I stayed up last night to watch the First Lady’s speech. It intrigues me to study how people think, especially people I disagree with. Sometimes it is possible to follow a logical path and clarify where disagreement begins and ends, sometimes I just want to know how bad it is, which is usually when I need my husband to put his hand over my mouth before I…never mind.
So, I sat there propped up in the bed with a glass of Rex-Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster Free Range Red and a sleeping toddler next to me to see what the First Lady of the Free World had to say as I waited for my husband to finish up his end-of-the day rituals. Here’s one particular smashery of logic and language that just gets my goat every single time.
She used that lovely phrase unconditional love. I — a Catholic mother who scrubs, chases, sweats, lectures, and pleads for mercy when the truckload of kids and piles of laundry finally break me each day — take that term seriously. In the abortion debate no one who thinks abortion is acceptable is allowed to use that term. In this day and age of political correctness, is it too much to insist on verbal correctness too? Words mean things.
But when Barack started telling me about his family – that’s when I knew I had found a kindred spirit, someone whose values and upbringing were so much like mine.
You see, Barack and I were both raised by families who didn’t have much in the way of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable – their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves.
Her family gave her unconditional love? Really? It’s true, children are incapable of earning the love of their parents, and love should be given to them without limit, without being subject to any conditions or stipulations. It should be absolute and complete. That term demands no compromise. To place a condition on being loved, is to destroy the notion of unconditional love altogether. It is impossible for a parent to say, “I love my children unconditionally, but only if I want them.” Being wanted is a condition.
If she’s so grateful for the unflinching sacrifice and the chance to go places she never imagined that her family gave her, why then, does she think that mothers in America today shouldn’t do the same for their children? That is exactly what abortion advocate after dissonant abortion advocate stands for – the denial of unflinching sacrifice and unconditional love. Dismembering the tiniest and most defenseless of the children you deem unworthy of life is not an act of love.
Dear Pro-Choice NYer,
You wanted to do whatever you wanted to do with your body, and then claim you had a right to kill your own children when you conceived them because it was just so unfair for anyone to expect you to let a child ever use you against your will. You said you needed your choices, and you needed them without judgement or criticism. You tossed God’s law aside and said that your rights come from man’s law, and that worked for you as long as you thought you were getting your way. Motherhood be damned.
When the New York City abortion rate was reported (God only knows what it really is) to be 41%, meaning that nearly 2 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion, you didn’t even wince. You were proud those women were exercising their so-called right to choose even when the city health officials made condescending excuses that the high rate was due to the “ignorance” and “ambivalence” of women who hadn’t been indoctrinated in the methods of birth control, or who were too stupid and poor to chose stable relationships.
Even decades ago when your feminist and pro-choice philosophies collided over sex-selective abortion right in your own city, you quieted the voice in your head that was screaming, “No. STOP! You should not,” because you feared that making moral judgments would take away the high and mighty right for you to profit from the ambivalent under the guise of caring about women. In a mind-seering display of mental gymnastics you sought to rephrase the question by separating the chooser from the choice, so that you could justify killing girls in the womb even as you condemned misogyny.
Let me tell you something: Truth does not condescend the human person, male or female of any age, nor does it contradict itself. That should have been warning enough, but you were too blinded by the tenets of the reproductive rights movement and the power you thought it gave you.
And now, the man you trusted to guard your pseudo-freedom in New York City has decided to dictate to new mothers how they will feed their own babies. Starting September 3, Mayor Bloomberg will enforce what is being called “the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation” which requires formula to be locked up and rationed out only if medical professionals can submit a medical reason for needing it. If the mother gets the formula from the state, she also gets a lecture. Why? It seems the people in power don’t really think women can make good choices for themselves or their children, especially the women who give birth.
Sure some of you will support this anti-choice program and justify it based on some feigned concern for the health of newborn babies. Some of you will speak out against it because you see it for the over-imposition of government into private lives that it is. However, I predict that not a single one of you will see the monumental contradiction before you once again.
Like happy and willing slaves, you conceded all your rights to the decisions of the people in power, and now they are dictating that those in charge do what you’ve been fighting against your whole lives – force a woman to let her child use her body. You may justify it as some caring act on the part of the government, but that’s nonsense. Governments don’t care for people; people care for people, and you’ve been advocating for generations that the most extreme bond between the have’s and the have not’s – the bond between mothers and their children – is meaningless unless the individual mother chooses to care for the greedy little thing.
Some people are calling your Mayor Bloomberg a nanny for turning NYC into a nanny-state, but at least nannies care for individual children. I hate to break it to you, Pro-Choice NYer, but you aren’t a child and Mayor Bloomberg and his officials don’t care for you (or the children you decide are worthy of life) individually. This isn’t about caring; it’s about control. It’s Marxism.
This is social materialism, utilitarian ideology about the worth of a human person in the big chemical equation of society. Feeding people taxes the system, just as pregnancy taxes a woman’s body. If it were about caring for the babies, there wouldn’t also exist a law that allowed late-term abortion past the point of viability. There wouldn’t be a law allowing any unborn child to be killed. The same child the state says must be breastfed for it’s health could have been killed the trimester, the month, the week, the day, and the minute before birth with impunity. Wake up! The same people are also busy telling you what you can and cannot eat or drink. They don’t really think you can be trusted to chose wisely for yourself; they see you as objects to be managed.
As pro-life people have said for as long as they’ve needed to use that title, if you promote that one group of humans can treat another dependent group like individual blobs of mindless tissue, don’t be surprised if the day comes when it’s your turn to be grouped as such too. You got what you asked for. Welcome to the world of your choices.
If you want to fix it, start by reaffirming unconditional love between mother and child, and by defending the primary and natural rights of the family.
We are blessed with some inspiring and talented young adults at Ignitum Today; a young mother determined to positively define feminism, an opinionated Victoria Advocate, a couple of teenage writers with Spirit-filled and mature pens, the wise and professional GADEL from Ghana, a mysterious college duo Ink and Quill, a father and mother who just welcomed the birth a daughter with Spina Bifida, a sharp-witted Paul Ryan fan who writes the blog that won Best New Blog at CPAC last year, two Bright Maidens, a husband and wife missionary team in Dominica, a Junior Fellow at First Things, Look! A Black Catholic!, a Canossian Sister, missionary, and nun who dabbles in graphics, music, techstuff, and loves to pray intercessory prayers for you…and the list goes on. That’s only some of the contributors, and I will continue to introduce more of them to The American Catholic audience, they are truly inspiring. We have one major rule – no heresy! – and in spite of what some may think, no, of course we don’t advocate burning heretics, just avoiding heresy as we shine the light of Christ into the world.
I know I’m bragging, but I’m so proud of all of them. Imagine what it’s like to work with such a great group of young adults, and to wake up and read powerful messages like the following on a regular basis. This is from a 27 year old Army Special Forces Medical Sergeant, Ryan Kraeger, a cradle Catholic homeschool graduate stationed on the West Coast. His website is The Man Who Would Be Knight and he blogs here.
But you must read his latest, Hunger and Thirst. Please go read the whole thing, as a commenter said, it will stay with you for the rest of your life. I pray that priests who uphold the teaching of the Church are allowed to remain in service to our armed forces.
And God? God is the Sun! God is the boiling furnace of a thousand times a thousand suns, a blazing inferno (pun intended) of desire for me. God is the Love that exists from all eternity, Love that loved me into existence, Love that loves me into love with the Triune Love.
This is why I go to Communion! Not because I am so in love with God, but because He is eternally in love with me.
As of this writing I am facing the prospect of a very long time in a desert where there are no priests. At first this panicked me, but now I am at peace with it. The God who has worked so hard to bring me to Him (despite my best efforts to the contrary at times) will not abandon me. If it is His will to starve me for a year, or for the rest of my life, then starvation is what is best for me.
What saddens me, though, is the number of people who starve themselves…
I was hesitant to write this because I don’t like picking battles with atheists. At first I didn’t see how anyone would take this idea about free will and our judicial system seriously, but it seems some people are. So I offer the following with the hope that if more people know about this discussion, more people can see it for the nonsense that it is.
Victor Stenger, Ph.D. particle physicist and best-selling author of God and the Folly of Faith has written an essay at Huffington Post “Free Will is an Illusion” and it took an unexpected turn. Certainly, the atheistic consideration of free will is nothing new, but Dr. Stenger also makes a connection between free will, or the lack thereof, and our judicial system in the United States. This position has disturbing societal implications.
Keep in mind, this is the man who popularized the phrase: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.” He has also published such titles as God: The Failed Hypothesis and The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason. Victor Stenger has made it known that he thinks science can prove there is no god, and that he considers religion dangerous to society.
In this Huffington Post essay he references a book by another physicist, Leonard Mlodinow, who says that the unconscious plays a dominant role in human behavior. As Dr. Stenger puts it, “before we become aware of making a decision, our brains have already laid the groundwork for it.” He goes on to say (read carefully), “This recognition challenges fundamental assumptions about free will and the associated religious teachings about sin and redemption, as well as our judicial concepts of responsibility and punishment. If our brains are making our decisions for us subconsciously, how can we be responsible for our actions? How can our legal system punish criminals or God punish sinners who aren’t in full control of their decision-making processes?”
He also references the book Free Will by neuroscientist Sam Harris and title-quotes him in stating that “free will is an illusion.” Dr. Stenger writes, “We don’t exist as immaterial conscious controllers, but are instead entirely physical beings whose decisions and behaviors are the fully caused products of the brain and body.”
So, essentially having established that humans are determinant blobs of matter with no free will, he then makes the case to the Huffington Post readers that “our largely retributive moral and justice systems need to be re-evaluated, and maybe even drastically revamped” if the people in society are going to be able to protect themselves from “people who are dangerous to others because of whatever it is inside their brains and nervous systems that makes them dangerous.”
That is, he is calling for a new system of morality and justice based on the the presumption that no one is ultimately responsible for his actions, and remember, he’s made it clear who he thinks the “dangerous” people are. This is eerily like the argument used to justify abortion, only we’re all blobs of tissue now.
As you know, I am a Chief Editor along with Tito Edwards at Ignitum Today, the social network of the JP2 and B16 generations. One of our contributors, Bonnie Engstrom, wrote back in September 2011 about the riveting survival of her infant son, an alleged miracle that the family believes was through the intercession of the now Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Bonnie informed us last week that this alleged miracle has been chosen as the one to be submitted for review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and if it is declared a true miracle then Archbishop Fulton Sheen will be beatified. It has been so exciting to share in this remarkable journey through Bonnie’s writing. When the pastor at our parish in New York announced this good news from the pulpit last Sunday, I smiled at my husband and thought, “I know the family involved!” It’s an amazing and glorious story.
You can read more at Catholic News Service and at Bonnie’s website, Learning to Be a Newlywed, but before you read anything else, you need to read her original story when she told us about the day her son, James Fulton, was born. It is reprinted today at Catholic Sistas with her permission. Thank you Bonnie.
Go read the story at Catholic Sistas!
And while you are there, look around. This is a super group of faithful Catholic women, and the website was created and designed by Martina Kreitzer.
I have to remind myself sometimes to refrain from immersion in current events, politics, and social issues because I swell up with machine-like resolve and start thinking of myself as a Sarah Connor, the fictional mom in the Terminator films who transformed from a timid victim to a hardened warrior on the verge of losing touch with her own humanity. She knew Judgement Day was coming, and her son would have to fight evil mightily. She knew she had to prepare and protect him.
