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Archive of March 29, 2008

Three things remain: Faith, hope and love for impaired elderly persons

Milwaukee, Wis., Mar 29, 2008 (CNA) - I remember it perfectly, like a snapshot in my mind’s eye. A cold, grey morning in February with a new referral already staring back at me from the top of my desk.

“Now what?” I thought. As a staff psychologist on a hospital rehabilitation floor, there were always more patients to see than there was time in the day. The latest referral was a 44-year-old patient named Madeline who was paralyzed from the neck down. Her doctor felt she was depressed because he often saw tears on her cheeks. As I read the referral more closely I saw that Madeline also couldn’t speak, and it was doubtful that she could even understand what was said to her.

“You’re not going to be able to do much with her,” said my colleague when he saw the referral. “Just go see her a couple times to keep her doctor happy.” I must admit my colleague’s prediction seemed valid. What could I possibly do with a patient who was unable to communicate with me in any way?

My first visit to Madeline furthered my doubts. The only part of her that could move were her eyes, which seemed clear and focused intently on me as I introduced myself. I explained her doctor’s concerns and promised to see her again the next day, but it seemed a waste of the insurance company’s money to pay me to just sit and talk to Madeline each day. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Over the subsequent months, I learned just how little I really knew about human communication. Madeline’s body had ceased functioning, but she was still in there, trapped inside. A little effort soon proved that I could reach her. With a system of eye blinks Madeline was able to respond with a “yes” or “no” to my questions. Many times she cried with me, and many times I just sat and held her hand. It wasn’t long before the doctor reported that Madeline no longer seemed depressed.

Many of our impaired elderly suffer in similar ways as Madeline. Like Madeline’s doctor, we may only see what the outward appearance shows us. However, those we love are still there, if only on an emotional level — if we only take the time, and courage, to truly look.

“I don’t see the point of going to see Grandma anymore. She doesn’t even know who I am.” How many times have you heard someone say those words? When those we love cease to behave the way they always have, it’s easy to think they’re no longer really there. However, Grandma may not recognize family members, or be able to communicate as she always did, but she is still there. Some essential part of who she is still remains, can still be touched if only reached for.

“I thought Mom couldn’t understand anything I said anymore,” Janet commented. Her mother had been confined to a nursing home for over a year. “Last week I was sitting with her, just watching her stare off into space as usual, when I noticed the Bible at her bedside. I started to read one of Mom’s favorite verses out loud...and that’s when I saw Mom smile, just a little smile, but it meant so much to me.”

The Bible tell us that “...nothing can ever separate us from His love...” (Romans 8:38). Even loved ones who are severely impaired will often react to well-loved prayers or Bible verses. Janet’s mom may not have fully comprehended what was being read to her, but she could “feel” those same feelings she had learned to associate with those words all her life. The love and comfort of God’s Word still reached her through her muddled memory and touched that unique and precious center of who she was inside.

Sometimes there are no words at all. “It was hard to just sit with him each day,” remembers Ron. “He didn’t know I was there, but I felt like I needed to be anyway.” Ron’s father was in a coma-like state for months before his death. “If he could have just squeezed my hand it would have made such a difference to me.”

When there is no sign at all of awareness from a loved one, it can be particularly difficult. Do they know we are there? Does it matter if we visit? When I think of family members like Ron, and all the other patients and their families I have known, my thoughts return again and again to 1 Corinthians 13:13, “There are three things that remain — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.” No matter how impaired our loved ones may be, no matter how painful our time spent with them may become, there is still that unfailing element of hope and comfort that comes from our faith’s assurance of the undying power of love. It was there in Madeline’s eye blinks, the sweet smile of Janet’s mother...and yes, it was even there as Ron visited with his father. Faith, hope, and love cannot be contained within our physical shells, it is still there, able to be grasped if only we will reach for it.

Lynn Klammer is a licensed clinical psychologist, educator and author.

Printed with permission from Clearly Caring Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008, Vol. 28, No. 1.

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Pennsylvania Catholics positioned to swing presidential election

Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 29, 2008 (CNA) - As the last major primary state for the Democratic Party presidential contest and a contested state in the general election, Pennsylvania Catholics could play a key role in determining the presidential race. 

The Bulletin reports that there are nearly 3.8 million Catholics in the state, 31 percent of the total population. 

"While a candidate cannot win on the Catholic vote alone, there is no doubt Pennsylvania Catholics are a key swing vote candidates must understand," said Kathy Coll, a Catholic who is president of the Pro-Life Coalition.  "No politician can win if they have upset the Catholic apple cart."

Some observers see an internal struggle taking place in American Catholicism as believers try to reconcile their religious and moral duties with their involvement in both political parties. 

Most Catholics have traditionally supported the Democratic Party. 

"Irish Catholics go back to the party when it was the party of the little guy," explained Coll.  She thinks that has changed, saying the Democratic Party is "now the party that kicks the little guy."  She said her vote was contingent on a candidate’s support for pro-life issues. 

“What rights have any value if you do not have the right to life?" she asked.  "Only if you are 100 percent pro-life will I look to other issues."

Coll referenced Senator Obama’s regrets about supporting the Senate’s move to save the life of Terry Schiavo, the disabled woman whose feeding tube was removed by court order.  She died of dehydration soon afterward.

Pepperdine University Constitutional law professor Douglas Kmiec, who served under both the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, has endorsed Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama.  Kmiec accused the presidency of George W. Bush of distorting the presidential office “beyond its constitutional assignment.”  Kmiec said that though he differs with Obama on social issues, he said the Illinois senator “is not closed to understanding opposing points of view and, as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them.”

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has questioned Obama’s past legislative record on pro-life issues.

"In 2003, while chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee of the Illinois Senate, he led the fight to oppose a bill that would have mandated health care for a baby who survived an abortion," Donohue said.

Pennsylvania Catholics presently favor New York Senator Hillary Clinton over Senator Obama in the Democratic primary, which will be held on April 22.

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Sirius satellite radio to offer three channels covering April papal visit

, Mar 29, 2008 (CNA) - SIRIUS Satellite Radio has announced that three Catholic channels will provide coverage for Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit to the United States.

In addition to coverage from the Catholic Channel, one channel will rebroadcast highlights of the Pope’s trip while another will broadcast historical speeches from past pontiffs.

The Catholic Channel, SIRIUS 159, will broadcast Papal events and hourly updates with the latest news and information on the Pope’s activities during his visit.  A press release from SIRIUS says that the Catholic Channel, an exclusive collaboration between SIRIUS radio and the Archdiocese of New York, will offer the “most comprehensive coverage available” of the Pope’s visits to Washington, D.C. and New York City. 

The Catholic Channel will carry all major Papal events and speeches live, including the Masses from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, the Youth Rally at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, and Pope Benedict's visits to the United Nations and Ground Zero. 

Hosts from the channel will broadcast live from the site of every public event.  Along with expert guests, the channel’s hosts will provide daily news and commentary on the papal visit and offer a forum for people throughout the United States to call in and discuss the historic event.

The Archbishop of New York, Edward Cardinal Egan, already hosts a show on the Catholic Channel. 

Another channel, Papal Playback on SIRIUS 143, will offer re-broadcasts of key moments from the Pope’s April trip, allowing listeners multiple opportunities to hear the Pope at his Masses and his public addresses.

Additionally, the Papal Archives Channel will air on SIRIUS channel 119 from Monday, April 14 through Sunday, April 20.  The channel’s archival recordings of Masses and speeches from historic papal visits will include Pope John Paul II’s 1979, 1987, and 1995 visits to the United States, Pope Paul VI’s 1965 visit, and an “extremely rare” recording of Pope Leo XIII singing the Ave Maria at the Vatican around 1902.

The Catholic Channel’s website is located at www.sirius.com/thecatholicchannel

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Anglican priest rewrites biblical stories making Goliath a drunkard, Eve a sex fiend

London, England, Mar 29, 2008 (CNA) - An Anglican vicar has tried to make Bible stories more “accessible” to modern readers by rewriting them to portray Goliath as a celebrity binge drinker, Eve as a sex addict, and Noah’s wife as a woman with murderous intentions towards her husband, the Daily Mail reports.
 
Reverend Robert Harrison’s book, titled “Must Know Stories," retells ten Bible stories.

In the story of the Nativity, Jesus is born in an overcrowded house instead of a stable.  Harrison’s story goes on to portray family conflict as Joseph’s aunt deals with the marital state of Joseph and Mary, who in Harrison’s retelling are unmarried.

Harrison said he wrote the book to encourage people to read stories "that are so utterly part of our culture.”  According to the Daily Mail, he said people should know the stories not as a matter of religion but as a matter of cultural education."

"I wanted to write a book that tells the most important Bible stories in a way that relishes them rather than tries to make any particular religious point.”

Rev. Harrison added, "After all, who knows what the point is?” 

"What is more important to me is that people are getting to know the stories,” he said.
Harrison, who preaches at a West London church, said, "It's better to tell the story controversially than not at all."

A Church of England spokesman said Harrison was “simply drawing parallels” between biblical stories and modern situations.  "It doesn't change the original stories," the spokesman said.

Others disagreed with Harrison's approach.

"It sounds to me as if it's gone much too far,” said Catholic MP Ann Widdecombe, according to the Daily Mail.  “It is one thing to give a biblical story a modern application and something quite different to distort all the facts."

Dr. Justin Thacker, the head of theology at the Evangelical Alliance, said, "In trying to communicate the stories to a contemporary audience some of the essential features and message may have been lost."

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