Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Fasting is Essential to the Christian Life: Review of "When You Fast"

There has been a debate in the Catholic social media this month. It seems that, in 2018,  Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day and many Catholics are wondering if their bishop will give them a dispensation to do away with fasting because of the holiday. 

The Catholic Church requires fasting on only two days of the liturgical calendar: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fridays in Lent we are only required to abstain from meat. This is often waived when St Patrick's Day falls on a Friday, so we Irish Catholics needn't forgo our corned beef and cabbage dinner. 

Its a sad fact that so much of our spiritual lives these days is focused on what we can get away with, doing the bare minimum to obey the Church's rules and squeak into Purgatory. We need to look at the spiritual life as a relationship with Christ who gave without measure, to the very shedding of His blood to conquer sin and give us eternal life. 

Fasting is one of the essentials in the Christian life, particularly in Lent, a season of purification and penance. It is certainly unpopular, as evidenced by the Valentine's Day discussion, but that's because we underestimate fasting's importance and power. We focus on what we are giving up, in a world where instant gratification is the only trusted source of joy. We do not realize what we are missing by overlooking fasting as an essential part of the path to God. 

Jesus understood fasting. After His Baptism in the Jordan, He fasted for forty days in the desert before beginning His public ministry. Jesus clearly expected His followers to do the same, saying, not if but when you fast. 

"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." Matt 6:16

Andy LaVallee discovered the power of fasting after his reversion to his faith while on pilgrimage to Medjugorje,  which he describes in detail in his book From the Hub to the Heart. Since then, he has fasted on bread and water,  twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays,  he has also seen the amazing power of fasting in his personal life. 

In When You Fast, LaVallee powerfully explains, using traditional Catholic teaching, Scriptures and personal testimony, that a relationship with Jesus contains the healing we are seeking and that fasting combined with prayer is the most powerful means of conversion for us and for the world.

Make this Lent a turning point in your spiritual life; be radically Biblical! 

Pray, read Scriptures, give alms and fast.

Meet Jesus your Savior in a new and life changing way by reading When You Fast. and make fasting a voluntary not obligatory, part of your Lent. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Call me a Troublemaker

I was raised by an Italian American attorney from New York City, so I am a fighter. That is, I can make a case. From my childhood when staying up for another hour meant giving Dad three good reasons to arguing that Mao's murderous purge of the Chinese people was an atrocity to my communist ninth grade teacher, I had to fight for my beliefs. 
Add forty years in the pro-life movement and you have me, two out of three daughters successfully launched from home education into a wonderful Catholic university. I thought my job was done, and I could rest on my laurels. I should have known better. God still has discussions yet to have. In love, the way we win over mothers heading for abortions at our pregnancy center. We have to win hearts while relentlessly insisting on God's truth. 
This is not just an argumentative nature, its a mission. I made so many mistakes in my youth, after being misled by Catholic school teachers, I vowed to help change the Catholic culture to turn our confused faithful towards God's truth. After all, I had found my way back into the fold. As St Francis said, "I have been all things unholy, if God can work through me, He can work through anyone."
Imagine my dismay when I learned that my daughters' wonderful Catholic university just fired a professor who after 11 years was outed for mocking purity and the pro-life movement. 
I was inclined to ignore it and move on, happy she was no longer there to corrupt young minds with her sneering at tradtional morality, but then I grew concenced that it took nearly a dozen years to realize that a woman who does not hide her disdain for Catholic morality on social media or in public appearances, was an anomaly in a passionattely Catholic university. 
So I asked the administration and got the boilterplate, cut and past answer, they are giving all the angry parents. 
Then I entered into the fray on facebook and faced an unexpected barrage of incensed academics who called me names (my favorite is pearl clutcher!)Woudl that I had pearls to clutch, I just hold on to my mom's Miraculous medal when things get rough as they did today!
The ugliness only spurred me on. I want to make the point over and over that Catholic education if it doesn't get us to heaven is worse than useless, it is dangerous. They are still calling me and those who agree with me names long into the night. 
See the discussion here. 
Catholics founded the university system while monks copied Plato and Aritotle, so calling traditional Catholics afraid of discussing ideas we do not agree with is futile. I simply want it to be a fair fight. No name calling (I think I refrained from that, if not, please forgive me). No rank pulling, no I'm not a PhD but I did do 60 graduate credits and ended up teaching adjunct at a college for nine years. 
So lets continue the discussion but first tell me why two of the world's most prominent academics, St John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were not afraid to defend Catholic morality and declare the Splendor of Truth. 
'They who, by a generous effort, make up their minds to obey, acquire great merit; for obedience by its sacrifices resembles martyrdom.'--St. Ignatius of Loyola~

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"A World Without Down's Syndrome" is a must see!

