Friday, May 29, 2009


Culturally, I wonder if anyone else has seen the shift I have seen over the last ten years or so. Watch the media and other cultural outlets closely, they are quickly reframing the debate over abortion to a place where we don't want it to end up. Now, abortionists are referred to as "Pro Abortion Rights" and we are referred to as "Abortion Rights opponents". Very quickly we will find ourselves as people who are supposedly trying to surpress human rights rather than trying to protect the most innocent human beings' rights. I truly believe this battle of terminology could be one of the most important over the next three years, and we need to come up with some kind of solution fast to figure out how to change the way this is worded quickly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Love Affair Continues

It looks like the Vatican newspaper is continuing its love affair with the Obama administration. Interesting to say the least, and perhaps a little concerning.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Comments Revisited

Matt asked in the comments below:  

"Hi, Joseph. I actually felt a little guilty for having to think about that example for a few seconds before continuing with the rest of your entry :-).

But yeah, I had like a two-hour with someone up at college about this, and he brought up the whole rape thing, and I told him basically what you said here. He just kept talking very rapidly and laughing at me. His argument went something like this:

"I don't think we should let women have abortions, but I think it's going too far to make abortions illegal."

At that point, I considered myself the winner.

But I have a question for you. What about the life/death scenario pro-abortionists are so gung ho on? I don't really know enough about abortion to make a decision. I mean, if both the mother and child would die during the pregnancy or giving birth, I could perhaps see how abortion might be justified. Also, I would think if it's just a situation to where only the mother would die, she would probably be obligated to give birth to the child. But I'm whether those situations ever come up or not. What do you think?"

The point of the matter is, however, that we can never truly foresee when someone will or will not die.  We must take ALL possible steps to save both the mother and the child, because neither life is worth more than the other.  Instead of giving up and forfeiting one life or the other, we should instead press ahead taking every precaution possible to prevent either life from being lost.  I will conclude with this article from Catholic Apologetics which quotes Pope Pius XII:

"I  What if the life of the mother or of the child to be born is in danger?

"Never and in no case has the Church taught that the life of the child must be preferred to that of the mother.  It is erroneous to put the question with this alternative: either the life of the child or that of the mother.  No, neither the life of the mother nor that of the child can be subjected to an act of direct suppression.  In the one case as in the other, there can be but one obligation: to make every effort to save the lives of both, of the mother and of the child.

It is one of the finest and most noble aspirations of the medical profession to search continually for new means of ensuring the life of both mother and child.  But if, notwithstanding all the progress of science, there still remain, and will remain in the future, cases in which one must reckon with the death of the mother, when the mother wills to bring to birth the life that is within her and not destroy it in violation of the command of God - Thou shalt not kill - nothing else remains for the man, who will make every effort till the very last moment to help and save, but to bow respectfully before the laws of nature and the dispositions of divine Providence."  Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, November 26, 1951. (15)"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Patient's Dillema and the Concept of Suffering

When I took a Morals and Ethics course in undergraduate school, I was struck by a pro-abortion argument that was a little strange and different to me.  I never personally wrestled with it as a serious argument to why abortion should be OK, but I could definitely understand how others could be confused by the dillema - one that mostly targets cases of rape and incest.  I'm going to call it the "Patient's Dillema" even though there is probably a better name for it.  The argument goes as follows:

"What if one day you woke up only to find out you were in a hospital bed - not of your own choosing but because someone had abducted you in your sleep, tied you down to the bed, and connected your liver to a famous organist.  This organist is lying next to you in a coma, and his liver is unable to function on its own.  Doctors tell you that they can fix his liver, but he will have to be attached to your body for 9 months.  Are you morally obligated to allow him to be connected or can you unhook him and let him die?"

Most of the people in my class felt that you absolutely were under no obligation to let him stay connected - especially because it had nothing to do with you and you were placed in a situation that was not your fault at all.  I was Protestant at the time, but I argued that you had an obligation to protect his life because it was life.  Obviously being Catholic I would say that the Church clearly teaches that we would be under that obligation.  

But the deeper question is WHY?  Why do we have that obligation?  On one hand, I was correct as a Protestant, that life is important and we must do whatever it takes to protect it.  But, on another hand, and I think on a deeper level, we have to understand something about suffering.  We look at instances like someone being raped or someone being attached to an organist as an example of when we cannot expect someone to provide for this life because they themselves have to suffer and, in our modern society, suffering is a terrible thing that no one should have to do at any cost.  We have really lost the sense of understanding about how important suffering is, and that is actually a blessing from God that we do suffer.

