Friday, December 25, 2015
There are two principal lessons which we are taught on the great Festival which we this day celebrate, lowliness and joy. This surely is a day, of all others, in which is set before us the heavenly excellence and the acceptableness in God’s sight of that state which most men have, or may have, allotted to them, humble or private life, and cheerfulness in it. If we consult the writings of historians, philosophers, and poets of this world, we shall be led to think great men happy; we shall be led to fix our minds and hearts upon high or conspicuous stations, strange adventures, powerful talents to cope with them, memorable struggles, and great destinies. We shall consider that the highest course of life is the mere pursuit, not the enjoyment of good.
But when we think of this day’s Festival, and what we commemorate upon it, a new and very different scene opens upon us. First, we are reminded that though this life must ever be a life of toil and effort, yet that, properly speaking, we have not to seek our highest good. It is found, it is brought near us, in the descent of the Son of God from His Father’s bosom to this world. It is stored up among us on earth. No longer need men of ardent minds weary themselves in the pursuit of what they fancy may be chief goods; no longer have they to wander about and encounter peril in quest of that unknown blessedness to which their hearts naturally aspire, as they did in heathen times. The text speaks to them and to all, “Unto you,” it says, “is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
(You can read the rest here, courtesy of our friends at Crisis.)
Monday, December 7, 2015
I've been in Geneva the past few days, visiting a Sarah Lippert, a UST graduate currently interning at the Caritas in Veritate Foundation in Geneva, supporting the work of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the UN in Geneva, through UST's Post Graduate UN Internship program. Yesterday, Sarah and I went to the 7 pm Mass at this lovely Basilica of Notre Dame in downtown Geneva:
This was the third English language mass of the day at the Basilica, and it was packed. English speakers from all over the globe, from the mostly Phillipino choir, to the first reader who appeared to be from southeast Asia, to the second reader who was clearly American, to the priest with the thickest, most charming Scottish accent I have ever heard. Sarah told me that the young professionals group is large and active. I couldn't help but take some small pleasure at being in the middle of Geneva, listening to this Scottish priest, asking myself "Reformation? What Reformation?"
Sunday, December 6, 2015
There's a very interesting article on Crux on the debate about the morality of embryo adoption. I agree completely with Janet Smith and Charles Camosy on this -- it's a "generous and charitable act", whether the couple who does this is struggling with fertility issues or not.
Some of the counterarguments strike me as (to use a sophisticated theological term) simply gruesome. Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk argues that: "The only thing you can really do to protect them and to respect their integrity is to pay the bill each month or each year to the company that is pouring fresh liquid nitrogen into the tanks to preserve them.'' I simply don't see how providing the possibility for the child to be born is less respectful of their integrity as human beings. He later argues that an increase in these adoptions “would play into the hands of those who promote IVF and backfire …What we have in the US is an assembly-line manufacturing of human beings, and nobody is batting an eyelash at it,” he said. “This will be just another way to play into the market dynamics. That’s what is ultimately driving all of this.” How is that distinguishable to paying the bill in perpetuity to keep these poor children in a perpetually frozen state? And in what universe would there be so many people thronging to adopt other people's frozen embryo's that they would make a dent in the market forces driving this industry? Those arguments have the same tinge of sophistry as some of the theological arguments against procedures to save women's lives in ectopic pregnancies.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Two highlights for me, at the Pontifical Council for the Laity's International Study Seminar Women and Work that Erika just posted about, were talks by two prominent corporate executives who model Catholic visions of work & family.
One was Clara Gaymard, the CEO of GE France and mother of 9. . She said that she's always asked "how do you balance it all", and she almost never responds to that question. But for this audience, that was the topic of her talk. The first thing she said was, she never asked herself that question. She just always knew that she wanted a large family, and she always knew she wanted to travel, learn things, succeed. She just did it. With respect to "splitting" household duties, she said she hates that idea. She says her philosophy is that everyone does everything together, then it gets done twice as fast. Husband & wife working together get dinner done twice as fast, and every kid has to help. In her work, she says every employee knows that family comes first -- that's just non-negotiable. The head of one of her divisions declared NO EMAILS Friday afternoons -- she didn't want people to get sucked into things over the weekend. (If there's one thing very clear from this conference, it's that European workplaces are, truly, much less hostile to families than US workplaces.) Clara Gaymard has long been one of my heroines. She wrote a marvelous book about her father, Servant of God Jerome LeJeune, who discovered the genetic cause of Down Syndrome, and was first President of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Another was Bryan Sanderson, former CEO of BP, now on the Board of the Economist, and, among many other things, Chairman of the Board the Home Renaissance Foundation a think tank dedicated to doing the work we care feminists always say someone should do: "promote a greater recognition of the work that goes into creating healthy and congenial home environments. Individuals grow and develop at home, so it is in society's best interests to look after it."
My topic was: "Motherhood: A burden or Added Value for Business?" Any guesses what I voted for? I'll post a link to the paper when it's up on the conference website.
Monday, September 28, 2015
We have an interim pastor at our local parish, someone to keep the trains running for a year until we get a new permanent pastor. He was introduced to us as a former accountant who found his vocation later in life, so I expected someone who would be focused on cleaning up the books. It turns out that the earlier part of his life included getting married and raising a family, and that he is one of the most joy-filled priests I have ever encountered. In his age, his looks, and his profound yet simple sermons, he evokes Pope Francis for me every Sunday.
I listened to and watched as much of what Our Holy Father was saying over the past week as I possibly could, and I'm looking forward to downloading & reading everything more carefully. What a powerful display of loving, joyful confidence in the truth of the Gospel, in every encounter he had with the multitudes of people he saw, in the most diverse range of settings! What a model for us all!
When I read Fr. Al's "column" in our Church bulletin this Sunday, I found it a fitting coda to Pope Francis' visit. It's a "new" version of the famous 'footprints in the sand' story. I've included it here, after the split.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
You know those stories you always hear about competitors in Special Olympics meets choosing cooperation and helping over competition -- like turning back during a race to help competitors who stumble? Well, if you wonder whether they're true, here's one I know is true -- it's about a teammate on my son's Special Olympics gymnastics team. This fellow, Jack Campbell, is an incredibly gifted gymnast, and was chosen to represent the U.S. at the Special Olympics World Games in L.A. this summer. Here's the story, from the gymnastics club that sponsors our team:
Jack Campbell, member of the Mini Hops Special Olympics Gymnastics team, returned from World Games Competition in Los Angeles last week adorned with medals and ribbons for his performance in the Artistic Gymnastics competition! Gymnasts from all over the world competed over four days striving to fulfill the Special Olympic oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Jack was both brave and he won! He took home gold in parallel bars and floor; silver in vault; bronze in high bar; fourth in still rings and fifth in pommel horse. That added up to an All Around bronze medal in his Level Two division. It was an impressive showing and the U.S. fans loudly let him know he was a favorite.
But Special Olympics is not just about sports; it is about sportsmanship and friendship. Jack proved once again at the Games that he comes out on top there, too. As it happened, a Chinese athlete showed up at the World Games only to discover that he had learned an outdated set of routines and did not know the correct ones. What a potential disaster for any athlete who has trained for years to reach the height of the sport! But Jack came to the rescue. Working with the coaches during long practices, Jack taught the routines to his colleague. With this little bit of help from his friends, the Chinese athlete was able to compete and win in a different division. That kind of spirit shines through Jack, in sports and in life, and Mini Hops is proud to welcome him home.
