Feeds:
Posts
Comments

By: Sr. Clare Hunter

Come on, world! You can’t have it both ways! You cannot think it is okay to abort and euthanize (that would be you, Belgium and The Netherlands) children with Down syndrome, handicapped, disabled and dying children, and then be shocked and outraged when parents abandon or refuse to pay for or raise them. The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail reports another “shocking” story of a surrogate mother raising a handicapped child because the “intended parents” (that is the official term, which I suppose is better than “the customers”), refused to take the disabled baby home. Of course, there are four, or five, eight or ten sides to the story, depending on parties involved with the sperm, eggs, uteruses, partners, spouses, surrogates, clinics, doctors, family members, and nations. Each version, in addition to being revolting, is inconsistent and confusing. The fact remains that we have two known cases of “intended parents” not taking a child that was born to a surrogate.  We also have four innocent children who will be forced to grow up separated from their beloved brother or sister.

26/365 - Hah!All of this is done, remember, in the name of “love” — whether an infertile party who want to love a child, a loving woman who wants to help an infertile couple have a child to love, or an impoverished mother who loves her biological children so much that she is willing to support them by carrying a child for others. In fact, the desire to abandon, or preferably to have aborted the disabled babies, was also to be done as an act of love. The “intended mother” of the baby in the U.K. reportedly said: “She’d be a…dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child.” And most of us cringed watching Mr. Farnell, the father who left his disabled son in Thailand, explain: “They sent us the reports, but they didn’t do the checks early enough. If it would have been safe for that embryo to be terminated, we probably would have terminated it, because he has a handicap and this is a sad thing. And it would be difficult – not impossible, but difficult.”

We should in no way be shocked by these statements and responses. Once we have determined that a child is not a gift, but the right of adults who want or do not want them, we cannot expect to speak about them in any other way but as property or vegetation. Yes, the ability and desire to have a child is a privilege of being human. The inability to do so is very painful and a true suffering. We must support and pray for our loved ones who are not able to bear children. What we cannot do is ask them buy into the lies and evils of modern medicine that have reduced human life to a commodity for profit and experimentation.

Clearly, we have ample proof that this Pandora’s Box of in vitro fertilization, surrogate mothers, and the buying and selling of sperm, eggs and embryos has made The Age of a “Brave New World” the nightmare reality that was promised once we rejected the purpose and gift of human sexuality and fertility. And, as always, it will be the innocent who will suffer the most. It will be the children. Those who will never be born, deposed of because they were not chosen, or frozen indefinitely. The poor babies who will be eliminated because they were a girl, not a boy, or have a defect, or are part of triplets, which is just not want that parent really wants right now. Not to mention the siblings who will never know the twin that they clung to for months before they were aborted, taken, or abandoned.

How blessed the little Thai boy Gammy is, and little “Amy” in the U.K. whose surrogate mothers are willing to love and raise them. How can we begin to help the countless children who will not be discovered and saved?

By: Rev. Edward Horkan, Diocese of Arlington priest

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us…run the race that is before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1).

I recalled that line often when I prepared for and ran my first marathon two years ago as part of the Race for Seminarians for the Arlington Diocese. I had been running for 20 years, having initially taken up the sport mostly to keep company with a friend of mine and with the lawyers in the firm that I worked for. Over time, I have found that running, in addition to being good exercise that keeps us more fit, is very relaxing to the mind and even leads to more positive and creative thinking.

Father Edward Horkan (bottom left) racing for seminarians in the 2013 MCM 10K.

Father Edward Horkan (bottom left) racing for seminarians in the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon 10K.

It’s a constant temptation to dwell excessively upon the past, worry too much about the future, or be distracted by the superficial images of popular culture from the reality that God gives us — the real life through which we travel to the greater kingdom. Running requires a concentrated and sustained effort to focus on the present and real challenges on the path before us. This willingness to take on a demanding task, this disciplining of the body and concentration of the mind, makes us more open to the true joy that God offers. While certainly on a lesser plane than prayerful contemplation, this sacrifice and consistent application leads to a peace and exhilaration that reflects the uplifting of one’s heart and mind to the higher kingdom.

