Monday, August 31, 2009

Marriage and the Eucharist

Yesterday the pamilya and I attended the wedding of some friends of ours. Not only for our kids but also for Jocelyn and me, this was our first time attending a Syro-Malabar wedding, which was celebrated at the Cathedral Church of St. Thomas in Bellwood, IL.

I might have guessed that the wedding would be celebrated within the context of a Mass (especially considering it was on a Sunday afternoon), but since I was not entirely familiar with the Syro-Malabar tradition, I figured we'd better go to Mass Sunday morning, lest we be lax in our observance of the Third Commandment.

Lo and behold, not only was the wedding — which was in all respects a most beautiful and joyous occasion &mdash celerated within the context of a Mass, but the priest's homily focused on precisely why it's entirely fitting for the Sacrament of Matrimony to be celebrated in the context of the celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

The main lesson I took away from it is one I'd not considered before. In the same way, the priest noted, that at the words of consecration, even though the appearance, shape, texture, etc. of the bread and wine remain, they are no longer bread and wine — rather, they are the Body and Blood of Christ; so too when a man and woman are joined in the Sacrament of Matrimony, although they still appear to be two distinct individuals, they no longer are — rather, they have become one.

I'd have to say it was one of the better homilies I've heard in some time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FDA Puts the Brakes on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Trial

Earlier this year I wrote about the FDA's decision to approve a Geron Corporation embryonic stem cell trial in humans, for which I was interviewed by CBS2 News. (You can see the hopelessly biased story here.)

After the interview, off-camera, I remarked to the reporter that I hoped no spinal cord injury patients would end up getting hurt as a result of this trial, but given the tendency of embryonic stem cells to form tumors, I couldn't see much reason for optimism.

Now we find out that the trial is being "delayed". And, given Geron's history of snake oil salesmanship, the rapacious hucksters may never get their chance.

Meanwhile, advances in adult stem cell research continue apace.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Not far from of our office, on Cicero Avenue, about two blocks south of Peterson Avenue, is this sign:

There's another such sign about a mile west of Haus Jansen, along 26th Street, just east of Harlem Avenue.

I've seen several other such signs around Chicagoland recently. No doubt there are hundreds (thousands?) more elsewhere around the country.

For them that don't know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is what most of us call simply "The Stimulus". And so, as a result of these signs, we now know that some of the $787 billion of our tax dollars are being used to fund repairs on state and local roads (not to mention the signs themselves).

Could someone explain to me why the good people of Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana, Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana, Monterey, Faraday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa, Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa, Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake, Grand Lake, Devils Lake, or Crater Lake (for Pete's sake) should have to pay for roads to be repaired in Illinois?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bike Helmets

I just posted this on the Catholic Dads Blog:

My parents came in from Minneapolis yesterday, and they'll be staying with us for the next week. (Happily, this will allow them to join us for the St. John Cantius Parish picnic this Sunday, which The Dutchman posted about yesterday.)

Knowing that our eldest daughter Teresa just learned to ride a bike a couple weeks ago, my mom had cut out a column for me that recently appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by one of my favorite writers, James Lileks, in which he reflected on his experience teaching his daughter to ride a bike:

No parent can teach a child to ride a bike without being overwhelmed with the accursed metaphorical nature of it all: You hold them as they practice, then take your hands off as they gain skill. You trotting alongside, ready to intercede should gravity make a play for your fragile little egg. Watch the turns. Don't overcompensate. Keep your speed up. The skill is soon mastered, and she's riding by herself. You stay there. She rides away, makes the turn, comes back.

"You know what this is?" I said, patting the frame. "Freedom."

She rolled her eyes. From what?

Oh, it'll come to you. And it'll take you away. The moment I saw her pedal away I foresaw the nights I'd worry when she was late pedaling back to the house, after a glorious twilight tour of the world we want her to explore. The bike became the car; the car became college; college became the Future, where there aren't helmet laws and you're not leaning up against the car in the parking lot, thinking, well, worst-case scenario, I have Band-Aids in the glovebox.

But there isn't an alternative. You teach them to ride; you teach them to go. You hope they wear a helmet and brake when the sign says stop.

Read the whole thing—you'll be glad you did.

Interestingly, I had intended a few days ago to post an entry here on Catholic Dads about the whole helmet issue, and this column has prompted me to do so today.

On the one hand, it seems to me that the push for kids to wear helmets when they first learn to ride a bike is a bit silly, and is merely one of the consequences of living in an outrageously litigious society.

On the other hand, as a dad who is concerned for the well-being of his children and who wants them to acquire good safety habits early on — and, I must admit, as someone who regularly wears a bike helmet himself — I can see the value in it.

I should also point out that Jocelyn's (my wife's) feelings on the matter are unambiguous: she's pretty insistently pro-helmet from the get-go. And so, considering my own ambivalence on the matter, I've gone along with her.

I would be curious to hear from my fellow Catholic Dads on the helmet issue:

At what age, if any, do/did/will you insist your kids wear bike helmets?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

EEOC to Catholic College: Drop Dead

I can't say as I'm surprised:

Feds Accuse Catholic Belmont Abbey College of Sexual Discrimination for Not Covering Contraception

So much for separation of church and state.

Thankfully, the BAC powers that be aren't backing down.

From the article:

"As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church," said Belmont Abbey President William Thierfelder. "There was no other course of action possible if we were to operate in fidelity to our mission and to our identity as a Catholic college."

After faculty members filed complaints with the EEOC and the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Belmont Abbey says the EEOC told the school in March 2009 that it would close the file on the discrimination charge, as it had not found the school's decision in violation of its statutes. But the agency later reversed itself, and issued a determination letter to the school on August 5 affirming that the ban amounted to gender discrimination, because it pertains only to women.

"By denying prescription contraception drugs, Respondent (the college) is discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives," wrote Reuben Daniels Jr., the EEOC Charlotte District Office Director in the determination. [emphasis added]

Aside from presenting us with a clear example of bureaucracy run amok, Daniels' comment also provides with what could rightly be called a "teachable moment".

He noted that only women take oral contraceptives. This, of course, begs the question prompts the question: Why is there no contraceptive pill for men?

The redoubtable Dr. Janet Smith explains why in her talk "Contraception: Why Not":

There's a wonderful book out by Dr. Ellen Grant called The Bitter Pill. She was very much in on distributing contraceptives in the 60's in London, but she saw woman after woman coming in with different pathologies that she found were pill-related high blood pressure, blood clots, cysts in the breast, all sorts of things.

So, she said, "I'm not going to prescribe these anymore." She looked into this and she discovered, that when they were first testing for the pill, they were trying to find a male contraceptive and a female contraceptive pill.

And in the first study group of males, they found that there was some slight shrinkage of the testicles of one male, so they stopped all testing of the male contraceptive pill.

You might notice that there is no such thing in the first study group of females. Three females died and they just readjusted the dosage.

Let's read that again:

And in the first study group of males, they found that there was some slight shrinkage of the testicles of one male, so they stopped all testing of the male contraceptive pill.

And this:

You might notice that there is no such thing in the first study group of females. Three females died and they just readjusted the dosage. [!]

Smith continues:

Now, I don't know what that tells you, but it tells me that there's something sinister going on here. Women are still dying from the pill.

If you look at the insert in any set of pills, you can get this from a pharmacist if you can't find it elsewhere, it says such things as the pill will cause blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease, greater increase of some kinds of cancer, infertility.

Now, these are very small percentages where this happens, but there are some sixteen million women in the United States on the pill. Sixteen million.

And even a very small percentage is still a very large number of women. Not to mention the day by day side effects. These always fascinate me.

Most women, in fact, 50% of women who start on the pill, stop within the first year because of unpleasant side effects. So, these side effects are really largely those of the sixteen million who continue, so you can imagine how bad they must be for the 50% who stop.

It's not Belmont Abbey College that's mistreating women.

It's the Pill.

Is There a Pattern Here?

This reminds me of this.

[HT: Christina Dunigan at Real Choice]

Monday, August 10, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Nun Run

A friend of mine and fellow Loyola graduate Alicia Torres is planning to enter religious life as a Franciscan Sister. But before she can do that, she needs to pay off her student loans.

To help do that, she's come up with a fantastic idea:

Ave Maria! Welcome to The NunRun. Maybe you are familiar with this Catholic catchphrase, but instead of a weekend of young women visiting several convents to discern (prayerfully seek) whether they are called to become nuns themselves, I am taking the NunRun to a literal level!

This September 13, myself and a group of generous friends will run the Chicago Half Marathon
–13.1 miles along the beautiful lakefront–with the goal of raising funds to help me remit my educational debt so I may enter Religious Life!

Training is in full swing, and every day I try more and more to surrender to God’s mercy and grace. As you read through the pages on this site, I invite you to learn a little more about me, my friends, the Laboure Society and the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on Chicago’s West Side.

As I try to learn more and more what humility truly is, I ask you to consider supporting me! I cannot say how important prayer support is, and your prayers for this effort are invaluable and most crucial. If you are in a position to support the NunRun financially, please visit Donate Today!

When I began to consider this endeavor, the words of St. Paul came to mind. His ability to use athletic imagery to help us understand the Spiritual journey is amazing! “Do you not know that in a race all runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”

Through your prayers and support, and above all God’s Divine Mercy and Providence, like Paul I aim to run to obtain the pearl of great price: freedom to give myself totally to Christ as a Religious Sister!

If you feel so inclined to help Alicia get one step closer to becoming a Franciscan Sister—and believe me, she'll make a great one—please consider making a donation to the Laboure Society in her honor.

This Is *So* Not Surprising

Let the games graft begin!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What a Relief

I received a notice in the mail this week from the Illinois Secretary of State's office reminding me that my driver's license is up for renewal this year.

Great, I thought. Now I get to go and wait in line at the DMV.

But, upon opening the letter, I learn that if 12 statements do not pertain to me, I can instead renew by mail (or by phone or online, but these options would also require a "minimal [read: outrageously expensive by Jansen standards] payment processor fee", so those options are right out).

After reading through statements 1-10, I'm in the clear. Then, I get to number 11:

Your legal name or gender has changed or you have lost your driver's license.

I must admit that the juxtaposition of these three things made me laugh out loud.

Number 12 didn't pertain to me, either, so it looks like the DMV will not have to be visited by me this year.

Monday, August 3, 2009

15 in 15

Because of the ironclad Someone On Facebook Tagged Me rule, I'm now obliged to do the following:

Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. [List] [f]ifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

That said:

1. The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. Dante's Inferno
4. The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind by Dr. Bernard Nathanson
5. Father Elijah by Michael O'Brien
6. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
7. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
8. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
10. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
11. The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
12. The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn
13. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
14. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
15. Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard