Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What is the "Catholic Vote"?

CatholicVote.Org has put out a new video through their education fund and what strikes me is that, on the surface, it does not seem to be about the "Catholic Vote" at all. It is a very powerful video, highlighting some of the major issues we are facing right now, using excerpts from famous speeches: Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inaugural address, John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, Ronald Regan's inaugural address, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

It begins in fear, comparing how many people feel today with the fear that spread throughout the early days of the Cold War. We might not be afraid of being destroyed by Russian bombs, but we are definitely living in a time of uncertainty and this makes people nervous. Is the economy getting better or worse? What actions should be taken to improve the economy? How should we handle illegal immigration? What is the best approach to improving the environment? These are just some of the questions being discussed right now and the answers will have significant effects on many Americans. Also, this video brings up how many people feel disappointed by some of the current leadership of our country. The Tea Party movement is one example of this, but another more subtle one that I have noticed is the increased tension in the media with some current government decisions. LSU's campus newspaper, The Daily Reveille is definitely not the place you would find "conservative propaganda" and recently the cartoons and opinion pieces are far more critical of the current government than they have been in the last two years. For instance, today's cartoons really caught my attention. The first illustrated some repercussions of letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire: the wealthy would lay off employees who would then appeal to the government for assistance. The second was a boy sitting in front of an Obama campaign billboard that just said, "HOPE" in large letters. The boy was holding a paper the said "poverty rate" and simply said, "I'm trying." Everyone knows how important the elections this November will be to the direction our country takes and this leaves many people nervous about the future.

Once the video expresses where we are, it turns to hope. It encourages us to keep the dream alive, as the final words say. I like this expression of what the Catholic Vote is. It is not just voting against certain human rights violations-although that is very important-it is larger than that. Our faith shapes who we are as Americans. Every time we vote we are "voting Catholic" even if the issue at hand does not seem related to Catholic social teaching or moral principles because our faith is an inseparable part of who we are. More over, this video does not just apply to the "Catholic Vote", it calls all Americans to keep the dream alive and not to loose hope in our country.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy... Death?

I recently came across the Bonne Mort Society at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Carencro, Louisiana, whose main purpose is to pray for the members who have died, that their time in purgatory be lessened. It is a very interesting group; founded in 1906, their patron is St. Joseph because he was surrounded by Mary and Jesus when he died and therefore had a "happy death" which in French is translated, bonne mort. The membership of the group was dwindling, they use to have one in most Lafayette parishes, but now only one remains. However, in recent years, this last remnant is growing. Anyone can be a member, regardless of what parish they attend and people from Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana have joined this once small group. It's pretty basic as far as what they do to pray for the deceased members, they offer one mass a week for all the members as well as four masses soon after the death of a member. Also, around the feast day of St. Joseph, March 19th, they have a tridium of masses offered for the members of the society. An important aspect of this society is the comfort of knowing that someone is praying for you throughout your life as well as when you are in purgatory. The most interesting aspect of this society is the fact that on the 19th of every month they offer a mass for the "most forgotten soul in purgatory", this is someone who has no one on earth praying for them, who has been forgotten. To me this is so beautiful: to pray for the soul in purgatory that needs the prayers the most, in a way, because they have been otherwise forgotten here on Earth, yet are still our brother or sister in Christ even if we do not know who they are.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Not so common ethical issues at work

When we talk about being ethical at work, we tend to think about being honest with our boss and coworkers, completing assignments in a timely manner, etc. For instance, my main moral issue at work is just being dependable. However, every once in a while we are unexpectedly challenged in much different ways. The company I work for implements software solutions to help businesses run more effectively and a couple of weeks ago we were approached by someone in Boston who wanted our help with a prospect of his.He was very cautious with the information he shared with us about the organization so we did not even know their name. After working with him for a week, he asked us to demo our software to the organization and afterward we would finally know who this mystery client was.

My first inclination that there might be a problem occurred the day before the demo. We had a phone call with the partner to discuss the demo and he gave us an example of the work the organization does. He said, "They receive money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, and use it to build HIV clinics in Africa." Now to most people this would not be a big deal, but when I hear, "HIV clinics in Africa" it usually means handing out condoms like they are candy. I was a little nervous, but decided to give the company the benefit of the doubt. The next day we did the demo and they were very interested in our product. Afterward we googled the organization, called Pathfinder International, and from their website we found out that the problem was much bigger than I had suspected. One of the main things they do is build abortion clinics in third world countries. I was shocked. I have never had to do business with a client like this before. We talked it over and decided to walk away from the project.

Needless to say the partner was not happy. This was a multi-million dollar deal for him and he could not do it without us.We asked him to explain to Pathfinders why we would not do business with them. Maybe it will cause them to think about what it is they do and whether it actually helps women. Or maybe they will label us socially backwards and uncaring and move on. Most importantly I feel blessed to work for a company that cares more about what is right than about what will bring in the most money. I would have found it very difficult if we had taken the project and I had been expected to build a system that would help a non-profit organization more effectively build and operate abortion clinics.

This was an enlightening experience for me because it showed a whole different side to the abortion issue and how it can creep into our lives.Thankfully, it was easy for us to walk away from the temptation that we would not be morally culpable if we had helped this organization. It makes me wonder though why in such big ethical dilemmas it is often easier to make the right decision, but yet I still struggle with something as small as being at work on time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The influence of Catholic radio

Earlier this year a new radio station began here in Baton Rouge. WPYR 1380 AM is wonderful new station that provides round the clock Catholic programming. I have always listened to music when driving and at work so when it first aired I thought, "Great idea, but I don't do 'talk radio' so if they start playing music maybe I'll listen to it." Then one day there were commercials on all the music stations I listen to so I was looking for anything to listen to other than commercials. I happened back across 1380 AM and I don't remember what was on, but I was hooked. At first I just listened to Catholic Answers because I love apologetics, but then I started listening to the other programming and it is all fantastic. The local morning show is great, although I'll admit I am rarely awake that early. The various shows throughout the day are unique and as I tried out each one I have yet to find one I don't like. I immensely enjoy listening to mass when I go to lunch, especially the fact that much of it is in Latin. The best part is that you don't have to listen to the radio to listen to the radio. I live in Baton Rouge so everywhere I drive is at most 15 minutes away, more if traffic is involved. I don't actually listen to the radio very much, but thanks to the Internet I can listen to WPYR at work and at home through the Listen Live stream. There have been times when I pull into my carport at home, wait for a commercial break then run inside to open up the live stream on my computer. It's that good. Also, most of the shows have podcasts online so I can download them and listen to past shows I missed on my iPod or computer. I have learned so much from listening to Catholic radio and it has changed my life just in the past 6 months. I find that I am more oriented toward God and His will in my everyday life. It helps me to know what it means to live out our Christianity the rest of the week. The efforts in catholic radio here and around the country have changed people hearts and minds. Life-long Catholics have been brought into a closer relationship with Christ and His Church and non-Catholics have come to better understand Church teaching and often have become Catholic. Radio is one of the oldest forms of media other than print, but it is being reborn to proclaim the Gospel in our modern times. Catholic radio is a small portion of the airwaves, but it shows the world what is great and beautiful about our Christian tradition that is often lost in our increasingly secular world.

"Believing Christians should look upon themselves as such a creative minority and help Europe to espouse once again the best of its heritage, thereby being at the service of humankind at large." --Joseph Ratzinger

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are you willing to be inconvenienced?

Instead of giving reasons to be pro-life, I'm going to mention a way to live out being pro-life. First of all is prayer. It seems obvious, but it is entirely understated. It is the best thing we can do to reestablish a culture of life in our society. There are many things we can do like praying in front of an abortion clinic, but I recently came across another way to live out our call to protect and support life. An organization called Life Decisions International researches which companies donate money to Planned Parenthood and produces a boycott list. I have been aware of various boycott lists in the past, but the way that Life Decisions International works is very effective. It does more than put out the list, it contacts the companies and urges them not to support Planned Parenthood. In the last twenty years they have convinced over 250 companies to stop giving donations to Planned Parenthood. The question is are we prepared to make sacrifices, to be inconvenienced, in order to fight the culture of death. There are some big names on the list. On LDI's homepage they give a partial list which includes: Whole Foods Market, Bank of America, Chevron, eBay, Nike, Johnson & Johnson and Sonic. I can tell you it has been very difficult to drive by Sonic on my way home everyday and not stop for an ocean water. However, I am also struggling because National Amusements is on the list and one of the companies they own is CBS. I have been trying to convince myself that I can boycott CBS and still watch How I Met Your Mother when it comes back in September. I know the answer is that I can't, but I don't like it very much.
The LDI list is not free because they spend a lot of time and money making sure it is accurate, but it is definitely worth it. With the list, I have received good resources to keep me up to date on pro-life issues and to help me write letters to the companies and let them know that I won't be using their products and services anymore. They might not care, but it could help them see that donating to a controversial organization isn't worth the hassle. Also they have many free resources on their website.
One of the great things about our society is being able to choose who we patronize and we should use this power ethically. A couple of months ago I heard a lot about boycotting BP because of the way they handled the Gulf oil spill. If we are prepared to take a stand for our environment and our state let's also take a stand against the organization that is by far the largest abortion provider in the world and promotes policies that are harmful not just to women but to men and women of all ages.

"The Pro-Life movement will succeed only to the extent that pro-life people are willing to be inconvenienced." - Douglas R. Scott, Bad Choices: A Look Inside Planned Parenthood

Monday, August 9, 2010

St. Philomena

I've been receiving CDs from Lighthouse Catholic Media for about a year and recently I listened to a CD about St. Philomena. It caught my attention because I had never heard of her before and what I found out was that no one had ever heard of her until the early 1800s even though she lived at the end of the 3rd century. What strikes me about her story is that for 1500 years she was an unknown martyr, then it seems God wanted to make her story known to us. Why is it this 13 year old martyr that God has so peculiarly brought to our attention so many years later? One thing is certain, she is a strong intercessor. Many people have been healed by God through her intercession and over the past two hundred years many people who have had a strong devotion to her are now saints, the most famous being St. John Vianney. She holds the distinction of being the only person beatified solely on her intersession, it wasn't until afterward that anything was known about her life other than that she was a martyr at around the age of 13. Through private revelation we now know much more about her life and death and her story is one of great courage and trust in God. Like St. Maria Goretti she is a model for us today in standing up for what is right in the face of strong and violent opposition. St. Philomena consecrated her life to Christ and refused to abandon Him even when everyone was against her, including her parents. I think God revealed this powerful prayer warrior in heaven to us now because our society is becoming more and more secularized like the world that St. Philomena lived in. Christians might make up the majority of the population in powerful nations, but God has been pushed out of the public square and reason and tolerance have taken over. We might not be facing physical death, but we are all called to make sacrifices to stand up for what we know is right.

St. Philomena, pray for us that we may trust in God and have the courage to do His will always.

The WB and Planned Parenthood

I LOVE Gilmore Girls. I love the fast paced dialogue and obscure pop culture references above all. I've never really seen Rory and Lorelei as progressive at least not any more so than other T.V. show characters, although maybe I didn't see them that way because I didn't want to. However, a couple months ago I watched an episode from a couple years ago for a second time and noticed something I didn't see before. In a scene in Rory's college dorm room there was a prominently displayed poster that said, "Stop the war on Choice" in large letters then in smaller letters underneath it said, "Planned Parenthood". This really caught me off guard. I know it seems small, but it totally changed my idea about who this character of Rory was. Then, in an attempt to redeem her in my opinion, I wondered if maybe it was just the set decorator trying to make a statement and I forgot about it. That was until yesterday when I saw that Season 1 of Veronica Mars was available to watch online on Netflix and I thought, "Huh, I've never seen this before, but I've heard a lot about it, why not give it a try." I only got two episodes in when I noticed a scene in the high school girl's bathroom where there is one big red and white poster on the wall, it reads, "Stand up for Choice!" in large letters and underneath, "Planned Parenthood." I started thinking and realized both episodes aired in the fall of 2004 and now I'm curious if is really is a coincidence or not. I sort of understood it in a college dorm room, but what high school is going to put political messages on their bathroom walls? I watched very few WB shows then so I don't know if this occurred in other shows and I couldn't find anything on the internet about a partnership between the two companies. Maybe I was right the first time, maybe it's just a random set decorator wanting to be edgy, but somehow I don't think so. I would bet that similar messages appear in other WB shows that aired around the same time. Just in time for the November elections. Just saying...

UPDATE: Apparently the Stand up for Choice campaign was in fact begun to help elect John Kerry in 2004.