Please take a minute– last day!

Today is the deadline for filing comments with the HHS regarding the contraception mandate.

Please take the time to do so — it only takes a minute.  Links can be found at my earlier post here.

If you need encouragement and a reminder why this is important, you should read Bishop Conley’s excellent article on the matter:

Commit to courageous Christian leadership

Sep. 28, 2011 – On Aug. 15, 1975, Bishop Nguyen Van Thuan was arrested in Saigon. He spent the next 13 years in prison—nine of them in solitary confinement.

His crime? He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Saigon.

The Communist government believed Bishop Van Thuan’s appointment was a conspiracy between the Vatican and western governments and they believed he was at the heart of this conspiracy.

During his years of confinement, Bishop Van Thuan ministered to thousands of Vietnamese inmates. He provided pastoral care to Catholics, and evangelized guards and non-Christian prisoners. He carved a cross to wear from scraps of wood fastened with electrical wire. He celebrated Mass with hidden hosts and drops of wine. He heard confessions, he preached, he witnessed to truth.

In the face of unjust imprisonment, Bishop Van Thuan found an opportunity to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

After his release, Bishop Van Thuan was praised for his heroic leadership. But he saw his life as that of an ordinary Christian leader responding to injustice.

“The greatest failure in leadership,” he said, “is for the leader to be afraid to speak and act as a leader.”

Today, more than ever, Christianity needs leaders committed to truth in the face of injustice.

Act TODAY!

To contact the Department of Health and Human Services, visit www.usccb.org/conscience.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a rule that requires nearly all private health insurance plans to provide contraceptive and sterilization services to women. Catholic institutions and other religious groups who oppose contraception are not exempted.

This rule is unjust on two levels. First, it treats pregnancy and fertility as diseases instead of gifts. Second, it places a major focus on mandatory coverage for surgical sterilization and all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after pill,” which causes an abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy by preventing the implantation of the human embryo.

The rule even mandates “education and counseling” to promote these measures among women of reproductive capacity. By mandating contraceptive care be provided in health insurance, the Department of Health and Human Services sends a message that avoiding pregnancy is a right and expectation for all Americans.

This HHS rule forces virtually all employers to provide contraception coverage to employees. Catholics in the business world, who seek to uphold the dignity of their employees, will be mandated to provide drugs that impede fertility, and in some cases, cause abortion.

Because the religious exemption is so narrowly interpreted, the law does not allow most Catholic institutions to be exempted and it contains no real conscience protection for those who have moral objections to participating in or paying for such plans and procedures.

If the Catholic Church is forced to comply with this rule it will be forced to compromise the core principles of its Christian identity. This is a grave violation of religious liberty and is unacceptable. We can fight this injustice.

Until Sept. 30 the Department of Health and Human Services is conducting a “listening period” on its new rules. By contacting them you can give vital witness to the Gospel. It is imperative that Catholics witness to truth. Please join me in asking HHS to respect human dignity and religious freedom.

If this rule is implemented there could be persecution ahead for Catholic institutions. However, as St. Paul proclaimed, “to die in Christ is to live.” We Catholics can use this unjust law as an opportunity for evangelization.

It is not enough merely to express opposition to laws that violate our religious liberty. Rather, like Bishop Van Thuan, we must engage in Christian leadership in the face of injustice.

In opposing unjust laws we can positively articulate the truth we have been given.  In the weeks and months to come, we can witness to the Catholic belief that sexual relations are a beautiful and integral part of marriage, and that contraceptives rob them of their true and full meaning.

Earlier this month, Regis University confirmed that it would not comply with a state law requiring it to provide contraceptive coverage in its student health plan. The university could now face a costly legal battle, limitations on its ministry and significant opposition from those who oppose the Church’s teaching on contraception.

Regis has seized an opportunity to lead—to express what we as Catholics believe and why. This is what a Catholic institution of higher learning should do. This opportunity is a great grace and I commend the university’s witness.

Seize the opportunity to oppose the unjust HHS rules. Imitate the courage of Bishop Van Thuan. Commit to Christian leadership. Let’s join together in witnessing to the truth of the Gospel and the dignity of the human person.

Bishop James D. Conley is apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese.

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Love Come Alive

It was a good weekend.  I was supposed to be at the wedding of two friends back home, but making the weekend trip was going to be too hard (and vacation days are few and far between).  I was sort of expecting to be homesick and mopey.   But I had a wonderful weekend, full of little gifts from God.  I’m very thankful for that.  Perhaps this city is becoming a little more home every day … although the idea of that gives me mixed feelings.  And since that’s not the purpose of this post, I’ll move on.

Friday saw me at a speakeasy with my girlfriends– a laid-back evening to celebrate my friend Tess’ completion of another milestone in her doctoral work.  It was one of those nights that reminded me to be thankful that God has given me these great friends who find themselves in similar circumstances.

Saturday evening was a night full of life and music.  It was a concert called “Love Come Alive,” and it was the kickoff for our 40 Days for Life effort.  40 Days for Life is an international campaign held twice a year to draw attention to what abortion does in our communities.  It has three components: prayer & fasting, constant vigil, and community outreach.  You can read more here: http://www.40daysforlife.com/about.cfm

To kick off the campaign this fall, a young man in our community organized a fantastic night of music to celebrate the gift of life. In addition to multiple musical performances, we had a phone call from David Bereit, the national director of 40 Days.  That was definitely a highlight!  There was also a testimony from a woman who had an abortion when she was young. While she still suffers some of the psychological effects, she has discovered the mercy of God and last night was able to speak of it publicly for the first time.  We also heard of the miraculous cure of a high school boy (whom I mentioned on the blog last year).  Much to celebrate, much to pray for!

I hope the happiness and the energy spills out to the campaign.  500 happy people, friends everywhere you looked- it was such a lovely night!

Today the fun continued — with tickets to the Titans game with two of my friends.  After Mass this morning, I headed home to change into light blue and toss my orange purse aside for the day — to remind myself that I would not be cheering for Brady Quinn.  It was strange to cheer against him (not that he played), but it was nice to see him again.  I would post a link to my crazy LiveJournal post about going to an ND game my senior year in college (his junior year) and sitting right behind the bench, but it is just filled with pictures of him on the sidelines and bizarre boy-crazy musings.  And I’ve changed a lot since then. Well… I still took a picture of him on the sidelines today.

It was a great game — with a great win for the home team!

And that was my weekend.  Back to the grind tomorrow!

happy things

Fall is here, at least for a little while.  I’m sure we have a few more 90 degree days left before November, but there’s definitely a Fall chill in the air today.

So my first happy thing:

I’m not sure you can tell what that is … for those who can’t, it’s my porch door.  OPEN!  So my apartment is getting nice and chilly.  I heart Fall so much.

The next happy thing is that I bought a Leaves candle AND a Leaves plug-in air freshener from Bath and Body Works a few weeks ago (I had to buy it before they sold out!) and I somehow managed to hold off using them until yesterday.  So now my apartment smells wonderfully Fall.  (If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know I have a little love affair each fall with the Leaves candle from Bath and Body Works.  Once I even went to a B&BW three hours from here (I was on my way to VA- I’m not that crazy…) because the stores here were sold out of them.)

The last happy thing is this quote from the Holy Father, with which I’m going to leave you.  It’s happy because:
1) sometimes I get really caught up about how depressing our world is.  We’re not living in a pretty time, folks, and what makes it more depressing is that many people are apathetic and/or clueless.  This quote makes me feel better.
2) I love the Pope.  And I’m going to be in his city in 26 days!

Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you.
Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness.
The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith,
His name will continue to resound throughout the world.
-Pope Benedict, World Youth Day Prayer Vigil
20 August 2011

accountablity

Reflecting on the news that yet another “famous” priest has been called home, I began to think about the importance of accountability.

A few months ago, a friend of mine and I had an interesting discussion over dinner.  We were concerned about the various priests we knew who weren’t working in a diocese under a bishop or in a religious order under a superior.  We were on the heels of the Father Corapi scandal, and my friend mentioned that priests working on their own seemed more at risk for falling into scandal.   When we named a few that came to mind, Father Pavone was one of them.  It wasn’t a judgment on these priests’ moral character or anything– the opposite, actually.  We highly regarded the priests we discussed, and we lamented the fact that they were in a risky situation.

