Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lenten Reflections: The Scriptures and Our World

    While attending Mass on Ash Wednesday I remembered about these reflections I had written back in 2006 when I used to teach Religious Education at St. Timothy's Catholic Parish in Southern California. When it comes to writing, I'm kind of a perfectionist, and therefore needed to do some revisions and corrections. Some other amendments were required by the changes not only in personal circumstances but also, and most blatantly, by the overall turn for the worse that is evidenced by the present political situation.

    There is one clarification I want to make, though. The selfie I'm posting with the ashes on my forehead is from four days ago. No, I don't look twelve years older now. The pic is new.

    No more preambles. Let's get started, and God bless you all.

    Lent is a time when we are supposed to reflect more profoundly upon Jesus’ endless love for us, about His horrendous death for our redemption, about what He expects from us—not for Himself, but for each other’s sake, as He comes to us in the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, the immigrant, the abandoned, the stigmatized, the sick, the homeless.

    These brief reflections are not intended to be deep theological comments, but simply some practical applications of Lenten Gospel readings to our daily lives.  That's something I was taught from early childhood-and something I always found to be entirely true. No matter what our situation, dilemma, concern, or endeavor may be, we can always look for answers in the Bible—and we can be sure that the reply, the solution, the comfort, the idea we needed to get, find, or experience will be there for us. That's what my family taught me and it always worked for me. It's easier and simpler than you think. That's why I feel I should show others what was always shown to me. 

    One beautiful, well-known passage that we hear on Ash Wednesday is from Matthew 6;2-4, when Jesus says,
    “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

    Far from living in a totally careless society as the media sometimes portrays it, most people these days are involved in charity in one way or another, whether as sponsors or as volunteers—or both.  Most of us truly enjoy devoting our time to community service, and those of us who are parents tend to beam with happiness when our children cherish every opportunity to help others.  I will not deny that I have always obsessively pursued my kids first with my camera and then with my cell phone on camera every served those less fortunate--mostly when my older children were still young enough for me to volunteer with them.  And, beyond the photo albums, I loved, and still love, to enlarge, frame, and hang some of those pictures, and have the walls bulging with them. I won't say how many copies of a local paper I'd  buy every time my kids were featured in it because of their volunteerism.  And society at large is not free from that "showing off" fever.  Besides the common appreciation certificates and community service awards, sponsors are frequently offered plaques displaying, at least within a certain range, the size of the donation made.  In effect, sponsors are given different titles, or ranking, depending upon the magnitude of their gift. That's how people can become bronze, silver, gold, or platinum donors.

    Whereas there is nothing wrong with the natural pride of having done something good, or even with the human expectation of some earthly recognition, we tend to overdo it.  When taking pictures, are we careful not to invade the privacy of the recipients?  Do we really treat them as our equals?  There is nothing wrong in feeling the internal pleasure of having done something for someone in need,  in taking some discreet pictures of one’s own children while volunteering, in including community service as part of our resumes, or in honoring those who have given beyond expectation.  But frequently we go over the limits.  One “thing” is to wear a T-shirt showing our participation in a walk or other fundraising event, and another one is to go around with a pin saying in full words something like, "I helped a sick child today." 

    Shouldn’t we remember that charity is an act of love, as opposed to an elegant, upscale way of satisfying our own ego?   Perhaps we should read St. Matthew’s passage a little more often.

    Another extremely important Lenten Gospel reading is the one, during the first Sunday of Lent, about the devil trying to tempt Jesus. To each temptation, Jesus replies with quotations from the Old Testament. As Fr. Jim Rafferty pointed out in his homily in 2006, that reading from Mathew 4; 1-11 clearly shows, like numberless others, the close inter-relationship between the Old and the New Testaments.   He also reminded us that the three different temptations are about humans’ main weaknesses, namely for the carnal, or mundane pleasures, for prestige, and for money and power.  Jesus resists temptation and shows us how we should resist temptation as well.

    But I will only emphasize what, to me, is the most forceful condemnation of foolish risks.  My Mother, now with God. always used to say that human life is too precious and too sacred to risk it for the sake of a sports stunt or competition.  She would point out, and repeat, that, notwithstanding his very athletic nature,  St. John Paul II, then Pope John Paul II, was openly against violent and dangerous sports. 

    Notwithstanding my words, and trying to make up for my far from optimal coordination,  I think I rode all roller coasters geographically available. I bungee jumped nine times, and even skydived once. It was a tandem jump, where I was just harnessed to my instructor.  Yet, I find in the second temptation, or, actually, in Jesus’ reply thereto, the strongest condemnation of unnecessary risks.  In effect, the devil took Jesus to a temple, made Him stand on a high parapet, and challenged Him to throw Himself down, counting that God would send His angels to hold and protect Him.  Jesus replied, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Matthew 4;7).

    That is something of which all young people should be reminded of before participating in any activity with the peer group.  How many times one classmate, playmate, or teammate dares another do something unnecessarily risky, or laughs at someone who, due to lesser practice or lesser ability, is unwilling to try a certain activity or stunt?  How many times the whole group makes fun of a boy or girl who lacks the necessary training, skill, or, simply, desire, to climb on, jump from, or jump over something? 

    Should that child risk breaking their head only to please so-called “friends” who do not seem to care about their safety, feelings, and self-esteem?  Shouldn’t that child remember that nobody is supposed to put God to the test?  Let’s think about it for a moment.  We know that God’s tender loving care for all and each one of us humans is unlimited.  We know that He can, and does, listen to absolutely all the countless requests for protection that He may receive every second.  Yet, isn’t it to be a little too arrogant to expect God to protect us while doing something that we simply want to do in order to please a member of the peer group?  We should rather let God protect those who are confronting danger for the sake of another, as when saving someone, as well as those who find themselves confronted by danger either through no fault of their own or due to mistake, inadvertence, or even some degree of fault without any desire for anything to happen. I'm talking about everyday occurrences, such as forgetting to lock the door before going to bed, failing to notice a stop sign, or speeding a little because of being late for work.  The person didn't expect a burglar to come in or to get into a collision. It is only natural to ask God for protection if we hear footsteps in the middle of the night or see another vehicle bearing down on us. It is totally true that, no matter what, no request from any of us is annoying to God. His love is endless and He does care about each and all of us. Yet, why to  “overburden” Him with claims for protection if we voluntarily engage in an activity that we could have avoided altogether?  Moreover, by doing what some group members are trying to make us do, would we be fulfilling their expectations?  Or would we be just giving them the pleasure of laughing at us? Would those frienemies be truly happy for us if we did it?  Surely not.  All they are looking for is some fun—and we shouldn't feed into that. We shouldn't provide them with the unhealthy amusement they're looking for.

    Nowadays, coaches appear to expect more and more—and even more, and so does society at large.  It looks like there is no limit to new roller coaster designs, skate park features, extreme sports ideas, and increasingly fancier gymnastic stunts.  The issue is that not everybody can keep up with the pace. In reality, the vast majority of us cannot.  Is it worthwhile to risk injury or death?  Shouldn't we think that there are lots of other things that we are still supposed to accomplish during our journey on this earth?  Do we really want to shorten that journey? Don't we want to be able to see some more of our most cherished dreams come true?

