Thursday, March 25, 2010

St Gabriel and the Annunciation

In a very real way, the angel Gabriel was the first evangelizer. How is that so? An evangelizer is someone who brings the Good News about Jesus Christ to others. After Gabriel greeted Mary, Luke tells us that Mary “was much perplexed by his [Gabriel’s] words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29). Mary was deeply troubled so she asked a question: “How can this be, since I know not man?” Then Gabriel explained: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Lk 1:35).

These words that Gabriel used about Jesus are the words that the early Church used to proclaim the Gospel in light of its Easter faith, that is, what the Church came to believe about Jesus because of his resurrection. Gabriel’s words actually reflect a standard formula that was used in early Christian preaching about Jesus. Scripture scholars have shown this by comparing this text to others. For example, a similar text is found in Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he speaks of “the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power” (Rom 1:3–4). The scholars tell us that by using this formula, Luke’s text shows that Gabriel was actually proclaiming the Gospel to Mary. So we can truly say that Gabriel was an evangelizer. And Mary was the first person to hear the Gospel.

The annunciation

Today is the feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to ask Mary to become the Mother of God. And how did Mary respond? Once she clearly understood what God was asking of her, Mary responded with faith. She immediately offered herself to the Lord. She wanted to cooperate with her whole being, her entire self. Mary’s reply, “Let it be done unto me,” expresses not just a half-hearted “all right,” but a wholehearted, “Yes, Lord! I want to do this. Send me!” Luke’s text itself indicates this, for he uses here a verb form that expresses an enthusiastic willingness, a readiness for action. Mary’s acceptance shows us the joy of giving ourselves wholeheartedly to God.

Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation was a different kind of yes than the one Jesus said to his Father during the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. That was a yes said amid great suffering. Days of suffering come into all of our lives. And Mary too said another yes, a painful yes, as she stood at the foot of the cross on Calvary. But throughout our whole Christian life, joys and sorrows mingle. The angel’s words and Mary’s example at the Annunciation remind us that at the very deepest level, we can find happiness by accepting and acting on God’s word. Mother Thecla Merlo, the co-foundress of the Daughters of Saint Paul, put it well when she said, “Even if you cannot always be joyful, you can always be at peace.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health care hangover

I've felt dispirited these past two days after the passage of the health care bill. This post is not to argue the merits of it. I'm just going to say that for many reasons I think it is a bad bill and will not accomplish what it sets out to do. In fact, just the opposite.

The worst part of it is that it now opens the way for federal funding of abortions. (See post below on why the executive order is a farce.) The Stupak collapse was sad to see. The icing on the cake was at this morning's signing, when Obama gave one of the pens he used to Sr Carol Keehan, CEO of the Catholic Healthcare Association. Sr Carol was a strong supporter of the bill and lobbied supposedly pro-life Congressmen to vote for it.

The Catholic moral principle is that we can never do evil so that good may result. To approve of a bill that would greatly expand abortion funding, and thus the number of abortions, is a serious sin. A mortal sin, the kind that kills the life of grace in the soul and separates us from Christ. It seems that few people talk about mortal sin anymore. But it's no less a reality for all that.
If the issue were slavery, we would see it more clearly. Who would ever approve of a health bill that would bring health care to many people, if it meant that other people would be enslaved? But for some reason, when it comes to abortion our moral compass often goes haywire. It points south instead of north. People say it's a necessary evil that we have to tolerate in order to bring about some other good.

With this I'm not judging Sr Carol's conscience, for only God can do that. I am saying that her actions gave grave scandal. I felt sick at heart over this, that a Catholic nun would stand by the side of the most pro-abortion president and cheer him on as with the stroke of a pen he snuffs out even more lives.

More and more, I have the sense that the time has come to take a stand. Enough with all the papering-over of dissent in the church. Enough with pretending that we can be Catholic and support legislation that will promote abortion, on the plea that it will do some other good. Enough with compromise.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The executive order is a smokescreen

Some news reports are making it sound like the executive order Bart Stupak got will prevent federal funds from being used for abortions in the new health care regime. It won't; don't be deceived.

This is from Richard Doerflinger, of the USCCB pro-life office, explaining why the EO is meaningless:

“One proposal to address the serious problem in the Senate health care bill on abortion funding, specifically the direct appropriating of new funds that bypass the Hyde amendment, is to have the President issue an executive order against using these funds for abortion. Unfortunately, this proposal does not begin to address the problem, which arises from decades of federal appellate rulings that apply the principles of Roe v. Wade to federal health legislation. According to these rulings, such health legislation creates a statutory requirement for abortion funding, unless Congress clearly forbids such funding. That is why the Hyde amendment was needed in 1976, to stop Medicaid from funding 300,000 abortions a year. The statutory mandate construed by the courts would override any executive order or regulation. This is the unamimous view of our legal advisors and of the experts we have consulted on abortion jurisprudence. Only a change in the law enacted by Congress, not an executive order, can begin to address this very serious problem in the legislation.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More on the nuns

The USCCB's office for media relations has just released a statement about the nuns' statement. The office points out that the signers of the letter don't even come close to representing American sisters:

Washington—A recent letter from Network, a social justice lobby of sisters, grossly overstated whom they represent in a letter to Congress that was also released to media.

Network’s letter, about health care reform, was signed by a few dozen people, and despite what Network said, they do not come anywhere near representing 59,000 American sisters.

The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice.

There are 793 religious communities in the United States.

The math is clear. Network is far off the mark.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Director of Media Relations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Misguided nuns

A group of nuns just released a letter urging Congress to support Obamacare. A story in the Boston Globe this morning said they represent 59,000 American nuns.

Wrong. They don't represent me.

Obamacare would be a universal nightmare.

1) It would greatly expand abortion funding. That means more abortions. Whatever you subsidize, you get more of. For unborn babies, Obamacare is DEAD WRONG.

2) It would be as efficient as other government entities. Think the post office. Think about your local DMV. (No offense to the people who work there; I just mean the whole system is inefficient.) Remember the story that came out a few months ago about NASA? That it lost pictures of the moon landing, one of the most historic events of our age? If they can't even keep track of that, what do you think would happen to your medical records?

3) It would drive doctors out of the profession and reduce access to care.

4) Rationing, rationing, rationing. People in the UK with cancer have lower survival rates because they don't have access to up to date treatments.

5) The bill does nothing for real medical reform, like tort reform. Lawsuits would continue to drive up costs for everyone.

6) Who pays? The US government is broke. It only survives by borrowing money from China. How much longer can that go on? The baby boomers are starting to retire and Social Security will be maxed out soon. A 2006 report in the journal of the St Louis Federal Reserve admitted that at the time, the US government had over 65 trillion in unfunded liabilities. And it's about to add a huge new entitlement program? At some point, if fiscal sanity is not restored, the whole thing will burst and no one will have anything. The check is NOT in the mail. This whole thing is a fraud because ultimately Uncle Sam can't afford to pay for everything for everybody. No one seems willing to admit that.

Real reform is needed, not this mess of a 2000+ page bill. No one even knows exactly what's in it. As Nancy Pelosi famously said recently, "We have to pass the bill so that you can know what's in it." Right, Nancy. Well said. We know exactly what you're up to. Not to mention the trick of "deeming" it passed without actually voting on it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day

St Patrick's Day has been a bittersweet feast day for me ever since 1996. That year, my younger brother Louie died on March 17, from leukemia. He was only 33 years old.

I find myself thinking about him today. Gone too soon.

May he rest in peace.

Health bill

Nancy Pelosi is planning to "deem" the health care bill passed instead of having the House actually vote on it.

If they go through with it, it will the day democracy dies in America.
Goodbye Constitution.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The health care bill will expand abortions

From Jimmy Bell, a blogger at American Principles Project:

The Senate Health Care Reform Bill
• spends taxpayer dollars on health care plans that fund abortions,
• spends $12 billion on Community Health Centers that Planned Parenthood will be eligible for,
• gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius the right to declare abortion as a pre-existing condition to be covered under every health care plan in the federal exchange under the Mikulski Amendment,
• eliminates conscience protections for insurance providers,
• trip-wires the direct funding of abortions to potential expiration,
• and forces everyone, including men and old women, to pay at least $1 (to be raised under jurisdiction of Congress) to a fund for “reproductive rights” that will cover 100% of the cost for anyone who gets elective abortions.
To say that the Senate Health Care Reform Bill is the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade is an understatement.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Monday of Lent Week Three

“There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus rejected by the people of Nazareth, his hometown. Jesus comments, “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” In the section of the Gospel preceding this passage, Luke tells us that Jesus had begun his ministry in Galilee, and word about him spread rapidly. He returned to Nazareth and spoke in the synagogue, and Jesus’ neighbors were amazed at his words. They found him too much for them, and sarcastically said, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” They could have added, “We saw him grow up. We know his family and where he comes from. Where does he come off preaching to us?” They expected that if God were to speak to them, it would be in some extraordinary way. Jesus was just too ordinary.

Jesus reminded them about the story of Naaman the Syrian, who was cured of leprosy by the prophet Elisha. Naaman at first got angry at the prophet, who told him to wash in the Jordan. There was nothing special about that. Couldn’t he have just done that at home? But his servant reasoned with him, telling him that if the prophet had asked him to do something special, he would have done it. So why not do what he was asked, even if it seems too ordinary? Naaman let go of his preconceived idea, went down to the river to wash, and was cured.

Sometimes God shatters our expectations by working in ordinary ways, through ordinary people. But we can miss what God is doing if we always look for something extraordinary or expect him to act in spectacular ways. The sacraments use ordinary things: water, bread, wine, oil, words. They’re so ordinary that we might take them for granted and receive them routinely. Lent is a good time to pause and meditate on what we are doing when we participate in the Eucharist, and to receive it with fresh eyes and new love.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Saint a Day apps for your Iphone

Our mission here at Pauline Books & Media is to evangelize using the means of new media. So it seemed like the perfect fit for us to create an application for your iPhone or iPod Touch! Introducing—the Saint-a-Day application (click here to purchase)

Cantcha, Inc., the makers of iMissal, have teamed up with the Daughters of St. Paul to develop a comprehensive daily Saint application.

Saint-a-Day is built using content from the extremely popular Saint-a-Day books from the Daughters of St. Paul through their publishing house, Pauline Books & Media.. The application is useful as a reference tool, for daily meditation and prayer, and as a spiritual companion. Saint-a-Day is also practical for teachers, homilists, and leaders who want to bring the saints into their classrooms, homilies, and groups.

Application features include:

*Saint Biographies
A biography for every day of the year!
Quick navigation to today's saint biography.

*A full liturgical calendar, which can quickly navigate to any saint biography of the year.

*A fully searchable, alphabetic listing of saint biographies.

*Each saint’s biography concludes with a short meditation for the day on what you can learn for your daily life from that saint.

*Biographies can be emailed to your friends and family to reflect upon.

*Prayers to Saints
-Prayers can be displayed alphabetically or by need category (e.g. Addiction, Sickness, Financial struggles, etc.).
-Prayers can be emailed to others in need, or you can send a novena prayer to join someone in intercession for a special intention.
-Over 100 saint prayers, for example:

St. Thérèse in Time of Need
St. Jude to be Freed from an Addiction
St. Lucy for Preservation of the Gift of Sight
St. Dymphna for Someone Suffering from Depression
St. Gerard for Motherhood
St. Joseph to Sell a House or Property
Police Officer’s Prayer to St. Michael
St. Agatha for Someone with Breast Cancer and many more...