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Jesus Came to Divide Us?

            At a recent children’s Mass that I attended, the Gospel reading for the day was from Luke 12:49-53 where Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.” Christ continued to explain that father would be against son, mother against daughter, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and so on.

            After the reading, the priest spoke to the children and said, “That doesn’t sound like Jesus. In the Gospel, he said one person would be against another person even in families; but Jesus came to unify people not to divide them. He wouldn’t want us to be against each other.”

            Then the priest explained that what Jesus was talking about was how sometimes we disagree about Jesus and what he wants of us. The priest gave the example of going to Mass, when some family members do not want to go. He said, “You know, boys and girls, sometimes Moms and Dads don’t want to go to Mass on Sunday. You might tell them, ‘but we’re Catholic, we have to go to Mass on Sunday’ and they might say, ‘well we are sleeping in, we are not going.’ That’s the division that Jesus was talking about.”

            I was so struck by what this priest had to say. The division and conflict in the Catholic Church does not come from outside sources. It doesn’t even come from high ranking officials. The unrest and lack of peace in the Church comes from within each one of us, especially in our families.

            When we turn away from what Jesus has taught, we experience an unsettled hunger. Our peace is gone. By embracing the teachings of Christ, we are fostering a peace with deep roots of comfort for ourselves. It is truly our free-will gift to choose –away from Jesus and sorrow or toward Jesus and joy.

Jan Kahle

Komen…What’s the Controversy?

            Recently Bishop Blair wrote a letter concerning fund-raising for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. His clear statement addressed the problem of cancer research and the use of embryonic stem cells. While Susan G. Komen ofNorthwest Ohiodoes not directly fund cancer research, it does send 25% of the collected donations to the parent company which does offer grants for cancer research.

          Bishop Blair is responsible for imparting the teaching of the Catholic Faith to the people ofNorthwest Ohio. It is a responsibility that he neither takes lightly nor can choose to ignore. In that capacity, the Bishop addressed the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, one of those teachings. Since some cancer research institutions use unwanted embryos from fertility centers for their research, there is potential that these small human lives are not being respected.

          In addition to support of life in the womb, Bishop Blair also offered support for those struggling with cancer when he suggested directing donations to the Mercy Cancer Centers. The Northwest Ohio Susan G. Komen Foundation had been sending money to the Mercy Cancer Centers as part of their outreach so the Bishop’s suggestion does not diminish this work.

          It is very important for us to realize that any past fund-raising we may have done for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, done in good faith, was not wrong. However, knowing what we do now, it is important to direct our donations to life-affirming organizations.

          Finally, since embryonic stem cells have been used in research, they have never been proven to assist with any medical condition. In fact, they react much like cancer cells. On the other hand, adult stem cells, which harm no human being, have been proven to help with leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, juvenile diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia, heart damage, corneal damage, and dozens of other conditions. Just from a scientific perspective, it does not make sense to direct funds to research that has proven itself ineffective and away from such a viable alternative.

          I would hope, though, that we would approach this issue through the eyes of faith. I pray that as Catholics we can see that when we treat any human being, no matter how small or vulnerable, as less than dignified, we tear at the very fabric of our own humanity, our connection to the Creator.

Jan Kahle, Respect Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Toledo

Is There a Thomas in the House?

     Hi, all you bloggers.    I have to say that the staff here is crazy and I love it.  New ideas are entertained and sometimes they entertain us.  One of the latest ideas was to promote our CYO basketball program and get as many people at the game as possible.  At a tournament game hosted at our local gym, we would have prizes for anyone who could make a half court shot.  To advertise, a short video of me making a half court shot would be featured.  By the hand of God, I made the shot on the second attempt and the video project was completed.  Now comes the interesting part of the project…  
     I went to the grade school to show off the video.  The kids were congratulatory of my basketball skills and full of wide-eyed hopes that they could win a prize at the game.  There were no doubts that such a shot could come from my hand.    Next, I next went to the high school building.  When they viewed the video, they thought it was a hoax.  Somehow the youtube promo was spliced and not real.  I had a difficult time convincing the students that it was real.  I’m not really sure they ever believed me.   And then it was time to show the video to the adults.  They, too, were skeptical of my half court shot, although they were not as hard to convince as the teenagers.
     This project has made me wonder about our society.  Have we been so tricked by so many that belief comes hard?  Are we in a society of Thomases?  Do people believe me when I preach?  Can people tell the difference between truth and fiction? 
      Who and what we believe comes into question.  What is truth for you?  That is a question that we will encounter during the Lenten season.    Have a great day.  I mean it.   That’s the truth.

Fr. Mark

The Hand of God and Snow Angels

Hi to you bloggers,
     I’ve been away for a while due to vacation and Christmas activities.  It is good to be back.  Today’s topic is seeing the hand of God. 
     Recently, our parish put together something unusual and touching.  We decided to put together a project called “Andy’s Angels in the Outfield.”  An invitation was put out to get participants to line up on a lighted baseball field and to fall backwards into the snow (in zero degree weather) to make snow angels for a recently departed angel named Andy.  Our expectations of a few angels showing up were soon overwhelmed as hundreds of angels showed up for the fundraising event to help the family with expenses due to Andy’s illness.  Although we raised a nice financial nest egg, we raised the spirits of the family and community. 
     To say that we will never forget, and that love will never die, is part of our faith and our hope.  To express that so well on that night will be remembered.  It was truly a God-event for many.  Tears were shed and hearts were touched.
     For me, I had the best seat in the house for the event.  I was in a tower, high above the ball field.  As an organizer, I also knew how things came together.  That itself was the hand of God.  A six inch snowfall days before made for beautiful angels.  The timing of the participants walking in lines across the frozen outfield could not have been better planned.  Everyone was in place with 10 seconds to spare.  The 8 o’clock bell rang, a shout of one, two, three rang across the tundra, and hundreds of angels fell to the earth to flap their wings in support of a fellow family member and friend.  From the tower, it was just like a movie.  Hundreds of colorful angels marching across the snowy white field to land for a moment, before flying in unison while looking into the sky. 
     I have to believe Andy looked down and smiled because we looked up and smiled.  It is not so hard to believe that heaven and earth can be united.  It happened on a snowy field in Ohio.  That day, the hand of God looked like snow angel wings.

Fr. Mark

Evil Happens…We Do Nothing?

Abortion is an issue that I don’t relish focusing attention on or talking about, especially at Christmas time. The death of unborn children, as we consider Christ in Mary’s womb in anticipation of His birth, seems so incredibly wrong. And yet, with the opening of the new abortion clinic in Lima, it seems essential that something be said.

There are several points that are usually raised when someone mentions abortion as an option: it should be a woman’s right to choose; we’re supporting women; it’s only a blob of tissue, nothing has changed in the fight against abortion after so many years. Let’s take a few minutes to address these issues.

For any consideration of abortion, we need to understand what the action really is. Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy by removing the child growing within its mother. It isn’t a blob of tissue, but a human being. All of the genetic information is present for the child’s physical development. Equally present is a soul, that gift from God that makes us unique from simply being animals.

The child in the womb has been described as a blob, something less than human, so that an abortion might seem okay. Yet the truth is that the child looks very human after only a few weeks of growth, but has been fully human since conception when body and soul come together.

I think some of these false ideas have surfaced when people witnessed the destruction of a human being after the suction machine has torn it apart, much like we don’t recognize the animal in hamburger. In addition, it can only be without faith that we see the developing child as a blob since we are denying the soul’s presence.

With the recognition that this is truly a child, a human being, let’s look particularly at ‘a woman’s right to choose.’ What is she choosing? She is choosing to end the life of her child. Again it appears obvious that we do not see the child as a child for no one is in favor of killing another. We do not have the option to choose to kill other people. We couldn’t kill the child in a mother’s womb unless, in our minds, we make that child less than human.

The other piece that I grapple with is why anyone sees abortion as something helpful to women. The procedures are anything but affirming. For example, a woman who is less than 9 ½ weeks pregnant and has a medical abortion (which is the method at the Lima facility) will be given an oral medication (RU-486) in the office and will be sent home with medication that needs to be vaginally inserted 6-72 hours after that oral medication. Then alone in her home, she will begin cramping and bleeding until the child is discharged. She is left alone to flush her child away.

How is any of that positive for a woman? Did she really know what her choice was? Was she forced to endure this by someone else, economics, or shame? If we truly want to support women, we need to help them with the natural, yet challenging situation of their pregnancy. We need to be there offering support, education, supplies and advice, much like Heartbeat and other Pregnancy Centers.

Adding to the trauma of this crime against women and children is how it tears at families. I have heard the weeping grandmother sharing the story of her lost first-grandchild and the sorrow of a young father who was given no option at all about the life of his child. And then there is the regret of the post-abortive woman, whose sadness seems unquenchable.

Things have changed over the years in support of life. There have been laws put in place that would prosecute anyone who forces a woman to have an abortion. The Hyde Amendment prevents federal money from being spent on abortion. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act prevents the abortion of a child shortly before its birth.

Why hasn’t more been done? Perhaps the answer is you. What have you done to fight against this evil? Has it been a focus of daily prayer? Did you join members of St. Michael’s Parish in being a prayerful witness outside of the Center for Choice abortion clinic during 40 Days for Life? Do you write letters to the editor about this issue? Have you called or e-mailed your Congressman?

As Edmund Burke once said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” It happened during Christ’s life and it is happening during ours.

Jan Kahle, Pro-Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Toledo

Have a Song in Your Hearts this Christmas

Merry Christmas. 

     When it comes to Christmas, I have my favorite songs.  Music always brings me places. 

The “Barking Dogs Jingle Bells” makes me like Happy Gilmore.  I find a happy place. 

The “Carol of the Bells” takes me to a reflective quiet place. 

“Mary Did You Know?” makes me gentle. 

Any Karen Carpenter song makes me a member of a choir, as I love to sing with her. 

“Some Children See Him” makes me an advocate for world unity and peace. 

“I Wonder as I Wonder” makes me extra holy, as I wonder at the plans that God worked through a child, a son, a Messiah.  I wonder how God will touch my life as I begin a new year. 

“The Friendly Beasts” brings me back to a time when I was a farmer and my dad would invite us kids to treat the animals particularly well on Christmas because Jesus came to change all creation.

     Christmas songs move me.  And I truly believe that Christmas is supposed to move us also.  If a song can take us places, how much more can the One, who makes Christmas what it is, take us places we never imagined?  To have a song in one’s heart is one thing.  To have Jesus there is quite another story.  To know we are so loved, through the birth of God’s Son, makes traveling through this world to the next a journey of love.  Love moves us to do amazing things.  Let Christmas move you.  Let the Lord move you, for love is born on Christmas Day.  

   Merry Christmas to all of you.  Have a song in your hearts.  Have the love of God, Jesus, there also, today and every day.       

     I’ll be home for Christmas.  Not because of my traveling, but because He has made His home in me.                                          

Fr. Mark

Oh, Eliza, Little Liza Jane

(Written on Wednesday, Nov. 17)

Hi to all you bloggers,

     I’m all excited about tonight’s activities for our teenagers:  square dancing.  I love to square dance.  I grew up with it as part of family weddings and physical education in school.  I also square-danced when I used to have a date or two (boy, has that been a while).  I still call them for different functions, and now we have this activity as part of our religious education program.

    You may ask, “How is square dancing related to religious education?”  First of all, my cousin, Fr. Mel Lochtefeld, taught square dancing years ago.  Much of our faith comes from tradition.  I’m just continuing the tradition.

     Next, our students are studying the Theology of the Body.  So much is made of what is inappropriate.  We thought of a way to teach what is appropriate.  Just because you dance with someone of the opposite sex doesn’t mean that you are dating them. 

    My nieces and nephews have been square dancing with each other at weddings for years.  They’ve been dancing since they’ve been in grade school. To be able to hold hands with boundaries and a purpose is a good thing.  So much of what we teach in regards to the physical person is taught in response to fear or suspicion.  Dancing gives an outlet for good fun and social appropriateness.  

     The Church says, in John Paul’s writings on The Theology of the Body, that the physical aspect of man is good.  I believe that our square dancing lessons will bring out the good in our students and respect for the physical person. 

     If you’ve ever seen our students in sports, you know how physical they can be.  Tonight, they can see how they can work together to dance with the stars.  We need a name for our class.  “Dancing with the Stars” is taken.  Maybe someone can come up with a good name.    

     I’m off to practice my Li’l Liza Jane.            

     Fr. Mark