NO CRYING AT MY FUNERAL

NO CRYING AT MY FUNERAL

Sunday, October 7, 2007

THE CATHOLIC INTERNET -- REALLY, NOW!

I wonder how many of you have been surfing the 'Net over the last few weeks or months looking for some doctrinal, spiritual, Catholic nourishment. Knowing that the Internet is a quasi boundless ocean of Catholic information, I have decided to step off the curb and venture to cross the "Information Highway" without getting hit too hard.
There are many attractive invitations that draw people into the personal or corporate space of people who have answers concerning Catholic "questions". There are "chat rooms" where lively exchanges of ideas and opinions take place. There are "forums" where comments about previous articles flow fast and furious. There are priests, nuns, deacons and laity bombarding the surfers with a flood of "Catholic truth". There are also Protestant and Orthodox presentations of the Christian truths. It is not always easy to tell what is Catholic and what is not.

The latest ploy to which I have been introduced lately is the E-mail Bible. I have twice in one week received a complete Bible. Protestant version, of course. There is a way that you can tell if the Bible that you have received is one that has the complete list of books contained in the Catholic Bible. Go to the table of contents and look for "Tobit", "Judith", "Wisdom of Solomon", "Baruch", "1 Maccabees" and "2 Maccabees". If you cannot find these names in the table of contents, then you do not have a Catholic Bible. ParishWorld.net offers you three links where you can find a Catholic Bible. Click in the "Resources" tab and you will find three perfectly high quality Catholic Bibles, The Jerusalem Bible, The New American Bible and the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible.

It gets all the more difficult to tell Catholic apart from Non-Catholic, especially in some of the more "open" forums where some Christians, Catholic and otherwise allow themseves to be quite ferocious in exposing their personal opinions about people, behaviors and events. Christianity, and Catholicism in particular is really very complex. Catholicism alone has five prime sources from which it derives its understanding of God. a) The Bible; b) The Catechism; c) Church Tradition as communicated through the decisions of the 22 Ecumenical Councils; d) The Code of Canon Law and e) Timely letters of instruction from the central seat of the Church, Vatican City, the "White House" of the Church. As if that is not enough, the Catholic Church respects and accepts many of the pious practices and religious traditions that Catholics around the globe have developed and practiced over the centuries. It is clear that such a complexity of truth is not easy to keep organized even in the most intelligent brain that any of us may have. Yet, as you all know, we seem to have in us a sensitive corner that whispers something to us when we start to feel that what we are reading or hearing isn't ringing true. We call that the gift of Faith. This is a gift from God that gives us the light of truth about Him as we Catholics understand it. It's not always easy, but it is always there. We even have this sense of "feel" about what we hear or read from another Catholic person or article. So, let's always keep our hearts open to the "feel" of God.

There are some Catholic spaces on the Internet that are really vicious. It pains me when I read Catholics tearing their Pope, bishops and priests and teachers (universities and theologians) apart with terrible accusations in language fit only for the street. A dark street, at that. I want to jump through my monitor and choke them. Civility has never hurt anyone. The greatest orators in history succeeded at saying what they had to say very effectively in high language. Jesus hasn't been caught in a cruel attact yet, but He sure had a way of putting certain people in their place, did He not? He always based His assertions on facts. This is not always true when you tune in to some of the inter-active forums that I am talking about here. So I tell you, be careful and keep yourself sensitive to the statements that you read there.

There are Catholic spaces on the Internet that are very interesting, very useful and technically very satisfying. Some of them are generally quite correct in their doctrinal statements. Some of them are rich in 21st century technology, offering podcasts, video presentations by renowned theologians and interesting discussions about simple doctrinal questions. (Are there ANY of those?) These are places where the core expertise of the owner of the site becomes apparent after a few visits and at that point it is up to the visitor to stay if the information proves to be solidly orthodox, or leave if it is not, or if the style of the owner doen't fit the visitor's personality. Here again, the surfer must keep sensitive antennae connected to the gift of Faith so as not to be led into a dark corner. It could happen.

Do not be totally trusting of sites whose name starts with "Catholic..." Visit it a couple of times. Look at the source of its material. Look at the direction in which the site is driving the material. If you don't feel comfortable at the gift of Faith level, leave and don't go back. Remember too, you can always inquire from someone you trust if the site that you have visited a time or two is generally trustworthy. Remember also that on the Internet everyone is anonymous, even though the name of the person appears on the site. We rarely know with whom we are exchanging ideas. It could be anybody from Beelzebub to the Archangel Michael, from the Pope to the altar boy in Buenos Aires. We have to stay sensitive to that. If we care about the quality of doctrinal truth that we seek, we have to stay sensitive to the source that we are mining.

I suggest that you go directly to the site. Do not use Google unless it is quite necessary. Start by visiting the Vatican City site and use the search button there. Go to sites whose names you already know, Liguori, St. Anthony Messenger, Sisters of St. Paul, ParishWorld.net and click on the "resources" button where you will discover a boatload of trustworthy sites.

I leave you with a prayer that the Church uses to close the day. It is a quote from the first epistle of St. Peter, chapter 5, verse 8 through 11.
"Brothers, Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ (Jesus) will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen."

Pay attention and you will not have to cry at my funeral.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY -- WHAT LIFE?

RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY

This is one of the days that causes me to wonder, wonder, wonder. What is it that we are respecting. Are we respecting the life of the planet? Are we respecting the life of the microbes, the insects and the germs? Are we respecting the life of the animals with which we share the earth? Are we respecting the living plants in their multitudinous forms? Are we respecting the old humans who are approaching the statistical limit of life? Are we respecting the human youth in the flower of Their age? Are we respecting the humans who live on the margins of what we call our civilization? Are we respecting the lives of the youngest among us ? Are we respecting the lives of the prospective mothers who face some of the most daunting decisions presented to humans? Are we respectful and worshipful of the fact that the temporal life we now have is but the beginning of the eternal life for which we are destined? Are we respectful of the divine life from which the temporal life that we now lead takes its source?

When we say that we respect life do we forget every other form of life but that which is forming in the womb of pregnant females around the world? I'm afraid that we do. I'm convinced that the narrowness of this attitude doesn't help us in our crusade to live more respectable lives on earth. Even the words that we use lock us into a very narrow thought process with regards the respect for life. We hide our respect for life behind politically charged words that force us into legalisms, not virtues. There is no true moral or ethical meaning behind the expression, "pro-life" other than it states that we are "anti-abortion". There is no other real reason for it than to give "anti-abortion" people the space that they need to be legally and politically correct, without being militant against the law of the land which allows abortion. My disappointment is that the pure anti-abortionists have fallen into the trap of not testifying to their true position openly. It is further disappointing because there are any number of "pro-lifers" who are not pure "pro-lifers". There are many "pro-lifers" who have no problem hastening the end of life of those who are suffering terminally diagnosed illnesses; there are many "pro-lifers" who are in favor of the death penalty as it is practiced here in the United States and elsewhere; there are many "pro-lifers" who diminish the quality of life of their aged and incapacitated parents by placing them in depersonalizing jail-like nursing homes. They are "pro-life" when it comes to the terrifying decisions required of others, but "pro-choice" when it comes to salvaging their personal comfort.

There are perhaps not too many of you alive who are reading this who are aware of the cruelty of the dictator Mobutu of the Belgian Congo and then a little later of the Thalidomide disaster.
The first reference is of a cruel individual and his taking over of the government of the Belgian Congo. His miitary goons attacked everything that was Belgian, including religious institutions and schools. Nuns were killed and raped. Many of the heroic missionaries became pregnant. Inspiring stories of saintly nuns and of their missionary congregations abound. Not one single abortion took place. The Belgian people took some of them in and helped with the raising of the offspring. Some of the infant girls were raised by the nuns themselves in the convents. The children of these "victims" are now approaching 50.

The Thalidomide disaster still throws its shadow across the European landscape. There are still hundreds of survivors of the effects of this drug in Europe. Perhaps as many as 400 in Great Britain. Perhaps more in Belgium, France and Germany. The drug was never marketed in the U.S. Some victims are still alive in Canada. It was a drug declared safe for the relief of morning sickness. So women took it in the early stages of their pregnancies. It was then discovered that the foetuses of these women were being adversely affected. Many were born without arms or legs. There is no doubt that many women had abortions, but there is also ample proof that a legion of women brought their children to term and still live while helping the adult offspring to lead comfortable lives.

Everywhere in the world there are people who heroically remember to respect life. These are the ones who remember where it comes from. These are the ones who know that God is in charge.

I bring this reflection to an end with a personal testimony.
My wife and I were married at an advanced age (early 40's). After a little while the inevitable took place, she was given the privilege to carry a child. So, she went to the doctor, and to the hospital. The doctor is Catholic and the hospital was a church entity. After the usual examinations, some were added to the procedure because of her age. Then there was a meeting in the office with the doctor and the representative of the hospital. During the meeting they educated my wife about the risks involved for a woman of her age. At one point they offered a test of the amniotic fluid in order to determine if there was an imminent danger of her giving birth to a Down's Syndrome baby. It was explained that this test would allow us to "make a tough decision" should the test prove positive. My wife was shocked, angry and despondent at the same time. She left them without further ado and came home. I found her in a near rage. We talked about it. The situation, not the "decision" . There was no decision to be made other than the one that had been made two months before. We didn't sleep that night. The next day we went to the hospital and told the people in charge what we thought of their morality and left.
I knew then and I know now what happened. The hospital was taking federal and insurance company money, of course. It therefore had to be able to prove that it offered all possible options to all patients. I still feel that "someday God is gonna get us" who put our church in that situation without thinking of the consequences.
We always knew that God knew what He was doing. You should see that guy of ours these days! Not only is he beautiful, he is kind and generous. I could write all night about his relationship with his grandmother. The problem I would have if I did that is that his brother (11 months younger) would want equal space. He deserves it, but I don't have the time and you don't need to be bored.

Finally, I have to remind you to respect the life toward which we are traveling. Every time you read this blog remember that I am ANTI-ABORTION, ANTI-EUTHANASIA, PRO OLD PEOPLE, PRO HEAVEN and ANTI-CRYING AT MY FUNERAL.