Monday, November 25, 2013

Anticipation and Advent, A Meditation

One of the happiest times of my life was when I was pregnant with my son, James.  I remember enjoying the growth, the movement, and an overwhelming peaceful anticipation.  I know there were inconveniences, pain, fears.  Injecting blood thinners twice a day until I was bruised beyond any other experience, constant false labor, worries that his little heart wasn't beating properly.

In my parish now there are so many women who are anticipating the birth of another child.  I look at each of them with a quiet prayer.  I pray for their health, their gentle submission to the fullness of time, and their joy as they welcome a new child.  I long to touch them and bless the life within them.

As Advent begins these are the things I contemplate.

Did Mary talk to Jesus in her womb, sing to him, lay her hands on him through her belly as he moved?

Did Mary shine with hope as she moved through her day as so many women I see now do?

Did Mary's heart leap daily with joy as the new life of our Lord grew withing her?

Did Mary acknowledge the daily pains and discomforts of pregnancy in that last month, and yet acknowledge the hopeful suffering those pains reflected?

I so in Advent I strive to recall the last month of pregnancy and share in that anticipation of the women I see at Mass.  I find myself hugging my belly as I pray and recall the beauty of every moment of that last month. 

I think of all of the times I pray to be able to walk with Jesus and do his will.  But Advent is marked for me with a different prayer.  At this time I pray to be united with Mary in her anticipation.  I pray to forget my barren womb and to join in the joy of creation.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Getting the Disasters We Have Earned

About 29% of the U.S. population not in the work force (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Another 7.3% unemployed (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Which takes that number over 1/3 of the country. Add another 16.6 % of underemployed workers (Gallup)and we have a grand total of 52.9% of the American population without full-time work.

Idle hands are the Devil's playground.  That was  a phrase I frequently heard while growing up.  As a side note, for centuries young ladies were taught to keep their hand folded together whenever sitting in conversation or otherwise not engaged in work, in order to discourage the appearance of  sinful use of the hands.

Today, it is a safe assumptions that those idle hands are more likely plunged into a bag of Cheetos purchased with an EBT card while the eyes of the owner of those hands views porn or posts on Facebook, rather than hands folded in prayer.  In our post-Christian world, the notion that prayer would make a difference in our individual circumstances, or in our global ones, is almost non-existent.

I offer a series of events in the Philippines as an example of how turning away from God and prayer has impacted a country in short order.  Understand that there could be other explanations for what is happening in those islands.  Of course, the same could be said for any situation on the entire planet.

In December of 2012,   the Filipino Congress approved a controversial Reproductive Health Bill that, "Among other objectionable provisions, the RH Bill would force medical professionals and businesses to promote and perform a full range of “reproductive health services,” regardless of conscientious objection. The bill promises to fine and jail opponents who spread as-yet-undefined “malicious” falsehoods about the bill, and would pay for contraceptive services with taxpayer funds." (  This comes from a country that has a Catholic Population of about 80%. (Wikipedia)

In the 1990's and again in 2006,  some cities in the Philippines tried to reinstate the practice of pausing throughout the day for the Angelus.  Philippine churches used to ring the Angelus bell three times: at 6 a.m., at noon and at 6 p.m., although contemporary generations only remember the evening Angelus bell.  The reinstatement of the practice was voted against primarily because it was thought that it would interfere with traffic.

 As the government of the Philippines has taken strides to secularize the country and take a utilitarian view of human existence that replaces the primacy of prayer with the speed of traffic, and the sacredness of life with utilitarian contraception and abortion services,  prayer has been taken out of the public square. In the past year the country has been hit by 6 typhoons, the latest of which is being described as the strongest in recorded history.  There have been earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods.  It is easy to note scientific reasons, but Catholics are called to see the signs of the times.

In the Philippines, the change from a Catholic country to a secular one has been shockingly rapid.  The pain the country's people is experiencing as a result of the disasters this year in also shocking in the force and rapid succession of each event.

In the United States, our decent into pain has been different.  We've had moments of extreme pain from disasters, but those moments have been followed by a numbing malaise, like taking a prescription to mask the pain.  Our idleness is not  marked by famine.  It is lulled into a pensive comfort where even the poor can drive cars, watch cable, and eat to excess.  It is a poverty of soul, full of resentment and envy of those who continue to work to support those who no longer do.  Workers see the unemployed as lazy, and the unemployed see the workers as greedy.

And neither workers nor the unemployed stop to pray.