The National Catholic Review
Enough Grinning and Groping

One reason people sit apart during Mass (Current Comment, 9/28) is to avoid being frowned at for not holding hands and raising them during the Our Father, as if this empty pretense of community could somehow make up for the absence of a shared, vital attention to Christ’s sacrifice at the altar. Avoiding the noise and chattiness that inevitably accompany the sign of peace is another reason.

At the very moment when all minds and hearts should be one in adoration of Christ, we are called on to slip on a social mask and smile warmly at the people in one’s vicinity, while the mystery of our faith, Christ’s sacrificial presence on the altar, is diluted into the sorry mess of a spiritual group hug.

This advice confounds the liturgical meaning of celebration with the popular usage; worse, it equates mere physical proximity and sensual exuberance with spiritual unity and force. It is one further reason the church needs to give up the Protestant practice of having priests face the congregation while offering sacrifice, get them to pay attention to the transcendent reality of priesthood and stop wondering why the faithful are not grinning and groping during the divine mysteries.

J. R. Hochstedt

Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Dawn of Creation

Re: “A Fiery Gift” (10/5): Kudos to Susan Windley-Daoust for bringing to light the fundamental spiritual reality of birth. When we had our first child, admittedly a somewhat easy delivery with no medicine involved, I felt as though my husband and I were with God at the dawn of creation. Nothing in my nine years in religious life, which I continue to value highly, brought me as close to a sense of God creating and loving his creation (“and God saw that it was good”) as that morning when the air was as pure as the day after a storm and God’s power and love flooded the room. It remains, along with the delivery of my second child, the most deeply spiritual experience of my life.

Kathy Pesta

Wakefield, R.I.

Touched and Yet Dejected

Thank you, Ms. Windley-Daoust, for bringing this reality so vividly to life. As a celibate male, not only will I never have this immediate experience, I do not expect to have it proximately. And that leaves me feeling “abject.” I am reminded of a wonderful reflection given on a Marian feast by a married woman regarding the quickening—the first fluttering of mobility of the new life within—and how both touched and somewhat dejected I found my heart. Your writing sheds new light on bearing a child in one’s womb “with love beyond all telling.”

Paul Nienaber, S.J.

Winona, Minn.

When I Am Weak, I Am Strong

What a great article by Susan Windley-Daoust! If only all women could read this after their first visit to the doctor. Having had four natural births myself, I totally agree that by working with the delivery process childbirth can be a growing personal, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual experience. But we have to take the chance and work through the experience.

By my fourth delivery, on Holy Saturday, I had a mystical experience that I would not trade for any pain-free, medically induced delivery. While I know we are all different and have different pain thresholds, I always viewed myself as weak when it came to pain, but through each childbirth God showed me how strong I can be when I unite myself to him. With God I can accomplish anything that is within his will.

Sandy Smith

St. Charles, Ill.

We Fly to Your Patronage

As an adoptive parent, I have often said that the labor/delivery aspect of motherhood is also present in adoptive and foster parenthood, only in reverse order (the pain and labor take place after the child arrives, as the child bonds to you). I came to a fresh appreciation of the Blessed Mother (I am a recent convert from the evangelical tradition) when I saw that my foster son embraced me as mother only when he was frightened or lonely. During the day he would tolerate my feeding and dressing him, but at night I was “Mom!” This realization transformed my prayer life. God and the Blessed Mother are always patiently waiting for us to come and talk to them. Our not acknowledging them does not change this fact. The labor of motherhood and the transforming power of this role touch us regardless of how the child responds.

Heidi Saxton

Milan, Mich.

Missing the Point

Re “Faulty Guidance” (9/14): I think Father O’Malley is missing the point. What the bishops present in their Curriculum Framework is what the Catholic Church has been teaching for centuries. The Framework is not telling us how to teach or the methods to use in our religious education and catechetical sessions.

I disagree with the author’s implication that young people today are incapable of understanding, articulating and committing themselves to the language and content of the Catholic faith and doctrine. Our young people deserve more credit.

In answer to Father O’Malley’s final question, I have found many high school age men and women who have “chosen a retreat over a rock concert.” What I have not found so easily are professional religious educators with the fire and conviction of an Ignatius of Loyola, who was able with word and example to attract young people to leave all and follow Jesus Christ.

Maria H. Sedano

Chicago, Ill.

Harold Hill or St. Thomas?

I would like to commend the bishops for their continued efforts to work with the publishers of catechetical texts in order to bring to parishes and Catholic schools the best tools possible for communicating the fullness of faith to our young people.

This Framework is not a tool for direct instruction. And no textbooks could ever replace the witness of catechists to communicate their faith to others. But catechists need good tools to bring the fullness of the truth to their students. I work with many catechists who would strongly disagree with Father O’Malley’s advice that they should be more like the con-artist Harold Hill. I would rather work with the saints like Thomas Aquinas.

In my opinion, Father O’Malley may have another agenda. Get a grip! The “Kum Ba Yah” days are over!

Carole Obrokta

New Orleans, La.

Accident or Crime?

Re “Wheels of Misfortune” (Current Comment, 9/14): I am particularly sensitive to this issue, since my 18-year-old son was killed by a drunken driver on a summer afternoon. You are correct to write about the devastation and pain caused.

But I must advise the editors with regard to the use of the term “accident” as it related to these crashes. They are not accidents. Drunken driving crashes are the result of reckless driving and disregard of human life. It is a crime. Much to my surprise I see that even in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2290) “those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.” Not all sins are potential killers of other human beings, but this one is.

Jane Engelke

Mystic, Conn.

For Instance, Please!

Re “No Waiting Room” (Editorial, 9/28): Will you please make some recommendations! You continue to preach to the choir rather than offer real reform suggestions that everyone knows are needed. Come out with it; be honest about it. You know as well as anyone that real tort reform must be accomplished, properly manned and funded; fraud, waste and abuse oversight must be established, as well as access for all citizens. If the basic problems are not truly reformed, why bother? All this nonsense about dissenters being bad people needs to be further examined by you and the politicians. These are concerned people who are fed up with a Congress that is so partisan and unresponsive to true reform that protesting seems to be their only way out.

Peter Hanrahan

Eagle Harbor, Mich.

One Last Recommendation

If the Catholic Church is consistent in thought and action, why doesn’t it require registered Catholics to fund Catholic medical suppliers with its own version of a health tax so that all Catholics can avail themselves of health services? I am certain that it would be less expensive than sending money through state and local governments, which have a tendency to drain away resources before they reach the front lines.

So, to maximize the impact of Catholic wealth for the benefit of everyone, the bishops should impose a Catholic health tax. That would be putting faith and theory and philosophy into action. The government is a lazy way out and expensive. It is time for Catholic thought to focus on Catholic action, not government mandates pretending to be social justice or medical justice.

John McShane

Westminster, Calif.

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