Monday, August 17, 2015
I was truly surprised to read an editorial in our local paper this Sunday offering a counterpoint to Tom's recent post about the burgeoning 'liberal arrogance." To put my surprise into context, the Star Tribune is - how shall I put this -- not known for its favorable coverage of the pro-life perspective. Its coverage about the Planned Parenthood videos has been largely limited to publishing letters to the editor from people complaining about the videos, and stories about how local Planned Parenthood affiliates are "weathering the storm." One day I heard on the Relevant Radio that 100s of people had shown up to protest in front of a local Planned Parenthood. I checked the Star Tribune the next day, and found no mention of it. However, there was an extensive story (with a picture) of the protesters in front of the dental office of the guy who shot Cecil the lion.
(This reminded me of a game I sometimes play. Open up the website for CNN, and the website for Fox News. Are they even covering the same planet?)
So, imagine my shock to read this brave and honest piece by D.J. Tice, exploring this idea:
It would be surprising if our generation produced the first morally infallible era in history. Chances seem good that, like the people of every age before us, most of us today are doing and thinking certain things — or at least going along with certain things — that will leave our descendants more or less aghast, wondering how we could have been so blind.
And the nature of moral blind spots is that we can’t be sure what our era’s worst mistakes are.
I pondered all this uncomfortably when I broke down recently and watched the most, well, appalling of the hidden-camera videos documenting Planned Parenthood’s fetal-tissue donation program. It’s the one in which Planned Parenthood personnel and undercover activists posing as tissue buyers use tweezers to idly pick through a lab tray holding little arms and legs and livers and whatnot.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
I suspect that many of us are personally confronting the challenges of caring for aging parents. A recent intervention by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN's working group on aging cited Pope Francis' recent poignant comment on this topic: "“it’s brutal to see how the elderly are thrown away… No one dares to say it openly, but it’s done!” It's scary to see one's own personal situation as part of a worldwide trend -- rather like recognizing your own contributions to the global environmental situation described in Laudato si.
The description of the problem in the Holy See's intervention describes an impending global crisis as significant as the environmental one, one that ought to be getting more attention that it typically does:
In the West, data tell us that the current century is the aging century: children are diminishing, the elderly are increasing. Currently 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world’s population, are above 60 years of age. By 2050, it is estimated that this number will double, reaching 20 per cent of the global population.(2) This increasing imbalance is a great challenge for contemporary society. For example, this puts increased pressure on healthcare and social protection systems. Given these figures, my delegation would like to draw particular attention to the needs of elderly women who are often excluded or neglected.
Therefore, as the number of older people increases along with the rise in average life expectancy, it will become increasingly important to promote an attitude of acceptance and appreciation of the elderly and to integrate them better in society. My delegation would like to reiterate that the ideal is still for the elderly to remain within the family, with the guarantee of effective social assistance for the greater needs which age or illness entail.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Friday was one of my most favorite days of every year -- the day I get to watch my son and his fellow Special Olympians at the state gymnastics meet. As always, it was a day of witnessing what true joy and pride looks like, again and again. If you've never witnessed a Special Olympics competition of any kind, do yourself a huge favor and watch one.
When I got home, I saw that, while I was watching my son, Pope Francis was addressing the Special Olympics team from Italy who will be coming to Los Angeles for the World Games later this summer. Among his thoughts:
Please, remain faithful to this ideal of sport! Do not let yourselves be “contaminated” by the false sports culture, that of economic success, of victory at any cost, of individualism. It is necessary to rediscover “amateur” sport, that of gratuitousness, sport for the sake of sport. It is necessary instead to protect and defend sport as an experience of human values, yes of competitions, but in loyalty, in solidarity -- always dignity for every person!
And, on a somewhat related note, a very sweet message to all fathers from the Jerome LeJeune Foundation: My Dear Dad.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
I haven't had a chance to read Laudato Si yet, but a group of my colleagues at UST (including my co-director at the Murphy Institute, Billy Junker) just had a conference on these issues here last week, and had this to say in today's local paper. Their conference included a keynote by John Allen, in which he offered some of the predictions and cautions about likely reactions to the encyclical that appeared in this column of his (he calls it "getting ahead of the spin"). Today's column offers an informative historical survey of the evolution of Church thought on these issues.