Don't miss Sally Phillips' extraordinary documentary on prenatal screening and abortion for Down syndrome called "A World Without Down's Syndrome"

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

You Don't Have to Be a Superhero Just Because You Have Down Syndrome!

In today’s society we are all about acceptance of diversity. We take great pains to show how well we accept others of different races, religions, and sexual preferences. We do this by holding social events, arts showcases, sporting events, and TV programs and even enforcing acceptance by law. I appreciate the culture of acceptance and how, sometimes, that acceptance extends to those of differing numbers of chromosomes. After birth of course. I’ve dedicated my advocacy to it for the past decade.
Most parents who love our kids with enhanced chromosomes, or Down syndrome, want to show the world how much they can achieve. They can finish high school, enter college, hold a job, participate in sports, open a business, design fashions, or become a model. It’s wonderful to cheer such high achievers on, and if you follow me on social media, you will enjoy their inspiring posts.
Yet, sometimes there is pain in constantly lauding the achievements of those with Down syndrome who defy society’s low expectations of them. Many of our kids do not break barriers, they are so busy struggling to overcome the numerous physical, mental and emotional challenges they face, they can just live day to day. We are sometimes afraid to share these challenges as we fear that a mother expecting a child who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, will read our post and choose to abort her baby. So we buck up, and cheer the others on, trying not to compare our child with the superstars on Facebook.
Christina, my daughter, celebrated her 15th birthday yesterday. In Latino culture, the quincinera, or 15 birthday is cause for a huge celebration, akin to the Sweet 16. It begins in church, then a reception like a wedding is held with the young lady in a pink ball gown, treated like a princess. We didn’t do the quincinera for our older daughters, but when my husband wanted to rent a room in a restaurant and invite over a dozen family members for our youngest daughter with Down syndrome, I considered it and then said, “No, for Christina, just having the entire family together at her favorite meal, and singing her happy birthday is a party!”
Christina lost much of her ability to speak when autism complicated her Down syndrome at age 11. She struggles in social situations, and has no friends outside our family. In public places like restaurants, the noise and crowded conditions become a source of stress and she reacts unpredictably. Once at an important dinner, she threw a fork over her shoulder into the crowd. Another time she threw a full bottle of soda at an unsuspecting diner (he responded with humor, “You missed me!”) but I was mortified. Restaurants are no place for our family to relax and enjoy a meal!
Does the fact that sharing such stories emphasizes the challenges of raising a daughter with Down syndrome hurt our efforts to lower the tragic (75-90%) abortion rate of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome? In a culture obsessed with success, and popularity, that is most likely the case, so most times I don’t tell the entire story of raising Christina. Just the happy parts. Her older sister came home from college for her birthday, and the light in Christina’s eyes told us how happy she was to be reunited as a family for her special day. Our family has a deeper appreciation of the gift we are to each other, thanks to her.
As people of life, we must rise above our culture of death. We must teach society that life is not worth living because of what we accomplish or how many likes our photos garner on social media.  It’s about the intrinsic worth of a human being, whether they can speak or not, make friends, finish school or even ride a bike. We are valuable because we are gifts of a good God who promised me in prayer when I had an inner voice tell me my unborn child had Down syndrome, “I want you to accept this child as a gift from my hand.”

