Pro Life, Truly?

Today during mass, our priest talked about the shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, highlighting the meaning of pro life; that it extends from before the cradle to the lip of the grave.

One thing that Catholics seem to be quite good at is vocal opposition to abortion and, to an extent, supporting the women who need help during and following a pregnancy – I would like to voice my full support of this. While there are plenty of Catholic organizations and Catholic individuals giving their time and money to pursuing the pro-life cause in many ways other than just fighting the sin of abortion, it often gets drowned out by the cacophony surrounding this abortion issue. Today, however, I would like to talk a bit more about the pro life issue, and how it extends much further than just the unborn and the infant.

One thing that I have come to realize is that being a good Catholic and being a good American are not always in line. Here, regarding the second amendment, I am again unsure if they can be reconciled. As someone who has been (and is, at least for now) very pro 2A, this has been something that is becoming more and more obvious of presenting at the very least an internal struggle and perhaps even more than that. During the homily, one line that stuck with me was that, to paraphrase, the second amendment did not come down from Sinai. As an American, I am fully in support of the 2A, with no restrictions, with the belief that without it, this country will descend into tyranny. As a Catholic, I never believed that this was in contradiction with any of my beliefs. But today, after that homily? I think that there is, perhaps, more to think about.

I spoke earlier about the American sickness, which manifests, all too often, through the awful tragedy of a shooting. I also spoke about the importance of welcoming God back into our society if we hope to combat this sickness, and make a more equitable and welcoming society for all, particularly those on the margins. I do not have a prescription that can fix this issue, but what I can suggest is that those of us, who believe in the sanctity of life and also support the second amendment, to at least begin to think through this issue, and think about what welcoming God back into society looks like. Is a society that is Godly one that has a gun in every hand? Is a society that supports those on the margins and gives care to those who cannot care for themselves one that allows weapons of war to be purchased with nothing but a cursory glance? I do not know, but I do know that I need to think about those questions, instead of dogmatic support of gun rights.

A Catholic Response to Overturning Roe v. Wade

This evening, in an unprecedented leak, Politico broke the news, based on Justice Alito’s majority opinion, that the U.S. Supreme Court intends to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Here, I am not planning on making my thoughts known on the legality of such an action, how it will affect the American political landscape, or any other political question. Suffice it to say, as a Catholic (and one who was adopted to boot), I think that this is a wonderful, life affirming decision, and I am deeply grateful that we can take a step towards ending the murder of the unborn.

What I would like to talk about is how Catholics, and hopefully all Christians, can respond to this landmark decision (should it come to pass). To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, the mistake that both liberals and conservatives make in regards to Catholic perception is that liberals want pity without responsibility, and conservatives want responsibility without pity.

For many women, abortion is done out of desperation. This does not excuse the murder of the unborn, but desperation is not something that we should discount or mitigate. For many, particularly the poor and single, motherhood is terrifying. If you can barely take care of yourself, how can you take care of a child?

This is where Catholics must take an active role. If we are to ban abortion, as we should, we also need to support the mothers and children that are born – regardless of their situation. If a child is born out of wedlock, both the mother and child deserve care and love. There is no excuse, no matter the situation, that allows for the callous discarding of either mother or child.

If we are to encourage a truly caring and equitable society, as we should, moving to ban abortion is only the first and most basic step. It is also the easiest. The next steps that need to be taken need to come from a place of compassion, love and care for all living life, as hopefully support for pro-life legislation did as well. For women who are struggling to give care to their children (or any parent, for that matter), it is not the duty of a Catholic to judge how they ended up in this place of precariousness, or how the parental actions led them to need help. No. It is simply the duty of the Catholic, and of all Christians, to provide love, support and, crucially, material support.

For children that are born into desperate situations, or tenuous ones, or challenging ones, or good ones, or loving ones, or any situation at all – they deserve and are entitled to the support of the entire Christian community.

If this decision truly does get enacted, and this wonderful change does happen in our society, we, as Catholics, must remember that this is only the first step. Care for the downtrodden, the poor, the defenseless and all those on the margins of society. Now is not the time to celebrate victory – if victory has even truly been achieved. Now is the time to take the truly Christian approach and help those in need.

A Crisis of Faith on Easter Sunday

For me, faith was something that was taken for granted throughout my childhood. With my mom being a convert and working for the Catholic church, and my dad being a “cradle Catholic” belief in Jesus, the trinity and my salvation through the Church was always something that I didn’t just believe in – it was something that just was.

Many times, in my current stage in life, I find myself wishing that my faith was similar to what it was back then – not even unquestioning, as the idea of questioning such a cornerstone was something that wouldn’t even cross my mind. I often wish that my faith could be something that imbued every facet of my life, elevated my actions and directed my goals.

In reality, my faith is a constant struggle. It is something that gives me fits and starts, certainly not something that makes my daily motions easier. And I am learning to accept that. Learning to integrate that into my understanding of God, of life after death, and of my role in the lives of those around me.

It is struggle that makes man grow stronger, even if all that this man wants is to sink into his couch and enjoy the luxuries and comforts that the modern, secular society can provide. My crises of faith (which are far more often than I would like to admit) are chances for me to grow in understanding of who the God of my understanding is.

In a time where I have lived with people who I love and respect, people who have incredibly different faith systems from my own, I find that I am unable to sit in comfort with the beliefs that I grew up with. While there is the ever present struggle to believe that someone who believes in a different belief system than me will end up in Hell simply because of that difference, there are so many other challenges that I find myself confronting. The beauty that is present in their beliefs, their rituals and practices, and in their books. The kindness in their hearts and the generosity in their actions. The conviction of their beliefs, as well as their solidarity with me in their own crises of faith show me just how fragile my own religion is.

It is here that I find the struggle to be the most prescient. The conflicts that continually arise between my religion and my faith. For better or worse, I find myself to be a man of deep convictions – whether these convictions will change as the wind does is another matter. With this, though, is the convictions that I have in my faith that contradict what is taught in churches, cathedrals and religious communities. Many aspects of my faith are molded and shaped by the teachings of the Catholic church. At the same time, there are aspects that are shaped by Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and others. Just as many Christian denominations teach that the relationship that we have with God is a personal one, I have found that my relationship with faith is in many ways similar to this personal relationship that I am taught to seek with God. All I hope with that is that it does not become so intertwined with myself that I cannot see God through my own ego and pride.

On this Easter Sunday, I continue to ask myself what it is that I hope for. The answer to that is not one that I yet have, and I am quite grateful for that. I find that the questions encourage far more growth and change than the answers ever do. On this Easter Sunday, I am grateful for a God that allows me to stumble through His challenges of faith, so that I may find Him. For when I do ultimately find Him, I fully believe that He will have His arms wide open for me.

The Prison of My Own Ego

There have been many accounts detailing the dangers of pride and the ego. One of my favorite is the depiction that C.S. Lewis gives of it in The Great Divorce. When the characters go to Hell together, they start off in a group. Gradually, they splinter off into smaller and smaller groups, confined to isolation through their own ego’s.

I find this to be a challenge that I myself face all too often. Through this season of Lent, one of the things that I have tried to do has been to listen to God. I want to say listen to God more, but if truth be told, I am not sure if I have ever truly listened to Him. My ego becomes so loud, that it is like standing next to a waterfall, while trying to communicate in whispers to those standing on the other bank of the gorge. How can I listen to God if I go to such lengths to listen to nothing but myself?

Even in this recognition of my own ego is the danger of thinking that I am “better than” simply because I recognize my own faults – if I have the awareness to write about my faults, then surely that is good enough, right? Recognizing and verbalizing the dangers of my Pride and Ego is so much easier than actually doing anything to change them.

For me, this is the goal of Lent and the Lenten season. While I do believe that there is something to be gained from abstaining from meat, fasting and other ritualistic explorations, the real challenge and area for growth is listening to the messages of God. What is it that God wants me to do? What does He want me to change, so that I can become closer to Him? What areas of my life have I ignored and delayed, simply because they are too hard?

Even when I am aware of the things that God wants me to change, and of the things that I need to change in order to please Him in the correct ways, I often choose not to. Sometimes because I am lazy, sometimes because I believe change to be too difficult, but more often than not, because I believe that I have the answers – that I know what is best.

Letting go and letting God is a saying that I have heard often in life – from my parents, from priests, from AA meetings and a plethora of other sources. Letting go and letting God requires that abdication of ego that I find so difficult, that recognition that I truly need the wisdom of God, and that I cannot rely on my own insight.

As the Lenten season draws to a close, I will continue to struggle with the cascading cacophony of my ego, and I likely will for a long time to come. Perhaps the noise has lessened a bit, and perhaps I have become better at listening to God’s whispers. All I know is that it will be a lifelong area to grow and expand.