In 2011, I joined the Race for Seminarians by running the 10K that is connected to the Marine Corps Marathon to help our generous and enthusiastic seminarians, who sometimes come from modest circumstances, to avoid financial anxieties. After running this 10K, I resolved, with some encouragement from friends, to take on a greater challenge and run the full marathon, asking kind donors to sponsor me in this effort for the diocese and our seminarians. And once again this year, I am running the marathon for our current seminarians, and also to encourage young men to consider joining the noble brotherhood of priests. As with past years, I look forward to the common sacrifice and struggle of fellow runners in this cause, an effort that builds a sense of companionship, sharing with each other and the world the joy and adventure of our faith.

Find out more at the RFS Kickoff on Sept. 4 from 6-7:30 p.m. at St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington. The evening will include a taco bar, tips from a trainer, and information on the Race for Seminarians. The deadline to RSVP to the Office of Vocations on Facebook or at vocations@arlingtondiocese.org is Sept. 1. You can sign up for the actual Race for Seminarians here.

10583863_976557205703552_4994976654765045910_n

Rev. Edward Horkan is a parochial vicar at St. James Church in Falls Church. An avid runner, he has been participating in the Race for Seminarians since 2011, its inaugural year.

By: Josephine Balsamo, Staff Spotlight

When I read DARKNESS: Abortion Seduces with Promised Sexual Freedom, published in July on Clash Daily, which is a self-described “mosh pit of breaking news, edgy opinion, lots of attitude, and a call to action for God- and country-loving patriots,” I was shocked at the author’s gross mischaracterization of women seeking abortion:

postabortion“One may argue that the sympathy for women who seek abortion is needed for one to reach out to these women. How misguided! The one who seeks an abortion feels that she is entitled to sympathy from others, because she is evil, wicked and perverse…Anyone who denies this is either deluded or depraved of all integrity…”

“It is the very sympathy that people show to women who abort their babies that not only weakens [the] pro-life stance, thus defeating its real purposing, but ridicules and blinds the people of the pro-life movement.”

Having worked one-on-one with hundreds of women who have had abortions over the last 10 years, I can tell you that post-abortive women are intensely aware that a child has been lost. It is this very realization that brings them to our doors, seeking reconciliation and healing from what many of them truly believe is an “unforgivable sin” – taking the life of their unborn child.

Perhaps the author of the blog should have consulted the Elliot Institute — a non-profit group that has conducted over 30 in-depth studies on the detrimental effects of abortion on individuals — to see some facts about abortion in America today:

  • 64% of women felt pressured or coerced by others. Coercion can escalate to violence. The No. 1 cause of death for pregnant women in this country is homicide.
  • Up to 83% of all abortions are unwanted.
  • Most felt rushed and uncertain, yet 67% had no counseling before abortion.
  • 79% were not informed about available alternatives.
  • 84% said they were not given enough information to make an informed choice.
  • 60% said: “Part of me died.”
  • 65% suffer multiple symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder directly attributed to their abortion.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from clinical depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and suicidal behavior after abortion.

To add insult to injury, the abortion coalition in this country spends a great deal of money to carefully market abortion as a good. They call it healthcare, a woman’s right, choice and freedom. It is marketed so well, in fact, that most women could not know the horror of what occurs in the clinic until after it’s over. Only then is the reality of abortion revealed…in its aftermath.

The truth is that many women who find themselves in an abortion clinic don’t want to be there. Backed into a corner with nowhere to turn and no viable options, these women succumb to abortion. It is not because they are inherently evil, but because they feel they have no other choice.

56885d76-53d1-46e2-87eb-a3ac0047121aAs a pro-life community, we need to reach out to these walking wounded, and help them find reconciliation and healing through Jesus Christ, who came to save all sinners, including those who have participated in abortion.

