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Monday, August 23, 2010

DON'T have a nice day

Remember all those big yellow smiley faces popularized back in the 70s?  Well, they're starting to take effect.  Congratulations! We have all become nice. We are nice about everything.  We are so nice that we are at war with ourselves. We have capitulated the very principles we claim to esteem.  We are toxic nice. 

We are nice about our parenting. The value is placed on being our child's friend and not offending their tender sensibilities.  In my own experience I have been advised that there are very cool parents in my child’s very parochial high school that actually drink and get high with their kids. Me and my Neanderthal ways of thinking! No wonder my parents and I didn’t get along so well.  We weren’t bonging.  This new crop of parents really have it figured out. How nice.

We are nice about education: From the Hot Air Greenroom…… I always thought that schools should focus on teaching our children subjects like reading, writing and math. Not so, evidently! That’s for fuddy-duddy, old school philistines. Nowadays, with that thing called Progress and hopeandchange ™ , our children are being taught about things like oral and anal sex and ‘fisting’. Often under the guise of abstinence programs and without the consent, or even the knowledge of, their parents…Montana is just the latest example of where this dangerous sexploitation of your children is occurring.  If the prop passes, Montana kids in the fifth grade, will be taught there are several types of intercourse, and by the sixth grade, the draft document states that students should, “Understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration; using the penis, fingers, tongue or objects.”

Real education that included the great books, the Socratic method and a sense of wonder has been downgraded to self-esteemism & how to properly wear a condom.  Techniques over principles.  Nice.

We are nice about our medicine. We don’t like using nasty and offensive words like abortion or euthanasia so we’ve renamed them to much nicer words like “Choice or Mercy”.  This way people don’t have to feel bad if they choose to do something like kill someone. One former hospital administrator here in Arizona was so nice that she saved the life of a young mother…at the expense of her unborn child. (And the mean, cranky bishop of that nun-administrator excommunicated her for that).  You can bet that the “Nice Police” were all over that story.

You know, the Brits are nice too. Back in 2008, they were so nice that they adopted sharia law.  This nice little law treats women as second-class citizens, supports stoning and allows fathers to outright "own" the children of a marriage after the age of 7.  This law sits juxtaposed next to their British legal code for all Muslim-British subjects and if we aren’t careful, this nice duplicity is coming to a municipality near you.  Just ask Canada. This is not to mention anything at all about that nice little Mosque-ish Community Center being ginned up around near Ground Zero. That’s got “nice” written all over it.  And if you don’t support it…you guessed it…Not Nice. 

We’re very nice at church. We’ve tried to please everyone with an all-inclusive liturgy that promotes wide varieties of feel-good, cocktail music performances that neither elevate or inspire.  We’ve made it nice for all folks to participate in parts of the liturgy that used to be reserved for the priest only.  We have formed nice committees that decorate our church, not the way that it should be decorated but according to some nice person’s standards. Why? I told you already…Because it’s nice.  We hate having to tell someone that they might be inappropriately dressed at mass because the “who are you to tell me how to dress” condemnation thought bubble keeps popping into your own stream of consciousness.  Remember the last time you said it?  Or thought it?  What stopped you?  Your own Nice Police.  That’s who.  They are in your brain.

All of this niceness can be disastrous on the digestion.  I had the privilege of hearing Bishop Olmsted at a recent pro-life luncheon exhorting us not to be nice.  He reminded us that the word “nice” comes from an much older word that means, “silly, foolish and nonsensical”. 

Jesus talked about being “nice”.  Maybe not in the same way, but he spoke about having two minds about things or being duplicitous. Being this way is the opposite of yesterday’s gospel passage of “entering through the narrow gate”.  It’s much easier for me to tell you yes, than to tell you no; to try to take the easy way out than to take personal responsibility; to make up a little story about something than to be honest; to show up and make proclamations at church on Sunday and then deceive my boss at work on Monday.   This, as we know, has a real spiritus vomitus feel to it.

Because we no longer believe in absolute Truth any longer, we have come to accept special versions of personal truths because it's nicer to do so and less offensive. This is relativism. It can be given the name Luke Warm and he can turn in to a real problem.

