It’s Up to You- No More Than Two

Banner at Northview High School in southern Indiana

Banner at Northview High School in southern Indiana

“It’s up to you, no more than two.”

In an apparent attempt to “educate” the students entrusted to their care, the powers that be at Northview High School (right here in Indiana….Brazil, Indiana to be exact) have posted this banner.  The title of the banner is “Zero Population Growth”.

If we stop having so many children, the world is going to be vastly improved.  That’s the message.

I had no idea Tom and I were contributing to the downfall of humanity.  Thanks, Northview, for clearing that up for us with your math project.

What I think is that this is an unbelievable example of the culture of death which permeates our lives and those of our young people.  Offensive is the most gracious adjective whose use I could tolerate here.

Check out this story for more details and decide for yourself.

What does our Lord have to say?

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth and govern it.  Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals the scurry along the ground.”  (Gen 1:28)

Let us pray:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Religious Persecution: Let’s NOT?

Irish crossRESOLVED: That the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition. –ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Published in a book written in 1920 titled Abraham Lincoln, Man of God by Dr. John W. Hill, this quote rang in my head when I read it today in a news story.

I loathe involving myself in any conversation that is political in nature.  It causes uncomfortable disharmony interiorly, and I value harmony much more than I care to admit.  That desire to distance myself from some flavors of discord is sometimes holy and other times not so much.

Today I’ve bumped up against a problem.  So, here I go stirring the pot.

My oldest son is 16.  He mumbles.  His room smells like the inside of a sneaker after practice.  I try not to pick fights too much but he’s driving me to stick my tongue out at him after he leaves the room these days.  That’s why it blows my mind that he is the one who made me realize I have to go on the record on this whole dreaded matter of “Obamacare”.

I’m not going to discuss our silly government who closes down the WWII Memorial to vets and leaves open the fitness center for Congressmen.  I am assuming that all reasonable people are with me on that one.  So, I’m sticking my neck out for one reason.  I don’t want to show up at the pearly gates and have to explain why I run off at the mouth about so many things that don’t matter a lick and chose to keep quiet on this one.

“Mom?  The Little Sisters of the Poor have a crappy choice.  Do I have this right?  Poor Nuns, like literally poor—it’s in their name– who take care of equally poor old people with nowhere else to go have to either agree to pay for abortion drugs or else give the government like a million dollars a day?”

“Yes, hon. “

“Well, don’t you think the people who work there knew they were going to be working for Catholics when they took the job?  I mean, obviously you’re gonna offend a nun if you ask them to do that.  They’re NUNS.  It seems like you would just not work there if you wanted that.   I mean the place is called SAINT Augustine.  Why not just apply for a job at Starbucks or something instead?”

So, my teenager wants to understand what’s happening?  The same kid who barely seems to notice there are others even in his space some days?  The kid’s observation seems pretty spot on.  You see, freedom to WORSHIP is not the same as freedom of CONSCIENCE.  Abraham Lincoln understood it very clearly.   Despite being a teenager, Nick seems to find the logic mind-bending too.

This is America:  Land of the free and home of the brave.  Today it’s my turn to be brave and go on the record.

Everyday, the Catholic Church feeds, clothes, shelters and educates more people than any other organization in the world.  It truly makes me proud to be Catholic.  Without freedom of conscience rights, this is in jeopardy.  If the statistics I read today are correct (and it is possible since Google has been wrong before), 13% of medical care institutions in the United States are Catholic.

Here’s what I think.  I think anyone who truly believes in God (by any name), respects the freedom of conscience rights of others.  Even kids know this interiorly.  Well, those that are blessed do.  That’s why Nick was thrown.  He understands the problem very easily.  Why?   It’s because he is a believer.

When I was about nine years old, we used to play “kick the can” in the backyard with the neighbors.  I would occasionally complain about the choice of game (mostly because I was slow and somewhat afraid of the dark).  One of the Benjamin boys would inevitable yell “What you’re problem?  Is it against your religion or something?”

I would argue this oft heard phrase indicates that even children recognize one ought not to interfere with matters of faith.  It’s sacrosanct.  A smart guy named Lincoln apparently thought so too.

“NO Brian, it’s not against my religion but how about let’s NOT and say we did?  Cuz I am so sick of this game!”

Those who argue that we Catholics are being “intolerant” on this matter of Obamacare  or are “overly sensitive” are largely unchurched people, I would guess.  Those who love God and choose faith in whatever tradition generally appreciate freedom of conscience and grasp the difference between that and merely the “freedom to worship” mindset that is prevalent in our overwhelmingly secular culture.

A Jewish friend with whom I have shared this debate quietly,  quickly came to understand my perspective once we chatted.  She believes in freedom of religion, not just freedom of worship.  That’s because Judaism is not just a set of beliefs about God, it’s a comprehensive way of life filled with rules and practices that affect every aspect of life:  what you can and cannot eat, what you can and cannot wear, how to conduct business, who you can marry, how to observe holidays, how to treat others.  This set of rules is called halakhah.  What I have been told is that traditional Jews believe that properly observed, it turns the most mundane or small things into acts of religious significance, which in turn leads one closer to God.

So, here’s the deal.  What’s being asked of Catholics now is a violation of conscience.  Or as Brian Benjamin would prefer “it’s against my religion.”

If violating the conscience rights of another doesn’t turn one’s stomach, then what I think we have is a person who does not realize that God loves them.  Our intense prayers are needed.  There is only one, and he cannot prevail, who wishes for a soul to lack a relationship with God.

For me personally, I know that I fail over and over.  I try not to worry too much about perfection but just persist giving my best effort.  I just try to give my heart to Jesus.  I know that He will take it, mold it, and fill it with the fire of His love if I keep asking.  Therefore, there’s no judgment here on this matter of making your own choices.  In Shelly’s world, YOU ARE FREE TO MAKE YOUR CHOICE about your own life, lifestyle, and healthcare.  God gave us all the gift of free will.

Don’t ask me, however, to give up my freedom of conscience rights to pay for another man’sfree will choices.

That’s called religious persecution.

This is America:  land of the free.

Let’s NOT?  I’m sick of it.

Sidebar:  Did you know my given name is actually Michelle?  That will help here below.

Here’s the prayer to my patron Saint, a fitting prayer for my petition today:  That all souls may know the love of God in this life and ever after.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Do You Smile Like a Stewardess?

“Do you smile like a stewardess? “  –Pope Francis

Sweatshirt weather, colorful leaves, apple cider, and college football are some of the reasons I love this time of the year.  There is also a treasure trove of feast days of many of my favorite saints:  Therese of Lisieux, Matthew, Francis of Assisi, John Henry Newman, and Teresa of Avila.  If you don’t know them, for goodness sakes look them up—they are in a category I call “crazy amazing”!

Call me eccentric if you wish, but these are people I consider friends.  Through the example of their lives, they help me realize that Jesus is the real lover of our souls, and that all the blessings He showers upon us are the means He uses to urge us to love Him in return.   When you combine the sunshine and bonfire weather with the inspiration, it’s just a great big hug from our Awesome God, reminding me each autumn just how much I am loved.

Unfortunately, it’s not so for everyone.  Chances are, I’m preaching to the choir here.  I’d be willing to bet that MOST Catholic blog readers who’ve made their way this deep into the internet world are likely people who already know that Jesus loves them.

So, here’s the question:  Do you act like someone who knows God loves them, or do you smile like a stewardess?

This is the question posed recently by Pope Francis to a group largely made up of religious men and women.  It was shared, essentially, as a one sentence conscience exam on sanctity.   It struck me as a remarkable, powerful, and extremely simple bit of wisdom.

St. Teresa of Jesus said it years ago, “A sad saint is a sad saint.”

We all know when a smile is forced and inauthentic.  Let’s try saying “buh-bye” to whatever is not genuine.   We all respond to a smile that is the fruit of joy and holiness.

Here’s why it’s so incredibly important.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”  — Mother Teresa

Today, I am issuing a challenge to all willing to take it.  Let’s BE Christ today.  The world is filled up with people whose hearts are lonely and broken.  We are the hands and feet of Christ.  Look around today.  Share a brave, genuine smile, or a cheerful gesture.  Then, repeat tomorrow.  Who’s with me?

If you’re not yet convinced, don’t take it from me, read this last little bit from one of our great October saints who says it much better than I could (his feast IS TODAY):

Gloom is no Christian temper; repentance is not real which has not love in it.  We must live in sunshine, even when we sorrow; we must live in God’s presence, we must not shut ourselves up in our own hearts, even when we are reckoning up our past sins.  — John Henry Cardinal Newman