Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Sisterhood show on Lifetime TV - true Convent life?

A recent OP-ED remarked that TLC (the "learning  channel") had long deleted "Learning" from its TV shows.

I thought that was a good comment and a nice way to begin this blog. That is, TV is primarily entertainment although some shows try to disguise themselves as learning tools.

The Sisterhood is a show offered, not on the Learning Channel but rather on Lifetime TV.  Therefore, when I first watched it, I didn't expect much (to put it mildly).  Imagine my surprise when it actually seems to be not only a decent show but not anti Catholic! Perhaps that's because they involved a real Sister Order in the making of the show and some of those seen in the show are Sisters in real life.

The scenario is 5 young ladies trying to discern whether they have a vocation or not by "sampling" life in several convents.  Since they don't appear to be praying with the Sisters, I don't think I would call them "Aspirants" which usually is what they term non Postulants, living in a convent.

Additionally, the young ladies selected, while glamorous and "cute", would, I think, not pass the first interview for convent life.  Most of the young ladies seem to have little understanding of what convent life would entail for them or the commitment involved.

A bit - shall we say - unusual, is that they are sampling not only life in the convent, but participating in the ministry of the Sister Orders they are visiting.  They all, being fundamentally nice people, enjoyed that part but of course, having been in the convent myself, I can say, convent life is a lot more complex than being a volunteer in a soup kitchen.

Despite the foregoing, I must say, I find the show, entertaining enough to hold my interest and a relief from the usual hate and discontent seen in TV shows concerning Catholicism.  Watch (as is good advice with all TV) with a grain of salt i.e. if you are interested in convent life, this show is not going to tell you much about convent life.

Convent life includes a lot of praying.  The day starts in with "morning prayers" and then, the Sisters go to daily Mass.  Sometime in the late afternoon is usually time for a Rosary with the group and then, of course, evening prayers.  That is, if you don't enjoy prayer, you might not enjoy convent life.

Then too, again where the show differs from reality, having a Vocation to the Sisterhood, is a call from God and therefore, even if a young lady loves convent life and praying a lot as I certainly did, that doesn't necessarily mean she has a Vocation.  In my case, God had other plans for me - a life partner husband, a son, four grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

I saw the great granddaughter in a dream, repeatedly over a 2 week period before I was pregnant with our son... the brief message I was given was "She needs you", which alerted me to the fact that God had a child to place in my womb.

Later on, we used Natural Family Planning which I hoped God would override (I was hesitant to get pregnant again as I had developed some serious health issues over the years) but God only had planned the one son for us.

I recently heard a wonderful homily given by a local priest which included this - "Joy is conforming with the Will of God" so regardless of what a person may think he or she has planned for his or her life, God drew up that Plan long before we were born.  "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb."  Jeremiah 1:5 tells us.  (the Photo is of the convent I was in, in the 1960's)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Do animals go to Heaven? (What the Catholic Church teaches)

This is Tina, a dog much beloved I had in my childhood

Do animals go to Heaven?  This is something that many folks wonder about.... 

 Here are a couple of interesting links on that subject:


From Catholic answers:

Finally, a convert to Catholicism - Jimmy Akin's answer, : (this is a video)

Following is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
 2417    God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.198 Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives. (2234) 2418    It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons. (2446)
Finally, a scholarly article on the subject includes the following:
"A question that comes up frequently is whether people will see their pets in heaven. Now the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not directly address this question. But it does hold principles which lead us in the direction of an answer."

"One principle is that all living things have a soul. Here soul is defined as what makes an organic body live. Now when any living thing dies, its soul is separated from its body. In the case of plants and animals the soul goes out of existence. But in the case of man, the soul remains in existence because it is a spiritual or immaterial thing. Consequently, it differs from the souls of animals in two important respects. First, it is the seat of intelligence or reason. For this reason a man is held responsible for his actions in a way that animals are not. Secondly, the soul is immortal. A thing which has no physical parts cannot fall apart or be poisoned or be crushed or be put out of existence. For this reason the souls of the saved will always be aware of themselves as enjoying the vision of God for all eternity. This enjoyment will be the result of having chosen to act on earth in such a way that one did the will of God rather than one's own will.  And the souls of the damned will be aware of themselves as never attaining this vision of God because they have shown by their lives on earth that they did not wish this vision but instead preferred their own will."

