Categories
Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

Where is the Mission Field?

Cincinnati 1Last week I went on a mission trip. I was able to travel with our youth group from Georgia to Cincinnati, OH to work with the Franciscans for the Poor. We stayed at the Tau House, a converted convent that is now used to house groups who wish to come and do mission work within the city.

Each day we broke into groups to work at various sites. There would be many to choose from- The sandwich window at Mercy St. John’s (providing a meal for those experiencing homelessness or those not able to feed themselves), the Ronald McDonald House, Stepping Stones (an organization dedicated to helping those with disabilities become more independent), People Working Cooperatively (an organization which helps low-income, elderly, and disabled residents have a better quality of life), POP Bridge Ministry (a place where those who are experiencing homelessness can go to be mentored), and New Life Furniture (a furniture bank for the needy).

We had a guest speaker one night come to talk to us about homelessness. Tommy would lay it out on the line for us and give us new perspective on what it is like to be homeless and how important it is to address a person experiencing homelessness instead of just passing him by like we don’t see him. He impressed upon us that just because a person doesn’t have a home it doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving of respect and kindness.

The week changed us all. There was not one person in our group that didn’t feel differently at the end of the week than they did at the beginning. Thought processes had changed and there seemed to be a better understanding of the dignity of all life. I dare say that our lives were touched even more by those we set out to help.

As we gathered one last time for prayer and discussion that last day, we talked about how we were changed and what we planned to do to continue the work we had started. This conversation made me think about where the mission field truly is. I was questioned once why we had to travel so far away when there were many in our own area that could use help. Sometimes it takes a monumental trip or experience to inspire us to do more. Once inspired we can easily see the work that needs to be done within our community.

So where is the mission field? Do you need to travel 500 miles as we did or travel around the world as many others do to find work that needs to be done?

The truth of the matter is that the mission field begins in our own homes, but it doesn’t end there. It is easy to make excuses as to why we can’t help out others. It is easy to be bogged down with our own problems and worries that we barely look up to see the man with the sign asking for help. It’s easy to allow the field work we do at home become the only work we do. However, we are called to do more.

michelle and wanda

The elderly neighbor who struggles to cut the grass- he’s part of your mission work. The woman at the store who looks to be overwhelmed by the screaming children she has in tow- she’s part of your mission work too. The man who sits quietly on the side of the road with a sign that says, “Will work for food”- yes, he’s part of your field work as well.

The mission field encompasses all that surrounds us. It is our duty and obligation to take care of one another.  Christ tells us specifically that we are to do so- even elevating this as the second greatest commandment- “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:38).

How can you go out into the mission field to bring Christ’s light and love to others? Here are some ideas to help you do so:

  • Volunteer your time at organizations that aim to better the lives of the people they serve. It may surprise you at how easy it is to become a volunteer.
  • Look in your own neighborhood to see if there is anyone in need of your help there.
  • When someone approaches you for money, if you are not comfortable giving any, at least address the person and let them know you will pray for them- and then do!
  • Have a stash of food gift cards that you can give to those you encounter who are in need of a meal.
  • Carry bottled waters in your car to distribute to those who may be thirsty and needing a drink.
  • Carry food packets or “blessing bags” filled with essential items (razor, socks, toothbrush, a juice box, and crackers) to give out when you see someone with a sign asking for help.
  • Have a list of contact numbers available to that you can easily refer someone to the right kind of care that is needed.

mother teresaMother Teresa once said, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”  Mission work does just that- it embraces the poor, the dirty, the undesirables of our society and the unwanted. It strives to make life better for those who experience difficulties in their lives. It does not judge, but simply reaches out to take the hand of a fellow human being and lift them up from the pit they have temporarily fallen into.

Today I challenge you to walk out into the mission field. Cast your worries aside and simply live to help others. When you do you will find that the mission field can be in your own home, at your church, as you drive down the street, or outside of the local Walmart. You don’t have to travel to take care of others. You simply must be willing to truly look at those who live in your own community and start there.

What other ways can you think of to live a missionary life?

Categories
Domestic Church Erika D Homeschool Homeschool Raising Saints Reviews

Virtues Program Review & Giveaway for the {Catholic} Home & School

Rosary QuiltThis is not your normal homeschooling article as this program can be used by any Catholic parent, a Catholic Virtues Program integrating the beautiful Holy Rosary into it!

About a month ago I noticed my children ages 4, 6, 8, 9, and 16 were bickering more than usual!  It was a little upsetting to see them act this ugly way towards one another as we do all the “right things” as a Catholic family.  We pray the Rosary daily right after lunch, we read about the lives of the saints, we use a Catholic Curriculum which incorporates the Faith across the board (OLVS), and we go to Mass every Sunday as well as often as possible during the week!  We even recently participated in a Rosary Procession in the streets near downtown Scranton, PA and this coming Sunday will participate in a Eucharisti Procession!  All these thoughts raced in my brain as I saw them calling each other names I cannot print here and which are NOT allowed to be uttered in my home.  No longer did they want to help each other with chores and the constant bickering was driving me insane!  For goodness sake, we even go to the High Mass of the Latin Mass, aren’t all Latin Mass children supposed to just *know* how to behave in a virtuous manner?  I guessed not.

This brought me to the realization that I needed to be more proactive in my integrating the virtues into our daily routine.  I went Googling for virtues, Christian virtues, and  even Catholic virtues and found a plethora of information on virtues. The CCC tells us, “Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.”

virtutesWhile reading through the virtues (cardinal and theological) according the Ancient Christian teachings (on morals [CCC #1749-#1802] and virtues [CCC #1803-#1845], these are under Part III, Section 1, Chapter 1, Articles 4 to 7 of the CCC), there are four cardinal (from “hinge”) virtues:

  • Prudence: discern the good in circumstance and the means to attain the same
  • Justice: constant and firm will to give what is due to God and neighbor
  • Fortitude: firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good
  • Temperance: moderates the attraction of pleasure (natural elements of created goods) and balance in the utility of created goods

Further, there are three theological virtues. Their highest object is God.

  1. Faith: belief in God and his promises
  2. Hope: desire of God’s presence and trust in his Ways
  3. Charity: preference of God above all things, others and self being second, and things third

All this was wonderful information but HOW was I going to easily incorporate it into my already busy homeschooling day?  Then I remembered a book I received from Catholic author, Cassandra Poppe!  When you first look at the cover of this great books, you would not suspect that it is jam packed with so many practical ideas on how to incorporate and teach virtues using the Holy Rosary.  As I thumbed through her book entitled, The Rosary Quilt Manual, I realized I had the answer to my prayers right in my own home!  A virtues program that is Catholic and incorporates our beloved Rosary (my children love praying the Rosary, they can do it in English, Spanish and Latin but their favorite is to chant the Rosary – it’s really adorable and I know brings joy to Our Blessed Mother’s heart!)  It was such an answered prayer when I discovered this gem which sat collecting dust on my bookshelf for months!  So quickly I put the books into action and found that explicit teaching of the virtues was definitely something that I needed to do, implicitly by reading the lives of the saints and living out our Catholic faith was not enough!

books

So I contact the author Cassandra Poppe and she agreed for me to do a review of this beautiful program AND she would also give us a FREE PDF of the whole program to one of our readers!  Simple fill out as much as you can of this following form for your chance to win this amazing Catholic virtues program, The Rosary Quilt Manual comprised of  ONE digital file which will contain the books, poster and directions on how to make your own Rosary quilt.

In the meantime if you would like to visit Cassandra or check out this beautiful curriculum, you can like her page, see the product at her Etsy Store, Intercessories Family Ministry, LLC OR enjoy reading her amazing blog, Flectamus Genua where she shares her journey as a Catholic mother, homeschooler, and author.  Cassandra has started another great venture Christian Crafts for Children, join her group on Facebook for some really neat kits.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Categories
Charla Feast Days Ink Slingers

Charity—the Word on the street…

cwomI had just had dinner with my husband at a restaurant near our local university.  They happen to serve huge portions, so I divided my meal in half immediately and placed the other half in a to-go box.  Upon exiting the restaurant, there was a man– probably homeless, possibly intoxicated—asking for a handout.  My husband, asks, “You need money for food?”  He replies, “Yes, for food.” So husband reaches over, takes my box with my meal in it, and hands it to the man.  He said thank you, but I am not sure if he was necessarily grateful.  The occurrence sparked a conversation between my husband and me about charity.