Some of the most profound lessons in my life were taught by a young lady whom the world overlooks. I am stronger, more accepting,  and have the ability to live in the moment, thanks to Christina who seldom assembles an entire sentence, yet who has loved her family with a fierce love, that can’t help spilling over into the world, making it a bit less like The Apprentice, and a lot more like the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Christmas Offering

"It was all a waste of time!" I said to myself in desperation. "Christina is isolating herself from the other girls, we waited all year for Camp, only to have her sideline herself, becoming obsessed with nachos when she could be making new friends!"
I thought wistfully of Camp the previous year, when she and a group of girls left the bowling lane to work on a dance number in hat evening's talent show. I was so proud of my 13 year old daughter, to be relating to her peers like a normal teen. I took photos of her intently focusing as she learned the steps. Later at the talent show, Chrissy would suffer from stage fright and refuse to dance, but the fact that she had interacted so meaningfully with her peers was so significant, I didn't mind. 

Christina is no ordinary teenager. Born with Down syndrome, she was learning to speak slowly but surely in preschool and all her teachers had hope she'd be able to communicate. She was happy and popular in Kindergarten, making friends with her few words and every time I walked through the hall of her school, people I didn't know called her name and waved. We had great hopes for her future.

It had all come to a crashing halt when we discovered an anomaly in her spine. We had to restrict her risk taking on the playground; no more "follow-the-leader" up and down the play scape. We might as well have put a gag over her mouth. Christina was devastated that her principal means of feeling included was no longer available. She began to act out in strange new ways, and her speech virtually disappeared. She was removed from the inclusive classroom and put into an autism program, where she was miserable, and soon she resisted going to school. I spent two years forcing her to go to school, a feat which often took nearly the entire day, when I finally decided to withdraw her in fifth grade to home educate her. The stress of being in a bad school placement had taken its toll, she suffered from psoriasis which further deteriorated into psoriatic arthritis. Eventually she was diagnosed with autism in addition to Down syndrome.
At home she was able to receive intense therapy for sensory integration disorder which explained her strange, sensory seeking behaviors; lining up lego blocks, throwing her bottle of water, suddenly screaming at the top of her lungs at children to gain attention. We had a behaviorist help us develop a plan to minimize negative behaviors and help her accomplish successful events in the community such as a shopping trip. We took her for physical therapy to help her overcome her limitations due to arthritis and help ease the fight-or-flight reaction her body endured from her negative experiences. We tested her for food allergies and changed her diet accordingly. We were happy with this progress but she was still not able to relate to her peers, always alienating them by her odd behavior and lack of language. We tried over and over to integrate her into various groups with no success.
 It broke my heart.
So the annual Christmas party at Camp Care, held at her physical therapy office, stood out in our minds as the one chance for Christina to make friends. Two moms with daughters with Down syndrome, Chrissy's age, greeted me at the bowling alley but, despite our efforts, our daughters didn't communicate this year. Chrissy kept leaving the group to play alone, and I was very discouraged.

Later that evening, in the church basement, during the dinner to be followed by the talent show, Chrissy ran into the corner, overwhelmed by the strange place, refusing to interact with anyone. My husband had to take her out to her aunt's for awhile to calm her down. When she returned, she refused to eat,  overturning her plate on the floor. In response to the stress my back went into spasms, and during the talent show, I was in so much pain I could barely turn to watch the show.
The day had been an emotional roller coaster, my friend observed. I fought back tears.

Then, the Director's wife invited people who wanted to "offer their talents as a gift to others" to come and perform in the talent show. Chrissy's therapist tried to coax her to join a dance performance to no avail. "This year, Camp is going to be a total failure," I thought miserably.

The last performance was a virtuoso performance of "O Holy Night"by a gifted pianist. As the lights were dimmed and the Christmas lights twinkled, emphasizing the beauty of the Christmas carol. Suddenly, as if on cue, Christina stood and walked confidently to the stage.  She began to dance. lifting her arms like a ballerina, twirling slowly while quietly singing to the music with an expression of tranquil joy. She was completely absorbed as she danced, offering her gift of self-expression to the audience.
No more the lonely girl in the corner or the awkward teen who dumped her plate of food, Christina was the Christmas Angel, captivating her audience with poise and filling the auditorium with peace. Her father stood at her side, transfixed, and I felt tears of joy rolling down my cheeks.When she first reached the stage,  I had wondered if we should stop her from stealing the pianist's moment, but soon I realized that her performance was also a gift to the audience.
When she was done, she returned to her seat and the pianist, who is a music therapist. continued her dramatic rendition of "O Holy Night." This was perhaps the most dramatic accomplishment of her career, transforming an agitated young woman to a graceful ballerina who lit up the night with her inner radiance.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The World Turned Upside Down

When the British forces surrendered to the rebels after the Revolutionary War, they took out their frustrations, not by rioting, but by instructing the fife and drum corps to play "The World Turned Upside Down". Never had any colony rebelled successfully from the Mother Country, and it was quite a blow to the powerful monarchy to be beaten by a rag tag army of farmers. So much so that the British successfully invaded the US in the war of 1812 and burned down the White House in a failed attempt to get us back.
Thankfully President Madison's wife Dolly, saved the portrait of George Washington.

History has a habit of repeating itself.

The reason that imperious Hillary Clinton lost the election is exactly that, her attitude of privilege (she hasn't driven a car in 35 years and spent millions on crystal stemware for the State Department). She thought it was her turn to be president, and if you were not a deplorable or a redneck, you would understand that and get on board. After all, look at all the foreign dictators and terrorists who had already paid to play, betting on her future presidency. Surely the following groups would fall into line as they had for Obama; blacks. Latinos, college educated women, and union members.

She couldn't have been more wrong. Her canvassers, according to the WSJ often ran into voters who intended to vote for Trump and inadvertently motivated them to get to the polls. White working class voters who turned out for her husband were sick and tired of Obama's political correctness and bullying of those with traditional moral values, like the Little Sisters of the Poor. They were desperate thanks to their factories leaving the US and poor economic growth and Trump's railing against the system which caused their misery was just what they needed to turn out in record numbers and vote.(Michael Moore accurately depicted their rage in Trumpland)
The Dems thought they had it sewn up, and their relatives in the media and academia perpetuated the myth that the Queen must have her coronation. All the people in their liberal enclaves in New York, DC and Hollywood agreed and so did most of the pollsters.

They never saw it coming.

So, what happened to the people Hillary relied on? Trump convinced larger margins of blacks and Latinos to vote for him, Perhaps they finally grew cynical at the cyclical promises of Democrats who never really improve their lives. She lost union members like police, hurt by Black Lives Matter protesters, and laid off factory workers who were opposed to TPP (which she approved before she opposed it!) Fears of terrorists entering the country en masse and causing more carnage like Orlando and San Bernadino were more widespread than Hillary thought. Trump was speaking to their fears by promising to be Defender in Chief.
Even we college educated women turned out a bit more loyal to Trump (despite the best efforts of my public school teachers and university professors, I learned to think for myself in college, apparently I was not the only one)

And, my personal favorite, the sleeping giant, the traditional religous coation: Evangelicals and faithful Catholics who were galvanized by her extreme view on abortion. See my article on that Thank you Chris Wallace for making Hillary express her view that every abortion, until birth is to be legal and paid for by Christians! That was the last straw!

So, after all the dour faces on Fox News on election day, we were afraid to hope until around 10PM, when the New York Times reversed its prediction that Trump had a 20% chance of being elected to Hillary's 80% on election night, giving Trump an 80% then 91% chance, I knew that we were upending the tables in the temple. The impossible had happened. Trump was leading in electoral votes and Hillary was losing the election. The dam had indeed broken (thank you Pat Cadell for predicting this!)

Yet even at three AM Hillary seemed to be holding on to some hope that somewhere in Michigan (Detroit perhaps?) someone had found some misplaced ballots. She sent John Podesta to stall the election results till she could come up with a plan. ..
Then Pennysylvania fell to Trump. Was it the Amish? Evangelicals? Catholics? Yes, yes and yes, a coalition of the disaffected religious voters, poor and displaced workers brought down the corrupt and arrogant House of Clinton.Not ti mention this Catholic, college educated woman married to a Latino.

Here's to the revolution! Que viva!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mother Teresa did not Take Sides in the Pro-life/Social Justice Debate: She got Involved.

No one has seen as much poverty around the world at close range as Mother Teresa, who was declared a saint by Pope Francis. That is why she is a hero to the social justice movement. 
But she is also a hero of the pro-life movement, for such moments as the Washington DC prayer breakfast when, a stone’s throw from partial birth abortion ban vetoing President and Mrs. Clinton she said, “The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.” 

The scandal of the Catholic Church at this time is that those who say they seek social justice are often virulently opposed to any restriction of abortion. Too often, they identify with liberalism whose credo has adopted the erroneous belief that abortions liberate women from poverty and oppression. This is a tragic error with horrific consequences.
While it’s an established fact that the easiest way for a woman to live in poverty is to bear a child alone, having an abortion is not the solution to the abandonment of women and children by men. Abortion is a further exploitation of women. It negates their ability to be resourceful, strong, and determined. It expects them to be weak and dependent. It makes them victims along with their children. Women are the losers when society adopts abortion as a solution to social injustice.  I work in a Pregnancy Resource Center in the inner city. I see the pain caused by half a century of legalized abortion. Every single day.
Women come to us beaten down by life. They had mothers addicted to drugs, fathers who abandoned them, they were subjected to abuse, and every other tragedy a human being can suffer. Most do not have a high school education, and have spotty job histories. They have no financial resources, vague plans for providing for their families beyond dependency on social service, and abysmal self-esteem. They are classic targets for the abortion industry, who, coincidentally, has 80% of their facilities in minority neighborhoods. 
Their doctors, social workers, relatives, boyfriends, girlfriends and even complete strangers try to talk them into abortion. For their health. 

For their future. For the good of their born children.
But is it? 

Abortion leaves scars which millions of women suffer in silence. Physical scars, emotional scars and spiritual scars, according to the pro-choice filmmaker who produced the award-winning documentary “Hush.” The medical community, the research community and even non-profits have closed ranks around the abortion industry, leaving women without the knowledge of how abortion damages women. Millions suffer and die when this knowledge would have saved them. No one seems to care.
The poor minority women who comprise the majority of the clients I see, have everyone they know urging them to abort. Deep in their hearts, they want to give birth, but doubt their own resiliency to rise about the trauma of the past, and build a future for themselves. Their guilt over past abortions has often made them feel unworthy of motherhood. Statistics say that up to 60% of women who walk into the abortion clinic are feeling coerced. You call this liberation? Where is the justice?
What does it take to give them the courage they need to give life to their children? To restore their hope? Nothing less than our love. The love that Mother Teresa had for each and every soul she helped: the love of Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor. It wasn’t a social program, or even a movement, she started, it was personal. She served Jesus in each of them, one at a time.
We who help these women know that, once they reconcile with God,  they find the strength to do what is right. In our office, we accompany them; we cry, we pray, we make plans for a future. A future of hope, where naysayers in their lives are drowned out by their song of triumph. Where the cry of a newborn son or daughter is the most inspiring sound on earth.

That is social justice. But it comes at a cost. We can’t just sit by with idle platitudes or leave our sisters in Christ to the government. 
We have to open our hearts, and risk shedding a few tears.

When we love as Mother Teresa did, we will spend our time helping a mother believe in her God-given gift of motherhood. Instead of trying to “prevent unwanted children” by abortion, we will remind her how infinitely precious she and her child are to God. We will help her value herself so highly that she demands nothing less than a lifelong commitment from the man who will share her bed. We will give her hope that her children will have a father who is there, even if hers wasn’t. We will share God’s amazing plan for her family until she adopts it as her own.

That, my fellow Catholics, is social justice. This is how we rebuild our broken families, and blighted communities. By rebuilding women, one by one. As St Teresa of Calcutta did. As Jesus did for St Mary Magdalen and the woman at the well. It’s a lot easier to get rid of “the problem” by blaming it on the children. But it seems, that the real problem is our own poverty of love.
So let's put down the signs, roll up our sleeves and work together to love the poor as our sisters and brothers. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

I received a letter from Mother Teresa which changed my life

In 1990, I was a single, twenty seven year old woman working with Latin American immigrants on Long Island. I was also learning Spanish, and  I thought of going to a Spanish school in Antigua GAfter a day spent with some of the happiest and poorest women I have ever met, I came away understanding Mother’s saying, “Only in Heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.” uatemala. A thought came to mind, “Mother Teresa has a house in Guatemala City. Maybe I could volunteer there after the course”.

I had seen the film “Mother Teresa” by the Petrie Sisters and it impressed me deeply. I loved the scene where Mother visits Guatemala to open a home despite the bureaucracy of the government. I worked for a social worker for Catholic Charities, fighting just such a bureaucracy in New York. A system which left the mentally ill out in the streets in the name of deinstitutionalization. I loved how Mother ignored the officials’ attempts to obfuscate her mission to help the people they themselves had failed to help out of dire poverty. She opened the home in spite of them and spread the joy of Christ through her sisters.  She was my social justice heroine!

The letter came in an ordinary envelope, typed by an old manual typewriter. But the postmark gave it away, it was from Mother Teresa! She did not want me to go to Guatemala, she told me that there are many people who speak Spanish in the Bronx. Classic Mother Teresa, “love begins at home.” She gave me the phone number and promised to look for me when she came to New York. So I called the sisters, and made a date to visit, early on a Saturday morning. No one says “no” to Mother Teresa.
Leaving my car parked in the early morning in the Fort Apache area of the South Bronx, I was approached by two police officers on foot, who asked me, “Hey lady, where are you going? Don’t you know it’s dangerous here?” Despite my best efforts, I obviously didn’t blend into the neighborhood. I answered merely, “Mother Teresa.” They nodded. Now my presence made sense.

After a crowed Mass in the simple chapel where participants knelt on the carpeted floor, I was greeted, given breakfast and a tour. A tiny two floor house with a large bedroom filled by dozens of simple cots, and a single mirrorless bathroom, and a large kitchen comprised the living quarters of the Missionaries of Charity.

I recognized some of the sisters from the movie, and the effervescent joy they displayed in the film was even more evident in person. They giggled like girls on a sleepover!  Living in these simple, cramped quarters did not dampen their enthusiasm for service of others and love for Jesus in the poorest of the poor. They prayed the Rosary while cleaning windows in the soup kitchen next door. I helped by chopping donated vegetables for the biggest soup pot I had ever seen, all the while learning their names in Spanish, I was to run errands with two of the sisters. We were to pick up poor little old ladies to attend the wedding Mass of a doctor who volunteered for the sisters, and invited two coach busloads of the poor he had served to his wedding. Just like the wedding feast in the Gospel.

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14 NASB

My little silver Honda could have been a royal coach, considering the enthusiastic waves directed at it as I drove the sisters through the most dangerous projects in the Bronx. They prayed with me before leaving me to go into the buildings to fetch the ladies, and told me to keep moving while I waited for them. The wedding guests speculated whether in their first time inside a Catholic church, they would see the Holy Ghost! On the way back to the convent, the sisters returned a wallet that had been stolen to its owner. The thief, after taking the cash, had thrown it over their garden wall knowing that the sisters would return the wallet to its owner. Even thieves knew these women loved God!

When we helped the ladies board the charter busses a diminutive Indian sister held up six lanes of traffic with the wave of a hand. Only the Missionaries of Charity who are known for their great love of the poor could command such respect in the toughest neighborhood!

We spent some time in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament before I left, and I understood that He was in their hearts as they served the poor and that the poor sensed Him in them. After a day spent with some of the happiest and poorest women I have ever met, I came away understanding Mother’s saying, “Only in Heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.”

I never took the sisters up on their invitation to join them in the convent. Within two years, I had met and married my husband Francisco, and for the ensuing decades, I continued to teach the poor and raise three children,  but I carried Mother’s words in my heart every day since  I read them in her letter,
“The fruit of silence is prayer,
 The fruit of prayer is faith,
The fruit of faith is love,
The fruit of love is service,

 The fruit of service is peace.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Valiant 10%

Monsignor Charles Pope is my favorite priest blogger. His blogs are full of Christ's wisdom about the most pressing subjects in modern life and his latest "Accepting Disability in a World Obsessed with Perfection" is no exception.

His blog is in response to the Holy Fathers comments while meeting with a group of disabled individuals, that "Love, not some idea of perfection, leads to Happiness".

