Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Woman's Choice?

Liberal-minded people have argued that women will always vote for the pro-abortion candidates. In their view, women should be feminists, and feminists should hold pro-abortion beliefs.

I understand that women do make up the majority of the electorate. However, many of us are pro-life. We understand that one can be a woman – even a feminist – without advocating the slaughter of unborn children.

If the pro-abortion argument is summed up as “a woman has a right to choose,” then what if a woman “chooses” to murder her husband, abuse her children or lie on her income taxes? Why should we enforce the laws that ban these choices and then permit any woman to kill her unborn child on the basis that the abortion was her “choice”? Does it make the government anti-woman to imprison women for murder or theft? So, why is it anti-woman to ban abortions?

So, yes, women’s voices will be heard in the voting booth, but many of us still believe that a “woman’s choice” is not sacrosanct when her choice is to kill, or otherwise harm, another human being.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Role of the Pope

I would like to clarify the Catholic Church’s view of the Pope. Catholics do not consider the Pope to be an idol, like some people suggest. We regard the Pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth.

Starting with St. Peter, there is an unbroken succession of Popes. Though they are not all models of good behavior, none has taught anything that is untrue. The role of the Pope is to instruct Catholics in faith and morals. He is not a god but more of a teacher and our "Holy Father." That in no way means that his role supercedes God.

Catholics do not believe that the Pope is impeccable (unable to sin), nor do we believe that he is supernatural or someone to be worshipped. Instead, he is the very human man who is the visible head of the Church on earth. The Trinitarian God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is the only One who should be worshipped.

To outsiders, it might appear that Catholics worship the Pope, or Mary or even crucifixes. However, we just regard the holiness in each of these people and things. In other words, we see Jesus in them, so they deserve our respect and love.
In the case of the Pope, we know that God gave us the gift of the papacy so that we would have a perfectly reliable voice that can lead the Church on earth. The Holy Spirit leads the Pope, and therefore the Pope is our teacher and father, but he should never be considered an object of worship.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A "Progressive" Pope?

Since Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will be stepping down from the papacy, many have speculated about the future of the Catholic Church. Will the next pope “get with the times” and condone cohabitation, homosexuality and abortion? And will he finally allow women to become priests?

The fact is that the Catholic Church will not change its moral code. Since Jesus instituted the Church when He handed the keys of the kingdom to St. Peter (Matthew 16:19), the Catholic Church consistently has taught the same morality. God’s laws are unchangeable, regardless of the changing beliefs of the world. Even though some people within the Church might sin horribly (as we have seen with the repulsive priest scandal), the laws of the Church will always stay the same. Premarital sex is wrong and so are abortion and homosexuality. The Church will not permit these actions just because they have become socially acceptable.

And, as unpopular as it is, women will never become priests. Men and women are equal but different. Just as men cannot bear children, women cannot be priests. Do men ever complain about the unfairness that only women can carry babies?  

Jesus only had male apostles, but no one should accuse Him of being sexist. Many of His closest followers were women, and He performed His first public miracle at His mother’s beckoning (John 2:1-11). However, His apostles, who spread the Gospel to much of the world after Jesus’ Ascension, were all men. The male priesthood is a dogmatic (unalterable) belief of the Church, no matter who becomes pope. The Holy Spirit leads the teachings of the Church (even when certain people in the Church fail), and therefore the teachings will not change with the times.

 God does not change; truth does not change, and neither does the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Will I Get Time Off in Purgatory if I Take My Toddlers to Mass?

I have two toddlers (Joey – almost 3, Nicky – 16 months). These boys are my heart, and they are the best babies on the planet, but they are the reason I haven’t heard a homily in three years.
Here is the normal routine: we get to the church with maybe a minute to spare (because some little guy decides to spill orange juice on his outfit as we’re walking out the door). The boys sit quietly for a long, long time (maybe until the priest reaches the altar). Then they explore the kneelers, hymnals, the purse under the pew in front of us. And then they start talking (“I just pooped, Mommy, Mommy. I JUST POOPED!”). That is when we take the long walk out to the vestibule, passing by people who are smiling sweetly until they smell our little cutie’s diaper. Then the congregants are still smiling, just with their noses covered.
Over the past three years, people have given us a lot of advice on how to take babies/toddlers to Mass. So, here are the best tips:
Advice (that Doesn’t Work) for Taking Toddlers to Mass:
1         Bring toys to distract them.
o   They will (somehow, some way) make the toy noisy. My boys could make noise with a cotton ball.
o   They will make a fetching game with the toy, and guess who plays the part of the dog?
2         Bring books.
o   See #1, except they will also eat the pages.
3         Take them to the cry room.
o   Have you ever been there? In our parish, it’s filled with kids (ages ranging approximately from 7-15) running around in circles swinging their younger siblings above their heads. If you think I’m exaggerating, you apparently have never been in a cry room.
o   If you want to see or hear Mass, this is not an option. If you don’t care about seeing/hearing the Mass, the cry room is the perfect place.
4         Tell your little angel to be quiet/sit still.
o   Umm, if you have a toddler who listens to you when you ask him/her to be quiet, then why do you need any advice?
o   Asking a toddler to sit still is like asking a Democrat to quit spending money.
So, you might ask, “What can I do to insure a peaceful, prayerful time at Mass with my toddlers?”
Well, I have no idea.
But I still want to bring my boys to church because I want them to grow up remembering that we went to Mass each week as a family, usually with their Nana, Papa and Aunt Mishy as well. Also, I want them to receive the graces that are poured out each time they witness the miracle of the Eucharist.
Still, when you’re in the middle of chasing a 1-year-old around the vestibule whisper-yelling sage advice such as, “Stop eating your brother’s shoe,” you might forget why you brought them in the first place.

But I imagine that years from now, when Travis and I look back on the times that we took our precious toddlers to Mass, we will wistfully say… “Were we insane?!?”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pray, Hope and Don't Worry? A Catholic Mom’s Guide to Trusting God

“Forgive me, Father, for I have worried.” Even when I’m behind the screen, I am sure that my priest knows that it is me – that parishioner with N.A.P.S. (Nutty, Anxious Parent Syndrome).
Worrying is my hobby.
I worry about the economy, politics and toy recalls. I lose sleep over my mom not visiting a doctor since Clinton’s first term. I practically obsess over germs and the weather and living in a two-story house with particularly active toddlers.
As a mother of two boys, Joseph (2 1/2) and Nicholas (14 months), my worries naturally turn to my babies. Then I worry about my worries.
“Father,” as I confess for the tenth time, “I want to be a faithful Catholic who places all of my trust in God. How do I love my boys… and let go of the anxiety?”
Through my priest and the wisdom of the Church, I have employed several wonderful – albeit obvious – worry remedies.
I discovered that one way to refocus my anxieties is to read the Holy Scriptures. After all, when I read that Jesus cured the lepers and brought Lazarus back to life, I realized that He would watch after my boys if they bumped their heads or ate a bug.
One Scripture passage that I continually return to is in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 RSV-CE).
Reading the Bible, I learned that all of our worries are meaningless. God wants to handle our problems. He took care of everyone from Moses to Mary Magdalene, and we are no different. We see throughout Scripture that God is not some distant figure; He is a loving Father.
One week at Mass, I heard a Scripture passage that helped me greatly. It was the account of Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22). In the story, God wants to know how much Abraham trusts Him, and the ultimate test is for Abraham to surrender his own child. Amazingly, Abraham does have enough faith in God to obey Him. We should follow that example: we should trust God with our babies. At Mass that evening, I understood for the first time that, as faith-filled people, we must be willing to give our children to God.
I have found that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is particularly helpful: not only am I forgiven of my sins, but I am strengthened in my resolve to trust God more in the future.
Plus, a good priest will provide invaluable advice and reassurance. At one particular Confession, a priest told me, “It is natural for a mother to have strong concerns for her children. It isn’t healthy to worry excessively, but it’s not uncommon. Just remember to trust God and pray often.”
Even though the advice was simple, I felt liberated. Of course, I didn’t completely stop worrying, but I tried to put my worries in perspective. Even though anxieties are common, I found that – to grow as a Catholic Christian – I must rely on God.
In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul says, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
God listens to all of our requests, big and small. He is there when we want a good parking space and when our parents are diagnosed with cancer. We just have to remember to ask Him, instead of carrying the burdens of daily life.
And, to me, the best time to pray is during Mass or in Eucharistic Adoration. When I was pregnant with Joey, I was able to go to daily Mass, and I had a weekly Holy Hour, but now, like most mothers, I do not have that luxury. So at Sunday Mass, I take the opportunity to pray for all of my concerns, and I always make sure to thank God for my family as well.
When the H1N1 virus first made the news, I was panicked. Making me even more concerned, I was three months pregnant with Nicholas, so I worried about having a newborn amid this likely pandemic. I told my husband, Travis, “After Nicky is born, the babies and I won’t leave the house for a few months,” and I actually meant it. So we could forget the grocery store, doctors’ appointments and family gatherings because I was scared of the flu.
However, instead of turning our house into a half-year hermitage, I decided to channel my fears in a new direction: the Rosary.
Prior to the outbreak, my view toward the Rosary was casual. I would pray the decades a few times during Lent and several other times throughout the year. But when I started praying the Rosary daily to alleviate my fears about the virus, I actually looked forward to the prayer throughout my day. In fact, Joey enjoyed it as well. The two of us would sit together, and he would hold the beads while I prayed aloud.
Even though I have always prayed daily, this was different. I was focusing on Jesus, not on myself and my own worries. But, paradoxically, as I turned the attention away from myself and onto the Mysteries, my fears lessened. And Jesus and Mary’s love brought me closer to both of them.
The fact is: God loves us infinitely more than we can love our children. We just have to internalize that truth and let go of our worries.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina understood the human condition very intimately. This saint, who bore the wounds of Christ on his body, had a simple motto: “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” If we could learn to live by these five words, we could attain great holiness and, incidentally, become better parents.
I cannot say that I have entirely learned this lesson yet. I wish that I had already trampled the worry monster, but I haven’t. However, I can say that, deep down, I know that God is the one who holds our future in His loving Hands, and we should trust Him with everything – including our precious babies.