So what’s a nice person to do? (And this is a much for me as it is for you).
1.     Start with yourself.  Charity begins at home!  Before you start rummaging around for that speck in your neighbor’s, or wife’s, or dad’s eye, you might try extracting that huge beam from your own. For how are we to really see the Truth about things, if we cannot see at all?
2.     Check the integration of your Values versus your Principles.  Your values are your personal special truths composed just for you.  Your Principles are the harder-to-live-up-to core set of beliefs to which you aspire. Your principles are your moral compass.  They get your conscience talking. Values and Principles are two different things. If I value the first commandment then I will make every human effort to attend Mass on Sunday. But if I value anything above this principle, (my pillow, the mall, my vacation plans) then when I am most vulnerable, my selfish values will win the day.  If I value sobriety but I also value the fun I have while drinking, then when I am most vulnerable, my selfish values will win the day. If I value my marriage but I also value being right, then when I am most vulnerable my selfish values will win the day. The most effective people that I know match their values with their principles.  This is a fun experiment…try it.
3.     Scavenger Hunt for real Truth, Goodness and Beauty.  I did a web search on the Doctrine of the Transcendentals and was amazed at what a dearth of knowledge there is out there on the subject. If you study the great philosophers (and the best are located here in the Church), you will find that the perfection of these principles: Truth, Goodness and Beauty is God. Truth is God’s imprint on the mind, Goodness is God’s imprint on the will and Beauty is God’s imprint on the emotions. After employing this study for a time, I guarantee you, your notions of nice-ness will change.

If you really hate the idea of not being nice, try changing your paradigm of that word to Kind.  Personal example:  I was walking my dog along the usual route when I happened to notice a nice lady (sheesh..there it is again!) on her morning run.  Something was different about her.  She had a plastic grocery bag in hand and stopped every so often to deposit litter into it that she spotted along the roadside.  She was the “quicker picker upper”. When she came within earshot, I yelled out to her:  “How kind of you!”  And I really meant it. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mind-Blowingly Sacred

THIS, my friends, is Sacred Music.  It is glorious. It is elevating. It is what polyphony sounds like. It is uniquely and universally the music of the whole Church. Enjoy.  Your ears will thank you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Better "Mel" Story

With saturation effect firmly in place over the latest Mel Gibson flap, it is appropriate that we have a better, albeit miraculous "Mel" story.  This one hits real lose to home since this "Mel" is a friend of mine.  Please enjoy our two most recent miracles below and watch for all the others that follow from this amazing woman's life. 

