"Jesus, I trust in you!"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

And Sister Mary Martha lays the smackdown...

Sister Mary Martha has a wonderful commentary on her blog in which she debunks new age ideas about Lent while also emphasizing its true meaning.

Lent is a time when we are called to try to identify with Christ's sufferings but giving up a small bit of our own comfort.

It may seem silly to give up chocolate or cigars or anime or baseball, when Christ gave up His very life. I think the goodness in this is that it is a yearly reminder of how much energy we put into the things of this world, rather than Christ. For this reason, I recommend giving up whatever it is that you spend way too much time on, whatever it is that distracts you from your home, family, and your God. Then spend all that extra time gained on prayer and good works.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Cult of Death

Roman Catholic Blog has a report on the renewed efforts to pass a law through the California Assembly allowing euthanasia.

I wrote an essay on the subject in 2005, the first time they tried this. I'm posting it below. Perhaps some of my arguments and research may aid you.




A Compassionate Choice


Does the “right to life” guaranteed by the Bill of Rights imply a right to die? The California Legislature is currently debating that issue. The “Compassionate Choices Act” or AB 651(formerly AB 654) proposes legalizing physician-assisted suicide, following similar laws in Oregon and Holland. Proponents argue that “mentally competent patients have the right to make the decision to die, and this bill enables doctors to respect their wishes” (“ACLU”). It is death with dignity.

Supported by the ACLU and the National Organization for Women, AB 651 relieves suffering and allows patients to die with dignity at the end of their lives. Proponents argue that safeguards are in place to prevent abuse. Two physicians must agree that the patient has less than six months to live; the patient must be mentally capable of making an informed decision; the patient must make two oral requests and one written request; the patient must self-administer the prescription, no one can assist; and physicians may refuse to write a prescription (“Californians for Aid in Dying”).

However, can a rational person choose to die? According to the DSM-IV, the official diagnostic handbook of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a desire to commit suicide is a sign of a major depressive episode (169). Medical professionals are obliged, under state and Federal law to recommend a minimum 24-hour hospitalization to anyone who shows signs of wanting to take their own life. Older adults, especially the terminally ill, have the greatest risk for depression and frequently go undiagnosed. According to a 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “Depression was found to be highly associated with acceptance of PAS [physician-assisted suicide] and euthanasia in most hypothetically clinical scenarios in addition to patients' current condition” (153). Another study published in Arch Intern Med, a medical journal, showed that those patients who desired physician-assisted suicide at the time of interview “differed from all others on ratings of loss of interest or pleasure in activities, hopelessness, and the desire to die [, and]…had a higher prevalence of depressive disorders [although] …they did not differ on ratings of pain severity” (Wilson, 2454). In other words, the state of a patient’s mental health directly influences their desire to end their lives, not the amount of their physical suffering. Old age is a trying period of life. Erikson’s stages, which describe life development as a series of crises, classifies old age as a time of “integrity versus despair.” As Vimala Pillari states in Human Behavior in the Social Environment, “Integrity refers to the ability to accept the facts of one’s life and face death without too many regrets or fear”(315) whereas a person in despair may seek “death as a way of ending a miserable existence”(Pillari, 316). Modern care philosophy seeks to address the patient as a whole person. Palliative (hospice) care today addresses not only pain relief, but mental heath as well, through medication and environment enrichment.

In this debate, one must distinguish between the choice to end life and the choice not to prolong it. In Physician-Assisted Suicide, the life-ending medication is the direct cause of death. Patients also sometimes forego care, allowing death to occur by an existing illness. The President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical in Medicine and Biomedical Research describes it thus: “[M]any dying patients decide to forego further life-prolonging treatment when its benefits no longer seem to them worth the burdens it creates [and] cessation of treatment leads rapidly to end of life and, with that, to a release from their suffering”(62). However, the decision of “allowing to die” is focused not on control, dignity, or ending suffering, but on the patient’s happiness and fulfillment at the end of life. Such decisions stem from acceptance that death is inevitable—one should not use every means to prolong life at the expense of mental well-being. A realistic example of this is a patient with metastasized (advanced) cancer. Current treatment has no hope of curing such a patient. Rather than enduring the painful and debilitating effects of chemotherapy, some choose to spend their remaining time with their families and engaged in some meaningful activity, although this action may shorten their lives by some months. Similarly, palliative (hospice) care routinely uses medications that relieve pain but may shorten life. Another common case is that of a patient in irreversible coma. My grandfather was such a patient. Suffering from multiple organ failure, he slipped into a semiconscious state in his last hours, heartbeat and breathing maintained solely by a respirator. The family gathered at his bedside, and a doctor informed us that while life-support could sustain him for months, there was little chance of his waking. After saying our goodbyes, we made the collective decision to turn off life support. He died two hours later.

One must also question whether physician-assisted suicide truly protects a person’s dignity. One must distinguish between palliative care (which focuses on pain relief) and euthanasia, which terminates life prematurely. A fundamental principle of human rights is that the value of a person is intrinsic. Rev. Gerald D. Coleman, S.S., states this eloquently in “Dying with Dignity”:
Persons always die with dignity. They are sacred….Everyone’s dignity is indelible. Our worth is inherent. Our humanity is permanent. The real concern is not death, but dying. Physician-assisted suicide manipulates this fear (13).
Often those who choose to die, do so because of the high cost of health care. Others do so because of social isolation or the feeling that they are a burden on their families. (Smith, Manning, 77). Often, they are receiving insufficient care to relieve their physical pain (Smith). This does not constitute an informed, rational decision, as the ACLU claims, nor does it support patient welfare.

One of the most pervasive arguments in the Right-to-Die Movement is that of individual rights. However, legalized euthanasia often opens up the door to abuses. Michael Manning, M.D., author of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide gives such an example from a Dutch medical journal:
A wife who was no longer willing to care for her ailing husband…issued an ultimatum: euthanasia or admission to a nursing home. The man, afraid of being left at the mercy of strangers in an unfamiliar setting, chose to be killed. The doctor, even though he was aware of the coercion, ended the man’s life (76).
Dutch government studies show that such abuses in patient’s rights occur over a thousand times a year (Manning, 74). Similar incidents have been occurred in Oregon as recently as 2000, in the case of Michael P. Freeland, who received life-ending medication despite having been legally declared to be mentally incompetent. He later sought psychiatric treatment and died two years later surrounded by family and friends, although the doctor who prescribed the “medication” gave him the required six months as mentioned in the law (Smith). It is worth noting that in its online campaign ACLU claims that “Oregon's ‘Death with Dignity’ law has worked flawlessly for the past seven years” (“ACLU”).

Physician Assisted Suicide implies that the patient is literally better off dead, that they are a burden on themselves and their families, and ignores their mental and spiritual well-being. Incidents in Holland and Oregon show that the current safeguards are inadequate to prevent abuse. Is this compassionate? Rather, honor and value the ill, treating their upcoming death as a loss. This would be treating death with dignity. In conclusion, the proposed law is neither dignified nor compassionate.

Works Cited:

American Civil Liberties Union of California. “Californians Deserve Compassionate Choices!.” Take Action!. 25 Mar. 2005. Get Active. 28 June 2005 .

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed, Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Blank, Karen, et al. “Life-Sustaining Treatment and Assisted Death Choices in Depressed Older Patients.” (2001). Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 49(2): 153-161.

Californians for Aid in Dying. “About AB 651.” 13 June 2005. End of Life Choices California. 28 June 2005. .

Coleman, Gerald D. “Dying With Dignity.” Orange County Catholic May 2005: 13.

Manning, Michael, M.D. Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Killing or Caring?. New York: Paulist Press, 1998

Pillari. Vimala. Human Behavior in the Social Environment: The Developing Person, 2nd Ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1998

Smith, Wesley J. “The Creepy Underside of Legal Assisted Suicide” The Oregon Tall Tale.8 May 2004(Reproduced with Permission) Lifeissues.net . 9 July 2005 .

The President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical in Medicine and Biomedical Research. Deciding to Forego Life-Sustaining Treatment. New York: GPO, Mar. 1983.

Wilson, Keith G, et al. “Attitudes of Terminally Ill Patients Toward Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide.” Arch Intern Med 2000(160): 2454–60.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thursday, February 8, 2007

St. Therese on Valium

How the world doesn't understand what holiness truly is

Like many people, I looked forward to the showing of the film "Therese," a low budget movie about the life of Saint Therese of Lisieux. I was gravely disappointed. I had expected many shortcomings, but not the one that most glared out at me.

The actress played St. Therese as if she were a psych patient dosed heavily on Valium.

Unfortunately, this condition is all too common in sacred drama, though usually not as pronounced as in the film about St.Therese. I wrote this today thinking of a rare good example in ETWN's profile about St. Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Divine Mercy. Nearly all the actors who play Jesus do so as if he were on something (I'm inclined to think weed in Jesus Christ Superstar, my least favorite film about Christ). The same is true during much(though not all) of the film about Joan of Arc.

Apparently, "spaced out" seems otherworldly to them.

As a sufferer of withdrawn type ADD, I can tell you that 'spaced out' is about as far from God as you can be, for God the creator of reality, and to know God is to be fully aware of creation.

What is of God is joy, peace, kindness, but above all a sense of humble reality, what we ironically term "down to earth."

See? Even my usual friend the English language is against me on this one. I would argue for you that what we call "being down to earth" is truly "looking up to heaven."

To know God is to know more fully what we as human beings were meant to be. It is to know all real things in their fullest sense, before the taint of sin that accompanied the original fall. Whatever my soul suffers I offer joyfully that I was made for the true reality of paradise.

Belated, but I must post this.

I was sad to find that I allowed the feast day of St. Paul Miki and his companions(February 6th) to pass me by.

I first learned of St. Paul Miki from a hobby of mine which often seems rather incongruous with my love of religion: anime. In truth, not all anime is something a Christian should watch, but it has its high points.

One of them has the telling of the Christian martyrs of Japan. A sad story.
When St. Francis Xavier came to Japan, he found many converts to the Christian faith. The Japanese have a culture rich in loyalty, honor, and love of the community. There is little to be found among the traditional mores that conflicts with Christian virtue, excepting a sad lack of Mercy. Most do not know that practice of Seppuku is not suicide in the Christian sense (where a person despairs of life), but rather an ultimate act of obedience in which a person carries out their own execution.
Unfortunately, the government of Japan was long founded on the concept that its emperor
was descended from a deity. The Christian converts, naturally rejecting this belief (though still loyal to their country) were seen as traitors by a nation already leery of foreign imperialism.

Christians were lined up and ordered to stomp on or otherwise desecrate crossed and images of the Blessed Mother. Those who refused were crucified, among them the Jesuit priest and convert Paul Miki and his twenty-five companions. They died singing psalms and calling out the names of Jesus and Mary.

Today, Japanese continually exhibit a strange fascination with Christianity, a religion which is largely mysterious to them and misunderstood. Secualr Christian weddings are more popular than the traditional Buddhist or Shinto ones. Unfortunately, there are only a few Christians in living in Japan today, most of which are westerners. For the sake of the holy martyrs, and for the souls of the people of Japan, I pray that this will change.

St. Paul Miki, pray for us.

Got 20 minutes? Time to get out your rosary...

Or if you don't have one, your fingers will do nicely. (I pray the rosary in class before tests using my fingers because teachers have complained the rosary itself is distracting).

Why? Well, it's time I did something relating to the theme of this blog.
For those (like me) who have some difficulty concentrating, videos like this can be quite helpful for contemplation. I suggest starting and immediately pausing the second video, so it can load early and there won't be as much of an interruption to break your frame of mind.

"Oi, matte!" "Wait! I hear some of you saying. "It's pretty, but what does it all mean?!"
The Divine Mercy is the miracle of Jesus Christ, "Who humbled himself to share in our humanity." The Divine Mercy prayers glorify this fact, that Jesus came down to be one with us, to embrace our brokenness and our sorrow, that we might be whole. It is for this that he willingly suffered and rose from the dead. In rising, He did more than triumph over death--He raised us to new life. He calls out to us: that we might accept creation of our new life with Him. We plead: Help us Lord, "for the sake of His sorrowful passion" send forth Your Spirit, give us the Grace we need to accept our crosses so that we may yet rise to new life with Him--our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Glory of God the Father.
"Amen" we say, meaning, "We believe!"
For there is nothing greater that we can offer than the holy sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
For this I say: We are saved by Grace and Mercy alone.

"Jesus, We Trust in You!"

Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Musings

When I was a child, my favorite movie was "The Sound of Music."

Funny that now I want to be a nun. Though even now, I identify with a particular scene in the film.

I wonder if Maria really has ADD? I've nearly every line of the song said about me at one point or another...
I pray that I will not be too much of an opportunity for others to be granted the gift of patience.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Yes, I'm going to talk about LOVE... And it's not even St. Valentine's yet!!!

Well not me really... But, these words ought to be passed on from time to time. ^_^

Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Cor 12:31—13:13)


The Bible is much more romantic. It even says "Husbands, listen to your wives."(Ephes. 5:25)

Answering the call... Introduction, history, and purpose of this blog

Madames, Monsiuers, au revoir!

No, no, I am not French, I've just been watching too much Gankutsuou(The Count of Monte Cristo).

So, here it is, I've finally started blogging. I resisted at first, content with my small myspace blog, but that was before reading the wonders of the curt jester and ironic catholic.

If one wishes to comment with any regularity of course an account is in order, and so I acquired one to communicate my appreciation to IC. She responded in her ever so wry way(though I am not quite sure how she manages to put forth so much of that subtle emotion online) that the natural next step is to start blogging myself.

"Alas, no!" I thought. "I won't be able to think of anything!" Of course, I then proceeded to be bombarded regularly with ideas...

That got me to thinking. I'm a person with an unfortunate adversity to change, and callings tend to as often as not dash me across the head. (Other things do so as well, but that's more my poor eyesight or as a side effect of trying to finish that last page of a book while walking). God tends to be rather mercifully blunt with me much of the time.

So I took the calling seriously.

I am no one of any importance. I am a college student. If there is anything to which I might lay claim, it's that I try honestly to be a good Catholic. I am small, like St. Therese, though not so holy as she.

It is my own hope that my small musings might benefit someone in the 'who knows where' that comprises the diverse internet community.

As you may have guessed, this blog is dedicated to the Divine Mercy, to which I owe my life and sanity. I plan to expound much on the meaning of this Mercy, of which all worldly mercy is a shadow or an afterimage.

I direct you for now to the Divine Mercy Chaplet

I would also like to encourage the power of prayer through this blog. Should there be a need, post any prayer requests and they shall be included in my next blog. Post them anywhere in my recent posts. I will be checking(and praying).

Thank you for reading.

St. Blog's Parish