Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Traditional Catholics Can Learn Much from Pope Francis' Visit. If Our Hearts are Open

All week my enjoyment of the exuberant visit of Pope Francis was marred by arguments from faithful Catholics close to me who were angry at what he did or did not say or do.
Accusations of socialism, moral weakness and just plain wanting to be liked were flying. I begged them to wait and see what transpired after the visit. I  reminded them of the Feast of St. Matthew, which happened earlier that week. Matthew was the sinful, hated tax collector who became a saint and evangelist. In the BBC TV series, "Jesus of Nazareth" his conversion is very instructive to us.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Notice how the Parable of the Prodigal Son is told by Jesus in Matthew's house, full of sinners while Peter broods in the doorway after railing against Jesus eating in the house of his "Blood sucking enemy!"(earlier scene, Matthew was after him for taxes after Jesus prayed for a miraculous catch). Note how Jesus uses the parable to bring Peter, AND Matthew to repentance and reconciliation. We who love the Church and fight the good fight get angry in our isolation and that does not win hearts to the Kingdom of God. Mother Teresa said, "Joy is the net by which you catch souls." Her ministry of charity was the means of salvation for millions, most of whom were not practicing Catholics.
We "Older Brothers" who are largely obedient to the laws of God and give Him His due worship each week have to work on being charitable when our errant brethren join us at the Lord's supper.

Just because Pope Francis seemed to be more in agreement with non-practicing Catholics and those who are involved in seriously sinful practices such as abortion and homosexual unions, doesn't mean that he approves of their sin. A good teacher, like Jesus, trying to "catch them being good" finding points of agreement on which to build bridges to make sure they listened to him. Jesus used parables to teach so that the listeners could discover the teaching for themselves without raising their defenses. I recall my contentious relationship with a relative over social issues. All the great points I think I scored in our debates did not move her as much as a single kindness I did for her when her worldly friends rejected her over a good life choice she made. Pope Francis has had his share of spirited debates, but he knows how kindness builds bridges.

Some of them will need more prayers and fasting to allow the teaching to take root. When  President Obama referred to "The least of these" he forgot that the Holy Father meant the unborn. Rep Chris Smith takes him to task on that here.

Last week Pope Francis admonished a joint session of Congress to follow the Golden Rule—to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—and said that the Golden Rule compels us to “protect and defend human life at every stage of development,” and that “it is wrong to remain silent and look the other way.” Yet, every day, Planned Parenthood dismembers or chemically poisons to death approximately 900 unborn babies—the “least of these”— and hurts many women in the process."

The task of engaging those sheep outside the flock is very sensitive. We need to be patient and learn from our Shepherd. But in the meantime, it is essential that we stop brooding like St. Peter on how our virtue and fidelity were not being rewarded during the Holy Father's visit. First of all, his texts are full of references to the family, and the rights of the frail, disabled and the unborn. He made it clear that with frequent stops to visit them on the side of the road that they are close to his heart. He visited the Little Sisters of the Poor right after his White House visit. Wasn't that a huge move on his part?

Our most direct reward came after Pope Francis was safely out of US airspace. The Vatican revealed that the Pope met privately with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue same sex 'marriage' certificates. He encouraged her to "stay strong". she reflects on it here.

In his Wednesday Audience, Pope Francis gave faithful American Catholics another pat on the back.

"It was on a religious and moral foundation that the US was born and grew, and on this base it continues to be a land of freedom and welcome. It is not a coincidence that the most advanced economy of the last century has such strong religious roots. Instead, its proof that religion and progress are compatible.
It is not accidental but providential that the message and testimony from the World Meeting of Families was given in the USA. It is the country that has developed the most economically and technologically in the last century without compromising its religious roots. Now they look to the same roots again from the family, to rethink and recharge the development model for the good of the entire human family.
In the family, the individual and society reach a balance. The family will be a basis on which progress in the 21st century continues. "

source; Wednesday Audience translation Sept 30, 2015 Rome Reports

So, fellow elder brothers, lets stop licking our wounds and get going on Pope Francis' charge to set America's future trajectory,  rooted in Gospel values which includes the traditional family, in a way which serves the good of the entire human family.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Having a Daughter with Down Syndrome Changed Our Lives for the Better

This article is my response to Halle Levine's piece at Yahoo news. If I knew my daughter had Down syndrome I would have aborted her; all women should have that right.

Chrstina's sisters love to spend time with her.

During the trying days after September 11, 2001, my sense of hope was buoyed by a hidden secret; I was after two births and three miscarriages, at age 39 I was successfully carrying a baby. I was not about to have a pre-natal test shatter my joy, so I told my OB that diagnostic tests were out of the question. I would take whatever baby I was expecting and love him or her with all my heart. In those days, when thousands of people died unexpectedly, we all experienced a renewed reverence for life.
So, when after an emergency C-section was done at eight months due to an inadequate placenta, those in the OR were surprised to find my daughter Christina had Down syndrome. At only five pounds, she was tiny but feisty, scoring a 9.9 on the Apgar scale. No other disabilities were found besides a tiny 2mm hole in her heart, which by age six months, healed itself. So Christina was ready to come home from the hospital before I was, suffering from a C-section scar.
Coming home was a challenge, we had not finished our kitchen renovations due to her early arrival, so I stuffed towels under my bedroom door, plugged in a small fridge in my room and lived off cheese baskets and home cooked meals from friends for two months while I figured out how to nurse a baby with Down syndrome. A bigger challenge, I discovered, was helping my family members adjust to Christina’s diagnosis. From denial to fleeing in outright fear, family members failed to support me. Fortunately I found support in my friends, my parish, and the Early Intervention professionals who frequented my home. Christina soon became the heart of our home. Family members who saw her as something to pity or fear were won over by her toothless grin when she saw them; she became a daddy’s girl, and her grandfather held her hands as she practiced walking across the living room.
School was another matter. Long Island schools do not accept lower functioning children with Down syndrome and Christina’s toileting skills were not advanced enough to be admitted in the local elementary school.  I was not pleased with the inferior facilities offered for those children with special needs, so we picked up and moved to Connecticut where there is full inclusion by law. Soon Christina was taking the morning bus to Kindergarten in rural Eastern CT. She became famous with her peers; everyone in the school knew Christina’s name and she gleefully waved back as they greeted her in school.  I couldn’t be happier, she was reading simple sentences and had wonderful teachers, therapists and paraprofessionals who motivated her, enjoyed her personality and even missed her during vacations.
Homeschooling Christina was easier than I expected.
When I learned about the high rate of abortion following a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, I was devastated and wanted to encourage other parents that raising a child with Down syndrome was not overwhelming.   My daughter and I completed a video about her life, and I blogged about everyday life with Christina. In 2011, I published a book of stories from parents who, like me, never expected a child with special needs; yet found them to be their greatest blessing. I met with scientists, the media and members of Congress, while touring the country giving talks about life with Christina and Down syndrome in general. Accustomed to being a classroom teacher, I had vastly expanded my audience. My lesson was simple; if you abandon your previous expectations and allow your child with special needs to transform you, you will be amazed at the result. In 2011 a survey published by Dr. Brian Skotko in the American Journal of Medical Genetics found .. . that among siblings ages 12 and older, 97 percent expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88 percent were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome. A third study evaluating how adults with Down syndrome felt about themselves reports 99 percent responded they were happy with their lives, 97 percent liked who they are, and 96 percent liked how they looked.

My own older daughters agree with that, both of them chose careers in nursing after being inspired by watching such professionals help their sister.
Just as I became known as a voice of encouragement for those raising a child with Down syndrome, a major challenge emerged in our journey. In 2012, Christina’s speech development began to stall. Her physician recommended that she receive more intensive instruction and the Special Ed Director suggested that she leave inclusion for a full day in a self-contained classroom. It was a tragic mistake; Chrissy hated the restrictive environment and missed her friends. Her overtures to the children in the program, which was designed for children with autism, were largely rebuffed, and she was constantly being trained to reign in her attempts to gain attention by touching others and their belongings. This began two years of conflict between us as I spent hours every day, often with professional help in my home, convincing her to attend school.  I had a dozen professional evaluations done to prove that she needed to be placed in another program outside the school, and retained an attorney to convince the school, but they would not consider it.
 The three psychologists who evaluated her were divided about whether she had a secondary diagnosis of autism, yet the Applied Behavioral Analysis program at her school, which is often recommended for such children, was not meeting her needs. Child Protective Services was called by the district twice because of her spotty attendance, and in both cases, the CPS worker was outraged that she was being denied a proper school placement, and tried to help us advocate for her. In December of 2013, I withdrew Christina to homeschool her.
Being at home with Christina without fighting with her over attending school was a huge relief. We enjoyed one another’s company again. We took trips to local parks, met with homeschooling groups, counted math manipulatives, enjoyed Montessori activities, practiced her writing, did aqua therapy in a local pool, and frequented the library to read stories together. We found a speech therapist who believed in her ability to speak and she made slow but steady progress (the Special Ed Director said, at age ten, that Christina would never speak).  We found an Occupational Therapist who helped her start to overcome her sensory integration disorder which was the cause of much of her attention-seeking behaviors. We are currently working with a behaviorist who helps us help Christina improve her social skills. A state grant provides us with in home support for us so I can have a day off, attend and out of town conference or just catch up with my writing. I am working on a novel whose main character has Down syndrome.
Homeschooling was not new to me, I had schooled Christina’s sisters, but writing, speaking, and advocacy were new fields of endeavor. I have learned more about the exciting research like this new breakthrough
and I have scores of new friends who, like me, never anticipated how our children would turn our lives upside down; for the better.
I hope that there comes a day in which all parents will be able to overcome the anxiety which often accompanies a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, and they are free to welcome their child with open arms, but until then, I support a banning discriminating against an unborn child with Down syndrome. Aborting because of a baby’s physical characteristics is equivalent to aborting a baby girl because she is not a boy. We can help parents who are feeling overwhelmed with a baby with Down syndrome find support, resources, or in truly difficult cases, an adoptive family. What we can’t do is undo the tragic decision to end a life ended because of fear of the unknown and bring back the wonderful potential hidden behind an extra chromosome.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sadness-Tinged Joy about the Special Olympics

Christina participating in swimming at our local pool. 
The closing ceremonies of the Special Olympics in Los Angeles was marked by joyful celebration. There is certainly a lot to celebrate since President George HW Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law twenty five years  ago. In the years before the law was passed, many Americans with disabilities were left to languish in institutions without proper educational, social, health care or athletic opportunities. So much ground has been covered, its as if society has been transformed. But an important piece has been overlooked, and that's why I can't find joy in my heart for the 25th Anniversary of the ADA.

What is it?
If you watched any of the scant news  coverage of the four undercover Planned Parenthood videos, you will understand my pain. Over 54 million Americans lost their lives in abortion since its legalization and too many of those were aborted specifically because they had disabilities.
Listen to the heartbreaking reasons why parents aborted their child after a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
  • I just couldn’t do it, couldn’t be that kind of mother who accepts everything, loves her kid no matter what. What about me? Maybe it’s selfish, I don’t know. But I just didn’t want all those problems in my life. (138)
  • It’s devastating, it’s a waste, all the love that goes into kids like that. (134)

Instead of focusing on research to improve the lives of people with disabilities by helping them overcome memory loss or difficulties in communicating, most of the research money was spent in developing earlier, less invasive methods of prenatal testing.(as many as 90% of parents will abort their child with Down syndrome after receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome.)
Introduced in 2011, new NIPT Non Invasive Prenatal Screening methods gave parents a very reliable result at only 10-12 weeks of pregnancy using only a maternal blood sample. Further testing such as amnio is needed to make the diagnosis of Down syndrome, yet its feared that the abortion rate for babies with Down syndrome climbed as much as 34%. as a result of this new technology.

Talk about a step backward!

In a cruel irony, life has never been better for those with Down syndrome around the world, Opportunities and achievements are breaking all barriers, people with Down syndrome grace our TV and movie screens, college campuses and fashion magazines. Yet we still don't see a significant downward trend in abortion for such babies.

Why hasn't the abortion rate for Down syndrome gone down?
 Is it that we as parents haven't reached out enough?
Since 2002 when my daughter Christina was born, opportunities for sharing our daily life as famlies with members with Down syndrome have blossomed online and in print media. Gone are the days when Googling Down syndrome led to only dreadful results. But we have a long long way to go until babies with Down syndrome are welcomed as joyfully as their typical counterparts. The late term abortions discussed in the Planned Parenthood videos are too often those babies whose disability turned eager anticipation to a challenge which parents are rejecting after prenatal testing.

Is that all?
But the threat doesn't; end once our precious children are born. They are overwhelmingly happy wiht their lives and most families agree that they are great assets to their families and the community. But the power brokers do not agree. They want to deny them full access to health care.

As Betsy McCaughey said in her Op Ed in the New York Post. 
Take heed, ObamaCare architect Ezekiel Emanuel. He’s argued that organ transplants and other scarce resources shouldn’t go to the mentally disabled, who are “irreversiblly prevented” from contributing fully to society. Fortunately, 87 percent of Americans disagree with that cold calculation, according to the new national poll, and want the intellectually disabled to have accessto organ transplants.
It’s a sign that Americans are becoming ready to embrace the humanity of the intellectually disabled. 
Let us work and pray for the day when we can say without irony that people are fully included in our society no matter what their score on an IQ test.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Coming Battle: We will reclaim marriage

Half a million attend the March for Life  each year.
If you are like me, you are in mourning. Not merely for a battle lost, but for the thousands of misguided souls who may be lost due to the Supreme Court's misguided attempts at fairness.

The legalization of same sex marriage is not a sudden event, however, judging by the reactions on both sides, it is certainly a seismic cultural shift, akin to Roe v Wade or the Plessy v Ferguson decision (legalized segregation).  But it should not come as a shock to observant people of faith.  Society has been sliding downwards into the abyss for five decades, and the shudder you felt at the decision is society's morality hitting bottom. Or so we hope.

The legal recognition of homosexual marriage is the fruit of a degradation of marriage which began in the 1960's when the contraceptive pill drove a sword into the heart of marriage. Codified in Griswold v Connecticut, which legalized contraception use in marriage (yes, it was once unthinkable and banned by all major religious groups) the pill slowly sucked the life out of traditional marriage. Rather than assuming that children were at the heart of marriage, they are an option for couples pursuing careers, travel and the home of their dreams. My next door neighbors on Long Island told me that they were getting a dog instead of a second child, to enable the husband to buy the boat of his dreams. The grandparents actually threw a baby shower for the puppy! Their lonely little guy used to gaze through the picket fence at my two girls playing in our yard. His father put up a six foot stockade  fence to stop him. When I sold purebred Labrador Retrievers, I quickly understood that I was cooperating in this childless culture. Many young couples would come to buy a dog to "practic being parents" and hold off the urge to procreate. I could see the seething resentment in the women's eyes. I stopped breeding dogs and had another baby.

Procreation hgas been cut out of the very essence of marriage, and what remained of marriage's God-given meaning and purpose was left to wither in public opinion until it became a loose association of two adults in love. Add five decades of the promiscuity of the sexual revolution, aided by no-fault divorce, and we arrive at a society with a 40% illegitimacy rate, where millions of confused, suffering children search amid the emotional ruins of the once-strong family structure for the love of a father and mother. I taught in an inner city high school while I was engaged to be married. Not one of my students had ever met a person in their social circles who was married. We heterosexuals seem to have no use for marriage, other than some nostalgic image on a Hallmark card. Marriage was up for grabs.

Times change, so why not marriage?

If  companionship and not babies was the sole aim of marriage, and babies could be made in a laboratory (via IVF and surrogacy) by any one with the money to do so, what made marriage so unique that it could only be shared by one man and one woman?

The question became; 
 Why not grant homosexuals the right to enjoy such companionship and economic security? 
We allowed the same sex marriage lobby to frame the argument in  terms of rights for adults, forsaking the needs of children. We wanted to be seen as fair, loving, tolerant people.That is how public opinion went from 80% opposed to same sex marriage to 50% in favor in a few short years. The institution of marriage was on shaky ground indeed.

So when the question is asked "who is responsible for the Supreme Court's approval of same sex marriage?" the only honest answer is; I am. I did not fight hard enough against contraception, no fault divorce and for a traditional understanding of marriage. I did not feel badly enough for the children who suffer from the lack of traditional family structure to be their advocate even when study after study confirmed this. I did not fast and pray enough for God to change the hearts of all Americans who stood idly by, consumed with their entertainment devices,  and allowed the family go on life support. It was too lonely a battle to defend traditional marriage amid the disdain and mockery of my family and associates. Hollywood, academia, many churches and politicians had given way, so I did as well. I was censored on Facebook for a few days for posting an article on same sex marriage so I stopped posting on it. There were other battles to be fought, I thought. I was wrong. Nothing is more important than retaining our right to not only worship freely but to live out our faith in the public square.
I attended a lecture. by a Little Sister of the Poor on the history of religious freedom in America. The right to worship as Catholics was not ensured in the Colonies, but thanks to fair minded James Madison the father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, we have it in our most fundamental document. But then the majority in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision found a right to homosexual marrige in the Fourteenth Amendment which did not exist. So much for the Constitutional protections!

But here's the good news. The battle is far from lost. Neither Roe v Wade or Plessy v Ferguson settled the matters they proposed to decide.  They created movements which caused disruption in society until the wrongs they caused were rectified (the abortion industry is losing steam at this time). It took commitment, courage and faith to overcome the degradation of segregation. It will take perhaps even more effort to help homosexuals find love and healing within the arms of God and to restore the true meaning and beauty of God's plan for marriage for heterosexuals who lost faith in it.
And thanks to many public declarations where Christians of all denominations and races have expressed solidarity with traditional marriage, we will find new friends at our side as we work to rebuild what has been torn down.

Good people of faith forged many alliances on the freedom rides, on the sidewalks of abortion mills and in the streets of our nation's capital. We expect to be joined by fellow believers who did not believe us when we warned that the family was in trouble, as our freedom of conscience is drastically eroded. It will take sacrifice and pain, real pain. Will it take the arrest of our local clergyman for refusing to perform a same sex wedding to wake us up? Perhaps.

But the awakening is coming. The darkness of our culture of relativism has become sufficiently dark for the light of Christ to stand in stark relief.
As Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero, a  martyr for the truth in El Salvador said,

"The Church must suffer for speaking the truth. For pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and  therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say, 'You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted."
Please join me in praying, fasting, and bearing joyful witness to the love of Christ expressed in your marriage. We will join the battle this time. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Have Scientists Unlocked the Mystery of Cognitive Decline in Down syndrdome?

 This is the most exciting research development for my daughter with Down syndrome and significant cognitive decline a long time! Read here. -

Down syndrome, the most common chromosomal disorder in America, can be complicated by significant deterioration in movement, speech and functioning in some adolescents and young adults. Physicians previously attributed this regression to depression or early-onset Alzheimer's, and it has not responded to treatments. Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has found that Catatonia, a treatable disorder, may cause regression in patients with Down syndrome. Individuals with regressive Down syndrome who were treated for Catatonia showed improvement, the researcher found.
"Our findings are important for young people with Down syndrome, autism and probably other neurodevelopmental disorders," said Judith Miles, professor emerita in the MU School of Medicine and researcher with the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. "Until recently, Catatonia was felt to be just a complication of schizophrenia; however, it now is known that Catatonia is a common neuropsychiatric disorder that complicates many types of brain disorders. Our recognition that Catatonia occurs in young adults and adolescents with Down syndrome means these individuals who before were relegated to lives of incapacity may now receive treatments that restore them to their usual levels of activity."
Those who care for individuals with regressive Down syndrome describe them as "zombie-like," Miles said. Symptoms of regression can include difficulty moving and sleeping, inability to perform activities of daily living, no longer talking, and a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
In her study, Miles followed the cases of four patients with Down syndrome who were diagnosed with Catatonia. Each patient improved when treated with a combination of benzodiazepine, a drug commonly used to treat anxiety, and electroconvulsive therapy.
"The wonderful thing is that Catatonia is a treatable cause of regression," said Miles, a pediatrician who led the Down syndrome clinic at MU for many years. "When we treat these patients who otherwise would be condemned to stupor-like existences, they can return to their baseline level of functioning. So, not only do we have a diagnosis, but we also have a treatment that is backed by years of successful use by psychiatrists. We're also beginning to know how it works to correct imbalances in neurotransmitters in patients."
Miles said she wants families, physicians, teachers and therapists to know that Catatonia causes regression in Down syndrome so individuals with the disorder can receive accurate diagnosis and treatment. But, more research is needed to better understand Catatonia, identify its prevalence among patients with Down syndrome and improve treatment, Miles said.
"I consider it a public health issue to determine how often Catatonia occurs in patients with Down syndrome," Miles said. "We don't know what predisposes kids with Down syndrome to develop Catatonia. However, one of the things we do know is that individuals with Down syndrome tend to acquire autoimmune disorders, so we're looking into autoimmune function and its possible connection to Catatonia."

They may have finally unlocked the reason why Christina had a sharp cognitive decline in her pre-adolescent years.  I spoke with Dr. Miles today and she will be presenting on a medical panel at the National Down Syndrome Congress in Phoenix next month. She is touch with Dr. Brian Skotko and hopefully, her protocol of anti-anxiety medication which seems to help those in catatonia 'wake up' to their surroundings and in some cases, return to baseline levels of functioning will be made available to those patients like my daughter for whom the medical community has had no clear answers.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dear Sears, Thank you for Helping My Daughter with Down Syndrome

Chrissy shopping in our local drugstore.
My 13 year old daughter Chrissy with Down syndrome has a support person to help her reshape her behaviors so that she can get along better in everyday situations. Christina has autism as well as Down syndrome, making her more impulsive and stubborn, and has a very limited vocabulary which is a recipe for disaster in public. Most times I leave her home when I shop. On Friday we took a risk, and took Chrissy to Sears. Ana, her helper, and I were looking for bathing suits at Lands End so we look good when we take her to the pool, her favorite activity.
Christina was not ready for Sears. At first she ran in the door of the store and sat in the waiting area for Miracle Ear. She refused to budge despite harried looks from the lady in the office. I told Ana to go and shop while I kept Christina company there. As soon as Ana left, Chrissy bolted after her, and I tried to shop with her in the costume jewelry section. She is 13 and was fascinated by the bling of the sale watches. I was not quick enough to keep her from picking up a Hello Kitty watch in a plastic case. To my horror, she pitched over the railing of the escalator, where it glanced by the head of a manager and smashed to pieces on the escalator, creating a scene. Several judgmental onlookers were making my face turn red, as I yelled down the manager, "I'm sorry! My daughter doesn't understand what she did was dangerous!" He cleaned up the mess without making a huge deal about it. I continued on my way, trying to ignore the diapproving stare of a perfectly coiffed blonde mother of a perfectly dressed blonde  daughter of five. The mom and the little girl scowled at me, lifted their noses in the air and turned on their heels as if pleased to have let me know what they think of such behavior. My face burned red and I started to sweat. Ouch!
I could not find Ana in Lands End and so Christina bolted out of Sears to the mall where I gently helped her to the carpet. She cried and cried wanting to run top speed through the mall. and I kept helping her to the ground explaining that we were waiting for Ana. Onlookers saw her sobbing in frustration and I was worried they would call the authorities. Finally Ana appeared in Lands End and we joined her on the comfy couches provided for customers.
Two friendly salespersons provided Chrissy with coloring books to keep her busy while I tried on a bathing suit. When I emerged to buy the suit, Ana and Chrissy were gone. No one knew where they went and I had no cell phone (a certain young lady likes to hide it!) to contact Ana. Her cell phone had no power anyway, so I ran around and around the store and the mall searching for them to no avail. Finally one of the nice salesladies who gave Chrissy the crayons saw my distress and offered to page Ana.
There was no answer. More panic. Suddenly the saleslady got a cell phone call. The other saleslady was going home for the day and spotted Chrissy and Ana in the parking lot. I thanked her profusely and gratefully left. My hands were shaking and my vision was blurry from the high blood pressure induced by my panic. We went to eat pizza and discuss why Mommy was worried about Chrissy and how to behave next time. Trust me, the next time is a LONG time away!
The next day I came without Christina and sought a manager, I told her this story, offering to pay for the $15.00 watch. She said it wasn't necessary, and was pleased to hear of her sales clerk's efforts to help me with my daughter. She agreed that the salesclerk deserved props for her out of the ordinary consideration for a needy customer.  I am very grateful to Sears for hiring three employees who care about the dignity and the safety of customers with special needs. Its easy to judge Christina as the blonde lady did, as just a spoiled brat who needs discipline, and I can't claim perfect parenting, however that is not taking her complex challenges into consideration. Instead of judgement, a  little compassion goes a long way to make my and Christina's life easier.

