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Friday, February 28, 2014

Justice for Justina, and the People of the World!

by Susan Fox
“There is a time to be born and a time to die . . . It seems to me that the birth referred to here is our salvation . . . We are in a sense our own parents, and we give birth to ourselves by our own free choice of what is good. Such a choice becomes possible for us when we have received God into ourselves and have become children of God . . . On the other hand, if what the Apostle calls the form of Christ has not been produced in us, we abort ourselves. The man of God must reach maturity.” (Saint Gregory of Nyssa)
Happier times for
Justina Pelletier

And so the state of Massachusetts and Boston Children’s Hospital abort themselves while slowly murdering a 15-year-old girl named Justina Pelletier.

Getting the flu may seem like an ordinary thing, but for Justina, it became a death sentence. She is living now without proper medical care, and unless somebody can free her from the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), she may not survive her ordeal. Some Massachusetts lawmakers this week began the process of asking DCF to return the teenager to her parents’ custody.  Join the Twitter campaign at #FreeJustina.

A year ago the girl suffering from mitochondrial disease was admitted to the Harvard-associated Boston Children’s Hospital and their doctors arbitrarily changed her diagnosis to somatoform disorder. Mitochondrial disease requires medical care. Somatoform disorder requires psychiatric care.

Justina, who is now confined to a wheel chair with all the symptoms of starvation, was an otherwise healthy young girl when she was admitted to Boston Children’s. Symptoms of her mitochondrial disease were successfully being managed by Tufts Medical Center. But the doctors at Boston Children’s decided they knew better. Her parents didn’t agree, and prepared to remove her from the hospital. But the hospital called in DCF, who successfully seized custody of the girl alleging “medical abuse.”

“And that is a blatant lie,” Justina’s father, Louis Pellitier told the Blaze in an interview with Glenn Beck on Feb. 21, “Everything that’s been done, and not that much has been done to her, has been medically verified, and insurance approved, and trust me -- do you think insurance companies will approve anything (not medically necessary)?”

Four years ago, they did exploratory surgery on Justina and found a congenital band --- 20 inches of cartilage wrapped around her colon and appendix.  Such a condition is almost always fatal, so the doctors removed it. Medical abuse has never been used before as an excuse to terminate parental rights.

Ironically, Justina did not suffer “medical abuse” until she was taken into custody by DCF.

Many, many people are grabbing their heads and asking how such a thing can happen in the United States of America. But the doctors at Boston Children’s are literally thinking with the precision of a Nazi materialistic mindset.

“If man can decide by himself, without God, what is good and what is bad, he can also determine that a group of people is to be annihilated,” wrote Pope John Paul II in his last work, Memory and Identity, “Decisions of this kind were taken, for example, by those who came to power in the Third Reich by democratic means, only to misuse their power in order to implement the wicked programs of National Socialist Ideology . . . Likewise all those who were “inconvenient” for the regime were persecuted.” 

I’ll never forget reading about a group of nuns in Nazi Germany, who loved and cared for mentally disabled children. (Abortion: the Silent Holocaust)   The Nazis showed up at the convent one day and grabbed the healthy, happy children and packed them up  “like a sack of potatoes.” They were frightened, unloved and they were never seen again.


Death formally introduced himself and entered the United States in 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v Wade. But I remember my mother in 1965 – hands on her hips standing in our living room – warning me that if they legalized abortion, euthanasia would be next.

I was just a young girl in grade school then, and I remember becoming quite frightened that I would witness this holocaust. I have!

In the 1990s, when I regularly took young members of the Legion of Mary to visit the elderly in the nursing home, the children and I were denied the opportunity to visit one of our “regulars” because her family was busy starving and dehydrating her to death. “But don’t worry,” the nurse told us, “the priest has been here to give her the last rites.” In other words, the priest gave the nurse the impression that the Catholic Church approved euthanasia. The Church doesn’t. And it was not even legal in Washington State until 2008.
Terri Schiavo: Another beautiful girl slaughtered
by medical and judicial fiat.
"I want to live," she said.  

It was 2005 when Terri Schiavo, a handicapped Catholic woman, was starved and dehydrated to death while her mother and father were prevented by the presence of state troupers from giving her water and pudding – both things she could swallow. She did not enunciate her words clearly, but I distinctly heard her plead, “I want to live,” on video.   Both President Bush and the Congress tried to save her, but were thwarted by the courts. It was a case of judicial tyranny.

The universal Catholic Church defended her. Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Catholic Pontifical Academy for Life, said that the brain-damaged Florida woman "must be considered as a living human person" in spite of her disabilities. The bishop added, "Her juridical rights must be recognized, respected, and defended."

“To withdraw food and water from Terri Schiavo -- as her husband proposes to do, with the help of a court order-- would be "a way of killing that person," Bishop Sgreccia said, adding that the provision of food and water “is basic care, to which any patient is entitled.” But against her will, Terri – a handicapped woman – was executed anyway while the world watched.

It is happening to a lot of people.

About 2001, a “devout” Catholic man sat down with my son and I while we were eating a hot dog at Costco in Covington, Washington. For some reason, he began the long story of his 50-plus year marriage with his deceased wife. We politely listened. He explained painstakingly how he had cared for her during her life. Then at the end of the story, he showed us how his wife had silently begged for food before she died.

But he seemed to think that starving her was necessary to “care” for her as he had always done. I made a mild remark about praying to a saint, and he jumped up and accused me of heresy! Poor man, what he told us was matter for confession, and he must not have availed himself of the sacrament, or he would not need to tell strangers.

So what terrible blanket of darkness has settled down upon our country to make doctors so coldhearted toward their patients, families ready to murder Grandma and men so uncaring for their wives?

“Thou shalt not kill,” Pope John Paul II answers the question in the Gospel of Life. “It is often claimed that the life of an unborn child or a seriously disabled person is only a relative good: according to a proportionalist approach, or one of sheer calculation, this good should be compared with and balanced against other goods.”

There are three goods: the just, the useful and the pleasurable. If one chooses the just good, the means to the end are just and the end is just. The goal is conformed to the very essence of the object chosen. So Justina, whose very name means “just,” has a right to live and receive the best medical care available for her condition. Providing her such care is a “just” good.

If one seeks a useful good, the idea is to use the object to your benefit. “The question of the morality of the action remains open: only when the action bringing the advantage is just and the means used are just, can the subject’s goal also be said to be just,” according to Pope John Paul II in Memory and Identity. So holding Justina against her and her family’s will in a non-medical facility while forcing her to deal with a number of hostile psychiatrists is a utilitarian goal. The doctors at Boston Children’s act so that their theoretical diagnosis is proved to be correct. It is a matter of selfish professional honor. Such a solution is unjust, and will result in Justina’s death if she can’t be freed.    

“Utilitarianism ignores the first and fundamental dimension of good, that of the bonum honestum (just good). Utilitarian anthropology and the ethic derived from it set out from the conviction that man tends essentially toward his own interest or that of the group to which he belongs,” the pope wrote. Can we place the name, Boston Children’s Hospital, in the place of “the group”? Indeed, we can. 

Accomplishing a just good is always accompanied by an interior joy – the joy of doing good. But in utilitarianism, "good" and "joy" have been replaced by the search for "advantage" and "pleasure." In this scheme, according to the pope, the pleasurable good is an end in itself. Man actually seeks pleasure above all else. The utilitarian thinker calculates the pleasures, and uses as his goal “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.”

Sounds nice. But what happens when the individual like Justina needs medical care and the group decides the greatest happiness is giving her psychiatric care, guaranteed to kill a person with the diagnosis of mitochondrial disease?

She dies. That’s it.

They don’t care.

The one lost sheep? Let the wolves eat him. Tell the Good Shepherd to adopt a new persona, that of the uncaring shepherd. Rewrite the parable and protect the 99. The Bible is fungible anyway. Welcome tyranny.

Pope John Paul II would say Justina’s death warrant was written in the 17th century, the beginning of the Age of the so-called “Enlightenment.”  That’s when mankind began to abandon Faith in favor of Reason Alone. The two are not opposites. They are complementary.

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:5-6)

In the Enlightenment, humanity split from the True Vine and became a dead branch. Faith was thrown out. Reason remained.

But now another revolution is taking place. It is Reason’s turn to die. For even without faith, one could reasonably determine that a sick child needs medical care using old-fashioned common sense. But not in Justina’s case. Not in Terri Schiavo’s case. Not in the case of the elderly Catholic I met in the nursing home. Not in the case of countless others. Without Faith and Reason, what moral ground is left? Pleasure. Potty train the liberal cat. Rub their faces in it. I wish them much Pleasure.

So what is left for us who still hold to Faith and Reason? What’s left besides prayer and Twitter protests?

Civil Disobedience. 

“Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection,” wrote the prophet John Paul II in the Gospel of Life.

“Human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence,” he concluded.

The pope’s not advocating murder. Just disobedience. It could start with Justina’s caregivers or the state trouper guarding her room. They could refuse to continue to serve in that capacity. I should caution you, however, that to disobey will result in martyrdom, and I think that’s why Justina is still incarcerated against her will. People fear to lose their jobs. We used to be the home of the brave and the land of the free, but Americans have become so cowardly that they would let a young girl die so they can keep their jobs. The same thing happened in Nazi Germany.

Justina’s father did begin a war of civil disobedience on her behalf by going public with the situation. He was under a gag order. He disobeyed and I applaud his actions.

But Pope John Paul doesn’t leave us with a message of hopelessness in Memory and Identity. He reminds us that God places a limit on evil. The Nazis were only given 12 years to wreck havoc on the world.

And in some situations, evil is useful. “It creates opportunities for good,” the pope said. Satan is the agent of the First Cause. Where he treads, people wake up and repent! “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21)

Not only that, but Pope John Paul II would declare victory over evil even in the ashes of the Nazi Holocaust, which he personally lived through:  “If we look more closely at the history of those peoples and nations who have endured the trial of totalitarian systems and persecutions on account of faith, we discover that is precisely where the victorious presence of Christ’s Cross is most clearly revealed . . . To those who are subjected to systematic evil, there remains only Christ and his Cross as a source of spiritual self-defense, as a promise of victory. Did not the sacrifice of Maximilian Kolbe in the extermination camp at Auschwitz become a sign of victory over evil? And could not the same be said of Edith Stein . . . who perished in the gas chamber of Birkenau, thus sharing the destiny of many other sons and daughters of Israel? How many others in that tragic history stand out among their fellow prisoners for the strength of the witness they bore to Christ crucified and risen!” Father Maximilian Kolbe offered to die in place of another prisoner. Edith Stein, a Jew and a Catholic nun, gladly went to die with her people and for her faith.

“To the question of how this unhappy situation can be overcome, Christians reply that all these human activities, which are daily endangered by pride and inordinate self-love, must be purified and perfected by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.” (Vatican II)

So Justina is about more than just Justina. She suffers in her prison created by DCF, but the whole world groans in agony from the prison of its own utilitarian thinking. There are countless other Justinas dying right now. But to help them we MUST change the world’s mind.

“The evangelical harvest in today’s world is great indeed. We have only to ask the Lord, and ask insistently, that he send laborers for this harvest that is ready and waiting to be reaped,” Pope John Paul II wrote in Memory and Identity.

Everyone has to decide. Will you embrace Pleasure, or will you embrace the Cross?

Justina Pelletier has been declared a ward of the state of Massachusetts until age 18. Please pray for Justina and her family. See report here: Justina still needs your help!

Excellent Psychiatric Analysis of Justina Pelletier Case

Justina Pelletier is Catholic. She was denied the sacraments and a visit from a priest during the last 13 months! This is outrageous! This Press Conference is electrifying:  Connecticut Press Conference on March 5 regarding Justina Pelletier


MASSACHUSETTS DCF BACKING OFF AGREEMENT TO RETURN JUSTINA TO CONNECTICUT AND HER FAMILY. 
AS A WARD OF THE STATE, SHE CAN BE USED AS MEDICAL GUINEA PIG.
March 3, 2014 -- The Massachusetts DCF has backed off part of its promise to return Justina Pelletier to her home state of Connecticut where she can be treated for her condition of mitochondrial disease. 

This just out from Liberty Counsel: The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) promised to back away from abusive treatment of Justina Pelletier and the Pelletier family.  As of Monday, however, they remain on the case and are only adhering to a portion of their promises made on Friday. 


Under legal pressure and the scrutiny of the media, which DCF wanted to avoid, the agency originally agreed to (1) drop the contempt motion against the father for speaking to the media, (2) not oppose the motion Liberty Counsel prepared to remove the gag order, and (3) provide medical treatment to Justina by transferring her to Tufts Medical Center.  DCF also said it wants to transfer its involvement to its counterpart in Connecticut, where the family lives. 

Now, DCF has stopped short of transferring Justina back to Connecticut – thus delaying the potential of her returning to her home and family.


As more of the details of this case come to light, people are becoming increasingly outraged. It is unfathomable that this barbaric overreach by a state agency is taking place in America – and in the city that launched the fight for American liberty, of all places.
++Being a “ward of the state” means a child becomes state property – and potentially a medical guinea pig.
As a Massachusetts ward of the state, Justina has been refused access to education. She is denied visitation by clergy, with no allowance for religious observances including Easter and Christmas. 
Her sisters and 92-year-old grandparents have been barred from visitation. Justina’s parents were only allowed weekly visits for one hour – and that under extreme supervision including a Massachusetts State Trooper.  DCF prevented the parents from even having a cell phone to photograph their daughter.  
Under Massachusetts law, prison inmates get up to five visits per week, medical care, and education rights.  DCF has granted Justina one visit per week, little medical care, and no education, even though she is just 15 years of age.  
Justina Pelletier has been treated far worse than an incarcerated felon by the State of Massachusetts!
Plus, unknown to many people, Boston Children’s Hospital is a chartered teaching hospital and is allowed to conduct medical research and experimentation on children who are declared wards of the state. 
According to BCH’s “Clinical and Investigation Policy and Procedure Manual”… 

“Children who are wards of the state may be included in research that presents minimal risk… or greater than minimal risk with a prospect of direct benefit.”

EARLIER IT WAS REPORTED: 
Lou Pelletier's civil disobedience is paying off!
Feb. 28, 2014, Lou Pelletier's violation of the gag order and his willingness to speak of the case publicly appears to have moved Justina closer to home. Massachusetts is working to return Justina to her home state of Connecticut to be cared for by Tufts Medical Center, not Boston Children's Hospital. Read about it here: GOOD NEWS! 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

THE MYSTERY OF MARRIAGE: Crucible for the Saints

by Susan Fox

“What you don't understand is I'd catch a grenade for ya; throw my hand on a blade for ya; 
I'd jump in front of a train for ya.
 You know I'd do anything for ya. Oh, oh, oh, oh, I would go through all this pain, take a bullet straight through my brain.
 Yes, I would die for you, baby.
 But you won't do the same ....” (Grenade by Bruno Mars)

“But will ya change a diaper for her? Will ya clean up vomit off the wall for her? Will ya wash the dishes?” (Susan Fox)
Mysterious Marriage: Lawrence Fox photographs his
 wife Susan. In the background, a homeless man is
 captured in the picture eating the rest of Larry's dinner. 

The homeless man scarfed down my husband’s dinner leaning over the garbage can right in front of us. He was expressing his gratitude.

He didn’t speak. 
He didn’t have to.

Larry had carefully eaten only half his dinner of Chile Colorado, rice and beans at the Old Town Mexican CafĂ© in San Diego. There was nothing finer than food from this restaurant in Larry’s mind, and Chile Colorado was his favorite dish. He had hoped to eat the rest for breakfast.

Then as we were taking turns taking pictures in front of the restaurant, Larry noticed a homeless man digging in the garbage can for food.

I didn’t see the exchange, but eventually it dawned on me that my husband’s leftovers were now in the hands of the dark curly-haired man standing over the garbage can in front of me. He was frantically eating them.

Without lifting a finger, I had participated in a tremendous act of charity. I was married to the man who gave up -- the rest of his dinner.

“And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband.” (1Cor 7:13-14)

Though St. Paul in the quote above referred to mixed marriages between a believer and an unbeliever, how much more so is the believing spouse sanctified by acts of charity done by the other believing spouse?

My husband stuffs information into my head before every blog post and then congratulates himself because his wife is shortening his time in Purgatory when she writes.

Holy Marriage is a mystery.

The Catholic Church regards marriage and family life as one of the “most precious of human values.” Yet witness the difficulty Christians encounter in trying to explain why the Church is not able to endorse same-sex "marriage." Simply put, “same-sex marriage” is a misnomer in the language of the Church, because no union can be a marriage if it is intrinsically (by created structure) closed to new life.  

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invites us to look at the issue from the point of view of the child of such a marriage. “Our own experience informs us. We all have a desire to know, be connected with, and loved by our own mother and father regardless of our relationship with them. This experience of God's plan for creation has been stamped into our very nature.”

“Rather than merely biological artifacts, moms, dads and siblings are part of our identity. Every person has a right to be part of a family, to be born to a mother and father united in marriage,” (Donum Vitae )

The  Pursuit of Truth website further explains the matter: “a specific choice needs to be made by each of the spouses to invite Christ to be the center, the pinnacle, and the anchor of their union.”
And why should they build their marriage on the Rock, who is Jesus Christ? On Oct. 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m. I cowered under my desk at the San Francisco Examiner Building in San Francisco, while the earth shook to the tune of 6.9 on the Richter scale. 63 people died, including a woman from my parish in Alameda, who was buried in the collapse of the Cypress Street Viaduct. Thousands of people were rendered homeless. I was a business reporter, so shortly afterwards I was near the epicenter of the quake walking through a multi-million dollar house with an insurance adjuster to do a story for my paper. The house was built half on rock and half on sand. The part on rock was perfectly solid and untouched by the quake, but when we walked into the rooms built on sand I could touch the wall and it would sway -- a multi-million dollar house rendered useless by the movement of the earth.

The Catholic Church neither favors "homosexual" nor "heterosexual" marriage. That's right, we refuse to discuss marriage in "heterosexual" terms or to define people according to their sexuality. The Catholic Church defines people according to their relationship to a Divine Person so they can live life in its fullness -- anchored in an eternal and infinite God. Holy Marriage has Christ, the Rock, at its center.

And you guessed it! That means when the earth moves, the marriage anchored in Christ doesn't sway like that portion of the house built on sand at the epicenter of the Quake of '89. Marriage has an enduring permanence about it, and that is only possible if the spouses wholeheartedly put Christ at the center of their own self-embraced identity.

“Thus, a Holy Marriage will exhibit the virtue of chastity, because our desire for chastity increases the more and more we actually look to Christ first and foremost for our fulfillment." (www.pursuitoftruth.ca)

And Lawrence Fox would put that this way: “Marriage is like going into a candy store. Everything you ever wanted is in there, but you find out you can’t have everything at once.” So you have to practice chastity.

The problem is that modern man doesn’t understand the purpose of sex. How many times have I heard it said that marriage is an emotional feeling of love? That definition completely opens the door for someone else to define their same-sex relationship as marriage because they love each other, right?

But feelings are notoriously unstable. What happens when your feelings change? Obviously, you get a divorce, weeping, “I don’t love you any more!” And relationships between people of the same sex are short-lived and often include other parties by mutual consent. The “feeling of love” is the wrong foundation in which to enter a permanent relationship with another person.


Everything has to be used according to its proper purpose. The eye is for seeing. It is not for tasting. Hold a brownie up to your eye. Can you taste it? No, but you can see it! Stop trying to taste the brownie with your eye. Put it in your mouth. Yum.

If you think man is only a material creature with no spirit, it’s easy to believe sex is a play toy that can be used with multiple persons of both the same and opposite sex. But people who try this lifestyle experience enormous personal suffering and emotional pain – as well as sickness --  because they have not understood the nature of man nor the purpose of sex. 

Man was created by God in His image and likeness to give back to God and neighbor the Love we receive from God. We are body/spirit creatures who can express love in multiple dimensions – in language, looking, prayer and touching. The Church recognizes that the human person can express its vocation to love in only two specific ways: chaste marriage and celibacy, which is the mastery of chastity for a single person.

That concept of man has been entirely swept away by a tidal wave of free sex, contraception, same sex experimentation, divorce, abortion and pornography.

There probably isn’t a television program or a romance novel written today in which sex is not celebrated outside marriage, and having sex before marriage without making any demands on your partner is not regarded as a virtue. The most deviant sexual relations are glorified in “romance” novels sold in Costco Stores where the whole family shops.

That is a vile deception and sure route to unhappiness. But our children are being exposed to that thinking in their schools, all the social media, on television, in the homes of their friends, and at the doctor’s office.

Sexuality is not a purely biological function. It concerns the innermost being of the human person. “It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a women commit themselves totally to one another until death,” according to Pope John Paul II (Familiaris Consortio), who asserted that total physical self-giving is a lie if it is not a sign and fruit of total personal self-giving. We are persons. Even the neurochemistry of our brains bonds us to previous and current relationships regardless of our specific choices. You can’t just give your body and assume that "no one is getting hurt." 


Therefore, “the only “place” in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage,” Pope John Paul said, adding that marriage is the “covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God Himself.”

So the true purpose of sex is self-giving, including a life-long commitment and openness to new human life, only physically possible between two people of the opposite sex. And its proper place is marriage. Get the difference? The world thinks sex is a play toy. But it’s real purpose is self-giving. Take the brownie out of your eye. Put it in your mouth. The stable family is the cradle of civilization.

Everything else – pornography, free love, adultery, strip dancing, and every other form of unchaste activity – is an attempt to enjoy the goods of marriage outside marriage. There is undoubtedly pleasure in these activities, but like my mother used to say, “Susan, there’s a time and a place for everything.” Life-long committed marriage open to life is the place for sex. A sacrifice today will be a sure investment for the stability of your family in the future.

In my door-to-door work in the Legion of Mary, I met a young man who was living with his girlfriend. They had just had a baby and she was suffering from an extremely severe case of Post-Partum Depression. I spent an hour and a half trying to convince him to marry her because he told me he loved her, he loved the baby, and he didn't want to ever lose her or the baby. But it was very hard for him to come to that decision because he was probably going through one of the worst ordeals of what should have been his married life.

Meanwhile his future wife was in the process of becoming embittered and angry against him because he couldn't say, “I love you, I give myself to you completely -- even when you are suffering from a condition resulting from the birth of our child.“ And his child’s life was in terrible jeopardy. He was born in that part of the house built on sand, not on the Rock. Even if the parents married now, the fact that they cohabitated before marriage made their eventual divorce 50 percent more likely.

And that baby’s tragic circumstance is becoming increasingly more common. Today more than 50 percent of births to women under 30 occur outside marriage. That means more children growing up in poverty, without a father and a greater chance of abuse and emotional distress from an unstable home. 

Because we had no prior sexual relationships before our marriage, when Lawrence and I married, there was a real single-hearted devotion that developed between the two of us. Thus we were no longer two, but one flesh.

This single-hearted devotion is a safe and secure place to be when you have a miscarriage, suffer financial difficulties, get depressed or do something stupid. There's never the issue of “I'll marry her when she isn't so upset all the time. I'll marry her when I have enough money. I'll marry her when everything’s perfect.” That's the key to insecurity, fights and utter misery because the nature of the marriage covenant is "for better or for worse" and things are absolutely guaranteed never to be perfect.

But there are many different kinds of marriages. Not every married man and woman has physical children, yet every fruitful marriage will be expressed in motherhood and fatherhood. Sterility does not cancel openness to new life and the structural design to achieve it.  

Lawrence and I have close friends, who suffer the tragedy of infertility. So they got training to teach Natural Family Planning, which is both a means to delay birth and a vital means of achieving birth for infertile couples. They were about to embark on their new ministry, and I ran into them after Mass, and without thinking, I announced, “You will become mother and father to many children.”   In fact, each baby born as a fruit of their ministry would be their child. What a wonderful married vocation! Countless human beings enter the world because of a sterile couple’s shared and married commitment to teach Natural Family Planning.

Every holy marriage embraces the cross. No one will find the cross in a relationship based only on “a feeling of love.” Some day, you will have to clean up your kid’s vomit on the wall, or sleep in the hospital room with your sick spouse because a male nurse scared her, and where will that “feeling of love” be then? Those experiences are unpleasant.

But for 29 years my mother’s marriage bed WAS her cross. For my stepfather was emotionally abusive. He didn’t do it on purpose, but because he was mentally ill. In the 1970s, I came home from graduate school and had my mother weeping in my arms because “Hutch was so mean to me.” She always was a strong woman. This was very unusual.

“Mom,” I said, “You have to get counseling.” So she did. The priest psychologist had her outline my stepfather’s behavior and then gave her a diagnosis. Though there were drugs for his condition, we both knew if we tried to get him to the doctor the roof would blow off the house.

Technically speaking, my mother could have gotten a Catholic annulment. But with typical Mom logic, she said, “Hutch didn’t know he was ill when he married me, and so I can’t abandon him.” And so she freely embraced an incredible life of physical, emotional and mental suffering until she died in 2001.  Her last confession was in my dining room. I was in the back bedroom, but I heard the sobs, and the words, “Hutch, Hutch, Hutch.”

The physical suffering came from her health, but having my Dad as her guardian in such trying circumstances made her health issues worse.  She was sitting in the chair in her living room one time, one leg amputated and great pain in the other. And I said, “Mom, you know all this suffering will probably save Hutch.” With great passion, she said, “I dearly hope so. Oh God, I hope so.”

And so it did. Mom’s marriage to Hutch exemplified St. Paul’s quote above about the unbelieving spouse being sanctified by the believing spouse. Mom even had a vision of that some years earlier. She saw Hutch following her up to Communion. He was not Catholic.

As far as we knew, Dad was never baptized. In fact, he was somewhat anti-Catholic. When Mom was sick, the local Legion of Mary president – her best friend – visited. And he shouted at her, and threw her off the property. At that stage of his life, he couldn’t stand the Legion of Mary.

But Dad drove Mom to take Communion to the Sick, and drove her to the nursing home to visit the sick. Heck, he even drove her to the trailer park to take communion to a woman who had been a prostitute and was dying of AIDs.

He was deaf as a doornail, but he also went to Church with Mom every Sunday and sat in the very back. One time, I was giving communion to Mom in the hospital and I looked up and surprised such a look of longing on my stepfather’s face as he looked at the Holy Eucharist. “My goodness,” I thought, “he knows it’s Jesus. And he wants Him!” 

So Mom died on the Feast of St. Peter and Paul in 2001, and Dad continued to attend Mass on Sunday – deaf as a doornail. The Legion of Mary president he threw out of the house previously? She got ill, and while she was in the hospital my stepfather went to visit her. She was terrified. But Dad was oblivious. He simply wanted to visit the sick like Mom had done.

I said to him, “Dad, why don’t you become Catholic so you can get the sacraments too?” He answered, “Susan, I do not qualify.” I weakly tried to tell him a priest could change that. But inside my heart, I thought, “Congratulations Dad. Jesus died on the cross for every member of the human race except you.”

I sent two priests to him to ask him to be baptized. But one taught him the Rosary and the other simply invited him to Mass. He was in the nursing home now, so the invitation to Mass was good because he went to Mass every Sunday in the nursing home, including the week he died.  He couldn’t hear a thing. He wouldn’t wear hearing aids. But he knew the Real Presence and he desired Him. That is what the Catholic Church calls Baptism by desire.

I lived in Arizona when he died in Washington State. But the Lord permitted me to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for him just before he died, which means he received all the graces necessary for salvation. I had no knowledge his condition had taken a turn for the worse, as my stepbrother didn’t tell me until after Dad was dead.

The Mass readings on the day he died told me the outcome: “Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.” (Gal 3:6-9) Because he died with the faith of Abraham, Dad will live in the bosom of Abraham (an image for heaven), sealed by the Holy Spirit.

My stepfather was literally sanctified by his marriage. Holy marriage is supposed to be a crucible, a training ground for saints.

The Catholic Church is full of stories of marriages that sanctified both spouses and children. I think of St. Theresa of Lisieux. Both her parents have been declared blessed by the Catholic Church.

St. Theresa herself understood she came from a family, and she owed her holiness to her parents, Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin. She embroidered a picture of her family with roses symbolizing each family member on a priest’s vestment. The two big full mature roses were her parents. The smaller roses – she and her three sisters. And she sewed two little buds because her mother had two miscarriages. Even the little buds count. What a holy family life!  

Larry and James Fox in 1990:
"Daddy be a horsie"
Larry cleaned up lots of vomit too!
I was in my Aqua Zumba class today with an elderly married couple. He was tall and thin. She was short and stout. No one would call them beautiful. But when they looked at each other, it was like the sun came out from behind the clouds. Why they were both beautiful! And each looked at the other as if they beheld gold.
 
Lawrence spoke to me this week from the San Diego Airport. We had just been there together two weeks ago. “I can’t believe how empty this airport seems without you,” he said.

Such is holy marriage.