That can be illustrated in the easy sense of being burnt.  When we touch a hot stove, we suffer.  That teaches us not to touch the stove. But, it goes much deeper than that.  Suffering is part of our human nature, and when we suffer we participate in some ways in the suffering of Christ and are brought closer to God.  Reading Pope John Paul II's encyclical on suffering or works like St. Faustina's diaries where she is told to suffer by Christ in certain situations can really help us understand the positive side of human suffering.  On top of that, we have scriptures where Christ tells us that we must suffer, that those who suffer are blessed, St. Paul tells us how he rejoices in his sufferings, and Peter tells us that we will have to suffer to become more like Christ.  Look at the early martyrs of the Church in the Book of Revelation.  Through their suffering, the Church prevailed over the world.

Anyway, I guess my point is that suffering is not something that must be avoided at all costs, as our modern society tells us.  If we realized the important value of suffering, we can understand that protecting life takes a precedent over protecting ourselves from that suffering.  

Monday, May 18, 2009

Obama Revisited

According to this story on Catholic News services, the Vatican newspaper seems to think Obama said some really positive things during his commencement speech.   You can read the whole speech here.  

And, you know what?  I still totally disagree with Notre Dame inviting President Obama.  I also am skeptical of what he says.  I think his reference to "preventing unwanted pregnancies" means something much different from what it should - probably handing out contraception.  

However, he did mention that he thought we should work towards helping women who want to allow their children a chance to live and that the United States should draft back the conscience clause (I'm unfamiliar with the wording of the original and what was wrong with it, but I do hope he is planning on not trying to force all doctors to do morally wrong things.)  

I'm just praying hard that he is telling the truth and not just being a politician. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Growing in Our Faith With Children

My wife and I have bought several books over the last couple years (even before we found out she was pregnant) if we thought they were good first reads for our child or good books to read to our child when he is little. Lately we've been very interested in some of these Catholic family activity books. Many of them range from about 2 years old to teenage years. Does anyone have any experience with this kind of book? Any recommendations? I think it's important to start early and set up a spiritual gameplan for the entire family so that it becomes a staple in daily life - whether that be Scripture reading or family prayer or whatever it might be. I'm not sure how many of my readers have children but if you do I'd appreciate any feedback you might have!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pressing Forward

My life keeps on pressing forward - seems like everything is moving very quickly now.  Just yesterday, it seems, my wife told me she was pregnant.  Now our son is only about 3 months away from being born.  Just yesterday, it seems, I began my journey into the Catholic Church, and now I've been confirmed for well over a year.  

I'm not sure why, but I'm the kind of person who always looks forward.  I look forward to next Sunday, my next Eucharist, my next Christmas, my next Easter, my son's birth, my son's baptism, my next child, my childrens' first communion, my childrens' confirmations, my son going to college, retiring, etc. etc.  I really don't like to look back and I don't really regret any steps I've taken in the past (at least not on the macro level, although obviously I am sorrowful for many sinful things I've done before).  It seems like God has a plan for our family and he really makes things work out in the long run.  

So, I guess I just want to give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His mercy endures forever.  I hope everyone else out there is doing well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

We are quickly closing in on Mother's Day. I have written before that I have very little connection to my biological mother. In fact, I have not seen her or spoken to her in close to ten years. That very fact makes me feel closer than ever to Mary as my Mother and the Mother of the entire Church. I encourage all of you who have something going on in their lives or are seeking a deeper relationship with God to say the following prayer asking for her intercession. Her prayers will bring you much closer to Christ her Son then you could ever imagine.

Queen of heaven, rejoice. Alleluia. The Son whom you were privileged to bear, Alleluia, has risen as he said, Alleluia. Pray to God for us, Alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, Virgin Mary, Alleluia. For the Lord has truly risen, Alleluia.

O God, it was by the Resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that you brought joy to the world. Grant that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, his Mother, we may attain the joy of eternal life. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Happy Mother's Day to all you Mothers out there, now including my wife!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Xavier Thomas

Well, if you have not heard yet, my wife and I are expecting a son in August.  His name will be Xavier Thomas - after Francis Xavier and the Apostle Thomas.   Thomas has been in my family for about 6 generations now as a first or middle name.  I thought I would share with you a little bit about St. Francis Xavier - from Catholic Encyclopedia.

St. Francis Xavier

Born in the Castle of Xavier near Sanguesa, in Navarre, 7 April, 1506; died on the Island of Sancian near the coast of China, 2 December, 1552. In 1525, having completed a preliminary course of studies in his own country, Francis Xavier went to Paris, where he entered the collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met the Savoyard, Pierre Favre, and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them. It was at this same college that St. Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. He soon won the confidence of the two young men; first Favreand later Xavier offered themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, LainezSalmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, 15 Aug., 1534.

After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions 15 November, 1536, and turned his steps to Venice, where he displayed zealand charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On 24 June, 1537, he received Holy orders with St. Ignatius. The following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for some months, during the spring of 1539 he took part in the conferences which St. Ignatius held with his companions to prepare for the definitive foundation of the Society of Jesus. The order was approved verbally 3 September, and before the written approbation was secured, which was not until a year later, Xavier was appointed, at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King of Portugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome 16 March, 1540, and reached Lisbon about June. Here he remained nine months, giving many admirable examples of apostolic zeal.

On 7 April, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage landed at Goa, 6 May, 1542. The first five months he spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in thehospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church and would there explain the catechism to them. About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christanity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon. Many were the difficulties and hardships which Xavier had to encounter at this time, sometimes on account of the cruel persecutions which some of the petty kings of the country carried on against the neophytes, and again because the Portuguese soldiers, far from seconding the work of the saint, retarded it by their bad example and vicious habits.

In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He laboured there for the last months of that year, and although he reaped an abundant spiritual harvest, he was not able to root out certain abuses, and was conscious that many sinners had resisted his efforts to bring them back to God. About January, 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands which it has been difficult to identify. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao, and for this reason St. Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines. But although this statement is made by some writers of the seventeenth century, and in the Bull of canonization issued in 1623, it is said that he preached the Gospel in Mindanao, up to the present time it has not been proved absolutely that St. Francis Xavier ever landed in thePhilippines.

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger (Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducingChristanity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society demanded his presence at Goa, whither he went, taking Anger with him. During the six years that Xavier had been working among theinfidels, other Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Goa, sent from Europe by St. Ignatius; moreover some who had been born in the country had been received into the Society. In 1548 Xavier sent thesemissionaries to the principal centres of India, where he had established missions, so that the work might be preserved and continued. He also established a novitiate and house of studies, and having received into the Society Father Cosme de Torres, a spanish priest whom he had met in the Maluccas, he started with him and Brother Juan Fernández for Japan towards the end of June, 1549. TheJapanese Anger, who had been baptized at Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied them.

They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, 15 Aug., 1549. The entire first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but these aroused the ill will of the bonzes, who had him banished from the city. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he penetrated to the centre of Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan. Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan, but he was unable to make any headway here because of the dissensions the rending the country. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during 1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity.

After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of Father Cosme de Torres and Brother Juan Fernández, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. Here domestic troubles awaited him. Certain disagreements between the superior who had been left in charge of the missions, and the rector of the college, had to be adjusted. This, however, being arranged, Xavier turned his thoughts to China, and began to plan an expedition there. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire, and though he probably had not formed a proper estimate of his extent and greatness, he nevertheless understood how wide a field it afforded for the spread of the light of the Gospel. With the help of friends he arranged a commission or embassy the Sovereign ofChina, obtained from the Viceroy of India the appointment of ambassador, and in April, 1552, he left Goa. At Malacca the party encountered difficulties because the influential Portuguese disapproved of the expedition, but Xavier knew how to overcome this opposition, and in the autumn he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition, he was removed to the land, where a rude hut had been built to shelter him. In these wretched surroundings he breathed his last.

It is truly a matter of wonder that one man in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 - 2 December, 1552) could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many infidels. The incomparable apostolic zeal which animated him, and the stupendous miracles which God wrought through him, explain this marvel, which has no equal elsewhere. The list of the principal miracles may be found in the Bull of canonization. St. Francis Xavier is considered the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles, and the zeal he displayed, the wonderfulmiracles he performed, and the great number of souls he brought to the light of true Faith, entitle him to this distinction. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622, although on account of the death ofGregory XV, the Bull of canonization was not published until the following year.

The body of the saint is still enshrined at Goa in the church which formerly belonged to the Society. In 1614 by order of Claudius Acquaviva, General of the Society of Jesus, the right arm was severed at the elbow and conveyed to Rome, where the present altar was erected to receive it in the church of the Gesu.