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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

What kind of heretic are you? A new Buzzfeed quiz? Though not intentionally, I know I have given incorrect answers about the faith (heretic) because of my lack of knowledge. To be quite honest, there are many teachings of Jesus that I do not fully understand and make me uncomfortable. Actually, I might go so far as to say that I really don’t like them and believe they are “impossible” to follow and comprehend. I am rather disappointed that the sacrament of Confirmation, or even taking religious vows, does not include some kind of pill, or infusion, that gives one complete theological knowledge — oh, and complete compliance to God’s will. Where are those pills to make me holy, brilliant, and sinless?

P8071310So, which Catholic Church teaching don’t you like? Actually, that is not the right question. It is, which teaching of Jesus don’t you like? Reading and re-reading the Gospels has helped me to face that question. It was easy to disagree with my parents, religion teachers, priests and sisters, but when I realized that the teachings held by the Catholic faith were all from Jesus Christ, as the Word of the Father, I realized that God is the One with whom I had to take up my grievances. And so I do. I am merely following in the footsteps of the disciples and apostles who spent most of their time asking Jesus what He was talking about, rejecting His words and, unfortunately, not following His commandments. Is it a sin to question God and complain about His teachings? No. In fact, for many of us, it is the beginning of prayer.

It has been an “exciting” week for the media reporting on the Synod on marriage at the Vatican. With topics including homosexuality, divorce, contraception, cohabitation, abortion, pre-marital sex, and the Catholic Church — it doesn’t get more controversial and emotional than that! Each one of us has been challenged to reflect on these issues and to grow in our understanding of why and how the Catholic Church believes what it does. It is a tremendous opportunity to mature in faith and knowledge and to assess our own need to grow in our personal relationship with God. These issues touch wounds in each of us, and we should remember that they touched the genealogy and followers of Jesus Christ. Our Lord knew very well what He was doing when speaking about such hard teachings. Why else would He bestow such healing looks of love and pity on those gathered around Him?

imagesJesus is very clear with the disciples when they are astonished, shocked, or flatly reject something He says or teaches. Whether they refuse to accept His suffering and death, His teachings on marriage and divorce, or the radical disposing of one’s possessions and family, Our Lord is unwavering. Despite the mass exodus of followers after He tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood for eternal life, He rebukes all and tells them that they cannot do alone what He is teaching. When the disciples question the difficult teachings on discipleship, Jesus declares that “for human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (cf. Mt 19:26, Mk 10:27).

For it to be possible for us to accept the Gospel message, our hearts must be open to God. We know this is not easy. Our fears of sacrifice and suffering, our weaknesses to temptations and plain, old sloth keep us from a disciplined prayer life and moral actions. Yet, in spite of all of this we do desire conversion; it is that little voice in each of us that says “there has to be more than this in life.” We know we are not happy with mediocrity. And on our honest days, we know that, though difficult to live, the teachings of Jesus resonate in our hearts and make sense. How incredible it is that we have a loving God who invites us into a relationship with Him that gives us the happiness we so desire. Yes, this includes obedience to His will and commandments, but we have been promised the abiding presence of His Spirit and the body and blood of the Son to enable us to be faithful sons and daughters. Like any relationship, it takes work and sacrifice on the part of both parties. He has held up to His promise. Now what about our part?

Wouldn’t a conversion, or perfection pill be easier? Yes. But we would probably forget to take it and complain about that, too!

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries” (Exodus 23:20-22).

I recently asked a man about his first memory of an encounter with God. He thought for a few minutes and shared an account, that I was to believe or not, of an experience he had as a young child. He was in his room and felt an “evil presence” and got very scared. He started to pray, and he felt someone take his hand. A sensation of peace and security came over him. “As weird as it sounds,” he said, he knew it was his Guardian Angel who took his hand and made him feel safe, and the evil presence disappeared. Not only was I touched by his story, but I was struck that he did not tell me about seeing Jesus, or the Father, Himself, but he knew God, as many have, through a “messenger of God,” an angel.

LF8October 2 is the great feast of the Guardian Angels. In fact, this is “angel week” as we celebrated the great feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael on September 29. Certainly the mystery of angels captivates the world, young and old, of all faiths, yet it is important to make sure we have a proper understanding of the office of angels, and even more important to equip ourselves with the prayers and devotions that bring us into a deeper relationship with the angels and their invaluable protection.

Rooted deep within the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief that part of God’s creation includes a species known as angels. Their mission is to make God known. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us of the relationship between humans and their angels:

“From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (CCC 336).

Angels have no bodies. They are not human, nor will humans become angels. In fact, we are taught that we will be “above the angels” as members of the Body of Christ. This was the very truth that caused Lucifer, a Seraph, to reject God, and, along with countless angels, to be cast into hell. Yes, bodiless beings that can protect and lead us is hard to comprehend and imagine, hence the images of winged “babies” or strong warriors who shield us from evil. When a loved one dies, it is natural to want to know and feel their presence and to believe that one of their souls is close by, guiding and protecting us each day. And God willing, they are, but not as angels.

Today is a perfect day to brush up on your angelology and to pray in deep gratitude for your Guardian Angel. Make sure you have these prayers memorized by the end of the day. Each of us receive our own angel for our time on earth, whose mission is to lead our soul into heaven. That is his only mission! He only has us! We can’t let him fail!

Prayer to your Guardian Angel:

Angel of God,
My guardian dear,
To whom God’s love
Commits me here,
Ever this day,
Be at my side,
To light and guard,
Rule and guide. Amen.

Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel:

St. Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
And do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
By the power of God,
Thrust into hell Satan,
And all the evil spirits,
Who prowl about the world
Seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

I was nervous when the SUV pulled over to the side of the road while I was praying outside of an abortion facility in Falls Church with a group of students from Bishop O’Connell High School. The man driving it lowered the passenger side window. I could see his two young children in the back seat as he leaned across the seat and pointed to the building. With great emotion he yelled: “Shut that place down! My wife killed two of my children in there!” We were stunned, nodding our heads as he drove off, silenced by his emotion, pain and the reality of what abortion does to men, women and families. I will never forget that experience and it is one of the reasons I continue to go to pray outside of the abortion facilities.

40DaysforLifePraying outside of an abortion facility is never comfortable. Wearing a habit and veil all the time, I am used to the staring, but it is always heightened while praying outside of an abortion facility, especially when the occasional angry, derogatory shouts come from passing cars. One of the worst was at the end of reciting the rosary with Bishop Loverde and the group that had gathered after a monthly Respect Life Mass: A very angry, young woman walked by and asked if we were protesting. Bishop Loverde answered that we were praying to end abortion, at which point she started to swear and use derogatory terms. We all prayed for her. Usually we are encouraged by “we are with you” car horns, waves and thumbs up; but sometimes, not. It is always sobering to be praying, knowing that behind one of those windows a life is being taken and parents are going against their nature by ending life, rather than protecting it.

Is it worth the discomfort and very public witness of standing outside of a building to pray, and, God willing, help a woman in need to choose life? Absolutely! So many organizations and prayer efforts have moving stories of lives saved and parents helped. That day with the Bishop O’Connell students happened to be during a 40 Days for Life campaign. Founded as a grassroots effort by a handful of people in College Station, Texas, the program has grown in seven years, and with God’s grace have included: 625,000 individual participants, 17,000 churches, 3,039 total campaigns, 539 cities, 24 countries; 101 abortion workers have quit, 54 abortion facilities have closed, and 8,973 children have been saved from abortion!

40 Days for Life is a worldwide pro-life effort which includes prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil outside of abortion facilities and community outreach. For years the parishioners and parishes in the Arlington Diocese have participated in this campaign, and participants have shared wonderful stories of men and women changing their minds. The diocesan pregnancy assistance program Gabriel Project has helped countless women find medical, financial and emotional support. There have also been cases of post-abortive men and women contacting the Project Rachel hotline to begin to heal from the wounds that their abortion has brought into their lives.

This year, there are three locations for the 40 Days for Life campaign in the Arlington Diocese taking place September 24 through November 2. What do you say to joining this year? Do not be afraid! I encourage and invite you to give an hour, even with the potential shouts and stares, to save a life!

1. Amethyst Health Center for Women
9380-B Forestwood Lane
Manassas, Virginia

Contact: Jeanne Ostrich
703-598-7644
40dfl.manassas.scheduler@gmail.com

2. Falls Church Healthcare Center
900 South Washington Street
Falls Church, Virginia

Contact: Ruby Nicdao
703-795-2216
ruby40daysforlife@gmail.com

3. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic

Landmark Towers Apartment Building
101 South Whiting Street, 2nd floor
Alexandria, Virginia

Contact: Sara Dina
571-218-6224
sara.40days@cox.net

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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 to 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, disposed 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 what 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?

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

It is a strange and scary thing when civil authorities write to a bishop and tell him how to live his faith and mission. Do not let the issue of homosexuality or the politically charged same-sex marriage agenda blind you to what is really going on here. The letter written to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone by California government leaders and various gay activists and religious groups, as well as a letter from U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, telling him not to attend the second annual March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., on June 19, 2014, was about a group telling a man how he should act as a Catholic Archbishop.

So how should we feel about government officials deciding what acceptable Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Nancy Pelosi-x400Catholic behavior should be? In fact, some of the signers of the letter portray themselves as faithful, devout Catholics, yet they do not agree with Catholic Church teachings. Predictably, they use Pope Francis, wrenching his words “Who am I to judge?” to mean “Anything goes!”  Ironically, this does not seem to apply to Archbishop Cordileone attending the March for Marriage. Who are they to judge his attendance? The very Pope they attempt to use as a rhetorical weapon, only four years ago fought against politicians in Argentina just like them!

Let’s be honest: We all try to separate our actions from our person.  We are all pretty convinced that just because we “haven’t killed anybody,” our lies, infidelities, selfishness, and inactive faith life aren’t so bad. We are “good people,” even spiritual. But following the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Ten Commandments seem, quite frankly, just too hard, rather optional really. Sometimes being Catholic can be downright embarrassing, especially when you do not agree with the truths of God’s law, or you don’t even know what they are. Without sound catechesis and an active prayer and sacramental life, attempting to live as a Catholic in the public square can be difficult. Pretty quickly, truth becomes relative. At times even hostile. We want our faith, without the truth it teaches. It is the American “right” that comes with the privatization of religion. Catholics have bought into the rhetoric: I’m Catholic, but my faith isn’t part of my public life. Wasn’t that the great demand made of President John Kennedy? And certainly many, if not most, of our Catholic politicians now live by this construct.

In the letter written to Archbishop Cordileone, the authors quoted Pope Francis, saying: “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” What they failed to include were the strong words of then Cardinal Bergoglio, who adamantly fought against same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010, stating:

“In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts….let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”[1]

Archbishop Cordileone is, in fact, doing exactly what Pope Francis would ask him to do; what, in fact, he himself did: act like a Catholic Archbishop. In his response to the letter urging that he not attend the March for Marriage, the Archbishop of San Francisco teaches us what that means:

“I appreciate your affirmation of my Church’s teaching—not unique to our religion, but a truth accessible to anyone of good will—on the intrinsic human dignity of all people, irrespective of their stage and condition in life.  That principle requires us to respect and protect each and every member of the human family, from the precious child in the womb to the frail elderly person nearing death.  It also requires me, as a bishop, to proclaim the truth—the whole truth—about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing. I must do that in season and out of season, even when truths that it is my duty to uphold and teach are unpopular, including especially the truth about marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. That is what will be doing on June 19th.”[2]

On Thursday, many Catholics, and those of other faiths, will be joining him in voicing the importance of marriage and family, and the right for a child to have a mother and a father. Incidentally, the Italian name Cordileone means “heart of the lion.”  So how should we feel about government officials attempting to decide what acceptable Catholic behavior should be? Fortunately, the good archbishop answers the question for us. The Archbishop courageously imitates the “Lion of Judah,” Jesus Christ Himself, in presenting timeless essential truth, based in true love and charity.

Please see Bishop Paul Loverde’s statement in support of Archbishop Cordileone here.


[1] National Catholic Register. (2010, July 8). Retrieved from http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/cardinal_bergoglio_hits_out_at_same-sex_marriage#ixzz34v0Jfjn6 

[2] Archdiocese of San Francisco. (2014, June 16). Retrieved from http://www.sfarchdiocese.org/about-us/archbishop-cordileone/homilies-writings-and-statements/?search=march%20for%20marriage&C=940&I=4035

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

The Washington Post’s Louise Melling wrote last week about how satisfying it is that a movie portrays abortion sympathetically and even comically. However, for me, other testimonials come to mind…

  • Joyce tells me that she keeps having dreams of her 30-year-old daughter. She is a beautiful young woman who smiles at her. It has helped ease some of the pain in dealing with the abortion, and she is wondering if this is a sign that her daughter, and God, have forgiven her.
  • A hospice nurse shared with me an experience of being at the deathbed of 85-year-old Lydia. The nurse realized that Lydia was not in physical pain, but emotional turmoil.  Lydia burst into tears and begged forgiveness for an abortion she had 65 years ago and never spoke about. After the priest came, Lydia’s body relaxed and she looked “radiant,” dying peacefully the next day.
  • I read a comment from Lea, who said:  As someone who worked at an abortion clinic for seven years, I find it now quite disturbing. Although I do not sit and scold girls for having it, I must say there is a lot about it we won’t tell you. I cleaned up a lot. The bodies of aborted babies got thrown in dumpsters pretty much. What really got to me was whenever I performed one, I could feel the baby twitch. Like a startled type of twitch. For years I didn’t think much until my daughter got pregnant at 14 and I performed one on her. When that baby twitched and got thrown away, I cried in secret for weeks. Those babies had nerves. My grandchild had nerves. They felt their heads being crushed. Now, respect my opinion as I will respect yours, but to me, that is murder. And no longer do I find it a choice someone can make because it’s their body. I no longer believe it is just their body. It’s someone else in their body. And I can’t bring myself to support it. My daughter committed suicide five months later.[1]

I get it. I actually understand why people want to make us laugh about abortion. The articles, blogs, and reviews about the upcoming romantic comedy, “Obvious Child,” are correct. If one in three (the number is actually more like one in four[2], but I see the logic in making it seem like “everybody’s doing it”) women have an abortion,[3] then there are a countless number of mothers in our country who are living with the reality of ending the life of their child. That also means there are equally that many fathers whose sons and daughters were killed. Should we mention the grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters? Regardless of the religious, political, and socio-economic backgrounds, there is nowhere we can go, no family, no relationship left unscathed by abortion.  That is too much. It is too painful, overwhelming, and inconsolable.  In the unbearable guilt, grief, and fear, it makes perfect sense to do what I — what we — do best. Desensitize.

sad-man-and-womanIn our fallen nature, what should shock us, make us uncomfortable, and repulse us usually becomes entertainment.  From Circus Maximus to public hangings, the crowds cheering at the guillotine of the French Revolution to reality television, we are experts at normalizing the profane.  A phenomenon studied and theorized for centuries; people continue to need psychological and physical outlets to deal with horrible, inhumane behavior and deep woundedness.

Secretly, we seek that macabre pleasure of knowing that someone is more “messed up” than we are. But the answer cannot continue to be desensitizing through entertainment.  In fact, what we need is more sensitivity. The mother and father who chose abortion do not need levity to deal with their tragedy. Whether there is guilt or regret — now or later — they will have to face the reality of their decision to end the life of their child, just as all of us have to face the wounds we incur in our lifetime. I believe that by desensitizing ourselves to painful situations and the consequences of grave immoral choices, we become incapable of knowing true selfless love and honesty. As relationships of love are based on sensitivity, what becomes of a culture desensitized?


[1] Gurl.com, 90% Of Women Who Had Abortions Felt Relieved (2013).

[2] Guttmacher Institute, Fact Sheet: Induced Abortion in the United States (2014).

[3] The Daily Signal, In ‘Obvious Child,’ Abortion as Comedy at a Theater Near You (2014).

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By: Sr. Clare Hunter

Yesterday’s post for Encourage & Teach by Bishop Loverde, “Stand for Marriage, Stand for Faith,” originally printed in the Arlington Catholic Herald, is a timely reminder of the importance of “standing” for marriage, and not losing hope in the battle to protect the truths of marriage as one man and one woman. On one hand, it still hurts my brain that such a blog must be written and that we have to define and discuss what marriage is; yet such things shouldn’t surprise me when glib articles are being written about throwing the best “divorce party” and where to get the best “divorce cake.” It makes sense that a culture that celebrates divorce would be confused about the meaning and purpose of marriage. I agree that it seems rather ridiculous to claim that marriage is defined as permanent, monogamous and life-bearing, if that is not witnessed. Once we take away that definition, anything can take its place. And it has.

Divorce CakeAlthough sometimes necessary to protect one spouse or the other financially or even physically, divorce is always a bad thing. It is a painful and very sensitive experience for men and women, especially for their children. It has touched each of our lives, and our families and friends. Divorce is a death, and time is needed to heal and process through the shattering of lives and emotional heartbreak. This is painful and entails the acceptance of suffering. It entails heroic acts of forgiveness, mercy and the dependence on others for support, most especially from the grace of God. All of this can seem rather repulsive in a culture that rejects the idea of dependence – on God or others, and certainly does all it can to avoid suffering.

We all know experientially, and science has proven, that laughter is the best medicine and humor heals. But are we doing greater harm to those suffering from a divorce by encouraging or turning to sardonic humor to deal with the emotions from a painful situation? As the media and social networks report and highlight this trend, will we continue to become numb to the suffering of those we love who experience divorce? Will divorce parties and cakes become part of a life event? It seems to me, this will only add to the confusion of marriage as it loses the sacredness and reverence for which it was created. Might I suggest, rather than a party and cake, offering instead prayers, Masses and sacrifices for the couple and their children, whose lives have been changed forever, and who will need true love and support for the rest of their lives.

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