"In the light of this essential difference between human beings and animals, it would seem that we would not see the souls of our pets in heaven for the simple reason that they do not have immortal souls and are not responsible for their actions. They do not have the intelligence which allows them to choose either God's will or their own will.  There is, then, an incomparable distance, say,  between the soul of the sorriest human being who ever lived and the most noble brute animal that ever walked the earth..."
"Now a child might be heartbroken at the thought that he will never see his pet again. He cannot yet understand this explanation about the difference between the human and the animal soul.  I suppose that one could tell the child that when he hopefully gets to heaven, he could ask God to see his old pets if he still wished to. There would be no harm in that. For we know that when a person finally sees God,  he will not be concerned with seeing old pets or favorite places but rather will be captured in the complete fulfillment of the joy of which old pets and favorite places are but little signs. We adults know that, even if the child does not."
Answered by Dr. Richard Geraghty, PhD*

In Summation - we can respect and love animals but must never equalize them with humans for only humans are created in the "Image and Likeness of God" and are destined for Heaven. In short, in Catholic theology: Angels are created beings who exist without a physical body, humans are created beings who can exist with or without a physical body and animals are created beings which cannot exist without a physical body.
* Note: Dr. Richard Geraghty is professor of philosophy at St. Joseph’s House of Studies, the college-level facility of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, at EWTN. Prior to coming to EWTN, Dr. Geraghty taught philosophy for 18 years at the University of Dayton, Providence College, and St. John’s College Seminary. Dr. Geraghty earned his BA in philosophy at the University of Dayton, an MA in English from Ohio State University, and his MA and PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto, where his thesis was entitled "The Object of Moral Philosophy According to St. Thomas Aquinas."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Long Island Medium - is she for real?

A charming, animated blond lady on TV (TLC - "the Learning Channel") named Theresa Caputo, has intrigued many of those who have cable TV. She calls herself, "The Long Island Medium".  In show's introduction, she claims that although she thinks of herself as a "typical Long Island (NY) housewife", she has a special ability - she can talk to the dead, later explaining that "spirits", presumably of dead people, come to her and she feels compelled to tell those around her about this, apparently at a decent profit to her - enough to have enabled her hubby to sell his business and become a "house husband". Truly, not many "typical Long Island housewives" earn $400,000 bucks for each TV Season and that's not counting what she gets for private readings (estimates range from $100 per to $500 per reading) for which I last heard, she's booked solid for 2 years or more in advance).  One blog estimated Theresa' net worth as over 2.4 million bucks. (ibid)

Caputo has her share of loyal, believing fans, enough to fill auditoriums on her tours even though a seat in the audience is far from inexpensive, prices ranging from $100 to 4 figures (for the "good seats in front").

She also has her share of naysayers.  She claims she doesn't care if people don't believe in "what she does" but I suspect at least according to one article, she may care more than she says - she apparently, had a naysayer removed from the auditorium in a Boston appearance... supposedly, this women claimed (rather loudly) that Theresa's reading was incorrect. I would bet this might have happened more than once.

It appeared that Theresa did not want to be wrong or she felt so strongly about the message that she seemed to almost forget about the other 2,999 people witnessing this. She overheard the woman say this is “bullsh-t” and all hell broke loose. By this time Theresa had lost her temper and requested that security physically escort the woman out of the Wang theater for disagreeing and I suppose disrespecting her. After all it is her show.

For the show, "Long Island Medium", she has been said to spend 45 minutes in private with each person who appears on the show.

People have been asking themselves if there is a way to discern the truth of her claims from the TV show.  Although the belief that dead people are readily available for visiting the living is widespread (people don't want to believe in more of a separation), it is in opposition to Christian doctrine which states that after death - we either go to a place to complete our perfection in preparation for entrance into Heaven ("Nothing imperfect shall enter Heaven") or occasionally, as in the case of a handful of saints, we go directly or almost directly to our eternity.  In any  case, people who have passed would not be easily available for "readings".

Ironically, Caputo has said more than a few times that she is Catholic - although, it is unknown whether she regularly attends Mass.  That being said, there are some Catholics who work as mediums or "soothsayers" despite the fact that this is opposed to Catholic beliefs.  Unfortunately, many Catholic people seem confused about what our church teaches and sadly, even in asking a priest about things like ESP, at least some priests will opt out of a definitive answer, by saying "well the church says it's not true but who really knows?" (a quote of an answer I got from an elderly priest).

A more pressing question in some of our minds is, is Caputo real or merely a good entertainer?

Caputo appears to believe that what she does is the real thing but if she actually believes it, is unclear.  It's clear that she's the highest paid medium or soothsayer in the USA (a fact which seems to raise a bit of ire in others in her field).  

In watching her work, even on TV which is greatly edited, it's rather clear that she is employing a method called "Cold reading" in which the "reader" throws out general statements to a large audience and allows the believers present, to fill him/her in on the details. 

Example: the medium will say to an audience, "who is the young male who passed?" and at least one person will speak up and give the details. (The chances of one person or more in an audience having suffered a recent death, are good). The medium jumps on the details and  claims to be contacting the person who passed who is giving the individual a message.  In Theresa's case, the message is usually "he/she wants you to know that she/he's at peace and watching over you!". People who want to believe, seem very consoled at the moment but whether they are really consoled after extracting themselves from Theresa and her charismatic presentation is unclear as I have not met any Caputo audience members personally to interview them about their feelings.  People who have been to other readers whom I've interviewed seem divided - most take the readings as entertainment but not something upon which to make an important life decision which is likely a good idea.

It's not clear how many people really "believe" in her but though many say that she's not doing any harm because she appears to be consoling the grieving - the question rises if consoling people with possibly false information is really consoling beyond the excitement of the moment, in the audience.

Theresa appears to cleverly read people's body language etc and she's quick witted, intelligent and charming.  She's also entertaining which actually raises serious questions about the truth of her readings - often the prominent thing on folks' minds is not the positive but a pending divorce, a recent death or even physical illness, and reading this type of thing is anything but entertaining.

It's possible that she may be using telepathy (mind reading) but the idea that dead people simply hang out around earth is contrary to most religions and doesn't make a lot of sense if you think about it. Why would people want to hang around earth rather than moving on to better things?  Could she be contacting satanic angels who are play acting the beloved dead?  If she really were contacting spirits, perhaps this would be a possibility (and a scary one - people don't want to mess with this - which is why there are warnings in the Bible etc) however I'm not convinced she's doing anything more than sizing up people, using a system of clever guessing (only positive things, of course, she assures us).

Theresa is above all, a talented, charming entertainer which is how she not only scored a high rated show on "TLC" (The Learning Channel, somewhat euphemistically named i.e. I haven't seen much there which transcends the realm of good entertainment into being truly educational!). People who don't have a strong religious belief and thus, are searching for God, readily find in people like Theresa, a good "God substitute" at least at the moment however, Theresa doesn't offer much consolation for life's rough places or as the old saying states "There are no atheists in foxholes".

The "Inside Edition blog" summed it up well - Enjoy her show but watch it with a "huge grain of salt"!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mass Children grave near a convent

A recent story in a blog announced a "Nun Scandal" specifically, a mass grave of 800 children found close to a home for unwed mothers run by Catholic sisters.  The blogger blab-ographer, of course, ASS-U-MEd the worst - they hinted that the nuns were likely either killing the kids or encouraging the mothers to do same.
A mass grave sounds like death from plague or influenza rather than the onesies and twosies of abortion! The legend that nuns meet priests in the basements of convents and do improper things, then have abortions and/or encouraged unwed mothers to indulge in abortion or other, has been around forever - it is the type of dirt that the enemies of Catholicism love to dish but I have researched it and there is absolutely NO EVIDENCE of this at all in history. 
Additionally - also we should keep in mind that it was the Catholic church that got rid of abortion in the first place back in Apostolic days and the Catholic church which continues to take a very strong stand of respect for the sanctity of life "from the womb to the tomb"!  I was in the convent for 9 months and believe me, there was totally NO IMPROPER behavior. 
In the early part of the 20th century, something like 70% of children born (or more) did not make adulthood - they died of things like diphtheria, polio, typhoid fever, influenza etc. That's why birth control was never an issue in "days of yore" - a woman had to have several kids to have couple of them, survive into adulthood.
Bottom line, it's good to remember "garbage in - garbage out" and with the press twisting and misquoting and dishing dirt about all things Catholic, it ends up being less than a waste of time for Catholic readers - who'd be better spending their time reading the Bible and get their news from Catholic News Service or similar.
When I was in the convent, I didn't read news at all and found it was rather pleasant without the daily dirt dishing of the news services - the important stuff filtered down and the rest I never missed.  So upon coming out, I continued not bothering with the news and I've never regretted that decision! :)
 I really get weary of the media attacks but then Jesus foretold it - "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." We follow a crucified Christ to the cross and into Heaven!!!  (Photo is of me as a postulant in the convent in 1964)

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Learning Channel - but what are they teaching?

TLC is short for "The Learning Channel" but seems the values they teach, are what Catholics feel is immoral.  Interesting enough, though, often things don't work out quite as well as the reality show protagonists envision, thus suggesting that the so called "rules" in the Bible might ultimately be a better idea, both for health and serenity.