“In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model,” the pope said. “In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis.”

People with such attitudes, he said, “fail to understand the real meaning of life, which also has to do with accepting suffering and limitations.”

And for Jesus, he said, the sick and the weak, those cast aside by society — like the woman in the Gospel story — are precisely the ones he loves most.
The only path to happiness is love, Pope Francis said. “How many disabled and suffering persons open their hearts to life again as soon as they realize they are loved! How much love can well up in a heart simply with a smile!”


Monsignor reflects;  Is there such a thing as a life not worth living? Many in our culture seem to believe that there is. There has arisen the tragically ironic idea that death is a form of therapy, that an appropriate treatment for disabled unborn children is to kill them. Of course death is neither a treatment nor a therapy; it cannot be considered an acceptable solution for the one who loses his or her life. Yet this is often the advice that parents in this situation are given.
All of this “advice” and pressure goes a long way toward explaining why more than 90% of unborn children with a poor prenatal diagnosis are aborted. We in the Church cannot remain silent in the face of this; we must reach out compassionately to families experiencing such a crisis. Many of them are devastated by the news that their baby may have serious disabilities. Often they descend into shock and are overwhelmed by fear, conflicting feelings, and even anger towards God or others. Sometimes the greatest gifts we can give them are time, information, and the framework of faith.

Here is my response; I just finished reading the book "Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck" by Adam Cohen.

In the wake of Darwin's theory of evolution, a wave of social Darwinism in the early 1900's gave birth the the ideology of eugenics, the idea that some humans were genetically superior to others and we ought to suppress the birth or end the lives of the inferior. Eugenics pervaded society and inspired Margaret Sanger to champion birth control for the 'inferior races' and disabled whom she called "human weeds.
The Supreme Court codified this idea in the infamous 1927 "Buck V Bell" decision where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes approving of the sterilization of those the State deemed 'feebleminded' said in the 8-1 majority decision; "Three generations of imbeciles are enough!"
This ideology led directly to the Nazi holocaust, which began with the slaughter of the disabled in the T4 Program, in fact at Nuremberg the "Buck V Bell" decision was cited by those seeking to excuse their participation in the Concentration Camps.

We congratulate ourselves on having progressed since then; yet we have merely shifted the 'responsibility' of killing those deemed inferior to their mothers. I interviewed many mothers of special needs children for my book "A Special Mother is Born" and some claimed the pressure to abort from their doctors was so great, they even tried to make them feel guilty of imposing a disabled sibling on their children. All of these moms said they can't imagine life without the love of their child.

Thank God they are the valiant 10%, braver than those who colluded with the Nazis, and the Supreme Court and many in Congress!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Women Deserve the Truth about Down syndrome and Pre-natal Testing

In an age when we value informed consent and patient centered care, it’s a travesty that often the worst informed patient is the mother of a unborn baby with special needs. Everyone she meets in her medical office seems to be telling her what she should do. In what is often a lonely and frightening time, she needs the truth about her options for testing and about the future of her baby and seldom hears it.
A frequently heard comment from such mothers is, “I felt pressured to test by my doctor.” Some women even report having prenatal blood tests done without their consent. If a test shows an increased risk for a pre-natal diagnosis, they often feel coerced by their doctors to abort. Some expectant mothers have even changed obstetricians late in pregnancy to preserve their peace of mind and good medical practice. Defenders of this practice credit defensive medicine for this, since obstetricians fear so-called “wrongful birth” lawsuits where an obstetrician is sued for failure to give the mother a prenatal diagnosis and the chance to abort her baby. An Oregon couple won a $3million suit for wrongful birth in 2012.
Regardless of lawsuits, women deserve the dignity of informed consent. They need to know the risks of prenatal tests and what can be done if their child is found to have a disability.  At this time, the answer is often nothing more than, ‘help prepare you emotionally.’ Too many doctors consider the birth of a child with a disability like Down syndrome a failure of their patients, due to outmoded stereotypes of life with Down syndrome.  Mothers hear such unmedical predictions as, “Your child will never tie his shoes, read, marry, go to college or be happy.” There is a wide range of ability among those with Down syndrome, however none of these predictions can be definitively tied to a prenatal diagnosis, and people with Down syndrome are breaking these barriers every day thanks to advances in inclusion and education. 
Then there is the question of happiness. Some women  are given the mother guilt trip in reverse; “you can’t do this to your other children.” There is the fear of raising a child with Down syndrome alone in the dire warning, “your marriage will break up.” Neither of these predictions are substantiated by research. Dr Brian Skotko’s 2011 study in the Journal of American Medical Genetics showed that 99% of parents who have a child with Down syndrome report being happy with them and those with Down syndrome are no less happy.
A study shows that marriages with a child with Down syndrome actually have slightly increased longevity.
A 2008 study at Vanderbuilt University analyzed data from the Tennessee Department of Health's birth, hospital discharge and divorce database records from 1990 to 2002. Down syndrome actually gave families what they termed, the “Down syndrome advantage.”
Rates of divorce:
  • Down syndrome – 7.6 percent
  • No disability – 10.8 percent
  • Other disabilities – 11.2 percent
Mothers are seldom told of the 1% risk of miscarriage from CVS and amnio-centesis. They are not given a realistic picture of what raising a child with Down syndrome is really like, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that this is not intentional. An abysmal ignorance exists in society about day to day life with people with Down syndrome, due to a high abortion rate of such babies  diagnosed with Down syndrome before birth  (between 75-92%)
This is where an array of parents of children with Down syndrome, have, from their computers, made an enormous difference in educating the public by sharing their day to day lives, publishing research and protesting negative stereotypes. These parents are making a difference in how both Down syndrome and  prenatal testing are viewed. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association is suggesting that women be given better counseling about prenatal testing. A study which showed that the number of expectant moms who chose to undergo invasive testing was halved when they had a short explanation of what testing was and what it could show them about their baby at their stage of pregnancy.

The conclusion was that the research,  “adds support to the contention that women may not be receiving adequate counseling about their options. This underscores the need for clinicians to be clear that prenatal testing is not appropriate for everyone, and to present foregoing testing as a reasonable choice.”
Well done, moms, keep it up, they are listening!

Friday, March 18, 2016

How having a child with special needs helps me work to overcome the deadly sins

1.   Humility against pride- I try to have a normal outing to the grocery store, chatting about nothing with the teenage clerk, when suddenly a bottle of Five Hour Energy goes flying past her head. She flinches and I have to reprimand Christina and apologize, catching another potential missile before it launches. Let’s not talk about the time she toppled the entire paper towel pyramid by ramming my shopping cart into it! Yes, I have a reputation in my town as a lousy parent.
But I do know that our lives are in God’s hands and I remember to call upon Him more often. There was a time when I dared not bring Christina out in public, she would flop on the floor and I wasn’t capable of lifting a 100 pound kid.
2.    Kindness against envy- I have no room to judge other parents as for their unruly children. I tend to sympathize with others whose lives are out of control when I would once judge them.  There is a saying about special needs moms, you say I have my hands full, but you should see my heart!!
3.   Abstinence against gluttony- Last September, I was obese with declining health,  when I realized I might not be around much longer to care for my 14 year old daughter. It scared me into joining an online Catholic lifestyle group called Wendy’s Wellness Warriors. I lost 40 pounds, and threw out my insulin. Last month, my doctor shook my hand when my great lipid blood results came in, saying, “Keep doing what you are doing!”
4.    Patience against anger- tonight two drinks were flung at me during the Lenten fish fry at our parish. One was red juice. Christina looked at me for a reaction. I held my peace and silently cleaned up the mess. This is NOT the mom I was 14 years ago!! Watching her halting progress and seeing her overcome huge obstacles, I learned not to sweat the small stuff. Besides, behavior which elicits a reaction, however negative, is often repeated.
5.   Liberality against greed- so many people have been so good to us, we have learned to accept generosity with gratitude and to give when its needed. No prideful one-upsmanship for us, we are too busy keeping a lid on things!
6.   Diligence against sloth- Keeping a home, home educating a young lady with Down syndrome, attending multiple therapies across the state, being a member of two board of directors, and working as an advocate for those with Down syndrome has taught me not to waste time.