Let Us Make this Week Holy

Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives. Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating Holy Scripture. So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass’ colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the “Hosannas” and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary’s anguish as he hung three hours before he died. We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears.

Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven Scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ. Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the Holy Week services of the Church, not just by attending, but also by preparing, by studying the readings, entering into the Spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship. Let us sing, “Lord, have mercy,” and “Hosanna.”
Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, uniting with the suffering Church throughout the world — in Rome and Northern Ireland, in Syria and Lebanon, in South Africa and Angola, India and China, Nicaragua and El Salvador, in Washington, D.C., and Jackson, Mississippi. Let us break bread together; let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery. Let us do it in memory of him, acknowledging in faith his real presence upon our altars. Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love. Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable. Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work.

We unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God’s healing, God’s forgiveness, God’s unconditional love. Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow, offering to the downtrodden resources to help themselves. May our fasting be the kind that saves and shares with the poor, that actually contacts the needy, that gives heart to heart, that touches and nourishes and heals. During this Holy Week when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.

—Sr. Thea Bowman FSPA

Defeating Abortion

A more important driver of the declining abortion rate, Jones said, appears to be improved access to contraception, particularly long-acting birth control options like IUDs. She noted that women in the United States have been using the highly effective devices in growing numbers for more than a decade, and said the declining birthrate suggests more women are preventing unwanted pregnancies.

U.S. Abortion Rate Falls To Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade

And that’s why I support effective contraception 100%. This issue is where the Church has lost just about all moral authority. Not only is next to no one listening for practical reasons. It’s schizophrenia over the obvious moral need for birth control (not frankly ridiculous euphemisms like “birth spacing”) and trying to call “artificial” contraception evil, leave even fewer listening on moral grounds. The fruits are clear. Even with sexually active couples who wouldn’t abort, using birth control reduces those (hundreds? thousands?) of conceived children that fail to implant. Why should we support more of that given the choice?

If the Church really wants to talk about the theology of the body, let’s talk about those conscious decisions about using our bodies in God’s service honestly, intentionally, and responsibly rather than playing games with birth control efficacy natural or otherwise or euphemisms designed to hide the truth about what we are doing.

Healthcare is a Responsibility 

Luke 10:29-37 (NABre)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.

I’ve long condemned the attempts by the GOP to repeal Obamacare. Mostly because they have no intention of replacing it with anything. As the above story illustrates, it’s patently immoral. They’ve tried to doublespeak their way around this by the canard “healthcare is a responsibility not a right” in line with the mantra of so-called personal responsibility. Notice the Samaritan nit only displays charity, he goes the distance and pays for the traveler’s care. No mention is made of the man’s ability to pay. And we can reasonably infer he cannot. And what does Jesus tell us to do? 

Go and do likewise.

Healthcare is a responsibility. Conservatives have it wrong whose it is.

Tim Kaine, Abortion, and Faith

With Hillary Clinton picking Tim Kaine for vice presidential candidate, abortion and how Kaine reconciles his faith with the law and enforcing it is back as a front burner issue. I think his balancing act highlights the real moral dilemmas at play and why both sides of the issue are intellectually dishonest to the degree they claim sole hold on the moral high road.

But first, I categorically dismiss the charges that Kaine is “pro-abortion.” Not only is the charge partisan and worldly, it is a lie. You don’t have to support a law to enforce it. And for an elected official or civil servant, it’s your job. Civil disobedience is for protestors, i.e. private citizens. If you can’t do your job, the honorable thing to do is resign.

Basically, Kaine’s position is similar to mine. We agree that making abortion illegal is wrong. If my reading of his support of the Hyde Amendment is correct, then he feels the government should be neutral about abortion. It neither supports it through funding nor does it act against it by criminalizing the practice. It makes neither side of the abortion debate happy (but I don’t think they deserve to be).

I feel the same way with one proviso. I can accept the premise of saving lives by banning abortion if we apply that brand of justice equally. But be warned there is no free lunch. It would require a serious degradation of personal liberty to make an abortion ban fair and just. In short, if the government can commandeer a woman’s body to save the life of her unborn child, it can do likewise to mine toward equivalent ends. For example, I have two health kidneys, I can live with one and there is no shortage of people dying of kidney failure. Extreme I know but that’s what it would take to ban abortion and actually be pro-life rather than merely pro-unborn.  That’s why I object to abortion bans. Casual and unequal justice is no justice at all. Ends do not justify means.

So like Kaine, I’m “pro-life-choice.” Yes, women should be (and are) free to choose. But it is a fiction that that choice is without moral valence no matter what rationalizations of privacy we make or claims that the decision itself is deeply personal. Of course it is a private and personal decision. It changes nothing. Abortion at bottom is ending a life, and short of saving another life, I can think of no reason that would make such an act just. Having said that just because my faith teaches that an act is immoral, it doesn’t automatically follow that it should be illegal. My Catholic faith teaches marital infidelity is a grave sin. We could make infidelity illegal for all sorts of laudable goals but I doubt  anyone agrees that it should be done.

So save the charges of being pro-abortion or the need to be “educated” into thinking one’s moral convictions are false. What’s required is wrestling with the moral dilemma as anyone of good conscience should.

Beast Mode Christian Formation

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Proud of you, son.

AAS Division For Planetary Sciences Announces 2014 Prize Winners | Division for Planetary Sciences

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Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public: Br. Guy Consolmagno has a decades-long track record of communicating planetary science to the public while maintaining an active science career. In addition, he occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief. Br. Guy uses multiple media to reach his audience. He has authored or edited six books, with “Turn Left at Orion” in its fourth edition of publication. This book alone has had an enormous impact on the amateur astronomy community, engendering public support for astronomy. In addition to writing books, he is a dynamic popular speaker, giving 40 to 50 public lectures every year across both Europe and the United States, reaching thousands of people. He regularly gives interviews on BBC radio shows on planetary science topics and hosted his own BBC radio show discussing the origins of the universe (“A Brief History of the End of Everything”). These appearances address both pure science subjects and science-with-religion subjects. As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers.

via AAS Division For Planetary Sciences Announces 2014 Prize Winners | Division for Planetary Sciences.

Science versus Religion. Yeah, right.

Evidence is in the Eye of the Beholder

(Version 1.1)

Been having a lively discussion (when actual discussion is able to be had) with some atheist Tweeples and I realized I made a pretty significant error: I didn’t clearly define “evidence” or rather how I see it. (This is why it is always sage advice to define terms clearly before debating with people. You can easily end up talking past each other.) I believe (know?) that when we humans apprehend reality, we ultimately perceive only a limited sliver of it in our waking conscious state. First, our sensory organs detect only so much. Next, our evolved brains organize that raw input into an intelligible perception of the world. Finally, our conscious thinking minds take those perceptions and makes decisions upon them.

The last part is key because that is where philosophy comes in. Materialism and empiricism, for example, make important truth claims on our perceptions of the world and the world itself. So someone with a different worldview, e.g. myself who adheres to the Jesuit worldview, will necessarily have some points of departure when perceiving the same “evidence.” A worldview is just that: a view of the world not some unmediated apprehension of the world or specifically, “evidence.” What’s worrisome for me is when people fail to see this distinction for whatever reason. If a person feels strongly their worldview is True, capital ‘t’, then they can even be hostile to this relativizing fact. And that’s sad because it opens one up to self-delusion and error needlessly. Truth is hard enough to find in this world.

St. Augustine 1500 1600 years ago had choice words Christians, esp. those anti-science Christians of today, who make this error.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these [scientific] topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

And just in case you atheists out there think you’re off the hook, check this out from atheist cosmologist Chris Impey.

Rebutting the third proposition [that we are all living within a simulation] is surprisingly difficult. Any simulation constructed by a far superior race wouldn’t be glitchy, as it was in the movie The Matrix. There’s no reason we’d know we’re simulated unless the creators wanted us to. Your conviction that you’re made of flesh and blood and free will is part of the simulation. Since it’s easier and cheaper to create computational life-forms than biological organisms, by the Copernican Principle there are many more simulated than real creatures. OK, this argument is more of a provocation than a serious suggestion, but it’s no more unfounded or illogical than the multiverse or hidden space-time dimensions.

Impey, Chris (2012-03-19). How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe (Kindle Locations 5601-5606). Norton. Kindle Edition.

So folks, slow down when crying “Evidence!” A little humility goes a long way to understanding.