Monday, May 11, 2015

Who Has the Responsibility to Develop Character?

Psychiatrist Peter C. Whybrow wrote an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal ("This IsYour Brain on Easy Credit"), adapted from his upcoming book The Well-Tuned Brain:  Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived. Whybrow rightly concludes that we would all do better to avoid impulsive decision making and to develop a greater ability to delay gratification.  But the following lines really caught my attention.
Yet the habits of prudent concern and self-command develop, just as do profligate habits, through social exchange.  Ask who is responsible for the development of character and there is no single answer, because it is a collective responsibility.  It is regrettable that discussion of how good character is built has become an unfashionable subject, largely ignored in today’s public debate. 
Is the development of character a collective responsibility?  It is not. Parents are responsible for the development of character in their children.  Healthy societies support and reinforce the teaching of parents.  But the society in which we live, in many ways, can no longer be considered healthy. Parents must educate children in the virtues by constant and repeated instruction when children are small.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells this out quite clearly. In CCC 2223:
They (parents) bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.  The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self- denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery—the preconditions of all true freedom.  Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.” 
Yes, the parents must provide this instruction.  No one else has the authority or influence over the child to do so.

Whybrow is right that the discussion of how character is built has become an unfashionable subject. Why is that?  I would suggest that there are two main reasons.  First, moral relativism has become the norm. Our culture is very committed to the irrational notion that there is no absolute right or wrong and that truth is relative and dependent on personal opinion. We are a ship without a rudder. Consequently, many parents are raising children not only without a compass to rely on, but without even the ability to argue that there is such a thing as a moral compass. The results have been predictable.

The second reason flows from the first. There has been widespread abdication of parents' responsibility toward children.  Some of this abdication is evidenced by the actual turning over of children to the care of others.  If you spend less time with your children, you have fewer opportunities to teach them about what is important. But even parents who are the primary caregivers of their children are frequently failing to teach their children about virtue. Why? Because of a prevailing and insidious child rearing philosophy that says that parents cannot control their children. So parents give up before they have even tried and then blame the bad behavior on the child, ignoring the fact that parents have tremendous influence and great God-given authority over their children. Discipline is very much out of vogue. It is much easier to throw up your hands and shake your head over the "bad choices" your child is making than it is to painstakingly and repeatedly instruct your child in what is the right way to live.  Yes, I said a right way to live.  And, yes, there is a wrong way to live.

We live in disturbingly dark and spiritually dangerous times in which to raise children.  But life remains a beautiful gift from God. Our God reigns. We must diligently call upon the Lord and implore the help of his Blessed Mother to discern and to follow his will in all of the challenges that life and parenting presents.  We must stay on the path illumined by his law and teach our children to do so as well. Our children will recognize the truth. But we must be the ones to show them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gay Marriage and The Supreme Oligarchs

The following quotes on the Supreme Court's gay marriage arguments are from the New York Times article which can be viewed HERE.

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments for two and a half hours on two cases involving gay marriage.

Justice Kennedy said:
“This definition has been with us for millennia. And it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’ ” He added that “the social science on this” — the value and perils of same-sex marriage — is “too new.”
Indeed, it has.  And even ancient Rome, in the midst of their decline when homosexual behavior was quite common, even then, they did not recognize marriage as any other combination than that of a man and a woman.

Justice Kennedy went on:
Same-sex couples say, of course: ‘We understand the nobility and the sacredness of the marriage. We know we can’t procreate but we want the other attributes of it in order to show that we, too, have a dignity that can be fulfilled,’ ” Justice Kennedy said, strongly suggesting that the reasoning resonated with him.
And the attorney for the gay couple...
“….Mary L. Bonauto, representing more than a dozen gay and lesbian couples, urged the justices to remove “the stain of unworthiness” that marriage bans produce.”
When Justice Kennedy explains that gays want to be recognized as having "a dignity that can be fulfilled," I think he has inadvertently identified the true motivation behind the desire of gays to have their unions recognized as marriage.  I know what I am about to say could be very hurtful to homosexuals, who would no doubt deny it.  But it is important to speak the truth about matters of this grave importance.  The issue of gay marriage, I believe, is about moral legitimacy.  Gays want to be free from the awareness that many, many people believe that their intimate behavior is immoral.  I imagine there is a very oppressive shame associated with the knowledge that great religions, such as Christianity, have always taught that their unions are gravely against the good.  

Yes, I have no doubt that gays would like the "stain of unworthiness" to be removed.  But the Supreme Court, no matter how they rule, cannot do that.

Justice Scalia asked:
“Do you know of any society, prior to the Netherlands in 2001, that permitted same-sex marriage?” he asked Ms. Bonauto. She said no, at least as a legal matter.”
Justice Roberts:  
“You’re not seeking to join the institution,” he said. “You’re seeking to change what the institution is.”
Justice Breyer said, "Marriage is about as basic a right as there is."

Now I am not a judge or a Constitutional scholar.  I'm not even an attorney.  But I have read the Bill of Rights and a right for members of the same sex to marry is not in there.  Are there innate human rights that are not in the Constitution?  Well, yes, and the most basic is surely a right to life, a right that the Supreme Court threw out the window in 1973.  There is no "right to marriage," it would seem to me, Justice Breyer.  And isn't that the entire point of this case?  Is it not to determine whether or not there is such a right?

If the Supreme Court rules that there is a Constitutional "right to marriage" for gays (and who knows what other combinations down the road. There is no legitimate reason to prevent other combos if they decide there is a "right to marry.") Then the name of the Supreme Court should be changed to the Supreme Oligarchs.  

I for one have had enough of the Supreme Court usurping the democratic process.  Everyone knows full well there is no right to abortion in the Constitution and there is no right to gay marriage.  If they rule that there is, I hope there will be a powerful and deliberate effort on the part of the American people to at least require terms limits for these oligarchs!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Body of Christ-- A Network System

From the wonderful book The Gift of Faith by Tadeusz Dajczer comes the following words of wisdom.
Growth in grace through a greater faithfulness to God intensifies one's specific influence on others like invisible radiation......As Romano Guardini has said:
The prayers of others belong also to you just as their actions, spiritual growth, and purity of heart do.  Have you ever reflected on the community of the suffering, on the fact that the graces flowing from somebody's suffering are transferred to others?  If, united with the suffering of Christ you offer your painful experiences to God for others, then your experiences become a living, beneficial, redemptive, power for them.  Beyond all obstacles and distances, you bring help where nothing else can be of help. ("II senso della Chiesa in La realta della Chiesa [Breseia, Italy: Morcelliana, 1999], p.38.)
     No one is a solitary island.  As the Mystical Body of Christ, we constitute a unique network system, similar to a system of connected vessels.  Your good as well as your evil has a social dimension, because it creates a specific supernatural pressure of good or evil on others.
What a beautiful description of the interconnectedness of prayer, good works, and suffering upon the Body of Christ.  Yes, it does matter what each individual chooses to do.  Good begets good.  Evil begets evil.

Every moment matters for the good of the whole, all of us.  Every decision is significant.

May we keep this truth ever before us, that we might live always for the greater glory of God.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Diet to Avoid Alzheimer's?!

Just read a great article  by Sumathi Reddy in the Wall Street Journal entitled "A Diet Might Cut the Risk of Developing Alzheimer's."  Well, that's a pleasant thought!

"Experts say there is a growing awareness that lifestyle factors-- not just genetics--play a prominent role in the development of Alzheimer's, and researchers hope to come up with an optimal diet that will lessen the chances of developing the disease."  Yes!!

The diet was developed at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Called the MIND diet, it is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.  The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Hypertension) was designed to reduce high blood pressure.  Thus the acronym Mediterranean- DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. MIND Diet. Clever.

OK. So what's the diet?  Here it is.

Green, leafy vegetables-- a salad and one other vegetable every day
Other vegetables
Beans-- three times a week
Berries (especially blueberries)-- twice a week
Whole grains- three servings a day
Fish-- once a week
Poultry-- two or more servings a week
Olive oil
Wine-- one glass a day
Nuts-- five times a week   LOVE this one!!

And avoid the following!!

Red meats
Butter and stick margarine
Pastries and Sweets
Fried and fast food.

Those who followed this diet closely lowered their risk of Alzheimer's by 53%.  Those who followed it moderately lowered their risk by 35%.  So it's even worth doing it halfway!!

The only thing surprising and problematic for me is the whole grain requirement, because I can no longer eat gluten.

David Perlmutter in his book Grain Brain makes a strong case that gluten is bad for everyone and that it's especially bad for the brain.

Well, they're just getting started on this idea.  I'm just excited by the idea that diet can impact one's risk of Alzheimer's.  That's very good news!

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Whatever the Ayatollah Wants" WSJ

The Wall Street Journal as an interesting opinion piece in today's (4/20/15) edition.

Aptly titled Whatever the Ayatollah Wants, the piece opens with this.
     Give Ayatollah Ali Khamenei credit for knowing his opposition.  Two weeks ago the Supreme Leader declared that Western sanctions had to be lifted immediately as a condition of the nuclear deal.  And sure enough, on Friday President Obama said Iran would get significant sanctions relief immediately upon signing a deal.
     The Ayatollah knows that Mr. Obama wants an agreement with Iran so much that there's almost no concession the President won't make.  So why not keep asking for more?
Hopefully, you can read the rest of the editorial HERE.

The U.S. has already granted numerous concessions that contradict previous U.S. positions, concessions that have so alarmed Israel, that Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that even the so-called deal framework paves the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.

We have been negotiating with a country that continues to define the U.S. as its enemy and continues to export terrorism throughout the region.  Chants of "Death to America" and a call for the destruction of Israel, our most important ally in the region, continue.

And during the negotiations Iran staged a mock attack on a U.S. air carrier.  Yes, during the negotiations.  The administration dismissed the maneuver as harmless.

Does it make any sense to trust a country like this?  Does it?  What on Earth is the president doing?  Preserving his foolish and naive belief that making nice and talking to anyone, including terrorists, is the path to peace?  Is the whole dangerous exercise about saving face for the president?

Friday, April 17, 2015

SPRING!!!!! Don't You Just Love It?

From Goodreads I bring you the following fun quotes about spring.  (There are many others on the site so if you enjoy these, you know where to go.  HERE.

"That is one good thing about this world...there are always sure to be more springs.
     L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

"Spring is the time of plans and projects."
     Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

"In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."
     Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard

"If people did not love one another, I really don't know what use there would be in having any spring."
     Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

"It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want-- oh, you don't quite know what you want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"
     Mark Twain

I bought some pea and lettuce plants today.  Spring is the time of new life! More energy! Joy!!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Small Success Thursday--Things to Make Time For

Well... on a lighter note.....

Today is Small Success Thursday over at

What are my "small successes" this week?

I have been going to a gym.  This is not like me.  I really don't enjoy exercise.  I enjoy reading and writing and my favorite place to do these things is on my bed, where I am right now.

But I realize that I need to be strong and healthy to enjoy my life, and I do want to enjoy my life.

So I've been exercising at the gym.  Quite regularly, I must say.

This past week I even attended several of the free exercise classes.  I started with a class that didn't sound TOO challenging.  I was wrong.  It was quite challenging.  I kept looking at the other older participants, but nobody seemed to want to look at me and exchange mutual eye rolling.

We needed a stability ball, 3 sets of dumbbells, a foam roller, and an exercise mat.  What a relief it was when we finally laid down on the mats.  I had taken my hair out of a ponytail, because it's hard to lay back on a ponytail.  I forgot that my hair has gotten quite long.  As per the instructions of the teacher, my legs were stretched into a pretzel position when I realized I could not raise my head, having pinned it to the floor by lying on my hair.  I tried to roll a little to the side but the leg pretzel prevented that.  Sheesh.  I guess this is the kind of thing fitness gurus think of before they lie down.

Finally the legs were undone and we were told to put the foam roller under our necks to stretch them.  I thought, oh, this is going to feel good, leaning back onto the roller.  The little foam log slipped on my hair and rolled toward the other people on their mats, all ready to relax.  I had to jump up and chase it maybe ten feet further into the room.

A little embarrassing.  But I had the presence of mind to remind myself that I was not there to impress anyone, and I WAS getting exercise.

The small success?  I even tried another class this week!

And tonight I will be seeing a wonderful musical production of "The Music Man" with my daughter Mary.

There are some things we really must make time for.

We Must Obey God Rather Than Men

The antipathy of the current administration to all things Christian makes todays readings and commentary particularly appropriate. (See yesterday's post.)

The first reading, Acts 5:27-33, describes the questioning of the Apostles by the Sanhedrin. They say, "We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name?" To which the Apostles respond, "We must obey God rather than men."

And from the Gospel, John 3:31-36, "The ONE WHO comes from above is above all." Amen.

I can't say enough good things about the series In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez. (Not to be confused with another title, Conversations with God, which I do NOT recommend.) Fernandez' series is like daily spiritual direction based on the reading of the day.  It's WONDERFUL!!!  It's orthodox, insightful, and intelligent.  I've never been disappointed with a single day's meditation.

Today's Commentary is from Volume Two: Lent and Eastertide.

Fernandez writes:
     The fortitude and conviction of the first Christians is what Our Lord is also asking from his followers today, when, in certain environments, there breathes a climate of indifference or even direct attack, more or less veiled, on true human and Christian values.
This volume was first published in 1987. Today the attacks are unveiled and even come from our own government. (See yesterday's post.)
     The effective protection of fundamental individual rights, the right to life from the very moment of conception, the protection of marriage and the family, equality of opportunities in education and in work, freedom of education and of speech, religious freedom, personal security, contribution to world peace, all form part of the common good for which Christians should be prepared to fight.
     Passivity in the face of such important affairs would really be a lamentable error and omission-- at times grave-- of the duty to contribute to the common good.
Well.... that got my attention.  He goes on...
     One cannot praise a political action or social regulation or work of art when it becomes transformed into an instrument for evil.  It is a question of strict morality and therefore of common sense.  Who would praise an insult to his own mother just because it was composed in verse which had perfect rhythm?
Indeed.  In reference to abortion and other "abominable crimes," Fernandez writes:
Whatever little each person is able to do, he should do it, especially should he be in public life....It lies in the hands of everybody, of each individual, provided he acts with supernatural outlook and with common sense, to make this world which God has given us to live in, into a more human place and a means of sanctification.  If we strive to fulfill our social duties, whether we live in a big city or in a little out-of-the-way village, with an important job in society or a lowly one, even though we may think our contribution is tiny, we shall be faithful to Our Lord.
We must speak the truth courageously, send the emails, make the phone calls, sign the petitions, and pray, pray, pray.

Come Holy Spirit.