Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Woman Behind the Man ... Mrs. Carol Paul

I recently came upon this essay written by Dr. Ron Paul's wife, and wanted to share it with those who are interested in learning a bit more about the background of this impressive presidential candidate. She's every bit as impressive as her husband -- sounds like ideal First Lady material!

Catholics for Ron Paul ... a flicker of hope in the dismal American Political Landscape.

Recently my interest was piqued by a group I encountered who have found what appears to be a presidential candidate faithful Catholics can vote for with enthusiasm. "Catholics for Ron Paul." are enthusiastically endorsing this straight-talking bundle of integrity, Dr. Congressman Ron Paul, as someone to take note of for a variety of reasons (not the least of which is he might give the Grand Old State of Texas reason to hold its head high again):

* He has an uncompromisingly pro-life record, having himself delivered more than 4000 children in his obstetric career, many of them for little or no pay (he won't take Medicaid). That alone is reason to make a hefty donation to his campaign, which you may do by clicking here.

* He is best known in Washington for his reluctance to spend a dime of taxpayer's money on anything not expressly provided for in the U.S. Constitution (he has refused both the "cadillac" medical plan to which those on Capital Hill are entitled and the standard, unbelievably generous retirement package to which he is also entitled on the grounds that a public servant should not live better than his constituents). As you might imagine, this has not made him exceedingly popular among career politicians ... but to those of us who have watched with growing dismay as the current administration continues to spend money we don't have, to fight for "democracy" in countries that do not appear to be wildly excited about the idea while our own people are struggling to stay afloat, this guy is a breath of fresh air.

* He is a staunch advocate of subsidiarity, a principle of Catholic social justice that indicates that problems are best handled by those closest to it who have been given the power to exact necessary change. For example, this post at CRP discusses how the press has twisted Paul's stand on prostitution, which is that it should be removed from Federal control and handed back to individual states. (This is similar to what would happen to the "right to abortion" in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned.)

* Barring a miracle (one we would all do well to work together for), the truth is that right now Congressman Paul has a hard battle ahead of him to make it anywhere near the White House (he ran on the Libertarian ticket once before and garnered less than a half a million votes). However, he is absolutely a candidate we could (and perhaps should) vote for with a clear conscience. Paul's book A Foreign Policy of Freedom is a startlingly insightful and timely read for anyone wondering how the heck we are ever going to extricate ourselves from the Middle-Eastern Mess. I'd like to offer a few examples here for your general edification:

"The responsibility of the administration and Congress is to promote security for our nation and to seek peace and harmony with all nations. Pursuing a policy of free trade with all and not giving aid to allies or potential adversaries would do more to enhance peace and properity than any attempt to guarantee borders in the Middle East or anywhere else" (1983, p. 22-23)

"Thousands of men and women have come and gone here ... except for the few, most go unnoticed and remain nameless in the pages of history, as I'm sure I will be. The few who are remembered are those who were able to grab the reins of power and, for the most part, use that power to the detriment of the nation. We must remember achieving power is never the goal sought by a truly free society. Dissipation of power is the objective of those who love liberty" (p.40).

"We pay for bridges and harbors throughout the world and neglect our own. If we feel compulsion to spend and waste money, it would make more sense at least to waste it at home. We build highways around the world, raise gasoline taxes here, and routinely dodge potholes on our own highways. Why do we cut funding for day care centers and Head Start programs before cutting aid to the Communists, Socialists, and international bankers?" (p.47).

"The idea that support for the troops once they are engaged means we must continue the operation, no matter how ill-advised, and perpetuate a conflict that makes no sense is what President Clinton is depending on..." (1997, regarding Bosnian conflict, p.61).

"We urge the Catholics and Protestants to talk to each other; we urge the Israelis and Palestinians to talk to each other. Even at the height of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union had missiles pointed at us from 90 miles away in Cuba, we solved the dispute through dialogue and diplomacy. Why is it, in this post-Cold War era, that the United States seems to turn first to the military to solve its foreign policy problems? Is diplomacy dead?" (2001, in opposition to the U.S. House Resolution on Iraq, p.183).

"Excessive meddling in the internal affairs of other nations and involving ourselves in every conflict around the globe has not endeared the U.S. to the oppressed of the world. ... To dismiss terrorism as the result of Muslims hating us because we're rich and free is one of the greatest foreign-policy frauds ever perpetuated on the American people" (2003, p.244-45)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Memoriam: Jane Denton, wife of Senator Jeremiah Denton, Jr.

This post is featured at Catholic Carnival #147, hosted this week by Jay at "Living Catholicism." To check out other quality Catholic writing, click here.

While I don't typically publish other people's work here, I received this in the mail today from Judy at and wanted to pass it along as an example of how Catholics can and do make a difference in public life. Please say a prayer for Jane and her whole family.

In Thanksgiving for Jane Denton
by Judy McCloskey

On Thanksgiving Day (22Nov2007), after suffering a heart attack, surgery, and postop complications, Mrs. Jane Denton, wife of Senator Jeremiah Denton, passed away. Jane married Jeremiah the day he graduated from the US Naval Academy on 06June1946. Together, they had seven children. Nineteen years and one month into their marriage, her husband’s plane was shot down over enemy lines during the Vietnam War. Then Captain Jeremiah Denton spent the next eight years in a communist POW camp, four of those years spent in solitary confinement.

A year after his capture, during a recorded propaganda campaign forcing POWs to confess to humane treatment under threat of brutal torture – Capt Denton blinked, using Morse code to communicate: TORTURE. His taped interrogation having reached America, intelligence recognized and understood: US prisoners in Vietnam were in fact being tortured. A 1½ minute excerpt can be viewed at the National Archives website:

While Jerry was captive and tortured, Jane remained strong in her Catholic faith, prayerfully and steadfastly devoted to the souls on her spiritual radar. Jane worked tirelessly raising their children and became an activist for POW and MIA families. She helped found the National League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, credited with contributing to the ultimate release of her husband and numerous other POWs. Jerry was finally released, authored “When Hell Was in Session”, retired as Admiral, elected Senator of Alabama, and founded the ADM Jeremiah Denton Foundation, dedicated to keeping America “one nation under God.”

In 1985, then Secretary of the Navy invited Mrs. Jane Denton to sponsor the USS Mobile Bay. The ship was commissioned in Mobile, AL, hometown to both Jerry and Jane Denton. The Naval Historical Society explains “When a woman accepts the invitation to sponsor a new ship, she has agreed to stand as the central figure in an event with a heritage reaching backward into the dim recesses of recorded history…. The tradition, meaning, and spiritual overtones remain constant. The vast size, power, and unpredictability of the sea must certainly have awed the first sailors to venture far from shore. Instinctively, they would seek divine protection for themselves and their craft….”

Understanding well her sponsorship role, in September 2002, one year after 9/11 when “her ship” prepared to deploy to Afghanistan, Jane Maury Denton, urged Mobile residents and others "to remember the ship and the crew in their prayers."

"My pleasure at receiving the honor is multiplied by my love for the Navy, my concern for our national defense, and my pride in having a fine ship named for Mobile Bay," Jane once said.

Jane’s children are living testimony to her vocation as an iconic military wife, mother and patriot. “She was the most faithful, selfless and dedicated wife and mother," says Michael Denton.

"She never stopped giving," says William.

Jane will be sorely missed, but long remembered as an exemplary Catholic Navy wife. Perhaps God called her on Thanksgiving Day as a reminder of the gift Jane is. For military wives looking for an example to emulate, there is Mrs. Jane Denton. Ask her now to intercede for you. Nothing will stop this woman of grace from giving completely of herself, in this life or the next.

Judy McCloskey writes from her home in the Arlington Diocese. She is the founder of Catholics in the Military.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Partnership of Love

Last night was the annual Cana Dinner, a time for couples to reconnect with each other and with members of the faith community over good food, a bit of wine, and a turn on the dance floor. Craig and I usually dust off the steps we learned at the U of M Ballroom Dance Club … but since my back has been a little on the hinky side, we content ourselves with a slow swing instead of a flashy cha-cha-cha.

This time the speaker was Steve Ray, who talked with us about “Men, Sex, and Heaven.” He explained that while husbands seek out sex – with or without romance and commitment – wives crave romance. Understanding this basic difference between the sexes does not come naturally to many couples. And yet it is a vital component of the kind of “oneness” God intended us to enjoy in the sacrament of matrimony.

Later, as I contemplated the message that evening, I wondered if this kind of mutuality had an application to the spiritual life as well, particularly with regard to the Mass. As Christ offers himself to us in the sacrament of the Eucharist, is there a corresponding yearning for intimacy on the part of the Bride?

As a convert to the faith, I grew up believing that God wanted a warm and intimate relationship with me. I did not know about the Eucharist, but I had been taught to cling to the Word, to study it closely for the personal messages God had for me each day. God and I spent hours together, me at the piano singing out into the dark, trusting that there was One who heard, and was pleased by my love offering. I was part of a “church family” that I depended upon for instruction and support. But ultimately it was that one-on-one intimacy cultivated through prayer and simple obedience.

When I was confirmed, I was overjoyed to be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist at last. I was also delighted to be a part of the universal Body of Christ, the true unity that Jesus always intended for his Church. And yet, some of my fellow Catholics puzzled me:

The guy who would huff impatiently when someone tried to greet him before Mass … or when Mass went longer than the proscribed hour.

The self-appointed liturgy critic who spends twenty minutes after each Mass complaining about the music not being “Catholic” enough.

“Devout” Catholics so intent on worshipping the King of Kings with reverence and awe, they seem to forget that this King is also Father, Son, Spirit … and the great Lover of our souls.

I had to wonder: Was there some kind of deliberate “distancing” at work here? While I had come to recognize the deception of being guided solely by “feelings” in spiritual matters, it occurred to me that it was possible to go to the opposite extreme as well. Guided solely by the obligations and duties of “practicing” the faith, one could spend a lifetime in polite “worship” without ever having an encounter with the living Lord.

What a tragedy.

Just as a marriage is about more than a license – and far more than a perpetual teenage crush – faith must be more than going through the motions. Sometimes a Bride needs a little “romance.” A sense that God is listening, that he cares. And so, it was with a sense of great relief that I read this passage from the Catechism:

1108 In every liturgical action the Holy Spirit is sent in order to bring us into communion with Christ and so to form his Body. The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father's vine which bears fruit on its branches.[26] The most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy. The Spirit who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church. For this reason the Church is the great sacrament of divine communion which gathers God's scattered children together. Communion with the Holy Trinity and fraternal communion are inseparably the fruit of the Spirit in the liturgy.[27]

The nature of communion, of worship, is supposed to be a life giving “intimate cooperation” between the Spirit and the Bride – and, by extension, involve real communion between each of the members. We are to enter in to the mystery, not holding back any part of ourselves out of a misguided sense of propriety.

This is the fiat of the Bride, responding with joy to her Groom.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Cultivating "The Heart of a Saint" (Bert Ghezzi, Word Among Us)

I blame my mother. She named me "Heidi" after the charming Alpine maiden in Johanna Spyri's classic novel, not realizing the name means "battle maiden." And I've been living up to the moniker ever since. I tend to leave strong impressions -- and form even stronger ones.

I am also a pragmatist. The publishing industry is, first and foremost, about building relationships. Therefore, prudence dictated that I find a way to get along even with those people who do not naturally appeal to me.

Fortunately, I had a mentor in Bert Ghezzi, who has exceptional people skills; he taught me how to find the good even in the most challenging of personalities.

This was key to getting along with dislikeable people: finding something good to appreciate. Learn financial planning from the miser, self-discipline from the hardnosed, patience with the flaky, and discretion from the sneaky. It was also Bert who taught me that each personal strength has a less-desirable "flip side." Instead of resisting someone's bossiness, for example, I can appreciate her organizational skills. So often the characteristics we most dislike in others are qualities we struggle with ourselves.

Loving the Unlovable ... by Example

Thanks to Bert, I learned two failproof ways to get along with difficult people: pray for them, and show kindness to them. By praying for that person, the negative emotional energy lifts and is replaced with an extraordinary sense of peace. And by looking for ways to show kindness to him or her, the walls between us are broken down, brick by brick.

In his book, "The Heart of a Saint," author Bert Ghezzi quotes St. John Baptist de la Salle (d.1719), who said:

"Decide never to speak of the failings of others, nor to reprimand them, no matter how serious they seem to you. When you see someone fall into some fault, call to mind the gospel saying, 'You can see the splinter in your brother's eye, but you cannot see the beam in your own.' (see Matthew 7:3).
Throughout the rest of the book, Bert recounts with warm, tantalizing detail the stories of holy men and women who embodied these and other important ways to grow closer to God. From the community orientation of St. Angela Merici, to the evangelistic zeal of Pope John Paul II and the holy perseverance of St. Jane de Chantal, each of these holy heroes teach us another aspect of living the Christian life with security and confidence.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Secret of the Sycamore

From today's first reading, from the book of Wisdom ...
Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook people's sins that they may repent. ...

Have you ever stopped to think about how many difficult people you encounter in the span of a single week? The self-righteous, the proud, the self-involved, the unbelievably obtuse?

Have you ever stopped to consider how much of your mental and emotional energy is spent trying to change, exhort, or educate people determined to wallow in their blissful ignorance? Who seem not the least bit grateful ... some seem even a bit put out ... when you take it upon yourself to point out the error of their ways?

Today's first reading offers a bit of useful perspective. "You have mercy on all ... and overlook people's sins that they may repent." God -- the most powerful being in the entire universe -- does not force people along the path of transformation at gunpoint, or even an irrefutible blast of rhetoric.

No, His methods are infinitely more effective. His are the ways of irresistible love.

Jesus embodied this force of love throughout His earthly ministry. In today's Gospel, He un-trees the diminuitive Zaccheus with a message of staggering import: "Hey, c'mon down. Guess who's coming to your house for dinner tonight?"

As a woman, my sympathies are with Mrs. Zaccheus, who must have fainted dead away to find 13 extra guests on her doorstep for dinner that night. If she was anything like my mother, she would have kept her mouth shut and put another pan of biscuits in the oven.

Zaccheus, of course, had his mind on other things. This was a man determined to Make Amends. To his neighbors and less charitable business associates, he was a "sinner," a "play-a" determined to make his first million -- and ingratiate himself to the powers that be -- by stealing food out of the mouths of his own people.

But Jesus saw something different. He saw a man determined to make things right. He saw a man who was willing to make himself look ridiculous ... so long as he got to see the Nazarene.

It's a question worth considering: Just what am I willing to do in order to see Jesus truly?

Am I willing to look ridiculous in the eyes of my friends and family?

Am I willing to venture along a path that I never thought I'd go?

Am I willing to release from judgment those who scorn me, simply because I have a different perspective?

Am I willing to relinquish everything I hold most dear, so long as I get to see Jesus?

"Yes, Lord. Won't you come in and stay at my house today?"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

For All the Saints

Please join me today at "Mommy Monsters" for my tribute to All Saints Day.