body of Christ have not risen above our mortal nature. Shouting insults at the pope and bishops, calling the pope a heretic and a Communist leaves greater scars in the minds and hearts of the faithful who read the blogosphere and listen to the podcasterium of our time. Others who are not Catholic are looking at us and wondering, why in the world would they believe that we have the fullness of Truth, when we fail to give witness to charity, respect and humility. Where is the prize to be won by such aggressive behavior?
There are many serious questions on the table that we pray the Holy Father will address, for the sake of clarity. I believe that he is not a heretic and that it is not his intention to mislead the faithful and distort the faith. We hope and pray that he shed some light on the questions on the table.
It is equally important that the faithful: lay, clergy and religious, not take it upon ourselves to speak out as if we were a newly instituted magisterium. That’s giving in to the devil’s temptation to sow the seeds that divide rather than unite.
With terrorism surrounding us and taking innocent lives, is it necessary for Catholics and Americans to raise the level of anxiety with so much rhetoric that solves nothing and provokes every sin against virtue?