Someday Christina and I will walk through the mall like I do with her older sisters, calmly shopping and enjoying one another's company. But it will take time and patience, and its a far off goal at this point. In the meanwhile, its good to know some of Sear's employees have my back.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My experience at a Hillary Clinton Rally

Since I don't see much difference between the 'new' Hillary Clinton listening tour today and the one I witnessed during her Senate run in 2000 I thought I'd share my reflections at Patheos. Even the Scooby Doo van is the same.

Monday, April 6, 2015

My Response to Changing the Conversation

Christina, age 13, helping make her own lunch
The discussion of pre natal testing and abortion as usual is a very emotional one. I decided to wade in. Here the original post. The blogger at For Elisium has it right, she says, 
"The new generation of kids with Down syndrome is the new normal, the new majority. Unfortunately, the people at the front lines don’t seem to know it yet. In fact, people with Down syndrome have scarcely been given a chance in recent history. First they were institutionalized, just as they are still in many countries. But in the U.S., when parents began questioning that practice in the 60s and 70s and insisted on bringing their babies home and insisted that they should be able to go to school, the laws started to change. This could have made an incredible difference for new babies born with Down syndrome, but the new realization came at the same time as two strikes against Down syndrome: Roe vs. Wade and prenatal testing.
Laws aren’t going to change–got it. Acknowledged. Not going to change anyone’s mind on abortion. Check."
The part which got me fired up is the comments from moms who aborted their babies with Down syndrome and are suffering at Baby Center. This is a sick culture which asks moms to fall on the swords of their consciences to save their babies from a life full of suffering. This type of deception, and self-delusional violence makes me angry.  Women are wounded, babies are dead, and the world is deprived the delight of these beautiful human beings. What may I ask , are we accomplishing besides some sick type of eugenics? Here is my comment on the blog.

The doctors are either ignorant of the prospects of living a fulfilling life with Down syndrome OR they know the truth, and are deliberately telling terrifying stories to scare moms into abortion. They may think they are sparing the mothers, the babies and society but as a society, we are past that type of “doctor knows best” paternalism.
The moms are kidding themselves if they think that by abortion they have saved the baby pain (do some research about how much pain unborn babies feel, particularly later in pregnancy) or that it is less selfish. We can not spare our children pain in this life, we can only accompany them through it. That is our job as mothers, not to make a decision your very heart screams to you is wrong.
My 13 year old Christina does not have a poor quality of life because she is very limited intellectually and has little language. Her life is very similar to my typical daughters. She is happy and sad, excited and frustrated like all teenagers. She is embarrassed by her mom, is a Daddy’s girl, has her favorite TV shows, loves attention when she gets dressed up and has her favorite pop songs.
Who am I to decide her life is not worth living? If I even had the unmitigated gall to suggest she would be better of dead, she would look at me as if I were crazy. Christina loves her family, her pets, chocolate, swimming and most of all she loves life. Her life.
I am a Catholic and look forward to seeing her fully functional in Heaven, singing God’s praises with full voice, and doing cartwheels in the Elysian fields. When her time comes. But I have NO right to decide when that time is. God gave her a life filled with purpose and she must live out her destiny. My older daughters my husband and I were chosen to guide, protect and learn from her in our mutual journey. That is what a family does. We grow as a unit, crying, laughing, working and loving one another with all our faults.
And, God willing, we will celebrate that eternal Alleluia in Heaven together. And I suspect my daughter has seen Heaven a bit more clearly than we have, as she does not judge her neighbors by their abilities. She looks at them as friends.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review of "Joyful Witness: How to be an Extraordinary Catholic"

by Randy Hain

Americans know a lot about movie stars, musicians and athletes. Often, we know more than we want to know about their lifestyles and relationships. How this type of bad example influences us and our children is well known, yet most of us feel helpless to counteract it. It takes concentrated effort to find good examples to follow, especially if you are attempting to be a good Catholic. Good Catholics rarely make headlines these days. Here is a book which attempts to make edifying examples of holy Catholic lives easier to find. 

Some Catholics think that today’s saints-in-the-making are humorless old fogeys dressed in  grey who never step outside of church. By compiling stories of ordinary Catholics leading extraordinary lives of irresistible joy, Randy Hain, the creator of the website, The Integrated Catholic Life, has done Catholics a great service. He dispels that stereotype by relating thirteen stories about irresistibly joyful Catholic people whom he has met in his daily life, with a vibrancy that leaves the reader feeling inspired, not overwhelmed. 

I read one chapter a day in my prayer time and used the helpful series of questions at the end of each chapter as a tool to challenge myself to conform my own actions and attitudes to that person’s example. Hain makes sure to emphasize the useful advice from each of his story subjects. Advice such as “Receive the Eucharist daily," "be humble," " we must support and pray for our priests," "we must properly catechize ourselves,” are highlighted in bold print and leave no doubt as to why he chose these people as examples to help us in our own walk of faith. Each chapter is headed by a Scripture verse or a paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church which epitomizes that person's life. The people whose stories grace this book range in age from pillars-of-the-Church great-grandmas to exuberant youth leaders, from humble home-schooling moms of many, to prominent successful businessmen. No one is exempt from living a life of joyful witness to Christ according to Randy Hain, and he gives you the education and inspiration to make the journey in your own life. 

Living in the highly secular Northeast, I enjoyed the example of Andy LaVallee, a successful bread distributor in Boston. After a life confession and re dedication of his life to Our Lady while on pilgrimage with Jim Caviezel, Andy began to learn and apply Catholic social teaching to his employees with amazing results. He was inspired by reading of Pope Emeritus Benedict's encyclical, Charity in Truth. Andy says, "The Holy Father was asking us to seek hybrid programs that could develop and help people and business enterprises. This encyclical provided the motivation for my company to transform our biggest department, our distribution program, into something more devout." He changed the title of the job from "driver" to "guardian" and gave the employees who dealt directly with the customers a bigger responsibility, teaching them the concept of servant leadership, encouraging to grow their routes by giving them a share in the new business they created. It lead to increased profits both for the drivers who felt more invested in their work and the company. Another time, after prayer and reflection, Andy rehired an employee whom he fired for insubordination. Andy accompanied this unprecedented action with a memo on forgiveness so that, "my entire company would understand the power of this virtue." Andy's attendance at daily Mass, weekly confession and adoration is the power behind his unique brand of leadership. He shares his story with other business leaders and also with fellow Catholics. 

Joyful Witness would make an excellent book for a study group for Catholics who want to support one another as they grow in faith or for RCIA groups who want to give practical examples to new Catholics of what living a fully Catholic life really means. Blessed Mother Teresa gave away the secret of her success when she said, "Joy is a net with which to catch souls." I give Joyful Witness an enthusiastic thumbs up!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Praying before Battle

Rarely does a Scripture leap out at me as powerfully as today's impromptu reading of Matthew's account of the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Matt 26:45, it reads, "So leaving them again, He went way, and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them. 'Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?' Berhold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is betrayed unto the hands of sinnners. Rise, let us be going see my betrayer is at hand.'"46
Three calls to prayer at Gethsemane to prepare for the Passion were ignored by Peter and the disciples, followed by Peter denying Christ three times and all but John abandoning Him on the Cross. After Jesus is in the Tomb three days, and appears to Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, cooking fish over a charcoal fire, He asks Peter three times, "Peter, do you love me more than these?" when Peter answers Yes each time, Jesus asks him to "feed my sheep."
I never knew about the three times Jesus returned to ask Peter and the other disciples to pray. It struck me today that Jesus has asked me to pray and prepare for battle many times and that I have failed to pray and thus failed to have the strength I required to defend Him in the public square. Now I remembered that tomorrow the hearing for Physician Assisted Suicide is being held in the Connecticut Legislature Building,  and though I can't get a babysitter, I have to try harder and give it to Jesus, to pray and prepare and leave the result to Him.
This time I am saying "Here I am Lord."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Her favorite things; my daughter with Down syndrome rates Lady Gaga

Christina is a young lady who knows what she wants. You'll discover that if you dare to suggest a movie or song that she doesn't want  at that particular moment. You may see a DVD go sailing past you  as she makes her rejection known.

But it doesn't really matter that Christina is so opinionated.

She has excellent, wholesome taste because I screen everything she sees. That is the beauty of homeschooling a daughter with Down syndrome. You can create the bubble of innocence around her that will preserve her purity and her sense of security that the world is a good place. And if you are careful, she won't get through the cracks to the  outside world, as her older sisters fought so hard to do. It makes me wonder how long I can keep her world a happy collection of old musicals, saint videos,  and princess movies.

Watching the Academy Awards downstairs with 17 year old Bella (yes we switched off the underwear show!) while Christina was watching "The Sound of Music" upstairs seemed a safe plan. When Christina's movie ended, she came downstairs, and I kept the remote in hand when she  began to watch the Awards with us.
I tensed up when Lady Gaga appeared on stage to sing a 50th anniversary tribute to our favorite musical film, "The Sound of Music." She looked innocent enough (barring the tattoos) in a sparkly white ball gown reminiscent of  Glenda, the Good Witch in "The Wizard of Oz." Her hair hung in silver curls, and her voice was sweet. I expected the dress to be ripped off, revealing a horrible red get up (she did sport a gaudy pair of dish washing gloves on the red carpet)  in mockery of the film's Catholic theme.

My cynicism was gradually replaced by wonder at her talent (why on earth was she hiding such a gift?) and the enthusiastic response from the audience. Bella and I cheered through the last songs of the medley, like we do when the Yankees are nailing the Series, all the way to the grand slam when Julie Andrews came out and gave her a bear hug. Tears streaming down our faces, we gave her our own standing ovation!

"Well done," I said, "now go and sin no more!"

Christina was calmly enjoying the very same music she had just enjoyed upstairs.  To her, this near miracle of Lady Gaga using her impressive talents in a wholesome manner, was merely life as usual. She has no understanding of how debased the culture has become in those fifty years since I was a little girl seeing my first movie in a theater. Culturally speaking, Christina lives back  in 1965, when entertainment did not need as watchful a mother to shield her girls. Songs make her joyful, lifting her heart to God.
 May her favorite things ever protect my precious
child from this sick world we have created in the past 50 years.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What have we learned in 70 Years since the Auchwitz Liberation?

Over 70 years ago, the German government with the cooperation of doctors target a segment of the population for death based upon their genetic makeup and carry out a plan of extermination with the parents as participants, at times forcing the public to fund this  program.

 Hitler started the T4 Program which employed doctors of the Third Reich to target the handicapped and mentally ill for destruction. They were labelled 'useless eaters' who ate food which should be going to the soldiers.
 The doctors slated these people for death by putting a check next to their name on the roster. No violent raids and noisy arrests of the Concentration Camps, merely a simple check-mark by a physician, and that unfortunate person was shipped in the  busloads of so called "useless eaters" to killing centers for the first gas chambers.

 Eventually the German people began to wonder about the ashes which flowed from the crematoriums. The Church protested and then Hitler took the program underground and the disabled were starved, left to die of exposure or given a lethal injection, after which their families were informed by letter of their demise of some illness.

Not enough protest led to the Holocaust of millions we commemorate today.

We were not taught about the T4 Program in school. In fact only recently has a memorial been erected to the 200,000 victims of the Program. (See photo) Why the silence?  We say "never again" to this genocide 70 years afterwards but do we truly mean it?

Statistics on abortion for babies prenatally diagnosed with genetic anomalies like Down syndrome range between 75-92%. If its not government targeting a population, then someone surely is.

They are killed silently by doctors in medical institutions,  just as the children and adults in the T4 Program were killed by doctors in institutions. Many of the victims of the T4 Program were handed over to the state by their families ( a notable exception was the 14 cousin of Pope Benedict who had Down syndrome and was forcibly removed from his family in 1944 and died within the year).

Abortions of the disabled today are done with the mothers' consent.

The media and society at large are largely silent about this, ignoring well more than  half a million people who protest abortion every year in DC and around the nation. In the meantime,  we have found better and more efficient means to select babies with disabilities for abortion earlier in the pregnancy. A quarter of mothers whose baby was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome say that their doctor insisted that they abort their baby.

It gets even worse.

Medical doctors and self proclaimed bio-ethicists are even arguing for "Post-birth abortion" in case a 'useless eater' slips through the net. Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders suggests that pre-natal testing and abortion of babies with Down syndrome saves the government money.
Where have we heard that before?

Not even 20 years after the Holocaust, the US  government, with the cooperation of doctors target a segment of the population for death based upon their genetic makeup and carry out a plan of extermination with the parents as participants, at times forcing the public to fund this  program.

We have learned nothing.  Shame on us!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let Your Light Shine Before Men

We went to Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston yesterday for my semi annual checkup. After receiving wonderful news from the surgeon who treated my ocular melanoma, my daughter Gabbi took me to lunch at a Thai restaurant in Boston's elegant shopping district.

We were surrounded by the artsy crowd from Berklee School of Music which was across the street. It reminded me of my college days in Manhattan, when I frequented the cafes of Greenwich Village. Only in those days, I cared about impressing that self-important crowd. Gabbi, a wise college senior, knows better. she just laughs at their pretensions and was shocked to see how much food they waste. Her mission work in Ecuador has given her a new perspective on our wasteful lifestyle in the West.

After lunch, we spent a few minutes at the feet of the King of the Universe at perpetual adoration at St Clement's Shrine. A dozen people of all ages and walks of life sat enveloped in prayer in that starkly beautiful, traditional brick church with a marvelous carving of angels around the Monstrance on the Altar. Traffic roared all around us but the absolute peace of being in the Real Presence was overwhelming. We soaked in grace like solar lamps, only to give it off later as we joined the Christmas shoppers on posh Newbury Street. 

At first we thought we blended in, after all we dressed up to come to the city, but soon we discovered that we stood out of the crowd, and that Jesus might have something to do with it. Two people spontaneously remarked on how much we looked a like, one was an effusively charming man who was sweeping the street, and said to Gabbi, "Young lady, I can see where you get your beauty from,  your mother." Another mother and daughter practically  tapped Gabbi on the shoulder asking directions to the Prudential building. We were happy to be able to give them, pointing to the sky where the building towered over us. Gabbi remarked, "Mom, there were a dozen people at the corner, I think she chose us because we looked approachable, I think its because of Adoration!"

That was not all. We were looking at an expensive handbag we couldn't afford in Fossil, and the salesman gushed over our less than skinny figures. "Thank you ladies for having healthy figures, so many women come in here looking like sticks!!" How did that gentleman (on the skinny side himself), know he could give such an unusual compliment without being rebuffed?

It seems that when you immerse yourself in Jesus, even for a moment,  you become irresistible to those who seek Him even if they do not know Him by name. It was a honor being His unwitting emissaries yesterday. May we always be mindful that we might be the only Gospel those people will ever read.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review of The American Catholic Almanac

The American Catholic Almanac: Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States
Image Books, NY
Emily Stimpson and Brian Burch

Back when political correctness was in its infancy, I was a Catholic student in public high school. My instructors seldom missed a chance to malign the Catholic Church for her so-called injustice, ignorance, and intolerance. Thanks to them, I learned a lot more outside that class than in it: I had a Jesuit priest in my local parish help me find information to refute those spurious claims. It took a lot of work and many books to find the information I needed. My teachers had an all-too-familiar agenda; to make Catholics ashamed to live their faith publicly.
 Since the seventies, this toxic agenda has spread throughout education, the media, the marketplace, and the government. Planned Parenthood has a new campaign which openly tries to slander politicians who support the culture of life, many of whom are faithful Catholics, as “unfit” for public office. We have seen Supreme Court Justices and politicians abandon their Catholic values and most Catholic institutions of higher educations’ course offerings and graduation speakers’ resumes would be scandalous to their founders. Where can the busy non-scholar who must be educated in these hostile environments find a reliable, readable source of information?
The American Catholic Almanac is a daily digest of stories about 365 Catholics who made an impression in American history from colonial times when being a Catholic was dangerous, to our majority Catholic Supreme Court. Not all of the people whose stories are told in the Almanac are as saintly as Venerable Pierre Toussaint. Some are well-known personages like President Andrew Jackson who credited his victory in the Battle of New Orleans to the prayers of Ursuline Nuns, or Mother Jones, the diminutive Irish Catholic widow who was an advocate for worker’s rights. Some are infamous Catholic Americans, such as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo who invented the excuse that, ‘I am personally opposed to abortion, but, as a Catholic politician, I cannot impose my personal beliefs on others.’
 Many of the personalities brought to life in the stirring tales are little-known Americans who served their countrymen with honor.  I was astounded at times at just how much America owes to loyal, patriotic, little-known Catholics.  I kept saying to myself, “Where was this book when I was in high school?” Even the sisters who taught me in Catholic school never mentioned the stunning breadth of the Catholic influence in creating this nation and making it the magnet for immigrants that it continues to be. You certainly won’t find it in a textbook written by secular publishers, and there are few Catholics who are well versed in this information. It is a precious legacy which merits a wide audience because it will be a game-changer when enough Catholics know just how much American owes Catholics for becoming the great nation she is. We will fearlessly take the lead in politics again, ready to answer our many critics, that yes, Catholicism belongs in the public square, for that is where it does our nation the most good.
Who should read this book? Homeschoolers, Catholic school teachers, public school teachers, students who face that daunting question; who should I write my report about? Grandparents who want to improve their minds, and their grandchildren who are often on the front lines of the culture wars. Politicians and pastors looking for gripping and often humorous stories for their public speaking. Did I leave anyone out?

This book is meant to be read only one story a day, but you will find yourself reading more. Add this pithy, well-written book of riveting stories to your daily prayer time, and you will find yourself inspired to go out and become the protagonist of the next great story of a Catholic who changed American history. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Letter from a Special Mother to the New Jersey Legislature on the Physician Assisted Suicide Bill

Thirteen years ago as the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground, I wept, but I did not despair. 
I had hope, for the future in those difficult times for I was carrying my third daughter.

 Christina was born in March of 2002 and we were thrilled. The fact that she was born with an extra 21st chromosome was not nearly as discouraging as losing thousands of Americans on 9/11. Life was a sign of hope, no matter how the person differs from our definition of 'normal.'

The second saddest day in my life was the day I discovered that not everyone welcomed my daughter into life. Two nurses in the hospital expressed regret that she was born and one offered me phone numbers to have her face "fixed" by a plastic surgeon. I was heartbroken by such cruelty from those whose lives are dedicated to alleviating suffering and saving lives. They made a value judgement that Christina's life was not worth living, and they assumed that I would agree. They never considered her a person with human rights. My daughter is full of life and optimism, she never met a person she didn't like, and everyone in the town we live in knows her name. She is the heart of our home and a gift to our community. 

My greatest fear is that one day, when I am no longer around to keep a close eye on the medical staff who treat my daughter, is that one of them will decide that preserving her life is too costly, that she has nothing to contribute to society, she is suffering too much, and would be better off dead. 

I have interviewed many mothers of children and adults with special needs and learned that this is far more often the case than the media will admit. Our children are often considered a burden to society and many healthcare professionals feel obligated to allow or help them to die.  That is why my friend and I founded KIDS(Keep Infants with Down Syndrome) to raise awareness of the beauty of life with extra chromosomes. 

We who love individuals with disabilities know how valuable they are to our families, you can read 34 such stories in my book(link in my signature). We know that allowing voluntary Physician Assisted Suicide will be one step closer to a society, like Belgium which has recently begun to euthanize children, the Netherlands where the elderly are afraid to go to a hospital,  or Denmark which bragged by 2030, there will be no more people with Down syndrome. 

America is the the nation who opens her arms to those in need from around the world, we must not become a place where you have to be perfect to survive. 

Leticia Velasquez
Co-founder of KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome)
author of "A Special Mother is Born".

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Other Ferguson

Reading of all the violent protests in Ferguson, MO, I was wondering why the word 'Ferguson' associated with racial violence was stirring memories in my heart. . . and suddenly I was brought back 21 years. To the Long Island Railroad Massacre

It was December 7,1993, my first as a mother. I was decorating our apartment to celebrate Las Posadas, a traditional Latino ceremony commemorating when Mary and St Joseph sought shelter in Bethlehem. The TV interrupted my joyful preparations with tragic news; 6 commuters on the Long Island Railroad stop near my home were dead, and 19 injured by a lone gunman, a Jamaican man named Colin Ferguson.
I will never forget how I felt when I learned that he had been expelled from Adelphi University which I had attended with him only three years before and that his intention was to start shooting on that campus, walking distance from the station where the shooting occurred. A relative of mine, who was Dean of Students at that time, had expelled him for threatening a professor. It was very likely that his name was on a list in Ferguson's pocket of intended victims. He lived on campus and could have been killed. 
This was not a case of a poor young man.  Ferguson was from a wealthy family, he had a car and driver pick him up from school. 
As soon as the news hit, Jesse Jackson announced his intentions to come to our community to quell any backlash against the black community. All of Ferguson's 25 victims had been white. It was said he had racial slurs written on a paper in his pocket, though he was never charged with a hate crime. When Rev. Jackson arrived, there was no violence, just a community in mourning, who invited him to conduct a memorial service in the cathedral. 

Besides a trial which sent Ferguson to prison for 315 years, the only lasting outcome from this tragedy was that a nurse named Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband and had her son injured by Ferguson, ran for Congress on a gun control platform and still represents that district. 

Why did our community act so differently in the case of Colin Ferguson than so many people in Ferguson Missouri? 

I think its because we had intact families who helped us soothe our broken hearts and solid faith communities to inspire us to forgive. We were not incited to anger by our clergy and community leaders: we were encouraged to forgive and heal. And so there are no secondary scars which arose from one man's hatred, no one else was hurt as is happening in Ferguson, MO. 
Colin Ferguson was put away to kill no more and we healed and went on with our lives, never forgetting those we lost bu honoring their memory with positive action. 
May the grace of God available to us in abundance this Advent help those who are angry about Ferguson MO to forgive, to heal and to rebuild their lives.