Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Archbishop's Letter

The bishops of the United States have come out swinging in response to the Obama administration’s ruling that nearly all employers must include full coverage of contraception and sterilization in their healthcare plans. In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr penned a letter to his flock stating, “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.”

The Archbishop’s letter was distributed as a bulletin insert at my sister’s parish in Dayton. Fr. Martin Fox notes that he read the letter at all of his Piqua masses this past weekend, and used the occasion to preach on what some consider to be the more counter-cultural teachings of the Church. I want to believe that the Archbishop's letter was distributed throughout the parishes of the Archdiocese. However, not a word was uttered in our little corner of “God’s country.” Maybe next weekend…

[UPDATE] Not a word was spoken from the pulpit, but the Archbishop's letter was included as an insert to the February 5 bulletin.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Friend in Pain

I have a friend who injured a tendon in his ankle a couple of months ago. Several weeks in a boot resulted in no improvement, so he had surgery at the beginning of the year. Based on his comments, it sounds like the days after the surgery were very painful.

As a Catholic (my friend is also Catholic), I approach pain and suffering as an opportunity to be united with Christ. Through His Passion, He gave meaning to suffering, and we can unite our suffering to His, so that our suffering takes on meaning and becomes redemptive. It strikes me as bad form, however, to try to point this out to someone as they are experiencing the pain. The connection should be established before the suffering is entered into. The admonition to “offer it up” is not well received unless the soul has been properly prepared.

What then could I say to my friend in pain? To my delight, the liturgy came to my rescue in the form of the Collect prayer for Wednesday of the First Week of Ordinary Time. While I couldn’t come up with the words to tactfully say, “Hey dummy! Offer it up!” I could say, “I thought of you when I read this prayer from today’s mass.” He gave it a thumbs up, so I assume that it was well received.

O God, who willed that our infirmities
be borne by your Only Begotten Son
to show the value of human suffering,
listen in kindness to our prayers
for our brothers and sisters who are sick;
grant that all who are oppressed by pain, distress or other afflictions
may know that they are chosen
among those proclaimed blessed
and are united to Christ
in his suffering for the salvation of the world.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lessons from Babe Ruth

In his EWTN homily for the Conversion of St. Paul on Wednesday, Fr. Joseph Mary MFVA, read a 1948 letter written by Babe Ruth shortly before his death. It is a touching letter, and deserves to be read more widely. The full letter is available online at the Catholic Resource Education Center, but here’s a brief excerpt.

I strayed from the church, but don't think I forgot my religious training. I just overlooked it. I prayed often and hard, but like many irrepressible young fellows, the swift tempo of living shoved religion into the background.

So what good was all the hard work and ceaseless interest of the Brothers, people would argue? You can't make kids religious, they say, because it just won't take. Send kids to Sunday School and they too often end up hating it and the church.

Don't you believe it. As far as I'm concerned, and I think as far as most kids go, once religion sinks in, it stays there—deep down. The lads who get religious training, get it where it counts—in the roots. They may fail it, but it never fails them. When the score is against them, or they get a bum pitch, that unfailing Something inside will be there to draw on. I've seen it with kids. I know from the letters they write me. The more I think of it, the more important I feel it is to give kids "the works" as far as religion is concerned. They'll never want to be holy—they'll act like tough monkeys in contrast, but somewhere inside will be a solid little chapel. It may get dusty from neglect, but the time will come when the door will be opened with much relief. But the kids can't take it, if we don't give it to them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Old Dog in January

The almost always colorful James Lileks writes in Wednesday's Bleat about his morose day. I can relate to what he's saying - the moroseness, the paternal anxiety, the progressively enfeebled dog. I get it.

January in Ohio is no fun either. The days are gray, and even when the air isn't frigid, there's a bite in the wind. We've pretty much avoided (as if we had anything to do with it!) snow so far this winter, but that's supposed to change soon. I can only hope that the new tires on my Focus help it handle a little more deftly than a toboggan, which is what it was like driving in snow last year.

Adding to the gaiety of the month is the great sugar crash of the holidays and knowing that the next holiday doesn't come round until April (unless you're a government worker), and that's Good Friday. There's not a whole lot of celebrating going on that day - the celebration is two days later on Easter Sunday. Until then, it's a long slog of five-day work weeks, sitting hour upon hour in front of my computer in my gray cubicle in a brick building under a gray Ohio sky.

Lileks writes of how he starts to fear the worst when his daughter's bus is twenty minutes late. She is his only child, so maybe his anxiety is heightened by the fact that he doesn't have any spares. On the other hand, with more children, maybe I get that many more opportunities to let my fears gnaw at me. Mostly though, my fears lock onto my dear wife, who drives our van like it's a formula race car (I exaggerate, but only a little). She has an excellent driving record, but whenever she's late in arriving somewhere or driving in bad whether, the spectre of horror enters my imagination. What would I do if I had to raise these kids without her? The power of sin is strong in me - even when I'm worrying about the safety of a loved one, I somehow manage to make it all about me. So I say a prayer and try, in vain, to put it out of my mind.

Finally, there is the dog. Toby is not the close friend and collaborator that Jasper is to Mr. Lileks. Yet I am quite fond of him, and it pains me to see him struggle with the steps and the linoleum. When we go out, he has to negotiate a step down from the kitchen to the mud room. He long ago lost the ability to make the transition with grace. Now, he has to start his run a step or two away, and if anything enters his trajectory, he's running into it head first. He's plowed into my legs full-bore many times after I've inadvertently stepped into his path.

We have gates on the deck to keep the dogs (we have two) from accidentally (accidentally to us, intentionally to them) getting out and running loose around the neighborhood. When they need to relieve themselves, we hook a cable to the collar and let them off the deck individually, then come back later to unhook the cable and let them back onto the deck. The deck has two steps down to the ground. Yesterday, when I went to bring Toby in, he was waiting for me on the second step. I opened the gate, and he tried unsuccessfully to climb the one step to the deck. He had to go back down to the ground, two paces back, and make a run at it.

It makes me wonder how many years the old dog has left in him.

I know there will be sunny days between today and Good Friday, but this week it's all gray. And I know that my wife and kids have guardian angels aplenty, such that the probability of serious incident is small. And I know that the life span of a lab mutt is about twelve years, and Toby is pushing eleven. Still, these things eat at a person. That much, at least, I know that I have in common with James Lileks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ordinary Time

I mentioned to my kids yesterday that the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord was the last day of Christmas and that Ordinary Time began today. My two oldest, both of whom earned high honors on the high school honor roll last quarter, both asked if that meant we gained or lost an hour.