July 4, 2017 § 1 Comment
I somewhat hesitated sharing this video. Watch it first, if you are interested and want to avoid “spoilers”.
So you watched it?
Are you sure you don’t care about spoilers?
Ok – you have only yourself to blame at this point.
I loved this video. From the lady using confession to gossip about her snotty neighbor the the anguish of the priest when he realized that the penitent before him was the man who killed his father. And I get that he was lifting a burden by lying. But he was lying. I don’t think it was necessary for the story and there were other ways that it could have been dealt with.
When I considered sharing the video I hesitated. Do I really want to share this with such a problematic bit in the ending? It is human nature to pick these sorts of things apart and blow them up far past what the deserve. But in the end this video has several qualities that I think make it worthwhile.
First: the priest is just a guy — who at that moment is acting as God’s active conduit of mercy and love. It is a struggle for him, he does it (arguably) badly, but he does it. I think it is valuable for us to keep in mind that our priests are men, men who love and hate and weep and laugh. Media has a tendency to often either idolize priests or debase them. This video does neither.
Second: the penitent really needs confession and illustrates the need for confession. It is one of those common “Ask a Catholic Questions”: “Why do I need to confess to a priest, I can just confess to God.” Sure you can, but when you are heart torn and painfully aware of the magnitude of your sin, when you question the very possibility of redemption then you need to hear in the physical world the comfort of absolution. The penitent could have prayed for forgiveness a thousand times, but until he heard the words he would never be able to start letting go of the sin and the despair that accompanies it. One of Satan’s most successful lies is the idea that you don’t need to speak your sin to anyone but God. I chains us in despair and prevents us from acting forward in mercy and forgiveness.
Now for the problematic part.
We can look at the idea of lying to the penitent in a few ways. One rather artistic idea from the comments on the video was that our sins are washed away in confession to the point that in the eyes of God they never happen – so in a certain sense the priest’s father wasn’t killed by the penitent. But that is really an Obi Wan “certain point of view” moment and not really satisfactory.
We could also attempt to view it as just an act of Mercy. The priest lied to comfort a dying man There is no denying that the man who is relieved of this burden feels immense joy, but the joy was based on a lie. At the very end the priest even postulates that it might be worse that he lied as a priest. In the end if the priest had maintained honesty, forgiven the penitent both in the sacramental and in his own heart and had communicated that to the penitent we could have had a very powerful ending. Not the joy that the penitent shows, but a something based on reality and truth.
So in the end I decided to share this, not because it is perfect, but because its imperfections make me think and make for a good conversation. Is a lie ever worthwhile? If this is not such a case what would have been better and what would have looked like? How would Christ have approached this differently?
June 4, 2009 § 2 Comments
This is the second part of this post. The first part is here.
Raising Prolife Children
Our children live in a world that is often hostile to Catholic teaching and moral thought. While roughly half the people in this country are at least nominally “pro-life” the media and especially the cultural and educational institutions of this country tend very much to the “pro-choice” side. One of the jobs of Catholic parent’s is to equip our children to go out into the world and be able to defend their faith.The earlier we start preparing our children for this the better.
The early years – Where do babies come from?
What is the first thing you can do to help your child become firmly prolife? Save your child’s ultrasound picture. Fetal development is the first and best tool in the pro-life arsenal. While your child is still a preschooler you can teach them the very basics of “babies”.
- Follow a real pregnancy week by week. – It is most helpful if you can connect this information to a baby they will know. When a sibling is expected, or a cousin or a friend’s baby – as long as they will see the pregnancy develop and the baby grow. A child who follows a pregnancy like this is forever connected to the idea that babies begin growing in their “mommy’s tummy” and that this growth process is an uninterrupted line through childhood. When I am expecting we have used common objects like raisins, apple seeds or pin heads about the baby’s size. Never, ever avoid the reality of pregnancy – no storks or cabbage patches. Babies don’t suddenly appear at the hospital to be brought home.
- You can use real pictures of fetal development from the internet to learn about the growth of the unborn child. Talk about the pictures, even the weird looking little fetus with arm buds and tails and remind the children often that all people, even they, went through these stages too. My children have found it amazingly wonderful that once upon a time they had a tail. Show them the picture from their ultra-sound, “this was you when you were in my tummy.” Nothing is more powerful than connecting with the unborn child they once were.
- Read books about developing babies. There are many good options, Angel in the Waters which tells the story of a baby and the baby’s guardian angel and is particularly Catholic, but there are more options. Checking out the local library is likely to yield a ton of results that you will find appropriate.
- Pray for babies yet to be born and the mommies and daddies and families waiting for them. You know you are praying for all those women this very day facing an unexpected and alarming pregnancy, those women struggling with the decision to abort or not; your children know that they are praying for all mommies to be happy and healthy while their little, tiny babies grow inside.
As children grow
Growing up in a family committed to the culture of life one of the strongest witness any child could have for the rightness of the pro-life movement. All too often the arguments for the “pro-choice” stance are actually arguments against false characterizations of those who are pro-life. The claim is un-apologetically laid that those who are against legalized, uncontrolled and elective abortion are only concerned about the welfare of the unborn at the expense of all others. This spurious argument is easily bared to be the lie it is when one looks at the lives of most pro-life proponents. We need to live as part of the culture of life.
- Offer help for mother’s in need. Support your local crisis pregnancy center. Donate toys, clothing, diaper… what ever they need. Include your children in these activist. Take part (or organize) parish fund-raising for pro-life causes, both the alternatives to abortion locally and help for the poor and needy, especially woman and children, world wide. While it is appropriate to teach our children chastity and to never glamorize unwed pregnancy, crisis pregnancy support saves lives. Showing an example of mercy is undoubtedly a good. As children mature we can discuss the disadvantages (both moral and practical) of single motherhood and intercourse before marriage, but mercy to those in need does not need to be suspended because we are blessed enough to know there is a better way.
- Honor the lives of all. My children have the advantage of having a sister with a severe disability. They see day in and out the struggles and the blessings both of being a family touched by disability and of those living with disability. My oldest has reached the age where she occasionally confronts someone advocating abortion of the disabled. This rightly sets her into a fit of indignation – the person thus advocating is speaking about her beautiful sister. While she could not and would never diminish the struggles she also knows first hand the blessings. We absolutely have to teach our children that having a disability is not a frightening, horrific thing. Support your parish families with disabled members.
Volunteer at the Special Olympics and other organizations that help the disabled. Some schools have “peer” programs where normally developing children are paired with children with learning disabilities to assist them in their social development.At the very least never show fear or hesitation around a disabled person. Treat them exactly as you would anyone else.
As an example: Several years ago one of my online friends confronted, first hand, the bias against the disabled in our society. Her husband’s brother and sister-in-law had died in a car wreck, leaving my friend and her husband in custody of their niece and nephew. The deceased couple had adopted a boy with spina bifida and then a little girl with autism. The boy was nine, had just lost his parents, moved across country to live with his aunt and uncle. While his aunt was enrolling him in the third grade class at a private school (regular academic) another mother saw his leg braces and said with contempt, “Oh, we are enrolling these kids now?” Apparently everyone in the office was too slack jawed at the woman’s rudeness to come up with an appropriate response. I am afraid my own would have been less than ideal. As can be imagined the hurt the boy experienced was very, very real. While this one woman’s response was extreme their are many who would have thought the same, but wisely held their tongues. There is a ever growing part of our culture that views those with disabilities as “burdens”; at best tragedies for their families and drains on the “system” and better for everyone if aborted. (for further evidence of this topic note some of treatment of Sarah Palin over her son Trig) We have to fight this mindset tooth and nail.
On the other end of life my children have had the opportunity to see my grandmother age. She is 85 and lives near us. They love Granny and see her as valuable and worthwhile. Even as she suffers from the affects of age and dementia. Do not be afraid to bring the elderly into your child’s life. Age is not something to fear; we are only stepping closer to Heaven and honoring and loving our aged relatives sets the example of families caring for their own with love and compassion instead of shifting this duty and (at time) a burden onto the state – which has neither love nor compassion.
- Pray for those who are suffering, the poor, the sick and dieing. Pray for a softening of the hearts so that people who are different won’t be discriminated against.
- I am not sure when is the most appropriate time to introduce the concept of abortion to children. My own children have grown up in parishes that aren’t afraid to pray for an end to abortion and they hear Catholic radio in the background with “pro-life moments”. So they hear the term and eventually they ask the question: “What is abortion.” Three of my children asked at around age five. My own mind revolts at not being truthful with my children, so my response has been something along the lines of “Abortion is when a mother is pregnant and doesn’t want her baby so she has the baby killed before it can be born”. I am sure there that some people who would object to that description as too harsh.
I actually thought about it for a long while before I came up with it. First I wanted the explanation to be short, honest and “horrific” in a way. I wanted it to be slightly shocking, because abortion is shocking. I use the word “mother” instead of “woman” because mother implies a responsibility for the child. I didn’t say “she has a doctor kill the baby” or “she goes to a clinic and they kill the baby” because I didn’t want my children to associate doctors with killing babies and I didn’t want to go into the questions of “what is a clinic”. I also wanted the word “killed” in there so there was no confusion on that. The above explanation is also open enough to invite questions. My Josh’s first question was “Why would someone do that?” and it led to some discussion about the reasons why some woman feel that is the best thing to do, but how horrible it is and how selfish it is.
My own experience and the insight I have seen talking to other parents and friends is that the way abortion is first introduced colors the way a person views abortion on a profound level. If your very first introduction to abortions is something like “Abortion is when a woman finds out she is pregnant but it isn’t the right time for her to be a mother so she goes to the doctor and the doctor ends the pregnancy before a baby can grow.” and your first introduction to the concept of pro-life is “some people think that abortion is wrong so they want to force a woman to have a baby even if she know that is the wrong thing for her.” your perception of abortion is focused on the poor woman forced to have a baby. If your first introduction to abortion is about the murder of the child and how those who are pro-life are trying to make it safe for all babies waiting to be born than the paradigm shifts. If you view abortion through the lens of the woman’s “rights” it is difficult to consider the child; if you view abortion through the lens of the baby’s right to life it is almost impossible to not be pro-life (though I have known a few people who managed it).
May 29, 2009 § 3 Comments
I remember very clearly the moment I became pro-life. I was in my 10th grade biology class and we were learning about fetal development. My teacher was one of my favorites. She was beautiful – tall and elegant, smart and she cared very much about her students. Her husband had been my science teacher in Jr High – he was also a coach. They seemed like such a wonderful couple, and it was no secret that they wanted a child – but had never been blessed with one of their own and they had been trying to adopt for at least a couple years. And so with that knowledge I sat in a darkened room with pictures of the tiniest of babies on the overhead while Mrs Watts explained the changes that each week wrought and as she finished the last frame of the 8 week embryos she quietly said, “this is when most abortions occur”. She said it so sadly and so quietly that I doubt most the class heard, I was sitting right beside her so I caught it. I had never really thought about abortion, I’m not even completely sure I knew what it really meant before that moment. But looking at my teacher I knew completely what it meant. Little tiny developing babies, little ones with toes and hearts, with DNA and a life and future all their own were being destroyed and sweet, intelligent women who longed to be mothers were sitting on long lists to adopt babies who were never born. From that moment on I would be unshakably pro-life — in fact I could hardly imagine how anyone could not be.
The next year I attended Governor’s School. It was a state sponsored summer camp for students of high academic ability. One of the “classes” was on ethics and morality – I am not sure that is what it was called, but that is unquestionably what it was. The topic of abortion was presented. “What if you were grabbed off the street taken to a hospital and strapped down with tubes sticking out of you. You are connected to a person who is the greatest violinist in the world while they are ill, the treatment will take nine months, if you decide to leave they will die.” The question was posed – would it be ethical to refuse – to get up, walk away and let the musician die.
This is of course was a sly way of introducing the abortion debate. I argued heartily with the teacher about the minutiae of his set-up. Pregnancy isn’t they same as being strapped to a table for nine months. Very, very few woman find themselves grabbed off the street and impregnated against their will. Consenting to sexual relations means you engaging in activity that may and can by its nature pro-actively places you in the position of being responsible for another beings well-being and safety. I don’t think the instructor was moved, but I don’t think the class went as he had planned either. I have no doubt that the “plan” was to convince as many of us as possible that the “pro-choice” stance was the more ethical side of the debate. If I had not already been convinced with absolute moral certitude of the pro-life position I might have been swayed.
When I had my own children one of the things I wanted to be sure to pass onto them was a respect for all life from conception to the grave. My desire was to raise children who understand the precious gift that life is. Sons and daughters who are willing to accept the challenge and responsibility of living in a world where this precious gift is assaulted from all sides. I wanted to launch adults who know will protect the innocent in the face of of the strong, who are willing to stand up and even to fight for what they believe, but ones who remember every moment that life is beautiful and good — children seeped to the soul, dyed in the wool in the culture of life.
August 6, 2008 § 2 Comments
For Francis (St Francis of Assisi) religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love affair.
– G.K. Chesterton
Love God, know God, obey God, serve God and one another. This is the sum of Christian theology. It seems most common that those coming into the faith rarely do so because they were first intellectually convinced. It is most commonly that they had some experience that led them to love God and then they found themselves desiring to know God. Something draws the soul to God and the the relationship must be built from there.
Our relationship with God is in many ways like any other relationship. It takes time, effort and understanding to develop the deep and satisfying relationship with God that we desire. There will be times, as there are in any relationship, where you are more or less on autopilot. And there may even be times where you are separated from God or where communication is difficult but the relationship goes on and reunion is perfect and beautiful.
Here are a few of the ways in which we met God allow us to more fully know Him.
Nature, Art, Music and Beauty The beauty of the creator is reflected in creation. Music and Art that stirs the soul and lifts our thoughts to God. God whispers His love to us in the beauty of every face around us. Each little flower, each blade of grass act in a symphony of life that hums constantly with the joy of being. If we take the time to savor life we see God in the world around us.
Prayer There are so many kinds of prayer. Each person has their own favored ways of praying. Communal prayer, meditative prayer, Rosaries, Chaplets, Psalms the list could go on and on and I would undoubtedly miss something. Speak to God and spend some prayer time listening.
Scriptures The scriptures are God’s gift to us in them we learn about God’s teaching and commandments, His nature and His earthly life. We see the example of those who served God before us. I always find it rather funny when someone has the impression that Catholics do not use the Bible. We do, every single mass has multiple readings from scripture. We use Scripture to learn about and to draw closer to God.
Catechism Whenever there is a question about what the Church teaches I go to the catechism. Our Catechism is a rich resource containing the wisdom and teachings of 2000 years distilled into a rather manageable text. By learning the catechism we learn about God, his lover for us and the commandments He would have us live.
The Sacraments Any of the sacraments bring us closer to God. Our Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, Confession – they all draw us closer to God and allow us to know him more fully. There is such love an peace contained in the Eucharist. The reception of the Eucharist, Eucharistic adoration and confession bring us close to God in very special ways. They heal us from our self-inflicted wounds and allow us to glimpse the reality that love is sacrifice.
Writings of the Saints and others Reading the writings of Christians who have come before us and reading about their lives bring us closer to God in a special way. Sort of like family get togethers where we all share stories about our love ones. We learn more about God by learning how others have experienced His love.
The Lives of Others We all shine like the sun to God. By recognising the beauty and humanity in the lives of others we learn a great deal about the nature of God and what it means to be Christian. We are not supposed to start out perfect, we are perfected in Christ.
Our Service to Others “It is in giving that we receive”. When we act on Christ’s behalf for others we see Christ more clearly and allow His glory to shine through us into the lives of others.
July 15, 2008 § 1 Comment
“Always remember, my dear young friend, that Almighty God loves you very much: for love of you He created the world, the sun, the stars, and everything else that exists. He made your parents; He made you; He gave you your soul and your body.
Therefore, your most important duty is to know God, to serve God, and to love God with all your heart.”
Bishop Morrow — My Friend, published 1949
I have always noted that in the dystopia literary works (Brave New World, 1984 and the like) that human relationship, human love is suppressed or redirected in some way. A people comfortable and confident in their love for one another and their love of God and of God’s love for them are not easily led away from what is good. We are made to love God and to love one another. The catechism itself begins with the exhortation to love and serve God. It is in this act that we find the expression of who we are, who we are meant to be, why we are here. All those pressing questions are answered so succinctly we are here, made, born, fashioned and formed to love and serve God. The life of every Saint points to this inevitable conclusion: nothing is more worth living or dieing for than the love of God and service to Him.
This is the most elemental, the most basic tenant of Catholic life. I don’t say that to exclude non-Catholic Christians or even non-Christians. The Church teaches that God has written the natural law in all human hearts, it is our natural state to long for what is good. But the Catholic expression has a fullness that exists no where else. We have the Sacraments instituted by Christ. We have the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is a miracle. It exists outside of time and space. It exists wholly and completely in the supernatural realm. It is a tangible expression for us to be able to partake in the divine love of God’s self-sacrifice over and over, it reconciles the beautiful impossibility of Christ being anointed the priest who sacrifices and the lamb that is sacrificed and the fruit of the earth feeding our body and the fruit of the spirit feeding our souls. All this bathed in love. For God so loved the world.
God became one of us, lives in all of us, we serve Him when we serve one another and when we fail to serve each other we fail to serve Him. He takes upon us each of our sins when we let Him. And it is this that makes it impossible for us not to be willing to forgive others when they harm us. How can I not forgive my fellow man when Christ has paid for those wrongs with His own blood? It is one of the mysteries of the Passion. When Christ paid for all my sins He paid for all my enemy’s sins as well. To hold those hurts against me against my fellow man is to hold them against Jesus Himself. Thus Christ redeems us not only for ourselves, but heals the hurts we have between one another allowing us to love without limit.