Monday, June 29, 2009

Love, first.

A 50/50 week. I made great improvement toward doing productive activities like sewing, writing, cleaning and reading to the kids, but that doesn't mean I watched any less TV. I blame Federer. How am I supposed to refrain from watching Wimbledon? The FIFA final didn't help matters either. Most of my progress only came in the latter half of the week, though.

At Mass yesterday we had a BVM sister come speak to us about her mission to people with Hansen's Disease (leprosy). She and her sisters run The Damien House in Ecuador. Our parish made a substantial gift from its funds, which, since we are a stewardship parish, came directly from the collection. Hearing her speak about the plight of these people brought me to tears, not because of their physical suffering, but because of the way they are outcasts from society. She said the name of the street upon which their hospital is built was called "La calle sin nombre." The Street Without a Name.

The first thing these sisters did when they arrived at this hospital didn't have anything to do with distributing medicine. Their first order of business was to clean: scrape moldy paint off the walls, rid the floor of rats and roaches, sanitize the kitchen so the food stayed fresh, change the linens, plant other words, beautify the space so the patients would feel human again. I found such comfort in that, in the fact that they knew their first order of business was to create a loving atmosphere for the people they were serving. Of course, they also made sure everyone received treatment for the disease, advocated for better access to medincines, opened the doors to anyone who needed to receive care, and set up a weekly meeting where everyone could voice their opinions about the conditions in the hospital and their individual needs.

Yet it came down to love, first and foremost. Whenever I grow frustrated by the abysmally slow growth of my charity fund, God reminds me that it's not all about the benjamins. If love comes first, then a spirit of charity and forgiveness, of reaching out to everyone I meet, and of instilling a sense of compassion in my children are my first priorities. I'm still trying to save as much as I can, but family outings like going bowling or taking the kids to Cici's Pizza are acts of charity, even though they cost money, because they are building love.

Accountability Analysis
Week of June 21
Working on: Getting everyone ready by 9 am
Successes: Getting ready by 10 (hey, it's progress!), marriage-building, consistent with daily prayers
Challenges: yelling, laziness
Average daily HOS: 3

Week of June 28
Working on: Organizing house for Dad's visit

Monday, June 22, 2009


I'm noticing an increasing need for more accountability in my life. I have grand ideas and excellent intentions, but I keep falling away from the disciplines I'm setting myself. A spiritual director would be ideal for this (*wistful sigh*) but I really just can't see how that can happen. I have spoken with the Priests at my Parish and none of them do counseling (except for those discerning a vocation.) Regnum Christi provides spiritual counseling as part of its charism to those who join, but I've not received an indication that God wants me to go that route. I've heard only wonderful things about the Neocatechumenal Way, which we have at my Parish, but they are formatted in lay groups to support members' spiritual growth. I really do not need support; I need guidance. The Lanteri Center for Spirituality does do counseling, but I'm at a loss as to how to work the child care aspect as they are far away and only open during business hours. It's one of my fundamental dillemas: how to pursue my spiritual needs without overburdening my husband or our finances.

So, I've told the Lord to show me an opportunity for spiritual counseling if that's His will, and in the meantime I'm trying to go it alone.

Which is the crux of my problem. I am not independently motivated and am very, very, VERY bad at self-discipline. I need, as one dancing partner in my salsa classes once told me, "A firm hand." It's apparently true for my life as well as my dancing.

At the moment I have a daily schedule as outlined in A Mother's Rule of Life that organizes my day into activites around the 5 Ps (Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent, Provider. I add Pastorage as well, because I don't feel my volunteer time is accurately encompassed by either Prayer or Person.) It's realistic, balanced (though necessarily heavy on time with the kids and taking care of them,) but liveable. I'm not following all of it, though, because I tend to do only those things that people are asking me to do. Given that the most vocal people in my life are my children, I am excellent at tending to their needs. However, the activities that have no one advocating for them, such as afternoon prayers and sewing, have stopped entirely, and I'm watching reruns of Star Trek at night instead of reading or spending time with my husband.

I'd like to post weekly on my successes and challenges, mostly so that I have a place to look back and determine patterns in my progress, but also for the practice of reporting my efforts. If that little bit of motivation helps me to choose wisely when I'm confronted with temptation, it will be well worth the small bit of embarrassment from admitting just how much of my day is dedicated to spec-fi.

Week of: June 14
Successes: One-on-one time with kids, keeping up with laundry, sticking to budget
Challenges: Scolding and sarcasm, self-indulgences, obsessing over Star Trek
Average daily HOS (Hours On Schedule): 3

Week of: June 21
Working on: Getting everyone ready by 9 am

Star Trek Fan in Withdrawal Credit

Monday, June 15, 2009

Upcoming Encyclical

I am very excited to read the Pope's newest encyclical (due out at the end of June.)

It sounds like he will be addressing the world economy and market ethics.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Freedom Does Not Mean Lawlessness

In the wake of Tiller's murder, we've all seen a host of debates, comments, blogs and articles that suggest the killing is the fault of the pro-life movement. The underlying premise seems to be that people who espouse pro-life principles are hypocrites because they "only care about people until they're born" or because their inflammatory language promotes hate-crimes such as the one that killed Tiller.

Unfortunately, both of these accusations are absolutely true of some people who claim to be pro-life. They are not, however, characteristic of the vast majority, and certainly not of the pro-life movement as a whole.

The pro-life movement is committed to protecting the dignity of life in all its forms. The myriad pregnancy centers, post-abortive counseling centers, and adoption agencies demonstrate that the pro-life movement cares about moms AND their babies. In addition, the movement's consistent support for families and the poor, and its opposition to domestic violence, stem cell research, capital punishment, and euthanasia, as well as the compassion with which most protesters treat the pregnant women they encounter, illustrates a firm interest in the welfare of humanity as a whole. In the wake of the Tiller murder, almost every branch of the pro-life movement, from the Bishops of the Catholic Church and the National Right to Life, to individual bloggers and citizens, have unequivocably condemned the murder of Tiller and disavowed any sort of violence to effect their
position. The very few who have spoken about their joy in his death have, in that very statement, placed themselves outside the movement.

Yet the animosity towards the pro-life position continues. Theresa Bonapartis has written an elloquent and beautiful article for Catholic Online addressing the idea of what constitues a "pro-life extremist." She writes:

When our military recruiting station was attacked this week, and Private William Long was killed and another wounded, the word terrorist was never used to describe the murderers. I have not heard Obama speaking publicly against them, or Eric Holder asking for additional security for our recruitment centers. Are the anti war demonstrators or Code Pink responsible for this act of violence?

A firm belief in the truth and a committment to pursuing it does not qualify as extremism, nor does it either promote or condone violence. Much like those who want to brand faithful Catholics as "fundamentalists" because we hold to the teachings of the Church in their entirety, this sort of blanket statement obfuscates the reality of the issue by framing it exclusively in the context of personal freedom vs. religious-based tyranny.

The crux of the argument (embodied by our President's statements on the issue) is that the decision to have an abortion is an extremely personal one, and that the only individual suited to make that decision is the woman herself. Any legislation to limit abortion would impose an outside (government sponsored) approval that should not be necessary. A woman has the right to make her own choices.

Except that she doesn't. For some reason, abortion is the ONLY circumstance in which our society believes a woman's personal beliefs should supersede the rule of law. A woman does not have the right to kill her husband if he is abusing her. A woman does not have the right to embezzle funds from her place of work if she thinks her salary is too low. A woman does not have the right to refuse to hire an African American because she believes they are dangerous. In all other cases, what the woman decides as right or wrong must fall within the boundaries of what society deems right or wrong.

Sometimes, this means the woman has to endure suffering. It means that a woman in an abusive relationship has to go to the police and fill out a detailed report and submit to photos that may cause her acute embarrassment. She may have to move to ensure her safety, uprooting her family and possibly staying for some time in a shelter. She may have to go to court, losing days of work to appear in person and file for divorce or press charges against her abuser. In some of the worst cases, she may be made the victim twice over, when the courts refuse to render a judgment that stops the abuse, or worse, when a technicality allows the abuser to come after her or her children.

Why do we put women through this, when clearly they are suffering? Why do we force them to increase their suffering rather than allowing them the more simple solution of shooting their husband in the head while he sleeps?

The answer is obvious. We force the woman to take difficult steps because those steps make our society into a civilized one where the law, not the individual, is the arbiter of justice. Even when the law fails, as it does on occasion, a woman cannot decide to pursue vigilante justice and take matters into her own hands. Despite her suffering, despite the wrongness of the situation, we still hold that the greater good is being served by having a process determine when an abusive situation is in evidence, and requiring that any punishment take place through the citizen-appointed system that exists for that purpose. We can still, as a society, show an abused woman compassion while simultaneously insisting that she submit herself to the higher authority of the law, even when that means the greatest burden of its implementation will, by nature, fall upon her.

No matter how
much thought someone puts into it, no matter how difficult it is, or how wrenching, no matter how moral or thoughtful or careful a woman is, she does not have the right to make the decision whether her child lives or dies. That decision is NOT between a woman or her family and her doctor. It is God's alone, and always will be.

Photo credit.

Welcome the Stranger

I've blogged before about immigration. It's a subject near and dear to my heart, as I am a first generation immigrant, and my parents are immigrants twice over (first to Australia and then to America.) My father and his family, especially, endured hatred and ostracism when they first arrived in Australia, similar to what Hispanics endure here in the US or what the Irish endured when first they arrived in the mid 1800's.

Maltese are lazy, good for nothing, Mary-worshiping thieves. Let them in your community and you'll soon see crime rise. It won't be safe. Hire a Maltese and they'll rob you blind, if they're smart enough to do the work, which most aren't. They have no manners. They take good jobs away from true Australians and pervert Australian culture with their backwards, old-European ways. They should just go back where they came from.

My dad kept his head up and his mind on his books for the most part. He graduated at the top of his class and received two degrees from the most prestigious university in his state, then went on to get his Master's. He works very hard and runs his business with integrity and compassion. If he has to fire someone, he finds them another job. He is proud of his Maltese heritage and has invested in businesses in Malta (which really I think he's done because it gives him an excuse to visit there several times a year!)

His is the face of an immigrant, a stranger. His story echoes the story of many others in his position, but it is uniquely his.

The greatest challenge in the immigration debate is to focus not on groups or ethnicities, but on the people who make up the crisis. We have to beware that we are not lumping individuals into categories and stripping them of their human dignity. And that applies to each and every person on all sides of the debate.

My bishop, God bless his wonderful soul, has recently written on this subject, with an emphasis on the biblical roots of the immigration discussion. He says in part:

We become what we do, for good or for evil. If we act and speak like bigots, that’s what we become. If we act with justice, intelligence, common sense and mercy, then we become something quite different. We become the people and the nation God intended us to be. Our country’s immigration crisis is a test of our humanity. Whether we pass it is entirely up to us.

There are several ways to approach the immigration issue in our nation. We can take an "us vs them" mentality, hold tight to that which we believe is rightfully ours, and demonize those who oppose us. We can go overboard with our pity, selectively appropriating our compassion to those who risk their lives to enter this country, and ignoring the needs of those who have always lived here. We can let our biases and wrong impressions cloud our judgment and affect our opinions. Or we can recognize our common humanity and work for programs which benefit Americans and immigrants both. These are people we're talking about when we talk about immigration. People like my father.

It is not a zero-sum game.

Photo credit.