Saturday, May 01, 2004

Methodist General Conference 2004 

Well, the Methodist General Conference 2004 is underway. You can read Rev. Bill Martin's Modest Proposal to bring the church into unity. He has a nice idea (not):

[The Troy proposal suggests] "qualifying the prohibition against “(c)eremonies that celebrate homosexual unions” by adding “except within annual conferences that have authorized such ceremonies”

By George, I think this is the solution to the homosexual crisis in the Methodist Church! We should prohibit it except where we allow it! That's it! In fact, the same type of solution would work on the War on Terror. Let the word go forth, you are either with us, or against us, except in those areas some of you are with us and some of you are against us. Such nuance. There is nothing underneath the Methodists' faith that some aren't willing to compromise for unity.

What can be Worse? 

What can be worse, I ask you, than your wonderful 21 year old son killing himself? I asked myself that all yesterday and wake this morning with an inkling of an answer: having no comforter. I saw no hint of religion at the funeral home yesterday, no symbols, no words of prayer, no mention of God. Who can know another's heart, but I don't believe this sad family is connected with any church or faith-life and I was and am completely inadequate to the task of bringing my co-worker(s) to God.

Today is SAT day, swim class day, May crowning day, Mass day. I will pray for my friend's son.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Legacy for the Parents 

While we slept, such heavy rain swept past
it shook the last roses loose. They lay
smashed on the deck this morning, their petals
scattered like big white tears.

from "Legacy for the Parents" by Lynne Knight


I'm continuing to read Frank Peretti's "Visitation," but I'm not sure I'll make it all the way through. The story is about, apparently, a false Christ figure who performs healings and knows people's minds and hearts. I say "apparently" because I'm not all the way through the book yet, but it seems clear that the book is dealing with all false things and a false christ. On the way, Peretti throws in everything and all that goes wrong with churches, from resistance to change to stubborn, prideful leaders, to hateful people and on and on... everything that's ever gone wrong in any church is thrown in with the story. Really, I'm just not at a point where such things are in any way uplifting or inspiring to read about... I find myself looking forward to the C.S. Lewis books, "The Screwtape Letters" and "Mere Christianity," which are waiting on my shelf.

I remember vividly, in college, reading Lewis' "Space Trilogy" and I'm sure his books will be more uplifting than this Peretti book.

On the Front Porch of God 

I'm headed to a viewing this afternoon of a man who graduated high school only three years ago. I work with his father. While my co-worker was in the South on a five day recreational weekend, his son, at home, ended his life. It's completely apparent to me that I don't know the whole story, so my condolences, however heartfelt, can only come up short.

I wrote once that pain and suffering can be seen as a ringing doorbell on the front porch of God. When you experience suffering, do you wait, enter and obtain peace? Or do you hear the bell and flee into the darkness? Nothing I say or write or believe myself will fill the emptiness or stave off the memories my co-worker must now be experiencing. All I can do is offer to listen and pray.

It wasn't that long ago that an ex co-worker of mine ended his own life and I read the Catechism's take on suicide.

Watch, O Lord (St. Augustine)

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.
Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones.
Bless Your dying ones.
Soothe Your suffering ones.
Pity Your afflicted ones.
Shield Your joyous ones, and all for Your love's sake. Amen.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Fetal Reduction 

I read a book on the history of warfare quite some time ago. The book discussed how it used to be considered bad form to aim at any one particular person when you were shooting at the enemy, that it should, rather, be left to chance, to God, who is shot and not shot. Of course, until around the time of the American Civil War, it didn’t make much difference if you aimed or not because little accuracy existed without rifling.

I bring this up because of the cancellation of Dr. Nancy Snyderman as the commencement speak at the St. Francis Catholic University. Bishop D’Arcy apparently found out that Dr. Snyderman is a proponent of “fetal reduction," which is the abortion of some babies when too many result from in-vitro fertilization. I have a friend who went the in-vitro route to have a baby. The woman is given a drug so that she drops multiple eggs instead of just one. Those eggs are removed from her body, anywhere from 7 to 10 eggs in all, I think, and fertilized with her husband's sperm and then put back into her uterus. Sometimes, some fertilized eggs are frozen for future tries. The chances of even one of the eggs "catching" is very small. Sometimes, however, many babies at once can be the result.

For some reason, this makes me think of the old time warfare, a volley of shots into the uterus and let God pick who lives or dies. Well, Dr. Snyderman says that "common sense must prevail," and some fetuses in these cases must be "reduced." Here is a quote from the linked article:

The McCaugheys would not allow a "reduction" and insisted on carrying all seven of the babies to birth, trusting God to take care of them, and praying that all seven would be born healthy and safe. "We're just kind of waiting to see what happens and just trust that God's given us these babies," said Mr. McCaughey. "It's all in his hands."

That was just too much for Nancy Snyderman, medical correspondent for ABC television's Good Morning America. Appearing on the Oct. 30 program, Dr. Snyderman vented her outrage at the McCaugheys' decision. "At one point common sense must intervene over technology," she asserted. Acknowledging that the possibilities of survival in these cases are greater than ever, Dr. Snyderman argued that "it's really high time that we look at survivability with quality of life." The answer, she insisted, is really quite clear: "Now, I know it's an unsavory thought for a lot of people, but selective abortion, where you literally think about not which fetuses to get rid of but how many to get rid of, is something that we really need to talk about openly in situations like this."

Good Morning America host Charles Gibson seemed shocked by Dr. Snyderman's candid proposal and reminded her of the McCaugheys' decision to "leave this in the hands of God." Dr. Snyderman's quick response was even more shocking: "But it's already out of the hands of God, Charlie," she argued. "This is modern technology created by man, pushing the envelope. So I think it's foolhardy to suddenly throw, 'Well, it's God's will.' That to me is a funny mix of medicine and religion and ethics and technology all in one."

In my friend's case, she was lucky enough that just one baby resulted and she has a wonderful son she would never have had otherwise (she believes). I can see why the Catholic Catechism is against in-vitro fertilization although I would never want my friend to not have her son. Dr. Snyderman, and probably most doctors, believe that after an old fashioned volley of shots are fired and seven are left standing, we should take out our modern rifles and execute five or six of the seven. Now, I agree that having seven babies at once isn't a good idea, but isn't the Catholic teaching of "Let's not even go there" better than Snyderman's "It never was in God's hands, anyway."

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Eternal Life Begins Now 

From the last chapter of "The Essential Catholic Catechism" by Alan Schreck:
Eternal life with God is an absolutely free gift. There is nothing that any person could do to merit, earn, or deserve an eternity of happiness with God. Catholic theology teaches that without the gift of God that Scripture calls grace, human beings remain in the bondage of original sin and fall into ever deeper rebellion against God and his plan. The result of this sin is death -- eternal separation from God. As St. Paul wrote, "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

"Eternal life is also a gift that must be accepted through our cooperation with God's grace and our freely-given response to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. From this perspective, eternal life is not simply a gift that we receive at the end of our lives when we die. Eternal life begins now, as we choose to accept God's grace and his gift of the Holy Spirit. After all, eternal life actually is a way of talking about sharing in or possessing the life of God himself.

"Those who reject God's offer and continue to live in sin experience even here on earth a foretaste of the pain of eternal separation from God. It is unfortunately true that while the road to heaven is like heaven itself, the road to hell resembles hell."
Well said... Eternal Life Begins Now, whether for good or ill.


We had a nice Pre-Catechumenate RCIA class last night. We talked about the Easter Vigil, about our past faith journey and about crossing ourselves, using the water in the font, genuflecting, when to stop kneeling after Mass, etc. Those who are baptized are welcome to dip their fingers into the water of the font when entering or leaving church to remember their baptism. We genuflect not to the figure of Christ on the cross, but to his body present in the host. We are welcome to cross ourselves (top to bottom, left to right) even if we are not yet Catholic, but most people will assume you are Catholic already if you do. When the priest reads from the Gospel, we cross ourselves on our forehead, lips and over our heart... that the Word might be always in our minds, professed from our lips and felt inside our hearts. We stop kneeling when the host leaves the room, not when the priest leaves... the priest just happens to be carrying the Body of Christ.

We have our straw mass (where our priest will present a sample of a mass and describe what he's doing and answer questions) and tour of our church next week, then only two more Pre-Catechumenate classes before going to stage 2: the weekly Catechumenate classes. I can choose or will be assigned a sponsor at that time who will go through the classes with me and will present me at next year's Easter Vigil.

The news is full of the fighting in Fallujah. Hopefully, when our men go all out, there won't be uprisings elsewhere in Iraq...

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Today, I Pray 

Today, I pray

for one who gave up hope,
for one who couldn't find his way,
who failed to cope
with this, this little life God gave
for us to try.
He was captive to darkness, a slave
to death before he even chose to die.
God save him, for he failed
to find you, failed as any of us might
in brokenness some hopeless night.
Holy Mary, pray for him, unveil
your Son for this lost soul
and bring him into heaven whole.

- for a friend's son

Martin Luther 

I watched the third part (I missed the first two) of the Martin Luther story on PBS last night. What Luther sought, this piece said, was the democratization of the Catholic Church, but he wasn't happy with the violence that resulted. The show pointed out that Luther was the first propagandist since he was able to use the printing press to great effect in rallying the nobility against Rome.

A chart of the Christian Family Tree shows the result of the democratization (at least somewhat). I enjoyed the show because I enjoy history, in general. But Luther is difficult. One the one hand, Rome and the Pope etc. seemed clearly corrupt, but on the other hand (just look at his other writings) Luther was clearly not without error in his vision.

What do the resulting protestant faiths teach about saints and miracles? About Lourdes, about Fatima, about Juan Diego in Guadalupe? (It's interesting that while the Church in Europe was splitting into slivers, Juan Diego was being baptised in South America.) Well, at least in my case, Methodism totally ignores saints and miracles, as if any overt presence of God in either the world or in a person's life, is automatically suspect. Suspect of what?

Monday, April 26, 2004

A Stranger in a Strange Land 

I have a good week ahead. I have an RCIA class (my classes now are only a couple of times a month, meant to get us comfortable with the faith and to answer basic questions. I'm looking forward to the weekly RCIA classes, though I know they won't fill in all the gaps) and our Priest will also be giving a straw mass along with a tour of the church. Today, though, I wake up focused on judges.

Long ago, I read Robert Heinlein's "A Stranger in a Strange Land." If you've not read it, you'll not "grok" where I'm headed here. (click on the grok-link for a definition). I don't want to talk about the free-love part of Stranger, that's just classic 60's Heinlein. What has stuck with me from that book is the concept of a "Fair Witness."

A Fair Witness is a person who was trained to act in an official capacity as an honest witness to events. The Fair Witness acted kind of like a notary republic. A Fair Witness would put on robes and was rigorously trained to observe, remember, and report without prejudice, distortion, lapses in memory, or personal involvement the events in front of them. It's a concept that I have also hoped would take hold in our nation's judges.

In the fight after the 2000 election, I spent a bit of time making phone calls and mailing letters and, if truth be told, saying not just a few prayers to push for President Bush to win. I did this not out of support for the Republican Party or to bash the Democrat Party, but because President Bush would be more likely to elect "Fair Witness" type judges. Judges who do their work without prejudice, distortion, lapses in memory or personal involvment. I was sure that in Bush's first term, a couple of Supreme Court Justices would retire and have to be replaced. I'm rather shocked they didn't. Now they are four years older and the fight lies ahead once again.... and a fight it will be, if you've watched what has happened to Priscilla Owen or Charles Pickering.

Why do I feel strongly about it? I have been offended by the stance of many judges across the country who seem to be pushing their own agenda, their own legislation even, instead of being just a fair witness. I was very upset over the Elian Gonzales case, where the judges seemed to just lay back and let the government take that child out of a home at gunpoint. In what other child custody case has the State ever raided a home with tear gas and AK47's and taken the child away from his home right in front of his lawyers? The Florida Election itself showed judges changing what legislatures had written into the election law (and the judges made a mess of it).

Since that time, we've had judges from New Jersey, California, Alabama, even my own Indiana, and probably every state in the union making judgements trying to remove any mention of God from public discourse, trying to re-write what the elected legislatures have written into law, making things legal that the people have voted to make illegal and making things illegal that the people have voted to make legal. My major area of supporting Republicans is Judges. Abortion (did you see the pictures from the rally in D.C.?), Ten Commandment cases, Gay Marriage, Sodomy laws, the Pledge of Allegiance Case... the number of cases and judges that seem out of control and against what the people clearly want seems to increase every day.

The Judicial, Legislative and Executive Branches of the government remind me of the reason(s) I'm becoming a Catholic. Catholics have checks and balances on their faith: the Bible, Tradition, the Magisterium. These things check each other, guide each other, balance each other. Other Christian faiths rely too heavily on the Bible (in my completely humble opinion) and any people who are good at playing with words can twist verses in the Bible to mean what they want them to mean. Just so, judges are twisting the words of the legislators and the Constituion to mean whatever they want, they are not being Fair Witnesses for our nation just as Methodists, Episcopalians, and name your own Protestant faith, are not being Fair Witnesses for the Christian Faith.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Visitation 

I'm reading "The Visitation" by Frank Peretti. I can't say that I like it thus far, the first third of the book just seems to summarize all the problems in religion. I've had the book for a long while and never have gotten around to reading it, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'll write a better review when I'm done.

I bought several C.S. Lewis books over the weekend and am looking forward to reading them, as well. I'm nearing the end of my Catechism book, so I need to line up a few more.

The weekend allowed us time for lots of yard work, both at home and at my parents house in the country. We potted lots of plants today and planted some more grass where the dogs (a Golden and a Springer) had run down to the ground. I like yard work, it keeps me away from the news of the day and helps to focus on the world and Life.

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