The Gift of Abundant Life

Posted on: December 25th, 2017 by editor No Comments

In one of the comic episodes from Don Quixote, the peasant and goatherd Sancho Panza unbelievably becomes the governor of an island much to the amazement of his wife who can only exclaim,” ’My mother used to say: ’He who would see much must live long’. I say this because, if I live longer, I hope to see more.’ ”

I have been thinking about this proverb recently for several reasons. First, I have lived long. Second, I think I have seen much—not because I have traveled everywhere or all over the world—but because I have traveled all the seven ages of man from the infant in his mother’s arms to the whining school boy going unwillingly to school to the luster of youth to the comfort of middle age to the gray hairs of age and almost (not yet) second childhood “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

I thought I had seen much, and I have witnessed a number of miracles in my own life, prayers answered and dreams come true. I thought I had seen my portion of some of the best life has to offer and could say “my cup runneth over.” I thought that now I had seen enough to make a full, complete life. But, because I have lived longer than three score and ten, I saw more. I was privileged to be alive to participate in the miraculous birth of twin grandsons and was once again born in wonder.

The news of another grandchild coming into the family was of course joyful news. However, after a few months, doctors discovered that this pregnancy was going to be the birth of identical twin boys—a great surprise! Every regular visit to the obstetrician showed that the babies were growing normally, gaining weight, and having no complications.

However, after seven months the twins began to suffer what the medical world calls TTTS—Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. The fluid was not circulating evenly between the twins, creating an imbalance in which one twin’s heart was undergoing stress from over nourishment and the other twin was suffering anemia from undernourishment. The doctors concluded the situation was so critical that a Caesarian-section surgery was advised to remove immediately the twins at two pounds and twenty-eight week gestation.

When my son Mark and daughter-in-law Niki arrived at a hospital In San Diego, California, for the scheduled surgery, there was no vacancy—one of the few times in three years that hospital did not have an available room—another surprise that proved providential! As Niki was directed to another nearby hospital, different doctors re-evaluated the condition of the twins and suggested another procedure, one that a majority of the other experts in the field did not advise. The majority insisted that the twins be prematurely removed immediately for the best chances of survival.

Dr. Mariam Tarsa, the chief doctor in charge of the case at the new hospital, however, recommended a little-known  laser surgery by a renowned expert in the field, Dr. Chmait, who happened to practice in Southern California—a third amazing surprise! When notified if he would review the case and determine if laser-surgery were advisable to open or separate some of the blood vessels that were causing the TTTS, he agreed to expedite the case. Although the medical textbooks do not advise this procedure after 26 weeks, he had already successively performed this type of surgery several times this late in the pregnancy weeks and was willing to take the risk.

He explained that the recipient twin was in stage 4 of the 5 stages that lead to heart failure in the womb.  With this hydropic heart condition, if the babies were prematurely delivered at 2 pounds, they would have had only a ten percent chance of survival. On September 19, he successively performed the surgery that allowed the equal flow and distribution of the fluid so both babies were receiving their proper nourishment. After five additional weeks in utero, the hearts healed naturally and recovered.

The twins were born on November 3 by natural childbirth close to 4 pounds each. The twin who suffered heart stress was of concern to the physicians who hoped he would heal without intervention or heart repair. After several examinations he offered the joyful news that there was no heart damage. The baby is perfectly healthy.

I thought I had seen much or enough for a lifetime. But there is always more. The love of God does not end or ever stop giving. Just when you think you have received your share of blessings, there is another surprise that leaves us in awe, makes us fall in love with life all over again, and brings the purest forms of happiness we never could have imagined.  We are all in a state of amazement and gratitude for this gift of superabundant life which the Lord of miracles and surprises makes us contemplate in awe and admiration.            

Mitchell Kalpakgian, Ph.D. has completed fifty years of teaching beginning as a teaching assistant at the University of Kansas, continuing as a professor of English at Simpson College in Iowa for thirty-one years, and recently teaching part-time at various schools and college in New Hampshire. As well as contributing to a number of publications, he has published seven books: The Marvelous in Fielding’s Novels, The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature, The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization, An Armenian Family Reunion (a collection of short stories), Modern Manners: The Poetry of Conduct and The Virtue of Civility, and The Virtues We Need Again. He has designed homeschooling literature courses for Seton Home School, and he also teaches online courses for Queen of Heaven Academy and part-time for Northeast Catholic College.
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Preparing to Receive the Word Made Flesh

Posted on: December 18th, 2017 by editor 1 Comment

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. These words from the Gospel of John are familiar to most of us and we will hear them at Mass on Christmas morning. It could be easy to take them for granted, but in fact this is the very mystery of the Incarnation, and something we should rightly contemplate during this Advent season.

What does it mean for us today that the Word became flesh?

We live in a fallen world, and one need not look far to see that the sense of God and the meaning of human existence are all but vanishing from the cultural landscape. While many are “looking for love in all the wrong places”, God has placed the answer to this longing for the love that truly satisfies right before our eyes. Advent is the key to helping us open our eyes and prepare our hearts to embrace this mystery of Love.

O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Just as ancient Israel longed for a Savior, so do we. What holds us captive? Advent is a penitential season; it gives us a chance to look at our lives and renew our hearts. Where are the dark places in our lives? God wants to touch them with His light. The candles of the Advent wreath remind us that Christ is the Light of the world. With each candle that is lit, let us draw closer to the Light. Will we be open to His grace? How important it is to remember that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not only helpful, but necessary. Let us avail our

selves of the opportunity to confess our sins and failures, and allow Christ to heal our wounds and restore our souls. After all, isn’t this why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us?

As we prepare to enter the mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas, let us contemplate one of the hallmark statements of Saint John Paul II in his Theology of the Body: “Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door.” In describing the great gift of the human person made in the image and likeness of God, he continues, “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”

Thus, when we enter into the season of Advent, we set out to prepare our hearts to receive the gift of the Word Made Flesh. We wait in hope as we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s humble birth. With Mary, we ponder the awesome reality that God saved the world through a baby, a Divine Infant, who by becoming one of us touched the hearts of lowly shepherds and royal kings. He who is God became man so that we could see in the flesh what Love incarnate looks like. He shows us the truth about ourselves and gives us the desire to live in accordance with that truth, that we may become whole. No matter what burdens we may be carrying, as we look at the Child in the manger, we can let His gaze of Love heal and restore us.

Advent provides an opportunity to ready our hearts and souls to truly receive and appreciate the joy of the Incarnation we celebrate on Christmas. It is worth taking the time to prepare well.

Allison LeDoux is the director of the Respect Life Office and the Office of Marriage and Family for the Diocese of Worcester, MA. Mrs. LeDoux serves as coordinator for the New England region of Diocesan Pro-Life Directors and is a member of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference’s Pro-Life/Pro-Family and Health Care Subcommittees. She received her certification in Catholic Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in 2007.Mrs. LeDoux and her husband, John, a permanent deacon, are the parents of eight children.
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What if Dismemberment Abortion Bans are Ruled Unconstitutional? Another Pro-Life Strategy

Posted on: December 11th, 2017 by editor No Comments

Just recently, the Dismemberment Abortion Ban of Texas was struck down by the US District Court for the Western District of Texas. The decision was immediately appealed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals where it awaits a hearing. Many other states have also faced similar challenges to their Dismemberment Abortion Bans as well. These challenges, of course, will likely lead to the US Supreme Court hearing one of the cases involving the barbaric practice of dismembering an unborn child and reaching a decision if the practice is constitutional or not.

At present, there is much confusion on the status of Dismemberment Abortion Bans. Furthermore, the pro-life constitutional experts seem divided on the issue. As previously mentioned in an article, two prominent pro-life constitutional lawyers had opposing views on the constitutionality of this type of legislation. As stated in the article, much of their argumentation hinged on what is called “fetal demise” and where the swing vote by Justice Anthony Kennedy will fall. Ultimately, one needs to understand that this procedure is the most common second trimester abortion and how the majority of the US Supreme Court will decide is anyone’s guess. But, for sake of argument, assume that Justice Kennedy and the majority of the Court decide that this type of ban is unconstitutional. What are pro-life advocates to do?

Morally speaking, there appears to be another avenue that pro-life lobbyists can look to. As it stands now, several states have banned abortion beyond the 20 week gestational mark. These types of bans are usually called Pain Capable Unborn Child Prevention Acts. Interestingly, these have not been challenged; very likely because doctors and technology have pushed the line of what viability is. Fetal viability, therefore, is something fluid, meaning that it can be lowered over time due to technological advances in medicine and technology, such as with the invention of the artificial womb.  The truth is the ability for doctors to be able to save a premature infant born at 24 weeks or lower is increasing. As a result, the viability of an unborn child is realistically changing. Because of this change, it seems likely that states may incrementally begin the process of filing and passing legislation that will move up the date from the 20 week mark to the 19 week mark and so on as technology advances.

In addition to the issue of viability, scientific knowledge of the unborn human child has also increased over the last few years. Much of the reason for the passage of Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts  and Dismemberment Abortion Bans are based on the reality of the unborn child being able to feel intense pain. Furthermore, studies have also indicated the ability of the unborn child to begin to recognize family members’ voices. The fact, the unborn child does very human things while in utero is beginning to be understood more. As a result, it is possible to help shift public opinion towards a more pro-life understanding with these facts.

As is the case with any piece of pro-life legislation, a couple of factors need to be weighed. Firstly, does a proposed initiative that moves the 20 week mark to 19 weeks follow the principle of incrementalism as so eloquently espoused by St. Pope John Paul II (see Evangelium Vitae, no. 73)? One can clearly understand how it limits the evil law of abortion. If the proposed legislation moves the ban from 20 weeks to 19 weeks then it begins the process of further reducing the numbers of second trimester abortions. By accomplishing this, the legislation, if it were to become law, further restricts the so-called abortion “right” by mandating that at a certain time within the gestational period abortion is outlawed.

But the principle also asks how the legislation will have the effect of leading the society from the acceptance of the evil law? This can be answered by two means: 1) by explaining the basic purpose of law and 2) how the law educates. The basic purpose is as St. Thomas Aquinas states, “And since law is given for the purpose of directing human acts; as far as human acts conduce to virtue, so far does law make men good” (Summa Theologica I-II, 92, 1). So law, according to Aquinas, is to direct men to do good acts; to help them become virtuous. Here, in particular, one can look to the virtue of justice. The law helps further enshrine the just precept that the intentional killing of an innocent unborn human being is wrong and that people are not to commit acts that take the life of an innocent unjustly. Furthermore, the law helps to educate that all human life is valuable and has dignity and as a result, ought not to be destroyed. Lastly, while it does not fully restore the aforementioned principle, it does partially restore where justice was deprived. Whereas unborn children at the 19th week of gestation were not protected before, they will be protected now if enacted.

The second factor to be considered is one of prudence. Many will argue, for example, that the Dismemberment Abortion Ban may have been imprudently rushed among the states by both professional pro-life advocates and legislators because the US Supreme Court was not comprised of enough votes to ban it. Furthermore, many states, when they lose constitutional challenges usually have to pay the litigation costs of the abortion industry attorneys which can reach in to the millions of dollars. While true, that the legislative and courtroom debate may have educated much of the public, the question becomes does the state want to potentially fund the attorneys who litigate on behalf of the abortion industry? For many, this could be considered a form of indirect scandal. This is why prudence plays a vital role when trying to pass legislation and the question here seems to be is it the proper time to pass such legislation? The Dismemberment Abortion Ban may have been passed a little too soon in several states. As a result, pro-life advocates may need to start considering when to change the 20 week ban to 19 weeks.

It may take another few years before this can happen for a couple of reasons: 1) any US Supreme Court decision that involves the Dismemberment Abortion Ban will have to be considered and 2) medical technology will have to advance a little further so as to ward off any potential court challenges. Regardless though, pro-life advocates need to begin the planning stages to propose such legislation. Many pro-life public policy experts understand that to fully restore a Culture of Life under the law it will take time and patience. However, thoughtful consideration of the next steps should be forefront at the present.

Joe Kral has been involved in the pro-life movement since he has been in college.  His MA in Theology was completed at the University of St. Thomas where he specialized in bioethics.  From 1996-2003 he was the Legislative Director for Texas Right to Life.  During that time he was also a lobbyist for the Department of Medical Ethics at National Right to Life.  From 2004-2007 he consulted the Texas Catholic Conference on pro-life legislative initiatives.   In 2006 he was awarded the “Bishop’s Pro-Life Award for Civic Action” from the Respect Life Ministry in the Diocese of Dallas.  He currently serves as a voluntary legislative advisor to Texas Alliance for Life, is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, taught as an adjunct professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, teaches as a Forward Toward Christian Ministry instructor for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and is doing doctoral studies at Harrison Middleton University where he is specializing in the ethical and legal theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, since 2004 and they have 2 children together. They attend St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Sugar Land.
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“The good Lord willing, I’m doing just fine!”

Posted on: December 4th, 2017 by editor No Comments
By Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh

I met him about four years ago. He told me his name was “Marlin, just like the fish!” He was going through the dumpster in the apartment complex where I live. He did this to give himself some extra money. In Oregon we have the “Oregon Bottle Bill.” This is a container deposit law that requires cans, bottles and other containers of carbonated soft drinks, beer and water sold, to be returnable with a refund value. Essentially each can and bottle if returned can retrieve ten cents per item. The point behind this bill is to reduce litter and increase container recycling.

This bill certainly has made a huge impact in Oregon in doing exactly that, it also creates a rise in interest among the homeless and other misfortunate souls to locate bottles or cans for the purpose of obtaining a few extra cents a day. They are counting on people who don’t return their cans and bottles to throw them in dumpsters. Thus, people like Marlin will go “dumpster diving” for their extra money.

The good news I discovered from Marlin is that he is not totally homeless now, which isn’t to say he always had a home in the past. He says he rents a room and works at the library two days a week. He gets full health coverage since his job is with the city and takes a lot of pride in this choice he has made. He makes minimum wage at the library but has to dumpster dive to help “pay the rest of his bills.”

One time I saw him on the road carrying a large bag of cans and bottles. We were experiencing some particularly bad weather so I offered to drive him to the bottle drop redemption place next to the large grocery store. This is when I learned about his job. He is always cheerful.

“Hello there Miss Cathy” is the greeting I receive from him. He is always laughing or smiling. He seems focused on remaining positive. I will ask him how he is doing and he answers, “The good Lord willing, I’m doing just fine.”

Marlin is a large black man – over six feet tall. He appears to be in his late 50s. His clothes are usually torn in various places but he doesn’t seem to mind. I see him a few times a week. I will give him bags of cans that I get from family and friends to help him out. One time I offered him money and he said, “No, no Miss Cathy. You need your money. The good Lord willing, I’m doing fine!”

All in all, he probably walks ten miles a day making his dumpster rounds in Hillsboro Oregon (A suburb of Portland) and examines up to 75 to 100 dumpsters every day. By my calculations, he may earn up to three dollars a day through his collection efforts.

At the complex where I live, there is a group of neighbors who smoke. They are not allowed to smoke inside the apartments so they stand by the trees or the dumpster to smoke. They will talk to Marlin. Sometimes they will gather there when I get home from work. I enjoy listening to their bantering while I park my car. Marlin doesn’t smoke but he appreciates their company. I know he likes being included.

We took up a collection to buy Marlin a new pair of shoes. I gave him some baked goods to put in his back pack along with the shoes. He was a little embarrassed but was very gracious and thanked me for them. I noticed the other day he was wearing them, so I assumed his other shoes probably gave out.

Last summer I had a birthday party for my grandson, Brandon. We have a pool where I live which makes me the popular Grandma. I bought several cases of soda and ordered several pizza’s for Brandon and his friends. I mentioned the party to Marlin and asked him to stop by around 5 pm because I would most certainly have a large collection of cans for him.

Marlin showed up at exactly 5 p.m. The party was winding down with my grandson happily showing off his numerous Lego toys and proudly counting his cash totaling $60 in gift money.

After seeing Marlin and my grandson standing next to each other, my first thought was that it would have take Marlin at least a month to earn that same amount of money from his dumpsters. He was very kind and wished Brandon a happy birthday. Marlin was just thrilled to get three full bags of cans. I offered to drive him to the recycling center again; his reaction was very grateful. “That would be so kind of you Miss Cathy. I don’t want to take you away from your party. The good Lord willing, I’ll be okay.” He said. “No problem Marlin, those bags are pretty full, I’ll be happy to run you down there with your cans.”

He finally agreed. While driving there, he proceeded to tell me what a wonderful Grandmother I was since Brandon seemed so happy surrounded by his friends and family. “If only we could all start over from childhood and appreciate Gods wonderful gifts to us.” He commented.

Such a simple statement which spoke volumes and made me wonder, how did Marlin get to the point in his life where dumpster diving was a means he used to help “pay the bills.” I wonder if he has family somewhere. I suspect there’s a story there.  I don’t ask him, but I do like to say a prayer for him now and then.

Marlin seems happy that I remember his quest for cans. He seems appreciative that I greet him whenever we meet and ask how he’s doing. What strikes me the most is that somewhere he has discovered faith along the way. Whatever happened to him, he is grateful to the “Good Lord” for where he is now.

There are so many people who have so little. What would Jesus think of the inequalities of people’s circumstances? Jesus would likely do what he did in His day. He would help the blind man see, help the lame walk and teach His message over and over again. You know the one where he says “A new command I give you, love one another as I have loved you.  So you must love one another” (John 13:34).

I think Jesus would want us to find ways to help each other as much as we can. I would love to be able to help Marlin more but he seems grateful that I am his friend; “The good Lord willing, I’ll be just fine!”

rsz_1cathyCatherine Mendenhall-Baugh (Cathy) completed her education at the University of Nebraska majoring in Special Education and minoring in English Literature and now works in the insurance industry. A mother and a grandmother, Cathy grew up in a large Catholic family and has spent the last 30 years as a caregiver for her husband, Jack. A writer for Tuscany Press, she is also working on several longer writing projects.
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Audrey Hepburn’s Beauty Tips

Posted on: November 29th, 2017 by editor No Comments

The title of this article is misleading. It attributes a poem to the stylish actress that she did not compose. It happened to be one of her favorite poems and she read it to her children on the very last Christmas Eve she spent on earth. Legend credits her with its authorship. In her defense, she never claimed to have written it. The poem begins with the following advice that is patently more personal than cosmetic:

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone. People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.

The poem has been well received. The notion that one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses saw fit to stress to her children the superiority of spiritual beauty over physical beauty is itself very beautiful. She was also admired for her courage. As a teenager, she was a carrier for the Belgian Underground Anti-Nazi movement during World War II. Popular sentiment wanted her to have written the poem.  Nonetheless, Audrey Hepburn did not write what is popularly known as “Audrey Hepburn’s Beauty Tips”. It was originally composed by Sam Levenson and titled, “Time Tested Beauty Tips,” which he wrote for his grandchild.

The last four words, for Sam Levenson, known to North Americans mostly as a comedian, were of special significance for him. In a short piece he wrote called “The Fate of the World,” he stated his belief that “each newborn child arrives on earth with a message to deliver to mankind. Clenched in his little fist is some particle of yet unrevealed truth, some clue, which may solve the enigma of man’s destiny.”

India’s Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, said something similar when he commented that “Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” And in the same vein, Carl Sandburg, one of America’s most celebrated poets, declared that “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” “Never will a time come,” he went on to say, “when the most marvelous recent invention is as marvelous as a newborn child.” A child is not an “inconvenience” nor is it “a consumer of valuable resources,” as is commonly said to be the case. Sociologist George Gilder reports an instance when a woman sharply rebuked a man for fathering five children. “Don’t you realize,” she remonstrated, that they are “consumers of valuable natural resources”? The father replied, “But don’t you realize that children are our most important natural resource!”  Our concern for the environment has depreciated the value of new life. Yet, we are the custodians of the environment.  The “garden” of Eden did not cultivate itself. Without humans there is no horticulture, agriculture or any other kind of culture.

Levenson is in good company concerning the value he places on the life of every newborn child. The child who comes into the world has a message.  Correspondingly, we have an obligation to care for that child:  “Our mission,” he writes, “is to exercise the kind of loving care which will prompt the child to open his fist and offer up his truth, his individuality, the irreducible atom of his self.”  Faithful to his Jewish faith, Levenson stands by the philosophy expressed in Sanhedrin 4:4 which says that whoever destroys one life will be considered as having destroyed the whole world; and whoever saves one life will be credited with having saved the whole world.


Dr. Donald DeMarco is a Senior Fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, CT, and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His latest works, How to Remain Sane in a World That is Going Mad and Poetry That Enters the Mind and Warms the Heart are available through Articles by Don:

Bishop Sheen’s Spiritual Classic on Marriage: Three to Get Married

Posted on: November 26th, 2017 by editor No Comments

As the crisis of the family in the twenty-first century persists, it validates the words of Sister Lucia dos Santos, the oldest of the witnesses to the apparitions of the Holy Mother in Fatima in 1917. She wrote in a letter to Carlo Cardinal Caffara in 1983 that “the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family.” Three to Get Married, one of the great spiritual classics of the twentieth century, offers luminous insight into the modern attack on marriage and the family and explains with profound depth the Church’s moral truths that address this clash between good and evil. Bishop Sheen addresses the problems of family and marriage with timely answers based on the wisdom of the Magisterium and the teaching of the saints.

While popular culture and political ideology purvey the experience of human love as a brief encounter, transitory pleasure, and purely physical sensation without spiritual or moral content or lifelong fidelity—an isolated event with no future consequences or serious responsibilities—the Church’s teaching unfolds the entire book of love and captures the beautiful story designed by God for the happiness of men and women, for the education, health, and security of children, and for the common good of society. Sheen’s book elucidates the surprising adventures, great deeds, and noble accomplishments that the journey of Christian love achieves—a story that, outside the Church, hardly receives the recognition and honor it deserves. Three to Get Married offers great light to guide a darkened world devoid of a moral center.

While the proliferation of divorce and cohabitation undermines the permanence and stability of marriage and reduces it to a state of transitory, fleeting love subject to constant change with no commitments of fidelity for the course of a lifetime, Sheen teaches the lesson of love’s growth in which “something lower dies and something nobler is born” as the erotic love of attraction and desire matures in marriage to divine charity. This “elevation of love from one stage to another” conquers selfishness and inspires greater devotion, sacrifice, and oneness in couples. Because human beings are persons with souls, these depths unveil themselves in the course of love’s stages. True love does not die or diminish from familiarity, age, or repetition but infuses fresh energy and new revelation to such a degree that, in St. Paul’s expression, husbands and wives become “fools for Christ’s sake” by virtue of their increasing generosity and charity, an effect of love that St. Thomas defines as “zeal”—the recognition that the expression “too much” does not exist for love. This sense of love’s magnificence is not common knowledge in modernity. Instead of a sense of the lofty and great nature of love’s mysteries, the prevalence of divorce and cohabitation reduces it to an uncommitted, tenuous relationship for the pleasures and benefits ruled by self-interest. However, as Sheen affirms, love has the potential to bring out the best in a man and woman: “The nobler our love, the nobler our character.” True love embraces “the totality of the person loved, i.e., as a creature composed of body and soul and made to the image and likeness of God.” This is not the image of love purveyed in much of contemporary society where marriage denotes inconvenience, burdens, responsibilities, drudgery, and loss of freedom.

Without the promise of fidelity and an understanding of the indissolubility of marriage, all the various effects of love explained by St. Thomas do not come to fruition: unity, mutual indwelling, ecstasy, and zeal. The unity of one flesh overcomes the problem of isolation and loneliness endemic to contemporary society. This mutual inherence or indwelling of man and woman in the oneness of marriage that Sheen calls “the mystery of assimilation” effects profound changes: “Sex love creates a completeness between man and woman that goes far beyond any other unities of the social or political order!” This physical bond develops and deepens so that “unity of the flesh now becomes unity of the mind and heart.” In an atomized, fragmented society where many men and women feel alienated, lost, or confused and regard marriage as an outdated, obsolete institution or, at best, one of many options instead of the center of life, this truth about love’s fulfillment and enrichment needs recovery. Citing Elizabeth Barret Browning’s words, “Two human loves make one divine,” Sheen adds that for lovers “there is no peace without complete inherence of the one in the other.”

In the pursuit of romance and love men and women often imagine the spouse as the source of absolute, infinite, perfect happiness and let these unrealistic expectations cloud their experience of marriage. As Sheen argues, no man or woman or any human being can possibly provide for the other the complete fulfillment and ultimate joy that only God can give: “Too many married people expect their partner to give that which only God can give, namely, an eternal ecstasy.” Human love can never compare to divine love any more than the spark from a great fire contains the heat and light of its source. Because a human being is “lovable,” not Absolute Love, it follows that no fallen, fallible human being can ever fully satisfy the deepest desires of another person’s heart. The illusion of divorce, however, misleads many into the assumption that a new spouse “can supply what only God can give.” The common justification for divorce on the basis of incompatibility Sheen exposes as a weak and “stupid” argument: “for what two persons in the world are perfectly and at all times compatible?” Whereas modern society regards divorce as the solution to incompatibility and all the conflicts of marriage, Sheen recalls the meaning of the cross in Christian love that always requires patience, perseverance, and sacrifice: “No love ever mounts to a higher level without a touch of the Cross.”

Although the wonder of human love produces an ecstasy that Sheen identifies as a hint of heaven, it degenerates to mere carnal pleasure in a culture accustomed to a contraceptive mentality. Man uses woman “as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment” to quote from Paul VI’s Humane Vitae. Separating love from procreation, couples do not experience the depths of love’s four mysteries unveiled in marriage which go unknown. Sheen calls them the mystery of the other person’s body and soul, the mystery of motherhood in which “the husband sees something in the wife he never knew existed,” the mystery of fatherhood in which a wife discovers her husband in a new light of manhood, and the mystery of the family that renews the couple’s love for one another and for the newborn children—the mystery of married love that imitates the Trinitarian love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that circulates as “life-giving love” and “love-giving life.”

In short, the mystery of love communicates the wonder that love does not die, fade into dullness, or glut with satiety. Always a new chapter begins and another surprise waits like “a door that is yet unopened, a veil that has not yet been lifted, a note that has not yet been struck.” This constant rebirth and renewal defines the course of marital love in which giving is receiving and growing old is growing young. All that has been offered and sacrificed comes back in some form in “the recovery in the flesh, or in the soul, or in heaven, of all that was given and surrendered. In love no fragment is lost.” The birth of a child, Sheen reflects, is not a population statistic but a resurrection. He argues that love is neither static nor reminiscent but “progressive”, a series of stepping stones on which a person continually mounts to a higher level as the first love is purified, transfigured, and elevated, undergoing “a rebirth of sacrifice, a fresh taming of the ego; a disciplining of the flesh; more fasting, almsgiving, and more self-denial for the sake of one’s neighbor.”

The culmination of this love story is the ultimate expression of the magnificence of marriage that leads man from the flesh through the soul to God. As love becomes more selfless and the young bride grows into “the partner of the soul,” the heart moves in an ever “upward spiral” that illustrates the fundamental law of love taught by Christ: “Unless the seed fall to the ground and die, it will not spring forth into life.” In this progressive movement of love through its various levels, a miracle of transformation occurs in which the old is clothed as the new and the human is vested in the divine:

Once purified, love returns. The partner is loved beyond all sensation, all desire, all concupiscence. The husband who began by loving the other for his own sake, and then for her sake, now begins to love for God’s sake. He has touched the depths of a body, but now he discovers the soul of another person. This is the new infinite taking the place of the body; this is the new “always” . . . . The other person ceases to be opaque and begins to be transparent, the glass through which God and His purposes are revealed.

These are some of the inspirational chapters in the book of holy love that the Church’s teachings and its great teachers like Bishop Sheen offer to a muddled world that has twisted the meaning of marriage, family, and love into hideous and grotesque shapes that have no resemblance to the design of God the Father and the plan of Mother Nature. Contracepting to frustrate the purpose of love, aborting to reject the gift of human life, reinventing marriage to violate the meaning of male and female, and deconstructing marriage as if it were a mere artificial construct rather than a divine institution all proceed from intellects darkened by sin in need of the great light of the Church’s timeless teachings Bishop shines to save marriage and the family from the virulent attacks of Satan in the decisive battle that rages between Satan and Christ in the twenty-first century.   

Mitchell Kalpakgian, Ph.D. has completed fifty years of teaching beginning as a teaching assistant at the University of Kansas, continuing as a professor of English at Simpson College in Iowa for thirty-one years, and recently teaching part-time at various schools and college in New Hampshire. As well as contributing to a number of publications, he has published seven books: The Marvelous in Fielding’s Novels, The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature, The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization, An Armenian Family Reunion (a collection of short stories), Modern Manners: The Poetry of Conduct and The Virtue of Civility, and The Virtues We Need Again. He has designed homeschooling literature courses for Seton Home School, and he also teaches online courses for Queen of Heaven Academy and part-time for Northeast Catholic College.
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Humanae Vitae – A Critical Message for Our Times

Posted on: November 19th, 2017 by editor No Comments

Nobody likes to be deceived. Most people are justifiably hurt or angry when a grave injustice is done to them, and perhaps even moved to do something constructive about the situation, to make things right. When it comes to the issue of contraception however, our culture has been deceiving people for decades, yet we see very few people confronting the world’s lies, or trying to correct the injustice that is perpetrated by a seriously flawed understanding of the human person.

Blessed Pope Paul VI exhibited great courage and conviction when he wrote Humanae Vitae in 1968. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of this profound encyclical, we owe the Holy Father a great debt of gratitude and we should make every effort to come to know this teaching more deeply and to make this beautiful message On Human Life more widely known. Despite strong currents of opposition, Pope Paul stood firm and spoke the unchanging truth with clarity and wisdom. How tragic then, that so many people have turned a blind eye to this message of life, love, and freedom, rejecting it outright, often not even bothering to read it to see what it actually says.