    Jesus had both the infinite courage and infinite love to go through unimaginable suffering when He died for us on the Cross—but He did it for a reason.  Yet, He did not throw Himself down the temple’s wall to please Satan. 
    When feeling that we must do something risky, even though our heart is racing, our hands are sweaty, and our airways appear to be closing to the point of choking, we should stop for a second and, before doing anything foolish, think:  Should Jesus have thrown Himself down the parapet of the temple?
    Another key passage of total application to our times is the reading from John 4;5-42, on the third Sunday of Lent.   In those times, Jews used to consider Samaritan women to be ritually impure.  They were forbidden to drink from any cup that had been handled by a woman from Samaria.  Yet, defying the unfair societal laws of His days, Jesus not only approaches a Samaritan woman but also asks her for a drink—something that was in violation of the norms of His time.   The woman herself was surprised and asked Jesus, “ ‘How can You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ – For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.”   

    Besides being the passage that institutionalizes Jesus’ ministry to the Gentiles, it is also one of the key passages that show His condemnation of racism and discrimination in any way, shape, or form. 

    Back in 2006 when I wrote these reflections, I said that even if racism seemed to be much less of a problem at the time, still there were many subtle ways in which prejudice still lingered around.  Then I'd have never imagined that twelve years later racism would be on the rise again.  Although total eradication would not be possible, it was not foreseeable that it'd become open and rampant again.

    Twelve years ago I wrote that nobody would openly question the societal propriety of equality—and never imagined that twelve years later, the president of a leading nation could use obscene language to refer to other countries, could identify immigrants with criminals and mock the disabled--and could still remain in office.

    At the time when I wrote these reflections, I didn't think that society would arrive to be openly and bluntly racist again.  As regrettable as those attitudes are, the ones I described then seemed to be nothing by comparison to what is happening today.  The examples I gave twelve years ago were of people keeping on making hurtful comments about appearances, backgrounds, accents, disability, and occupational status.  I mentioned that the boss was introduced by their first and last name, whereas a secretary was still introduced only by their first name.  I mentioned that still many citizens by birth did not allow foreigners to assimilate--even if those foreigners were citizens as well.  Yet, once again, then I said that those racist overtones were not openly expressed, but in subtle, insidious ways, quite often even disguised as efforts to protect those foreigners and their different heritages.  Then I said that it was done by still adhering to obsolete stereotypes--as if everyone from a certain nationality necessarily had to like a certain kind of food or enjoy a certain kind of music.  Then I said that it was done by many tuning their ears to immediately perceive the slightest foreign or even regional accent.  I also pointed out that amongst children and teenagers it appeared to be regarded as socially incorrect to be a new or less popular student--because all that seemed to matter was to be part of the “cool” group.  What was so 'cool' about that?  Wouldn’t 'cruel' be a better word?   Would it be even cooler to have the courage to defy those obsolete rules as Jesus defied the unfair laws of His time?  Wouldn't it be cooler to do what Jesus expects us to do? 

    Concerning that "cool" stuff, there is one last point I want to make. It is from the very account of the Passion, which we will hear on Palm Sunday (Mark 14; 1-15; 47).  I will not address the excruciating pain Jesus underwent for us, as he got beaten up, crowned with thorns, forced to carry His own cross, had His hands and feet pierced by nails, and was crucified.  We all know how infinitely He loved us—and how infinitely He loves each one of us every day of our lives.  
    All I want to address is the fact that the multitudes had shouted against Him, had claimed for Him to be crucified.  They had witnessed His miracles and had marveled at them.  They had been thankful to Him for His mercy.  They knew He had resurrected the dead, had given sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.  They knew He had made the paralytic walk.  Yet, at one point, they were all against Him.  That should help us question the validity of popularity, peer acceptance, or a positive media image.  Are those actual measures of our own worth?  Do we need others to like us, to give us their approval, for us to know what our infinite value is?  Is the most popular classmate the best, the kindest, the nicest one?  Haven’t you noticed that those who are not among the popular crowd are more likely to have better spiritual and moral qualities--and perhaps even better skills?   The only skill they may not have is the ability to manipulate others and take advantage of them. Yet--is that ability a true skill?

    Moreover, how many saints have been ridiculed, vilified, defamed, tortured, and killed by their contemporaries?  Needless to say, it's okay, and only human, to want others to like us. It's all right to be happy when they do.  The important “thing” is never to do anything we don’t want to do only in order to get someone’s approval. It's important to never base our self-image on popularity among the peer group or on a club or team membership.  It's important to never allow an inappropriate, unkind, nasty comment that someone else may make to cast any doubts about our own value, dignity, and worth.   

    I wish you all the opportunity to find reconciliation and peace of mind during this Lenten time so as to rejoice with Jesus on Easter and always.

Monday, February 5, 2018

"Those things don't happen here." Seriously???

Hello, everyone,
After so many years of living in the United States, it's time for me to apologize to everyone I know for having lied about where I come from originally. I'm very proud of my pure Italian background, which, and I must apologize again for even saying it, goes back to very old coats-of-arms from a country that is one of the main cradles of the Western civilization. Talking about old things, I may be a little too old to say that if I ever disobeyed my parents in anything, it was in talking about a much more privileged, much more illustrious family past. By word and deed, they had always taught me about equality, social sensitivity, and social justice. They had always emphasized that it's the very same red blood that runs through everyone's veins. Every time I opened my mouth and mentioned a much more prominent background, I did so against my parents and grandparents' will. Still, I came up with a way to avoid totally disregarding their teachings in humility and consideration for others--and that's how I started dismissing my own personal merit and abilities as a way to soften or muffle, my forbidden references to a much more illustrious family past.

I'm getting off topic--and away from this my public confession to having lied for so long. I was not born in Europe but in America. No, I was not born in the United States.  America is much more than just the U.S.  I was born in a wonderful, awesome, amazing country with a very sophisticated lifestyle, the most advanced medical care, and a very strong commitment to social justice.  I'm talking about Argentina, the country that gave to the world a Catholic leader that embodies the love and concern for the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant, and the oppressed that the Catholic faith is all about.

Why did I keep it as a secret? Because for about ten years, since I was a teen, I had been kind of bothered from the distance by an unknown person or group of people whose name or names were never known to me.  I clearly realize that most of you will think that it's not that I don't know but that I don't want to say. That's not the case. I don't know. I never knew, and never will.  I was never even really concerned about it. On the contrary, all that used to make me feel like the main character of a movie or the protagonist of a novel. It made me feel important. The counterpart, though, was that after having been an extremely overprotected child, my parents' terror that one day that unknown individual or group might decide to come out of the shadows and do something more drastic turned me into an even more overprotected teen and young adult.

Keeping things as quietly as possible was only part of the reason why I never told anyone. I was not lying that much anyway. My background is still pure Italian--and Argentina is a very Italian, very European country in America after all. The main reason why I didn't want anyone to know was even more compelling to me that any safety considerations could ever be.  I didn't want to hear one more time what several U.S. citizens by birth had replied when at the very beginning I had summarized my story for them. Yeah, they'd say something like, "Those things don't happen here." They'd say, "Here we don't have those kinds of problems." They'd say,  "Here the police would have protected you."  Seriously???  Even leaving aside the intrinsic rudeness of those comments, history proved those gratuitous statements to be totally, completely, entirely untrue.  Even though without knowing their identity, there are two "things" that over the years had become apparent about whoever was harassing me. The person, or, eventually, people, doing it had lots of money and, most likely, right-wing connections as well.  So, who dares tell me now that "those things" don't happen in the U.S.?  It's a coincidence that someone with exactly the same attributes managed not just to force one family to leave the country--but to run the whole country "from sea to shining sea".

