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.