Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy birthday, Kitten!

Today my lovely oldest girl whose blog name is Kitten is turning seventeen.

Yes, 17.


Good grief, where did all the years go?

She's such a sweet, kind, wonderful, helpful daughter who keeps things running smoothly around here!  As has been my habit these last few years, I'm now going to turn this blog post over to her--but not without saying, first, that I love her dearly and really appreciate the wonderful young woman she has become. :)  And now--Kitten!

Hi everyone!  In previous years on this blog, I've talked about things that I have been doing in the past year, as well as things I am looking forward to in the new one.  I would like to stick to that tradition today.

This past year has been a great one for me full of fun and interesting times.  It was just a few months ago that I got my first full sized guitar and I am enjoying playing it and teaching myself songs like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and Dust In The Wind.  I am hoping to take guitar in college and maybe someday become a singer.  

Another one of my interests is learning the Korean language.  For the past six months we have enjoyed watching Kdrama (such as Heartstrings) and a Korean variety show called Running Man (which rocks!!)  These shows which have taught me so much about the Korean culture and their customs have made me determined to learn the Korean language as well as to live in South Korea for at least a short time after college.  

 I still love organization and secretarial work and this past year I have had the opportunity to use a lot of my talents helping my grandparents (who recently moved here to TX) keep track of mail and little office items that seem to go missing very easily (You don't believe me?  When was the last time you saw your telephone directory?)

Thank you for letting me ramble on about the things I am interested in and have been up too.  As always may God Bless you this New Year and forever.  감사합니다!  



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, with cake!

Just popping in to wish everybody a Merry Christmas!  I know this isn't one of those blogs that features pictures of lovely celebratory things, but today's an exception.  Here are before-and-after pictures of our Candy Cane Christmas Cake:

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Taking a blog break for Christmas...

...and wishing my readers a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Open prayer thread

In light of the horrific news coming out from Connecticut today, I want to offer some prayers for the victims and their families.  No prayer seems more appropriate to me right now than this one:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Please feel free to offer your prayers as well in the comment boxes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflection: December 25

This is the reflection for Christmas Day, and thus the last one for the Jesse Tree.  I hope that these reflections, and my sister-in-law's symbols, have been useful to you!

Dec. 25
Optional Reading: Luke 2:6-21 (The Birth of Jesus)
Symbols: Manger and Star

“And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn.  And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2: 7-11

Today we recall the birth of the Savior.  Christmas Day is a day full of joyful celebration, a day to ponder this great gift God has given to us: the gift of His own Son, to save us from our sins.  There are, perhaps, no more eloquent words for us to reflect upon today than this lovely prayer by which the Church recollects and celebrates the Nativity of Christ: the prayer called the Angelus, which is prayed, traditionally, at six, at noon, and again at six each day:

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: 
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.

Merry Christmas!

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 23 and 24

Dec. 23
Optional Reading: Matthew 1:18-25 (St. Joseph)
Symbol: Carpenter’s Square

“But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1: 20-21

We can imagine how puzzled St. Joseph must have been when Mary returned from St. Elizabeth’s house, where she had been for her first three months of pregnancy, and he realized that she was with child.  Mary was so obviously a child of God that it was hard to imagine that she had done anything wrong, and St. Joseph certainly didn’t want to hand her over to the law.  His decision to divorce her quietly was made out of compassion for her.

But the angel would not leave Joseph long in doubt.  No, Mary was still the woman he thought she was, the holy child of God who had arranged to enter into a marriage with him on the agreement that they would live like brother and sister.  This child was a miraculous sign of God’s love and His great plan for the salvation of His people; this child was the promise foretold in the Garden of Eden, the one who would crush the serpent and restore the friendship between God and Man.  And Joseph was to be their earthly protectors, and act as an earthly father to the Son of God Himself!

It is hard to imagine how Joseph felt about such a huge responsibility, but we know what he did--like Mary, he immediately accepted God’s will and took on the task of raising the Christ-child.  We look to St. Joseph to teach us how to approach the Son of God in our needs and prayers.

Dec. 24
Optional Reading: Luke 2:1-5 (The Census)
Symbol: A Scroll

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child.”  Luke 2:4-5

The fullness of time has come.  The hour is nearly set for the birth of the Son of God, the Savior, the Lord.  Even the secular authorities of the world have a part to play: a Roman census being taken is the reason for Joseph and Mary to make the journey to Bethlehem, to fulfill a long-ago prophecy about where the Savior will be born.

There is a hushed expectation around Christmas Eve.  The anticipation of the delights of Christmas day, the hour drawing near for the beautiful Christmas Mass, and many such things make it hard for us to wait. 

Soon, soon, Christmas Day will dawn, and all the joys of Christmas will be revealed once again.  But tonight we remember that we are still waiting for the Lord, for His second coming in power and glory; we are waiting that endless Christmas joy of Heaven when we will be in His wonderful presence forever.  The joys of Christmas are but a small taste of what wonders lie ahead for those who believe in Christ and follow Him.

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 21 and 22

Dec. 21
Optional reading: Luke 1:5-17, Matthew 3:1-6
Symbol: Scallop Shell

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.  ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’  Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.  Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”  Matthew 3: 1-6

We have moved into the New Testament readings, and in a few days’ time will be reading the story of the birth of Jesus.  But this reading takes us a little way into the future: it is not his cousin’s birth that John the Baptist is heralding, but the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry to preach the Gospel, to suffer, die, and rise again for the forgiveness of our sins.

When Our Lord approaches John and requests baptism Himself, John objects: Jesus does not need the baptism of repentance.  But Jesus asks John to do this anyway, and the Father’s voice is heard, telling the crowd of witnesses that this is His beloved Son.

And so St. John becomes the herald of the Gospel.  Are we also heralds of the Gospel?  Do we tell others the Good News that Christ has come into the world for our salvation?  Do we live and act as though we believe the hope and promise of the Gospel message is true?

Dec. 22
Optional Reading: Luke 1:26-38 (Annunciation)
Symbol: Lily

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.’  And the angel departed from her.”

Man sinned by his own free choice.  Adam and Eve, knowing God as they did, chose to turn against him, to disobey, and to sin.  So it is fitting that in the fullness of time our salvation should also await the free choice of the new Eve; that all of Creation should hold its breath awaiting Mary’s answer to the angel.

Just like Eve, Mary had a choice.  God was not going to impose His plan of salvation upon her without her consent.  And Mary did ask for one point of clarification: since she had vowed perpetual virginity, how would this marvelous plan come about?

The angel assured her that God was already pleased with her vow of virginity; Isaiah had foretold that a virgin would conceive and bear a son whose name would be Emmanuel, or “God With Us.”  She would not bear this child in the ordinary human way, but through the power of the Holy Spirit who would overshadow her as He had once overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant.

Receiving this assurance from the angel, Mary spoke with humility, love, and total acceptance of God’s will: let this be done to me, she said.  And all of Creation could sigh in wonder, for the long-promised salvation was now truly at hand.

Mary’s “yes” to God is the most important word any human being has ever spoken.  But we, though sinful and weak, are called to imitate Mary by always saying “Yes!” to God’s will.  So can we, too, cooperate in His great plan for our salvation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 19 & 20

Dec. 19
Optional Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Symbol: Watchtower (dark brown, gray stones)

“I will take my stand to watch, and station myself on the tower, and look forth to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.  And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it.  For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie.  If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.’” Habakkuk 2: 1-3

The days are growing shorter, and Christmas is fast approaching.  But like the people who awaited the Lord’s first coming, we do not know how long it will be before Christ comes again in glory.  Jesus Himself reminds us in the Gospels that we must watch for Him, and be ready.

How can we be ready for Him to come?  By preparing our hearts, by turning from sin and evil, by making a commitment to obeying His commandments and following His Church in all that she teaches in His name.  Then, like the wise virgins who filled their lamps with oil, we will be ready to greet the Bridegroom and enter into the Heavenly banquet with Him when He comes again.

Dec. 20
Optional Reading: Malachi 3:1-5, 4:1-6
Symbol: Sun of Righteousness

“‘For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root or branch.  But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.’” Malachi 4: 1-2

In this, the last reading of the Old Testament for our Jesse Tree readings, we hear a prophecy that again points as much to Christ’s second coming as to His first.  For, as Christ says, He will come again as the just judge to judge all men, to separate the good from the bad, to cause the good to sit at His right hand while the evil must depart from Him. 

We are given so many chances in our lives on earth to choose good, to turn from evil, to serve God and to refuse to remain in sin.  Yes, we are weak, but we are also not left as orphans; God pours out His grace on us through the sacramental life, and gives us everything we need.

That is why it is not inconsistent with Christian faith to believe that ultimately God may, indeed, allow those who have stubbornly and persistently chosen darkness to remain apart from Him forever, and that state of forever-separation is what we call Hell.  We do not know for certain the fate of any human being, and must pray for all to seek God, to find Him, and to rejoice in Him both in this life and forever in Heaven.  But God will not force our wills; He does not wish us to serve Him and follow Him except by our own free choice.  As this passage from Malachi points out, there will be consequences, possibly grave and dire ones, for those choices.  But if we fear the name of the Lord and follow Him in faith, we need not be afraid that we will lose sight of Him, the sun of righteousness.

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 17 & 18

My sister-in-law has the last page of symbols posted on her blog!  Here they are.

Dec. 17
Optional reading: II Chronicles 36:11-21 and Jeremiah 30:23-31:14 (Babylonian captivity)
Symbol: Stalks of grain against a green oval

“Thus says the Lord: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from afar.  I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!  Again you shall adorn yourself with timbrels, and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.  Again you shall plant vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit.”  Jeremiah 31: 2-5

Again, Israel and her leaders have done evil in God’s sight, and again, God has chastised them, this time sending them into captivity in Babylon.  Jeremiah prophecies the end of that captivity, but his words also speak of the love of God for His people, and His coming advent among them.  From the depths of His love He will send forth His Son to save them, and all of us, from our sins.

God is faithful to us, and keeps His promises, even when we don’t deserve His love.  Without His gift of faith to each of us, we would be lost.  Yet He wants us to be happy with Him forever, and always seeks us even when we turn from Him.

Dec. 18
Optional Reading: Jonah 1:1-4:11 (Jonah and the Whale)
Symbol: The Whale

“Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he made proclamations and published through Nineveh, ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands.  Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?’”  Jonah 3: 6-9

Is there anyone who does not know the story of Jonah, the prophet?  Jonah is given a mission by God: go to Nineveh, a city renowned for its wickedness, and preach to them a message of God’s wrath and their planned destruction.  At first, Jonah tries to flee, and ends up in the belly of the whale.  Then, Jonah goes to Nineveh, preaches his message, and withdraws to a hillside to watch Nineveh get destroyed.  But the people of Nineveh repent, and do penance; God spares them.

Instead of being happy, though, Jonah is angry!  He complains to God that after all he has been through, and how reluctantly he even came to Nineveh in the first place, the least that could have happened was that God could have done as He had planned, and wiped out Nineveh.  Jonah complains even further when a plant which is giving him shade on the hillside dies--why is God humiliating him and making him suffer so?

God replies to Jonah’s complaint by saying that if Jonah can be sorry at the death of a plant he didn’t sow and didn’t tend, can’t God Himself be sorry for Nineveh, and spare them from their sin?

The story of Jonah teaches us that God expects us to be concerned for each other.  He never wants us to wish others ill.  He wants us to work tirelessly and to pray without ceasing for those who do not know Him, instead of washing our hands of them and turning away to await their destruction.  Our charity toward others reflects our Father’s will, and pleases Him.

Monday, December 10, 2012

We interrupt your Advent panic...

Yes, it is true that there are only fifteen days (and counting) until Christmas.

If you are a procrastinator like me, that thought might make you panic.

Therefore, as a public service to ease your stress today, I offer this gratuitously cute cat picture (taken by Hatchick) of our auxiliary back-up cat, Smidge:

(And if you're wondering, I did name him after the main character in my book--we just changed the spelling of his name.  It turned out to be a good choice for him, given that just like the Telmaj Smijj, our Smidge seems to have the power to disappear!)

We now return you to your Advent activities. :)

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 15 and 16

Dec. 15
Optional Reading: Isaiah 6:1-13 (Isaiah in the Temple)
Symbol: Tongs and Burning Coal

“Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.’” Isaiah 6: 6-7

With this reading we move beyond the history of the Chosen People and into the books of prophecy.  In this reading Isaiah recounts his vision of God seated upon His throne, surrounded by angels who ceaselessly cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts!”  When Isaiah’s lips are cleansed by the burning coal, he accepts the commission of God to be sent forth to tell the people what God wishes them to know.  And what God wishes them to know is that He has not forgotten His promise of salvation; soon, the time will come for the Messiah to come and save His people.

Like Isaiah we may sometimes feel that we are unworthy to tell the Good News of salvation to others.  But it is not our doing, after all.  God will work through us, however unworthy we may be, if we conform ourselves to doing His will.

Dec. 16
Optional Reading: Isaiah 8:11-9:7 (The kingship of Christ)
Symbol: Crown

“‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

This beautiful prophecy of Isaiah’s contains some of the most familiar words referring to our Lord: we hear that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, we learn that the holy one to come will take the throne of David and establish his kingdom forever.

Yet it is not an earthly king who will be born, and the power of the One Whom Isaiah foretells in these verses is not to be a temporal, worldly power.  The King of kings who will be born into the world is not going to overthrown the political enemies of Israel and establish an earthly kingdom.  Instead, His Kingship is over our souls, and His Kingdom is a heavenly one.  The first crown He will wear will be a crown of thorns and suffering; only after His Resurrection will He take His place at the right hand of the Father to reign forever.

We struggle at times to remember that the Kingdom Christ rules is not of this world.  We grow weary and impatient with the ascendency of evil.  And yet we know that Christ has already won the victory over sin and death, and when He comes again He will, indeed, come as King and as Judge in power and glory.

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 13 and 14

Sorry for not posting any of these on Friday--busy weekend!

My sister-in-law has made the second set of symbols for your Jesse tree available here.

Dec. 13
Optional Reading: I Samuel 16:1-23, II Samuel 5:1-5, 7:1-17 (The story of David)
Symbol: Lyre

“‘And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies.  Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.’” 2 Samuel 7 10-13

In today’s readings we first learn how God chose David to be King, rejecting Saul who had first rejected Him; we then read about the evil spirit that tormented Saul, which was banished when David entered Saul’s service and played for him on his lyre; finally, we see the mighty King David planning to build a fitting house for the Ark of the Covenant, only to be told by God that this was not for him to do--at which point the Messianic promise of the quotes above is made.

In King David we see one of the foremost figures of Christ in the Old Testament.  It is from David’s line that the promised Messiah will be born, in the fullness of time.  Like David, the Messiah will be King over all of God’s people.

Yet the Messiah will not be an earthly King.  As Jesus Himself tells us much later in Holy Scripture, His Kingdom is not of this world.  It is the Kingdom that will endure forever, as promised by God to David of old.

Dec. 14
Optional Reading: I Kings 18: 17-39 (Elijah and the priests of Baal)
Symbol: Stone Altar

“Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” I Kings 18: 38-39

In this famous story of Elijah and the priests of Baal, Elijah issues an ultimatum to the people: he will put Baal to the test, and if Baal is truly a god, then they should all follow him--but if the Lord is God, they should reject the false god Baal forever and follow the Lord.  Though the priests of Baal try for hours to make their god hear them, he does not; he is not real.  But a single prayer of Elijah’s is enough to cause the Lord to consume by fire the offering Elijah has placed upon the stone altar--and not merely the offering, but the altar itself.  The people respond with joy.

Again and again the people of Israel have turned from God to false gods or idols.  Again and again we, too, conduct ourselves as if God does not really exist or is not really important in our lives.  Yet we should avoid such sins, and say with St. Thomas the Apostle, “My Lord and my God!” when we are shown the wounds of Christ, the price He paid for the hardheartedness and sins of all mankind.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 11 and 12

Dec. 11
Optional Reading: Joshua 1:1-9, 5:13-6:20 (The Walls of Jericho)
Symbol: Gold Trumpet

“On the seventh day they rose early at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times: it was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times.  And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout; for the Lord has given you the city.’ ...  So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown.  As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.”  Joshua 6: 15-16; 20

With the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho we see that God’s promise to give His people the promised land has begun to be fulfilled.  The people of God will triumph over the people who worship false gods and, in doing so, violate many of the Ten Commandments. 

But the true promised land, our true home, is Heaven.  To enter the Eternal Kingdom we do not need to battle against enemies outside of us, but against our own temptations to sin and evil.  These temptations rise against us at times and seem as insurmountable as any army, but with the grace of God, we can prevail over them and come to the joy of eternal life and happiness with God forever.

Dec. 12
Optional Reading: Judges 2:6-16, 6:1-16, 7:1-23 (The story of Gideon and the defeat of Midian)
Symbol: A Water Jar

“So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands.  And the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Judges 7: 19-20

The people of Israel had forgotten God, and His mighty deeds, and had given themselves over to the worship of false gods.  Because of this, God allowed the Midianites to prevail over the Israelites, to destroy their crops and take their land.  But in due time God raised up the hero Gideon and showed His might by causing Gideon to drive away the army of Midian with only a few hundred men.

The power of God over the deeds of men is strong.  But His power over our sinful hearts is stronger still.  If we are faithless and turn away from God, we may not have to fear a human enemy, but we will still be in enemy hands until we return to God and seek forgiveness and mercy from Him.

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 9 and 10

Dec. 9
Optional Reading: Exodus 12:1-39 (Passover)
Symbol: A Kneading Bowl (tan oval, brown trim)

“‘It is the Lord’s passover.  For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.  The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.’” Exodus 12: 12-13

There are so many echos in the story of the Passover of the One who is to come.  A spotless Lamb will be offered as the sacrifice, and His blood will be shed for the salvation of many.  Those marked with the blood of the Lamb will not perish, but live.

Christ is the true Lamb of the Pascal sacrifice.  We keep the memorial of His Death and Resurrection at every Mass.  And when we receive Him under the appearance of bread, we, like the ancient Israelites, know that we will escape death--not the death of the body, but the eternal death of the soul.

Dec. 10
Optional Reading: Exodus 19:16-20:20 (The Ten Commandments)
Symbol: Stone Tablets

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  You shall have no other gods before me.”  Exodus 20: 1-3

It is fashionable in this modern age to pretend that the Ten Commandments no longer mean anything, or have any force.  But that dangerous pretense ignores the fact that Christ Himself told us He did not come to abolish the Law or the Commandments.  The Church’s moral teachings flow from this earliest code of moral law, expanding on it and applying it to our everyday lives, as Christ Himself did in His teachings.  Those who say that Christ never taught morality do not truly know Him, nor do they know the Father Who gave us these laws so very long ago, not for His benefit, but for our own.  If we would approach holiness, there is no better place to begin than to learn to keep the Commandments with attention and love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 7 and 8

Dec. 7
Optional Reading: Genesis 42:1-45:15 (The story of Joseph)
Symbol: Grain Sack

“So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near me, I pray you.’  And they came near.  And he said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.  And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God set me before you to preserve life.” Gen 45:4-5

The story of Joseph is one of the most powerful and moving stories of the Old Testament.  One of 12 brothers, his father’s favorite, has dreams in which he foretells his own ascendency over the rest of his family; his resentful brothers plot his death, but then sell him into slavery.  Joseph’s gift of interpreting dreams lifts him out of slavery and prison and puts him at Pharaoh's right hand; his interpretation of the dreams warning of seven years of famine assures that Egypt will come through a time that will devastate its neighbors, and Joseph becomes one of the most powerful men in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.  Then his brothers arrive, desperate to buy food--and Joseph’s dream in which he sees his brothers bowing to him comes true at last!  But there is no anger or hatred in Joseph’s heart--he sees God’s hand in everything that has happened to him.
Jesus, too, will be hidden in Egypt as a child, returning to His home nation only after Herod is dead.  And He, too, will accept the form of a slave and the death of a criminal to set us free.  If we wallow in self-hatred on the road to repentance from sin, we are pridefully refusing to be as merciful as our dear Lord, who also reminds us that He has been set before us to preserve our lives.

Dec. 8
Optional Reading: Exodus 1:1-14, 3:1-12
Symbol: The Burning Bush

“And Moses said, ‘ I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’  When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’  And he said, ‘Here am I.’  Then he said, ‘Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.’”  Exodus 3:3-5

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when we recall that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from every stain of Original Sin from the first moment of her conception.  For Moses to be in God’s presence, he had to witness a miracle, a burning bush that was not consumed; he had to remove his shoes to approach the holy ground.  But Christ, our Emmanuel, or God With Us, would come as a helpless baby, carried in His mother’s womb.  It is fitting that God prepared Mary for this great privilege by keeping her free from sin, applying the merits of her Son’s Passion and Death on the Cross outside of time to keep her free from sin.  Like the miraculous appearance of God to Moses in the desert, the miracle of Mary’s holy and Immaculate Conception illustrates for us that God has the power over nature, over sin, and even over death itself.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 5 and 6

Sorry this is late today!  It's my birthday, so I've been celebrating. :)

Here are the Jesse Tree reflections for December 5 & 6:


Dec. 5

Optional Reading: Genesis 22:1-19
Symbol: The Ram (God tests Abraham and asks him to sacrifice his son)

“Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’  And he said, ‘Here am I.’  He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’”  Gen 22:10-12

In the story of the test of Abraham we see how strong Abraham’s faith is, that he does not refuse to give God his only son as a sacrifice.  This offering of Isaac is a prefiguring of Christ’s own Sacrifice on the Cross, when in obedience to His Father’s will He lays down His life for our salvation.  We are called to take up our own crosses to follow Him, not against our own wills, but uniting our wills to the will of the Heavenly Father in imitation of Christ, Our Lord.

Dec. 6
Optional Reading: Genesis 28: 1-17 (Jacob’s dream)
Symbol: Jacob’s Ladder

“And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!  And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves.’” Gen 28: 12-14

Many early Church fathers and saints have spoken of Jacob’s ladder as a symbol of the life a Christian should live, growing in the practice of holiness and self-denial to grow closer to the heavenly perfection of the next life.  Others see Christ Himself as the Ladder, since He is both true God and true Man, the bridge that brings heaven and earth together.  Jacob’s dream is a powerful reminder to us that we do not live in a world that is only material.  In the new translation of the Nicene Creed at Mass we pray “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”  In saying these words, we profess our faith in the spiritual realities which surround us, and seek to keep present in our minds our own spiritual nature, the existence of our immortal souls which will live forever.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 3 and 4

Before I post today's set of Jesse Tree reflections for Advent (coming this Sunday!  I know, right?), I just want to note that I've put a link-list in this blog's sidebar so you can easily go to each post (every post will have two days' worth of readings).  There's also a link to the post explaining what this is about, and a link to my sister-in-law's blog so you can follow her links to her symbol pages, both the "to be colored" set and the "pre-colored" set.

Dec. 3
Optional Reading: Genesis 6:11-22, 7:17-8:3, 9:8-17 (The Flood)
Symbol: Rainbow

“‘When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.’  God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.’” Gen 9:16-17

The people of the earth had fallen into wickedness and evil.  In the midst of this God called to Noah and asked him to build the ark, to bring his family and two of each of every living creature aboard, to obey Him and to be ready.  And then for forty days and forty nights the rain fell and the world flooded, and all who were not with Noah perished.

But God did not intend to wipe sinful humanity from the earth forever.  He established His covenant with Noah, and set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise never to destroy the earth by a flood again.  God does not wish for us to perish in our sins, but to repent of them and follow Him.

Dec. 4
Optional Reading: Genesis 12:1-7, 15:1-6 (The call of Abraham and God’s Promise)
Symbol: The Sky of Stars

“And He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’  Then  He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’  And he believed the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.’”  Gen 15:5-6

God called Abraham to leave his home and his people, and journey to a new land.  He promised Abraham that He would make of him a great nation; and yet Abraham had no child of his own.  But God showed him the night sky, full of stars beyond counting, and promised him that his descendants would be this numerous.  Abraham’s faith in God’s promise is an example of how our trust in God should be.

Yet often we find ourselves in sin precisely because we don’t trust God to keep His promises, as Abraham did.  We think that we have to do everything for ourselves, and we start thinking that moral “shortcuts” must be allowed when so much depends on our own actions.  But this is wrong.  God is faithful, and keeps His promises; if we trust Him, we will never be tempted to the “shortcut” of sin.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 1 and 2

As promised yesterday, I am beginning to post the Jesse Tree Reflections today (see what it's about here).

Before I post the two reflections for December 1 and December 2, I have something exiting to share: my wonderful sister-in-law is joining in this effort by making available symbols that match the ones on the list I've been using!

To go to a printable list of the first 12 symbols ready to print and color yourself, click here.

If you're like me and coloring makes you nervous, you can get a pre-colored set of the first 12 symbols here.

My sister-in-law will do a second sheet of symbols for the next 12 readings in the near future!

Here are the very brief, simple reflections; again, I've included suggested symbols and readings under the impression that to do so is fair use, especially since I don't know the origins of either the symbols (apart from them being the sort of thing you find with Jesse Trees) or the suggested readings (again, apart from them being among the many suitable readings for Advent).  All of the Scripture quotes I have used here come from the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition of the Bible.


Dec. 1
Optional Reading: Genesis 1:1-2:3 (Creation)
Symbol: Dove

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  Gen 1: 26

In the account of creation from the reading today, we learn three important things: one, that God made everything that exists in the universe; two, that everything God made was good as God Himself is good, and three, that God gave man dominion over all of His creation.  If man had not fallen, how different would the world be!  And yet, in the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil we hear: “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”

Dec. 2
Optional Reading: Genesis 2:4-3:13 (The Fall)
Symbol: Forbidden Tree

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.”  Gen 3:6

How quickly man disobeyed God and lost His friendship!  Eve was tempted by three things: the world (that the fruit would make her wise), the flesh (that the tree was good for food) and the devil--the serpent who tempted her.  In choosing to give in to these temptations she and Adam turned away from God Who loved them for the sake of an illusion, and this Original Sin is reflected in us, especially when we, too, choose sin.


Just popping in... say, "Whew!"

I wasn't sure I'd make it this year.  Of course, Book Four in the Tales of Telmaja series isn't exactly finished at 50,000 words, so I've got my work cut out for me through December.

Oh, and later on today or by tomorrow at the latest, I expect to share (look for the update to this post!) word of my youngest daughter's successful 50,000-word run.  Hatchick has participated in the two summer "Camp Nanowrimo" sessions AND this one, and when she validates her novel sometime in the next two days, she will have written a grand total of 150,000 words in Nanowrimo events this year alone.

And she's only 14, and could have set her word count goal lower than 50K.  But she's awesome. :)

UPDATE: She did it!  53,000 words and counting by validation time.  More than 150,000 total on three different books this year for Hatchick!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Something new for Advent

First of all: hooray for the world's best husband!  Thad not only cleaned up my keyboard last night--he brought me home a new one, too.  This one, in fact.  It's amazing, it was on sale, and it's washable.  Did I mention that it's washable?  As in, you can submerge it in water washable...

I'm loving this new keyboard.  Can you tell?  I think, given my inevitable habit of having beverages near my writing area, that I probably needed this thing years ago.

Now: yesterday what I had meant to post was something new that I want to do over Advent.  In years past I've done several different sorts of things, from sticking to my regular blogging to taking extended breaks to mixing up seasonal stuff with the more usual politics, religion and culture topics to combinations of any or all of those.

But this year, I had a different idea, and I want to share it with you now.

Every year our family does a Jesse Tree devotion over Advent.  Our Jesse Tree is a lovely felt tree with attachable symbols which was made by one of my sisters, who is now a Sister with the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word.  My sister gave Thad and me the tree along with a typewritten (yes, that long ago!) list of the order in which the symbols were to be attached along with the suggested Scripture reading for that day.

There was one tiny problem we experienced in using the tree: some nights the readings were of manageable length, and sometimes they were on the short side, but on some nights the readings were--well, not conducive to an evening family devotion, let's just say.  Such as the night that instructed the reader to read the whole book of Jonah out loud.  Or the night when several pages of the Old Testament were read in order to tell the whole story of Joseph--his brothers, the coat, the well, the Pharaoh, the dreams, well, you get it.

We did many things over the years to make this work for us, including summarizing the readings, substituting some "Children's Bible" versions of the longer stories, and so on.  But last year, having done these things for many years and also having older teens who were quite capable of reading the entire suggested readings quietly to themselves sometime during the day, I wanted to come up with something that would work for an after-dinner prayer time when Thad could join us, that would still incorporate the familiar tradition of our much-loved Jesse Tree.

So I wrote some very simple, very non-professional, very basic reflections on each day's readings for us to read in the evenings as we placed each day's symbol on the Jesse Tree.  We always kept the option open of reading the day's Scripture reading out loud together at that time, too, but on busy December evenings when the reading of the day was a good twenty or thirty-minute session (or longer--no, really!), we could still talk about the Scripture theme for the day and add the reflection to our evening prayers.

Now, I know that just about every Jesse Tree is different, and the reflections I wrote to go with this particular set of symbols might not be a perfect match for your own family's devotions--if the Jesse Tree is something you do during Advent.  But I'd really like to take a step away from the more secular themes this time of year, and sharing these Jesse Tree reflections with you seemed like a good way to do it.

Starting tomorrow, then, I will begin posting the reflections I wrote.  I'm starting early because I think more people might enjoy these reflections if they're available ahead of the actual first day of Advent.  Here are a few things I want to get out of the way up front, though:

1.  I don't know the source of my sister's original list of suggested symbols and Scripture readings.  I believe that posting those along with my reflections would constitute fair use in any case, as I don't think that mere lists of this type can be copyrighted, given the many iterations of Jesse Tree symbols and readings that are out there.  However, if these materials are subject to copyright and the original copyright holder contacts me, I'll either remove those portions of my posts or attribute them to the copyright holder, whichever the copyright holder prefers.

2.  I am sharing these in the awareness that I'm just an average lay Catholic woman with no special training.  If anybody sees any glaring errors in what I wrote, please let me know; my intent is always to think along with the Church, not against her, so I'll fix anything that's problematic.  Just tell me.

3.  These brief reflections are what they are, but if for some reason you like them and want to use them at home, at church, with parish or church groups, or in some other reasonable way, please do so.  My only stipulation is that nobody ever gets charged in connection with them (e.g., don't turn them into an e-book or something and try to sell it, 'cause I'd be annoyed, and if you actually sold any I'd be shocked as well).

4. The reflections, like our original Jesse Tree devotions, are dated from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25.  Since Advent always starts on a different day each year, this seems to be the best way.  This year, of course, Advent starts Dec. 2---so I plan on doing the Dec. 1 reading either as "First Sunday of Advent Eve" or else just do both readings on Dec. 2.   Do what works--but, yes, I do know that the first day of Advent isn't Dec. 1 this year (or most years, come to think of it).

I think that's all you need to know--see you tomorrow for the first set!  Oh, and I may post more than one here or there, because I don't usually remember to blog on weekends and I don't want to fall too far behind. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Most ironic post ever

I had something planned to post today.  Something new, something for Advent that I hope you'll enjoy.

But I can't post it.

I can barely type--though if I hit the sticky letters hard enough I can sort of make them work.

What, you ask, did I spill on my keyboard?

A cup of tea.

Remind me again what this stupid blog is called?

Back tomorrow.  I hhhhhhhope.  (Yep, the "h" is the worst-stuck key--ow did you guess?)  :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Prayers for a grieving family

Yesterday I had a few minutes of free time, so I checked in with the blogs in my Google reader feed, expecting to see a few posts here and there about everyone's Thanksgivings, plus political rants, humor, and the like.

Instead, I read this terribly sad post from Alisha de Freitas, who wrote this about spending time with her sister recently:
We made our way into my church a couple of minutes after noon. We headed down front. This was a special All Souls Mass, two weeks after it was supposed to be held, postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. All total, there was five of us in attendance. My pastor, Father Ros, asked us each to do a reading. We both said yes. As he stepped away to begin mass, she studied her assigned passage earnestly.

"So how do you like that? Your first time here and he's got you working! Don't worry, we follow everything on the paper, and it's very similar in order to Catholic masses," I said quietly.

When her time came, she walked up the stairs and stopped and did a quick genuflect at the Communion table. I smiled. Fast learner. She read from Psalm 130:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you; therefore you shall be feared. 

 I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.

Towards the end of the service, Father Ros read through the pages long list of the Faithful Departed. Name after name after name.

I looked up at him, wearing purple vestments, the one I saw all through Lent. Purple is solemn. Purple is royal. Purple is my favorite color.

I looked over at Jos. She was holding Zoe and frowning. The names were many.

"It's sad," I whispered to her.
Alisha's sister Joscelyne died suddenly in her sleep just a couple of days after attending that service with Alisha. 

Please hold Alisha and her family, especially Joscelyn's husband and two children, close to your hearts this week in prayer.

Eternal rest grant unto your servant Joscelyne, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving blog break

I'm taking a blog break this week to get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Hope that all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving too!

Look for something a little different over Advent...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Something to think about

I'm still seeing articles about the "Greed Thursday" phenomenon of starting so-called "Black Friday" sales so early on Thanksgiving that retail workers no longer get to celebrate the holiday with their families.

Here's something I want you to ponder.

Target pays its employees time-and-a-half to work some holiday hours. Typical Target hourly pay is between $8 and $14 an hour, according to this website.  Being paid time and a half on 8 to 14 dollars an hour still isn't much money, especially when it means being forced to give up a family holiday.

The CEO of Target, Gregg Steinhafel, received twenty four million dollars ($24,000,000) last year (2011) in compensation.  That was a significant increase over his 2010 compensation of around 13 million dollars.  Even if we assumed that he works 80 to 100-hour workweeks and a full 52 weeks of work every year, at that pay rate, he's making between almost $5,000 to almost $6,000 an hour (if my math is right; if it's not, I'll fix it--just let me know).

And I bet he doesn't have to skip Thanksgiving to do it.

It's just something to think about.  Especially as we make our plans for this season's Christmas shopping.  I know that for me, while I'll still buy grocery items and toiletries at Target (it's one of the only grocery stores in my area), I'm not spending a dime of my Christmas shopping money there this year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Clear principles and muddled thinking (in which I apologize for yesterday, among other things)

I want to start this post by apologizing for the extremely muddled thinking going on in yesterday's post; I blame late night noveling, excess caffeine, allergies, and Benadryl (tm).  In that order. :)

No, seriously, I do know that simply delivering an extremely pre-viable child in a dangerous situation isn't a moral option.  There has to be an underlying pathology of the uterus itself; the classic example is removing a cancerous uterus that unfortunately also removes the pre-viable baby.  Where I erred in yesterday's post was not pondering and describing exactly what others were saying about the condition of the uterus should it be badly infected by infected amniotic fluid, infected placental tissue, etc. and also--if I may be totally honest--in thinking in my muddle-headed way that 17 weeks was closer to viability than it actually is.  I've made this mistake before; the record for survival is held by a baby born at 21 weeks and 5 days gestation, but I always think survival has happened earlier than that until I go check the records.  Could a woman in a potentially fatal crisis situation whose unborn baby was at least 20 weeks gestation attempt delivery with a full neonatal intensive care team on standby in the hopes of making medical history, or would such an attempt be morally invalid?  That is the sort of thing a well-trained Catholic moral theologian would have to answer, but it's clear that 17 weeks is much farther away from the record survival age to make the attempt in any serious way at this time with today's medical technology.  But can a doctor remove badly infected amniotic fluid and placental tissue which is actively killing the mother knowing that his action will have the side-effect of making it necessary to remove from the uterus a baby who cannot survive outside of it?  That is the situation that might--I stress that word--be able to be discussed from a double-effect standpoint.  Whether or not it would be morally possible to make that call is something I'm not prepared to state definitively, but I will say that it would seem to be within the realm of a morally valid, though tragic, option; I would appreciate any knowledgeable person weighing in on that, by the way, as I would like to learn more about this.

But, again, the problem in the case of Savita was not that nobody wanted to discuss difficult moral options; it is that a real possibility of medical negligence exists.  I think we'll find out more eventually about this specific case.

With that, though, I'd like to discuss something I've been pondering in regard not only to this case, but to the underlying principles.

I think that most practicing Catholics, when we discuss what may or may not morally be done in these extreme situations, really do want to form our minds according to Church teaching.  We're not looking for loopholes or "outs" that will let us tiptoe right up to the line of abortion.  That's because the guiding principle here is "Save both the mother and the baby, and take heroic action to do so if necessary and possible," not "How can we get away with abortion without calling it that?"

Unlike the internet discussions of torture among Catholics, then, the principle "Save them both," remains the clear guiding principle.  When the topic is torture, "Treat prisoners humanely" should be the guiding principle, but it often isn't.  I think we can see a difference; with all the speculation on Catholic blogs about what could have or should have been done to save Savita, I have not seen any sincere Catholic saying or even hinting that the Church should just accept abortion in hard cases; but Catholics regularly seem to say or to hint that waterboarding or enhanced interrogation should stay on the table in the hard cases--the ticking time bomb scenarios, and so on.

The danger of stepping away from the clear principle is that we start looking for justifications to do evil instead of the best ways to do good.  If Savita's health care workers at that Catholic hospital had been committed to the principle of saving both the mother and the baby even if heroic measures were necessary, I doubt we'd even be having these conversations right now.  Instead, though, it seems (again, if the news stories are accurate, which as some have pointed out is a pretty big "if") as though poor and even possibly negligent care of both the mother and the baby is what led to the tragic outcome.

I would caution those commenting on this story to avoid one thing, and that is playing into the hands of the pro-abortion stereotype out there which accuses Catholics of being deeply misogynistic and not caring what happens to a pregnant woman--in other words, having a bias toward saving the baby at the expense of the mother, or of promoting the idea that some pregnancies are fatal and we should just accept that as God's will.  Sure, life itself is fatal, and none of us are getting out of it alive; but that doesn't mean that we should stop treating diseases or no longer fight to save lives in emergencies ranging from car crashes to fires to trauma to various forms of sickness.  I can't imagine anybody saying, "Well, sometimes a car crash will be fatal, so maybe we should just accept the possibility of a fatal car crash as the risk of driving instead of working to avoid crashes and rushing crash victims to hospitals, etc." and yet I've heard people take a similarly dismissive attitude about pregnancy and especially those pregnancies made riskier by diseases or infections.  What we should do, if we really want to follow Catholic principles, is work to promote greater understanding of pregnancy and how to recognize early warning signs of risks; encourage better prenatal care across the board; aid pregnant women in the task of effectively communicating their symptoms and health concerns with their doctors; support doctors who are trying to come up with new and better ways to treat women in high-risk pregnancies or crisis situations; and support medical interventions designed to save the lives of both mother and child, including, perhaps, a future possibility of delivering a 17-week fetus and placing him or her immediately in some sort of high-tech incubator that will actually allow him or her to continue to grow and develop in those situations where no other option is possible.

And part of that, for us Catholics especially, would be a more realistic understanding of the benefits of natural family planning and the abandonment of a fatalistic attitude about pregnancy and childbirth which fails to treat women with their proper measure of inherent dignity.  But I think that that is a post for another day.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Woman dies of medical malpractice; Catholic Church blamed

A reader asked me yesterday to comment on the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian woman living in Ireland who died of septicemia following a miscarriage.  I wrote back and said that I intended to hold off on commenting until I'd seen a realistic discussion of the medical issues; the brief news articles I had read simply didn't make much sense.

But the blogger at The Thirsty Gargoyle has the scoop:
Obviously this is horrible, sickening, and tragic. 

I hope those investigations get to the bottom of what happened. I'd hope too, that appropriate action be taken if anyone claimed that the hospital couldn't help Savita as it would be against the law for it to do so, especially on the spurious grounds that, as was supposedly said, 'this is a Catholic country'. And if the hospital's negligence veered into the realms of the criminal, then I really hope there are suitable consequences.

The thing is, assuming that the reporting is accurate, and given the Irish Times' recent record on life issues, it may not be, this doesn't make sense. As far as I can see, Galway University Hospital would have been fully within its legal rights to have induced a preterm delivery -- or foetal evacuation -- in an attempt to save both mother and child. Indeed, not merely would it have been within its rights to do so, doing so would have been normal medical practice. 
This is exactly the sort of thing that Dr Berry Kiely talked about back on what was an uncommonly good Vincent Browne show back in the Spring -- you induce a preterm delivery, thus saving the mother, and you do everything you can to try to save the child. You almost certainly fail, but you try. [...]
Update: It's been pointed out to me that according to the reports, Savita was admitted to hospital with a miscarriage underway, her cervix being open from Sunday, but that antibiotics were only brought into play on Tuesday night, a full two days later; it's as though she spent two days there with an open wound. Again, I'm no doctor and would appreciate if someone could clarify this, but given that this was a case of death from infection,  it seems to me to have been utterly egregious medical negligence from the start, and nothing whatsoever to do with the law, medical guidelines, or religious principles.
I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are the important points:

1. It is not against either Irish law or Catholic teaching to deliver an extremely pre-term baby provided that the usual principle of double effect is in play; that is, the death of the baby is accepted as a result of the early delivery [please see bracketed comment below for clarification] but not desired for its own sake, and the intent is to save the mother, though any efforts that can be made to save the child once he or she is delivered should be taken.  But a delivery of this sort is, quite simply, not an abortion.  There is no benefit to be gained by directly and intentionally killing the child first and then delivering his or her corpse; the mother's life can be saved by delivering a live child, even if no baby has ever survived being born at seventeen weeks and the best care will probably not change that fact. (See Update 1 and 3 below.)  [I'm adding a note here: after thinking and reading more about this, what I mean is this: the early delivery itself can't be the only action being taken, but the action being taken to save the life of the mother has the unintended side effect of early delivery: that is, removal of infected placenta and amniotic fluid etc., removal of a cancerous or infected uterus, or something similar which also results in the removal of the baby.  An early delivery of a living baby from a healthy uterus is only a moral option if the baby has reached viability.  Right now, the earliest a child has survived outside the womb is just over 22 weeks.  But in this particular case the important fact is that it was the infection, not the baby, that was a danger to the mother.]

2. In fact, a surgical abortion at seventeen weeks gestation could quite possibly have exacerbated the already-existing infection, since the source of the infection was presumably due to the fully-dilated cervix and the leaking amniotic fluid.  The most common surgical method of abortion at 17 weeks is the dilation and evacuation method; the cervix is dilated, and the fetus is dismembered via forceps with the arms and legs cut off and removed first, followed by the head and torso which are separated from each other.  Since Savita was already fully dilated the method would still have required the insertion of forceps into her presumably infected cervix and the dismemberment and removal of her fetus; the risk of further infection from inadvertent remains left in the uterus would, I think, require great caution in the reassembly of the pieces of the dead fetus to ensure that nothing had been left behind.  Again, compared to simply inducing labor and having Savita deliver a whole and intact child who would almost certainly die soon afterward, the D&E procedure seems like an unnecessary risk.

3.  Someone pointed out to me that in the United States it is standard procedure not to allow a pregnant woman who is leaking amniotic fluid to go more than a certain number of hours before inducing labor precisely because of the risk of infection; that Savita presented at the hospital with the symptoms, not of a standard miscarriage, but of preterm labor seems to be the case from the reports.  Even if the hospital attempted to stop the preterm labor (which may or may not have been a possible response--the medical details are unclear), it seems extremely odd that it was not standard procedure for them to administer antibiotics immediately since she was fully dilated and had been leaking amniotic fluid for an undetermined amount of time.  But the real issue here, as the Thirsty Gargoyle highlights above, is this: she was admitted to the hospital Sunday night and was not given antibiotics until Tuesday. If the doctor in charge or the hospital is now attempting to blame the Catholic Church and Irish law for this woman's presumably (on the information that has been made public) preventable death, then the doctor and the hospital would appear to be in full "CYA" mode, and instead of dragging the red herring of Ireland's pro-life laws and the Catholic Church's teachings across the trail, they should be exposed and held accountable for this apparently grotesque failure to practice medicine according to accepted standards of care.

The bottom line here is this: barring some startling new information or revelations regarding this case, it would seem from the available information that what killed Savita Halappanavar was not at all respect for unborn human life, but gross disrespect for both her life and the life of her child, manifested in substandard medical care.  Again, I'm going only by the available information, but if that information is at all accurate, then abortion would not have done a thing for Savita, especially if she was still denied proper recourse to basic antibiotics until far too late in the game.  Perhaps we will learn more, but no matter what we learn, I am certain that a typical D&E abortion would have been extremely painful under the circumstances (presuming an infected cervix), would have added to the risk of infection, and would, given the inexplicable lack of antibiotic treatment, not in any way have changed the outcome of this tragic case.

UPDATE 1: A commenter links to this interesting post, which claims that the Church has always taught that the delivery of pre-viable children is indeed an abortion and is forbidden.  I am a little unclear about this; for instance, removal of the section of a fallopian tube containing an ectopic pregnancy is permitted, and the use of certain medical treatments such as cancer treatments which are known to cause fetal death are also permitted, and neither of these things is considered abortion even if it is known that the death of the unborn child will be the result of the medical action.  Yet when I was sharing the points the Thirsty Gargoyle made I do remember being mildly surprised by the use of the principle of double effect here--still, I summed up the points made in Thirsty Gargyole's post to which I had linked, which was my intention.  This is one of those circumstances where I think the opinion of a Catholic moral theologian might be much more valuable than that of a mere lay blogger (me, that is).  I can see both sides of this argument, and if the Church has ruled definitively on the question and someone can share that, I'll be glad to link to it.

UPDATE 2:  You know, the more I think about this case, the stranger it seems to me.  Savita came to the hospital that Sunday night with a fully dilated cervix and was leaking amniotic fluid.  Was this a miscarriage where the baby was indeed actively dying, or was this preterm labor/PPROM that the hospital failed to address adequately?

UPDATE 3: The evacuation of an infected placenta which will result in the death of a child is briefly mentioned here (link via Thirsty Gargoyle's article).  I apologize for the inexact language I used before which made it sound like delivery of a baby known to be pre-viable was the option being discussed; it is the necessity of removing the infected placenta and any remaining infected amniotic fluid to save the mother's life which is the option being discussed, with the simultaneous but unavoidable removal of the pre-viable baby as the secondary and undesired effect.  I had thought that there might be some discussion of removing a pre-viable child who was somehow close enough to viability for a heroic effort to save the child to be made, even if the possibility of success was infinitesimal; I'm still not sure if such a possibility might exist in some cases, but since no known child has yet survived delivery before 22 weeks I think it's safe to assume that 17 weeks would be too far away from that marker for a realistic attempt to save the baby to be made.  (At least for now; medical technology may eventually make such an early survival possible, via "artificial womb" technology or some such thing.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Another review of The Telmaj!

Dwija at the "House Unseen" blog has posted an awesome book review of The Telmaj, written by her young daughter:
The Telmaj is a story that takes place in outer space. It starts with Smijj, the main character, who since childhood has been able to go places just thinking about them, nearly being caught stealing a valuable statue. He works his way out of that situation easy enough.

His whole future is decided by choosing to eat lunch in a restaurant filled with old people.  Mar, an elderly lady inside, asks him to carry her tray for her. He is asked to help with her and her crew’s work being intergalactic mail carriers. 
And I'm especially grateful to Dwija for her suggestion that those of you who are doing some online Christmas shopping might consider buying a copy of The Telmaj for those 8 to 14-year-old readers on your list!  

For those who have already read The Telmaj, I hope to have some good news about the sequel soon!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

No Greed Thursday

This just makes me sick:
Retailers are hoping to get holiday-shoppers into their stores right after they finish their Thanksgiving turkey, but some store employees are pushing back.

Target (TGT), Toys R Us, Wal-Mart (WMT), Sears (SHLD) and Gap (GPS) are among the retailers that will throw open their doors to deal-hungry consumers on Thanksgiving Day. Target is planning to open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, while Wal-Mart and Toys R Us will be open at 8 p.m. [...]

Not all employees are thrilled about having to come to work on the holiday.

Casey St. Clair, a Target employee in California, has started an online petition asking the retail giant to save Thanksgiving from Black Friday creep.The petition had reached 178,000 signatures as of Tuesday.

She told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Monday "In the almost six years since I've been there, I've seen the opening creep back every year."

St. Clair said on Thanksgiving, "retail is not a necessary service that needs to be open."
Jennifer Ann, another Target employee, also has a petition calling on Target to save Thanksgiving for employees. “Family has always been important to me and Thanksgiving is all about family,” she wrote. “I love seeing family that we haven't seen in years and spending time with each other on the only day when we can all get together. Last year, it became clear to me that for some large retailers, this holiday isn't about family or being grateful at all.”

In a statement, Target said its "opening time was carefully evaluated with the expectations of our guests and the needs of our business and team in mind." 
Translation: shut up, wage slaves, and ditch the family Thanksgiving to come Thursday night to sell made-in-China "holiday" crap to the masses, so we can keep paying our CEO more than twenty million dollars a year in salary and other compensation.

I have a better idea.

I hereby declare, with my complete and total lack of authority as an ordinary citizen of the United States of America, that Thanksgiving Day shall henceforth and forthwith be known as "No Greed Thursday."  I encourage all citizens of the United States to join me in boycotting all "Greed Thursday" prequels to the Black Friday lunacy by which our greedy retail corporations dangle fake bargains as the "carrot" to get consumers into stores, where they will be beaten with the "stick" of wildly inflated prices, lack of availability of advertised sale goods, and continued enslavement to the manufacturing practices of third world countries complete with those nations' disregard for human rights--a disregard our retailers, in forcing their employees to work on holidays, can so far only dream of.

I asked my youngest daughter to make a simple "No Greed Thursday" image that I could put in my blog sidebar; here it is, and you may also feel free to use it in any non-commercial way (or make your own version if you like):

Let's send corporate America a message: don't mess with Thanksgiving.  You've already co-opted many holidays that used to be non-commercial; we're not letting you have this one--not without a fight.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Health care and charity

According to Reuters (thanks to a reader who reminded me recently to check their articles) Wal-Mart employees are about to see their health care costs rise--sending more of them into government health care programs:
Nov 12 (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc's U.S. employees will pay between 8 and 36 percent more in premiums for its medical coverage in 2013, prompting some of the 1.4 million workers at the nation's largest private employer to say they will forego coverage altogether.

In mailings sent to employees for its recently completed open-enrollment period, Wal-Mart noted that its rates would increase because healthcare costs continue to rise. [...]

More than half of Wal-Mart's U.S. employees sign up for its healthcare plans, which cover 1.1 million people, including dependents. Store workers across the country are offered the same plans as executives back at Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

"Over the past few years we've all seen the cost of health care continue to rise nationwide, and 2013 is no different," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "As a result, we are adjusting rates for some of our health care plan choices. We are doing our best to keep health care costs as low as possible for our associates."

Barbara Andridge, who works at the Walmart in Placerville, California, decided to drop out of a Wal-Mart plan provided for the retailer by a health management organization - when she found out that the cost was set to nearly double to $60 a month. The Wal-Mart HMO plans can be more expensive than Wal-Mart's own.

"Sixty dollars isn't a lot to some people but when I have to think about buying winter clothes for my kids or sending my daughter to college I have to think of what is best for my children," she said. "Hopefully I'm making the right decision."

Andridge, who makes $12.05 an hour and said her husband was laid off this year, knows that she would have had to pay the same $60 monthly premium no matter how many hours she worked.
"Living paycheck to paycheck, I made the decision to swallow my pride and go and get county health," she said in reference to Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid health care program.

At least the Wal-Mart employees in my local area may have a better option than Medicaid:

A grassroots effort to provide volunteer medical care to uninsured Tarrant County residents hit its first-year goal of enrolling 100 patients, and organizers say they hope to expand the program in its second year.

Project Access Tarrant County connected 110 people to a growing network of volunteer providers, including physicians, hospitals and specialty clinics, according to the Tarrant County Medical Society.

“We think it’s only going to ... get better,” said Brian Swift, executive vice president of the medical society. “The reaction from the medical community has been great and we’re figuring out what works and what doesn’t work.”

The medical society and Catholic Charities Fort Worth launched Project Access last year to promote better care and save taxpayer dollars by diverting indigent people away from expensive emergency services. Ideally, patients will get medical conditions treated quickly, allowing them to get back to work and get employer-paid health insurance plans. More than 20 percent of patients who got help have retained jobs or increased their work hours because of it, officials said.

The program is for people who meet income requirements and do not already get benefits from Medicare, Medicaid and JPS Connection, the county’s indigent health-care program. About a quarter of Tarrant County residents are believed to be uninsured.

Read more here:

Read more about this great program here.

Now, it's only a matter of time before Catholic Charities is forced to shut down, being that it's an organization run by the evil anti-gay "marriage" bigots in the Catholic Church.  But I'm sure that the grassroots programs like these will do just fine without the help and financing of evil bigoted Catholics, so there's nothing to worry about, right?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Where I'm coming from

I've been asked in recent days why I'm so bitter about the gay "marriage" stuff, why my tone in writing about this gets so bleak and depressing.  So I thought I'd use this opportunity to share a little bit about where I'm coming from.

I'm coming from ancestors who, according to family stories, fled France in the late 1780s, when being a faithful Catholic in France might cost you your head.  Literally.

I'm coming from ancestors whose families left Ireland in the face of religious persecution and the grinding poverty that comes when the people who hate you the most make all the laws about where and how you can work the land, and what other jobs you can legitimately hold.

I'm coming from ancestors who came from Wales, where being Catholic wasn't exactly a ticket to fame or fortune, either.  Especially after the Reformation.

I'm coming from long lines of people who came here because of the glimmer of hope they saw distantly reflected from Lady Liberty's torch, and the promise that here they could live and work and bring their faith into the public square along with them instead of having to hide it six days out of seven for fear of persecution.

And it wasn't easy.

It wasn't easy to be torn away from homes and families they'd never see again.  It wasn't easy to get here and see signs on workplaces that said "No Irish need apply," or hear about the loyalty oaths that kept Catholics from holding public office, or witness the battle to close Catholic schools and force all children to attend public ones instead--not when the promise of religious freedom was what had drawn them here in the first place.  It wasn't easy to fight for generations so they wouldn't be treated like second-class citizens.

Somehow, my ancestors prevailed, and enough of them kept the faith so that I, here in 2012, have no problem stating that I fully accept every teaching of the Catholic Church and strive to worship God faithfully not only at Mass on Sunday but in every aspect and every facet of my life.  That I fail at times is the human condition, but that I even want to keep trying is a testament to the faith my ancestors preserved like a priceless jewel through every hardship, every danger, and even through the threat of death.

But now the shadows of the past are looming large over Catholics in America again, and the battle to redefine marriage has become the weapon of choice for those who would really prefer it if Catholics went back to their little Catholic ghettos and didn't mix much with the "real" Americans, or expect to be able to hold certain public offices (anything pertaining to marriage, for instance) or jobs (anything where you have to sign a "diversity statement" that is actually a denial of your faith) or own businesses (anything where you have to maintain the fiction that two men or two women are a "marriage") or run adoption agencies or charities where they will be forced to repeat the lie that it is bigoted and hateful to claim that marriage is one man and one woman or that children need a mother and a father...

...and pointing any of this out at all is "uncivil," or so I'm told.

Gay activists like to talk about acts of violence and murder committed against homosexual people in their discussions of these issues.  I have never condoned any such acts, and never will; no matter how greatly I disagree with the lifestyles and values of those who engage in same-sex acts, I could not ever turn a blind eye to attacks or murders.  How could I, when my own Catholic people knew what it was like to be targeted, attacked, and even killed for their religious beliefs? 

But it is undoubtedly true that hatred for Catholics has never been eradicated in America.  The most fundamentalist evangelical and the most rabid atheist share this in common: they both hate Catholics.  And open hatred of Catholics is becoming ever more visible in society; I have, myself, seen apparently sane Internet commenters go off the deep end and say that Catholics deserved to be murdered for our beliefs, especially on marriage and human sexuality--I've even read outright calls for such killings, and shockingly graphic language employed as to the best way to carry this sort of thing out.

Does that, alone, mean that Catholics are about to face open religious persecution again in America?  Of course not--but the climate for widespread social approval of marginalizing Catholics who won't water down their Church's teachings or their own expression and belief in those teachings is growing, and may soon come to fruition.  To shrug and accept all of this with a blase and lackadaisical attitude would be, for me, a betrayal of the blood of my ancestors which now runs in my veins.  The things they did, the things they suffered, the things they tried to escape and that they had to endure to reach these shores in the hopes of living openly as Catholics rise up in my imagination as a reproach, should I back away from this fight before it is over.

That's where I'm coming from, and why I see this fight about forcing religious people to abandon a more than 2,000 year old understanding of the nature and purpose of marriage as the opening salvo in what may be the kind of war that leaves my descendents homeless, and hoping for some other distant shore to welcome them when they can no longer live both as Catholics and as Americans.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

And now Washington...

From news reports I'm seeing, it looks like Washington State has become the next state to declare that all Catholics are bigots by imposing the ridiculous legal fiction known as gay "marriage" on the people of Washington.

Frankly, I'm not surprised.  I lived in Washington State.  I attended what was at that time the worst, most heretical, most rabidly feminist, most pro-contraception and abortion, least Catholic school in the nation there.  It was while I was at that school, in fact, that my parents came to their senses and realized that the mission of all diocesan Catholic schools in America is to turn all of their students into ex-Catholics and lifelong Democrats, a mission in which they are still, apparently, succeeding wildly.

And because I lived in Washington State, I can also say that the Seattle area is the most hateful place I've ever lived--if you're a child out with your relatively large family, that is.  From being screamed at as "breeders" to lectured about overpopulation to being told we were ruining the planet, my parents put up with a lot from the anti-family forces that thrive in and around Seattle.

Maybe it's changed since then.  I don't know.  I'd have to ask Mark Shea.  But if it's even remotely like it used to be, the question isn't why Washington State approved gay "marriage," but why they didn't take steps to ban what they consider "breeder marriage" while they were at it, and require all couples to get parenting licenses before they could have the state government approve their request to have exactly one child.

Again, no comments on these posts.  Send me an email if your blistering hate is too strong to keep to yourself (emails agreeing with me are also always welcome, and have been lifting my spirits today).

The calls for civility are always one-sided

Yesterday, I put myself in an extended "time-out" re: the comment boxes at Rod Dreher's blog.  The issue was gay "marriage," and the supporters of gay "marriage" lost no time doing the following two things:

1. Bashing anybody who is opposed to gay "marriage" as a wicked evil nasty rotten bigot and hater who just can't see how PRECIOUS it is for two men to have a wedding ceremony, call each other "husband," and pay a third-world woman to manufacture an intentionally motherless baby for them to raise, and

2. Demanding civility in speech and manner from all the wicked evil nasty rotten bigots and haters who have (everybody knows) simply been brainwashed by the evil Catholic Church into thinking that there was ever anything good for any society ever about defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman that was ordered toward creating the best and most stable environment in which to raise one's own biological children, provided God chose to bless them with children.  Because it is the DUTY of the religious bigots and haters to say nice, sweet, irenic, loving things as we get pushed to the wall and told how evil we are and how hard they're going to work to get our children to reject our hateful Catholic beliefs and religion.

I put myself in time out for two reasons; one, I was losing it (hey, I'm human too, and though I know my opponents in these arguments don't think so I can even get hurt on occasion), and two, I was starting to ask myself: why the Hell do I pray for these idiots every day, and some of them specifically by name on Sundays at Mass, when they so obviously hate God and have no desire whatsoever to be with Him--except for the ones who insist He's a fairy tale and will be chagrined when they find out otherwise? 

Since that is a terribly unhealthy and dangerous place for a Christian to go, I decided to absent myself from Rod's comment boxes until at least next year, if I can even go back then.  I'll still read what he writes; as I told him, his posts always make me think--but his commenters are starting to make me think four-letter words, and then I have to go back to Confession.

Having said all of that, I honestly think that what my opponents on this gay "marriage" debate really, really, really don't get is this: the calls for civility are always one-sided.  The gay rights supporters can say, over and over again, that everybody knows opposition to gay "marriage" is just hate and bigotry, and that you are a hater and a bigot if you don't clap at the idea of a couple of lesbians using IVF to manufacture kids and then having each one's biological child implanted in the other's womb, and that society is one day going to laugh at people who thought marriage had anything at all to do with the natural family, and that even saying things like "the natural family" is hate and bigotry that must be eradicated from polite society, and that if Catholics start being forced to sign corporate diversity statements that deny their faith in order to keep their jobs, well, they deserve it for being bigots and haters...

People who absolutely faint if I say that I think that homosexual sex acts are intrinsically disordered and that two men or two women do not make a "marriage" think it's the apex of civility to call me a bigot and a hater, over and over again.  They demand civility from me, but have never shown me or people like me the slightest bit of it.  A commenter at Rod's could essentially say that straight marriages are meaningless "baby-manufactory" arrangements compared to the loving and beautiful partnerships of gay "marriage," and nobody thought that was crossing any lines.

So let's be honest: when the pro-gay "marriage" crowd screams that the other side must show them civility, what they're really saying is: "Shut up."