By Mark Henry
PHOENIX, AZ, August 4, 2010 (Catholic Online) - It all started out 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning when Melanie Pritchard texted my wife Tina telling her that she was going into labor and "asking for prayers." After Tina and I returned from morning Mass, Melanie's friend Meghan called Tina in tears telling us that Melanie's heart stopped during delivery and she desperately needed our prayers.
During the frantic drive to the hospital, my wife was distraught. She loved Melanie like a younger sister.  In Melanie's eyes, her greatest accomplishments are being a loyal wife to her husband Doug and dutiful mother to her son Brady.  To the public, Melanie is a nationally known pro-life speaker and the founder of the Foundation for Life and Love, an educational organization that seeks to preserve and promote the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages. Melanie is the former Education Director for Arizona Right To Life.
Melanie is much in demand as a vibrant speaker to youth and adult groups on pro-life issues, modesty and chastity.  Melanie and her husband Doug teach marriage preparation classes for the Diocese of Phoenix using Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body writings.  Melanie's Catholic spirituality is steeped in the Culture of Life and thoroughly imbued with the teachings of Pope John Paul II.
My wife first became acquainted with Melanie when Melanie graciously agreed to serve, without pay, as a virtues coordinator in a modesty and chastity apostolate my wife runs.  Melanie is a mentor of countless young Catholic girls, a fabulous role model of motherhood, chastity and modestly and treasured by the pro-life community in Phoenix and beyond.
In the dreadfully long drive to the hospital, we felt helpless and wondered what could we possibly do for Melanie? Well, let's pray a decade of the Rosary. We also prayed to Pope John Paul II that he would intercede for a miraculous healing of Melanie, a prayer that we and countless others would invoke many times over the next 24 hours. After our drive time prayer, we still had quite a bit of time before reaching the hospital so we started calling everyone we knew, requesting their fervent prayers and to pass the word by email.
I called contacts I had in Catholic media, both new and traditional.  Fortunately, I got through to close friends at Immaculate Heart Radio, St. Joseph Communications and other Catholic media outlets who faithfully responded and immediately started broadcasting prayer requests for Melanie on the radio, internet and other media.  I am a contributing writer for Catholic Online and a member of the Catholic Online Writers Circle. The other members joined the cascade of prayer being offered for Melanie. Of course, Melanie's friends and family had already started prayer requests of their own and impassioned pleas for prayer made to many convents, monasteries and religious orders.
Very quickly news of Melanie's critical condition spread like a digital wildfire with "prayer for Melanie" requests now going "viral" online.   The pray it forward juggernaught to save Melanie had begun in earnest with many specifically praying for Pope John Paul II's intercession to save the life of his loyal spiritual daughter, Melanie.
When we got to the hospital, the news was worse than we thought.  Melanie had suffered an amniotic embolism and there was massive internal bleeding. Her heart had stopped again, twice, and they were rushing her into surgery again. There was a real likelihood of heart and kidney failure.  I learned later that the medical condition Melanie was experiencing was usually fatal.
There was some good news, however, which was that Melanie and Doug's new born daughter Gabriella Cecilia was healthy after her emergency C-Section delivery. Additionally, Melanie's brother Larry, a renowned heart surgeon, was on the scene and keeping a keenly trained medical eye on everything.
Melanie somehow made it through the surgery but then suddenly she took a turn for the worse.  Fr. John Muir, a childhood friend of Melanie and Doug, arrived at the hospital and administered the last rites to Melanie. Melanie's husband Doug was told that Melanie was slipping away and it was time to say his final goodbye to Melanie, the love of his life.  Shortly thereafter, Melanie's parents and sisters also proceeded to Melanie's bedside to bid her goodbye.
By now, legions of prayers were storming heaven from Melanie's bedside, from the local community and throughout the country as well. Prayer vigils were organized at a number of Phoenix parishes and all the way across the country at a Theology of the Body conference in Philadelphia they took a break to pray for Melanie's healing.
Inspirational stories of personal faith conversions of those hearing and reading about Melanie's faithful fight for life started coming in. Melanie's friend Brooke told us about the man in the Midwest who had never attended Church but read the email appeal for prayers for Melanie and was so inspired that he went in to the nearest Church to pray. Brooke's sister, Meghan, told us of the security guard at the hospital who was a lifelong Catholic who had never been to adoration before, but after hearing about Melanie he went to the adoration chapel and spent the night on his knees, in prayer. Father John Parks excitedly told us about the long confession lines after the prayer vigil for Melanie at Mt. Carmel Parish in Tempe, Arizona.
Throughout the country, a rising multitude of prayers were rising up for Melanie and her family.  The sheer magnitude of this prayer groundswell first became apparent to me when one of Melanie's younger tech savvy friends excitedly exclaimed that "Prayers for Melanie" made the "Top 100" on Twitter.  I am told that Twitter has one-quarter of a billion visitors, so being in the Top 100 is pretty amazing.
At the hospital,  Melanie's husband Doug, her parents Jim and Sherry Welsch and their other children exhibited a degree of faith and fortitude that was hard for me to fathom.  Looking back now, I realize that they were being spiritually lifted up in this most difficult of times by the chorus of prayers being offered for them by rapidly increasing numbers of Catholic faithful throughout the country.
Something that really stood out to me was Melanie's father Jim's reply when I asked him how he was doing. This was after Melanie's third heart attack and her life was ebbing away. He replied that he loved his daughter, he was praying for her recovery but the most important thing was that if God was calling Melanie to heaven then he would accept God's will.  To me it was a supernatural manifestation of faith, one that God just could not ignore.
Every hour, against all odds, Melanie continued her fight for life. The fact that she survived the second surgery this Thursday night stunned and amazed a hospital nurse who was in the operating room when Melanie was being operated on.  When this nurse returned to work Friday morning, she exclaimed to Melanie's family that Melanie was a "walking miracle."
When we returned to the hospital Friday morning, we were astounded to see Melanie awake, talking and pushing a walker around and determined to get out of the hospital and taking care of her family. Many who witnessed Melanie's amazing recovery were starting to realize that God had certainly answered the prayers of His faithful. 
It is above my spiritual station in life to discern whether Melanie's recovery is a miracle or not. What I do know is that she has survived against overwhelming odds and that the coming together of such a large and diverse community to pray for her healing is an amazing thing to behold. 
Interestingly enough, the cause of Pope John Paul II's canonization has apparently been delayed since Sister Marie Simon-Pierre's previously thought miraculous recovery from Parkinson's disease may have been premature with the recurrence of Sister Marie's medical condition.  If this is true and the postulators for John Paul II's cause are one miracle short they may need to look no further than what just happened to Melanie Pritchard here in Phoenix.  If a faithful pro-life Catholic mother, wife and leader like Melanie Pritchard could advance the canonization of her spiritual mentor Pope John Paul II, it would be fitting indeed.
Please continue to pray for the continued healing of Melanie and prayerfully consider supporting her work at the Foundation For Life And Love.