Fonticulus Fides

Friday, March 31, 2006

In memory...

Prayers offered today for Terri Schindler-Schiavo and her family who still mourns her so deeply...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why doesn't the media see what is so obvious?

We are coming up on the first anniversary of the tragic death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo this Friday, and both sides of her family are publishing books.

Her husband said he wrote his book to settle the score with her family.

Her family said they wrote their book to honor Terri, spending many chapters on who she was and what she was like before her mysterious collapse, so that people could get to know the real Terri.

Her husband is not giving proceeds from his book sales to any charity, but (obviously) seeking personal profit.

Her parents are using all proceeds to help protect the rights of other disabled persons.

In a television interview, Michael claimed to deserve praise for his actions.

The Schindler family doesn't seek praise, but only states their continuing shock and regret that Terri's life was deemed meaningless.

Why doesn't the media see that Michael Schiavo is NOT an honorable person?!?!?


Friday, March 24, 2006

Martyr in the Making

This story is, of course, most troubling. I think those of us who live in the West, in a nation founded on principles that include Freedom of Religion, cannot fathom the decisions being made by the Afghanistan government. It seems odd, archaic, brutal...And if you ask me, our government is the possibly most clueless among us: Why the heck did they bother to have Condi Rice make the call? Look, I have a lot of respect for her -- I think she's smart, capable, etc. But these are still very patriarichal governments -- did we really think that a WOMAN calling and saying "Please change your entire concept of religious truth so this guy can live" was going to work? Or maybe they knew they could do nothing to save Abdul Rahman, and they were just trying to put forth a show of concern/action so they can go down in history as saying that they did so.

Abdul Rahman, I'm certain, knew what his fate would be when he went public about his Christian faith. His love for the Lord is such that he is willing to lay down his life to make a statemetn about Christianity in a very anti-Christian nation.

Where does that leave the rest of us? We could "storm" the Afghani government with a flurry of letters, send Christian leaders to bef for Mr. Rahman's life, etc., etc., etc. -- would it make any difference? Is it wrong to stand by without trying because we expect to fail? Certainly we can pray that Mr. Rahman's life be spared, or if not, that he will die well and give glory to God in the process. Perhaps we should also look to his example and look for ways to lay down our lives for our Lord and Savior?

It's harder here in the U.S., where you can proclaim your Christian face and suffer very little persecution. Maybe a snide comment here, an insult there. Maybe so-and-so won't invite you to a party or your neighbors will blare loud music with obscene lyrics at 2 a.m. just to tick you off or some punk will deface the pro-life bumper sticker on your car...but you're gonna be free to practice your faith, state what you believe, and live to a ripe old age, God willing.

Funny, isn't it, that many times, I have the opportunity to state my belief in God, and I just keep quiet. I'm not willing to suffer even the slightest "persecution" most of the time.

I guess I have some thinking and prayer to do on that score.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

More on altar servers -- statement from the Lincoln Diocese

Our local newspaper (the regular for-sale one) is not very good, and they are VERY anti-Catholic, but this is the story they ran about the Diocese of Lincoln being the only one left in the U.S. that does not allow girls to be altar servers.

I don't think the Bishop of Arlington is becoming "liberal" or whatever you want to call it. He seems to see a need and has investigated the situation, concluding that female altar servers will not harm vocations in his diocese. I hope he's right about that...


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

While we're on the subject...

As long as we are discussing altar servers -- or as long as I am by myself, I guess -- I might as well post a recent article I wrote for the paper about the oldest altar server in our Diocese.

Diocese’s oldest altar server finds daily joy and purpose

When Father Randall Langhorst of Saint Vincent de Paul parish in Seward is short an altar server for daily Mass, he invariably asks Robert Ponec to serve, knowing that there’s no more experienced altar server in the Diocese of Lincoln. After all, he’s been an altar server for 70-plus years.

That’s right – more than seven decades. Mr. Ponec is 82 years old. He became an altar boy at Saint Luke Czech Catholic Shrine in Loma when he was a kid, and he just never quit. Nor does he intend to any time soon.

“The only way I’m going to quit is when the good Lord takes my strength away,” Mr. Ponec declared.

During the 30 years Mr. Ponec and his wife Margaret still lived in Lincoln and attended Saint John the Apostle parish, he not only participated in Mass as an altar server, he was also an acolyte as well as the school janitor.

However, a fall off a ladder at a restaruant where he also worked part-time led to hip replacement surgery and two subsequent operations to keep him on his feet. After he retired and moved to Seward, Mr. Ponec felt that his injured leg was too clumsy to navigate in the floor-length alb of an acolyte.

So, he limited himself to being an altar server. And carrying the Host to homebound parishioners every third Thursday as a Eucharistic Minister. And becoming an usher for Sunday Mass, a task which he shares with his son Mike and grandson Joe.

In fact, the Ponecs are the only three-generation team of ushers at Saint Vincent de Paul parish.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Mr, Ponec confided, “I’m very proud to have a son and a grandson work with me. You don’t see anybody else doing it.”

Mike Ponec said performing usher duties with his father and son is “great fun.” Joe agreed, “I enjoy it.”

They are a close-knit family outside of church as well. Mr. Ponec cooks dinner just about every weeknight for Mike, who stops over after he gets off work so they can eat together. And Saturdays typically find the trio swinging hammers and sawing wood at the Eagle home of Mr. Ponec’s other son, John, who is building a new barn.

Mike Ponec said that his dad’s work ethic and “stick-to-it-ive-ness” has been inspirational. “I kind of pattern myself after him,” he said.

Finding something productive to do at all times just comes naturally to Mr. Ponec.

“I always have things to do – working my rosaries if nothing else,” Mr. Ponec said. After he retired in 1991, he started to make rosaries to take along when he visits nursing homes as a Eucharistic Minister. “Sometimes people ask for a rosary,” he explained, and he never wanted to be without one to give. So far, he’s made about 900 of them, usually completing one each day, sometimes two.

His rosaries contain an extra secure knot between each “Hail Mary” bead, so that the beads don’t slide around and get loose. He also makes rosaries with 20 decades for praying all four sets of Mysteries.

That’s something that started with his wife. One year for Lent, the pair decided to pray a daily 15-decade rosary in order to contemplate the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries every day during the penitent season.

After Mrs. Ponec passed away in 2002, he started praying the 15-decade rosary all year long. Later that year, when Pope John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries, one of Mr. Ponec’s sons asked if he was planning to add to his 15-decade rosary.

“Nope,” Mr. Ponec answered. “I’ll just make another one.” He produced a 20-decade rosary for his daily devotions.

Last year when he was admitted to Saint Elizabeth’s Regional Medical Center in Lincoln for a few days, he brought it with him. A visiting nun admired it, so he made her one after he returned home. She soon wrote to him asking for five more. He has made 10 so far, giving them away to anyone who asks. And when his supply of five-decade rosaries starts to overflow, he sends them to Catholic missions for distribution.

It’s just Mr. Ponec’s nature to fill every minute of every day with such work to honor the Lord. “I’ve never known anyone who is as devout as he is,” said grandson Joe.

Mike Ponec said that both his parents have always been a solid example of how to live the Catholic life. “What they taught me was that believing in Jesus is the most important thing, and to keep that throughout life. And that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The rosaries, the visits to the homebound as Eucharistic Minister, and ushering at Sunday Mass fill Mr. Ponec’s life with joy and purpose.

But most of all, he enjoys being an altar server. “To me, it’s a calling from God to work for Him.”

Altar Servers: Boys vs. Girls

I find myself disagreeing with Father Jim Tucker over at Dappled Things this morning. His most recent post states that he is welcoming the possibility of girl altar servers in the Diocese of Arlington.

Father Tucker states that if it's okay to have women as readers, then, "I really don't see a logical reason to prohibit [girls] from serving the Mass."