I don’t think I’m the only mom that conjures up such an image. We lay awake at night wondering what kind of battles our children will face as adults. Will they lose faith? Will they be hurt? Will they be warriors? Will they be martyrs? Will they be ready? Are we doing enough to take a stand as Catholics? No kidding, there are nights when I feel compelled to rise and do chin-ups on the door frame to flex some muscle (though I’d faint after three).
I have learned, instead, to pray. As awful as I may think some current events are, this world still belongs to God. If I believe that Christ healed the sick, commanded demons, and died and rose for the salvation of souls, then in faith I need to guard against despair and overwhelming ferocity. Remember what the centurion in Capernaum said to Jesus when he wanted his servant to be healed? He had great faith. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” He also had humility. That last part reminds me of St. Francis’ advice, “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”
Surely in some ways we do need to become a legend among the resistance, to warn that humanity is doomed to self-destruction if they don’t listen, and to store up a proverbial cache of weapons for our children if there is a rise of the machines; but mostly what we need to do is to accept the graces and abundances offered now in this time of our own lives. We do need to fight, but we can’t let ourselves become so steeled we forget we are human.
Even so, I wouldn’t mind having her deltoids, and I admit I rather like imagining myself standing strong with a steady gaze across the landscape as I prepare to defend and inspire my children, but without the cigarette and Commando rifle.
With the bishops in the United States investigating the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) this question seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. Do the Girl Scouts really help girls? In many ways, what they teach goes against how I want to raise my own girls, but I never really thought about why. The Girl Scouts have this whole attitude about them that is just, frankly, not feminine.
I grew up with the “you can be anything a man can be” cultural message, and I took it seriously. As a child, I tried to run faster, climb higher, and make better grades than the boys in my classes. Heck, I even hauled hay and shot rifles (still can) as a teen. When Hillary Clinton made her comment about staying home and baking cookies and having teas, I even remember thinking how proud I was that I was just like that in my twenties. Nope, no standin’ by my man like Tammy Wynette. At that point I was a single mother, and an unstoppable force as a scientist on a career path of success (so I stupidly told myself). Older, wiser, and full of regrets, I have come to regard such messages to young women as dangerous to the institution of the family – and to a young woman’s own sense of happiness and fulfillment.
Enough of the trip down memory lane. Do Girl Scouts help girls now?
Rather than base my opinion only on my personal experiences though, I decided to ask my friend Mary Rice Hasson about it. She is also a mother of seven and a lawyer who serves as a Fellow in Catholic studies at the conservative think tank in Washington D.C., Ethics and Public Policy Center. She is an expert on these issues, particularly on Catholic women’s views of faith, conscience and family. A LifeNews article cites her as agreeing that the bishop investigation is needed, and then quotes her.
“A collision course is probably a good description of where things are headed,” she said. “The leadership of the Girl Scouts is reflexively liberal. Their board is dominated by people whose views are antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
That got my attention. I asked her about the Girl Scouts, and for advice about raising girls in general. I am more interested in guiding principles than details. I was struck by this advice: “My parents raised us girls (7 of us) to believe we could do anything—but to value motherhood and to retain the sense of femininity that flourishes by embracing womanhood, not aping masculinity.” Bingo!
Value motherhood. Be feminine. Embrace womanhood. Do not ape masculinity.
The woman formerly known as beautiful and author at Huffington Post, Shannon Bradley-Colleary, had an article recently with the declarative title “Abstinence Got Me Pregnant.” It’s a “family planning” story meant to demonstrate that people should not be expected to follow a moral code when it comes to sexual intercourse, and probably many women (who don’t think about what words mean) can relate.
