Ellyn, my favorite parish secretary, posted about a funeral and a ritual that the family wanted to have included. It got me to thinking a bit about why the church has the rules and rubrics, and why. A few of my rambling thoughts follow.
I have a special fondness for the ways in which the Church has developed ritual that reflects what we know both about human nature and God's plan. The Church has also developed rituals that incorporate the contrast between Christian teaching and pagan practices.
We are an incarnational faith, and our practices should reflect that belief. We believe that God so loved the world that he sent His only-begotten Son, who suffered and died for the remission of our sin. Jesus was begotten, not made. He had a human body. He suffered a horrible death by torture in that body. God gave us our bodies. Our bodies are not evil, they are good. We can choose them to do evil, and they can be corrupted by sin or disease, but that does not change the fact that our bodies are God's creation (with the cooperation of our earthly parents, of course). The Jewish tradition, which carried through the days of the apostles, has always been to show respect for the body after death by burying it intact. Jewish funeral practices also banned the scarification and self-mutilation often carried out by the living after the death of a family member or loved one. This respect is so deep that often an amputated body part is buried in the funeral plot where eventually the rest of the body will reside.
Christian funeral practices have also traditionally involved a respect for the intact burial (inhumation - literally in the earth - see the word root similarity to humility?) of the body. Cremation was seen as a last resort in times of plague and pestilence, and even then, mass burials were often preferred. By contrast, the non-Christian cultures surrounding the Christian countries often prescribed cremation as a religious ceremony - consider the practice of the Hindi, the Norsemen, the Attic Greek, the early Roman empire - where a funeral pyre was often an elaborate 'send-off' to a netherworld. There were other funeral rituals as well - there is still a group that exposes dead bodies to birds of carrion, and has done so for centuries (to protect both fire which they see as sacred and the earth from the 'contamination' of the dead).
Until quite recently, the Catholic Church reprobated the practice of cremation. (The recent change in policy is a further cause of discontent among some schismatic groups).This was primarily because the practice of cremation was strongly associated with a rejection of the doctrines of the resurrection of the body. The 1983 Code of Canon Law canon 1176.3 stipulates, "The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching." Originally, the idea was that the funeral would have the body present, and then the body would be cremated - this has further been modified to allow a funeral liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains.
What distresses me is that the average pew-sitter does not seem to realize that these concessions about cremation as opposed to inhumation, do not support the practice of ash-scattering or keeping the urn at the house. Nor do they support turning the remains into a 'jewel' or similar trends and fads. The church recognizes the human need to have a place, physically present, where the survivors can commemorate the deceased and pray for his or her soul. Being buried in consecrated ground has historically been very important. The bodily remains of a human person, even if incinerated, should be placed in a place that shows the respect due to one of God's human creations.
On my 40 some mile drive home from work, I pass anywhere from 3 to 5 of those improv roadside shrines. You know the kind I mean. The ones that mark a place where some one died in an automotive accident or shooting. The shrines are simple, maintained, and heartbreaking. I found myself wondering the other day - how many of those commemorated by these shrines have a burial place where there family can go?
for more on this topic, see below.
Father Pat on cremation (lots of CCC citations)
USCCB Catechesis on cremation
Cremation and Catholic funerals
Planning a Catholic Funeral
Catholics and Cremation
September 2004 Archives
Ellyn, my favorite parish secretary, posted about a funeral and a ritual that the family wanted to have included. It got me to thinking a bit about why the church has the rules and rubrics, and why. A few of my rambling thoughts follow.
(You can help - see addresses at the end of this posting)
The Midwifery Program at Miami Dade College had a sudden, unexpected and significant increase in the cost of student liability insurance late this summer so the students who were due to start classes in August had very little notice to get the additional funds together.
The college extended the deadline for registration and payment, and although we had a full class, most but not all of the students were able to come up with the funds by the deadline. So administration's decision was not to start a new class this fall. As of today, I don't know whether we will be starting a new class in January or whether we will wait until next fall. We will soon be meeting with
administration and I expect to have something more definite to report in the next week or so about our future plans.
Although the Midwifery program is not closing, we are facing, along with the midwifery community as a whole, the crisis of escalating costs for malpractice insurance - for students, schools, midwives and birth centers. Once again our profession is facing a major threat to our survival. Practicing midwives are faced with the ever increasing cost of malpractice insurance. I personally believe this is a national crisis for all health care professions, not just ours, and
is likely to get worse over the next few years, especially with all the money the insurance industry will have to pay out to the victims of the 4 hurricanes which have devastated Florida in the past 6 weeks. Because it affects all the health care professions, eventually I think it will be solved, if we midwives can hang in that long.
I would like to point out something that not many people have thought through. While the intent of the morning after pill pricks the conscience of many, the effect is basically the same as that of the more common forms of the birth control pill. Both the morning after pill and the 'regular' contraceptive pill (and the patch, and the ring, and the shot for that matter) work in at least 4 ways. In some women, they suppress ovulation. They thicken the cervical mucous to block sperm transport. They partially paralyze the cilia of the fallopian tubes so that both sperm transport up and egg transport down are impeded. And they render the lining of the uterus thin and inhospitable, so that the conceptus can not snuggle in and grow.