For example a show on TLC called "Four Weddings", takes 4 brides each of whom attend each other's weddings and then, score each other for venue, food and dress as well as overall experience - the winner couple gets a fancy honeymoon in an exotic place.  The one I watched recently, was unsettling because one of the couples were lesbians.  What was strange was, instead of both the women wearing dresses, one of them wore a suit and had very short hair and looked very masculine.  I thought that was hypocritical i.e. if they are both women they should present as women - I think most lesbians will agree that their se/xual preference does not remove their feminity.  Of course, many of the weddings are less than respectful of marriage to put it mildly.  By the way, the lesbian couple did not win the exotic honeymoon. They actually tied for last place with the Catholic couple, the only one of the four who had a church wedding.

The idea of "gay marriage" is questionable on several fronts - two of the same gender cannot consummate a marriage - I get that they can be good friends and can even love each other but why if, se/xual expression is a part of this, would that be sanctioned or even made public - should not what we do in the bedroom, remain there?  If gay folks want some kind of commitment (which makes sense for folks who deeply love each other), should not that be taken care of by the state?  My take on this one - let all unions for purposes of a state license, be called "civil union".  Leave marriage where it belongs - in the church.  This would be good for gay couples as well as hetero couples who are Catholic or other religious - because it would allow all the legal advantages of marriage for everyone, would disallow, unions between humans and animals (which are happening on rare occasions) and would un-confuse many Catholics who feel a civil union is enough to call themselves "married" (Catholics are required to have a Sacramental marriage in church, in order for intimacy to not be a serious sin!)  Seems like such a no brainer solution which would benefit everyone - and I wonder why no one seems to have thought of it - perhaps there are forces "out there" which really do, as some Christians feel, wish to attack and destroy marriage?

On the same channel, TLC, there was another show called "Breaking Amish".  The scenario of this show, we were told, was 5 young individuals who newly left their Amish parents to live in New York City. When they describe their adventures in the "Big Apple", which include many things Amish feel to be immoral,  TLC films them in their Amish garb, a bit hypocritical because at the time they were filmed, none of them were still Amish. 

The show had several problems.  First of all, it was so anti-Amish that it annoyed a large group of Ex-Amish atheists who obviously weren't exactly pro-Amish themselves.  Secondly, as it turns out, the show spun huge lies.  None of the protagonists had recently left the Amish nor had any plans of going back to the church of their birth, and none of them were being shunned by their parents as often claimed on the show - they apparently, visit their parents regularly.  The ex-Amish who found the show highly offensive, know the people on the show personally, have worked with them etc.  At least two of the individuals whom TLC claimed "recently left the Amish" are divorced.  In the last show, TLC tried to clear out some of the issues but the 5 ex-Amish young folks all had an attitude of entitlement and a negative attitude toward the religion of their childhoods and in some cases, did not answer TLC's questions accurately nor respectfully.  (One of the ladies, Katie, who works as a model, expressed a possibility that she might return to her religion someday but several of the others had actually done things to make it difficult for them to return i.e. getting pierced or tattoos or being divorced etc).

What I learned from this show:  As a Catholic who loved the Latin church, like many others, I was not happy with Vatican II especially seeing as the early implementation was uh...less than great (and in a way some are still adapting).  But in watching the TLC shows on the Amish  (and researching this a bit), there is at least some evidence that there may be a rather alarming exodus of young folks from the Amish traditional practice.  Some of the Amish communities are updating a bit but the Old Order Amish cling to the old traditions which eschew any modern inventions (however they accept inventions of the 19th century which is a bit of a contradiction to me).

Bottom line, Vatican II with all its foibles and bad liturgies, likely saved the Catholic church because today, although some young folks leave, many return and there is a steady influx of new members coming into the church also (Catholic Encyclopedia stated 50,000 or more, join the Catholic church every year!).