Here's a good reason, Father: it harms vocations to the priesthood.

It does. Really. Because being an altar server can help a boy begin to discern a calling to the priesthood. Once girls are allowed to serve, being an altar server becomes less desirable for boys. They'll want to do it if it's a manly task, but if there's a bunch of giggly girls at every meeting, the boys won't bother. Even if the girls aren't the giggling type, boys are going to be less inclined to hang out with girls than participate in a boy-only thing.

Here in the Diocese of Lincoln, we do not have girl altar servers. We are never "short" altar servers at our downtown parish. Even during weekday noon Mass in the summertime, when school is out, Father has at least one altar server. In the smaller communities, it's tougher, to be sure, but I went to Friday night Mass at Saint Patrick's parish in a tiny town nearby (the church's centennial), and this very small church of only 40 families had FOUR altar boys for the mass, plus at least four more boys of the right age sitting in the pews. The girls had other roles -- two of them switched off playing the electric piano (set on "organ). Two others brought the gifts forward. You get the idea.

We also have a very high number of vocations to the priesthood, per capita. Now, there is a lot that goes into that number of vocations -- limiting altar service to boys isn't the one and only reason, to be sure. But being an altar server really is a first step, and it doesn't bode well for priestly vocations when there are girls shooing the boys away.

Well...Father Tucker doesn't read my blog, but if you talk to him, you can tell him I said so.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Homily on the Occasion of a Six-Year-Old's Funeral...

The Steinburgs are not a media-seeking family, so I have hesitated to link to the father's blog before now, but I must today. Their six-year-old daughter died tragically on February 22, apparently taken by bacterial meningitis. Following her death, her dad started a blog as an outlet for his grief, raw and real.

He recently posted the homily delivered at Elena's funeral, and it is indeed a wonderful statement of faith and hope.

(Please forgive the all-cap presentation -- I toyed with the idea of recreating it here in normal text, but I don't have permission to do so, nor do I feel like I should seek it from Mr. Steinburg.)

Let us all pray for this family as they cycle through their grief. Elena, may God bless you.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Adventures in Catholic Parenting

So, for Lent this year, we decided to take the plunge and institute a family Rosary every evening after dinner. We probably should have done this long before now, but the chaos of having a toddler in the house for the last 2.5 years (!!!) has caused me pause. Well, Lola is still a toddler, but I figured, what the hey.

Long ago, Pansy or Peony or maybe both of the Two Sleepy Mommies suggested to me that we introduce the Rosary to our kids by saying an abbreviated version – not as many mysteries, certainly not as many Hail Marys in each decade, etc. So that’s what I started with – I am often leading the family Rosary since my husband doesn’t get off work until shortly before bedlam – er, bedtime.

Each of the children has a Rosary – “Rosey!” Lola calls them. Zooey’s “good one” with the tiny red wooden beads is at school, where the children pray one full decade daily with their teacher. As I hand the girls their “toddler” Rosaries, with colorful, chunky beads, he takes up his plastic one and reminds the girls that Rosaries are sacramentals, not jewelry, so you don’t wear them around your neck. He says this every time, and Edyn gets it, but Lola is too little, and he knows that I say it’s okay for now.

Then we all cram together in our big easy chair in the living room, and we start out with “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” The girls love to kiss the crosses on their Rosaries, and even Lola can say, “Fadder…Son…Spee-rah…AMEN!” I typically say an edited version of the Apostle’s Creed, skipping ahead when the natives start to get restless.

Edyn does very well with the Our Father and has most of the Hail Mary down pat. She likes moving her fingers along the beads and with each “Amen” asks me which bead(s) she should be holding next. For each decade, I tell them a “story about Jesus” – or sometimes Zooey says the Mystery, and quite well, too. We’re only saying two Hail Marys at each decade now, so Edyn grips a whole handful of purple or gold or green or red or brown beads at a time.

Sometimes Lola follows Edyn’s example and asks me what bead she should be holding, but she typically rejects my direction and says, “No, DISS one” and holds whatever she wants to hold. She mutters along with the Our Father, trying to get us to finish faster by interjecting AMEN here and there. “Our Fadder…hebben…name – amen!” When we keep going, she sighs and takes it up again, “Done…Hebben – aMEN!” Still no luck. “Day…Bread – AMEN! …AMEN!….AAAAAYY – MEEEEEN! AMENAMENAMENAMEN!!!” Whew, it’s finally over.

By the time we get to the third Mystery – sometimes the second – Lola is laying on my lap with her feet in the air, playing “ring toss” with her “Rosey.” She’s got a pretty good knack for pitching her Rosary up and hooking it around one foot. I gently retrieve it and put it back in her hand, trying to keep in mind which prayer we are supposed to be on. By the fourth Mystery, she’s trying to trade her Rosary for Edyn’s, which doesn’t go over well with the middle child. By the fifth, Lola has tried on her Rosary as a necklace, a bracelet, a belt, a headband, a sandal, a jacket (she gets both arms into it and has it looped around her back), and -- shudder -- a hula hoop and is back to ring toss.

And I know the Lord is smiling down on her, anyway.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More confused judges at work...

This story about the British and European courts refusing to allow a British woman to bring her frozen embryos out of their frozen state is disheartening on so many levels.

The woman was facing ovarian cancer, so she and her then-fiance took the "logical" modern step of having some of her healthy eggs removed prior to treatment, fertilized with his sperm and frozen until she was cancer-free and they were ready to start a family via IVF. Well, she's cancer-free now, but the couple broke up and the ex-fiance has decided he doesn't want to be a parent after all.

British law requires both father and mother to consent at every step of the IVF process. Dad's not consenting, so Mom can't do a thing. Mom appealed to the European court, and they basically said, "It's his sperm."

Only it's NOT his sperm any more. Each of those embryos has his/her own unique genetic code and is an indivudal HUMAN BEING. Who, by the by, should never have been frozen to begin with, but now that they are, they should be rescued, even if Daddy doesn't want to play house any more.



Monday, March 06, 2006

It's safer in South Dakota...

...if you're an unborn baby, anyway. Somebody give this guy a kiss for me!


The Art of Sacrifice (or not), Part II

Yesterday, the family gathered to celebrate my husband's grandfather's 87th birthday. It was a Sunday, obviously, so we made sure that Zooey knew he could eat the cake if he wanted to.

It was German Chocolate. Zooey looked at his granmother and politely declined. "I'm sorry -- I gave up cake for Lent." Just before bed, he confessed that the real issue was coconut and pecans. I had figured as much.

So do I commend him for sparing Grandma's feelings or coach him not to "blame Lent" when he simply doesn't care for something?


Friday, March 03, 2006

The Art of Sacrifice (or not)

Earlier in the week, Zooey announced he was giving up television, candy, soda, cake and ice cream for Lent.

At first, my mother's heart swelled with pride that my son is so darn pius. "We're raising him right!" also came to mind.

Then my human weakness kicked in and I started to think it was way too much for a boy his age. "I don't want him to fail at Lent and be discouraged and never want to make a sacrifice again," I wanted to cover up what I was really thinking, which was, "Rats -- then I'll have to give all that up, too, because I can't be 'weaker' than a six-year-old!"

And finally, reality hit. He only watches about an hour of TV a week, maybe 90 minutes if he's lucky. He only gets candy after "candy holidays" like Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter, and I limit it to one piece a day and usually pitch everything that's left after a week, so he wouldn't have had any candy during Lent as it is. We only have cake on birthdays (three of which are coming up, celebrations on Sundays so he'll probably have some anyway). Ice cream is a wee bit more frequent, especially in the summertime, but during this season, it woudl be only once or twice a week at best.

Did I say my son was being pius? He might just be craftier than anybody gives him credit for.