Our community decided in 2008 that the mission of our parish was life-long learning. Everything we do centers around teaching the depth and richness of the Roman Catholic Faith. Our weekly 3-Minute Catechesis is read from the Ambo prior to Mass beginning. A written copy is made available in our weekly bulletin along with additional information for those who want to learn more. Visit us online at www.risensaviorcc.org for more information.

Friday, September 24, 2010

End-of-Life Issues: Persistent Vegetative State

Our 3-Minute Catechesis continues to address end-of-life issues and what our Church teaches regarding the treatment of patients who are nearing the end of their earthly existence. Morally, can food or water be withheld from dying patients? What about “pulling the plug”? What about the expressed wishes of the patient?

Our Catholic Faith has long taught - and today insists - that each and every human being has inherent dignity. This includes the patient in the so-called "vegetative" state, who cannot visibly respond to us. Pope John Paul II, in a March 2004 address, said that a patient in a “persistent vegetative state” is no "vegetable" but a human person loved by God. The value of a person’s life should not be based on what other people judge to be his or her “quality of life.” That patient, and his or her family, deserves the love and support of the entire community so they will not face their burdens alone.

End-of-life issues can be complicated. In that same speech, the Holy Father also said that food and water should "in principle" be considered an "ordinary and proportionate" means for sustaining these patients' lives. Such feeding, even if it requires some medical assistance, is "morally obligatory" as long as it serves its proper goals – effectively providing nourishment and alleviating suffering. This was a recognition that food and water are basic necessities, without which all of us would die. They should be provided when they serve patients' basic needs, the first of which is sustaining life itself.

As a compassionate people, we should endeavor to make our loved ones understand that they are not a burden to us when they are ill or infirm. As a faith-filled people with a belief in eternal life, we should encourage our family members to express their expectations regarding the care they want at the end of life – and then honor their wishes.

The teaching of Pope John Paul II about sickness and death came not only from his speeches, addresses, and encyclicals. He instructed just with his own witness in the face of injury, suffering, hospitalization, illness and dying. He taught us that to understand death with dignity we must first accept the dignity of life.

We are called to be heralds of a "culture of life." Christ's mission was to every human person, and our Lord had a passionate concern for the sick, the suffering, and the dying. In our own time, Christ continues his mission, and his preference for the vulnerable, through his Church.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

End of Life - Hospice

With a growing elder population in the United States, there are questions about the Church’s stand on issues like assisted suicide and euthanasia, and programs like hospice. Over the next weeks, we will be addressing end-of-life issues like these, and what the Church teaches.

End-of-life issues have been thrust into the spotlight in recent years by the debate surrounding several states’ attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Supporters of physician-assisted suicide point to the potential physical suffering and loss of independence associated with terminal illnesses. They argue that when faced with the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy and the general loss of dignity, many patients achieve a sense of peace when told of alternatives, like taking an overdose of doctor-prescribed drugs. There are, however, very few doctors who support physician-assisted suicide and would be willing participate in this.
Additionally, providers of hospice care say that services are already available to help people with terminal illnesses live and die in comfort, control, and dignity, without the moral and practical problems raised by physician-assisted suicide.
What is hospice?

Hospice is care for people with a prognosis of less than six months to live. It aims to control the symptoms and pain associated with a patient’s condition rather than trying to cure it. But hospice is about more than just reducing pain: hospice treats the whole person, treating a patient’s body, mind, and spirit, as well as caring for the family of the patient, who is also affected by the terminal illness.

Contrary to the common misconception that “hospice equals death,” the philosophy of hospice is to neither hasten nor postpone death. Hospice is more about quality of life, and having that until the end of life, than it is about dying.

Hospice providers have become so good at alleviating physical suffering that unbearable pain is no longer a valid argument for assisted suicide. Additionally, the natural dying process allows for patients and their families to experience reconciliation, love, forgiveness: all of the stages that people need to go through to be able to die peacefully.

Last December, Pope Benedict paid a visit to Rome Hospice Foundation and praised the health care workers for the service they provided. Whoever has a sense of human dignity knows, the Pope said, that those with incurable illnesses should be respected and sustained while they face the difficulties and the suffering tied to their health conditions.

First and foremost on the mind of the Church is safeguarding life, our God-given gift.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Crosses and Crucifixes

Early in the 4th century, St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ's life. She had the Temple of Aphrodite leveled, which tradition held was built over the Savior's tomb, and on that site, Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the 4th century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container, placed on a table, and touched and kissed by people passing by. Since that time, the Catholic Church has celebrated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th, the anniversary of the Basilica's dedication.

In the Roman Church, altar crosses and processional crosses began to be crucifixes in the 11th century. What is the difference between a cross and a crucifix? The difference is that a crucifix has a corpus, which is Latin for body.
There are several reasons why the Catholic Church uses the crucifix as a symbol of our faith. One reason is St. Paul's statement in 1st Corinthians that "we proclaim Christ crucified.” Also, the crucifix is a symbol of what is happening in our liturgy: the re-presentation of the Crucifixion in a non-bloody manner on the altar in the form of the Eucharist.

Many Protestant denominations emphasize the Resurrection over the Crucifixion. Neither is complete in-and-of-itself, but each places a different emphasis on a part of the whole act of salvation offered by Christ. Both Catholics and Protestants recognize that the cross is the most familiar symbol of our Christian faith.

For many who have been at Risen Savior for a few years, the crucifix that hangs in our church has even more significant meaning because of where it came from. The cross was specially made by a parishioner for the corpus, which was donated by Father Edward Rivera. Shortly after his ordination in June of 2003, Father Ed was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after serving this parish for just over a year, he entered eternity.

As you consider the crosses you bear in life, especially on the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, remember that you have blessed company, and your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Clothing the Naked

The first mention of clothes in the Bible is in the first book, Genesis. After Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked.” (Genesis 3:7) This led them to sew some figs leaves into loincloths to wear. Since that time, human beings have been covering their bodies with clothing. Modesty is one of the reasons, but there are practical reasons as well: clothes protect us from the elements of snow, rain, and sun, as well as the bites and stings of insects and wild animals.

There are several hundred references to clothing in Scripture. Some passages describe clothing while others dictate how God’s people are expected to dress. Clothing is mentioned figuratively in Scripture as well: in Psalm 104, God is praised as being “… clothed with majesty and glory...”

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus objected to people who dressed elaborately to seem more religious (Mark 12:38). Teaching in the synagogue, He said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept … seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets… They will receive a very severe condemnation."

We may not know what Jesus looked like, but we know what He wore: John says that Jesus' garment was woven in one seamless piece. In Luke, we are told of a suffering woman who was healed when she touched the tassel on Jesus’ cloak. In this instance, we understand Jesus’ cloak to be an extension of His very self.

The letter of James says that “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16)

Our Love Your Neighbor initiative for September is collecting clothing for the P.T.A. Clothing Bank. You will find specific needs listed in the lobby, the bulletin, and the Ministry Monthly. Since the number of homeless students is growing, the need is great. As you go through your closets at home, keep in mind that the idea is to donate clothes in such condition that we ourselves would be willing to wear them. In Matthew 25, Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”