Next, there is "Long Island Medium" on TLC.  This is a lady who claims to speak with dead people.  Worse yet, she claims to be a practicing Catholic which of course, would be a major contradiction since Catholic belief is that the soul, after death, typically, goes to purgatory where God prepares it to enter Heaven - souls in purgatory are not available to chat with folks on earth.  A few saints have had visions of these but other than delivering a message (usually pertaining to the suffering in purgatory), chatting does not happen.  The Long Island Medium seems to have abilities to pick up subtle clues in members of her audience - she's clever and perceptive and perhaps even has developed a few abilities along the lines of telepathy, but I don't feel for a single moment that what she claims to hear, are the souls of deceased loved ones.  She appears to be using some "cold reading" techniques in which she throws out a very general question and those she is reading immediately fill her in on the details.  She charges $500 per reading and is booked for 2 years in advance.  If you watch the show regularly, she tells everyone pretty much the same message - their deceased relatives/friends/spouses are with them all the time (which also, is false according to Catholic teachings), they shouldn't feel guilty about the death etc.  The people she reads (at least the ones they feature on the show), get very upset and are weeping although they claim she helped them. But if she is misleading them from the truth about their deceased loved ones, is she really helping them? In one case, she told a lady that her deceased daughter  was reincarnated as this lady's grandchild; imagine the confusion that could cause if the lady really believes that (and she appeared to believe it on the show). The Long Island Medium might mean well but is very confused and ought to consider attending a good course in catechism, but I wonder if TLC means well.  What is clear is since that her husband could sell his business and become a gentleman of leisure, the family paying their expenses from the Long Island Medium's income (including sending 2 adult kids to college), the financial benefits from her readings are obviously generous - as my husband pointed out she gets $100,000.00 bucks a year for the TV show plus the bucks for the readings... at $500 bucks each.  (Readings last less than an hour - that's better bucks than even plumbers make!) :)

Sister Wives" deals with the subject of polygamy. One man, Cody Brown with four wives.  This week's episode had some interesting conversation between the Browns and another polygamous family (man with three wives).  Although they all claim they practice this for "religious reasons", turns out that this is not at all, supported in the Bible but on the contrary, Jesus said if a man takes another wife, he commits adultery.  The Bible very much supports the one man- one woman concept of marriage and that some Mormons practiced plural marriage was based on "revelations" from their founder, Joseph Smith who, himself, wanted to not be monogamous. It's interesting to note that after Smith's assassination, Emma, his first wife, not only did not continue to practice poligamy but also joined the Baptist church.

The ladies in "Sister Wives" seem to be constantly fighting - what Bishop Sheen called - the negative presence of the Holy Spirit.  No matter how they frame it, somehow, their plural marriages don't feel right and they seem somewhat emotionally strung, and experiencing jealousy of the other wives and other negative feelings constantly.  Many of their progeny have told TLC that they have no plans of continuing their parents' practice of poligamy, suggesting that the plural marriage of their parents has not been a positive experience for them.  In "Sister Wives", each wife has her own house and the husband divides his time between the wives for private intimacy.

I am beginning to wonder if TLC which is broadcast in High Definition and with very arty cinematography actually has an agenda which is bent on insidiously destroying faith while having a veneer of presenting "family values". It seems that TLC often highlights what could be called  behavior opposed to Christian values.

This might be more acceptable if the viewer was pre-warned that the shows they were about to watch, are attacking Christian values so people could decide if they wanted to watch or at least be warned. At present, the only warnings given before a show, concern if the show presents a medical procedure.

This type of television, represents the dilemma the world often presents Christians with - seductive, interesting but toxic information about lifestyles.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Suffering and the value of it for us!

There is a saying "I complained because I had no shoes and then I saw a man with no feet."
  I have found in my almost 70 years that even when I feel I am in tune with God, an object lesson teaches me a lot - like recently I suffered (and still am suffering to an extent) an extremely painful injury - a strained or torn ligament in the knee - I was complaining because I could "only walk a block" and around the house and then, suddenly, I couldn't walk at all.  I immediately thought of a Stephen ministry care receiver whom I was visiting (and still visit over the phone when she has need)... she had a stroke and has a left leg which totally is paralyzed - I was patient with her but felt the electric wheelchair she refused to use, would solve all her problems... until the age of 73, she'd been super able... well when I suddenly couldn't stand up totally and was reliant on a scooter and dragging along on a walker and the few steps to the washroom was a long walk, I got a feel for what she might have been feeling and the scooter did NOT solve all my problems.  As if to punctuate that I was on the right path here, God inspired her to call me the day after I was injured and when I told her about my injury, she said, understandingly, "Oh I so know the feeling!" 

Brings to mind why God allows us to suffer - it softens up our hearts so we can be more empathetic of others and no matter how much we HAVE suffered, each trial brings us closer to having a merciful kind heart.

And why suffering in the long run although it hurts and unfortunately many of us (like me!) are not like the saints who asked for the cross, we can look back in retrospect and actually say that a horrible painful episode was really a blessing because it woke up our hearts in a way they would have never awakened without the episode.  As it says in the Bible...

Ezekiel 36:26: "And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart."