Who can figure this pope out?” was the question raised by friends at a recent lunch. The nine of us spent a lot of time voicing fear, concern, confusion, and speculating about what he is up to. (And as mothers to a collective 62 children, we had to discuss the pope’s “rabbit” quote.) A quick look around the blogosphere makes it clear we are not the only ones having this discussion.
While disgruntled criticisms of Catholic bishops are nothing new, there seems to be an increase of late, especially since the start of Pope Francis’s pontificate. There is clearly no denying that there are problems within the Church, but Catholic moral teaching makes it clear that murmuring against our bishops shouldn’t be taken lightly. Cheap chatter, intellectual pride, and unchecked emotions can often make it difficult to discern who is in the right and make such murmurs justifiable.
As Catholics, however, we shouldn’t have any objection to the Holy Father emphasizing care of the planet. It goes without saying that it is part of the Judeo-Christian mandate to take care of the created order. Many of the objections seem to reflect a certain aversion to inflated or fallacious green initiatives, quite a few of which are emphasized ad nauseum in the media (particularly those directed at children), the financial fallout of failed energy endeavors, and the hypocrisy of those who sanctimoniously preach green politics but have gargantuan carbon footprints.
Anyone familiar with the cutthroat culture of D.C., may find it hard to imagine a stronger contrast to the type of woman proposed as a success than an exhibit about Mary. Women in the nation’s capital often feel pressured to embody traits more like ruthless men: aggressive, outspoken, busy, tough-as-nails, childless, and angrily railing against the outdated mores that might work in fly-over country, but have no place in this seat of power.
n the late 1990s, I found myself in the awkward position of explaining the appeal of World Youth Day and Catholicism to a table full of intimidating adults, most of whom were twice or thrice my age; one was a state Supreme Court judge and another the wife of a federal judge. “The policies of the last 25 years, particularly Roe v. Wade,” I said timidly, “have not given my generation the promised happiness, but has left us reeling from the pain of abortion and broken relationships, while wallowing in malaise, angst, and emptiness.”
Motherhood is hard. There is no way around it. I didn’t realize just how hard until I started having my own children. It the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
On August 31, 1939, nine-year-old Maria Sikorski in Gdansk, Poland, prayed she wouldn’t have to go to the first day of school on the following day. Her prayer was answered, but in a way she would bitterly regret for the rest of her life. On September 1, 1939, the Germans invaded Poland and Maria’s young life would never be the same. What she would have given to just go back to school and see her friends and return to what had been normal up until that fateful day.
Our faith and the example of the saints reveal that even when the barbarians are too close for comfort our work bears great fruit. We have the witness of the martyrs, certainly, but there is also the witness of those who did not despair in the face of struggle and fear, but dug deeper and hoped in the power of the pen, the power of the word, and the power of humor.
n the wake of the Roe v. Wade ruling of the Supreme Court in 1973, it became clear to those in pro-life work that some sort of ministry was required to help women suffering from the far-reaching ramifications of legalized abortion. Thirty years ago this week, Vicki Thorn launched Project Rachel to meet that need.
oseph Pearce, as many who have read his work or seen him speak might testify, can give one the impression of a soft-handed, tweed-sporting, Oxford don who has spent the better part of his life among the dusty pages of a library, with his remaining hours spent drinking afternoon tea and sipping scotch in the evening. Pearce, author of many literary biographies and other books including Literary Converts, Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton, and Tolkien: Man and Myth, appears to be the consummate English gentleman. Perhaps those with the knack of identifying an Englishman’s town of birth by his accent would not be fooled, but for most of us on this side of the pond, his blood seems practically blue. It turns out, however, that his blood is really more…well, orange.
The well-known plot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice revolves around a terrible mix-up by the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. The dashing Mr. Wickham convinces poor Lizzy that Mr. Darcy is a man of malice, something she is already prejudiced to believe, in part due to his own reserve. As such, she feels no remorse in refusing Mr. Darcy’s ill-fated (and ungentlemanly) marriage proposal. Darcy, stinging from Miss Elizabeth’s refusal, writes our heroine a letter to dispel Wickham’s lies. The rest of the tale unfolds with Elizabeth discovering just how mistaken she had been.
The concocted “war on women” is sheer marketing genius, epitomizing these feminist tyrants. It offers the perfect blend of baseless outrage, lies, and bullying. And it is vague enough that it can be molded, with some fancy fabrications, to almost anything. Which means that every woman can become a victim. Think of poor Sandra Fluke who might have to pay the $9 a month for her own birth control while studying at Georgetown Law.
John Paul II will be canonized Sunday on the Feast of Divine Mercy. While the date chosen is of little surprise, the fullness of how fitting it really is can be easily overlooked. A survey of his biography reveals that Divine Mercy was something of a spiritual touchstone to which he returned again and again throughout his life.
The cry room, or as I lovingly refer to it, “the penalty box,” comes with a cost. I think of it as purgatory. The thought of putting together into a very small room, usually stuffy and hot, the most sleep-deprived, hormonal set of adults in the parish, and then sprinkling it with scads of children of varying dispositions, levels of crankiness, eating habits, and disciplinary codes, seems like a recipe for disaster. In fact, it is actually a miracle that anyone comes out alive some Sundays.
A quick look at a few articles and books from unlikely places is confirming what the Church has known for many decades. Want better sex? And stronger marriage? Hope to avoid breast cancer? Want fewer social problems? Don’t contracept.
So in order to whet our appetites while we wait, I thought I would offer some thoughts on how the Protestants of Downton Abbey are ironically teaching a traditional Catholic understanding of the Common Good.
In a recent review of several works by and about Blessed John Paul II, something new jumped off the page. Here was a man who knew how to deal with everyday infringement upon religious freedom, having spent most of his life actively straining against the likes of Hitler, Stalin and the Soviet machine.
Generations of couples coupling without conceiving have led to the misperception that sexuality is, in fact, merely another contact sport, or whatever else you may want it to be, without a fixed meaning other than pleasure. Sex in the minds of most no longer has any natural link with making babies. And if the link dares to happen biologically when nature asserts herself, it is a failure, a mistake, an accident – not the natural course of things.
Feeling or not feeling love, Mother Teresa of Calcutta knew that she was united with Jesus, for her mind was fixed on him and him alone. The founder of the Missionaries of Charity expressed this in a letter written to a spiritual director, now published with many other letters in a volume titled "Come Be My Light," edited and presented by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk.