Justice Kavanaugh. Well, thanks be to God the hearings are over. The country moves forward with a great new Supreme Court Justice, one who I’m confident will, to the best of his abilities and in keeping with the Constitution, uphold the traditional values dear to America for centuries, including the right to life, the meaning of family and marriage, religious freedom and the dignity of women.
Thank you for all your prayers during the hearings. I have been hearing, however, that the Kavanaugh family is still receiving unpleasant feedback from opponents. I am particularly worried for his 13 and 10-year-old daughters—imagine what suffering they’ve endured. So I encourage you to pray for the family, especially invoking St. Raymond and St. Thomas More (patrons of lawyers), St. Michael, St. Mary Magdalene, and Our Blessed Mother. Also, St. Agnes and St. Maria Goretti, patron saints of young girls.
Going Forward. The Kavanaugh hearings dramatically revealed a deep fissure in American society. I’m not sure exactly where the boundary of one side and the other begin or end, and I’m not sure what to call the various factions. In any case, there is a growing acrimony and bitterness in our country, and it is making itself manifest in more and more public violence, either in rhetoric or action. I am afraid it will only get worse.
I do not know the answer, except the grace of Jesus and a return to the Christian values that have made us great. Beginning with loving God above all things, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, and even loving our enemy. We must learn, as our founders did, to patiently tolerate—not “accept” or “embrace” or “acquiesce to” —the differences in ideas and opinions, and work within the system of debate, persuasive dialogue, elections and laws that has helped make our nation a peaceful and great nation.
Last week one politician said, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.” God bless them, but no, that won’t work. We can’t be civil with each other just when we are in power. There is a sense in which we can be “too civil,” too accommodating to opponents. But basic civility, basic respect for your opponents has to return to public life. If not, I’m afraid that civility will give way to uncivility, which will give way to something like a civil war. And this civility must begin with Christians, especially us Catholics. Again, this doesn’t mean rolling over, or not fighting for what we believe in. But fighting fairly, governed always by reason and charity.
Let us pray for our nation, for our friends and for our foes.
Children at Mass. Being a parent is incredibly challenging, especially these days, and especially at Mass. For example, sometimes you just can’t stop a newborn or a two-year-old from doing what they so often naturally do—make noise. This problem is often compounded in larger families: parents try to deal with the crying newborn, while the 4 and 6-year-old talk to each other. I don’t know how they manage, God bless them.
Many of these parents are torn between not wanting to disturb others and wanting to come to Mass as a family. And many understandably think: “well the Church and the priests encourage us to be pro-life and open to life—and we were!” Some warn that if we’re not careful we’ll chase these families away from the parish or from Catholicism altogether.
But there are others we have to be very careful not to “chase away.” Years ago a young man told me a story I’ve heard innumerable times since, from scores of young people: as a teenager he stopped going to Mass because week after week he found himself completely distracted by the little children around him. So he thought, “why bother?” and stopped going. Not a good excuse, but that’s the way a lot of teenage boys’ minds work.
On the other hand there’s the story one mother told me of how her young family had been away from Mass for a few years and decided to come back, but after just few weeks they stopped, embarrassed by their little two-year-old’s behavior at Mass. Or the story of the mother who was up all night with a colicky baby, and didn’t notice her 3-year-old run up into the sanctuary. Or the father of an autistic little boy who suddenly laughed out loud at Mass, only to be scolded by the people in front of him, and he broke into tears.
Back and forth. What do we do? The only answer seems again to be a combination of Christ’s grace, and practicing the virtues of patience and charity—by all parties. All of us who might be distracted should try our very best to charitably empathize and be patient, “offer up” the distraction, and/or if necessary (and possible) move to another seat. But in the same way, those with disruptive children should be charitable to those around them, and patient with their frustration—and try to take steps to ease the situation when possible.
One solution is to have Mom (or Dad) stay home with the fussy baby while Dad takes the other children to Mass, and then vice versa. It worked for my Mom and Dad. But, for many families today family dynamics are very different than they used to be. We have to understand this, and I leave it to the parents’ good judgment.
And there is another simple solution: at St. Raymond’s we have lots of places parents with fussy children can go to avoid distracting others during Mass: we have the “Family Room,” and we have a huge narthex—the vestibule at the main entrance.
Now, let’s be clear. Babies and small children just sometimes make noise—that’s just part of what they do. A baby will start to fuss, and Mom whips out a bottle and the baby is happy again. Or a 5-year-old suddenly starts to talk out loud, and Dad gives him “the look,” and it’s under control. Or a special needs child may blurt out a loud noise all of a sudden, and then stop. All of us need to accept those largely uncontrollable situations—with patience and charity.
But where a child continues to make a prolonged disturbance that is genuinely distracting to others (crying, talking, noise-making, etc.), out of charity, parents must consider what action they can take.
With the grace of Jesus, let us all truly strive to love one another as He has loved us, especially by practicing the virtues of patience and charity. And thanks again for your patience and charity with me.
Oktoberfest. Thanks to all who made our Oktoberfest dinner last week a great success. Especially Pat Franco and the Knights of Columbus, and particularly Cindy Leaf and Michael Welch who worked so hard in supervising the food preparation.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles