Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Thursday and Foot Washing - Misunderstanding What Catholics Do

So here we are again - Holy Week. A most splendid - the most splendid week of the year! Yes, Christmas brings us the infant God made man, but during this week He fulfills that purpose for which he was conceived of the Virgin Mary. Holy Week, however, comes replete with painful awareness of how many Catholics (including clergy) simply don't choose to follow the instructions (rubrics anyone?) that clearly give priests the black - exact words to say - and the red - exact instructions for what they (and we, the faithful) are to do. Now before someone says, "but if it's not expressly forbidden, we can add to the things we can do", here's a word: NO!

Let's take some secular examples.

1) a prima ballerina decides that she will enhance the carefully crafted choreography of Swan Lake and just add some cutsie little steps here and there - at her pleasure.

2) a legal secretary decides that her boss' brief needs a bit of enhancement and throws in a few things she's learned at night school.

3) a sou chef takes the recipe of his master and tweaks it just a bit.

Pow! All heck would surely break out. Not just because the servant hadn't done what the master intended but also because the resulting chaos would affect everyone involved.

And so it is with the optional rite of Foot Washing - Mandatum (command) - on Holy Thursday. The rubrics are clear - men (viri) are to have their feet washed - twelve, if you want to follow Jesus' lead. Why twelve and why men, you might ask? Well, because a secondary function of our remembrance of that day (aside from the - very important - institution of the Eucharist!), is the institution of the priesthood, initiated with the twelve apostles. Can women become priests? Contrary to liberal wishes the answer has irrevocably been given by Pope John Paul II - never!

As has been pointed out by Fr. Z,"let it be remembered that the Church’s legislation allows for the washing of the feet of only men. MEN = VIRI = MEN. Not manish women or any other critter. Even if some claim to have received permission to wash the feet of women, and even if the claims were true, those permissions would in no way change the law for the rest of the world. Period. Furthermore, I have never seen a letter or a copy of a letter from the Congregation in Rome granting such a permission. I doubt anyone else has either".
Canon lawyer, Dr. Edward Peters has written about it thoroughly and shares the wording of the rubric with us - along with emphasis of the Latin, in which it was written. The word man (viri) can only be interpreted one way, and it's not mankind (or humankind).

I'd rather just see this optional rite done away with altogether. Why oh why does the focus always have to be on 'us' (the people)? Holy Thursday is about the institution of the priesthood. It is about the institution of the Eucharist. And yet, here we are again. With our self congratulatory songs, choirs up front so that we may focus away from everything that we should be focusing on - Jesus, present to us as food at the foot of the cross! I'm so very frustrated and it takes away my right to worship in the way Mass was intended* (complete with thorough instructions). I've seen even babies' feet washed, mostly women's feet washed, and commemorative towels given out as 'door prizes' for those women and men who participated. I'm beyond frustrated by this lack of saying the black and doing the red!

Rant over...

May we all celebrate a holy, Holy Thursday! Happy Holy Week!

The Last Supper - the reason for Holy Thursday!
*From Redemptionis Sacramentum (Latin, “The Sacrament of Redemption”).
"It is the right of the Christian people themselves that their diocesan bishop should take care to prevent the occurrence of abuses in ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God, and devotion to the saints (24)."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Catholics are so Darned Misunderstood!

appearances can be deceiving

A frequent thorn in my side is the misconceptions about Catholicism that run unfettered among my friends. No matter how many times I think I've finally gotten through to them and explained my wonderful faith, they persist in listening to the first nay-sayer in reporter's clothing. Recently, I was so bothered by this that I dedicated an entire post to myths about Catholicism over at Catholic Sistas. Here is an excerpt:

Myth – Catholics worship Mary.

Much to my dismay, a Facebook friend recently posted that she had ‘learned’ something distressing. To her consternation, “the news reported that Pope Francis spent all day praying to Mary on his first day as Pope“. Of course her horror at the idea of this when she, “thought all this time that he prayed to God“, was due to lack of credible information. It is evident that the Catholic idea of ‘praying to’ and the misguided definition pushed by Catholic-hostile press is miles apart. While Catholics understand the Communion of Saints and intercession, the rest of the world equates praying to someone with worship. Big difference! As taught in the CCC, “Because of Mary’s singular cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church loves to pray in communion with the Virgin Mary, to magnify with her the great things the Lord has done for her, and to entrust supplications and praises to her”.

To read the rest of the post, and some perceptions about Pope Francis, the Rosary, and other topics Catholic, please visit Catholicism - Appearances can be Deceiving!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Good-Bye, Hello - Viva il Papa!

Am I the only one who is feeling a bit unfaithful right now? Perhaps a bit divided? Don’t get me wrong, I am elated at the election of Pope Francis and the blessing he appears to be to our Church. His modesty and low maintenance style is very appealing. The positions he has historically held on the moral issues I hold dear are spot on from what I have learned about him in the past two days. But what about dear, sweet, unassuming Benedict? Unlike other past popes, he has not yet gone to his Eternal Reward. He still lives – albeit solitarily – amongst us. Our gentle German Shepherd did so much for Holy Mother Church during his eight year pontificate – not to mention, the time he spent serving as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger.

OK, I’ll admit that his German heritage always appealed to me. His way of analyzing and explaining felt like my German Opa counseling me in the ways of the Faith. I will also be eternally grateful for what I suspect is a deeper framework for the future of Christ’s Church than we will ever realize. Even the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio may have Benedict's fingerprints on it. But what do we do about Benedict now? He still occupies a warm place in my heart and even as I work feverishly to get to know Pope Francis, I still hear the echoes of what Benedict has taught us ringing in my soul.

Is this how it feelswhen an adopted child finds her birth parent(s)? That feeling of split loyalty - OK, I know where my loyalty lies, but you know what I mean, right? How does one negotiate the roadways of affection, loyalty and love for two of something? It will be interesting to see. Now that the mystery has been revealed, and we know who will be serving as the Vicar of Christ, life can begin to normalize a bit. Sure, we have much to learn about our new Pope, but we still have much to glean from what his predecessor has gifted to the world. Therein lies the beauty of the Church instituted by Christ Himself - a succession of earthy Shepherds to lead us Home. May we find an equitable place in our hearts for them both. Viva la Papa – past and present!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bluebirds of Happiness - a Photo Essay

As an art major and all around lover of all things creative, I have struggled to find my current niche of creativity. These days I tend to not employ my beloved pencils and paints of the past. My current niche lies somewhere between what I learned while concentrating on the fine arts while earning my BA at Brescia University and my 'artsy craftsy' side(my professors would shudder). Photography and a love of God's creation seems to fill the bill quite well for me and luckily I was blessed to receive a Nikon D5100 camera (with a lovely array of basic accessories) as a Christmas gift from my family. Here is a way for me to showcase and share what I see in our garden - another creative passion.

Recently the Bluebirds arrived and, as they do every year, they checked out the accommodations we have created for them - just on the other side of our water garden/koi pond. I was fortunate (and patient) enough to capture an initial visit from them. Below you will see a progression of photos that I took during my 45 minute quest for that perfect photo. At the end of the photos, I have also shared a meme I created from my favorite - another current creative outlet. Go check out the many memes I have created on the Designs by Birgit fan page on Facebook.

As I was sitting there, the scripture verse about the birds of the air kept popping into my mind. I was also afforded an opportunity to meditate and give a prayer of thanksgiving for God's beautiful creation. We are truly blessed and should remind ourselves to truly see all that this world has to offer!

Mr. Bluebird flies in for a landing.

After an initial look he directs Mama in.
Mama flies in to check it out.

Talking it over.
We're home!

I took an information poll on the Designs by Birgit Facebook album and a favorite rose to the top. As is my pleasure, I then turned the photo into a meme to express what I had witnessed. God is so good to us!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Of Toilet Paper and Fortitude

I have often found that our best virtues can also be our worse vices. What makes us ‘good’ can also present quite the trial for our souls (and for those around us). Take Fortitude, for example – it can show its face as intractability if used wrongly. To illustrate, let’s begin by taking a look at my own family.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) runs rampant throughout our members. These poor grandchildren of ours have gotten a double dose – believe me, both sides of the family can lay a legitimate claim. That being said, it’s obvious that change is not something with which we play nicely. No matter if it’s…

Bananas – sliced or not can begin a battle of wills.

Skittles and M & Ms – sorted and eaten by color or all mixed up.

Mail – stacked by size and length (oh, what to do with those darned tall and fat card envelopes).

Toilet paper – spooled to the inside or outside (when the kids were little I developed the habit of spooling against the wall to prevent miles of it from unrolling ‘on accident’).

Now, why mention the role of humble tp, you might ask? What in the world does it have to do with Fortitude? Well, stay tuned and you’ll soon see the connection!

Sarah, our 4 year-old granddaughter, is my Mini Me. Her stubborn spirit (Germans are like that) knows no limits and she often refuses to smile for a snapshot. “I don’t like to smile”, she says with a dramatic grimace. But her – ahem – strength of character makes her a stalwart ally and she is just as prone to an excess of hugs, kisses and ‘high fives’ when it’s her idea.

For the past several months, I have continually found the toilet paper in the ‘wrong’ position when Sarah visits. She never says anything, yet it just keeps happening – over.and.over.and.over.again. For my part, I simply reverse it back to its rightful position and smile a secret little smile – because I ‘get’ her. And aren't we all like that in some sense or the other? Which is what got me to pondering Fortitude. Now Fortitude is a virtue but it can also display itself as a vice - if we are not properly disposed. The difference is in distinguishing between things of eternal importance and things pertaining to our earthly, human condition – morality vs. preference if you will.

So what is Fortitude?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause”. So here we have a description that calls to mind bravery, valor, tenacity and grit. When these characteristics are applied to say, defending the honor of Holy Mother Church or the unborn, there is nothing we won’t do – even unto death – to take a stand for these moral absolutes.

By contrast, this same type of stick-to-itiveness can quickly become a vice if we do not chose wisely, the object or issue to which we give our allegiance. When we interact with others – or even with our own wills – it’s important to maintain the ability to look at issues with an open mind. Not everything is a black or white issue. It’s wise to look to our priests, bishops, and Church Dogma to find which things are debatable and which are simply not. Therein lies the difference. When our goal of being right surpasses our need for Truth, we are arguing in vain. Fortitude then morphs into stubborn will.

What is Fortitude not?

Fortitude is not prideful and it does not insist on 'winning' an argument for the sake of being right. Like Sarah and my toilet paper swap, we tend to cling to what we perceive as right just because: that's the way it's always been, that's how mom (or Dad) did it, or I simply like it that way. Fortitude rightly used, is a humble submission to Truth as taught by Holy Mother Church, to which we remain loyal because it is right and just and because God said so. When we know that these truths are absolute, we can proceed gently and share them. Fortitude allows us to stick it out instead of being cowed by opposition - because we know what we are sharing Truth, not our truth, but God's Truth. A recent story about Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, CA gives us perfect witness of Fortitude. The good bishop is "requiring all 200 of his diocese’s Catholic schoolteachers to sign an affirmation of faith agreeing that “modern errors” such as contraception, abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and euthanasia are “matters that gravely offend human dignity". When met with opposition he begged the question of how a teacher, “can teach what the Catholic Church teaches with zeal and enthusiasm while holding, as they say, ‘in the privacy of their heart,’” views that are anti-Catholic". Since the issues he mentions are non-negotiable Truth (and always have been), his Fortitude illustrates an exemplary characteristic of the virtue a shepherd should display to his flock.

How do we make Fortitude our own?

During the season of Lent we can make it a point to become sensitive to those times when we bullishly strive to win an argument instead of converting with the heart of God and His Truth. We should scrutinize our own motivations and consciences, to distinguish whether or not we are seeking victory or the winning of souls. When we speak, are we speaking sincerely and with respect of those with whom we interact? Once we determine not our will, but His Will be done, we will be well on our way to practicing Fortitude. Otherwise we are simply allowing false pride to rule the day!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Emergency Contraception: Science and Morals

This is a guest post by my daughter  Erika, a forensic biologist, who writes for Catholic Sistas. The post,  Emergency Contraception Science and Morals first appeared there. 

Recently the news contained two slightly misleading headlines: “German bishops say morning-after pill is ok in rape cases,” and “Top Vatican official calls German bishop’s approval of morning after pill ‘exemplary’”. On the surface both of these headlines give the appearance of the Church, specifically the German bishops and even the Pontifical Academy for Life, reversing a historic ban on contraception and abortifacients. In all likelihood, the Church will be taken to task over this seeming reversal without a closer inspection. However, as a scientist (molecular biology degree and 9 years as a Forensic Biologist) as well as an apologetics hobbyist, I decided to delve a little deeper into both the science and the morals of emergency contraception (EC).

First, the science… I first looked at the article from Contraception that was referenced in both articles in contention. After reading the entire article, the take-home message appeared to be that a Copper IUD is the most effective EC because it disrupts fertilization as well as implantation, but the two hormonal types of EC were ineffective because their action was to disrupt fertilization not implantation. Another article continues the assertion that one of the most common EC types (Levonorgestrel/Plan B) has no effect on implantation. However, as Catholics (as did most people before IVF and recent political mumbo-jumbo), we believe that life begins at conception not implantation. Further review of journal articles yielded this one that clearly states that only people who believe “implantation or later events to be the beginning of pregnancy” consider this method to be non-abortive. Another article, questions the validity of the data used to verify whether Plan B acts pre- or post-implantation without even referencing (in the abstract) whether these studies even consider post-conception and pre-implantation actions.

Most/many studies discount the five to twelve days between fertilization to implantation. It is not a stretch to consider these studies flawed for neglecting this time period; therefore, it is impossible to separate the contraceptive from the abortive properties of Plan B (and other ECs) without further research. Even one of their own, James Trussell, admits the abortive effect must be mentioned to women when giving Plan B. Further, Dr. Trussell admits that for Plan B (or any EC) to be effective, it must have an effect after fertilization. At this point, there is no accurate widely available test for fertilization, although a fertilization chemical has been known since 1979. Common tests used to detect pregnancy are detecting implantation (hCG) hormones, again discounting the five to twelve days between fertilization and implantation.

Now for the morals… In 196820002008, and well, basically forever the Church’s official stance has been against both contraception and abortion. Every life that begins is God’s gift to the bearer. While in cases of rape and incest, it is common to think of the new life as a “punishment”; in reality, God has created something wonderful out of a horrible crime. It is widely believed that punishing a child for the sins of the father is wrong. Therefore, it is no stretch to think that terminating a pre-born child for the sin of the father is wrong as well.

The German bishops, in their ill-conceived notion of “kindness” for a woman impregnated by an attacker, draw a line that neither science nor morality can draw. Studies have not shown that emergency contraceptives only act prior to fertilization. Nor are there widely available reliable tests to determine fertilization, only implantation. Moral law is the same for all life, whether the result of rape, incest, fornication, marital love, marital infidelity, IVF, or any other mechanism. A new life begins when egg and sperm meet (fertilization). Intentionally terminating that life is against the moral code and natural law. When clarification of this media circus is made, I’m sure it will be buried under new Catholic controversy if it is even presented at all. Until then, I am confident that Christ’s Church on Earth remains the most steadfast protector of life from its very conception.

ADDENDUM: In researching this story I could have added this extra explanation:
A comment on Facebook mentioned that since 1999(?), the bishops’ statement has been that if ovulation and fertilization can be proven to have not occurred, emergency contraception is OK. This information is true-EXCEPT-it is almost impossible for medical science to prove without a doubt that no ovulation or fertilization has occurred or is likely to occur during the emergency contraceptives life span in the body. They can test for ovulation-yes-but since sperm cells can live up to a week in the female reproductive system, proving no ovulation at the time the drug is administered does NOT necessarily mean ovulation will not happen within that week. If ovulation occurs within the week life-span of the sperm cells, fertilization can occur. At this time, there is no test for fertilization that is widely-available or widely-used. The current pregnancy tests actually test for implantation. Implantation happens between 5-12 days AFTER fertilization/conception/creation of new life. One of the only ways, in my opinion and research, to have the best chance of knowing whether ovulation and/or fertilization is possible is if a woman uses NFP to chart her cycles. However, even though NFP has a thoroughly proven track record, occasionally “unplanned” conceptions happen even to experienced practitioners.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Facebook Block - I'm Back, But I'm Not

Last night I was finally able to get back into my Facebook account and interact with others. Of course, as luck would have it, I abstain from Facebook on Fridays during Lent. So I'm back - but not really. I did go in and schedule a couple of memes to go live today - so enjoy those until I'm back in full force.

Hopefully this will be the end of my censorship troubles, but who knows! In the mean time, I'd like to say

Thank You

for sticking around to 'hear' me complain and for helping my Designs by Birgit fan page continue to grow. Together we can help build a world that respects all life!

Birgit J

I hope you'll swing by the Designs by Birgit fan page and take a look at my latest creations! And, please, be sure to 'like' and 'share' to help spread the news...all LIFE is precious - Womb to Tomb!