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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Unilever’s Blockbuster Pro-life Ad

When was the last time an industrial giant made a pro-lifer stand up and cheer? I did tonight when I saw Unilever’s new 4 1/2 minute film encouraging expectant parents to bring their children into the world, and introducing their new program for green production and sustainability. The film itself is the most hopeful secular production I’ve seen in decades.

The film, Why Bring A Child Into This World?, helps to roll out Project Sunlight. Give them a visit and see what it’s all about.

Upon quick examination I didn’t see anything objectionable. Closer examination may reveal areas where pro-lifers feel there could be improvement. If so, let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

We have a film that is taking on many parents’ fears and saying that there is every reason to bring their children into the world.

Two thumbs up for Unilever!!

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Ite ad Joseph

Ite ad Joseph! (Go to Joseph!)

It’s the great Latin admonition of the Church, to seek the intercession of the Patron Saint of the Church, and a powerful intercessor at that. Against the backdrop of the new aggressive eugenics that has taken solid root in American medicine, and against the war on the Catholic Church declared by the Obama administration, this Feast Day of Joseph requires some contemplation of his life and example.

Being engaged to Mary was probably a safe, peaceful, and hopeful period in the life of the holy older man whose betrothal to the holy younger woman was suddenly upended when she announced to him her pregnancy, and that it was God’s baby. Such obvious infidelity compounded by blasphemy could have merited Mary death, but Joseph chose to divorce her quietly, that was until things really became interesting.

Joseph heard from Heaven, as Matthew recounts:

20 He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’
22 Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:
23 Look! the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’.
24 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home;
25 he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

If that weren’t enough, there would be the shepherds coming after the birth and describing the great Theophany, when Heaven opened and the Angels sang. There would be the Magi who journeyed quite a distance bearing their great treasures for this newborn King.

And then there was Herod.

Another dream with an angelic message, and the flight into Egypt to avoid the wholesale slaughter of the innocents. As the scriptures note, there was no intercourse. Joseph was Mary’s chaste spouse through it all, and a fearless adoptive father to her child.

That’s virtue, and an example for our time.

Joseph was called upon to make extraordinary sacrifices in his life in order to ensure the unfolding of God’s plan. If tradition that holds Joseph to have been an older widower is true, his plans for uneventful domesticity with a holy young woman were shattered. As the father of an autistic child, who was on a very different trajectory professionally until our Joseph was given five major diagnoses, I can relate to Saint Joseph.

Our life with our son Joseph has reordered my priorities in ways unimaginable. From seeming tragedy emerges hope, and hope is realized in triumphs great and small. In the eight years since his diagnoses, I thought that I was the one who was in the lead, and indeed I have been through orchestrating and executing Joseph’s therapeutic regimen. In a larger sense, it is Joseph who has been the one leading as his autism has been the portal into the new eugenics claiming countless lives of handicapped children through abortion.

It is inspiring seeing the possibilities for children with autism as Joseph continues to excel in bowling at the competitive level with ‘typical’ kids his own age; as he continues to advance in rank, skill, and socialization in Boy Scouts, as he continues to excel in Irish Step and Street Tap dancing; as he continues to thrill his teammates in baseball; as he continues to inspire his peers in altar serving; as his academics continue to improve. Hope transformed into joy.

But there is a price to be paid for that transformation. It requires death to self, in much the same manner as the successful parenting of typical children. The nuclear fuel for the eugenic engine is the misperception on the part of parents, and the outright lie told by obstetricians and genetic counselors, that life with the child will be a living hell for all concerned, that the parents will lose themselves, their identities, their futures, in the needs of this child.

In truth, the problem of the past thirty years is that all too many parents are unwilling to spend themselves for their children’s health, education, and welfare.

Ite ad Joseph!

Joseph did all that he had to do to secure the safety of his adopted son, including leaving the promised land and returning to the land of his people’s former slavery. He left his business, his friends, family, neighbors, and took the young woman who became pregnant apart from Joseph’s embrace; so Joseph also left behind his good name.

Some might be tempted to suggest that Joseph’s was an extraordinary case, as he was instructed by angels in dreams. A good counter would be to suggest that we don’t need angelic visions when we have the Dei Verbum which spells it out for us.

Joseph is the model of masculine virtue for all fathers. Perhaps we don’t read much about him in scripture because those virtues are supposed to be ordinary. We men plead all sorts of romantic-sounding promises when we court our wives. Jimmy Stewart lassoing the moon for Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Today it’s considered heroic virtue to keep the child of our marital embrace if it is less than perfect, if that child will make demands on our time and resources. Regina and I aren’t heroic for embracing Joseph in all of his frailty and doing all within our power to lift him up. That’s just our job, the fulfillment of vows we made to accept children willingly and lovingly from God, and to raise them in the faith.

Ite ad Joseph!

We need to contemplate the life of Joseph, the ordinary virtues he lived that today make him seem superhuman. We need to offer our lives as witnesses to the power of God’s grace to take the weaknesses of our children in stride, and to make them part of the ordinariness of our day-to-day lives. We need to make people understand that authentic freedom consists in having the ability to do what we must, and not what we want. It’s the only escape from the narcissism and hedonism that have overtaken and enslaved so many, and which fuel the growing eugenic wildfire.

Ite ad Joseph!

I took his name for Confirmation, in no small measure because of the great example of my grandfather, Joseph, who was the living embodiment of Mary’s husband; and gave it to the baby boy who has led me to a place I resisted going for decades before his birth. It is the place we must all work to bring our nation before the eugenic fire overtakes us all.

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Note: It’s been two weeks like no other. Yesterday we had the funeral mass and burial of Jon in Warwick, NY. We also had the memorial for Kortney and Sophy in Virginia.

Today, on the Lord’s Day, we rest.

Tomorrow, all will return to our lives and a new normal, a phase of healing and living the rest of our lives marked indelibly by the searing events of the past two weeks. As we keep the Blythe, Gordon, and Scharfenberger families in our prayers, there is one other we need to remember. The man who caused the accident, and who also perished in it, leaves behind a wife and four children. Their loss is no less profound, and they have the added burden of our losses, which has now become a permanent part of their family legacy. They too need healing.

Tomorrow, as we return to our lives, Coming Home will again pick up the work of advancing the understanding of science and how scientific truth continues to substantiate Catholic Christian Anthropology and the pro-life cause.

For now, to bridge the divide from the old to the new order, today’s homily from Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog.

Here’s Deacon Kandra:

By a happy coincidence, this gospel touches on a theme that was so vital to Pope John Paul. In the parable, a tree is given one more chance to bring forth good fruit. The gardener gives it that chance; he offers it the gift of mercy. John Paul, you’ll remember, was beatified on the Feast of Divine Mercy. In fact, the opening prayer for this mass begins, “Oh God, who are rich in mercy…”

Mercy was something Pope John Paul understood in a profound way.

Less than a third of John Paul’s 85 years were spent as pope. Most of his life, in fact, was spent living and working and praying among ordinary men and women in small villages around Poland. From that experience, I believe, he came to understand in a very personal way how deeply the human heart seeks just one more chance, how much the soul seeks the mercy of God.

So this afternoon, I wanted to speak about someone besides that man we all remember as Pope John Paul II.

I’d like us to consider Karol Wojtyla. A lonely boy….a poet… a laborer working in a quarry…a young man in hiding.

Jesus, you’ll remember, spent most of his life in Nazareth, preparing for his great public ministry.

Well, Karol Wojtyla had his own Nazareth. He had many Nazareths, in fact — places and experiences that touched his heart and shaped his life.

His first Nazareth was a town called Wadowice, where he was born.

His mother died when he was eight, his older brother when he was 12. Karol was raised by his father, a tailor, in a small one-room apartment. A friend remembered entering their apartment one day to find the father and son playing soccer with a ball made of rags.

His father died of a heart attack when Karol was only 20 – leaving him completely alone.

His next Nazareth was Krakow, where he enrolled in a university and was required to undergo military training. He did as he was told, but with one exception: he refused to fire a weapon. After the Nazis invaded Poland, all able-bodied men were required to work, so Karol worked in a chemical factory, and labored in a limestone quarry. In his free time, he tried his hand at acting and writing – crafting plays and poems and short works of fiction.

But after his father’s death, only one thing mattered. He felt drawn more and more deeply to the priesthood. But the Nazis had closed all the seminaries. He began studying in secret – risking imprisonment, or even death.

A year into his studies, in 1944, the Germans fled Poland. Karol and other seminarians reclaimed the abandoned seminary. The future pope volunteered for the most unpleasant work imaginable: he spent hours cleaning away piles of frozen waste in the bathrooms.

That winter, he was on a railway platform waiting for a train when a 14-year-old named Edith Zierer collapsed. It turned out she was a Jewish girl who had fled a Nazi labor camp in Czetochowa. Karol picked her up and carried her to a train and traveled with her to Krakow, so she would be safe. Years later, she would say that Karol Wojtyla had saved her life.

After he was ordained a priest, he was sent to another Nazareth, a small village about 15 miles from Krakow. When he arrived, the first thing he did was kneel and kiss the ground — a gesture he repeated again and again in his travels as pope.

He was a typical village priest. He said mass, heard confessions, presided at baptisms and weddings and funerals. He founded a small youth group that quickly became so popular, it grew from 20 people to 200. He took students hiking, kayaking and skiing. While he was kayaking on the lakes of northern Poland, he got word that Pope Pius XII had named him a bishop. He was 38 years old. Karol Wojtyla refused to cut short his trip. He kept on paddling.

And so it began. This is how he began the path to sainthood. His was a life spent not only gazing toward the heavens, but also kissing the earth. He picked up those who fell and rescued those in need and risked his life for what he knew to be true. He saw hardship, and hate, and hope. He shared joys and sorrows, struggles and fears. And he saw God’s mercy at work, in sins that were forgiven and faith that was restored.

So it was that 33 years ago today, on an autumn morning in 1978, he stood before the world and said with clarity and conviction: “Do not be afraid.” They were the first words of his first homily as pope. They were words that he had lived.

“Do not be afraid.”

This day, we remember where they came from.

And we remember, too, that greatness often begins in unexpected places.

Blessed John Paul had his own Nazareth. But so do we all. Maybe it’s an apartment in Queens. It might be a hospital in Brooklyn, or split-level on Long Island, or a shelter in the Bronx. But it is still Nazareth: the place where life is lived, where we are formed day-by-day, where we learn and grow and love.

These are the places where God’s plan unfolds.

He has a plan for each of us – just as He did for Karol Wojtyla.

So, on this, his first feast day, we recall that lonely boy from Wadowice, that poet in Krakow, that laborer in the mines, that priest in the kayak paddling against the current. We pray for his intercession, and his companionship. We ask him to be with us, to guide us, to be a reminder to us of God’s infinite mercy.

And we ask him to help us remember the words that gave light to world hidden in darkness — words that angels spoke to shepherds two thousand years ago, and that then echoed in our own age, from Rome to Gdansk to Manila to Denver to New York.

They are words of boundless hope.

This is the message of Blessed John Paul — the message he learned as Karol Wojtyla: no matter how lonely, how isolated, how persecuted, how endangered we might feel…no matter how wide the world or how great our challenges…a merciful God is with us. He calls on us still to remember that.

“Do not be afraid.”

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I was at the wake today for Jon, and will drive back up for the funeral mass in the morning. I sat here tonight and watched this video of Jon doing his thing for SFLA’s Pregnant on Campus Initiative, which he was directing. This is masculinity in action; gentle strength born of a life lived in union with his God.

Enjoy these few minutes with Jon, and rejoice that we were gifted with him in the time we were allotted; then let’s make this video part of Jon’s legacy by helping it to go viral!!

Pray for us, Jon! We need the prayers, as you well know.

UPDATE: We’re within a few thousand dollars of being able to pay the full cost of Jon’s burial. Many, many thanks to all who have given already. The pro-life community would like to take this burden from Jon’s family, especially as he died doing the hard work of pro-life witness. Regina and I will be donating again. If folks haven’t as yet, every little bit counts. It all adds up. Thank you again, and God Bless!

Donate by clicking here.

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Trusting God in the Midst of Confusion

In the midst of this tragedy, it’s tough to sort it all out. It also precipitates a crisis of faith for many.

I’ve posted this video before, but Chuck Girard takes the psalms and drives the message home beautifully.

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Jon’s sister, Kim, posted the following funeral arrangements on her FB page tonight:

“Thank you for all the prayers and condolences. We are going to need them through this time. For any who are interested, Jon’s wake and funeral will be held in our hometown, Warwick NY. The wake is on Friday the 21st at 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM at Lazear-Smith & Vander Plaat Memorial Home. The funeral is on Saturday the 22nd at 10:30 AM at the parish of St. Stephen the First Martyr.”

We are still taking a collection for Jon’s funeral expenses. The cost associated with flying the remains of a beloved one home are quite substantial, on top of the normally substantial expense of a funeral. The community responded so generously with Kortney and Sophy’s funeral expenses, covering them all. Please rally to Jon’s family and do the same. Donations (all of which are tax-deductible, and 100% of which will be given to the family) may be made by clicking here:

https://jon.sagefundraisingonline.com/3

A few thoughts as we get ready for this weekend.

Jon wasn’t typical of most men his age. For one thing, he was a man. A real man. Not in some pseudo-masculine macho sense of the term, but in the truest sense of masculinity.

He was principled, and all in the pursuit of virtue. He had unusual strength of conviction, all aligned along the axis of moral clarity. Such clarity only comes in self-giving and not in self-assertion. It comes through self-discipline, of subordinating one’s appetites to a vision of the other as worthy of our best and not as an object for our consumption. It’s the stuff of which the more cynical among us who have only ever known being used cannot believe exists in reality.

But it does, and in a world of virtual reality, Jon was the real deal. Jon proved that a virtue-driven life was not only possible, but also attainable.

It takes guts to stand up to the Culture of Death at so young an age, to be defiant in the face of hell’s angels. It takes a real man to stand for the most defenseless among us in the midst of his peers in a hook-up culture, and not count the personal cost of going against the grain, all without being loud and abrasive.

Where do such people come from, many ask? They aren’t born. They’re made.

They’re made by mothers and fathers who empty themselves, pouring out their lives for the sake of their children’s growth in mind, body and soul. That’s where the selflessness and principle are learned. That’s where the love of God and neighbor are modeled.

I’ve never met Jon’s parents. I’ve never spoken to them, but I know them well. They raised me and my siblings, my cousins and friends. They’re the backbone of the Church.

Never on this blog have I asked for money, for me or for any organization with whom I am affiliated, until this tragedy. Again, people’s generosity paid for the Christian burial of Kortney and Sophy, and again, I ask that we all honor the Scharfenberger family who gave to the Church and the pro-life movement so precious a gift as their son, Jon. As we offer whatever money we are able, let us be lavish in our prayers for this beautiful family in their deepest sorrow.

Again, the link:

https://jon.sagefundraisingonline.com/3

God Bless.

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A Note About the Blog

There are few things as unbearable as the death of the young, especially a gem like Jon.

Last night I posted that I wouldn’t be blogging about the life issues until Jon’s condition resolved. I’ll pick up the blogging again after the burial. For now, I’ll be posting meditations and prayers, as well as beneficial videos of spiritual masters such as Father Benedict Groeschel.

Coming Home will continue to be our virtual chapel for folks to stop, pray, reflect, and post any well-wishes for Jon and his family.

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