A Tale Of Two Princesses

Last week, the (developed) world held its breath for the birth of the new British baby whom we now know is a princess. And all the while, life kept happening…

rose

Last week, the (developed) world held its breath for the birth of the new British baby whom we now know is a princess. And all the while, life kept happening for everyone in the world. There were joys, struggles, suffering, death, and more joys. Everyday life.

But I couldn’t get over the stark contrast in which Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was welcomed at the same time that Francesca Marina, the daughter of a Nigerian refugee, was born on an Italian naval ship. I’d post her picture – she’s simply glorious – but so far I can’t find one that has an open copyright; so be sure to click here.

Her mother was in labor when they were rescued from an overcrowded boat of refugees in the Mediterranean. The article states that Francesca Marina was the sixth child to be born on a navy vessel since 2013.

And while I don’t generally find myself in the camp of nominalists, the images of both baby girls reminded me of Shakespeare’s  lines –

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Neither girl was able to choose the circumstances of her birth. Both bear witness to triumph in a disposable culture. Yes, more fuss was made about the royal birth than is to my liking; but there’s also something striking in the fact that this child had a significant portion of the world so focused on her birth. Seeing the pictures of the two babies reminded me yet again that every child, born and unborn, is a princess or a prince in the eyes of God. May our eyes be as his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UK’s “Catholic Herald” Reviews My Study Guide on St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Families.”

So, Francis Phillips at the Catholic Herald (UK) just reviewed a study guide that I prepared for St. John Paul II’s Letter to Families. The Letter was written in 1994 to…

Logo of the French Marriage Movement

Logo of the French Marriage Movement

So, Francis Phillips at the Catholic Herald (UK) just reviewed a study guide that I prepared for St. John Paul II’s Letter to Families. The Letter was written in 1994 to participate in the United Nations “Year of the Family.” While more than twenty years old, in many ways it couldn’t be more relevant.

Archbishop Chaput wrote the Forward. I provided the Introduction and the study questions. Phillips notes that there are two consistent aspects to the Saint’s work:

  • He was a philosopher and his work can be difficult to read, but
  • It’s worth it because he presents the Church’s teaching on marriage and family in all its beauty.

One of the study questions I proposed was:

Contemporary Western culture has separated radically the human body and the human spirit, to the point at which the two are often understood as wholly separate realities that have nothing to do with each other. Does this common mentality affect the way Catholics tend to think about the body, sexuality and marriage? Why and how does this tendency need to be corrected?

Phillips concludes that this is the key question that the 2015 Synod on the Family will have to address. I’m honored by his her recommendation. And the more I think about it, the more I think he’s she’s onto something. There’s no doubt that the extraordinary Synod last year generated a lot of confusion…for a lot of reasons. Good questions were raised about the irregular situations, especially the admission of the divorced and remarried to Communion. But those questions can’t begin to be be answered without clear anthropological and philosophical understandings which are then further developed by theological considerations. That’s a lot of work. Too much to be done in what is essentially a two-week working group of a few hundred bishops from around the world, most of whom don’t know each other. (If you’ve any doubt, think back to the last committee meeting you participated in…)

But it is work that can be begun by the upcoming Synod in 2015. I could be wrong, but I don’t see any other way of addressing not only the irregular situations, but those of the millions of people around the globe who want to live marriage and family as the Church proposes and find themselves in very ordinary situations that require preparation, enrichment, sustenance, and aid. In fact, this is what St. John Paul II called “the norm” in n. 5 of his Letter:

During the Year of the Family, prayer should first of all be an encouraging witness on the part of those families who live out their human and Christian vocation in the communion of the home. How many of them there are in every nation, diocese and parish! With reason it can be said that these families make up “the norm”, even admitting the existence of more than a few “irregular situations.” And experience shows what an important role is played by a family living in accordance with the moral norm, so that the individual born and raised in it will be able to set out without hesitation on the road of the good, which is always written in his heart.

He continues –

Unfortunately various programmes backed by very powerful resources nowadays seem to aim at the breakdown of the family. At times it appears that concerted efforts are being made to present as “normal” and attractive, and even to glamourize, situations which are in fact “irregular”. Indeed, they contradict “the truth and love” which should inspire and guide relationships between men and women, thus causing tensions and divisions in families, with grave consequences particularly for children.

And I’ll leave you to look up the conclusion of that paragraph…

What he wrote more than two decades ago seems as if it had been written for exactly the time we live in.

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My Podcast – Catholic Answers Live – Divorce, Remarriage, & Communion

On Monday, I was a guest on Catholic Answers Live to discuss something really easy and noncontroversial….marriage, divorce, etc. There were a lot of calls and the conversation centered mostly…

On Monday, I was a guest on Catholic Answers Live to discuss something really easy and noncontroversial….marriage, divorce, etc. There were a lot of calls and the conversation centered mostly around annulment.

Here’s the podcast.

A previous guest post: “Advice From An Annulment Advocate.”

And a previous post of mine: “Annulment: A  Right And A Healing.”

As we come up to the next Synod on the Family, it’s all too apparent that we, the Church, need to be doing a lot more to help people enter into and maintain healthy marriages.

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4 Things You Should Know About International Women’s Day

In Rome, International Women’s Day is celebrated with small bouquets of mimosa flowers. The guys that typically sell you umbrellas and odd gimmicks come armed with these bouquets only for…

mimosaIn Rome, International Women’s Day is celebrated with small bouquets of mimosa flowers. The guys that typically sell you umbrellas and odd gimmicks come armed with these bouquets only for today, a lovely gesture.

But my time in Rome taught me that International Women’s Day wasn’t as innocuous a celebration as it might sound. What I learned in Rome was word of mouth from those who grew up in communist or socialist countries, but there’s a current opinion piece by Antony Davies and James Harrigan in the Wall Street Journal that confirms the same. The article may require subscription access, but here are a few highlights –

  1. “[F]ew, if any, will note International Women’s Day’s origins in American socialism and Eastern European communism.”
  2. “The day was first declared by the American Socialist Party in 1909 and, in 1917, it set into motion a sequence of events that would become Russia’s February Revolution. Female workers went on strike that day to achieve “bread and peace” in the face of World War I.”
  3. “Leon Trotsky later concluded that this event inaugurated the revolution.”

Now, Davies and Harrigan go on to argue the merits of capitalism and conclude that the free markets are the best alternative to remedy any type of socio-economic inequity, including gender.

But I’d like to add a fourth point to their consideration of the origins of today’s commemoration.

4. Proposing International Women’s Day took the focus off of the celebration of women as mothers.

The name suggests that women are being celebrated in their entirety, whatever their role may be. But the celebrations instead focus exclusively on women’s participation in the labor/economics/government and do not include stay at home moms nor women as women. Mothers are included insofar are programs are required to support them working outside of the home. All women, similarly, are measured solely in terms of what they produce in an economy, not for who they are.

In no way do I wish to suggest that women should not be involved in every aspect of society. They certainly should.

But motherhood is an essential aspect of life for most women. While it may have challenges, it is also greatly desired. Consider the multi-billion dollar global industry that seizes on this desire for couples who struggle with infertility or the reactions of joy that many women express when they learn that they are expecting, not to mention the joys of countless experiences in family life well beyond childhood. Unfortunately, we’ve been taught that motherhood is just one aspect of multi-tasking, that it ought not to be the center of a woman’s (or a husband’s or a family’s) life. Celebrations like today reinforce the idea that women ought not to identify too closely with motherhood, that it is something which should be subjugated to other types of achievements.

In his Encyclical on work Laborem Exercens, St. John Paul II wrote:

[I]t will redound to the credit of society to make it possible for a mother – without inhibiting her freedom, without psychological or practical discrimination and without penalizing her as compared with other women – to devote herself to taking care of her children and educating them in accordance with their needs, which vary with age.

Sadly, today’s commemoration fails to represent and honor the women who willingly and freely choose to make their vocation as a mother a primary part of their identity, even at the cost of career achievements.

 

 

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The #1 reason I’m ok with the SNL skit about ISIS.

Irony. Sheer unadulterated tragic hilarious i.r.o.n.y. The first time I saw the video, I couldn’t stop laughing. My reaction had little to do with ISIS or terrorism. No, it was…

Irony. Sheer unadulterated tragic hilarious i.r.o.n.y.

The first time I saw the video, I couldn’t stop laughing. My reaction had little to do with ISIS or terrorism. No, it was Dakota Johnson. For weeks I’ve been musing over the fact that there has to be something really wrong with women/men/sex/relationships/marriage/the world. On the one hand, we’ve got millions of women reading 5o Shades of Grey and on the other we have women and young girls running off to become ISIS brides.

Some might say that they reflect opposing values. After all, 50 Shades is for independent minded women and ISIS is for women who want to be oppressed. But wait. Both promote violent abuse of women.

So, to have Dakota Johnson (who plays Anastasia Steele – the whipped and bound heroine of the 50 Shades movie) portraying a dim high school girl with romantic notions of running off to join ISIS is just perfect, perfect irony. Tragic, too. Whether running into the waiting arms of Christian Gray or an ISIS terrorist, the character is sadly the same, hence the same actress.

Watch the sketch for yourself –

I haven’t written on the 50 Shades movie since I think the whole brand equals garbage and I commented on the book a couple of years ago.

 

 

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CNN, “Finding Jesus”, & Conversation

So, I’ve been meaning to share the news of my new job; but things have been so busy that I never seem to get around to it. However, to situate…

cnn_jesus_keyart-200x300

Image courtesy of CNN.

So, I’ve been meaning to share the news of my new job; but things have been so busy that I never seem to get around to it. However, to situate this post, the background would help. On December 1, I started as the Associate Dean of the Augustine Institute’s new Orange County campus at Christ Cathedral. It’s been a great experience and I’ll be sharing more about the role in future posts.

Monday night, we joined  the Orange Catholic Foundation and the Diocese of Orange to host a screening of CNN’s upcoming series Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery. AI’s president Dr. Tim Gray is featured in four of the six episodes including the last one on the True Cross which we viewed at our event.

While one could quibble about some of the historical facts presented, the episode does a good job of introducing the Cross upon which Jesus was crucified as a relic and its significance as a symbol for Christians everywhere.

After the screening, Fr. Al Baca, the diocesan Vicar General for ecumenism facilitated a conversation between Tim Gray two orthodox priests. The conversation quickly turned from the discussion of the True Cross to the persecution of Christians, in particular the recent slaughter of the 21 Egyptians. Both priests were connected to communities in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.

The orthodox Coptic priest pointed out that the selection of the 21 was not random. They were selected because they were Christians. He explained that Christians in Egypt either have Christian names or “neutral” names (i.e. non Muslim names). Many also have a cross tattooed on their wrist as he did. The 21 were all given the chance to recant their faith. We know what choice they made.

But he went on to discuss the response of the families of the 21. Even the children, he said, greeted the news with joy because their loved ones are now martyrs and in Heaven. Many were sad for the perpetrators. (Kathryn Lopez has an excellent article here about this reaction.)

Starting with the screening itself, we weren’t set up for a very light conversation and the discussion of these new martyrs enhanced the somber atmosphere. But here’s the thing – everyone seemed to enjoy the conversation. We got nothing but positive feedback.

One of my many soapboxes is that we shouldn’t dumb/water down conversations. Certainly, we have to make topics and information accessible, but that’s not the same thing as reducing the substance of a conversation. This happens especially when it comes to weighty topics like the faith. I experienced it in my own formation of blah blah catechesis. It wasn’t until I went to college that I was actually given something substantial to think about and then, guess what, my faith started to make sense and I started to love it. Up to that point, I’d been given little that was even worthy of faith.

So, here’s hoping that this is the first of many “substantial events.” And while I can’t vouch for the entire Finding Jesus series, I do hope that it will be the sources of many conversations that help us  to have deeper conversations about our faith.

****Finding Jesus starts this Sunday, March 1 at 9 pm ET/PT on CNN. The six part series will end on Easter Sunday.
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Who’s Charlie Now?

It was just a few weeks ago, days really, that most people in France and many around the world were saying, even at the Golden Globes (right?), “Je suis Charlie,”…

It was just a few weeks ago, days really, that most people in France and many around the world were saying, even at the Golden Globes (right?), “Je suis Charlie,” [“I am Charlie.”] identifying with the staff at the French publication Charlie Hebdo who were brutally murdered by Islamic extremists.

While I am not a supporter of the content that Charlie Hebdo generated, I will defend their right to say what they said.

Interestingly, last week, a French court convicted three people for writing despicable tweets against homosexuals. Some of the tweets made claims that all homosexuals should be killed. But I doubt such speech would hold up as a viable threat in a court of law. It might provide circumstantial evidence were one of the authors to be accused of killing someone in this group, but it wouldn’t be a threat per se.

Clearly, these three individuals writing despicable content were not Charlie in the eyes of the court. But the content of Charlie Hebdo, arguably similarly despicable in many cases, was not convicted in a court of law and was extolled in public opinion. It was defended as satire. (Last week, I linked to a piece by George Weigel in which he argued that it was not satire, but something far more serious.)

Again, I don’t agree with the content of the tweets in question. But I fail to see how they’re not covered by free speech, no matter how deplorable. And, in any event, aren’t we actually safer when we know who such people are because they freely publicize it? To me that seems better than not knowing who they are, but fearing that they’re probably out there somewhere.

The Charlie references remind me, in a tragicomic way, of a joke that bum told a group of us coming out of a pub. (To get this, you’ll have to know something about 70s TV. We, admittedly, were a little slow on the uptake.) We were four, myself and three male friends. The bum stopped us and asked each of the men, “Are you Charlie?” Of course, none of them was and we had no idea what he was talking about. After he asked the last one, he asked them all, “Then what are you doing with this angel?” We all agree that he earned a tip for that one! [In case you need some help with the 70s cultural reference, it was the TV show “Charlie’s Angels.]

So who’s Charlie now after the buzz of a couple of weeks ago when world leaders gathered to lead a rally of millions in defense of free speech and as a stand against a violent reaction to free speech? After all, in both the case of the magazine and the individuals tweeting, the content was awful and not defensible except if one accepts the right to free speech. Neither group was yelling “Fire!” in a crowded space or talking about terrorist activity while standing in line at airport security.

Thoughts?

UPDATE. Here’s a thoughtful post by Luke O’Sullivan, written immediately after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. He gives several examples in France of those exercising free speech legitimately who were not granted the recognition and promotion of being “Charlie.”

 

 

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“Charlie Hebdo” – Free Speech Or A Very Different Issue Altogether?

The inexcusable and inhuman attacks on the staff of the French publication Charlie Hebdo have prompted some good discussion about free speech. But is free speech really the issue? George…

The inexcusable and inhuman attacks on the staff of the French publication Charlie Hebdo have prompted some good discussion about free speech. But is free speech really the issue? George Weigel writes what may be the most interesting article on this topic and maintains that the Charlie doesn’t actually fall under the category of satire. Rather its tone is closer to nihilism. The issue is not about rights, but about deeper philosophical considerations that shape our very understanding of the human person. Arguably, the nihilist consideration of the human person makes the question of rights irrelevant.

Weigel writes:

In the world of Charlie Hebdo, sadly, all religious convictions (indeed all serious convictions about moral truth) are, by definition, fanaticism—and thus susceptible to the mockery of the “enlightened.” But that crude caricature of religious belief and moral conviction is false; it’s adolescent, if not downright childish; it inevitably lends itself to the kind of vulgarity that intends to wound, not amuse; and over the long haul, it’s as corrosive of the foundations of a decent society as the demented rage of the jihadists who murdered members of Charlie Hebdo’s staff.

The sophomoric nastiness regularly displayed in Charlie Hebdo most certainly does not constitute any sort of warrant for homicide; the incapacity of some Muslims to live in pluralistic societies and the rage to which those incapacities lead is a grave threat to the West. The question is: What do those two truths have to do with each other?

Here’s my suggestion: You can’t beat something with nothing—perhaps better, you can’t beat something with nothingness.

The entire piece is worth a thoughtful read and a good discussion. Are we in a post-Christian era? Has it created a void that spawns extremism? I will defend the right to free speech, but it’s hard for me to imagine the content of Charlie Hebdo as the product of a living Christian culture, indeed as the product of any culture that is ordered towards life.

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