Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Life in Christ - Mary's Way

Tonight I am giving a presentation at my parish RCIA about "Life in Christ." The topic fills about 1/4 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so knowing what to say and what to leave out for purposes of summary - well, it's been difficult, let's say. Anyhow, since today is the Annunciation of the Lord (formerly called Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary), it seems fitting to use Mary's words spoken on that day.

(Fra. Angelico's Annunciation, in the Convent of St. Mark, in Florence)

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to your word," (Lk 1:38).

The shift of solemnity's title is not accidental. By changing it from "to the Blessed Virgin Mary," to "of the Lord," the Church has publicly emphasized just what, or better, who is being announced. It also opens the feast day to remembering the other annunciation. An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, too, in a dream telling him not to fear taking Mary for his wife (Mt 1:20). Mary's "yes," was needed to give the Word flesh; Joseph's silent obedience was needed to give Him a safe and happy home, to train Him as a man, to prepare Him for His mission. By contemplating the heart of Mary, we will come to know Him who was germinated in her; by contemplating the heart of Joseph, we will honor her, and keep His presence safe in us. Their union, though virginal, was the most fruitful of any marriage because they nurtured, safeguarded, and brought Jesus to the world. Every married couple would do well to take their cue from Joseph and Mary.

Holy Mary and Joseph, pray for us.

Mary Ann Glendon

If you don't know about this woman, you should. Atop a pile of accomplishments and scholarship, she has defied stereotypes at every turn. For example:

"What is clearly 'old-fashioned' today is the old feminism of the 1970s — with its negative attitudes toward men, marriage and motherhood, and its rigid party line on abortion."

She is a professor at Harvard Law School and was the US Ambassador to the Holy See, appointed by President Bush. She resigned her position on Jan 19, whether as a formality or because she would not serve under Obama, I cannot say. Check her out on Wikipedia.

I Still Get Choked Up

I found a booklet in .PDF format, put out by the Catholic News Service, containing accounts of priests who ministered at or near Ground Zero on or shortly after September 11, 2001.

My thoughts were jumbled, and still are, whenever I think about that day. "Father, give me courage to be like those rescue workers, in whatever time and place you ask." Though many ministers, rabbis, and so on responded, for some reason I cannot quite place, reading or hearing about those priests always makes me swell with pride in my Church.

I am not sure, as a nation, that we have yet properly mourned September 11.

The Meaning of Life

I am daily more confident that God has meant the community of human life to be a laboratory of love.

Praying the Rosary

YouTube has these videos, suggested to me by a friend:

How to pray the rosary:

A rosary playlist with accompanying videos and pictures for each mystery:

God, what a wonderful, daring time it is to be Catholic! Help us to be the new life that you are infusing into your Church. Please, grant us the strength to bring the world to you. Amen.

The Elephant in Our Treasury's Plan

Keynesian economic principles, which have held ascendancy among our elite for some decades, indicate that we can get out of a recession by spending money. It makes sense. Kinda. Or does it?

I mean, it's what most of the media says over and over again. All the bailouts and stimulus packages are based upon that idea. But let's unravel it for a minute, and see if it holds to the light of common sense.

The recession is caused because money is tightening up - for individuals and companies. Money is tightening up because we are paying more out, individually and nationally, than we are bringing in - or at least we're getting there. A major source of payments out is the interest on debts that we owe. But if we borrow more money (and thus have higher debt service payments) we are supposed to be able to spend more money and thus everyone will earn more money.

Except, because most of what we buy is made overseas, we won't really make that money back. Other countries' residents will, just like they have been, increasingly, for 30 or so years, and especially since the free-trade bonanza of which NAFTA is a paradigmatic (but unfortunately, not a lonely) example.

So we will borrow money from foreigners so we can buy things from foreigners (or from the credit card companies we use to buy the stuff) at interest. So we owe them more money than when we started, and have higher monthly payments, and are deeper in debt, and money tightens up again and the debt is passed on, like a snowball, to our children - until it is too heavy and crushes some poor generation at last. Are we that generation?

Does anyone else think this "solution" is insane? A recipe for individual, corporate, and national bankruptcy?

We need a new way of doing things as a nation, in particular, but in the West in general.

Watch these YouTube videos and let me know what you think. One of the featured guests on the videos, Gerald Clemente, makes points that remind me of the forgotten (or perhaps never well-known) economic approach called distributism. Listen carefully to him.

Guerilla Warfare Against God's Church

Ok, so check this out: a bill before the Connecticut state senate to cause the restructuring of Church finances, taking them out of the hands of the diocesan bishop and his pastors, and putting them in the hands of boards of laypeople. This blog post and news story from the National Catholic Register cover it.

Whatever you think of the idea, oughtn't we as Americans to be alarmed simply by the fact that it is a topic of legal debate in a state senate? Have these senators ever read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution? Now granted, the case is not technically one of establishment - that is, the making "official" of one religious denomination or another together with its structures, along with providing any sort of unfair advantage. In the US for at least 60 years, that has been read more broadly as meaning that neither a church nor the state will directly interfere in the internal affairs of the other. The churches may influence public opinion about morals, of course, and the state may do so as well. But the churches are not to politick for or against particular candidates, lobby about matters of governmental structuring, etc. And likewise, the state is not to decide on who holds what church office, or how the churches run themselves, or what they teach. That's the law of the land.

The Catholic laypeople supporting the bill and the senators sponsoring the bill clearly have ideological axes against the Church, and see this as a way of forcing change.

What a lot of people-in-the-pews, who love the Church, do not realize realize is that this sort of bill is debated all the time in state legislatures: bills that would require the Church to provide insurance for contraceptives or abortion; bills that would violate the seal of the confessional; bills that would force governance structures on the Church; and more. They usually don't get very far, because we still have rule of law and a constitution in our land, and a majority who remember these things, and judges who do as well.

But enemies of Christ's Church are there, gnawing at our ankles and swiping at our heels, straining to throw down the gates that hold them back.

Down Syndrome Adoptions

A friend of mine just sent me a link to the webpage of an adoption agency that specializes on children with Down Syndrome. Check it out.

Opting to Adopt

I very much would like to write about today's readings, but am not sure that I will have time. But I do have time to copy and paste these letters to the editors of Zenit that were pointed out to me. They move me, I think, especially in light of my youngest sister's handicap. Enjoy!

"The Hard Case of Down Syndrome
A response to:
Discovery of Down Chromosome Called a Victory

The routine abortion of 90% of children with Down syndrome is one of the most tragic manifestations of the culture of death.

Focus on this issue is, I think, one of the best ways to advocate for the right to life. Pro-choice groups often raise the issue of "hard cases." But certainly the routine abortion of children with this syndrome is a "hard case" that the Pro-life movement can use (sex selection is another), because the same progressives (I will not quibble over labels) who support reproductive choice also often fight for the rights of the disabled.

Perhaps an international campaign focusing on this issue would be in order, perhaps focusing, in particular, on the adoption of children with Down syndrome.

Perhaps this is a project that some Catholic dioceses might consider taking on -- creating a registry of Catholics in their region who would welcome a baby with Down syndrome. The registry could then be publicized, asking couples considering abortion to consider adoption instead.

Perhaps another way is for companies that make pro-life clothing to produce shirts with the message "I want to adopt a child with Down syndrome."

Michael Trolly, Ottawa"


"Seeking Children With Down
A response to:
The Hard Case of Down Syndrome

My husband and I have been on a national registry to adopt a baby or child with Down Syndrome for three and a half years. Hopefully our wait will soon be over! We think it is important to put our hearts on the line for these children and these birth mothers. We have had two birth mothers choose us and then keep their babies in the end. This is a great result! It is hard emotional work to be there for birth mothers who are confused about whether or not they will accept their babies. We really want to adopt a baby with Down Syndrome so each time an adoption falls through it is bittersweet.

We feel so strongly that more Catholics need to be willing to adopt babies and children with disabilities whether they have their own children or not. If we claim to be pro-life then we need to live it to the best of our ability. Of course not everyone is cut out for raising a child with a disability, but we believe that if you found out that your biological child had a disability and you would still choose to raise him, then you are a good candidate to do a home study and let the adoption agency make the final decision.

God loves all the little children, and Catholics need to do their best to love and accept all God's children also! (even when they are adults!)

Linda Melsa"

What an excellent idea. Of all the people to abort, children with Down Syndrome seem the most senselessly destroyed. Of all the people in the world, given even a moderately loving home, they are the happiest. Their almost insensate simplicity and joyfulness are almost contagious. I have met dozens of people with Down Syndrome, and never once heard even a hint of regret from their families. Doctors who urge parents to abort their unborn children tested positive for Down Syndrome are morally reprehensible. More than that, they have got to ideologically eugenicist to the point of actual psychosis, to be so out of touch with the reality of these children.

I think Mr. Trolly and Ms. Melsa are on to something.

A Little Culture, pt. 1

Lately, I have been trying to build my scant knowledge of classical music. A lot of it is very beautiful and moving. It is like a language of its own.

Check it out. The Ancient Greeks, I am thinking especially of the Pythagorean philosophers, studied music and harmonics extensively, and influenced Plato heavily. These folks believed that music, which they arranged in harmonic ratios that mirrored those they found in the ratios of distances of planets in the solar system, was the language of the soul, binding us directly to the cosmos by a common tongue, if you will.

The Jews believe(d) that in the final fulfillment of God's promises, all the holy ones will join the hosts of angels in singing God's praises for eternity. We Christians have built on this idea and even gone so far as to say that this purpose is the highest purpose of a person: to sing God's praises with his whole being. Victor Hugo gives a glimpse of the Christian rationale for this expectation. Though the French Romantic poet's sympathy with workers' rights seemed to him incompatible with practicing the Catholic Faith of his youth, he came from a deeply Catholic background. He wrote, "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent."

Confucius wrote, "The inner nature of man is the province of music." He explains this in some further detail: "Therefore, the superior man tries to create harmony in the human heart, by a rediscovery of human nature, and tries to promote music as a means to the perfection of human culture. When such music prevails, and the people’s minds are led towards the right ideals and aspirations, we may see the appearance of a great nation. Character is the backbone of our human nature, and music is the flowering of character." He even asserted that by means of listening to the music being played in a city, the agents of a ruler could assess the moral condition of the people therein. And finally, "When music and courtesy are better understood and appreciated, then there will be no war," (all from the Analects).

What have all these wise people, from so many times and places, known that we modern Westerners have forgotten?

It is interesting. The classical music of China is very different from that of the West. I have no idea how different, only very. But I'll bet that even with different instruments, different preferences for tempo, and different arrangements of chords, etc., it is still based on tonality and harmonization - though different tones and harmonies may prevail there than here. I'll bet.

Yet in the West we have abandoned tonal harmony in our music. How symptomatic. One of my hopes is to drink in a deep appreciation of the classical Western culture that is so informed by the Incarnation of God as a man, so informed with the aspiration that the material and the human can bear witness to the spiritual and the divine, and can even transmit them to us, so in deeply hopeful that the material world means something. As I drink more of this appreciation, I hope deeply to share it with others. Thus the ideal of the West was preserved by Christianity during the Dark Ages, and rebuilt (resurrected?) during the Medieval. Thus, as modernity expends itself will the West be preserved amid the wash of postmodernism and God knows whatever will follow, and thus will it again be resurrected by the Church, if Jesus does not return first. Needless to say, I think it a very good thing that some Catholic parishes, cathedrals, and universities are beginning again to promote culture through music and the visual arts in particular.

For putting up with this little lecture, I'll give you a treat. Click here for free MP3 downloads of classical music. Go on, you know you want to. On me. Make your day a little more beautiful.

A Hero of Mine

Albert Vanhoye, S.J. is a Jesuit priest who was made a cardinal because of his outstanding work as a Biblical scholar. He takes the best of the modern scholarship, contributes extensively to it, and produces results that resonate with the heart and mind of the Church.

His main work is on the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is the book of the Bible that has most captured my imagination. His work is the scholarship on Hebrews that has most captured my imagination. He has used the historical critical methods responsibly, without bringing to bear false assumptions: materialism, naturalism, opposition to the Church's teaching authority or tradition. Instead, he operates from the perspective of faith informed by reason, and reason informed by faith, and rightly sees that there is no incompatibility between the two. So his work shows meaning in the Scriptures compatible with the mind of the ones who wrote them: God and His Church.