I Say A Little Prayer For You

I love the Dionne Warwick version of this song. The lyrics tell a tale of a young woman who prays for her boyfriend in Vietnam every chance she gets no matter what she’s doing or how mundane the task. We all do this. We could be at work and think about a friend who is on a job interview, a relative at a doctor appointment, or even us as we tackle a new assignment and offer up a prayer to God. That’s easy and in the moment.

So what about those we love who are no longer alive in the flesh? Just because they are gone from our sight doesn’t mean we stop praying for them. We don’t stop thinking about them do we? Of course not.

The Feast of All Saints Day and All Souls Day have lost their meaning for many young Catholics. As a child of the 70’s I was taught by the good sisters that they are two of the most important holy days on the calendar. All saints means all saints. It’s for all those unknowns who’ve fought the good fight and attained the honor of residing in heaven. It could be just about anyone you did or did not know.

What about All Souls Day? The nuns said this day was more important than All Saints Day. It’s a day set aside to remember those who are still waiting for their spot in heaven. That pretty much encompasses almost everyone at some point.

My grandmother was an amazing woman for many reasons and she passed on some of her attributes to me. My baking ability—my grandmother. Love of baseball—my grandmother. A unique awareness when someone is ailing—my grandmother. I had one co-worker who suffered from migraines. I could tell she had one at the onset, which always dumbfounded her. “How do you know?” I could just tell by looking at her.

One thing I did not inherit from grandma was her ability to interpret dreams. Everyone in the family would search her out and ask what a particular dream meant. If it concerned a dead relative or friend she always gave them the same advice: They are in need of your prayers. They want you to offer a Mass for them.

Back in the day, trying to reserve Mass intentions for your family in the Mass book was like the reality show, The Amazing Race. My grandmother and every other woman in the parish knew when that book opened, and it was a mad dash to the rectory to make sure you got all the birthday and anniversary intentions for your deceased loved ones on the dates you desired. This was when only one intention could be offered per Mass on any given day. If you were lucky enough to land every Sunday Mass on your roster it was like winning the Lotto.

I still make a list of all the Masses I want offered, mainly for my parents, grandparents, my brother, and special intentions. However, I also include two people I knew for a relatively short time. Both of them were alone in the world. I met Elizabeth O’Toole at my very first job. I was 18 and she seemed very old—probably in her 50’s. She was boisterous and always a good time but there was a different side to her that I was blessed to see. She was a fierce fighter for the rights of the mentally ill, as her sister died from neglect in a home. She had a roaring sense of humor and was such a sweetheart in only the way an Irish American Catholic can be. We would talk for hours despite our age difference. I didn’t remain at that job long but a short time after I left a friend notified me Elizabeth passed away.

I met Donna through a writer’s forum. We hit it off from the start. We were opposites but we loved each other—so much so we considered ourselves sisters. She was a lapsed Catholic and I was not. I was a Midwest mom who loved to write, she was a gifted artist who painted murals for wealthy south Floridians. She was very opinionated and I pretty much keep my feelings to myself. The one thing she loved more than anything was her son, a Marine, who refused to speak to her because she didn’t support his initial decision to serve. Her sisters had nothing to do with her because she was a free spirit. When I received the news of her death I was devastated. I wished I had been with her but she wouldn’t let me. She faced death the way she faced life, on her own and under her rules.

I have a Mass said for Elizabeth each St. Patrick’s Day or as close to the day as I can get. She loved her Irish Catholic roots so what better day to remember her? Donna was an easy choice. Her birthday was on Veteran’s Day. Elizabeth’s relatives are all gone and Donna’s relatives didn’t even care to collect her ashes when I called to inform them she had passed away. If I didn’t have Masses said for them who would?   Now do you see why All Souls Day is so important? The nuns who taught me were very wise.

Young people today have little to no knowledge of Mass intentions. If they go to Church they are aware they exist but don’t understand how important they are or why we offer them. Mass offerings date back to the 2nd century as evidence proves by the inscriptions discovered on tombs in Roman catacombs. Graces received from the Mass benefit the living faithful as well as the poor souls in Purgatory. It also bears special fruits on the celebrating priest and to those who attend and participate in the Mass. When we have a Mass said for a friend or relative it benefits them as well as those who are “forgotten”. I offer a Mass every year on my brother’s birthday. He doesn’t need the prayers or the graces but the souls in Purgatory do.

