Sunday, November 16, 2008

Being Pro-life Outside the Voting Booth

There are many conservative and faithful Catholic voters for whom the issue of abortion is paramount; I would consider myself to be among them. However, I would question how far many of these sincere pro-life friends extend their commitment to life. How far do they - how far do you - take this commitment into everyday decisions? What do you do to be pro-life? If it starts and stops with taking the pro-life voter’s guide into the voter’s booth, I would argue that you are doing very little to end the scourge of abortion in this country.

Unfortunately, I have spoken to many committed Catholic and Christian people over the last few months who do just that. There are a vast number of citizens who take their pro-life position very seriously, at least in the voting booth every four years. The truth is, abortion will end when the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans understand abortion for what it is, the killing of human life. It will not end just because we elected a pro-life president.

Abortion will not end from the top down. Think about it, twenty of the last twenty-eight years our country has had a pro-life president. That is twenty years of “conservative” court appointments, and “pro-life” presidential leadership. Yet, we still have abortion.

Look at it another way, the last two decades there has been a steady decline in the number of abortions. This decline continued, even accelerated, under the pro-abortion Clinton administration, and curiously, the decline stagnated under the "pro-life" Bush administration. For a good reference of a sociological study of abortion see here.

It certainly seems that the person who holds the office of president, and their views on abortion, are virtually irrelevant to either the continuance of abortion in this country or on the actual number of abortions. Perhaps there are other cultural developments that lead to this decline in the number of deaths due to abortion.

Abortion will end from the ground up, from the grass roots, when the American citizenry understands the evil that it is. The question is then, what are we who are pro-life doing to end abortion. What are we doing outside the voting booth? What are we doing to help the women in our own families, neighborhoods, parishes, and communities choose life? What are we doing to bring truth to our culture?

There are plenty of options. You can stand at the annual Life Chain and peacefully pray for an end to abortion. You can march in the National March for Life which is held every January on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade in Washington, DC, and in communities across the country. You can do personal penance to end abortion and pray fervently every day for its end. More materially, you can donate to your local Crisis Pregnancy Center or Birthright or Gabriel Project. Also, check out Feminists for Life for some fresh ideas about advocating for women and babies in our society. You can donate your time, money, clothing and possessions to allow these agencies and groups to offer real support to women in need who are trying to provide for their children. The thing is, to end abortion, we who care are going to need to do some real penance, some real prayer and fasting, some real hands on sacrifice.
Another way to assist women in crisis pregnancies is to support government programs that provide tangible help to women in need. When I worked as a counselor in a Crisis Pregnancy Center, it was the referrals to government services that enabled many women to see the option to carry their pregnancy to term as viable. Section eight housing, WIC, food stamps and access to health care is the ongoing help that these ladies need. Government leaders who vow to close the door on these programs are closing the door for many of these women and families in need.

You can see that your work starts when you walk out of the voting booth. A woman in a crisis pregnancy does not care who you voted for last November 4; they are just wondering how they are going to get a job, an education, medical care and the housing they need in order to choose life and be a mother. How can you help?



Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Wicked Witch is Dead

That's me, under the house, buried - and only sometimes am I a wicked witch. In order to lift myself from the ground, I must first lift this house above me. To run, I must carry this house along with me, this house and everything in it. This house is filled up. It's filled with kids, my nine kids and the dozen or so neighbor kids who spend their afternoons loitering around my lot. It's filled with clothes and shoes and coats and leotards and soccer jerseys and boy scout uniforms. It's filled with the chore of feeding breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. The house's desk is filled with papers and books and correspondence and phone messages; it's filled with papers to be graded and notes to be written and a calendar to be planned. All this work - every, every, everyday. Everyday.

And where am I? Oh here I am. I am melting. The wicked witch is melting. I guess that is what it is taking for me. For the wicked witch in me to die, to melt away. Oh no, she's not gone yet, but she is slowly dying. My self pre-occupations, my petty attractions, distractions and attachments, my sloth, my lofty opinions and ideas. Yes, here under this house, a part of me is dying. I am dying and it hurts. Sometimes, it hurts a lot.

However, the wicked witch must die. She must go, for there is no room for her in this house. The more this witch is purged, the lighter the weight of the house. The witch cannot lift the house; she can only be buried and burdened by it. That is all the witch can see of the house; she can only see the burden that it brings to her, for her thoughts are only of herself. The more the witch is concerned with the weight, the heavier is the burden.

The witch begins to melt when the waters of truth and light, of beauty, love and forgiveness are poured out. The thing is, this water is only poured out from above. As Saint Paul tells us in the New Testament book of Colossians,

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

And as the witch melts, the burdens lighten. Perhaps someday we can rejoice that the wicked witch is dead; she's finally dead. AMEN.



Friday, February 1, 2008

Putting It In Perspective, part II

Anonymous said...
Please remember that there are many, many families right here in the states who do not have access to healthcare. families who would be bankrupt and lose their homes if they had to pay for the birth of another child.not everyone in our country is "spoiled."

I received the above response to Putting It In Perspective and thought I'd comment on it. In no way was my post meant to suggest that those who are struggling financially or otherwise in this country are nonetheless spoiled by virtue of being American. I know families truly do have hardships of all kinds and that require compassion and assistance.

However, my original intent was to highlight the hardship of those who do not even have the remotest expectation of acquiring things we see as necessary in our country. For instance, health care, as the commenter made reference to, is not an option for some, as there are no doctors, midwives, or medicines even available in their communities. So, in the American mindset, the thinking may go, "we can't have another baby because the doctor bill would crush us." Those in other places and times would not have this sort of thinking at all, as there is no doctor available in the first place. This is what I mean by putting it in perspective. Think tee-pee versus humblest of American homes -- dirt floor, no heating or cooling, extremely limited food and clothing options, health care that consists of gathered herbal remedies, etc. Now picture an impoverished American lifestyle, if all else is equal, the family would have a much higher standard of living than most of humanity could even imagine. The Bible says that the Abraham of the Old Testament was wealthy, yet he was nomadic and lived in a tent. Jesus was raised in a relative hut and born in a stable -- no hospital to pay for there.

God help us to open all of our eyes to this fact. We are called to be joyful and generous no matter what our circumstances. Sometimes it helps to do this if we look past the modern day lifestyle expectations we have developed.

Peace, Hope

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Putting it in Perspective

On the HMS website, Dr. Greg Popcak, continued the debate about family size with the following quote from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

"In today's world, where the number of children cannot be very high given living
conditions and other factors, it's very easy to understand." (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium. An Interview with Peter Seewald. Ignatius Press, p.200)

Dr. Popcak says he does not agree with this quote, and nor do I. However, I really wonder what this future pope of ours meant by this quote, as there is no context provided and I do not have the book to reference. Surely Cardinal Ratzinger was not referring to the living conditions in the Western World. How could it be that in today's world, it is not easy to raise a large family given our living conditions. Surely he is not addressing the average American's access to health care, education, clean water, safe streets, sufficient clothing and housing. Even what is considered to be living in poverty in America, much of the current world, and most of the historical world, would be grateful for.

I cannot imagine that I have it so tough, even with all these kids, when I have a comfortable climate controlled home, can wash the families clothes and dishes with the touch of a few buttons, have access to healthy, convenient food, have top doctors a phone call away, plenty of books to learn from, and clean water that pours in whenever I want it with the flip of a faucet. I mean, really, we Americans are so spoiled if we entertain the idea for a second that it is too tough to raise a large family. In most cases, it is considered too tough because we like to keep ourselves comfortable. It is our devotion to the easy life, that gets in the way, not our actual living conditions.

Even today, there are happy families giving glory to God who eat cornmeal for every meal, who carry water from wells a good distance away, who are barely literate and have little access to even the most basic health care, who wash their clothes in rivers and cook over fire pits. I am certainly not advocating that this is God's ideal lifestyle for humans, just putting our own American lifestyle and expectations in perspective.

