Monday, October 27, 2008

Let's Take a Trip

A few weeks ago a friend handed me a flyer he had picked up. I’m sure many of you have seen the flyer or one like it. It was titled “American War Casualties” and listed the deaths from our nation’s major wars/conflicts and those due to abortion after 1973. I started to think about how I could present the information in other ways that would help drive the point home. And after thinking it over and doing a little work, here is what I came up with.

To get a better feel for the real loss of life in these wars (considering abortion a war on the unborn) let’s look at it from an aspect all of us are familiar with: travel. Let’s begin on the front steps of my home in St. Michael and travel roughly 50 feet for each death. Let’s jump in my car and get started.

The number of dead for the Iraq War is listed at 4,140. This would get us onto 19 (what a mess) through Albertville to 94. Traveling west on 94, and traveling only 50 feet for each death remember, we would end up near the Highway 23 exit by St. Cloud (39.2 miles). Let’s keep traveling west on 94 because the Revolutionary war’s death toll is listed at 4,435 and we can cover that by continuing on to the city of St. Joseph (40 miles).

For our next few let’s start again at my house and travel south. Now we’ll look at the Korean War in which 36,574 Americans lost their lives. At 50 feet per death, we can drive down 35W and get all the way to Dubuque Iowa (346.3 miles). Next is Vietnam with 58,209 dead which will get us sadly all the way to Topeka Kansas (551.2 miles). After Vietnam, we have the first Word War. We lost 116,516 in that war which is enough to get us all the way from my house down to Austin Texas (1103.4 miles).

Unfortunately, the next couple will require us to drive to the airport and catch a flight. WWII saw the death of a chilling 405,399 Americans. At 50 feet per death, including the drive to the airport, we would end up touching down in Dublin Ireland (3839 miles). And if we look at the deaths in the Civil War, 558,052, amazingly we don’t touch down until we reach Bucharest Romania (5284.6 miles).

Well we really only have one war left, the war on the unborn through legalized abortion. When we take the number of legal abortions since 1973 and try to travel 50 feet per death, tragically we’ll need something with a little more lift. Traveling 50 feet per child murdered, we travel quite a bit past Ireland and Bucharest. In fact, we would travel all the way to the moon … and back again and would be starting to turn for another trip (468,976.8 miles).

49,523,945 children murdered and counting is almost beyond belief.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Life never ends, it only changes.

Annette Leuer was a 15 year old girl in our area who was involved in a serious four-wheeler accident resulting in severe brain damage. Annette and her family have fought together for the last 10 days but tonight the fight ended.

From Annette Leuer's CaringBridge site:

At approximately 8:15 tonight, God granted us a miracle and called Annette back to heaven. She passed away peacefully with her family at her side. Please pray for her tonight. Thank you for all of your support, love and prayers. God bless. Today's the day.

The Leuer's

Please, remember Annette and her family in your prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen

Life never ends, it only changes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

First and Second Things

"To sacrifice the greater good for the less and then not to get the lesser good after all–that is the surprising folly. . . Every preference of a small good to a great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made. Apparently the world is made that way. If Esau really got his pottage in return for his birthright, then Esau was a lucky exception. You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first."

- From C.S. Lewis' 1942 essay "First and Second Things."

I found this C.S. Lewis (one of my favorites) quote over at First Things and I encourage everyone to take a trip over to Sonitus Sanctus to list to Peter Kreeft (another of my favorites) discuss the topic.

I think it's likely that any argument on the life issue is a result of differing views on what should be considered first things, and what should be considered second.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Samaritans and Mount Gerizim

In 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered the 10 tribes of Israel known as the Northern Kingdom. The Assyrians had a practice of mixing the people of their conquered lands. By mixing people with different ethnicities, languages, religions, etc., they removed many of the common traits that a conquered people would rally around to organize a revolt.

The group of people who now inhabited the north, an Israelite and Gentile mix, intermarried and would become the Samaritans. In 586, the Babylonians destroyed the Jewish Temple and conquered the remaining two tribes exiling most of the wealthy, educated, and powerful to Babylon in three waves. After Persia conquered Babylon, the Persian king Cyrus allowed the Jews in Babylon to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple.

When these Jews returned, the first order of business was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple. When the Samaratians heard of the plans to rebuild the temple, they came to Jerusalem and asked if they could help. The Jews, seeing the Samaritans (who only accepted the first 5 books of the Bible and had intermarried with Gentiles) as Gentiles (or worse) rudly rejected the offer. The Samaritans, very upset with this treatment, began a small guerilla war causing the Jews difficulty in finishing their building projects. The Samaritans also did something else a little more constructive – they built a temple of their own just down the road from Jerusalem on Mount Gerizim.

The Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim stood until the year 120 BC when the Jewish commander Johanan Hyrcanus marched over and destroyed it. As you can imagine, the relationship between the two groups went from bad to awful. A real hatred existed between the two groups; they didn’t talk or interact in any way if at all possible. The Jews would even walk for an extra three days to avoid having to pass through the land where the Samaritans lived.

Today a small group of Samaritans still live around and worship at Mount Gerizim.

"He had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” They went out of the town and came to him.

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

John 4:4-31, 39-42

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chaputting Obama In His Place

Not trying to pile on, just clarify the facts. Everyone I know who contributes to this blog is a well-intentioned Catholic struggling like me, to try to be more holy every day.

Here is a link to the recent quotes (10/17) from Archbishop Chaput on the question of whether Obama is somehow "prolife." Pretty straightforward. I'm done with this topic for a while, it's pretty clear where the Church stands on how we're obliged to choose political leaders.

The archbishop also offered his analysis of Catholics who argue that “Senator Obama is this year’s ‘real’ prolife candidate.” For Catholics to believe this “requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse,” he stated. Ouch.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No Time for Propaganda

This last weekend, Time magazine published an article titled "How Catholics are Judging Obama and the Democrats". I'm going to ignore the childish dual reference to judging in the title. The article's author makes the following statement:

"In early October, Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton released a letter to be read in every pulpit in the diocese that said, in part: "Abortion is the issue this year and every year in every campaign. [Catholics] are wrong when they assert that abortion is only one of a multitude of issues of equal importance. Abortion must take precedence over every other issue." But just last fall, the American bishops released Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility, a document that reminded Catholics that "all life issues are connected." Over the past few years, archbishops around the country have spoken out in favor of immigration reform, opposing the use of torture, and advocating policies that focus more on the poor.
As a result, many Catholics can now argue that neither party fits precisely with Catholic social teaching — the Democratic position on abortion is still unacceptable but so are GOP positions on education and health care and the war in Iraq."

The author seems to duck her responsibility of actually reporting what the document said by including 5 words ("all life issues are connected") from the 42 page document in quotes. Was it an attempt to let the document speak for itself? And it wasn't that she was quoting some she was interviewing, she made the decision to include the reference . The statement, "all life issues are connected." is taken from paragraph 25:

25. The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life. The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbors—basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work—is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means. Catholics must seek the best ways to respond to these needs. As Blessed Pope John XXIII taught, “[Each of us] has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and, finally, the necessary social services” (Pacem in Terris, no. 11).

Now why would the author also reference the following paragraph (found 3 sections prior to the one above) to add a little bit of honest balance? It seems that it adds important context to the statement she decided to print.

22. There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.

I don't know if there ever was a time when reporting was anything other than propaganda, maybe it's just a romantic idea of the past. I do understand that reporting is the journalist's interpretation and selection of the facts, but does it have to be so obviously (left and right) deceptive? The author certainly doesn’t have to agree with what the Church teaches but disagreement is one thing, spreading ideas, facts, or allegations deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause ... that’s propaganda.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Well Mrs. Serviam! and myself took the family and my mother on a small pilgrimage this last weekend to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse Wisconsin. We really had a great time.

We planned on making daily Mass at the Church of the Shrine (that's the church's name) and were cutting it a little close - unfortunately nothing new. We arrived at the shrine with what I felt enough time to spare. But when we piled out of the van we were greeted with some good news and some bad. The good news was that Mass had not started and that there was a golf cart that was able to give us a ride the 1/2 mile up hill. The bad news was that we couldn't bring the stroller in the cart and that dad was going to have to jog the stroller up the hill(mountain) to make Mass.

We made Mass, though I was sweaty and a couple minutes late. When I walked into the church I was amazed. It was nothing short of beautiful. The church was romanesque in style which is my personal favorite. A perfect blend of marble, granite, gold, and african mahogany. Enough paintings, Latin phrases, sculptures, and stain glass to keep any child's attention occupied for an hour. The kind of church that you look at and can't help but ask why they don't make them like this anymore. To help protect the paintings, no flash photography was allowed, so the only disappointment I had was most of my pictures.

I was also very impressed with the Votive Chapel. It was a building which housed a massive pyramid of blue votive candles. The flickering of the candles was a solemn and a tangible reminder of the need so many have for our prayers.

The chapel grounds were amazing themselves. We picked a perfect time to go as the colors were exploding and the air was crisp. There were paths with the Stations of the Cross and the mysteries of the rosary. It gave the kids a change to move around and burn off a little energy and for dad to do some thinking.

It was a great trip and I can't recommend it enough. I really needed it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saint Teresa of Jesus

Today was the Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church. If I had to make a list of my top 5 favorite saints, St. Teresa of Avila would not only make it, but possibly top it.

Timely advice:
"Our greatest gain is to lose the wealth that is of such brief duration and, by comparison with eternal things, of such little worth; yet we get upset about it and our gain turns to loss."

Advice to those seeking God in supernatural experiences:
"God walks amongst the pots and pans."

And advice for any situation:
"Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices."

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Abortion Clinic Documentary

If you have never seen the PBS Frontline documentary “Abortion Clinic” it can be viewed here. 53 minutes long. The camera crew is given full access to the clinic; intake, abortion and recovery.
During the intake counseling there is weak attempt to provide hope but it seems as though both the counselor and the girls know better. Very sad.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Sanctuary Lamp

When you walk into a Catholic Church, what’s the first thing you look for? The sanctuary lamp. We don’t look for it because of its beauty; we look for it because it points us to Christ. And most notice it just long enough for it to direct their attention to something infinitely more important.

The lamp’s flame is simple, small, humble, and sometimes hard to see – but it’s always there burning. Whether the church is full or completely empty, the candle burns for no other reason than to fulfill its purpose of directing people’s attention to Christ. It performs its duty and then fades into the background.

There’s a lot to learn from the sanctuary lamp. I can’t think of a better way to live my life. I just wish it wasn’t so difficult.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One Last McChance....

I'm generally not a pessimist, but I must say that the breathtaking array of cover up about Barack Obama's philosophical viewpoint, and the push to get him elected, is very disturbing. Obama has allied and surrounded himself with radical socialists for most of his life. Bill Ayres is an unrepentant domestic terrorist; ACORN is by and large the voter fraud machine of the Democrat party; and of course we know all about "Reverend" Wright and the ridiculous Father Pfleger.
Many of Obama's associates and mentors learned at the feet so to speak, of Saul Alinsky, whose well published tactics are the DNA of the "community organizing" about which Obama is at once proud but also elusive. What radicals socialists couldn't achieve in the 60's through violence they are attempting through subversive legal maneuvers and soaring, inspiring (but void of morality) rhetoric. Their objective is remaking the world in the socialist-collectivist image where only a few elite have any power or freedom (hmm, I wonder who might be in that group??) Combine this with the corruption that has accompanied Obama via Resko and his soon-to-be cabinet advisors who have made millions in the Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae debacle, I must ask myself why so few people have any idea what is behind this guy.

For Catholics, just about any Democrat and of course many Republicans would be problematic in the election, given the pro-abortion or in some cases the weak-lemonade "prolife" stance they support. But Obama is different, and in fact I believe much more dangerous than say Hillary Clinton. At least the Clintons are predictable: they will say or do anything for the power. But Obama actually believes in his philosophy, which carried to its conclusion would not only further devalue human life via expansion of abortion "rights" but also limit basic American freedoms we rely on to fight the good fight: free speech (expect another crack at the Fairness Doctrine under Obama) and economic opportunity (forced redistribution of wealth being the cornerstone of socialist monetary policy).

McCain is not the anti-Obama, and presents problems of his own. But as a candidate for Catholics he is a damn sight better, and at least sufferable until the Republicans can get their act together. It's my own "audacity of hope."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ridiculous or brilliant!

The WSJ ran an article today describing how the Swiss government is requiring agricultural researchers to demonstrate how their protocols assure the dignity of plants are safeguarded. The law maintains that It's wrong to genetically alter a plant and render it sterile. Some members of the Swiss panel confided that they believe plants may be sentient while all members agreed that mammals were certainly sentient. I mention this because sentience is the criteria which the panel used to justify their decision. Sentience implies purpose and purpose implies meaning. Based on this the panel concluded that plants “attempt in their own way to maintain or even increase their own good”
The statement on animals is more definite. Using Albert Schweitzer’s “Veneration of life” argument the panel concludes that every living thing that exists is accorded a moral value.
Last month Ecuador amended their constitution to “recognize ecosystem rights enforceable in a court of law. Thus, the nation's rivers, forests and air are no longer mere property, but right-bearing entities with "the right to exist, persist and...regenerate."
I find both these arguments compelling because both the Swiss and the Ecuadorian policies are secular as far as I can tell. This is an important consideration because it seems as though a paradigm has been created that if taken to its logical end would force the end of both abortion and contraception as unethical and a gross violation of the living being inside the womb; one which interferes with that beings attempt to increase their own good. What should be compelling is that this position has been arrived at through reason alone.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Happy 80th!

From the Opus Dei Website:
Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. It was founded in Spain on October 2, 1928 by Josemaría Escrivá, who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. Opus Dei has spread throughout the world and now has approximately 86,000 members from 88 countries.

Its mission is to help people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society. Opus Dei complements the work of local churches by offering classes, talks, retreats and pastoral care that help people develop their personal spiritual life and apostolate.

"In order to love and serve God, it is not necessary to do extraordinary things. Christ asks all men without exception to be perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5: 48). For the great majority of men, to be holy consists of sanctifying their work, to sanctify themselves in their work, to sanctify others with work, and also to find God on the road of their life." - St. Josemaria Escriva