There is one other possible effect that I have not seen examined in the literature, but that occurs to me based on my own studies of hormone chemistry. The synthetic progestins that are contained in all hormonally based contraceptives may also block natural progesterone, causing a pregnancy to fail even after implantation. I don't know if this happens, I don't know how one could even begin to find out. But I think it may also be a possible mechanism of action.
The Penitent Blogger
she is on a faith journey - please drop by and offer her comfort and prayer.
"The concept of being a gentleman and not expecting "something else" seems to be incomprehensible to many men anymore."
I read somewhere that the earliest signs that a culture is on the skids is the loss of manners - the loss of those external signs of respect. This is on the same track.
Folks, it's a full moon out there and I just want to howl in anger and dismay. Got to keep on praying - it is our best and only weapon.
The scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep have formally applied for a licence to clone human embryos to find a cure for motor neurone disease
I was making post-partum rounds the other day on a young mom. We were chatting about her future plans - the FOB (father of the baby) bailed out on her at the onset of the pregnancy (very common in my patient population), and she was getting her support from her family. I strongly support these mom's decisions to choose abstinence from sexual involvement as their 'family planning' method. So I was kind of joking around that I probably wouldn't be seeing her for her next baby until she met and married the right guy. And then she said something that made me really think about how differently our culture views sexuality and procreation. She said, "Or not", meaning that she might get married and still choose not to get pregnant. I realized that marriage has an entirely different meaning to the majority of the people living in our culture than what it meant 50 years ago.
Fifty years ago, it was still pretty generally recognized that sex leads to pregnancy and that pregnancy leads to parenthood. Yes, there were contraceptive methods out there, and there was also the early stages of awareness of the natural rhythms of female fertility, but generally it was accepted that if you got married you would have children, and probably several children. The culture frowned upon non-marital sexual relations, and if a young couple became pregnant through illicit relations, it was expected that they would marry and that their families would help them to make the best of it. Failing that, the young woman would leave her community to give birth, placing her baby for adoption. Abortion was considered a risky and immoral event, even in the situations of rape etc. There were undercurrents of the sexual revolution, but for the most part the generally accepted values connected marriage, sexual activity, and procreation. The idea of a voluntarily childless marriage was foreign to the general consciousness. "If you don't want children, why get married?", seems to be what I remember hearing as a child. Women with serious medical conditions were not advised to use contraception so much as they were advised to never marry.
Somewhere, somehow, it all changed. Now we have a culture that considers childbearing as entirely voluntary and sexual activity to be as necessary as eating. Marriage is all the relationship between the adults, and the kids are so much excess baggage - or parenthood is about the kids and the other partner is so much excess baggage. We are way out of balance here, folks. The more I observe the culture in which we live, the more worried I get. I read the Didache, and the early church fathers. I see that they were concerned that Christians not become part of their surrounding culture, where divorce was easy, where children were disposed of before or after birth at the whim of the parents, where the wealthy were slaves to their bodily lusts and the poor were kept enslaved by 'bread and circuses'. Then I look at what is going on in our world today and I become very much afraid.
From G.K. Chesterton:
Now we do talk first about the disease in cases of bodily breakdown; and that for an excellent reason. Because, though there may be doubt about the way in which the body broke down, there is no doubt at all about the shape in which it should be built up again. No doctor proposes to produce a new kind of man, with a new arrangement of eyes or limbs. The hospital, by necessity, may send a man home with one leg less: but it will not (in a creative rapture) send him home with one leg extra. Medical science is content with the normal human body, and only seeks to restore it. (My comment,"I only wish this were still true!")
(much later in the book)
Of course, I mean that Catholicism was not tried; plenty of Catholics were tried, and found guilty. My point is that the world did not tire of the church's ideal, but of its reality. Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through the churchmen. But at the same time hostile elements had certainly begun to end it long before it could have done its work. In the nature of things it needed a common scheme of life and thought in Europe. Yet the mediaeval system began to be broken to pieces intellectually, long before it showed the slightest hint of falling to pieces morally. The huge early heresies, like the Albigenses, had not the faintest excuse in moral superiority. And it is actually true that the Reformation began to tear Europe apart before the Catholic Church had had time to pull it together. The Prussians, for instance, were not converted to Christianity at all until quite close to the Reformation. The poor creatures hardly had time to become Catholics before they were told to become Protestants. This explains a great deal of their subsequent conduct. But I have only taken this as the first and most evident case of the general truth: that the great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.
What's Wrong with the World,
Thanks to Bob for finding the ebook!
THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE
DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT ASHAMED OF ECONOMY.
BY MRS. CHILD,
AUTHOR OF "HOBOMOK," "THE MOTHER'S BOOK," EDITOR OF THE "JUVENILE MISCELLANY," etc.
A fat kitchen maketh a lean will. "FRANKLIN"
"Economy is a poor man's revenue; extravagance a rich man's ruin."
ENLARGED AND CORRECTED BY THE AUTHOR.
The Distributist Review is a 3 author blog focussed on the economic theory of distributism. I thought that some of you might be interested.
My only complaint is that they do not recognize that some CNMs and even some FP docs will attend home births.
I like it. Not very midwifey, and that is OK. Below is an image I found and was considering using to replace my other Maria Lactans pic. It is the Madonna of the Green Cushion, found in the Louvre, and is the frontispiece for the book Mother and Infant by Fr. Wm. Virtue.
by the creeping and insidious culture of death, Life Matters!
is someplace you might want to read.
The most recent item is about the tragic decision of the Florida courts reversing "Terri's Law".
My daughter made it through her surgery OK, and is home now resting. As far as can be told now, it was successful. The cyst was not able to be removed intact - it collapsed when touched but they drained the fluid and hopefully her pain will be relieved. Concord Hospital has a marvelous team of nurses and docs in the day surgery center. Thanks again for all the prayer support.
from the Evangelical Alliance Election Site
Grace – a subversive value! Giving people more than they deserve.
Hope – not a guarantee of immunity from harm but a conviction that God is always present
Faith - the means to real depth in relationships of all kinds
Love – means to love the unlovely
Justice – for all (not ‘just-me’). A concept biased in favour of the disadvantaged.
Joy – impossible to legislate for this but an essential social value
Service – meaning is found in service rather than self-centredness
Peace– not just the absence of fighting but positive well-being
what do you think?
My youngest is having surgery tomorrow to remove a cyst on her wrist. She has been in pretty constant pain for 6 months now, and has continued to play her cello and do all her other stuff despite the pain. We are hoping and praying that the surgery will ultimately help her and be worth the short term increase in pain and the temporary disability of healing. Please hold her surgical team up in prayer for tomorrow that things go smoothly.
Dr. Edward F. Keefe, a pioneer in the NFP movement, died in the late evening of Monday, September 20 at the age of 94 and three months. In 1948 he invented the Ovulindex thermometer with high standards of accuracy and ease of reading. By 1949 he was advising his patients to observe cervical mucus and to use this sign in conjunction with the temperature sign. He taught his patients to observe the mucus at the cervical os where he, as a physician, would observe it. When his patients told him that the cervix seemed to change during the fertile time of the cycle, he took them seriously. He took photographs of the cyclic changes of the cervix and published his findings in the 1962. It is because of his work that we can say that the fundamentals of the sympto-thermal method were in place a half dozen years before Humanae Vitae was published (July 25, 1968).
Dr. Keefe remained sharp almost to the end. He will be missed.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 am at St. Mary's Church on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, Ct.
--John F. Kippley
Latest research sheds new light on DMPA’s impact on bone health
Results from a new study indicate that women who use DMPA experience bone loss.
The Curt Jester: The Arian Heresy Revisited
worth reading. I may have more to say later.
“Artificial methods [of contraception] are like putting a premium on vice. They make men and women reckless.... Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws… If artificial methods become the order of the day, nothing but moral degradation can be the result.”
(found in Fr. Sibley's outline)
I'm on an email list for discussion of the Theology of the Body. Every so often, one of the list members has an idea that is a little off topic but worth discussing. What follows is one such, and I welcome your thoughts on this topic. It was triggered by a discussion of the various attitudes attributed to Boomers and Gen-X.
What I think it most troubling, with only 2.1 or 2.3 children per family, just about half the kids have no experience of having both a brother and a sister. Half the boys can't really understand the words of the lover in the Song of Songs, "My sister, my bride," and the other half have no access to what it means to care for "the least of my brothers" literally, and thus less analogically.
The sister thing alone is perilous. How much less will a young man value
chastity when he has no sister! I'm only scratching the surface here, of course. The effect of sisterless brothers could be pondered at length, and it's flip-side, the brotherless sister.
Personally, I want each of my kids to be able to say he or she has "brothers and sister," which immediately tells you there are at least five kids in the family. We have six, but only two boys, thus "brother and sisters" for the boys. Hoping for another boy to rectify the situation. But we've had four girls in a row . . .
And of course every boy needs a brother and every girl needs a sister. That almost goes without saying, and you won't find many parents -- at least not many fathers with brothers or mothers with sisters -- to disagree. Yet they still have "their two" and then "quit."
That word "quit" is kind of interesting. In a sense they are quitting, quitting the job of bringing life into the world. But "quitting" suggests a cessation of activity, while in fact they continue the "activity" of begetting life while performing other activities that undermine its natural direction -- actually more "work" rather than less, at least as far as the baby-making function is concerned (surgery, barriers, drugs).
On the other side are the NFP couples who say "quit" when they mean "quit worrying about having another baby" or "quit charting." The work -- the drudgery -- is in postponing pregnancy, a job well worth quitting, when circumstances allow.
Well . . . I do go on. This is why I don't have a blog of my own. I'd never get anything else done.
Eric J. Scheidler | firstname.lastname@example.org | TOTB List Moderator
"God speaks to us primarily in our hearts."
-- John Henry Newman
my comments: In a culture with generally large and connected families, cousins take the place of siblings for those few families unable to have more than one or two children. Also, the attitude is very different towards the smaller families.
Carrying to Term Pages
Help for families and care providers when a baby is diagnosed prenatally with a lethal condition.
Sorry not to have had more substance lately, it's been overwhelming. But I thought that some of you might be interested in what follows here. It is a letter I wrote in another forum about the increased demand from some women for cesarean on demand - that is primary cesarean section without a medical indication. As a Catholic, there are pretty clear teachings that I think should prevent this from happening, but the forum in which I was writing is mostly secular. It is also rather international. My letter follows.
On some level, what we are discussing here is the philosophy (and maybe theology) of moral decision making - on both an individual and a societal level
What is interesting about this whole debate is that it strikes at the heart of most ethical dilemmas - a different paradigm among the different parties. We live in a culture of moral relativism, that endorses the concept that there are not any absolute truths. There is my truth and your truth and his truth and her truth. The general culture in the USA values autonomy above all. Other cultures may value beneficence (doing good) and will value doing 'what is right' even against the will of the beneficiary. Some value non-maleficence (doing no harm) and will co-operate with any thing as long as no one gets hurt (I think this is a basic tenet of Wiccan philosophy - but I could be wrong here). Beneficence and non-maleficence are easily confused but there is a difference there. And then there are those whose primary value is justice - if one person can choose a course of action, then that course of action must be equally open to others.
My personal moral philosophy is based on natural law and a belief that there are some absolutes in life. Based upon those beliefs, I choose to refuse to provide certain 'services' that some patients may request. They still have the option to request (or more likely, demand) those services - but they will need to go elsewhere for them.
I think that all midwives do at least some of the same decisionmaking. For example, in my homebirth days, I refused to take as a client an insulin using type one diabetic. I happen to have a lot more knowledge of this particular complication than the average CNM and maybe even the average OB - I could probably manage some one well with this issue and have reasonably good outcomes etc. But my personal moral and ethical decision is that a person with that degree of disease needs a specialist in disease and I am not that.
Similarly, I won't induce labor just because some one is sick and tired of being pregnant. I see this as not only a medical decision but also a moral and ethical one. Cesarean on demand likewise.
I personally think that one of the worst things that has happened to health care in the USA is the attitude of consumerism and entitlement. It has cheapened what should be a trust and covenantal relationship into a financial and contractual deal, and I think it has hurt both patients and those of us who care for and about them
A sad update on the MacFarlanes. please pray!
The court removed Bai Macfarlane's custody yesterday, because she wouldn't quit homeschooling her kids DESPITE the psychologist's finding that they seemed to be thriving. And last evening, what a scary thing, Bud Macfarlane arrived with police escort to take the kids away permanently. Picture here
I don't know if anything can be done at this point(snip) but with God all things are possible.
Why are homeschooling and breastfeeding considered grounds to take your kids, in a custody battle, instead of hallmarks of good mothering?
Information about an upcoming TV show from the director of Apple Tree Family Ministries
Subject: Freud, Lewis, and PBS
PBS is running a show this week and next based on Dr. Armand Nicholi's book The Question of God. As Chuck Colson explains, it contrasts the "contrasting worldviews" of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, one a secular materialist and the other a theist, considers the big questions of life like sexuality and suffering, and clearly shows how these two men's views impacted their lives for ill and for good, respectively. He also says it's not dry and boring, but interestingly presented.
The book itself grew out of a Harvard class Dr. Nicholi teaches on the subject, and though I haven't read it myself, I've heard very good things about it. Colson recommends it and the broadcast highly. As he says, he's always contended that when Christianity is rationally examined as a worldview, it emerges as the most reasonable one, and this special apparently does that.
We can certainly use TV that accurately discusses Christianity, so you might be interested. It's scheduled for 9/15 and 9/22, but local PBS stations often vary their scheduling. You can find your local station at here , which also allows you to look up the network's description of the program itself.
Apple Tree Family Ministries
PBS's own page about the program:(They apparently also have other pages where one can delve deeper.)
Chuck Colson's radio program/transcript (today's) on the program.
Some 'Catholic' hospitals offer preterm induction of labor at very early gestational ages for babies known to have lethal birth defects.
My understanding of 'proportionate reasons' for preterm induction is that they should be the same, regardless of the presence or absence of fetal anomalies. For example, a mom with worsening pre-eclampsia may need to have her baby delivered earlier than full-term, or risk losing both baby and mother. A mom with real (not gestational!) diabetes ditto. Babies with anencephaly rarely initiate spontaneous labor 'on-time' and inducing them after 37 weeks is not unreasonable.
Some one needs to talk to these hospital ethics committees about the true meaning and intent of the standards for Catholic hospitals.
The Abundant Life tonight is talking about parents losing children. It is breaking my heart but I can't turn it off. There are days when I wish that I could turn off my empathy.
I think I mentioned that one of the two hymns at Sophia's funeral was The King of love my shepherd is, sung to the tune St. Columba. It is #345 in the Anglican hymnal. At the time the pastor announced it, he announced #45 (apparantly his cheat sheet had a typo) and some very puzzled people were searching through the Christmas carols (#45 is Joseph dearest, Joseph mine), but since I knew the hymn from the tune, I was able to find it in the index of first lines and let those around me know as well. It is not a hymn I remember singing as a child, but for some reason the local parishes have been singing it recently.
Well, today at Mass I was pleased to hear that Father used the long gospel reading, though a little concerned at his interpretation that it called us to an inclusive and accepting attitude but was reassured when he did point out the need for repentance. Then at communion, I was stunned when the hymn sung (a cappella by a duo with heavenly voices) was The King of Love my Shepherd Is - with the traditional language and to the tune of St. Columba. I was literally in tears. I am sure that the communion ministers were wondering why I was tear-streaked and all choked up.
I don't cry easily. Ask my husband. I can deal with things mostly without turning on the fountain. I have to be able to keep it together when everyone else is falling apart. I went from a crybaby childhood to an almost stoic appearing adulthood - I think they are both problematic ways to deal with emotions but it isn't something over which I have any control. But if anything can pull out those dormant tears, it would be music. And this music did.
I spent some time at the funeral talking with my next down brother (2 years younger than me). We talked about funeral plans - he and I are the two practicing Christians of our generation - he's a non-denominational evangelical, and I'm the only Roman Catholic in the family. We both agreed that we preferred burial to cremation. His comment was something to the effect that he didn't want it to be any harder than needed for God to pull him together at the resurrection of the dead - "I know that God is God but burial just seems more Christian to me". And we talked a bit about how the hope of the resurrection helps us to make a bit more sense of the suffering in this world.
In the extended entry, I have posted the picture of Sophia that was given out at the funeral.
Reader, She Married Him--Alas by Theodore Dalrymple
I also deal with a large immigrant and multicultural population. There is a lot of truth in what he says. There are some wonderful values to be found in some of our immigrant families, but there are also values that most of us would find horrifying.
My friend Bene Diction asked me to invite any pundits who read my blog (probably no one but one never knows) to contribute to this discussion.
I was listening to EWTN's The World Over (a rerun of the Sept 10,2004 show) and heard Patrick Buchanan give an interesting definition of NeoCon - he was more than a little disparaging in his use of the term. I don't remember the details, and the show isn't archived yet (when it is you can find it here and click on "Listen to past programs"). But it was something along the lines of NeoCons being Great Society/New Deal Democrats who became disappointed and changing their stripes.
I am not really fond of labels. One of the things I remember about this morning's homily was a plea to forget the labels and pay attention to the person inside. What Father didn't tell me was how to deal with those who demand that they be known and treated according to their labels rather than their humanity.
Anyhow, if you want to contribute to this discussion, please bop over to Bene's blog. Thanks!
It has been 3 years now since the twin towers fell. For better or for worse, the world is a different place. Of course, it is a different place everyday - babies are born, people die, we live and breath and grow. Still, there is the profound impact that this kind of event has - an impact more profound than any natural disaster, be it fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane or whatever - an impact more profound than the daily round of unnatural disasters like collisions, falls, industrial injuries - more devastating to the psyche than wars far away, or famines, or plagues. It was so up-close and personal, even for those of us who had not even a tenuous connection with the victims and survivors.
In a couple of hours I will be getting on a plane to fly home. It is sad and ironic to me that I will be flying on this day.
Only Mr. Riddle could tie them all together like this this.
I just heard from my mother that her mother, my 85 y/o grandmother, is in the hospital with intestinal bleeding. They are trying to manage her medically because she is not a good surgical candidate - she has a heart pacemaker, atrial stenosis, is a breast cancer survivor (40 years now) and has multiple other medical issues. Please pray that the bleeding will stop and they will not have to risk surgery. Her name is Dorothea.
That is how I am feeling today. Jet-lagged, didn't sleep well, on the go all day from picking up one sister at the airport at 10, to brunch, then on to the church for the memorial service, then the afterwards at the parish hall, a friends house and the visit to the roadside shrine at the site of the accident. So much palpable grief!
I learned a few things also. Sophia was baptized as an infant, and had spent 8 years going to school where she was taught the basics of the Christian faith in the Anglican tradition. The funeral service was said by an Anglican priest, the readings were from the King James version. The two hymns we sang were "The King of Love my Shephard is"(with the sung amens) and "Amazing Grace". All Saint's Episcopal church hasn't changed much from when I was a schoolgirl there in 1962, the altar is still ad orientem and the choir stalls are still between the nave and the sanctuary. The pipe organ is still as wonderfully melodic as ever. If anything, the church was more 'Catholic' than many modern Catholic churches. At the front of the church was a new statue of Our Lady of Walsingham - a gift, I am told, from a recent graduating class. From Sophia's class, actually.
The church was jam packed full. We were packed in the pews like airline passengers in coach class, the side chapel was full, the back was packed and rows of chairs were set up in front of the first pew and down one side of the center aisle, and still there were those who could not enter the church but had to listen from the courtyard. My sister commented that the only time that a church should be that packed would be for a wedding or a baptism. It is a crying shame that it was for a funeral.
I also learned for the first time that the accident was close enough to home that it was heard by Sophia's mom, and that she also got a phone call from one of the other people in the car to tell her that Sophia was still alive but unconscious. Cheryl (Sophia's mom) also told me that when she got to the scene, just as the ambulance was arriving, that Sophia was 'posturing' - this is a sign of a pretty severe brain injury. Still we were all hoping and praying that a miracle would happen. I really hadn't known just how severe her initial injuries were - those of us far away were only told little bits at a time. I don't know if it would have made any difference had I known. I don't think I could have prayed any harder - but maybe I would have prayed more often? I just don't know. It's all in God's hands anyhow - but isn't it always?
I had also forgotten that Sophia's dad comes from a Jewish background - until at the very end when a family member was asked to come up and read Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead. It seemed fitting that after Kaddish was said, the Anglican pastor blessed Sophia's cremated remains with holy water and incense - the holy water to remind us of baptism, the incense to symbolize how our prayers waft up to God our creator. And then we walked out of the church.
The shrine at the accident scene was also both touching and draining. Dozens of candles, many with icons of the virgin or of saints on them, all glowing their warm light against the twilight sky - notes and pictures, a huge cross, bells and ribbons and prayer flags. There is a term in Spanish (mexican spanish I think) for the roadside altars that spring up like this one did - but I can't remember what it is. At the shrine I met another mom who had lost a child at the age of 14 - this one 4 years ago to cancer. She talked briefly about what it means to be a member of a club that no one in their right mind would want to join - the mothers of dead children. Several of those who had laid Sophia out spoke about the importance of keeping this ritual, too, in the family and in the home. Sophia was born at home, with family friends aiding the midwife. It seems only fitting that many of these same friends should clean and dress her for her final bodily journey. I wish that I could have been there and at the same time am strangely relieved that I wasn't.
One platitude that I despise is when a well-meaning sympathizer says to a mourner "I know just how you feel". No one knows how another feels - even if one has been through a similar experience. No one. I've experienced loss in my life, miscarriages and the like - but that doesn't make me an expert on the grief of losing a child on the edge of adolescence. I've mourned with moms whose babies were stillborn or very premature, or sick or whatever. But that doesn't mean that I know how those moms were feeling. We just don't know.
Sophia had a life full of promise, and boom, it's gone from this world. Mercy and justice, love and hope, faith and reason, who knows what is in the mind of God? Still, what choice do we have? Lord, to whom shall we go?
landed safely, staying in a motel on hotel row of I-8 in San Diego. The more I fly, the more I realize I don't like to fly. I much prefer trains, but they take too long for most trips, don't go everywhere I need to go, and cost more. Sad situation for travel. I'm up early, couldn't sleep, so have fired up the laptop in the dark and am trying to be quit so everyone else can get some sleep.
Dear Catholic Blogger,
My name is Chris Christensen, and I am one of the Co-presidents of the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges (ASCC). ASCC is ready to release its newest project, Faith Essentials for the Catholic College Student, a free(!!), monthly online publication aimed at Catholic college students. The purpose of my email is to ask you to help ASCC get the word out by blogging a short post about Faith Essentials. Each issue contains 2 articles relating to the Catholic Church in some way by a Catholic scholar (all faithful to the Church!). Our first issue features an article by Mr. Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, called "The Perils of Being a Complete Thinker" as well as an artcile by Rev. Brian Daley, SJ, of the University of Notre Dame, called "Mary, Sign of Salvation." Future contributors include Dr. Peter Kreeft, Bishop Thomas Welsh, Dr. John Cuddeback, and Mr. Mark Shea. Although Faith Essentials is aimed mainly towards college students, the articles can be helpful for Catholics of any age and even for curious non-Catholics. To subscribe, all you have to do is visit our website. When Faith Essentials comes out every month, subscribers will receive an email announcing the new issue, the full text of which will be on our website and linked to in the email. I would greatly appreciate your assistance in helping ASCC reach as many people as possible. If you do decide to blog about Faith Essentials, I would ask that you please do it today or tomorrow, because our first issue comes out this Friday (10 Sept)!! Thank you very much, and may God bless you and Mary keep you!
Hope that all of you are doing OK - it looks like Frances did a lot less damage than feared, and hopefully Ivan will stay away. Me, I am doing ok - trying to get it all together for a trip to the other coast -travelling on faith and hope mostly. I will be leaving Wed evening and returning late Saturday.
We are harvesting loads of tomatoes from our garden. Tonight I made a ratatouille soup - simmered tomato chunks with butter and onions until it was falling apart, then added in a couple jalapenos (roasted, peeled, and chopped), a bell pepper (ditto) an eggplant and a couple summer squash. Seasoned with salt and garlic. Served over rice. I also warmed up some chicken in curry sauce and some cauliflower with melted cheese. Not your typical Labor Day barbecue, I grant you. But I am trying to get the foods in the fridge cooked and eaten before I am gone for those few days, except for foods that John might reasonably eat while we are gone.
It is hard to make the adjustment from cooking for 8 to cooking for three. Of course, it didn't go from 8 to 3 in one fell swoop. Still, it is a tough adjustment. There are always leftovers - that is a given. I am just trying to plan it so the leftovers will have a chance to be eaten in a reasonable time frame. I don't think my daughter's friends think I mean it when I invite them to share dinner but I do - there is always plenty of food to go around. I miss having a crowd to cook for (well, at least most of the time!). Some meals are just too much hassle to cook for only 3 people, but are worth it for a crowd. Tacos, for one.
My eggplants are finally setting blossoms. Of course, by the time I get eggplant the tomatoes will all be dead. Planning the timing of a garden is a lot tougher than planning a dinner! But at least it looks like I will get a few eggplant. There are also some baby bell peppers out there - I can't tell if they are on the Yolo wonder plants or the ones that are supposed to turn red. Guess I will have to wait and see. Of course, if I wait too long the local wildlife will eat them.
I planted a large pot of hardy mums out front. I hope that they make it OK. The weather here is so tough on vegetation, other than the trash maple weeds.
Life goes on.
John Kerry at Steubenville
I was interested in listening to the radio coverage (NPR) because I knew there would be protesters - the protesters got no air coverage. I am contemplating writing to the NPR ombudsman to ask why the protesters at the RNC got so much air time but the protesters in Steubenville got nada. Maybe it was because they were neatly dressed and well-behaved?
Please send a copy of this to your representative(s), along with your own comments. Please, for the sake of life.
Looks like I will be flying out to San Diego Wednesday night for a funeral Thursday. It will be in the parish church of the Anglican school where I went as a child, where my Gram taught 1st grade for decades, where my parents met and married. The last time I was in an Anglican church was also a funeral liturgy.
We are still working on the details - the devil is always in the details as they say. Of course, because of the holiday weekend it will be Tuesday before I can change all the appointments that will need to be changed. My scheduling person at work will not be happy - we are already double booked for much of next week due to the holiday. I just hope that my dentist doesn't have a major fit - the policy is 2 business days before a cancellation and my appointment is Thursday morning.
I am not doing well. I thought I would be OK, but I had trouble sleeping last night, was up early this AM, and then napped a bit only to be interrupted by my sister calling to tell me the details of the funeral. Am also fretting about the hurricane in Florida, those poor families in Russia, and life, the universe, and all. Time for me to back off and let go, let God. Tough for an oldest child of 2 oldest children to do, though. Looking forward to Mass tomorrow. I wish that I could cry.
Last night we had to pick up the phone and call our five kids who have left home, to tell them their cousin Sophia had died. Five phone calls - and then waiting up until our youngest got home from being out with her friends to tell her. Six times to tell our children that a parent's worst nightmare had happened to their cousin. It still seems like a nightmare to me. When will I wake up and realize that it didn't happen? That the deaths of this year and all the other tragedies are just the result of indigestion? But I know that it is real. I sit here looking out my window at the sunflowers that are the sole survivors of one garden patch. I see the bluejays and the finches flying into and out of the hedge and the woods. I feel the itchiness of my healing cat scratches and realise that, yes, I am awake, and yes, this did really happen.
I come from a large family, mostly centered in Southern California. Members of my family settled in Caliornia in the 1800s, and most of my extended family is still there, scattered between Los Angeles and San Diego. For nearly 30 years, all the kin on my dad's side of the family tried to get together twice a year - a summer picnic, and a Christmas party. I'm the oldest in my generation. Sometimes we would be joined by some distant cousins, and sometimes even members of my mom's side would join in. It was riotous from time to time. Any where from 30 to 50 persons from 4 generations talking, playing games, hanging out - I am glad that my kids had the chance to see some of their relations at least once or twice a year. My cousin Cheryl (now the artistic director of the Fern Street Circus usually showed up in clown costume at some time during the festivities. We actually tried to schedule the picnic so as not to conflict with the circus, but didn't always succeed. Christmas was a little easier, and we often had the other circus members hanging out with us. Cheryl brought her kids (including Sophia) up in the circus. My niece Rebecca, a talented gymnast, started performing with the circus as a young teen.
I remember sitting down with a couple of kids and explaining just how they were related to each other. The grownups kept good track of the minutiae of "1st cousin, once removed" vs "second cousin". The kids just said "my cousin", kind of like the Hawaiian concept of calabash cousins. Family - sometimes squabbling, sometimes with bitter rivalries and sometimes with incredible generosities - some members added by blood, and some by marriage, friendship, or adoption. The last few years have been tough on family ties, as we have all begun to scatter across the USA and haven't been able to get together just to celebrate being a family. My sister (Rebecca's mom) and I both had the experience of moving away from our kids, instead of the usual event where the kids move out while the folks stay put. I can't just get in the car and drive a few hours to visit the kinfolk. Last year, we took 3 weeks and still didn't manage to visit everyone we wanted to. This year, we took a week and saw fewer still. Did manage to visit the most aged members of the family but figured that there would be time, time later, to visit the kids. And there wasn't time. I always thought the late-night phone call would be to tell me that Gram had died - or that one of my parents was critically ill - but 14 years old? In this day and age, NO ONE expects a child to die. But they do, they do. I guess that is why the church encourages us to contemplate the end things frequently - and why the phrase from the bedtime prayer "If I should die before I wake" needs to remain intact. We are born to die - and only God in His eternal 'now' knows the time and circumstances.
Sophia died today. Her body just gave out. Thanks for the prayers, please continue to pray for her soul and for her family and friends. I don't know what I am going to do yet - flying to San Diego is not something I can do at the drop of a pin.
It has been a bad year for brain injuries. You may recall that my sister-in-law died earlier this year after suffering a blown brain aneurysm. The mom of one of the docs I work with is still suffering repeated setbacks after her aneurysm. My daughter just asked for prayer for a family friend of a good friend, whose aneurysm was diagnosed before it got to critical and who is going to surgery in a few hours.
My poor grandmother (Sophia's great-grandmother) is very angry about this whole thing. "I'm 90 years old - why doesn't God take me instead of her?" Gram has buried her husband, every other member of her generation, 2 nephews, one of her two sons, and now a great-grandchild. She's right, it doesn't seem fair.
Our God is a God of mercy and of justice. I have to believe there is a reason for this suffering - not only for my personal suffering, my family's suffering, but also for all those others who suffer now and every day. I am thinking about those schoolchildren and their families in Russia. My memory flashes back to even before 9/11 to the Branch Davidian massacre in Waco, to the Oklahoma City bombings, to all the senseless acts of violence that are part of the tapestry of life. The book of Job is scant consolation. Yet all our sufferings are as nothing before the sufferings of Christ - not only in the burden of the cross but even more so the burden of our sin.
Lord, help me to carry the burden you have given me. Help me to accept what I cannot understand nor change.
I've attended 3 births this week, all with their quirks but all ending well. It has been good to be around the moms, babies, and their families. It gives me hope in a time when things seem to be very bleak on the horizon. Storms in Florida, Judge Greer re-elected, my squash and melon plants all died fruitless - yep bleak. And last night I got a phone call about my cousin Sophia - the one who was hit by the car. I hadn't had an update since a few days after the accident when things seemed to be going reasonably well.
There have been some major setbacks, and I learned a few more things that I hadn't known.
Sophia was a passenger in the right back seat of a fairly small car. About a block from her home, an unlicensed, uninsured driver blew through a stop sign and hit the car broadside, right where Sophia was sitting. Sophia's older brother was nearby, on his way to work, and saw the accident happen. He went to the car and called 911, then waited till the EMT's and police arrived before continuing on his way to work. Sophia's uncle heard the crash from the house, also called 911 and ran (on foot) to the scene. Sophia was unconscious when she was taken from the car and has never regained consciousness. She is in Children's Hospital in San Diego CA, and her mother (my 1st cousin) had been there basically 24/7. I was told that Sophia suffered a heart attack last week, that she is in kidney failure and her liver is also failing. She had at least one brain surgery to release excess pressure. Miracles do happen, but things are not looking good according to what I am hearing.
The family is also suffering greatly financially. Sophia's mom is self-employed, and has not been able to work since this happened. My sister told me that there are some fund-raising events being planned but didn't know the details. Since the perpetrator had no insurance and has no assets, Sophia's medical costs (which I am sure are astronomical) will have to be paid out of her family's resources. I don't know if you know this, but most health insurance policies have a maximum benefit - once that is exhausted the insurance company quits paying the bills. Then the family has to try to find other sources to pay for the care that is needed. (This is one reason that malpractice insurance is so costly - families faced with overwhelming medical bills try to find ANY source to pay the bills).
Anyhow - could all you folks continue to hold Sophia and her family in prayer? Please pray both for healing both of body and soul. And I will try to hang on to hope.
Bright Eyes - Bowl of Oranges
Compassion and understanding rule your life - seeing other people makes you happy, and at the same time, you grasp the fact that life can't be great all the time. After all, how would we ever appreciate the sun if we never see the rain? You have a subtle optimism that keeps your head up in even the most dismal times, which gives strength to those who witness it.Life can never get the best of you, because you've got the strength inside you to conquer anything.
What's Your Theme Song?
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found in a comments box somewhere
but here is a copy of Steve Wood's appeal letter for help after Hurricane Charley. I can only pray that Hurricane Frances will turn aside from Florida.
I have no personal experience with hurricanes. My experience with a few major earthquakes is that the rebuilding takes forever, is always more costly than expected, and that the rest of the world quickly forgets that there are people in dire need.