If our response in the pro-life movement to those who have been coerced into abortion is judgment alone, we might as well give up now and declare defeat. We need to remember that there are always at least two victims in every abortion – the mother and the child — and we need to love them both to truly create a culture of life.

To learn more about abortion’s injustice to women, please visit the Elliot Institute’s Unfair Choice Campaign.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Josephine Balsamo has been the Program Coordinator for Project Rachel in the Diocese of Arlington’s Family Life Office since 2004. The ministry offers post-abortion healing retreats, monthly holy hours, professional counseling, a confidential phone line, referral to priests for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and multiple other resources.

By: Rebecca Ruiz, Staff Spotlight

The story of Mary Magdalene, whose feast day we celebrated last month, has always disturbed me a little. I have always gotten hung-up on the fact that she dried Jesus’ feet with her hair. It seems so impractical. Why not take a nice, clean, linen cloth? Much more absorbent. Why the hair?

I resolved to sit with the story of Mary Magdalene and try to get beyond the hair. I decided to employ the Ignatian practice of imagining myself in the Gospel scene so as to try to understand more about what it really is that we are to learn from this story.

I imagined myself there with the apostles who had just eaten dinner with Jesus. They were wary of this woman who had come into the home. She was known, after all, as having been completely sinful (having seven sins – seven representing completeness in Judaic tradition). They did not want Jesus’ name to be tarnished by any association with this sinful woman.

So, as she approached Jesus, the apostles tried to stop her. Jesus, however, held them back and allowed her to approach. How interesting it must have been to be with Jesus, and maybe a little frustrating for His disciples, too – He was always breaking with tradition and doing the unexpected!

“Beautiful, Beautiful” – Francesca Battistelli

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbCfyZHSQbE

She was a beautiful woman with long locks of hair. She approached Jesus and brought before Him the two things that she may have put treasure in – her beautiful hair and her perfume. Overcome by emotion, her tears fell onto His feet. She dried His feet with that very part of herself that may have brought her pride and may have also caused temptation. And He allowed her to bring those two things that may have caused her to sin to His feet, and He allowed her to give them to Him.

When she entered the home, He already knew everything about her. He knew her struggles. He didn’t shy away. Instead, He allowed this woman, who had previously been forced to live on the periphery, this woman who dared to approach Him, to touch His holy feet.

When those around her berated her for “wasting” her expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, Jesus came to her defense. Why? Because He knew that her intention was pure. She wanted to give Jesus all that she had. She was operating out of love.

So we see in Mary Magdalene an offering of the whole self – the good, bad, and the ugly — a suscipe offering, an Ignatian prayer of complete surrender to God. The required precondition of this offering being that she overcome her own feelings of shame and abandon her pride and sinfulness and trust completely and confidently in Christ.

And Jesus loved her for this. He did not judge – as did the disciples around him – who were still learning. He accepted her offering and offered her His love and a new life without stigma in return. A life without fear. A life of peace.

The story of Mary Magdalene is a story of love and of relationship. Mary’s is a brave love – a love brave enough to approach Christ Himself, painfully aware of her own sinful state. And hers is a confident love – a love confident in the redeeming love of her savior.

And, it is a story of a God who desires to live in relationship with each individual person – not a nebulous relationship – but a real, life-giving relationship. Ours is an approachable God who cares to receive our offerings of self and reciprocates with a love greater than we could imagine. A God who offers a redeeming love that restores dignity to the brokenness of each individual person. A God who offers a beautiful relationship that makes those who enter into it, like Mary Magdalene, become healthy, strong, and truly free. And, it is a love that brings unspeakable joy and peace.

Pope Francis speaks eloquently to this relationship in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel:

“No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness that never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and start anew (Evangelii Gaudium, 3).”

The story of Mary Magdalene does not end here though. At the resurrection, it was not the apostles, but Mary Magdalene who first saw the Risen Christ. It was she, who was entrusted with the duty of going out and telling the apostles that Christ had risen. Healed by Jesus – brought to wholeness – and perhaps chosen because she had known great brokenness herself, it was this woman that Christ first chose to spread the good news to broken humankind.

Pope Francis reminds us that when we accept the gift of Christ’s transforming love, we too will be called to go out and share this love:

“Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good (Evangelii Gaudium, 9).”

Through the example of Mary Magdalene, we are invited to relationship with Christ. Mindful of her example, we are called to announce the Good News to every periphery, to approach those liminal situations and to draw upon our healed-woundedness to connect with the Mary Magdalenes of today. We are called to connect with those in situations that make us uncomfortable – to let go of fear and to approach in love. We are called to extend that hand, to offer the ear, the touch, the love that heals.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She serves as Development and Communications Manager at Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services.

By: Kevin Bohli, Director of Youth Ministry

“The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.”  -The Joy of the Gospel, 24

The Coordinators of Youth Ministry (CYMs) from across the Arlington Diocese gathered yesterday for an energetic kick-off to the new year of ministry. While most of us just recently finished WorkCamps, summer drop-in programs, and other ministry activities, there was still an amazing energy in the room as we prepare to start the whole process over again for 2014-2015. I am always humbled by the level of commitment that the parish CYMs show in their desire to point young people toward Christ.

Go Forth group CYMsThe day began with an introduction to the theme for the upcoming year, “Go Forth & Make Disciples.” Combining the message of Bishop Loverde in his pastoral letter “Go Forth with Hearts on Fire,” and the message of “going forth” from Pope Francis in chapter one of his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, the Office of Youth Ministry prayerfully discerned this to be a timely focus for the CYMs this year. Part of the day was meant to teach the CYMs about the various levels of commitment that young people make in their spiritual lives, and how we can safely build relationships with them to move them forward to a deeper level of commitment.

Fr. Tom Ferguson, Episcopal Vicar for Faith Formation, celebrated Mass as a prayerful preparation for the year, and carefully wove an excellent parallel between Jesus’s parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14) and the role of the CYM (minus, of course, the angry murderous mob). CYMs work very hard to invite young people to become more involved in parish life, but like the guests invited to the wedding feast, some ignore the invitation.

I had the opportunity to sit with the CYMs of Deanery 6 as they reflected on the privilege of discipleship, and personal examples of how they have seen young people turn to the Lord through their youth ministry. Each recalled beautiful recent stories: young people inviting their friends to daily Mass throughout the summer, teens verbally declaring their newfound love for Christ, and teens inviting 30 others to regularly pray the Liturgy of the Hours at the conclusion of their weekly meeting. Many young people desire to live a life for Christ, and just need another adult or teen to proclaim the Gospel to them and to be a witness of how to courageously live that way each day.

As your parish CYM sets off on this new year of ministry, please pray for them, send them notes of encouragement, and perhaps offer to assist them in this ministry. You are invited to share in the exciting and rewarding ministry of helping parents to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to young people.

By: Natalie Plumb

Are you unsure about your circumstances? Do you crave change? Do you have a decision to make? Are you afraid of the consequences of that decision? Are you relaying in your head constantly what to say or do?

I could be highly unhelpful and list off the key ideas we often throw around as Christians: discernment, God’s​​ will, my will, fate, free will, coincidence, on and on…

Slomo skating San DiegoI think the mistake we often make as Christians is assuming that God’s will is going to be so obvious to us at one point that we won’t have to make a decision. That’s what we want to believe, right? We don’t want to have to do the dirty work of unbalancing two equally favorable opportunities. We don’t want to have regrets or ask ourselves “what if” three months later. Most of all, we don’t want to be “wrong.”

That last part is so interesting to me. “Wrong” — Can you be wrong? If both opportunities you are choosing from are equally just and good, how could either of them be wrong?

We suffer, by our human nature, from this fear of being incorrect. We want to be perfect. We desire happiness so much that we are willing to sacrifice it now, via worry, stress, emotional congestion and fear, in order to make sure that we are guaranteed happiness later.

When we talk about discernment, and waiting for God to show us His will, I think we often use the period of waiting as a safety net.

“So is this it? Are you staying? Is this ministry your calling?”

“I don’t know. I’m waiting for God to tell me.”

Let me tell you: You could be waiting forever. Sometimes God just wants us to jump and take a leap of faith on the decisions we make even though we have no idea what the future holds. And if you trust in an omnipotent and omniscient God of justice, who speaks of peace, joy and hope, why be afraid? Why do we not trust in Him? Security is not necessary. Having all the answers is highly unnecessary. That’s true in marriage, right? Why wouldn’t it be true in other life-changing decisions?

After you’ve ascertained that you are striving for holiness in your heart, and either action you take would reflect that, there are other important questions to ask yourself. While waiting inertly for God to reveal His will to you, opportunities may pass you by. God doesn’t always explicitly tell us what to do. He often speaks in subtler ways, more often than not through his disciples. God prefers you to freely follow His will, not be told to do so “because He said so.” In those times, ask yourself:

Am I happy? Moreover: Am I joyful?

Am I genuine and honest with myself about my situation?

Am I looking for ways to further good in the world and in my life?

Am I full of hope or despair?

Do I love my life, or strive to live someone else’s?

The questions could go on. Ask yourself…Do you love what you do? If not, go do what you love.

I’m not saying follow Slomo’s example in every way. But isn’t what he did courageous? Doesn’t God want us to take leaps of faith in similar ways, and just trust Him?

Love what you do. If you don’t, go do what you love.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

By: Thomas O’Neill

  • If women are just as capable as men, why won’t the Church allow women to be priests? 
  • Aren’t biblical stories like Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark obviously myths?
  • And if divorce allows couples to escape toxic, unhappy marriages, how can the Church forbid it?

Why is it important for us to play the Devil’s advocate, particularly in sensitive areas like morality and Church teaching? Because our interlocutors have some good points to make, especially if you look at things from a secular perspective. And every day that goes by, it seems like the world is looking at things more and more from that perspective. Thus, if we hope to proclaim the New Evangelization in earnest, we need to understand the arena we’re competing in.

Devil's Advocate Banner 4

I graduated from two secular universities, have attended hundreds of talks on the Church’s teachings, and had innumerable discussions with family and friends about God, morality, and the Church. Combining those experiences together, I became convinced of two things: (1) the Church has much stronger arguments for Her teachings than most people know; and (2) doing apologetics well – i.e. explaining those arguments effectively – is not an easy task.

One reason for this is that humans rise to the level of the challenge in front of us. Ask me to climb a flight of stairs, and I’m probably not going to lose much sleep over it. Ask me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro though, and I might spend a night or two at the gym beforehand.

Apologetics functions in much the same way. So long as we talk to people who already agree with us, who accept our arguments implicitly, our arguments never get any stronger. We get used to having an easy audience, and we fall back on arguments that only convince believers. However, when we engage with people who disagree with us – especially intelligent, learned people – we force ourselves to reassess our arguments, see the holes in our reasoning, and plumb the depths of the Church’s teaching for better answers.

This is the basic idea behind The Devil’s Advocate debate series. This series is designed as a dialogue between an antagonist and a proponent of the Church’s teachings. By having the Devil’s advocate ask the tough questions, the apologist is forced to offer solid answers or be held accountable. The upshot of this is that the Church’s teachings are actually illustrated better when the questions get tougher (c.f. Prv. 27:17).

If you’ve ever struggled to answer questions about your faith, or if you have some of these questions yourself, come to Bishop O’Connell High School this September to get answers. Last year was a great success, and saw hundreds of people come together to discuss these controversial topics.

See the event flyers for more information – “The Bible: Fact or Fiction?” “Adapting to the Modern Family” and “When Will the Church Get with the Times” – or visit the event website.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 173 other followers

%d bloggers like this: