Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another child I failed; another name offered

Baby Name:  Ashley

Gesture:  I will pray for the child, the young mother, and the young mother's mother; and if ever I find myself in a similar situation, I will ask God for the strength to OPEN MY MOUTH and speak up in defense of a helpless life.

Story:  Once I overheard a woman in a public place berating her daughter over the cellphone; loudly ordering her to "get in the car right now" with some other relatives to go and get an abortion.  She must have seen my expression change in reaction to her "conversation," which went on for several minutes; she also must have misinterpreted it completely--or I suppose I may just have a somehow very sympathetic face--because, once she ended the call, she turned to me and began the kind of "kids today!" sympathy-complaining that mothers often do with each other in public when they have a "shared moment" of "child exasperation."  I am ashamed to say that I was almost literally tongue-tied; I could do nothing but play the role the woman wanted me to play:  sympathetic ear.  This, as she went on with her exasperated (but weirdly congenial) rant about her daughter "getting in trouble" and how she had "raised my children; I'm not gonna take care of another one!"  I said nothing, as that woman justified the murder of her own grandchild to a perfect stranger. 

Why did I say nothing?  Why did I nod as if in sympathy and give that woman a listening ear for this generational insanity?  I don't know.  I also don't know if the young woman (her daughter) had the strength, ultimately, to say no to her mother's (and other family members') pressure to end the life of her child.  I'll never know.  But in honor of that child I did not even try to defend, I offer this name. 

Because this was (is?!) a specific child whose life I actually encountered, and I have no way of knowing whether it was a boy or a girl, I offer a name that suits either.  The ash tree grows straight and tall, and is an emblem of strength.  In the Bible, the ash tree that Abraham plants grows against all odds to be mightier than any other, and there he "called upon the name of the Lord."  Ashley means "a clearing near an ash tree."  I wish that child peace, and strength, and a relationship with the Lord.  I offer a sunlit meadow, near the strong and mighty ash tree; a place to call upon the name of the Lord. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

More on e-slavery. . .

I absolutely love this Chesterton quote:

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." 

DO something REAL, right NOW.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Took my breath away. . .

I've been trying to school myself NOT to read comments on the internet.  They are a giant waste of time, and usually nothing but a bunch of people (self included) all thinking they know better than anybody else, and getting all het up for no reason, because who's going to listen to some random person in an internet comment?

But I got sucked in to the comments at the bottom of this (very nice, by the way) post on

"There are only 18 comments" (I said to myself, which was true at that time anyway), so I (just call me " 'satiable curtiosity" Abeille) scrolled down to peek. . .

And buried there, right in the middle:  the most eloquent testimony against IVF I've ever read.  It took my breath, it brought tears, it made me stop and pray right there.  I don't know the web etiquette of sharing such a thing, but it needs to be shared (so forgive me, Matt K, if I transgress in this):

#9  Matthew K - New Braunfels, Texas
I understand your feelings. My wife and I were deemed "infertile" by various doctors after 3 years of trying to conceive. So my wife and I tried doing fertility treatments, both intrauterine insemination and IVF for 2 years. Of course, this was before I dug deeper into our Catholic faith.

At the time I didn't think it was immoral because I thought I was "being open to life", but during and after every treatment I could feel guilt buildup inside of me based on a sense of selfishness. Also knowing that a doctor was the one "inseminating" my wife or making an embryo in a test tube made me feel like an outsider who was not contributing to the end result. It just felt gross and almost adulterous. That is not true selfless love.

After the IVF process of creating the embryos, the better term should be children, we were asked do how many to place inside the uterus and if we wanted them to be boys or girls. This is totally taking God out of the picture. Then after taking 2 out of the 6 children that we had and placing them inside my wife we finally had a beautiful baby boy growing and delivered 9 months later, but we had to tell the doctors what to do with the rest of our children. They gave us four options: 1) discard them 2) donate them for adoption 3) freeze them in a cryogenic state, like a bad action movie and 4) donate them to science. We chose to freeze them, but none of them survived the process. So I killed 4 of my children, which I think about at least once a week at mass when my son is with me.

The funny thing is two years after my sons birth, my wife and I conceived naturally and now have a cute baby girl.

So the bottom line is no one knows what God will give us, but if we force the issue with out God's morals we will have to live with a life of regret and sorrow.

Please pray for the souls of my 4 children that I threw away like paper plates.