Last year an acquaintance of mine who is not Catholic lost her husband. He was Catholic but she had no knowledge of a proper Catholic burial. I gave her a few suggestions and immediately had 2 Masses offered for him. When I saw her again she cried and hugged me for doing so. She knew how important it was to her husband and to his soul.

As All Souls day approaches have a Mass offered for someone you didn’t know well or someone who has no one to pray for them. Encourage your children, no matter their age, to enter the name of a relative or friend in the All Soul’s Day Mass Intention book and tell them why. The person doesn’t have to be Catholic to be remembered in the Mass. It means more than you know.

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If You’re Happy and You Know It

If you’re happy, happy, happy you want the whole world to know. All one has to do is look at the expression on your face. When one is happy are they not prone to want others to share in it? You don’t see the perennially dour extolling kindness or comfort to anyone. (Think Scrooge vs Tiny Tim) It’s not uncommon for children to be loud or show their feelings when they’re happy. It’s part of being innocent. If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands…

I attended Mass last week at an out-of-town church in rural Indiana. The church was relatively small. There was no organist or cantor so the priest played “canned” music from a portable electric organ. Nothing wrong with that, except nobody was singing. Well there were a few whispers. It was kind of embarrassing since everyone was so loud while greeting each other after Mass.

Some of us are lucky to belong to a parish that still maintains a working pipe organ, a cantor or even a choir. We feel comfortable enough to sing along; knowing most of our off key notes will be drowned out by the choir and the organ.

When my girls were very young, attending Catholic grammar school, I was a frequent volunteer and would find myself in-between classrooms while the children were studying or coloring. They would all be singing. Not popular songs but children’s hymns. And they were loud. I remember my girls singing these same songs at home, usually while playing alone. A special memory is of my eldest singing Zacchaeus Was A Wee Little Man at the top of her lungs. Whenever I hear that song I think of her.

So what happens to us as we get older? We lose the spontaneity of youth and with it the joy and zeal for participating in free expression. We become self-conscious and embarrassed because we don’t sound like Carrie Underwood.

However, on certain holidays like Independence Day, I hear people singing God Bless America pretty loudly. During the month of May you can’t help but hear Immaculate Mary reverberate around the church. Why do people go to Mass early on Christmas Day to sing carols such as O Come All Ye Faithful or Silent Night? Why do we not hesitate to sing at these times? Some would say you are being patriotic or it’s a commonly known song. I don’t buy that. I believe these are songs from our youth when we sang them loudly, unabashed and proud of our faith. They instill memories that we can’t suppress.

You don’t buy it? Then listen to what Jesus says. In Matthew 18:3 Jesus tells us, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What does it mean? Children are innocent, trusting souls. They’re not in charge and they know it. They rely on “big people” to protect them. I’ve rarely seen a child act out because of hatred. Children don’t see differences in others and if they are aware it’s mainly out of curiosity. My mother purchased one of those old fashioned perambulators that you often see English nannies pushing for my baby shower. It also converted into a large stroller. My husband hated toting that thing around. One day we were out for a stroll when we came upon a man in a wheel chair. My outspoken daughter pointed at him and asked him why he was in a stroller like hers? He laughed and laughed.

I don’t want to lump all adult Christians into one pile. I still remember driving through the Arkansas countryside with my husband many years ago when we were on vacation. It was a Sunday morning and you could hear the people singing from the churches from inside our car! They were all mainly Baptist churches but the music was heavenly.

While vacationing in Eastern Tennessee on a Sunday morning a couple years ago, we found the closest Catholic Church, and what we discovered was amazing. The congregation ranged in age from infants to the very elderly, but the way they behaved in church was not something we were accustomed to. The church was packed and everybody sang and participated with keen enthusiasm. The elderly gentleman beside me grabbed my hand and held it aloft during the Lord’s Prayer. I have never seen the Sign of Peace like I witnessed it there.

After the Mass everyone spoke to us, like we were visiting dignitaries and asked us to join them at the church picnic. It was truly an amazing experience and one that has forever changed me. They made us feel welcome and as if we belonged to their congregation. They knew we were strangers yet they went out of their way to make us feel loved. We were different but the same.

During a sermon several years ago our pastor told this story. Mass had just ended and everyone was filing out of the church except for one strange woman sitting at the very back. She was crying uncontrollably. He asked us to guess how many of his parishioners went to her and asked her what was wrong? Not one. He was shocked and disappointed. What a different experience from the hospitality we felt at that church in Tennessee.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” If you love Jesus let Him know it. Clap your hands, sing out loud, stomp your feet, and welcome a stranger.

Suicide is Painless

The theme song from MASH shares the title of my article. I don’t know any of the lyrics, just the familiar tune. There are currently five states in the US with “aid in dying” laws. They are Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, Montana and Washington. They are “helping” the terminally ill. Death with dignity is the rally cry. Suicide is a dirty word so they are bending over backward to call it something else. My guess is those 5 states will soon grow exponentially. After all, with the huge numbers of baby boomers watching their ailing parents suffer it would be so much better to have a choice. Choice—there’s that word again. Women who choose to abort their unborn babies have a choice! Children who are burdened with elderly, sick parents have a choice! The choice is life or death.

You can call it assisted suicide, death with dignity but let’s call it for what it is—Euthanasia or Eugenics. It’s been around a long time. Some call it survival of the fittest. But let’s look at its history here in the US. Euthanasia or eugenics became popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s during the Progressive Age with such heroes as Charles Darwin, Margaret “Charity is a social evil”1 Sanger, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, even Helen Keller2! They believed in extermination of the unfit, which included those they classified as poor, disabled, imprisoned, mentally or physically ill, the elderly, the very young, the deformed and the feeble-minded which included a broad spectrum of alcoholics, drug addicts, autistic, Down’s Syndrome and people who were “different” etc. This also included any offspring they may produce—hence Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, and I quote “We are paying for and even submitting to the dictates of an ever increasing, unceasing spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all.3”. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes other people’s time to look at them.”4

 Armed with this knowledge, guess where Nazi Germany got its ideas from. Many of those named above were Nazi sympathizers or socialists, even though some have tried to scrub this from history. For example some historians state although Margaret Sanger believed in birth control and abortion she was against Hitler. Consider the title of her article in The Birth Control Review by Margaret Sanger, Editor, December 1921 “Birth Control: To Create A Race of Thoroughbreds”. Hmmm.

Fast forward to the present new Progressives who have infiltrated the Democratic Party and some of the Republican Party as well, and we are seeing this type of “aiding” the infirm once again. Many scoffed that “death panels” were built into Obamacare. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Rahm’s brother, and one of the architects of Obamacare has stated publicly he believes nobody over the age of 75 should receive health care. He’s also written extensively on who should receive health care and whose life is worth saving, and blames the Hippocratic Oath for the “overuse” of medical care. Doctors should work for the greater good of society—not the needs of the patient. He’s also created a “complete lives system”. In his own words, “When implemented the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get changes that are attenuated.5” Attenuated means decreased.

Consider the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman. Ms. Maynard was diagnosed with a brain cancer. In April, doctors discovered the cancer had become more aggressive. She had up to 6 months to live. Doctors recommended brain radiation. The hair on her scalp would be singed off and her scalp would be covered with first-degree burns. Ms. Maynard researched and discussed her options with her family. She had considered hospice care in her native San Francisco. Doctors told her because she was so young and healthy she was more likely to live longer. She did not want to subject her husband and parents to see her suffer in unbearable pain, even with pain medications.

With all this in mind, Ms. Maynard and her husband decided move to Oregon, where assisted suicides are legal. She has been carrying the prescription that will end her life around with her for some time now; relieved that she is now in control. Her plan is to end her life on November 1st so she can celebrate with her husband on his birthday, October 26th.

This story is truly tragic and I am filled with compassion for her and pray for her healing. However, she is aiding in the desensitization of the American people to assisted suicide. All the pictures that accompany this story are almost exclusively her wedding pictures that truly tug at the heart. Most of us know of someone who was taken in the prime of their life, however, this one is different. Ms. Maynard is choosing to take her life and she’s encouraging others to do the same.

