Monday, December 30, 2013

A New Year's Resolution: Mother Theresa and Cardinal Merry de Val on Humility

"Some are displeased with the physician who cures them by reproof, and are not angry with the man who wounds them by flattery."

-St. Bernard

Blessed Mother Theresa on Humility:

If you dare, the following acts of humility, proposed by Blessed Mother Theresa, will certainly make for a good New Year's resolution. Yet, some of these virtuous acts are difficult. Quite often, they can take on the veneer of legitimacy when in fact they are just expressions- which come so natural to us -of our selfishness and egocentricity.

It could even be that when we accept the challenge and try to implement these acts of humility, they can seem so far away from how we think, speak and behave. But thankfully, we do not have to rely on our own strength to live these virtues out. We have the same grace that Blessed Mother Theresa enjoyed. In fact, if we but will to live out these saintly virtues, the desire will carry us along way...but not without effort and a death to self.

Blessed Mother Theresa's Humility List:

1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
3. Avoid curiosity.
4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
8. Give in to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
15. Choose always the more difficult task.

Cardinal Merry de Val on the Litany of Humility:

The following has been revised from an earlier post:

The Scripture is pervaded with the theme of humility. Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val composed a prayer he would recite after every Mass he celebrated called Litany of Humility. It is an irony of Divine Providence that he was chosen as Secretary of State by our last canonized pope- St. Pius X. Every day he would pray, “From the desire of being honored and from the desire of being preferred to others…Deliver me Jesus.” Yet the Lord rewarded him with a position of being the right hand man of a saintly pope. No one can outdo the Lord in generosity.

Cardinal Merry de Val, being of stature at the Vatican, did not think it beneath him to teach the Catholic Faith in the slums of Rome; for that is what he did. Like Pope St. Pius X, he was very generous to those in need. He would often slip money underneath the doors of poor households. For him, the State dignitary deserved no more of his attention than the street sweeper.

In dealing with opponents of the Church from without or modernist theologians from within, he did not flinch from confrontation or conflict. He saw himself as a “Watchman” of the Church; jealous for the salvation of souls and the glory of God. “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.” (Ez 33:7)

Upon his death in 1930, he was found wearing a hair shirt. His penitential spirituality and the Litany of Humility he composed for himself, bore him abundant fruit. He was a man of God who was unmoved by honor and at peace with humiliations.

Following the death of St. Pius X, the Cardinal wrote a book called, The Memoirs of Pope Pius X. In it, he recounts that the adulation and deference that came with being a pope was a burden to St. Pius X. Indeed, for a Saint, such special treatment is a cross to be carried. Like the Lord, they avoid human praise so that they can merit the approbation of God.

Yet, many a youth today long to become famous; and when their dreams are realized, they become disillusioned with that fame. Yesterday people looked up to heroes, today they admire celebrities. For the first time in history, surveys of young people reveal that they prefer being famous more than being rich.

As for us, when we do not get the recognition we think we deserve, we get discouraged or saddened. Or when people find fault with us, we become indignant and lose our peace. As St. Gregory the Great said,

"We have known many who, when no one accuses them, confess themselves sinners; but when they have been corrected for a fault, they endeavor with all their might to defend themselves, and to remove the imputation of guilt."

Indeed, being silent when criticized is worth more to God than ten days of fasting. What is more paradoxical is that this same virtue, which gives strength for keeping silent when criticized, is the same virtue which gives strength for speaking the truth when no one else will.

When the grace of God's humility is given the chance work within the soul, then true joy and happiness takes root and the foretaste of heaven begins. Honors and human applause lose their value; in place of that, the desire to please God grows stronger. There is something to be said for holy obscurity and exclusion; it leads to purification. And ironically, it brings true and lasting joy to the soul. Our Lord said as much in the Beatitudes.

Pray the Litany of Humility. You will find it to be repugnant to your pride, but if you should taste the deliverance for which you pray, you will enjoy a kind of freedom few people enjoy. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (II Cor. 3:17) And where freedom is, there is humility!

Litany of Humility
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...

From the fear of being humiliated ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I…Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

The Litany of Humility, frequently prayed and meditated on, not only hastens a death to self but it gives greater expression to the life of Christ that dwells within us. Indeed, every Saint has been infused with the attitude, the virtue and the spirit which this litany invokes. It inspires a holy striving which is diametrically opposed to the worst instincts in our fallen human nature! And thanks to Cardinal Merry de Val, we have this spiritual and moral compass known as the Litany of Humility. When pride and vainglory get the best of us, all we have to do is pray it. Then our feet will touch the ground once again.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own
and not necessarily reflective of
any organization I works for.

Russia Chooses Life

Russia Chooses Life
By Steven W. Mosher
Population Research Institute
Weekly Briefing: 2013 (v15)

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning abortion advertising. Some members of the Duma (the Russian state assembly), are talking about going even further and banning the procedure itself. The Russian Orthodox Church, whose numbers are swelling with converts and “reverts,” is weighing in as well.
One Orthodox prelate called abortion a “mutiny against God.
” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

This is an amazing turn about in a country which has long been known for its tragically high abortion rate. Until recently, the average woman in Russia could expect to have seven abortions over her lifetime. Even The New York Times, no bastion of pro-life sentiment, has been compelled to acknowledge that Russia's high abortion rate was damaging the health and fertility of Russian women. As the paper noted in a 2003 editorial, "Now the Russian government is attempting to slow the abortion rate. It is an admirable goal, given the toll that multiple abortions have taken on the health and fertility of Russia's women.” Not to mention the toll that abortion has taken on the unborn, and on the population as a whole.

Abortion was forced on the Russian people by the Bolsheviks (the Russian communist party under Lenin), who upon coming to power in 1920 legalized abortion up to birth without any restrictions. Their goal was to destroy the family by encouraging women to get abortions, get out of the home and into the workforce. Russia was the first country in the world to declare war on the unborn in this way. Of course, with its purges, mass executions, and Gulag it warred on the unborn in other ways as well.

In fact, it was the early Bolsheviks who developed the suction abortion machine that is still in use in abortion clinics today. They actually developed two versions. The first was the electric suction abortion machine used in abortion clinics in the U.S. and other countries. The second was the manual vacuum aspirator, a hand-held and operated abortion machine that is used in less developed countries in places where no electric power is available.

PRI has played a role in helping to turn Russia back to life. I participated in the first Demographic Summit at the Russian State Social University in Moscow in May, 2011. We talked with senior Russian leaders about the need to protect life. Not long thereafter, a law was passed banning abortion of unborn babies older than 12 weeks. It also mandated a waiting period of 2-7 days for those wanting an abortion, and required that anyone advertising abortion services include a warning to the effect that “abortion is hazardous to a woman’s health.” Now, of course, advertising of any kind has been banned.

Taken individually, each of the laws put in place by the Russian government has a fairly small demographic impact. The Russian government, for example, pays a one-time baby bonus of $13,000 to the parents of every newborn. According to Russian demographer Igor Beloborodov, however, this generous bonus has only convinced 8 percent of couples of reproductive age to consider having another child.

The cumulative effect of all of the pro-life, pro-natal policies taken to date is far more significant. While there are still, according to the Russian Health Ministry, 1.7 abortions for every live birth in the country, that ratio is shrinking as the birth rate climbs and abortion becomes gradually less common.

As a result of the adoption of enlightened policies to protect the sanctity of human life, Russia's population decline has been virtually halted, and the country has been put on a more stable demographic course.

Russia’s demographic winter is not yet over, but there are signs of a spring thaw.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own
and not necessarily reflective of
any organization I works for.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Screwtape: The road to heaven and hell

The Screwtape Letters is a book authored by C.S. Lewis. Released in 1942, Lewis incorporates his spiritual and theological insights into a correspondence between the Devil, who goes by the name of Screwtape, and his demon nephew named Wormwood. The “Enemy” Screwtape refers to time and time again is, of course, God. Although the book is technically fiction, it is, nevertheless, non-fiction in that it illustrates real spiritual principles based on a solid understanding of human nature. In fact, although C.S. Lewis was an Anglican, he drew inspiration from many Catholic sources and it is demonstrated by the uncanny tactics Screwtape advises Wormwood on.

These tactics by the Devil are adapted to the many ironies of the spiritual life. To be sure, many principles of the supernatural order, much like the natural order, defy conventional wisdom. One such principle or truth is that the road to hell is paved by sins that are subtle and socially acceptable. In tempting humans, the Devil reminds his nephew of the following truth: “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,...Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

The road to hell is not paved primarily with dramatic crimes, genocide and earth-shattering events. It does include that, of course. Rather, it is more often the case that it begins with an uncontested thought or a desire that is seemingly harmless but ends up carrying us in a direction that is contrary to God’s will or what is morally wrong. As St. James wrote in his letter, “Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.”

To add to this, St. John the Apostle reminds us that there is such a thing as deadly sin; deadly because sin ruptures our relationship with Christ and hence kills the life of grace in the soul. Such a phenomenon is every bit as real as physical illness and death but unlike physical illness and death, spiritual and moral decline is ever so subtle. The reason for this is due to the fact that the effects of grace and the gifts God has given the sinner in the past can outlast the life of grace from within. But before you know it, life is not quite the same after a series of sinful choices has been committed. Although we are not quite conscious of it, the bad choices we make, the sins we commit, change us. Soon enough, we think differently, speak differently and act differently. In fact, there is a spiritual law that says that the more you sin, the less you know you are sinner.

In the book The Screwtape Letters, the Devil, Screwtape, is mindful of another spiritual principle, one that defies conventional wisdom. He advises his nephew, Wormwood, that when a believer feels abandoned by God, this is by no means a victory for hell. It could be that the Lord has withdrawn all interior spiritual consolation and exterior supports in order to test that believer and hence make him greater than he once was. He writes:

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

When you strip it down to its very essence, you find that the love of God is an act of the will. If everyone is running headlong towards the cliff and hence into the abyss, it will take an act of the will- motivated by love of God –to go in the opposite direction. Indeed, running against the current of friends, family members and society is a lonely business. It often involves the loss of friendships and strained relationships. And in so doing, one can feel even abandoned by God himself. But when one rises above this- even in his confusion and sense of abandonment –by doing the right thing and remaining loyal to the Lord, he (or she) has proven himself as a sincere lover of Christ…a true friend.

Such a friend can accept all things from God, prosperity and adversity. In the book, The Dialogue, God the Father goes on to inform St. Catherine of Sienna that the faithful disciple of His Son "holds all thing in reverence, the left hand as well as the right, trouble as well as consolation, hunger and thirst as well as eating and drinking, cold and heat and nakedness as well as clothing, life as well as death, honor as well as disgrace, distress as well as comfort. In all things he remains solid, firm and stable, because his foundation is the living Rock." Such a disciple becomes quite useful to the Lord because his fidelity is not dependent on agreeable circumstances.

What we learn from The Screwtape Letters and from the writings of the Saints is that the strong currents that lead to hell is quite subtle. And those who carried by it are not, at least initially, alarmed by it. Like those passengers on the Titanic who were unphased when the ship hit the iceberg, fatal blows to the life of grace can feel like a little jolt to those who are not paying attention. Yet, their ship is in danger of sinking, nevertheless. On the other hand, the road to heaven is can come is great subtly too. We can make the most spiritual progress when all seems lost. Indeed, when we feel abandoned by God and yet love him anyways- and although we may feel lost and even backsliding -this is a sign that our feet is firmly planted on the road to heaven.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own
and not necessarily reflective of
any organization I works for.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Herod and the Holy Innocents: Why God Allowed It

Note to the reader: I renamed this a few times. Trying to find a title that captures the content.

When God summoned the Magi to Jerusalem through the star of Jacob, he triggered a series of
events. One such event was the massacre of boys- two years old and under –in the little town of Bethlehem. The Greek Liturgy numbers these innocent victims at 14,000. But most historians conclude that this improbable because the population of Bethlehem was estimated to be at 1,000 at the time of Christ’s birth. However, Josephus, a first century Jewish historian and a few of the early Church Fathers, contended that this decree by King Herod the Great was carried out during the month of March during Passover when thousands of Jewish pilgrims were required to visit the Temple. Bethlehem is only five miles away; perhaps, the last rest area for travelers. If this be the case, then perhaps the Holy Innocents could have numbered in the hundreds or thousands.

In any case, when we consult historical sources, we discover that King Herod coveted political power so much that he didn’t even spare his own family members when they got in the way. Some early accounts allege that King Herod the Great asked permission of Caesar Augustus if he could put three of his sons to death. Such measures on the local level required permission from the Roman Emperor. In response to this, Augustus is reported to have said, “It were better to be Herod’s pig than his son, because the Jews do not eat pork.” Indeed, Herod’s pigs fared much better than Alexander, Aristobulus, and Antipater. The former were spared while the latter, namely, his sons, were put to death. Evidently, King Herod’s sons were a threat to his power.

Moreover, it was believed that during the time his son’s were being strategically eliminated, the King Herod (who was half Jewish) decided to eliminate another threat: the new born Messiah. St. John Chrysostom offered his two cents worth in speculating why this might have been the case. He said, “Herod, being aware of this prophecy, applied the oracle to himself in order to strengthen his kingdom.” However, when the Three Kings from the Orient (i.e. the Magi), guided by the star, came looking for the Christ-child, he knew his attempts to appropriate the prophecy from the book of Micah to himself would be challenged. Even so, what could a young boy possibly do to upset King Herod’s throne?

St. Gregory gave the answer when he said this: “When the King of heaven was born, the earthly king was troubled because, indeed, terrestrial exaltation is confounded when celestial greatness is disclosed.” In other words, what King Herod intuitively anticipated, the Blessed Virgin Mary had prophesied. When she visited St. Elizabeth several months earlier, she exclaimed in her canticle that God will “throw down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.” To be sure, not by military might or political rule would Christ “throw down the rulers from their thrones,” but paradoxically, it is by lifting up the lowly!

Just a side note before proceeding any further: It just so happened that a few days after his son, Antipater, was eliminated and after his decree to massacre the Holy Innocents was issued, King Herod was said to have died a painful death. His thirty seven year reign came to an abrupt end. This is historical lesson is worth pondering: Political power is always short-lived when balanced against eternity. It is like vapor. It appears and then it is gone before you know it. Christ didn’t come to rule as Caesar Augustus or King Herod did. No, that was too insignificant for him. As Pope Leo the Great said, “Christ seizes not thy royalty, nor would the Lord of the universe be contented with thy petty scepter.”

Christ came to reign over hearts. He came to save souls. And in doing so, he raised up the human person regardless of social or political status. For this very reason, Christ’s divine authority has always been a threat to despots and power-hungry rulers! To reveal the God-given dignity of the individual and to claim ownership over every soul as God does, this puts limitations on the power of the State.

When our ultimate trust is in the Lord, dependence on the State tends to wither. Even the Psalms bids us not to put our trust in mortals and rulers: “Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals. Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.” And when the interests of God are tied up with the narrow ambitions of politicians, it is the latter that always suffers. Alexis de Tocqueville said it well: “When a religion founds its empire upon the desire of immortality which lives in every human heart, it may aspire to universal dominion; but when it connects itself to a government…it forfeits the hope of reigning over all.” But I digress.

Bearing witness to great truths is not just a matter of words and speeches. If it was, the cost would be too little. Rather, great truths shine the brightest when mortals have to suffer for it. Perhaps this is why the Lord drew the Magi to himself even knowing that this would result in the Bethlehem massacre. “It was prophetically declared,” St Leo argues, “that the Church of God should increase by the cruel fury of her persecutors…” In fact, Our Lord and his entourage of martyrs would bear witness to God’s heavenly kingdom with their very lives. And the early Christians were quite proud of this heritage. They would often say, “To act bravely, is the part of a Roman; to suffer bravely is the part of a Christian.”

From a distance, we Christians can recount the glories of martyrdom. And to be sure, it is inspiring. But it must be born in mind what a tragedy that must have been for the parents in Bethlehem to witness the murder of their young boys. They didn’t ask to be a part of God’s plan. And when the toll of human suffering hits close to home, as it did with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, it is exceedingly difficult for reconcile such atrocities with God’s wise counsel. Yet, it has been the instrument God has used to give evidence of reality of heaven, of the dignity of the soul and of the greatness of God himself.

From the vantage point of the world and all of those who covet political power, the feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28th is a sign of weakness and defeat. But it is imperative that we know how God works. What is weak in the eyes of humans, is all-powerful in God’s hands. As St. Paul said, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something…” (I Corinthians 1:27-28)

It is those holy, innocent children from Bethlehem who sit at Christ's feet in heaven. It is they who will judge the despots of the world with our Lord. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Universal Church not only honors them, but beseeches their intercession and favor on us mortals.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own
and not necessarily reflective of
any organization I works for.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

When Children Became People

When God became a child he not only redeemed the human race, he revealed the true dignity of children. To be sure, the Christ-child in swaddling clothes did more to advance the cause of children than most historians and sociologists care to admit. By entering into human childhood with his divinity fully intact- and experiencing all of the joys and challenges of childhood –he became their advocate. And during his public ministry, when our Lord said “let the children come to me” and then bade his disciples to become like children, he, at the same time, reminded the world that children are people too; that they were admirable qualities in children that all should aspire to.

You might think this is a no-brainer: “Yea, children are people; so what?” But we forget what the coming of Christ meant to the status of children. You see, in the ancient world children were considered to be property; something to used and dispose of at will. For this reason, they lived in an atmosphere of sexual abuse and violence. Indeed, the unbaptized world, by and large, was not child-friendly at all. And if you take a look around you, you may notice that the post-Christian world is really not that different; that children are dehumanized in much the same way with the practice of abortion, the growing acceptance of infanticide, and often reported incidents of sexual abuse among minors in the media.

If we but consult the past, we can anticipate the future. And what does the past tell us? Before Christ, children were not people; at least in the eyes of the world. In his book, When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity, author O.M. Bakke draws our attention to just how callous adults were toward children. Indeed, an appalling indifference was quite prevalent in the most civilized parts of the ancient world. In fact, there were very few legal and social protections for children.

For instance, the father of the house was the arbiter of whether his children lived or died; whether they were cared for or abused; and whether they were kept or sold. Bakke adds, “Children and slaves were the father’s property, just material objects. To a very large extent, he could treat his wife, his children, and other household members as he pleased, without any fear of legal consequences.” This, of course, gave sanction to violence against children and sexual exploitation.

Lloyd de Mause, a source referenced in the same book, reminds us that what we call “abuse” in our day was mainstream phenomenon in the antiquity. He said, “[T]he child in antiquity lived his earliest years in an atmosphere of sexual abuse. Growing up in Greece and Rome often included being used sexually by older men.” In ancient Greece, home of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, man-boy sexual relationships (this was called ephobe love) were far from being taboo or considered “abusive,” rather, it was a social rite of passage in Greece.

Kenneth Dover, author of a book on homosexuality in ancient Greece, gives us four key insights about this socially accepted man-boy relationship:

(1) that most homosexual activity among free urban citizens in Greece took the form of pederastic relationships between adult men and boys aged twelve years and over; (2) that such relationships were considered normal and natural; (3) that neither ethics nor legislation forbade or penalized this form of sexual activity…(4) that this form of homosexual activity was seen as noble, as a natural part of growing into adulthood….”

This coldness towards children on the part of adults- and even parents -in the ancient world derived, at least in part, from the high mortality of rate among children. Approximately 50 percent of children in the ancient world died before the age of ten. With this probability, parents often expected at least some of children to die in the early years. Such an expectation fostered in parents a kind of detachment from their children. Sadly, in pagan antiquity there was no religious belief to offset this unfortunate development.

The fact is that children were seen as a liability because of their vulnerability and their inability to reason. As Bakke argues, “Children were not only considered to be weak in the sense that they lacked logos [i.e. the ability to reason]. The Romans held that they were physically weak, particularly vulnerable, and exposed to sickness.”

For this reason it was not uncommon for people to see children as a sacrifice, a burden and a mouth to be feed. Even the widely known Roman philosopher, Cicero, exhibited an appalling indifference towards the death of his granddaughter. He even referred to her as a “thing.”

Naturally, this indifference towards children led to the common practice of abortions, infanticide and “baby exposure” (i.e. literally, throwing babies away…taking them out to the garbage). Without blinking an eye, another Roman philosopher by the name of Seneca justified the killing of post-born babies under the guise of “reason.” He said, “We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal. Yet it is not anger, but reason that separates the harmful from the sound.”

Sure enough, archeologist Lawrence E. Stager and his colleagues saw evidence of this practice about two thousand years later in one of his excavations in Italy. He said they made “a gruesome discovery in the sewer that ran under the bathhouse…the sewer had been clogged with refuse sometime in the sixth century A.D. when we excavated and dry-sieved the desiccated sewage, we found [the] bones…of nearly 100 little babies apparently murdered and thrown into the sewer.”

With this historical context in mind, we can better appreciate what Jesus Christ means to the dignity of children. He took their lot in this world and retrieved it from the sewer. How often have we heard the words spoken by the angel Gabriel to the St. Zachariah (Lk 1:17) in the Temple that the Messiah will “turn the hearts of fathers toward children”?

The promise that fathers would turn their hearts toward their children upon the arrival of the Christ is taken from the book of Malachi. And have we ever asked ourselves what that passage means? It would stand to reason that father’s hearts were not turned toward their children; that somehow their hearts were not in the right place; that their hearts had grown cold toward them in the absence of grace. But when father's hearts turn away from children, society follows suit.

Unfortunately, ancient pagans chose to focus on the limitations of children, thus casting them as a liability to society when in fact they were the very opposite: the future of society and a blessing from God! What was overlooked was that the more children there were the more hands existed to assist with labor, the more minds there were to invent and the more souls there were to love.

In contrast to the ancient pagans, the early Christians revolutionized the way the world looked at children. Scripture reminded the people of God that children were heaven’s blessing; that from conception to natural death children they are, as Pope Pius XI would say, a "true microcosm, a world in miniature with a value far surpassing that of the vast inanimate cosmos." Just as the slave was equal to his master at the foot of the altar, so too children were endowed with equal dignity to their parents. After all, they were created by God, for God and in the likeness of God just as their parents were. This is biblical truth is the basis and surest guarantee for human rights and the dignity of life.

What is more, the early Christians saw to it that all who would aspire to follow Christ had to become like little children; this, in order to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Indeed, all that was noble about children, such as their innocence, unquestioning faith and simplicity, were raised high for the world to see.  And in so doing, men and women learned to see children as people; something that was quite foreign to the ancient pagans.

The crèche, or any Nativity display for that matter, takes on great symbolic value in our day. After knowing how children were treated in the unbaptized world, the following words from the prophet Isaiah will never sound the same to me: “For a child is born to us, a son is given us.”
The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own
and not necessarily reflective of
any organization I works for.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

One Year Later: My Little Lamb

Jennifer Hubbard is a resident of Newtown, CT, The younger of her two children, Catherine Violet, was a victim of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012.
Courtesy of the December edition of the Magnificat Pages 187-188

She Pondered These Things in Her Heart
Lamb of God
Jennifer Hubbard


It is the time during Mass where my tears flow steadily:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

It is then that the pain becomes overwhelmingly raw. The wound that I think has started to heal is suddenly ripped open.

Lambs are innocent, exposed, and vulnerable, and yet they are always protected. My lamb is Catherine. I knew her cry before it came from her lungs. I knew it was Catherine calling “Mamma” even though she was in a room full of children calling out. I knew where she was, even when I couldn’t see her. She is the lamb I knew had been called home before I truly understood what had happened. Just knowing- it is a gift God gave me when he placed her next to my heart for nine months. A gift he gave me when he allowed the quiet beating of our hearts to find rhythm next to each other’s.

It is always a lamb I see when I think of Catherine. She is the lamb that would nuzzle right beside Mary in the Nativity. She is the lamb that greets us from the pasture as we walk on a foggy spring morning. She is the lamb that I have carved into the footstone at her resting place. And now, as I tuck it into the pages when I close my Bible, it is Catherine that I see walking confidently beside Jesus on her prayer card.

“The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1). It was Jesus who was waiting for her as he welcomed his flock. He led her to still waters, and she fears no evil. She is the lamb, innocent and vulnerable- naïve to what the world was capable of. She is sheltered under vigilant watch; she is whole and is resting peacefully at his feet.

And I too am his lamb. It is myself he has cradled across his shoulders. He knows my heart aches to feel the beating of hers against mine. He acknowledges my cry, even when it hasn’t yet left my lungs. He hears my quiet calling through all the voices and comes to me. I know that he will guide me as I seek his guidance, and that he will answer my voice when I call out. He continues to scoop me up and carry me when the days seem too much. He shows his unending love in the simplest things that are undeniably Catherine. In doing so he reminds me that his promise has not been broken. He reminds me that one day he will gently lift me from his shoulders and place me beside her. When that day comes, I will close my eyes and relish the quiet rhythm of our beating hearts.