September 5, 2014 at 9:02 am PST

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Casualties of the Device Age, by Thomas M. Doran (shared from Catholic World Report)

More thoughts on the accumulating costs of cellphones/wireless technology: 

Isn't it, even more, like:  "“I possess a device in my pocket that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of [myself] and [amuse {MYSELF}].”   ?  These devices which are promised and promoted as things to "connect" are in fact creating greater and greater DISCONNECTION and self-absorption.  I see parents neglecting their children, couples neglecting each other on a date, friends neglecting their friends who are RIGHT THERE, deserving of actual ATTENTION; instead being sucked into a screen and losing that opportunity--a precious moment to truly BE WITH someone; which you never know how often may be repeated, or NOT.  If you knew this was the last time you would get to spend with the person you are with, would you really want to spend that moment checking your facebook feed?  Rarely do we get the gift of knowing "this is the last time I will be with this person in life."  But any time COULD be that time.  Priorities, people.  This is the strongest reason why I do NOT have a cellphone.  If I am spending time with you somewhere, nobody else is going to steal that time--or my attention--from you.  At least not by "remote control," or as easily as pressing a button.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I named a baby today. . .

The "50 Million Names" project honors the (now creeping up toward 60 million) people who never got a chance to grace our planet; who never got a chance to even be recognized with so much as a name.

Check it out:

Here's the name I offered:  Christopher Lark

The project requires that you perform a "gesture" in honor of the child you offer to name.

Gesture:  I will sing a Psalm outside in natural surroundings for this little one, who never got to sing (at least, not here on Earth).

The project encourages you to share a story behind the name, so here's mine:


I offer up this name for the little one whose death I had a part in, thirty years ago, when I gave a friend a ride to an abortion clinic.  Because I don't know whether that child was a boy or a girl, I hesitated, trying to find a name that would suit.  Then I remembered a student I had a few years ago, whose name was Christopher. SHE was a stunningly lovely young woman, vibrant, bright, and really going places.  Immediately I thought, that is the perfect name, because if this child was a boy, Christopher is a beautiful strong name.  If a girl, she could wear this beautiful strong name with the same vibrancy and aplomb as the female Christopher I knew.  And, with the meaning "Christ bearer," it seems appropriate for an innocent child who offered up his or her life in violent death, in perfect reflection of Our Lord.

"Lark" is because, again, it seems it will do for either a boy or girl, and larks are known for their joyous songs as they fly up toward heaven.  A little "soupy," I know, but so there.

God receive you with joy and song, Christopher Lark.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chik-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, and the Lions

Dear Cathy Family and Green Family;

On this occasion of Mr. Cathy’s death, I offer my condolences to his family, adding my voice to, I’m sure, millions of others.  My favorite “Truett Moment” was his graduation address at a university where I used to teach.  He stood up, regarded all solemnly, then firmly stated, “Eat more chicken!” and sat back down.  It was hilarious; everybody laughed, and all were greatly relieved, considering that it was outside, the temperature was climbing into the 90’s, everybody was wearing black robes over layers of other clothing, and had his remarks been even one minute longer, there would have been a real risk of heat stroke for some by the end of the ceremony. I suspect he might have had something more substantive to say, had the circumstances permitted, but as it was, his light-hearted “address” was a great kindness, much appreciated, and fondly remembered.

But I write, also, to offer something more, to ponder in your hearts as we go forward in a world without Mr. Cathy’s integrity, kindness, and good humor in it.

I must admit up front that I almost never eat fast food, so it isn’t out of worry that I’ll miss my quick chicken that I write.  I’m also not a big crafter (although in wistful moments I often wish I were).  Nevertheless, your two business establishments, Chik-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby, are of vital importance to me.  The reason is twofold. 

First, whether we like it or not, our culture is absolutely inundated with the affairs of public figures.  We take them as role models, we take their words as information, we take their actions as exemplars.  While Christians ought to take Our Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate role model, and that should be enough, in fact we have been conditioned to “look around” rather than “up” for our models, and therefore, even while we strive to center our focus properly, it helps immensely to have public figures who model that very behavior.

Second, in this culture of ease, the history of which has been (until recently) entirely without repression or persecution of Christians of any kind, we as Christians are timid.  We’ve never had to defend the faith, and as a result, most of us, even now when it is so obviously under vigorous attack, are still “looking around” trying to figure out what’s going on.  We certainly “don’t want to offend anybody,” and now we’re being told that in fact, our faith is an offense, and, not expecting that, we are unprepared to respond.  Here again, watching someone respond, with clarity, with charity, but with firmness, is invaluable to us.  We must have such models, because it’s only going to get worse.

On that subject:  I certainly do not wish to be a “prophet of doom and gloom,” but it seems clear to me that the dominoes are falling and the boulder is rolling in such a direction that Christians will increasingly be under that juggernaut (to thoroughly mix my metaphors). 

We may not like to think about it (and many contemporary Christians may not even really be aware of it, accustomed as we are to being part of a culture that was founded on Christian principles), but the first explosion of Christianity was accomplished through martyrdom.  The spread of Christianity throughout the Western world was facilitated, was in fact effected by, the spectacle of the public deaths of the first generations of Christians; by, most importantly, the way they died.  Witnessing these people being martyred, countless others were struck by the fact that something important was happening in and through these people.

Okay, so we know basically about the early Christian martyrs; we have a general idea of their “martyrdom.”  That’s such a clean word, though, and even noble-sounding, so let’s be explicit for a moment. 

The first generations of Christians weren’t just cleanly put to death for refusing to deny their faith; for insisting upon living their faith (this notion will become increasingly important as we are increasingly pressured to keep our faith firmly “in the church [meaning, the physical building] or in your private home” but somehow, essentially, be somebody else when we are out in public).   The price, for the early Christians, for living their faith, for practicing their religion (which always, in a true religion anyway, includes far more than just attendance of worship services and private practices at home), was to be relentlessly persecuted and heinously murdered, in the wildest array of the most creatively horrifying deaths that the corrupt and debauched Roman Emperors could devise.  They were torn apart by starved wild animals, hacked to pieces by trained gladiators, crucified and stoned, lashed to wooden poles covered with pitch and burned as torches to illuminate the garden parties of the elite.  Men, women, and children.  Neighbors saw their neighbors marched off and hung on crosses to suffocate to death as an amusement, with the crowds betting on who would expire first.  Mothers watched their children mauled and eaten by lions.  Men witnessed their wives butchered more savagely than any animal. 

I don’t anticipate these particular kinds of things happening to us—if for no other reason than “it’s been done” (yawn)—but it’s a definite possibility that we may be given the ultimatum, not “your faith or your life,” precisely (at least, I think not very soon), but certainly, “your faith or your LIVELIHOOD.”  In our culture, material wealth has been raised to such an idol that “jobs” outrank everything—every other possible consideration, including the health, and indeed the very survival, of our children.  The opponents of Christianity therefore seek to “hit us where it hurts.”  It is therefore essential for us to have strong models, as your two businesses have been, to show that there are more important things than accumulating wealth.  That how you do business is more important than the degree of worldly success you achieve in it.

Indeed, so far, I think both of your businesses have been shining examples of the fact that Christian ethics need not preclude worldly success.  That’s lovely.  However, it may not always be the case.  Again, not to be a “prophet of doom and gloom,” but here is the ultimate purpose of this letter:  the strongest possible ENCOURAGEMENT, that, if it should come to the point that you must choose, if it should come to the point that they find a way to force you to choose, between “your faith or your life” (your livelihood, the “life” of your company, you might say), you will be willing to continue to provide the strong example you have done so far.

The Christians in the cells awaiting death in the arena, the Christians being lashed to the torches, the Christians hanging on the crosses before the jeering crowds for their amusement, went to their deaths singing praises to God and to their Savior Jesus Christ.  Should you ever be forced to close your doors, I exhort you to close them SINGING.

Today, I intend to go to Hobby Lobby and buy the fabric we need to recover some furniture in our home.  Until this morning, I had been thinking “I need to go to the fabric store. . .“  No more.  I realized that I need to consider, every time I need something for my home, whether it can be bought at Hobby Lobby.  Even though they may not have as wide a selection of upholstery fabric there as at the specialty store, I will buy this fabric at Hobby Lobby.  On my way home, I will drive through Chik-Fil-A and buy a  lemonade (I can’t eat your chicken, Mr. Cathy, but I LOVE that you have REAL lemonade!).  As I wait in the drive-through, I will sing Psalm 67, in honor of you and your congenially courageous stand for the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

Thank you for your examples.  May God give your companies the fortitude to persist in providing such role models of integrity and faith.  And may God give me the strength, when it is my turn to face the lions in front of the crowd, to sing to my Lord, as you have.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Lost his faith" : Saint Richard Dawkins, Saint Christopher Hitchens, Saint Sam Harris. . . ?

“. . . lost his faith. . .”

Faith. . .wasn’t something kept in the pocket that could fall through a hole.  It was a burning chain about the heart.  Sometimes the only way to endure it was to deny it was there at all.

Veronica Black, from  Vow of Sanctity

It has long seemed to me that the "new" outspoken atheists "protest too much."  Why, I wondered, would it offend you for somebody else to believe in something you really don't believe in at all?  For example, it doesn't offend me if somebody mentions the Easter Bunny.  It doesn't offend me if somebody wishes me a Happy Kwanzaa.  It doesn't offend me if somebody asks me what my astrological sign is.  It's either amusing, or a nice congenial thing to say, or maybe just silly--but it's definitely not offensive.  I have no desire to sue stores to prevent their putting up pictures of rabbits and eggs in the spring, or to take legal action to remove references to the constellation Taurus from public documents; nor do I feel the need to fuss at people who wish me Happy St. Patrick's Day and explain in detail how and why I am not Irish and how they should keep their offensive Irishness to themselves, because "not everybody is Irish, you know!" and then go into an extended harangue about the moral and political wrongs throughout Irish history, the harmfulness of Irish culture as an insidious influence throughout the world, and personal examples of Irish people that have caused annoyance and trauma in my life.
So I've long thought that the "angry atheists" (and let's face it, there's obvious anger there, you hardly have to scratch at all to let it out--often it just bursts out on its own whenever they get on a roll) are in fact angry at something (indeed, Somebody), and that, therefore, the truth is that they are not a-theists, because you can hardly be angry with somebody that does not exist.  

But stumbling across this quote in an otherwise fairly innocuous (but fun) light mystery series gave me some serious food for thought.  What if these guys aren't just "angry with God," but actually, in some sense, afflicted by faith?  What if these are people who in fact have such unendurably strong connections with their Creator that, existing as they have unfortunately done in a modern context that provides little or no support for that, they just can't stand it, and must therefore deny it--vigorously, vociferously, even violently--merely to defend their sanity?

If so, this is a great failure of the Church to support these men (odd that they do mostly seem to be men, yes?--probably also not unimportant).  If so, Dawkins and Hitchens et al. may in fact be GREAT SAINTS in the making, if only we could assist them in shouldering the weight of glory apportioned to them.  

Any ideas how we could help these afflicted future saints in taking up their respective crosses?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Is there shame?

I heard on the radio a while back someone promoting a book about poverty, arguing that the standards that determine the poverty level have to do with whether you have enough to buy potatoes and really should be changed to include more “social” than “survival” criteria.  The author quoted Adam Smith saying that, in his day, a man “would be ashamed to be seen in public without a linen shirt,” but noting that even the Roman emperors would not have had such a thing; and the author went on then to say that our current standards of poverty should ask questions like, “would you be ashamed to be seen in public—“ at which point my attention dissolved in complete wonder on a question that I’ve pondered many times in the past decade or so—IS there even shame anymore?  Is there ANYthing that our culture would actually consider “shameful,” or that would make somebody feel “shamed” or “ashamed?” 

I mean, I expect that individual people might feel ashamed about certain very personal things—many women, for example, are ashamed of various aspects of their bodies (generally, they feel that parts or all of their bodies are “too fat,” and want to hide these things, or their entire bodies, if and when they can), but something external to you, that you could buy and wear or have with you, or not have with you—or even a BEHAVIOR you might engage in, in public—is there anything, really, anymore, in the U.S., that could be said would (or SHOULD) make somebody feel ashamed—or even just EMBARRASSED?

The author on the radio seemed to be implying that people would be ashamed if they didn’t have a cellphone, or some kind of paid TV plan.  I (shamelessly!) don’t have either of those, but I’ll admit I’m on the fringe there.  Would other people, though, really be ASHAMED if they didn’t have a cellphone, or cable (or other expensive) TV?  Or would they just feel deprived of something they wanted; would they just feel ENVIOUS of others who had those things?  Shame is definitely NOT the same thing as envy. . .

I saw a woman last winter while I was out shopping.  She was waiting at a counter to buy something, a fully grown adult woman mind you, wearing footie pyjamas.  Bright royal blue, with bright cutesy designs on them.  Not a snow suit.  Fleece footie pyjamas.  Maybe that was the warmest thing she had to wear on quite a cold day.  But I would have been crippled with embarrassment, had somebody (or the situation) forced me to go out in public and try to function in such a get-up.  She seemed utterly comfortable; just hangin’ out at the counter waiting for her turn.

My question to you, dear reader:  IS there shame in our culture today, or have we killed it?  If we have, is that okay?  Or would it be better for that woman to be embarrassed, out in public in her footie jammies, if that also meant that our culture’s boundaries of acceptable behavior on other fronts could be more tightly drawn than they are today?

IS there shame?  If not, do you miss it?  If so, are you a fan of it?    

Here's another take on the topic of shamelessness: