Over the years, I have noticed a discrepancy in the way parents treat their children’s ambitions. Parents often tell their young children that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. But do they really mean it? Fast forward several years, and have these same children – now young adults – tell their parents that their goals in life do not include higher education or a reputable career, but that all they really want to do is drive a garbage truck, or be a cashier in a fast food drive-thru window. All of a sudden, the support disappears and is quickly replaced with talk of wasted potential and the need for a respectable living.
In my last column, I looked at the connection between birth control, promiscuity, and abortion. In this column, I would like to examine how “the Pill” has distorted the general understanding of womanhood, dating and marriage relationships, and the blessing of children.My observations are based on a website launched by Planned Parenthood in honor of the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill in America. The website encourages people to leave comments celebrating the ways in which the Pill has improved their lives. What the comments themselves indicate, however, is that women today have fallen into a “birth control mentality” that places pleasure and convenience above commitment and truth. Some women start taking birth control because they genuinely believe that it is the responsible way to plan their family, but even the comments of these well-intentioned women reveal a misunderstanding of basic human dignity.Many women left comments on the website saying that the Pill provided “freedom” and “independence,” claiming that it was “liberating” and “empowering” for them. These comments reveal a mindset that views a woman’s natural fertility as an obstacle to be overcome, a burden from which one must be freed.One woman said that she “felt like a woman” when she started taking the Pill. Another said, “The pill has allowed me to become the woman I am today.” These women claim to discover their womanhood by suppressing their fertility, a crucial aspect of their feminine nature. However, true womanhood cannot be found by extinguishing the nature of woman, but rather by embracing it. This idea is common in a culture in which the birth control mentality flourishes. Too often, women seek their dignity and identity in the suppression of that which makes them female. They try to become more like men, thinking that doing so will somehow raise their worth. The denial of the beautiful natural differences between men and women is illustrated in one woman’s comment, “Birth Control helps me to feel like everyone else, men and women.” Man and woman were not created to be identical; they were made to be complementary. The birth control mentality loses sight of this important reality.Many women also said that they went on the Pill when they entered a “serious relationship.” Serious here is synonymous with sexual. The obvious implication is that any serious relationship must include sex, and indeed, that a sexual dimension is what makes a relationship serious. With this mindset, the Pill becomes a necessary part of the dating process. The Pill not only accommodates the mindset that dating and sex are necessarily connected, but it fosters it as well. One woman spoke of using the Pill because she wanted to wait to have children until “after I was sure my marriage was going to work.” This statement is a sad sign of the times. Gone are the days when marriage was assumed to be for life, when husbands and wives were committed to working out their differences, when the words “til death do us part” were real vows that a couple took seriously and upheld in more than 50% of marriages. In a world where marriage is no longer stable, children are no longer welcomed as a blessing.This false understanding of the value of children is another characteristic of the comments left on Planned Parenthood’s website. The opportunity to bring a new life into the world is not seen a blessing. Rather, women refer to potential babies as “a disaster” and a “burden.” What a horrible disrespect for human life! This “disaster” and “burden” being discussed is a human person! One woman even said, “The fact that I didn't produce any children to contribute to all of the problems caused by overpopulation is the most important accomplishment of my life.” What a sad misunderstanding of human life that would lead someone to think this way. Sadly, the birth control mentality that stresses personal choice and convenience over the sacred dignity of human life cannot see the true value of the human person. The prevalence of this disrespectful attitude towards human life and the misunderstanding of the beauty of fertility is found in some of the more illogical comments on the site. For example, one woman lamented her mother’s death in childbirth, saying “I am one of her ten children. I can't help but think that my children would have a grandma if the pill had been available to her.” Another woman voiced a similar sentiment, saying, “Sadly the Pill came too late for my grandmother who died in childbirth leaving four children.” Do these women realize what they are suggesting? Women rarely go on birth control after having multiple children. And if their mothers and grandmothers had been using birth control from the start, they would have had fewer children. Thus, these commenters are wishing that either they or one (or likely several) of their family members had never existed.The comments on the website reveal that couples who try to control the finer details of their families through contraception show a drastic tendency to welcome fewer children into their lives. Parents posted proud comments about their one or two children and thanked the Pill for their ability to have only carefully-planned and specifically-prepared-for babies without any additional children to burden them. Rather than welcoming all potential children as a blessing, the birth control mentality sees children as a blessing only so far as they are sought and planned for. If not, they are a hardship that no parent should have to endure. As children become a commodity and contraception becomes a “right,” women begin wishing that their mothers and grandmothers had been spared the burden of unsought children. They cannot fathom the idea that perhaps their mothers and grandmothers viewed all potential children as a blessing and therefore welcomed them all. Rather than viewing a child's worth in terms of “planned” and “wanted,” many women in previous generations joyfully and lovingly welcomed all children as a gift from God and the fruit of their marital love.On the same website, Planned Parenthood states, “In the coming months, federal officials will consider measures that will dramatically increase access” to birth control. This is presumably a reference to health reform regulations taking shape after the recent passage of the Affordable Care Act. This is a dangerous campaign on the part of Planned Parenthood. If contraception is considered “basic health care” that insurance companies are required to cover, the Pill will be more accessible than ever. More women than ever before will be led into the “birth control mentality.” The consequences for our nation would be devastating. Let us pray that more women come to realize the dangerous effects of such a mentality and recognize their own God-given dignity, as well as the worth of each human life.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill in America. To celebrate this occasion, Planned Parenthood has launched a website for people to leave comments in tribute to how “the Pill” has changed their lives for the better.
After 40 days of Lent and 50 days of Easter, we have plunged back into Ordinary Time. But before doing so, we were given the great Feast of Pentecost, which the Church celebrated last Sunday. The readings at Mass on that day recalled how the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ’s followers, completely changing their lives. The same weak and timid men who had abandoned Christ at his crucifixion and hidden in the upper room for fear of the Jews were now boldly proclaiming his name in the streets, speaking in tongues, and filled with courage to the point of martyrdom. What could cause such a startling transformation in the lives of these men? The Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Trinity, whom they had received in a rushing wind and tongues of fire at Pentecost.
As the weather grows warmer and the school year draws to a close, college students start scrambling to finish semester projects, study for exams, and finalize summer plans. Caught up in the hectic whirlwind that so often accompanies this time of year, it can be easy to let our prayer lives fall to the side as we focus on all the urgent things that demand our attention. But instead of losing track of our priorities, let’s remember why prayer is so important and look for ways to make it part of our everyday lives.
We’re almost there. On Palm Sunday, we entered into Holy Week. This, the most holy week of the liturgical year will culminate in the Triduum, when we celebrate Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. As we conclude the season of Lent, let us take a look at the Christ’s life on Earth. The Incarnation is one of the central truths of the Catholic faith. But it is also one that is easy to take for granted. This is especially for those who have been Catholics their entire lives, taught since they were little that Jesus is both God and man.
Have you ever had one of those days where nothing goes right? Where your words come out all wrong, you mess up everything you try to accomplish, and whatever you touch seems to crumble in your hands? Days like this can make it easy to get discouraged.
Happy New Year! As January comes to a close, it’s hard to believe that we’ve already completed almost a month of 2010. With the changing of the calendars came New Year’s resolutions for many people. Browsing websites, magazines, and radio commercials over the last several weeks, I’ve seen and heard dozens of references to such resolutions. Common ones that seemed to keep reappearing included losing weight and getting fit, saving money and getting out of debt, or quitting a habit such as smoking.These are all good goals and they will benefit those who accomplish them. It is certainly important to keep our bodies healthy and to live moderately. But these goals all seem to have a physical, material focus. Where on this list is “praying more,” “being more generous in sharing my talents and blessings with the poor,” or “spending more time with my family?” Surely these things are also important, yet so many people seem to forget them. Is it possible that we have our priorities so mixed up that it is illustrated even in our New Year’s resolutions? Is it possible that people are so caught up in attaining the perfect body and having lots of money and possessions that they have forgotten the spiritual goods they should also be seeking?Trying to be healthy and wanting to save money are not bad things, and if these are your resolutions for this year, I applaud your determination. But why not add a spiritual resolution as well? Maybe it means praying a rosary every day or trying to make it to weekday Mass once a week. Maybe it means volunteering at a local food bank or hospital once a month. Whatever it may be, I challenge you to make a spiritual resolution for 2010. It’s not too late to start!You may find that you can even incorporate your spiritual resolution into the other resolution you already made. Going for a morning run? Pray the rosary as you jog. Headed to the gym? Grab a spiritual book to read on the bike or treadmill. Cutting back on afternoon snacks? Donate that money to charity.In addition, the sacrifices that you make in the process of achieving your other New Year’s resolutions can help build virtue. An effective work-out routine requires patience, and dieting calls for self discipline. Cutting back on spending requires prudence in budgeting. See what virtues you can build as you strive to reach your goals this year.Finally, as you work diligently to meet your goals, remember to give thanks to God for all the blessings He has given you. Striving to improve ourselves where we fall short is good, but we don’t want to focus on our imperfections so much that we forget all the wonderful things we have been blessed with. Gratitude is important. May you have a happy, healthy, and holy 2010!
I am currently in the process of looking for a new cell phone. I am eligible for a free upgrade with my current phone plan, and since the battery on my current phone is rapidly wearing out, I decided that it was time to start looking for a new one.If you have been to a phone store lately, you will know the wide array of choices that are currently available. Even after browsing through the options online and making a visit to a nearby store, I was hesitant to make a decision. There were so many choices, and I wanted to make sure I picked the perfect phone. After all, this is going to be the phone I will use for two whole years until I am eligible for my next free upgrade!Of course, when I stop to think about it, I quickly realize that a new phone is nothing to agonize over. Two years spent with a mediocre phone is certainly not the end of the world, and basic functionality is more important than a plethora of features. So why was I so scared to commit? My hesitance to commit to something as simple as a phone is common in a culture that makes it easy to avoid committing to anything. Cell phone companies allow you to pay month-by-month instead of committing to a year-long contract. Colleges allow you to add or drop classes half-way through a semester in case you change your mind about them. The average college student will change majors several times in the course of his or her college career. In addition, almost anything you buy today comes with a refund so you can always return it if you decide you don’t like it. And I regularly see young people making tentative plans for an evening or weekend, only to change them when a better offer comes along. Fear of commitment has taken over our society and the results are catastrophic. A few weeks ago, I came across a shocking article on a major news website that suggested that it was no longer reasonable to expect couples to stay married until death do them part. The “experts” interviewed for the article asserted that a lifetime commitment between spouses may not be a realistic expectation in today’s world. Such monogamy, they said, was a thing of the past, merely a useful social convention that is on its way out and will soon vanish even as an ideal.The “experts” compared the ability to remain faithful for life to the ability to play a Beethoven violin concerto, ice skate well, or learn a new language, portraying it as a skill possessed by some but certainly not a feat that could reasonably be expected of everyone. The article then went on to suggest that Americans take adultery too seriously and should be more open and welcoming to the idea of infidelity within a marriage.The article appalled me as it portrayed human beings as unable to resist sexual temptation or to choose a life of fidelity to a single spouse. Yet the truth remains that 50% of American marriages do not last. Prenuptial agreements are also common and are indicative of the attitude that the marriage might not last. Our culture has made it easy to avoid making and honoring commitments, and this shift in mindset has deeply wounded our society.Serious commitments are a part of life. God wants us to make – and honor - a serious commitment to live Christian lives for Him. More specifically, we are called to commit to a certain vocation, a lifetime commitment through good times and bad. This is not only for marriage, but also for consecrated and religious life as well. No matter what our vocation, we are called to make a commitment and see it through to the end, persevering when difficult times come, and not running away at the first sign of struggle.Am I saying that you should never change your mind about anything, switch your major, or change your cell phone company? No. Of course not. But I think it can be insightful to a) recognize the fear of commitment that pervades every aspect of our culture today, b) see how this failure to commit causes serious problems in society, and c) realize how to distinguish the most important commitments in life from those that are secondary.Commitment doesn’t begin with marriage or religious vows. Try practicing commitment as we enter this season of Advent. Commit to strengthening your prayer life in a very concrete, specific way every day over the next four weeks. Commit to being more involved in a volunteer organization. Follow through on the commitments that you make, building up self-discipline in the process. Help change the mindset of today’s culture into one where commitments are honored and people follow through on their promises.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a decision that stirred up a great deal of controversy and indignation from some who protested that the prize was undeserved. Some dissenters said that the President has merely issued empty promises, but he has failed to make any concrete progress in achieving peace.In the midst of this debate, I looked up a list of past Nobel Peace Prize winners to identify some of the other individuals and organizations who had been deemed worthy of this distinction. One individual who caught my eye was the 1979 recipeint of the Nobel Prize. She was a less-controversial candidate and she had left a clear stamp on the effort for peace in the world:. She is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. 30 years ago, the Nobel Committee honored the work of this humble nun who labored without complaint in the streets of Calcutta. What did Mother Teresa do to help work for peace? She simply loved. Love. Charity. It is a simple concept and the greatest of the virtues, but how often we forget its importance! It is the instruction of the Lord at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I have loved you,” (Jn. 15:12) and it continues to be His instruction to us today. Love makes all the difference in the world.Many of the Jewish people were expecting their Messiah to come in the form of an earthly military leader who would overthrow Roman rule. How surprising it must have been to discover that the Promised One had come as a humble carpenter! But the influence of that humble carpenter cannot be overstated. In fact, he changed the world! How? He loved - to the point of death. And humanity will never be the same.Through His life and death, Christ has shown us that the answer to our problems lies in love. When we identify the challenges of the modern world, it is tempting to seek a solution in a charismatic political leader who will call for diplomatic negotiations, in an economic system that will distribute resources equally to all, or in advances in technology that will allow the human race to do things never before thought possible. But Christ reminds us that genuine love is the only solution that will bring lasting peace. If we want to work for peace, we must work for love. This message is one that we all must remember. It is true for each one of us, not just the President. It is easy to point our fingers at Obama and complain that he does not merit such an award. That may be true, but before we cast a stone at our brother, let us examine our own lives. Yes, the United States President certainly has an obligation to take concrete steps to work for peace, but so do we. It is not necessary to be a prominent politician or renowned celebrity to spread peace. In fact, St. Francis of Assisi was better able to be a “channel of God’s peace” once he had renounced his worldly status and wealth. His greatest contribution to peace came once he had surrendered his prestigious position and committed himself to living in simplicity and humility. With this lifestyle, he was able to spread God’s peace in the world around him. Take a look at your life: what are you doing to spread peace in your own way? Each one of us might do so differently, based on our individual surroundings, but our efforts are valuable nonetheless. As long as we can love one another, we can work for peace, which should be a goal we strive for every day.Ultimately, debating whether or not a specific individual such as President Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t accomplish much. Instead, we ought to examine what it is that we ourselves are doing to work towards peace. We may not be politicians, but we can still promote peace in our world. The key to peace does not lie with the President. It lies in each of our hearts.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
As the summer comes to a close, students across the country prepare to head back to school. For many, this means returning to a familiar campus, classes, and friends. But for the freshmen, it is the beginning of an exciting adventure into the unknown. After two years of college, my experiences and observations have given me some insight into the common obstacles that come with the adjustment to college. With this in mind, I would like to offer some advice to those beginning college, and some reminders for those of us who are returning students:
Book written by: Rev. Edward Sherman
Last August, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi caused a stir when she made some questionable statements on Meet the Press. Pelosi described herself as an “ardent, practicing Catholic,” and said that abortion is an issue that she has “studied for a long time.” She then went on to say that abortion is an “issue of controversy” in the Church, one that has never been definitively decided one way or the other.
On the evening of June 12, a small group of consecrated laywomen celebrated the 10th anniversary of their apostolic ministry in the Archdiocese of Denver. The Marian Community of Reconciliation, called fraternas, arrived in Denver from Latin America on Dec. 12, 1998, and were the first of their community to establish roots in the United States.
Ah, summer! That wonderful time each year when students get to relax and take a break from their hard work and strenuous studies. But for many college students, summer is not simply about relaxing. Rather, many students use their free months to work, whether at a work-study job for school, an internship for college credit, or simply a job at a local restaurant or movie theater.
Pope Benedict XVI recently concluded an eight-day visit to the Holy Land, during which he again and again proclaimed a message of peace, healing and reconciliation for both the regional and universal Church. During his flight to the Holy Land, interviewers asked the Pope about the contribution he could offer to the peace process in the Middle East. The Holy Father responded, "I shall seek to contribute to peace not as an individual but in the name of the Catholic Church, and of the Holy See. We are not a political power, but a spiritual force." The idea of peace became a major theme of the trip, and the Pope explained ways that the Catholic Church as a whole, as well as individuals within it, are able to contribute to peace throughout the world.
I have spent this semester studying abroad in Rome, and it has been a wonderful experience. Over the last four months, I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel all over Europe, as well as to spend time really getting to know the Eternal City. Of the many wonderful things I have been able to do, one of the highlights of the semester has definitely been attending all the Papal activities over the Easter Triduum this year.
On Friday, March 20, the University of Notre Dame released the news that United States President Barack Obama will deliver the school’s commencement address this May. In addition, the University announced its intent to award Obama an honorary doctoral degree at the ceremony. This controversial decision has gained much publicity in recent days, making headlines in both Catholic and secular news. Widespread protest groups have made their voices heard, and an online petition has gathered over 220,000 signatures in less than a week. Additionally, the bishop of the area has announced that he will not attend the commencement. But while some are outraged, others adamantly continue to support the decision. Are the protestors overreacting or do they have a valid point in claiming that Notre Dame’s actions are unacceptable for a Catholic university?
With the celebration of Ash Wednesday on February 25, we find ourselves in the season of Lent, an annual season of repentance within the Church. Mass attendance on Ash Wednesday is not obligatory, yet more Catholics attend Mass on this day than on many Holy Days of Obligation. Why is this? What is it about receiving ashes on our foreheads and hearing a message of repentance that appeals to us? Perhaps it is the understanding we all know, deep down, that we are mortal. We will all one day die, and our bodies will turn to ashes, just like the ones we receive on our foreheads.