Monday, December 14, 2009

Gaudete Sunday

We went to Mass at St. Matthew's this Sunday. I love the Basilica but it is a bit of a drive from our home on the south side of town, especially since I am habitually late for Mass! St. Matthew's is also starting to feel more like home. I think it's especially fortuitous that the parish's patron is also my DH's patron saint. I now make a habit of asking for his intercession, especially since my husband is still looking for work.

From the Gospel passage, this is what spoke to me:
The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Notice what John the Baptist doesn't tell them to do. He doesn't tell all the people that they should all live in the desert and eat locusts as he does. He doesn't tell the tax collectors or the soldiers to quit their jobs. Instead, he tells them to serve God honestly in their everyday lives. Notice also that he does not promote an attitude of, "I'm okay, you're okay" or any kind of self-satisfaction with the way they are already living! Even though they aren't called to live ascetically, they are called to change their lives nevertheless. This is an important message for us in Advent time.

God doesn't necessarily want me to show up at the lab in sackcloth and ashes and start preaching fire and brimstone to all other the grad students. He is calling me, though, to do my job thoroughly, work diligently, and glorify Him in all I do. I pray I may live up to the calling and avoid falling into an attitude of complacency.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Women and the Academic Life

Last night I went to a small event for women grad students which included a question-and-answer panel with three women faculty members from the College of Engineering. My fellow grad students had a lot of good questions. One student asked, "What do you consider the biggest barrier to advancement for women in academia?" Almost immediately the answer was, "Having children." One of the woman professors had a small child and she explained that although ND has fairly good policies, it is still very stressful and the perception of women professors who choose to have children can sometimes be damaged. There is a policy here where a woman professor can "pause" the tenure clock after having a child, in effect gaining an extra year before the tenure review, which is typically in the 7th year after appointment. Although she was still teaching and doing research, returning to work six weeks (!) after her baby's birth, the perception was that she had an unfair advantage because of the extra year! She explained that she practiced attachment parenting (AP) and breastfed full-time, and that her son never took a bottle. I was thoroughly impressed with her since I think it would be challenging even for a full-time mom to do these things.

I don't think it was a coincidence that neither of the other two women had children (although I am not sure, I don't think they are married either). Academia can be a very stressful environment, and women bear the added burden of home and family responsibilities. It makes me sad that I even have to describe having children as a "burden." As of now I am steadfast in my goal of going into academia, but the more I hear other women talk about it, the more I realize that goal may very well change.

Sometimes I feel as though women like me get it from all sides. From secular colleagues we face the perception of being "unserious" if we choose to prioritize children above work. When I express that I would love to have children, fellow students tend to look askance at me. From traditional and conservative Catholics, we face accusations of being selfish because we choose to work. It really irritates me that in some Catholic circles, the implication is that you are a "bad mother" and "unwomanly" if you have any ambition or desire beyond that of being a SAHM. I've been excoriated several times on Catholic forums for daring to suggest that women can and should work for reasons other than extreme financial necessity. It makes little sense to me that God would give gifts and talents to all people and then expect half of the human race never to use those gifts. I have the utmost respect for SAHMs - my own mother was one - but to have it implied that I am a "bad Catholic" for not wanting to be one is really galling, especially when Church teaching says nothing of the kind.

I also think that Notre Dame can and should do more to support a balanced family life among faculty and students with children. The policy on pausing the tenure clock is a good one, when compared to secular universities, but is that enough to foster a healthy family life as the Church envisions it? I'm thinking no. Being supportive of families requires more than a good maternity leave policy. For example, I was surprised that the day care center on campus does not accept children younger than 2 years. (I know some Catholics think that if you put your kids in day care, you might as well feed them to Moloch, but it's a reality of modern life and it would be best for the very little ones to at least be on campus and in a Catholic environment.) I feel the goal should be, "As a Catholic university, we honor the primacy of the family in the spirit of Catholic teaching" rather than, "Hey, at least we're more family friendly than Harvard or Yale!"

There are no quick and easy answers here. Right now the best I can do is work hard, keep my options open, and be willing to go wherever God leads me, even if it ends up not being the path I would have chosen for myself.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dappled Things Magazine

A big thank you to Shrine of the Holy Whapping for pointing me towards this month's issue of Dappled Things. The feature story is written by John C. Wright, one of my very favorite Catholic bloggers. Short, but very, very good. Also check out the interview with Mr. Wright. I've been reading a biography of Tolkien, who was an extraordinary writer and a devout Catholic -- I think in John C. Wright we have another fine writer who understands the role of Myth. This essay, on autism and Catholicism, is also very thought-provoking. Go check it out, all of you!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Olive branch?

So I've been thinking a bit about this letter, from Fr. Jenkins, which was emailed to Notre Dame students Wednesday. I appreciate the commitment to pro-life action, and I'm glad that Fr. Jenkins will be attending the March for Life. But I can't help thinking - why not last spring? Why not demonstrate this commitment when all eyes were on Notre Dame? Now that the cameras are gone, now that everyone has forgotten the commencement, now he wants to tell us that he's committed to the cause of life? It makes me kind of mad, because the greater public won't see this. They saw what they wanted to see last spring, when ND and its administration blew a giant raspberry at the bishops and the established teaching of the Church and honored the most pro-abortion president this country has ever had. It feels like he's closing the barn door after the horses have already run off.

I know I need to be charitable, and that I should just take it for granted that this is a sincere effort on the part of Fr. Jenkins to demonstrate ND's faithfulness to the teaching of Holy Mother Church. But the cynic in me wonders if it isn't an effort to attract donations from alumni which might have been lost last spring. (Did I also mention that I'm heartily sick of the hackneyed phrase "constructive dialogue?")

I sincerely hope this "task force" Jenkins proposes will be truly effective and not just a token. I know Prof. Cavadini has a reputation for orthodoxy - hopefully he can use his position to effect real change. And I'm delighted that the Women's Care Center was mentioned. They do great work and they really do give the lie to the notion that "pro-lifers don't care about women."

In short - I appreciate the conciliatory gesture and hope pro-life and orthodox organizations will respond in charity to this olive branch. But Fr. Jenkins can't undo what's already done.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


In moving forward with the book club, I emailed our club's contact at Campus Ministry, and he requested to meet with me. I was half expecting to be given a tour of CoMo and handed a sheet of guidelines for reserving rooms on campus, but he actually wanted to talk with me about my idea.

Basically the gist of the conversation is that most efforts to do something like this for grad students have fizzled out, because they don't attract enough interest and students who are interested get pressed for time and quit coming to meetings. It was more than a little discouraging. He was very nice about it but I was really surprised at some of the things he said to me. I mentioned that we are thinking about reading an encyclical and he just sort of smiled and said he didn't think too many people would be interested in that. Really? At a Catholic university nobody wants to study Catholic doctrine? (I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at that considering what the events of last spring revealed about Catholic identity at ND, but still.)

We did throw around some useful ideas but frankly, where he wants to go with it seems a bit far afield of my original thoughts. For example, he thought my group wouldn't be marketable if I put a "Catholic" label on it, and that I should publicize it as a "faith sharing" group for graduate students. Frankly that seems a little deceptive considering my intent for the group. Of course everyone would be welcomed, but I want a group that studies Catholic doctrine and thought, not some vague, nebulous spirituality. And I am not into "faith sharing"...ugh. I don't want to sit around in a circle talking about my personal image of God, I got enough of that in my pre-Cana.

I understand the need to cast a wider net...but I do feel a little discouraged right now. I do want our group to be unabashedly Catholic, and I do want the kind of people who are interested in going deeper with their faith and aren't afraid of an intellectual challenge. I don't want to cater to the lowest common denominator and water things down to make them inoffensive. Are there really so few graduate students on campus who would be interested in a group like that? It makes me a little sad. Time to go back to the drawing board...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book club

Here on campus there really isn't much support for graduate student spirituality. In sharp contrast to the undergraduate student body which is 80% Catholic, only 54% of graduate students identify as Catholic, and I would guess that fewer are weekly Mass-goers. Most graduate students I've met are either not Catholic or rather apathetic about their faith. There are masses in the chapel at FOG, as well as a weekly rosary, but the majority of grad students are off-campus like me and there are few activities especially for us. There is one club, the Thomas Aquinas Society, that exists for the Catholic graduate students, but due to the demanding schedule of grad students it isn't always very active. The guys that run it are great - but busy just like the rest of us! It doesn't help that we don't get a whole lot of support from Campus Ministry - but I digress.

TAS had a happy hour at Legends two weeks ago to mark the beginning of the semester, and we were invited to share our ideas and thoughts for activities for the coming year. I suggested the idea of a book club for Catholic reading, which was enthusiastically received by a number of students. Since we have a pretty small group so far, I would like to invite my Domer readers to join up. This semester I will have the participants vote on the book they want to read. We will be choosing between a study of Pope Benedict's encyclical Spe Salvi and the book Life of Christ by Abp. Fulton Sheen.

I am trying to find a place for us to meet, either on or off campus. I'm going to try to contact Campus Ministry about meeting space in CoMo (a building I'm totally unfamiliar with) but eventually I'd like us to meet off-campus to make things a bit more relaxed. I'm in the process of checking out area cafes and coffee shops. This is going to be a busy semester for me - but I'm excited about the book club and hoping it will provide some intellectual and spiritual stimulation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer's ending

Wow, has it really been more than a month since my last update? Summer is waning fast - classes will start next Tuesday here at Notre Dame. I'm currently trying to prepare an abstract and presentation for a graduate student conference which my department holds at the end of the summer. Right now I have awful writer's block. I tried the old trick of just typing whatever comes to mind until I hit the required number of words - but I'm about a paragraph shy of the needed half-page. So I decided to write a blog entry to attempt to "unblock" the writing part of my brain.

Research has gone tolerably well this summer. I'm taking a former student's project in a completely new direction, so there's been a lot of "hurry up and wait" as I order the needed supplies and learn things by trial and error. Sadly I don't have a whole lot of actual data to present at our conference - but I do have a more definite sense of what I need to do and why I need to do it. That's a pretty important accomplishment in and of itself - and my advisor doesn't seem displeased by it, which is important.

I've decided that I need to start making semester plans with definite goals to accomplish each week. Our advisor had everyone in the group do that this summer and I liked it. I do best in a structured environment, but graduate school can be very unstructured compared to undergrad. It's been a bit of an adjustment realizing that nobody is going to tell me exactly what to do and when it should be done. This semester I have an abstract that needs to be submitted for a conference, as well as my qualifying exam to prepare for. I'm also thinking about applying for an external fellowship, what with money being so tight around our house. So, there are a lot of things on my radar that could sneak up on me if I'm not careful.

My husband is still looking for jobs, and becoming somewhat discouraged, I think. There just isn't much out there, even for someone with his skills and qualifications. The biggest setback is his lack of experience, since he only worked one year at The Place that Shall Not be Named. He was hoping to stay with his former employer until I'm done with my Ph.D. to get that required experience - but obviously that didn't work out. We've talked about him going to grad school here, but his particular area of interest isn't really researched here, and only Ph.D.s are funded. It is certainly an option, though, and I'm hoping he'll get to talk to some of my professors at our conference. I think it would be terrible if no one would give a brilliant, hardworking guy like him a chance.

Since my last post, I found out that my dad's older sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor after experiencing paralysis in her right leg. She has done a round of chemo but the tumor unfortunately is growing. I would appreciate it if you all would pray for her.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Domestic Arts

Lately I've been taking up some projects around the house which are more housewifely than I realized at first. I've been teaching myself to sew, and have suddenly found myself the possessor of two sewing machines - one a cheap Overstock special, and the other a 70s-era Singer bought on impulse from the Salvation Army. The old Singer still needs work and I'm refinishing its cabinet since its previous owner was apparently a chainsmoker - but the cheapo machine has been great for learning on.

I've begun to bake my own bread in the interest of saving money. Thanks to a fantastic book (Artisan Bread in 30 Minutes a Day) even this baking-impaired woman can make tasty bread. I also made my own yogurt for the first time yesterday. I got the yogurt maker as a wedding present from my wonderful undergrad advisor, and this was my first opportunity to use it. I had some of the yogurt for breakfast - it was great! And would you believe I'm seriously thinking about learning how to make my own preserves with our awesome local fruit?

These seem like unlikely projects for an engineering grad student, don't they? But I find an immense satisfaction in making useful and tasty things. For me these things harken back to an older time, when women took pride in domesticity and self-reliance was key. I feel that the spirit of "do it yourself" is deeply ingrained into our American culture - if less honored today than it was in an earlier time. I think it is very sad that these skills of "home economics" were scoffed at once women entered the workplace, and seen as incongruous in a world where women and men should play an equal role in the home.

Fortunately I see a trend back towards these domestic skills - but the emphasis is on sustainability, helping the environment and reducing waste. Hey, whatever works, right? But for me the focus is on thrift - and the sheer pleasure of "doing it myself." I believe that whenever we make something useful or beautiful we are participating, in some small way, in God's work of creation. The work of our human hands honors Him.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Felicity and Perpetua

A fellow member posted this item on CAF about two young women in Iran jailed for their Christian beliefs:

Two Iranian Christian women, Maryam Rustampoor (27) and Marzieh Amirizadeh (30), continue to be held in Evin prison in Iran because of their Christian faith, unfairly labelled as ‘anti-government activists’, because of the hostility of the government towards practising Christians.

In the aftermath of the political turmoil in Iran, they are now in danger of being forgotten. One church leader from Iran said, “With so many hundreds of protestors now in the prison system, Maryam and Marzieh are likely to be forgotten.”

Arrested on March 5 , 2009, the two young women have now been in prison for four months. After being in solitary confinement for three weeks in May and early June, they were then put one small cell together for about two weeks. Then, following the arrests of thousands of protestors after the disputed presidential elections, Marzieh and Maryam were moved to a larger cell to make room for new prisoners. About 600 women were brought Evin prison during the days of the protests. There is still no clarity regarding their case. In one court session in June a judge told them that he would make sure they were both executed as ‘apostates’. Maryam and Marzieh have responded with courage, however, telling the judge to “expedite his sentence.”

It made me think of the martyrs Felicity and Perpetua who suffered together in a Roman prison, Incidentally, today is their feast day. Let us ask their intercession in for these two Iranian women and for all Christians who live where the Faith is persecuted.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tomorrow is the First Friday of the month!

I very nearly forgot again! :D I'll see you at the 11:30 AM daily Mass in the Basilica. Blessings!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Who's buried in St. Paul's tomb?

Archaeological evidence suggests it's probably... St. Paul:

Though the carbon-dating experts knew nothing of their origins, the bone fragments were recovered after a tiny probe was inserted into the tomb which lies in a crypt beneath the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls in Rome - a church long held to have been built on the site where Paul was buried.

It was only three years ago that the tomb itself was discovered by Vatican archaeologists.

The fact that it was positioned exactly underneath the epigraph Paulo Apostolo Mart (Paul the Apostle and Martyr) at the base of the altar convinced them it was Paul's tomb.

Now backed by the evidence of his carbon-dated bone fragments, the Pope has announced: 'This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that the bone fragments are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul.'

When I first heard about this on the news, my rather flippant response was, "Well, duh. What have we Catholics been telling you all along?" To which my husband quipped, "Sounds like the old joke about 'who's buried in Grant's Tomb?'" All flippancy and silliness aside, I find this incredibly exciting. George Weigel's excellent Letters to a Young Catholic has a wonderful chapter about the discovery of Peter's tomb under St. Peter's Basilica and how it reinforces our real and tangible sense of our Catholic faith. He may have to add to that chapter in the next edition, because the discovery of Paul's bones is equally amazing.

Matthew at Shrine of the Holy Whapping has more:

One common line of argument I had read suggested the relics had been stolen and dispersed by Saracen pirates sometime during the early Middle Ages, so it is somewhat of a relief to discover they're still down there. More intriguing is the fact the bones, like St. Peter's, were wrapped in purple cloth, suggesting they were treated with reverence and swathed with costly fabric from a very early age.

Yet another reason for me to go on pilgrimage to Rome! God grant that I can make it there some day.

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Slow blogging again this mom and sisters were here for a visit, which was all too short, and left this morning. I will miss them terribly. It is difficult to be on the opposite side of the country from one's family.

Bleg: Can anyone tell me about good Catholic-based Bible study guides? My sister is engaged to a fine young man, who has been raised in the Baptist tradition but seems interested in Catholicism. While she was here on her visit she asked some great questions about the meaning of various Bible passages, and expressed some interest to me in learning more about Scripture. I can only guess that this interest was sparked by conversations between her and her fiance. I think it would be nice for them both to have a Scripture study that is firmly grounded in Catholic teaching. I'll ask around on Catholic Answers for suggestions as well.

I took them to Chicago for the weekend and while watching TV in the hotel it was difficult to escape constant coverage of Michael Jackson's death. Like many children of the 80s/90s I can remember "Thriller" and his other hits during that time. For her part, my mom and her brothers grew up loving American music and the Jackson Five were part of that as well. For the majority of my life, however, MJ was a grotesque figure, more "famous for being famous" than anything else. His sporadic "comeback" attempts always seemed to simply fizzle out.

But this was hardly intended to be a Michael Jackson memorial post. I have always loathed "celebrity worship" and it seems especially disgusting in this case considering Jackson's apparent pedophilia. No, I feel that the real innocent victims are Michael's children. Conceived by means of a sperm donor and a surrogate mom, deprived of a normal childhood with mother and father, forced to wear masks and veils in public, and now losing the only parent they have known at a young age.

Money can buy anything and in this modern world, that includes children. Their connection with their ersatz dad was not genetic, but financial - he paid to have them brought into this world. How sad is that? To me it seems an act of monstrous selfishness - not unlike the "Octomom" and her actions. I am sure Jackson did not see it as such - rather perceiving the children as something he needed to make his life "complete." But no good can come of it when we reduce persons to objects and means to our own ends. During a discussion over the "custody battle" for Jackson's children on Fox, a commentator observed that "people need to realize children aren't property - you can't will them to someone." I thought that was very telling. I pray Jackson's children will have at least some semblance of a normal, stable life now.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The great feasts of summer, pt. 2: Corpus Christi

Here at last is my long-overdue post on Corpus Christi. We were at the Cathedral again this past Sunday, but the homily, while good, did not give me as much food for meditation. They had a visiting Holy Cross missionary priest who shared stories about his time in Africa. Inspiring, yes - but the connection to Corpus Christi was somewhat tenuous.

My attention was instead captured by the reading from the Old Testament. Moses tells the Israelites about the Law - and they promise to keep it. Then the oath is sealed in blood:
Then, having sent certain young men of the Israelites
to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do."
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
"This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his."
Powerful stuff, but the tale of a blood sacrifice seems nearly pagan to our modern sensibilities. What to make of this? I think it makes clear the sacramentality of our faith - God making himself present through the material things of this world. Surely an all-powerful God has no need for holocausts or the blood of young bulls. But the Jewish people needed that visible sign of their covenant, that unbreakable oath to their God.

And in the Gospel reading, we go on to the New Covenant - sealed not with the blood of mere animals, but the blood of God's only Son. Again God makes himself present, this time in an unbloody sacrifice of bread and wine - a miracle and mystery beyond our human comprehension.

How was the Passover sacrifice completed? The Jewish families ate the unblemished lamb. This type for Jesus' flesh and blood could not make itself more clear. And so I pray for a greater faith in the Real Presence. "Lord, I believe - help my unbelief!"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

First Friday Devotion

I was looking for information today on the First Friday Devotion, not realizing that the First Friday of June was last week. D'oh! I suppose I will be starting that in July instead. :)

Anyway, Happy to Be Catholic has a nice post here on the First Friday Devotion. I knew it involved going to Mass on consecutive First Fridays, but I didn't realize it was for nine whole months. I don't think I would have that much trouble going to Mass on the First Friday (one of the perks of being at Notre Dame). But the first week of a new month always seems to sneak up on me!

We live in a sad, cruel world. I think we could all stand to make some prayers of reparation. After the stories last year about the Eucharistic desecrations I used to pray in reparation nightly and sadly I've fallen out of that practice. I invite my readers to join me in the devotion of First Fridays.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The great feasts of summer, part 1: Trinity Sunday

The Easter season has drawn to a close with the feast of Pentecost, but I love the summertime feasts of Trinity Sunday and especially Corpus Christi. Being that Matt and I are on the south side of town now, we were at St. Matthew's Cathedral for Trinity Sunday. They had a wonderful young deacon preaching the homily, and surprise surprise - he incorporated the Theology of the Body into his sermon.

The Theology of the Body - and particularly Christopher West's commentary on it - has come under fire in recent weeks. This was fueled by a somewhat controversial Nightline interview in which West was portrayed as taking John Paul II and Hugh Hefner as heroes. Suddenly it seemed that every Catholic pundit had something to say and everyone wanted to jump on the West-bashing bandwagon - although most bloggers maintained charity. (Three of my favorite editorials on the flap are here: Jimmy Akin's commentary, Prof. David Schindler's criticism and Dr. Janet Smith's response.)

I am certainly not well versed enough in theology to even critique the critiques, but suffice it to say that I do think ToB has gotten somewhat of an unfair bad rap here. There seems to be a misconception that ToB exclusively relates to sex, and perhaps Christopher West is partly responsible for this. I have read The Good News about Sex and Marriage and found it to be solid, frank and open - exactly what is needed to explicate the "hard teachings" of the Church on sexuality. However, I have also listened to a talk of his about marriage and the Eucharist and as I recall, his language there did indeed veer on the side of too explicit. Let us not forget that the marriage of Christ and his Church is mystical, not fleshly! There is a genuine need in our modern world to understand the proper and holy function of sex - but narrowing the focus of ToB to the bedroom at the expense of what it has to say about ALL human love does not do it justice.

But, as the deacon reminded us last Sunday, ToB at its fundamental level is about relationships. God is present as a communion of Persons in the Holy Trinity. Since we are made in His image and likeness, we mirror that communion of persons in our own human relationships. The Hold Spirit proceeds from the love between the Father and the Son; so too, the life-giving love of husband and wife brings forth children. For the first time, I really felt I understood, at least a little bit, why God is Triune. The Trinity will always be a sacred mystery - that does not mean it is wholly inexplicable. Altogether a great homily and I look forward to more.

Side note: Does anyone know if any of the churches in the South Bend area have a Corpus Christi procession? I have a vivid memory of taking part in the Corpus Christi procession at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, MN a few years back. I would love to do it again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The death of an abortionist

I'm sure that by now everyone has heard about the shooting of the infamous abortionist George Tiller. Of course, the media and the pro-abortion partisans have wasted no time in using the actions of an unstable murderer as a club to beat all pro-lifers with. If this man had no qualms about shooting the abortionist in his church in cold blood...doesn't that maybe suggest he didn't really understand the meaning of the word "pro-life?" But, as usual, the peaceful majority are ignored in favor of the lunatic fringe.

Aside from being an evil action, this murder quite possibly could be the worst thing to happen to the pro-life movement in a long time. Think about it - polls showed that a majority of Americans identify themselves as "pro-life" now. Now, not only has the media linked pro-life activism to this murder, the abortionist himself is being glorified as a martyr by NARAL and the like.

Let me be absolutely clear - I did not wish this man's death, but his repentance and conversion. But make no mistake that what Tiller did was also evil. I read somewhere that he claimed to have performed over 60,000 abortions. That alone is chilling enough, but he specialized in late-term abortions. I have plenty of friends who are pro-choice, but I find that even they object to abortion when the baby is viable. Many of the abortions he performed were of viable babies just a few weeks from birth. The news on Tiller's murder is being framed in such a way that this sickening fact is being obscured. The "abortionist = courageous hero" angle is being pushed, and I think it's very possible that this is a deliberate attempt to turn the tide of public opinion towards the pro-abortion side.

The murder suspect should absolutely not be seen as some kind of emblem of the pro-life movement, or vigilante hero. From all accounts he seemed to be a troubled man who had a bone to pick with society in general. Blaming the pro-life movement for his actions would be as foolish as blaming all Muslims for the man who gunned down the two soldiers at the recruiting center in Arkansas yesterday. (It's a reflection on our society that the death of a soldier on American soil isn't getting nearly as much coverage as the death of an abortionist - and very telling that our president finds the death of an abortionist more worthy of comment. He sent out federal marshals to protect abortion clinics - but military recruiting centers are apparently expected to protect themselves.)

In the end, Tiller's murderer succumbed to the same falsehood that Tiller himself believed - that man can play God, taking life away at will. May God have mercy on them - and on us all.

"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement." - Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm back

My apologies for the insanely long blogging hiatus. My mother-in-law was in town to help us paint our new house over the Commencement weekend, and last weekend we finally got moved in. The place is still covered in boxes. Oddly, I find myself missing the apartment. I suppose it isn't that strange since that was our our first home as a married couple. It will take a while but I hope the "new-to-us" house will feel like home soon.

Commencement is more abortion planes, campus is quiet and empty. Notre Dame is apparently continuing to press trespass charges against the pro-life protesters though. Sometimes I wonder what kind of insane parallel universe I've fallen into where a Catholic university presses charges on pro-life activists. It would be more gracious if they would drop the charges...but hey, they are on the side of President "I Won" so I suppose winning is more important than graciousness. I'm pleased to see that the Thomas More Society has taken up their defense in court. They do good work.

My husband has yet to find work, but he hasn't been looking for very long, either. I'm trying not to worry but it's extremely difficult for me. Here's hoping for better days for everyone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A house divided

Dr. McInerny sums it up for us:
The sad fact is that people act contrary to the faith without realizing that that is what they are doing. A heretic chooses the opposite of the faith, but when in the present confusion as to what is in and what is out, heresy is not the appropriate word.

And so, on Sunday, surrounded by priests and all the panoply of Notre Dame, the smiling Caesar, thumb turned down on life, was engulfed in allegedly Catholic applause. Elsewhere on campus, faithful Catholics gathered and sent up prayers of reparation.

I sit here and wonder how it could have come to this. I have read the reports of the commencement and they make my heart ache. I wonder how on earth a man shouting "Abortion is murder" could be greeted with boos at a Catholic university. Have our consciences become so benumbed that Catholic students fail to see the truth in the statement, however it was delivered?

I feel particularly close to Our Lady of Sorrows these days. It always seems that whenever life is troubling and my world seems to be falling down around my ears, I'm drawn toward Mary. I think about Mary holding the wounded body of her Son as I observe the wounded and bleeding Church and feel helpless to do anything. How many more will sell their birthright for a mess of pottage?

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. -2 Timothy 4:3-4

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mutual Admiration Society

South Bend Tribune: ’09 Notre Dame grads choose Jenkins as Senior Class Fellow

Not a surprise. Clearly Jenkins exemplifies the values of the senior class: moral relativism, equivocation, and placing liberal politics above Catholic doctrine. Never mind that Jenkins went blatantly against the directives of the USCCB and Catholic moral principles. Never mind that he sits on the board of an organization which promotes condom distribution and abortion.

This is a New Age and thus a New Morality, to which the majority of the senior class subscribes. There is no longer any such thing as sin - except for the sin of "intolerance." The cardinal virtue for you, seniors, is the virtue of "open-mindedness." The deaths of the unborn pale in comparison to the audacity of protesters who would dare to ruin your graduation. After all, they are just clumps of cells, even if for some mysterious reason their photos make you feel all offended. Yep, it's all about you, you, you. Your professors at Notre Dame have spent four years telling you how special you are - how dare these outsiders suggest that you are wrong. You are special enough to create your own hierarchy of values. You are special enough to completely redefine Catholicism and just ignore the parts that you find inconvenient. In your eyes, Jenkins and Obama are heroes for standing up to the big bad old Catholic Church. (Yeah, we're stickin' it to THE MAN! Woo-hoo!) Who cares what those old men in funny hats have to say?

Congratulations, seniors. You've just slapped your classmates in the face yet again. I hope you're feeling good about yourselves, because I really am feeling awfully bitter about this farce of a Commencement.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Husband has been laid off

My husband called me about 4:30 PM and told me that he has been laid off today. He will not be going to work any more - that is how his (former) company operates, they tell you that you're laid off and you just leave the same day.

I've done some quick mental calculations and we can make ends meet on my stipend if we tighten our belts. He also gets some severance pay, but that will only last for four months. This is such a frustrating situation to be in. We just bought a house and while the mortgage is less than rent, I worry about what will happen if we need a major repair. Why did they wait until now of all times to terminate him? If they had done this two months ago we could have backed out of the home purchase.

I'm hoping he can find work in the South Bend area but I am not optimistic. I do plan to ask my advisor on the off chance he knows of someone who's hiring mechanical engineers. Some of the professors here have good connections in industry, so you never know.

Blogging may be light for a while since this situation is obviously dominating my sphere of concern. I ask for your prayers for our family.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can Barack Obama Be Converted on Abortion?

A new piece in First Things addresses that question. The author looks at passages from The Audacity of Hope about Obama's 2004 Senate run against Alan Keyes. I find it intriguing that Obama admits that Keyes "got under his skin" when he accused Obama of not being Christian in his views on abortion. The still, small voice of conscience, perhaps?

In the end, Fr. Oakes concludes that, no, Barack Obama will probably not ever change his mind on abortion. He's probably right - even if Obama did change his personal views, changing his policy positions would probably mean the end of his career in politics. It's inarguable that the pro-choice position is a fundamental part of the Democratic party platform these days. If Barack Obama woke up one day and announced that he was anti-abortion, we'd see the Obama lovefest change to a hate-fest pretty darn quick. I think he thrives on the adoration of the masses, and I don't see him doing anything to jeopardize his status as Our Beloved Leader anytime soon.

Still, we can but hope. God did after all soften the heart of Pharaoh...I don't doubt Barack Obama is any more hard-hearted.

Done for the semester

Another semester down...whew. I got back from my Polymers exam about 15 minutes ago. It was pretty tough. I hope I can pull out at least a B. I'll need it with my abysmal grade in Cell Bio. Just got an email from my prof - I have an A- in Polymers! (And there was much rejoicing...yaaaaaaaaaay.)

Of course, this begs the question - how on earth did he grade that exam so fast? Did he even grade the exam? More to the point, do I really care since I have an A? :)

I would really like to go home and sleep, but I need to get a jump on the research I've been putting off for the past two weeks. Ah, the life of a grad student.

Monday, May 4, 2009

ND Response Video

Well done, ND Response!

Need prayers - again

I'm in the midst of finals studying - of course I would much rather be blogging, but such is life. I took my Cell Biology exam this morning. I'm not sure how I did on it, but I'm somewhat apathetic considering I would have had to make a 98 or so to get the required B+ in the class. Now I'm studying for my Polymers exam tomorrow morning. This class involves a lot of applied math, much more than I expected when I signed up for the course. It's been very difficult getting back into that "groove" since I took a year off before coming to graduate school. I'm currently slogging through some old homework and tests - hoping and praying for some spark of understanding here. I think I grasp the concept - but can I apply it to tomorrow's exam? That is the Big Question, as always.

In any case, no matter how this'll be over soon. And hopefully a glorious, productive summer full of research awaits! :)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Marriage and Sacrifice

We got a real treat tonight at the 5 pm Vigil Mass at the Basilica - Bishop D'Arcy was the presider. There was apparently a bioethics conference on campus today, and it seems the Mass was part of their conference events. Consequently we had a larger crowd than usual at Mass. I noticed a group of religious sisters sitting to our left - all habited, some wearing matching veils and some in mantillas. I was struck by their youthfulness and joyful demeanor. I love seeing sisters in traditional habits, and I love seeing people who are so obviously happy in their vocation.

This Sunday is apparently the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, and Bishop D'Arcy's homily was centered around the topic of vocations. He emphasized the sacrificial aspect of the priesthood and religious life. Jesus loved us enough to sacrifice his life for us and give us his very flesh to eat - how can we not respond by giving our lives to Him? For some this self-giving love is manifested in a calling to the priesthood or religious life. Others are called to give of themselves in married life or single life.

It's pretty obvious that priesthood or religious life calls for radical sacrifice. One only needs to look to the drama present in the Sacrament of Holy Orders or the profession of vows. Picture the men to be ordained lying face-down before the altar, or the nun entering the church in a wedding gown and leaving in a plain, dark habit. The ceremonies themselves make it clear that the new priest, nun or brother is dying to his or her old life.

What is often forgotten, though, is that marriage also calls for sacrifice. I don't think of it as a big, dramatic turning away from the world - but rather as a gradual dying to self. I've often thought that someone of my temperament finds more challenge in married life than in religious life. When I visited the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, I thought that the cloistered life might be very appealing. How easy to love Jesus when contemplating him in the Blessed Sacrament! How much more difficult to love him when He presents Himself in a stubborn, irritable spouse! I tend to be self-willed and solitary and I sometimes find it challenging to deal with my husband. Marriage is definitely not just "happily ever after" but requires work and sacrifice. I see it as carrying lots of little crosses for one's spouse, every day.

Perhaps we would see more men called to the priesthood, if they realized that marriage also requires total self-giving. It's not a question of the struggles of priesthood versus the ease of married life - but a question of which way of self-giving one will choose. Loving your wife as Christ loved the Church is a tall order, after all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Graphic abortion images: coming soon to a campus near us

A pro-life group, the Center for Bi0-Ethical Reform, has plans to rent billboard trucks and use airplane banners to display graphic abortion photos in the South Bend area. The press release is here.

I'm pretty ticked off that they go out of their way to mock ND Response's efforts and accuse them of "covering up the horrors of abortion." This kind of infighting in the pro-life movement serves no one. ND Response has decided that aborted baby pictures will not change any minds or hearts here, and I tend to agree with them. The Obama supporters are more likely to be angry at the protesters for "ruining graduation" than to actually stop and think about the implications of those violent images. They have hardened their hearts to the reality of abortion. Such pictures will not make them look outside themselves, but rather turn them further inward and convince them of the righteousness of their anger towards all those opposed to Obama's appearance.

And to say that ND pro-lifers are "responsible" for the Obama invite is ludicrous. Why are peaceful, non-violent protests being equated with capitulation? Why do some people insist that anything short of a "scorched-earth" response to the opposition amounts to surrender? Again, ridiculous.

These actions only add fuel to the fire for the people on campus who insist on lumping all pro-lifers together with Randall Terry. I'm sure this will bring on another bushel of letters to the Observer peppered with words like "extremist" and "jihad" and comparing pro-life activists to terrorists. Clearly, pro-lifers at Notre Dame just can't win this one. At times like this it is tempting to be consumed with frustration and just give up. Now is not the time to quit, but to redouble our prayers and try to respond as Christ would.

Edited to add: I saw one of the airplanes with banners as I was going out to grab some dinner. Pretty graphic stuff...I would be upset if I were a parent and my child saw it. It will be interesting to see the reactions if they do this during the day when people are going to and from classes. I will be gobsmacked if the responses are anything but "Those nutcases are at it again." So much for changing minds.

I'm also engaged in a discussion with people on CAF who are all for this approach and accuse the ND students of "not doing enough." I wonder if those people would approve if anti-war protesters used images of dead soldiers to protest the war in Iraq. A soldier hit by an IED probably looks much like the image of the mangled baby I saw. I'm thinking there will be a blog post soon on the power of images and the dignity of the human body...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don't bite Padre

Fr. Z offers a catechetical note on receiving Communion on the tongue. The logistics can be a bit intimidating - especially when you have only ever been taught to receive on the hand.

I first received on the tongue when attending the beautiful St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. They did not have the EF Mass at the time I was there (summer of 2006) but the priests there offer the Ordinary Form of the Mass with extraordinary reverence. Masses are said ad orientem and all receive communion kneeling at the altar rail and on the tongue. It was a profoundly moving experience for me. When I kneel to receive, there is a great feeling of reverence and awe that washes over me. Not that I don't feel awed when receiving my Lord in my hand - but I think that posture emphasizes the sacred nature of that moment.

After seeing some people recieving on the tongue at the Basilica, I was emboldened to try it during Holy Week, when they had enough priests that no EMHCs were used and priests were distributing communion to all. Luckily I was able to make my wish to recieve on the tongue understood, and I think I prefer that way over receiving in that hand.

A little intellectual honesty, please

From the Observer: Jenkins to meet with Obama invite supporters
Yet another slap in the face to pro-life students and ND Response. Although ND Response pretty well botched their chance to meet with Jenkins, I can't help but wonder if Jenkins will permit the press to be present as he is lauded by the Obamaites.

A quote from one member of this group:
"There are a lot of [students] who are more moderate, who say, 'I'm pro-life, ... but you're not going to get anywhere if you just reject people out of hand," he said."

My good man, why not be honest with yourself? Why not just admit that you could not care less about abortion as long as Obama is being honored? Why not admit that the unborn are not people to you? Why not just admit that Obama's abortion policy means nothing to you because he's the first black president and therefore "historic?" I would respect the Obama supporters much more if they completely gave up any pretense of caring about Catholic doctrine and Notre Dame's duty towards that doctrine.

"I'm pro-life, but..." Three little words that are the surest sign that their speaker has not understood in the least what it really means to be pro-life.

I'll say it again because the opposition insists on obfuscating this important fact: Abortion is not a religious issue, this is not a political issue. This is a matter of human rights. It's tragic that so many do not seem to understand this. What are they really teaching them here at Notre Dame?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dialogue - really?

In this controversy over inviting Obama to be commencement speaker, the word "dialogue" gets tossed around an awful lot. We should be open-minded, say the Obamaites, and engage in dialogue with the whole world.

Well, the comment about the need for open-mindedness brings to mind a Chesterton quote about the mind being like the mouth - we open it so that we can shut it firmly on something - whether a morsel of food or a truth. But I am more baffled by the constant insistence that inviting the president to speak at commencement and honoring him with a degree is "dialogue." Here's the definition of dialogue, courtesy of Webster's Online.

Note particularly the second definition, which is what I believe these folks are driving at: "a) a conversation between two or more persons b) an exchange of ideas." I really wish some Obama enthusiast would explain to me how a commencement speech amounts to a dialogue. It sounds more like a monologue to me. (We're awfully fond of those at Notre Dame, it seems, whether they are delivered by female sexual organs or presidents with teleprompters.)

Is POTUS actually going to sit down and discuss his views on abortion with pro-life students and professors, and listen to their arguments? Is he going to explain to us why he believes it is just to deprive the unborn of the rights of personhood? Or is he just going to show up, pay lip service to "diversity of thought" and "freedom of religion", and leave with his pro-choice agenda completely unchallenged by his hosts at Notre Dame?

I am sure the last scenario will be what actually happens. But the Obama enthusiasts will continue to insist that a monologue is actually a "dialogue" so that they can frame the opposition as simply being closed-minded and against academic freedom. See how much easier it is to debate when you can simply make words mean whatever you want?

To quote Inigo Montoya, "That word you are using, I do not think it means what you think it means."

Bishop Latino joins bishops in opposition to Obama honor at ND

A seminarian friend brought this to my attention via Facebook: Bishop Joseph Latino makes statement on invitation to President Obama

I'm happy to see the bishop of my former diocese chiming in. Although I have moved out of state, I still receive the Mississippi Catholic. From the letters to the editor, I could see that Catholics in the diocese of Jackson were troubled by this. It goes to show how far-reaching the influence of Notre Dame is. And in spite of those who insist that the controversy over this invitation is a matter for the "Notre Dame family" alone, it shows that Our Lady's University is the common patrimony of all American Catholics. Notre Dame has great symbolic value for many who have never even set foot on campus.

I hope to find the complete text of the letter and post it for you here.

Friday, April 17, 2009


After reading this letter, and the comic in today's Observer, I have come to the conclusion that Notre Dame students are passionately attached to tradition. Not Catholic tradition, though...just any football weekend or spring scrimmage weekend tradition that involves binge drinking.

Honor Obama with a degree? "Totally, we should be, like, open minded and tolerant. Abortion is, like, not really a big deal. We have no idea why the Church is so uptight about it. They need to get with the times and stuff. Whatever. And Obama is so AWESOME!!!1111eleven YES WE CAN!!!!!1111eleventy"

Take away our gigantic party were we can get drunk and hook up? "OUTRAGE!!! ur killin our tradishun down with THE MAN"

Can you tell I'm feeling just a bit cynical today in spite of all this gorgeous weather?

(I know this is definitely not representative of all Notre Dame students! But I am seriously disturbed by how much drinking seems to be mandatory for a good time, even for the more serious students I've met. It's not like people didn't drink at my alma mater. But I only knew a handful of hardcore "partiers" who went out and intentionally got drunk on a regular basis. The really ridiculous partying was confined to the frats and sororities.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Jesus, take pity on me!"

This is several years old, but was recently reposted on a Catholic forum I frequent: Terrible Crosses to Bear

Crucifixes sold in the gift shop of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York were found to have been produced in Chinese sweatshops under horrible conditions. The complete report from the National Labor Council is heart-wrenching. The workers, some as young as 15, subsist on a meager vegetable broth and the occasional "meat" dish. They live in crowded, filthy dorms. They are forced to work overtime for an hourly wage that wouldn't even buy us a can of soda in the U.S. After a mandatory deduction for their dorms and food, their gross pay is 9 cents an hour. They work up to 108 hours in a week. After working a 19-hour shift, one worker cried, "Jesus, take pity on me! I'm going to die of exhaustion!"

The supplier of these crucifixes is a member of the Association of Christian Retail, but there is nothing Christian about the conditions these workers are subjected to. What's more, they are making religious items, supposedly objects of devotion. What must they think of the supposed Christians who buy these crucifixes at markups of 1000%? Christ shares in their suffering - but trapped in what amounts to slavery, they will probably never hear His message.

I have avoided buying religious items made in China due to their government's repressive policies toward Christianity and their policy of forced abortions. This has only strengthened my resolve to stay away from Chinese-made products. Importers of religious goods need to take responsibility for their supply chain and stop claiming ignorance of their suppliers' actions. Maybe in some cases they are willfully ignorant. After all, it's easier not to know, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not Yours to Give

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about American folk hero Davy Crockett? Do you picture a frontiersman in a coonskin cap, or maybe the hero of the Alamo? What about fiscal responsibility? It seems like a non-sequitur at first, but Crockett was a respected Representative from Tennessee as well as the stuff of frontier folklore. This snippet from his life has much to teach us about the way our elected officials should treat taxpayers' money. It's long, but please read the whole thing:
Not Yours to Give, from The Life of David Crockett

A number of things are striking about this story:
  • Crockett actually listened to and respected the opinions of his constituents. He knew he could be easily replaced if he lost the peoples' trust.
  • His constituents are literate and informed, in spite of living in the "backwoods" of Tennessee. They keep an eye on what their representatives are doing in Washington. They care about the way they are governed. They have read the Constitution and understand the limits it places on Congress. Can we say as much about ourselves?
  • Crockett realized he was wrong and admitted it. When was the last time you caught a politician doing that?
  • Crockett came to understand his responsibility with regards to taxpayer money. He realized that he was only a steward and did not have the freedom to distribute money at will from the public treasury. He clearly makes the distinction between private charity and government aid.
How our nation has changed - and not necessarily for the better. Food for thought on Tax Day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kristin Lavransdatter

Reprinted from Crisis Magazine, an excellent biographical sketch of the Norwegian Catholic writer Sigrid Undset.

Most of us here in the United States have probably never heard of Sigrid Undset. I remember it was my grandfather who first introduced me to Kristin Lavransdatter, her brilliant trilogy of novels set in medieval Norway. My father's father was and is a very taciturn, stern man. He was the child of Norwegian immigrants and proud of his heritage. He told me once that my name in Norwegian would be "Kristin." Maybe he liked it because it reminded him of Kristin Lavransdatter. Like Sigrid Undset, he was a convert to Catholicism (something I didn't know until very recently.) His conversion from Lutheranism was probably precipitated by his marriage to my devout Irish Catholic grandmother, in an era when "mixed marriages" were not well looked upon. Whatever the circumstances, he soon became as devout a Catholic as she (somewhat to the dismay of his Lutheran relatives). He probably found much to relate to in the conversion story of Sigrid Undset.

As a child, I was a voracious reader. (I still am!) One summer while we were visiting my grandparents, Granddad suggested I read The Mistress of Husaby (more properly called The Wife as that is the title Undset gave it, translation notwithstanding). Unfortunately the translation was the older one by Charles Archer, and while I was reading well above my grade level at the age of 10, I wasn't quite precocious enough to manage a book chock-full of archaic language like "I trow." Not having read the first book, I also didn't quite understand why Kristin, the heroine of the novel, was constantly depressed and thought that her child would be born deformed. Needless to say I didn't make it all the way through the book.

However, in college something sparked the memory of the Kristin Lavransdatter stories. Maybe it was a blog article about Sigrid Undset, the Catholic author. I logged on to Amazon, ordered the trilogy (in a newer, more accessible translation), and was instantly hooked. Somehow I found I could relate well to my supposed namesake. At twenty I could understand the guilt that sin leaves behind it much better than I could as a child. Kristin is the apple of her father Lavrans' eye - yet she defies him to marry the man she loves - or thinks she loves.

Don't be deceived by the seemingly chick-lit plot I've described so far - this is not light reading. In contrast to today's more popular romances, sin has consequences in this story. Kristin's defiance of her parents, her society, and God has its price. She gets her heart's desire - yet she is somehow never happy with Erlend. He is not the perfect knight she believed him to be, but a weak, fallen man. Although he loves her in his own way, he constantly betrays and disappoints her. However, Undset shows us how Erlend's betrayals great and small shape her into an iron-willed woman and mother. And when Kristin is most in need, it is her former fiance' Simon who keeps faith with her in the most unexpected way.

Perhaps what I like best is that no character in this trilogy is a cardboard cutout. Simon, unassuming at first, soon reveals himself to be one of the most complex characters in the story. His life is inextricably and painfully bound up with Kristin's. The revelation of the secret burden of Kristin's mother Ragnfrid gives us insight into how regret and guilt have shaped her life - as they do her daughter's.

The end of The Cross, the last novel in the trilogy, is perhaps its most powerful moment. Kristin recognizes her utter weakness and fallibility - yet she comes to understand that she has served God in her life. She has been an unmindful, disobedient servant perhaps - but a servant nevertheless.

I have read Kristin Lavransdatter again and again, and every time I read it I find something new in it that I never noticed before. I have yet to read any other novel that has been so enriching to my spiritual life. It is both catholic and Catholic in its appeal. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Bishop Bruskewitz's letter to Fr. Jenkins


Reverend and dear Father Jenkins,

Permit me to add my name as well to the long list of Bishops of the Catholic Church who are utterly appalled at your dedication to immorality and wrong-doing represented by your support for the obscenity called “The Vagina Monologues” and your absolute indifference to the murderous abortion program and beliefs of this President of the United States. The fact that you have some sort of past connection with the State of Nebraska makes it all the more painful that the Catholic people here have to see your betrayal of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

I can assure you of my prayers for your conversion, and for the conversion of your formerly Catholic University. I am

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus,

The Most Reverend Fabian W. Bruskewitz
Bishop of Lincoln

Wow! The good bishop certainly pulls no punches. I'm not sure what the reference to Nebraska is all about, but I'm sure Fr. Jenkins knows. I'm also not sure how I feel about the tone of this letter, as I greatly admired Bishop D'Arcy's gentler response. But it is refreshing to hear a bishop call a spade a spade, isn't it?

I hereby give Bishop Bruskewitz the St. Nicholas Award - named after St. Nicholas who reportedly punched the heretic Arius on the nose at a council. This letter is the epistolary version of a punch in the nose, for sure.

A moment of doubt

I'm feeling a little anxious tonight...well, really anxious as a matter of fact. I found out today that a midterm in a class where I've been floundering somewhat, did not have the expected good result. It's so frustrating to really, honestly try your best and then feel that all your work was for nothing. Even if I get a 100 on the next exam, I won't have a high enough grade to get credit (a B for those of us in graduate school). This is pretty mortifying because it's an undergraduate level class, in a subject where I considered myself well grounded until now.

I talked to my advisor and while I'm sure he isn't pleased, I can tell he doesn't think it's the end of the world. I'm grateful for that because I would be crushed if I thought he was disappointed in me. He encouraged me to go talk to the professor to see what I can do. I'm not sure it will help at this late date, and besides, this prof was described to me as "soulless" by a friend. (Ha ha.) But at least I can try to figure out what I'm doing wrong.

This is just the latest in a series of moments of FUD - fear, uncertainty and doubt. I know everyone has them but I seem to be especially plagued ever since I got to graduate school. I constantly question if this is where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing. Is this my real vocation? Am I really supposed to spend five more years in school? And after I get my degree...then what? God, is this how I'm supposed to be serving you? Would I be better off serving you in motherhood now instead of a few years down the road? How much can I really help people while ensconced in the ivory tower of academia?

One thing I do know: God, for some reason, never sends me those convenient lightning bolts to knock me off my high horse. His guidance to me is much subtler. I hardly ever recognize His handiwork until the moment has passed. I'm praying now for the courage to do His will...whatever that may be.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Notre Dame theology prof says being pro-life is too political

Well, I said I'd hold off until Monday - but I couldn't pass this one up, from the South Bend Tribune:

ND's pro-life center raises faculty concern

Apparently Dr. Porter is concerned that being actively pro-life is too "political" for Notre Dame. This is yet another example of how the focus has been taken off the human rights aspect of pro-life work. As Mr. Cassidy said in his talk at the ND Response rally - protecting life in the womb cannot be seen as just a political or religious issue, but must be viewed in the wider context of human rights. I believe the attempt to frame the rights of the unborn as a solely political issue is a deliberate attempt by the pro-choice side to marginalize the pro-life argument.

I'm not sure what Dr. Porter's concern is - she seems to think that pro-life work can only manifest itself in political activism. Apparently the only pro-lifers she's ever met are of Randall Terry's ilk. Political work is important, but it is only one aspect of pro-life advocacy. Perhaps she has never talked to any of the volunteers at the Women's Care Center. I think someone really ought to make Dr. Porter aware of the wonderful work that the staffers at these crisis pregnancy centers do. That's something Notre Dame should be proud to support, in my opinion.

In my experience, and the experiences of many of my colleagues, it is already very difficult to get undergraduates to discuss abortion in any kind of open-minded and balanced way. They are afraid to explore their own questions and concerns on this extremely difficult subject — afraid of what their peers will think, and perhaps afraid of losing the good opinion of their professors as well. Once the university gives its official approval to an anti-abortion agenda, I suspect that any kind of real academic exploration of this question will become almost impossible.

A very odd comment indeed. I would tend to think that most Notre Dame students are either pro-choice or apathetic, given that so many support Obama. If students really are afraid of ostracism for having pro-choice views - well, all I can say is that they have a taste of what it's like to be a conservative student at a public university. Growing a backbone is also part of the learning experience. Public universities often claim to give equal time to all points of view - but in practice, liberalism prevails and anyone who is pro-life is automatically viewed as anti-woman and "hateful." At least Notre Dame is honest about giving pride of place to a particular ideology - it's a Catholic school for pete's sake!

I never cease to be amazed at faculty and students who exhibit shock and horror at the fact that a Catholic university upholds and actively promotes Catholic values. Is it not enough that we have a multitude of public and private universities in this country which uphold the prevailing values of secularism and moral relativism? Must we also turn Notre Dame into one of them too?

Happy Easter!

A happy and blessed Easter to all of you!

I have some things to post about from Saturday's South Bend Tribune - but it can wait until Monday. There will be time enough to talk, discuss and debate about everything. For now, let us rest and give thanks to God. Christ is risen - Alleluia!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday

"This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD." - Exodus 11:11

The Israelites were already dressed for their journey out of Egypt when they ate the Passover lamb. They were strangers in a strange land - not just strangers, but slaves. The Egyptians had held them in bondage - but God would deliver them and bring them home.

Thinking about the flight from Egypt makes me wonder if we realize that we are also strangers in a strange land. This world is not our home, as Jesus reminds us so often in the Gospels. We are made to yearn for heaven. In the words of St. Augustine, "God, Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."

How often do we think about our final destination, our heavenly home? Are we content to stay in Egypt, in the pleasant chains of bondage to this life? Or do we gird up our loins like the Israelites, and set out on our journey, eager to reach the Promised Land?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Observer Roundup

As fellow Domeblogger Dan noted, today's Observer provides plenty of food for thought. First up is the interview with radical pro-life activist Randall Terry, he of the bloody baby dolls and aborted baby pictures. He goes out of his way to chastise ND Response as "not equal to the task before them," for which I am profoundly grateful, since it is now crystal clear that Terry is not here at ND Response's behest and that ND Response does not condone his tactics. While I believe that graphic pictures of abortion have their place, we are not going to change any minds by trying to "wreck" graduation for the seniors. Unfortunately many see Terry's tactics as emblematic of the pro-life movement. We need debate, not sensation - and above all, we need to respond in a Christlike manner. ND Response is on the right track.

Next is a letter from an alumnus bemoaning the fact that the students protesting Obama's appearance are "isolating themselves from the outside world." A common complaint among our detractors - one of the students from the article I posted yesterday basically said "stop complaining, America is looking at us funny." To which I reply - since when are Christians supposed to care what the rest of the world thinks? Jesus warns us repeatedly that if we follow him, we can expect ridicule and ostracism. Doing the right thing frequently gets you criticized by the secular majority. What part of "in the world, but not of it" did not come through there?

It's true that just because we are going counter to society, it does not mean that we are following Christ - something important to remember. But this alum seems to completely misunderstand the reason for the protests - not to disengage from the world, but to engage with it on a Catholic Christian basis. He mistakes students' unwillingness to conform to the world for a misguided hermetic isolation. Unfortunate, really.

Prof. Freddoso's speech from the prayer rally

For those who are interested, Dawn Eden has the complete text of Professor Alfred Freddoso's speech from Sunday's prayer rally at her blog: Prof. Freddoso addresses rally:
Notre Dame protest is about President Obama's actions & intentions, not merely his beliefs

Go check it out - it's worth a read. (And my apologies to Prof. Freddoso, whom I initially referred to by his son's name in my post on the rally! I've corrected my error. Somehow I don't think he would mind too much :) )

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Personhood, Race and the Unborn

From the Observer:
Group starts petition in support of Obama

"The College Democrats, the NAACP, the Black Students Association, La Alianza, the First Class Steppers and the Hispanic alumni group MEChA have given their support to the petition drive, according to Miller."
"'Being a Catholic isn't based on one particular thing and I just think that more tolerance is needed in this community,' said Tipton."

It's good to see reasonable, peaceful action from the other side (other than a few people simply showing up and shouting at speakers during ND Response rallies.) But I really wish that this issue would not be turned into an issue of race. I know I don't care whether Barack Obama is black, white, green or purple. I do care about his policies and how they affect the born AND unborn. I judge people on their actions, not on their skin color, because that's what I've always been taught to do.

1,452 black babies die from abortion every day in this country. And Obama seems not to have a problem with this. I wonder how many of these students know about Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, and her love affair with the eugenics movement which sought to keep blacks and other "undesirables" from having "too many" children.

It wasn't so long ago in our nation that black people were not considered persons, either. (Remember the Three-Fifths Compromise and the Dred Scott decision from your high school history classes?) Even after emancipation the repressive Jim Crow laws kept black Americans from exercising the full rights of citizenship. Yes, we have come a long way, and I can understand that the first black president is a powerful symbol for all that has been accomplished. Is it really something to celebrate, though, if that president denies the rights of personhood to another powerless, voiceless group - the unborn?

But for some strange reason, our opposition to Obama is being characterized as intolerance by our fellow students. I'd argue that denying the personhood of the unborn is about as intolerant as it gets.


Greetings to all who may have found my blog via Google! I was surprised to get comments, but a commenter told me that she found Seat of Wisdom by Googling the ND Response prayer rally.

I have to give a little disclaimer - I am not involved in ND Response in any way, other than giving them my support in prayer and at public events such as Sunday's prayer rally. I feel that this is very much the undergrads' battle, since it is their commencement at which Obama is speaking. They are doing a fine job. I encourage all of you to visit the ND Response website if you want to help. God bless.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

ND Response Prayer Rally/Protest

Well, I have returned from the prayer rally and sufficiently thawed my fingers to post about it! :) (No pictures, unfortunately - I left my camera at the house. Maybe next time.)

When I arrived at the Main Building around 2 pm, there was a sizable crowd already gathering. The atmosphere was hushed, but excited. Students were gathered around tables, writing on the red envelopes to be sent to Fr. Jenkins to give to President Obama. A Right to Life member handed me a carnation, and I learned that we would walk down to the Grotto after the rally to lay the flowers in front of the statue of Our Lady.

The prayer rally was kicked off by an invocation from a priest (whose name escapes me, sadly). Most appropriately, he began with a verse from Psalm 127: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it." This verse is so dear to me as it embodies my approach to life and work - to lift it up in praise to God. I think Father Sorin must have known this verse as he strove to raise up this university. Now we are all wondering whether Fr. Jenkins remembers that this university should glorify God.

Chris, the chairman of ND Response, then introduced the keynote speaker, Harold Cassidy, a prominent pro-life lawyer. In his speech, Mr. Cassidy refuted the arguments used by Catholic politicians to justify their support of legal abortion. He made the case that the right to life is based not in a particular faith, but in science and law - indeed, the right to life is written into the founding documents of our nation. He shared some stories from his legal work with post-abortive women - stories that eloquently illustrated the harm that abortion causes women. He told of one woman who had survived a suicide attempt brought on by post-abortive depression - the scars of her attempt covered her entire forearm.

It was at this point that we had a bit of a disturbance. I was surprised, actually, to not see any counter-protesters, or at least mockers or scoffers. Given that there are dorms around the quad in front of the Main Building, I half expected to see some foolishness precipitated by people hanging out the windows. Maybe the gray weather and threatening rain kept them away.

But, I did notice during Mr. Cassidy's speech a group of two or three girls on the edge of the crowd, on the east side of the quad. Their body language suggested they were itching for a confrontation. Right about when he started to talk about the harm caused to women by abortion, I heard one girl begin to shout something. He simply raised his voice and kept talking -but she was apparently determined to be heard, as she started yelling for people to "get out of her face." I couldn't really tell what she was trying to say, other than "this isn't about abortion" and something about Obama. She seemed very angry, and frankly, a little scary. Mr. Cassidy asked that she be left alone - I couldn't see what was happening, but I guess someone was attempting to get her to move off. He continued on with his speech but the girl kept shouting indistinctly until a camera moved her way. The chance to air her grievances to the media apparently placated her and we didn't hear any more for the rest of the rally.

After Mr. Cassidy's speech, we all prayed the rosary together as the rain began to fall. The rain came harder and I thought that the girl and her friends had given up and left. I looked up, though, and saw her watching the student leaders pray the rosary with a sneer on her face. I thought for half a second that she would take advantage of the prayer time to rush the podium - but we were undisturbed.

I've never prayed the rosary with such a big group before - they estimated the crowd at about 400 people. It was an amazing, incredible feeling of unity. When the rain got heavier, a sympathetic undergrad - a complete stranger - moved over to share her umbrella.

After the rosary, Prof. Alfred Freddoso spoke for a few moments. He said that campus security would not allow him to drive into campus, even with his faculty tag - drawing a murmur of disgust from the crowd. He told us that he was here as a sign of solidarity, as a representative of the tiny minority of faculty who also opposed the invitation to Obama. His words were absolutely energizing - I wish all those on the blogs who are ready to write off every Notre Dame professor as an utter heretic could have heard him.

Finally, the rally drew to a close and we walked down to the Grotto with our carnations. I said a Hail Mary as the rain continued to fall. My feet and hands were completely numb, but my heart was warm. No, all is not lost here at Our Lady's University.

Now, let's pray that God will bless me with awesome productivity this evening to make up for those two hours I probably should have been studying/working on my term paper! ;) I don't at all regret going, though. Some things are just too important to miss.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Notre Dame students speak out

Via fellow Domeblogger Mary Liz:
Notre Dame Response

This is the official site for news on what the pro-life and orthodox Catholic groups at Notre Dame are doing to protest Obama's commencement appearance. I am very impressed with how fast this appeared, and the media savvy that the student leaders have shown. Some of the group's members have been interviewed on the national news, including a classmate of mine (go Emily!). I have signed up for the email updates.

The first official protest event will be a prayer rally on Palm Sunday (this upcoming Sunday - Lent has really flown by!). Students and supporters will be gathering in front of the Basilica after the noon Mass, and the event officially starts at 2 pm. I plan to take a break from term paper writing and join them in prayer. Hopefully I will see some familiar faces from my TOB class and elsewhere.

I hope for a good turnout - the media has really been focusing on the excitement of the Notre Dame students over Obama's visit, and some of the student quotes have been appalling. The opposition may be a minority - but let's be a vocal, significant, and prayerful minority.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Amidst the furious letters of protest over Obama giving the commencement speech, I saw this news item in the Observer:

Michigan Ballpark to offer up 4,800 calorie burgers

The West Michigan Whitecaps, a minor league baseball team, will be offering up major league cholesterol, carbohydrates and calories in an enormous hamburger being added to the menu this year at the Fifth Third Ballpark.

The 4-pound, $20 burger features five beef patties, five slices of cheese, nearly a cup of chili and liberal doses of salsa and corn chips, all on an 8-inch sesame-seed bun. That's a lot of dough!

The Grand Rapids Press reports that anyone who eats the entire 4,800-calorie behemoth in one sitting will receive a special T-shirt. Saner fans can divide it up with a pizza cutter and share.

I'm glad to hear that it is meant to be shared, but it got me thinking - why on earth does anyone need a 4800 calorie hamburger? I'm sure there are people on this earth who don't get that many calories in a week. This seems to be the latest in a trend of "competitive eating." The Food Network actually has an entire show dedicated to ridiculously huge food. My husband thinks it's funny, but I find it repulsive - and yes, sinful.

You don't really hear gluttony preached about from the pulpit these days. Maybe it's because of the "fattening of America." But it's a sin I've become more aware of in myself as of late. It's not so much about weight loss as it is about our fair share. Do we really need to eat an entire days' worth of calories in one meal? Are we honoring our bodies by shoveling huge amounts of meat into our mouths? My conscience says no.

I have been moderately successful this Lent in resisting overeating, due in part to my efforts to lose weight. Sometimes I'll make the effort to purposefully leave some food on my plate at the end of a meal. I usually find that I'm pretty full anyway, but I'm also torn between my desire not to waste food and my desire to grow in self-control.

My personal Waterloo, though, is what I call "foodie-ism." Yes, I am a foodie. I love exotic fruit out of season, fresh herbs in winter, imported prosciutto, and fancy dried mushrooms that cost $8.99 an ounce. I would totally drink wine with every meal if I had the chance. However, I have come to the uncomfortable realization that an excessive love of delicacies is also a form of gluttony. My next goal is to make a conscious attempt to simplify the meals I cook for myself and use fewer "fancy" ingredients. I hope it will make a real difference in my spiritual life as well as our household budget.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Notre Dame Shame

Ever since the news broke that President Obama has accepted Notre Dame's invitation to be this year's commencement speaker, I have been vainly trying to collect my thoughts for a blog post. My first response was utter revulsion. This man stands against so much that the Catholic Church stands for, and a supposedly Catholic university is going to invite him to speak and honor him with a degree? The details have been discussed and debated ad infinitum on many Catholic blogs more illustrious than mine, so I will limit my blog post to my personal response. (National Review Online has a pretty awesome commentator roundup, and American Papist is posting updates regularly.)

I found out Saturday night and it was with a heavy heart that I attended Mass at the Basilica Sunday. I'll admit it - I was resentful. Having seen so many hopeful signs of Notre Dame's reclamation of its Catholic identity, I felt very much betrayed. When I decided to come here, my rather cynical, non-Catholic husband warned me that I would expect too much of Notre Dame and be disappointed. I hate to say it, but he was right in this instance. This is just too much.

I also have to share my husband's response when I told him the news - "Wait, this guy is pro...well, basically all the things you Catholics are against, and Notre Dame invites him to give the commencement speech? ...are they stupid or something?" Well, what he lacks in charity he certainly makes up for in clarity. It's sad when a non-Catholic can see so plainly what some lifelong Catholics choose to blind themselves to.

I look at Notre Dame and I see a microcosm of American Catholicism. Some are still firmly aboard the Barque of Peter...some are clinging to the sides, and others have jumped ship completely. The student reactions run the gamut from delight to apathy to anger. It saddens me to see the divisions. It saddens me still more to realize how many Catholic students don't fully understand the teachings of their own church. It seems that being strongly pro-life is looked on as being somehow "extremist."

Much is being made of Obama's commitment to "social justice," but if I understand it correctly, the root of social justice is the worth and value of all people as children of God. How can you proclaim the value of all people and then say that it is OK to kill the unborn? How can someone be committed to social justice and then admit that there is an entire class of people unworthy of legal protection? I wish people wouldn't behave as if being pro-life and pro-social justice were mutually exclusive. I'd posit that they are mutually inclusive. Let's also not forget that Obama recently made it legal for embryos to be created solely for research purposes. How can anyone who believes that life begins at conception, not feel a chill when thinking of the implications of that?

Add to all the above Obama's recent moves to bring down conscience protections for Catholic medical workers, and there is absolutely no good reason why a Catholic university should honor this man. The university has spouted some feel-good pablum about "diversity" and "dialogue," to which I can only respond - what dialogue? It is his speech - he will determine the message, not the university. Obama will come, give his speech, and be fawned over by adoring students and professors. I somehow doubt he will find time in his so-busy schedule to debate those he believes to be "extremists." He professes to be open minded, but it's all so many empty words. He is firmly wedded to the pro-choice cause. For Notre Dame to try to spin this invitation as some kind of conversion attempt - well, pearls before swine, anyone? Yes, let's debate him, but this is not the forum for debate. Yes, let's pray for his conversion, but let's not honor him in a misguided attempt to have him change his ways. If anything, the message he will be receiving is "Keep doing what you're doing - Catholic America loves you just the way you are!"

Right now, I'm reminded that I am an outsider, too. I admire the school spirit of the students, but I think it is not right when that love of school trumps all else to become clannishness. The attitude I am picking up is, "So what about Catholic teaching? Notre Dame can do what it likes!" (I overheard a girl in LaFortune complaining about the letters of protest in the Observer - "They need to just get over it!" Indeed - millions of dead unborn and we should just "get over it." Behold your next generation of leaders, Catholic America.) Even the more orthodox-minded students are bristling about the intervention of outside groups like the Cardinal Newman Society. The vibe that I'm getting is, "We can handle this ourselves - and everyone with no stake in Notre Dame should butt out." The Graduate School has its own separate graduation, so there isn't really the same furor amongst the graduate students. In any case, most of them probably wish they could be at the commencement!

I want to offer my support, protest...anything right now, really. But I get the sense that this is not my battle. The Catholic student groups here have been blessed with outspoken, articulate student leaders, and they are currently trying to formulate a response. Although I'm angry as any Catholic should be, I don't have the same sort of attachment to Notre Dame that these students do. I suppose all I can really do is offer my prayers and support. And once I'm coherent again, I will write a letter to Father Jenkins. I know it won't do much good, but I feel that I have to at least try.

I will leave you with this excellent article by Dr. Ralph McInerny - Is Obama Worth a Mass?. He is retiring this year and will be sadly missed at Notre Dame. He is a strong voice for orthodoxy on campus.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th!

Greetings to my readers (all two of you!) I hope you are having a pleasant Friday the 13th and avoiding bad luck. As you can see I've been staying very busy this semester. I've intended to post so many times (with regards to the flap over Bp. Williamson and media irresponsibility, as well as some particularly inane letters in the Observer) but my academic duties have sapped my blogging muse. I have a stack of about 100 lab reports to grade, and more on the way.

My husband and I have a quiet Valentine's Day planned. We are planning a weekend trip to Chicago at some later date as our "treat" to each other. Otherwise, we will be making homemade truffles and house-hunting. I have yet to come up with a tasty dinner idea for Valentine's Day - must get to work on that!

Also on Saturday is the Edith Stein Project at Notre Dame. There are some excellent talks on the schedule for this afternoon, but sadly my class schedule (and our weekly departmental seminar) prevent me from attending them. However, I am very much looking forward to the Saturday morning talk by Dr. Janet Smith. She is well known as a lecturer on Catholic sexual ethics and particularly on the topic of contraception. I will be sure to post about the talks I attend.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our hope is in Christ

In lieu of watching the inauguration Tuesday, I went to daily Mass at the Basilica. It was the feast day of Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. The Congregation's motto is "Spes Unica," referring to the cross of Christ, our only hope. Thus, the readings chosen for the day emphasized hope. I couldn't help but think of the false "hope" promised by our new president in contrast to the hope that Christ alone can give us. I remember most clearly the psalm response: "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord."

And the gospel reading:
Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life? (Mark 8:34-37)

What profit, indeed?

I pray for all those who keep faith in this difficult time. It seems we are now called to "take up our cross" and follow Christ.

I pray most especially for those who will be at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. So many people hailed the inauguration as a "historic moment" and a cause to rejoice, but there is no joy in my heart - largely because I know this president has no desire to protect the helpless unborn. I don't understand how a man who expresses compassion for the plight of the downtrodden can just write off the weakest members of our society. The March for Life will serve as a powerful witness that this new presidency is not a cause for celebration for all.

I'm sure there are many Obama supporters who have stayed behind after the inauguration to "counter-protest." I have seen pictures of the March on Catholic blogs before, and the pro-life marchers are assaulted with many ugly words and signs. I pray they will have the strength to offer only gentleness in spite of this diabolical attack and stand as a sign of contradiction.

I will also continue to pray that Obama will experience a change of heart on the topic of abortion, and realize that the unborn are human beings who need protection. It's a stretch, but our God is a God of miracles.