Archive for the ‘Guest Contributors’ Category

By: Stephanie Pacheco, Guest Contributor

Occasionally, I find it enlightening to read the Huffington Post in order to keep abreast of the common opinions of secular, left-leaning readers and generally those citizens more disposed to oppose the teachings of the Church and their legitimate role in debates/discussions in the public square.

mom n babyLast month, I was very pleased to find an honest but playfully written essay called “Six Reasons to Have Six Children.” It was very pleasant, mentioning the economics of scale that come into play with more children, the independence of the kids, their happy inter-relationships, etc.

Then I read the comments…

About half were supportive, but the other half were filled with accusations of irresponsibility and unsustainability. Here, I would like to offer some responses to the bitterly incoherent comments:

Bad Reason #1: As both parents have to work nowadays, the responsibility falls to the older children and that’s not fair.

In a big family, it is extremely uncommon for both parents to work outside the home. Big families tend to view the household as a unit with the mother and father contributing in different but equally necessary roles. The mother and father need not perform the same role (work at a job) in order to be of equal value.

Additionally, if any parent slacks off and saddles older children with too much care of younger ones, that is the fault of the parent, not a function of the number of children. This can easily happen in families with just two children as well.

Bad Reason #2: There really isn’t enough money. It’s more expensive and the older siblings come to resent the spoiling of younger ones. Other comments were that it is unfair not to put all the children through college.

It’s all about how you spend it. And as far as younger children being spoiled, this again is hardly exclusive to big families. Families with two or three children have this occur as well. My own little sister got sent on way grander vacations and school trips and got the latest electronics sooner.

It’s very normal for families to have more money in later years, and naturally some of that makes its way into treats for the kids. As an oldest child, it can be tempting to see that as cause for resentment, but it really isn’t. No child, oldest or youngest, is entitled to European vacations or a debt-free pass through college. Everything we receive from our parents is a gift, just like in the parable of the workers. The ones who worked all day received the same wages as those who joined later. Jesus explains that all agreed to their wages and receive them through the generosity of the Father, so no one is getting a raw deal (Matthew 20:1-16).

Money can be a real issue if the basics of life and debt management come into play, but potential spoiling of younger children and requiring young people to work if they choose to attend college are not real problems created by larger than average numbers of children.

Bad Reason#3: It’s unsustainable for the environment because of overpopulation and just think of all those dirty diapers in landfills. (The follow up to this was: well, overpopulation is a problem in the third world, so the Catholic Church needs to advocate abortion and contraception over there to prevent this).

This I think packs the most punch, in a way, because of how commonly accepted the bogey-man myth of overpopulation is. Refuting the pseudo-science of overpopulation requires more space than I have here, but here are a few reasons “overpopulation” is yet another bad reason to avoid having children.

First, the unsustainable for the environment argument is a red herring. Would all the people who mentioned diapers in a landfill suddenly change their mind about children if we all promised to use cloth diapers instead?

The more insidious aspect of this comment is the fear of overpopulation, that somehow the planet will not be able to shelter and feed a growing population.

Yes, there are parts of the world that are very crowded. There are also huge, huge swathes of land that are practically empty and completely habitable. Most of America is open farm land. There is so much land in the world that is sparsely populated, if indeed anyone lives there at all. If we are concerned about overcrowding in some places, we should seek out these places and help make them more accessible. We should not tell people not to have children or to kill their children (as in abortion) because there is no place for them. There was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inns, but the stable was open.

Then there are the fears that the earth lacks sufficient food and energy for a growing population. This fear is also misplaced because it fails to account for human invention and ingenuity. If all humans today lived as hunter gatherers, it is quite true that such a lifestyle would be unsustainable. But we developed and improved through the use of reason. Humans became farmers and learned to live in one place by utilizing, but not over-using, its resources. Economists recognize that time and time again, we humans invent new things that support our growing numbers and encourage us to flourish. Yes, there are places where food is scarce. But this calls those of us with more to charity and aid of our fellows precisely because we do have enough for everyone, not because we don’t.

Humans are meant to flourish on earth and then return to their Heavenly Father. Even Peter Singer, the infamous utilitarian philosopher at Princeton, thinks that it is good for humanity to exist. Man is good. Children are good. The earth is good, too, and it is more than possible to promote both human good and the good of the earth, which supports us.

Bad Reason#4: It’s selfish to have children (at all) because of the sacrifices that one’s colleagues will have to make for moms (and sometimes dads) when they don’t hold their own in the office if a child’s needs come up or when one is born.

Now this one is really odd. Most progressive circles nowadays are more than happy to call for increased maternity leave, paternity leave and flexible scheduling in general to help accommodate families so that women will enter and remain in the workplace.

Additionally, employers and colleagues are generally very understanding of extenuating personal circumstances ranging from sickness, serious sickness, childbirth, death of a loved one, etc.

Saddest of all, this comment belies a real lack of thought about the end or purpose of work as such. As Catholic Social Teaching instructs us, the end of business and economics is to serve the flourishing of man, not the other way around.

“Businesses should be characterized by their capacity to serve the common good of society [which is the development of individuals to attain their highest end, holiness] through the production of goods and services” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, para. 338).

This is hardly a controversial statement. The idea of business for business’ sake or for profit alone is clearly an abuse. Work, the production of goods and services and the like are simply another part of life, all of which is supposed to be ordered to the good of society. A workplace that fails to recognize the human character of its workers and the human end of its work is a place that has fallen short.

Still, Big Families are Not Required

By all means, the Catholic Church does not teach that all married couples must have high numbers of children. Having children depends on God, prayer, natural fertility and abstinence. There are many legitimate reasons for couples to practice Natural Family Planning in order to avoid pregnancy. The Church simply teaches that children are gifts (not burdens), and that children are the natural fruit of the marital act. If a couple prayerfully decides to avoid more children for the time being (or sometimes indefinitely), they are to abstain from the marital act during times of fertility.

So though there are good reasons that a couple may want or need to keep their family smaller, the ones listed above are myths and stereotypes that are not good reasons.

Stephanie Pacheco has a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in Theology from Christendom College. She is a stay-at-home mom who writes for online media, blogs at theoress.wordpress.com, and lives with her husband, toddler and baby on-the-way.

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A positive reflection on how pro-lifers should approach social media and cyberspace today, Jan. 22, which marks the 41st anniversary of the March for Life.

Original article published on January 21, 2014 at Focus.org.

By: Melissa Keating

I have made many decisions that I regret, but almost none so much as my time outside of the pro-life movement. I converted to Catholicism when I was 16. Even though I disagreed with abortion at the time, I didn’t join the pro-life movement in earnest until after college.

Female concourse mobile phone tgv message sms

There were many reasons I hesitated, such as stubbornness and pride. But I think that more than anything, I didn’t want to be a victim. That’s what the pro-life cause looked like to me: A bunch of people who felt victimized by the media and the government. The March for Life reconfirmed this view every year.

Now I get it. This is a passionate time of year for the pro-life movement. We hear conflicting reports from newscasters about numbers that we know are deflated. We see people protest and treat us with anger and disrespect. We’re told repeatedly that we’re marching against women, instead of for life. It’s tempting to feel like victims fighting against an oppressive regime. But there’s a subtle yet crucial difference between marching for life and marching against secularism. We’re not here to retaliate, we’re here to stand for life.

We are missionaries. We are not the victims.

The following three tips can help us put this into action.

>>  Visit Focus.org here to Continue Reading

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Meredith Smith is a parishioner who most recently worked at Holy Spirit parish in Annandale, but is now studying at the Angelicum, a Pontifical University in Rome. We asked Meredith to share with us her experience (and photos) of being in St. Peter’s Square when the new Holy Father, Pope Francis, was selected.

Last Wednesday evening, white is exactly what the world saw: white smoke, white lights on the white basilica, and a white cassock. Our new Papa, Francesco, had been elected and was being announced to the world! I was very blessed to have been in St. Peter’s Square when the smoke went up and when Papa Francesco first stepped out onto the balcony.

SAM_0787It was a very miserable evening in Rome; it was raining and had been raining for days. So it was wet, cold, and we were very tired. But I had not seen any smoke live; I did not go to the Square on Tuesday evening and I was in class on Wednesday afternoon, so I was going to stay in that Square until smoke went up! I was with a group of seminarians from the Venerable English College and we all thought that we were going to see black. No one was expecting to see a new Pope that evening, and to be honest I wanted to get back to dry clothes and a warm bed! We were there waiting to see if anything would happen at the 5:30 ballot. 5:30 came and went and by 6 we decided that the ballot must have been inconclusive. So we made a circle with our umbrellas and settled in to wait, as settled as you can get in the rain and cold! And then at about 7:05 smoke went up; at first it looked grey and there was confusion: “Black? White? No? Yes?” But it quickly became clear that it was most definitely white and all the bells began to ring, announcing to all in Rome that a new pope had been elected!

SAM_0838As soon as the smoke went white everyone in the Square began to push/ run toward the front of the Square, towards the Basilica, to try to get the best view of the balcony where the new pope would soon appear. I was lucky enough to end up, or rather to be pushed, directly in front of the balcony, half way between the Obelisk and the Basilica. I had an amazing view. And then it was time to wait some more! Excitement and anticipation built with every minute; the speculation began: “Who would it be? Where would he be from? What name would he take?” The waiting seemed like an eternity and a nanosecond at the same time. People were singing songs from their countries and waving their country’s flags and people were chanting “Viva il Papa”. Words cannot even describe the joy and excitement that could be felt as I stood there with hundreds of thousands of my closest friends. The Square filled, the surrounding streets filled, it seemed that all of Rome came to greet their new Shepherd. And then, just over an hour later, the curtain moved!

SAM_0839“Habemus Papam”. The announcement was hard to understand and again there was confusion, “Who did he say? Where is he from? What name did he take?” Slowly, through the crowd you could hear murmuring of “Argentina… Francesco… Buenos Aries.” And then he appeared, Papa Francesco!


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I had an abortion in 1995. The next several years of my life seemed to be a series of one awful thing after the other, it became overwhelming. So many terrible things happened, I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

At first I wondered if God was punishing me. Then I realized I could blame God, or I could take responsibility for what I did. It was MY DECISION. God had nothing to do with it, nor did He “punish” me for what I had done. I was punishing myself!!

I had no idea I could be forgiven for such a grave sin. Even though I went to church, it seemed like the priest only talked about “respect for life”, and never spoke about being able to be forgiven after having an abortion. The guilt I felt on Mother’s Day and March for Life weekend at church was incredibly painful.

For many years I wanted to confess my sin, but was afraid … I would not even tell my cousin who is a priest.

Then one day (17 years later), I was in a restroom at a church I was visiting when I saw a paper that read “help after abortion.” As I went on reading the piece of paper that was taped to the wall, it said there is healing and forgiveness after abortion. Even after reading it I thought “Forgiveness??? Really???” At the bottom of the page were tabs to pull off and a phone number to call. I pulled one off, and even then, I was hesitant to call.

After a week or so, I called and spoke with Jo at the Diocese of Arlington. She was so supportive and positive. She told me about Rachel’s Vineyard [our diocesan retreat]. It sounded too good to be true. I signed up to attend the upcoming retreat.

That retreat turned my life around!!

I feel so blessed to have experienced the forgiveness of God, and my retreat was on Divine Mercy weekend. It was amazing. The priest we had at our retreat was a Father of Mercy, and he was such an empathetic, kind man. He was not the priest that was scheduled to be at our retreat, but God sent him to us, and he will stay in my heart forever. What a wonderful man.

The women I met there know more about me than friends I’ve known for years. We stay in touch and we all went to Mass together last month and had a luncheon. We are planning a get together around the Christmas holidays and there is a true bond between us. It’s absolutely wonderful.

I pray that more people who need healing and forgiveness learn about Project Rachel and attend a retreat. It will be the beginning of the rest of your life. You can be forgiven and you can heal. Just let God in. I realized God never meant for me to hurt for all those years, He never did anything to punish me. He loves us. We are His children. Remember, He said: “Come to me, all who are weary.”

Please go to Him if you are weary and He will give you peace. God Bless You.

Note: There is a Project Rachel retreat occurring in Northern Virginia, November 2-4. There are still open spaces if you or someone you know is in search of healing after an abortion.

Diocesan Post-Abortion Ministry provides referral to specially trained priests and/or professional counselors, healing retreats and written materials. For confidential assistance please call 1-888-456-HOPE (4673) or email info@helpafterabortion.org.


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By: Father Stephen F. McGraw, J.D., and Father Donald J. Planty, J.C.D.

Frs. McGraw and Planty provide a thorough look at the debate over illegal immigration in our country and how we can begin to grapple with the ethical questions involved. The rest of their article may be found by following the link at the end.

In the context of the debate over illegal immigration, most of us are by now familiar with the query, “What is it about ‘illegal’ that you don’t understand?”  This saying may be said to betoken a fair point, inasmuch as it is an arresting way of exposing the tendency to disregard the rule of law, perhaps in favor of sentimentalism, in the context of illegal immigration.  But at the same time this saying, if the truth be told, betrays an oversimplification that begs the question:  Is there something about “illegal”—about law and the violation of law, about how and when and why law binds us—that needs to be better understood, and might such a better understanding be of help in resolving this issue?