Charity is such a loaded word.  Its connotations range from compassion to pity.  Is charity patronizing or is it generous?  It originates from the Latin word caritas which means “dearness, high regard, love.”  Feeding someone who is hungry is an expression of love, but let’s be honest, several of us pass judgment when it comes to giving MONEY—to an individual or an organization or group.  There is probably nothing wrong in scrutinizing a group to make sure we are donating to an organization that does not violate our morals and values.  However, do we do the same with individuals who could benefit from our generosity?  I have heard people say that they will not give a dollar to a pan handler on the side of the street because “He will just buy booze anyway” or “I’ve heard they are scammers” or “I’m willing to buy him a meal, just not give him money.”  I imagine most of us are personally conflicted about this.  St. Thomas Aquinas, said, Because of the diverse conditions of humans, it happens that some acts are virtuous to some people, as appropriate and suitable to them, while the same acts are immoral for others, as inappropriate to them.”  So how can we judge what an individual does with money received– or even earned, for that matter?

St. Thomas Aquinas also said, “The highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions. A thing which is always subject to the direction of another is somewhat of a dead thing.”

Therefore is it more charitable to let an individual decide how and what to feed himself than to impose our version of charity, which may be: I will help you only if you spend the money I give you in accordance with my will?  Will we leave that individual dead as St. Thomas Aquinas says?  How do we maintain a person’s dignity?  The memory of the evening we gave the man our food keeps resonating with me.  The food is what we had to give at that moment, as we seldom even carry cash anymore, but I keep hashing it over in my mind, did we take away his will or dignity by giving him a meal instead of scraping together what little money we had and giving a handful of coins?

My point is this: as long as God knows our hearts, and as long as our motives are pure, giving what we have to give– in any form– is a good thing.  We may indeed think someone will take our money and spend it on liquor or drugs, but we will probably never know.  But like giving to an organization that we know all about, we can make the choice of whether or not contribute if it is certain that the money will be used for more destructive purposes.  The uncertainty is what makes this a moral issue for me.  Am I doing more harm to that individual by facilitating a damaging habit with my contribution?   I think that is why most people feel more comfortable in being charitable with basic needs: food, water, blankets, and clothing.  There is likely no question how those things are used by an individual, because even drug addicts need food and shelter and clothing.  I have no solution.  Yes, we should be charitable, but it is necessary to maintain an individual’s dignity.  That is what St. Thomas Aquinas would say is true charity.homeless

A portion of society contends that a “hand-out” is not a good thing and that it takes away the dignity and empowerment of a person.  There is also a portion that believes that all wealth should be apportioned equally and there is no responsibility on the part of the receiver, only on the part of the contributors.  Neither one of these sits well with me. I do want to live in a world where there is no hunger, but I also want my children to realize the fruits of their labors and then learn to be generous with what they have worked for because it is the right way to please God, not to expect entitlements by virtue of their humanity.  Pride gets in the way of this.  St. Vincent de Paul, whose feast day we celebrate today, said You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud.”  Those who are too proud to be helped when they legitimately need assistance and those who feel entitled to all their own spoils because they earned them are sides of the same awful coin of pride.

Above all, charity requires us to love.  Our intentions and our affection towards other human beings must be part of giving and receiving. St. Thomas Aquinas was inspiring because he believed in the dignity of the individual and the obligation of every human to every other human.

“Men should not consider his material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.”  St. Thomas Aquinas

Categories
Abortion Current Events Ink Slingers Mary P. Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

Love Your Enemies

On Monday, late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of three counts of First Degree Murder for killing babies born alive when they were supposed to have been killed in utero (isn’t it absurd that the physical location of the victim makes the difference between a capital offense and a legally-protected “choice”?). On Tuesday, he was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole. After following the case and reading all the disturbing details of the trial it’s easy to be very, very angry at a man like Gosnell. It’s also easy to wish for terrible things to happen to him. It’s easy to see him as nothing but a monster. But, the perhaps-difficult truth is that Gosnell, like all others who commit grave evil, is still loved by God, and that he still retains his dignity as a human being. This doesn’t mean we can’t be angry; but our anger must be tempered by charity, and respect for that dignity.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, our human dignity comes from God’s love for us and his invitation to us to share in that love. We are the only creatures that he made in his image, for our own sake, to know him, love him, and share in his life. Even the worst criminal still bears that image of God in his being, though he may be cut off from God’s grace through his choices. And he still retains the invitation extended by God to love him and serve him, until he takes his last breath. It is because of these truths that the Catechism says that, while the State does have the right to execute some criminals, the Death Penalty should be used only as a last resort.

Most Catholics today enthusiastically support the position that the Death Penalty should be abolished in this country. However, many of us fail to carry this concern for the dignity of criminals beyond the question of whether they should live or die. While we want them to have their lives spared, some of us desire that prisoners be treated poorly or even inhumanely while they live out their sentences. We say we are glad that they are not getting the “easy way out” by being put to death, and hope that they live many agonizing years behind bars. We make jokes about prisoners being violated or otherwise harmed by the other prisoners. We celebrate when we hear of a prison where inmates are humiliated purposefully, just for the sake of humiliation. We spew hatred and vitriol against them in internet comboxes. We complain that they have any access to television or that our precious tax dollars are paying to feed them anything more appetizing (or healthy) than bologna sandwiches.

I’m not suggesting that prisoners need to be given access to cable TV or certain kinds of food in order to be treated in accord with their dignity. Rather, it is our annoyance with any comfort they may have in prison coupled with our glee at any discomfort they may have—in short, our desire to see them suffer— that is an offense against their dignity. We have to ask ourselves what our reasons are for wanting prisoners to be humiliated and treated as harshly as possible, and then compare those reasons to what the Church says about the purpose of punishment.

The Church holds that punishment has a basically fourfold purpose – rehabilitation, defense of society against the criminal, deterrence, and retribution. (Take note that retribution is not the same as vengeance). We may legitimately believe it wrong for prisoners to be treated to overly comfortable conditions in prison, because we do not think that justice is satisfied or rehabilitation is facilitated by such a scenario. We may even legitimately support the death penalty in limited cases. But a virtuous and detached concern for justice is a far cry from the vengefulness that often is the real cause of us wanting prisoners to be as miserable in prison as possible, or to be put to death.

Church teaching indicates that when the aim of punishment (especially protection of society) can be fulfilled in ways more in keeping with human dignity, the Death Penalty should not be used. The logical extension of that is that we should always be trying to balance the aims of punishment with the protection of the dignity of the human person – not just when it comes to the question of the Death Penalty. We must always balance our concern for justice with our duty to love. My husband is a law enforcement officer and I see him trying to do just that. He has to fight against the strong temptation in his career to see criminals as less-than-human, as irredeemable. But he also has to keep the common good – the safety of society – at the forefront of his mind. He supports longer sentences for criminals than what they typically receive through our local court system, but he does so because society is not being protected adequately through the “slaps on the wrists” that are handed out far too often for serious crimes. It is acceptable and even laudable to support tough penalties for those who commit serious crimes, as long as we do not do so out of malice toward them.

As the wife of a police officer, I have to fight against the same temptations as my husband. I truly understand and sympathize with people who have a difficult time extending mercy toward those who harm others with their evil choices. I understand wanting them to know nothing but pure misery while they serve their sentences. My emotions don’t always align with what I know intellectually to be the truth. The truth is that criminals are people too. And it’s not enough simply to support their right to life; we have to love them, too. It’s possible to satisfy all the aims of punishment, including retribution and protection of society, without trying to strip them of their dignity. In fact, I think the aim of rehabilitation is more likely to be achieved when prisoners are shown basic human decency and treated like they still have worth even though they have done great evil.

We have great examples of how we should treat prisoners in recent popes. Several have visited the imprisoned, as Jesus told us we should. But some have gone even further in their extension of charity to prisoners. Pope Francis gave a strong witness to the dignity of the imprisoned when he washed the feet of juvenile prisoners on Holy Thursday.  Pope John Paul II forgave his own would-be assassin, in addition to visiting with him in prison. Most Catholics celebrate these examples, but many of us do not ask ourselves enough whether we are living in light of them.

I said above that it might be a difficult truth that Gosnell is loved by God. But at the same time, it is a very comforting truth. If someone like him—who mercilessly killed thousands of innocent babies and showed great indifference to the lives and health of the women who were his patients – is still loved by God and still has a chance at salvation, that means that there is always hope for me, too, no matter what sins I may commit. It is only by God’s grace that I or any one of you reading this is not in Gosnell’s place. None of us is above grave sin. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that I could someday find myself with a large chasm between God’s grace and me. It is comforting to know that even then, God’s image would still be imprinted on my being and he would thus still be reaching out to me across the chasm.

Categories
Apologetics Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri

Ignorance Demands Charity and Patience

Shortly after Benedict XVI, Emeritus Pope, declared his resignation from the Papacy, I happened to hear a talk radio program in which a commentator was ranting away about the ridiculousness of an infallible pope. How can anyone really believe that a man can suddenly be made infallible just by becoming the Pope, was this radio host’s question. He went on to scoff at the people (i.e., Catholics) who could believe such a ridiculous idea. The Pope is human, not God, he said. And on and on and on.

I was getting ready for Mass that morning as I listened to this rambling. Normally, I only half listen to this radio program that wakes us up each morning, but this rambling mess stopped me in my tracks. My first reaction was to scoff back at this man’s ignorance.

But his ramblings stayed with me and I had to contemplate them further. As I thought about it more I realized that much of what he was saying was true. The Pope is just a man, he’s not God. And we, as Catholics, do not believe that he is an infallible human being. We all know that no human is perfect (well, except the Virgin Mary, of course). In some ways, as I contemplated the ramblings of this random radio talk show host, I started feeling sorry for him.

I realize that there is a lot of misunderstanding out there on exactly what the doctrine of “Papal Infallibility” actually means. My initial thoughts were to write a blog post explaining it. But there are already many resources and well written blog posts on the topic. So better that I just link those up for you then add one more to the mix (see links at end of post).

Instead, as I contemplated the misguided rantings of this radio talk show host, I realized that I was actually feeling sorry for him. But it wasn’t just him I was feeling sorry for, he was just the one that caught my attention at the time. What he represented for me were all the people I know who have left the Church in anger, those who don’t understand the Church and bash her teachings without taking the time to ask what they actually mean, and any others who feel the need to spew venom at the Church.

We have all seen it in comboxes, on Facebook, and even run into it in our own families or among our friends. I don’t know about you but most of the time I get defensive and want to stand up for the Church and the ensuing conversation often gets heated, leaving me angry as well.

But what use is our anger? Especially when discussing (to put it nicely) misunderstood teachings of the Church with people who are angry at the Church and unwilling to be fair to her. The problem is that they just don’t know, whether it is out of misunderstanding, lack of catechesis, or complete ignorance, we have no way of knowing. And until a person is willing to listen and learn what the Church really teaches, arguing with them is fruitless.

Does this mean we shouldn’t engage them at all? No, I don’t believe that. I think we need to engage people in a different way. But not through arguing with them and trying to defend the Church. That does nothing but create a circle of everyone defending their views and trying to prove themselves correct. That gets you nowhere, as you probably know if you’ve engaged in any sort of online debate. And if they are friends or members of your family, it can create a tension that will negatively affect your relationships. Instead we need to be charitable, realize that the person ranting about the unfairness of the Church or the out-dated teachings or whatever the issue does not understand the Church’s Truths.

That’s the key for me: the person just does not understand the Truth of the Church.

I remember a time when I did not understand the Church’s Truth. I remember arguing with people, too, always being closed to what they were saying to me. However, I also remember the people who were patient and allowed me to get through what I needed to get through. I remember the patience people showed to me that made me respect them more. That respect allowed me to actually listen and start to hear what I wasn’t hearing before.

So when it came to the random radio guy ranting away about Catholics believing in an infallible human as the head of the Church (as if, if the Pope said it was going to rain in New Mexico on Tuesday we’d all believe him), I found myself having a bit more of a charitable attitude toward him and all those he represented for me. He doesn’t understand and has probably closed himself off from understanding. Maybe one day someone will enter his life who can be that charitable person and gently plant the seeds for him to start being more fair to the Church.

Personally, I find this very hard to do. It’s not my first inclination. So I write this as a reminder for myself, as well as anyone reading, that a charitable attitude, patient understanding of where a person is coming from, and the ability to just help them to see that the Church is not the enemy can go a long way in starting a true dialogue instead of having a circular argument.

What do you think?

And for some resources on the teaching of Papal Infallibility:

Infallibility at New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia

Papal Infallibility, tract from Catholic Answers

Papal Infallibility by Jeffrey Mirus, PhD at EWTN

Papal Infallibility: It’s Probably Not What You Think by Elise Hilton at Acton Institute Power Blog

The Pope is Not as Powerful As You Think by Leila Miller at Catholic Stand