"I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals."

Today is the second Sunday of Advent. We had a wonderful homily about preparing ourselves for His coming. I am particularly fond of today’s readings as I took St. John the Baptist as my Patron Saint when I was confirmed in the Catholic Church. I had always been a big fan of St. Joan of Arc and my husband and I were both convinced that I would take her as my Patron Saint. I loved her courage and determination – and that she was a WOMAN!

I decided, however, at some point that I identified more with St. John the Baptist. He was a little odd and a little outspoken. This suited me just fine. Like St. Joan of Arc, I also appreciated his courage and conviction. I suppose what struck me about St. John the Baptist is that he would never witness the resurrection of Christ and his beliefs stemmed from his trust in his faith and what he knew from scripture. He is, of course, said to have ‘leapt’ in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary entered and was present while pregnant with Jesus.

I like to think of the need for honesty and trust in my faith much like St. John the Baptist displayed. Additionally, St. John was unafraid to express his faith and his need for the utmost in humility. Its a wonderful lesson for each and every one of us.

I also loved today’s readings from Isaiah 40:

A voice cries out:

In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!

Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

When I was in my early thirties, my grandmother on my Mother’s side of the family died and was hospitalized before I could get to see her. I was located in New Orleans and she was living in Toronto. I did, however, have the opportunity to speak with her prior to her passing.

I recall the last words she said to me were:

Keep on the straight and narrow.

In my late teens and early twenties, I had been pretty much off the straight and narrow for some time. For her to say this to me was a confirmation of her belief that I was – finally – ‘on the straight and narrow’. I drift from time to time, but I like to think that overall I’ve managed to keep on the path of decency as a human being. Thankfully, my faith has helped keep me there and be my compass. I am always reminded of these last words of my Nana when I read this passage from Isaiah.

Please pray for Belmont Abbey College and Catholic institutions in the US

Recently, the US Department of Health and Human Services determined that Catholic institutions must provide coverage for contraceptives and sterilization procedures as part of their health care plans provided to staff. There are those of us who believe that this is a violation of religious freedom and also opens the door to ignore the conscience clause for doctors and health care providers.

There is a religious exemption, but the definition is (intentionally?) narrow as to eliminate any and all Catholic institutions – unless, of course, they served Catholics ONLY. I wonder if Catholics decided that only Catholics could go to Catholic Colleges in order to get around this ridiculous clause how quickly the ACLU would jump in and decide that Catholic Colleges were being discriminatory. Additionally, all other Catholic agencies would ONLY be able to serve Catholics. Can anyone imagine someone standing at the door of Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services and asking, ‘Are you Catholic?’ and having to turn someone away in the event that they said ‘no’.

The US Council of Catholic Bishops had a particularly humorous response – even if its sad that its actually true:

Thierfelder reiterated a comment by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that “not even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian church would qualify as religious because they did not confine their ministry to their co-religionists or engage only in a preaching ministry.”

Fortunately, Belmont Abbey College has already filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of religious liberty. Please pray that they win in order that Catholic agencies can continue to serve as generously as they have in years past AND still be able to remain true to their religious beliefs and convictions.

Words are very important.

I’ve never been a fan of Nancy Pelosi because I believe she’s disingenuous in her intents, but mostly because I find it discouraging for someone who proclaims to be Catholic to user her very big megaphone to mislead and misinform based on her own poor catechism.

This comment she made recently got me though:

“I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it … but they have this conscience thing [about abortion],”

Language is everything. When someone says ‘I am a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it…’ they are indicating that they are in communion and unity with that which they profess to love. On the other hand, when they – in the same sentence – switch gears and say that ‘they (being Catholics) have this conscience thing…’, it is clear that what they believe clearly differs from what is taught by the very thing they profess to love.

Pelosi went on to profess:

“They would” let women die on the floor, she said. “They would! Again, whatever their intention is, this is the effect.’’

This is absolutely unbelievable – and terribly ironic. Somehow Pelosi wants to convince people (and sadly does convince those that are ignorant) that Catholics really want women to lay dying on a floor somewhere from a botched back alley abortion, but that the act of killing an unborn child is acceptable.

For the record, Catholics do not want women dying on the floor of back alley abortion clinics. What Catholics want is for women and men to respect the sacrament of marriage and engage in sexual acts willingly accepting that there is the possibility of a miracle of new life being created as a result of that act. What Catholics want is for women and men to want to have those children and raise them in a loving environment. What they also want is for women who find themselves in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy to carry their child to term and allow it to be adopted if the parents feel they cannot provide the baby with the life to which it is entitled.

It is not the wish of Catholics for women to die in botched abortions, its the wish of Catholics for women to not feel the need to subject themselves to abortions. It is not, as Nancy Pelosi professes, acceptable to suggest that the life of the mother is somehow more valuable than that of the unborn child.

What Catholics want is for those who profess to be Catholics to respect the dignity of life in all its forms.

Mother Teresa said it best back in 1994 at the National Prayer Breakfast:

Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. From our children’s home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to the adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.

 

Loving my kids and wanting to smack people silly.

How’s that for an advent reflection?

Okay… the latter part is a figure of speech. I’m not seriously advocating smacking people silly, but there are times when you feel incredibly frustrated and really would like to do so! It is, I’ve learned, not the Christian thing to do and I will therefore restrain from doing so :)

As a parent, there is no greater love that one can feel than a love for a child. They drive you bananas, make you want to pull your hair out, and sometimes exhaust you beyond comprehension. The good news is that they are children, and so that you – as a parent – make them feel the same way at times. Justice is a beautiful thing.

In spite of the frustrations we feel at times with our children we love them with an unconditional love beyond measure. So when we see them hurt, we hurt for them. Recently, my children have undergone some challenges with friends and schoolmates. The challenges have been different with each child, but the end result in both situations is that our children have been left feeling hurt and even, at times, angry about their respective situations.

Let me digress for a moment to note that I don’t, for one second, believe that my children are somehow magical and have never said or done something toward someone else that is hurtful. Heck, I’ve seen them interact with each other! I’m not suggesting that my children are perfect little angels – they are, after all, children. Having said that, I do know that our children are not mean and malicious. They don’t take pleasure in seeing others hurt and they are sensitive toward how others feel. I have had discussions with our daughter were she says ‘why do they do that?’ – she, quite literally, doesn’t *get* catty behaviour.

When I see either of my children brought to tears by behaviour encountered at school, I *do* feel as though I want to smack people silly – not literally, but its overwhelmingly frustrating. As a parent, you look at the situation and see that those who make fun of children or are mean to them are usually either insecure about themselves in some way or even jealous. I’ve recently had to explain the concept of ‘projection’ to my eleven year old daughter so that she’d understand that its not really about her. I’ve had to sit with her while she is in tears and say ‘Who cares what other people think?’ and tell her about the times in my life I’ve been shunned or hurt. Its produced some great moments of bonding between us and helped her to see how stupid and inane people’s behaviour can be.

I’ve had to sit with my son and help him laugh at the comedy of the behaviour he’s encountered to help him feel less victimized by it and see the absurdity in some of the things being said to him. I don’t, however, want him to feel that his feelings of hurt and anger are not real and valid – but it helps to be able to diffuse the situation and teach him to not let it get the better of him.

I want both of my children to know that a) I have their backs and that b) this isn’t about them and c) it really doesn’t matter what others think as long as you stand up for what you believe and maintain your integrity. I’ve also done my best to let them know what the boundaries are for acceptable behaviour and that its important to share what’s happening with my husband and I, or the school, so that we are aware of when children may be crossing the line.

What we do next is probably unusual for a lot of people – we pray for those who are adding unnecessary challenges to our lives. We pray for them and for their families. We pray that whatever it is that is making a child behave in an unhappy way toward others will be resolved so that they can find peace within that, in turn, will bring peace to others.

Its a challenging thing to pray for those that hurt us, but its a lesson that learned early in life can help children grow into forgiving, confident, loving and healthy adults.