Pro-Life Ireland: An English Perspective

My submission to The Citizen’s Assembly on the 8th Amendment

In Ireland, the life of an unborn baby is protected by the 8th amendment in the Irish Constitution:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Sadly, this right to life forthe most vunerable in society is under attack, and there is pressure to repeal the 8th amendment. In 2016, the Citizens Assembley was established to consider a variety of issues, including repealing the 8th amendment. The general public were welcome to make a submission for the Citizens Assembley to consider. These are now available online to read.

Below is a copy of my submission to the Citizens Assembley:

I’m an Irish woman who grew up in England. When I first moved to Ireland a few years ago, I was struck by the number of people I saw with Downs Syndrome. That may sound crass, but in England, you very rarely see someone with Downs Syndrome, because 90% of unborn babies diagnosed with Downs Syndrome are aborted.

I had the privilege of volunteering with some young adults with Downs Syndrome and I looked forward to the time I spent with them- we would chat and laugh over a cup of tea and a biscuit, and then we would get to work- these young adults were talented artists and sold their wares at a craft market. They made me smile, laugh and cry. I learned a lot from them. Although I no longer volunteer there, I often think about the group of artists. They made a big impression on me.

I recently read a headline which stated that Downs Syndrome may be cured by 2030. As I read the article, I realised the headline should have read “eradicated” rather than “cured”, as it discussed how there would not be any more cases of Downs Syndrome because all unborn babies diagnosed with Downs Syndrome would have been aborted. Is abortion really a cure?

Gandi famously said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. This includes unborn babies. I admire how Ireland nurtures and celebrates its citizens with special needs. It’s something special and unique to Ireland. I have such admiration and respect for people who work with organisations such as Order of Malta and St John of God, helping people with special needs live independently, learn life skills and foster their talents.

I had never even heard of the Special Olympics until I moved to Ireland. It seems paradoxical that, while the Special Olympics is celebrated in Ireland, there is a drive for abortion in certain circles. Let’s not kid ourselves, abortion won’t just be for mothers at risk of suicide or with an unborn baby with a life-limiting condition. Opening the door of abortion leads to a slippery slope.

In England and Wales, abortion was introduced in 1967 on supposedly “restrictive grounds”. Today, 1 in every 5 pregnancies ends in abortion in England and Wales. David Steel, architect of the 1967 Abortion bill in England and Wales, told an Irish newspaper that he “never envisaged there would so many abortions”. I fear this will inevitably happen in Ireland if the 8th amendment is repealed. The 8th amendment has saved 100,000 lives in Ireland.

Be proud, Ireland, and continue to protect the most vulnerable of human life- the unborn child in the womb. Keep the 8th.

Unhappy Halloween

I love autumn! This time last year, I spent a few weeks in America. Oh wow! The leaves, the pumpkin patches, the fall décor, the pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin muffins, pretty porches…  America knows how to do autumn! It was beautiful.

We miss out on a lot of that in Ireland, and go straight to Halloween. In the ‘old days’, as kids, we’d throw on bedsheets, and go down to the neighbours’ trick or treating, expecting a few modest treats, and without the slightest thought of a trick.

Today, things have changed, and it’s not just because now I’m a mother, or someone who doesn’t watch films rated more than a 12. Halloween is no longer fun, it’s scary. Treats are bigger. So are tricks. Halloween has become humongous, super-commercial, sexier and scarier. More frightening than fun. Shops have gruesome Halloween displays in their windows, supermarket aisles are littered with broomsticks and blood. At the end of a recent shopping trip, I found myself waiting in line behind the cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. OK, obviously not Hannibal Lecter, but a young boy (perhaps 8 or 9?) with a Hannibal Lecter mask on. Speechless.

Reflecting on the Halloween madness, I didn’t know how to approach it with my daughter until today, when I read a friend’s social media update. It went something like this: “Can’t wait for Halloween to be over, roll on 1st November”. A little bell went off in my head. November 1st… All Saints Day… followed by All Souls day. But that’s what it’s really about!

So, while I don’t have an answer to the Halloween problem, I’m going to start by telling my little girl stories of the saints (so many amazing stories!), lighting candles, and praying for our family and friends who have passed away, during November. We’ll enjoy the season and do autumn crafts and saint crafts, collect leaves and conkers, and maybe even toast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. Hopefully, with God’s grace, we’ll keep the ghouls and zombies at bay and maybe, in a few years, she’ll  dress up as one of her role-models, or maybe even her favourite saint…

 

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions.jpg

Three years ago, my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas together as a married couple. We shared each other’s Christmas traditions; going to a carol concert, going on “Crib Crawl” visiting the cribs in the 7 Churches in town, making Christmas cards, praying the Hail and Blesseds and making mulled wine.

This Christmas, our daughter is much more aware and excited about what is happening. We open the Advent calendar every morning, she looks at the crib figures, and reads Christmas board books. She is especially interested in the animals!

Recently, at play group, she had her first encounter with Santa Claus. She looked very unsure initially, and carried on playing for the rest of the morning, ensuring she kept at least 10 meters away from the man-in-red. As I observed the goings on, I chatted to another mother.

“Have you taken her to see Santa yet?”, the mother asked.

“Erm, no”, I replied. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about a visit to Santa.

“Well, now’s a great opportunity for her to have her photo taken with Santa”, the mother assured me. I must have looked unsure about it because she continued, “she has to have her photo taken with Santa”.

Really? Does she?

Maybe in a few years, we’ll see, but right now, I think she would rather push the toy pram around the play group and nibble on a rice cake. Right now, sitting on the lap of the man in the red suit would be her idea of toddler hell, and you could forget the photo!

But it made me think- it would be nice to have a Christmas photo tradition to look back on as the years go by. So, this year, we’ll begin a new tradition- a photo at the Crib. Santa can wait!

 

 

 

#WMOF2015 Catechesis: Love is our Mission- Two Become One

This month, the 8th World Meeting of Families will take place in Philladelphia, USA. The World Meeting of Families is an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration. The theme of this meeting is Love is our Mission- The Family Fully Alive. The meeting will end with the Festival of Families and Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

To prepare for the event, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family have created a preparatory catechesis on family life. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion. Below, I share my answers.

Chapter 4: Two Become One

World Meeting of Families 2014 Catechesis Love is Our Mission the Family Fully Alive

a) What is the Catholic spirituality of marriage? What can families do to celebrate and protect Christian marriage?

Catholic marriage is a radically different to the romantic partnerships the culture proposes. While romance is great element in a relationship, marriage, Catholic or otherwise, cannot be built on this alone. “To be what we are- to love as we were created to love- certain virtues are necessary.” (WMF Catechesis). Prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope and love are required for marriage to thrive. The catechesis reminds us that, in order to fulfill our destiny, we must be alive to these virtues and cultivate them. Families can protect Christian marriage by nurturing these virtues.

b) If marriage is a sacrament, what are the implications for courtship? What qualities should we seek in a Catholic spouse?

While all the virtues are important, the virtue of chastity, in relation to marriage, is especially important. When discerning marriage, it is important to train the heart by practicing interior freedom.

Some of my friends thought I was crazy to marry my husband before living with him. In their eyes, our marriage was doomed before we said “I do”. Trial marriages are the new normal on our culture, while waiting until marriage to move in together is unusual. The Catechism tells us that a trial marriage is a contradiction of terms-2 it is an attempt to live intimately but hypothetically, to test the relationship and pursue it as long as the romance is flowing” (CCC 2391). On his blog, Sliding vs Deciding, Dr Scott Stanley observes that the many steps and stages of courtship that used to exist in a relationship are no longer there and couples are more likely to slide through important transitions, such as moving in together, rather than make concrete decisions, and a commitment, about them.

As the virtues are essential to the sacrament of marriage, one should look for these virtues when seeking a Catholic spouse. However this quest is not an intellectual pursuit. We can recognise the virtues in a future spouse through the characteristics they share with moral exemplars in our own lives, those people we have grown to respect, admire and love.

c) How do the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist relate to the Sacrament of Marriage?

Reconciliation and fidelity are the foundation of married life. These sacraments foster and protect true communion between the sexes, and help us grow in our capacity to love as Jesus does.

d) In the Lord’s prayer, we say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Do you find it easy or difficult to do that? How does forgiveness enable relationships?

Many of us take God’s mercy for granted. Yet, when others wrong us, we spurn their apology, make little effort to make amends and even seek revenge. This situation is not uncommon in my own life. Being angry and holding a grudge is the easy choice, while forgiveness can be a difficult option and a long hard road to healing.

Forgiveness enables relationships by helping the relationship, and the people in it, to grow. The sacrament of Penance renews our appreciation of our own sinfulness and how this wounds God and others, and damages the relationship we have with Him and our loved ones.  Above all, the sacrament renews our comment to being again, to restore the harmed relationship and gives us the grace to do that.

#WMOF2015 Catechesis: Love is Our Mission- The Meaning of Human Sexuality

World Meeting of Families 2015 logoThis month, the 8th World Meeting of Families will take place in Philladelphia, USA. The World Meeting of Families is an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration. The theme of this meeting is Love is our Mission- The Family Fully Alive. The meeting will end with the Festival of Families and Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

To prepare for the event, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family have created a preparatory catechesis on family life. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion. Below, I share my answers.

Chapter 3: The Meaning of Human Sexuality

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a) Why do Catholics enjoy and value the physical, tangible world so much? Think of anything beautiful, such as nature, bodies, food or art – why are these things so important in Catholic tradition?

Creation is a reflection of God’s glory. The catechesis reminds us that “the natural physical world bursts with spiritual goodness” and that the Catholic faith is a “physical” religion- the bible begins in a garden and ends in a feast.

A magnificent sunset, a delicate flower, a beautiful smile are all daily reminders of our maker. “In the sacraments, material things are consecrated and made visible signs of grace” (WMF catechesis). Water, bread, wine, the touch of hands are ways by which God’s presence becomes real.

b) What is the purpose of creation? Is the physical world a blank slate, which we’re free to rule and exploit to our own desires?

Creation is an overflowing of God’s love who made us to share in the eternal exchange of the divine love of the Trinity. We are stewards of creation. In performing our role, we practice the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

Due to original sin and concupiscence, we sometimes, like the bad stewards in the bible, exploit creation. Part of creation is the ecology of humanity itself. As part of God’s creation our bodies have innate dignity. “We do not always love as we ought, but God’s pattern of love protects us and calls us back to our true natures” (WMF Catechesis).

c)Things like rest, food, pleasure, and beauty are attractive. But sometimes we have deeply felt desires and appetites beyond what is good for us. How do we know when a desire is legitimate and good? How can we cherish and enjoy creation and our bodies in daily life?

 Media and marketing are permeated by “selfism”. The slogan, “because I’m worth it”, is a succinct summary of the attitude that pervades our “me” culture. This outlook can conflict with the Christian, who makes a sacrifice of himself to help and love his neighbour. Therefore it can be difficult to discern what is genuinely legitimate and good, when our culture is telling us the opposite, to “treat yourself” and that “you can have it all”.

Aristotle said that the best activities are the most useless.  In contrast, when it comes to our relationships, when we desire someone lustfully, we are looking at them in a utilitarian way. We use the person for our own gain, a means to an end, treating them as an object, rather than seeing them as person with dignity, deserving of reverence and respect.

We don’t know when a desire is legitimate and good. Because of our fallen nature, we justify our behaviour, and even make virtues of vices. We need to reject the selfish temptations that the culture proposes.

There is a joy and serenity in enjoying the things of this world without being consumed by them. We need to keep our gazes and hearts fixed on God. We receive grace through the sacraments and cultivate a personal relationship with God. Through knowing Him, we discern the ways of virtues and with His grace, we have the strength to follow His ways.

d) Why do you think Catholic practice traditionally includes feasting and fasting? Celibacy and marriage?

In Matthew’s gospel, a follower of John asks Jesus why the Pharisees fast, but Jesus’ disciples feast. Jesus replies that the bridegroom’s attendants cannot mourn while the bridegroom is with them, but that a time will come when he will be taken away from them and they will fast (Matthew 9:15-16). The Church, “in the course of the year… unfolds the whole mystery of Christ from his Incarnation and Nativity through his Ascension, to Pentecost and the expectation of the blessed hope of the coming of the Lord” (CCC 1194). The celebration of the liturgical year requires fasting and feasting, as we remember Jesus’ life. It was, and still is for some Catholics, tradition to fast on Fridays, the day Jesus died, and all Catholics celebrate his resurrection on Sunday.

In celibacy and marriage, we can live out our God-given masculinity or femininity in generous, self-giving ways. “Both ways of living look to God’s covenant and receive the fact of being created as male and female as occasions of joy … The discipline we impose on our love… honors and reveals the true meaning of love, created in the image and likeness of God”(WMF Catechesis).

#WMOF2015: Love is our Mission- The Mission of Love

World Meeting of Families 2015 logoThis month, the 8th World Meeting of Families will take place in Philladelphia, USA. The World Meeting of Families is an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration. The theme of this meeting is Love is our Mission- The Family Fully Alive. The meeting will end with the Festival of Families and Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

To prepare for the event, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family have created a preparatory catechesis on family life. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion. Below, I share my answers.

Chapter 2: The Mission of Love

The Mission of Love #wmof2015 catechesis world meeting of families 2015 love is our mission

a) Why is God’s love like a marriage?

The Sacrament of Marriage is indissoluble. God’s love is like a marriage because he remains steadfast for us. In the Old Testament, we read of God’s relationship with his people using the language of marriage. When God’s people sin and turn away from Him, it is a kind of “adultery and prostitution”. God is portrayed as a betrayed husband. Yet despite this, God never abandons us. “God perseveres in love for his people, even when we fall, even when we insist on trying to live without him”. (World Meeting of Families Catechesis)

b) How is God’s way of loving different from our own human way of loving?

Human love is flawed- we are fickle and selfish. God’s love is perfect, enduring and sacrificial.

c) What is true love and how do we recognise it? What are some similarities and differences between your culture’s notion of romantic love and God’s covenant love?

True love is mutual self-giving.

God is love and humans are made in the image and likeness of God so, in order to understand humans, we need to understand Him. While the Trinity is a mystery, we do see glimpses through revelation and tradition of the Church of what the life of the Trinity exists in- the eternal exchange of love. This Trinitarian God is that same God in whose image we are made this we too are made to receive and give love. In so doing, by the grace of God, we can share in the eternal exchange of love.

Due to our fallen nature, human love can fall short of this. Our culture proposes notions of romantic love that are either distortions or contradictions of this authentic love. The impulse to love is written into our very nature, but all to often this can be corrupted into a self-love that seeks its own satisfaction, rather than the good of the other.

d) Can you think of a time when God’s love helped you to love in a more honest and better way?

In our relationships there are countless times when we hurt others and are hurt by others because of our selfishness and pride yet, by God’s grace, we find ways to forgive this hurt and to restore relationship. These graces which we receive and which sustain the best relationships in our lives with our family and friends are outpourings of God’s love restoring us to authentic relationship with Him and with others.

#WMOF2015: Love is our Mission- Created for Joy

World Meeting of Families 2015 logoThis month, the 8th World Meeting of Families will take place in Philladelphia, USA. The World Meeting of Families is an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration. The theme of this meeting is Love is our Mission- The Family Fully Alive. The meeting will end with the Festival of Families and Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

To prepare for the event, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family have created a preparatory catechesis on family life. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion. Below, I share my answers.

Chapter 1: Created for Joy

World Meeting of Families 2015 Preparatory catechesis Love is Our Mission The Family Fully Alive Questions and Answers

a) What is it about Jesus that makes him trustworthy?

Jesus is trustworthy because he is the Son of God, who gave his life for us, for our salvation. In last Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-35), Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?”. Peter answered, “You are the Christ”. This is what we believe as Christians.

b) What things in your life distract you from Jesus? What would help you become more familiar or even intimate with him?

There are many things that distract me from Jesus! To-do lists, emails, social media, the internet and tiredness are my top five! I know I should spend more time reading Scripture, because it is by reading Scripture that one comes to know Christ. It can be overwhelming- Where do I start? Is there a good Catholic bible study to follow? Where will I find the time?

For now, I read the daily Mass readings at the earliest time possible, which is usually no later than my toddler’s midday naptime. Naptime is like gold dust, and sometimes it is hard to sit down with my Magnificat when I have a zillion things to do while the toddler sleeps, but I figure God is the maker of time so if I give mine to Him, he’ll look after the rest!

As a new(ish) mum, finding time to sit in silent adoration is a challenge, but something I hope to be able to return to. In the busyness of life as a mother, I could become more familiar with God by looking for Christ in everyone I encounter each day, from my husband, daughter and family, to the people I meet during my day- other mums, children, acquaintances and shop assistants, recognising their dignity as sons and daughters of the King, even if they don’t see it themselves as made in the image of God, and think they have no higher purpose.

c) What does it mean to be “created in the image of God”? Is it possible to understand human identity without God? Why? Why not?

Being created in the image of God sets us above the animals, and gives us dignity as children of God. I’ve heard a saying that goes, “God has no grandchildren”.  It means we are all his sons and daughters, no-one is greater than the other. He doesn’t have favourites. We are all called to have a relationship with God.

Saint John Paul II said,

Being a person in the image and likeness of God thus also involves existing in a relationship to the other ‘I’

We are created for relationship with others and with God. It is impossible to understand our human identity without God, because He created us for love, for this relationship. Without him, the key to our existence is missing.

d) “Love is our mission” is the theme of this catechesis. What does “love” mean in your life? How might a mission to love affect your choices, priorities and ambitions?

In my life, I think of the love I have for my husband, my daughter, my parents, my family, my friends and for God. I have come to realise that love is more than emotion.  It’s a decision, and one must make the decision to love every day. It isn’t always easy and it often requires sacrifice, or making a gift of yourself to the other person.  In our culture, many people are trying to find themselves. Yet, all too often, the quest for self-discovery ends in failure and frustration as people search in the wrong places. The answer lies in our own families and communities-

Man “cannot fully find himself except through sincere gift of himself (Gaudium et Spes 22)