Every one needs to be accountable to someone.

Unfortunately, our conversation proved prophetic in the case of Father Pavone.  I’m not taking sides, but the fact is that he was called home by his bishop.  Whether you side with Father Pavone or his bishop, the fact of the matter is that he needed to be reminded of his accountability to someone else.  I hope that the other priests we discussed do not find themselves in similar situations.

We all need accountability.  That’s why the majority of the world is called to marriage or the religious life under a superior.  Not many people are called to live eremitical lives, responsible to no one but God.  Most of us need to hear the voice of God through legitimate superiors and toil towards salvation with others.  For many, that means being accountable to a husband or wife.  To others, it means taking vows of obedience to a religious superior or bishop.

Even superiors are accountable.   They have whole orders that they’re responsible for, and if they mess up, it eventually comes to light.   Very few people can achieve sanctity in a box.  We need to answer for our decisions and actions.

When priests are functioning as heads of corporations and seemingly answering to no one,  I get a little nervous.  And the tragic events of this past year seem to justify that nervousness.  Thankfully, Father Pavone was called home for reasons unlike the others.

Acknowledging the importance of accountability acknowledges that there’s a dangerous hole in my current vocation as a single person.  Quite frankly, I’m accountable to almost no one* at the moment.   This manifests itself daily in minor ways (thankfully minor).  That cute black trench coat at Target?  What’s to prevent me from buying it the minute I see it?  I’m pretty sure I’ve needed a trench coat since she wore one in July.  (Or maybe it was in March?)

Or staying up late wandering aimlessly on the internet?

Or pushing the snooze button three times (because I stayed up too late on the internet)?

Or not exercising?  Even after eating that third cookie?

No accountability.  Which is why I’m announcing a new resolution to my blog readers- no internet after 9:15 unless it’s an emergency.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

Since it’s 9:19 right now… see you tomorrow!

 

*I say “almost no one,” because we’re all accountable to God, I’m obviously accountable to my bosses at work, etc.  And I am accountable to a certain man and woman (let’s call them “Dad” and “Mom”) for both tangible things (like things they generously allow me to “borrow” while I toil in poverty working for the Church) and more importantly, the non-tangible gifts they’ve given me: my faith, education, etc.

It’s time to speak!

Hopefully everyone heard about the contraception mandate this week at their local parishes.  Whether it was in your bulletin, your priest preached about it, or your bishop wrote about it in your weekly paper, the USCCB has asked  your priests and bishops to speak about it.  Time is running out.

If you didn’t hear about it, I’m here to spread the word. (Fellow bloggers, please do the same!)

From my own bishops’ letter:

In early August of this year, a ruling by officials of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was rendered which requires most companies offering health insurance to include as a part of their coverages treatments and procedures that provide for sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including some that can cause an abortion.

This is an ominous and very troubling development.

Historically, individuals and organizations offering health insurance could tailor their policy to exclude those provisions and procedures that were in conflict with the moral values embraced and adhered to by them. No more, according to this ruling.

In effect, this means that all entities and organizations of the Catholic Church providing insurance to employees would be required to cooperate in medical choices that are diametrically opposed to our moral values, which recognize that life is a gift from God to be welcomed, cherished and protected.

There is a “religious exception clause,” but it is so narrow that “Jesus himself couldn’t pass muster.”  To fit the exemption a religious organization “must primarily serve and hire persons who share their religious tenets and restrict their charitable efforts to the inculcation of religious values.”

Ridiculous.  So to fit the exemption, we need to stop ministering to the poor unless those poor happen to be Catholic?  We need to stop teaching the youth, unless those youth are Catholic?  We need to stop feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked… unless those people are Catholic?

We only have until September 30th to make public comments on this mandate.  The USCCB has a nice bulletin insert to give you all the information without overwhelming you: see here.

Our religious liberty has been threatened for a long time, but this is the most blatant threat in a long time.  It’s time to act.

Please, please, please email the US Department of Health and Human Services and your Congressmen.  To make it as easy possible, I’ve put the links below.  They even draft the email for you.  There’s no reason not to do this — your only three clicks away from sending the message.

If you’re hesitating, think of me.  My employer will no longer be able to provide health insurance for me if this goes into effect.  There are probably many people you know who are in a similar situation.

Contact the HHS regarding the Contraceptive Mandate:

http://www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=299

Contact your members of Congress regarding the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act:

http://www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=292

Only say the Word

My mind wandered a bit during Father’s homily today (my apologies to Father), and those wanderings are now going down into this blog post.  I didn’t feel as guilty as I do when my mind wanders into the realm of what am I going to eat for lunch today… it’s Monday, so that means Harris Teeter’s sub of the day is turkey… because my mind was wandering into theological realm and began wandering based on something Father said.

Today’s Gospel was the story of the centurion who asks Jesus to come cure his slave, but doesn’t let Jesus come to his house because of his unworthiness to receive Jesus under his roof.  He sends friends to tell Jesus that he knows Jesus doesn’t need to come to his house — He can cure the slave with His words.

The centurion says:

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come here, and he comes; and to my slave, Do this, and he does it.”

Those first lines should be recognizable; we refer to them at every Mass.  Beginning in Advent, we’ll be quoting it more faithfully from the Scripture with the revisions in the new Missal.

My mind began wandering about the performative, efficacious nature of Christ’s words.  God’s words are efficacious: they actually do what they signify.  We see this back in Genesis when God said, “Let there be light.”  And there was light.

This is important when we’re discussing the liturgy, and it’s one of the main reasons this revision of the Roman Missal is so important.  We’re not speaking any old words at the liturgy, because the liturgy isn’t just about us gathering together around a common table and singing some nice songs every Sunday morning.  The words we are speaking are important — because ultimately… they’re not ours.

Bishop Conley, auxiliary bishop of Denver, said, “In the liturgy, we are praying to God in the very words of God. And God’s Word is power. God’s Word is living and active. That means that the words we pray in the liturgy are ‘performative.’ They are not words alone, but words that have the power to do great deeds. They are words that can accomplish what they speak of.” (Check out his whole address here. It’s beautiful.)

The centurion in the Gospel refers to his own ability to command with his words, but his words aren’t efficacious.  They may have their desired effect; he may command a soldier to come to him and the soldier may come.  But do his words make it happen?  No.  The soldier could refuse to come, despite the centurion’s words.

When I teach about the liturgy, I use the example of a stop sign.  We have lots of signs all around us — but are they efficacious?  Do they actually accomplish what they signify?  A stop sign signifies that we are supposed to stop.  Does it make us stop?  Of course not.  We can blow right through that stop sign, regardless of what it might signify.

God’s words, however, are efficacious.  When the priest speaks the words of Christ: “This is my body,” what once was a piece of bread is sacramentally, substantially Christ’s body.  When he pours water over a person’s head and says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” that person is baptized into the Trinity and his sins are washed away.  The water — an efficacious sign — doesn’t just signify the washing of sins.  His sins are actually gone.

The liturgy brings us to the heavenly marriage supper of the Lamb, the eternal banquet where we enter into communion with the Holy Trinity.  Guess what?  It doesn’t just signify it on a superficial level.  It’s not that it reminds us of heaven (in many parishes, it probably doesn’t!), it’s not that it’s an expression of our community, it’s not that it’s symbol of the covenant Christ made with us at the Last Supper and on Calvary.

It’s actually accomplishing those things.  Our communion with the Holy Trinity, the marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Heavenly banquet, eternity — is present there at the Mass.  Because in the fullness of time, God spoke The Word.  Christ.  And that Word is performative.  Efficacious.  Life-changing.

At times our Sunday Mass may simply feel like an obligation.  One week we may be particularly touched by something, moved by the readings, uplifted by the music.  The next week it might all be gone.  It might be dry as a bone.   Thankfully, the liturgy is not dependent on us.  Ultimately, it is not our work.  We are participants in the work of God.  So when the feeling isn’t there, Christ still is.  When we feel broken and unworthy, He’s still working, His words ready to heal.