Something upon which we can chew while snowbound:
As Christians, if we are to love as Jesus loved, we must first come to terms with suffering. Like Jesus, simply cannot be cool and detached from our fellow human beings. Our years of living as Christians will be years of suffering for and with other people. Like Jesus, we will love others only if we walk with them in the valley of darkness – the dark valley of sickness, the dark valley of moral dilemmas, the dark valley of oppressive structures and diminished rights.
Joseph Cardinal Berardin, The Gift of Peace, p. 49
By Thomas Palanza, Jr.
Have you ever heard about people who give birth to babies in bathtubs – on purpose? What’s up with that? The American Pregnancy Association describes water births as occurring in large tubs of warm water, carefully supervised by qualified healthcare providers. “The theory behind water birth is that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing into a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother.” Well, that seems like a fair thought to me. But I’ll leave it to my doctor friends to argue about the benefits and risks of water births; it was the idea of making the transition from one stage of life to another smoother, easier, more familiar that interested me. For a theology student (or maybe just for me) the transition INTO the world almost always makes you think of the transition OUT of it as well. Smooth births got me thinking about smooth deaths.
This is what I was thinking about during class the other day. We were talking about The Way of Perfection by Teresa of Avila when, towards the end of class, our professor asked us, “So, why talk about prayer so much at all? Why does it matter? What is this discussion of prayer doing for the reader besides just learning how to pray? What does learning how to pray serve?” My answer (and that’s just the opinion of a casual Teresa reader) is that learning how to pray helps with the transition from one stage of life to another, from life through death to eternal life. Continue reading Smooth Transitions: Teresa of Avila’s Focus on Prayer
I recently subscribed to America, Commonweal, and First Things: there’s nothing like attempting to cover all the ecclesial bases.
Last night, an article in First Things stopped me in my tracks. It’s written Nora Calhoun, who is described as a Catholic convert, mother, and future midwife.
If there’s anything worth reading today, this is it: it combines life, death, struggle and triumph, the travails of extreme youth and old age, and a recognition of our common humanity embedded in our very selves.
The baby in my arms lacks the majority of his brain. He was born just fifteen minutes before this moment, and he is likely to die before another fifteen minutes pass. He has taken no first breath and will give no first cry. He cannot see. He cannot hear. He does not feel the warm weight of my hand as it rests on his chest and belly. I quietly weep and pray as the last gift of oxygen his mother’s body gave him dwindles and his rosy newborn glow fades to gray. His soul gently slips out of his body, and his life ends.
Ability is not what makes death significant. At birth this baby had capacities below that of a healthy fetus at ten weeks. Holding his body, living and then dead, proves to me that it doesn’t matter how early the human heart beats, how early it is possible to feel pain, or when the senses develop. No ability or strength confers human status—not being viable or sentient or undamaged or wanted. Being of human descent is enough; you cannot earn or forfeit your humanity. If this baby’s death does not matter, no death matters.
Read it all here: you’ll be glad you did.
From First Things:
We are planning another funeral, one of the small duties of which is selecting materials for inclusion in the folder that will be handed out to guests. The funeral home offered sample poetic spiritual selections for the funeral program. These poems are meant to offer consolation, but the ones commonly offered by funeral homes do something like the opposite.
A second common feature, Footprints aside, each of these poems ascribes death to God. God did it: He took you away because, well, gosh, he just wanted you now, so he broke our hearts to show us he only takes the best. This is what God did? This may represent some kind of pop theology loaded with over baked sentimentality, but it is not any sort of biblical Christian theology I know.
Read it all here: pastoral ministers, take note!