Wednesday, November 05, 2003

An end to Partial Birth Abortion?

I've been praying many years to finally see this. But this comes with a firm warning. The battle has only just begun. It will be a vigorous fight in the courts to ensure that the dignity of women and children are respected.

There's too much rhetoric holding up the supporters of abortion. I think it's high time that there be a national discussion about abortion using scientific data. Is it not possible that when Roe Vs. Wade went through 30 years ago that perhaps, just perhaps, they didn't know enough how dangerous and oppressive abortion was to women? Let's examine the effects. Lay it all out on the table. And whatever doubts they may have had as to the start of human life, let's examine that question in light of today's medical science and fetology. There are some terrible inconsistencies. In one place, where a fetus is by all definitions a patient and a human being, a doctor can remove a child from the womb, successfully operate on him, and place him back into the womb. In another place, however, a child of the same stage of development is not a human being and can be torn from the womb and thrown away. I wonder, who is truly living in the past? Who isn't getting with the times? A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

And yet on CSPAN today, I see the usual suspects using the same rhetoric, accusing us of being against women's rights and against the constitution. My goodness - nobody should have the right to kill an innocent human being.

I confess that I am a little cynical that we in the United States of America have the moral fiber to see this through. We will have to pray unceasingly.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us sinners. Holy Innocents, pray for us.
TO THOSE WHO WERE ROBBED OF LIFE: the unborn, the weak,
the sick, the old, during the dark ages of madness,
selfishness, lust and greed for which the last decades
of the twentieth century are remembered....
     -C. Everett Koop, MD

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Reflections of Halloween in Isla Vista

Halloween in Isla Vista is a religious experience, for some. On every Halloween over the last couple of decades, Isla Vista, CA, the small college town next to UC Santa Barbara, where I was a student from 1996 through 2001, transforms itself into a pilgrimage site, drawing pilgrims from miles around. It turns into a truly magical scene, where alcohol flows down the streets as in the land of flowing milk and honey. Every year, thousands upon thousands flock to this little town and turn it upside down. Ten years ago, it got so bad that the local law enforcement decided that enough was enough. They implemented a 5-year plan to overrun Isla Vista with a massive police presence every Halloween in order to discourage pilgrims from venturing there in an attempt to reduce crime and chaos. It had been mildly effective, and after 5 years had passed, they extended it for another few years. Last Friday, however, around 50,000 people descended on the lowly streets of Isla Vista. 50,000 people.

To give you an idea as to some of the rediculousness that can occur when thousands of people congregate to party in the streets, check out the recent police blotter reported in UCSB's campus newspaper, the Daily Nexus. Note: The blotter does quote some four-letter words, so be fore-warned. I am not saying this was the way it was for everyone who came, but I think it illustrates the general scene fairly well. I haven't had a lot of reasons to venture into Isla Vista anymore since graduate school, though I have tried to be fairly vocal that something needs to be done. The town is full of crime, including burglary and rape, the streets are falling apart and poorly lit, and the air always seems saturated with stale beer. I feel bad, because in addition to the large young adult population in Isla Vista, it is also home to many hispanic families who cannot afford to live anywhere else in Santa Barbara, where the cost of living is quite high. To top that off, would you believe that there is a full retirement home in Isla Vista, surrounded by fraternities. All these different communites trying to live together.

Monday, November 03, 2003

All Souls Day

Bill Cork blogs about hearing a homily at his parish concerning Purgatory - the first homily he's ever heard on the subject in 11 years. I'd have to say that I have also never heard a homily preached about the beautiful and interesting subject of Purgatory. In explaining the concept to his son, Bill quotes Cardinal Ratzinger's book Eschatology which I also find to be a very good explanation:
Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God, and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy.
Why is the topic approached with trepidation? What is there to be afraid of or embarrassed about?

Purgatory has often received a very negative rap. While I was a student at UC Santa Barbara, I was a member (and later convener for two years) of the UCSB Interfaith Council. It was a most awesome group, and we put together some very good discussions concerning topics of faith. One such topic concerned Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife, as explored from Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam. I was pegged along with a friend to present the Catholic understanding of the subject, which in my mind, necessitates a discussion on Purgatory.

A few days prior to the event, I was approached by the assistant pastor of my university parish, who was actually the convener at that time, who asked me not to mention Purgatory at all, or at the very least, not give it much importance. I immediately responded that excluding a discussion of Purgatory would be a major disservice to those who came to hear the Catholic understanding of Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife, because Purgatory has everything to do with our understanding of salvation, answering the call to holiness, and the goodness of God's grace. I explained that before I was a Catholic, I had many questions about Purgatory and, when I finally grasped it intellectually and spiritually, I found it to be something very beautiful, something that made sense. How could I deemphasize something so intrinsically Catholic? He reluctantly agreed. Afterward, I was approached by a Jewish friend of mine who thanked me for articulating something that she had never understood. She said she was glad she came.

Purgatory, of course, is a theological articulation applied to the workings of God's grace after death - something that is quite mysterious. But by bringing an emphasis to it, we remind ourselves not only of the goodness of God's grace for us in life as well as death, but also just how connected we are to all who have died in Christ. It is therefore always a very pious and holy thought to pray for the dead. Over the last six years that I have been Catholic, I have become very conscious of the dead. I remember them daily and offer prayer for them frequently. Today, I remembered expecially my grandfather who died in 1998, and my grandmother who died last May. I also remembered several dear friends of mine who have died. Lastly, I remembered a young woman, who died in 2001 shortly after the birth of her stillborn daughter, whom I never knew in life but over the passed year have felt inspired to offer prayer for. I'll speak more about that another time.
Eternal Father, I offer You the Most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son Jesus, in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Amen.


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