When considering if we can provide for one more soul in our family, perhaps we should look beyond what the neighbors have and give to their children, and consider all the blessing we really do have to share.

Peace, Hope

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Brothers and Sisters

I came across this post today from Danielle Bean's blog. It is so positive, and tells a story of the beauty of siblings and big families. I really agree with Danielle's perspective on this, and must say that nothing warms my heart more then when my eight children are loving each other the way only a brother or sister can.

Peace, Hope

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Two Cents on the Attachment Parenting Debate

Quote from Dr. Popcak at Heart, Mind, and Strength blog:
"I would agree that you cannot do AP without going to the nuthouse if you have
another child every year. But the AP response would be that, unless God
has somehow specifically called a person to act in a manner that is contrary to
what he created the child's body to need (which would be remarkable considering
Pope Benedict's assertion at Ravensburg that the Christian God
is a God of order and reason who does not contradict the laws of his
own creation) then it is imperative to the bonding process and the health
of the mother that children be spaced about 2.5 to 3 years apart (give or

This is in reference to what has turned into a debate at HMS and at Danielle Bean's blog about parenting a large family and attachment parenting principles. I pulled the above quote because I think it contains a fundamental part of the argument.

First, no where in this debate has anyone really laid out what attachment parenting is. Looking back, I was a rabid adherent to Attachment Parenting philosophy and practices when I began my mothering career fifteen years ago. Now with baby #9 due to arrive next month, I have gained much wisdom and experience regarding parenting methods and philosophies. I would still call myself an attached and attentive parent, but I would not embrace Attachment Parenting as a philosophy any more. Why? Because family life and mothering is much too complicated. I would not suggest that one must or must not follow an arbitrary set of rules to be a good parent -- beyond the "rules" of our faith. Can a mother be an attached and loving parent and use a pacifier, or a crib, or wean at 18 months? Can a child be healthy and whole, physically and psychologically, and be attended to by older siblings, strapped in a high chair at meals, or attend pre-school? Wouldn't some of these violate the tenants of Attachment Parenting?

Even so, I would still advocate for the benefits of natural birth, breastfeeding, a mother's presence, and homeschooling, but see these more as goals and ideals than absolute mandates for everyone in all situations.

I would argue that loving parents can depart from AP methods and still be attached. Just as adoptive parents can still lovingly bond through bottlefeeding. It is donating yourself to your parenting vocation that makes a good parent, not a set of methods. Sure, breastfeeding and co-sleeping may help the process, but are not required. In some instances, AP methods could even interfere with loving parenting; I have seen it happen. We all have different circumstances.

Now to specifically address Dr. Popcak's assertion that "it is imperative to the bonding process and the health of the mother that children be spaced about 2.5 to 3 years apart (give or take)." I totally disagree with this statement. Children can be loved and well parented, healthy and happy, and grow up in a large family with closely spaced children. My vocation as the mother of one such family requires much of me, and many nights I go to bed exhausted emotionally, spiritually and physically. This is my path to heaven, and this is what God has created for me and our family. Yes, this is what God has done in my family, and as was mentioned above, God does not contradict the laws of his own creation.

Additionally, the burden does not entirely fall upon my husband and I to ensure that we only have children spaced an arbitrary number of months apart in order to never have to use a pacifier or because of some parenting method. God has given some couples abundant fertility. Our families may not fit neatly into a philosophy or look like the perfectly "planned" NFP family. Just as God permits infertility, infertility that can lead to pain, desperation, or can lead to spiritual growth and other avenues of charitable living. Couples who are very fertile have our own avenue of charitable living and a unique burden that can lead to disorder and pain or to spiritual growth. Infertile couples or small families are not necessarily less married or less Catholic then large families. Large families are not necessarily less attached, loving, or healthy than small families. I say necessarily, because families of any size can allow their struggles and challenges to get in the way of their path to holiness or they can use these struggles and challenges as their avenue to holiness.

Let's all be careful how we judge families of different shapes and sizes and not create burdens for each other that God never intended.

Peace, Hope