Jesus had a choice too. He didn’t have to die that excruciatingly painful death. There was absolutely no dignity in death by crucifixion. Think of what Mary felt, seeing her son like that. Shouldn’t He have taken that into consideration before deciding to go through with his horrible death? And what about his friends and followers? How could he allow them to watch him die a slow, agonizing death?

As an adult, Jesus’s first words to me were, “Pick up your cross and follow Me”. I’ll never forget it. I was reading a book in the early evening and I heard that soft voice in my right ear. My life has never been the same since. We all have our crosses, some large and some small. Jesus’s Cross was death. Something we all have to go through. My parents bore a large cross, not just in death, and their deaths were not pain free and peaceful. Both of them were no strangers to death having buried their 3-year-old son. Yet I never remember either of them telling me if they had a choice they would have euthanized my brother so they wouldn’t have to see him suffer.

These are the same arguments Ms. Maynard makes. I am not judging Ms. Maynard. Her story is horribly sad. God’s glorious gift to us is free will. It’s up to us to make the decision—right or wrong.   Do we celebrate life only when it’s easy, beneficial, or convenient? Or do we know better than He and discard life when it becomes difficult?

Sources:

  1. Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization 1922, Chapter Five
  2. Disability and Euthenasia: The Case of Helen Keller and the Bolinger Baby, written John Gerdtz, published on the University Faculty for Life website.
  3. Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization, (1922) p. 187.
  4. George Bernard Shaw, Lecture to the Eugenics Education Society, Reported in The Daily Express, March 4, 1910
  5. Ezekiel Emanuel in The Lancet, January 31, 2009

Who You’d Be Today

One of my favorite Kenny Chesney songs goes by this same title. Anyone who has lost a loved one at a young age can relate to the lyrics. The song was written in memory of a high school buddy who was killed in an automobile accident, and a brother who died after living only 3 days.

I think of my brother, Greg, who passed away at the age of 3 to leukemia. He wanted to be a medical doctor, since they were his constant companions throughout his short life. Had he lived would he have found the cure to the blood cancer that claimed his young life? Would he be a husband and father? I wonder what he would have looked like. I’ll never know the answers. However, I know I’ll see him again someday.

I thought of this song today since its October—National Respect Life Month. I remember reading the news a few months ago about a young woman who was so thrilled with her abortion that she filmed it on her cell phone. It was such a great experience she wanted to share it with all women to show them all the horror stories they’ve heard are untrue. She posted it on YouTube and now we know who she’ll be today and tomorrow—the mother who murdered her unborn baby to grab 5 minutes of fame. I wonder who that baby would have been.

This differs sharply from the story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, who had 2 abortions and is now married with 4 children. Johnson told TheBlaze News, “What the movement has failed to do is walk with women past their initial abortion, 5 years; 10 years, 20 years… will they still feel empowered by their decision?” Johnson’s daughter, who knows about her mother’s abortions, told her, ‘In my heart, I miss them’. Ms. Johnson further states “I never knew I would pass that sort of heartbreak on to my children.”

It’s also in strike contrast to the story of Ashley Granger. She recalls after her abortion, “I tried to commit suicide three times, withdrew from friends and family, and I was pretty much high all the time to stay numb inside.” But it wasn’t until Ashley married and became pregnant again that she grieved the life of her first child.

Over the years and through my work with the SouthTown 9/12 Group, VFW Posts, and various other veterans’ groups, I have spoken with several veterans from the Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq/Afghanistan wars. A couple of them have become good friends. Not too long ago one of them confided to me that many years ago, a girl he had dated had aborted their baby without his knowledge. This man has seen inexplicable horrors and sustained appalling injuries while serving his country. He shared information about his service with me almost as soon as I met him, but the story about the abortion took him several years to reveal. He was—is—still struggling with it and grieving after all these years. The sad irony is he has no children. That baby would have been his only child. And he wonders who he or she would be today.

It is estimated there have been 56 million abortions in the United States alone since Roe v Wade in 1973. 1.3 billion world-wide since 1980. I can’t help but wonder who they’d be today. Would one of them have been a leader who could’ve changed the world? Would one of them have discovered a scientific or medical breakthrough that could have saved millions or billions of lives? How about an inventor, an artist, an athlete? Would they have been teachers, firefighters, mothers and fathers, or your best friend? The answer is yes to all the above. We’ll never know how they could have touched us. We can only wonder who they’d be today.