Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2/22/12

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  Below is the latest post on the blog of the deacon for our parish, Dennis Lohouse.  The link to his blog is here.  I give him full credit as none of these words are mine, but I think his message bears repeating.

"A couple of weeks ago, on a saturday morning as I prepared to preach on religious freedom I felt a sense of calm determination and a sort of warm feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was the feeling one gets during intense prayer in the presence of the Holy Eucharist. I was going to preach on recent events in U.S. Constitutional history, the role of the Federal Government and the First Amendement.


It was on the previous Friday - the first Friday of February - that I began formulating my thoughts on my homily addressing religious freedom and the regulatory intrusions imposed illegally on Catholic Institutions. As I put on a red stole for benediction, red in honor of St. Blase, Bishop and martyr, I began to delve into the gift of martyrdom.

The Red stole of the Martyr

During the spontaneous prayer at the beginning of the service, I began to think in terms of modern day Christian martyrdom. What does it really mean to die for Christ? I had always thought it meant a literal death for my faith. Surely this is true, but my heart tells me that it is far more than this. To die for Christ is to put oneself on the line. It is to stand before the gates of the great cities and proclaim his message, to point to sin and decry it, to write about life “online”, to correct ungodliness when we hear it, to say no to that which is unethical, immoral and against God's law and natural law. It is to engage the logic of evil, with the Spirit of wisdom. It is taking the risk that you will be ridiculed for your absolute belief in the sanctity of life, in a culture that has not but relativistic and convenient beliefs. “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

When we stand before and up to the common culture of the day, we risk all. We hold ourselves up to scorn and dismissal. To the smug smirks of those who believe they are smarter, hipper, cooler, those who are of the elite. We risk being adjudged stupid, or out of sync, or deluded. We will be cast as religious zealots or crazy bible thumping idiots who obviously just do not “get” the modern world. We will be tempted to keep to ourselves lest we be laughed at, or worse, looked at with a jaundiced eye, or investigated or audited.


The powers of darkness have never gone away. There is no end to history. We live in the history of humanity’s struggle with good and evil. A history which encompasses the slaughter of the innocents in the days of Jesus, through the persecutions of the Romans, to the perversions of the Nazis, the killing fields of Cambodia and the purging of Russian Catholics, to the discrimination against religious today. The powers of darkness take many forms. Perhaps a well-intentioned law, or a state sponsored act, or a shift in the culture that glorifies unwed child bearing, and the abominations of abortion and euthanasia.

We must not be co-opted by one political party or another. We must not let ourselves be used and discarded. We must never take our eye off our goals, which are the building of the kingdom of God, the peace of Christ and a culture of life.

Do not, therefore be afraid of social or cultural martyrdom, and do not be afraid to speak out for the innocent, the poor, the weak, the unborn, the sick, and the unwanted. Put yourself in the hands of God, who is ever with you, and stand up, speak up and offer your life for Christ."


Friday, February 17, 2012

2/17/12

Jas 3: 16-18

"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace."


Thursday, February 16, 2012

2/16/12

I had hoped to post more often this year (perhaps even daily) but life intrudes.  That and the fact that some days I don't feel like it.  Anyway, who said there were rules for a blog?

I've started reading the letter of James.  The first chapter really hit home so I really want to absorb it.  It states (Ja 1:19) "Know this, my dear brothers; everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath".  Other translations use anger instead of wrath.  Given my Italian propensity to get spun up about stuff, especially at home, I'm really working hard on that.  Not always easy as a parent, especially when talking to your kids is less effective than talking to the wall.  But we all have our challenges.

On the positive side, I think we might have Christopher on a good path to getting organized.  We've got him copying everything on the board with respect to homework assignments into his agenda.  I've asked him to copy it EXACTLY as it appears so he doesn't miss anything.  We've also arranged to have his teachers initial his agenda each day to make sure he got it right.  He has to take the initiative to get it signed, but so far (3 days this week) he's got everything initialed.  We hope to use this as the building blocks for new habits.  He's a good student if he knows what needs to get done and turns it in.  So I am cautiously optimistic right now.

