A Parent’s Open Letter to Richard Dawkins

FirstThings

By Katie Morroni

My friend J.D. has composed a beautiful, open letter to Richard Dawkins — and it’s by far the best thing I’ve read in some time.

Before J.D. and his family moved to Nebraska, I babysat for their son Max a few times — so in a very small way, I have experienced the joy J.D. mentions, evident in playing games, reading stories, and rocking their sweet then-baby to sleep. I pray Richard Dawkins accepts this invitation, or otherwise encounters such joy.

I can’t very well put forward this letter that speaks so much to my heart without adding another part of the reason why: My husband and I are preparing to welcome our first child into the world later this year! Just yesterday, I felt an actual kick for the first time, and with that has come a whole new, different awareness of the baby. So know that that’s how I approached this letter, albeit subconsciously at first. And now I can’t help but shudder to think of how our society decides if a child is or is not “worthwhile.”

You’re invited to read this beautiful excerpt below, but I think you’ll want to follow this link to read the full letter.

I have two children with Down syndrome. They’re adopted. Their birth-parents faced the choice to abort them, and didn’t. Instead the children came to live with us. They’re delightful children. They’re beautiful. They’re happy. One is a cancer survivor, twice-over. I found that in the hospital, as she underwent chemotherapy and we suffered through agony and exhaustion, our daughter Pia was more focused on befriending nurses and stealing stethoscopes. They suffer, my children, but in the context of irrepressible joy.

I wonder, if you spent some time with them, whether you’d feel the same way about suffering, about happiness, about personal dignity. I wonder, if you danced with them in the kitchen, whether you’d think abortion was in their best interest. I wonder, if you played games with them, or shared a joke with them, whether you’d find some worth in their existence.

And so, Dr. Dawkins, I’d like to invite you to dinner. Come spend time with my children. Share a meal with them. Before you advocate their deaths, come find out what’s worthwhile in their lives. Find out if the suffering is worth the joy.

Our Anonymous Dead

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By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

My first two months of priesthood have been filled with unexpected joys and challenges: as I said to a confrere yesterday, “Priesthood is exactly what I expected and nothing like what I expected.”

One of the most challenging – and at the same time rewarding – aspects of my ministry has been celebrating funerals.  Death, I’ve concluded, is exactly what Paul of Tarsus said it to be: the last enemy to be destroyed.  Yet, aside from the fundamental theological issues resulting from death (why? why now? punishment? salvation? God’s plan [oh, no, no, no!]), there is a deeper challenge with which I am regularly confronted:

The Anonymous Funeral.

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The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Theology on Tap Edition

Grab a cold one (it’s five o’clock somewhere, isn’t it?) and check out Christopher Hale’s talk given to young adults at a Theology on Tap in Washington, DC.

The setup:

The pain is real, but this good news can change transform it. What is this news? It’s the impossibly good news that no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done, or how badly we’ve failed, God never grows tired of loving us. It’s the news that God’s mercy is from age to age. No one is excluded; no one is left behind! We engage in missionary discipleship not because we’re seeking converts, but because we’re loved sinners who are experiencing this reality in some way and want other people to experience this redeeming love and allow it to change their lives. I want to propose tonight that there are three steps to being this missionary disciple: 1) we must have a big heart open to God, open to discerning God’s movement in our life; 2) we must have the courage and the desire to share the joy of the Gospel; and finally 3) we must be willing to become poor for the poor.

Read it all here.

Stop Project Mayhem

Credit: dailynewsen.com
Credit: dailynewsen.com

By Matt Keppel

The first rule of Project Mayhem is: “You do not talk about Project Mayhem.”

The second rule of Project Mayhem is: “YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT PROJECT MAYHEM!”


So, here we are. We haven’t spoken about it. We’ve let it grow into something entirely autonomous. It grew from our homes, offices, and computers. It came from the dark, damp basements of our hearts and minds. It drove us deeper and deeper into voluntary anonymity; each member sloughing off his or her humanity in favor of the walls that protect us from the monster we built. Worst of all, we have allowed it to explode into our streets, shattering the lives of those around us.

We find ourselves sitting behind our twitter, facebook, and instagrams following the news reports from those “on the ground” — each of them giving us their spin. We watch situations that, in many cases, have been in the making for many years (some, centuries). We keep an eye on these situations to stay informed, keeping up with current events. It seems as though it is more a form of entertainment than a point of sympathy. A way of saying, “Wow some places in the world are really in bad shape, glad it’s not my home.” Frankly, this is the easy way. There’s no mess involved here! There’s no way to transfer the violence, chaos, and dirt through social media. Incidentally, the complications and history surrounding events are also difficult to transmit through the media. What we are left with, then, is a sterilized, sensationalized, and stigmatized story that leaves us unable to empathize.

Thanks to our Project Mayhem we believe that we have protected ourselves from the outside world, when in reality we have simply become isolated. Through beliefs, ideologies, discriminations, and prejudices we have systematically dehumanized those around us, and in the process, also dehumanized ourselves. When we watch the events transpiring these days, we ask ourselves, “How can such atrocities exist in the world?” Yet, it is by our own doing that these travesties occur. No one is safe from this blame. We all shoulder it. No matter who we are – Black, Hispanic, Arab, Indo-European, Native American, or East Asian – we are all responsible for this brokenness. That which differentiates us has bred distrust and disdain for the other. As long as we continue to buy into Project Mayhem, though our worlds grow closer together, the cycle will continue to pull us farther apart.

This societal enterprise will continue to roll along unimpeded if we continue to stand behind the anonymity of our computers and phones. Our world will continue to be defined by masked police officers facing off against protesters, both sides equally terrified of the possibilities — the growing likelihood of being another face flashed across the internet.  “In death, a member of Project Mayhem has a name;” though maybe, one day, it will be through the death of Project Mayhem that we gain our names. For now, in St. Louis, his name is Michael Brown.

Credit: Gannett
Credit: Gannett

The 4 Stages of Every Team

By Katie Morroni

On a recent walk with a friend, she introduced me to the concept that teams of all kinds move through the same 4 stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing.

I admit, I was reluctant at first. All teams? Surely this couldn’t apply to everyone. But now I’m a believer.

It was brought to her attention at work, in a professional setting, but she mentioned it to me in suggesting that it applies to vocations of all types, too. She’s about to begin her formation with the Sisters of Life this fall, and spoke about how it could apply to learning to live, work, and pray in community with other women. But she went on to say how it also applies to marriages and families of all shapes and sizes, and to all individuals who find themselves as part of any team. (When you stop and think of it like this, we’re all on a variety of teams, regardless of our vocation.)

I began thinking that because it applies so beautifully to vocations, to work life, and to just about any situation I can think of, it would be worth sharing here with the CatholicHow community. Almost all teams move through these stages, and we continue to move through them again and again as transitions happen to our teams as a whole or to key members of the team as individuals. Consider: A new pastor joins the parish where you serve. A couple gives birth to their first child. A longtime, influential staff member leaves your place of work and is replaced by someone with a very different personality.

What follows is the text that my friend shared with me, authored in part by her colleague and professional advisor. It pulls from a number of sources, perhaps most extensively from Ken Blanchard’s book, High Performing Team. Emphasis is my own.

Have you experienced this in your teams? How have you navigated this process with success? Have you seen a team fail because it could not move past the storming stage? Post your comments below, or connect with CatholicHow contributors and readers on Facebook or Twitter.

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Am I Pretty? The Trouble with Online Comments

Photo Credit: Jens Schott Knudsen // @jensschott
Photo Credit: Jens Schott Knudsen // @jensschott

By Sara Knutson

Although it’s been a trend for years, I was introduced just this week to the continuing string of “Am I Pretty?” videos being posted by teens and preteens on YouTube. Now I can’t look away.

In a typical video, a totally normal-looking 13- or 15-year-old peers into her webcam and confesses that while people at school regularly shun her supposed ugliness, her friends assure her that she’s pretty. Her voice quivers as she asks her anonymous viewers to tell her the truth: pretty or ugly? Be honest, she requests, but not mean.

A long and painful trail of comments sits beneath each video, comprising three categories: “ugly,” often accompanied by unsolicited cruelty; “pretty,” usually with a you’re beautiful because of who you are inside kind of earnestness; and “fine, but you’d be prettier if you…” followed by various beauty tips.

Not a single comment is helpful.

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The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Salt Edition

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From the great John Chrysostom, via Sunday’s Office of Readings:

Do not think, he says, that you are destined for easy struggles or unimportant tasks. You are the salt of the earth. What do these words imply? Did the disciples restore what had already turned rotten? Not at all. Salt cannot help what is already corrupted. That is not what they did. But what had first been renewed and freed from corruption and then turned over to them, they salted and preserved in the newness the Lord had bestowed. It took the power of Christ to free men from the corruption caused by sin; it was the task of the apostles through strenuous labor to keep that corruption from returning.

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A Challenge to Insiders: A Homily for the 20th Sunday

 

4.2.7

By Ellen Romer

I couldn’t think of a catchy way to start a reflection on this week’s readings. Even though I have prayed through these readings before, the big catch is that – particularly for the Gospel – there can be some serious discomfort in what God seems to be saying. Although I have taken two New Testament courses and even written an entire assignment on this gospel passage I still have no idea what to do with it. I love that when studying scripture the way that putting passages into context, understanding the gospel writer’s overall intentions, and delving into motivations for the different players brings God’s word to light. But this week’s gospel on the Caananite woman doesn’t necessarily get easier when putting it in context. No matter how you translate the words or bring in any possible context, Jesus calls this woman a dog. He dismisses her as an unworthy creature. She shows exceptional faith and courage and he comes around, but we have no way of knowing why. Even the ‘happy ending’ of the story doesn’t quite erase the difficulty of reading how Jesus, who I believe in so deeply and try my best to follow as faithfully as possible, dismisses a faithful courageous woman as a dog. Frankly, it hurts. Which is so weird – Jesus said something hurtful? 

Now, the easy way to deal with this of course would be to ignore it. Write it off. “Oh Jesus didn’t mean that!” The truth is, I don’t know why Jesus said something that seems so harsh and even cruel. There is also no way to know exactly why he changed his mind and anything anyone  comes up with is speculation at best. Regardless, it is there. It was worthwhile enough that the writer of Matthew’s gospel included it. It is always so easy to pick through what we like in scripture. We focus on the things that resonate with and mean the most to us. The parts that are difficult though, are the parts we ought to listen to the most. God is always speaking to us through every part of the Bible. Whether or not we like it, we need to wrestle with it. Why doesn’t it resonate? Why am I resisting something God might be saying to me? Is it to difficult? Does it challenge the way I live my life and the values I uphold? Spending time with the word of God, even if it means wrestling with the difficult words, opens us up to God’s revelation. We can’t just pick the easy parts. Jesus showed us clearly that following God’s will does not make for a life that is always easy.

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The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Christian Favoritism Edition

From the spiffy blog, Political Theology, comes a fascinating piece from SMU professor Kevin Carnahan.  He talks ecclesiology, Augustine, Rowan Willians, and Iraq.  In other words, no matter one’s take on his position, it’s likely to be the best thing you’ll read all day.

Carnahan’s main point:

The Church is not only a family, but also the body of Christ.  When the metaphor of “body” is deployed, the problem of favoritism for members of the Church becomes clear.  If the Church is called to be Christ in and for the world, it hardly makes sense to make protection of the body a primary concern.  Such is certainly not Christ’s example. Christ places sacrifice before glory.  Christ places concern for the other before concern for his own body.  The Christian life, both individually and communally, aspires to carrying this cross.  The Church has failed in its mission if it allows Christians to favor its own members.

Read it all here.  Disagree or agree in the com-box.

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