Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Colossians 3:15

Friday, December 26, 2008

Underhill's 'Mysticism' great reference

Eveylyn Underhill (1875-1941) was an English Anglo-Catholic writer, one of the most widely read in her time, on topics of religion and spiritual practice, particularly Christian mysticism. Her best-known book, Mysticism, is one of my favorite reads. I discovered it in 2001 on the Internet and devoured it. It answered many questions for me at that time that had lingered in my psyche for a decade or more. It clarified for me many nagging thoughts that otherwise, I believe, would have remained unanswered. This book of Ms. Underhill's is a worthwhile read and a great reference book on its topic. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

by Nancy E. Thoerig 12-26-08

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Here is Emmanuel

A great echo
sends a vibrant pulse
through time
begun with a Word voiced:

A breath expressed,
the world reverberates;
ideas crash,
with gravity impelled:
Here is Emmanuel.

Unstoppable justice,
unfathomable light;
a reforming ignites
an upsurge in grace:
The afterglow of Emmanuel.

Through swells of time,
the echo resounds;
leaning in,
I absorb the tone:
A penetrating Promise, Emmanuel.

copyrighted by Nancy E. Thoerig
December 31, 2004

From Pope Benedict XVI's noontime Urbi et Orbi Christmas 2008 Message:

"Brothers and sisters, all you who are listening to my words: this proclamation of hope – the heart of the Christmas message – is meant for all men and women. Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents him to all humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to know the power of God’s saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of peace."

A beautiful rendition of "O Holy Night" with Celine Dion:

Merry, holy, healthy, happy, blessed, lovely Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

O'Reilly addressed public square 'free-for-all'

Published in Cumberland Times-News Letters December 24, 2008

J. M. Cutler (“O’Reilly wants to tell us how to mark the season,” Dec. 18 Times-News) misinterprets Bill O’Reilly’s message regarding First Amendment rights as they played out in the Washington state capital recently; and he misrepresents “separation of church and state.”

Mr. O’Reilly cites the situation that Washington state Sen. Pam Roach calls “a circus”(in a Dec. 6 Seattle Times article) as the pinnacle of “far-left zealots…running wild” in what Mr. O’Reilly informs us is an ultra-liberal city in a state that otherwise “is fairly conservative.” He gives examples of over-the-top behaviors, actions and lifestyles in Seattle and its environs; and he makes the point that the governor, in her manner of accommodating the atheists in the capitol building in Olympia, “overstepped” bounds of common consideration in her application of the First Amendment.

Sen. Roach, as the Seattle Times article notes, “wants the atheists’ sign moved further from the Nativity scene and the governor to establish firmer guidelines on displays.” The article states that on Dec. 1, “the Nativity scene and atheist sign were installed alongside each other.” A photograph that accompanies a Dec. 3 Associated Press article shows that they abut.

The AP article recounts that a holiday tree (part of a charity drive for needy families) has been displayed in the capitol for nearly 20 years; a menorah has been sponsored by a Jewish group since 2006; the Nativity scene was installed in 2007; this year, the atheist sign went up with the Nativity. A fray then ensued, as depicted in the Times article, with numerous other groups clamoring to make their religious viewpoints known.

In a 1984 case (Lynch v. Donnelly), the Supreme Court ruled that a crèche display (which had been in place since 1943) in the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, shopping district did not violate the First Amendment Establishment Clause, citing “insufficient evidence to establish that the inclusion of the crèche is a purposeful or surreptitious effort to express some kind of subtle governmental advocacy of a particular religious” view (Source: Wikipedia).

The judges ruled that the crèche, within the larger display, had “legitimate secular purposes” in marking a federal holiday “with religious significance” that long has been a part of Western culture; and they wrote that the Constitution “affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”

The verbiage in the atheists’ sign seems hostile. The placement seems transgressive. The brouhaha seems to be the result of neglect in Gov. Christine Gregoire's action. That’s Mr. O’Reilly’s point.

The governor allowed viewpoints. Then after about 30 viewpoints had been posted, and her office had been overwhelmed with as many as 9,000 dissenting telephone calls in one day (according to the Seattle Times), the governor said that no more entries would be accepted. She could have allowed “religious holiday displays” with “certain guidelines…that wouldn’t be viewpoints,” says Fox News’ Megan Kelly (in a Dec. 15 debate with Mr. O’Reilly) and avoided the fiasco and still properly upheld First Amendment rights.

Contrary to what Mr. Cutler implies, “separation of church and state” does not mean that one should exclude the other. It means that the state shall not intimidate or dominate any religion, but civilly accommodate all religions. The founding fathers drew upon their ancestors’ experiences (particularly the English Civil War of the 1640s that ended the Church of England’s monopoly on Christian worship there) to determine that in a democracy, the state must not monopolize or persecute any religion.

As explained at Wikipedia, Thomas Jefferson (quoted in his biography on the White House web site as having “sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”) coined the phrase in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, a religious minority who feared the majority position of the Congregationalist Church in Connecticut. The colonists, having largely come to America to find refuge from religious persecution, rightly feared government preference for one religion over another.

President Jefferson replied to a letter from the Danbury Baptists to assure them, as summarized by Wikipedia, “that their rights as a religious minority would be protected from federal interference.” That premise underpins “freedom of religion” within the Bill of Rights First Amendment.

The laws and values of the United States are rooted in a political and philosophical tradition of liberty and equality: That’s democracy. Laws and values interconnect and build on history to form guidelines for conduct in modern society: That’s civility. Without regard for order, establishment and each other, the public square is a free-for-all: That’s the state of affairs that Bill O’Reilly calls our attention to in Washington State today.

Nancy E. Thoerig
Mount Savage

Monday, December 15, 2008

Site offers marriaige help

For Your Marriage, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offers a wealth of resources to help couples prepare and care for their Catholic marriages and work at keeping them viable through the years.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rejoice! The Lord is near

Today is Gaudate Sunday. Here's a beautiful sermon on the topic.

Three Priests

I've just learned of the Three Priests, a new singing sensation. Take a listen:

And visit their web site.

by Nancy E. Thoerig 12-14-08

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Natural approach works best

Published in Cumberland Times-News Letters December 12, 2008.

"We humans are more than a basal libido, though we rarely get that message in the secular mainstream today."

Craig Etchison’s letter of December 2 (“We need this to save the planet”) presents information about global overpopulation that he uses to counter faith training about birth control and to build an argument in favor of funding worldwide education about contraception. Additionally, Mr. Etchison claims: “If women around the world had access to family planning, millions of abortions and deaths would be eliminated.”

While feminists might disagree that controlling population is a compelling reason to promote contraception, Mr. Etchison’s point about preventing abortions seems to have mainstream secular support. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, states in an article about Family Planning that, in the United States, Title X -- serving young individuals and low-income families -- “has allowed millions of American women to receive necessary reproductive healthcare, plan their pregnancies and prevent abortions.” Mr. Etchison and others might be interested to know, as well, that “[o]ver the last decade, abstinence-only sex education became more common in the U.S., largely as a result of federal government funding initiatives,” as reported by Wikipedia.

Another Wikipedia article about Natural Family Planning notes that natural means for preventing pregnancy, including the Fertility Awareness Method, comprise the number one family planning approach utilized in India today and the third most popular used in Brazil. A related Wikipedia article about Fertility Awareness states: “From 1930 to 1980, all research and promotion of fertility awareness was done by those associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Fertility awareness organizations continue to be predominately Catholic, but some secular organizations now exist.”

Regardless, though, of government, faith-based or secular support for abstinence training, Mr. Etchison thinks the world population needs to choose contraception; and he decries America for not contributing as much as $235 million to a United Nations fund that would educate poor populations around the globe about it.

The world view purported by Mr. Etchison is fatalistic. He implies that Catholic Church teaching about Natural Family Planning is remote and outdated; and he says it “condemns women and children to death.” He poses questions that would draw the reader into his line of thinking: That practicing faithful abstinence on a global scale would be tantamount to self-destruction “because we (couldn’t) control our population.”

Seems he means to say, “Because we couldn’t control our sex drives.” With all due respect to Mr. Etchison and the dear reader, we humans are more than a basal libido, though we rarely get that message in the secular mainstream today. We have intelligence and the ability to reason; we have innate dignity; and in America, we have an abundance of opportunities to teach and learn about our sexuality and to seek personal support in choosing better health for ourselves, as well as restraint and civility toward our partner.

Even the Feminist Women’s Health Center, founded in 1971 on the premise that women should be empowered to choose abortion, claims today that the Fertility Awareness Method is “effective if used correctly and consistently.”

Other advantages of the natural approach cited by FWHC are: No health risks; can help promote pregnancy, as well as prevent it; “acceptable for couples with religious concerns about contraception;” increases a woman's understanding of her body; “couples may develop greater communication, cooperation and responsibility.” Disadvantages listed are: “Learning to use the method takes time and effort;” and “[r]equires considerable commitment, calculation and self-control, both by the woman and her partner.”

An article about Natural Family Planning at the Archdiocese of Baltimore web site lists one more disadvantage: “The lack of medical professionals instructed in this method.” FWHC notes, as well: “It is helpful to learn these techniques directly from a qualified instructor if you can find one.” They advise: “Books and websites also have good information.”

Feminists, most secularists and the Catholic Church likely would disagree on most everything. But it seems that common ground can be found on the topic of a natural approach to preventing pregnancy – which, all would agree, empowers women to know themselves and urges men to respect their partner and her fertility cycle.

by Nancy E. Thoerig 12-09-08

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Contraception is not natural

"Fertility is a natural condition. Contraception is unhealthy."

Janet E. Smith, professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, in her talk titled "Contraception: Why Not?," expounds on the deadly effects in our society brought about by a contraception mentality.

She traces the history of thought from 1930, when the Anglican church broke form ecumenical solidarity that banned contraception in marriage. By 1960, the pill was available, and the Catholic Church was being pressured to change its teaching. Pope Paul VI's "Humanae Vitae" encyclical, published in 1968, dashed those hopes, and rebellion raged from within.

Soom Pope Paul's predicitons came true. Respect for women and life plummeted. Out-of-wedlock pregnancy and divorce rates skyrocketed. Poverty levels for single women with children rose. Cohabitation replaced marriage as the social norm. Sexually transmitted diseases gained prevalence.

Disorder reigned.

Prof. Smith considers reasons not to contracept, both from moral and practial points of view:

  1. Contraception denies God's creative power and diminishes the gift of fertility.

  2. Fertility is a natural condition. Contraception is unhealthy.

  3. Contraception demeans women. They become objects of gratification, rather than of love.

  4. Contraception defeats bonding. Bodies become machines, rather than comforters.

  5. Contraception negates marriage. It becomes an institution, rather than a sacrament.

  6. Contraception leads to abortion. They are the same decision -- against life.

  7. Natural Family Planning is healthy and effective.

  8. Natural Family Planning builds fulfilling, solid, lasting marital relationships.

On the 30th anniversary of issuance of the ill-received encyclical, Pope John Pual II called, in a letter to bishops, for a renewed sense of wonder at the beauty of the unitive bond between husband and wife. On the 40th anniversary, Pope Benedict XVI, in a letter to the president of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, calls for awareness of "authentic conjugal charity."

For more on Prof. Smith's talk, acquire the CD free from One More Soul.

by Nancy E. Thoerig 12-12-08