How Do You Explain Abortion to a Child?

By Judith Costello
The bishops have declared that October is Respect Life Month. It goes along with October as Mary’s month…As our Heavenly Mother she must be especially devoted to those women who are, at this very moment, carrying the gift of life inside their wombs!
It is a terrible tragedy, with huge consequences for our entire world, that some of these mothers will be counseled and encouraged to “terminate” that life.

I remember trying hard to protect my children from hearing about this frightening reality of our world. Whenever someone would say the word “abortion” or there would be an insert in the bulletin at Church, I would switch the children’s focus. It seems as if knowing there are mothers who allow the babies they are carrying to be killed, would be totally devastating to children. “How is that possible? How can anyone deny life to a growing baby?” My “babies” shouldn't have to know that this happens on a wide scale. What would it mean to them to know that at least 74% of the reasons for abortions are that the growing child is an “inconvenience”?

No. I didn't want my children to know about abortion. What could such knowledge do to their sense of security? If mothers, who are the real backbone of society because of their care for children, are willing to go to centers where abortions are performed, it threatens the foundation of the world. The earth shakes and trembles every time an abortion is performed.

But my kids are teenagers now. They know. They also realize we have a special connection to this issue. My daughter is adopted. The children know that one of four babies will be “terminated” today. My daughter says it is just “too sad” because she knows—we know in our family—that there are people who want those babies who can’t be cared for by their birth mothers.

I know it must be hard to have a baby while still young, unemployed and without family help. Or to become pregnant when the father has disappeared. I know young women whose plans for their lives have been totally disrupted because they got pregnant. Babies aren't convenient. Babies aren't easy.

But babies are precious. And babies come into the world because God has a plan for them. God sees the bigger picture. How is it we dare to think that we know better than God?

During this special month of Mary and month of Life…let us pray that the backbone of our society—mothers—will receive the strength and help they need to do the right thing for the unborn. Our children are waiting to hear that the world is a secure place for them to grow; that they are loved and all will be well.

Jesus said, "I came so all might have life and have it to the full." (John 10:10.)


Isn't it Scary??

By Judith Costello
I got an invitation to a fundraiser for a political underdog. She’s behind in all the polls. But I can’t afford to offer money to candidates, so these messages usually go immediately to the circular file. But a simple statement caught my eye. It said, “She believes that marriage - the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife - is the best institution for raising children.” It took me back a step because, I can’t imagine ever, in the history of this country, when this kind of statement has been necessary. How is it that this is no longer obvious and has to be stated this way?

It seems that when Roe v. Wade was passed, all the doors to immorality were opened. It was the day when the law said that babies could be killed because they are “inconvenient and unwanted”, that the devils poured out! That piece of legislation implied that marriage is no longer based on the model of husband, wife, child. Marriage then, was also redefined in terms of convenience and self-gratification…”what can I get out of this?”

Marriage became no longer an institution of society under the heavenly model set for us in the Holy Family. Instead, it’s a tax break and a linking up for sex with a bit of security thrown in. Except, marriage, that is legal but not sacramental, isn’t very secure is it? Divorce rates skyrocketed during these past forty years so couples tried the “take your partner for a test drive before you buy” model. Yet, even then, the premise has always been, “Kids do better with an intact family, so divorce is very sad.”

But now marriage is being redefined yet again. When the President of the United States spoke out in favor of gay marriages, and when one of the two official Parties of this country, made putting an end to the Defense of Marriage as a part of their platform, it seemed as if the earth shook with the devil’s laughter. How happy Satan is!

During his three years of ministry on earth, Jesus referred to his “Father” over a hundred times. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, was to be the model, the very cornerstone of civilization. Marriage is meant to be sacramental, which means it is a covenant between a man and woman who are willing to sacrifice for each other in order to become a part of that building of society as they bring children into the world.

When God is not invited into the dynamic of partnering and life issues are not respected, the basic building blocks of society begins to crumble. My friend Vanda, who just had a baby, says it this way, “Since traditional/sacramental marriage and respect for life are FOUNDATIONAL principles for a civilized society - if we do not vote to maintain these elements of natural law (which they are of course) - we are taking a hand in this destruction.”

Moral decline is deepening in this country. Can you feel it? Can you see our country faltering? Aren’t you scared?

Of course we are also concerned about economic and social issues in the coming election. So, I recommend this YouTube video of Fr. Barron talking about what Catholic Social Teaching really means. It's important to understand. We are currently faced with bigger government and out-of-control debt, along with increasing immorality that is legislated into law.

Pray. We need to pray hard. And vote for Family, Faith and Children.

We are the Body of Christ

Colleen is from England. She was visiting our Church last week after stopping to see an old friend in New Mexico. She and her husband brought their friend to Church too. It took them 20 minutes to get her in and out of Church because the friend is severely handicapped. It was such a sweet action and it made me think, “This is what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ.”

I’ve been thinking about this as we gear up for a new year of religious formation. Towards the beginning of the year, we show the children movies about staying safe and dealing with abuse. And every year I cringe. My own children have seen first the little kids’ Sesame-Street-like version, and then heart-pounding-older version of a young person being touched inappropriately by an uncle. They’ve seen these movies once a year for seven years.

I fear that the more children are exposed to the message that “there are adults in your own community and family you can’t trust,” the more they begin to generalize to “you can’t trust anyone.” And then when we tell them they can trust Jesus and you can talk to friends and other adults, that seems impossible. I fear that the generalized message “don’t trust” comes through. If we think it’s not possible to trust humans, how can we imagine a trusting relationship with God?

Within the Body of Christ, can’t we convey what needs to be conveyed in a different way? As I visited with Colleen, while she and her husband were loading the special wheelchair into the van, she told me another story about how the Body of Christ works. She was a catechist at one church and then moved away. When she returned for a visit, she saw a former student and then later she saw his mother. Colleen asked, “Is your son OK?” The mother responded that he came home from school every day and ran to his room. But “he’s fine.” Then Colleen said, “Something’s wrong. You need to look into his eyes Mom and you’ll see it.”
That night the mother went home and said, “I saw Colleen and she’s worried about you.” The teenager looked up and Mom could see the trouble there. The boy broke into tears and reported that he was doing drugs and couldn’t seem to control what was happening.

When adults look out for others within the community, that is being a part of the Body of Christ. When we notice that someone is missing from Church, that is being a part of the Body of Christ. When we pray fervently and fast on behalf of others, that is being a part of the Body of Christ. When we educate each other, with compassion, when we start up new programs for adult study and prayer, that is being a part of the Body of Christ.

But when we show movies that convey the message that there are monsters lurking even at Church, we are buying into the message of the culture. I asked my teenage son what he thinks about these movies. He’s in Confirmation now and they don’t watch the movies but they are required to sit through a presentation that talks about the sex abuse scandal and safety issues. He says, “Honestly, kids just try to ignore the whole thing. But I think the Church is bowing to the world and doing it the way the rest of society does with scare tactics. It should be different.”

The movies and talks are built on the premise that if you give kids knowledge and options they’ll know how to respond. But I think, in a scary situation, knowledge goes out the window. What kids really need is this: faith (which comes from God through the Church), prayer (which they can learn) and love within a community of believers who care about them (and that is the model Colleen demonstrated so well).

Love conquers fear. Families must be strengthened. I pray that the Holy Family will guide us in building new models for building up the Body of Christ.

Here are some things I would prefer to do at the beginning of the Catechism year:
• Ask the Church community to pray for the students.
• Pair up adults in the Church with students who they will pray for and write letters of support and inspiration.
• Teach kids about prayer and tell them stories about the wonder of God’s love.
• Offer special prayer and instruction time for parents.
• Have prayer vigils for a strengthening of the priesthood and strengthening of families.
• Ask members of the parish to take note of people who aren’t there at Church and ask them to take the initiative to call and find out, “How are you?”


A Fortnight for Freedom Has Begun

A Fortnight for Freedom Has Begun

The U.S. Bishops are urging Catholics across America to participate in a 14-day campaign of prayer, study and public action dedicated to protecting our religious liberty. The Fortnight started Thursday, June 21, the vigil of the Feasts of John Fisher and Thomas More. The campaign culminates on July 4, when we celebrate Independence.

Here are 6 good ways to participate:

1) Go to see the movie For the Greater Glory. It is about the battles for religious freedom in Mexico. Talk about the movie. Promote it. The movie won’t be available unless we support it.

2) Learn about the issues of religious freedom which are being challenged and violated in our country.

The HHS mandate requires all private religious institutions—including colleges, hospitals, charities (all except churches themselves and even then there are exceptions) and private business run by Christians to provide services which are against our beliefs as Catholics--including contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. These things are listed in the HHS as “preventative health care” –thus equating pregnancy with disease.

3)Pray for the leaders of our country and for a return to morality.

4) Join the students of Benedictine College who have started a Memorare Army, asking everyone to pray 1000 Memorare prayers before the end of the year. This has become a national campaign.
This is the Memorare prayer:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

5) A Christian (non-Catholic) group has been standing with the Catholic Church in the issue of religious freedom. Check out the Focus on the Family report…very good reporting. Watch:

6) Pray to St. Michael during this time.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


We Gather Together…Yet We are Separated

It seems that many people find themselves distracted during Mass. According to online discussions, hundreds of people say they are kept from a prayerful focus by everything from flip-flops pattering down the aisle, to seeing a person stick the Eucharist in a pocket.

Is it being “judgmental” to have reactions to these things? Should we simply focus on our interior experience and block out everything else?

First, it seems important to clarify: The events listed here range from a minor display of disrespect to something sacrilegious. To “judge” means to differentiate between right and wrong and degrees of sin. Putting the Eucharist in a pocket or giving it to an infant is wrong and potentially a grave sin. Wearing flip-flops is a distraction that doesn’t show an appreciation for the importance of the sacrament. So, in that sense, it is “wrong” to a lesser degree. Women who wear low-cut outfits are buying into secular culture and may need to be educated about how that kind of dress can lead to sin for others.

Evaluating right and wrong is necessary for four reasons: So we can commit ourselves to better behavior; in order to train our children properly; to recognize people who need our prayers; and, to intervene so that others keep from committing a grave sin.

Times to intervene: Someone who leaves Mass, with the host in a pocket should be challenged. “Please consume the host or give it to me,” said one Eucharistic minister when he saw this happen.

Another time to intervene might be when people are talking and using cell phones during the Mass. Recently, I stood next to a man who intervened. The people in front of us were talking and texting. They remained sitting and did not participate in the Mass. The man next to me whispered to them, “At a Mass, it is important to be quiet and put cellphones away out of respect for our Lord.” After he said this, he dropped the matter. They continued in the same manner but he did what he could.

Others who complained of distractions said that squirming kids topped the list. For them, any intervention should be to turn their irritation into charity. Parents are usually their own worst critics. They feel self conscious and sure that everyone around them feels irritation over kid behavior. It would be so much better if parents of young children felt that others were giving them a “spiritual hug of support.” That’s the kind of intervention parents need!

Modeling the Best:

Perhaps the best answer to Mass distractions is to SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. When we are doing the right thing by how we dress, how we show reverence, how we receive communion and how we act in charity, then we encourage others—not just our children—but all of those around us.

I remember one day when this struck me. I had gone to Mass on Sat. and was planning to do some errands on Sunday morning after teaching a catechism class. But I stopped in church to say a quick prayer. The choir began singing. I looked up thinking I would duck out quickly since Mass was starting. But one of my students was looking at me. I couldn’t leave then!

For the next several minutes I debated about leaving. I knew that even if I left while the congregation was standing, a few people would see me and wonder. It would give a bad example. It was wrong to leave once the sacred sacrament was unfolding.

The message became clear that we are responsible for setting an example for each other. What if almost everyone who came to Mass, consciously practiced being a role model? We aren’t at Mass simply for our own benefit. It is a collective experience. We are there together. Praising God together.

If we were aware of that it would mean being appropriately dressed, participating actively in communal prayers and songs, showing reverence and respect for the importance of the sacrament. Wouldn’t that make a difference for those who were there out of a sense of duty, and for teens who were forced to go the church by their parents, for visitors and for children?

We can help each other best by being role models and praying for one another as we gather together.


Truth or Relativism?

I used to tell people, “The Catholic Church is big enough to include both people who believe the Doctrines and dogma, as well as those who disagree with most of that stuff.” And I counted myself among the disagreeing. I called myself a pro-choice feminist and advocated for total reform of the church.

That has all changed, through the action of the Holy Spirit. I came to realize, with a flash of sudden clarity, that there is something called Truth and it’s not a matter of picking and choosing what is “true for me.” I came to see that the Church is led by Jesus Christ, and the Church needs to stand up for the Truth about moral and faith issues no matter how difficult it may be.

My conversion came about through grace. But that’s really another story.

I started questioning the relativist attitude when my kids were in elementary school and they were taught math in a yet another “new way.” I always thought math was a pretty black and white discipline. There is only one right answer—right? Wrong—according to the new math.

Nowadays (at least in some public schools), kids are required to say “how” they got an answer and credit is given for any answer that is accompanied by a reason. So 1+1 can equal 3 as long as a student makes up a story about it. How about this: “such equations have 3 numbers and since this is an equation with ones that means the answer is 3.” Say what?

Relativism. It’s the road of “your truth is not my truth” and it leads from one justified immorality to the next immorality. If 1+1 can equal whatever you want it to, then surely if someone can give a sad-sob story about why they need to marry a little kid, we won’t be able to judge that either! Every sinner has a justification for sinful acts.

Last night, I heard a lecture on bio-ethics. The priest was talking about how scientists will put an embryo in a Petri dish and begin to dismember it in order to remove stem cells. Separated, the cells go to the sides of the dish frantically trying to come together again. These cells are the essence of a human being. Everything is there in the Petri dish even then. This is a life struggling to LIVE! And yet it will die at the hands of a scientist.

Abby Johnson, who left her job at Planned Parenthood, was awakened to Truth when she saw the ultrasound image of the baby inside a woman’s womb. The baby was trying to escape the abortion prod. The baby was struggling. It was a baby and she wanted to LIVE! Yet, she would die at the hands of a doctor.

And then there is the story of the twins who were born, each one weighing only two pounds. They were put in separate incubators and the weaker twin was pronounced as “dying.” Her heart was weak, her breathing was labored. A nurse said, “They were together in utero. They should be together now.” So she defied hospital protocol and put the weak baby in with her sister. The strong one put her arm around the other sister. Almost immediately, the weak baby began to improve. She wanted to LIVE and her twin helped heal her with a hug! These were two pound babies, who could have still been in their mother’s womb!

These are stories about life. Life is a gift from God that cannot be denied. Abortion is clearly wrong. And Truth is not relative. Catholics, who are struggling to be closer to God, will learn to stop being relative and return to the life-affirming, Bible-based teachings of our faith. And they will find Truth here at home, in our Church.


Judge Not? Is that Really What we Are to Do?

By Judith Costello

The priest who gave a Mission talk at our church talked about the whole issue of "judgment." It was helpful to me as I read the online discussions among Catholics about Fr. Guarnizo from Washington, DC. He’s the one who withheld communion from a Buddhist lesbian activist. The woman introduced herself and her lover to the priest before Mass, making their status clear. The priest explained to the entire congregation the conditions for reception of communion at a funeral Mass and apparently he had something of a conversation with this woman as well while they were in the sacristy. But the woman still felt she “deserved” to receive the Eucharist. When the priest quietly refused it, she went to a different line and received communion anyway. Then she went to the press to make life difficult for this priest.

Many of these kinds of situations remind me of family life. God gives us families as a microcosm of society so we can learn to make judgment calls like this priest was forced to make.

I remember a situation that happened to me. I was living in sin with a boyfriend, and I brought him home to meet Mom. Should she have said, “Well it’s not my job to judge. The Bible says ‘judge not, lest you be judged.’ So I’ll just give you one bedroom since that’s what you choose.” Would that have been the right the thing to do?

Well my mom didn’t think so. She said, “You may be living together, but not in my house. I won’t have that here. Here are two bedrooms. I expect you to sleep in your respective bedrooms alone.” She couldn’t change my lifestyle outside of her house. About that she was praying hard. But she certainly had a moral obligation to hold me accountable while in her house.

We can't condemn the souls of others. The state of their relationship with God is none of our business. That’s what the Bible passage means. But that is totally different from telling a child, "Don't do that. And what you just did was wrong." We as Catholic parents are morally obligated to tell our children they are living in a state of sin if they move in with a partner.

We should be gentle. We should accompany any correction with lots of prayer. God will move the soul to conversion. But we are called to be a light to the world, a voice for Truth.

As a priest, Father had a moral obligation to point out to this woman that she couldn't receive communion since she was introducing him to her active lifestyle without contrition. Had she not announced this to him, he says he would “assume good faith when a Catholic presents himself (herself) for communion; like most priests I am not at all eager to withhold communion.” But given that she announced her lifestyle and was not a member of the parish, Father was acting as any priest should. And as any "parent" should.

Too many of us say, "Well my friend is going in for an abortion, but I don't want to judge her. So I’m not going to say anything." Certainly if we hear about this after the fact, we can’t say, “You’re a sinner.” But we could say, “If you need someone to talk to about having made that decision, I’m happy to talk. I can also refer you to someone for counseling.”

We don't judge the state of her soul, but we do point out the immoral. To not act, when we have the opportunity, when a door is opened for conversation—that is sinful.

Sadly, we live in wishy-washy times. According to the world, there is only "my truth and your truth." I remember hearing that in school. It was what I believed back when I was living with that fellow I brought home to Mom. I wanted to define “right and wrong” for myself.

But my mother did the Right thing. Her ultimatum, “If you want one bed, you can’t sleep here,” made me embarrassed. But it was the challenge I needed to hear. And her constant prayers were what turned my life around.

We have an obligation to speak on behalf of God’s law within our circles of influence. And that will make a difference. Let’s pray for Fr. Guarnizo and all those involved in that situation. Father has been removed from priestly duties in response to his action. From the information available, that seems very wrong. So we will pray for our whole Church that our bishops and Cardinals will stand up against the pressures of the world that would re-define family.

Let us pray…and speak out.

This is a link to Fr. Guarnizo’s explanation of what happened: