Friday, February 29, 2008

Quote book

"To be pure, to remain pure, can only come at a price, the price of knowing God and loving him enough to do his will. He will always give us the strength we need to keep purity as something as beautiful for him."- Blessed Mother Teresa

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blogging for chastity

I found a new favorite blog recently. Through the wonderful blog network, I came across A Great Deception, in which the author beautifully articulates her convictions regarding chastity and related issues. The blog is definitely for the young adults (and older) crowd and is worth checking frequently.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Catholic Men's Conference -- student discount

Cincinnati's "Answer the Call" Catholic Men's Conference is right around the corner. A student discounted price of $25 is being offered to high school and college students. Speakers this year include UC's football coach Brian Kelly and former "Apprentice" star Tarek Saab. For more info, visit the event's website.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes ...

This from 40 Days for Life organizer David Bereit:


The 40 Days for Life team in Bakersfield sent me this boy's story, and today I'd like to share it with you.

Eight-year-old Hugo had prayed with his older sister Sandra at the abortion center, but it was never on an abortion day.

He kept insisting to Sandra they go on a day abortions were planned. Finally, she was able to fit such a visit into her very busy schedule.

As Sandra and Hugo prayed that day, a young woman named Denisha walked out of the clinic. "I didn't have it done yet," she told the sidewalk counselors, but insisted she would be returning for an abortion.

Little Hugo stood nearby listening as Denisha explained her reasons for scheduling the abortion.
She has two young children who were taken away by Child Protective Services. She expects to get her children back at an upcoming court date, but being pregnant again could complicate the situation. She was also afraid to tell her parents that she is pregnant.

"I know it's wrong to have an abortion," she confessed, "but I'll just repent and God will forgive me."

People continued pleading with her for over an hour, but her heart remained hardened. Denisha insisted she was just going to go back inside and "get it over with."
During much of the conversation, Hugo stood close to Denisha, looking up into her eyes. Meanwhile, Sandra prayed nearby on the sidewalk, tears filling her eyes. "Her situation seemed so hopeless," Sandra said.

Then Hugo quietly said to Denisha, "But your mother didn't abort you."

Denisha broke down and cried, realizing that she couldn't go through with the abortion.
When her tears subsided, Denisha's facial expression changed. The look of anxiety was gone, replaced by a huge smile and an appearance of peace and joy.

The eternal rewards of setting aside our busy schedules to invest an hour in prayer outside an abortion center may not always be as obvious as they were in this instance, but when God gives us the opportunity to participate in saving a child's life we are always blessed when we accept His invitation.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

If killing preborn babies is legal ...

... Then killing born babies isn't too far behind. Apparently, a "prestigious" bioethics journal has stated that killing disabled newborns is perfectly fine. Read more here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Question box Friday -- Is it wrong for engaged people to have sex?

Even in the sixth grade, our students ask this question frequently. On the surface, it would seem that it would be okay for an engaged couple to engage in sex because they are obviously committed to each other. But the question is: Are they committed enough to express the true meaning of sex?

God created sex to have a meaning. In Pope John Paul II's theology of the body, he discusses the concept that our bodies "speak" a language that is meant to point us to God and our desire for union and communion with Him. Sex, then, is meant to express through the body what wedding vows express through words.

In a wedding, the priest asks if the couple has come freely and without reservation. Therefore, sex is meant to express love that is freely given.

During wedding vows, the couple promise "to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life." They also say, "I promise to be true to you … until death do us part." Therefore, sex is meant to express love that is total (holding nothing back) and faithful (committed until death).

During the wedding, the priest asks the couple, "Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?" Therefore, sex is meant to express love that is fruitful (not referring to pears and oranges but to an openness to new life).

When a couple is engaged, they are planning to commit in this way, but they have not yet done so. I have several friends who were engaged but broke up before the wedding took place. Until the wedding vows have been spoken in front of God, each other, one's friends and family, then the couple is not capable of honestly or authentically expressing the true meaning of sex. So, the answer to this question would be, yes, it would be wrong (and not practicing chastity) for an engaged couple to have sex.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Still talking about "Bodies"

Since "Bodies ... the Exhibition" will be in Cincinnati until the fall, and since it is traveling to a myriad of cities in our nation, people are still talking about whether or not they morally agree with the idea of paying money to see dead bodies on display for education (or as Peter Bronson says, "edutainment"). In today's Cincinnati Enquirer, Gail Finke penned an excellent op-ed regarding the exhibit:


When I first learned that "Bodies ... The Exhibition" was coming to Cincinnati Museum Center, I was naïve enough to believe that people who objected to it would not have to see it. But recently, I have seen TV commercials and other ads showing detailed photos of the cadavers - whether I want to see them or not.

It does not matter where these bodies came from. It does not matter if they were claimed or unclaimed, if one or a million consent forms were signed. It does not matter whether or not they will be eventually "given a decent burial." They are dead people. Using corpses to advertise anything, even themselves, should be right up there with profanity and nudity as off-limits.

Furthermore, the exhibit features not just any old corpses, but corpses that have been flayed, cut up, and posed for our amusement. The "educational" claim is a ruse. Of course people who are interested in medicine find them to be just like medical illustrations. They are actual human bodies. The important question is, would anyone come to see detailed models of bodies in the same poses? It would be a lot cheaper and easier to do, and the corpse factory could make duplicates.

But the answer is no. The attraction here isn't the chance to learn about anatomy, it's the chance to see dead human bodies. In person! Right in front of you!

These bodies are not in any sense "an anatomy textbook come to life," as the ad trumpets. They are dead. They are not thousands of years old, mummified in sacred rituals we can study to learn about an ancient culture and its beliefs. They are recently dead people posed "creatively" by exhibit designers.

They tell us a lot we might not want to know about our culture and its beliefs. The advertisements may talk about the "specimens" being "respectfully preserved," but these are nothing more than high-tech carnival displays.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Project Everlasting

Last month, my Catholic Women's Book Club read Project Everlasting: Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of America's Greatest Marriages . It was fascinating to read of the travels of two bachelors who scoured the country looking for couples who had been married for at least forty years. They shared anecdotes of several of the couples who offered their advice about what made their marriages last.

The meaning of love as a four letter word spelled G-I-V-E, the importance of respect, what commitment looks like in sickness and in health were all discussed and given life through the words and experiences of real life couples. There are lots of good books about Catholic marriage, but this book, which wasn't conspicuously religious, presented meaningful marraige advice through the witness of others.

I have been recommending Project Everlasting to everyone since I completed. It's short, easy to read and worth the time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day question

Here's an appropriate question on February 14: What is love? Of course, books, poems and songs have been filled with people's ideas as to the answer, but it can be said quite simply. Love is to want what is best for the other person. In the words of my college Christian Marriage professor, love is to "will the good of the beloved." Love is also a communion between two people (common interest or common good of some sort is necessary), and it is a self-gift of one person to another.

So as you ponder the meaning of love, remember that it is not a feeling. Love is a choice to put another person first and to seek their good.

Many people argue that it's okay to have sex with someone as long as you "love them." Unless the couple is married, however, it would not be truly loving to become sexually active with someone other than your spouse because you are putting them at risk for a variety of consequences -- physical, spiritual, emotional, social, financial. True love involves sacrifice, but the sacrifice is worth it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mother Nature's Chastity Belt:

It's Wednesday... here's something to get you through the week. Just watch...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The bishops talk about chastity

I was excited to read the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' new document, "Catechetical Formation in Chaste Living: Guidelines for Curriculum Design and Publication." As a chastity educator, I figured it was pretty important to learn what the bishops had to say about my job. It took some time for the document to become available on the internet, but I was finally able to read it.

