Friday, February 3, 2017

How Hallmark Destroyed Marriage

“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.”
These classic words from The Princess Bride, although innocuously sweet sounding, holds two of the most dangerous words to western civilization. “Tru wuv” or rather true love. This may lead you to ask, “What is the matter with you, are you a robot?” I have a great deal wrong with me, and no, I am no robot but actually a hopeless sentimental. Great love songs and sappy movies are my bane, yet I tearfully struggle through them. I love my wife and still remember shedding tears when I first saw her on our wedding day when she stepped through the church door to Pachelbel’s Cannon. Romance is not lost on me.
Despite my own mushy leanings, I contend that these words can be a black hole of sentiment that  lead unsuspecting lovers to broken hearts. Hallmark greeting cards, Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day, Hollywood, romance novels, all fuel this dark singularity. Some of you are probably screaming, "Black hole? Singularity? What could possibly be so dangerous with romance?" Well, for Christians, specifically Catholics, our deeply held belief of the Sacramental nature of Marriage is at stake.
At one particularly moving wedding homily, a priest first told the following joke: “There are three rings in marriage. The engagement ring, the wedding ring, and suffer ring.” After raucous laughter he continued with a profound interpretation, “All joking aside, marriage is a sacrament precisely because you are called to witness to the suffering of Christ. Just as Christ loves us in our darkest moments when our actions show we despise Him, you must love your spouse precisely when romance is gone and you don’t feel the warmth of infatuation.”
What? The warm feelings surrounding a wedding won’t always last? I am called to love my spouse even when they aren’t loving me? What happened to happily ever after? Society has forgotten the depth and power of the marriage bond and the symptoms of this illness are everywhere you look. No fault divorce allowing one spouse to abandon the other without cause, children in poverty with unwed parents far more prevalent, sexual deviance justified because they ask what’s wrong with their “love”, young people waiting so long to marry they miss out on having children, etc. I could give you further reading but you could find mountains yourself and you probably don’t even need it to be convinced. It is easy to observe the breakdown  around us.
The Church hasn’t wavered from its positions regarding the nature of marriage, and rightly so, but teaching from the pulpit, focus within Catholic education, and reinforcement from parents and family has been woefully inadequate. As Catholic writers, parents, catechists, and parishioners the virtues of marriage as a sacrament must always be on our lips. We can affirm the joy a couple feels at a wedding, but more importantly we must extol the fidelity of a spouse who stands vigilant at their sweetheart’s deathbed. We must encourage each other to weather the pains of small annoyances so when we have to suffer greater indignities, especially for the good of innocent children, we have the grace and courage to do so. Through this discipline and effort can our society recover.
This St. Valentine’s Day it would be fruitful to meditate on the saint for whom the day is named. St. Valentine, who suffered and died for the glory of marriage, pray for us.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

More #ProLife Than You

Image result for mother teresa pro life meme

Let me save people some time. If, despite all of the facts, you still believe that before birth a fetus is just a clump of cells that are part of the mother's body with which she can do whatever she likes, you can stop reading because nothing I say after this is relevant to you. You must a) be ignorant of scientific facts or b) willfully adhere to a political persuasion that is impervious to reason. I wish you well and I hope you have a change of heart in the future.

This blog is for people who understand in a perfect world there would be no abortions because you know that a human life is being killed. The only thing is we do not live in perfect world and there are different opinions on how life should be protected.

With the Women's March closely followed by the March for Life, social media is aflame with nonstop discussions on the concept of being #ProLife. Here are two memes that have many similar replicates in cyber space that I have seen making the rounds.

No automatic alt text available.Image result for slavery abortion meme

The first meme would be the calling card for those who feel that people who are "obsessed" with ending abortion should care more about children who have already been born. They would also include helping poor mothers with children, family leave laws, refugee help, etc. The basic gripe being that the Republican party has a pro-life stance in its platform but also historically does not directly address the life issues mentioned above. All points merit attention.

The second meme would be the philosophical position of people who understand abortion as a marginalization of human life, even if not seen. The failure of a society to recognize the injustice of killing innocent life is front and foremost in the minds of those who would circulate these meme. The connections are haunting and relevant.

It has been very disheartening reading the vitriolic interplay between people who may likely be allies against the Enemy if we only put aside our petty differences and stopped yelling past each other.

Both sides are calling each other out for not being Pro-Life enough. So I decided to blow the argument apart and refer to an individual that was MORE Pro-Life than you, or me. Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Except for secular humanist lunatics like Christopher Hitchens, who infamously referred to Mother as "a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud," she is almost universally regarded as a person who encompassed both parts of the Pro-Life cause. She clearly lived her life in service to the poor, often women and children, inspiring millions with her missionary work. She extolled the importance of loving the poor as if Jesus was the one receiving your love. She picked up the dying from filthy streets to give them the dignity they deserved as human beings before they breathed their last.

She also understood the threat that abortion was to society. She eloquently explained that any country that believes that a mother should have the right to kill her child exists in abject moral poverty that will lead to all other social disasters that result from that ill. The question "And if we can accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?" There is no response to this. Abortion is like cancer. It is an unseen killer. You do not see its effects until the sickness spreads into other parts of the body and wreaks untold havoc on the whole person.

Mother Teresa was completely Pro-life. She sacrificed her life for the poor. She proclaimed justice for the unborn. There are not two Pro-Lifes. There is only one. We cannot all live Mother Teresa's life but we are called to try. The Saints inspire us and need to follow. I will leave you with the ending of Saint Teresa's Nobel Speech. I can't do the subject any better justice.

"One evening a gentleman came to our house and said, there is a Hindu family and the eight children have not eaten for a long time. Do something for them. And I took rice and I went immediately, and there was this mother, those little one's faces, shining eyes from shear hunger. She took the rice from my hand, she divided into two and she went out. When she came back, I asked her, where did you go? What did you do? And one answer she gave me: They are hungry also. She knew that the next door neighbor, a Muslim family, was hungry.
What surprised me most, not that she gave the rice, but what surprised me most, that in her suffering, in her hunger, she knew that somebody else was hungry, and she had the courage to share, share the love. And this is what I mean, I want you to love the poor, and never turn your back to the poor, for in turning your back to the poor, you are turning it to Christ. For he had made himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, so that you and I have an opportunity to love him, because where is God? How can we love God? It is not enough to say to my God I love you, but my God, I love you here. I can enjoy this, but I give up. I could eat that sugar, but I give that sugar. If I stay here the whole day and the whole night, you would be surprised of the beautiful things that people do, to share the joy of giving. And so, my prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in our homes, and from the foot of prayer will be that we believe that in the poor it is Christ. And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbor in the country we live, in the whole world. And let us all join in that one prayer, God give us courage to protect the unborn child, for the child is the greatest gift of God to a family, to a nation and to the whole world. God bless you!"

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Real Problem with Obamacare

President Obama started his presidency with an all out bull rush to create a behemoth piece of legislation called the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka Obamacare). I am not here to debate it's merits or faults as far as policy matters are concerned. You can find mountains of information on both sides anywhere you look these days.

President Trump will seemingly start his presidency in a mad rush to repeal the healthcare law. Again, I am not going to write about the pro's and con's of that endeavor.

I have sadly read Facebook posts made by Christians, friends and strangers, both for and against Obamacare, that make me shudder. To make matters worse both sides fling the "You are not a Christian because..." line around casually as if we weren't brothers and sisters of the same Lord. 

So what do I think is the Real Problem with Obamacare? As Christians we should all be concerned that the ACA is a physical and secular band-aid response to a spiritual crisis. To expound on this I am going to rely on some work done by Christina Merhar in her article, 7 Reasons for Rising Health Care Costs. You can read her article either before or after, just please don't read it in lieu of mine. ☺
I have taken her reasons and tried to explain the spiritual illness that leads to health care cost disaster.

Seven Reasons for Rising Health Care Costs

1. We reward medical providers for doing more, rather than being efficient
Doctors are people too (unlike lawyers, 😂) They get tired, feel the pressure of being busy, and also want to get through their day in a path of least resistance. They are not paid to make you healthy, they are paid to provide you services that make you feel good right now or at least make you think that you will get better. This means prescriptions, advanced testing, follow up visits, etc. All of these things get you out the door in a quick way where they don't need to discuss ways for you to actually live healthier lives. 

Christian solution:
Without singling out doctors, we all could take our jobs more seriously as solemn vocations. We are called by God to treat each moment as sacred and work as divinely appointed instead of an a) drudgery to get through or b) solely a means for financial gain.
Time is wasted, effort is not given, and talent is not fully utilized and none of this is likely to change due to Obamacare. The dignity of work is a spiritual crisis.

2. We're older, sicker, and fatter
Nothing is more of a spiritual crisis than obesity. Sloth and gluttony are two of the deadly sins that we all are constantly in danger of committing in this country. While our wealth and living in excess put our immortal souls in danger, they also put our bodies are at risk. 
The more ghastly issue is that a huge chunk of health care costs are spent in the last month of people's lives. In the case of the elderly, there are often extraordinary measures taken to prolong lives for months, weeks, even days.

Christian solution:
Explaining the virtues of fasting, temperance, and moderation for the obesity and health issues and living out our vocations to the fullest for the end of life issue. The first is simple enough in discussion but needs fortitude and perseverance in practice. The second is much more murky. Simply living virtuous and saintly lives does not automatically make one ready to slip away into a sweet sleep with the Lord. I cannot say what I will feel when my last days are upon me (if I even have the luxury of avoiding a tragic death) but I have witnessed elderly loved ones accepting the embrace of death knowing they lived their lives to the fullest and I hope that I will be able to emulate their bittersweet exit.

The spiritual crisis that is already here and will only get worse is that many people are not living lives filled with purpose and meaning. Add a lack of belief in an afterlife and you will only see a staggering growth in how much people will spend in order to take a few more breaths. Even those who lead spiritually fulfilling lives and prepare themselves for Heaven can feel the real desire to remain with their loved ones. Nothing is wrong with that, but I hope you can see what could happen when everyone lives longer and the refusal to let go becomes greater in an increasingly secular society.

3. New drugs, technologies, and procedures are expensive
This is unavoidable, but factor in how many prescribed treatments are due to a spiritual imbalance which leads to physical or mental issues requiring drugs. The number of people who take mood/sleep/anxiety/hypertension drugs is disconcerting and ever growing.
Christian solution: answer pop psychology with real solutions for mental health through prayer, reflection, and spiritual healing.

4. Employer-sponsored health benefits are tax-free, so most consumers don't pay directly for their health care
I have a coworker who puts money in her son's lunch account for school. She is constantly amazed how he blows through his monthly allotment by purchasing additional snacks or desserts. This type of indiscriminate spending occurs in health care as well. Kids got the sniffles? $25 copay at the doctor. Feeling a little blue? $10 for prozac. Those aren't the real costs, but people don't fully understand how frivolous health care spending boosts premiums.
Christian solution: The concept of solidarity is lost in our society. President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Bernie Sanders ran on, "Ask not what you can do, but what we can do for you." We do not speak about living for each other or making sacrifice, but we need to. We need to be good stewards of our health care spending just like our wages.

5. We (consumers) don't have enough information to make fully informed decisions about medical care, and it's cost
Virtually everyone has access to more knowledge on the internet than ever before in history, but most people use the internet to superficially socialize or worse. There is something very Christian about learning and reason despite what the atheist prophets proclaim. We just seem to be going along with the flow.
Christian solution: There needs to be more of an attention to scholarship in our community. More reading, less tv. More study, less empty social media. Why do less people know about the faith when more access is there to learn about it?
6. Hospitals and other providers are increasingly gaining market share and are better able to demand higher prices
The Christian solution to this is far down the road. When nuns and brothers ran hospitals fully staffed by religious costs where minuscule. The poor had access to quality and caring service. We allowed society to squeeze out the religious life.  No one speaks of it. I make it a point to tell my kids that the celibate life is still a choice. How many people do?
7. Fear of malpractice lawsuits drives spending
Christian solution: Forgiveness, easy to say hard to practice.

You will hear a lot about Obamacare for some time, but who will truly lead us to a better future in terms of our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Obama didn't and I don't expect Trump to do it either. Let me know if you find someone who really gets it.