Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Sharing Life's Journey

I took my godson on the Appalachian Trail for an overnight hike with me last weekend. We found a pleasant flat spot alongside a stream where some people had camped the night before. We told fart jokes and ate trail mix; cooked on a portable camping stove; made a fire to roast marshmallows over; saw some wildlife, including three black bears, though those weren't the most exotic things we saw (this was!); and played a few hands of Uno. All in all, it was a very successful weekend if "success" is measured in friendship, laughter, mutual challenge and encouragement, interesting experiences, shared joy, and ice cream (although ChocoTacos proved elusive).

Actually, come to think of it, that's not a bad standard of success. My godson told me several times that he was very grateful that I brought him hiking with me, and that he'd like to do it again. One day, he will understand how grateful I was that he came along.

Things are Beginning to Change... That's Why They're Fighting So Hard

Kathy Dahlkemper, a Democratic Representative to the U.S. Congress for Pennsylvania, is pro-Life. Enjoy!

Scary, But It's On The Way...

Beware of "mercy" that rejects suffering. And it's on the way.

Our whole social debate on the topic of euthanasia has become so warped we think of killing people as the more "merciful" path. That is because we fail to understand that LIFE IS GOOD. Even imperfect life, like yours and mine, dear reader, is good. It has an inherent value and meaning. With friends and love it will always be joyful. Any mercy that cannot comprehend those two facts is mercy that will end in the gas chambers, to paraphrase a wiser soul than my own.

The Bishop of Bayonne Roars

Consider the policy of His Grace, (Catholic) Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, regarding organ donation, which is uncritical and careless at best. Click here to read. His attitude shows a clear lack of the sort of cautious discernment manifest in the Catechism, for instance.

Contrast this attitude with that of Msgr. Marc Aillet, Bishop of Bayonne, to another part of the Brave New World agenda. He has been gaining notoriety in France for his outspoken opposition to actions the French government, most recently the Gay Pride event hosted by a city in his diocese. Click here to read.

It is interesting to note that in England, the Church has legal freedom to preach its conscience on any matter, whereas in France it is illegal for the Church to speak on issues considered (by whom? the Government?) to be purely political. I suppose it is natural that we Christians sleep when left alone, but wake up when prodded and persecuted. We have to pray for our bishops hard, because it is their job to wake the rest of us up!

I'm Getting Good...

I wrote a response to a blog article on the Washington Post's online religion page. A lot of the blogs' responses are controlled by the blog owners, a reasonable measure to prevent spammer nastiness that nearly destroyed the blogs. For one reason or another, depending on the blog owner, I am sure, most of my responses never go through. Hmmm... But I am getting better. Rather than go apoplectic at my time wasted, or just sigh in resignation, I have saved my piece and am reproducing it below. (I know, heaven forbid I just do something useful!)

First, a click here to read the reasonably well considered, original post by Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J. to which I respond:

(my response follows)

I am intrigued by this thoughtful article, Fr. Reese. At first you lean into a mistake, labeling the Holy Father "left of most Americans including President Obama." This mistake is huge. The Holy Father himself, while addressing the U.N. in New York, asked them to move beyond worn-out categories of left and right. But then, as the article progresses, you indicate an awareness that the Pontiff isn't so easy to pin down.

Trammatic does a good job of summarizing how this indeciperability plays out in American politics:

"I am a practicing Catholic and find no comfort in either political party. I have either respect for life on the right or the preferential option for the poor on the left, but no place with both. On some issues I'm more conservative than most; on others more liberal. This is evident in near-down-the-middle split of the Catholic voting block."

It is because Christ was neither a liberal nor a conservative, but God. Trammatic is on to something in saying that the encyclical will be worthless here in America. That's because even most 'religious' Christians put politics before Christ, and then try to fit him into one party or the other. The only way to make Jesus Christ, the Infinite Alpha and Omega, the Great I-Am, fit into one political party or another is a grizzly process of amputation: not of his heart or mind or ideas or actions, but of ours.

That's why Americans don't, fundamentally, "get" the Church. Whatever she does, people think she is pandering for the opposite political party. She is at once a leftist for caring about migrant workers and a right-wing nut for caring about unborn children and the aged.

In reality, the Holy Father is not going to call for the world to move 'leftward' politically or economically, any more than any other pontiff has. He is going to ask the world to move inwardly, to examine its conscience, and change its way of thinking and living. He is going to call us to something entirely different than swinging back and forth on some right-left pendulum. He is going to call us to Christ.

Piety, rightly understood, is the key to understanding why the Church's "rightist" and "leftist" concerns aren't actually contradictory. Piety is the virtue and gift by which one recognizes God's fatherhood over oneself and over others as well. Consequently, we recognize our fraternity under that same Father, and His loving will that we love each other. This in turn leads to pity (in the best sense of the world), in which we show tender mercy to those who have fallen beneath us in some way, beneath our true dignity as human beings. Piety, then, inspires not only reverence toward God, but love of neighbor. Conversion, the deepening of our relationship to God as His children, will consequently and necessarily change our attitude toward each other. This does not mean socialism - a political centralization of decisions regarding economic matters - but social conscience. We become aware that our actions - whether choices in the businesses we patronize or candidates for whom we vote - affect other people who are as beloved to our Father as are we. In gratitude for His love, we share it.

Personal conversion is not on the opposite end of some tension or spectrum from social action. Quite to the contrary. In fact, any personal conversion that does not change how we regard and behave toward others is a sham. And any social action uninformed by a deep interior reflection, self-evaluation, and conversion toward God's loving will, is bound to be hollow and domineering.

This stuff isn't difficult. It will be interesting to see whether American Catholics get it, though, and whether we are able to share it effectively with our neighbors.

Ryan Haber
Kensington, Maryland

Necks Stretched Out

Today is the second anniversary of my blog. Also, and more importantly, it is the feast of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More. Two years ago, I started off my blog with these reflections about those two men and the moral life. For the last two years those two men, especially St. Thomas, have played a heftier role in my devotional life, or at least become more important as role models. Below are some more thoughts I've thunk in the last two years.

When all the bishops of England yielded to the demand of King Henry VIII, John, the Bishop of Rochester refused. The King insisted that they break their ties with the Bishop of Rome and declare Him to be their spiritual sovereign. They soothed their consciences by convincing themselves that they weren't changing their religion, but only some political stances. The Pope, after all, was also the Prince of the Papal States and a political figure as well as religious. But St. John saw clearly that either the Church and her religion were constituted by Christ, or not. If not, then why bother with any of it? If so, then how dare one change it? And that the Pope was the leader of the Church, he could see no way around. In our own times many voices, even inside the Church, call for political compromises that offend the Law of God. Let us never yield.

St. Thomas More was executed by the King for even more diabolical reasons. The Church of England having broken from the universal Church founded by Christ, its new head proceeded to allow himself to divorce his wife and marry another (and another, and another, and another...) while she yet lived. St. Thomas didn't publicly oppose the thing. But then, he didn't have to: silence from one of the most celebrated commentators of the age was deafening. St. Thomas only seems to have wished to be allowed to resign his office (since he could not support the King's actions) and live out his days in peace and quiet. But the King wanted Thomas' blessing, because Thomas had been the senior judge of the Kingdom, and famously upright and honest. St. Thomas could not give his blessing to a sin. Badgered and beleaguered by the King, his country, and even his family, St. Thomas still refused. The whole world, except for the smothered voice of distant Rome, opposed St. Thomas. But the King's Good Servant refused to cooperate with sin regardless of how many thousands did. Let us never cooperate with evil.

For their troubles, St. John Fisher was executed today, 22 June, in 1535. St. Thomas More was executed a couple weeks later, on 6 July of the same year.

Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, pray for us.

Pius XII, Vindicated (Again)

If Pius XII was such a Nazi sympathizer, as has become popular "common knowledge", why were they trying to kill him? Click here for more.

Eighteen Kids, No Joke... Just Love

You gotta check out this video interview from The family has eighteen children, and they love it! Most of us aren't as saintly as they seem to be, for sure, but one has to wonder - maybe it's the willingness to love that we lack, sometimes. Certainly our life circumstances and emotional capacities don't lend themselves, usually, to such a big family... but I wonder how willing I am to stretch myself.

God's Mighty Deeds

Yesterday, a good friend of mine was ordained to the Holy Order of Deacon, with a view toward ordaining him, if it please God, as a priest of Jesus Christ in the year to come. Dave Wells, the ordained man I have in mind, is generally a great guy. He is laid back as they come, yet not a slacker. He is intelligent, but does not think of himself as intelligent. At least, he doesn't come across as someone who thinks he's smarter than everyone else. He's athletic and cocky, but mostly in a playful way. I've gotten to know him reasonably well over the last 4 or 5 years.

And today, on Corpus Christi, A.D. 2009, he preached for the first time. It's twelve hours now and I am still reflecting on his words, which never happens to me. Normally, it's all in one ear and out the other. His homily shocked me because it was not like I had expected. I am not sure I expected one thing or another, but this homily was not it. His theme might be summarized as God's Mighty, Saving Deeds. He rightly focused heavily on the factual reality of God's real, miraculous acts in real history - from the Red Sea to Calvary to our modern, individual lives. His interpretation of the scripture readings for the day (Ex 24:3-8; Ps 116; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26) was simple but powerful. His theological development was solid, and substantial without the density normally connected with solid meat, and without the fluffiness that often springs from trying to be simple. His words were eloquent without being pretentious in the least. Most importantly with regards to his rhetorical style, he was concise. He laid out the basic message of the Gospel more clearly and directly than I have heard in a long time from the pulpit.

And his passion! I kept thinking, "Where is this man from?!" and "Is this the same man that had beers and pizza with me last week at my kitchen table?" and "He golfs too much to sound like this!" It was his first public preaching, to be sure, but his very few slight stumbles were covered over by his passion. No fire and brimstone from Dave Wells - just the burning passion borne of solid conviction about an important message and, I believe, deep prayer.

I've "heard" the Gospel a hundred times; this morning it woke me up again.

I wish more people could have heard the Rev. Mr. Wells' homily this morning at St. Pius X parish in Bowie, Maryland. You can read it by clicking here and I highly encourage you to take three or four minutes to do so. Hearing him preach made it easier for me to be hopeful for the Church. It was good to be reminded that God still does mighty, saving deeds. Real miracles. Like getting Dave Wells ordained a deacon. (Ha ha! Just kidding, Dave.)

Running for Keelin

This is my sister, Keelin. She is 25 years old and lives in a group home in Columbia, Maryland, about 25-50 minutes from the various other members of our family. She lives in a group home because she is autistic.

She's not like the Rain Man, if you saw that movie. The movie, on its own merits, is good. It is a bit misleading though, because most people who are autistic aren't like the character that Dustin Hoffman played so well. Keelin certainly isn't, anyway. She cannot count matchsticks or play the piano like Mozart, or anything like that. In fact, she only learned to tie her shoes when she was fifteen (praise God!). She really doesn't talk very much, although she does understand - when she cares to - a great deal.

A couple years ago I saw a sign for a "Fourth of July Run for Autism 5k" on July 5th. Naturally, I was very disappointed. Last year, I forgot about it until too late. This year, I am already registered. The road race is sponsored by Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to raising public awareness of autism. For myself, I am not hoping for a magical cure as much as I am hoping that our society will be able to identify and remove the causes of autism, while getting better at recognizing and incorporating those who experience it. The race is a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, and I am running in it to raise money for them because their work so closely matches my aspirations for my sister.

My sister Keelin likes to go for walks and car rides. She prefers classical music to contemporary. She likes horses (and better at a bit of a distance) and swimming. Really, I am running this race for Keelin. I am not in peak shape right now, to say the least, but I figure at least I can go out there and do it.

If anyone would like to make a donation to support my efforts for Autism Speaks and for my sister, I will be greatly obliged. To do so, click here. If you would prefer to write a check rather than make an electronic payment, click here for the form you need to print out and send in with your donation. I don't know that the organizers will tell me who's donated on my behalf, so let me thank you in advance. If anyone else wants to run it, I believe there are still entries available. Click here for their website.

The Real Question of (Gay) Marriage

The Washington Post's On Faith religion blogs are asking whether New Hampshire's new law is a legitimate solution to the gay marriage question. The law simultaneously recognizes gay marriages, authorizes ceremonies to perform them, and protects authorized marrying agents (ministers, rabbis, and perhaps court clerks, etc.) from lawsuits stemming from refusal to perform them. I wrote the following response to one write-in respondent, LorenInCA. Because the WaPo often does not permit my responses to post in a timely manner, I have decided to post it here, on my own blog.

LorenInCA wrote, "The only equitable solution is to pull marriage away from the churches, codify it as civil institution, and allow each church to solemnize unions as they see fit and exclude any persons who don't share their particular credo." In doing so, I believe that she represents a growing consensus among those who do not object to gay marriage.

The question has been put all wrong. What prerogative has the state to "pull" away from religious bodies an institution that has always, until very recently and then only by a minority, been conceived as an essentially religious institution. It is no coincidence that less religious people marry their lovers less frequently or not at all. An argument to pull bar mitzvahs and baptisms away from religious institutions makes the point more obvious. It has been in the regulation of inheritances first, then of divorces, and most recently of taxation, that civil authority has codified marriage at all. The first case dates to ancient times, to be sure, but the civil codification of divorce and taxation (vis-a-vis marriage status) is certainly an innovation of the most recent century.

So I would like to ask LorenInCA upon what basis s/he would nullify the First Amendment's anti-interference clause in order to remove an essentially religious concept and institution from the religious bodies among which it grew up.

Secondly, I'd like to point out that the oft-used analogy between the homosexualist lobby-agenda and the African-American civil rights movement is a very, very weak one. Discrimination is a vital part of human life. We daily discriminate between things we will put into our bodies, for instance, and things we will not. The steak goes in, the styrofoam in which it is packaged does not. And so forth. But the key achievement of the civil rights movement in the U.S. was legally to exclude irrelevant or arbitrary criteria from civil decision-making processes. Specifically, but not only, racial characteristics (and then sex) were to be excluded as legal criteria for making decisions where they were, naturally speaking, irrelevant.

So refusing sale of a home to an African-American family on the basis of their race/ethnicity is forbidden, because it is not a relevant factor. Relevant factors in the sale of a home include income, credit history, etc., but not skin tone or hair color.

On the other hand, I, a balding white man, cannot model hair care products intended for African American women. Is that unfair discrimination? Of course not, because the factors mentioned, though superficial to my character, etc., are directly relevant to my natural ability to do the job.

It is in this legal context that we must position the question of gay marriage. And to address the question we must first ask, rather than assume, the question, "What is marriage? What is it for? What does it do?"

The religious context in which marriage arose has always posited marriage as stable location in which a couple could raise the offspring of their sexual union. That's all. It is not a question of whether Adam and Steve love each other; people do not need marriage or other institutions simply to love each other. The question is whether a gay couple meets the criteria natural to a marriage as it has always been conceived. I think the answer is fairly clear.

Moreover, the question is not one of whether Adam and Steve can inherit each other's property at death, visit each other in the hospital, name each other as beneficiaries of insurance policies, or appoint each other with power of attorney in the event of incapacity. All those questions have been settled decades ago by contract law. Of course they can do any of those things. There are tax benefits to marriage conferred by the government, again, originally to facilitate family stability and the rearing of offspring.

The ready availability of almost all the rights of marriage through contract or other arrangements makes me think that gay couples don't actually want marriage. Many homosexuals have spent most of their lives being scorned by those around them, from hurtful cries of "faggot" on the playground to devastating abandonment by their families that so often accompanies "coming out." I think that they want acceptance and approval.

And that's fine. I can accept gays living as they wish, and approve of them as persons, without reorganizing society to suit their demands. Moreover, as a grown man, I am not going to acquiesce against my conscience because they (or anyone else) may call me mean, cry really hard, label me a homophobe (which is a funny label, coincidentally - of what, exactly, is one supposed to be afraid?), or make bad historical analogies to the civil rights movement.

I stand on my conscience. Marriage is a religious institution, to be left to religious institutions for governance, and is oriented toward the rearing of the offspring of the married persons. It exists for no other reason, and ancillary benefits are themselves oriented toward that purpose. It is not fearful to refuse a demand or to defy public pressure or coercion. Society must not tolerate the hateful treatment of homosexuals, but nor should it let itself be guilted or bullied into acquiescence by them.

Another New Man (in Another) Town

The Board of Directors of The Catholic University of America has elected the new Archbishop of Detroit to be its chairman. To see what kind of man man Archbishop Vigneron may be, check out this list that he wrote of Ten Rules for Handling Disagreement Like a Christian. The rules might as easily be called Ten Rules for Figuring Out What the Heck to Do.

CUA owes the outgoing chairman, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, a great debt of gratitude. I suspect that before long, it will owe Archbishop Vigneron at least as much.

If You Can Lend a Hand...

The IRS has decided to lay a heavy fine on Catholic Answers (, an apologetics organization devoted to catechesis of Catholics and the presentation of our holy faith to non-Catholics. The reason for the fine?

Catholic Answers had the audacity to give Catholic answers. It's shocking that they should do such a thing, I know. What's not shocking is that the IRS is shocked. It seems that during the 2004 election cycle, Catholic Answers presented the Church's view as to why pro-choice Catholic politicians, specifically John Kerry, should not be admitted to the altar rail. At no point did the organization tell anybody how they should vote. Four years and more pass, and now (with a new Administration less friendly to Catholic teachings?) the IRS has decided that its regulations for tax exempt organizations were violated. Hmmm...

One immediately wonders if other tax-exempt organizations like NARAL, NOW, or various urban churches are being investigated under the new, more rigorous standards that seem to apply and (suddenly) to prohibit non-profits from even mentioning political figures.

Happily, Catholic Answers is not taking it lying down. They estimated they will need $100,000 for their lawsuit to fend off the Man in court. This lawsuit is an important opportunity to defy a government that has for a while become increasingly partisan and totalitarian in its behavior. Perhaps the courts will still defend the citizenry from the Administration and assert that we still have rule of law in America, and not merely rule of rulers. Instructions for donating to Catholic Answers are available on their website. I have already made a contribution to Catholic Answer's cause, and hope many others will as well.

A Bit Carried Away?

I think a lot of people have gotten carried away in their enthusiasm over Obama. Here is the editor of Newsweek Magazine.

Is there any question whether the magazine he edits will give the American people a balanced presentation of the acts of the man he calls, "sort of God?" The so-called Fourth Estate of our society, the press, is perhaps falling asleep at its job, providing the American public a final check on its leaders.

Old Loyalties Are Not All Forgotten

Today is the anniversary of the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 that began the expulsion of Nazi armies from France. It is deeply gratifying to me that, despite political differences, our old friendship with the French is still on solid footing. We are perhaps like a married couple that bickers with each other, but nevertheless will protect each other tooth and nail.

Our friendship with the French goes back at least to the help of the Marquis de Lafayette's invaluable assistance during the Revolution. The Marquis' name is prominent in many places around the U.S., and here in the nation's capital it is especially prominent. He was the principal architect of the District of Columbia, and before that, he helped to train American soldiers to fight the British for independence. He was loved by our soldiers because, though of noble birth, he was humble, approachable, brave, and he helped to galvanize our army's resolve. While touring the U.S. after some twenty years back home in France, the Marquis told Americans in one speech that one day, we might with our idealism and willingness to sacrifice, very well save liberty in the world.

When General Pershing brought the American Expeditionary Force to France to help fight the Germans in World War I, he brought his armies to the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette. There he gave them a speech to remind them of our purpose there, and of our old friendship with France, and how they had come on behalf of America to honor that friendship once again. It is said that, while they were leaving, Pershing's attache placed a flower on the grave and said simple, "Monsieur Lafayette, we are here."

Twenty-seven years later, Americans would again return in arms, again to fight the same enemy, again on behalf of the same broken friend. France's armies had psyched themselves out and given up almost without a fight, betraying their countrymen who prayed German occupation would be brief and not so bad. Four years later, after that nation had been brutalized, its old friends west of the Atlantic returned again. As Lafayette had galvanized our nation's resolve to fight, our armies lifted France up to fight for her freedom as well. Especially in Normandy, that old friendship is not forgotten. We should be careful not to let the agendas and fads of political parties to override that friendship. It may not be too long before either they or we need once again to call upon it for assistance in peril.

Here is an article from the Washington Post.

My own experience travelling to France has been a very warm one. On four separate trips I have been treated uniformly well, despite my bad French accent and my out-of-place American clothes.

Guidelines for Fraternal Correction, pt 2

The last article discussed when to fraternally correct, and this second one will address how. As in all things, the Golden Rule (Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31) applies.

First, consider how we would react if someone, even someone we liked and who liked us, came to us arrogantly making demands and threats. It probably wouldn't go over well, and if we complied, it would be out of fear or guilt, and resentment would accompany our compliance. True?

So as a matter of sheer practicality, it is best to take the opposite approach once we've decided that someone must be fraternally corrected, and that we should be the one to do it. An attitude of humility and concern for the one corrected is key. The attitude must not be fake, nor should it be a ruse or a cover for other motivations. If we have more personal reasons for wanting a change, we should be honest with ourselves and the other about that.

To humble our heart, I have found a few reflections helpful. I try to think of ways I have contributed to the negative situation. I consider times when I have harmed the other, or done the same thing to another person that I want to challenge the correctee about. "He lives dirty dishes all over the house," should be balanced in our mind with, as applicable, "and I leave laundry in a big pile in the basement." This balanced recollection should be part of the discussion we have with our correctee. In such a situation, the correction is also a self-correction.

"Hey, dude. I've been thinking. Our house is trashed. I'm not blaming you at all - all those clothes piled in the basement are mine. I don't know how you feel about it, but I'd like to live in a tidier place. Maybe we could each resolve to straighten up our stuff in the next day or two. Would you be willing to clean up these dishes and put them away? I've definitely got to get those clothes to where they belong."

Another approach, rather than simply making a demand, "You have to stop doing X," is to show how the other's actions affect us. "Buddy, I don't think you know, but last night, I had a hard time falling asleep because of the music you were playing. I was useless at work today because I was so tired. Do you think you might be able to turn it down on weeknights, to help me out?" By temporarily abandoning the language of rights and justice, and simply sharing our heart and mind with our brother, we will often move him to compassion and sensitivity, building our community. If that doesn't work, then we may need to take stronger action, but usually easy does it, and a mild approach is more effective.

In cases where there are wrongs done in both directions, we must be willing to take responsibility and apologize for our share of the hurt. The killer thing about being a Christian, and the nature of a sincere apology, is that both are free. That is, we Christians make our apologies for our sins without regard to any sort of recompense. We apologize for our faults as they negatively impact others because that is the right thing to do, the thing that reflects our true role in the situation. It is not our concern whether the other accepts our apology or responds in kind. Often, he will not. He will feel he is righteous and that our apology has vindicated him and proven that aching spot in his conscience to be wrong. So be it. It may often be that, for the sake of doing the right thing, we must tolerate harm done to us or a justice left undone. I apologize to try to make amends, and he responds arrogantly. I cannot affect his response. I only know that I have at last done the right thing; any harm that comes to me as a result, even a mild one, is a harm that makes me more like Jesus. And that is a very good kind of harm to endure.

Guidelines for Fraternal Correction, pt 1

I learned about the concept of fraternal correction for the first time in the seminary. The concept is simple. When one has a complaint or problem with another, and neither has authority over the other, the one with the complaint shares it with the other in an attempt to correct him or the situation as a whole.

In another post I will babble on about how to do a fraternal correction. The spiritual director gave us guidelines for the how. For now, I will discuss briefly the why and when. These come from my own observation. Take them for what they are worth.

Fraternal correction is important in the life of a community because it prevents a grievance from festering. By providing a healthy outlet for problems, it reduces the temptation to the divisive and diabolic sin of gossip. Make no mistake about it: gossip destroys the life of a community and comes straight from hell. The Greek word for gossip, or slander, is diabolos. There is a good test for whether "sharing" is "healthy venting to a third party," "seeking outside advice," or whether it is actually vicious gossip. The test is to consider our willingness or eagerness to relate the events only to persons who know nothing of the situation or the individuals involved, and to leave out all identifying characteristics. If we are just itching to say someone's name, we are almost certainly about to engage in malignant gossip. Don't. Now, back on track.

Fraternal correction encourages proactivity and ownership on the part of the members of the community, rather than passively waiting around for someone else, someone in authority to solve every interpersonal tension. Fraternal correction should be a skill in the repertoire of every grown man and woman.

When should we fraternally correct? I mean, if we all run around venting all of our grievances all the time, without ever being judicious and careful in doing so, we will almost certainly tear everyone around us down, and ourselves too, and end up friendless. Sensing this possibility, I came up with these criteria for a correction. All three criteria being met fully, I proceed with my intended correction.

#1. I must like the person whom I am considering correcting. Love isn't good enough a criterion because we Christians are supposed to love everyone, and boy, do we. Lol. We fool ourselves too easily on this point. But if I actually like the person and feel warmth and affection toward him, then I can be confident that my motives are pure enough, that I am doing it at least partly for his own good and not my own weird, selfish motivations.

#2. My complaint must be graver than my ability to endure. If it is a petty thing that I can deal with on my own, then I do. The expression, "suck it up," comes to mind. If what the person is doing is an objective wrong against me and is making hard for me to avoid doing wrong to him, then I should bring it to him in correction. If my brother is doing something that will lead him or others to real harm, then I should bring it to him. If my brother chews with his mouth open and it disgusts me, but doesn't actually harm me or immediately lead me to sin against him seriously, then I should chill out a bit. At this point, I need to be careful there is nothing I can do to let go of the problem: work through my own issues, reprioritize my values (close friendship over mere table manners, etc).

#3. I should be reasonably confident that he will heed my concern. We listen most to peers whom we know to care about us and to like us. The more serious the matter, the more personal or painful, the more confident we must be that the person confronting us is doing so out of love. There are extremes, though. I cannot wait until I am absolutely sure that someone will listen to me, when I am concerned that he is suicidal, or that someone under his care is in harm's way. At times we must discharge our conscience and let the chips fall where they may. The more grave the concern, the less confident I need to be and the more willing I should be to go out on a limb.

These three criteria are those I came up with. It would be great to receive feedback and correction from a brother or sister on the matter. In part two I will outline the procedure for correction that the spiritual director laid out before us at the seminary.

No Bones About It

An infamous villain was murdered on Sunday in his church; and it is a horrible thing that was done to him. Whatever his crimes were, and whatever punishment he deserved and may now receive before God, it is always and everywhere wrong deliberately to harm or kill someone who does not pose an immanent threat to oneself or to those under one's God-given duty to protect. Murder is always wrong. All that said, because a cold-blooded profiteering murderer was killed by another murder, himself deranged and fanatical, it is entirely unfair to label the pro-Life movement as hateful or to say that it incites violence. Those who hate life have already begun to use the murder of Dr. Tiller as an excuse to smear the pro-Life movement and to cow people from rallying to its cause, because they rightly understand that good-hearted, sound-minded people don't want to be associated with murderers. But murderers aren't pro-Life, and pro-Lifers aren't murderers. We must take this opportunity to state unequivocally that murder is always wrong, against not only the unborn, but also against their murderers. We must refuse to back down or to be cowed, but instead take the opportunity to be counted and to repeat firmly that no matter what, still

I am pro-Life.

People Say That God Has a Plan

So right now I am going through a lot of uncertainty in life, some emotional turbulence, and some minor practical chaos. To specify a bit, just enough to give a feel, but not so much as to spill my guts inappropriately, the "minor practical chaos" of the last week has included our basement flooding three (3!) times, my car breaking down, and some hay fever (a day or two after the rains finished flooding our basement and all the watered plants went back to pollinating). So, yeah, things have been kinda rough.

A theme emerging in all this s...tuff is God's providence, that "God has a plan for everything." Other people have been relating to me, unsolicited, the stuff in their lives past and present, and sharing with me this confidence: God has a plan for everything, and everything is part of his plan.

Fine. Why did God make mosquitoes, then, I protested to a friend years ago, just rhetorically, when he told me that God has a plan for everything. The biologically minded conversation friend told me that the mosquito's role is to spread disease to cull herds. Fine. Where mosquitoes failed me, I now have a better challenge to God's providence. If God has a plan for everything, what's His bright idea about the shield bug? It doesn't bite or sting or carry disease as far as I know. It just smells kinda poopy, and they sneak into our house a lot when the screen door isn't shut all the way. They don't really bother us overly, not enough to make us (or, I suspect, other large mammals) migrate or anything. They don't get into our food, but they do gravitate toward light bulbs. But none of those observations gives a clear answer to the question. The "why?" remains.

So it is with the flooding that caused no damage, but just annoyance; and so it is with a lot of the other s...tuff in the last few weeks. Of course, the stuff I do to myself is explained by just that fact alone: I do it, and God permits it so I can learn and grow up finally. Fair enough. But still, what about the shield bugs of life?

I think, in the end, I am going to have to side with Job here. I am gonna have to just admit I don't know, and with out being too pushy, tell God I'd like an answer, and wait on Him to decide when it's best for me to know. Something in me really strongly rebels against not knowing everything about everything that affects my life, against not being in charge of everything around me. That's OK, too. That's the way it is. I just keep going to confession in those cases. Every time, the Son of David is merciful to me (Lk 18:38), a sinner. So until I have a better answer, that's what I'm gonna have to try to get through my thick skull - God's mercy. To paraphrase the Little Flower, everything is a mercy. Even the shield bug.