Nothing really new was offered in the document. Most of the material was gathered from other Catholic Church documents ("The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality," "Catechism of the Catholic Church," "Familiaris Consortio," "Theology of the Body," and others). It's an easy and quick read for those looking for a summary of the Church's teachings concerning chastity and its importance.

I was impressed by the bishops' engaging of the culture in a statement that extended the wisdom of older documents to include modern problems:

"Christ's disciples need to be aware of and resist temptation to engage in activities which are violations of chastity with varying degrees of gravity, such as: (...) misuse of the internet creating easy access to virtual and anonymous behaviors for viewing pornography, for being preyed upon by others, for writing explicitly through blogs and instant messaging, and for posting inappropriate sexually explicit or suggestive photos, messages, rumors etc. on popular social networking web sites (...)."

Way to go, USCCB, in adding modern offenses against chastity to the typical list!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lenten pro-life opportunity

If you're looking for a way to combine lenten prayer, penance and your pro-life convictions, then joining the Way of Love in Cincinnati may be for you. On three Sundays during Lent (March 2, 9 and 16 from 2-3 pm), hundreds of people in the Tri-State area will join in a prayer walk around one of the abortion clinics in Cincinnati. This is a peaceful and prayerful opportunity.

It would be wonderful to have students from various high schools participating. Hopefully we will see you there. For more information, visit the website.

Day of Purity -- Valentine's Day

The fifth annual Day of Purity will be celebrated on St. Valentine's Day (that's this Thursday, February 14). You can find out what you can do to advance the message of purity this week, by visiting the website. Let us know if your school gets involved.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Question box Friday

Those who have been through the In Control program know that a highlight of the week is having anonymous questions answered from the "Question Box" on the last day of the program. We are going to attempt answering one question a week on the blog too.

This week's question, "Why do some people think that divorce is wrong?"

All of us probably know someone who has been in a divorce situation, so it is often a difficult topic to address. We look at it through the lens of personal (or that of a friend or family member) experience, which often clouds our perceptions.

In today's society, many people enter into marriage without fully understanding the commitment they are making. Wedding vows are meant to be two people promising that they will love the other freely (not coerced, but of their own free will), totally (completely, not witholding anything), faithfully (committed for a lifetime) and fruitfully (open to the possibility of new life). When two people don't truthfully promise these things at the time of the vows, then the marriage may be considerd invalid. In the Catholic Church, an annulment is granted to state that a true marriage never really occurred. This is different from a civil divorce which says that the marriage has ended.

If two people have given a total gift of themselves to the other, they cannot take that gift back. For something to be total, it must be irrevocable by its very nature.

Marriage is also meant to be a visible sign of God's love for us. God's love never ends. He is always faithful, always loves us totally, freely chooses to shower His love upon us, and He loves us fruitfully, by creating new life.

A married couple has a responsibility to fulfill their vows to each other, but also has a responsibility and honor to be a witness of God's love for us, in as an authentic way as possible, cooperating with God's grace to live out a sign of His love.

That being said, there are some extreme cases when it may be better for two married people to stop living together (in cases of sustained abuse, for example). If a divorce is pursued, it must be remembered, however, that this does not end the marriage in God and the Church's eyes. If the marriage was valid and true, it cannot end. A major problem with divorce is that it tricks people into believing that marriage is permanent only when you want it to be.

Mortality as a blessing?

I was reading George Weigel's, Letters to a Young Catholic last night, when I came across quotations from an article by Leon Kass entitled, "L’Chaim and Its Limits: Why Not Immortality?" It's very long but very good, so if you have the time, please read the whole thing. In light of the news a few days ago about scientists creating a three-parent embryo, I found it enlightening. Our culture is afraid of death and suffering, perhaps largely because our culture doesn't believe in eternal life and happiness. Below are a few points explored in the article:

"Conquering death is not something that we can try for a while and then decide whether the results are better or worse-according to, God only knows, what standard. On the contrary, this is a question in which our very humanity is at stake, not only in the consequences but also in the very meaning of the choice. For to argue that human life would be better without death is, I submit, to argue that human life would be better being something other than human. To be immortal would not be just to continue life as we mortals now know it, only forever. The new immortals, in the decisive sense, would not be like us at all. If this is true, a human choice for bodily immortality would suffer from the deep confusion of choosing to have some great good only on the condition of turning into someone else. Moreover, such an immortal someone else, in my view, will be less well off than we mortals are now, thanks indeed to our mortality.

"It goes without saying that there is no virtue in the death of a child or a young adult, or the untimely or premature death of anyone, before they had attained to the measure of man’s days. I do not mean to imply that there is virtue in the particular event of death for anyone. Nor am I suggesting that separation through death is not painful for the survivors, those for whom the deceased was an integral part of their lives. Instead, my question concerns the fact of our finitude, the fact of our mortality-the fact that we must die, the fact that a full life for a human being has a biological, built-in limit, one that has evolved as part of our nature. Does this fact also have value? Is our finitude good for us-as individuals? (I intend this question entirely in the realm of natural reason and apart from any question about a life after death.)

"To praise mortality must seem to be madness. If mortality is a blessing, it surely is not widely regarded as such. Life seeks to live, and rightly suspects all counsels of finitude. “Better to be a slave on earth than the king over all the dead,” says Achilles in Hades to the visiting Odysseus, in apparent regret for his prior choice of the short but glorious life. Moreover, though some cultures-such as the Eskimo-can instruct and moderate somewhat the lust for life, liberal Western society gives it free rein, beginning with a political philosophy founded on a fear of violent death, and reaching to our current cults of youth and novelty, the cosmetic replastering of the wrinkles of age, and the widespread anxiety about disease and survival. Finally, the virtues of finitude-if there are any-may never be widely appreciated in any age or culture, if appreciation depends on a certain wisdom, if wisdom requires a certain detachment from the love of oneself and one’s own, and if the possibility of such detachment is given only to the few. Still, if it is wisdom, the rest of us should hearken, for we may learn something of value for ourselves."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

40 Days for Life returns

Coinciding beautifully with the 40 days of Lent, the 40 Days for Life campaign begins again today in 59 cities across the country, as well as in a few other countries. For more information, or to sign up to receive daily prayers and meditations, visit their website. The campaign will be coming to Cincinnati in the spring.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Twin unborn babies save their mother's life

This is an incredible storyfrom LifeNews:

London, England ( -- Doctors sometimes suggest to women who become pregnant while dealing with cancer that they should have an abortion to save their own life. However, in the case of a British woman, her twin unborn children saved her life when they knocked loose a tumor that had been developing on her cervix.

Unbeknown to 35-year-old Michelle Stepney, a tumor had been developing insider her and she headed to the hospital thinking she may have had a miscarriage.

Doctors diagnosed her with life-threatening cervical cancer and suggested she have an abortion on her twin babies to be able to have chemotherapy, according to the London Daily Mail.
Stepney declined and physicians agreed to give her lower doses of chemotherapy with the hope of stopping the cancer during the pregnancy, the newspaper said.

Ironically, the babies ultimately saved their mother's life as their constant kicking dislodged the developing tumor.

"I couldn't believe it when the doctors told me that the babies had dislodged the tumor," she told the newspaper. "I'd felt them kicking, but I didn't realize just how important their kicking would turn out to be."

"I owe my life to my girls, and that's why I could have never agreed with a termination," Stepney said. "If I hadn't been pregnant with the twins, the cancer may not have been discovered until it was too late."

"I knew I could have an operation straight away and it would cure me of the cancer, but that would mean getting rid of my babies and I couldn't do that," Stepney added.

Since then, Michelle and her husband Scott have given birth to the girls, Alice and Harriet.
The newspaper said the babies were delivered by Caesarian section at 33 weeks into the pregnancy in December 2006.

Other than having no hair because of the chemo, the babies were healthy and in fine condition.
"When I heard them both let out a cry it was the best sound in the world," mom told the newspaper.

Stepney is now free from cancer and the babies just celebrated their first birthday and are happy and healthy.

As Alice in Wonderland would say ... Curiouser and curiouser

Just when you thought life couldn't get much stranger, scientists in Britain have created a human embryo with three parents -- DNA from one father and two mothers. The reason? They are hoping to prevent certain hereditary diseases by adding the DNA of another parent. Why do we think that we can play God with human life, that we know better than Him? You can read more details here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Quote book

"Demand of yourself, even if no one else demands of you." -- Pope John Paul II

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Bodies ... the Exhibition" and theology of the body

Great controversy is stirring in the Queen City as, "Bodies ... The Exhibition" is opening at the Cincinnati Museum Center today. Ethical issues about the exhibit were largely unspoken until Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk released a statement urging Catholic schools not to take field trips to "Bodies." Bishop Roger Foys followed suit yesterday.

I spent a great deal of time yesterday contemplating how the principles of Pope John Paul II's theology of the body could relate to "Bodies." Below are some main points:
  • What is the purpose of the body? According to Pope John Paul II, the body reveals the person. We are able to experience our own personhood and that of other people through the body. We are more than a collection of body parts -- we are emotional, spiritual and mental, as well. The body is also meant to reveal God to us. He created us male and female, with intellect and will, in order for us to know Him, love Him, and serve Him.
  • Our bodies are not skin to be shed upon death. God-willing, in heaven, we will experience the resurrection of our bodies, not just our souls. Therefore, the body deserves respect and proper treatment during and after earthly life.
  • "Bodies" is only focusing on the biological aspect of the person, thereby reducing a someone to a something. While staring at someone's circulatory system or skeletal structure, I doubt most visitors will contemplate who this person was -- their feelings, dreams, goals, age, and purpose in life. Instead, these people become objects used not persons loved.
  • What Pope John Paul II said about pornography can be relevant to this situation as well. He said that those objectified in pornography, become, in a certain sense, "public property." In "Bodies," people are paying money in order to see a public display of human persons, reduced merely to their body parts.
  • Many attendees commenting on the "Bodies'" website have likened the exhibit to art. The use of naked bodies in the exhibit, often posed in rather disrespectful ways, bring to mind these words from Pope John Paul II, "Following his personal sensibility, man does not want to become an object for others through his own anonymous nakedness." Does this change after death? Suppose your mother or brother or best friend were one of the "models" in this exhibit? Would you be supportive of that? Why do we commend the use of anonymous people when we would be likely to condemn the use of people close to us?
  • Those in the exhibit did not give consent. There are a host of ethical questions regarding the use of "unclaimed bodies" from a Communist country hardly renowned for human rights. Would these deceased people have wanted the world to see them as anonymous collections of body parts?
  • In theology of the body, Pope John Paul II talks about the concept of shame. He says that shame is experienced after Original Sin in order to protect us from being used by another. We don't want to be seen naked by the public because we have an innate fear (rightfully so) of being used not loved. When a body is donated to science, it is done with free consent, presumably not for money and with the knowledge that those looking at the body have a certain purpose: Learning how to save other lives. The context must provide respect to the deceased person whose body has been donated for this cause. In "Bodies," there is no way to guarantee that the bodies will be looked on respectfully. People can gawk, stare, glare, comment and deride those featured in the exhibit without any care or protection from objectification given. This cannot be respectful of the human person, whether dead or alive.
  • It is a good to learn how our bodies work, but I would argue that learning about anatomy or biology can be done apart from using human persons. With the millions of dollars pouring into Premier Exhibitions, one must question their motivation -- education or profit?
  • Whenever we are in doubt that something is morally licit, we must lean toward caution. If we are unsure that "Bodies" is ethical and moral, then we should refrain from supporting it.

If you are looking to read more about this subject, check out Peter Bronson's op-ed in yesterday's Cincinnati Enquirer, a statement by the Archdiocese of Vancouver about a similar exhibit, and an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.