Moreover, things were done in such a clever, well-thought-out way that, individually considered, every single instance appeared to be only coincidental. I myself sometimes arrived to believe that all boiled down to my family's extreme concern for my safety in combination to my own need to add some movie-like adventure to my then inordinately easy, comfortable, problem-free life. That was not the case, though. The string of "coincidences" kept on building up. There were a few instances that couldn't have been purely coincidental. Yet, nothing amounted to a crime. Nothing was evident enough to go to the police. Of course you can get police intervention, and protection, if someone breaks into your home and vandalizes it.  The police will listen to you if everything is left in a mess, if valuables are missing, if a threatening note was posted on your door, or if a gruesome item was dropped off as a clear warning of impending harm.  Yet, no police officer anywhere across the globe is going to take you seriously if you told them that someone broke into your home and neither took nor destroyed anything but just moved something out of place.  You can get police intervention, and protection, if someone is making phone calls and threatening you over the phone. But you cannot expect the same if what you get are seemingly 'wrong number' calls that, once again, if individually taken, would lack in any significance. It's only by putting those calls together over months and even years that you see a pattern. And the message is not that they want to kill you either but only that they're there, following you from the distance. Then you may also encounter a few random real-life people in public places who will tell you something that sounds weird, or extremely coincidental, but, once again, it could be still a coincidence. I never found it scary, but my parents would find it terrifying--because it was about me.

I hope you all understand why I never wanted to say anything to anyone. I didn't want to hear one more time that "those things don't happen here". Because they do. WhatI've never heard of is that someone could kind of persecute someone else in such a sophisticated, clever, well-thought-out way. I didn't want to enter into ugly arguments. People are rude. They are inconsiderate.  They make inconsiderate statements which quite often are even far from being true. Many people appear to think they have the right to speak their mind no matter whom they may hurt and even independently of the objective truth or falsity of what they are about to say. 

That's why I lied. Well, I didn't exactly lie. I told "the truth and nothing but the truth." Yet, I failed to tell "the whole truth".  After all, it's entirely accurate that I'm pure Italian with the jus sanguinis right to Italian citizenship. I'm Italian on every single side of my family.  I was not born in Europe, though, and neither were my parents.  We were born and raised in a beautiful country that is very European in lifestyle, simultaneously family-oriented and progressive.

I'm going to give a few examples of what is entirely the same in terms of everyday life in Argentina and in the U.S., and also a brief overview of what I found to be slightly different. I won't be talking about my family or myself, but about life in general--about the public opinion, about what you hear and see not only from those near you but also from people from all walks of life.

Above I said that Argentina is simultaneously family-oriented and progressive. I'll rephrase that in a much better way. It is precisely because it's family oriented that it can afford to be progressive. I apologize for saying that when new to the U.S. it surprised, and struck me to see how widespread the spousal abuse and domestic violence problems were.  It's very rare to find an Argentinean woman ready to tolerate being physically abused or even systematically shouted at by her husband, fiance, boyfriend, or domestic partner. Even if not followed by any battery, a few instances of verbal abuse may suffice for a girlfriend to break up the relationship or for a wife to get their kids and go back to her parents' house.  Now, if we come to think about it, in Argentina most women can afford to react that way because their parental home remains always open to her and all the grandkids. And if the woman's parents are no longer on this earth, in all likelihood there will be a sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or cousin willing to do the same--at least until she can go back on her feet. So, and, once again, I'm talking about how things, in general, were over thirty years ago, on one hand it was more common for young women to keep on living at home until they got married. On the other hand, though, it was less common for any woman of any age to put up with mistreatment of any kind. Most of them didn't need to stay with an abuser for lack of a better place where to go--as not everyone is ready or willing to end up in a "safe house" or shelter.  Therefore, tighter family ties tend to make abuse less widespread.

Recently, through the social media, I regained contact with many of my former classmates from high school. I thought I'd have a hard time finding most of them because they'd be on Facebook under their married names. I was surprised that almost all of them still went by their maiden name. A few had added their married name without giving up their maiden one. Only one of them went just by her husband's name. Coincidentally, that one is living in Europe. The specific country is irrelevant--but she is not living in Argentina. Personally, I'm not at all a feminist--except when it comes to the family name.  Moreover, thinking about my childhood and young adult years, I never ever perceived myself or any other girl or woman as weaker or less powerful than a boy or man. And, once again, I'm not talking about yesterday but about more years ago than I want to admit. Even if in the process of confessing to having kept a secret, my confession won't go as far as including my age.

It is the same with social justice.  Unbeknownst to many, labor law in Argentina is amongst the most advanced, most progressive, most leaning towards the weak than you can find. Argentineans are much more likely to sue their employers than any native U.S. citizens are. The reason is that, independently of the position held at their workplace, any employee or former employee claiming to have sustained any work-related injury, or to have been harassed, discriminated against, or wrongfully terminated by their present or past employer is given an automatic fee waiver throughout the entire process and is provided at no charge with any expert witnesses, medical or medically-related tests, on-site examinations, accounting reports, and any other studies that the employee might need to prove their case.  Once, long ago, an attorney said that his firm typically lost all the time all the legal matters they handled. Then he clarified, "Because we represent management."

Honestly, being a lawyer, when I first arrived in the U.S. I felt shocked to see how difficult it is here for workers to take their bosses to court.   When it comes to racism, I used to think that people in the U.S. were more open. . . until now. Until things changed here in early 2017.  Moreover, even from before Trump's times, I don't really know where skin tone was less present in people's minds.  I thought that people were more racially conscious in Argentina--but I apologize for saying that now I believe I was mistaken. It was not until I was in my thirties and had been living for some years in the U.S. that for the very first time during a trip back to Argentina I noticed how blue my Aunt Amelia's eyes were.  Ironically, that was also the last time I saw her. God would call her a couple of years later.  I never denied that I tend to be a very absent-minded person, always much more absorbed into my own thoughts than aware of my surroundings. Yet, I used to see my Aunt Amelia at least once if not several times per week--but had never paid attention to how blue her eyes were--because eye color was not present in my thoughts until the change of environment drew my attention to it.

Changing topics, let's say that you lose your cell phone. I will concede that chances to get it back at a Lost and Found may be higher in the U.S. Yet, chances that your information could be misused are also higher in the U.S.  In Argentina someone may misuse your financial information--but it's much less likely that your photos might get misused. In all likelihood, if not willing to return it, the finder may wipe out all your data and give it to their youngest kid who wants a cell phone the same as his older siblings have. If unable to pay for one more phone, the finder may not return it. I won't claim that nobody will use your photos for online pornography--but chances are not that high.

Talking about crime, on principle in Argentina people tend to be more concerned about being deprived of their property--and most of the crime is only for a financial motivation.  Yet, on principle, there are fewer instances of crime due to revenge, passion, lascivity, or just for kicks.  For instance, someone who is about to testify in court against a killer s in danger anywhere.  Yet, even a murderer or their accomplices may not "risk it" to go after someone who already testified in court.  If two drivers get into a collision, they have enough with the crash and the problems resulting from it.  Why make things even worse for themselves by hitting each other over the head with a baseball bat or whatever improvised weapon they can get hold of?

When I was a child, there were two different instances when members of my extended family were victims of crime. In one case they were coming back from a wedding. The two ladies were wearing very valuable antique jewelry,  Their vehicle was stopped. The assailants only wanted their documents--not their jewelry or their wallets. One of the robbers demanded from one of the gentlemen his Rolex-most likely not for the gold but for the chronometer. The attackers didn't put a hand on any our relatives. They didn't want their vehicle either. Only their documents and Rolex. That's what they wanted and that's what they got.  In the other instance, as a second-degree uncle of mine was about to get to his car, he was demanded at gunpoint to surrender the key to his vehicle. The two robbers told him, "We need it for a job. You're going to get it back." They didn't touch or hit him either. They only wanted his car.  He didn't oppose them and didn't get hurt. Well, he'd never be able to drive that car again, though. The robbers' "job" would end up with a police chase and a collision, and the car would be totaled. Please, by no means I'm trying to say that Argentinean criminals are not dangerous. All I'm saying is that they're more geared towards a specific purpose. If able to get what they're going for, that's all they want. The fictional example of the mugger who shot Batman's parents even after having their valuables iin his hands s not that common in Argentina.

On average, in the U.S., students' and workers' loyalties tend to be more with their educational institutions and employers. In Argentina, they are primarily with their classmates and co-workers.

I remember a U.S. public service announcement where the principal of a school said, "When the bell rings, your child becomes a little my child as well." For good or for bad, schools tend to take more intervention in a multitude of issues regarding their students than most parents in Argentina would be comfortable with or agreeable to. The counterpart to that, though, is that the U.S. offers parents and kids alike one awesome, amazing alternative that neither Argentina nor most other countries across the globe do: homeschooling. 

Another issue that used to surpirse me at the beginning was how people love all sorts of DIY projects. Typically, in Argentina, unless they are technicians in that particular field, homeowners don't play electrician, carpenter, or plumber. If they have any need for repairs, they call a professional. Conversely, if a pet dies, even parents without much schooling tend to feel confident that they thoroughly know their kids and that their words can be more comforting than any book on losing a pet. They may resort to a book--but mostly just to show their children that other kids have been through similar experiences as well.  They are likely to resort to counseling to help their children deal with their grief--but they won't leave it up to the psychologist to use their professional judgment. Any mom or dad will have something to say to the therapist about what works best or not at all with their kids.

I want to close this post with a reference to Fr. Pedro, an Argentinean priest whom not everyone knows about and yet who devoted all his adult life to the people of Madagascar--people who were living in a dump and now have homes, decent medical care, and jobs.  Fr. Pedro Opeka is giving daily, live, vibrant testimony of what the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church is all about.

By the same token, it is also a priest from Argentina the one who from the Holy See embodies that reaching out, compassion, love for the poor and the oppressed that are the hallmark of what Jesus expects from us. Pope Francis calls on us, whether from the clergy or from the laity, in our own lives and our own ways to do Jesus' job on this earth. with the openness to embrace others from all religions, all backgrounds, all nationalities, and all walks of life, and the courage to oppose Muslim bans and border walls.

Those two men from Argentina are literally changing the world for the better, denouncing evil, redeeming souls, and saving lives of all faiths or even no faith, reaching out to others no matter who they are. That is what priesthood is all about. They're both priests from Argentina--and they're both priests for the world.

God bless.

These are my three adult children, my biological ones. My five younger ones were adopted internationally, two from Haiti and three from Bulgaria. My daughter, who is my oldest child and my only girl, was born in Argentina. My twin sons were born in California, but they're both deeply interested in everything from Argentina, and one of them intends to take the Argentine citizenship in addition to his U.S. one. The pics that follow are from San Diego, CA, from the International Houses at Balboa Park, and from Christmas 2017 at our home in RI.  Yet, as I'm posting this, two of them are visiting Argentina.  I so much wish I could have traveled with them!!!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Shame on you, Donald!

This is appalling, disgusting, nauseating, infuriating . . . and the string of adjectives could go on and on and on--even to include some that never before in my life I thought I'd ever use.

As a Catholic, I'm proud to see that the Vatican sternly condemned you, Donald. As a mother thrilled to have among my children two amazing sons from Haiti, I cannot forgive you. As an immigration attorney having represented many kind, law-abiding, respectful clients from El Salvador, I find your comment revolting. As a strong ProLife supporter, I tell that you have not the least idea of what the sanctity of human life is all about. As a human being I'm happy to see that the whole world decries your racial slur. 

Amidst the global dismay at such an offensive, inelegant, rude, outrageous, preposterous comment, former Mexican president Vicente Fox had a totally appropriate and well-deserved response by calling Trump's mouth "the foulest shithole in the world."

Think about it: Being the so-called president of the united States, you refer to the African nations, Haiti, and El Salvador as "shithole countries." What were you thinking about?

What else is needed to remove you from office? You're not a president, but only a jerk with a filthy mouth.

Yes, Donald, you don't deserve to be called in any other way. You entirely lack the moral authority to lead anything at all. That comment was trash--and reveals the trash, garbage, cancer, poison, intoxication of racism and hatred in your heart.

Lillian Godone-Maresca

US diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock over Trump calling African nations, Haiti and El Salvador ‘shitholes’

Standing up for Haiti--and, of course, also for Africa and El Salvador.  My daughter bought those two banners at a Haitian festival in MA in honor to celebrate and honor the proud heritage of two of her younger brothers.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Christmas 2016. Yes, posting over one year later!

No, I'm not making a mistake. The following are our Christmas 2016 pics. It took me over one year to post. We have awesome pics for this year as well---but not that awesome if we consider that one of us was not at home. Maximilian is in the hospital. He is not at risk, but there are many emotional factors from his past that make it complicated. In addition to his numerous challenges, he spent his first ten years of life in a Bulgarian orphanage. He still has many unresolved adoption issues.  In 2016 it was all nine of us at home--with our very own saints from Heaven watching over us. My parents and grandparents are there as really as when I was a child. I won't say how long ago that was.

For 2017 we have some photos with Maximilian--but those were taken at the hospital . . . not at home. Yet, after some very hard times, we had a small Christmas miracle. Well, I'm jumping forward one full year. I still need to post my 2017 Christmas pics . .  as soon as I can.

For now, this is my 2016 Christmas album, Part I. Here it goes:

And here comes Part II:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fellow ProLifers, Beware: Trump Is Desecrating the Sanctity of Human Life!

This is not a matter of politics. It is not about being Democrat or Republican. It is not about religion either. It is just about common sense. Who can believe that Trump is trying to foster the right to life? Who can be so gullible as that? From a moral standpoint, Trump has already proven that he doesn’t care for anyone. From a practical one, anyone who wants to further a cause knows better than soiling it as a right-wing “thing”. Seriously? If some of you want to get fooled, I don’t.

    With his last-minute revision of his terrible Trumpcare bill that thanks God didn’t pass, Trump provided me with the proof I needed to show what I have been saying from the beginning--even before the results of the 2016 election became known. No, I'm not talking about his collusion with Russian hackers, which means that he resorted to dirty play to win. That alone makes him an unlawful president--on top of being a totally unfit one. Yet, as crucial and true as that is, it is not my main point here. From long ago I have been saying that Trump is NOT (sorry for the capitalization) truly ProLife. He is only ruining the ProLife movement by soiling it with his apparent, fake endorsement.

Needless to say, trying to take healthcare away from millions of people is certainly not what someone who believes in the sanctity of human life does. With his latest revision of that atrocious Trumpcare that he wanted to see made into law, flat out he proved my argument. He was not only taking away prescription drug coverage but was also taking away maternity health care. How can he even dare pretend to defend the unborn??? And now he's charging back with another equally bad healthcare plan project.

