Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Who, me?

For your hands are defiled with blood
  and your fingers with iniquity
    - Isaiah 59:3
It is much, much worse than I have yet admitted. The prophet's words are for my ears, his accusing fingers are pointed at me, and I am condemned. Not only have I been less than steadfast in defending human life, but I have been one of those who shed the innocent blood. For all my pro-life talk, I myself am guilty of the crime of abortion.

O, but that was years ago, and, until the prophet pointed at me, I didn't know I was guilty; I really didn't. I knew abortion was wrong. That the deliberate killing of a wholly innocent little one was evil. I also knew that God forgives a repentant sinner, that great though the sin is, His mercy and forgiveness are greater. What I didn't know was that I was in need of repentance myself.

From the time that I saw those little ones as the the least of my brethren, I sought to come to their aid. Along with other pro-life folks, I prayed. I wrote letters and signed petitions. I prayed some more. I fasted. As the years passed, I lamented greatly that our prayers seem to go unheard. I cried out

Why have we fasted,
    and thou seest it not?
 Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and thou takest no knowledge of it?  [1]
This cry was heard, and God answered. But I did not like the answer.

Yes, I prayed, and the prayer was heartfelt. I fasted, and the fast was in earnest. In the meantime, I worked my job, collected my pay, and willingly surrendered a goodly portion of that pay to the government. And I learned how that money was used to fund Planned Parenthood, Title X abortions, and contraception, abortion and population control programs around the world. And I slowly came to admit that I was feeding the dragon. The prophet's finger was pointed at me, and I stood condemned.

This was God's answer to my cry?? That my prayers are hollow and my fasting cheap as long as I keep willingly contributing to the crime?

But... but... but, I don't want to pay for the killing of those helpless babies! Er... uhmmm... I mean, this isn't my idea! But.. well... but... O, dear me!

Well, yes, it is my money, I suppose. I put forth the effort, the time, and the skills to obtain it. And some of it is used to slaughter the innocents. I can no longer deny the truth. OK... (sigh)... I admit it. I am guilty.

This, too, by the grace of God, is a matter for repentance.  [2]

Note 1: Isaiah 58:3a [RSV]
Note 2: See: ProLifeStrike.org

Friday, March 13, 2009

The least of these

The threefold Lenten discipline of prayer, fasting, and giving can and should have a purifying and clarifying effect. Prayer and fasting lead the soul to generous giving. Fasting and giving lead the soul to reflective prayer. The following is a personal story, covering the past 36 years or so.

I was a young man in 1973 when Roe v. Wade shocked the American culture. From the very beginning, I knew that was wrong, and must be reversed. But within a fairly short span, I let myself be cowed by more liberal thinkers into a broader way of viewing things. Restoring legal status to the unborn, while important, was just one of many equally important issues. We must not become too narrow-minded; we must not be single-issue voters and thinkers. That much was axiomatic.

Pre-born sucking his thumb I believe it was through prayer and fasting that I eventually came to consider more thoughtfully the essence of giving to the poor. The Gospel passage that grabbed me at some point was Mt.25:31-46. This well-known story tells of the return of the King at the end, how he separates the sheep from the goats, judges them on the basis of how they gave to the poor and needy, and issues this divine judgement: "...as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." (Mt.25:40b RSV)

And who, I pondered, are the very least of my brethren? Who are the poorest of the poor? To whom should I be especially generous, so as to be found giving to the Lord Himself?

There are poor people right here, even in my home town. I must give to them, and so I shall. But - are they the very least? Well, those in third-world countries are certainly poorer. Are they the least? What about those who actually die in war or in natural disasters? Loss of life is certainly more serious than mere poverty. Are these the least?

You already know where this leads. I was eventually forced to see that there was no greater poverty than that suffered by those who were wholly innocent and also wholly defenseless. These little ones could not even raise their voices in a plaintive cry for help. These were the very least. Giving to these would be giving to Jesus.

With renewed clarity of vision, I was cowed no longer. Although often unfaithful, and frequently forgetful, I have since endeavored to make this a major focus of my life, liberal goats notwithstanding.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The third and final Lenten basic is alsmgiving, sometimes called mercy. I'll just use the generic word Give. If the prayer and fasting are genuine, they will naturally produce in the person who is praying and fasting a spirit of generosity toward the poor. Conversely, giving propels the generous soul to prayer and fasting, and leads to spiritual progress. The giving is itself a concrete action; it means giving in a material way to meet material needs.

Again, this is pretty straightforward; not much I can say to elaborate. But I would like to share a personal testimony on how these three Lenten disciplines have moved me, in Lents past and into the present. Coming soon.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Another of the three Lenten basics is prayer. Writing a blog post about prayer is a bit like writing about love. Either overwhelm all internet servers with terabytes upon terabytes of words, and still not do the subject justice, or be brief. This shall be brief.

The final 76 pages of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is devoted to Christian Prayer. Reviewing this, I was struck anew by this insight: That, though a thoroughly spiritual exercise, a movement of the heart, prayer is necessarily related to our physicality as well. "...it is the whole man who prays." {2562}

For one thing, the practice of fasting and other ascetics is essential to cultivating a healthy prayer life. A very common cause of sloth in prayer [2733], the spiritual masters say, is related to a failure to discipline the body through ascetical practices.

Secondly, true prayer is connected to living one's faith [2745] in concrete ways, else the prayer is hollow and meaningless.

Thus: Prayer, fasting, giving.