There is a strange false perception many people have that the Church is always saying “no”, and that her teachings about sexuality are “outdated”. They could not be more wrong. The Church’s view of the human person, of marriage, and of human sexuality expresses the fullness of truth. Great goods are being protected by the Church’s teaching. This is a beautiful vision! and one that rightly values the human person created as male and female in the image and likeness of God. Why wouldn’t we say yes to that? Our Creator loves us infinitely and He wants what’s best for us. He offers us every grace necessary to fulfill our call to love. But how well do we take Him up on His offer? Marriage and the conjugal union are meant to image God’s love. Thus we say the body has a “nuptial meaning”. When people witness the truth and beauty of authentic love, how can they not be drawn to the Creator of that love? After all, deep down, true love is what every human heart seeks. True love does not deceive.

Pope Paul’s prophetic vision of what would happen if contraceptive use became widespread, which he articulates in Humanae Vitae, n. 17, have been proven true again and again. Many have seen firsthand, and been hurt by, the increase in infidelity, the objectification and loss of respect for women, the coercion of populations by government entities, and the view of our bodies as machines to be manipulated rather than as gifts to be cherished.

Despite Humanae Vitae’s warnings of the potential fallout, as well as its compelling presentation of the true, good, and beautiful vision of the Church’s teaching on life and love, few have paid heed. When you violate the natural law, things go awry. They have. How so? In what ways has society’s widespread acceptance of contraception deceived us? Many will find that some of the more familiar examples resonate with people’s experience – whether it be their own, or that of people they know. These would include the high divorce rate, an increase in sex outside of marriage, cohabitation, a dramatic drop in the number of marriages, a rise in the rate of out-of-wedlock births, and the destruction of innocent human life at the rate of 1.3 million abortions per year in the U.S. alone. At the root of these and other evils are broken relationships and wounded hearts.

One aspect of the ill effects of contraception that we don’t hear about as often as we should, is the scientific evidence of its harm. If the moral law weren’t enough (and it certainly should be sufficient to convince the skeptic, though we regrettably live in a world where there is a serious lack of proper formation of conscience), the facts of science tell a compelling story that should make the even the naysayers re-think their views about contraception.

First there are the side effects. We’ve all seen the endless run of television commercials that in the course of advertising drugs for a variety of conditions while showing healthy looking people supposedly enjoying life, at the same time offer the expanded disclaimer that goes something like, “the use of [XYZ drug] can cause [litany of conditions]…and even death…consult your doctor to see if this drug is right for you”. Yikes!

Just as you can read the side effects, contraindications and more in the fine print of any prescription drug’s pharmaceutical insert, or read about it in the Physician’s Desk Reference, so too are horrific effects found in hormonal contraceptives. These drugs too pose serious health risks including blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease, increased cancer risk – particularly breast cancer, infertility, increased irritability, increased propensity to depression, weight gain, and reduced libido. Even the World Health Organization classifies them as Class 1 carcinogens. In an increasingly health-conscious society, women should think twice about what they are putting into their bodies.

And there’s more. Hormonal contraceptives can also act as abortifacients. People commonly assume that they just prevent ovulation, but that is only part of the story. The drugs are specifically designed to have multiple mechanisms of action, so depending on a variety of factors having to do with the woman’s cycle, the drugs may sometimes prevent ovulation but when that mechanism doesn’t kick in they can also cause the death of a newly conceived embryo when it can’t implant in the mother’s womb because the uterine lining has been chemically altered by the drugs, making it hostile to the new life. Many women are unwittingly, and probably unintentionally, losing their pre-born children. Scientists have demonstrated that this effect is more common than people might think. The landmark research of Doctors Chris Kahlenborn, Joseph Stanford, and Walter Larimore explains the post-fertilization effects of hormonal contraception in a very compelling way. It is worth reading their studies found at the website of The Polycarp Research Institute. Once again sound science supports Church teaching and confirms object truth.

In Fides et Ratio (On Faith and Reason) Saint John Paul II famously says, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” (n. 1) If we are to cultivate a society where life and love are valued, the truth we uncover through both faith and reason will be the catalyst for turning hearts and minds to God once again.

Many people have borne witness to the fact that their eyes have been opened and their consciences illuminated thanks to reading Humanae Vitae. It is truly a life-changing document and one that can transform the world. Let us make it our mission to proclaim its beauty and teach its truth.

Allison LeDoux is the director of the Respect Life Office and the Office of Marriage and Family for the Diocese of Worcester, MA. Mrs. LeDoux serves as coordinator for the New England region of Diocesan Pro-Life Directors and is a member of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference’s Pro-Life/Pro-Family and Health Care Subcommittees. She received her certification in Catholic Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in 2007.Mrs. LeDoux and her husband, John, a permanent deacon, are the parents of eight children.
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Reflections on the Supernatural Virtue of Faith

Posted on: November 12th, 2017 by editor No Comments

We are living in a difficult time in history. Numerous aspects of the modern world prevent us from living truly Christian lives: secularism, atheism, relativism, technology (when used inappropriately without temperance)—the list is quite lengthy. When we are living in a world that is seemingly divided against itself, it may sometimes be difficult to see God’s hand in history. We may struggle to have the faith to turn to him in our times of need. Nevertheless, times like these demand a deeper faith on the part of Christians, a deeper trust in God’s providential plan of love. Reflecting on Pope Benedict XVI’s homilies on faith will both help us to renew our faith and to discover that we are not alone in our pilgrimage toward Heaven; rather, we are constantly accompanied by Christ himself.

After calling the “Year of Faith”, Pope Benedict XVI gave a series of homilies on the virtue of faith, which are in a short volume published by Ignatius Press, entitled,The Transforming Power of Faith (2013). These homilies can be useful for reflecting on the virtue of faith as we strive to live more deeply Christ’s call to trust in him always. In his introduction, Benedict writes, “Today we are living in a society in constant movement, one that has changed radically, even in comparison with the recent past. The process of secularization and a widespread nihilistic mentality in which all is relative have deeply marked the common mind-set” (p. 11). While we may be tempted to despair in the face of such nihilism, Benedict reminds us that the virtue of faith is the proper response to our secularized culture. He offers the following definition of faith: “It is a confident entrustment to a ‘You,’ who is God, who gives me a different certitude [not of science], but one that is no less solid than that which comes from precise calculation of science” (p. 14). What does this mean? While “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, RSV), as St. Paul describes, this does not mean that it is any less certain than scientific reasoning. While our secular world wants to place all its trust in the things that can be seen with the physical eye and proven empirically, there is actually more certitude in faith, because we are placing our trust in the Trinity, who is the author of and wisdom behind all things (Wisdom 7:22). Moreover, faith is always a gift from God. As Benedict explains, “We can believe in God because he comes close to us and touches us, because the Holy Spirit, a gift of the Risen One, enables us to receive the living God. Thus faith is first of all a supernatural gift, a gift of God” (p. 16). Faith is not something we acquire by our own power; rather, it is a gift from God that we receive if we are open to his grace and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This further explains how faith is more certain than science: God himself gives us faith. He is the one offering us the gift to believe in him and trust him.

Benedict offers Abraham as a model of faith. Indeed, we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (11:8). Benedict explains, “In faith and with faith, we are able to enter into communion with him [God]” (p. 83), and we do this in a particular way through meditating on the Word of God. Abraham also listened to the Word of God: he was called into the unknown, for he was called to leave his homeland to journey to an unknown land. “Yet the dark unknown—to which Abraham had to go—was lit by the light of a promise; God added to his order a reassuring word that unfolded to Abraham a future, life in fullness” (p. 85). Abraham had the faith in God that he would always be with him, no matter the difficulties of his circumstances or the fact that he “was as good as dead,” as St. Paul describes. Benedict adds:

Faith led Abraham to take a paradoxical path. He was blessed, but without the visible signs of blessing: he received the promise that he would become a great people, but with a life marked by the barrenness of his wife Sarah; he was led to a new homeland but had to live there as a foreigner; and the only land he was permitted to possess was a lot in which to bury Sarah (cf. Gen 23:1-20). Abraham was blessed because in faith he was able to discern the divine blessing, going beyond appearances and trusting in God’s presence even when God’s paths seemed mysterious to him (p. 86).

What does this mean for us? There are many times when we know that we are blessed “without the visible signs of blessing.” We know that God has given us many gifts, and that he even sustains our being, but we may perhaps be experiencing spiritual dryness or the inability to trust God fully. In such times, we must trust in God, and we must have faith like Abraham, who believed that he would still be guided by God’s light even in the darkest times.

Indeed, this earth is not our final home, and this is perhaps what faith teaches us the most. “Abraham the believer teaches us faith and, as a stranger on this earth, points out to us the true homeland. Faith makes us pilgrims on earth, integrated into the world and into history, but bound for the heavenly homeland” (p. 87). Despite this “vale of tears,” despite the trials we face now, we know that they are not the end of the story. Abraham reminds us that we are called to the heavenly patria, the heavenly fatherland. We are called to be at home with God, and this is why faith is the belief in things unseen. Even though we cannot see Heaven yet, we have the faith that it exists, and we have the hope that we will someday be there with God. In the last analysis, Benedict says the following,

Faith gives us this certainty [that the love of God the Father never fails] which becomes a firm rock in the construction of our life: we can face all the moments of difficulty and danger, the experience of the darkness of despair in times of crisis and suffering, sustained by our trust that God does not forsake us and is always close in order to save us and lead us to eternal life (p. 91).

What comforting words for us, who live in a difficult time in history, when nothing seems stable and everything seems to be in flux. Faith in God is our rock, even when everything and everyone else around us seems to be falling to pieces. Even when we are called to difficult tasks like Abraham, faith in God sustains us, and orients us toward our final end of the Beatific Vision with God.

veronica_arntzVeronica Arntz graduated from Wyoming Catholic College with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts, which included courses in humanities, philosophy, theology, and Latin, among others using the Great Books of Western thought. The title of her senior thesis was, “Communio Personarum Meets Communionis Sacramentum: The Cosmological Connection of Family and Liturgy.” She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology from the Augustine Institute.
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