Category Archives: Culture of Life

Feb 14 – Holy Singleness vs “Stinkin’ Thinkin'”

Associate-yourself-with-people-of-good-quality-for-it-is-better-to-be-alone-than-in-bad-company.

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An oft quoted, favorite of mine:”Mejor solo/sola, que mal acompanado!!!”  Trans:  It is better to be alone, than to be badly accompanied!!!!!  🙂  I have also learned the wisdom of ALWAYS, when single, and when married, in general, of being open to new horizons, new adventures, new possibilities.  Turn a corner, turn a page.  Who wants to date a sourpuss?

If you are depending on your spouse to make you happy…uh, forget it!!!  Your spouse is expecting, you are responsible for YOUR OWN happiness!!!!  AND, for theirs!!!!  Always have/has been.  Always will be.  Get on with/over it!!!  Even when, maybe particularly when, married!!!  Better be.  🙂  Your spouse, your children expect, demand, require it of you!!  Cannot start the day without it!!!

Blessedly, this April, Kelly and I will celebrate nine years of BLISS!!!!!!!!!!!  Ahem, and don’t worry, I’m being careful, but due to Kelly’s love, I don’t really have to be.  🙂  Bless you, woman.  Bless you.  May you NEVER sober up!!!  🙂  But, marriage, in reality does not, cannot be bliss.  It’s lovely.  I am grateful.  I AM blessed!!!  But, by definition, marriage CANNOT satisfy our EVERY longing!!!!  St Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1:2.

-from http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/nine-lies-in-the-not-yet-married-life

-by Marshal Segal

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, perhaps one of the more polarizing holidays of our year. It’s very fun and exciting for the love birds, too commercial and insincere for the skeptics, and sometimes especially lonely for the single.

Singleness’s greatest sorrows are secretly reinforced every February in the souls of the not-yet-married still waiting for their wedding day. While many of our friends and family are inundated with dates, flowers, chocolate, and love notes, lots and lots of the valentine-less are overwhelmed with everything from impatience to bitterness, from shame to regret to confusion.

There will likely be good-intentioned, lovingly-naive husbands and wives who forget the emotional complexities of unwanted singleness and enthusiastically encourage you to just enjoy this season of “dating Jesus.” Yes, Jesus is our only hope and cure, but it won’t be in some hopelessly romantic, chocolate-covered, neatly-wrapped way. The truth is that the unfulfilled desire for a companion and lover, especially year after year, much more often feels like the grief and bondage of joblessness or infertility than the uninhibited emotional and devotional freedom many imagine. “It is not good for man to be alone.”

The Full and Fruitful Single Life

We want our lives to be full and fruitful. We want to experience all God has made and given us as much as possible, and we want our experience in this short life to really count for his glory and the good of others. Sadly too often in our not-yet-married lives, we’ve made marriage a qualification for that kind of happiness and significance. There’ve been days — a lot of days — when I really couldn’t imagine a full and fruitful life without a wife.

But as much as God loves marriage, he didn’t design it to bear the burden of our eternal purpose and happiness. From the beginning, it’s been a means of experiencing and expressing a far greater union — union with God, through his Son, by his Spirit. Paul says the key to experiencing the freedom purchased for us at the cross is walking in the newness of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), turning away from the desires of the flesh and filling ourselves with new fruits — love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self–control (Galatians 5:22). The free and full life is found in Christ and played out in Christ-likeness, summed up in these nine prizes of the Christian life.

Looking for Produce in the Right Aisle

Perhaps the greatest sorrow of the single life is that so many put off pursuing the produce of the Spirit until they get married. We foolishly think finding love will mysteriously unlock these fruits in our lives. It’s true that marriage very often brings sanctification, but the testimony of many is that marriage is more diagnosis than prescription (Ed. AMEN!!!) in our pursuit of holiness. Rather than unlocking fruits, it will more often (graciously) uncover flaws — flaws we will then trust God to cleanse and correct.

In reality, none of the fruits of the Spirit are reserved for marriage. They’re the produce of conversion (our union with Christ), not of marriage (our union with a spouse). And fortunately for the not-yet-married, the union that matters most doesn’t require a license from your local county administrator. When we’re looking down the wedding aisle expecting a bride or groom to finally make us happy and fruitful, we’re looking for love, joy, and peace in the wrong places. God’s already given his Spirit — and all His fruits — to every person saved and satisfied in him — valentine or not.

Nine Fruits for Thought

Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). And his most effective means of starving our not-yet-married lives of this soul-satisfying fruit are his lies. Lies about you. Lies about your past. Lies about marriage. Lies about your future spouse. Lies about your friends and family. And without a wife or husband, if we’re not careful, we might find ourselves with a lot more time to listen to him.

If we’re going to fight for fruitfulness, we need to hear the lies as lies and confront them with God’s invincible love for His children, which He has given us in the Truth of His Promises. So here are nine deceptions we singles need to defeat, each with a weapon from God’s word, holding joy for last. Whether you personally struggle with each or not, I hope every single promise equips every single person with a joy-filled hope and resolve to make much of Jesus in this not-yet-married life.

1. I’m selfish because I’m still single, and I don’t have anyone to care for my needs and feelings.

Sure, selfishness might be just as rampant in marriage — and certainly more on display — but the single life by nature caters to and cultivates it. Each day, you’ll make most of your decisions based on what you need and want, and no one will really know the difference. But as promising as self-centeredness and self-gratification might seem, love offers a better promise.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). The promise of love is the promise of God. Those who love meet more and more of the God Who IS Love (4:8). And this love and this God are available to the married and not-yet-married alike.

2. I’m anxious because I’m still single, and I don’t know if God will ever bring me a spouse.

There may be more intense anxieties among young people in our church than unfulfilled desires for marriage, but there also may not be a more prevalent one. Fears and grief over love, relationships, and marriage steal a lot of sleep and energy from our single people. Preoccupation and self-pity in our inadequacies promises to make us feel better, but it lacks any power to help. But God can give us real peace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). God has promised us peace in every circumstance and protection against every evil plotted against us. Whether you meet your future spouse this afternoon or live alone the rest of your life, God knows your needs, promises to provide, and really can give you a peace-filled rest and perspective at every point.

3. I’m impatient because I’m still single, and I’ve waited a long, long time to be married.

Amazon, Netflix, and smartphones have depreciated patience. It’s not really true, but instant gratification has gratified us enough to make us forget how priceless and beautiful patience really is. Do you appreciate patience in yourself or others? You won’t find it applauded much online and certainly not in most television today, so we’ll have to look in other (more reliable) places.

God promises through Paul, “To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:7). There are some things we can only have through patience. Glory. Honor. Immortality. God. No technology will ever speed up the process. And the muscles we need to wait well for God are built in our waiting for lesser things, like weddings. All of our waiting is worth it, if through it we get more and more of the one for whom our souls are all ultimately waiting.

4. I can be cold and indifferent toward others because I’m still single, and I have a hard enough time dealing with my own stuff.

Entitlement is one of the great dangers of singleness. It creeps into everything, but at its core it convinces us to focus exclusively on us — a kind of survival mentality — often at the expense of others. As entitlement and self-preoccupation grow and invade our hearts, we become less interested in and compassionate toward others. But the life-giving fruit of the Spirit is kindness — an attitude of friendly sympathy and generosity.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). The beautiful, liberating promise behind our kindness is the kindness of God to us in Christ. Those who put on Christ — and are found to be kind in him — have received kindness from an almighty, holy God despite what they deserve. Jesus says, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). We’re kind because that’s the kind of kids God keeps.

5. I don’t value virtue and integrity like I should because I’m still single. I’ll work on those things when I get married and have a family.

One excuse for procrastination in our pursuit of holiness is that single Christians are not yet accountable in the same ways as married Christians, as if we’re somehow less human. When we have wives or husbands or children that are affected by our attitudes and behaviors, then it will really matter who we are and how we act. When a man and woman get married, they do become one, but not more fully one than a single believer. Each and every Spirit-filled child of God is accountable to God regardless of our marital status (Romans 14:12). And each and every Spirit-filled child of God has access to the blessings of God-wrought goodness in this life.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. . . . Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:6, 8). Blessed — happy — are single men and women who love and pursue goodness and virtue and integrity. And the blessing comes right now in your not-yet-married, not-yet-perfect pursuit of God and his righteousness.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue” (2 Peter 1:3–5). With the very power of God on your side, supplement your faith and singleness with goodness.

6. I’m flakey and unreliable because I’m still single, and you can’t expect single people to make or keep commitments.

At our worst, some of us really love this about singleness. Those who haven’t settled down feel the freedom to move from one thing to the next, to leave old responsibilities and obligations for fresh new things. It could be a new job or church or relationship or even city. People put off marriage to avoid commitment and keep their felt freedom. But as free as flakiness feels, the Bible teaches us to love faithfulness, devotion, and fidelity in every stage of life.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). When life, work, relationships, or ministry becomes hard, inconvenient, or mundane, our consistent, selfless investments in those around us reveal our faith in God’s exciting, unfailing work. When it seems on the outside like it might not be worth it, we rest, work, and stay knowing every sacrifice in this life for the sake of Christ is never in vain.

In the Spirit, against the patterns of the twenty-somethings around us, we can set aside our selfish and impulsive ambitions in order to be faithful members of a local church, engaged in long-term ministry to our community, and slow to walk away from God’s work, however hard and uncelebrated it might be. And we rejoice in this kind of endurance, because, “endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3–5).

7. I’m harsh with others because I’m still single, and they don’t understand how hard I have it.

Our responses to being harmed say a lot about the state of our heart. How do you react to people who misunderstand, overlook, or minimize the pain of your not-yet-marriedness? Though good-intentioned, they unwittingly offend you with their advice, questions, or indifference. You feel justified in your anger, expressed in an insensitive word or violent, bitter thought toward them. But God rewards gentleness in the face of offense.

He encourages us and our teachers to patiently endure evil, “correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25–26). Ultimately, God corrects and directs hearts. We’re not called to inflict judgment on one another, but to clothe ourselves in the grace and gentleness with which God has shown us. You might be right to be offended, but you will not solve it with a second offense. God calls us instead to gentleness, and promises to do the harder work of redemption and retaliation for us.

8. I’m undisciplined and keep sinning because I’m still single. The freedom feels good and no one knows, cares, or is affected by my behavior.

There’s no unchecked life like the single life. It can be very easy to live wildly and unwisely when we live in isolation. Our flesh wants us to eat more of this, drink more of that, buy more of this, and watch more of that. None of these things is necessarily bad by nature, but our unchecked sinful cravings will eventually lead us into more sin and idolatry. Enjoying all God has created as God intended will require self-control — saying no enough to show we enjoy him more than any of his gifts. And the rewards of restraint in this life are absolutely worth it.

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25). When we forsake food, drink, television, sports, shopping, websites, anything in this life for the sake of having and enjoying Christ, we take another step toward an infinite, imperishable inheritance kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4; Matthew 6:20).

Marriage can offer the up-close and personal accountability you might not have in your singleness. Self-control, though, is a fruit of the Spirit, not a spouse. Look to God for strength, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” and your self-control (Philippians 2:13).

9. I’m depressed and miserable because I’m still single, and I won’t really be happy until I get married.

Any not-yet reality in our lives is accompanied with pain and longing. We don’t hear too many testimonies of the “happily not-yet-married,” at least not among Christians. Unwanted singleness can be very lonely, and loneliness can be very miserable. In those moments, the really compelling lie is that marriage will be the most satisfying solution. Sadly, looking to marriage and a spouse to fill the hole only God can fill will only leave you more depressed and hurt. God graciously gives us another answer for joy.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). In Jesus — the way, the truth, and the life — God has shown us the paths of life and happiness, and it’s not the path between the pews at your future wedding. It’s the scandalous marriage of a holy God to his chosen, sinful, and forgiven bride, the church. Jesus lived, died, and rose again for our joy — even in singleness. He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

The seed of every other fruit of the Spirit is a deep, enduring satisfaction in Jesus. A lack of love communicates you treasure yourself more than Jesus and the people he purchased by his blood. Our anxiety tells God we’re not happily content to have him and his fatherly plan (and timing) for our lives. Impatience says the Jesus you already have is not enough. An inability to say no suggests you believe this food, purchase, or website will make you more happy than Jesus. But real joy in Jesus, through the gospel, will free you from the poisonous fruit of sin.

Can Singleness Separate Us from the Love of God?

What can separate us from the love of God? “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). Shall singleness? “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (8:37). Nothing — certainly not our marital status — can keep us from receiving and fulfilling all that God has become for us in Jesus. His favor already rests on you. His power is at work in you. His word will lead you. His grace is able to sustain you. God really can satisfy you and make you very, very fruitful right now. Yes, even single you.

As it appeals to our desires for love and marriage, it can have the deceiving power to divert our attention and priorities from God’s plan and perspective. We know, though, that “the flower fades” — every single rose — “but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Step back and be amazed how short Valentine’s Day, marriage, and even our lives really are by comparison to the glory of eternity. Know that they will all pass away in an instant and pale in beauty, worth, and happiness before an eternity with our Savior — an eternity we taste today in the fruits of his Spirit.

Love, joy, peace, & happiness, always,
Matthew

What does it mean to be “Alive!”?

-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP (Br Thomas graduated from Stanford University with a PhD in Physics before joining the order.)

“As someone who has made it far enough into your day to turn on your computer and start reading this blog post, I doubt that you are harboring many doubts about whether or not you are alive, let alone whether life exists at all. It might surprise you to know that this exact worry was aired in a recent op-ed by Ferris Jabr, an editor for Scientific American. He boldly claims that nothing is truly alive and, what’s more, that this knowledge is “liberating.”

On the surface, life seems like one of the most obvious parts of nature to understand. The squirrel runs, the rock doesn’t. The seed sprouts and grows into a full blown tree, the log just sits there. Some things move and grow and reproduce of their own accord, other things need a good shove to get them going. The difficulty, as always, is in the details. Growing crystals, self-replicating molecules and parasitic viruses seem to mimic some of the powers we attribute to life, and provide counter-examples that make the definition of life more difficult for biologists to nail down.

Jabr’s revelation is that we need not be worried about the definition of life, because life is merely a mental construct anyways—there is nothing there to define. He argues that because there is no identifiable property or set of properties that scientists have been able to agree upon as the defining aspect of life, it simply is not there. Life is a “pure concept” that can be useful at times, but can just as easily be set aside. Everything that exists is really just a particular arrangement of fundamental particles, and we can find some of the features of life at many different levels of these arrangements from chemicals to whole biospheres. Life just becomes a useful way of labelling certain kinds of complexity we encounter in the real world and, unbound by a hard and fast definition, we are free to use it as we see fit.

Needless to say, there are a whole host of objections to Jabr’s proposal—scientific, philosophical, and theological. In fact, it’s a bit hard to decide where exactly to begin. One could argue for a robust definition of life as an internal principle of movement, object to Jabr’s implicit reductionism that assumes we can simply explain everything as collections of molecules, or present the whole host of ethical and legal ramifications to trivializing the concept of life.

Here, I simply want to link Jabr’s argument to a number of other skeptical arguments that seek to overturn common sense ideas in the name of science—and argue we’re better off for it. It’s an undeniable fact that modern science, particularly since the beginning of the twentieth century, has revealed that the world we live in is more complicated, wonderful, and at times bizarre than people ever expected. Nevertheless, the fact that we now take for granted almost unimaginable concepts like wave-particle duality and curved spacetime does not mean that the purpose or goal of science is to come up with weird ideas and to overturn our natural expectations. Scientific investigation of the very large and the very small did not reveal that our everyday assumptions completely fail. It clarified the bounds in which our everyday assumptions actually work, namely everyday applications.

Skeptics like to claim that a single difficult case can invalidate our preconceived notions, no matter how much previous experience and reasoning they are based on. Yet our understanding of the world and of nature, properly considered, need not be some well-constructed but fragile house of cards that cannot bear even the slightest jostle. Aristotle had a helpfully robust view of what it meant for something to be natural, namely that it happened “always or for the most part.” This is not simply a premodern “fudge factor,” but a deep insight into the fact that nature is at once usually reliable and a bit unpredictable, and this particular balance of consistency and fallibility allows for the beautiful order amongst all of its pieces.

While Aristotle applied the principle to understanding natural processes, in an analogous way we can apply it to our definitions and reasoning about those processes. Life is “always or for the most part” easily identifiable. The fact that there are inanimate substances that seem to mimic aspects of life need not destroy our confidence in the fact that there really is a difference between living and non-living. We should not look at difficult cases with fear for the possibility of life, but embrace them as a fascinating opportunity to work out the bounds of our understanding of life.

A full response to Jabr and his argument would need to actually address his concerns about the definition of life and the difficult cases he brings up. While I think just such a response is possible, it is worth noting that the skeptical perspective—that a few counter examples is all it takes to overturn consistent and well supported ideas about nature—has a tendency to create worries no one ever really had, and to solve them in a way no one really appreciates. A healthy view of natural philosophy can accept the corrective and enlightening role of difficult cases without fearing that it will lose the very foundation it was built upon in the process.”

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Rev 22:13

Love,
Matthew

Father’s Day – acts of love & grace…

Germany, Bavaria, Munich, Son (2-3 Years) kissing his father, smiling

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-by Br. Joseph-Anthony Kress, O.P.

“The summer before I entered religious life my cousin gave birth to her first child, Owen. Later that summer the proud mother hosted a party at which the main pastime was holding baby Owen. As everyone took his or her turn with the newborn, I noticed something astonishing: all of the men held him in precisely the same way, and all of the women in another.

As my sisters, my aunt, and my cousin held Owen, I noticed that each held him in both of her arms, allowing him to lie horizontally on his back. When it came time for the men to hold him, we took a different approach: we each held Owen in a vertical posture, with his body parallel to our own and having him rest on our chest. Without exception, each of the men instinctively held Owen in this position.

As I reflected on this event, I realized that the manner in which a man holds a child manifests something about his role as a father. A man holds an infant in a way that raises the child up to his own perspective. A father does this as if to say, “Son, you are now a part of this world. I will teach you how to navigate its paths.”

A father is responsible for much more than providing food and shelter, for he also has a vital role in educating children in the faith and how to live uprightly in the world.  The Second Vatican council states explicitly that “the active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation” (Gaudium et Spes 52:1).  This “active presence” of the father begins with his leading of the family. If the father is a leader in the home, then the Catechism’s statement, “the home is the first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment,” has particular import for men (CCC 1657).

In order to navigate the paths of human life one has to address the
totality of the human person. Human flourishing is accomplished only when the body and soul are integrated, and not separated. A man is not more authentically masculine when he focuses only on the physical things of the world. Rather, he denies part of his masculinity because he ignores part of his humanity. A man neglects one of his primary roles as a father if he fails to teach his children the importance of the spiritual life. This does not mean that he must be a spiritual master and write brilliant theological treatises. But what he is called to do is to witness to the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ, and love as Christ loves (cf. Ephesians 5:25).

Even if a man tries to distract himself from this task it still remains as an intrinsic part of who he is. It is so innate in him that the very
manner in which he holds a child testifies to it. The task of leading the family, or the domestic church as the Catechism calls it (CCC 1655), has been entrusted to men. Again, the home is the “first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment.” In other words, it is the foundation on which society is built. If a father desires to have an effect on the world and make it a better place for his family, he must be a man devoted to the spiritual and human development of each member of his “domestic church.” He cannot give what he does not have, and he cannot teach what he does not know. Thus, he must be a man who is firm in his own faith in Jesus Christ.

We learn from the Divine Teacher how to teach those around us. The greatest act of teaching was the crucifixion on Mount Calvary, when He taught us what an act of love looks like. Christ gave His life for us so that we may have life eternal, and our efforts to imitate His act of love can be manifest in the most menial of our daily tasks. The constant changing of diapers, driving the kids to soccer practice, cooking dinner, working long hours at the office, setting time aside for prayer, or even simply laying an infant tenderly in his bed, can be transformed by grace into acts of love.

Acts of love are not reserved to things that are difficult; they may also be the joyous things in our life: playing catch, attending Mass, family vacations, or a well-executed surprise anniversary party. The love that animates these acts is the same that was poured forth from the cross. Our faith is not empty and it surely is not the mere uttering of creedal statements. When the spiritual is joined with the physical, the fullness of the human person is engaged, and faith is shown to be authentic. As the Letter to James says, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:17).”

Love,
Matthew

The Wise & The Foolish

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-“Wise & Foolish Virgins”, oil on panel by Frans I Floris, 16th century, 118 × 132 cm, in private collection.

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; let us go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But He answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

-Mt 25:1-13

With the divorce rate in California above 70%, and assaults, disregard, and insults towards and dismissal of the institution of the family, the foundational building block of society, rampant in our modern dialogue, the mockery of the institution that is Hollywood marriages, I thought you might appreciate this reflection.  The sinner always seeks to deceive and delude himself and others, eagerly, of the normality and praiseworthiness, mitigation of his sin. I know I do. How can/could he/she do otherwise? To admit?…The Prince of Lies is a great liar. Gen 3:5.

The nature of things are not changed by calling them something else, no matter how hard we try or want to to justify ourselves to ourselves and to others, to our consciences; to silence, to salve, to inebriate, to numb, to anesthetize, anything, even the eager, quick sale of our souls, at a substantial loss, rather than to listen to that.

The truth is always hardest, yet it remains the truth, regardless of us or our ravings or madness/delusions. We have been here before, many times. Read your history and the Scriptures. Jonah 3:4. This is not new. There is a saying, “There are no new heresies.” We just repackage, recycle, and reoffend. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison. Concupiscence.

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-by Br. John Baptist Hoang, OP, fellow UVA alumnus

““Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.”
—1 Corinthians 9:25-26

The 2005 film, Cinderella Man, tells the remarkable story of Irish-American boxer James J. Braddock (1905-1974). Braddock, played by actor Russell Crowe, enjoys a successful career as an amateur boxer until life takes a turn for the worse at the threshold of the Great Depression. Like so many other Americans during that tumultuous time, Braddock struggles to make ends meet, barely managing to support his wife and three young children. In the end, however—as the title of the movie suggests—his life plays out like a modern-day fairy tale. His boxing career gradually picks back up, and the film ends triumphantly when he becomes the heavyweight champion of the world. He and his family, as the saying goes, live happily ever after.

Braddock is portrayed as the kind of person we all want to rally behind. Yet our sympathy for him goes beyond mere support for the underdog, mere pity for his life of hardship. There is actually something we come to love in James Braddock: he is a good man. He sacrifices everything he has for the sake of his wife and children. He sacrifices his own pride when he makes a desperate decision to beg for money from the rich and powerful. He risks his own life every time he steps into the ring to fight men who are quite capable of killing him. This is what evokes our admiration and sympathy: to see a man offer himself in love.

Of course, the protagonist has to have an antagonist, and the drama reaches its climax when Braddock faces his nemesis for the heavyweight title: the young and cocky Max Baer. But, whereas in many movies of this type the final fight scene is an epic battle between good and evil, in this film things are a little different. Baer isn’t evil; he’s just foolish. He’s portrayed as a playboy, who spends his time “fooling around” with several women.

Although this is a very inaccurate portrait of the real Max Baer, it is nevertheless a dramatically effective characterization, and it serves to draw out a distinction between two types of people: the just man and the fool. Braddock is the good and just man who remains a faithful husband and father throughout his life, while Baer is the fool who pursues a life of empty pleasure. Of course, Baer, for his part, regards Braddock as the fool, and in a sense this is true. Braddock is a fool for love and goodness; he is a fool in the eyes of the world. But in the eyes of God, he is both wise and just; he is a “good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:3). Heavyweight title or no heavyweight title, his story reminds us that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).”

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-James Braddock and Family, North Bergen, New Jersey, 1936. Standing is Braddock’s wife, May, and from left to right are his children: Rose Marie, Howard, and James, Jr.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 3 – Servant of God Jerome Lejeune, (1926-1994), Doctor of Down’s Syndrome

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Letter to Cardinal George of Chicago:

6/12/2011

Dear Cardinal George,

Hello, my name is Amy Goggin and I am a parishioner at St. John Fisher in Chicago. I’m writing this letter to you to ask for your support and guidance in a cause that has been on my heart recently. I have an on-line store. I make rosaries and religious jewelry. I have wanted to make a chaplet/bracelet for people afflicted with Down’s syndrome. While researching the patron Saint for these individuals, I realized that there is no patron Saint for them. I am wondering how to go about declaring one? How does the Church declare a patron saint?

I understand that there are patron saints for people with mental illnesses and people that are handicapped in one form or another but, there needs to be a specific advocate in heaven for the growing number of people afflicted with Down’s syndrome. Prenatal screening and diagnostic testing is most often used to identify unborn babies with Down’s syndrome and then that information is used to encourage an abortion. This testing does not provide information that could be used to treat the baby before birth. One out of every 800 pregnancies is diagnosed with having a Down’s baby.

That is about 400,000 in the US alone. Out of those, 84% to 91% are aborted in the US. If a mother decides to have her Down’s syndrome child there are many medical complications that are awaiting the child throughout his/her life. There seems to be a cultural war against these innocent human beings right from the start. Due to the large number of people with this condition and the life-threatening situation they find themselves, we as Catholics need an advocate in Heaven to offer up our prayers of both petition and thanksgiving.

While researching a saint that would be appropriate for this cause, I found Servant of God (whose cause for canonization was opened in 2007): Dr. Jerome Lejeune. He was a French Doctor that spent his life trying to find a cure for Down’s syndrome and fighting for an awareness of the sanctity of their lives. He discovered the cause of Down’s syndrome in 1958.

Dr. Lejeune worked closely with Pope John Paul II and was appointed the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He treated around 5,000 patients. He would explain to new mothers that their child’s name was (child’s name) and he/she is not a disease, but a person that happens to have a disease. His mission was to have others understand the dignity that these individuals possessed, by looking beyond their condition to see a human being. His own daughter, Clara Lejeune Gaymard wrote a memoir titled Life is a Blessing about her father .

I believe that due to the nature of Dr. Lejeune’s life’s work, he is the perfect patron saint for people afflicted with this genetic condition. I’m wondering if you can help us with three things by your guidance and blessing. My friends and I are willing to do whatever we have to do, we just need some direction and support. We want to know how to officially request that the Church declare Lejeune the patron saint for people afflicted with Down’s syndrome.

We want to know how to create a chaplet of prayers for his intercession. Finally, there is a strong local support to have a national shrine on the South Side of Chicago for Catholics to come and pray for Lejeune’s intercession for their loved ones with Down’s syndrome. We believe that because of the large population of individuals with this condition on the South Side of Chicago, this would be the most appropriate place for such a shrine. We are willing to take on any logistical legwork necessary to further this cause. I would appreciate any help you can offer my friends and I with this endeavor and look forward to hearing back from you soon.”

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Jerome Lejeune was born in Montrouge, France, in 1926. A reading of The Country Doctor by the French novelist Balzac convinced him of his vocation when he was 13 years old. He too wanted to be a simple country doctor dedicating his life to helping the poor.

After attending medical school, he was persuaded by Professor Raymond Turpin to collaborate with him on a study of Down syndrome. He accepted this challenge and his dreams of being a simple country doctor were laid to rest.

He and his wife Birthe had five children and his family life and his faith were always his priority. When his beloved father was dying of lung cancer, he recognised more deeply the mystery of human suffering and the presence of Christ in all those who suffer.

In 1954, he was appointed a committee member of the French Genetics society and in 1957 was named an expert on the effects of atomic radiation on human genetics by the United Nations.

In 1959 he discovered the cause of Down syndrome and was also to diagnose the first case of Cri du Chat Syndrome. In 1962, he was awarded the prestigious Kennedy prize and, in 1965, he was appointed to the first Chair in Fundamental Genetics at the University of Paris. During this time, he helped thousands of parents to accept and love their children with Down syndrome.

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-quote of Dr. Jerome Lejeune, MD, in a letter to his wife after his acceptance speech in 1969 when he was given the William Allen Memorial Award, the highest distinction that could be granted to a Geneticist, in which he strenuously condemned abortion.

In 1991, he wrote a summary of his reflections on medical ethics for his fellow Catholics in seven brief points:

1. Christians, be not afraid. It is you who possess the truth. Not that you invented it but because you are the vehicle for it. To all doctors, you must repeat: “you must conquer the illness, not attack the patient.”
2. We are made in the image of God. For this reason alone all human beings must be respected.
3. Abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.
4. Objective morality exists. It is clear and it is universal – because it is Catholic.
5. The child is not disposable and marriage is indissoluble.
6. “You shall honour your father and mother.” Therefore, uniparental reproduction by any means is always wrong.
7. In so-called pluralistic societies, they shout it down our throats: “You Christians do not have the right to impose your morality on others.” Well, I tell you, not only do you have the right to try to incorporate your morality in the law but it is your democratic duty.

There is a famous story of an American physician who told Lejeune the following:

“My father was a Jewish physician in Braunau, Austria. One day only two babies were born at the local hospital. The parents of the healthy boy were proud and happy. The other was a girl (with Down syndrome) and her parents were sad.”

The physician ended the story by saying that the girl grew up to look after her mother despite her own disability. Her name is not known. The boy’s name was Adolph Hitler. Quite likely the story is apocryphal. However, it does express the truth that was central to Lejeune’s vocation: people with disabilities are certainly no less human than those without.

In 1993, Pope Saint John Paul II, his close friend, appointed Lejeune to be the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. That same year he was diagnosed with lung cancer and, by Good Friday of 1994, he was critically ill. “I have never betrayed my faith” he said. While reflecting on his patients, he was moved to tears and said: “I was supposed to have cured them…What will happen to them?”

A little later he was filled with joy. He said: “My children, if I can leave you with one message, this is the most important of all: We are in the hands of God. I have experienced this numbers of times.” He died the next day. Pope Saint John Paul II wrote of him: “We find ourselves today faced with the death of a great Christian of the twentieth century, a man for whom the defense of life had become an apostolate.” His cause for canonization has been postulated. Our bishops have recently agreed on three priorities for the Church, one of which is to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom by supporting integrity in public life, cohesion and mutual respect in society and serving the marginalized and the vulnerable. May this great servant of God, an apostle of the vulnerable, be an example to us all.

Prayer to Obtain Graces by God’s Servant’s Intercession

God, who created man in your image and intended him to share your glory, we thank you for having granted to your Church the gift of professor & doctor, Jerome Lejeune, MD, a distinguished Servant of Life. He knew how to place his immense intelligence and deep faith at the service of the defense of human life, especially unborn life, always seeking to treat and to cure.

A passionate witness to truth and charity, he knew how to reconcile faith and reason in the sight of today’s world. By his intercession, and according to Your will, we ask You to grant us the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon become one of your saints.

Amen.

Servant of God, Servant of Life!!!! Dr. Jerome Lejeune, MD, pray for us!!!!

Love,
Matthew