Where do we stand after President Obama's Notre Dame speech?

Where do things stand, two months after the University of Notre Dame defied the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend and some 80 of his fellow-bishops by awarding an honorary doctorate of laws to the university’s 2009 commencement speaker, the president of the United States?

From the administration’s point of view, President Obama’s Notre Dame speech was an unmitigated success. The president was eloquent, high-minded, and decent-spirited. He also did something no previous president had ever done—he injected himself into the ongoing debate among U.S. Catholics over Catholic identity, by suggesting that the “real” Catholics were those who, like Notre Dame, welcomed him for “dialogue.” This storyline—that the Notre Dame controversy was about openness and dialogue, on the one hand, versus narrow-mindedness and fanaticism, on the other—was successfully sold to the national media by the administration, aided and abetted by the president’s Catholic intellectual acolytes. That, in the process of fostering “dialogue,” the administration was playing wedge politics, dividing a significant number of the Catholic bishops of the United States from their people, went largely unremarked.

What the priesthood means to one priest

It was May 24, 2003. Somewhere around 11 a.m. on a rather humid Missouri morning, I found myself face down on the refreshingly cool marble floor of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. The beautiful voices of the choir reverberated through the magnificent building as they sung the Litany of the Saints. I was in the process of being ordained to the priesthood. As I continued to lie prostrate in the sanctuary, my whole life flashed before my eyes.

As the imaginary film kept rolling, I reflected back on the countless hours of study it took to get to that point. For a guy who has disliked school from the first day of kindergarten, spending the better part of nine years in the seminary was a long academic road! Those years were full of serious challenges and hardships, but much more so, of blessings, grace and joy. The journey had finally come to an end, but the end was simply a new, lifelong beginning.

As the prayers of the saints continued to be musically evoked, I thought back further to my pre-seminary days and to the events that ultimately brought me there in the first place. There were those who thought I’d gone mad when I announced my vocational pursuit to the priesthood. It was not an easy path. 

Depend on God and those He has placed in our lives

I was born with spastic cerebral palsy. This disability has taught me how to depend on others and trust in God with my daily needs. A particular childhood experience showed me the importance of depending on God and those He has placed in my life. It is a lesson I have never forgotten.

It was the second week of school in mid-September 1964. Earlier that summer I had celebrated my 10th birthday. I was glad school had started and never would have dreamt of missing a day of school. Even at that age, I sensed education would give me freedom. In our special-education unit we had the basic reading, writing and math as well as phonics. There were many others such as me who needed physical and/or speech therapy as well. Part of our physical therapy was to stand in the “Standing Box.” There some of students would spend half an hour to an hour each day, our leg braces locked at the knees. While standing we were able to do our class assignments.

I especially liked to read or compose short stories while in the box. These activities helped me pass the time. I also liked to do word searches as well as crossword puzzles. Standing in the box stretched my hamstrings while the reading, writing and word games stretched my mind.  

Gianna’s story a special one on abortion survivors

To inspire means literally to “breathe life into.” As humans we often look to history, the Bible or newspapers to find individuals who have displayed some special quality of courage, faith or resiliency that motivates us to get up each morning and face the vicissitudes of daily life with hope and resignation. 

While I have encountered a number of teachers who have stirred me to higher academic achievement, I do not think anyone has inspired me more to celebrate the human life than Gianna Jessen. Gianna’s story is a special one. She is among a very small group of abortion survivors.

Her 17-year old mother attempted to abort her during the eighth month of her pregnancy. In an effort to kill Gianna, the abortionist injected a saline solution into her mother’s womb. Gianna spent 18 hours swimming in the toxic fluid.  According to Gianna, a saline abortion "burns the baby inside and out,” prompting some people to call these babies “candy apples” because of their burns.

Heroes with broken hearts let in the power of God’s love

There are heroes in our city. Not Spiderman, who rescues innocent victims by spinning a web around his villains, or Superman, who is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. These other heroes are less dramatic, yet they are nearby to guide and save us in real-life situations. Here’s to our heroes, the dads.

I know a hero dad whose child admitted tearfully that he did not have even one friend at school. This is a tough assignment for a dad, and kids come with no instruction manual or script to follow. All smiles on his first day of first grade, his son had spent every recess for the next two months alone, hugging the playground fence. Words of consolation are easier for a skinned knee or a strike out at the plate during a little league game.

This young father’s heart broke a bit. The wisdom of God entered through the break as he prayed for the right words to say to his discouraged, little 6-year-old son.

The bond of father and son is stronger because of this hurt they suffered together, although each suffered in a different way. Both have been taught the importance of kindness and compassion. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 32).

Good health care means asking the right questions

Effective communication makes a critical difference in receiving successful medical attention. But patients often feel inadequate about their ability to speak intelligently with their doctors, or they expect doctors and other medical professionals to take the initiative in steering a conversation in the right direction.

Patients might also be embarrassed about talking about certain symptoms or health problems, or they might not want to admit to unhealthful activities. As a result, their issues go untreated.

The sooner a patient develops and uses effective communication skills with his or her medical team, the better and stronger the relationships that lead to the best health outcome possible.

A good place to start effective communication is with respect for both the medical professional and for oneself. Patients need to face their fears and apparent failings (such as not taking prescribed medication or engaging in unhealthful habits) so that the doctor can have as full a health picture as possible.

All patients have questions about their conditions, the latest medical headlines or information gleaned from others and the Internet. Understanding that another appointment might be necessary to handle the questions is one way to get answers. Also, framing questions in a nonthreatening manner and a normal tone of voice will be more effective than asking accusatorily or from a stance of defiance.

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