The author describes how she was raised by religious parents and a father that scared off boys while cleaning his gun, how she fell in love in college and “relinquished” her virginity unexpectedly on Cheez-It crumbs behind a couch in an off-campus apartment while “roommates farted and belched like cannon-fire in adjacent rooms,” how she began taking birth control pills and used them for the next five years as a “serial monogamist,” how after she had her heart broken and broke a few herself she decided to take a “leave of absence” and become abstinent, how a broken-hearted young man still pursued her with roses, poetry, and silly declarations of love, how she got pregnant and to her relief miscarried so she was “spared, making a choice” that might “haunt” her for the rest of her life, and finally how some ten years later she gave birth to two daughters with her husband “at just the right time, with exactly the right partner.” What does she credit for things working out well? Birth control, because abstinence got her pregnant.
Her point: “…sex should NOT BE a MORAL ISSUE, it should be a PRACTICAL ISSUE.” [Emphasis hers.]
She plans to take her daughters to Planned Parenthood when they are in high school because although she hopes “they will only give themselves to men who cherish them” she believes it is better to be “practical” and dispense with any “moral imperatives” so they won’t ever experience shame or blame. She concludes, “Knowledge is power.”
Take a deep breath, relax your face muscles, and let’s examine the logic of this statement because this is a serious issue that needs to be clarified. I once thought this way too, until I realized 1) everyone needs a moral code, and 2) words mean things.
The story of the Catholic teen, Margeaux Graham, that was first told here at The American Catholic continues to gain momentum in the media. In the meantime she has written her story in her own words because I asked her to describe her experience for the young adult audience at Ignitum Today. I think it’s important for people to know how this happened, and how unexpected it was in this nation.
Desire, doubt, honor, excitement, shock, and disappointment are the emotions preceding discrimination in the modern world. I have felt all of these towards a very unsuspecting organization, the Florida Girls State program sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.
The Girls State program is a once in a life time opportunity that is only available to high school juniors. Three girls from my school are nominated each year for the opportunity to become delegate.
The previous year’s delegate came to my AP American History class and told us about her experience in the Girls State program. She made it sound very appealing, talking about the friends she made and the various things she learned. She also told us about the a variety of college opportunities that the delegates would get, such as ten points added to scholarship applications, special considerations when applying to colleges, and three credit hours for American government. I knew I wouldn’t be chosen, I am the quiet kid in class, do my work and only answer aloud when called upon. I was certain I would not be chosen.
To read The American Catholic’s coverage of Margeaux’s stand, see these articles:
Nursing doesn’t have to be controversial. Too often the conflicts over breastfeeding in public turn into a debate about whether the woman has a right to expose herself in public or not. One side says it’s natural and the woman is justified, the other side says she isn’t because, frankly, it makes people uncomfortable.
When I was younger, I was in the first category, a me-first mentality and the media seems to encourage that mindset. “Look what a great mom I am!” For me, that need to show-off was a compensation for the compromises and insecurities of trying to appear liberated. As I nurse this seventh child now, I realize my approach to nursing has changed, drastically.  Age? Experience? Faith? (Exhaustion?) A lot of reasons.
First, that compulsion to prove myself vanished. I’m happy, confident, and proud in my home, and if I must go somewhere, then I am prepared to find an enclave. Nursing, like it or not, is private, and a woman is not oppressed if she has to excuse herself to feed her child. It’s a considerate gesture, an act of propriety, to acknowledge those around you — basic good manners. 
Second, because it will happen, when I have no choice but to nurse in front of other people, I do it discretely. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, and a woman’s attitude can put others at ease. Cover up with a blanket, focus on the baby, and do what needs to be done. This may seem insignificant, but refraining from eye contact will do much to maintain a little private bubble.  Chances are, no one will even notice, and your mini-withdrawal will put them at ease if they do. Once the baby’s situated, carry on. People don’t mind knowing you are nursing, it’s the risk of exposure that makes them nervous. Understandably so. Nursing is intimate.
Third, I simply let myself enjoy it. It’s not a competition and babies grow too fast anyway. These are precious moments. So what if you have to make temporary sacrifices? So what if you have to learn, by sometimes failing, to navigate uncomfortable scenarios graciously?
Last, using a more appropriate word helped me orient my thinking. “Breastfeeding” sounds so utilitarian. I prefer to call it “nursing” which implies loving care. Moms nurse the child in the womb, and into adulthood. Every stage comes with its challenges and joys, so let the first years be intimately special, and leave the controversy for another day. 
In other words, lighten up. You don’t need publicly published professional photography to capture the moment and rankle a non-issue.
 More like, all pretense has been beaten out of me.
 No one posts pictures of changing poopy diapers.
 Shooting daring glances at strangers is a bad idea.
 Like those things Mr. Donald R. McClarey pointed out.
Image credit: Microsoft Powerpoint
There’s an article forthcoming in the journal Economic Inquiry by Professors of Economics, Joseph Sabia and Daniel Rees, that shows parental notification or consent laws are associated with a 15 to 25 percent reduction in suicides committed by 15- through 17-year-old women. The researchers analyzed National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data collected from 1987 to 2003 and found results that are consistent with the hypothesis that laws requiring parental involvement increase the “expected cost of having unprotected sex,” and, consequently, protect the well-being of young females. (Hey, they’re economists.)
Here’s the reasoning, taken from this paper by the same authors.
- Researchers have already found, using state-level data from 1981 through 1998, that parental involvement laws reduced teen gonorrhea rates 12 to 20 percent among teen females. (Klick and Strattman, 2008)
- Other recent studies provide evidence that female adolescents who become sexually active at an early age are more likely to suffer from the symptoms of depression. (Hallfors et al. 2004; Sabia and Rees 2008)
- Research has shown that multiple sex partners increased the likelihood of substance abuse. (Howard et al. 2004)
- It is also been found that adolescent females who had multiple sex partners were 10 times more likely to develop the symptoms of major depression than those who remained abstinent. (Hallfors et al. 2005)
- There was no evidence of a similar relationship between male multiple partners and adolescent depression. (Hallfors et al. 2005)
So the hypothesis is: If parental involvement laws discourage minors from risky lifestyles that affect their physical health, then they would promote emotional health of teenage females as well. Analyzing suicide rates will give an indication since there have been many studies that link depression and suicide. The national suicide data was analyzed and that’s exactly what they found – a supporting correlation. Parental involvement laws correlate with fewer suicides. Further in support, there was no evidence of a similar relationship among male adolescents, and no correlation between parental involvement laws and suicide for older women because, well, neither group would be affected by those laws.
Makes sense, right? You’re probably thinking, “Did we need to pass those laws, wait and see what happened, and then count suicides?” No, we didn’t, and there’d be at least some justice if the people opposing those laws would take notice.
You’d think someone who really cares about women would be able to take an objective view of this data and consider it as an appeal to our collective conscience. You’d think someone who parrots, “Trust Women!” would be consistent enough to also trust mothers who are raising teens. When the state comes between teens and their parents, it just follows that the adolescents will not be as close to their parents as they ought to be.
This only affirms what we already know. Parents of teen girls can be trusted – should be trusted for the psychological benefit of a daughter in crisis. The abortion advocate community doesn’t seem as concerned about young women, though, as they are about politics and agendas. They instead say that people just want to make it harder for teens to have abortions, and that teens have a “fear of abuse” from unrelenting parents. Oh, and they’ll say something about how correlation doesn’t equal causation, revealing that they either are ignorant of analytical methods or, even worse, knowledgeable of them but dishonest when the results don’t fit their predetermined conclusions. Some will even say that teen women should be trusted to make their own decisions even when the decision for these desperate young women is to end their own lives. Of course, we all know why Planned Parenthood doesn’t want the parents involved. Ac$e$$ to abortion.
So I have a little hypothesis of my own. I predict (but would love to be proven wrong) that not a single abortion advocate will come forward and honestly reassess parental consent laws even though there is no body of data to support their premise. Could they admit that maybe, just maybe, the default condition is not that most parents of teens are abusive. Imagine!
If they trust women, why can’t they trust mothers and fathers? Where does this automatic distrust of parents come from anyway? Perhaps there’s a cost associated with believing that a mother has the right to kill her own child in the womb, and that cost is faith in people to love their children unconditionally at any point in life, even during difficult times.
Image: Microsoft Powerpoint
Can you answer the Teaser Questions at the end?
When I asked my political science and history buff, numerical mechanics expert, Special Ops retired military officer husband to recommend his favorite author so I could read it, it was a wifely effort to show love, to get to know him better. He answered, “Tom Clancy,” and handed me Debt of Honor and Executive Orders, an overwhelming 2,500 page paperback brick stack. My eyes bugged out.
But hey, I’m committed, so I read Tom Clancy’s masterpiece tale, and my hesitation turned into enthusiasm. The technical world of national warfare, really the pitting of good and bad individual leaders against each other, was fascinating and caused me to rethink the meaning of pacifism. Through the characters, I developed an appreciation for the courage and humility required of good leaders. Tom Clancy is a master at teaching through storytelling because his novels are exhaustively researched, reality-based fiction. The two-part story (only part of a bigger series) centers around a terrorist attack in which a hijacked Boeing 747 is flown directly into the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress, decapitating the government. It is interesting to note that the books were published four and six years before September 11, 2001. Many people wondered about the prophetic nature of the book because it turned out to be more real than anyone anticipated. Tom Clancy understands the mentality of his characters, deeply.
Reading Val Bianco’s novel, Sons of Cain, was kind of like that, except Mr. Bianco brings a spiritual fullness to his work that makes it eternally pertinent. It is not nearly as tedious as working through a Clancy military novel, but the progression of the story ushers the reader into a life-changing experience, beckoning a more thoughtful dive into current world events and what goes on the minds of those who cause them. It makes spiritual warfare tangible and present, yet with an inspiring catechetical quality. I no longer wonder how to think of angels and demons, and I can almost see the “spiritual space” in the battle of good and evil when I consider how and why certain events happen the way they do. Are there large and terrible demons with their claws dug deeply in the heads and abdomens of men, preying on their minds and souls, coercing them to malice and perceived power, even as it makes them feel sick? Think about it! Continue reading
Margeaux Graham is really a quite reserved young woman, confident, articulate and anticipating the future that lays before her in a nation where women have the opportunity to become influential political leaders. She doesn’t sensationally seek the spotlight, and genuinely desires to adhere to reasonable codes of conduct in a democratic society. She takes sincere pride in her academic achievement. As a Catholic, she also refuses to compromise her obligations. This is her first priority, and now this priority has caused a conflict she must face. At a time in our country, and in our world, when threats to religious freedom plaque the media daily, this young woman’s simple and sincere willingness to challenge long-standing, but very flawed, policies and practices is inspiring.
What if everyone refused to dismiss the Eucharist with such boldness?
A Recap. It all started when Margeaux was selected to attend a prestigious Girls State session by the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) in Florida. She was chosen as a delegate based on her outstanding scholastic ability and her desire to learn more about how our government works. The session is a 9-day experience where the girls participate in a mock democratic government that fosters civic leadership and stimulates, in the words of the Director, a “desire to protect the privileges and responsibilities of our democratic form of government.” It is a high honor to be chosen for participation.
In preparing for her trip, to her surprise, Margeaux was told that she could not attend Mass on Sunday, and that her only option would be to attend the “non-offensive” non-denominational service offered for all participants. This was motivated at least in part by a concern for safety, understandably. The organizers do not permit the girls to leave the session alone for any reason. So Margeaux’s mother, willing to accommodate this reasonable concern, sought help from a sympathetic member of the local American Legion. She offered to come take her daughter to Mass, or to have someone arrange for a priest to celebrate Mass at the conference site. But — this accommodation was rejected. Margeaux then wrote the letter reprinted in the last article to the President of the state ALA chapter, explaining that she must decline the invitation, and the academic and civic honor extended to her, if it meant that she had to neglect her obligation to attend Mass.
Discussions are still underway and they are praying for a favorable outcome. The intent is not to disparage anyone, only to defend a teen’s right to attend Mass and to develop as a leader in our country. The accommodation being requested in perfectly reasonable, and defensible by the constitutional and civic rights guaranteed to citizens of the Unites States. A young woman should not be discriminated against because she is a faithful Catholic.
In the meantime, Margeaux has responded to the state officer who scolded her and told her God would understand if she skipped Mass. Margeaux is taking a stand, not so much over being accommodated, but at the insult to the Eucharist. This high school junior minces no words and flat out, boldly defends the source and summit of the Christian life. I hope someone at a Catholic university is able to help her with her future endeavors. With the exception of the first sentence, you might consider reading the opening paragraph out loud!
“The American Legion Auxiliary is the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization. Through its nearly 10,500 units located in every state and some foreign countries, the Auxiliary embodies the spirit of America that has prevailed through war and peace. Along with The American Legion, it solidly stands behind America and her ideals.”
While the nation discusses and debates the attacks on religious freedom, a high school junior in Florida has put her academic reputation on the line to stand up for her faith. Margeaux Graham was selected this year to participate in a prestigious 9-day leadership event in her state’s capital. The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) of Florida has an annual “Girls State” program whereby the participants “learn how to participate in the functioning of their state’s government in preparation for their future roles as responsible adult citizens.” It is a “nonpartisan program that teaches young women responsible citizenship and love for God and Country. They are awarded 3 college credits and rare notoriety in the college application process.
Margeaux is a faithful Catholic. That is, she takes her obligation to attend Mass as just that — her obligation. When she inquired about nearby Catholic churches to plan where she would attend, she was told by the staff that the only opportunity any of the girls would have to participate in a Sunday service is to attend the “non-offensive”, non-denominational service offered for all at the conference. The event takes place at the
University of Central Florida Florida State University and the cathedral is nearby the campus. [see update] A member of the national American Legion even contacted the Auxiliary to arrange for a priest to celebrate Mass on campus, and this accommodation was denied.
So Margeaux took action herself. She wrote to the organizers declining the invitation, with firm resolve, unless she was allowed to attend Mass. This is her letter, reprinted with permission. Mind you, she is a high school junior.
TO: American Legion Auxiliary Unit #21
FROM: Margeaux Graham
RE: Girls State 2012
DATE: May 7, 2012
I am regretfully writing this letter to formally inform you that I will be unable to attend Florida Girls State in June. I am extremely honored that you found me worthy to represent American Legion Auxiliary unit #21 and am devastated that I cannot participate. I attended orientation on May 6, 2012 and was informed by [name private] that I would not be allowed to attend Mass on Sunday.
My faith is very important to me, as it has been to countless Americans. This country was founded on the principles of religious and personal freedom, the fundamental rights that either you or your loved ones fought to protect. It is disheartening that the Florida Girls State program is structured in such a way that it prohibits participation of young women who have a strong conviction for their religious practices.
The only opportunity to participate in a Sunday service is presented in a “non-offensive”, non-denominational service. As a Catholic Christian I find it offensive that I am not allowed to attend Mass and am perplexed as to how this service could accommodate the beliefs of other religious groups, such as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and all Christian religions. I am disappointed to see the lack of respect for religious creed from the Florida Girls State program by limiting participants to only one religious paradigm.
Miss [name private] made it quite clear that I had to choose between my faith and Florida Girls State. I was looking forward to attending with great zeal, the knowledge, experience, and friends gained would have been invaluable. My faith has made me who I am, it has shaped me into the young woman that you chose as your delegate, for me to deny my faith would be hypocritical. Words cannot express my disappointment that the Florida Girls State program is designed to only accommodate delegates who fit into a pre-determined religious belief system or none at all.