Let's make it straight:
- Someone who is ProLife does NOT take away health care from expectant mothers--or from anyone who, regardless of ability to pay, needs medical attention.

- Someone who is ProLife does NOT try to eliminate environmental protections for the benefit of the big oil rigs and large manufacturing companies. Aren't unborn babies among the most vulnerable and worst affected victims of pollution and contaminants?

- Someone who is ProLife does NOT want to punish those women who had abortions, but tries to help them heal. That's why so many Catholic Parishes have ministries reaching out to women and to anyone else, such as husbands or boyfriends, dealing with post-abortion guilt and assisting them to heal, find peace, and embrace life in the future.

- Someone who is ProLife does NOT push forth legislation that, by reducing and taking away health insurance coverage from millions, will unavoidably result in a significant reduction in the number of special needs adoptions--and in the concomitant and sadly uncontrollable increase in the abortion rate.

    So, Donald Trump is damaging the ProLife cause much more than any pro-abortion propagandist can. That's what friendenemies do. That's what those who hit below the belt do. That's what those who play dirty do. That's what, through him and all his

 right wing scoundrels as its best allies, Satan is doing---right here, right now, endangering unborn babies, the whole ProLife movement, the needy, the immigrant, the minorities, the physically and mentally challenged, and all humankind at large.

    Think about it. When children, no matter how small, want to have a dog, they don’t approach their parents with a bunch of stories about bad dogs attacking their owners or their owners’ guests, about neighbors complaining because of the barking, about dogs running away and getting killed by passing vehicles, about puppies chewing on everything, or about dog health care resulting in huge veterinary bills. From very early age kids are smart enough to surround their request with real life stories of dogs saving lives, of nearby examples of well-behaved dogs, and of facts about the many psychological benefits of having a dog, most likely wrapping it up with some cute puppy images. Just common sense, isn’t it?

    Similarly, when parents want to make their children have salad, they don’t use the dressing their children hate the most, don’t play their children’s least favorite music at dinnertime, and don’t hire a nasty, unfriendly nanny to help in the process.

    In the business world, it is a proverbial habit to meet for lunch in order to go over and close important transactions. Why? Common sense again. A nice restaurant and a good meal create a comfortable, pleasant, and thus more favorable atmosphere for people to find it easier to arrive to a meeting of the minds and go ahead with the deal.

    All that is easy enough, correct?  My examples speak for themselves. Now, let’s think about Trump and what he is doing. Do you get the idea? Do you really believe that he wants to further the cause of life if at the same time and in all other areas he does the worst things he can think of and surrounds himself with the worst people possible so as to get the just condemnation of the vast majority in U.S. and all over the world?  He only has the temerity of insulting the ProLife movement by falsely alleging to favor life while his action clearly shout out otherwise.

    Even leaving aside for a moment the moral considerations and the intrinsic repugnancy of each and every one of the measures taken by Trump in his very short time in office, it appears as if  he had been looking for which actions could be the most unpopular ones of all—so as to scandalize and horrify the public opinion by going forward with them.     Let’s just mention banning immigration from certain countries, discriminating against one religion, sending refugees back, constructing pipelines that will very negatively impact the environment and will violate Native American rights, surrounding himself with neo-Nazis and KKK sympathizers, praising a foreign dictator, among many other, and besides trying to bring back the C.I.A.’s torture unit, creating insecurity around health care coverage and social security benefits, and favoring an increase in mortgage rates.

    For God’s sake, don’t you see it? I’m coming up with another example.  Whether you prefer to place yourself in the shoes of a food manufacturer or of those of a stay-at-home parent trying to make some extra income, imagine that you’re selling a healthy snack—whichever kind you’d like it to be. Now imagine that a couple of people who hate you start posting all over the place very negative reviews of your product. They claim it to have no nutritious value, result in significant weight gain, and have no real taste like it’s supposed to have.  Obviously. your enemies will cause some relative damage, but—how big can that damage be?  Most likely people will realize that those post are no more than the result of hatred—not against your product but against you. With very little effort on your part, you may be able to curb the damage—and if you handle the situation properly, chances are that far from deriving any loss of business due to such negative publicity, the hostility, animosity, hatred breathing through it may even help you build your venture even stronger. People will view you as the victim of defamation, as the target of someone’s hatred for whatever reason . . . and thanks God, people tend to be more likely to help crime victims than perpetrators, to help those who are victimized by hatred than those who hate, those who suffer from someone else’s wrongdoing than those who do wrong. In other words, your enemies are not very likely to ruin you that way.

Now let’s imagine that instead of openly trashing your product, your enemies take a much more sophisticated approach. They come up with online posts and  traditional posters that start describing your snack as the best one in the world.  They praise how nutritious, energizing, yummy, low-calorie, and easy-to-carry it is, suitable for all ages and not messy at all. It couldn’t get any better, could it? But then the advertisement keeps on going to say that it gives so much energy that had it been available in nazi Germany, Hitler himself would have endorsed it, and that it’s now endorsed by neo-nazis, white supremacists, and lingering KKK members. Oh, and as a closing, the posts and posters address males and tell them that your snack will be so stimulating that they’ll feel like grabbing their “chicks” by you-know-where and do whatever they want with them, with some explicit images included. Now, my question is: Which kind of approach will be most detrimental to your business? The first one where it is only too obvious that you’re being the victim of hatred, or the second one, which pretends to praise your product but then aims at presenting you as a hater with very dubious moral values?

Isn’t the second one a much cleverer, more sinister, more diabolic way to ruin not only your business but also your personal reputation and your standing in the community while stripping you of the support and affection of your true friends? Furthermore, the second approach is likely to cause your real friends to split up between those who still believe that you were not responsible for those posts and posters and those who don’t want to have anything to do with you any more?

    Fellow ProLifers:  Do you get it?  Don’t you see the parallel?  For the sake of  the unborn babies, of the brain damaged, of the terminally ill,  I urge you all to avoid biting into Donald Trump’s diabolic, satanic plan to destroy the ProLife cause.

    That is exactly how Trump is ruining the ProLife movement, how he is attacking the sanctity of human life, how he is undoing what had taken years for ProLife activists to build. The public opinion was getting increasingly shaken, disgusted, sickened at the atrocity of dismembering babies alive or sucking their brains off their little skulls. The public opinion was getting shocked to learn about babies being left to die and even strangled to death if they had survived a third-trimester abortion. The public opinion was getting revolted to learn that Planned Parenthood was, and is, profiting in huge amounts from the sale of baby body parts.

    Yes, more and more people were turning proLife. It was something natural, something that was coming as a given, the same as constantly increasing longevity in the light of always advancing medical technology, the same as fairer and always improving anti-discrimination, inclusion, labor, and consumer protection laws and policies in the light of deeper and always deepening social conscience.  Improved ultrasound images and pain capability findings were changing minds. They were changing hearts.

    When I was drafting this post, I happened to meet with someone who said something that hit it right into the core issue. Although we had met for a totally unrelated reason, our conversation touched upon all the havoc that Trump is causing in such a short time. I took the opportunity to set forth that Trump may claim to be ProLife but is not. The other person agreed with me. As literally as I can recall her words, she said, “No, he is not ProLife. He is whatever he thinks is going to make him win and give him power.”

    She couldn’t have phrased it any better. If claiming to be proLife helped Trump win the elections, what does that mean? It means that the public opinion was already tilted towards the cause of life. It means that more people were being ProLife, that many were turning already from pro-abortion to ProLife.

    Thanks to many brave men and women who had spoken up and continued doing so, awareness was slowly arriving to reach the unborn.  As early as in 1984, after having performed over 75,000 abortions, after having co-founded N.A.R.A.L. Pro-Choice America, and after having directed in New York City the Center Reproductive and Sexual Health for years, Dr. Benjamin Nathanson had been stricken, impacted, and forever touched by the ultrasound screen in front of him showing the baby he was murdering open his mouth as if trying to shout in pain.  It was too late to stop that killing, though.  That little baby died but saved millions of others as from that day on and until God called him in 2011, Dr. Nathanson became a prominent crusader for life and against abortion.

    And he was not the only one. Nurse Jill Stanek got horrified to witness the atrocious deaths of little abortion survivors who were painfully murdered by denial of medical care and even by direct killing action. Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson got nauseated by the butchering of innocent babies and became a proLife advocate as well.  After having performed 1,200 abortions, Dr. Anthony Levatino had a total change of heart and began producing videos that exposed, and keep on exposing, the barbaric cruelty of different abortion procedures. Norma McCorvey, who was Jane Roe in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in U.S., also became an eloquent ProLife activist and vowed to devote the rest of her life to overturning such regrettable decision.  Norma followed through to her last day on this earth. A few days ago, on  Saturday 18, 2017, God called her—-and this is my tribute to her for having the courage to face what she had done and trying to remedy it, for becoming a true, wholehearted, energetic ProLife advocate whose honesty about her past and her guilt over it had made her an ever stronger champion for the cause of the unborn.

    So, yes, it was happening. Many former pro-choice supporters were turning proLife. It was the normal course of history, the triumph of good over evil. In the past there used to be slavery. Then slavery was abolished, but there was still segregation. Then desegregation came, and integration started, and kept on progressing, but still wasn’t full and still there was no true equal opportunity. Maybe there is still not total integration. Maybe there is not true equal opportunity yet. But as time goes by and social conscience deepens, we keep on getting closer and closer.  Lately, with an increasing number of interracial marriages and adoptions, we’re almost there.

    Something similar had already happened and was still happening with respect to those with physical and developmental challenges. Slowly people began realizing that the disabled did not bring any shame to their families. People with disabilities were no longer sent out to waste away in cold, bleak mental institutions. They started to be kept at home and cared for.  But there was no inclusion yet—until the fight for inclusion began. And, no matter what schools may claim, inclusion is at its initial stages still. Nevertheless, it’s there, and getting better.

    That happened in all fields of human life. In the old times there were horrendous executions. Then they became a little faster and slightly less barbaric, but still cruel, painful, and dehumanized, like death by electrocution. Then those methods were replaced by lethal injections that reduced the pain. Finally, some tragic mistakes brought increasing awareness of the irreversibility of potential error, and nowadays most civilized societies have abolished capital punishment altogether.

    The same upward trend included many other areas of human life and human relationships, such as landlord and tenant, labor, consumer protection, products liability, and environmental laws. Everything was becoming fairer and tipping more and more towards the weak.

    That increasing sensitivity was reaching out to animals as well. Obviously, it should have reached babies much sooner than animals—but was finally coming up anyway.

    It was an always upwards way—until only a few weeks ago. In such short time Trump is curving everything back—not just in a downward slope but in a vertical chute. Everything that humankind had been conquering over the years has been either already attacked or targeted for attack.

    Moreover, the enormous increase in special needs adoptions had opened many people’s eyes to how incredibly precious those little lives are.  No matter how hard the abortion industry tries to push and sell the myth of the “unwanted child,’  people were realizing that such image was, and is, only that: a myth, an invalid excuse, a total lie.  For real there are numberless families ready and willing to adopt babies, children, and even teenagers with the most severe physical and developmental challenges, with serious and even life threatening diseases, with chronic and even degenerative conditions, with the most difficult acting out behaviors, and, although in a lesser number, even with terminal illnesses.

So, birthmothers who were unable or unwilling to raise a child presenting with any or certain kind of special needs were progressively becoming more and more aware that all they needed to do was to continue their pregnancy for a few more months, and then their babies would have loving, caring, stimulating homes where they’d be encouraged to develop their full potentials and would be cherished no matter how unlimited or limited those full potentials might prove to be.

    Yes, I’ll say it once more. It was arriving. Protection to the unborn was almost there. Planned Parenthood’s evil dealings had been exposed.  Multiple factors were pulling more and more people towards the proLife cause. The public opinion was getting nauseated after learning about little abortion survivors being left alone to die if not directly killed,  about the dismembering of tiny humans limb by limb, about the suction of their brains out of their skulls. The public opinion had been shaken by scientific proof that unborn babies do feel pain. Clearer ultrasound images allowing pregnant women to see the little ones they were carrying in their womb were making it even more difficult to kill them. Special needs parents and disability advocacy groups were working hard towards increased awareness of the joys that children with physical and developmental challenges bring to their families, whether biological or adoptive.  People were getting horrified at the findings that Planned Parenthood had been profiting big from the sale of baby body parts.

    You may wonder how I came up with this ludicrous, childish, kind of disgusting comparison, but I dearly love both the ProLife movement and family pictures. Everyone who knows me knows that.  It would tear me apart to see a family picture smeared with feces—and, even if the metaphor may be somewhat inelegant, that is exactly what Trump is doing to the ProLife cause.  He is soiling it by attempting to associate it to his racist, discriminatory, insensitive right wing agenda. Think about one of your most cherished family photos. Think that you didn’t arrive to digitalize it yet, and only have that single old print. There is no other image that could be used for further reproduction. Now imagine that your neighbors didn't pick up after their dog, and that the wind pulls your beloved photo off your hands and it ends up on the ground, stuck to doggie excrement. Would you still touch it? Most likely, in order to try to save it, you and your family members would still touch it, even if with disposable gloves—but nobody else would. If some friends of yours were there with you, you wouldn't even expect them to hold that  soiled photo, would you? Now, do you see the analogy? Trump is dragging the ProLife cause to the mud, to the dirt, to the execration of a bigot right-wing agenda. So, only those of us who are totally, firmly, solidly ProLife with no exceptions will keep on embracing the ProLife cause, will try to save it, and will try to clean it up from the bad publicity artfully launched against pro-lifers by those who try to portray the ProLife movement as as a hardline position that is only for those who have hard hearts.  Yes, that’s what is happening. The baby killers accuse the baby savers of hardness of heart—and the most effective detractors of the ProLife movement are those infiltrated into it who pretend to be baby savers but who associate themselves with baby killers who couldn’t care less about those families that are unable to procure private pre-natal care for themselves, about undocumented and refugee expectant moms, and about the very harmful effects of environmental contaminants on unborn and newborn infants.

    So, all those who had already made it from being pro-abortion to becoming Pro-life but who were not too invested in the ProLife cause yet may end up moving away from it.  Going back to the family picture metaphor, your friends may have enjoyed seeing it in the past, but would no longer touch it if it's soiled all over.  Why? Simply because they are not as invested in it as you and your family are. Remember the common adage that says that "birds of a feather flock together."  As defenders of the sanctity of human life, we cannot flock together with a border wall, an immigration ban from certain countries, a registry for members of a certain religion, massive deportations, a total disregard for environmental health, the praise of torture, mockery of the disabled, reductions in health insurance coverage and social benefits, and the proliferation of hatred and divisiveness in what, even if not perfect, used to be a relatively harmonious and welcoming society.

    It is not just my opinion, but an obvious fact that Trump is causing precisely the opposite effect than the one he intends or claims to intend to cause. An article from 02/16/17 by Laura Bassett in the Huffington Post is entitled in a way that summarizes precisely that opposite effect that, except for his fanatics, Trump elicits from everyone:
“Donald Trump Has Mobilized Women In A Way Hillary Clinton Never Quite Could - Regular Women with No Background in Politics Are Leading the Resistance.”

    In a totally different context, even though not that different as human issues are all intertwined, with reference to the Muslim ban, former Navy pilot John McCain meant exactly the same concerning this opposite effect that Trump’s personality and actions cause when in an interview he said that the Muslim ban might “give ISIS some propaganda.”

    The issue is that Satan was finding that Planned Parenthood was no longer strong enough. Yes, it had, and still has, funding—but funding is not everything.  People were getting disgusted at Planned Parenthood, at its butchering of babies alive and its profiting from their tiny body parts. So, what could Satan do to fight back against the ProLife cause? Exactly what it did: to come up with someone equally disgusting, equally nauseating who would falsely proclaim himself to be ProLife. It was a very clever plan. The sad issue is that some people fell right into the trap.

    But not all. Not the majority. Not those who truly care. That brings me to my next sub-title:

Proud to be Catholic. The Catholic Church Speaks Up

    I am proud to see how the whole Catholic Church spoke up against Trump’s racism and right wing agenda.

    Pope Francis  publicly voiced his concern about and disapproval of Trump’s ban on immigration from designated countries with predominantly Muslim population.

    Do you know what else I’m proud of? I felt proud, truly and deeply proud to learn that on the weekend of February 4 -5, 2017, around Rome some posters appeared against Pope Francis. Why against Pope Francis? Well, the accusations were that he was not “conservative”.  

It looks like the accusers were totally confused. Why should the Pope be conservative? Our Catholic faith is progressive. The Catholic Social Teaching is progressive. Jesus was born to a Virgin. He was born in a manger. He was born among people who already were and would be persecuted and oppressed. He preached humility. He preached equality.  He was committed to the poor.  He taught us that humans were more important than rules. He invited sinners to His table. He washed His disciples’ feet. He demanded fair pay for the workers.

One of those so-called “conservative Catholics,” who don’t seem to know that the core of Catholic Social Teaching is social justice, commented with vulgar language and in a very disrespectful way on my timeline—not just against me but against Pope Francis. What could make me any more proud than that? No matter how extremely limited what I can do is, I am standing up with our Pope against his detractors who dislike him because of his commitment to the poor, the immigrant, and the oppressed.

Back in February 2016, when Trump was only running for the presidency but was already indicating his intention to build a wall along the Mexican border, Pope Francis had clearly stated that walls between nations were “not Christian.” worried about Trump immigration order

    Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, two leading Catholic organizations,  not only spoke up against the Muslin ban and the executive order against refugees, but are also actively campaigned against Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, and anti-immigrant bigotry, and urged Catholics worldwide to do the same.

    I’m quoting a paragraph of the letter that Catholic Relief Services and the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishop were urging Catholics to personalize a little and send to their senators:
“As Catholics and Christians, we have a moral obligation to offer shelter and assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to afford them refuge. As a Catholic, I support refugees because of my values and agree with Pope Francis: "There must be no family without a home, no refugee without a welcome, no person without dignity...." As people of faith we must act and send a positive message to those around the world who are suffering. In Matthew 25, Jesus is asked, "When did we see you a stranger and welcome you?" Jesus replied, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did for me." I ask that we follow this example and welcome the stranger, not turn them away.”

    Many prominent figures within the Catholic clergy have firmly condemned Trump’s actions as well. These are just only a few examples.

- In an interview with an Italian Catholic T.V. channel, and with reference to that same infamous executive order against Muslim refuses, Archbishop Angelo Beccia said that "Certainly there is worry because we are messengers of another culture, that of openness.”

 - In Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich referred to Trump’s executive over as “one of the darkest moments in U.S. history” and said that it was “contrary to Catholic and American values.”

- Sister Donna Markham, President of Catholic Charities USA also condemned the Muslin ban, the same as retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, as two of the most prominent figures among countless others.

- About one year ago,  in February 2016, when coincidentally with Trump’s increasing presence in the electoral campaign the anti-Muslim feelings were also increasing throughout U.S., Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego urged Catholics to fight against “the scourge of anti-Islamic prejudice.”  Bishop McElroy exhorted the Catholic community “to recognize and confront the ugly tide of anti-Islamic bigotry” and “to view with repugnance the "repeated falsehoods" that Islam is inherently violent, that Muslims seek to supplant the U.S. Constitution with sharia law, and that Muslim immigration threatens the cultural identity of the American people.”

    In addition, Bishop McElroy also exhorted Catholics to break through obsolete “patterns of social segregation” and to interact and associate more with others from dissimilar backgrounds, from faiths and cultures different from our own. Bishop McElroy found it to be a negative fact that  many Catholic may never have had the opportunity to get to know anyone within the Muslim religion.

 Ironically, some of the allegedly Christian leaders that support Trump pretend to defend his actions by claiming that the government is under no duty to follow the Bible that urges us to welcome the immigrant.
It appears to me that those Christian leaders should be reminded of Jesus’ teachings—just in case they are having some memory problems.

    On January 21, 2017, one day after Trump’s inauguration, following the 5:15 Saturday evening Mass, the Liturgy Committee at our Parish invited all the congregation for coffee at the rectory for all and everyone to be able to candidly express their views on how things were being done at the Parish and how they could be done even better.  I attended and started by praising how at different occasions both before and after the elections both our pastor and pastor emeritus had been very outspoken in standing up for immigrants and refugees and against Trump.  I praised them for that and said that it was important for us as Catholic to make it clear that we cannot be, and are not, with Trump, that we cannot allow anyone to think that because he now claims to be pro-life we support him. I took a deep breath, and was prepared to be met with both support and antagonism—but I was mistaken. Support was unanimous.  Even though that was prior to Trump’s infamous executive order, immediately someone added that Trump’s anti-immigration and anti-Muslim position was against the Catholic Social Teaching—and, again, we all agreed.

A little background information

     I was born into a very devout Catholic family, where Catholicism was always a pivotal aspect of daily life, not only in the Creed or profession of faith, but also and even more dramatically in the total, absolute, emphatic embracement of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church. In such light, by word and deed my parents and grandparents invariably not only taught me but also enacted for me the values of equality, social sensitivity, and social justice. They always placed social sensitivity way ahead of socio-economic profile and social prestige. I was not even allowed to mention that our family background went back to the oldest Italian nobility. I used to be reprimanded every time I even mentioned that because, I was reminded, everybody’s blood is the same. Similarly, despite being surrounded by the strictest and most uplifting family values, I was taught to be open to people from all walks of life. I was raised to respect the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death with no exceptions, and to stick to such respect regardless of any circumstances.  I was taught that being Pro Life is not just a matter of  learning that “love waits” but of embracing life and, if necessary, defy society and its moral standards in those cases when love did not wait. I was taught that neither the worst medical prognoses nor the most forcible or even violent circumstances leading to conception justify the murder of an innocent child. I was only a teenager when my Mom told me that to point a finger at an unwed mother was paramount to promoting abortion. I was also a teenager when she told me that if one day I wanted to adopt children with special needs she and my Dad would do everything within their power to help me. I was an adult when she not only lived up to but went way beyond those words and that promise and sacrificed her own mobility and eyesight for the sake of my international adoption expenses.  She, my three biological children, and I prayed together every step of all three adoption processes, which resulted in the addition of five awesome children, two from Haiti and three from Bulgaria, to our family—all with special needs and special talents. My Mother spent her last six years on this earth almost blind and in a wheelchair but never had any regrets. That was a sacrifice that only a saint could have made—and that saint is now with God. I can also prove that at one point around mid 2008, it was my Dad’s intercession from Above what saved the adoptions of my two sons from Haiti when the U.S. Consulate in Port-au-Prince had made a serious and otherwise rather irreparable mistake that could have jeopardized the whole processes. My three older children are devoted to their five younger brothers much more than words can say to the point of quite often putting their own goals and dreams aside for the sake of theirs.

    Without denying that I do like to brag about my family, for the purposes of this article, the above information is useful to prove a totally and unambiguously solid family ProLife track record that lends even more force to it.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Washing of the Feet. . . because of the King Who washed His disciples' feet.

 On a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, when Mass was over, Fr. Ray, our pastor emeritus, asked us to wait for him for a moment. I thought he wanted to talk about my younger sons' upcoming First Holy Communion, but he'd surprise us by asking Maximilian whether he'd like to participate in the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday.

Needless to say, Maximilian was thrilled to have been asked. That day all the high school freshmen were going on a field trip to the Boston Museum of Science, from where they would around 4:30 p.m.. The Holy Thursday Mass would be at 7:00 p.m., and we'd need to be at St. Joseph's, in Newport, RI, by 6:30. Maximilian didn't even want to go on his field trip for fear of being late for the Washing of the Feet. Yet, we convinced him that he'd be able to do both, and even if with some delays and some rushes, we'd manage to be at the Church not exactly by 6:30 but still well in advance of 7:00 p.m..

We all know that there is always a blessing in disguise in absolutely everything we go through. Well, I finally found a blessing in disguise in a presidncy that is no blessing at all. Seeing how the Catholic Church stood up against Trump's racism and bigotry, how emphatically they condemned Trump's Muslim ban and Mexican border wall strengthened Maximilian's faith. It is unthinkable to have at the White House a jerk who belittles the immigrant and laughs at the disabled. I cannot find any justification for that. Trump is not ProLife and is only damaging the ProLife cause. But when it comes to that adorable little boy turning into an awesome young man who impresses everyone around him, it took that big bigot playing president of the United States for him to witness what sparked, ignited, fired up his faith so that now he became a faithful, fervent, devout, committed Catholic, eager to have his First Holy Communion this spring and to get even more involved with the Church. He witnessed how the Catholic Church stood up against racism and supported the immigrant. He loved to hear both our pastor and pastor emeritus clearly and emphatically exhort the congregation to side with the undocumented aliens whose only "fault" is to want a better future for their children, to give their kids what they never had in their countries of origin when they themselves were growing up. He loved to learn that Pope Francis, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities U.S.A., Catholic Relief Services, Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and countless cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and clergy members not only denounced the evils of the Muslim ban and Mexican border wall but also urged Catholics and the population at large to do the same.

Notwithstanding having entered our family through international adoption from Bulgaria, Maximilian shares that passion for volunteering, reaching out, making a difference that I saw in my parents and grandparents, at a time when they could give away not only their time and efforts, but also sizable financial support---something that I cannot even remotely do today. Maximilian shares that passion for service to the community that made my three older, biological, children be top volunteers since the age of six or seven in San Diego area to the point that they were featured in the Rancho Santa Fe Review eighteen or nineteen times and interviewed by local T,V. channels due to their extraordinary volunteerism. And, by the same token, it was that same, or, rather,  even more selfless call to serve others what in July of 2008 made my three older children give up the laurels of organized volunteering and since then devote every minute of their free time to an even more selfless, more self-sacrificing, more self-denying, more self-effacing kind of service--the one that since then they have been doing for their younger siblings in the anonymity of the immediate family context, without it ever showing up in their resumes.

Quite often I have felt, and keep on feeling guilty for allowing my three older children to put aside their own goals and dreams for the sake of their five younger brothers, to do for me what I cannot do by myself. But my older ones are happy that way, and, of course, so are my younger ones. All my five younger sons love their older siblings much more than they love each other. Even if the road might be slightly bumpy sometimes, all five of them are learning from the awesome, amazing  examples they get from my older daughter and twin sons. For my younger ones, it is a slow process of ridding themselves of the effects of many long years of abuse and neglect in their early lives as they were all between the ages of seven and ten at the time of their respective homecomings. But it is happening. No matter some behavioral outbursts now and then, they all have good natures, and they all know how to care and how to love.

Let's go back to Maximilian, who is now totally over those little sharp, mordacious, hurtful comments he used to make. Those are totally a matter of the past. He has severe mobility limitations and some medical issues. Yet, his most cherished dream is volunteering and helping others. And he has a larger-than-life personality that makes its way into people's hearts. Meeting Maximilian equals liking him and being impressed by him. It means admiring his noble attitude in the face of his physical challenges, his resiliency, and his determination to change this world for the better.

Maximilian understands all about equality and social justice and does care about it.  I grew up in a home embedded into those values. I was taught to see Jesus in the homeless and the hungry. From very early age, my three older children stand up for the underserved, the minorities, the immigrant, and the oppressed. Maximilian fully shares in those concerns, and it was through those principles that he now totally embraced the Catholic faith.

Participating in the Washing of the Feet was perfect for him. First, Fr. Jacques and Fr. Ray washed the feet of a few previously selected parishioners, and then, in turn, those parishioners would wash the feet of any attendees who wished to have their feet washed. This is a tradition that honors the humility of the King of Kings Who washed the feet of His disciples, Who came to this world not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), and Who sent His Apostles to serve others in His Name (John 13:14-15).

It was a beautiful ceremony where everyone felt united together as members of the "one and only human race."  It was a bilingual Mass. Many helpers had some challenges of different kinds. An altar server with D.S. (Down syndrome) was among the most avid ones to assist with everything and to convey the most vivid testimony of true faith.

Working on this post is a real opportunity for me to confront my own frustration, my own pain and bitterness over the things I cannot get done, and to see the wonder of those things that do get done. Yes, I do receive lots of help in the process. I so much wish I could do more on my own. But it's time to look at the cup half full and see how very much is getting done, how very much got already done, no matter how much help I may have had.

Moreover, it's a matter of giving testimony. There are so many children wasting away in orphanages all over the world, with only one bifurcated prospect for their futures. Those with no medical diagnoses are more than likely to end up on the streets, and those with even the slightest special needs may be locked up in a so-called mental institution. There are also so many kids living in foster homes where, even if in a family environment, they are fully aware of not being full-fledged members of that family. And, on the other hand, there are so many people out there who might have better, more fulfilled, more meaningful lives if encouraged to rescue at least one child instead of keeping on dwelling on past mistakes or past pettiness.

Let's say it once again. This is precisely why Jesus voluntarily accepted the excruciating pain of dying on the Cross--to bring us closer to each other as the most effective, most loving way of saving us all.

I'll just let the pics speak fir themselves.


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