That and I simply keep praying for the kid.  Beyond validating what I can and doing that, there's not much more I can do to make him successful.  At some point he has to own it and the consequences, good or bad.  Once we get that one straightened out, we may have to work on some behaviors on the younger kid.  He still has no self control and continues to not get certain social cues.  However, I only have the energy to deal with one at a time and the older boy needs more of my time right now.


Monday, February 13, 2012

2/13/12

I was tempted to respond to this on the blog itself and decided against it.  The CEO of my company has a blog where he talks about issues affecting healthcare.  Here is the latest:

http://mvponhealthcare.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/the-hidden-cost-of-drug-co-pay-coupons/

Now, while I understand his position and was not aware that getting discount name brand drugs may cost the insurance company more, as a consumer, I must say I don't think educating people will work.  I actually use the $4 copay card for Lipitor he describes.  My healthcare plan says I pay $10 for generics.  So since my rates already went up for this year (and will probably go up next year anyway), why would I pay more for a generic when I can get a name brand drug for less?

I call it the Wal-Mart mentality.  The bottom line is always what does it cost me right now?  It doesn't matter if jobs are shipped overseas or what the real cost of getting cheap stuff is.  The price tag is lower.  Isn't that what really matters?

Well, perhaps not.  This is actually a difficult question.  Relating this to what a person of faith would do, what is the moral impact here?  As a Christian, do I have a moral obligation to support reducing the cost of healthcare and not padding Pfizer's profits?  How can I rail against the Wal-Mart mentality (which I do) and then use the same justifiation myself?  Food for thought.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

2/7/12

1 Cor 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."

Sounds so easy to do, but in practice is do damn hard.  The last few days have been filled disappointment and frustration.  Christopher is still struggling to get assignments turned in and I'm at my wits end on how to help him.  Besides praying for him, I don't know what more I can do.  I keep bouncing between anger, despair, and hope.  The result is a wild emotional roller coaster.  On the one hand I know he's not consciously trying to do poorly.  But I also don't see any effort on his part to work on his weaknesses.  I worry about his future success in life if he has trouble with the most basic organizational skill of writing down assignments and when they're due.

In my head, I know I need to take a servant approach to helping him.  But that's not so easy in practice when you get emails from 2 different teachers in two days.  So we keep trying to move forward.  I've given him the mantra of "write down everything".  Perhaps if we start with something very simple, we can build on it.


Friday, February 03, 2012

2/3/12

A new season will be starting in a few weeks.  Ash Wednesday, Feb 22, will begin the season of Lent for 2012 which will culimnate in Easter.  For Catholics, this is a time of renewal where we rededicate ourselves to the Lord.  It's a somber time as we remember all the things Jesus went through to fullfill His mission.  It's also a time to traditionally "give up" something.

However, I've given up that practice long ago.  What the season really calls for is to do something that will help you grow spiritually and become closer to the Lord.  Giving something up, or, more precisely, fasting from a practice (doesn't need to be food!) is a great method of building spiritual muscles by teaching us control over our bodies and our desires.  Being able to deny the physical for the spiritual is an excellent way to become closer to God.

However, another good way to build those spiritual muscles is to do something specific to achieve this goal.  Things like recommitment to daily prayer, making a concerted effort to help those less fortunate, etc are also great things to do for Lent.  In recent years I've been doing something extra instead of giving something up.  It's easy to say you won't eat chocolate for Lent but once Easter's over, you eat chocolate again and you haven't grown spiritually.  However, if you do something extra, like say praying the Rosary, you will hopefully build some new habits that you can continue well after Easter and have really grow spiritually.

I'm actually looking forward to Lent.  I have an idea of what I'll be doing this year.  I tend not to announce what it will be as I beleive these things are more powerful if you don't make a big deal out of them.  The Gospels say to pray in secret so that He who sees in secret will know what you're doing but the world will not.  I'm a big believer in doing things for the right reasons and not for show.  I beleive its the quiet person that lives their faith that is a more powerful example than the person who makes a big show of how pious they are.