From a Catholic perspective, grappling with the ethical questions raised by the current debate over illegal immigration requires an honest scrutiny of the Church’s social teaching on this issue, the main lines of which are traced out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  on the one hand, “[t]he more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin”; on the other hand, “[p]olitical authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2241).  There is then a summons to us, as individuals and as a nation, to human and Christian solidarity towards immigrants to our country, although the Catechism significantly notes that this obligation of solidarity is limited according to the extent that a nation is “able”—that is, what a nation is not reasonably able to do, consistent with the common good it is charged with promoting, it is not morally obliged to do.  Moreover, in furtherance of the common good, the right to immigrate may justly be made subject to various laws, and to these laws there corresponds a moral obligation of respect and obedience.  But the duty to uphold the rule of law, to be properly understood, requires an adequate context and the making of some critical distinctions, if we are ever to arrive at a proper resolution of this tension.

This essay doesnot pretend to cover the many aspects—social, political, economic—relating to the question of illegal immigration.  Nor even, although it is concerned with ethics, does it claim to exhaust all the ethical dimensions that bear on this question.  There is no intention to formulate specific policy proposals.  The aim is to provide, in the area of law and ethics, of pastoral practice, and of public policy, some clear principles and a foundation, upon which a reasoned discourse on this issue can be solidly based.

Read more here.

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The new parish coordinators at St. Francis de Sales and St. John the Apostle recently teamed up to help this mom. Below is just a small snapshot from one of the coordinators of all that they’ve done so far…

As our GPA Mom was about to give birth, Gabriel Project members took shifts staying with her at the hospital all day and late into the night, assisting in any way we could. This included being present to help translate during the labor and delivery, staying with her so her husband could go home to pick up some things and helping her to become comfortable feeding the baby.

She was so appreciative of everyone’s efforts on her family’s part.  I came bearing gifts for her and baby, including a beautiful blanket made by the hands of our prayer shawl ministry at St. John, $100 worth of Giant gift cards collected by St. Francis parishioners, a bear gifted by my daughter Isabel for the baby, and a bouquet of mums in her favorite color courtesy of Sacred Heart Homeschoolers.  In addition, I let her know that many, many people were praying for her and her family.

The GPA Mom talked earnestly to me about feeling loved by our community.  She had been having a sense of anxiety as she prepared to have this baby alone, in a faraway country, without a friend or family nearby.  Although her husband is with her, he works 6 days a week often up to 10 hours a day.  We helped give her a sense of family and friends through our community of Christians, and her fears were shed one by one.

She came last fall to the U.S. from Vietnam to try to establish a better life for her family.  She comes from an impoverished countryside in Vietnam, and has seen her parents and siblings suffer through poverty.  Her father is a rice field farmer in poor health; her mother is a fruit vendor.  She took it upon herself to learn English, in some degree, before coming here.  She is more than willing to work hard, continue to learn English, and apply herself to some position to better her family.

She told me yesterday that she is learning a lesson from us.  She sees wonderful mothers all around her trying to teach her the gentle approach to motherhood.  She quietly observes and patiently listens.  If she is open to learn from any of us, it is the Holy Spirit working in her heart.

I am sharing all this with you to let you know what an amazing testimony the Gabriel Project can be to our Church, as we strive to impart Christ’s love by caring for innocent babes and their mothers.  I thank everyone that helped out.  It was truly needed and appreciated.

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Since Northern Virginia is a transient area with many young adults moving to the area in pursuit of career opportunities, we asked some of them to talk about the importance of community. Below is one reflection we received:

By: Daniela Zurita

About two years ago, I came back to the Faith after eight years, or perhaps even more. One of the first things my spiritual director suggested I do was to contact the Young Adult Ministry office. And I did. At first, it was strange because I am not that social. I thought that it might not help me at all.

A recent session of Theology on Tap (photo credit: Bryan McKinney)

The first young adult event I attended was Theology on Tap. That day, there was a talk about forgiveness by Father Dan Leary (listen to his talk here). It was just what I needed to hear at that moment. It was a great talk and I felt that he was speaking directly to me. I was looking for forgiveness and I understood that I had to forgive to move forward with my life. It was one of the days I will never forget because it’s when I stepped out of fear and followed Christ.

Then I attended two different events for young adults at different parishes. I found many good friends who share the Faith and who were there to support me in my struggles. It wasn’t easy at first, but everyone at each event I attended was really friendly and had an interest in knowing me as a person. I made great friendships at different young adult events.

One of the things that struck me was that I could see – in many young adults – love for our Faith and, most importantly, love for God. They are great examples of love, which was something I didn’t think existed. I have to thank the Young Adult Ministry because today I am in love with God and with our Catholic Faith. It truly changed my life. Not only did I learn about my Faith, but I also learned what true love was and what a true friendship was. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be part of the young adults in the Diocese of Arlington. Some of the greatest people I know are part of this diocese.

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