A Short Manifesto on Life Issues

In June, I will be attending the Vita Institute at the University of Notre Dame, “an intensive intellectual formation program for leaders in the national and international pro-life movement.”  I had to apply for this opportunity, and I thought my readers might be interested in how I answered the questions on my application.

I believe in the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death. I believe that procured abortion is always wrong and that unborn lives should be protected by law. I also believe that our responsibility to unborn children and their mothers extends beyond making abortion illegal. I adhere to the Church’s teaching on contraceptives and believe that their use has led to a contraceptive mentality that is linked to the acceptance of abortion. I believe that the rise of various forms of fertility assistance, in separating conception from the marital embrace, is also related to abortion. I believe that if we pro-life Catholics want to be taken seriously by the wider culture, we need to center our efforts to end abortion firmly within Catholic Social Teaching and a consistent life ethic. I further believe that we need to demonstrate our care for all lives in both charitable and systemic ways.

I take to heart Saint John Paul the Great’s words from his Gospel of Life:  “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator” (Evangelium Vitae 3).

My convictions often place me in uncomfortable situations and leave me without a political home. My critics struggle to fit me into our society’s convenient and restrictive liberal/conservative paradigm. But my convictions come straight from the teachings of the Church and that gives me strength to continue to proclaim them even when it is hard. And I believe the Church’s consistent ethic of life gives us a strong foundation from which to argue for all lives, whether they are the innocent unborn, the condemned murderer, the frozen embryo, or the terminally ill.

I was introduced to the topic of abortion accidentally as a young child when I stumbled across some pamphlets with pictures of aborted babies in a drawer in our home. I have been passionately pro-life ever since, with my activism taking different forms. I began by writing many letters to newspapers and government officials. I became a charter member and later chair of the Knoxville Diocese Respect Life Committee. I participated in Life Chains and Marches for Life for many years. I wrote a column on life issues for the East Tennessee Catholic, and later took the name of that column for my blog, where I have been writing on life issues since 2010. I have been active in the parish to which I have belonged since I was baptized as an infant, serving on the Pastoral Council as member and chair as well as on many other committees over the years. I have also served in various capacities as a volunteer at my children’s elementary school including serving as 8th grade Room Mother which involved fundraising for and planning graduation events. My husband has served as KOC Grand Knight, District Deputy, and 4th Degree Color Corps Commander, and I supported him in these endeavors as well.

Writing on my blog and elsewhere is my greatest passion and personal interest and I want to make more time for it going forward. I love to read and try to read at least six books a month, some for entertainment, but many to further educate myself. I enjoy hiking and usually walk at least three miles each day. I am a gardener and am in the process of replacing all the grass in my front yard with flowering plants.

As my nest empties, I find myself looking forward to the next stage of my life and wanting to work toward my professional goals. I want to spend more time on my writing and blogging, focusing on the intersection of faith and politics, particularly the Church’s Social Teachings. I want to create conversations among people of good will, educating Catholics and others and working to change hearts and minds on life issues.

In order to do this I want to be thoroughly grounded in these teachings, because it is very important to me to always be absolutely orthodox in anything I write. I want to learn from the kind of faculty the Vita Institute provides. My son is a Notre Dame graduate, so I am familiar with the ethos of the school and know I can expect excellence from any program it sponsors.  I have been very intentional over the last year about educating myself on issues of importance. I read books and articles every day from reputable sources, including both secular and spiritual books. Attending the Vita Institute is a natural next step in my self-education.

I believe I should be selected because I am a natural student and someone with her own reputation for excellence. My readers have told me they come to my page when they are looking for accurate information about Church teachings on the issues of the day, and I am very proud of that and take the responsibility seriously. The education I would receive via the Vita Institute would be shared with my audience, which includes both faithful Catholics and those of other or no faith traditions. And I look forward to the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with other like-minded attendees.

In 2012, the USCCB put out a statement on religious liberty which included the following statement: “Catechesis on religious liberty is not the work of priests alone. The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom.” I was thrilled to see the importance of the work of Catholic bloggers lifted up by our bishops, and I want to live up to that trust by doing everything I can to make sure I represent Church teachings on life issues faithfully.

And there you have it! I look forward to sharing what I learn at the Vita Institute with you all.

Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – April Reflection

I was honored to be given the opportunity to write a prayer and reflection for the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, an “Apostleship of Prayer [that] addresses the challenges facing humanity and assists the mission of the Church [by praying and working] to meet the challenges of the world identified by the Pope in his monthly intentions . . .

Please click below to read my reflection on health care workers, for whom our Holy Father has asked us to pray this month.

For health care workers – April Reflection

 

Heavenly Treasures

Basil the Great once said: “When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”

We are not rich by any means, but like most Americans we have more than we need. How many coats do you have? I am embarrassed to say how many pairs of shoes I have. Does your bread get moldy because you do not finish it in time? Are we any better than the rich young man [in the Gospel]?

Read the rest of my latest reflection for Inspire Daily at the link below.

Heavenly Treasures

What Is Love?

Well over 30 years ago, when I was a Sophomore at Georgetown University, a group of us gathered to explore ways we could deepen our commitment to our faith outside of weekly Mass attendance. We called our group “Beyond Dahlgren,” Dahlgren Chapel being the university’s main worship space.

We gathered for prayer and fellowship and at least one retreat over the next few years. Our sponsor/mentor was a young Jesuit named Father Bill Watson, and at some point he started bringing his friend Father Robert Spitzer to our gatherings.

Father Spitzer (who at the time preferred to be called just “Spitzer”) taught me metaphysics, lived in our dorm, and eventually officiated at our marriage and baptized our first child.

He was (and is) brilliant and enthusiastic, and I have never forgotten some of the wisdom he imparted in our wedding homily.

Father Spitzer continues to impart wisdom about love today. I consider it one of those “Holy Spirit moments” that I was invited to watch and write about his recent video on understanding love. Along with explaining how the Christian view of love differs from earlier understandings and how transformative it has been over the centuries, Father makes a plea for all Catholics to counteract our culture’s destructive ideas by challenging common conceptions of love.

“Being nice is not love,” Father reminds us. Rather, love is a self-gift for the good of the Other–the WHOLE person, eternally and without expectation. It’s not giving someone whatever they want, whenever they want it, when it is not good for the whole person in the long term.

While the Christian agape proclaimed by Jesus transformed the world, leading to the founding of Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic public welfare organizations, Father explains that our culture’s redefinition of love has led to depression, anxiety, familial tensions, substance abuse, and suicide.

Father gives an impassioned explanation of the “intrinsic, unreserved value of every human life,” which informs all Catholic social teaching on the sanctity of and care for life from conception to natural death. Watching this video energized me to continue doing what I can to “re-educate our culture” at home, in my social circles, and through my writing.

This post was inspired by a recent talk on Understanding Love by Father Robert Spitzer of Healing the Culture.  Healing the Culture is an international leader in pro-life advocacy, delivering respect life education to millions of people by advancing universal principles of logic, ethics, and justice.  Through their online resources, K-12 curricula, leadership training programs, and media productions, Healing the Culture has helped countless individuals reject abortion and euthanasia and become effective pro-life advocates.

God’s Mysterious Mercy

“With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private” (Mark 4:33-34).

When I read these words from today’s Gospel, I found myself wishing I were one of the disciples, sitting at the feet of Jesus as he explained his parables.  I often wish God would explain his mysterious ways to me!

Read the rest of my latest for Diocesan  at the link below or in your MyParish app under Inspire Daily!

God’s Mysterious Mercy

Jesus, Sun of Justice

We all long for justice. Children are born with this innate desire—they are obsessed with fairness until their parents tell them enough times that the world is not fair.  Well, it is a fallen world so that is unfortunately true. But I have never said this to my own children. Instead, I say this: “The world is not fair but we have to try to be.” We must not fall prey to the temptation to think that there is no hope for any justice here on earth. While perfect justice may be only attainable in God’s Kingdom, we cannot just stand around, staring at the sky, waiting for Jesus to show up.

Read the rest below:

Jesus, Sun of Justice

 

What I Read in November

Posting late this month because 1) Thanksgiving and 2) End of semester for my kids and 3) Christmas preparations, but even though I am too late for my regular linkup, I wanted to keep up my monthly update–especially as I hit my goal for the month!

The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters

Brother Cadfael continues to delight me! This adventure contained some still timely discussions on pastoral care of sinners.

Monsters of the Week by Zack Handlen and Todd Vanderwerff

I had been reading this most of the year, one entry at a time, to coincide with our family re-watch of all 11 seasons plus the movies of my favorite show.  It includes reviews of every episode plus short interviews of cast members and plenty of inside info.

How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

What I appreciated most about this book is how the author led us along on his own antiracist journey, while inviting us to confront our own internalized biases and learn how to do better.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

This was the only Georgetown book club choice that I read this quarter. I was a little iffy about it because of the subject matter–it is a “memoir” of the wife of Jesus! But it was written in such a way as not to offend, and it was more about the heroine and her journey anyway.  I enjoyed the story and the details of everyday life at the time.

The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness by Father Greg Boyle

I stumbled into an Instagram book study hosted by Alissa Molina and I am so glad I did! I had been fortunate to have heard Father Greg speak at my son’s graduation from Notre Dame so I was excited to read this book, and it did not disappoint.  Father Greg is the founder of a ministry that serves gang members, and the stories of mercy and grace and wisdom in this book will surprise and move you.

And that’s it for November!  I hope to be back to linking up next month.

When the Bad Guys Win

Today’s First Reading is really satisfying, isn’t it? Imagine King Antiochus, secure in the power of his army, head full of dreams of silver and gold. He is so certain of victory that when things don’t go his way, he is dismayed. In today’s slang, we might say he is “shook.” He is so overcome that he takes to his bed and prepares to die. On his deathbed he recognizes the price he has paid for his greed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if things always worked out that way—the virtuous victorious, the evildoers overthrown? That is not the norm in our fallen world, though.

Read the rest of my reflection for Inspire Daily at the link below:

When the Bad Guys Win

Let Your Light Shine

Today’s Gospel Acclamation exhorts us to let our light shine, and in the Gospel Jesus reminds us not to place that light under a bushel. At the end of their exile, the Israelites could not hide the light of their faith and their appreciation of the good things God had done for them.

Surely God has done great things for all of us, but how good are we at shining?

Read the rest at the link below! You can also find it in the MyParish app if you have it, or sign up for daily reflections at Diocesan.com.

Let Your Light Shine!

My Pandemic Year

March 2020. It was the beginning of the pandemic–schools had just been shut down. Everything was strange and I was afraid.

I had been walking at the park down the street from my house since the beginning of the year–I’d stop on my way to pick up the kids from school and do fifteen minutes or so.  Now I started going every morning, working up to an hour every day.  Walking while listening to Catholic speakers or podcasts or praying along with Hallow or Pray As You Go became a lifeline for me.  As long as I could walk I felt stronger and braver.

I took the above picture last March. Since then I have taken many, many pictures of my beloved park, as I have continued to walk almost every morning through all weather and seasons.

In addition to these morning excursions I started walking for an hour every evening with my friend next door. She used to text me frequently asking if I wanted to come  with her but I was always too busy. Now I said yes, and our socially distanced treks were an important source of human contact as well as exercise.

Below are the shoes I wore from March until I got sport sandals in the summer, and then again through the fall and winter until February when I finally bought really good shoes to help with my foot pain.

I set many goals for myself last year, and achieved most of them, with the help of my Shine Goals Planner and the tools I learned in Sterling Jaquith’s Catholic goal setting courses. One of the first goals I set was to increase my steps per day.

That’s how my average step count changed from 2019 to 2020. Even better is the following picture which covers year one of the pandemic:

It’s even cooler when it’s translated into miles:

I set goals for other things in my life too.  I went from drinking no water at all to drinking several glasses daily. I finally eliminated my bedtime snack habit. I started going to bed earlier and ensuring that I got seven hours of sleep every night. I created a regular schedule of morning and evening prayer. In fact, I created a schedule for just about every aspect of my life and I have stuck to it for a year.

As you might expect, my physical, spiritual, and emotional health benefited from all this.  All those pesky numbers–insulin, blood sugar, cholesterol, and the like–saw marked decreases into normal territory. I have dropped about 50 pounds and several sizes. And I feel peaceful and happy most of the time even as life has grown more complicated with two virtual students–one high school, one college–in the house.

Honestly, I have grown very comfortable with my new way of life and am now feeling a little scared about how things may change for me as we emerge from the pandemic.  As an introvert having all this time to myself has been nourishing to me–while my extroverted husband has become drained of all energy!

I have coped with this unprecedented, uncontrollable situation by somewhat rigidly controlling my own life. And I know that is not how a lot of people cope with times like this. If you coped by lying on the sofa eating junk food for a year this post is not meant as a judgment on you! We are all doing the best we can.