Thursday, January 20, 2011

Renewed in the commitment to life

Since I just finished reading Unplanned, Abby Johnson’s harrowing autobiographical account about her journey from Planned Parenthood clinic director to the pro-life movement, I am so inspired. For those of you who have not read it, you must. It is one of the best books I have ever read about what it takes to capture the hearts of those involved in the abortion industry. Since I read the book in day (I literally could not put it down), I am still basking in the wondrous grace of God that allowed this marvelous work to occur in this woman. I am glad to be able to share with you some of my reflections upon her story.

It has always been my belief that the pro-life movement was in need of a consistent, peaceful and loving voice. Not just because we need to win people over, but because we need to BE consistent, peaceful and loving before we are able to share that with others. The peaceful protesters (a.k.a. Coalition for Life) who eventually won over Abby Johnson did not just act a certain way in order to convince her to switch sides. Rather, they were completely genuine in their concern for the mothers, their children and even the clinic workers. Abortion hurts everyone. All are victims, even the ones who convince themselves that they are providing and performing abortions out of compassion.

Abby Johnson also recounted what the effects of negative protesting achieves...further division and hardening of the heart. I know that many of my friends still maintain that showing graphic pictures of aborted babies is effective. In my experience, however, I have had the same visceral reaction as Ms. Johnson. She said that the graphic pictures and name-calling simply made her dig in. She became more attached to her pro-choice stance because she thought she was protecting the women from people “like them.” I can say the same thing from a different perspective. My heart is not moved to fight any harder for the pro-life movement when I see crazed protesters. In fact, I think that these protesters have driven away many of us who have wanted to contribute peacefully, recognizing that love is more powerful than intimidation.

But a ray of hope has come to us. I have also seen many of my friends involved in the “Forty Days for Life” movement, and I have even participated peripherally, offering sacrifices and prayers on their behalf. But I must admit that before I read this book, I was not aware of its history or its widespread appeal, not to mention that its philosophy is completely in line with what I had always believed a pro-life movement should be. After reading this book, I am renewed in my commitment to pro-life efforts. It is a renewal that all of us need to experience who have been long-time supporters of the pro-life movement. Without renewal in our energy, in our faith, in our love for all who are deeply wounded by this terrible injustice, we can become complacent, simply going through the motions without thinking about what it is we are actually doing. We are opening our souls to God’s merciful love so that we can be His instruments of grace. That is no small task.

This weekend, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we should be doing everything we can to peacefully bring an end to the violence of abortion. It has claimed the lives of so many in my generation and younger and damaged women in a most horrendous treachery and violation of their dignity. We ask God to renew us and shine His merciful love through our hearts so that our country might see through the rhetoric to discover the beautiful gift of life.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pope John Paul II's beatification set for Divine Mercy Sunday

"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II's intercession, clearing the way for the late pope's beatification on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday.

Pope Benedict's action Jan. 14 followed more than five years of investigation into the life and writings of the Polish pontiff, who died in April 2005 after more than 26 years as pope.

The Vatican said it took special care with verification of the miracle, the spontaneous cure of a French nun from Parkinson's disease -- the same illness that afflicted Pope John Paul in his final years. Three separate Vatican panels approved the miracle, including medical and theological experts, before Pope Benedict signed the official decree."

For so many of us who grew up during John Paul II's papacy, the announcement of his impending beatification is a hugely anticipated event. His contributions to the Catholic Church are copious and continue to enrich the faith of all who read his writings and those who are fortunate enough to recall their interactions with this blessed man. I was able to see His Holiness from a distance at World Youth Day in Denver, 1993. It is a memory that I still recall with such clarity and gratitude...that I was able to see a saint in the making. I remember that he was so energized by young people, and his love for all of us was palpable in his homily at the final Mass.

We are living in a time of great opportunities for sanctity, and we are abundantly blessed to have Pope John Paul II to provide us with his great example of a life lived in the constant love, mercy and trust in God. John Paul II, pray for us!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Calling all potential priests...

On New Year’s Day, we were invited to dine at another family’s house. Our husbands have known each other for a long time. My husband had been his student and later worked with him at the diocese. It was so wonderful to be able to reconnect with them in the midst of a busy Christmas season. Also in attendance was Fr. Joe Hirsch, whose specialty is vocations recruitment, mostly for the Diocese of La Crosse, but he’s been invited to speak in other locations about the need for answering God’s call.

During the course of dinner, he shared with us a portion of his talk that he gives to young men. He begins by asking them how many have considered being a priest. Maybe one or two will raise their hands. He then asks them to consider cancer and its devastating effects upon people’s lives. Upon this reflection, he holds up a pen and tells them to imagine that this pen is a shot that contains the cure for cancer. He asks them what they would be willing to give up to distribute this cure. Would they give any amount of money? Would they give up being able to have a wife and children?

Then he asks them what is worse, to lose your life, or to lose your soul? Most children will know that the loss of the soul is eternal, but the loss of the body is only temporary. He asks them, after seeing the wheels turn in their heads for a moment, “isn’t the spiritual cancer of sin even worse than physical cancer?” Their response is “yes!”

By that time, he is ready to drive home his point. “The priest has the cure for spiritual cancer. Through the Sacraments, people are continually cured by sin and its devastating effects. Isn’t that worth a substantial sacrifice? Wouldn’t you give anything to help cure spiritual cancer? Consider the priesthood. Is God calling YOU to be an instrument of His cure?”

Beautifully put, Fr. Hirsch.

In the following clip, Fr. Hirsch explains what is needed to truly discern a vocation to the priesthood:

Please share this with the young men in your life. We should all be mindful of potential vocations to the priesthood within our own families and parishes. They need our encouragement and prayers, especially in this time of trial when the priesthood is being so viciously attacked. On this day we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, when Jesus began his earthly ministry. May we all pray for God’s call to be answered in greater numbers.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy New Year...pass the celery

It is very interesting, culturally speaking, that we have placed SUCH an emphasis upon New Year’s resolutions. We roll off our couches every January 1 and make the commitment to...well, mostly lose weight. It makes me think about a movie I watched with my children entitled Over the Hedge. The scene I am thinking about in particular, is when main character, the raccoon, is explaining humans and their behavior to all the other woodland creatures. In a montage of familiar human activities aided by a soliloquy from the perspective of the raccoon, he explains that humans’ lives revolve around food. He sums up their behavior in a single statement, “We eat to LIVE...They live to EAT!”

I bring this up because I am in this category. Again, the festive eating has gotten the best of me and I am in the situation of having to pay piper for my jolly appetite. What I find so fascinating is that the marketing people have us so well-conditioned to repeat the same patterns year after year. They put out the goodies, the cakes, cookies, candies, succulent meats and cheese trays galore all throughout October, November and December. Come January, it’s all gone. Bottled water and diet supplements now greet me at my nearest shopping warehouse. Dang it. I fell for their evil plot again!

It’s not just food, however. I think that most of us have something we want to change, but that darned concupiscence keeps us enamored with pleasing ourselves. We know that we need to go to bed earlier, but we have to get to the end of the book so that our inquisitive minds can be satisfied. We know we should rise fifteen minutes earlier for prayer, but the bed is so warm and cozy. We know we should get the dishes done, but they can wait until tomorrow. Our lives can become shoulda- woulda- coulda- driven if we don’t keep returning to the One who knows how we are to be ordered.

That is not to say that we are machines. Humans are meant to delight in God’s creation. He made it for us. The problem with us is that sometimes we become so infatuated with the other creatures or the creations that the Creator is diminished or even forgotten. That is what has been driving the excess in our modern time. We are so blinded by things...and there are some really cool things indeed...but they are all to be at the service of God, not ending in empty overindulgence.

The interesting thing about all excesses - money, possessions, power, appetites of all sorts, is that eventually we become "weighed down" by what we don't need, and, depending upon the extent of the the buldge, it can be rather difficult to become free from the bondage these things create.

So I’ll be chewing on this advice to myself while I’m gnawing on my celery and sweating on a treadmill.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more

This update from Father Z's blog brought tears to my eyes this morning. Through studying theology, I have come to a better understanding about how God's grace works, but actually witnessing it operating on such a grand scale in an event so close to home...well, it simply makes my heart sing.

God's beautiful people allowed themselves to be instruments of His love, acknowledging Christ in the orphans in Peru through gifts of proclamation, prayer, and donation. Each gift worked in harmony to enable such an overwhelming response. The press and the bloggers were able to proclaim the need, the readers were able to pray about the required action, and the donations flowed from their consideration.

This is the Church I know and love.